Calm on the surface because of the paddling going on underneath

I did it again: I said that the vast majority of people in Jamaica must be quite decent. This time, I was not alone, and was agreeing with someone whom I know is very hard-thinking and often ready to criticise those and that which many defend. Like me, he has spent a lot of his life growing up in England–I think that’s perhaps just a coincidence, but let me declare it.

“Jamaicans drive on the left,” he said, “Which is what the law requires.” He’s a trained barrister, so I wondered where he would go with this. He left it there except to say that if they were not really law-abiding in the vast majority, we’d see more of them driving on the right. Funnily, I had made a similar point at the weekend to some Jamaicans who had said “We are just lawless people!” We are not. We may drive much faster than is sensible on roads that are worse than they should be, but (some taxi drivers, excepted) we do not disobey traffic laws. Roads are lined with yellow lines to signal ‘no parking’ and people do not park there.

When lights are red, people driving sit and wait for the light to change, patiently, sometimes, when there is no traffic coming in the other direction. We do not have many lights set up to change with the traffic volumes. We do not have the US-equivalent turn on red, if the road is clear, and people do not, even though a left turn when no traffic or pedestrian would block the move could be made.

When people want turn into roads or driveways, or come out into flowing traffic, the general tendency is to let them do that quickly, with a flash of headlights to say “Go on” and a quick toot afterwards to say “Thanks”. In the US–Washington DC area, for sure–the tendency is to block and glare and those who dare to enter the flow. That’s a widespread social courtesy that is not something sent to you by UPS and unwrapped for use. You’ve grown up knowing that it’s a decent thing to do, and it makes life easier all around. How many times have I had to bore my way into a line of traffic in Washington and then get hooted and ‘given the finger’?

I marvelled about that general courtesy over the weekend, a massive public gathering of well over 35,000 people happened with hardly an incident reported or mentioned in conversations afterwards. Police were not needed to keep control of the crowds. The nearest to that we saw was their lining the area inside the retaining walls of the stadium in case some thought it wise to jump over and celebrate with the schools that won ‘Champs’. They did not need to. The results were announced. The crowd cheered. The winning schools cheered. Some people left and made their ways home. Many stayed behind to enjoy a gymnastics display inside the stadium, followed by a firework display just outside. We left and were home with few delays in 15 minutes. Most, who left when we did, were headed to catch buses or taxis or walk to their homes.

No murders were reported over Champs weekend. Two fatal road accidents occurred and some illegal arms and ammunition were seized during the same period. The first point may just be an aberration, in a country that has been registering about three murders a day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were the norm. The unifying effect of sports? I don’t know. Perhaps.

The examples I cited of decent behaviour can be countered with many examples of misbehaviour.  I mentioned those, however, for a reason. It’s very hard to control the emotions of large groups of individuals massed in a particular space at times when they are due to be and are very excited. It takes little to provoke a bad reaction. A friend is making a survey of The Bahamas Junkanoo festival and one set of questions asks about whether one has seen, or heard, or been the victim of pushing, feet being stepped on, abusive language, abusive behaviour, etc. These things happen a lot in crowds, and often when young people are gathered, and certainly when things are getting to an exciting fever pitch. They often lead to little fracas. Someone has to intervene to keep the peace, or people get drawn in and the little fracas becomes a big fight. The lady seated in front of me at the stadium had my foot on her back and bottom at least a half dozen times on Saturday. She glared at me; I apologised. Her husband looked at me, and showed me how he’d been doing the same to the lady in front of him. We shrugged our shoulders. Stuff happens, but we did not sweat it, at least, on that occasion.

Witness what happened outside a large bank this week, when a fire occurred. The TV cameras captured two men fighting, for reasons we were not told or did not know. Some people, including a security guard, tried to break up the fight, without success at first, as one assailant gave the other a good punch. Eventually, the two were subdued. I noticed that no one came along to just take a picture or gawp–probably too busy watching the firemen. So, for the Champs event to have nothing of note untoward happen is quite extraordinary in my view. I’ve spent a lot of my life going to football matches in England and seen how quickly sporting crowds get rowdy and things get really ‘tasty’. I’ve seen the same in the US at American football and baseball games. I’ve been in the stands when people spilt beer and it led to fights. I’ve been there when people start to cheer their team and opponents take to taunting with verbal abuse and even getting into serious arguments and then hitting each other, and one or many are then ejected. You can see these incidents in big crowds because the masses part to let the protagonists have at it; some start to call for the security to come quickly. Some add to the fire with beer, food, seats being thrown, their own words and blows.

Of course, the British and Americans are bellicose people–look how many wars their countries have been in. In France, Germany, Turkey, India, Pakistan, countries in Africa, Asia, wherever, large crowds mean problems. So, for the volatile mix that is Jamaicans to pass some several days together and not really get into it is extraordinary.

This country has not turned around in a weekend. That’s not how things go without there being some catatrophe. But, what may be happening is that the ship is turning. I wont necessarily agree immediately that’s the case. I still hold that, despite what the media report, the country has not gone to the dogs. Grim news sells. My wife, highly intelligent though she is, laps up news reports on CNN of shooters and bombers and the many misdeeds that go on in the world. I’m never far from being opposed to having my senses bombarded by that, so tend to walk out of the room with a few “Do you really need to watch that?” comments. I’d like to see a concerted effort to get away from that diet of news being the disasters of life.

We have a country riddled with lots of petty criminals and, of course, we see and hear of their deeds daily. Many accept that our accepting that is a recipe for some sort of social trouble. Many, though, will quickly point to mitigating circumstances. “He’s poor,” “She has a family to raise and has no job,” “It’s hard to see people with so much doing so little for the people who have little or nothing,” “People have to eat,” “His father beat him, so he’s doing the same,” All of that may be true. We may take it for granted, too readily, and maybe should challenge it. I’ve had many a tough time and I don’t feel the need to become a petty criminal. Something was instilled in me–what I call ‘discipline’: doing the right thing without being told. I’m no saint and I know when I’m doing wrong. I find few people who don’t, but when you get away with it, it’s tempting to do it again.

Jamaica is also somewhere that has tolerated for decades ‘freeness’ when in fact it was stealing. We talk about praedial larceny as a major problem and may have in our minds flocks of goats and herds of cows being taken away in the dead of night and then becoming livestock for someone else to rear and sell or dinner dishes for some to enjoy. Like things that ‘fell of the back of a lorry’ in England, the produce may be offered ‘no questions asked’. But, it may be that no one can know what is the origin and so cannot take issue with the seller.

Lobster closed season just began in Jamaica, but if you already had lobster in the fridge or freezer that was there before April 1, then you are alright. When I saw it on the dinner menu last night, I had to ask two lawyers whom I was meeting for the first time “Is this alright?” Our host–a diplomat–would normally fall squarely into the box of ‘law abiding’ citizens, but maybe she did not know about the closed season and wanted to serve lobster. If she knew and did not care what could I do? I could point out my concern and hear the answer and then decide to eat or not, depending on whether I was about to consume something illegal. Yesterday, a man had his pole trying to take fruit from a garden adjacent to my daughter’s school. I hooted. He looked at me. I waved to say “leave the people’s fruit”. He turned away. I hooted again and made the same gesture. He turned away again. I started to open my car door. He put down the pole. Did we get into it? I’m a pacifist 🙂

Jamaica is the place many people associate with freedom to smoke marijuana, and that reputation has done much to boost our tourism. But, it’s illegal, and many people are arrested for possession and many growers have their crops seized or destroyed, maybe several times. Stacks of ganja are often seized and destroyed. Jamaica now sees parts of the world legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes and making huge revenues and profits. We need money badly, so maybe we should go that route. Yet, I sense that many Jamaicans are dead against this. They’ve seen the destructive effects on our youths of smoking the weed and fear that this wont be made better. How could we grow it and sell it abroad but not let that happen domestically? Yes, we may feel that arrests and jail time for possession of small amounts of cannabis seems excessive and may destroy the lives of those who get criminal records for that. Decriminalize? Legalize? That’s a debate that Jamaica is having and it’s not a slam dunk in favour. I wont mention how religious views may be surfacing in guiding that discussion. Some Rastafarians are, naturally, proponents of changing laws to be more liberal, so are dead against. So, that is a very interesting little debate going on right there with a community that has smoking of herb as part of its rituals.

Which brings me to what was one of the main events yesterday. The judge in the case of the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams handed down sentences on the convicted men. They each were given life imprisonment, with between 25-35 years as the minimum time before parole could be considered. I have said that the jurors who convicted the men showed great courage. It is known that jurors are intimidated; that witnesses are intimidated; that evidence gets tampered with; that police are corrupt. The ‘system’ has been set up to not get convictions. Whatever the law says, ways to pervert it are known to be used to try to get people off. It would have been easy and probably well understood by many Jamaicans if the jury had not convicted. But, that body of 11 persons came to a 10-1 majority in favour of conviction.

Then we heard that one juror had tried to bribe the jury foreman to get an acquittal. Yesterday, the police issued a statement, after the sentences were known, detailing many ways that they claim attempts were made to pervert the course of justice. Let’s take that at face value for the moment. It lists concerted and systematic intimidation of witnesses and jurors, attempts to tamper with evidence, etc. More court cases are due to be heard, regarding these two sets of incidents related to the trial. Those cases may show that the courts do not accept that anything untoward occurred. We will see. But, for now, we have what many often whisper or share in private conversations about how justice ‘works’ in Jamaica to ‘get people off”. For no time to be served for whatever crime was committed.

What struck me a long time ago was what happens in many societies because of facilitators, not merely perpetrators. In other words, corruption (in the broadest sense) has to be sustained by a large body of persons who turn blind eyes, abet, aid, lie, cheat, etc. so that the misdeeds can continue. They ‘feed’ from it and it’s quite a rational thing if a livelihood can be sustained that would otherwise not be possible. It goes largely hidden, by necessity. When it’s flaunted, then you know you’re in major trouble. I remember once working on an IMF mission when a new tax administrator said openly that the ‘job had been worth’ US$1 million–that was in personal gain, not revenue earned for the country. This was ‘known’ by the population and understood as a way of rewarding friends of the president. That explained why the post holder often drove his own Mercedes in a country where the Lada was king. If the holder did not make that, then he had been a fool, was the general view.

We need to see more cases go through the courts and more ‘right’ verdicts arrived at before we can say much more.

A lot of people in Jamaica know that they cannot work alone to combat the many forces that may be there to push things in an undesired direction. They prefer, therefore, to live their lives with heads below the parapet. It’s no solace to know that major criminals are a minority; their force and destructiveness are lethal and they have enlisted a cohort to help keep them in positions of power. Many would come to cheer for one of the accused were ‘rented’; that news filtered out within minutes of their appearance outside the court. Who was paying them? Why? What would people do for a little money? A lot, we know. Remember reports of how cheap it is to get a prostitute (J$50/50 US cents)? Remember the low cost of a contract killer? In the UK, researchers found the average cost was 15,000 pounds (about US$25,000). In Jamaica, the price could be J$5000 (US$50). Desperation is at a higher level here, and the likelihood of getting caught tends to be unacceptably low. People want to eat?

Those who have lost sight of the value of others’ lives may be hard to reach in a rational conversation. Those who seem ready to do desperate things, short of taking another’s life, may also be not ready to change. Our sociologists and psychologists and criminologists can think and discuss the hows and whys of having got there. We know that part of the getting away from there has to be an economy that offers many other viable alternatives for making money.

That Jamaica did not disintegrate into a mass of social terror is a sign that most people are not ready to be belligerent and socially disorderly. That is not to accept acts of social terror that have gone on, and still go on in some communities. We do have serious problems in knowing who we can trust to keep law and order, in the face of security forces that have problems keeping law and order by wholly honest means. Again, we need to change the equations that say the chances of ‘getting away with it’ are much greater than the opposite. Yesterday’s sentencing is part of rewriting that maths.

It’s an odd characteristic of English-speaking Caribbean countries that they have generally accepted the results of national and local elections without public displays of disapproval. That’s one of those things that suggest that respect for law (and order) is well ingrained, despite how people may act–and Jamaicans, for instance, often ‘act’ angrily. I’ve written before that we don’t do coups.

To keep that relative peace means that a lot of people–the majority–have had to keep fighting against other strong forces. Most have done it without visible or vocal recognition, and that may be where a large problem lies, in not wanting to be seen to be opposed to what is not desired. No one wants to be the victim of bad things. Who would wish to find a bag with a cow eye and a cow tongue with his or her name written on it? Who would want to run the risk of their home being torched or their friends and children being threatened? No one, I know. But, also, who are the people who know the people who would do such things? The duck can’t stop paddling.

Calm on the surface, but paddling furiously

Calm on the surface, but paddling furiously

The facilitators need to have their guards brought down and their sense of impunity shaken. Then, the perpetrators will start to feel more uncertain. Good footballers know they need to

Messi on the dribble, perfectly balanced, able to avoid tacklers

Messi on the dribble, perfectly balanced, able to avoid tacklers

keep good balance and to keep their opponents off-balance and guessing. Wrong doers will keep on their track if they don’t have to guess about outcomes and have much more uncertainty to deal with. The table needs to keep turning away from their favour.

You’ll notice that I have not named certain names. Maybe, I am being naive, but I also believe that what feeds certain behaviour is egotism. Let the egos be fed by others. Some will have to remain nameless. My old history teacher would be mad with me for not giving the essential facts. Too bad. If you know the names, good for you. If you don’t, well you can still understand the principles. Feed a cold, starve a fever?

Did I hear politicians talking last week about dismantling ‘garrisons’. Did I mention ‘facilitators’? You also have to remember that adage about fooling people more than once and beware what what may come back biting.

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The best, better and good. Not giving any space to the bad and the ugly (December 22)

I coach soccer–teaching others. I practise golf–teaching myself and being taught. For a long time, I have been convinced about the power of positive thinking in both activities. I like to end practices or training sessions on a good note: that’s the sentiment  you take into the next occasion. (Jack Nicklaus always forget how he played when he lost, but always remembered the details of his wins.) So, I’m going to follow that practice this week. I am only looking at good things–in my humble opinion. Bad and ugly things drain your energies and make you feel all out of sorts. Enough of them, not just because it’s Christmas. So, what do I have left?

The best has to be Tessanne Chin winning The VoiceFor the next whenever, we will not hear anything else but her beautiful voice and see her pleasant personality. We Jamaicans cannot explain how we feel to hear her represent the country and culture in some simple and genuine ways. “Bred an butta…” “Oxtail and some butta beans…” “A likkle rum…” “Adom…” The laugh. The giggles. The tears. No screaming. Love her!
Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 10.39.32 AMJamaica has a new hero, brought from our own indifference but appreciated and hailed and boosted abroad, and now recaptured in our hearts. Few things have come along recently for Jamaica that can be seen as so inspiring–in the same vein as the Olympic and World Championship winning performances.

Very good would go to Pope Francis for ‘calling out’ the high and mighty and greed.

Kal cartoon, from The Economist

Kal cartoon, from The Economist

Showing off may be cool, but it’s quite un-Christian. Good time to remind people about humility.

I would give better to one of my puzzling politicians, Vladimir Putin, for pardoning Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oil tycoon jailed for a decade after posing a challenge to Putin. Well, put in, can be put out. Very presidential, Gospadin Putin, who said he was acting out of “principles of humanity” because Khodorkovsky’s mother was ill. Christmas is such a wonderful season.

Amongst the good. In the same week when the parish of Manchester celebrated 199 years, Mandeville, its capital, unveiled a bust of its late and long-serving mayor, Cecil Charlton.

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 10.49.14 AM

So, I have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the bad and ugly. I know you’re out there, but really, let’s give peace a chance.

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Transitioning

Writing does not have to be limited by where one is. A little geographical displacement may lead to a pause but is no reason to stop. Jamaica is now my home again, and I will be writing new blog posts from there. Follow me to Jamaica: Political Economy (http://jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com/), where the Grasshopper sits under the tamarind tree 🙂

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Exodus: movement of Jah people

Change is a great topic for writing. A good amount of it is coming into my life, but it’s not yet the time to put the many thoughts and emotions into words.

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in the 1950s, but left there with my parents in the early 1960s. I’ve never lived there, since, in over 50 years. Now, I will be going back there to live. My wife has a new job and Kingston will be her base.

People have been asking me if I’m excited to be going back to Jamaica. I reply that it involves a complicated set of reactions, of which, excitement, in some way, features.

My father returned to Jamaica about 25 years ago, having taken early retirement and at about the same age as I am now. That strikes me as a strange parallel.

When my father ‘returned home’ in the mid-1980s, he was for the longest while referred to by the nickname ‘Britisher’ or ‘Englishman’. In Jamaican culture, nicknames often define a person. Whether my father felt defined or redefined, I’m not sure if he was ever really hurt or offended by this denial of his heritage. I may ask him in coming weeks.

Over the decades, I’ve been obliged to do one of the many types of code switching that characterizes the way humans cope. From being comfortable in my Jamaican patwa, I quickly had to realign my tongue and ears to the lilt of the Lon(do)ner. New phrases and reactions filled my upbringing. “Wha’ gwan?” had to make way for “Whassup?” “Gimme a patty an’ a coco bred!” had to be replaced by “Gisa piece a cod, some chips, vinegar an’ pickle!”

The fact that my spoken Jamaican language was probably frozen in the 1960s was never an issue. I didn’t need it much and how that form of speech developed through the trials and tribulations of that treasure of an island home, I only picked up from the lyrics of reggae music through the years. Maybe, I have a mind that develops speech like a Rasta: Marley, Tosh and Buju were my teachers.

There’s a lot involved in making the life you live work well. So, undoing or redoing that often involves a lot more. I can’t be like my 9 year old: she’s found an application to help her speak like a Jamaican. For her, that is the first order of business. Modern kids have aids we never had. I won’t break it to her that the speaking is not even the half of it. You have to think differently, too. That’ll take time.

Life is full of huge ironies. Well over a year ago, long before this move was in my consciousness, I found amongst my Dad’s papers our boarding passes from our trip from Jamaica to England in 1961. I asked his housekeeper to put it somewhere safe. She did, but couldn’t find it again. Too safe! Recently, she found the passes again. This time, I told her to keep them extra safe. It was almost as if I felt I’d need them to verify the trip and claim the miles. Who, today, knows about flying on BOAC?

It’s going to be an intriguing time ahead.

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Childhood daze

I overheard some high schoolers’ discussions this morning, while we sat at separate tables and ate bagels.

Uncle_Sam_pointing_finger-446x300One girl began telling her classmates: “My mom told me yesterday there were special elections and that I could vote. Well, everyone there was like in their 50s. It felt really strange. I decided to vote for a Republican on the ballot because there are some 200 people on the Council and they’re all Democrats, so I figured it would make no difference to have someone from another party.”

“But, the Council people are all criminals,” chimed in one listener.

“What did they do?” another asked.

“I dunno. I think they did a bunch of financial crimes.”Marion barry

Images of Marion Barry swirled around my head.

A small voice inside my head said “Go and tell them that they are talking rubbish.” I chewed on my bagel and looked out at the sunlit sports fields. The voice continued: “You owe it to your generation and the future generations to get these soon-to be voting citizens wised up…” I chewed more intently.

I was not in the mood to solve this little set of ‘misunderstanding’.

You don’t have to know anything to vote. For the record, a mere 10 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot. I don’t know if any of the voters knew much about what they were doing. Better to vote on impulse? Better to vote on convictions Better to vote on prejudice? The results will never let us know.

None of this need be of much importance, other than the thought that in a world so replete with information and seemingly simple and fast ways for many to get at information, getting correct information remains as illusive as handfuls of mist. Maybe, too, the ‘right’ information is largely redundant.

 

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Hold your corner

I was riveted to the TV screen on Sunday evening. The Augusta Masters golf tournament was coming to a momentous close. I had just got back home. My legs ached, after standing on a pool deck most of Saturday and Sunday afternoons, watching my fish-like third grader have a great set of swimming events. I knew what efforts she’d made in weeks of practice and I was pleased for her that it was paying off, as it should, with improved times and rankings. She won three of her four heats, and after each one stretched across the lane ropes to hug or shake hands with her nearest competitors–part of the etiquette of swimming. She, too, was tired, but had good reason to be so, and to feel happy.

On my TV screen, I could see the sun was getting lower in the sky at Augusta, as two professionals matched each other with stunning shots. Golf is strange in that you are often not playing head-to-head against your main rival, as different groups play the course. So it was that the men swinging for the lead were separated. But it was a little more dramatic because the one trailing could see the leader play. The earlier to play, Australian Adam Scott (25), thought he’d taken the lead for good with his last shot and went to sign his card. He then sat in the scoring tent and watched the TV screen there, seeing his nearest rival, the Argentine Angel Cabrera (43), match his score.

The two were then headed for a play-off, the final 18th hole again, then another hard hole, if needed, then back to the 18th, and so on till a winner emerged. The light was now fading, as sunset loomed. The two men continued to match each other, shot for shot, from the tee to the green, Cabrera nearly winning with a putt at the 18th. But, they remained tied. Again, matching shots from the tee. Again, Cabrera nearly took the lead with a long birdie putt, missing by what looked like a finger nail’s distance. Finally, Scott lined up his birdie putt that would seal the victory. The ball rolled truly, then fell into the hole. Match done! The winner did his victory dance, then quickly turned to hug his playing partner. That embrace was a strange sight at the end of a competition that is often tense and singular.scott hugs cabrera

I know that keen competitors understand what it is to lose a close contest, but most athletes are encouraged to show graciousness and humility in victory. Defeat is the more common outcome. Winning is to be savoured for its rarity but also for what it makes you to remember, albeit fleetingly: that winning is a hair’s breath away from losing. You are also made keenly aware of how few chances you may have to get the success that everyone seems to be chasing. I was thrilled for Scott, who had lost what had seemed like a sure win at last year’s British Open (at Royal Lytham & St Annes) in gut-wrenching fashion, by giving away his four shot lead on the last four holes. Drip, drip, drip…drop to your knees. He had been made memorable by that literal collapse near the finish. Now, he had the more comforting memorable moment that comes with victory.adam-scott-british-open

Those images of joy with humility, mixed with those displays of grief, from two golf tournaments, came to me this morning as I thought about the horrific events last Monday, when bombs exploded near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. No one at Augusta or Lytham could have imagined the end of their sporting events as they eventually turned out. Their sense of tragedy was confined to those they saw coming to the last hole at the close of the event. Similarly, in Boston, those running or watching could not have imagined the end of the race becoming anything more than the place where the sense of elation or grief or relief or humility would all combine. Instead, those sensations swelled up for reasons other than a sporting event. Callous, wanton attempts to destroy life. Inhuman efforts to discard the simple, hard work, and attempts to do something that takes courage, dedication, selflessness.boston bomb Hugs of joy and humility, just because someone was alive; that they had finished their run, but had not had their lives violently finished. People collapsed on their knees, in grief, not because they had to suffer defeat, but because they could see alongside themselves some dead or dying or maimed.  All the wrong reasons!

Athletes (often defined for their physical abilities), are also incredibly strong mentally. In the same way that we learn how to give our all, so we also learn to show grace and humility to our fellow competitors. We also learn to dig deep into our minds to find the strength to go on, to do it again, to try to get it right, to try to do it better, especially when it seems that ‘all hope in gone’ or ‘when we cannot take it anymore’. Now, is a good time to find the inner athlete in ourselves. Stay strong physically. Stand tall mentally. Hug those who seem to have lost, while we have won.

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Trying to see I to I

Sunday morning in the church yard. Glaring sunlight. A couple of my fellow parishioners were seated on a bench; the man was wearing dark glasses. I started a conversation with the man, who told me how he was letting his transition lenses adjust to the sunlight. Minutes later, I was in conversation with a female parishioner, who also was having issues with her transition lenses. I thought I would connect these two fellow parishioners.lenses_transitions I did not know that in addition to transition lenses for light/darkness (the man), there were transition lenses for distance/size (the woman). They got talking, waving their spectacles around. I took a few steps backward and let them get on with it.

I thought about how we see the world around us, and in this set of actual events, I realised how our eyes could be forced to see things in clearness or in different shades of darkness (should I say greyness?). I thought about how the woman’s glasses allowed her to see objects near or far, with differing degrees of clarity, but also a different sense of how close they were to her: I reflected on the safety warning sometimes seen on car mirrors–‘objects in (the) mirror are closer than they appear’.

With the physical world, and our actual sight, we are obliged to recognize how light and distance affect our perception. But, in the emotional world, or the world of human relations, how good are we at recognizing how the ‘light’ that is shone on a subject or a person or event, or our ‘distance’ from a person or event, affect our perception?

In recent weeks, the world of political debate in the US has become interesting for reasons that have much to do with proximity to issues. Discussions about gun control have taken on a different air, as parents of elementary school children, slain by a gunman who entered their school, have brought their personal grief to the debate. The issues have become emotionally charged for them and many parents. The topic ‘has come home’, in some sense.

Similarly, a rapidly rising tide of US Senators have stated openly how their views on the matter of same-sex marriage have changed favourably. I some cases, this was clearly because someone in their family is now at risk of being disadvantaged by policies that would oppose such alliances. (However, see some deeper analysis on this surge in support.) I asked myself, “Does it have to get that close to home for views to change?” I wanted to ask the question with as much neutrality as I could muster.  I thought about racial issues, and whether people could not understand discrimination well until they were directly affected. I thought about poverty. What do you understand or feel if you have never had to dive into a dumpster?rich_poor I’m not buying the notion that you must have ‘suffered’ a situation to understand what it means. But, I understand that such may be the case for some, many.

This same Sunday morning, a friend and I had a long conversation, that began over something that might have seemed very slight, almost inconsequential. A request for consideration went unheeded. The consequence? A slight. Now, hurt and pain. Withdrawal. Distance. Our discussion went on. The seemingly inconsequential, at the outset, was now much larger and more serious. I listened and urged my friend to give the other person a chance to see and hear how she felt. If they were to get eye to eye would that help?

Is anyone developing transition ‘lenses’ for our emotions?

While we ponder, a song to help us along (lyrics included). 

 

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