The afternoon went well again, although it is a bit of an emotional mine-field in this house at this point. The younger one was riding the most extreme emotional roller coaster. Hysterical in every sense of the world. The elder was steadier, although still fragile. The husband is quiet and a touch cranky, although he hasn't lost his sense of humour, he looks worn out.
A note to any teachers out there...if you have children in your class that don't speak the language...don't give them verbal instructions about things like getting to school early or what the homework is...they will smile and nod, because you are in authority, and then when they get home...they won't have a clue. (No I am NOT bitter.) The elder child is maybe supposed to be meeting some other girl whose name she doesn't know at 8:30 at the school, but we aren't sure, and school starts at 9 normally....we haven't a clue. The elder also has a mass of math homework, but we aren't sure how much she is supposed to do of it as most kids seemed to have had it over the break...again, no written instructions that we could have then studied and learned from. All of you with kids over grade 3 know how hard it is once the school decides to send information through the now supposedly mature enough child - WHAT?!? I am supposed to buy you a calculator, make a costume and three dozen cookies for tomorrow???? And you tell me at BEDTIME!!!!! AND you aren't SURE if it is for this week or NEXT!!!!!!! - picture it in a second language....
Nomad brought this up in her comment on my diversity post a few days ago, and at the risk of repeating myself, I felt like posting about it. Possibly because I felt like my kids were vulnerable fringe types today at school.
Nomad wondered why it is that we tend to drive the fringe members from the group. She is right, we do. I strongly believe that these fringe people are vital to the health of humans as a species and as a culture. We are both animal and intellect. Maybe this drive, this tendency to exclusion lies in our animal selves since it seems so universal, and something that we seem to have to work against.
Neurologically we are trained to group items based on similarity, and to move rapidly over sameness, noting differences. This is both for neurological speed and efficiency, and for survival. We acquire speed as we stop needing to wonder over every single flower and petal the way an 18 month old does, we wouldn't get much done otherwise. Anyone who has taken a very small child for a walk knows it takes about an hour to go one block. It is all new and different, and they are creating categories of knowledge - which can become stereotypes. Adults are faster. (Yeah, yeah yeah, it's a flower already...seen one flower.......)
We also are neurologically designed to pick out differences - although some men seem deficient here, "How could you not notice my new haircut?" - it is normal. This allows us to notice when things come into bloom, when fruit ripens, when the water hole looks different, when the boss is looking ticked off, when the alley looks alarming..... It helps us survive.
Why does this ability to group like together and to rapidly recognized difference sometimes cause us to drive others out? To view an us and a them.
I think it is partially nature and partially nurture. Our animal selves recognize who is in our group, who we can rely on to help us and ours, and who is not part of our clan - tribe - group - nation - club and therefore may pose a risk. I think some of the suspicion is inherent, but I also think a lot is taught. We are taught in myriad ways to let that suspicion flourish and lend itself to greater generalizations about the otherness of the suspected.
But still this does not completely answer why the formation of a group leads to the driving out of others, and the alienation of non-members, since we do it at all levels. The familial -how many people do we all know who have trouble with in-laws, half-siblings, step-families. Undeniably some is personality, but it could not reach such stereotypical levels if there were not a more universal underlying cause.
It happens in school yards, from about age 4 or 5 and on, although with good adult intervention it does not build. Maybe therein lies the answer. That adequate intervention at a young age would stop this process. I think it can and does, but not every child behaves this way. Even at that young an age, some have been taught that otherness is negative. Possibly some are more sensitive to otherness and differences as well, but why does it sometimes play out as negative?
We do it as individuals and as groups when we are adults, and teens are notorious for this behaviour. One of the least pleasant aspects of teenage life in fact is enduring this process which is often done without social graces, and without a route of escape for the ostracized individual, who has to return to the same shunning day after day for year after year.
My guess is that we do in our animal selves have this tendency to form groups and to be suspicious of others, but that our intellectual reasoning selves deny our animal nature and attach specious reasons to our inherent tendencies rather than analyzing them. That was wordy...we tend to be suspicious instinctively, then rather than analyze this, we take the easy route, go along for the ride, and since this occurs at societal levels too, it seems reasonable. What needs to change, in my opinion, is an understanding of our animal tendencies, coupled with a firm unwillingness to allow the continuation of this unthinking behaviour both in ourselves, and in those we could influence. We must be intolerant of this sort of brutish behaviour, whether it is bullying on the playground, racism in the news, or the shoving out of another based on any non-conforming trait, be it sexuality, gender, disability or ability, race, colour, preference, social grace.........on and on and on.
Tie this in with a conscious celebration of our diversity, both as individuals and groups and maybe we will start to get somewhere. I remain ultimately disappointed with the wish for tolerance that was voiced here in Spain during the festivities. The intentions were good, but to my mind, tolerance is simply tooth gritting forbearance of what we ultimately find disgusting...is that too strong? Probably a bit in some circumstances, but not universally.
If we can create circles of people that recognize and celebrate diversity, both in ourselves and in others, we will be a whole lot further ahead than if we merely aim at tolerating each other.
What do you think?
....later note....I must say that my children's experience today at school was positive. They were not shunned, but were rather welcomed joyously into the group. My cynical side wonders if this would have occurred as easily if they had been wearing a head scarf, been a visible minority, or had an obvious disability. I also wonder if it will last.
Simultaneously I am disgusted with myself for that response since we have been so warmly welcomed by everyone here that we have dealt with. Including the children at the school.