I am so lucky. I have lots of really good friends and they are all so different, some of them wouldn’t see value in each other, just too different. I like that my friends range in age from in their 30s to 70s. They all provide such valuable and different inputs of ideas about life, they all compliment very different parts of me and I suspect they all have friends that I have nothing in common with. Recently one friend told me about a Ted talk about the single story (we later watched it to talk about it over dinner), another talked about an artist she is following, one about the difficulty of full time work and parenthood, another an intellectual conversation about education, my Dad left a listener article lying around about a book about being WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrised, Rich, Democratic), my cousin left a banjolele here, I got out books on fabric artists… all these different seeming ideas floating about in my brain in a short period of time – I felt totally alive, like I understood people better, I had some blinding insight that I have now forgotten… but it did feel good.
I try to provide a similar soup for Helena. I got her to think about how she would answer the “I am…” question- she did reflect her WEIRD society but in a different way, she located her self in space rather than by individual qualities or by relationships like they do in non weird societies. The Single story Ted talk she found surprising in that it was actually interesting- one author to another, or connecting with another reader of Enid Blyton? She totally got the idea of having one story about a place or people… and she keeps referring to it. Fortunately Helena has friends who go to school because homeschooling is just one idea, she also gets to hang out with young people and old people. I have never told her homeschooling is the best way except that it is the best way for her and I. It is hard to get her to meet people who are totally different… though having said that her friends do vary a lot and have different interests to her. I want a big community to raise my child so she can do that thing where you see people as less other, you can accept that your way is just one way to do things, there is no right way and you need to find ways to accommodate. These are practical skills. As a humanist I most desire for her these practical skills and an ability to make her decisions rationally.
I have been thinking of this variety of humanity more recently, as has Helena, because of the news about vaccination. Her approach is different to mine in that she has genuine fear and worry about the people she knows who won’t vaccinate, kids do understand and listen to important, relevant maths. I have that WEIRD thing of individuals accepting their decisions rattling around in my brain as well as an anger at that that individuality is putting the group as a whole at risk. It is hard.
Helena’s fears are different as she has spent nights in hospital on oxygen, she has an understanding of what this is like and so a fear of what would happen if she caught Covid. She also has a big dose of that responsibility thing where she couldn’t bear it if she gave Covid to someone else. She doesn’t mind wearing a mask and some times remembers before me. She washes her hands. Helena listens to the scientists on the radio discussing the issues in a rational manner.
I however didn’t let her see any footage or photos of the recent anti- vaccination protest in Wellington because it was enough that it scared me. All the implied violence, not like any marches I’ve been on… It appears that it is time for Helena to learn some history and citizenship. It is wrong to imply that our prime minister has any similarities to Hitler, that our democracy even slightly resembles fascism, that religion promotes conservatism, that conspiracy theories should be believed without rational questions. There is some kind of line between being accommodating of others beliefs and what is true. There are no individual truths there are facts… but they are still people… How to teach this? One of the few songs with lyrics Helena likes is Tim Minchin’s Con so I guess she is on her way to learn without hating others for their labels, their one story… the importance of actions.
I do love imagining and seeing all the disparate things rattling around in Helena’s brain.