And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father.
Utopia 24: First Day of School
Chaos reigned.. The older children arrived with the air of authority and looked on with either contempt or gentle nostalgia as they made it to their classes unassisted. But the new children, they were a mass of faces filled with wonder and anxiety amidst lost and confused parents. Emotions ran high in this group. Parents were about to give their children to what amounted to strangers for the vagaries of an “education”. While children, who had anticipated this day with the same impatience as the gift-laden Harvest Fest, now reconsidered their desire to be school-going grown ups in favor of staying home in the comforting familiarity of their grange play groups.
Jack’s room was filled with these scared, new six year old faces. Jack had greeted each child with enthusiasm and each parent with understanding. But he had then calmly herded the latter toward the door while engaging the former in a game he had planned for the purpose of distracting the children.
He had finally gotten rid of his last parent and gotten the final child interested in the game when yet another woman with a small boy showed up. The boy was wide-eyed in terror and the woman was red cheeked and flustered. “I am sorry for being so late, Educant. My alarm didn’t go off and we did not wake up in time.”
The children were successfully engrossed in the game and only two of them briefly looked up but then returned to the game. Jack had the luxury of going to the woman and speaking to her in whole sentences.
As he approached the boy disappeared around the back of his mother’s leg. Jack smiled down at him. Then he squatted down so he could be at eye level with the boy. “And what do we have here?” He asked in a gentle, calm voice.
“This is Fabie.” His mother tried to push him forward but the boy resisted. Jack lifted his hand to the boy’s ear and the boy shied away from Jack. Jack brought his hand in front of the boy so he could see the coin produced from his own ear. “No, I meant here.”
The boy smiled and took a half step out from behind his mother. Jack handed him the token. He had used this trick on three other children already today. Fabie smiled up at his mother.
Jack stood to address the woman and as he rose her perfume hit him. The smell was earthy but also floral with a hint of spice. A familiar smell but he could not put a name to it at that moment.
“And you are?” he inquired.
“Laissi de Bedoya. This is my son.” She said with obvious pride.
“Well Ms. de Bedoya, I have all of my students. Let me look up Fabie.” Jack walked to his desk and typed in Fabie de Bodoya.” he smiled and looked up at the woman.
“I’m sorry. I’m Educant Randall. You are looking for Educant Lorring’s class. You’ll like her very much. This is her third class. She is very experienced.”
The woman looked even more flustered.
“Really, her class is just across the corridor. I’ll point you in the right direction. And don’t worry about being late. It happens all the time.” Jack gently placed a hand on the small of the woman’s back and indicated the door with his other hand. She smiled at him and he noticed for the first time her high cheek bones and the rich color of her skin. An unaccustomed warmth traveled up his arm as he ushered the woman to the door. He pointed out his colleague’s room and she took her young son by the hand and made her way across the hall and two door down.
He watched her go. She had long dark hair and it was plaited down her back. The braid swayed hypnotically with each step she took and he stood mesmerised by the motion. For a moment the noise and chaos in the room vanished until the woman’s back disappeared into Educant Lorring’s room. Then the spell was broken and the noise of ten 6 year olds becoming bored with their game hit him. Embarrassed by his lack of attentiveness he turned back to his new charges.
Jack sat exhausted in his atrium. He had forgotten how much energy 6 year olds could demand of their educator. No wonder the limit for classes an educator could have in a lifetime was 4. Today he wasn’t sure he could handle tomorrow, let alone a third class in 9 years.
Now he sat with his computer in his lap slowly combing through information compiled about his new class. He could have done this before the first day of school, but he liked to get an untainted impression of each child before examining what the testing said. After all, testing was just a guide and not always accurate. Besides, children changed as they developed.
He discovered that his class contained a large number of visual learners although he had his share of auditory learners and two tactile learners. The tactile learners were the most challenging, but also the most rewarding. More of his students were inclined toward language than the last class. His last class had been heavily weighted toward math and analysis. He began to think of how he might change his lessons for this new group. Who would be his more challenging students? Who would he need to spend extra time with?
None of his new student were disabled and none of their parents had marked “special beliefs”. He would miss Farid’s sing song prayers in the middle of the day. Mostly, though, he missed Andy. He had actually started to unconsciously sign to his class in the last hour of the school day.
Done with his assessment of the class he leaned back against the planter and rubbed his eyes. An earthy, warm smell with a hint of spice hit him. The image of the woman who had been late to Lorring’s class immediately entered his mind. He had all but forgotten her and how nice she had smelled. He looked to his side where he had leaned against the planter. A bushy plant with dark, glossy leaves brushed his shoulder. White minuscule flowers covered the end of each stem. Of course, Patchouli. She had smelled of patchouli.
He had always liked the smell of the patchouli plant. Jack reached over and sought out the seeds of the plant from the tips of it’s branches. The seeds themselves were almost too small to see but they were contained in pods that were easy to find and Jack plucked some of these pods from the plant. He crushed them between his fingers and lifted his hand to his face to breathe their perfume.
The pleasant, warm, spicy aroma did not just bring a pleasant odor to the room but it brought with it the feeling of warmth in his hand and the vision of the woman walking away from him with her mesmerising long hair over the sway of her hips. He saw her face in his mind and the smooth brown skin of her cheeks.
Jack let the seeds drop to the ground and he regarded his computer. Fabie was not his student. Sure he had access. He had access to all the students of the school. But it was wrong, because he had no professional reason to look.
Jack lifted his hand to the key board. He paused one last time as he struggled with what felt so right and what he knew to be wrong. Then he opened Fabie’s file.
He scanned the first few pages, ignoring the boy’s testing, and went straight for the demographics page. He found the contact page and saw what he was looking for. Under “Mother” was Laissi de Bedoya, but under “Father” was the simple word “Uninvolved.”
Jack’s mind told him rationally that just because the father was “uninvolved” doesn’t mean the woman is. But his rational mind had long since lost control. His fingers moved to the computer screen and caressed the word with the same hesitant light touch that a man might sample the texture and contour of a woman’s cheek for the first time. A warmth spread from his finger tips up his arm and lodged itself in his stomach. He stared at the screen for one more second noting her Grange (well known for its art community), but forcing his eyes to stop before they reached her phone address.
Jack snapped the computer shut. It was one thing to look in the privacy of his own home with a low probability of being discovered or called out on the matter. It was another thing entirely to take action on such deviant behavior.
Besides, their first Parent/Educator night was only in a few weeks away. Perhaps another chance meeting… And shouldn’t he clean his robes again? Sure he only wore them briefly each year, but after 9 years couldn’t they stand a trip to Talquepaque Grange?
The Concepts Behind the Fiction:
1. The Circle of Life
Consider for a moment the worst scenario. Iran gets nuclear weapons and uses one of them against us. Think about the lives lost. The damage to the environment. The loss of that piece of land for inhabitation, crops, etc.
Now think about the disaster at the bottom of the Gulf. Make no mistake. Lives will be lost…just more slowly and more quietly. Probably an equivalent number of lives to a nuclear bomb. Certainly the damage to the Earth is far greater than just one nuclear weapon, but again it will occur slower and that will allow the oil industry to cast the shadow of doubt on the disappearance of species in the gulf. Was it the oil or some other problem that caused all the tuna to die?
We have embargoed Iran, even threatened them with military action, for their alleged fascination with nuclear weapons. Should we be less stringent with the CEO’s at BP and Haliburton? Of course we all know the answer. BP provides us with oil and if we invaded Iran we could force them to do the same as Iraq–provide us with oil–and Afghanistan–who will provide us with valuable natural minerals.
Last month, as I watch oil spill into the Gulf, I couldn’t help but think of my very first episode of Utopia. Before the big auto manufacturers got their bail out, and before BP created an underwater, oil volcano, I had a suggestion for the country. Problem was that the suggestion would have required independent leadership. Leadership that was not beholding to either big oil or the auto industry. Unfortunately we did not have that then, or now.
But is it too late? Part of being able to communicate in a blog site is not just deciding what you don’t want and complaining about it, but deciding what you do want. What is it that we should be demanding from our leadership? Should we only want CEO’s who harm the entire ocean and all the people that depend on it to make some pittance of restitution? Or should we demand that our government takes away the ability to harm the world to that degree in the first place?
Since that first episode, much has happened. Just doing this project I have learned a great deal. But that suggestion still haunts me. It does so because when I first suggested it, it was only used as an example of how small our dreams had become. The suggestion was made to appear outrageously grandiose. It was used to be compared our largest efforts of the past and to our puny efforts now. But since then several of the things I have read lead me to believe that it is just that sort of grandiosity that could save us.
What I suggested was that the US offer the auto manufacturers a government contract. They could use their expertise to make a system of rail cars to respond to American’s transportation needs. These cars were to be electric and actually preferable to gas power cars. We were to refit America with transportation that was free to its citizens and easier on the environment for saving the auto giants.
You say that is a grandiose idea. but for the trillion dollars of interest free bail out money, what did you or your neighbors actually get? Jobs have not increased and the economy is still slowly sinking. You got the grandiose price but not the benefit. Would it really have been that outrageous to have used this moment of crisis to outfit America for its future? A future which most assuredly is post peak oil and struggles with global warming?
2. Breaking Free
Then there was a series of articles that I told you about showing that converting to renewable, all electric energy would not be devastating for our economy, but would actually be good for the economy. The latest of these was published in Scientific America in November, 2009. Such a conversion was not only possible these models show, but preferable for the country as a whole.
Finally, we are still in economic danger and flirting with collapse. The D word has raised its ugly head again. That’s right, Depression. What’s worse economically than a Depression? Well Hyperinflation. And worse than that? Well, nothing…until now. It appears that Americans are well on their way to inventing a new horror–Depression with Hyperinflation.
The way out of our predicament is not propping up the already failed system. Granted this slowed the collapse but it did not stop it. In fact the economic system on a global scale continues to mirror the slow ride down the drain that occurred during the Great Depression and the Long Depression. Listen to Webster Tarpley on Guns and Butter for further analysis of history and how the Greeks play into de-sa-vue. The way out is the same way out that worked last time. Putting money into the nations infrastructure that will increase its competitive ability in the future. So far only putting money into propping things up has worked. Nothing new that will give us an edge in the future and increase our equity was created by this. It was wasted money.
Last time we were climbing out of the Depression building a rail and highway system. It was public buildings and dams. Hospitals and schools. It was art and entertainment venues. This time it should be setting up the next generation for a world with expensive oil and higher temperatures. It should be in protecting the water and crops of our communities and reducing the damage as much as we can to our environment.
We can not get by with a band-aid this time. Changing how we monitor BP or Haliburton is not enough. We must disable their power over us. We need to have a grandiose plan. Actually, it is a desperate hour. We need to make the Hail Mary pass. If it is successful, great. If it is not, well at least we tried. But to allow our children to suffer because it was just too hard to even attempt it? For shame.