• Blast from the past

    by  • 22 February, 2008 • General • 0 Comments

    Oh my, I’ve gone all philosophical an moralistic on you in my last post. Never mind, let’s blame it on the weather. Or something.

    The thing that brought this along was a memory flash that I had, from a period some 50 years ago. I was in my first year at primary school in a small country village in Belgium. In my memory it seemed like all we did that year was memorizing the 10 commandments and a gazillion articles from a booklet called the “katechismus” (english: catechism). In the process we probably also learned to count (at least to 10) and to read (the aforementioned articles), but I have no vivid recollection of those activities. I’m not sure if it really happened like that, but to me, now, this is what has lingered in the back of my random access memory.

    With those memories came other memories, about how we spent the time when we were not under the supervision of our schoolmaster or our parents. We roamed the fields and the woods (a grand word we used for small patches of shrubs and trees surrounding the village), building huts, which we called “castles” or “forts”, and engaging in plays that usually involved beating up or otherwise maltreating our younger brothers and sisters, invariably taking the roles of our heroes such as Ivanhoe, Eagle Eye & White Feather, the Red Knight, anything that allowed us to reign supreme over our underlings. Girls, if allowed to participate in those games, were relegated to the role of squaws, most often tied to a pole for the whole duration of the game, or princesses, usually locked up somewhere. We also inflicted a lot of harm on animals. We were country boys, animals had no value, when they were not destined to be eaten, they had to have some utilitarian function, like guardian dog, or chart horse. All the rest was for us to hunt down, torture and eventually kill. This included beetles, frogs, salamanders, small birds and the occasional wild rabbit if we were swift enough to catch it (if not we could always get a tame one from one of the sheds on the farms around us). Pig races were popular too. Animal rights? Totally unknown to us then.

    In a nutshell, my free, happy childhood.

    Contemplating this, it dawned on me: if instead of memorizing all these commandments and articles — which were far to abstract to mean anything at all anyway in our young lives — we had learned but one rule: do no harm, we might — just might — have behaved a little differently. Perhaps this one rule would even have stuck for the rest of our lives. Now, imagine this happening with kids our age all over the planet. What a victory for mankind that would have been! And what a relief for younger brothers and sisters, let alone for small animals!


    Back to our regular program: here in Iraklio, Crete the weather is fine again, you’d hardly believe that we ever had snow, let alone a mere 5 days ago. Temperatures during the day are in the 20°C and above again with minimums around 12°C. The damage to the crops is being assessed but whatever the outcome, prices will go up, with the snow and the frost as an excuse. Life as normal continues. The internet connection is down too. Like I said, business as usual.

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