“Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie”
–from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Spring and Fall: To a Young Child (in which the line “It ís the blight man was born for” appears)
This week I responded to Craig’s List calls for Elementary School teachers in just about each one of the fifty states in the U.S. I’m an experienced educator, and I’m willing to serve the purposes of any educational institution anywhere, if I feel they’re aligned with my educational outlook to some degree. For I believe it’s monumentally important that youngsters be introduced to an angle of vision which includes more than a focus on utilitarian concerns. And which is not derived exclusively from what’s popular at the moment in society.
Testing to the extreme, as we all know, is in vogue at present, and threatens to make it impossible for teachers to venture into academic territory which is now unfashionable. I’m referring to education which considers ethics and compassion as essential, and meaningful civic engagement mandatory. Connection with all that’s sacred vital.
There are token gestures made, of course, respecting Mother Earth’s lovely creatures, and the need for us all to live sustainable lives. But visits to zoos and picking up plastic on local beeches are not what I’m talking about. Neither are candlelight vigils which honor a given traffic victim, or support the efforts of a nearby non-profit devoted to bringing about peace in the world.
There was a shocking attack recently on an extremely rare white rhinoceros, one belonging to a subspecies called Southern White. It was in a zoo in France, and was one of the most popular features there.
Brazen poachers killed the four-year-old for its horn. They sawed one off, and –apparently — didn’t have time to secure the other, though it was partially cut into; two other rhinos in the enclosure, one (Gracie) 37 and one (Bruno) 5 escaped physical harm. The act of extreme violence was unprecedented in Europe.
I know the zoo well, and I can tell you that it’s absolutely impossible to imagine — with five staff members living on site, and security cameras festooned throughout the area that was broken into — that the barbaric thieves could pull of their horrid deed at Thoiry Zoo, west of Paris. The number and kind of locked doors that had to be dealt with are daunting enough.
Something smells rotten about the whole disgusting affair. I can’t help but wonder about it having to have been an inside job. But I’m not a detective, and — besides — the horror that hides behind the atrocity is what I can do something about. That horror has to do with people on this earth being so detached from Mother Nature and so hard up for cash that they’ll do anything to survive at this juncture, even if it violates the most sacred injunctions.
The horns bring in so much money for poachers that throughout Europe animal parks have been put on high alert; in Zimbabwe — long ago, last autumn — authorities announced that they would remove the horns of 700 rhinos to dissuade attacks from poachers. Does that not make your heart ache?
The Holocaust of WWII is touched upon in many Elementary School classes throughout the country, but other holocausts are not. Certainly not the one which is the focus on this article; it is highly unlikely to be mentioned in such schools, except maybe in passing in private faculty quarters, if at all. A survey I took today made it clear that not a single adult in my area even knew about the Thoiry Zoo attack, or cared much about the momentum represented by the realm of poachers.
Folks — some very decent citizens (some of whom are parents of young school children) — fancy that the education of youth can be restricted exclusively to what’s deemed important by Pearson and other companies paid to provide tests for students. Who made that decision? Few educated adults I cross paths with these days seem to know who is profiting from the increased testing. Testing and accountability can take place without shortchanging our humanity.
The momentum which is in gear vis-a-vis the disappearance of species is related to the immiseration of human beings I alluded to above. And very much connected to many other issues which are not being addressed in educational circles well enough*. They are being addressed exclusively, if at all, by career politicians. A relative handful of concerned citizens are pressuring those decision-makers from the periphery, as it were, but it’s the career politicans — who, by definition, are too self-serving for the Collective Good — that are at the helm, determining who will become desperate enough to saw off a rhino’s horn, or break into a gated community of people.
That can be changed, however. Which is why I’m writing this article.
Many decisions respecting our collective crises can be made by the youngsters I want to teach, their loved ones, and other ordinary members of their community. With regard to many major matters, policies and legislation can grow out of that demographic, rather than remain in the hands of career politicians. And I have a proposal for action that could culminate in securing such significant reins of power for good decent people not concerned with a career in politics, but devoted to the Collective Good.
I do hope that some readers will reach out to me, so that I can delineate the nuts and bolts of the game plan I advocate. And to motivate the reader to do so, I ask one and all to consider that that unfortunate rhino (Vince) shouldn’t even have been spending his last days in a zoo at all.
None of the abominations above represent the blight man or beast was born for.
Richard Martin Oxman has been an educator and activist for over half-a-century. He would be honored to speak gratis at any educational institution which makes a request at email@example.com.