Monday, March 2, 2009

inside outside world

Today I remained inside my house for the entire day, excepting feeding the chooks twice and hanging washing out once. The purpose was to keep my children inside in the warm and to cosset and coddle my son out of his wheezing into improved health.

I will not even pretend it did great things for my sanity. The children were fine, within the usual realms of children challenges. Once again, the problem was the house. I need to leave the house. Every day.

So while I was inside more than ever, no longer discussing the financial literacy of the nation's youth with the local MP but instead teaching two young children how to share, then insisting on the sharing, more times than any non-parent might imagine.

I sneaked in some reading, but although I am enjoying Catcher in the Rye, the endless monologue of a depressed teenager isn't hugely uplifting. I read the weekend papers almost exhaustively, ignoring the milk spilt on them and blocking out the origins of the green shrek toothpaste smeared throughout my daughter's hair. I read about the woman behind a new book called Love in a Headscarf and found her blog. Spirit21 is my new must-read, a British Muslim woman thinking and analysing and living outside the square. Her header says it all:
'They built me a box to live in and painted my
caricature inside.

They said "this is you".
I said no thank you, I'd rather be me'

In my inbox today, the electronic version of the latest magazine of the (NZ) Labour History Project, formerly known as the Trade Union History Project. One of the best articles in this magazine was by David Grant on Mark Briggs and Archibald Baxter, conscientious objectors in World War One. Whereas Baxter wrote a wonderful memoir which I recall reading as a teenager (partly while in detention ha ha ha), Briggs was an ordinary working class man whose life has not received much attention until now. I copy here Grant's final two paragraphs from the article:

Mark Briggs will be best remembered for his experiences during
the First World War, and rightly so. I contend that Briggs was not a hero but
an ‘ordinary’ man caught up in extraordinary circumstances, events that
he faced with enormous moral courage. He and the other transported
objectors were tortured in varying degrees in the most astonishing incidence
of State-sanctioned cruelty in this country’s history. Forcibly taking the
14 men, without warning, to the front line to cure them of their
insensibility represented the nadir in the State’s bigotry towards legitimate
dissent. Twelve of the 14 succumbed to the army’s wishes, some in the most
trying of circumstances. In a poignant irony, one, William Little, was
killed within 18 days of becoming a stretcher bearer.

Baxter and Briggs prevailed, making them New Zealand’s
first successful dissenters, succeeding against all odds in a young,
immature, subservient, insecure and martial society that feared
nonconformity, even more so under the stresses of war. They stood at the apex
of the State’s intolerance towards such dissent. They are key in our
tradition of anti-militarism that includes Moriori leader Nunuku-whenua;
Taranaki’s Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi; the brave young working class
men mostly from the West Coast and Canterbury who protested against
compulsory military training when it was first introduced in 1911; the
anti-conscriptionists of World War One; other pacifists before and in the
early days World War Two, and the myriad of antiwar activists who emerged in
the nuclear age. Briggs and particularly Baxter (through his book) became
heroes to many of these later activists. They are exemplars of the cause of
war resistance in this country, men of courage, spirit and principle, to be
lauded in the same breath as Te Whiti, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and
Nelson Mandela.

Grant also has a book out on these men and I'll be down at my local library making sure they have it/have it on order later this week. The Labour History Project website is here. Here on the Coast we have our very own labour history project and this is our website for the Blackball Working Class History Museum.

And the garden? I read in the (Christchurch, NZ) Press in the weekend an article by some uber-capitalist stockmarket enthusiast bemoaning people becoming hysterical about the market and planting vegetables instead of shopping. Like women who ask too many questions, lets paint sensible people who aren't conforming to the way the big boys want us to bail them out by describing them (me, probably 'us) as 'hysterical'.

I didn't get to get my hands dirty today, but I did consider the view from the study window. Since I moved the temporary chook shelter, I get a much better view of the far corner where we have planted cabbage trees over our children's buried placentas and a few blackcurrant bushes. The chooks have been clearing this area nicely and I think there is room for a plum tree this winter and - given how I get to see it so well from my computer now - some spring bulbs.


Johanna Knox said...

Cool, Sandra!!! By the way - I remember you saying what your degree(s?) is in - but I've forgotten - is it history? Eng Lit?

Thanks for the link to Margaret Atwood in the previous post too. Looks a fascinating book.

Johanna Knox said...

Oops - I meant to respond to this too. My other half and I were just talking about conscientious objection last night.

My side of the family has been so lucky in wars over the past two generations - the men have been too old, too young or too sick to go. (Is there ever a time when you would feel more lucky to be sick??!)

I'm inspired by you to read more about these NZers ...

Sandra said...

Double in English (mostly lit) and History. Postgrad in History. No qualifications whatsoever in cleaning, but that's what I should be doing right now...

applepip said...

You know you are about 20 years too late in reading Catcher in the Rye, dont you? That's the problem. :)