Sunday, August 28, 2011

Humani Nihil Alienum

The first ringing of the bell signaled the official start of the school day. For five years I'd run around this community of mainly boys having what felt like a good time.

I'd say I missed the first bell every day but then I remember mornings having breakfast, making my first trip for the day to the supermarket next door, it would again be visited at recess, lunch and after school. I also remember the mornings I'd be there finishing or copying homework, usually Spanish, Maths or a Science subject.

Missing that bell saw me make many a Thursday afternoon detention. It was usually the same bunch of us and probably usually for the same reason, even though I do remember giving many opportunities to have my Thursdays booked. It was about choice and consequence.

It was in my first year at Hillview that I discovered my distaste for running. The last period on Fridays reserved for Physical Education and the making of men. We’d have to run the field at the top of the property, the name Hillview captured its only advantage. I'd bun early and never looked forward to the exercise.

It was also during PE that I began my relationship with football. I spent two weeks in a darkened room with a patch over my eye after a ball hit me full on in my eye, it came at me propelled with a force that may have lasted most of my life so far.

This is not to say that recreation was all bad, volleyball, table tennis, chess, the occasional game of cricket were all fun. I enjoyed my peers and it made competition different, it was always friendly rivalry.

I also developed my game of word-sport at Hillview. When you’re not a fighter, you have to learn to cuss and retort verbally. Many a heated debate, too, took place, especially about the popular entertainment at the time.

In my second year, I was voted class prefect. I guess after one year together my classmates thought I’d make a good something. We’d have to report on each other’s behavior, maintain discipline in the absence of a teacher and coordinate certain class projects. It was hard not to be biased I learnt.

I was made a library prefect in year three. It was because I had a good relationship with the Librarian and I think she may have even said it was a good way to help me to do good, rather than the chatter I was known for. I was also friends with her other stewards, we had stuff in common.

Arriving at my point after not being sure my self what it would be, school also teaches you about authority.

It is a hierarchical institution by nature with levels of students, chronological and otherwise and then there are the adults.

The authorities set the pace, to include both groups. They are influential and can be punitive. You begin to learn who you are, hopefully that self-concept does not come to damage you.

Not because I was a bad person but because I found my self on the outside of the preferred mode of behavior often, I also found my self in the Principal’s office often.

Bamboo patches lined the northern perimeter of the compound and so the legendary “bamboo” was born, a whip that was administered to those of us who were disruptive.

I was never one for violence but as most of us who grew up in that time knew, licks was normal.

I’d escaped it for the most part in primary school but became relatively familiar with it at Hillview.

I believe it was always justified and never felt singled out for punishment, it was just the consequence of me being me.

We would come to abolish corporal punishment at schools but not the idea of punishment or authority.

It’s been what seems to be a lifetime of trying to disassociate action and consequence.

It’s also been what seems to be a lifetime of a conflictual relationship with authority and rules. I’m comfortable with it in that at my core, I believe myself to be good, even when I do what some consider bad and deserving of punishment.

As the world goes green and we try to save the planet by going gentle I wonder if as humans we too qualify as nature and find ways to be nurturing and understanding of each other so that as we save the planet we also ensure that we protect its inhabitants, especially from those with authority.

The fact is that modes of discipline are colonial retentions in many cases. This is not to locate this in a post-slavery context because orphanages, mental institutions and schools even in England provide many examples of how discipline is administered either in situations that require control or the exercise of authority.

I think of the Big Stick Policy of an earlier U.S. administration in its relations with the Caribbean Basin.

Its one thing to identify a problem but the winner is the one that comes up with the solution. I cant say that I have. Can I imagine a world where bygones are always and every time bygones? Lol! I can’t say that I can. God is punitive, being made in his image and likeness to draw on Christian teachings, is man then as well permitted to be?

Humani Nihil Alienum is the school’s motto. It’s Latin for “Nothing concerning humanity is foreign to me.” I left with more than good memories and as my old school read:Alma Mater) it will always hold a warm place in my heart.

I was punished many times in different ways that may have hurt more then than it does now but how has it shaped the person that I am and could I have been someone else, someone better had I not been through what I have? I can’t say. What I will say is that I hope it will always be true that Humani Nihil Alienum.

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