Friday Night Fragments #14

Men are made to dish out pain. Women are made to take it.

Once again, Ace delivers.

This is one of those posts that manages to simultaneously make you think “Wow, I’ve never thought of it that way before”, “Yes, this is what I have always known”, and “This idea is so obvious in its explanation and so broad in its scope I will never be able to think about things the same way ever again.”

In this cruel, cruel world of ours, there are only two ways to rise above: to learn how to deal pain and to learn how to take it.

Know how to do both, but never forget which one is the duty that will be asked of you.

On a lighter note, (and speaking of bringing the pain), western media is having a field day learning about the King of Jordan after his furious outburst in response to the immolation of a Jordanian fighter pilot by ISIS. My friends who have ears to the ground in the region tell me that the king’s response is reflective of the way that the rest of Jordan feels right now. They are very angry indeed, and they want revenge.

I have no idea if Jordan is going to war or not, and neither do my contacts, but the possibility that they will escalate cannot be ruled out.

The Jordanian government is officially denying that King Abdullah is engaging in air assaults on ISIS. I can’t speak to whether this is actually the case or not, but the fact that they even feel that they ought to deny that their king is personally flying fighter aircraft in attack sorties on the world’s most notorious Islamist organization ought to tell you something about this guy.

What impresses me most about King Abdullah, however, isn’t his history in the Jordanian special forces, but his uncanny resemblance to famed American general George S. Patton. Seriously, the dude could probably play Patton in a movie. That’s good stuff.

King_Abdullah patton

Try to unsee it. Go on. Try it.

Bryce has put up a post that I think should hit pretty close to home among the younger of us. Titled “The Petty Materialism of Public Education“, it paints an appropriately grim picture of how when it comes to the American educational system, not only are the inmates running the insane asylum, but no one realizes it, most of all the inmates in charge.

Actually, appropriate might not be the right word. If anything, it significantly understates just how bad things are.

A hell of a lot of his quotes sound pretty familiar. I’m actually pretty certain that I’ve heard at least half of them word for word. That’s just what happens in an education system that caters to the majority (read: within +/- two standard deviations from the mean) and treats everyone else as problems to be eliminated

Don’t think I don’t mean “eliminated”, too. If you’re very smart, the education system wants you to you to either play dumb or to drop out of the process entirely, disenfranchising yourself in a credentialist society that assume anyone who doesn’t stand in line and do exactly what they are supposed to do must be intellectually defective.

I’ve mentioned before that I was first observed to be, shall we say, “beyond normal” in second grade, when I was solving math problems faster than the teacher. That set the tone for the rest of my K – 12 education, so I was definitely in the same boat as Bryce, with the caveat that he’s smarter than I am, so his experiences must have been even more extreme.

That’s a thought that makes even me shudder.

I recall one time in fifth grade that I asked the teacher if we could skip our upcoming unit on the oceans and aquatic life because I already knew everything she was going to teach us. She said we could do it if I could tell her what the difference between the continental slope and the continental shelf was.

I did.

The class burst into applause.

Smart enough to be a know-it-all problem child, but with the saving grace that even at a young age I had enough social savvy not to end up completely ostracized and alone. I was even able to make friends and win people to my side like a normal child, and in time that ended up being something that I was pretty good at.

We still ended up doing that oceanography unit, but the teacher didn’t exactly exert herself to make me go along with everyone else, and she even cut me some slack to let me do my own thing as long as I wasn’t disrupting the rest of the class. It was a rare moment of courage from someone who could have just as easily been another cog in the threshing machine that crushes the spirit and creativity of so many other children who were just like me. It may only have been out of a desire to avoid setting off the problem child, but I always got the feeling that there was also a note of compassion in her actions.

Or maybe not. Perhaps I’m overly romanticizing the whole thing. Either way, I’ve never forgotten that gesture.

This was far from the only time I was able to get an authority figure to cut me some slack, but it was one of the more memorable examples.

I sometimes think back to my childhood, and wonder why I was able to avoid that pit of isolation and despair that afflicts so many other intelligent young children. Time and time again, I return to the idea that, despite all the reason that my teachers and my peers might have had to hate me, I was always somehow able to not only make people like me, but to make them want to help me and look out for me.

The point of public education is not only to indoctrinate, but also to crush those who might actually do things differently and who actually pose a potential threat to the established system of control. It is very effective at doing so, and the process picks up even more in university, which is like a filter to ensure that the top intellects are pacified and made into either complacent consumers or useful idiots (often both).

And yet, sometimes people slip through the cracks. Sometimes people are lucky enough and clever enough and they get the support they need to get through the matrix without losing themselves entirely, to be ghosts in the machine who are in the system but not of it.

What are such anomalies capable of? Anything we damn well please.

I don’t regret that I went through public education. It taught me everything I need to know and it made me into everything that I need to be, even though it did everything it could to make the opposite happen. It threw everything it had against me and it only made me stronger.

Unbowed. Unbroken. Unstoppable.

Now it’s my turn to bring the pain.

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3 thoughts on “Friday Night Fragments #14

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