Monday, August 13, 2012

# 5 The Thin Line.

We humans are physically and emotionally weak creatures.  Comparatively speaking, we don’t
run fast, can’t jump, can’t climb very well. Our skills lie in our powerful brains, our ability to
make tools and willingness to work in a group. We are natural leaders and followers all in one
package.  We can organize and then implement complex plans with frequent success. However,
just because we have the ability to use reason doesn’t mean use it. We are often impulsive
creatures and need mechanisms to keep us from acting on those impulses. This is why we have
lawmakers, judges, juries and systems of punishment. I have witnessed the this dynamic many
times in the classroom and in my own neighbourhood.
   
    For example, I live in a pretty quiet suburban neighbourhood.  The landscaping and detached
houses are well maintained.  Children, pets and cars are washed regularly and the adults are
friendly yet respectful of privacy. It’s a suburban paradise!

    Similar to many of my neighbours, every evening I like to take the dog for a play session with
the other dogs in the park four doors down.  One evening I am about one house away from the
park when I notice three boys about 16 years old with their dogs. I know these kids from
other dog park meetings, they are typical kids from the neighbourhood. and so are their pets.
As I approach I see the dogs are playing and the boys are talking up a storm.

    I reach the last house and I notice a grey squirrel coming down the big maple tree. As soon as
the little guy hit the lawn he made a run for the big oak across the street. My dog’s body stiffens,
and I feel a jolt on the lead.  One of the boys dogs (Chocolate)  notices the squirrel too and
immediately his ears perk up, the head tilts downward, shoulders up, body is stiff.  Then other
dogs stop, take notice and  the hunt is on. 

   Within seconds they leave the security of their owner, and group in hunting formation. They
surround the squirrel and corral him into the center and proceed to tighten the noose.  Chocolate
lunges at the squirrel, grabs him with his front teeth and hurls him up into the air.

    By the time I arrive on the scene the squirrel is inert on the ground surrounded by four dogs
and four humans, all of us staring down at the lifeless corpse.  Then Chocolate’s owner notices
his best furry pal is bleeding from the lip.  In the fight of his life the little squirrel bit Chocolate
and drew blood.

   Then, all of a sudden the squirrel surprises us all, eyes wide and he makes a frantic escape to
the thicket of bushes at the edge of the park. Nobody notices much as the attention is now on
Chocolate’s wound. Then the fear starts, one of the boys says, ‘I hope he didn’t have rabies!’
“You’ll have to take him to the vet eh.”  The third boy came up with plan, “What if you take the
squirrel in to the vet?”  “It’ll be cheaper.”  Their eyes widen and the lights are suddenly turned on.

   No words were spoken. Chocolate’s owner hands the leash to his friend without saying a word.
He turns, and walks with purpose toward the thicket. Within a  few seconds he yells out that he
has ‘found him!’ We all turn our eyes toward Chocolate’s owner. He is looking all around the
area on the ground searching for something. Then he reaches down and stands up with a short,
thick, dead  branch from a tree. Without hesitation he takes a couple steps forward, raises the
club beats the squirrel to death.

    The hunt is over. He raises the squirrel’s lifeless body up, folded over the club smiles and says,
‘got ‘em’! “I got the fucker!”  ‘Awesome!’ his buddy said and everyone moved in with their dogs
to see the kill. The second boy reaches down and picks up a discarded donut box and says, ‘Here,
put ‘em in this.”  “Don’t touch ‘em!’

    The body is secured in the box, the club discarded.  Three boys and their dogs walk off to the
neighbourhood vet. Chocolate’s owner with the over sized donut box containing a dead innocent
squirrel sliding around inside The complete incident is over in three minutes.  No one had been
taught how to plan and execute a hunt, it was instinctive.

    It was a vicious killing sparked by instinct and completed because of the fear of the unknown.

    These boys weren’t being ‘kids’, they were being humans. The group gives us strength to
accomplish incredible feats, but it comes with a price tag. This is why we have systems of social 
boundaries, and more importantly, people to have respect for them. On a smaller scale, classroom
teachers are often saddled with the role of law maker, and judicial system.  It is a thin line
between the past and present for all of us - all of the time. Teachers depend on students to respect
that line, but at the same time we need guard it constantly.