Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dilemma sorted, morals not

Last night in the news I saw a large group of journalists paying tribute to fellow reporter Alan Johnston kidnapped 100 days ago by releasing 100 white balloons. It reminded me of a balloon release we had at my school in second grade, I think, to commemorate the end of a fĂȘte of some sort. The balloons floated away, becoming colourful dots in the sky to the jubilant cheers of hundreds of children, messages of peace and hope attached. It is my lasting memory of that school year. But we weren't to have it the following year. When I questioned why, my teacher replied that it was environmentally damaging, littering our planet and harmful to animals. This was 1984.

Last week, as you know I had a bit of a moral and ethical dilemma going on. The advice, given via the comments section and email replies, seemed to fall along nationality lines. My American people were telling me to get in there, stand up for this injustice and not to tolerate it. As one friend put it, "YOU are not British and you DO care." The Brits, on the other hand, mostly advocated softly, softly approach, mostly expected.

After talking to the union representative and, more importantly, Boy, I realised my position was terribly flawed. My stance, though I didn't think so, was based on hearsay. And despite my esteemed opinion of Sam, my HT does have the right to hire who he likes. Shit, he hired me and, as I found later, I wasn't the most experienced person for the job. So then why did he hire me? I like to think that he saw something in me, and maybe that's what he saw in Terry, whether that's true or not. That's the hirer's prerogative.

I'm at peace with my revised position about this situation -- I do believe its right. But what I still feel unease about is the idea that many of my peers felt, like me, that injustice was occurring, and that no-one was willing to do more than murmur about it. The status quo and a blind eye lives too comfortably in British society, at times.

I don't mean to criticise a touching tribute when I related the story of the balloon release for the held reporter, but I led this entry with it as it, to me, illustrates something about British society and culture. An action so environmentally unfriendly that my 80s American primary school banned it has just gone on. Brits would probably be irritated by my words, as this is supposed to be a nice gesture and nice gestures, no matter how ridiculous, do not get criticised. Well, they might as well have thrown some old styrofoam takeaway containers, plastic drinks cups and carrier bags from their cars to honour their colleague. But if you saw the streets of Edinburgh, knew that the UK had the lowest rate of recycling in Europe, then you would realise that that wasn't such an extreme comment.

There are so many progressive things happening in the UK, things that are foundational of British culture: some aspects of the political system; the healthcare system; the high standard of (most of the) journalism and news reporting. But then this bedrock gets strewn with our litter of injustice, which we accept. Most gratefully.


Blogger Zandra Towns said...

Did you know the British are the most videotaped people in the world? So while they might mind their own business in private, in public, they're a bunch of nosy Mother-Fers. Just walking down the street, you are being watched. That's just creepy. Big Brother anyone?

Tuesday, 26 June 2007 at 21:17:00 BST  
Blogger Autumn said...

The videotaping is for closed circuited television (CCTV) -- it's used to for policing and security measures. People are just pulling out their camcorders and filming people on the street, as that's illegal. The population seem quite used to it and accepting of it, kinda how Prez Bush wanted/wants to suspend certain civil liberties after the bombings. So maybe your point as been made.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007 at 09:07:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is naiive of you to view the misguided actions of one school as illustrating "something about British society and culture." Has the releasing of balloons been banned nationally in the U.S? Many people over the world have concerns about the releasing of balloons whatever the sentiment. Don't judge a whole people by the actions of one tiny group. We have to remind ourselves of this daily when we make generalisations about what we perceive to be "American Culture and Society."

Sunday, 1 July 2007 at 21:04:00 BST  
Blogger atw said...

Um. I think Autumn was using the story as an analogy and not really making a point about the badness of releasing balloons. And she's probably quite aware that the US' recycling habits in general are WAY behind those of the UK. (And as much of the environmentally-conscious fiend that I am, I don't think balloons are a huge problem considering how rarely they're released...as opposed to everyday mindless waste and littering due to a lack of education and local government priority-making...and hardly an issue compared to far-reaching decisions of big kahunas made without thought for the long-term negative effect on the environment. But since that isn't the topic, never mind.)

Tuesday, 3 July 2007 at 06:05:00 BST  
Blogger Autumn said...

Actually, in some parts of the US, recycling has to be better. In 2007, municipal recycling rates in the US was at 32%; 28% for England (in 2006); 17% in Scotland (2005). Just wanted to say that.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007 at 11:32:00 BST  

Post a Comment

<< Home