Kindness—an old-fashioned virtue?

In 1987 my little boy began his education at the local school. It was small, caring and perfect for his needs. The school itself had opened in 1968, in a society distinguished by social conflict, and influenced by flower power, the peace movement and the summer of love. The school had a wonderful motto with the words Kindness, Effort, Humanity.

This inspiring statement was the work, not of baby boomers, but of our parents’ generation, the people who survived recession and war and came out the other side to build a new, better society. These were goals they treasured. Inclusive, achievable goals that would promote the common good. I liked them.

hands

Move on a few years, past the end of the raucous, glitzy eighties, past the crash of 1989 and into the nasty selfish nineties.

The school was in new hands. Brash younger baby boomers had taken over and wanted nothing to do with these old-fashioned ideas.

Without consultation, they changed the motto. The new one exemplified their greedy, elitist way of looking at things. Dare to excel neatly divided the children into two groups—courageous high-achievers and pathetic gutless losers. No sympathy for weakness there, and no concept of kindness either.

These were the type of people who went on to support Australia’s shameful refugee policy, a dramatic shift in our culture towards selfish, heartless individualism and a total disregard for others.

That battle is still being fought, but the advocates of humanity are losing. Our country and our planet need a lot more kindness, effort and humanity. On the other hand, there’s far too much daring to excel.

There is some hope. The school has since changed its motto once again, this time to Reach out, aim high.

Perhaps we can look forward to a resurgence of kindness and social cohesion after all.

See another advocate of kindness here https://teddycanblog.com/2016/06/04/the-paradoxical-nature-of-kindness/

About the bear

Settle down, you lot (you know who you are). I’m talking about my toy bear, the one my grandma made for me in 1956.

I’ve always loved him and still have him, along with a tiny number of much-loved books. That’s it from childhood, really.

I don’t have any photos. My mother went a bit strange at the end of her life and destroyed most of them, and then my brother threw away the rest. The bear is pretty much the whole story.

The bear’s name is Me-me. Let no-one ever say us baby boomers are self-centred! But then again, I was only two years old at the time. My brothers in due turn received similar bears, one also named Me-me (with a stunning lack of originality) and the other Super Tom. No idea why.

My nieces, born post-2000, have rooms full of toys. Houses full. They have so much stuff that they have to stage annual garage sales to make room for the next lot.

That certainly wasn’t my baby boomer experience. The bear, the books, the blanket, and one bicycle, much anticipated, for my tenth birthday, kept until it was stolen eleven years later. Two dolls, a plastic tea set (also destroyed by my brother). I think I remember a netball, since I certainly had a netball goal post in the yard.

Lots of baby boomers are well off now (of course, many aren’t). That doesn’t mean we had childhoods of plenty. We mostly didn’t, mainly because there were too many of us. Young parents, lots of kids, meant not much money for things. We weren’t deprived, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t long for things we couldn’t have, TV made sure of that.

I desperately wanted a tin of  Derwent coloured pencils, the big one with a picture of the Lake District on the top and two layers of pencils inside. That was in 1964. I finally bought these for myself in 1998. Not to use, just to have, because I had wanted them all that time. That’s the baby boomer experience, delayed gratification with a delay of over thirty years.

I love my coloured pencils. But I love the bear more.