[wisehat] Wise Hat News #16

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  • Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 23:29:42 +0900

Wise Hat News #16
10 June 2006

The online version is available at:

1. Minus The Shooting
2. Not Just The Shooting
3. Imagine
4. What's New (and Old)?
5. Brute Strength
6. Administrivia


## Yeah, but in fairy tales when someone dies....it's just a word. ##

The World Cup kicked off yesterday. The day before, US Army First
Lieutenant Ehren Watada became the first US officer to publicly state
his refusal to obey an order to deploy to Iraq. The day before this US
attack helicopters bombed a farmhouse. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's body was
identified by fingerprints, facial recognition and "known scars". The
"most wanted man in Iraq" is dead. I wonder who the next most wanted
will be?

In his 1945 essay The Sporting Spirit, George Orwell declared sport to
be warfare minus the shooting. He wrote that while it might be possible
to play a game for fun and exercise on the village green as soon as
prestige becomes involved "savage competitive instincts" will soon
follow. While I agree with this part of me guesses we would all be
better off if war was less like war and more like sport. I think
football hooliganism is preferable to bombing. Surely cheering one's
team to win is better than killing? Perhaps all differences could be
settled on the football pitch? But then, perhaps it is settling
differences that is the problem? Perhaps we ought to be settling our

This time around: violence.



## If you don't turn your life into a story, you just become a part of
someone else's story. ##

How many people does terrorism kill a day? How many in a month? How many
in a year? And while I'm asking distasteful questions, here are some
more. How much money does terrorism make? Who for? How?

I guess your answers, if you agree to answer, will depend upon how you
define terrorism. Is beheading a man terrorism or does it only become so
if one makes a video of it and uploads the video to the internet? Is
bursting into a house and killing the occupants terrorism or does it
only become so if the occupants include women and children and one tries
to hide what one has done by lying about it? Is circumventing, ignoring
and breaking International law terrorism or does it only become so if
the United States says it is?

One man's terrorism is another man's propaganda. During World War II the
maquis were considered terrorists by the German forces but freedom
fighters by the Allied forces. During the Vietnam war The Viet Kong were
considered terrorists by some and a Liberation Army by others. The
British thought the American Revolutionaries terrorists. Oh, did I
forget to mention the Zionists and the British Mandate of Palestine? It
all depends upon what story we choose to accept. Right now, it seems as
if we accept the story of a "war on terror". But if we accept a war on
terror why not a war on transport? The World Health Organisation
recently issued a report stating that traffic accidents are the second
leading cause of death amongst young people aged 5 to 29 years. Road
crashes kill 1.2 million people every year and between 20 and 50 million
are disabled and injured. And then there is climate change. Perhaps the
United States airforce should be targeting the headquarters of General
Motors, Toyota and Ford?

Perhaps not.

Violent thoughts breed violence. How does the saying go? Those who live
by the sword die by the gun? Football violence and aerial bombing lie on
the same continuum, the same conveyor belt of the mind.. One may be less
destructive than the other but neither embody peace.

Peace requires more than avoiding violent action, though that is a
start. It also requires throwing away violent forms of communication and
violent thinking. I write throw away because I think that currently it
takes real presence of mind and resolve to be peaceful. Violence is
everywhere, lurking.


## The first thought had been: In the Clan is Strength. ##

To what extent is competition violent? Perhaps competition is violence
with its mouth closed. The winners get the spoils and the losers do too.
When it comes to being peaceful competition spoils our minds and damages
our hearts. Children can happily play a game without a reward but
Introduce a prize into the same game and it often creates misery. The
more attractive the prize the more likely violent behaviour will arise.

Recently, I had a class with adults where we listened to John Lennon's
song Imagine Before playing the song I got the students to work in
groups and come up with some ideas for defining a perfect world. We were
easily able to agree some shared ideas.. I then asked the students that
if we could all agree so easily on what a perfect world would be like
how come the world we live in is so different. Various answers were
generated including ego, lack of empathy, hierarchy and the environment.
One thing that was missing was profit. Personally, I'd put this high up
on the list. Love of money may be the root of all evil but surely love
of profit is even more so.

To me it seems that seeking profit is an attempt to gain something for
nothing. It is a form of theft. But then perhaps life itself is a form
of theft. I exist. I consume. I take. So the question is not whether one
is a thief but how much of a thief one is. Can I minimise what I take
and offer redress. Can I live in balance?

I'm focusing on this because I am not of a single mind about it. For a
while now I've been wondering what to do about the material I have been
creating for language learning. Part of me wants to make it freely
available for all. Part of me would like to be recompensed for the time
and effort I've spent making it. Part of me thinks I should use the
material to generate money to influence the world. Part of me thinks
this is a dubious idea. If I give away material freely am I not
encouraging the idea of taking something for nothing? If I charge am I
not the one who is doing the taking? I feel as if I am in a mirror maze,
able to see innumerable exits and uncertain how to distinguish
reflection from reality. I've decided that my only course is to start
blundering around and hope I don't break too much, or myself (into even
more pieces), in the process.


## There were big adventures and small adventures, Mr Bunnsy knew. You
didn't get told what size they were going to be before you started.
Sometimes you could have a big adventure even when you were standing
still. ##

I guess the biggest change is the bespoke CD page. I've decide to offer
the most useful songs I've made for purchase. I've set the system up so
that songs can be chosen and a CD made to order. Currently there are
twenty titles. I'll be adding more. Eventually I guess there will be
around 50 tracks.

Another big change is that I've added a couple of sections to my Wise
Talk splog (sporadic blog). There's a musings section for thoughts that
are even more rambling than this newsletter and also a section on
competition. Anyway, here is a table of additions:

Wisesong - Bespoke CD Service

Musings â  First Entry â Do it the DJ Way

A Discussion On Competition - over 11 pages worth!

Drama - an All Together Now article with 5 activities

Football - A non-competitive boardgame

How Are You? - song lyrics and activity notes

How Many Colours Can You See? - song lyrics and activity notes

Look! - song lyrics and downloadable sheet

Seven Monkeys - song notes and downloadable sheet

Shake! - song lyrics and activity notes

Twenty Twenty - an energetic activity using commands

Uh huh! - song lyrics and notes

Verbmania - song lyrics and notes

What Are You Called - song lyrics and activity notes

What Do You Mean? - song lyrics and activity notes

Note: As I write this I feel I'm really struggling more than usual to
shape coherent thoughts. Unless I hear requests to the contrary I think
I'm going to use Wise Talk more for this kind of divergence and use this
newsletter to focus more on my actual experiences, especially those in
the classroom. But for now I'll allow these thoughts to run their course.


## But because they were old they were cunning, because a rat which
isn't cunning and shifty and suspicious doesn't become an old rat. ##

How much do teachers rely on violence, or at least the threat of it? To
the extent that the teacher expects to be obeyed doesn't that ultimately
rely on some kind of threat? I think this must surely be true in
situations where lessons are compulsory but how about in circumstances
where students have chosen to be present but refuse to follow the
direction of the teacher. What choice does the teacher have but to
intimidate or threaten? I guess the teacher can cajole but isn't that
submitting to a kind of passive violence by the students?

In my experience, honesty and humour are the best policy, that and
remembering to be flexible. I will confess to shouting at students. I
have shouted in genuine anger but I think never with animosity. I
remember once doing an impression of an irate teacher at some high
school students who had stopped listening. I was angry but my anger was
also an act. I asked if they wanted me to behave like the proverbial
hostile teacher. None of us wanted me to do that and it did lead us to a
better understanding. Another time at a small private language school I
left a classroom and sat in the school waiting room reading a
newspaper.The three girls I was with wouldn't stop chatting in Japanese.
After five minutes or so one of them came out and told me that I should
be teaching them as their parents were paying money! I told her I wasn't
a servant and wouldn't be treated as such but returned to the room. My
nonchalant attitude had served its purpose.

Where there is rapport and understanding violence wilts. Where there is
group spirit and a feeling of community violence withers. Freedom of
choice and democracy are secondary in this respect. Perhaps this is
because these are affairs of the head whereas peace flows from the heart.

Until recently I was convinced that if humanity is to save itself it
needs to become democratic. I didn't mean the skulking cockroach
democracy that Bush and Blair peddle like malignant conjurors. But
genuine participatory democracy based upon consensus and economic
reform. I still think it is vital and I'm still working on making my
lessons democratic but I've begun to realise that it is far from enough.
It is necessary to examine our institutions and practises and expose
violence where it exists and then change our institutions and practises
so it cannot exist.

What would a World without violence be like? Would the World Cup still
be played in such a world? Certainly we wouldn't allow our leaders to
talk platitudes and order murder. Nor would we allow the Mass Media to
be wilfully ignorant and support such policies. But then I think we
would make sure that power could not be concentrated in the hands of so
few. We would have an intuitive understanding that concentrated power is
violence waiting to express itself. We say we want peace but what are we
prepared to be to have it. What are we prepared to do to get it?

## A good plan isn't one where someone wins, it's where nobody thinks
they've lost. ##


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## I can see the shape of an idea in my head but I can't think of the
words for it, do you understand? ##

(Quotes this issue from "The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents" by
Terry Pratchett)

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