Saturday, October 20, 2018

Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum!

Giants are most often invisible. They lurk inside us. They round the corners of the brain, clutch at our hearts, and trip us up. We do not necessarily suspect their presence. We are not readily aware that they inhabit us. We do not easily realize that the fear they can instill in us arose in our childhood, in our youth, and in our heretofores.

Adam Broadford, in ‘ADMISSION, a Story Born of Africa’, remains haunted by a giant in his path. He knows it. It prevents him ever disclosing the truth, the whole truth, to anyone. It always prevents him having open disclosure, having complete trust, or being free ‘just’ to be. Always, there is a giant called Fear and Disgust and Shame, depending on the circumstances. And given that Adam was a three-year-old child when this giant figure came to invade his innocence, despoil his future, and cloud his trust, he can but continue to keep the giant at bay by never revealing its presence. To disclose it to someone else is to make it too real. To unpack it before the prying eyes of others, and to have the past, his private past, entirely besmirched by the austere judgement of others, is to be too open to the certain vilification awaiting him.

Then too, there is the murder he committed when he was a boy. But that giant of a secret Adam feels he more readily can keep at bay. Besides, no one would really blame him. At least, no one he knows that is ‘white’.

South Africa had a legalized giant named ‘Apartheid’*. It meant that anyone looking ‘black’, be they Hindu, Pakistani, Chinese, Cape Coloured, or any member of the ‘dark races’, could not partner with a white person, could not date, could not marry, could not even ride in the same vehicle together. South Africa also legislated against homosexuals. It ruled against integrated schools. It created entrenched cultural distinctions with naturally separate values for the Bantu, the Afrikaner, and the English. At the time of Adam Broadford’s parents meeting in the 50’s, although both white, there was much cultural disapproval that an Englishman would date an Afrikaner girl, much less ‘have to’ marry her! Times, history, values, and concepts do change. But the giants of Shame and Fear can continue to haunt the populace at large. There are the indiscretions of the past. There are the lies they told their friends, their families, their partners. The giants of Self-Service do much to prove one Selfish. The giants of Shame do much to keep one Secretive. And the giant of Fear can keep one clandestine, haunted, and even Irrational.

We fear bees, and lions and tiger and bears, oh my! We fear hate and hurt and harm. We hide from trouble. We seek escape from threat. We can cauterize the bleedings that will give us lifelong scars, even though it be in the heart, where we think others may not see. But the giant shadows of the past linger on. They continually arise, unshakeable even in the light of our new understandings. They can be obscure, and obfuscated, just as we can be. We can tilt at them. We can make them larger than they actually loom. We can in our anxiety pay obeisance, homage, and sacrifice ourselves to them. Some we can even give names, call out their histories, and unwind the very coil within which they shuffle. Some we smudge at, misaligning their very sharp edges in our memory. But as diminished as the giants may become, so long as recollection itself is a tool of memory, there will be a word, a phrase, a smell, a look, a touch of someone’s skin that all by itself can rise up in us the giants of Fear, Despair, or Shame.

“Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman!”** calls the giant. And for Adam Broadford, English as he was in a predominantly Afrikaans culture, it was a call to all that he was made to be ashamed of; a child who takes after his father, a backseat brat made to be shamed by his ‘very’ English past.

We can learn to slay giants.  But can we ever rid ourselves of their memory? Adam Broadford sets off to find that much out. And you? Do you go to battle with your giants too?

*Apartheid era[Wikipedia]

Under South Africa's ruling National Party from 1948 to 1994, homosexuality was a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison; this law was used to harass and outlaw South African gay community events and political activists.[12]
Despite state opposition, several South African gay rights organisations formed in the late 1970s. However, until the late 1980s gay organisations were often divided along racial lines and the larger political question of apartheid. The Gay Association of South Africa (GASA), based in the Hillbrow district in central Johannesburg, was a predominantly white organisation that initially avoided taking an official position on apartheid, while the Rand Gay Organisation was multi-racial and founded in opposition to apartheid.[13][14] In the country's 1987 general election, GASA and the gay magazine Exit endorsed the National Party candidate for Hillbrow, Leon de Beer. The campaign brought to a head the tensions between LGBT activists who overtly opposed apartheid and those that did not. In the wake of the election campaign, GASA declined and was superseded by the Cape Town-based Organisation of Lesbians and Gays Against Oppression (OLGA).[15]
From the 1960s to the late 1980s, the South African Defence Force forced white gay and lesbian soldiers to undergo various medical "cures" for their sexual orientation, including sex reassignment surgery.[16] The treatment of gay and lesbian soldiers in the South African military was explored in a 2003 documentary film, titled Property of the State

**  "Fee-fi-fo-fum" is the first line of a historical quatrain (or sometimes couplet) famous for its use in the classic English fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk". The poem, as given in Joseph Jacobs' 1890 rendition, is as follows:
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.
Though the rhyme is tetrametric, it follows no consistent metrical foot; however, the respective verses correspond roughly to monosyllabic tetrameter, dactylic tetrameter, trochaic tetrameter, and iambic tetrameter. The poem has historically made use of assonant half rhyme.


The rhyme may have originated with the ballad Childe Rowland.
It appears in the pamphlet Haue with You to Saffron-Walden (published in 1596) written by Thomas Nashe (who mentions that the rhyme was already old and its origins obscure):[2]
Fy, Fa and fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman
In William Shakespeare's play King Lear (c. 1605),[2] the character Edgar exclaims:
Fie, foh, and fum,
I smell the blood of a British man.
The verse in King Lear makes use of the archaic word "fie", used to express disapproval.[3] This word is used repeatedly in Shakespeare's works: King Lear shouts, "Fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!", and in Antony and Cleopatra, Mark Antony's exclaims, "O fie, fie, fie!"
The earliest known printed version of the Jack the Giant-Killer tale appears in The history of Jack and the Giants (Newcastle, 1711) and this,[2][4] and later versions (found in chapbooks), include renditions of the poem, recited by the giant Thunderdell:
Fee, fau, fum,
I smell the blood of an English man,
Be alive, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.
Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum.
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he living, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to mix my bread.
Charles Mackay proposes in The Gaelic Etymology of the Languages of Western Europe that the seemingly meaningless string of syllables "Fa fe fi fo fum" is actually a coherent phrase of ancient Gaelic, and that the complete quatrain covertly expresses the Celts' cultural detestation of the invading Angles and Saxons:
·         Fa from faich (fa!) "behold!" or "see!"
·         Fe from Fiadh (fee-a) "food";
·         Fi from fiú "good to eat"
·         Fo from fogh (fó) "sufficient" and
·         Fum from feum "hunger".
Thus "Fa fe fi fo fum!" becomes "Behold food, good to eat, sufficient for my hunger!"[6]

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Thanksgiving Transitions

Waiting in a Medical clinic, Thanksgiving Day, takes on many forms. Some people are at dinner. Others, like the poor souls around me, await the next phase of their sorry fate. Thing is, aren’t we all, in any case, like turkeys being led to some eventual end in which the leftovers are used and used, until we are forgotten in the grand sweep of progress?

There are two meta-narratives that drive mankind’s meanings. First is the Positive Paradigm of the hopeful, the progressive, the accreting. Second is the Negative Paradigm of the enervating, the disillusioned, the depleting. Throughout history there have been the doomsayers, and there has been the venturers. The latter have driven us toward the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Industrial, and the Technological Revolution. They will drive us among the stars. Eventually we shall discover other places to inhabit. Eventually we shall reach Oneness. Already there is a marriage between technology and biology. Eventually we shall transform with the inevitability of The Singularity. But that very ‘inevitability’ is what the Doomsayers and the Naysayers and the Enervators are arguing against. Too many species are dying. The oceans are dying. The earth cannot sustain us (all). We are in the proverbial hand-basket on our unsteady way to an over-warned metaphor: the end is near!

Thing is, tangents take us out of our trajectory. Without them we become inured to change that is not too unsettling, such that our adaptability goes with the flow. It allows for our taking on some major changes (like Blue Tooth connectivity changing land-line-based lives,) and it shuffles along readily enough without alarming our mortal coils. But wrenched by some tangent we do protest. Ask Martin Luther. Ask Galileo. Ask Kepler, or Copernicus. Ask all those who envisaged a new world view, or promulgated a new paradigm, or who were violently opposed by those who misunderstood, or were virally threatened by an already established Old World Order.

Medical clinics can have that effect. People walk in, unsure. Some walk out with terrible news, their futures curtailed, their happiness severely tested. Such is inequity. Such are the tragedies that befall us. One moment one is having a respite from the dictum of ‘doing’ all the live-long day, the next a phone call startles one into the dreadful news that a loved one has been the victim of some accident. And in the accommodation of the new event, in the adjustment, and in the progress of the days and months and years that will not erase having to have lost a loved one, or having, in oneself, to become handicapped, adversely affected, or incrementally debilitated by the tragedy, therein lies the taking on of a new paradigm. We are creatures of habit, acquiring new habits. And our choices, sometimes, are not as freely up to us as we’d like.

“Come on down, you’re the next contestant,” Nurse Nelia, invites. She shows no compassion-fatigue, despite her evident seniority. She is gracious as a new patient arrives. Some are open and at ease with ‘the problem’, others lean forward, confidentially. Yes, we are but bits and bodies needing bolstering. We are but flesh. And within the mortal coil we each indeed do shuffle.

Dichotomies, as absolutes, are an anathema to integration. Everything is a little of this, if not more of that. Who among us is entirely right or left brained? And depending on the need, so we adopt our usage. Adept, capable, we still do not necessarily make wise choices. Maturation, insight, intuition, and circumspection allow for the progress of history to unfold, as Desiderate might’ve had it, ‘as it would’. And as for the prognosis, why, that becomes the private if not public recognition of the moment, measure for measure. Within that grand meta-narrative, we each can but try to stay healthy.

Come, let us give thanks, Individual by individual, taking on our tangents as we do, in order that the collective may be better served. But not just on Thanksgiving Day. After all, one does not easily know just when, “You’re the next contestant.”