Monday, July 29, 2013

The age of excuses


The Age of Excuses
We are living in an age of turmoil when we are making excuses for the bad behaviour of people when we should be asking, actually NO DEMANDING that they own responsibility for their actions. Leading on to that we should demand that they have remorse for hurting or injuring others, even if it was accidental or they plead immaturity. That latter excuse is only good up to a certain age.  Yes, I know the frontal lobe fully develops at 25 years of age, but we do understand the difference between right and wrong at an earlier age in many aspects of life and morality.
This responsibility for actions like the hurting of a child, an older person or another peer or parent or friend or sibling must be owned and accounted for by the perpetrator. The perpetrator must understand fully that what he or she did was wrong and they must have remorse and display an eagerness to make amends and to repair their ways and to somehow alleviate the hurt of the injured party in any way they can. You cannot pretend that something did not happen or sweep it under the carpet.
Then the onus is on the injured party to forgive and mend bridges and let the healing process begin. If the injured party does not forgive and then they are the party standing in the way of the teshuva of the perpetrator and or accomplices and their own healing as well as the healing process of the perpetrators. Unfortunately it is the injured party who had to stand tall and be better than the perpetrator. That aspect of a conflict or a matter where there is an injured party places heavy demands on the injured person but ultimately it is for the good of both parties. It becomes a process of rectification and it is an assurance that the behaviour will not be repeated or given the opportunity to be repeated because both parties will put in step processes to prevent any sort of harm to the vulnerable people who are the victims.  It can change the perpetrator for the better.
Sometimes there are perpetrators who commit offences like child abuse or molesting younger vulnerable people and they will begin a process of denial when their victims speak out. They are often very convincing because of the very nature of their crime, child abusers and molesters are very clever and very devious people. People will say, oh no, not him or not her. They are such nice people and so kind and so special and they do this and they do that. It is not surprising that someone like Jimmy Saville could get away with the horrific abuse of children from very disadvantaged backgrounds and some who were not so disadvantaged but totally taken in by the charisma and charm of the persona that he presented to the public which hid the depravity and the sickness of his true being.
A person cannot use immaturity, a poor childhood, or being abused himself or herself as an excuse to abuse and expect to get away with psychological murder. To do so, is to allow that this person is so immature and stunted intellectually and emotionally as to be almost impossible to have them contribute in a meaningful way to a healthy society. To allow them in a healthy society is like allowing a person with bubonic plague to walk around in our midst. Often the person who does what he or she does cannot control their most base instincts and this makes them a danger to children and families.
We seem to have blurred the lines between what is healthy and good behaviour to allow the worst people to travel in our midst and to allow them free rein in the hope that they will see the error of their ways. That maybe true with a small minority. However there are those people who seem to take licence in today’s permissive society to indulge in the worst excesses of modern licentiousness and depravity.
The permissive sentencing handed out to sex offenders who strike at the very heart of our society and who corrupt and spoil our children, the future of any community must be deplored. Children have been psychologically mutilated by these predators to grow into adults who emotional and psychological equilibrium has been damaged for many beyond repair and these people suffer until the day they die.
Yes, we can look away in shame and pretend it does not happen and blame the victims as often the Catholic church and the Anglican churches have done and probably will do again if they are allowed to get away with it. But the real cost to our society is becoming grievously apparent and we must make repair and ensure that sex offenders are not tolerated in any way and any sort of deviant behaviour in education faculties is eradicated.
Respect for others is the key and I believe too much emphasis is placed sex and sexuality in education and not enough on relationships and respect and indeed morality and ethics.
Therefore we tolerate and allow incidents that we should not. The sentence handed out to David Kramer is a disgrace and will allow this man the freedom to roam and choose more victims as he most invariably will. Those who have such unspeakable appetites for children are very rarely reformed totally.
It remains to be seen what the results will be of the trial of another individual. Who hurts more in these cases? The innocent family members of the perpetrators who have done nothing wrong except to be born into the same family or indeed to have had a child who would grow to do such things. One can only imagine their states of mind. Again, the perpetrator has no thought for his or her family. If he or she did, they would not have behaved in the manner they did. Unfortunately that is what a sex offender is. Someone who uses and abuses another person for his or her pleasure without a thought for the distress of the victim and no thought of the shame that he or she brings on his or her family. They are sex offenders because they have no shame and are totally selfish individuals. That is why they should be given the maximum sentence because they are unable to be contained safely in society around families.

Sentencing laws should reflect this aspect of repeat offenders and those likely to reoffend. We have had Jill Meahar’s murder and the murder of another woman in the past year by sex offenders on parole should be warning bells. The number of children abused by selfish and callous adults who think they can get away with it or receive very light sentencing has grown. We need to send a clear message that sex abuse and the molestation of children is abhorrent and not to be tolerated.  By the same token, preventative measures must be taken and if mothers and fathers are hyper vigilant on behalf of their kids and are out to protect and save their child from grief, better that than the other way. We must not neglect the needs of our children. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

In Praise of Longwarry Primary School

Last year I was faced with a difficult choice. I had to endure homelessness and am still experiencing extreme poverty despite having three degrees and 17 years of teaching experience and other assorted experience in editing and writing, I am unable to find employment.  In July 2012, despite our poverty and lack of funds, we had to move house because we had been given notice and also because I had to find a school suitable for a small boy who had been bullied and assaulted at his previous school. We have been assisted thankfully by charitable organisations and Jewish Care to find housing and given funds for the basic essentials of living and I still continue to search for employment that I am able to do and that is well paid to ensure that I can support my son.
I searched for several weeks and used much petrol to find a school that I believed would be suitable for my son and for him to be welcomed and educated properly and respectfully. I went to a total of ten or eleven schools in country Victoria. The second or third school I went to, was Longwarry Primary School. There I met with the principal Julia Sadler who turned out to be both warm and caring as well as firm. She felt right for my son. Still I wanted to be sure so,  I had a look at several more schools. I kept coming back to my interview with Mrs Sadler. She was the Principal who impressed me the most and her school impressed me. I also looked at classroom rooms, the way staff interacted and the way the students interacted in the playgrounds.
Longwarry came out a very clear winner.
It is a school of 120 students. A nice size and a very hamishe (homey and friendly) atmosphere exists between staff and students and parents. Everyone knows everyone else or gets to know who people are. Even if you do not know them by name, you know them by face. Louise, who runs the office very efficiently, always has time for a friendly word and her smile never seems to leave her face. Nothing fazes her and she takes all things in her stride.
Mrs Julia Sadler visits the classrooms on a regular basis and takes an interest in the students's work and the teachers, as well as meeting parents, organizing activities and going to meetings and is a darn good principal. There are principals who do sit in their offices and kick off their shoes and drink coffee and relax - most of the day. I know. I have worked for a couple of principals like that and believe me, it did not inspire confidence to have to bring a student to the 'box' as they called the isolation room at one school and have the principal waltz down the hallway bearing the letter of suspension for the child's parents and he - the Principal, not the child - was in stocking feet and carrying his coffee cup which he sipped daintily while telling me that this child was suspended for four days. These are the principals you hope retire quickly before they do too much damage.
Mrs Sadler is amazing. She has her hand on the pulse of the school. She knows every student at the school because she takes an interest in them and she knows their parents and their family situation. She is firm, but caring and sensitive. Her staff are amazing and echo her good management in their classrooms and out in the playground. It is wonderful what good leadership achieves and how a principal's enthusiasm filters down through the school hierarchy.
I will give you an example. Today as always we have an assembly in the mornings. There are Principal awards and class awards given every week to students and Maths awards for a maths competition for seniors and juniors in the weekly newsletter. They also give out reading awards. There were heaps of reading awards this week. The Longwarry students must have been reading like buggery over the holidays.My son received an award for 100 days and we are well on the way to 150. However there were 29 awards given to students for 150 days reading.  29 little boys and girls up there in front of their peers and parents with reading awards for 150 nights. That means nearly a quarter of the school has read 150 nights at home reading and we are just over half way through the year. Mrs Flemming and Mrs Sadler even bought a bit of maths into it and asked the students to total up the number of reading nights. One smart little chap multiplied 150 by 30 and then took away 150 to come up with a total of 4,350 reading nights. That is the sort of lateral thinking we need in schools and to nurture in the younger generation.
Kids don't need dogma, but to be taught how to think and to analyse and interpret facts. Yes, they also need to know how to memorise and to summarise but the thinking skills taught at this school are fantastic.

The positive atmosphere the school has made a dramatic improvement in my son's self esteem. He was not wanting to learn. He was depressed and angry because he had been treated like a half witted idiot at his old school and they did not bother to find out who the sensitive little boy was under all the pain and the anguish which had been created by bullying at the school and his previous school. He has been to three primary schools and we have made it third time lucky. We spent kinder at one school in 2008 and then he was only two weeks into the term in prep and I was told that he was mentally disabled and deranged and that he should go to a special school. Part of me knew deep down that that was not true, but I was being pushed into believing that he was a very disabled mentally challenged child and he would 'never learn to read or write'. That was said to me by teachers at two schools.I fought back tears night after night and endured comments from people who told me that I was the one with a big problem and that I just did not see that he had a problem. The second school was forced to take him because we lived across the road from it and we were in the region. The only choice I given when we left the first school was a special school that they were trying to talk me into sending him there.It would have totally destroyed him as a human being and wrecked his confidence in himself for life. He would have gone through life thinking he was a total idiot.  It was a school that  had kids with autism, Down's and other learning challenged students. When I took him home after the second day at that school he was mimicking a boy with autism and rocking back and forth in his car seat and making grunting noises. He was just five. Horrified, I never took him back there. I insisted that the state school take him and they did so reluctantly but treated him as though he was 'different' and as though he did not have a brain to bless himself with. I still believe that the 'tests' are wrong and that they are flawed as to assessing a child or a person's true ability. I, also by the way, do not believe that students with autism or Downs' (especially if they are high functioning) should be in a special school. Is it a problem with our whole school system that other students and teachers cannot cope with a child with special needs? Yes, indeed it is. We are becoming so specialized that anyone who is a bit different, is to be shunted off somewhere else and they are viewed as not as good or as smart or as intelligent as we are.
Learning and education are co-operative activities. There has to be co-operation between the students and the teachers, the office staff and the principal and the parents. We need to value the diversity in humanity and to treasure it. We are individuals and we are a community. We can be treated with respect and with love as individuals and as a member of a broader community. We have to appreciate each person whether they are older, younger or middle aged or teen aged. It is important in a community to mirror the larger community as part of a whole family. There may be some members who are different faiths or from different cultural backgrounds. It is important that there is respect. This respect starts at home within the family. Sometimes that is harder because they are family and being familiar breeds contempt and diversity. We have the examples of Esav and Ya'acov as well as Ishmael  and Itzak - brothers who do not see eye to eye and live different lifestyles. We must learn to be respectful of each other even though we do not agree on certain philosophical and theological questions. So one child or five children in a classroom of twenty  is having difficulty with work. It is better to modify their work, maybe explain it in a different way or even to look at the work and see how you as a teacher can help them to understand and not just condemn them to the trash heap of humanity because in your opinion, (and it is only opinion, after all) they are 'clueless' and 'will never learn to read.'
Maybe it is you who should take a good long look at yourself if you believe that of students or even of fellow teachers. People are only as good as they are allowed to be. If they are derided and held up to ridicule by other staff and students are allowed to denigrate them, then they will become what you help to make them and their full potential will never be realized unless drastic action is taken to stop the steam roller from crushing them.
There are too many games and not enough hard work is put into learning. Learning can be fun but it is also hard work.
At Longwarry they appear to have the right balance of seriousness and fun. They have rules and they have flexibility and understanding.They expect students to be decent and polite individuals because they are themselves respectful and polite. It is a great school and Mrs Sadler is a great principal with great staff who work with great students who have great parents and families.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Greetings from Geheniom on Tisha b'Av

This past day is the saddest day in Jewish history. Two temples were destroyed – one for idol worship and the second for Sinat Am which literally means hatred of others without cause. The expulsion from Spain in 1492 was on Tisha B’Av. There are many, many events that fall on this day. It is actually the culmination of three weeks of mourning in the Jewish calendar which starts with the 17th of Tammuz and the breeching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Romans.  We do not listen to music, eat meat, drink wine or rejoice through weddings or wear freshly laundered clothes or wash for pleasure from the start of the month of Av as our mourning is intensified to the 9th of Av and until midday of the 10th of Av.
Last night I went to the Yeshivah Shule on Hotham Street because two Shoah survivors were speaking there.  The first man recounted his story briefly. Then a man called Nossan Werdiger spoke and it was hard to hear without tears and even more difficult for him to speak of the unspeakable. He prefaced his talk with “I bring you greetings from Gehenoim.’ Geheniom is hell. He spoke about his experiences in the death camps and how he survived barely. He was in the death camps of the Nazi monsters – one should never call them animals as animals do not do to their own kind what the Nazi (may their names be cursed and erased from this world and the next) soulless monsters did to other human beings. They created a hell on G-D’s earth the likes of which we should never see again.
I came away shaken to the core, thinking may no generations to come have to see the world through the eyes of this man’s suffering and of his fellow Shoah survivors those with us and those who are not. His story and the stories of his fellow prisoners must be recorded and they are our few remaining witnesses to a soulless political ideology that decided a group of people should be exterminated as if they borne no human kinship to the beings that ran the death camps and the army that rounded them up to work and die.
Werdiger spoke of his survival throughout the harshest conditions in the camps, little sleep (they had roll call at 4am in the morning in the freezing snow) starvation rations, inadequate clothing and forced labour. He recalled the work he did painting and the fact that he was one of the few people with a good pair of shoes. Emotion cracked his powerful voice when he spoke of those whom he had lost in these dreadful days – a little brother, a sister, his mother and others of his family. Death is not easy, we all die, but to die under those conditions and not be allowed to mourn those you love – your friends, your family and relatives and not to give them the proper burial rites and even not to know them on their last day that is a pain never erased.  You last glimpse a mother, child or elderly parent or grandparent as they are separated from you and then the camp inmates who have been there longer tell you where they go;  children and mothers and the elderly or infirm – to the gas chambers and then the crematoriums whose smoke drifts and hangs heavy in the sky – dark with the blood and ash of your loved ones and everywhere there is death and destruction of morals and humanity and dying is happening everywhere around you.
He talked of his survival after the war when he had already become a Musselman. A musselman was the term given not just to people who were on the verge of death, but to people whose very neshama was in such shock at the horror that they had witnessed that they gave up hope to live. They were walking dead – their souls fled into hibernation and searched for escape from the hell that they had been placed in. Werdiger was four years in hospital after the war and nearly died but for the friends that he had in the camps some of whom survived and some are still with us and some have sadly gone to the next world.
What can we say to a person who has witnessed such hell and survived? To say that they have had a normal life would be wrong. One can only stand in awe of their emotional strength and their endurance of the pain which they carry to their dying days. Can we promise them that we and the next generations will not let them or what they have suffered be forgotten and can we say NO and raise our voices in protest should the beginning of such a thing should ever, ever happen again. (G-D forbid)
I learnt of the Shoah or Holocaust from some of the very first books I read as a child. Our family members are great readers. There was no TV when I grew up and we read and read and read everything we could get our hands on. My two uncles and my father as did my paternal grandfather had extensive libraries on holocaust literature.  There were a lot of books put out in the fifties and sixties especially on the atrocities of Europe. I grew up in houses that had book shelves lining the walls. We also have anti Semites in our family, who would prefer to forget that they are descended from Rachel Aaron a yiddishe maidel whose father Josef was deported to Australia with his wife and children coming in steerage. He stole something I believe and came as a guest of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Once he has worked off his fare he settled down in Australia. I do know that Rachel married out as John Lead who changed his name to Leeds was not Jewish.  Josef Aaron was from Hamburg in Germany originally. Family talked about them being Danish or from Holland. But no such luck. I still have to keep 6 hours between meat and milk instead of one. They only passed through Holland. They were originally from Hamburg and probably came there from Spain or Portugal if you could trace it back.
My mother is also from Jewish stock but again I have neither the time nor the money to investigate. Her father was Jewish supposedly because his mother was a Czechoslovakian Jewess and her mother I do not know as I never knew her nor do I have the means to trace her family back. Who knows what one can find if one searches long and hard enough? This I do know that as the grandchild of someone Jewish, it was enough to end up in the camps if caught up in the Nazi machine. The Germans had a unique system of classification. Anyone of mixed blood was declared a Mischlinge of either 1st or 2nd degree and Hitler himself apparently reviewed files of people who were asking for reclassification so they could be declared  of Aryan enough.  There were many converts from Judaism to either protestant or catholic religions and some Jews were irreligious. The topic is an extensive one and I am not going to judge those who disavowed their Judaism to remain alive in the European infernos. I prefer to stand in awe of those who remained proudly Jewish despite the horrors of the Shoah and rebuilt their lives and families and adhered to G-D and Jewish observance.  Nor will I ever stand to condemn those who did not keep their Jewish faith close. Who knows how and what those who did endure felt about themselves after the Shoah when all those they had known and loved passed over in the furnaces. Who is to say how one would act when placed in their shoes and have to walk the miles that they walked in the conditions they had to trudge.
After the testimony of the holy survivors, I went to hear the words of Rabbi Meir Yaakov Soloveichik who was addressing the Mizrachi shule. I arrived late but still was able to hear the greater part of his historical analysis of the destructions of the Beis Hamikdash  and he was in one word, amazing. He summed up the difference between the Empire of Rome and the Kingdom of Judea as one worshipped power and might of the warrior and the other was a religion of faith. When the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, the Menorah was no longer lit in the Temple, it was lit in Jewish homes in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people and we adhered to our faith and we knew now and know now and will know just who we are. It was uplifting to hear this learned Rabbi talk and I was glad to have been present at both the testimony of Reb Werdiger and also to hear the words of Rabbi Soloveichik.
The might and power of Rome may have destroyed a temple that was G-D’s physical dwelling place on this world, but it could not touch the spiritual home of the Jewish nation and we need to realize that each part of us is a part of the whole nation. When we realize that and join our hearts and souls together and serve Hashem in a peaceful way and with prayer and mitzvoth, we shall defeat even the most powerful, richest and greatest of the nations, because we have compassion and kindness, firmness and righteousness as our heritage and we have the Torah to guide us and it is the contract from Hashem – an everlasting one that will with G-D’s help and our own mitzvoth bring  Moishiach to this world and to create peace and goodness in this world.

Let the Temple be rebuilt first in our spiritual growth, our hearts and our homes and then, we should see the physical manifestation of the Third Holy Temple and the Cohenim and Levi’im returning to their holy ovada and all Am Israel will journey to be blessed in Jerusalem.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Krudd's campaign

It's our ruddy future
Their T-shirts proclaim
Just ignore
The excuses so lame
For disasters past
The Krudd campaign
Is in full swing
Never mind the sting
Of rising food prices
And utility costs have gone up
Through the roof.
"Our Kev" remodelled
And refilled with more BS
Than pus in an accessed tooth
Rockets around electorates
In his home state
He's everybody's mate
But nobody's saviour
Except his own.
He's flying high
On power trips to here and there
Everyone sees him
But the aftertaste is sour
 This everywhere but nowhere man
It's our Ruddy future alright
That's why I hope people will be too bright
To vote for the Krudd factor.