Utopia 24: First Day of School

And I  say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made  one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew  one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and  one father.

Black  Elk

Utopia 24:  First Day of School

Chaos reigned..  The older children arrived  with the air of authority and looked on with either contempt or gentle  nostalgia as they made it to their classes unassisted.  But the new  children, they were a mass of faces filled with wonder and anxiety  amidst lost and confused parents.  Emotions ran high in this group.   Parents were  about to give their children to what amounted to strangers  for the vagaries of an “education”.   While children, who had  anticipated this day with the same impatience as the gift-laden Harvest  Fest, now reconsidered their desire to be  school-going grown ups in  favor of staying home in the comforting familiarity of their grange play  groups.

Jack’s  room was filled with these scared, new six year old faces.  Jack had  greeted each child with enthusiasm and each parent with understanding.   But he had then calmly herded the latter toward the door while engaging  the former in a game he had planned for the purpose of distracting the  children.

He  had finally gotten rid of his last parent and gotten the final child  interested in the game when yet another woman with a small boy showed  up.  The boy was wide-eyed in terror and the woman was red cheeked and  flustered.  “I  am sorry for being so late, Educant.  My alarm didn’t go off and we did  not wake up in time.”

The  children were successfully engrossed in the game and only two of them  briefly looked up but then returned to the game.  Jack had the luxury of  going to the woman and speaking to her in whole sentences.

As he approached the boy disappeared around  the back of his mother’s leg.  Jack smiled down at him.  Then he  squatted down so he could be at eye level with the boy.  “And what do we  have here?”  He asked in a gentle, calm voice.

“This is Fabie.”  His mother tried to push him  forward but the boy resisted.  Jack lifted his hand to the boy’s ear and  the boy shied away from Jack.  Jack brought his hand in front of the  boy so he could see the coin produced from his own ear.  “No, I meant  here.”

The boy smiled and  took a half step out from behind his mother.  Jack handed him the  token.  He had used this trick on three other children already today.   Fabie smiled up at his mother.

Jack  stood to address the woman and as he rose her perfume hit him.  The smell  was earthy but also floral with a hint of spice.  A familiar smell but  he could not put a name to it at that moment.

“And you are?”  he inquired.

“Laissi de Bedoya.  This is my son.”  She  said with obvious pride.

“Well  Ms. de Bedoya, I have all of my students.  Let me look up Fabie.”  Jack  walked to his desk and typed in Fabie de Bodoya.”  he smiled and looked  up at the woman.

“I’m  sorry.  I’m Educant Randall.  You are looking for Educant Lorring’s  class.  You’ll like her very much.  This is her third class.  She is  very experienced.”

The  woman looked even more flustered.

“Really, her class is just across the corridor.  I’ll point you  in the right direction.  And don’t worry about being late.  It happens  all the time.”  Jack gently placed a hand on the small of the woman’s  back and indicated the door with his other hand.  She smiled at him and   he noticed for the first time her high cheek bones and the rich color  of her skin.  An unaccustomed warmth traveled up his arm as he ushered the  woman to the door.  He pointed out his colleague’s room and she took her  young son by the hand and made her way across the hall and two door  down.

He watched her go.   She had long dark hair and it was plaited down her back.  The braid  swayed hypnotically with each step she took and he stood mesmerised by  the motion.  For a moment the noise and chaos in the room vanished until  the woman’s back disappeared into Educant Lorring’s room.  Then the  spell was broken and the noise of ten 6 year olds becoming bored with  their game hit him.  Embarrassed by his lack of attentiveness he turned  back to his new charges.


Jack sat exhausted in his atrium.  He had  forgotten how much energy 6 year olds could demand of their educator.   No wonder the limit for classes an educator could have in a lifetime was  4.  Today he wasn’t sure he could handle tomorrow, let alone a third  class in 9 years.

Now  he sat with his computer in his lap slowly combing through information  compiled about his new class.  He could have done this before the first  day of school, but he liked to get an untainted impression of each child  before examining what the testing said.  After all, testing was just a  guide and  not always accurate.   Besides, children changed as they developed.

He discovered that his class contained a  large number of visual learners although he had his share of auditory  learners and two tactile learners.  The tactile learners were the most  challenging, but also the most rewarding.  More of his students were  inclined toward language than the last class.  His last class had been  heavily weighted toward math and analysis.  He began to think of how he   might change his lessons for this new group.  Who would be his more  challenging students?  Who would he need to spend extra time with?

None of his new student were disabled and  none of their parents had marked “special beliefs”.  He would miss  Farid’s sing song prayers in the middle of the day.  Mostly, though, he  missed Andy.  He had actually started to unconsciously sign to his class  in the last hour of the school day.

Done with his assessment of the class he leaned back against  the planter and rubbed his eyes.  An earthy, warm smell with a hint of  spice hit him.  The image of the woman who had been late to Lorring’s  class immediately entered his mind.  He had all but forgotten her and  how nice she had smelled.  He looked to his side where he had leaned  against the planter.  A bushy plant with dark, glossy leaves brushed his shoulder.   White minuscule flowers covered the end of each stem.  Of course,  Patchouli. She had smelled of patchouli.

He  had always liked the smell of the patchouli plant.  Jack  reached over and sought out the seeds of the plant from the tips of it’s  branches.  The seeds themselves were almost too small to see but they  were contained in pods that were easy to find and Jack plucked some of  these pods from the plant.  He crushed them between his fingers and   lifted his hand to his face to breathe their perfume.

The pleasant, warm, spicy aroma did not just  bring a pleasant odor to the room but it brought with it the feeling of  warmth in his hand and the vision of the woman walking away from him  with her mesmerising long hair over the sway of her hips.  He saw her  face in his mind and the smooth brown skin of her cheeks.

Jack let the seeds drop to the ground and he  regarded his computer.  Fabie was not his student.  Sure he had access.   He had access to all the students of the school.  But it was wrong,  because he had no professional reason to look.

Jack lifted his hand to the key board.   He  paused one last time as he struggled with what felt so right and what he  knew to be wrong.  Then he opened Fabie’s file.

He scanned the first few pages, ignoring the  boy’s testing, and went straight for the demographics page.  He found the contact  page and saw what he was looking for.  Under “Mother” was Laissi de  Bedoya, but under “Father” was the simple word “Uninvolved.”

Jack’s mind told him rationally that just  because the father was “uninvolved” doesn’t mean the woman is.  But his  rational mind had long since lost control.  His fingers moved to the  computer screen and caressed the word with the same hesitant light touch that a man  might sample the texture and contour of a woman’s cheek for the first  time. A  warmth spread from his finger tips up his arm and lodged itself in his  stomach.  He stared at the screen for one more second noting her Grange (well known for its art  community), but forcing his eyes to stop  before they  reached her phone address.

Jack  snapped the computer shut.  It was one thing to look in the privacy of  his own home with a low probability of being discovered or called out on  the matter.  It was another thing entirely to take action on such  deviant  behavior.  

Besides, their first Parent/Educator night was only  in a few weeks away.  Perhaps another chance meeting…  And shouldn’t he clean  his robes again?  Sure he only wore them briefly each year, but after 9  years couldn’t they stand a trip to Talquepaque Grange?

The Concepts  Behind the Fiction:

1.   The Circle of Life

Consider for a moment  the worst scenario.  Iran gets nuclear weapons and uses one of them  against us.  Think about the lives lost.  The damage to the  environment.  The loss of that piece of land for inhabitation, crops,  etc.

Now  think about the disaster at the bottom of the Gulf.  Make no mistake.   Lives will be lost…just more slowly and more quietly.  Probably an  equivalent number of lives to a nuclear bomb.  Certainly the damage to  the Earth is far greater than just one nuclear weapon, but again it will  occur slower and that will allow the oil industry to cast the shadow of  doubt on the disappearance of species in the gulf.  Was it the oil or  some other problem that caused all the tuna to die?

We have embargoed  Iran, even threatened them with military action, for their alleged  fascination with nuclear weapons.  Should we be less stringent with the  CEO’s at BP and Haliburton?  Of course we all know the answer.  BP  provides us with oil and if we invaded Iran we could force them to do  the same as Iraq–provide us with oil–and  Afghanistan–who will provide us with valuable natural minerals.

Last month, as I watch oil spill into the Gulf, I couldn’t  help but think of my very first episode of  Utopia.  Before the big auto manufacturers got their bail out, and  before BP created an underwater, oil volcano, I had a suggestion for the  country.  Problem was that the suggestion would have required  independent leadership.  Leadership that was not beholding to either big  oil or the auto industry.  Unfortunately we did not have that then, or  now.

But  is it too late?  Part of being able to communicate in a blog site is not  just deciding what you don’t want and complaining about it, but  deciding what you do want.  What is it that we should be demanding from  our leadership?   Should we only want CEO’s who harm the entire ocean  and all the people that depend on it to make some pittance of  restitution?  Or should we demand that our government takes away the  ability to harm the world to that degree in the first place?

Since that first episode, much has  happened.  Just doing this project I have learned a great deal.  But  that suggestion still haunts me.  It does so because when I first  suggested it, it was only used as an example of how small our dreams had  become.  The suggestion was made to appear outrageously grandiose.  It  was used to be compared our largest efforts of the past and to our puny  efforts now.  But since then several of the things I have read lead me  to believe that it is just that sort of grandiosity that could save us.

What I suggested was that the US  offer the auto manufacturers a government contract.  They could use  their expertise to make a system of rail cars to respond to American’s  transportation needs.  These cars were to be electric and actually  preferable to gas power cars.  We were to refit America with  transportation that was free to its citizens and easier on the  environment for saving the auto giants.

You say that is a grandiose idea.  but for  the trillion dollars of interest free bail out money, what did you or  your neighbors actually get?  Jobs have not increased and the economy is  still slowly sinking.  You got the grandiose price but not the  benefit.  Would it really have been that outrageous to have used this  moment of crisis to outfit America for its future?  A future which most  assuredly is post peak oil and struggles with global warming?

2.  Breaking Free

Since that first episode, I have reported to you about Tim Garrett.  Garrett proved what  many of us knew intuitively; that the GDP was exponentially linked to  global warming and economic growth means more global warming.  His  equations were so precise that he was actually able to come up with a  constant that expresses the relationship between global GDP and carbon  emissions that has stood the test of time for the last 2000 years.  His  equations, however, said much more about our future.  He showed that  there is no way to keep our atmosphere below 350  ppm as Hanson says we must.  Also, he showed that the only ways to  keep it from running to the point of societal collapse was to have a  zero growth economy or uncouple the equation by converting completely to  renewable sources of energy.

Then there was a series of articles  that I told you about showing that  converting to renewable, all electric energy would not be devastating  for our economy, but would actually be good for the economy.  The latest  of these was published in Scientific  America in November, 2009.  Such a conversion was not only possible  these models show, but preferable for the country as a whole.

Finally,  we are still in economic danger and flirting with collapse.  The D word has raised its ugly head  again.  That’s right, Depression.  What’s worse economically than a  Depression?  Well Hyperinflation.  And worse than that?  Well,  nothing…until now.  It appears that Americans are well on their way to  inventing a new horror–Depression with  Hyperinflation.

The way out of our predicament is  not propping up the already failed system.  Granted this slowed the  collapse but it did not stop it.  In fact the economic system on a  global scale continues to mirror the slow ride down the drain that  occurred during the Great Depression and the Long Depression.  Listen to Webster Tarpley on Guns and Butter for further analysis of  history and how the Greeks play into de-sa-vue.  The way out is the same  way out that worked last time.  Putting money into the nations  infrastructure that will increase its competitive ability in the  future.  So far only putting money into propping things up has  worked.  Nothing new that will give us an edge in the future and  increase our equity was created by this.  It was wasted money.

Last time we were climbing out of the Depression  building a rail and highway system.  It was public buildings and dams.   Hospitals and schools.  It was art and entertainment venues. This time  it should be setting up the next generation for a world with expensive  oil and higher temperatures.  It should be in protecting the water and  crops of our communities and reducing the damage as much as we can to  our environment.

We can not get by with  a band-aid this time.  Changing how we monitor BP or Haliburton is not  enough.  We must disable their power over us.  We need to have a  grandiose plan.  Actually, it is a desperate hour.  We need to  make the Hail Mary pass.  If it is successful, great.  If it is not,  well at least we tried.  But to allow our children to suffer because it  was just too hard to even attempt it?  For shame.