Sunday, June 24, 2007

Constructs, perceptions and perspectives

A little over 50 days ago, the UK was rocked by a terrible piece of news. A little British girl called Madeleine McCann, aged not quite 4 was taken from her room in the family's holiday accommodation in the Algarve in Portugal while her parents had dinner a short distance away.

Thus far, all searches and leads have led nowhere, and the little girl is still missing. Everyone is carefully avoiding articulating the worst imaginings of their hearts (including me, so that's as much as I'll say on that point).

The plight of her parents has remained in the forefront of the British consciousness since that gutwrenching day, and people avidly follow the story, desperately hoping for good news, for resolution. This is illustrated by the fact that it is impossible to go anywhere in the UK without encountering a poster showing Maddy's picture and recounting the details of her disappearance. Ostensibly this is in order to encourage people to be on the lookout for the little girl with the characteristic anomaly in the pupil of one eye. The problem is that the posters are all over the UK. Maddy disappeared in Portugal. So I suspect that it is in reality a desperate attempt to fend off the sense of helplessness that we feel at being unable to change reality.

Many people assume that the entire European continent and beyond is in a state of equal alert. This is how we are about things that loom large in our perceptions. We assume that things that are important to us must carry weight in the wider context. We cannot, will not conceive of a perspective that does not take cogniscance of the things that matter to us above all else. Sadly, my husband's dealings with business interests in both Italy and France would seem to indicate that few people in those two countries are even aware of the drama that is playing out here and in Portugal.

I remember South African politicians during the time of apartheid defiantly telling us how the "eyes of the world were upon us" - upon this insignificant third world country. Perhaps they were right, but since settling in the UK and travelling abroad, particularly to the USA, I have come to doubt the truth of this assertion. The general populace everywhere I have been is seldom aware that there is even a country called South Africa. Many assume that this is a geographical description, and don't appreciate that the second largest continent contains over 50 countries. To most people, "it's all Africa, isn't it?" And yet, South Africa is the country in which the last 5 generations of my family have lived out their lives, raised their children, earned their living and been laid to rest. It shaped me, it moulded me, it nurtured me. I was born there, I was schooled there, I knew enormous heartache and loss, I found love, I was married, my sons began their lives there. My blood pulses with the rhythm of a cowhide drum. And when I left, although it was by my own choice, I felt as if my heart had been ripped out. No matter how long I am away, for better or for worse, I realise that the memory of it will always be home, long after the place itself has ceased to be. How can the world not know of this place? How can something so important, so seminal to me be a non-issue for the vast majority of people on the face of the planet? How can those who know little of it, not be desperate to learn as much as they possibly can? How can their blood not be stirred by the sounds of its music?

And yet, this is how it is. Little is known about Africa, beyond her own shores, even less about South Africa, other than the name of that greatest of all South Africans, Nelson Mandela, and the world is by and large content that it should be thus.

Similarly, the British population aches with the significance of Maddy's disappearance, while, in the rest of the world, it is business as usual.

I started this post with the intention of drawing from these accounts a few parallels to perspectives in learning and learning provision, but I find I have lost the heart for it. Please understand as I leave it there and allow you to draw your own parallels and analogies as you see fit.

No comments: