Monday, June 12, 2006

The Lottery

Two years ago, I had one of those days. On that day, someone met me for the first time. As I recall, we weren't even introduced, just placed close together in a room by chance. To this day, I don't think I would recognize that person on the street. But they formed a judgement about me, a judgement I knew nothing about until today.

Today I learned that my child's daily life is being affected by a single unremarkable encounter in my life from two years ago.

Today, I suddenly realized: I know what Shirley Jackson was talking about.

8 comments:

Granny said...

I've read Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Lottery and I'm puzzled.

And a little concerned for you.

madcapmum said...

Sorry, I'm not getting the references at all. I'm assuming this influence in your child's life isn't to his/her advantage though. Small town life can be a double-edged sword alright.

Laura said...

Not a positive influence, no, except perhaps in the sense of building character and a thick skin. I appreciate the concern, but I'm watching the situation, and as far as I can tell it's minor and best left to correct itself with time. I hesitated about posting anything, knowing there is a chance I would actually make things worse.

I don't think this kind of thing is limited to small towns. Workplaces, religious communities, any place with ongoing interactions amongst the same group of people can develop the same kind of problem. Someone is singled out for hostility on a basis so trivial that it's barely above random chance. "The Lottery" sprang to mind, after all these years, because that's what I couldn't deal with when I first read it: the fact that the strike of darkness is so arbitrary.

Deb said...

Laura- I think I read that short story in a Great Books program designed to enlighten us gifted fifth graders. I think I'm finally starting to understand it.

I have so far been blind to the effects of being outsiders in a small, close-knit (as in related, biologically, mostly) community, but I'm sure I am perceived as being different enough, or maybe even cold, to warrant some "special treatment". Ugh.

the Contrary Goddess said...

oh, this is so deja vu to me. I would bet my bottom dollar that this has to do with school. And I'd guess it isn't small towns that are a double edged sword but the whole and entire dynamic of schooling that is in and of itself evil.

But then, I have an opinion on the subject because I was once the child whose teacher had something against her parent. And it is funny how something that happened at 9 is still a bitter pill at 45.

Not that I'm not over it, I am, but it isn't character building. It is reality but it should be no child's reality.

And surely you can tell, I'm speaking totally out of my own experience, making assumptions, jumping to unjustified conclusions -- and so perhaps you can tell that I'm also not really doing that since I know that I know that I'm doing that.

But I'm saying, protect the child, period.

Laura said...

Protect, or prepare?

Does it have something to do with school - yes, but what doesn't? School provides the nucleus where a lot of these interactions take place, but if it wasn't school, it would be something else (church, an auction sale, the fair, the grocery store, whatever community gatherings would happen if we weren't all busy doing school things).

I do wonder about homeschooling, or unschooling. But I think the same kind of problems would find their way into our lives, not on the daily basis, perhaps, but probably even more intensely when they did intrude.

I think the problem is wider and deeper than schooling. Whether it goes back all the way to our genetic coding and the survival value of knowing who is "in" and who is "out," or whether it is more a product of modern economic competition, I don't know.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Protect. There is no prepare. It is not inevitable.

Except maybe in the artificial institutional heirarchical environments of schooling and the church.

I know we don't live with it, because we wouldn't put up with it. And I wouldn't encourage my children to think that they have to put up with it either. But we all have different tolerances for different things.

And competition is an interesting point. It is, by and large, so useless.

hmmm, I should think about doing a post about my theories that humans evolved to face real threats to their existence, but in modern times, there aren't any real threats so they make them up, pretend stuff is important (and threatening) that really isn't important at all.

Of course, best wishes for you and yours in picking your way through whatever the specifics of the situation are.

Laura said...

Thanks, CG. One thing that I think helps our kids, is that they know we don't care about school. We care about their learning, and their successes at whatever they want to succeed at. Grades, teacher approval, "making the team" - none of that matters to us one jot. The kids know that when we send them to school, it's not because we have some personal agenda to fulfill through them. And if the time comes that they need to do their learning some other way, we will make that work.

Deb - the outsider thing is real (don't I know it) but part of my realization from this incident is that the provocation for turning against someone can be very small. I am sure there are people who have lived here all their lives, and their parents and grandparents before them as well, and yet they too get cut off and shunned. In fact I can think of examples right now. Quiet saints, these people: generous and fair dealing and friendly; but not properly ambitious or something, and therefore looked-down-upon (among the adults) and picked on (among the kids). Sadly, I expect that if you could get people to speak openly about why they do this shunning, they might talk about keeping up a community standard. In reality, community is what they lose, rather than what they protect, but how many will ever question themselves deeply enough to see that?