jayellebee's Blog

September 14, 2013

Swift? Not Me!

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 6:56 pm
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     blog pix

 My high school years ended a long time ago.   And yet, I still harbor a handful of academic-related memories well spaced between those of mean girls, food fights and everyday teen drama.  One such recollection is courtesy of my senior year English teacher.

     The class was assigned to read  Jonathan Swift’s blog pic1729 essay, “A Modest Proposal.”   At the tender age of sixteen, I was the poster child for naivete.    I’m not sure I even knew the term “satire” back then.  I certainly didn’t recognize it when I saw it.

     What I remember with clarity is being horrified at Swift’s proposal.  I anguished reading his suggestion that the poor of Ireland should eat their children, thereby solving the epidemic hunger crisis and saving parents from the burden of raising children they could ill afford. 

     How could he be so callous?  So lacking in empathy?  Had he never been a child?  Barbarian!

     The subsequent classroom discussion taught me I hadn’t been meant to take the author’s comments at face value.  Swift’s tongue had been lodged firmly in his cheek.  Who knew?  Apparently, everyone but me.  I may not be swift on the uptake, but that day my eyes were opened to the world of saying one thing while meaning another.  Enlightenment comes in many forms. 

     Our next assignment was to write a satirical essay.

     Experience from the previous summer provided my inspiration.   I had organized the neighborhood kids to pick up litter.  The gang accepted my challenge with the promise of finding four — count them — four quarters I’d hidden along the one mile route.   Keep in mind, in that era of “gas wars” 25 cents was enough to buy a gallon of gas.  And get change,  

     blog pixOver an hour’s time, a dozen or so children amassed enough garbage to garner a front page group photo in the local newspaper (right below a feature story about big mouth bass fishing).  Of course, the smelly mountain of empty cans, greasy sandwich wrappers and discarded worm containers created another problem:  how to get rid of it all.  By brother pressed Dad’s station wagon into service and we drove the soggy paper bags of bilious waste to the dump.  

    My resulting essay espoused ways to rid the modern, litter-strewn world of trash.  Cigarette filters, I wrote, could be created from quick-dissolving material.  As each one decayed, a dormant wildflower seed hidden within would be released and fertilized.   Should unintended side-affects decrease the number of smokers in the world, so much the better.  Another gem addressed those new-fangled pop-top aluminum cans.  The  razor-edged tabs were being discarded willy-nilly  and left to gash bare feet.  Why not allow them to be redeemed like the ubiquitous Blue Chip Stamps of the time?  I described special booklets with slots to hold the gathered metal loops. 

     The English teacher praised my writing, but the world ignored my ideas.

    blog pix I recently read Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave by Adam Alter.  One section cites scientific experiments designed to guage a person’s inclination to drop litter.  Psychologists determined we are less likely to foul the environment when our surroundings are pristine than when other people’s droppings are already present.  Taking this information to heart, I have adopted a nearby section of country road.blog pix 001  The adoption is unofficial, no sign will be forthcoming unless some idiot drops one off….

     A turnout on the narrow mountain lane encourages people to stop and eat lunch or even spend the night in their campers.   Without conscious thought for what will become of the mess, these interlopers leave an amazing assortment of junk.  Bamboo window shades, ratty shoes, orphaned socks….  Given enough time, I expect to find a gutted washing machine, bald tires and at least one soiled mattress.

     When my dog hasn’t produced anything to fill the plastic bag I carry in my back pocket, I pick up roadside waste instead.   Have my efforts resulted in less littering?  I think so.  But the county-owned, solar-powered, digital-readout “Your Speed” radar gizmo currently parked in the turnout has had a definite positive affect.  Now if the rig discourages the dirty, rotten litterbugs from speeding along our narrow mountain lane, I’ll be a happy camper twice over.blog pix 174

November 10, 2013 Post Script
Today my dog’s nose led both of us to a 32 gallon black plastic garbage bag hidden behind a bush. The shape predicted the bag was not empty. A quick heft told me whatever was inside wasn’t light. I held my breath, unrolled the top and took a quick peek. A face looked back at me. When my heart resumed beating, I looked again. What I assume were the inedible parts of a butchered doe, including the head, had been dumped beside the road. Incredible!


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