Category Archives: Anthropology

VE Day 70th

May 8th 1945, Victory in Europe Day, marked the end of one part of World War II. War with Japan continued until two atomic bombs were dropped in July and Japan’s formal surrender was signed September 2nd.

My mother was on Dundas Street East in London Ont. on VE Day. She said when the news spread, everyone ran into the street screaming, laughing, hugging anyone at hand. They stayed outside for hours, revelling in the knowledge that the war was over. Bluebirds were flying over the white cliffs of Dover, the boys were coming home.

Coming home took time. My dad’s official discharge papers are stamped November 28th 1945, Wolseley Barracks, London Ontario. My mother and her parents met him. My 3½ year old brother was in his grandpa’s arms. He didn’t know the man they all were hugging and kissing and crying over. But he connected the name with the daddy he’d been told about. He slithered, Mom said, across from Grandpa’s arms to Dad’s.

My parents knew they had been luckier than others in the war and the post-war adjustment. Mom was happy to stop restaurant and factory work and stay home with her child. Dad had spent his war working on army vehicles in England and Scotland. At home, he worked on civilian vehicles. They made their contribution to the Baby Boom. The war receded into the background, never forgotten but not active in their lives.

Decades later, Mom found an undeveloped film in a drawer. It wasn’t one of hers. From the printing on it, she saw it was from the UK. Realizing it was Dad’s from the war, she was a bit nervous about having it developed. So was he, I think. What would be on the pictures? Soldiers. Some of them he hadn’t seen since.

My parents-in-law survived it too. They had to wait until VJ Day for it to be over. Bill was a pilot in the US Army Airforce. A blast to his eardrum during training put an end to his hopes to be a fighter pilot. Instead he flew transport planes, cargo and people. Some of his passengers, near the end of the war, were survivors from POW camps and Buchenwald, a concentration camp.

He came home to Kentucky in August 1945. He brought gifts from Paris for a girl he had met when home on leave in 1944. One was a gold sequinned Juliet cap. She wore it at their wedding three months later.

 

Lotto Red Chamber

Senate_of_Canada-wikicommons-Montrealais-2007Is the Senate a place for ‘sober second thought’ or what, in 1985, then-reporter Mike Duffy called “a task-less thanks” for political party helpers? Senator Mike Duffy is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Investigations continue into other senators’ expense claims.

Some senators, it seems, take advantage of an already very comfortable job. How to effectively restructure the red chamber has long been discussed, to no avail. Here’s my idea.

Why not appoint senators by lottery? Not with tickets to buy, but open to all citizens of voting age. Similar to jury duty, anyone can be vietnam-lottery-nhd.weebly.comcalled. But instead of mailing out foreboding looking letters, jazz it up a bit. Make it a happier version of the US draft lottery in the Vietnam War. If your number is called, report to the Red Chamber. Your social insurance number, that is.

Let Lottery Canada run it since it has the wherewithal in place for national draws. Televise it, with disco balls, lots of neon and the ball hopper of bingo halls. If aired on CBC, it would do wonders for the state broadcaster’s ratings. They will need a future whenever Dragons’ Den finally (please God) Philippine_Idol_Stage-wikicommonsslinks off to wherever old dragons go. Although it probably couldn’t be replayed as often as DD is, maybe George Strombolopolous could host retrospective specials. We don’t see enough of Strombo anymore!

How would a lottery senate work? Term of office would be two years maximum and those chosen would be required to move to Ottawa for their term of office. As is the case now, accommodation would be covered as a Senate expense. They would receive the same annual salary as present Senators do, but it would cease after their term ended. They would not be eligible for pensions or continued benefits as present Senators are after a mere six years of service.

Trailer-Park-Boys-TO-Star-Rick-EglintonYou might end up with a Senate full of Trailer Parks Boys. Odds are there would also be great senators who everyone would wish could continue forever. They could not, but neither could the waste-of-space fools.

Probably some good legislation would get passed each term. Probably palms would be greased and nests feathered as well. But everyone would have an equal shot at both those outcomes instead of a select few chosen by a political party leader.

blogs.post-gazette.com-11-27-10With the present system, the chosen few hog the trough for a long time. The up side is that senators with integrity are also there for a long time. I don’t think a Senate comprised of randomly selected hoi polloi could be any more hit and miss. And the advantage is, no matter how much you or I or the idiot down the street messes up, we would be gone quickly and painlessly – and cheaply.

 

War and Peaceniks

“Where have all the flowers gone, and the young men gone for soldiers every one.”  Pete Pete_Seeger_Newport_Folk_Festival_2009-wikicommons-wm-wallace-photoSeeger’s song.  The death of that great warrior for peace made me think also about those for whom he became a teacher, the generation born during and soon after World War II.

Called “entitled” now, they are believed (often even by themselves) to have sold out.  They were revolutionary proclaimers of a new age of peace and love.  Now their children and pundits say they have “dropped the ball,” upgrading their Beemers instead of the world.  But not one, I dare say, is unmoved today, thinking about Pete Seeger.  Born in 1919, Mr. Seeger was a parent to the “flower children,” and throughout his long life he passed his mission for peace and justice on to their children and grandchildren.

Listening to him sing, I thought of the Vietnam War.  Today, we care about veterans, old bumper-stickerand young.  PTSD is a recognized issue for soldiers and effective methods of treatment are sought and tried.  We nod thanks to soldiers and display bumper stickers of support.  We honour World War II veterans.  Even Korean War vets have been brought in from the cold, so to speak, acknowledged and thanked for their contribution.

But Vietnam vets?  It’s a different story for them. It’s still relatively recent history – lived writerfox.hubpages.com_hub_WarPoems-CivilWarby many still among us.  But, I think, the extent of its devastation remains overlooked.  It caused the greatest rupture within America since the Civil War.  It divided society and families.  And we everywhere could watch it unfold, and judge.  Combatants in the war about Vietnam were killed overseas and at home.  But now, after 40 years, it is remembered in popular culture as a war of drugs and rock and roll and reluctant soldiers.

writer.fox.hubpages.com_hub_WarPoems-Vietnam1That last observation is the nub of the issue, perhaps.  Vietnam was the last war fought with conscripted soldiers.  Thousands of young men fled their country to avoid it, thousands went to jail, thousands found Jesus or any excuse that would get them conscientious objector status.  Many completed university degrees that otherwise they might not have sought:  it was a way to defer the draft.  Until the loophole was closed, the Peace Corps probably got many more recruits good-morning-vietnam-cdsfor its overseas development work than it would have in normal times.

And the poor schmucks who couldn’t escape or chose not to?  Only they know what they endured during their tours of duty.  But all of us old enough to be sentient at the time know what they endured when they returned.  They were reviled.  Few parades or ‘thank you for going through hell’ for them.  They were spat upon and called ‘baby-killers’.

Those who went to Vietnam, and those who didn’t, all suffered.  Veterans suffered because of what they endured there, and the reception they received upon return.  Draft dodgers suffered because a) of guilt for escaping while others, including their friends, did writerfox.hubpages.com_hub_WarPoems-Vietnam2not, and b) they left their homes for years, maybe forever, evading FBI and military police.  Those who took what they hoped would be a tolerable option, such as medic, were still traumatized by what they had to patch up.

No one won in that war.  No matter which ‘side’ you were on, it was traumatic then and caused lingering pain, guilt and/or regret afterward.  For many, the drugs that got them through Vietnam or the anti-war movement at home, stayed with them afterward, allowing them to live with the memories or becoming a burdensome souvenir.  The casualties of the Vietnam War still have not stopped.  And yet the horror of it, and the opposition to it, is not talked about all that much.  It’s become part and parcel of psychedelic imagery of cleveland.com_plain-dealer-kent_state_shootings_may_1970_13-photo-APbell-bottoms, flowers, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and, yes, Pete Seeger singing We Shall Overcome.

PTSD had long been known of course:  shell shock, ‘he’s never been the same since’.  But it was something you were supposed to get yourself over: put it behind you and get on with your life.  The parents of the Vietnam era lived through World War II.  They knew what it was to fight, and what it was like to get news of your war dead.  Like their parents who had gone through the “Great War”, you went if your country called, like it or not.  The WWII fathers knew they had stopped a monster and an invasion, and here were their sons saying “hell no, we won’t go.”

But perhaps those parents didn’t realize that their children had grown up convinced they duck-and-cover-SourceUnk-www.anthonysworld.com_airraidwouldn’t see adulthood. It was hard to think of ‘battleground valour’ after years of “Duck and Cover” school drills in case of atomic bomb attack. Maybe it was their awareness that war is hell and no one comes out unscathed that has led to greater concern with the psychological wellbeing of veterans now.

And that, children of the Baby Boomers, is what your daddy did in the war.  If he doesn’t talk much about it, preferring to blast his eardrums with the Rolling Stones, you might think about why that is.  He lived through a time of war never before or since replicated in North American history, whether or not he has a service medal.  By the way, Peter Seeger also was a veteran of the US Army in the Pacific in WWII.

Poems and song lyrics are from War Poetry – some wonderful writing.

Mom, Christmas Postie

In the early ’60s, my mother worked at London’s postal sorting station during the Christmas rush.  It was for a few weeks when the volume of mail overwhelmed the sorting capacity of the regular staff.   It was the only time my mother worked at a job Xmas-1962where she had to clock in for regular hours.  It was tiring, standing up all day.  The other women told her to bring egg cartons.  She’d flatten several cartons or get the 2 1/2 dozen flats and take them to stand on.

It was odd coming home from school and Mom not being there.  It was kind of fun but I don’t think I’d have liked it all the time.  I think that’s how she felt about the work too – fun to go somewhere and do something different and nice to have the bit of extra money but not something she wanted to do day in and day out.

I never thought at the time how she managed to pull Christmas together at the same time.  She made dinner for us, her parents and her sisters and their families.  Dad set up Xmas-1959tables in the basement, using sawhorses and half sheets of plywood.  Plastic Christmas tablecloths covered them.  All the food got carried down from the kitchen.  It was the only time of the year that our unfinished basement was used as a dining room.  It was fun.  In the evening, after everyone had left and Mom had cleaned up, we would drive to my other grandparents’ house and have presents and another huge meal there.

I don’t know if Canada Post still hires casual Christmas workers.  There is not the deluge of Christmas cards mailed that there used to be.  We got so many that Mom would cover walls with them hung on loops of string.  She sent just as many too.

All this was before automated sorting and postal codes or the strikes that seemed to happen every few months in the 1970s.  It was before courier services took over much of canadiandesignresources.ca stamps centenarythe mail delivery, because of the strikes.  It was before postal workers began making a very good wage, and before the head of Canada Post earned half a million dollars plus bonus each year.  And of course, it was before faxes and emails, Facebook and Twitter.

People mailed letters and thank you cards, party invitations and birthday cards, sympathy cards and thinking-of-you cards, postcards that got back before you did from your vacation, and airmail letters on onion-skin paper to save on weight.  It was all delivered to your house or, if you lived in a small town, you went to the post office and had a chat with the postmaster or –mistress while canadiandesignresources.ca stampsyou collected your mail.  In the country, it came to a box at the end of the driveway, delivered by someone like my grandparents who had a mail route for many years.

There’s still some of that of course.  Superboxes haven’t replaced all human postal contact, yet.  And they’re fine, as long as they don’t freeze up in winter or jam in summer.  But you still need post offices for stamps and questions that the website can’t answer.

Baby Prince George

FB-Monarchy-Baby-nameIn the past three days, the royal baby has been born, brought home, had pictures posted on Facebook, and been named.  A boy named HRH Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.

For two days my television was tuned to the Royal Baby Channel – whichever one had “live coverage”.  It’s been worth it, waiting to see that little bundle in the arms of both his parents.  Also worth it have been the hours and hours of filler patter by hosts and guests on the broadcast specials.  I find you always learn something new about British and Royal history and protocol when guests have to fill airtime.

There is a photograph, I learned, from the last time there were four generations in the direct royal line.  It is of Queen Victoria, her son who would be Edward VII, her grandson London,-Royalty,-Four-Generationsthe future George V and her infant great-grandson the future, and fleeting, Edward VIII.  Let’s hope it works out better for this newborn when it is his time to be king.

Something that struck me as very interesting in the analyst chat on CNN yesterday was about the question of when this future king’s time will come.  Repeatedly, people said with amazement that it might well be 70 years before it was his time.  Amazing indeed considering that, in 70 years, his father William will be 101 years old.  Even with the good genes of the Windsors, still being a reigning monarch at that age would be remarkable.

I think having three generations already in line for succession actually means is that there may not be a reign as long as that of Elizabeth II, or Victoria, in this century.  That is, of course, assuming that these future kings live out their assigned ‘three score and ten’ or more years.

my-tv-screenLooking at the number of direct heirs doesn’t determine how long it will take for them to reach the throne anymore than only counting heads in a grocery store check-out line tells you how long you have to wait to reach the cashier.  You also have to look at how full their shopping carts are.  With the line of succession, you have to look at the age of the heirs as well as the number of them.  The best estimate you can make is how long their reigns might be.

Queen Victoria had three heirs lined up after her because she had come to the throne at the age of eighteen and she lived a very long life.  Her son’s reign was only 9 years.  His son came to the throne already a grandfather.  His reign was 26 years.  His son, the present Queen’s father, died when only 56 so Elizabeth came to the throne at the age of Scrapbook-photo-D-Stewart25, much younger than she or anyone else expected.

What is significant about these four generations is that, all things being equal, it is likely that people alive today will never again see a young monarch or such a long reign.  The last generation to see the fairy-tale story of a young princess, or prince, being crowned will have been the age cohort of Queen Elizabeth.  That being said, Long Live the Queen – and the future King and King and King.

Queen’s Secret: Review

Last week I saw a book called The Queen’s Secret by Charles Templeton.  Curious to see if it was by the late Canadian journalist of that name, I pulled it off the shelf.  Yes and even better, due to my being in a Royal mood with the expected arrival of HRH Baby, the plot hinges on the line of succession to the throne.

It was published in 1986.  Its queen is a fictitious Mary III who has one heir, a daughter.   References are made to previous monarchs, including Elizabeth II and her father and uncle, and to periods in their reigns when conflict between personal life and duty to country caused crises for the individuals, the monarchy and the nation.

The book is set in an unspecified future, one in which scientific discoveries and technologies now commonplace clearly have not been invented.  Problems that have beset the monarchy in past and present times move the story along.  Those include the political and religious aspects of marital choice for Royals, especially those who are heir presumptive or apparent, and the intrusion of media attention into the private lives of Daily-Mirror-July-1982Royals and the governance of the country.

According to the book jacket, Templeton got the idea for the book after news broke in 1982 about a man breaking into Buckingham Palace and succeeding in getting into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom.  When The Queen’s Secret was published, media attention on the Royals, particularly on the wives of Charles and Andrew, was high.  It was before the apex of attention, and tragedy, was reached.  A 1987 review of Templeton’s novel considered the plot outdated. “[T]he glory days of royalty are clearly waning,”  the reviewer said, calling stories about mésalliances of Royals “quaint and archaic to a generation weaned on People Andrew_Sarah_wedding_1986-07-23_wikimedia)magazine and prime-time soap operas. The British nobility itself is now in decline…”  Little did the reviewer know in 1987 that the Royal soap opera had barely begun.

The solution to the problem of reconciling the personal and political given in the story would not be possible now due to a change in succession protocol made by the Queen in anticipation of William and Kate’s baby.  As the firstborn, their child, whether female or male, will in time be the heir apparent.  Prior to that change, a firstborn daughter of the monarch would be called “heir presumptive” because the birth of a younger brother would displace her in the line of the succession.

Templeton’s heir presumptive is named Victoria, something that pleased me because that’s the name I’m betting on if William and Kate’s baby is a girl.

HRH Baby

With the expected Royal baby, there will be a kinship situation that hasn’t existed since royal_family-balcony-detail-wikicommons-Magnus-DQueen Victoria.  There will be 3 generations of direct heirs apparent to the throne:  the Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince William’s child.  Like Victoria, Queen Elizabeth’s children have become grandparents while she is still on the throne.

In December 2012 the line of succession was changed in law to simply the firstborn of the Prince-of-Wales-Investiture-1969-education.gtj.org.ukheir.  It had previously been the eldest son.  If the first child was a girl, she was heir only if she never had a brother.  That is easy enough to grasp.  It’s a second change made by the Queen to titles that’s less well known.  When I saw headlines that William and Kate’s baby, if a girl, would be a Princess, I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t be already.

Until now, only the eldest son of the Prince of Wales’ eldest son had the title Prince.  His sisters and younger brothers were known as Lady or Lord.  William and Kate’s baby will be in that position, great-grandchild of the Queen, from the Prince of Wale’s eldest son.  By the change in succession rules made in December, that child, whether a boy or girl, will be in line for the throne after William.  The title change means she will be HRH Princess Baby, not The Lady Baby.  So too will her siblings, for this applies to all the children of the Prince of Wales’ direct heir.

All children of a monarch are Prince or Princess.  The children of the monarch’s sons are also Prince or Princess, but daughters’ children take their titles from their fathers.  For royal-titles-chart-by-D-Stewartthe great-grandchildren, only the eldest son of the 3rd in line for the throne was called Prince.  Titles follow the male line, with the exception of the children of a regnant Queen.  I made this simplified chart of who would have what title.  The other chart shows the current Royal Family with their primary titles (click on the charts to enlarge).

The good thing about being Queen is you can give people titles.  So, for example, the Queen made Antony Armstrong-Jones an Earl before he married her sister Princess Margaret.   Margaret’s children inherited their Royal-Family-kinship-charttitles from him.  Mark Phillips, when he married Princess Anne, chose not to receive a title.  Therefore their children, while in the line of succession, have no titles.  Also, if you have several titles, you can choose which you wish to use and pass on.  So the Queen and her son Prince Edward decided on Earl of Wessex for him when he married, instead of the customary dukedom.  He then chose that lesser title to use in giving his children titles.  So, although technically they are prince and princess, they are known as Lord and Lady.

A Princess born into the royal family continues to be called Princess and takes her husband’s titles.  A Prince’s wife, if a commoner, becomes princess but the title is not put before her own name.  Diana was never ‘Princess Diana’, she was ‘Diana, Princess of Wales’ for example.  She can also go by another title of his, as Kate did with Duchess of Cambridge.  If her husband has no other titles, she is known as Princess his name, as with Princess Michael of Kent (the Queen’s cousin by marriage).

Down the road, another matter will need to be addressed if the child is a girl.  The monarch’s eldest daughter may be named Princess Royal.  Unlike Prince of Wales that is Elizabeth_II-coronation-portrait-detail_1953-Library-Archives-Canada-PDa temporary title, Princess Royal is given for life.  Anne is the Princess Royal, and will remain so until her death.  The previous Princess Royal was Mary, daughter of George V.  As it stands, William’s heir eventually could be both Prince of Wales and Princess Royal.

I hope the baby is a girl.  I’d like to see these historic changes play out.  I read that they may include Elizabeth and Diana as middle names for a girl, but nothing on her first name.  My money is on Victoria.  It’s a “queenly” name and it would give us a Victoria II.

I found these websites helpful:  “Would Prince William’s…?; “…title [of] daughter of a princess?”Monarchist League NB Jan. 2013 Queen Letters PatentHouse of Windsor family treePrincess Marina, Duchess of KentHRH Prince Michael of Kent.

Idle No More

Our ancestors wanted this land Canada so damned bad that they crossed the ocean, ox-in-field-hrsbstaff.ednet.ns.cacrossed the country in wagon trains, fought each other, fought the indigenous peoples, and cleared forest for pasture and crop land.  Subsequent waves of immigrants saved up for steerage passage to the New World.  Now we, descendents of these migrants, stand idle and leave it to the First Nations peoples to fight to save the land.

Idle No More is not just about protecting existing First Nations and treaty rights.  It’s about protecting all of us, and our shared homeland, first-nations-panow-idle-no-more-protest--dec.-21,-2012-newstalk650.comfrom legislative changes that may have serious repercussions down the road.

Bill C-45 was a catalyst for Idle No More.  Now passed, it is a 443 page omnibus Bill consisting of changes to over 40 diverse pieces of legislation. Its amendments to two Acts in particular are of concern to Idle No More.  They are changes to Canada’s Navigable Waters Protection Act and to the Indian Act regarding reserve land.

Reserve land is owned by the Crown, held for use by the resident First Nation.  The band can “surrender” land to the Crown (federal government) for sale or lease in order to have developments not possible under the strictures of Indian Act land title.  Until now, doing so required approval by a majority of a majority.  Over half of those eligible must vote and, of those, over half must vote in favour in order for it to pass.  Bill C-45 has changed this to simply a majority of those who vote.  So if 100 of 1000 eligible voters vote, a yes vote by 51 means it passes.  The potential for skewed results is mindboggling.

Also, before Bill C-45, the vote result had to be approved by the entire federal cabinet before it took effect.  Now only the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs must approve it.  The Idlenomore_victoria-bc-21-Dec-2012-r-a-paterson-wikicommonsfederal government says the new rules will speed things up, that the old system took months and even years for change to take effect.  But why not speed up the implementation instead of changing the ground rules of democracy?

Surrender of land might be used for building a shopping mall or something that is desired by all or most of a reserve’s residents and affects only that band.  But it also might be used for negotiating agreements between industry and governments, maybe plans that only a very small minority of band members, and Canadians in general, want.

Protection of waterways is another biggie in Bill C-45 with potential for huge destruction of Canada’s environment.  Although this is not an aboriginal-specific issue, it seems it’s rabble.ca-blogs-2012-12primarily First Nations that are upset about it.  By removing most of the country’s lakes and rivers from federal protection, management and development can occur at the provincial, municipal and private levels without consultation with the federal government.

That can be a good thing when you’re talking about small streams and local management that can do quite nicely without federal red tape.  But the downside is it also lessens the ‘red tape’ of environmental assessment so large-scale interprovincial developments can more easily take place.

See something similar in both these cases?  Less consultation and assessment making an easier process for development, including large-scale.  And current large-scale projects like the Enbridge pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia just wishing First Nations, environmentalists and environmental impact studies would go away.

beaconnews.ca-2012-12If we think that our immigrant ancestors’ efforts in settling Canada were worthwhile, we should remember that, by and large, they used their new homeland carefully and respectfully.  We all have reasons to protest changes wrought by Bill C-45.

Here is an informative interview about Idle No More and Bill C-45 with Pam Palmeter on CBC Radio’s Day 6.

Newtown CT

When smoking was still permitted in restaurants, you’d sometimes see signs:  “No pipes or cigars”.  That was because the smoke from those is much stronger.  To me, this is a Bonnie Parker Cigar1933 pd wikicommonsway to look at gun access.  There are many valid reasons for owning a gun; for hunting, target shooting, self-protection.  Many types and models that serve those purposes well have existed for many years.

Other firearms are designed for specialized purposes.  Automatic and semi-automatic weapons, assault and sniper rifles were developed for military actions and are what you want in those situations.  But for civilian hunting, sport or protection, their capabilities are not needed.  Like cigar smoke, they are too strong for a setting of civility.

Our communities and streets, we hope, are places of civility.  So let’s remove the “overkill” weaponry from them.  That’s all previous US gun control legislation tried to do, and having even that back would be a vast improvement today.

School shooting foloThere may well still be people who for whatever reason decide to shoot strangers, family or friends – maybe many of them, maybe even 6 year olds.  But if they weren’t carrying firearms that would hold such large ammunition clips, maybe they wouldn’t be able to kill so many.

I think, by definition, those who kill people they don’t even know have something seriously wrong with them.  There are ways, perhaps, to redirect or resolve their personal issues.  Something more is desperately needed in our mental health support system.

A blog by a woman about life with a potentially violent son is chilling, but her honesty and insight makes it required reading for all of us.  Provision of mental health care must be improved.  But, please God, not just with psychiatrists prescribing yet more psychotropic drugs.

26-Newtown-Christmas-trees‘The Culture of Violence’ has been much talked about since the massacre in Newtown.  Video games, music, movies, drugs and media hyper-attention have all been blamed.  All may contribute, I think.  But that’s a very large and amorphous mass – called, indeed, culture.  Can’t change it all with legislation.

I wonder if Miss Manners hit the nail on the head in discussing the loss of the dinner party as a social staple.  In the NY Times, she says the ability to converse and generally act civilly is gone, replaced by opining and expounding without listening.   Courtesy and respect can be taught and practiced at home, with family and friends.

To go back to the smoking analogy, people have adapted to bans on even cigarette smoking.  If they can do that, why should it be any more difficult for people to adapt to something much less physiologically distressing like having limits placed on the types of firearms, modifications and firing capacity you can legally have?

ad-bushmaster-acrThere is a final irony in what happened Friday in Newtown.  Connecticut has some of the strictest firearm laws in the US.  And the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a supporter of 2nd Amendment rights, is based there, in Newtown.  The gun industry has a long history in Connecticut.  Some of the country’s largest gun manufacturers have their headquarters there and they pay taxes to the state and provide jobs.   One may ponder whether the right to unbridled gun ownership and those jobs and tax monies are worth the 28 lives lost Friday.

Library Science

Sometimes a simple thing happens that makes you realize what you should have done.  Bancroft-Library-wikicommons-C-S-Imming-2012One day at the library, I was reshelving books that had been left out.  There were a lot of them.  Messy people, I thought, can’t even put back the books they take out to look at.  Before too long fortunately, I noticed a sign:  “Please do not reshelve books.  Survey of book usage in progress.”  Uh-oh.  I quickly unshelved those I could remember reshelving.

That day I acknowledged my inner librarian.  I have loved libraries, small and large, for almost as long as I can remember.  I now wish I’d taken Library Science at university.  I am not sorry I took Anthropology but had I combined that with Library Science I’d have had, for me I think, a perfect combination.

Anthropology provides wonderful tools for looking at the world, and it’s relatively marketable.  I think any government or social services position would be improved by having someone with an anthropology degree in it.  In real life, however, its direct connection to job requirements is usually as “a degree in social sciences.”  But that’s enough, it gets you in the door.  But it won’t get you a librarian job.

As an Anthropology student, I could have focused on archival research methods.  That would have taught me, by experience, the nuts and bolts of libraries, archives and museums.  Ironically, historical research has been the largest part of my work.  But, in university, that did not seem as glamorous as ethnographic fieldwork.  So, despite the appeal of libraries to me, I didn’t think to put the two interests together within Anthropology or in studying both.

I love anthropology and it’s stood me in good stead.  But I love the smell and feel of Steacie-Library-York-U-wikicommons-Raysonho-2008libraries.  I love looking through bookshelves and card catalogues, but I’m always curious about what goes on behind them.  How do the books get processed and on the shelves?  How are decisions made about what books and periodicals are bought?  How does the Dewey Decimal System really work?  How has library work changed in the digital era?  People who have studied Library Science know all this.

Librarians are both the gatekeepers and the engineers of the worlds of knowledge.  They Belmont-Library-ON-2012 children's section artwork Patricia Couturelet you in and they stream the supply to their shelves.  They, with teachers, are children’s first encounter with literacy outside the home.  And maybe I’ve been lucky but I’ve never met a librarian who made me think, “wow, you’d be happier in another line of work.”   Maybe that’s due to being a daily part of so many wonderful worlds of art and fact.

So to those in or thinking about undergrad programmes or graduate school:  don’t discount social science and liberal arts disciplines that appear to have no job market Stephen_A_Schwarzman_Building_wikicommons-Blurpeace-2009relevance.  They all do, at least indirectly.  And, most importantly, they teach you to think.  Without that ability, any degree or qualification is of limited use.  But don’t discount the practical career-directed degree either.  If I had it to do all over again, I’d have both Library Science and Anthropology degrees.