Friday, August 7, 2020

Wild Fridays #31: I Wish I'd Written This

Do  Not Let Them Train You

Do not let the news man train you how to see.

Do not let the pundit train you how to feel.

Do not let the teacher train you how to think.

Do not let the preacher train you how to love.

Do not let the banker train you how to value.

Do not let Hollywood train you how to be.

Don't let them train you.

They were appointed by the powerful to teach you how to live
in a world that is small, too small for wild humans.

Too small for humans who haven't been house trained,
groomed, spayed and neutered,
and taught parlor tricks
like how to ignore life's intrinsic breathtaking majesty.

Too small for humans who perceive their own boundlessness,
their own vast unpredictable inner wildernesses,
their own beauty,
their own holiness,
their own worthiness,
their own innate equality
with those holding their leash.

So they train us.

They train us to believe the world fits neatly
into flat, finite conceptual boxes.

That life is predictable, that our nature is well-mapped.

That we live in a 2-D colorless cage
from which there can be no escape
and about which everything is known.

As though narrative could even touch this blazing cacophony,
let alone encapsulate it.

They are lying to you, my beloved.

They are lying each and every time they open their pixelated mouths.

This life is so much more than they will ever allow you to believe.

So very immense.

So very unexplored.

So very unpredictable.

So very juicy.

So very sexy.

So very, very, very beautiful.

The unknown unknowns dwarf the known unknowns,
and the known unknowns dwarf the knowns.

But they will never let you know this.

So don't ask their permission.

Take off that leash, wild apeling.

Unblinker those eyes and unshackle those legs.

Those chains are not there to protect you from the world, my beloved.

They are there to protect your trainers

from you.

Caitlin Johnstone

– Yes, her again. Told you I was pretty impressed.

I had been thinking that after all the heavy, serious stuff I've been dishing out of late, you might be due for some relief.  Something sweet and lovely, I thought, as counter-balance to all the stressful and horrifying things we face. Then I saw this. I couldn't not share it. (And after all, we've recently had Sanaa reminding us not to overthink and Rommy inviting us to focus on what makes us smile, so it hasn't been unrelievedly serious around here.)

To be truthful, while I think Caitlin Johnstone is a brilliant journalist, I don't think she's all that wonderful as a poet (though she's not all that bad either). But her journalism has taught her how to make her points powerfully. And oh boy, the things she says! That's what I wish I'd written. 

I think that we poets and storytellers, because our writing teaches us to analyse words and meanings, are probably better than many others at resisting being told how to think and feel. 

The training is insidious, though. When we're bombarded with certain viewpoints over and over, particularly the ones we get from all sides all our lives, do we even realise they're not necessarily (a) correct and true, (b) intrinsic to our human nature, or even (c) arrived at by our own mental processes?

So how do we not let 'them' train us? Perhaps the first step is to be vigilant in noticing when and how they are. We can pay attention to what's entering our heads.

When I was at primary school, we were taught a subject called Clear Thinking – logic for children, applied particularly to the news media. We were taught how to notice the hooks in a headline, or the way an advertisement appealed to the emotions. We learned how to précis a news article to get to the guts of what it was really saying, without all the fluff around that. We learned to recognise when something was presented in 'coloured language', slanted a certain way rather than being told straight. It was very useful stuff!

But it's a long time ago that I was in primary school. It's pretty clear that kids aren't now being taught to read critically like that. Perhaps we need to hone our own critical skills and teach them to our children and grandchildren.

I'll leave you to mull it all over.

I'd be interested to read your thoughts in the comments.

Material shared here is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors. Thanks to Chaz McGregor on Unsplash for the picture of the chained tiger.


  1. I’m not ready for sweet and lovely, Rosemary, and need the heavy, serious stuff. I can write light and smiley, but I prefer to read dark. I agree that Caitlin Johnson isn’t exactly a poet’s poet, but she does make her points well. With some editing and re-writing, that poem could be really good. But it could also be read the wrong way. Which is one of the many reasons I agree what you say about teaching children critical skills. From my experience as a teacher in the UK, they are trying to teach them too late, at high school.

    1. Thanks, Kim. I'm glad you appreciate the heavy and serious. I'm also glad to know that high school kids in the UK are taught critical skills; hopefully 'better late than never'. What comes from the home is important too. I'm thankful my parents encouraged me to have an enquiring mind and not take things at face value.

  2. I have always been - and remain - untrainable.
    Thanks for the thoughts, Rosemary.

  3. This was nice to bringing Catlin along. This really didn't go over big with us teachers, Kim, Ron, and me so far.
    There is tesching and there is training and each has about an equal place. I have been "teaching" ever since I was inducted into the army. Teaching imparts knowkedge with a main objective of 'teaching' pupils how to learn when there is not a teacher involved. Training goes to learning often by repetition of performing a given task. My medical doctor told me that med school was a lot task retepition, identifying problems from symptoms and procedures by doing them over. My nursing friend wondered how many times one orange would endur getting shots.
    My first job in the Army was teaching at an Army Clerk Typist School that lasted a year before they closed the school. Three weeks we 'trained' soldiers how to type with efficiency that alternated with the students learning the Army personnel record keeping system.
    As an Aerospace Engineer my work was in NASA Houston's Flight Control Simulation and Training Division. We trained and taught Astronauts and Flight Controllers what and how perform their specialties during a given outer space mission.
    After 17 years working there and other places, all involved with teaching abd training military and civilians how to do their jobs. Example was at an Air Force Satellite Tracking station that our company had installed, making it work, then teaching abd training the Air Force personell how to operate and maintain the electronic equipment at the station. I believe you had one of these in your Aus and I know there were two NASA stationds, one at Carnarvon and the other at Canberra. Some of my engineer friends went there, because of small children, four then, I opted to remain in Houston.
    After leaving NASA armed with three new degrees I began a new career, I was a College Business Professor at a community college near Houston. There I taught day and evening students Business Law (on degree was a Jurist Doctorate), Entrepreneurship, and General Business classes. Our college also taught technical students, my favorires were the Auto Mechanics and the Truck Driving schools which involved mostly "training".
    I was in the Business Department teaching for 22 years until I retired.
    More or less as a hobby I also taught Bible classes on Sunday mornings to both children and adults for 52 years off and on, mostly on with mostly older adults. Some of those were retired preachers and deacons, so often at the same time they were "teaching" me.

    1. Education is absolutely essential! The kinds of teaching and training you're talking about, we need. Caitlin Johnstone's poem is talking about something entirely different. The right education should hopefully prepare us to resist the kind of training she means.

  4. At clerk typist part of learning was in the proof teading. Where did it go here. I proofed as I went along so not real good. But I do my blogging and composing using one finger on my Galaxy Android smart phone. Also I am dearly deathly afraid all my efforts may fly away if I touch the wrong spots so Ioften post when i get to my end.

    1. *Grin.* It's always easy to see what you mean, anyway.

  5. As always Rosemary presents marvelous food for thought. I can hardly wait to read what everyone has to say! As for me, Oh boy! Do I have thoughts! In today’s technological world, it’s not only the audio input we have to learn to assess, but the visual. Photoshop and the like have made it possible to tweak and torque photographs in such a believable way as to make us question any photograph we see. For instance I extracted a seated photo of my son, hand raised and beer in hand, and created a series of “Where in the world is …” photos in which he was seen sitting on the Great Wall of China, on the moon, catcher in a big league baseball game, in the castle at Disneyland, piloting a plane, etc. Preposterous rumors are started on social media, unchecked and unverified but passed along as gospel truth, permeating the airways.

    I personally think the increased violence and foul language in social media has had a direct influence on our young people. Guns have been romanticized and death appears to be only a game. It’s impacted their sense of reality. Additionally, with both parents working, children are being largely reared by nannys and day care workers making it more difficult for parents to instill and enforce moral values. A generation ago church was an important part of family life, and no matter the denomination, certain moral values were instilled. Unfortunately, in this day of divorce and single parenting, an alarming number of our children are growing up like weeds in an untilled field.

    I am reminded of the time at the age of 18 I was boarding a plane for a city 2000 miles away from our small farming community, naive and trusting, ready to take on the big wide world. My father gave one of his warm hugs and said “We’ve taught you right from wrong, and now it’s up to you”. Those words were my mantra, my touchstone, the charter for my course in life. A number of our children seem to be missing that message.

    Thanks, as always, Rosemary,for an interesting Friday Forum.

    1. Yes, I sometimes wonder if I have become an old fuddy-duddy, but I do feel that neither good values nor good manners are as widely taught as they once were. But as for guns, I have always thought that goes way further back, to all the Hollywood movies and TV shows which show things being settled by either fists or guns. No matter how moral those stories might be in other ways, I think they inculcate a sense of 'might is right', and that violence is the default position for solving disputes. I think they do irreparable harm to young minds; indeed, to all minds.

  6. My goodness this poem took my breath away!❤️ Thank you so much for sharing Caitlin's words with us, Rosemary.

    I agree, since a tender age we are constantly bombarded with various viewpoints from all sides. It's such a natural and seemingly harmless process that most of the time we don't even stop to consider.

    We are taught how to think, how to feel and how to analyze from someone else's perspective, so much so that we forget to use our own voice. That being said, as poets and writers we tend to break the cycle. It's not because we think ourselves as better than the rest, not at all! On the contrary we do this because I believe we refuse to be tamed. We embrace our wild spirit and unpredictability! And that's where our power lies.❤️

    1. I like to think that is true of us, too! However I do think it is important to examine our opinions now and then, just in case our thinking has become lazy – as well as making sure we don't accept other opinions unquestioningly. That being said, I thrill to the words you use in those last three sentences in particular, to express your convictions about the poetic nature!

  7. "in a world that is small, too small for wild humans." I really like this line. And, in a way, to me, it speaks of what what Kim said, when it comes to this poem: some things can be taken the wrong way. In my head, the line reminds me that if we are to follow every rule society believes to be correct, our world will get tiny. Space to grow disappears when one is indoctrinated to question nothing. At the same time, in a particular sort of mood, the line might imply that if one is different, the world will have no space for them. I like the poem very much, but would've loved it as an expanded prose piece. Very apt for the times (as you already knew, my sweetest Rosemary).

    1. Aha, interesting point you make about the two possible interpretations of that line. I'd say both are correct and intentional!

      Her prose pieces are a lot more specific; my guess is she turns to verse to make broader statements.

    2. I suspect you are correct on all counts.

  8. *Very belatedly adds link to CJ's website.*

  9. As a life-long skeptic, I distrust "authorities" such as politicians, lawyers, doctors, "scientists," clergy and especially the media. I come from a long line of ancestors who didn't trust these self-espoused leaders. That reminds me of a story I could share...

    I've read a few of Caitlin's writings since you introduced her and I may not agree on some of her positions, I like her way of thinking.

    I see myself in this piece by her. I was taught early on that doctors are not gods, teachers are not always right, politicians are liars, lawyers are crooks and the first breaking news story has a 99.9% chance of being wrong.

    The right answer is sometimes hard to find, the truth with set your heart and mind free while fear with enslave you. There's more but maybe that will have to come out in a post someday.

    Thank you for showing Caitlin's work. I learn something new each Friday. Cheers!

    1. Thanks, Joel.

      My upbringing was much like yours in that respect. It was not only my school but my parents who taught me how to think for myself.

      I don't agree with all Caitlin's positions either. (You have to go very far left to be left of me, but she manages it occasionally.) However I do love that she thinks for herself, and very often arrives at conclusions which seem to me to make sense. At the very least she gives us a new perspective from which to start our own thinking, and that in itself is valuable.

  10. Since my kids were little, I've encouraged them to question the things they see and hear. LOL, I've taught them to really listen to song lyrics (and have a good laugh--or groan--or two at what people think the song is about as to what it's really saying) and to question what "the hook" is in a commercial to get people to buy (are they selling a car or are they selling an idea they hope you'll associate with a car?) They've been rather good students of this...and they won't let me get away answers like, "that's how it's always been done". But I am very glad my husband and I have raised kids who question and who are less afraid to be true to who they are than I was at their age.

    1. Bravo for you, Rommy! And your husband. I have always been extremely grateful for receiving a similar education.

  11. The first people to influence and teach you are your parents. I am fortunate to have learned my morals and truths from them. After you start school, begin friendships, and then are working,
    It is like having confetti of all colors thrown at you. Which colors do you pick? I have been influenced by others, good and bad. Being a skeptic about all media phases, and finding out that doctors are human, I pretty much depend on my gut feelings. I was always the recalcitrant child, off and away from the “Path”. Never went down that traditional hallway. I’m not sorry.

    1. 'Being a skeptic about all media phases, and finding out that doctors are human, I pretty much depend on my gut feelings. I was always the recalcitrant child, off and away from the “Path”. Never went down that traditional hallway. I’m not sorry.'

      Hooray! Me too.


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