Got human capital?
My Thesis: That it exists at the group level, and can be nourished or destroyed.
definition: a foreboding 1980’s phrase meaning to be attacked, verbally or physically, especially to be beaten severely, even unto death.
This week the BBC did a story on The Murder That Changed America. (Link) I well remember, although it was twenty years ago: Matthew Shepherd, a young university student in Laramie, Wyoming, was beaten severely, tied to a fence, and left to die. He was discovered, still breathing, after 18 hours, only by accident, after another student fell off his mountain bike and then noticed what looked like a scarecrow. By then Shepard was braindead, and he died. His crime? Existing while gay.
On Friday October 26, 2018 Matthew Shepard was interred with honor, among other U.S. notables, such as Helen Keller and President Woodrow Wilson, (of World War I) at the Washington National Cathedral. A collection of Shepherd’s personal affects has just gone on display at the Smithsonian.
America changed, through peaceful dialogue, against stiff minority resistance. I well remember the majority, religious and atheist alike, arguing that not allowing human rights protection for gays did allow people to publicly hate, a hatred that would eventually lead to violence and murder. At that time, over in Germany, they had laws against hate crimes and against freely speaking of one’s own holocaust denial, because the Germans had experience of their tolerance of hatred producing death.
History flows on. Stephen Fry tells (on Youtube) the legend of Queen Elizabeth, as a royal formality, signing homosexual rights legislation voted by parliament and saying “No one would have imagined this in 1953.” While I’m glad the public has grown in knowledge and tolerance, I am keenly aware that knowledge-growth is not quite the same as responsibility-growth. I think as the public grows in knowledge of how to be responsible, in concert with each other, the public is also growing in “human capital.” Which is the life blood of every democracy
To think through human capital, I cast my mind back to a student I was acquainted with who was bashed outside a gay bar, and put in the hospital. Keep an eye on that bedridden student, I’ll get back to him.
The student attended Mount Royal College, MRC, now MRU. At the time I knew lots of active students, including the editor at the student weekly newspaper, The Reflector.
Remember those student cartoons of the 1960’s? Capitalist pigs, with the buttons popping off their fat vests? I knew students with the same idealism, but instead of drawing bad guys in general, such as running dogs or lackeys, they were, a few months before the bashing, doing panels on specific individuals expressing idiocy. I forget who the hated international leaders were back then, but truly there have always been folks like North Korea’s leader. (As we said during the Cold War, “It’s a good thing governments with atomic bombs are always sane folks like us, “who love their children too”)
The student newspaper volunteer’s Big Mistake? Lampooning a nameless generic skinhead. You may recall that these angry young skinheads, losers not students, without peace or long hair, shared one important-to-them fashion: Doc Martin boots, footgear well suited to kicking someone into brain injury. The idealist's Big Mistake? Having the stupid cartoon skinhead express stupid hatred of Jews. Like the dictators, he was being lampooned for his beliefs, but this time he was not a specific individual. Not like portraying the hostage-taking hated Ayatollah Khomeini mouthing off about minorities.
The skinhead cartoon was a public scandal. You would think the “Establishment,” as in the tweed coated, calm, pipe puffing college Board of Governors, would see this as a learning opportunity, and trust their students to take action. You would be wrong.
Granted, the governors would know that many students had apathy, from the words “a” meaning without, and “path” meaning spirit. Granted, many students didn’t read the newspaper their student fees supported, and many didn’t even know there had been any controversy, even after it was reported in “real world” daily newspapers. Many students, like today, didn’t have idealism. But many did, and they had high spirits. Wouldn’t the governors (if only from previous cartoons) have known that there were still campus idealists?
For example, there was at least one heterosexual student in the Gay club on campus, a student who, at least initially, was in the closet about being straight. (He didn’t want to claim straight privilege, even when staffing a gay club display table) I knew several Canadian-born students in the International Student Club. There was even, that year, an attempt to start up a feminist club, as already existed at the university. (By now they may have established one, and maybe started a Green Ecology club too)
I can imagine spirited students setting up a six foot table with a banner: “Ask us about the Reflector cartoon.” The active students who read the paper, and therefore knew the ongoing cartoon context, would have shared their alarm and displeasure. The ignorant ones would have just passed by the table, granted, but the spirited ones could have educated each other, some from personal experience, about how hurtful hatred still exists.
They could have dialogued: Just as most of the high schools at the time (I knew and highly respected the “only” gay person at her school) did not have even a single out-of-closet boy or girl, but nevertheless teen gays still existed, unnoticed, without limp wrists like on TV… So too did schools here, back west, have Jewish students, unnoticed, not wearing a round beanie cap or lapel pin like on TV. The students who, during high school, had felt so sleepy during history class and the teacher’s droning on about Human Rights could now have woken up. “This is real!”
Students could have put on noon hour activist demonstrations to teach, using a microphone in the student food court, which the spirited Student Association, as the Board of Governors could have known, was already doing for various topics.
And from the talking and working for action, bonds would have formed, trust would have formed. —It’s easier to confront the bigoted Chief of Police, to tell him he enables gay bashing, if you trust someone ‘has your back’— The student body would have not merely have grown in knowledge, but in responsibility, trusting each other show up for group action, such as a noon demonstration, a rally, putting up posters, and more. The term for all this “knowledge plus shared responsibility” is “human capital.” They would have been motivated for this as their “outrageous” student paper was continuing to publish, casting shadows over the campus. Students, including the newspaper volunteers, could have done the “Yom Kipper” thing of remorse and repair. But such things would never happen. I will explain.
One of the tragedies of the late 1960’s is how leftist students were on their own to “reinvent the wheel.” Too many leftists had been destroyed by Senator McCarthy’s witch hunts. As the man they called President Obama’s mentor, Saul Alinsky, put it, by the 1960’s, “The human capital was just not there.” Within a national democracy “of the people,” here, at Mount Royal College, was a golden chance to build human capital after the final cartoon ran.
And then, short months afterwards, during that very same school year, a fellow student, very straight looking, without any limp wrist or fashionable clothes, upon exiting a gay bar, was bashed and put into the hospital…Shakespeare would say “his blood cried out!” But the bonds of human capital, bonds of trust that could have led to mass action such as getting the public involved, or confronting politicians and police, or, at the very least, some nice student hospital visits—just weren’t there. How sad, to have no visitors, since being gay bashed, like certain other assaults, is a lonely “blame the victim” thing.
The problem was “the establishment:” the College Board of Governors. When the final cartoon edition came out, they seemingly did not trust the students to have idealism, and wanted to do everything themselves. Even though the student editor had resigned, they unilaterally shut down the newspaper, deleting it’s shadow. This without asking the Student Association. They sent press releases to signal their virtue…
I wonder now: Were they ignorant of human capital? Or were they solely concerned with a few old people in the outside community, ones who would never, ever, bother read the student’s newspaper and the previous cartoons? Did this overrule the governors’s concern for a campus of growing students? Perhaps the governors were like certain so-called grown adults we have all met: still so full of apathy they must worry only about their image, and their fashion accessories, more than their substance.
A few months later that school year? When the bashing happened? To the best of my knowledge, not one of those governors had the grace to apologize for how their ignorant reaction had left a student, unlike Matthew Shepherd, to suffer all for nothing, in vain… and to be lying in hospital, all alone.
Well. It was all so long ago.
Today’s lesson, if there is one? For my U.S. readers? This: Trusting your students is like trusting your fellow citizens. Be brave. I never thought American farmers and townsfolk would ever want to use passports along the world’s longest, friendliest border. Do you really need to desperately surrender so much of your liberty, for the sake of (homeland) security?
God bless America. And Edward Snowden.
But I won’t say “God bless the governors of Mount Royal.” Am I still angry at them? How can you tell?
Oh, time to forgive. And as Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, every one.”
Proud MRC certificate holder
Proud MRC diploma holder,
Proud U of Calgary degree holder,
Proud and relieved that I paid all my tuitions as I went,
without help from parents or student loans.
Looking up at my name, I see a lot of parchments, over time, a lot of changed versions of me, yet, “I will always remember when I was me, a student with ideals.”
Here (link) is a “goodby video” (under 3 1/2 minutes) of Doctor Who, on his last day, telling Clara it’s important to change, and remember.
In this little video masterpiece of repeating feet, Clara’s role, I guess, is to witness. The children’s art pictures are an hallucination, a might-have-been, had the Doctor put down roots.
When the music swells, in the Doctor's final minutes, the heart swells too, as the lyrics were once sung by a dear young girl: "Rest now, my warrior."
By the way, the bowl of silly food—fish sticks in custard—is a callback to the amusing day the Doctor met the young girl, Amelia, back when he appeared in ruined clothes. The child called him Raggedy Man.
She later became a grown married woman, Amy, and she made the doctor cry desperately when she passed on. Her last words, in tears and torment, had been, “Raggedy Man, goodby.”
Nice to see Amy smiling, at peace, and caring for the Doctor. We all want to be cared for, in the end.