Monday, 22 August 2011

Sinking medieval churches

I am reading Bill Brysons's book about the history of everyday living. It's packed with interesting snippets. He's basically done lots of research and pulled out all the interesting bits for the reader. My kind of book. It's turned me into a walking verbal fact box much to the delight of chap. I pop up regularly with an urgent need to tell him something new I have learned. Of course I'll expect him to read the book afterwards too.

The part I have enjoyed most so far, however, I found on the first few pages. Bill B lives down the road from here in a Victorian rectory. One of our many 'where shall we go for a walk - let's look on the ordnance survey' walks in the Norfolk countryside runs between his house and the church he mentions in the book. And here is what he records from a conversation with a historian while wandering around that church (paraphrased):

Have you ever wondered why Norfolk's medieval churches (all ten million of them) always look like they are sinking into the ground? Careful: it is a trick question. Of course I have always just thought, 'well a stone church is quite heavy, medieval foundations were probably not overly sound and they've had centuries for gravity to shift them about a bit'. But no, the revelation is that it's not the church sinking, it's that the graveyard has risen. The hundred or so gravestones that are typically found in such a graveyard belie the volume of dead matter buried there. The book goes on to explain that with a parish of around 250 people (4 generations per century plus numerous baby/childhood deaths) you would be looking at around 20 000 burials. I could raise a two foot platform the area of a graveyard with that many skeletons. I wouldn't want to of course.

Now that is interesting and it has definitely changed the way I look at all those sinking churches. But I also would like to learn about grave diggers. How did they go about their business with all those bones everywhere? Making a 'new' grave must have been an exercise in clearing out lots of old bones. If so where did they put them? I'm sure the bereaved were not subjected to a little pile of bones at the graveside to be replaced once their loved one had been tucked away? And, presumably some graves were more shallow than others or is all this dead matter always more than six feet down? As ever, more questions than answers. Another book please Bill.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The British Riots by Carl Jung - I think.

I find myself still reading about the varied responses to the riots. There certainly appears to be considerable polarisation. There are still those holding firm to the idea that anyone that took part in the riots has lost his or her right to be considered fully human and be treated fairly and punishments are the only answer Some of the comments are astounding and you really would think you were listening to Nazis talk about the Jews). And there are the others of us looking a bit deeper for answers. The best article I have read on the issue of harsh sentencing is this one:

Are the harsh sentences justified?

We were never all going to agree on this emotive issue (or any other come to that) were we? Consensus is a very slow thing and usually shown in subtle shifts in attitudes and ways of doing things - unless we are under a dictator of course!

I am now going to steal a bit of Carl Jung just to reiterate how the angle we approach things from affects our ultimate view.

We all have a dominant function - one of the following four:

Sensors see what is in front of them, they live in the now, they like to keep things real and practical and down-to-earth. They tend to like traditions.
Feelers make evaluative judgements and tune into the people element of a situation.
Thinkers interpret events and apply logic so it makes sense to them and
Intuitives extrapolate from the immediate, look to the future, see patterns and links and put everything into a big picture context.

OK so how did people with different dominant functions see the riots?
The Sensors will be able to give a very clear account of what actually happened. They will have observed all the details and will be quite pedantic if you were to suggest the riots started in the wrong place, for example. Sensors are reactionary. They don't like new or abstract ideas. They will be most likely to say, 'there was a crime, we always punish people that commit crimes'. Job done.

The feelers will have been appalled by the impact of these riots on individuals and be very angry at how some individuals behaved towards others. That will be their main focus. They won't have a definite idea about what is the right way to deal with what happened (they could be persuaded by anyone making a loud point) but they will want harmony restored and people protected.

The thinkers will read the logic of the situation and might fall on the side of 'punish them all', or might look for a little deeper logic. Whatever they do do they are likely to be firm about their beliefs. They are definitely right of course.

The intuitives cannot see the situation just as a string of events that just happened. They need to find reasons for the riots. They need to put what happened into big picture context and see so much more than just individuals committing a crime. They easily see reasons that might be too complex and seem too tenuous to others.

Of course this is a very simplified idea - other things do impact on how we see things (including our secondary, tertiary functions etc). Nobody likes to be predictable of course but these four responses describe what I have seen in a variety of places!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

My ramblings on the riots

There have been so many brilliant articles, blog posts and clever comments about the riots last week that humble little I could barely muster up anything astoundingly different. So, I will keep it as 'just what I feel the need to say'.

My first observation was the predictability of the approach a certain mass of people disappointingly took - including, sadly, the UK's prime minister. Something along the lines of -

'These people need punishment, lots of it and the more vindictive, the better. If they starve because we have taken away their benefits, then they only have themselves to blame. Let's feed our own dark sides heartily on these people. Let's take the phony oh-so-much-higher moral high ground so the lash of our whip falls that bit harder and revel in our justified (by the tabloid media mostly) cruelty - legitimised non-empathic nastiness aimed at the poor people that have metaphorically very quiet voices. Let's ignore any possible underlying cause and keep it simple.'

It was bound to happen. I do wish people would keep ugly subconsciousness to themselves - especially influential powerful people. I feel they have an especial duty to keep it inside.

Another observation was the provision of a perfect example of politicians keeping the mass media sweet. David Cameron appeared to have made his public speech about the riots by putting Daily Mail headlines together. Keep 'middle England' happy and we will be voted in again. Blech!

My third observation was the impact of the riots upon me personally. Not direct impact of course. I haven't so much as thrown a dustbin lid (although I once suggested it on Facebook - that might eventually get me five years inside). No, I was surprised how much strong emotion these riots have whipped up. Looking for the more complex underlying reasons for such social disharmony and reacting to the way this situation was dealt with, brought out my strongest values in full force: those of a need for greater equality and fairness in society and the prevention of abuse of power, compassion for fellow humankind - even if - no especially if - they have lost their way (David Cameron aside), the fact people with lots of power so readily and powerfully make stupid knee-jerk decisions that impact forcefully on individuals' lives and how this is simply wrong, how so many prejudiced assumptions were made and should not have been made and that things become so punitive and when they should attempt to be restorative.

And what would be restorative? I can only guess as I do appreciate this is hugely complex. How about exploring what might truly make a society cohesive:
* equality and fairness,
* a voice when it comes to issues that impact directly on you,
* shared goals and visions at a local level,
* feeling affiliated to those around you - connection not prejudice and fear
* having a clear role and opportunities that mean you can contribute and your contribution is valued
* reciprocation - give and take - mutual dependence
* the absence of such a strong materialistic hierarchy ('LOOK they have much more than us')
* the ability to meet all your basic needs and have what is considered the 'norm' for the society you live in so you do not feel socially excluded.
* and referring to my last posts - early intervention - children brought up in a stress free and supportive environment.

I can't see someone being locked up for four years for making a Facebook event as solving anything in the slightest. What a weird world we live in.