Thursday, September 07, 2006

Conflict and Escape

Amazingly, even though I don’t see my students face-to-face and don’t deal with the personality issues that evolve within an onground classroom, I encounter conflict within my online classes—either because the students cannot hold a civil discussion among themselves or because they cannot recognize and respect differences in values and beliefs. Three weeks into the semester, I am already encountering problems among the students in one of my classes.

It seems as though these kinds of conflicts have been more common since Bush, Jr., has taken office and since the collapse of the Twin Towers. The connection could just be a coincidence or post hoc ergo proctor hoc. Even so, the amount of fear created among the populous by the Bush administration seems to have created a climate in which conflict occurs more often because of the inability to respect each other. This absence of mutual respect occurs on an individual basis and among cultures. One of the news magazines once featured on its cover a woman’s face onto which the various facial characteristics of the ethnic cultures that make up this country had been blended together. That sense of cohesion, that commingling of cultures, occurs less often now.

Personally, I have sought to get farther away from people. That’s why my profile makes mention of my desire to live somewhere between the 98th and the 105th meridian. I recognize, of course, that the odds of finding people like myself, that is, with the same interests and beliefs, would occur infrequently out there. When younger, a large part of my life was spent in disguise. At that time, generational differences and the attendant attitudes toward things like the Vietnam war and marijuana were largely determined by the length of one’s hair. Having had alopecia universalis when I was a preschooler and in elementary school, what hair I had when it started to grow again—on my head, at least—was never very thick. Once, after walking into a hippie bar, I was labeled a narcotics agent, aka narc, and threatened with a knife in my side if I didn’t leave. Unbeknown to that guy who whispered in my ear, I had already altered my consciousness when I walked into the bar, and I certainly wasn’t going to turn anyone in. It was hard enough seeing anything six feet in front of me. Living with my baldness has gotten easier as I have grown older. Even though my alopecia has returned in certain spots, mostly on my face, it doesn’t matter anymore what someone says or when someone stares. That kind of behavior has occurred often enough that I largely ignore it.

Working among lots of people in a Wichita hospital years ago completed my transformation into a misanthrope. It isn’t something that occurs monthly like a lycanthrope. Instead, it remains a constant to a degree, surfacing most strongly when I feel as though I have to get away from everyone except my wife and son, when I have been around too many people and need to escape to a quieter environment.

At this Wichita hospital, when I worked on Saturdays, I managed to escape during my lunch break to the top floor of one building, which was still unfinished, and gaze out onto the city, the number of trees preventing me from picking out particular landmarks. Now, I take walks in the early morning when there are few people about, except the occasional man or woman leading a dog, and feel a sense of satisfaction that I don’t live in a large city among the constant noise, the traffic, and the fewer chances to get away. These quiet times are rejuvenating, making it somewhat easier to interact with humans again.