The student I tutor for homebound is reading The Once and Future King. This is the King Arthur story as told through the lyrical imagery and imagination of T.H White. He really does an excellent jog of fleshing out King Arthur. He takes him from the young and impressionable Wart to the exulted and remembered King. I have always loved this novel, but I have never liked teaching it. I feel that tenth grade students in an upper middle class suburb do not have the depth to fully grasp this text, and much of the struggle is just getting the students to read the thick tome.
My personal favorite part of this text are the themes around “might makes right”. Arthur is the idealized hero and he spends his life trying to make “might” work for him so he can have peace within his realm, but White has other plans. He uses Arthur’s failures to show the reader that violence only begets violence, and the only way to attain peace is with peaceful measures. So I sit here today as a teacher and a parents asking myself, “Does might ever make right?”
Those who lived by the sword were forced to die by it.”The Once and Future King
As teachers, we are in a positions of power. As a parent, we are in a positions of power. What we do with that power is really up to us. Some parents and teachers squander it. For whatever reasons they do not see themselves as figureheads or leaders, so they do not weld any power at all. They struggle with the conflict created with young adults, so instead of trying to force their way, they merely give up and give in. Other adults may dole out their power too harshly. True believers in only “their way”, they often cause problems than they solve. They force their ideas and consequences on the young, not able to understand that they are only pushing the teen away or shaming them in a way that may take a lifetime to overcome.
I like to think I am somewhere in between, but I know enough about the blindness of perception to know I could also be wrong. If I believe that all rules are arbitrary and created within the context of an individual bias, I need to acknowledge my own limitations and biases when creating rules for my students and children. If I create rules, these rules must be enforced, and it is often with some level of might. It is not certainly the might of King Arthur or even the US government, but it is with my “power” as an adult that I insist my rules are followed. Without rules there would be chaos, right?
Might does not make right! Right makes right!”The Once and Future King
What I know is our society is predicated on the ideology of might makes right. I see it on the news as our government forces people into masks and vaccinations, but I believe firmly that our society needs to take certain measures to ensure the safety of all people. I see it when our government uses military force on countries that are abusing and starving their people or invading other countries with reckless abandon, which I also see as being humanitarian for many. I see it in law enforcement as they patrol our streets to keep criminals at bay, but I also see it when they stand on a man’s neck because he is trying to use a fraudulent twenty dollar bill.
But what if we changed the narrative? What would be lost and what would be gained? If we used communication instead of violence…If we used connection and relationships as opposed to force, could we change the narrative?
I believe it is worth a try. What do we have to lose in changing the narrative? I know what we have to lose if we don’t change the current one.
Love and light, All.