I had a fascinating experience at work last night. A young co-worker of mine picked up a container of bay leaves for his batch, and looking over at me, commented “Bro, some place is ordering f—ing leaves!” This may seem like a small thing, but as silly as it may sound, I can’t actually imagine a life in which I wouldn’t know what bay leaves are. It is outside my experience. What does such a small thing give away about myself? Well, my knowing what bay leaves are means I have experience in home cooking, more specifically cooking from scratch. I have this experience because throughout my youth my mother would work for up to two hours a day making supper for our family. She was able to do this because she did not hold a job – she stayed home and taught and cared for her children full time. She was able to do this because my Dad has a very stable, well-paying job. He was able to get said job because he went to university. All of a sudden, my knowledge of the bay leaf is part of a long chain of realities about my life that make me part of an upper-middle, if not upper, class. It is a symbol of my removal from the experiences of ‘the average Canadian.’
This is a removal that I need to keep in mind. How often do we read of an event or situation in the paper, or hear about it on tv, and wind up shaking our heads, astonished at how someone could starve that dog, or beat that woman, or take that drug, or waste that money? From our perspective, the wrongness of these actions is seemingly self-evident. But my bay leaf incident makes me wonder, how much of what we assume to be self-evident is not? That is to say, while I believe that beating a woman is VERY wrong, I can conceive of a scenario in which a mentally stable adult living in our society would not see it that way.
As the Truth and Reconciliation commission is taking place right now, the madness and pain and tragedy of the residential school fiasco is quite prominent in the news; and one of the greatest tragedies, in my mind, is that much of this was perpetrated by Christians who may have honestly thought that they were doing the best thing for these children. So every now and then its good to be reminded that just because I think something is (or should be) universally accepted, doesn’t mean it is.