Of Girls and Sheds

When I was a laddie (or loddie, as we say in the local dialect of Scots) I decided in the school playground one morning to get all the boys to get all the girls and put them in the shed. This was in the early 70s, just after the Baby Boomers, so classes had between 25-30 pupils in them. The playground where I said “Hey, let’s get all the boys to get all the girls and put them in the shed!” was only for the infants (aged between 5-7) but that meant three years of three classes each. So, even by a conservative estimate, allowing for absences, we must have rounded up over 100 girls that morning.

I stood in the middle of the playground and oversaw the task. Which the boys did cheerfully, and fairly gently; the girls went willingly, intrigued by this new game. Fortunately – because (clearly) once we’d got the girls in the shed, we’d have had to do something with them, though I hadn’t thought that far ahead – the bell rang. And we all lined up, two gendered lines for each class, arms outstretched on each other’s shoulders (to maintain the correct distance) to go back to our classrooms. So I never found out what I would’ve said when, inevitably, the boys asked “what do we do with them now?”

But I did learn these lessons that day:

  • People like there to be a plan (no matter how pointless)
  • People will generally follow instructions (no matter how disturbing) without question

I don’t think I’m particularly persuasive. It was just something for us to do. Us kids in Primary 1-3 all played together, unlike ‘up the school’ (Primary 4-7). They tended to divide into year cohorts and fairly closed activity groups: Football; Skipping/ Kick the Can (a variant of Hopscotch); Smoking; Flirting; Gossip.

It’s true that, some days, ‘down the school’, two boys (mostly) would put an arm over each other’s shoulders and walk around chanting “who-wants-to-play-at-Cowboys-and-Indians?” – or Tig (Tag), British Bulldogs, Hide-and-Seek or Best Man Fall (we’d line up to get shot in that game) and others, of either sex, would join the line until we had enough kids to play.

But, most days, the social dynamics of the infants’ playground, in those years, were fairly unstructured. And we all know what happens when you drop something structured into an unstructured environment: either the structure dissolves – or the free elements start to align with it.

I prefer to consider my temporary infantile manifestation of Us and Them as an early indication of public speaking and managerial ability, rather than of an authoritarian and twisted personality. (I’m aware than not all of my acquaintances would agree with me on that.) In my defence, when I’ve worked as a manger, I’ve tended to prioritise building and maintaining good relationships rather than keeping to set plans. But this blogpost isn’t really about me. Because, whether or not I was a wee fascist (and whether or not I grew up to be a big one) isn’t the point.

That group of wee boys and girls was fairly typical of Scottish small town kids of that generation. It’s the generation that’s in power now. The First Minister, the elder statesmen and stateswomen, the top judges, lawyers, principals of universities, CEOs, heads of schools, heads of charities, heads of social care and health boards, NGOs (government-funded and appointed or not), it’s all mostly Generation X. The games we played then were also played by more urban kids, and more rural kids, and I don’t believe that Scots are more rule-bound than any other nation in the UK. Fully a fifth of Scots were estimated to have broken the law to resist the hated Poll Tax, during Thatcher’s regime. So those kids weren’t particularly inclined to follow orders. But they did.

Behind the pointless and self-contradictory regulations of the social game we are all currently playing, named “Covid-19”, there’s a disturbing agenda that’s been hiding in plain sight for decades. We’re being divided, and herded. And we’re all joining in, fairly cheerfully and willingly.

The difference between my former self, that little Scots loddie, and the current powers-that-be is this: once they get us where they want us, they know exactly what they want to do to us.

Are we going to continue to (unquestioningly) just follow orders?

Four wee diverse kids, with colourful clothes, playing

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image Diverse Kids into the Public Domain.

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