I was a child curmudgeon.
It is not all that common to encounter child cynics, but I can assure you I found myself to be one at a very early age – possibly as early as the 4th grade in school.
It was not due to any malign influence from my parents – they loved me and I them…and I still revere their memory. But my father’s employments moved us about Canada into different cities and new housing – and me into new schools – on a very frequent timetable. Some years saw 2 and some 3 schools. As the new student I was under no illusions about acceptance and belonging; those were aspects of home life – not school.
When you saw so many variants of education and parochial behaviour you could make some pretty wry comparisons. As a little kid you kept them to yourself – particularly if you were scheduled to be beaten up as a matter of course wherever you were. But you also noted when the grown-ups were bigots, fools, or worse.
The fourth-grade incident was a school film night in a little company mining town in British Columbia. It was about the time of the anti-segregation movement starting to gain traction in the southern states of the US. Along with some lightweight CBC film about migrating elk – when in doubt in Canada go film something in the woods and accompany it with a mouthorgan solo – there was a film spitting Canadian indignation about the plight of the poor negroes in the south.
The audience were moved – as the film makers intended – to condemn the Americans roundly. I’m not sure if the school teachers wanted to take up a petition, a collection, or just names for the Party, but they were rather put out when my mother – born in the USA and raised in Texas and New Mexico – succinctly pointed out the basic hypocrisy they were espousing.
She’d seen the treatment of the local Canadian Indian tribes and the B.C. provincial government putting Doukhobor children into boarding schools as it interned their parents for not paying taxes. This in 1956…
Yet no-one made documentary films about this – not the CBC nor the American networks. So the locals could be righteous as long as it was at long range and in line with the politics of the CBC.
It was a great introduction to hypocrisy and served to harden me for a long time to political persuasion.