I often describe my new part-time job – School Bus Driver – as “I drive a Psych Ward” which I then go on to explain that, as in a Psych Ward (at least as shown in film and Television, if not IRL), I get to see folk on the bus who, at times, are not at their best – I then get to see them (mostly) “come good” following a moment of realisation. I get to see their growth, and not just in seeing them begin to outgrow their clothes!
It is a tremendous privilege to witness their, occasionally faltering, steps to adulthood. I consider it a more than compensatory reward for having to weather the frequent untrammelled behaviour of a busload (30+) of kids living on a diet of sugar and food additives.
I also get to test my own Stoicism under what can possibly best be described as ‘industrial-grade challenge’. Of course, being merely human and not a trained psychiatrist, psychologist, or philosopher, I do occasionally fail – Marcus Aurelius I am not.
I am often challenged by the outright racist comments that come from the mouths of some of the kids (one assumes they were put there by their parents. Where else would they get them?). I enjoy having several aboriginal students on the bus and can say that they rarely give any trouble, and I appreciate their lightening wit when it comes to responding to any racist remark that comes their way. However, I have recently found myself conflicted by the behaviour of some of the Sudanese kids who travel on my bus. At first I thought they had been subject to unprovoked racist comments, to which they seemed inclined to respond physically (violently). Subsequently, I heard some of them seemingly goading suspected racist individuals to make some racist remark – and then reacting violently when they were successful.
Whilst I don’t approve of racism (and, as an old white guy, I accept that I haven’t really suffered from racism myself – or from misogeny), I really don’t approve of violence (as it can only make matters worse, in my opinion). I fear for the Sudanese kids who get involved in any of these retributions – it may be them that gets the Police record and not their gang leaders. I would far rather that they used the Aboriginal’s approach i.e. well targeted (and funny) words broadcast wide enough to contextualise the racist as ‘an idiot’ amongst their peers/friends. I think of ‘Alf Garnett’ of “Till Death Do Us Part” and how well that character ridiculed racists in the UK in the 60’s and 70’s (in my early teens it seemed very obvious to me that the show was able to highlight the stupidity of Alf’s views).
I’m hopeful that ‘my Alice Springs kids’ survive the School Bus experience essentially unharmed and at least a little more wise. From what I have seen thus far I suspect that the future of humanity is in safe hands. I also hope that my Grandkids can walk(or ride their bikes) to their schools!