Sunday, July 30, 2006

Critical Analysis of Nursery Crimes

(p.s. - What a dickhead)

In our younger years when we were all – what’s the word I’m looking for…oh yes – young; we chanted nursery rhymes participating in that most cultish of movements: education. Our teachers stood before us and forcefully drove us to recite nursery rhymes like they were keys to wisdom; often ridiculing those who couldn’t answer the simple questions that these verses asked. Back then, when I was a little deluded kid, I used to hold these teachers in very high regard and would go home and learn the rhymes with whatever concentration I could manage between cartoon shows and playing cricket. However, even at that young age my curious mind (killed cats later and me first) seemed to question these simple lines. I always thought that there had to be a lot of complexity and importance in these lines if schools were brainwashing us by inciting us to incite them. And I was true. Now when I return back to these rhymes with a vengeance, I find that indeed there is a lot that we could have been told and what children seem to forget once they are out of the realm of these coded poems. There is a sort of ‘Da Vinci Code’ buried in these lines and I will try to unearth some of them. This is for every time the teacher punished me when I asked the specific name of the twinkling star and for every time I was asked to leave the class or laughed at when I pointed out that buying a diamond ring for a baby, just because ‘the mockingbird won’t sing’ is an economic waste as a simple child cannot and should not appreciate a diamond ring at such a young age. I write this solely so I can sleep at night, knowing that my teachers were nothing but parrots while I have grown to roam the streets, enlightened.

Row, row, row your boat
“Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.”

On surface, these lines advocate the belief that one should merrily and gently row (take) one’s boat (body or soul or brain or being) down the stream (existence) because life is only a dream. To juvenile minds, the poem is quite pleasant but they fail to notice that this lyrical simplicity is only a deception engineered by the constructor of the verses to turn them into morons. Think about it. Life is only a dream? Since when? It was ironic and a revelation to me that only two years after learning and loving this rhyme, my teacher had failed me with the reason being, ‘All he does in class is dream.’ That’s when I realized that there was something fishy in the poem but other ‘boats’ are not so lucky. When these merry ‘boats’ are eighteen and further down the stream, they realize that life is not a dream but a nightmare; there are jobs to be had, sexual-orientations to be chosen, careers to be made, bills to be paid, voting the Presidents who they think can responsibly bomb other countries and other such decisions that are far from merry.
The state runs this mantra in the schools so as to give the children a sort of conditioned and dreamy outlook to life, which in the long run serves several purposes. Those who take these lines at face value will reach adulthood with the misconception that all our dreams are fulfilled if we merrily row our ‘boat’. This is a saddening result and statistics prove that for every one Brad Pitt there are a hundred waiters in Hollywood smoking cigarettes in a back alley and for every half Marilyn Monroe there are five-hundred and thirty bleach-blondes posing before cameras. These Dropout-Dreamers learn later that life is but a realm and that they have been brainwashed into dreaming and serving those who didn’t. This takes care of employment in the service sector.
Then there are the children who due to this simple poem are turned into hopeless idiots and to keep on dreaming their whole lives, they choose to major in philosophy and psychology so as to be under the Educated-Dreamers category. However, their employment is promised due to another species of dreamers: the Non-Dreamers. The Non-Dreamers are the people who thought that life is completely material and who worked from ass to bone in order to accumulate as much money as they could. When the non-dreamers reach a certain age, usually thirty-five, they realize that they don’t have a lot to whine about with all the money lying around and the ‘life is but a dream’ verse comes back to haunt them. So, they choose to whine about such imaginary issues as feelings, love, trauma, depression when in reality all they want is a partner to help them ‘row the boat’ and show that ‘life is but a dream’.
Thus we see how by implementing this superficially simple poem into the sub-conscious of children, the educational board creates a future hierarchy of employment and divides the social classes into a pie-chart under the distribution of values: those who make the pie, those who can afford the pie due to £40 pounds an hour earnings and those who own the pie-making plant but can’t enjoy the pie because ten years back Daddy never ‘hugged’ them.

Baa, baa, black sheep
“Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for the master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy,
Who lives down the lane.”

This one was loved by the class simpleton due to its playful imagery of talking animals and despised by me for the same. As if a talking sheep wasn’t enough, the sheep is well versed in manners and addresses the enquirer as ‘Sir’. Utter nonsense. Then there undertones of disgrace and racism at play as well. Why black sheep? Is it because it was a disreputable sheep in the herd? Or is it because it listens to hip-hop music and fancies a little Bling? We are left in confusion. Nevertheless, the Birmingham City Council’s educational chiefs caused much distress in 2000 by handing out guidelines that asked schools to refrain from the seedy rhyme due to its ‘racially offensive’ tone. An anonymous Black parent described the advice as “ridiculous”.
The rhyme goes back to the thirteenth (unlucky for some) century and supposedly relates to the tax imposed by the King on wool. One-third of the three bags went to the local Lord (‘the master’), one-third to the Church (‘the Dame’) and one-third went to the farmer (‘the little boy who lives down the lane’). Quite frankly, I find the poem disturbing on two accounts. Firstly, strolling around sleazy Peckham in London last year, I was horrified to hear the following exchange of words between two suspicious men in an alley;
“Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any E?”
To which came the reply;
“Yes Sir, yes sir,
The first hit’s free.”
I was horrified not because of them parodying the nursery rhyme but because right behind them was a Vampire. But I don’t mean to digress so I will save that tale for another day.
The second reason why this rhyme worries me is because it is quite heart-breaking to imagine a child being force-fed this verse. It is one thing to call someone a ‘Sheep-shagger’ but quite another to introduce the mature world of prostitution to young children through the channel of a sheep. Little boys living down the lane who hear the term ‘Sheep-shagger’ may be mistaken that if they offer certain services, they too could claim a bag of ‘wool’. This is wrong because in reality, Sheep don’t make payments of any sort for romantic liaisons. A Sheep that I interviewed and who wishes to remain anonymous due to trauma, recalls an incident in 2004 when she was standing in a field, minding her own business, when a boy suffering from love-at-first-sight syndrome, proposed to her. When she didn’t reply in the affirmative of ‘Yes Sir’, the boy stoned her. ‘For four years, he tormented me with his love letters’, she said. Such chaos must be prevented at all costs.

Twinkle, twinkle, little Star
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!”

The French are to blame for this one. They are to blame for turning gullible, innocent and sweet children into the empty and hopeless sky-gazing freaks that we see on Discovery channel. Picture yourself as a clean slate of blackboard that walks into a classroom at the unripe age of five. Suddenly the teacher throws the above lines at you to make sense of. Half the children really walk out wondering what the ‘little star’ is and keep on wondering till the rest of their lives. The other half walk out more attached to the ‘diamond’ bit and would rather become stars.
The first-half spend the money their peers spend on drugs and girls, on telescopes and electrical equipment. Their wonder at the stars as an interest soon turns into a plague that visits them every evening. The notion of stars being diamonds sounds ridiculous to them now. The plague expands further, infecting every interest in their lives. Suddenly the words at the tip of their tongue become chromospheres, photons, corona, stellar nucleo-synthesis and Canopus. While the rest of the world waits for the next Paris Hilton tape, they sit in a field waiting for the next Supernova. They seem to want to prove the possibility of intelligent life in the infinite 13.7 billion light years old universe when in the seven finite inches of their head, it seems a virtual impossibility. All this brought upon a human simply due to a poem is quite tragic.

The other-half become Dropout-Dreamers or Paris Hiltons.

Jack and Jill
“Jack and Jill went up the hill,
To fetch a pail of water,
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.”

Fifteen years back, you are sitting in a classroom. The teacher tells you to repeat the above lines until you suspect a haemorrhage and a breaking of your own ‘crown’. For the life of you, you can’t see the linguistic or literary logic in these lines. Sure, Jack and Jill went up the hill to get a pail of water and Jack fell down and broke his crown but exactly why did Jill come tumbling after? Did she just watch his broken skull and think “Oh, how marvellous! A broken head; must get one of those. Process tumbling in five…four…three”? There is no evidence of Jill falling up there so why the following tumbling? It seems gravity was up to some mischief. And Jack, poor Jack. What sort of an idiot goes up a hill only to come down breaking his head? This is a pure instance of testosterone poisoning. I have been up many hills and still have an intact crown.
Fifteen years later, you’re in a pub in Bristol. You ask the bartender for half a pint of heavenly Guinness.
“Only a Jack? He will be lonely without Jill” says the old Bar-lady.
“Eh?” you ask.
“Unless he’s gay.” She absentmindedly says and tends the next customer.
Perplexed by this you do some research later on tintanet. You discover that a half-pint is also called a ‘Jack’ while a quarter-pint is called ‘Jill’. Further down you also discover that in the seventeenth (lucky for some) century, King Charles I had unsuccessfully tried to reform the taxes on liquid measures, only to be blocked by the Parliament. Following this, he ordered that the volume of a ‘Jack’ be reduced but the tax remained the same. Hence, he received more tax regardless of a Parliamentary vote. ‘Jack fell down and broke his crown’ is a reference to the half-pint going down in volume and the depreciated popularity of the King’s crown (many pint glasses still have the 1/2 pint level with a Crown above it. ‘And Jill came tumbling after’ meant that the 1/4 pint or “gill” consequently dropped in volume as well. You feel intelligent after answering your childhood questions. But no sooner do you celebrate the event with a ‘Jack’ when another question pops up to take the place of the former: what the hell were they doing introducing the bar-tender’s metric system to milk-drinking adolescents?

Rain, rain, go away
“Rain, rain, go away,
Come again some other day,
Little Johnny wants to play,
In the meadow by the hay.
Rain, rain, go to Spain,
Never show your face again,
Rain, rain, pour down,
But not a drop on our town.
Rain on the green grass,
And rain on the tree,
And rain on the housetop,
But not on me.
Rain, rain, go away,
Come again on washing day.
Rain, rain, go to Germany,
And remain there permanently,
Rain, rain, go away,
Come on Martha’s wedding day.”

These are by far the cruelest words ever to be imprinted into a child’s head. Here children are asked to pray that the rain goes away somewhere else. But we have to ask some moral questions to the writer and society. Is it acceptable that the rain bring tornadoes and tsunamis to other countries and destroy Martha’s wedding (a day the poor girl’s been waiting for all her life) simply because one ‘little Johnny wants to play’? How selfish is that. By making children chant this over and over, we are turning them into witches and psychokinetic Carries. We are making them pray for misery on other lands than our own. And if all the children around the world sing this song then how can God be expected of taking control of the weather? Hence, the overall bad weather on the planet. But weather is not the only result of this barbaric chant.
An emotional Hitler was reportedly heard saying to a friend, ‘I wouldn’t have been so evil if it wasn’t for Rain, rain, go away. It made me ask a lot of questions. What happens when little Hitler wants to play? Of course, he can’t. And you know why? Because someone in England is sending all the rain here in my homeland Germany! Scheiße!!’ The rest is history.
I rest my case.
Apple a day
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,
An Apple in the morning – Doctor’s warning,
Roast Apple at night – starves the Doctor outright,
Eat an Apple going to bed – knock the doctor on the head,
Three each day, seven days a week – ruddy apple, ruddy cheek.”

This poem is a superficially a healthy advice to children, advising them to eat apples. However, there is a conspiracy theory that Apple® Corporation built a time machine in 1980 and went back to the sixteenth century so as to subliminally drop the lines in every child’s head, brainwashing all generations thereafter with the Apple® brand. This was sheer marketing genius as everyone started demanding Apple® computers and products after 1980. An Apple® a day, these days, refers to an iPod, which school-children are taught to torment their parents for. Children should instead have been warned in this poem that if an apple (fruit) hits them on the head then they should not have ambitions of writing and proving their own theories of mass acceleration because it has already been done by Sir Isaac Newton.

Rock a bye baby
“Rock a bye baby, on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.”

This song and lullaby seems to go back to a Native-American practice of placing the baby on a tree-branch to gently rock the baby to sleep. However, it is mind-boggling to imagine a child (as he picks up the language) told that he is going to fall down from the tree and the cradle. Doesn’t that sound crazy? Yes, it does. Perhaps, it was the implementation of naïve physics into the child so that he practically learns more about gravity and motion. Not to mention, the physical and psychological pain caused from falling off a tree top while Mum is off for dinner.

Humpty Dumpty
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

This simply suggests that one should not sit on walls because gravity is impartial.
Hickory dickory dock
“Hickory dickory dock,
The mouse ran up the clock,
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down,
Hickory dickory dock.”

This poem is supposed to encourage the fundamentals of time into young minds. If anything, it caused great confusion in my head. I couldn’t understand whether ‘hickory dickory dock’ was an incantation in the lines of ‘abracadabra’ and ‘open sesame’ used to make a clock run. For hours together I would stand before clocks repeating ‘hickory dickory dock’ over and over again. The absence of any reaction caused me to have a disturbed childhood.

There is also an underlying theme of time travel in the lines. ‘The mouse ran up the clock’ actually meant that it was in a hypothetical topological feature of space-time that is essentially a shortcut, abbreviation or ‘wormhole’ through space and time. The notion of time travel tacitly assumes that there exists an arrow of time, the direction from the past to the future. However, there are only a few equations of physics which would give rise to such a direction of time, the main one being the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy increases with time. This means that the direction of time may not be a fundamental intrinsic property of the universe, which would mean that the notion of time travel is also not fundamental to the universe. However, in the universe that this ‘mouse’ seems to occupy, it is running up and down the ‘wormhole’ without care and the crazy clock seems to strike an hour’s time after the mere break of a paragraph. This is insane and should not be taught to children lest they grow up to be people who talk to friends in super-market queues and in traffic, a genre of mankind oblivious to time.
The discussed absurdities are some of the only paradoxes in our educational system. Nursery rhymes cause a deep scar in the working part of a child’s brain and children who like them should be noted or else they will grow up to be novelists using the titles of these rhymes in their work and thus, whole-heartedly annoying the likes of me. If children will eventually learn about irony, physics, biology, history, astro-physics, chemistry, racism, economics et cetera; I see no reason why we should offer them retarded literature when there is so much human knowledge to be shared. And after this analysis, all I have to say to my primary school teacher is the following;

Little ‘Jack’ Mourner sat in a corner,
Promising to tell no lie,
He stuck his finger, bored, at the education board,
And said, ‘What a bad boy am I!’
Little ‘Jack’ Mourner sitting in his corner,
Grew up to smoke cigarettes in July,
He thought in his head as he went to bed,
‘I know where and how they learn their rhymes but I don’t see the reason why!’

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