Back in Red Lodge for our first meeting after the summer. It was a lovely evening – we had to shut the curtains, which seemed a terrible thing to do when we’ve had so little sun. And we thought about things that had make us think over the summer. We mentioned: new fuel sources from raw sewage, an incinerator which also provided heating for council homes, the question of whether a new incinerator should be built near York, power from the tides (there are huge turbines in the waters off Bristol, I think it was), and the conversion of old watermills into new generators (there are several examples of this in Yorkshire). The visit of the Pope: the difference between what you can see, and what you can’t see, in massive state events like that; also, the issue of the cost. We considered whether abuse in the Catholic church was because priests were not allowed to marry (they have to be celibate). This got us on to a discussion about religion: we commented on the similarities of the religions, and wondered whether everyone was worshipping the same god.
We had a talk about Mary Bale and the cat in the dustbin, what she did, the way she was caught, and what happened to her. There was a strong feeling in the group that she deserved what happened to her (see previous post), and that if the authorities would not prosecute her for cruelty, then it was right for people to take the law into their own hands and punish her. But we also asked whether the punishment she had suffered was proportional to the crime – it seemed her punishment was more like what someone would get for manslaughter, rather than cruelty to a cat. An interesting link regarding the CCTV cameras (which was how she was caught) – CCTV cameras in the Himalayas have also discovered tigers living far up on high mountain peaks, where no tigers were thought to live. We also noted how FaceBook and YouTube had been an instrument of this lady’s downfall: she had been the victim of an internet mob, egged on by the right-wing press. Ben mentioned a history book called the Great Cat Massacre, which is an attempt to understand the mind set of people in the 18th century, and why they found killing and torturing cats so excruciatingly funny.
Another theme which was very much on one group member’s mind (because it was a reading theme for York libraries this season): the British government used to send lost and orphaned children overseas to work in Australia and New Zealand. The author of the book was collecting the stories of these children and learning what happened when they reconnected with their lost families. We wondered whether there was a point in digging up the past in this way. Members of the group said that knowledge about our ancestors and family is essential to us, and it is wrong to deprive someone of it.
We talked about the York Peace Festival, and what it was in aid of. We asked: is there a time we would like to go back to; is the savage still there under the surface in all of us? Do people today have more respect for animals?
All of these questions … will probably not be answered in coming weeks …