Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Out of their Mind (readers)...
Okay...I can't believe I've just read this. Well, yeah, actually, I can believe it. Read this (and my commentary) and see what you think. When we're done, I'l offer you a tale of similar stupidity from my own real-life past!

Okay, a few things to consider here. First, you wonder just what is being produced by Teacher's Colleges in Canada (we know what is being produced here: Potato Salad -- with Union Cards). This incident seems so completely beyond the pale of rational thought, logic, and is of dubious legality (like that matters in Canada anymore? Can you imagine what would have happened if someone had been brought to prosecution, and convicted, on the strength of 'evidence' uncovered by a psychic?). I also question the school administration's sanity. According to the article, it's not even first-hand psychic knowledge; it's someone who went to the psychic, relating what the psychic said.

I can just imagine the scene:

School Idiot: Administrator! Administrator! I have some terrible news!

Chief Idiot: What is it? Is someone distributing Pro-life literature and 'Free Mark Steyn!' t-shirts outside?

School Idiot: No, worse! I've just come from the psychic...and...and...

Chief Idiot: Out with it!

School Idiot: the psychic said that one of our students, whose name had a consonent in it, might be/potentially is/most-certainly-could-be/is-perhaps being sexually abused, by a man somewhere between the ages of 23 and 26, which could be anyone in about 21% of the Canadian population. We must do something!

Chief Idiot: Yes, yes we must! I know; call the authorities! Let the CAS Gestapo handle this. In the meantime, call the child's mother in so that we can ask her difficult questions and embarrass her with a mini-Inquisition, so that we can look all concerned and professional and pro-active...

School Idiot: Right, Fearles Leader!

I especially love this little gem:

"Dr. Lindy Zaretsky, a school board superintendent whose portfolio includes special education, said the school was just following protocol, adding the board is bound by the same legislation (Child and Family Services Act) as the CAS when it comes to suspected neglect or sexual abuse.

"It is clear in all cases that this (information) must be reported," Zaretsky said"

Umm, what exactly is the 'information" you were reporting? That you had a second-hand account from a psychic (notoriously truthful and omniscient souls) that cannot be verified by the victim, but which can be confirmed by what you infer from her behavior? Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I wonder: was the child taken off for a medical examination (without a parent's consent) based on such shaky evidence?

"The local CAS won't comment on specific investigations, but said the legislation stipulates that all cases of suspected abuse be reported "if there are reasonable grounds." "

Oh yeah. Whole thing seems perfectly reasonable to me. (/sarcasm).

""The schools are our eyes and ears in the community," said Mary Ballantyne, executive director of the Simcoe County chapter...."

That right there is the first problem; the schools are not there to 'be the eyes and ears of the community'; they are there to educate children. They are not an intelligence agency (it's apparent there are few intelligent people within the system), gathering information on people on behalf of the state. I'm all for protecting children from predatory creeps, physical abuse, and all that, and I understand that a school may play a key role in protecting kids from nasty things, would think that a) educators are educators first, and spies second, and b) that when presented with such flimsy evidence they might exercise a bit of judgement before bringing the apparatus of the state to bear on some poor woman with a sick kid. This is one of those situations where the primary rule that has been obeyed seems to be "Cover thine Ass".

Now, as to an example of this same CYA extremism from my own life;

I used to work for a Japanese company which leased high-end real estate designed specifically to house and support mainframe computer systems. They had this huge building and they rented space out to clients, who would put their systems in the space, and they would either staff the site themselves, or lease service people (like me) from the Company to run it for them. We had one particular space in the building where unexplained noises were a constant. The building might have been settling, it could have been the harmonics of the air conditioning ducts, no one was really sure what, but these noises were constant, and they usually seemed to occur at night; at least the night shift follks were always reporting them (disclaimer: I never heard anything).

Anywho, it wasn't long after these unexplained noises began that many of the same people who were hearing them began to see things as well. I can't recall anyone ever decribing the classic poltergeist; shadowy, in long flowing white gown, chains around wrist and ankles, mouthing "help me' or something like that. But people believed they were seeing things. Especially at night.

Now, that's an important distinction: at night. Without casting aspersions on the people who worked the night shift, it is not uncommon that when you are alone (as they often were in that room), working in a darkened space, in a boring, repetitive job, and bearing in mind that you have already been told of, or experienced for yourself, the odd, unexplained noises, it's not that great a leap to say that you might be predisposed to seeing things. Well, people were. In fact, they were telling others about it.

Which is where I come in, idiot that I am. I was (was? I think I might still be) a wise-ass in my younger days, and having heard all the tales of spirits and apparitions and strange noises, I concocted a tale that (to me at, least!) was an obvioous joke. You had to be a Canadian School Administrator to not get it. It was classic, campfire-ghost-story material; I told a tale of a man who had died in that very room during the construction of the building, and who roamed the hallways, etc, etc, etc. No need to continue further than that -- you get the picture. We all thought it was pretty funny.

Next thing I know, I being called on the carpet. Why? Because the client (a Japanese news-wire service) was demanding that the Company give it a discount on their lease because the space they inhabited 'was haunted'. They had even gone as far as to hire a Shinto priest to enter the space in question and perform an exorcism (many Japanese are far more willing to believe in spirits walking the Earth than westerners. It is part and parcel of Shinto). It would only be a matter of time before all the other Japanese clients in the building demanded something similar. I had been identified as the source of the story (it was re-told by a colleague, who found it funny, to her Japanese counterpart who immediately phoned Tokyo to tell them of potential spiritual trouble in the workplace!). I was now in deep shyte, apparently; the brass was afraid that once one Japanese customer used this as leverage, the remainder would surely follow en masse.

Once it was explained to the Japanese that the rumor of the dead man was a joke, and not intended to be taken literally, the Company then spent several tens of thousands of dollars on recording equipment: cameras, tape machiness, infrared sensors, vibration meters, etc, for the purposes of 'catching' the ghost, or at least, finally identifying the source of the odd nosies which began the entire charade (so far as I know, they never did indentify the source). The Company was going to prove to it's clients that there were no such things as ghosts with unmistakable physical evidence. In addition, it became official policy that if anyone heard or saw what they believed to be ghosts in that particular room, they would be required to fill in a special form describing what they saw. Let me repeat that -- they would be required to report (and you could, presumably, be fired for not reporting) that they had seen a ghost.

If you were dumb enough to report such things, in writing and with your signature on them, the Company would identify you as someone who needed to be watched. But since no one in his right mind would do such a thing, the Company could: a) by the very abscense of such reports prove to it's clients that the problem had been 'addressed' and we could advertize that we go the extra mile for our customers, b) now have proof that you were a complete idiot because you filled one of these reports in, very useful info to have when making staffing decisions, and c) be able to say in a court of law "look Your Honor, we did everything humanly possible to ensure that there were no ghosts or malignant spirits in that room, even going as far as to ask our employees to report everything they saw".

This is the mentality that drives people to believe, and act precipitously on, second-hand information from a psychic.