Friday, April 19, 2024

Lure of the Sirens


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The Sirens in Greek mythology would perch themselves on the cliff face and wait on their prey.
The femme fatales would then lure sailors with their bewitching music and voices and before the men knew it, their vessels were shipwrecked. Obsessed sailors were fated to die in their attempts to reach these temptresses.
Accounts of these enchanting beauties are found in many Greek stories, particularly in Homer’s Odyssey.
A curious fellow, Odysseus wanted to know the content of the Sirens’ song without falling under their spell. Greek legend has it that he had his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and bind him to the mast. No matter what, they were not to untie him, no matter how long or strong his pleas for freedom.
The sailors did as ordered, even binding Odysseus tighter as they sailed through the hypnotic waters with him entreating them to free him. After they had passed the danger zone, only then was Odysseus released.
Legend also has it that such seductresses were doomed if someone heard their singing and escaped. In Odysseus’ case, they are said to have flung themselves into the water and perished.
Two irresistible issues in the spotlight recently brought back to mind the term “lure of the Sirens”. To me, they are so compelling that I must partake in them even though much good will not come out of doing so. Thankfully, the penalty for such a breach is not nearly as fatal as the sailors’.
I’d promised to keep away from The Alexandra School and Raul Garcia issues, having dealt with them in previous columns and knowing of my particular bias.
But it was like that day I was driving with my daughter and we came across road kill. Though disgusted by the sight and admitting it, she refused to look away.
“Stop looking,” I said.
“I want to but I can’t help but look,” she responded.
Likewise, I want to keep away but I can’t. I thought my Odysseus strategy had worked. I was overseas for most of the commission of inquiry and therefore not tempted into any column. But I did manage to get snatches of some testimony and read up on the rest upon my return.
I found that there were some different lessons to be learnt or reinforced based not just on the information coming out of the inquiry, but also observing the approach of those testifying.
Some of those testifying I knew as former schoolmates who later went on to teach at the school and, I believe, would have had the school’s well-being at heart. Others taught me and I had the same impression about them.
Therefore, it was particularly distressing hearing former teachers, on the verge of tears, talking about uncomfortable final days at the school.
The really hurtful part was hearing teachers and others brought in by principal Jeff Broomes give an account of a less than welcoming atmosphere at the school. They believed that they were caught in the tension between Broomes and some of the other educators and, as a result, were on the receiving end of a cold reception.
The result: the newcomers went away with a bad first impression of some of those employed at the school even though that might not have been the teachers’ true personality.
Folks, it is very, very hard to erase a bad first impression. I am sure we all have memories of a bad first impression and no matter how someone tries to tell you otherwise, that initial contact remains forever stuck with you.
It might have been that the person was having an off day but does that matter if someone out there thinks you are mean spirited and transmits that to the rest of the world?
The flip side to these kinds of situations is that others suffer as a result of someone else’s mess. Ideally, and I do mean ideally, we should try not to transfer ill feelings for one person to another; it will not always end well.
There, I’ve only partially resisted the lure of the Sirens. I will probably have a go at Garcia some other time; the temptation is too great.
. Antoinette Connell is the DAILY NATION Editor. Email


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