Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Harry Potter; Family (and other) Prayer

On Harry Potter
I believe I have now related my thoughts about Harry Potter to a number of people, but now I'm going to lay it down for the whole internet. I've almost finished reading the Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Arabic. I first read this book when I was around 12, before it was a craze and I found it moderately entertaining (why do I always want to spell that word 'intertaining' anymore?) but nothing to write home about. Reading it again as an adult has given me some new perspectives on it. Before I get the "but it's a KIDS' book!" let me just say, I know that, but I still find these ideas to be relevant.

Harry Potter has spent his entire young life with his aunt, uncle and cousin, who all seem keen to ignore him. From the first few chapters of the book, we find that they talk to him as little as possible. You would expect his speech development to be delayed, or for him to at least be lacking some forms of socialization. Hand in hand with this, is that he lives in an essentially abusive environment. He lives in a closet, for fuck's sake. He probably has never heard a word of encouragement in his entire life. Why haven't any of his school teachers asked him about it? You'd think someone would look into that. Maybe a friend's parent? I say: the system is failing him.

My second major problem with this is, as the product of a fairly abusive homelife, how in the world does he go from zero to awesome by the time he gets to school? He should have some self esteem issues, not be the swaggering jock that he is, deciding he's allowed to roam around the school all night and not get in trouble. He would still be dealing with some issues. Rather, he appears to be 100% well adjusted to boarding school life. He appears confident and well liked. Again, not what I would expect to happen to someone within days after leaving his abusive home life. Why isn't he haunted by his childhood? I didn't spend my childhood in a closet (okay, I did sometimes hide, but that's a lot different), or have my parents die and I still have a lot of hangups and moments where I just can't. let. shit. go. So what is the deal with Harry Potter, super wizard? His behaviour is not reasonable.

On Family Prayer
I was considering today the remarkably passive aggresive nature of public prayer. Mormons are encouraged to pray pretty much all the fucking time. They are encouraged to pray with their family (morning and evening prayers being an ideal), before meals and at church services (before and after each section. OH the praying!). These are just the public instances of prayer. I think one is always supposed to have a prayful heart, or something like that. In any case, I mostly want to consider public prayer. Since we know prayer doesn't work (sorry: spoiler alert, I guess), we have to consider other functions. Sure, one is basing community building on ritual, but I think there is another, more obnoxious basis to this: being passive aggressive. Let's make up a compltely fictional example that could never be taken from anything I have ever experienced. Say that in a family of people, the parents have spent the entire day bickering. The topic of bickering doesn't matter. Kids are on high alert trying to stay out of it. At the end of the day, before everyone goes to bed, someone decides that it's time for family prayer. Everyone gathers up and bows down. Say one of the parents prays. Something like "Dear Heavenly Father, please help us to have compassion for each other, help us open our hearts and let them not be hardened. Fill our home with a spirit of peace." And you know, other prayer cliches. But this isn't a plea to god to "help" everyone stop being such an asshole, it's a direct call to action to the people around you to stop being such an asshole. Realistically, you can do this with any topic. Obviously, not everything has to be passive aggressive, like "please help the kids do well in finals" or something, although you could take it as "maybe if you would study sometimes." But there are definitely ways in which it is pretty damn passive aggressive.

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