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I found Kerryn Goldsworthy’s story sad, and David Hart’s tale equally depressing. It reminded me a little of one of Stanislaw Lem’s novels about a world of drugged human beings who believe that they are living in a sophisticated, bustling, urban paradise but are actually among the few survivors of an ongoing ice-age. The resemblance lies in the fact that there are several layers of drug-induced reality to be penetrated till the final horrific reality reveals itself. In other words, it is a question of perspective: Heaven or Hell? I scarcely dare to think which.
I will tell another story of education. One day a large bunny whom we shall call Rupert was waylaid by a new bunny, whose name, Rupert later discovered, was Hermione. Rupert was immediately smitten by Hermione but she had a passion for education. She was a bunny of great distinction with a shining ambition to do Great Things. She enlisted Rupert’s help in creating a new course on imaginary creatures, focusing primarily on equations but with a side-line in Spielberg cultural studies. Rupert was a teacher of Peruvian geology who dabbled in semiotics, his latest refereed article was on the tango and its effects on underwear.
So Rupert and Hermione formed an alliance, call it a marriage of convenience, if you will. Their aim was to topple the ancient hare who ruled the burrow in which they worked. As you have undoubtedly guessed by now, this was an educational burrow modelled on a certain Israeli kibbutz frequented by the hare, whom we shall call Kim, in his salad days. Kim was something of a monster, who believed in Old Fashioned virtues like anonymity, civility, kindness and so on. His terrible sin was that he had hung on for Too Long. The Rupert-Hermione axis recruited a young bunny called Bing, studying martial arts as a prelude to a career in stockbroking, to do the dastardly deed. After Kim’s assassination, the axis ruled a fairy-tale kingdom of imaginary creatures who spoke perfect axis-speak, and knew a hell of a lot about Peruvian geology.
But, one day, Hermione grew bored with Rupert. He was a generally inept bunny, and could only make love in one position. Bing came to the rescue and, after losing Rupert one night in a quarry, abandoned (temporarily) stockbroking for teaching, working as Hermione’s assistant in her grand plan to manufacture a virtual reality imaginary kingdom on the Rabbitnet which would rival the great empires of the past, all entirely imaginary, but none the less real for all that.
You may wonder who the rabbits were who were taught by the axis. They came from all sorts of backgrounds but the important thing was that, once they entered the burrow of imaginary creatures, they lost all power of independent thought, and became Hermione’s admirers, and acolytes.
Am I too harsh on Hermione? I don’t think so. In her zeal to do Great Things, she destroyed much that was worthwhile, and (with her faithful assistant Bing) ended the lives of a large number of bunnies who dared to disagree. Life is Precious was an old motto that had once done the rounds of the burrows but has gradually fallen into disuse under the influence of bad ganga. Unfortunately, I like the taste of good ganga and cling to an outmoded and sentimental faith.
As you know, a certain virus led to the demise of the kingdom of imaginary creatures, and, besides, this is an old story, from a land that no longer exists. Gender and ethnicity have been changed to protect the guilty. If the story has a moral, then it might be that it’s all a matter of perspective.
Leith Morton is a poet and translator who has been involved in university teaching for 19 years.