Saturday, September 15, 2007

New Age is Old Age

As the writer of Ecclesiates says, "There is nothing new under the sun."

Years ago as a full-time Christian worker with university students I had to read up on "New Age". I could not, for a long time, understand why it was called "New Age". What is so new about this "New Age", I kept asking myself. So much of it sounds like old hat to me.

Then it tweaked. I'd been living the New Age for as long as I could remember: New Age was "Old Age" as far as the oriental person is concerned.

"New Age" is new only to the person who has to learn a new non-western philosophy as the basis of his worldview. Having grown up Chinese, there was nothing very new in it for me. Sorted.

Second week back at school and I still find myself sewing name labels. It has not been easy trying to procure organic cotton trousers for my son. Finally they arrived this morning at seven-thirty on a Saturday morning. Typical.

Because son suffers from eczema, I didn't want his legs to be plastered in teflon-coated trousers all day long. He's been wearing shorts in junior school. Now that he's in "Middle School" (in his particular school naming convention) he wears long trousers.

I remember starting school and Mum had to organize a neighbour to sew the uniforms for me. One couldn't go to the shop to buy over-the-counter uniforms. So as we grew out of the uniforms, these were carefully stored away for the next sibling.

I was the youngest and with three sisters before the two brothers immediately older than me I suspect that all the uniforms were a bit worn. When it came my turn to start school, the baby of the family needed a new set of uniforms.

Let's just say it's no fun wearing those highly starched cotton uniforms. The inside seams were not neatened and the little loose threads that have been starched (the uniform could stand upright by itself) pricked.

Ironing these uniforms was hard work. That was my mother's task, and she hated ironing most amongst the myriad chores she did around the house.

She refused to use an ironing board (because she didn't know how) and did the ironing on the floor, on a stack of heavy-duty remnant bits of fabric and old towels and an old jute sack she had salvaged from somewhere years ago.

The iron was kept in an old biscuit tin and the cord was wound around it when not in use.

Because this ironing set-up was flat it was not easy ironing our pinafores which had three box pleats at the front and three at the back. The side that was ironed first would get creased up by the time you did the second.

Imagine what joy Mum felt when they introduced, yes, polyester uniforms. Or as we used to say "wash and wear" clothes.

No more ironing -- or much less, any way. Still these uniforms were not cheap.

I remember when I got to secondary school, the -- ahem! -- elite girls' school in Singapore, on the basis of a national examination, the cost of uniforms was a concern.

My mum took me to a shopping centre in High Street (I think it's Peninsular) or was it People's Park, to a shop called Yang Tze-Kiang. She bought me two sets of unforms. They were far too long and too broad for me.

So the hem was taken up and let down bit by bit over the years. By the end of my fourth year, there was a tiniest hem left on it. The cloth was worn very, very thin. Still I wore the same uniforms because we couldn't afford to buy new ones.

Between then and now, polyester uniforms have become the '"bog-standard", de rigeur. So it has been nearly impossible to find cotton uniforms, let alone organic cotton uniforms.

I think of the ironing that will need to be done. Will my son get a "red point" for wearing a crumpled shirt? It is difficult to keep these shirts in pristine condition.

We'll wait and see. If the school is picky about his not-so-white, not so crisp cotton shirt and punishes him for that, it is clearly discrimination against a child who has a skin sensitivity.

But, as I started to say: there is nothing new under the sun. What was a "godsend" to my mum in the guise of polyester uniform has outlived its usefulness. Now the cry is for chemical-free, pesticide-free and sweatshop-free uniforms that let our children's skins breathe properly again.

As for irons and such-like, has anyone seen that TV commercial where a toaster is being sold at £5.00?

That is less than the minimum wage! How could that be produced and shipped here and then shipped to the shops for under £5.00?

Someone somewhere is not getting a fair deal either in raw materials costs or in wages.

Think about that.

Also I am now left with a stack of polyester, Teflon-coated shorts and shirts. I tried giving them away, but nobody wanted them. As another mum helping to run the Uniform Shop noted, these things are so cheap people wouldn't buy them second-hand.

I'll take these to the school further down the road instead. Surely the school could sell these on for 50 pence each or something, or give them away to the pupils who need them most?? Why let them go into a landfill?

Back to Organic-Ally.

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