Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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The day that ended empires

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday August 7, 2022


You probably don’t have Monday August 15 circled on your calendar. Perhaps you should.  It’s the 75th anniversary of the collapse of colonialism. 

            On August 15, 1947, India declared Independence. 

            I spent my first ten years in India. I remember standing on our hillside the summer before Independence, listening to waves of sound drifting across the forested slopes from the nearest town, as thousands chanted “Jai Hind! Jai Hind! Jai Hind!”

            Loosely translated, “Victory to India!”

            “What are they shouting for?” I asked my father. At ten, I was politically clueless.

            “They want independence from Britain,” `he explained.

            “Why?” I wondered. “Don’t they realize how good they’ve got it now?”

            My father, wisely, said nothing. 

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Autism study shakes preconceptions

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday October 24, 2021


Jill Sanghvi wrote her thesis in India, for Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, Belgium.

            Sanghvi recognized that most studies treated autism as a “deficit.” That is, it rendered the person less than normal. Handicapped. Victim of a disability. 

            The words themselves have negative connotations. 

            So if that’s what you’re looking for, that’s what you will find. 

            These studies were all by non-autistic adults. Writing ABOUT, or FOR, people with autism. 

            Sanghvi resolved to do something different. Young people themselves would tell their stories. And she would not ask them about the “deficits” they experienced as objects of ridicule, bullying, or pity. She would ask about their “wonderfulness.”

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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: autism, India, Sanghvi




A childhood hard to imagine today

Author: Jim Taylor

Saturday October 2, 2021


Today happens to be my old schoolmate David Bryson’s birthday. It prompts me to venture deep into nostalgia.

            Our childhoods were so different from anything anyone might experience today, that occasionally I have to write my memories down. Otherwise, I fear, the day may come when I won’t believe them myself.

            For one thing, we went to school in India. In one of the hill stations where the British Civil Service and other expatriates fled to escape the heat and humidity of an Indian summer.

            The school was – and still is – Woodstock, 7,000 feet up in the foothills of the Himalayas.  It was also a boarding school. In Canada, think of the infamous residential schools for indigenous children. Unless our parents came up to the hills for a holiday, we children lived the entire school year in dormitories.

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Finding the right ending

Author: Jim Taylor

No, I am NOT going to write about the recent U.S. election. Everyone else has done that already.

            Instead, I’m going back some 80 years, to a collection of academic papers I inherited, written by my father while doing his studies for a PhD in psychology. 

            He was, at the time, acting principal of an undergraduate arts college in India. His students belonged to four different religions and at least six language groups. And he was using those students to test psychological theories developed for western nations -- Europe and North America.

            The only thing he proved, he admitted later, was that western categories simply didn’t fit the eastern mind. 

            But some of his exercises have interesting implications.

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The shoe on the other foot

Author: Jim Taylor

Black people in the U.S. Indigenous people in Canada. Jews in Germany, during Nazi rule. Japanese on the west coast during WII. Doukhobors in the 1950s. 

            If you’re not one of them, it’s almost impossible to imagine what it’s like to be one of them. 

            But suppose people who share your faith and your beliefs were being persecuted? Could you identify with them?

            Such as Christians in India. 

            In Canada, we treat Christianity as the norm. 

           But what would it feel like if the Christian culture you take for granted turned you into a persecuted minority

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