In Hamilton, a solemn ceremony marked Remembrance Day which commemorates the service men and women who have died since the onset of World War I. A two-minute silence is observed at the 11:00 a.m. of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to mark the day the Armistice was signed in Compiegne, Northern France that brought to an end World War I.  The most recognizable symbol of Remembrance Day is the red poppy which became associated with World War I memorials after scores of the flowers bloomed in the battlefields of Belgium and Northern France.  The poem ‘In Flanders Field’ is often read at ceremonies on Remembrance Day.  It was written by Canadian John McCrae after losing his friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer in Belgium during the war.  One account says that he wrote the poem after burying his friend when he could see red poppies growing from the graves at the burial grounds.

On Remembrance Day, we honoured the men and women who gave their lives for their country.  Their courage and sacrifice uplifts us to this day.  On a totally different level, there are the ‘heroes’ in films.  They cannot hope to inspire us in quite the same way  but they do their ‘part’ to bring us a bit of comfort and joy.

My Name is Bond

“My name is Bond, James Bond”. I must have heard that line over a hundred times but it never gets stale for me.  I love the Bond films. Bond can jump off a church spire (cannot remember how he got there and why), fight atop a moving train, get shot and fall into the sea. Any one of those actions would kill a lesser man. Bond, however, is not a lesser man. Much the same can be said of Ethan Hawke, the hero of the Mission Impossible films. Only he could scale the dizzying  glass walls of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) while a desert storm rages behind him.

These films are regarded by some as borderline silly. Nonetheless, there is something so satisfying about them – they provide a form of escapism. For just over two hours, I believe that the bad guys have been suitably dealt with and we can all sleep soundly at night.

Many years ago, Bollywood films followed a set formula – different versions of good triumphing over evil, a hefty dose of music and dance, beautiful costumes and elaborate sets.  The films were very popular. People, especially those with meagre incomes, watched each film several times over. The only explanation was that for the price of a ticket (which was a fairly small amount) you could escape the mind-numbing poverty and the miseries of your life. You could travel the world, live in a mansion with a fleet of cars at your disposal, dress beautifully and look fantastic. It was escapism at its best. Books, that are fiction, do much the same. You can lose yourself in the pages of a book, feel the pain and joy of the characters. With a bit of imagination, you can do anything, be anybody you want.

There might be people who believe that problems are a part of life and we need to deal with them.  Avoiding them by escaping into a world of fantasy is not an option – I totally agree.  If escapism becomes a habit then we have far greater problems than we imagined.  Still, an occasional trip to the cinema can be regarded as one of life’s little pleasures.  It is the same with books.  They bring us joy, broaden our minds and lift our spirits but like everything, there is a time for it.  We cannot lose ourselves in a book to the detriment of more mundane  but necessary tasks.

At the Literacy Council, during an assessment, we ask our learners what they enjoy doing when they have some moments to spare. This is not idle curiosity but an attempt to learn what interests them and how it can be used to further their learning.  Most of the students say they watch television or listen to music.  A small minority had a hobby like woodworking.  This did not surprise me.  ‘Reading’ would have been my first choice but this was not an option for them.  They were coming to the Literacy Council to learn to read.  Go to the cinema?  Not a good idea given the cost of tickets and snacks and transportation. It made one thing clear – being able to read is a necessity for our learners.  Reading, like films, is not a form of escapism.  Escapism is a luxury few can afford.  James Bond doesn’t quite make the cut.