Not so much looking down as across..

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's left is not all right

I am proud to be a leftie - to write and do other things with my left hand. It is surmised that about 9% TO 18% of the population are naturally left handed. In this age of super science and super communication you might think someone would work out a more accurate figure. The generally accepted figure is 10% although my own observations would suggest that the true figure is about 20%.

It wasn't always easy to be a leftie. The Romans gave left the name 'sinister'. The French use the word 'gauche' and in Irish 'cle' can also mean evil. In many modern cultures with old roots the left hand is supposed to be used for the less attractive duties while the right is to be used for eating and other important chores.

I count myself lucky. In 1956 at the age of 5 I went to a progressive school called Ardtona in Churchtown which survives to this day. The teachers did not insist I change hands when writing. When I graduated to primary school I found that some of my left handed colleagues were not so lucky and had been forced to write with their right (wrong) hand. One boy in particular had developed a very bad stammer attributed to this enforced change that lives with him to this day.

Overcoming the prejudice against left handed people took centuries and suspicion still exists in certain parts of the world today. Primitive man needed some hard and fast rules to survive. The rules had to be black and white. At various times it was decided it was best to shun or even persecute people from different villages, of a different sex, of a different religion.

The country to first and best overcome this prejudice was the US where it is almost mandatory to be left handed to become president - Obama, Clinton, Bush Senior, Ford and Regan to name a few (Regan was actually ambidextrous but generally believed to have been a natural left hander). To paint a balanced picture we should mention other presidents who were right handed including George Bush (junior) Nixon..unfair, I hear you cry!!

I feel part of a minority who have had to work that little bit harder to fit into the world. I played tennis every July (yes, only July) in my early teens and would spend the first week transferring the racket from one hand to the other, trying to work out which felt right (that word again!). I can blame my poor golf on the fact that I have played golf both left and right handed with equally disastrous results. I play table tennis mostly left handed but not always. Finally I played squash right handed but when caught in the left hand corner of the court I could switch to the left handed to the amazement of the opposition. Generally I won the point not through skill but through confusion (Is it legal to change hands?).

Maybe the moral of the story is that we should embrace obstacles as part of our development. Maybe we shield our children from too many problems and cosset them too much in the wrong belief they won't work things out for themselves the way mankind has done for the past few hundred thousand years.

I think I may start a Facebook Campaign to get a new word for left in those languages that associate it with clumsiness and evil. Come to think of it, why should right handed people be always right?

Let's celebrate the difference! Vive la difference!

No comments:

Post a Comment