On: Retirement — November 26, 2020

On: Retirement


On a bright Monday morning years ago, I received an email from my friend Ellie. The message read, “Four years, three months and five days to go…”.

Ellie had begun her countdown to retirement, to that coveted place which said NO WORK, no getting up at 5:00 a.m. I might add that I’d already gone into that hallowed ( or so I thought) precinct called the “Big R”. When we met for lunch one day, she outlined her plans for that gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow day. She would keep her double-wide trailer home and use her savings to buy an RV.

“Ellie, you mean LIVE in the RV?”

“Uh huh!”

“”You serious?”

“Uh huh”.

“Where will you go?”

”Woman, you don’t listen. I’ve been telling you for years. I will travel.”
“Just you? Alone?”
”Uh huh!”

So the clock ticked down and at last, the fateful day came. The double-wide had been renovated and her son and family would live in it. The RV had been given the once-over. She was ready to roll. When we met for our last lunch, I cried.
Ellie had dipped her fingers in the pot of her gold. The thing is, that she knew years before she retired what she wanted to do when that day came. And she did it.

She had planned.

But me? I had made plans but they were all amorphous, nebulous, nothing concrete.
Sitting at my desk thinking of retirement, I dreamed of sleeping in, morning coffee on the back porch swing, my book open, my iPad nearby looking through the window at the morning sun on the trees and looking for the swallowtail butterfly I had seen.
Dream on.

I must get up to cook, clean and do grocery shopping, and laundry and ……

If my swallowtail butterfly ever fluttered by, I don’t know. But I have my suspicions. I think it left because it had seen my husband spraying the bejesus out of the butterfly eggs and the caterpillars. To cut this story short, I put the spray can in the garbage, dusted off my hands and later, studiously pretended to help him look for it.

I have coined the phrase “gainfully unemployed” to describe my present state of being. My family understand that “Unemployed” refers to my retired state. “Gainfully” refers to all the things I must do and don’t want to.

You see, all of this comes because, unlike Ellie, I didn’t plan. I should have bought an RV.

Retired means that you are not young. You are an established member of AARP. You get the monthly news paper and you read all the articles on Medicare and Medicaid, and how to not get scammed and how to save on utility bills. Retirement can be synonymous to being “stupidee” or in a state where your grand children take pity and must explain slowly and patiently how to navigate the unknown maze called the internet.

Talking about that specie of humanity called “grandchildren”. They’re lovely but guaranteed to make you tired when they are little. God knows why He permitted only the young to beget children. Imagine having to do what it takes to bear a child when you’re 70 years old. Eeeeew! They have their parents and you have them.
When they’re little, they visit and turn your well ordered home upside down. Then you sigh and cry when they leave. When they’re little and you’re already retired, you and they talk in baby language. They understand you. Then they grow up and when you try that same language, they say to you, “Nanny, why are you being weird?”
Your eyes turn inwards and you begin to re examine yourself from their eyes. Not so good. So my message to those of you contemplating the big “R”, buy your RV.

This state of being retired means that you get to be buddies and on first name terms with the receptionist and nurse at your doctor’s office.

“Morning Jinny Love. How’s it going today.”

” Hi there A. How’s that pain in your hip doing?”

“Not too good. I fell down. But Jinny, look what I brought you guys!”

You hand over the cookies you baked for the staff and see the glee on the faces. You know your way around the building, after all, you almost have that as your second address. Those visits must be made or something happens… maybe it concerns your deductible with your health care programs. I have never bothered to educate my mind about the legalities and the ins and outs of what it all means. Stuuuuups! I call the Humana agent and ask him all my stupid questions, one at a time so my brain doesn’t suffer and react negatively from overload. I always begin my conversation with, “Andy, can you please explain…..? I don’t know what it refers to.” Although I’ve worked at a university for many years and have helped many, I find it useful to allow people to think that I need help. I do. They help. After all retired people have grey hair and that state is (most of us are grey haired) synonymous with loss of many functions – cognitive ones not being the least.

And another thing. In most cases, your husband is older then you are. And now you are both living in the same place every day after years of spending your days apart . You are the one doing the things that call for trips outside of the home because, he can’t be trusted. Driving up a one way street is calculated to bring a police officer pounding on your door. There are also things that test his credulity and utilize his four score years and more.
So here’s the story. I came home from running errands to find this set of forms on the table with lots of printed information in small print. The highlighted line was waiting for a signature. I believe that in my absence, someone had come to the door and corrupted his mind with visions of money if he agreed to sell them the house. Now here is where you must take pity on me and congratulate me. The red in my eyes was tinged with fire, but I quietly took that set of papers and put it in the garbage. I called my daughter. Then I went to STAPLES and bought a Quit Claim deed. The people at the Government , County Office were very sympathetic and he ( my husband) was helped to understand that this was for his personal safety and well being. Seething, I was still seeing fire.
I don’t believe anyone would bring forms to anyone to cajole them into selling an RV.

Scammers are all around. I am not exempt. Medicare told me after a very bitter experience that THEY DO NOT CALL. They will write. I received a call from a person purporting to be a Medicare representative which elicited information no one should ever give out over the phone if you didn’t initiate the call. Retirees are always at home and are very eager to answer the phone. They are also at the mercy of the scammers who know how to work on their credulousness. I disconnected my phone.

And yes, you have no place to go. You are in the house all day 24/7. Why must you wonder why your utility bills are higher than when you were working?
I must ask Ellie what her utility bills are like in the RV. I guarantee you that they are nowhere near that of the double-wide.

The father of my children has lost most of his hearing and forgets to wear his hearing aids. I need someone to talk to. He is not a good talking partner because I have to repeat things five times. At this point in time, I have begun soliloquizing. I used to sing, but now I carry on these conversations that only I can understand. He watches the news. I soliloquize about what to do with the fish I bought for our dinner, or the conversation I must have with the utility company re: their overly high water bill. I must remember to remind them that I don’t have a swimming pool. I end this part of my soliloquy with a long suck- teeth.

My closet….. since I retired and since I have no place to go, I have not bought a single new item of clothing. My closet is home to all the silk blouses, tailored skirts and trousers, linen, cotton and everything else one wears to look nice at work. I have tried wearing a few of them at home just because. My grandson, who was visiting, looked at me wearing my white linen trousers and a colorful blouse while I made breakfast.

“Nanny, are you going out somewhere?”

I look at him with eyes that say, “Pardon me child! I’m trying to look nice here man. Why you putting a spoke in my wheel?” But the words refuse to roll out from behind my tongue. It’s not a soliloquy., just an unspoken thing in my mouth. I was “saving” my good clothes in the vain hope that I will be once again going somewhere nice and be called up to riffle through my hangers to CHOOSE. It’s not his fault. It’s that he’s accustomed to seeing me dressed in at-home-old clothes. So like my sister up the I- 95 in Jacksonville does, I will give away the entire contents (or almost all cause hope still burns in my heart) of my work closet. Lighten up is her mantra.

I must ask Ellie about closet space in her RV.

On: Family — November 9, 2020

On: Family

The word “ family” denotes a group of people who share the same bonds in the same home. While the greater number of members of this group may share the same genetic codes, there will be others in the group who have been added through circumstances – marriage and adoption. It is in this setting of physical proximity that shared values, habits, cultural practices, traditions, family history, ideas and most of all affection become the ties that bind the group together. It stands to reason that strongly knit and well adjusted families will contribute to a well adjusted society.

When my grandfather died early, he left his two very young children in the care of one of his sons, my father, who was himself relatively young. My grandfather died young and our grandmother followed him soon after.  As a result, the care of their last two children, Hashim and Shamyune, fell to my father and his young wife. My father held fast to that responsibility even after both siblings married and moved on. He saw to their schooling and arranged a suitable husband for his sister when she reached the right age. In many cultures, be it Greek, Caribbean , or Argentinian,  the family is a unit that is expected to remain as a whole.

In many eastern cultures, the concept of family differs vastly from that with which we, in the West, are familiar. The family is the unit that is expected to remain as a unit with each member being an important, and very often indispensable part, of that unit – emotional and physical health, wellness, education, finances, employment – all being the responsibility of the UNIT until one member moves away through marriage. Then it is that the other members come together to make that transition as smooth and as seamless as possible. This new family retains its ties with the parent family, paying great attention to what is expected of it, retaining the bonds of blood and culture and passing on what it has learned to its own children ensuring the survival of the family beliefs, habits and behaviors being cognizant of, “ This is how my mother/father did it.”

Now, in the West, there is a much different model. Children leave home, and are expected to, when they reach eighteen years (or a bit more) of age. They set up their own establishments and are responsible for their lives; their own well being, education, health, and provisions are things that they must work for. They too, are expected retain their connections with the parent family. This move erodes the idea of proximity that lends itself to the strong familial bond, thus putting some stress on filial relationships. This is why it is incumbent on each member of the group irrespective of where they live, to be mindful of the benefits of having a family.

The family, whether as a single unit or in disparate locations, provides a background and safe place for survival as a member of the larger society. This IDEA of family teaches its members the social skills of living with others – in the home as well as in the larger society. The stable family transmits and develops virtues of love, respect, and understanding, pity, concern and sociability without which its members will lose their standing in the society. My mother used to tell us, “ Never have someone come to your home without offering them something to eat. You never know when they last ate.” This simple but honest and heartfelt notion of hospitality we have passed on to our families.

We all have a strong desire to belong to something or to someone. This desire must arise from an understanding of the the ideals that hold the group together. Should you not believe in these values that bind the group, you will disturb the equilibrium of the structure. For example, the rights and obligations, the ideas and opinions, and the privacy of the other members must be safeguarded and upheld. Some examples of this might be manifested in behaviors that are mindful of such actions as turn- taking in discussions, respect for the privacy of others, speaking without disturbing the equilibrium of the discussion, speaking with respect to each other, mindful that oftentimes, words cause pain and once uttered cannot be recalled. These behaviors are strongly upheld in our family discussions and anyone who breaks the rules is called to order.

Strong family relationships do not just happen. They must be nurtured and paid attention to. The bond strengthens when experiences are shared, when there is mutual participation in decisions concerning the welfare of each member, when there is mutual sharing of problems and common interests and combined efforts in crises. My sister had been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. My other sisters, nieces and nephews and I took turns to spend week ends with my sick sister and her family, comforting and consoling, wiping away the tears, and just offering our presence that said “We care.” These traits can only result in a strong sense of family security. If these bonds are to remain strong, these attitudes must be carefully nurtured in the same way that a gardener cares for his prized roses. When family bonds are broken and no attempt made at mending them, it destroys the basic woof and warp of the fabric. Very often we must swallow anger and be conciliatory, or persuasive. We must learn the value of negotiation, show respect in the face of confrontations, and more often than not, learn the value of forgiveness and bow, not to personal ego, but to the greater good. How much better it is to say, “I’m sorry. Forgive me” and so, preserve the equanimity, restore peace and feel good about having done so. Holding on to resentments and anger never did anyone any good. The feeling that comes from mending broken fences is above any price.

In every family there will be two or more members who do not see eye to eye. Personality differences, petty jealousies or imagined wrongs will certainly result in conflicts. If we understand the Guyanese idiom “Family cutlass does not cut deep”, we know that these petty squabbles can, like a superficial cut, mend quickly. When I am asked by young family members what to do in these situations, I tell them, “Imagine your relationship with this person two months, or one year from now, and where you want it to be at that time. You do whatever it takes to reach that point in your relationship with this person.”
What this all means is that one person must make the effort and take the initiative.

People who love each other WILL have disagreements because they feel that it is this arena that they can be at their worst and be forgiven because love is the common denominator that will over ride and overlook the ill feelings. However, learning to conquer our baser emotions must be practiced first in the home. Mutual understanding must guide discussions of ideas, hopes, dreams, accomplishments. Family members must celebrate each other’s successes, accomplishments, joys, with the same deep fervor and intensity as they might console and commiserate with failures and losses. Remember to send each family member a kind word, a congratulatory message, or a lilting text that might just make their day. When a message like this is expected and never comes, it is marked with sadness. Doing these small acts has enormous rewards. This is the way we will come to know each other intimately and be better able to show these same behaviors to the world.

One of the most heart warming things any family member has said to me was when I sent a text message to say “Thanks“ for something. The reply was, “ No thanks needed. You have given me more than you will ever know.” It still makes me teary-eyed with gratitude to have this person in my family. I consider each person in my family a blessing.

Times change. Families disperse. Modes of existence improve. Ideas morph. We might each put emphasis on different things. But the one thing that does not change, the single constant in our lives, the thing we all turn towards in the end is FAMILY LOVE.

On: Hands — October 21, 2020

On: Hands

Show me Hands …..

The  hands of a mother walking her baby into life
Hands that  soothe a troubled brow
and caress tired shoulders,
clear  a frown

Tender hands that wipe away  tears  of pain
Hands that are never quiet
That   wash and clean and bind and knead
and shape and mould and  sometimes plead.

Show me the gentle  hands of the lover
Warm hands, caressing hands, tender hands
hands that soothe the “ravelled sleeve of care”
hands that show love unasked
fingers that say without any words, “I love you”.
Even to point out mistakes and to help in putting them right.

You might know the hands of which I speak
Hands that must obey that primordial instinct
To create….
So, show me hands that compose the music of the spheres
And bring it to our ears,
so we must  listen
Even for a few moments, transformed.
Hands that capture our deepest feelings
In quatrains or in sonnets, in  blank verse or in prose
So we read them and understand
Hands that show human strengths, human failings,
The  beauty of a world teetering on the edge of extinction
To preserve it with ink and paint and canvas.
So we view them and are mindful.

Let us not forget the hands that sow seeds, and plant, dig wells,
Construct and build, create new things,  
Hands that reap what they have sown for the good
With gratitude.
Yes, show me those hands.
Hands stretched  out in welcome
Hands  waving  fond farewells;
The hands that give are   hands
Open to receive.

Show me hands that  write words of love
Of forgiveness
Of gratitude
Of advice
Of friendship
Of invitations
Of condolence
Of gentle remonstrance
Of pleading,
Of courage  

Words that are white flags of peace
Words that ease the pain of a broken heart

I want to look at the calloused hands of a father working ceaselessly
To provide for his family
And even though he might not say  words
His hands can also caress a tousled head  or wipe away a tear
or fix what is broken.
Show me those hands.

I prefer not to see those hands
That can only destroy, abuse, cause pain,
Become violent against  the weak.
Keep my gaze away from hands that hold guns
With  fingers ready to pull a trigger without care,
Wield  a knife,
or pull the bow that shoots the arrow of misfortune;
Consider those hands that are the willing tools
of evil brains
That produce  weapons of war
Causing innocent blood to flow

When other gentler hands must bathe the dead
And dig the graves to hold them.

I prefer not to acknowledge
Hands that hold a poison pen.
Do not show me  a hand  that refuses to give help,
or even to receive it
What are those hands  to me
Except impediments to a better world?

Give me those hands that give life to a sick and broken  body
That administer the anodyne of life
Like  the deft hands of the surgeon
and the gentle hands of a nurse
Give me those hands that point the straight way to a student
Who will, in turn, do the same for others
Give me hands that remove the stone that blocks
the path of a traveler
when other hands did not.
Those are the hands worth looking at.
These are  the same  hands
That will lift towards heaven
Asking for help, and saying  “Thank you”,
To ask for guidance and to receive it.

on “Aging” — October 13, 2020

on “Aging”

I got up at 5:45 this morning and went to the bathroom to clean my teeth and brush my grey hair. When I looked into the mirror, I saw a face that surely didn’t belong to me. That was the face of a stranger; a face that I had not seen before. Eyes wide, mouth open, I stared in mild shock.

It was the face of an old woman, with lines and sad eyes and wild hair, down turned lips. 

Old, old…unrecognizable.

Then, the face smiled, and I recognized it as my own. Laughter lines can change the way we look as well as the way we feel and how others see us.  Laughter doesn’t recognize age.  I think that my first impression of shock at looking into the mirror was because I was wearing the eyes of a young woman. Deep within my subliminal, is a perpetually young girl. It was me at 17 looking at me at 77 and not recognizing myself. 

Our bodies get old with the passing years. Our ability to be active and nimble, to dance and run, to skip, work hard diminishes imperceptibly with each day. Some of us refuse to admit it, others fight it with surgery, pills, exercise, while others just give in to the change.

I have always wanted to accept growing old gracefully and joyfully.  Age has its rewards. You have a family to gather around you, grandchildren, memories to dwell on. Most of all, you have the wisdom that comes from living life to the full, in all its facets. You have the gravitas, the position, the right (de jure and de facto) to tell people what you think without fear of reprisal. People tend to respect your opinion too.

My best friend of more years than I can recall told me the other day that her kids still think of her as the solid rock, the pillar, the solver of all problems, the center of their lives. I told her that my children feel exactly the same way. Ask mom. Mom will know. Mom has been the go-to person all their lives. Mom the repository of wisdom to dispense.

We both agreed that it can become wearisome and burdensome. We both agreed that we want to lay that load down now and just sit quietly in the sun and reminisce, and then we both admitted to each other that it was a fool’s errand and wishful thinking.
We will NEVER give up. That is a tenured position. Ours for life.

In a conversation with my granddaughter the other day about work, she told me, “Nanny, you are full of those Guyanese aphorisms.”  I told her that the wisdom behind those aphorisms has been learned over the years, and that they help us understand and accept what life offers.

BUT OLD is as OLD feels.

Deep down inside me there is still a young girl wishing to devour romance novels, while snacking on green mangoes with salt and pepper. Somewhere in my heart lies hidden the desire to run and dance and sing, sing, sing – in gladness to be alive. To be beautiful.  And healthy.  Somewhere deep down, there is still a bubble that will burst and reveal thoughts that can bring blushes. Thoughts about boys. And wonder why they are so contrary.

Play practical jokes on my friends. Think about a special person.  And wonder why my heart is beating so fast.  Share deep, unholy secrets with a sister – secrets that might cause my revered father to blush and my prim mother to scold for days. Walk down to the bridge over the canal to read my book.  Look at the moving water and dream…

Walk home in the gloaming with the shepherd behind the sheep and goats.  Run, hands spread wide, across the golden fields of ripening paddy.   Capture the birds’ nests.  Climb trees to pick the ripening fruit.  Fish for snook and catfish in the canals.

Time passed. 

I became a teacher.  Motherhood came and with it, the responsibility of raising my family to the best of my ability while holding down a full-time job.  If I’ve done anything good with my life, it’s that I have three of the best children.  It didn’t come easy. No time for doing the things most desirous; no time to dawdle with unimportant but joyful things; no time to sit and have a good cry when things go wrong.

Just keep going. 
Do what comes next. 
Just try your best.
One thing at a time.

If I wanted something, I knew the best way to get it was to work for it.  No one would drop it in my lap.  I never wanted, nor expected that. 

So here I am at 77.  With an old woman’s face.  An old woman’s body.  A body that has accepted the passage of time, I hope with grace.  I hope that even so, I can still smile, still play a practical joke or two on my family.  My heart is big and young with my love for my family.   My thoughts have lagged behind in a place where youth lives.  Those thoughts enjoy living in that place.   Sweet nostalgic moments, youthful exuberance and innocence – looking at the world before me.

And, so, ever so often, I visit those thoughts back there in time.  And then, as I commune with them, I THINK young even if I can’t DO young.

ON COURTESY – A Saving Grace — October 10, 2020

ON COURTESY – A Saving Grace

As a very young child in a preparatory class in school, I, along with the other pupils, was made to memorize the words on a leaflet stuck on the wall of the schoolroom. The teacher read from the very small print and made us repeat what was written on it to commit it to memory. I don’t recall the order in which things were written, but I do recall that there were many more than the ones mentioned here. The first maxim remains in my memory as being at the top of the list.

Courtesy Rules and Maxims

Speak quietly and courteously. Quiet speech is a mark of refinement.
Do not spit about. It is insanitary and a dirty habit.
Tip your hat when you pass someone on the street.
Remove your hat when you enter a building.
Eat with your mouth closed.
Do not use bad language to others.
Greet your elders when you meet them.
Be kind to others. Kindness is the hallmark of good conduct.

I do not know how many of these maxims are still a part of our social discourse and conduct, but in my scheme of things those are guiding principles.

Last night, I listened to Vice President, Joe Biden at a town hall meeting in Miami hosted by Lester Holt.
The Vice President spoke very clearly and eloquently. His honesty, his passion and his integrity were very evident. One of the things that resonated with me, not so political but more ethical and moral, was that we need to practice the social grace of good conduct in private as well as in public. We need to be more courteous and kind to each other. We need to recognize each other as equal members of the same society in which we live, “brothers in humanity”. This, he said, was the way to rebuild our broken and fragmented American society and end the suspicion and hate that color our thoughts and actions.

The Arabs refer to this as “husnul khuluq” or beautiful behavior in private and public. (Dr. Yasir Qadhi on “The Blessings of Good Manners: Khutbah delivered on 11/15/2013).

The Caliph Umar bin Khattab once said, “When you meet a man on the street, he is either your brother in religion or your brother in humanity”.
The Prophet (SAW) said, “A true believer is one who does not hurt others with his thoughts, words or actions.”

“The best of you is he (or she) who is of most benefit to others.”
(Prophet Muhammad)

Of public concern should be the manner in which we comport ourselves in private as well as in public. Limits should be set with infractions to these limits being impugned and the culprit socially ostracized or we all must be held culpable and accountable.

Cultivation of good manners, deportment and courtesy must be a matter of public concern because it leads to respect for others and is the hallmark of a peaceful society. Our tendency must be to behave with gentleness, decorum and propriety in that space that lies between legal mandate and free choice. It is in that space that we choose to behave within the set limits or to become social pariahs by breaking the common societal rules and norms.

I heard these words a very long time ago and I paraphrase, “A polite society runs smoothly on the wheels of courtesy”. It is what makes people conscious of their roles and responsibilities to each other in a civilized sphere of life. We, as members of a civilized social community, set up rules and limitations for polite behavior that will protect and uphold the safety, the honor and integrity, the health, the possessions, the self-esteem, the wellbeing of the families of those who belong to that social group.
Behavior that exemplifies decorum and civility, benevolence and kindness, humility and quiet speech, gentleness and politeness must be the hallmark of our social discourse. These attributes will make others feel at ease in the presence of those who display them. This is the quintessence of courtesy- making others feel at ease in your presence. This behavior attracts others to the one who displays it.

Maya Angelou wrote, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” For good or for bad, people remember how you made them feel.

If we examine the ten commandments of Moses or the tenets of any religion, we will find that they are really rules for correct conduct in any society – “Husnul Khuluq”.

Joe Biden, last night, hinted that many people will think of the practice of courteous behavior as “old fashioned”, as anachronistic, out of date, not in keeping with modern thought and behavior.

Why should this be so? Have we moved so far away from the practice of courteous behavior in private and in public that we should think of polite conduct as an anachronism?
If so, with what have we replaced it?
Laughing at those who have physical defects?
Lying and cheating? We lie and cheat on those who are members of our society. How is that a good thing?
Stealing from the poor?
Thinking of yourself as better than the “common herd” because you are rich?
Public displays of boorish conduct?
Use of bad language?
Insulting the vulnerable in the presence of others?
Dishonoring others in their absence?
Ignoring those we see as beneath us?

The ideal of courtesy has been eroded by the practice of these kinds of behaviors. Rudeness, loud speech, aggression, highlighting the physical defects of the weak and the vulnerable are the enemies of courtesy.

Arrogance vs. humility, dishonor vs. integrity, falsehoods vs. truth, divisiveness vs mediation and peace- making permeate the social and political status quo.
How are you? Please. Thank you, Do you mind? May I? Excuse me, please? Would you rather..? given with innate grace and not gratuitously, show a genuine concern for the feelings of others.

Saying “Thank you” to those who serve – the mailman, the waitress, the shop assistant, the post office attendant, the garbage collector, the maid – asking an employee about his wellbeing, showing concern for the wellbeing for those under our care and employ, helping those in need of it, speaking with concern and kindness, restraint from insulting or admonishing others in public to cause them to lose face, the practice of these must be born out of an inbred instinct to make others feel good and at ease in our presence.

There is no excuse for vulgarity, none for boorish behavior, no amount of goodwill must overlook rudeness, the tendency that using foul language is the hallmark of wit. Heaven forbid.
When some among us give credence to such social practices, they create a new set of rules for hostile, and impolite conduct which can result in violence, in hatred, in resentment among the members of the social group.

THEN, if and when we have all accepted the new standard of behavior, that is when we will descend like Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost into chaos, to public animalistic behavior. Our “brave new world”!

Cultivating, preserving, and upholding the old forms of correct social conduct, those Courtesy Rules and Maxims, must be seen as a social mandate, a contract, and as a tribute to the best in each of us. The social ethos in which we now find ourselves is fracturing, falling apart, with some members holding on to the sanity of proper conduct, while others are bent on destroying it.

This descent to social chaos bodes ill for everyone.
Let us not descend into that chaos ourselves.