Willfully Unseen: Green

Green Activitists
Sir David Attenborough has aptly and repeatedly described the peril we all face. He speaks here at the recent COP26 and remains composed whilst delivering a passionate note of warning. Some choose to ignore. Some choose to deny. Others yet, still opt to close eyes, ears and minds in relation to the once barely visible threat of a planet dieing. The fires, land losses, global rising water levels, extreme experiences of weather, storms and desertification of once arable land are symptoms of a group of mindless apes ruining what once they managed so expertly. Another example of willful ignorance blocking understanding and proactive solution finding action.

A link to a great writer sharing her insights about nature and therapy wrapped up in bird song. A useful parallel is drawn here in relation to wellbeing and outdoor spaces.
The Story of Capitalism by Jennifer Good (thank you Joy Warner for highlighting this article) observes COP26’s willfully unseen recognition that consumerism includes waste, which directly impacts on the climate. Conversations about global climate change are yet to address actions that increase re-wilding, carbon capture and instituting an ethical social money management practice.
Boots with Blossoms – Nicki Gilbert
COP26 and the Story of Capitalism

Bird Photo by Angel Santos on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Rough

The city I have moved to, Hamilton Ontario, has many people living on the streets or in tents, at parks or scraps of land that are unused. The city is attempting to resolve the crises by supporting homeless people to find accommodation. A global understanding of those who live with complex factors would be a useful way to engage with groups of people who find themselves without a home. Becoming homeless is not a choice a person makes. Living outside of shelter is arrived at by a number of connected and unforeseen factors. Ultimately to resolve some of the concerns those who live beyond shelter, are to be consulted and involved with in the process of repatriation. A recent study observing 1 persons cost to a community in the US for a decade, observed an individual who cost a city 10’s of thousands of dollars just to keep them alive. It is less warehousing of solutions and resolutions but finding individual and group breakthroughs. We all need to walk and talk together through differences of occupying land and keep our eyes open and mouths moving! The aim: find impossible solutions.

Plastic Bottle Snagged Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Dare Us

Young leaders
Being young, below the age of 21, the rest of the adult world can present that the young know little. Knowing less could be a provision to engage in creative and critical thinking and emotionally engaged solution finding. A central idea is that those older and wiser, know more.
In some cases those who are 21+ do. And yet are still to find solution to the problems the world faces! The notion, that being born, one should be ‘grateful for life’ and put up with the rubbish being thrown is largely outdated. Young people have some protections offered in relation to health, wellbeing, autonomy and access to education.
However the offer to seats of power, to direct the course of important arguments are less available to youthful viewpoints. Decisions, especially about education, are made by people who left their own classrooms 30-40-50 years ago!
The young are not seen, valued, appreciated for what lessons they are to teach. We should remain aware and interested in the way young persons see our planet. Passing on our jaded world views, whilst initially seen as protective, may not yield a determined, explorative, daring, courageous young person.
We may be undoing their preparation to commit to the heavy lifting required for systemic global change. Those who engage with young minds are often laughingly surprised by what ideas their youthful charges dream up. Inviting us to step up, stand up, speak up, speak out about a number of injustices the world faces, because the young require us to.
And because they already are!

Rainbow RubbishPhoto by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Hurt Psyche

Mental Illness
The last decade or so, the awareness of a barely visible human experience we all at some point may venture into, has mushroomed into a permanent figure. Mental Health, mental illness and wellbeing are fixed as an area for us in the 21st century to be aware of and conscientiously to look after. The pandemic exposed globally our fears, the cracks in a number of systems. An understanding was borne of what an incessant diet of misinformation, overstimulation of the amygdala, unhealthy foods, instant gratification (Netflix/Amazon) and the allure of working from home with everybody there, could do and did wreak havoc on our mental health and wellbeing. Add to the heady brew, trying to function normally in a world that has slid off of it’s axis. It would be safe to say that maintaining wellness would be a near improbability. Before the pandemic did we appreciate how ones mind can start to become instable when known knowns change to unknown unknowns? Stability and mental health is made possible by both known and some unknown factors. We may not have willfully understood that seismic change can produce Tsunami sized psychological waves. Before we may have down graded mental illness as a problem for a select few. Perhaps recognising now to push anxiety or low mood to one side hurts more than it helps. Mental Health, mental illness and wellbeing may not be so easy to willfully ignore anymore.

Resmaa Menakem and Angela Rye Discuss Healing

Nails and Painted Fist photo by Khashayar Kouchpeydeh on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Stolen

The 2nd Ibram X Kendi podcast I have used is from ‘How to Be Anti-Racist’ podcast that looks at the international crime of land theft by Europeans of indigenous populations in North and Central America. David Treuer a Native American invites us to think about how America could repay what America took from Indigenous populations in this article and whilst speaking on the episode. What I enjoyed hearing was David’s tribe the Ojibwe’s way of healing past wounds inflicted amongst it’s people but also against other tribes. In the case of taking life: three actions stood out amongst many of the ideas David spoke about.
1. A ceremony to mark both the passing on of the loved one, and to give the deceased person’s spirit some rest.
2. The second idea David spoke to, was adoption of another of the same age/same sex by the bereaved family to replace the person who died – spiritually.
3. The last idea shared by David, was gifting the bereaved family, with many items of immeasurable personal wealth. Something of value given in each exchange for the loss being communicated to the bereaved.
Because being a nomad has a childlike, unmoored presence in my mind. I position land theft among this list of Willfully Unseen groups of people who have been disgracefully treated by America. Being purposefully overlooked has been wrought upon Indigenous populations in North America with long standing consequences.

How to Be Anti-Racist with Ibram X Kendi and David Treuer: Repairing The Past – Returning Native Land

Nature Not Waste Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Rapprochement

The resource below from Ibram X Kendi’s ‘How to Be Anti-Racist’ podcast fully examines a thorough understanding of the criminal punishment system. Mariame Kaba explores with Ibram what the future of supporting someone who has caused harm could look like. My thoughts are, the initial want to cause harm and punishment in retaliation, for the hurt experienced could be a part of human conditioning. Initially if we experience pain we seek soothing and for the pain to stop. Moving away from the pain’s source. A part of us may want retribution and for the harm caused to be repaid in some way. The learning Mariame speaks of is to unlearn the want to hurt back and observe the need to be repatriated, repaid and the tear between ourselves and the other to be repaired in some restorative way. Those who have committed offences against society are another group of people that are sent away to be unseen.  Prison – a draconian and outdated way of people management. An advanced society would identify what happened amongst its body for harm to be caused by a member to another member of it’s collection. Questions alluding to an unknown picture an advanced society could begin to ask. Also be willing to wait for uneasy answers.

How to Be Anti-Racist with Ibram X Kendi and Mariame Kaba: Prison and Police Abolition – Finding True Safety

Volcano Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Vulnerability

Persons With Physical and Mental Disability
Living in a body deemed disabled by some, one is often ascribed as not just physically incapable but also mentally deficient. Some notice my cane as I approach and prepare themselves to speak in soft, accommodating condescending ways. I notice the flick of their inbuilt switch. The subtle grimace, the hard swallow, the mouths set just so. Choosing words that are simple for an obviously disabled person (me) to comprehend. Noticing physical and mental ability can be a challenge. MS lurks barely visible. Being asked if help is wanted in the first instance, can begin a simple opening up to a human experience of reciprocity. To warehouse and write-off persons that have physical and or mental disabilities, is an under appreciation of the human breadth of living. Pausing before offering judgement we have chance to learn how to be inclusive rather than dismissive. By splitting off parts of ourselves from ourselves, we dampen the fires of progress that excludes, rather than includes.

Plastic Fish photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Poverty

I was born into a family living on a North London housing estate (BWF). Poverty was a mixed experience of struggling and pushing to achieve an improved life experience for us and many residents. My mother came from a middle-class background in Guyana. I can imagine the unpleasant shock she received arriving in the UK, making a life for herself. Previously living in a colourful, warm, vibrant world only to arrive in England the cold, the sepia tones, stained the lives of those she would interact with as a nurse. The nasty taste of barely disguised racism and then there was returning home to the housing estate’s depravation. Those born into poverty the world over are a large willfully unseen group. The eye skips uncomfortably over signs of poverty. A street hawker, someone who begs, with visible signs of malnourishment, unwashed, clothes in disrepair. They: showing signs of both distrust and a rapacious need, cause discomfort and a wish of ours to not associate. The idea – distance creates separation and less chance of being infected with their version of ‘lack’. Those who live below a poverty line in most of our societies are potentially us. A few missed mortgage or rent payments, losing ones employment could transform a seemingly wealthy person into the needy. Take time to notice both the privilege and the possibility of upheaval. The notion that we are more deserving – untrue. In actuality due to some degree of luck, choice, support and determination provided an outcome that has us living remarkably differently.

The piece below plays on some of the themes discussed in Willfully Unseen. Derrick Hodge’s ‘Looking At You’ repeatedly offers in this piece of music that ‘I see you.’ A statement, a refrain, a memory of being with…
Looking At You Derrick Hodge

Bird Photo by Angel Santos on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Fixin’

Fixin’ Unfair
You the visitor to the unsavoury scene (described yesterday) not being able to hold the contents of your bowels/bladder or both any longer have little other option. Imagine inhabiting a space that heaps an idea that you deserve to live the rest of your life here and that you should die here too! Because born poor, of a lower social class, of a specific gender, of a certain racial group, having a certain physical or mental capacities, have ineffectively (criminally) acted attempting to improve yours and your family’s situation, or by becoming homeless, or an immigrant this fetid mess is what some advise you to make a home, a society from. Being told by those living in better conditions that this environment is where you belong? Those supporting communities such as those described above, unfairly branded with the same toilet brush.

Exhausted Air Photo by Justin Bautista on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Unwanted Matter

Returning to the analogy of the toilet (started on last week) would we want to arrive in a bathroom, with the smells of another user still hanging? Toilet paper strewn about on a suspected urine soaked floor. An omnipresent dripping echoing dimly. Possessing only one working stall (unwillingly checking the 5 other stalls in haste), someone having defecated not only on the seat, but also the floor, the walls? Paint of an undisclosed colour, flecked, bubbling, peeling from walls. Graffiti adding a quality of perceived threat and additional grime to an already stressful situation. Tiles of the floor and walls cracked. Oozing. The lock on the one working urinal broken. A flickering fluorescent bulb overhead. The 2 working hand basins showing signs of disrepair rust, grime, leaking taps, slowly draining grey water, already collecting in the bottom of the basin.

Rainbow RubbishPhoto by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash