I have already begun thinking ahead to what the year to follow will be about for me and the blog. From 2018 -2021 a commitment was made to write regularly. My lightning quick imaginings and hard to capture thoughts have been ensconced in lengthy word paper and bubble wrap.
Then ‘ta da’ – presented.
The past few years have been eventful. Police killings, an uncontainable pandemic, sporting events mislabeled 2020 even though they they were held in 2021. The statement then – mild.
Horses For me there has been a mix of enjoyment at being able to work with a lot of energy to write a blog a week. There has also been a degree of anxiety and low mood. I too was surprised by the low mood. November’s Willfully Unseen series of shorts – a challenge to embrace fully. When given time to explore topics at length, the risk is to be emotionally pulled along. The writer left to make an unwelcome decision, either chase after the horse or lead the charge.
Tonnage At times sitting down to write, has felt like a significant weight to lift or pull. There has been no request placed upon me to pen away without tiring. The awareness for me has been of not wanting to disappoint by not show up for readers of this blog. Some topics this year have caused an internal struggle. Others were a joy. The mini projects and tasks set for myself, mostly complete.
Proclamation For 2022 I will be writing at least one new piece a month rather than once a week. I have a few other projects on the boil that require attention and incessantly tap on my shoulders, as they too also need completing. I won’t detail them all here but a big one – transition my UK qualifications to an equivalency to be able to provide counselling/psychotherapy in Ontario Canada.
With over 200 pieces written since 2014 I also want to spend time re-editing and re-writing a few blogs as I feel some are in need of updating or refreshing. These too I will repost.
Tilt The New Year often brings with it a sense of agency, urgency and enthusiasm to have things completed as quickly as possible. Inevitably we lose sight of both. The goals and our sense of energy. Turning good will, into a vessel waning and listing in hope.
Plod Perhaps in 2022, we (you and I) can go slower, purposefully. The aim to safely arrive to where we are headed. CoViD19 as much as we would like the disease gone, may continue to affect ‘normality’ for a few more years yet. Maybe by slowing we notice more and reflect on what is important for us to invest our time, finally.
Thank you for journeying with me and for showing interest in my musings. I have appreciated the comments and feedback offered.
Resources There are a number of reasons that we should at times slow down and think again, in the article attached of Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam explores the benefits of slow thinking. In the Revisionist History podcast below, I enjoyed Malcolm making sense of his reactions to decision making. He has an uncanny way of surprising the listener causing laughter in this episode. The conversation between Brené Brown and Adam Grant is another to invite introspective thought on what we think we know and what we understand of our world. Thinking again is possibly a new approach to life in this millennium. Daniel Kahneman is interviewed by Shankar Vedantam on NPRs Hidden Brain, where Fast and Slow thinking are reviewed for our overall health and wellbeing. Hidden Brain Slow Down Revisionist History – Hamlet Was Wrong Dare To Lead The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know Hidden Brain Think Fast
I heard your voice break, as you generously gave applaud and Laughing jokes as the next guest crossed the threshold of your open door. We, like game show contestants, guessed at the next person to arrive. Excited, Expectant, The time too long now.
Remembering when we last gathered in this now seemingly unusual and Yet used to be usual way, Before. Remember before?
The aroma of a Caribbean, Mediterranean, Eastern, Delicacy filled our noses and Mouths watering, we fought back, Our hunger, with chit chat and bellies full with laughter.
We caught each other’s eyes, and Snippets of conversations held Across rooms flung With abandon,
We, seated, standing, leaning, giddy! Shoes off or shoes on we asked, As you bid us enter Soon tears sparkled at the corner Of our eyes as the beverages flowed and The stories and remembrances happened.
“You remember when they said?” and we did! Heads rolling backwards, As we laughter full, Content With hearts emptied.
Continued the happy bantering, Meandering across fields filled with those gone and Yet still Very Present!.
Time escaped from us all and As the sun sank and Joy spilled, bottles and flasks emptied, We readied to don hats, scarves, find keys, Call for our rides.
The last chittering almost causing raucous uproar again and Then, we glided from doors, Singing songs, Sauntering some more until We meet soon As we gasped, “at last!”
Resources This episode of Dare to Lead by Brené Brown in conversation with Priya Parker helped me to reimagine what our future organisational meetings or party happenings could look like. There was something in the way both Brené and Priya discussed what lies ahead that brought to mind our not too distant pasts. When we could meet in public without fear of falling ill. There is suggestion of riot in their conversation bubbling just beneath – inspiring ‘The Gathering.’ Dare to Lead with Brené Brown and Priya Parker
As the year begins to wind down to the holiday season with Winter’s Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa an African American Cultural Holiday and New Years. I am writing my almost penultimate blog of the year to log an awareness of both an implicit and explicit form of othering. Some cultural and religious holidays are internationally celebrated others are misremembered. This time of year where the hours of darkness far outweigh the hours of light, festivals of light are an attempt to remain enlightened. At the end of November I was a panelist on the last True Roots conversation of the year. Emotional Emancipation Healing circles was the focus of the discussion as well as Black Mental Wealth and Black Excellence. Amber Golden, and Therese Taylor-Stinson highlighted that restoration happens when we come together, and look at what has hurt us, make healing a priority and support each other to move.
Mixing Celebrating Christmas is amalgam of pagan festivities and of Christian beliefs. The date of Christ’s birth is largely unknown. Historians identify possible months of Jesus’ birth from April – October. The 25th of December wildly accepted as Jesus’ birthday is very likely to be a falsehood. Winter’s Solstice in the Northern hemisphere occurs every year on the 21st of December and is the shortest day. For some the 21st of December marks the ending and the beginning of the New Year. The shortest day is a recognition of the end of the Earths spin away from the sun and towards longer and warmer days. For pagan communities aware of Sun and Moon cycles an element of magic and thanksgiving observed the shortness of this day. All days that followed would only increase time spent in the light.
Like Kwanzaa is a construction of an ideal for the African Diaspora to celebrate amongst itself a 7-day ritual of community appreciation and cohesion. Kwanzaa is named after the first fruit of the harvest. A feast to give thanks to the community. There is a double meaning to harvest that includes the children and their re-acclimation to values that support the unity of the family. The argument returns to one I presented earlier this year, of finite and infinite games. What springs to mind about Kwanzaa is the union of old and new, those members of the community who no longer exist in physical form and yet are remembered as still belonging to the unity of the family. An appreciation of life yet to be is also a cornerstone of the cultural celebration of Kwanzaa. In 1998 I ventured to visit family in New Jersey for the ‘Holidays’ and was awed by my cousins observance of Kwanzaa. My cousin had a dismissive view of the commericalised Christmas holiday celebration. Some of the words I write here are a remembrance of the sharing and learning he offered me back then.
Year Review Christmas represents for many the birthdate of Christ. The 24th and 25th of December is a time of celebration – seeing family – eating – coming together – eating – wrapping presents -eating – giving presents – receiving gifts – eating – looking back over the year – planning and imagining for the year ahead – napping and eating if there is any room! Christmas is also a time of mass anxiety, upset, commercialism, stress, money and credit card over use, increased debt and increased profits for many retailers. Christmas sales are almost as important as black Friday deals, Boxing day sales, New Years sales and Easter sales. For many, the meaning of the 21st and 25th of December has been all but erased. Interpreted as “What am I going to get?” For many more there is anxiety and stress. Christmas is an unwelcome yearly phenomena. Forever bearing down on willing and unwilling observers. The Christmas march, begins from the first of January every year, and the accompanying concerns the ‘Holiday’s brings, grow continually. ‘It’s for the children’ some say still. I wonder if the smiles of collected parties, adults included on the ‘Big’ day are equal to the 3-4 weeks of anxiety – elevated heart rate, serotonin and cortisol release of preparations previous to the 25th every year?
Increase Light An eclectic and inclusive celebration would in the least recognise the traditions celebrating light festivals the world over. A conscious global community would observe: Diwali, Hanukkah, Winter’s Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Gregorian calendar’s New Year, and the Winter season concluding with the Chinese New Year every year. My reasoning is that I feel unity arrives as a outcome of awareness, collaborating and exemplifying human connection – sharing both difference and sameness can decrease hostility towards the unknown.
Outline What I have specifically enjoyed about Kwanzaa is the representation of joyous fulfillment extending beyond 1 day. Most of the celebrations mentioned above are either singular or successive. Spanning either 24 hours or a number of days. Kwanzaa is a non commercialised and community centred celebration observing the African family living in *Diasporan lands (Absentia). Every and all dimensions of family is what I am interested in recognising beyond the nuclear. The 7 days of Kwanzaa highlight the collection and connection of the African family gathering. Each day of Kwanzaa are known as: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, Imani. For me each day invites a sense of collective success and wellbeing. Inviting mental wealth amongst, strength within the collective and that then meeting each individual as a residual product. I position Kwanzaa as an ideal against the wealth sought in individuality, the incessant greed of possession, and the frequent belittling of others for their lack.
Umoja – Unity Umoja the first day of Kwanzaa. Lighting of the first central Black candle marks the beginning of the 7 day cultural harvest festival. The other 6 candles 3 Red and 3 Green are lit on the following days. For members of the African community living in absentia Dr. Maulana inspired by the Watts riots in 1966 imagined a weeklong celebration incorporating ideas from his studies of African traditions. For me Kwanzaa is a representation of Black mental wealth and an example of Black excellence made manifest. Some of the symbols and phrases can be identified in Southern, West and East African countries. What Dr Maulana has been able to ‘see’ is a gathering of Diasporan African people under 7 guiding principles. Achieving self acceptance and self awareness with an aim to release self from mental and physical subjugation. The African family in unifying would appreciate our inherent excellence, the strength, ability to persevere, to lead, create, challenge, be vulnerable, and to love despite uncountable barriers and obstacles. Kwanzaa invites all to know and love self and know and love family.
Kujichagulia- Self-Determination The act of self determination is to live life with little outside/other influence or determining/governing factors. Doing what is needed and sometimes wanted from a position of curiosity is to be governed by one’s own interest. The motivation feels different when another is advising telling or yelling at you to do something you may not want to do, or need to do. Self determining is to recognise that all choices even the act of not making a decision has an equal and possible outcome. In relation to Self-Determination for the African family, excellence is truly what we are. Attributions of maligned unwanted, discarded, projective identified qualities and stereo types have been incorrectly ascribed. Operating with a belief of not being enough is an unconscious representation of growing up in a number of systems that do not value, or refuse to acknowledge us as anything other than 3/5ths human. Dr Clint Smith’s How The Word is Passed book link below explores the lie in detail. The acceptance of self-determination also inspires the community to know itself. To appreciate ones personhood and of those who came before, and those yet to be born. The resilience of ancestors surviving an inhuman system afforded us a light that is impossible to erase.
Ujima- Collective Work and Responsibility I understand Ujima and the idea of collective work as primarily centred on the organisation of family including extended family and the community overall. As a counsellor/psychotherapist I am in regular conversations with clients that are grappling with their disillusionment of family and also looking to re-structure, reshape and repair these relationships. The work of healing is both individual and collective. The responsibility of advancement can and often does start with one individual and often leads to many taking up the cause. On the 3rd day of Kwanzaa the family is to observe what work has been carried out to support everyone’s wellbeing. What has been harvested in effortful engagements, received as a result of gifts and what time has been given to others to manifest health. Those whose efforts are often unseen, or taken for granted are invited to come forward and accept their role in holding and guiding the family group through the year’s challenges.
Ujamaa- Cooperative Economics In a world that is predicated on profit and loss, wealth and poverty, accumulation over waste and destruction Ujamaa observes the benefits of collaboratively working together to improve an individual’s, a family’s and a community’s economic ability. The 4th day of Kwanzaa observes that consumerism, capitalism and the cultural lay religious practice of Christmas robs some communities of wealth, humility and compassion. Presenting an idea that some deserve not to have a good end of year celebration as these groups are the wrong type of humanity and thus deserve judgement, scorn and little from the table of good sharing. The principle of Ujamaa centers the idea of coming together for the family’s good – humanity’s wellbeing.
Nia- Purpose The 5th day of Kwanzaa is Purpose or Nia. I am mindful of a saying I came across a few years ago. Mark Twain is reported to have said ‘Two most important days in your life: The day you were born and the day you discover why. ‘ Offers a useful perspective to the understanding of purpose. I am taken back to working for Together for Mental Wellbeing and developing training on Tertiary Desistance. Purposeful endeavour is an engaging concept working with people in prison and those once returned. Discovering one’s purpose is a little like inspecting interiorly and finding the one thing or the connected parts of the self, that are beyond passion and can be seen as life’s work. (My mind has ventured to Dave Eggers ‘A Life’s Work of Staggering Genius’) Purpose is appreciating ones inherent and earned skills and to make use of them to support self and others. My born with skills are to artistically represent what is seen, heard, felt, smelled and tasted. The earned skill is psychotherapeutic and being able to write missives to direct understanding. Bringing both together are the blogs purpose. I feel that my specific purpose is in translating concepts of psychoanalytic thought artfully for those who share an interest in healing.
Kuumba- Creativity I witness creativity in almost everything. For instance architecture and living on a housing estate perhaps was a beginning of my noticing the art in a concrete clad environment. The block I lived on had a central atrium with plants and trees growing up from the ground floor up towards the light of the first floors. Natural beauty contained/constrained by the concrete that sounded it. The 6th day of Kwanzaa observes the act of creating a better world. For me the act of creating often begins with an inner spark of something or an experience that is inspirational. The want that follows is to reconfigure, reimagine and reorganise the inception to be something more. Transmuted into physical and active form. Dr. Maulana was able to make use of his studies and understanding to reimagine an end of year celebration to reconstruct the African family. A repurposing of his studies willfully applied to restoring Africans living in absentia. Kwanzaa observes a themed approach to live well.
Imani – Faith The 7th day of Kwanzaa is one of celebration and to acknowledge faith in oneself, family, and community followed by deliberate mindful action which can create opportunity for change. Faith in the ancestors. In those who came before. Faith in those living amongst the community to support those engaged in affirming activities. Faith in those yet born to continue righting the keel of the ship so the remaining journey arrives at a just port. The aim to manifest good returns on the energy of their time and commitments. Kwanzaa a non-religious practice. Kwanzaa aims to raise awareness amongst those who are looking to support their community rather than continually investing in companies and businesses interested only in profit. Placing the global African community as an after thought, a peon to larger market forces.
Celebrate In conclusion festivals that light darkness are representative of human ingenuity and genius. A conversation about misrepresentation of the myth of Christmas has assisted my appreciation of the holiday’s origin beginning in Egypt. What Dr Maulana Karenga has offered with Kwanzaa is an interpretation of his African research for global application. In order to support global unity. From the 26th December – the 1st January, my aim will be to observe the 7 principles of Kwanzaa. Another way to mark the ending of one calendar year and make space for the one that follows next.
Resources The TED talk by Dr. Cheryl Tahede Grills was shared by Kimberly Cato of True Roots prior to the conversation in November, priming panelists and guests for a wholly beneficial and uplifting conversation about EEC . Kwanzaa the official website for the end of year celebration. A wealth of information about Kwanzaa the originator and useful resources for communities wanting to observe the African American cultural holiday. I enjoyed Tarana Burke’s and Brené Brown’s interview on Unlocking Us. What is shared between the two is how vulnerability in African-American communities is a difficult ask. Tobe and the Originals to the list of resources arrived as I poured through a number of music videos. Their movement and creativity are a force to be reckoned with in that the principle themes of Kwanzaa are inherent in what I saw in the interview and in some of their music. TED Talk Dr Cheryl Tahede Grills Emancipate From Mental Slavery Kwanzaa – The African American celebration Brené Brown, Tarana Burke and Jason Reynolds You Are Your Best Thing Tobe and Fat & the Originals discuss Love, Erykah Badu and Breakthroughs Unlocking Us Brené Brown and Dr Clint Smith How The Word Is Passed
When Marlon James the author of Black Leopard Red Wolf offered at a book signing in 2019, that ‘It’s about healing’ he presented me 2 insights in one. This is often the way with the wise. A single sentence containing as many meanings as one wants to ascribe.
Own Self As a writer, Marlon James’ books have invited a sense of closure to misremembered, misrepresented pasts. Stories about Black Africans living in *Diasporan lands are often exotified embellishments. Built upon lies that fall from colonisers mouths and minds as if fully formed. Tall tales have positioned the African in precarious positions and amongst endangered real and imagined landscapes. With diminished ability of self governance, self determination or self improvement. Placing white saviorism in the middle of a mistaken history. Cut stories, as though ripping a past in half could interrupt it’s eventual and inevitable realisation. We see beyond the lines painting the African either in unfavorably bad light or out of the picture. Here I am remembering the last episode of High in the Hog 4 part documentary and ‘The Harder They Fall’ movie.
Simmering The insight Mr. James highlighted was that by writing (creating) we can access healing and that by telling our stories in our own way within language from cultures adopted, we add to the healing pot. There is something about seeing the words and art that you think, being pulled from you and thrown across a page (such as this), a scroll, a wall, a canvas, caste in clay, poured into jewelry, or a clothing design made, into a picture or a film or piece of music, a dance, a move in sport. The spark of that inspiration is then left to affect another. Witness and harness it to their own end.
Re-calibrate Therapy has become almost a lesser than activity. Synonymous with celebrities doing the work to move beyond past harmful experiences. Healing has meaning and therapy seems to encompass everything from Osteopathy, Neuropathy, Light and Sound assisted treatment and, I have been found guilty to be using the abbreviation too, in Walk and Talk Therapy. (What I was later to learn is that ecologically enhanced/assisted psychotherapy can alternatively be used. It’s wordy though.) The term therapy is an abridgement. The argument I am presenting is about meaning making. What we mean when we say therapy – is treatment. Engaging with another trained in the art of psychotherapeutic/psychoanalytic treatment. A form of healing involving a client discussing with a trained professional. Supporting pain from their past to be assuaged.
Upended Two representations have recently been offered on TV, that psychotherapy is a tool used to ruin or invite in a healer’s unrest. The two cases I am choosing to highlight here are characters bent on utterly destroying each adherent. My concerns are about two shows ‘Hypnotic’ Netflix, and ’The Shrink Next Door’ Apple TV. There are clear boundary issues that are crossed and transgressed in both. I wonder if they ever really existed for the therapists involved? My concern is that a mislaid belief about psychological attempts at healing will be unconsciously accepted as truth. In turn then, the bent towards accessing additional support will be interrupted. The seemingly global succession of mindfully engaging with some psychological intervention willfully overturned.
Complex Because – for me healing is a multi modal and multidirectional phenomena. Healing travels into the past, amongst the present, and supports an understanding and use of the future – simultaneously. I mean that when a counsellor, psychotherapist, psychologist, healer is supporting an individual or a group or a couple they are working amongst and with a range of differing and sometimes competing factors. Healing can include the client’s history, family, intimate partners, work patterns, associates, aspirations for the future, sleep, diet, exercise, rest, entertainment and past experiences. In couples and with group the experiences everyone brings to a healing encounter can be magnified. With group support the experience is as if another living entity is involved with the process as with the people involved – almost.
Where There Is Light Then there are the shadow aspects clients don’t wish to bring to therapeutic encounters. Both Carl Jung and Freud called this the Shadow Self. The Shadow Self is the part of ourselves we do not want to own or claim we know, because of it’s often distasteful, deplorable desires and dreams. Previously I mentioned Smaug the Dragon in the Hobbit as a depiction of the mortal dilemma. As humans we are as impressive as the Dragon, as deep and as cavernous as the dungeon Smaug inhabits and as precious as the horde of gold the Dragon rests upon. When we can embrace all seemingly separate parts of ourselves then…
Laboring Healing is to recognise all parts of the individual including the split off shadow aspects of the self and support a repair that has hurt persons hold all aspects of themselves carefully, with kindness. As mentioned before if we cut parts of ourselves off, we are doing a disservice to our whole being. We cannot fully access who we authentically are. If a part of ourselves is forever banished we spend energy on the look out for the usurper to return and disrupt. We perpetually anticipate the interlopers inevitable resurgence. Perhaps we are to address healing as an ongoing active engagement with no predetermined or presumed end. Like a story without conclusion. Perhaps what Marlon James was introducing as the concept of healing, is to be continually tilled and tended to as soil…
It is all about healing!
Resources The Mindful Cranks podcast introduces Manu Bazzano who supports an idea of mindfulness, meditation, psychotherapy and letting oneself go. Hana and Leila presenters of The Stoop podcast look at accessing psychotherapy and what causes some members of the Black community to either seek support or not. Eldra Jackson offers his story in this TED talk as a way to describe what happens when a trauma is denied exposure and the opportunity for healing to take place. Stormy Monday explores the music habits some persons in San Quentin prison use to look after themselves. The Mindful Cranks with Manu Bazzano The Stoop On The Couch TED Talk Eldra Jackson Masculinity Ear Hustle Stormy Monday
The following piece of writing has been mostly published over the last few weeks, save for the last few paragraphs. The piece remains largely imaginative. I am attempting to invite a note of discomfort before turning a corner. My hope, towards something believable and healthy for maligned, marginalised and underserved groups. The adage of ‘It can only get worse, before it gets better’ perhaps ever more fitting…
Difference in The Details A university friend shared an understanding they had about the ‘small’ rooms a business or a restaurant has. Dave Li (circa 1992) stated that ‘When you visit a toilet (bathroom) in a restaurant or any other business and it isn’t nice, this shows how they value your custom. It’s a matter of how much attention they pay to something the public uses, that demonstrates if they appreciate the small things’. Dave Li’s parents owned a small business in Wales. I imagine even now (Nov 2021) that Dave Li’s parent’s business bathroom was a pleasant place to visit.
Eyes Shut Now When I think about unseen communities of people and an advanced society, a few social groups are swiftly brought into awareness, often unfavourably. In unkind and demeaning manners. The idea I have observes how an advanced and humane society would treat the poor, those physically and mentally disabled, those who commit crime, those who are viewed as psychologically unwell, the young, those who are either educators or within education systems, the homeless, the poor, immigrants and green agitators. Advanced societies would treat all with care, concern, kindness and a willingness to arrive at equanimous understanding. Including rather than excluding and positioning those who are willingly unseen, as permanently disadvantaged! Could a humane society remain in a position to not ‘other’ those that demonstrate a quality to life that is difficult, unimaginable, and unmanageable?
Wheel Turn Given time and tools to develop better understanding, appreciation and gratitude, could there be chance to become aware and attuned to our similarities? Exploring points of contact. Noticing where intersectionality, between disowned groups and those who, stubbornly remain within the stronghold of our current capitalistic (solipsistic) society meet? Choosing to ignore a greater number of people who through no fault of their own remain at **the bottom of the well. Affecting those who like Smaug sit at the top of the mountain of gold. The planet, those who represent the Global South, the willfully ignored, aren’t waiting any longer for equity!
Possession Advanced societies I believe would look at the smallest component of the strata of it’s populace, and be willing to invest in holistic growth, development and the levelling of all playing fields. Calling to mind Jo Amand who stated during training of Walking Group Leaders for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme back in 2002, ‘A group always walks together. They walk at the pace of it’s slowest member!’ Reminding of the African quote ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together!’ The idea, if a parachute is pulled apart the circumference encompasses all. No-one is left outside/behind. The reciprocal return would be to develop children and adults that are consciously aware of their privilege and where that awareness intersects/interacts with elements of themselves that are a challenge to accept. The aim would also be to develop understanding of where aspects of their being are under valued or under appreciated (where we all become the other). We are all Dragon, Dungeon and Dragon’s treasure (see above link to Smaug). The aim could be to support and to develop emotionally literate, physically responsible, sociologically curious and flexible people. A following aim could be to improve our appreciation of all aspects of life. Disowning death, disease and inevitable destruction – cuts the enmeshment that is the whole of our existence. (The fright of the four horsemen.) All parts of a terrific/terrifying life are brought together within surrender.
Wealth Extraction If we were to globally eradicate poverty (a huge thank you to Stephanie at Thrive Hamilton for the conversation) including paucity of critical thinking, I wonder then, what the world’s community would resemble? Would we still as a society carry the fear/threat of violence because of what we have/do not yet possess? Would we still hold on to a notion of one group of people being better than other groups of people? Would the ever increasing global debt be something that could continue to exist and weigh upon hearts and minds without coming to a necessary and abrupt end? The never-ending pursuit of financial security, of surplus – dismembering, denuding and robbing the Global community and the natural world of it’s health and it’s wealth.
Waste Returning to the analogy of the toilet (began at the top of this page) 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. Proof of poor maintenance and care.
Fixin’ Unfair You the visitor to this unsavoury scene, 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, an immigrant this foetid 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.
Poor 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, staining the lives of those she would interact with as a nurse. The nasty taste of barely disguised racism. 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 providing an outcome that has us living remarkably, thankfully differently.
Persons With Physical and Mental Disability Living in a body deemed disabled by some, one is often ascribed as not only 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 internal 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 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 the ability to learn how to be inclusive rather than dismissive. By splitting off parts of ourselves from ourselves, we dampen the fires of progress that includes rather than excludes.
Crime 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. The initial want to cause harm and punishment back, for the hurt experienced is 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 Mariam 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.
Theft 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, spiritually the person who died. 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 a Willfully Unseen groups of people who have been disgracefully treated by America/Canada. Being purposefully overlooked has been wrought upon Indigenous populations in North America with long standing consequences.
Mental Illness For 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 in a number of diverse fields that is to be carefully be tended to. The pandemic exposed globally our fears, the cracks in a number of systems and what an incessant diet of misinformation, overstimulation of the amygdala, unhealthy foods, instant gratification ( thank you Netflix/Amazon) and the allure of working from home with everybody there, could and did wreak havoc on our mental health. Add to that 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.
Young leaders Being young, below the age of 21, the rest of the adult world can present that the young know little. It could be that knowing less could be a provision to engage in creative and critical thinking and emotionally engaged solution finding. The idea that those older and wiser, know more. In some cases those who are 21+ do, and are yet 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 certain protections offered in relation to health, wellbeing, autonomy, access to education. The offers to seats of power, to direct the course of important arguments are less available to include youthful viewpoints. Decisions, especially about education, are made by people who left their own classrooms 30-40 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 the world. Passing on our jaded world views, whilst initially seen as protective, may not yield a determined, explorative, daring, courageous young person who is prepared to commit to heavy lifting that could result in systemic global change. Those who 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 and speak out about a number of injustices the world faces, because the young require us to!
Rough The city I have moved to, Hamilton Ontario, has many people living on the streets or in tents in parks or scraps of land that are unused. The city is attempting to resolve the crises by supporting homeless people. A global understanding of those who live with complex factors would be a useful way to engage with groups of people who find themselves living without a home. Becoming homeless is never a choice a person makes. Living outside of shelter is arrived at by a number of connected and unforseen factors. Ultimately to resolve some of the concerns those who live beyond shelter are to be consulted and involved with their repatriation. A recent study observing 1 persons cost to a community in the US, for 10 years observed an individual who cost a city 10’s of Thousands of Dollars just to keep them alive, without ever successfully rehousing that person. It is less warehousing of solutions and resolutions but finding individual and group breakthroughs. We all need to walk and talk together through and beyond labelling and problem finding.
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 willfully 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 of water levels, extreme experiences of weather storms and desertification of once arable land – symptoms of a group of mindless apes ruining what once they managed so expertly.
Freeze There are a number of ways to exist within our means and remain functioning amongst the planet as custodians. Money maddens us. Power can corrupt. By putting money and power together we have examples of those who govern us being both power mad and with money corrupt. As Brené Brown has repeatedly suggested power over helps no one, whilst power to and power with – helps everyone. A change of thinking, believing and behaving is to occur. Ibram, Mariame, David all strongly speak about the cost of not acknowledging and remaining affixed in a (Frail, Pale, Female/Male, Stale) FPMS global frieze.
Better My hope is that the dead wood blocking flow, is blown through! Obliterating and washing away inhumane systems of thinking, and practices that enslave bodies and minds. Since the industrial revolution the human body has been made an unwilling barely conscious component. Part of a chattel system that perpetually produces misery over comfort, disease over health and chaos over creativity. Humanity deserves better and is in an active role pursuing something other, representative of all, for all.
Resources David Treuer writes in the Atlantic of how America can pay back in financial terms what was stolen from Native Americans. The article makes both a passionate and logical presentation of historical facts. Young Leaders reviews 6 young people that have had the lens of history swung upon them. The article observes leaders such as Malala who have shook the world to pay attention to causes beyond their shores. Malcolm Gladwell’s useful depiction of Smaug the Dragon in The Hobbit gave me a spring to further understand pointlessness of wealth. The link takes you to the short blog that has the episode of Revisionist History. Homeless has 4 links that observe homelessness in Canada and the US. 3 of the links specifically look at Hamilton Ontario. The Spectator article discusses cases of homeless people and what the City of Hamilton’s council is attempting to do to resolve the city’s homelessness crises. The CBC article observes one person’s re-housing ending their encampment experience. Lead Me Home is a beautifully poignant Netflix documentary observing homelessness in Oakland Calidornia. For more information on Lead Me Home <click here. David Attenborough’s COP26 speech heavily influenced my choice of images for this weeks blog. Dr Dwight Turner has spoken about the interwoven nature of speaking about BLM alongside just as important issues such as Gender equality, Immigration, Feminism, Sexuality and the environment. Black Is… by Tall Black Guy features towards the end of the piece of music, Sareem speaking their truth. There is something about their delivery and words chosen that resonates profoundly for me ‘My Bite pressure is much to much…’ Mariame Kaba and her conversation with Ibram X Kendi is mentioned above. The Chaos Machine by the Invisibilia Podcast is a useful foil to begin unpacking how an information service that attempts to inform the public turns into a tool of cruel divisive control. Social media can have a separating role amongst our interpretation of facts v untruths. David Treuer and his conversation with Ibram X Kendi is mentioned above. Buffalo Soldiers is more than just a song from Bob Marley. The podcast from The Stoop looks at who were termed Buffalo Soldiers and the difficult line Black service people have walked along in the US military service. Gaslighting by Two Guys on Your Head is helpful in beginning to understand how socialisation pulls individuals to need/want like. Perhaps we all willfully ignore the impact of being socially coerced and manipulated. **Derrick Bell who wrote Faces At The Bottom of the Well as an originator of Critical Race Theory begins to unpack the construct of Race. We may be unwilling to acknowledge the experience of racism amongst different racial groups. Cathy Park Hong and Ibram X Kendi discuss Asian solidarity in the global fight on Anti-Black Racism. The emphasis is for Black and Asian people to identify the divide and overcome the pattern matching of internalised racism and do many things differently. Have You Heard George’s podcast episode 26 observes the patterned experience of 2 separate movement phenomena in music and what unseen relationship vibes have in realising artistic expression. Resmaa Menakem and Angela Rye’s interview once more affirms that intergenerational trauma becomes de-contextualised as symptoms of illness. This too is Willfully Unseen amongst healing professions. Continuing to learn can support appreciation of new/old information of which can be then applied to living. A large thank you to Kwame Opoku for the link. Black Is Tall Black Guy How to Be Anti-Racist with Ibram X Kendi and Mariame Kaba: Prison and Police Abolition – Finding True Safety Invisibilia The Chaos Machine: The endless Hole How to Be Anti-Racist with Ibram X Kendi and David Treuer: Repairing The Past – Returning Native Land The Stoop: Buffalo Soldiers Two Guys on Your Head: Gaslighting **Faces at The Bottom of the Well authorDerrick Bell How to be Anti Racist Black and Asian American Solidarity: Ibram X Kendi interviews Cathy Park Hong Have You Heard George’s Podcast: Podcast Ep26 Vibrations Resmaa Menakem and Angela Rye Discuss Healing