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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Volcano photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash
Nature Not Waste photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Exhausted Air photo by Justin Bautista on Unsplash
Plastic Fish photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash
Bird photo by Angel Santos on Unsplash
Plastic Bottle Snagged photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash
Rainbow Rubbish photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash