To Be An Activist

What Does it Take to be an Activist?

It takes courage – courage to believe in yourself, courage to face opponents, courage to be able to argue the facts, and stand up to those who try to undermine you.

It takes anger – anger against what you believe to be wrong, harmful or unjust.

It takes confidence – confidence to stand alone, lead or support a minority, confidence to stand with those who are weaker, discriminated against and less powerful, confidence in your own judgement.

It takes knowledge – knowledge of the facts, of what is hidden, of what is manipulated, knowledge of the injustice, knowledge of the consequences.

And it takes time – time to gain a thorough understanding, time to plan, time to gather troops.

Activism is difficult. It can be uncomfortable, alienating, dangerous and time consuming.

To be an activist is to be clear on what is right and wrong.

Simply standing up for those around you who are discriminated against – a senior person, a junior person, a fearful person – is activism. Making troublesome choices that care for the environment, living creatures and society – is activism. Joining a group for the betterment of the community is activism.

Those activists who go beyond their immediate world and challenge those with the power, those who lead a cause that affects others, will often be persecuted. They are presented as troublemakers, irrational, stupid and wrong. Their act is misrepresented and undermined by deflection, by the cause itself being manipulated or the action being scrutinised to overemphasize the faults.

There have been many activists in history who have suffered greatly for their cause. They have been jailed, tortured, demoralised, lied about, joked about and killed.

The point of this Blog Post is – activists should be respected, whether you agree with them or not. Because, they are not fighting a cause to be famous or rich or to have something to do. They fight to achieve what they believe is right. And if you look back in history, what may have started out as something trivial, laughable and irrational, has turned out to be something important.

The Bishnoi people of Rajasthan India, back in 1730, were the original “tree huggers.” They died trying to save their forest. This literal, but derogatory term, is used frequently to belittle defenders of the environment, even in “environmentally conscious” Australia.

At one time, in the southern states of America, Eleanor Roosevelt was told, “You have ruined the niggers. They weren’t race conscious until you started hobnobbing with them.” This outstanding humanitarian of the 1940s and 50s was maligned by sexual allegations and malicious jokes, totally designed to undermine her.

The fight against cruelty to animals, discrimination, the decimation of biodiversity, food wastage, water pollution, mining in sensitive areas, and air pollution, are all examples of just causes. We need to do our best to do no harm, to contribute to the betterment of the world’s health, to think as a member of society and the global community, and not purely as an individual.

But if we wish to make a large impact, we need to have the qualities and skills of an activist. We need to focus on one issue. We need to care so much about that issue that we don’t care what people think.

Young Greta Thunberg hasn’t chosen a small issue or a straightforward one. It is one of the most complicated and controversial issues of our time. The discussion around climate change is both scientific and emotional. I used to say I wasn’t a fan of Greta’s. The sixteen-year old embarked on her mission when she was thirteen. She is a child, easy to use, belittle and dismiss. I have read the arguments against her, the hypotheses and the scathing accusations. I wasn’t going to be manipulated. Then a friend, disappointed in my assessment, gave me the book of her speeches. Her desire is straightforward: Adults and World Leaders – listen to the scientists, read the data, inform yourselves and act urgently to stop the increasing temperature of the earth. If you agree that the earth is warming, there is good reason to act urgently. If you agree with the scientific facts that she refers to, there is good reason to act drastically.

Greta is told to stop being disruptive, stop scare mongering and go back to school to finish her education. She says she will, as soon as the leaders start taking action, because without that, there is no point.

Look at history. Don’t dismiss what Greta says before thinking and learning about it. And don’t hate her for being an activist.

The humanitarian, Urmi Basu, recently advised me, “If you really want to know what’s going on in a place, find out what the activists are doing.” Those few words have changed my entire way of thinking.

It’s not likely I will ever be a leading activist. But I will do my best to contribute to the world’s well-being. I vow to remain open minded, curious, community minded, environmentally careful and more courageous than comfortable. My form of activism will be small and spread wide. I will write about issues that I care about. And in that way, I will call myself an activist.

Will you be one too?

 

Reference:

Greta Thunberg No One is Too Small to make a Difference.

“Everyone and everything needs to change. But the bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty.”

Urmi Basu, founder of New Light India, a refuge for children and young adults at risk in the red-light district of Kolkata. www.newlightindia.org

Brene Brown, Research Professor, public speaker, writer and social worker who says, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, American first Lady 1933-45, diplomat and humanitarian, activist until she died in 1962, for child welfare, housing reform, equal rights for women and racial minorities.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”

Animals Australia https://www.animalsaustralia.org/ Photo credit.

Extreme Start to 2020

I was in India when the bushfires were ravaging Australia. Even in an ashram in a tiny village in Rajasthan, news reached me that the coastal town of Sussex Inlet, where my beloved river house sits, was in danger. Fires were out of control throughout the South Coast of NSW devastating bushland, National Parks, and towns.

Over December and January, at least thirty-four people and a billion animals died; 186 square kilometres of tree-covered land including 5900 buildings, were destroyed; people lost possessions and livelihoods; wildlife lost their food.

It’s depressing to think that some things won’t recover. The fires were too vast and hot. That which will recover, will take a long time.

But feeling depressed doesn’t help. There’s too much to do.

People are rallying to help. Communities are growing and bonding over the effort. Solutions are germinating, just as plants will.

Ironically, I was in the ashram to talk creatively about the environment. Despite the huge environmental problems in India, it is a place of such spiritual energy at its core, it’s inevitable that seeds of recovery are sprouting there.

The ashram was the location of a conference-like festival called Utasava Maa, ‘a transformative all female festival, uniting extraordinary women from across the globe to share, inspire and collaborate in response to the ongoing international repression and violation of the earth and her daughters.’

Women, the traditional carers and protectors of the communal environment, joined heads and hearts to create ideas about change, starting with ourselves and the most basic of local levels.

Like many of the other Western women, I was attracted to the festival by the passionate motivator, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic. This woman’s capacity to inspire and rejuvenate others is at goddess-level. To be in her company, and of others like her, for nine days in a soul-stirring environment, was life-changing.

On the eve of the end of 2019, Western and Indian women danced together. It was barefoot and free. We sat around the campfire wrapped in thick, woollen shawls, and listened to the guitar and the tabla, and the voices of those who sang or had something to say. We wrote things on paper, things we wanted to let go of, and burned them in the flames. We said goodbye to unhelpful things. It was a ritual that closed off the past and wiped the slate clean for the future. It was cleansing and uplifting.

Except, at home, the fires burned. The contrast was poignant.

I’m concluding that getting back to the ancient ways is a good place to start restoring health. But I’m not going to turn this Post into an opinion piece.

Despite the euphoria I felt at midnight on the other side of the world, reality is problematic. Since I’ve been home in Australia, the positivity I felt coming into the year, has been attacked several times.

Issues that lay dormant over the Christmas/summer holidays, have seeped through the cracks and emerged, persistent. Normal life is uncomfortable. It’s bills and emails, shopping and cleaning, responsibilities and duties.

Reality has a way of slapping you in the face if you get too carried away with dreams. A very dear friend, a passionate, loving, shining light of a woman, lost her struggle with cancer and died last week. Her light has gone out and she didn’t want it to. She had life to live.

It’s important that we live knowing that time isn’t endless. Not only is our time here on earth restricted, but it can be extinguished way before we’re ready.

My point is, that we should use each day well. Be positive and step forward. Do the things that you plan to do, despite the difficulties, the fear and obstacles; despite the chaos of real life. Think about the future, yes, but live each day with vigour, concern for others and care for the natural environment.

In National Parks, the motto is, leave nothing but footprints. But a national park is like an ashram. It’s the ideal. Ideas grow into deeds like seeds grow into trees. In the real world, leave your mark. Even on the smallest level, do something to make the world a better place. Raise the children to be community minded, grow a garden, lend someone your strength.

2020 is going to be another life-changing year for me, starting with moving house and ending with a publisher for my book. I do more than hope. I do something each day towards my goal; despite the everyday hassles and drama; despite what anyone says. My dreams mix with reality. They merge and flow and continue to grow with any fertiliser thrown at them.

Be uncomfortable. Be active. Do what you need to, to make 2020 a good one.

In the words of my guru, Liz G, Onward!

 

What will you do to thrive in 2020?

 

 

Take a Chance

I’m a chance-taker. It makes life more interesting. It changes life and takes it forward. Sometimes, taking a chance can take all my courage. Sometimes I get my fingers burned. And sometimes, I fly. Today I’m taking a chance. Today may be a life-changer. Today, I’m bidding on a house!

Is that all? you might say. That’s no big deal. Been there, done that! Ah, but this is different. It is a big deal! It’s the first time I’m making a major life-changing decision since I’ve been on my own. I’m planning to purchase before the sale on my current house has settled. That’s the chance. That’s the tricky bit; the unsavoury, scary, thorny bit. I could lose my deposit if fate turns bad.

Leaving my marriage a few years ago, a relationship of thirty-seven years that had started in my teens, was the biggest chance I have ever taken. It was complicated and I was fearful that ‘taking a leap of faith’ so dramatic, could be devastating. But I could also see how I might thrive, instead.

That’s the difference in taking a chance over a risk. A chance has possibility. It incites, carries with it feelings of hope, anticipation and excitement. Risk has a negativity. It warns, threatens, forebodes. It screams, stop, don’t do it, run! The consequences of taking a chance and a risk may be the same but taking a chance enables us. The idea of taking a risk can scare us so much, it stagnates us.

I could fail. I could lose money. But thinking that way will shackle me. Chances are, I won’t fail. Chances are I’ll win. I’ll go into the next stage of my life in a home of my own by the sea. I see myself there. A little bungalow in a quiet suburb with a yard that backs onto a clifftop golf course. Not a fancy one, but a scrubby, natural kind of one. Just how I like it. A bit rough around the edges. A place I can walk with my dog at dawn or in darkness. A place with a yard where my future grandchildren can play. There’s a lot to win in taking this chance. I see myself winning.

And sometimes, that’s all you need to make life worthwhile.

 

What chance are you going to take to improve your life?

Relationships Change

It would be helpful in all relationships if we reflected on how we change over time: as an individual and as a member of a relationship.

Our needs and our deeds are different at various stages of our lives.

When we are young, we are incomplete, still feeling our way: exploring, experimenting, discovering. What do we like, dislike? What do we want, not want? What and who inspires us to develop within? Some relationships that we build will bond forever. They become part of our foundation – cemented by who we essentially are at our most basic. Some, we find, are not of the same material, and these will fall away like bark from a tree.

Between young and middle age, we are building our lives along with ourselves: our careers, our homes, our families. These external pursuits bond us to those in the same position: peers, neighbours and other parents, joined by commonalities. Activities, struggles and achievements shared, tighten these bonds. But as we develop and commonalities pass, only those that have grown together and have respect for the emerging differences, will survive.

The relationship with one’s child and the relationship with one’s intimate, “romantic” partner undergo the largest changes and strongest stresses.

The child needs to be nurtured to grow well. Each child requires our individual attention for it to be the best it can be. We give our children everything, until we feel sapped of nutrients ourselves. We must take time out to replenish ourselves. We need space, time and pursuits of our own. We must continue to look after ourselves in order to look after our children, and in the process, our children learn to be independent. The relationship changes and if we resist, it will break. We need to release our children for them, and our relationship with them, to thrive.

Perhaps the intimate relationship with one’s partner, is under the most strain. It experiences the greatest external pressures: work commitments, finances, household chores, dedication to children, influence of parents, siblings and friends, the minutiae of life. It changes constantly with circumstances. Our responses and feelings ebb and flow. The demands we put on the intimate relationship – predictability, stability and consistency – can be so great they are impossible to achieve.

The intimate relationship begins in a state of perfect compliment. We cannot get enough of each other’s eyes, thoughts, bodies, company. It is a self-enclosed world of perfect unity.

It eases off into a companionable sameness; two separate people heading in the same direction, reaching for the same goals. Loosely hand in hand, supporting each other, learning from each other, admiring each other. This relationship can build a life together; a family, a business, a mature self-sufficiency in an ever-expanding membrane.

In middle age, when we have built our worlds, raised our children, reached or given up on dreams, there is, inevitably, another change. There is opportunity for growth. Without clinging nostalgically to the past, we can adapt to the new circumstances and reach for possibilities. Our goals may differ, pursuits diverge, viewpoint shift. If we allow freedom rather than restriction, growth rather than stagnation, respect rather than criticism, our intimate relationship can thrive in a state of ongoing friendship. For this to happen, we need to understand and accept ourselves and our partners.

External and internal circumstances cause everybody and every relationship to change. We need to hold loosely, dance lightly and be generous to ourselves and of ourselves, for any relationship to thrive with these changes.

The inspiration for this blog came from reading, Gift From the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

“The light shed by any good relationship illuminates all relationships.”

The novel I am writing explores these changes in relationships. I would be interested in your thoughts.

Persevere: One step at a time.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” Walter Elliot.

This piece of advice recently popped up on the Facebook Page of Australian Writers Centre, on a day I really needed to see it! ‘Perseverance’ has been my ‘go to’ word for the last couple of years, whenever I’m faltering, tired, fed up, impatient or losing heart. It’s a Post It note on top of my jumble of thoughts. So, when I saw this reminder, on a day when I felt like giving up – in this case, the writing of my novel – I thought, ah, that reminder is for me. That’s serendipity!

When things are difficult or unpleasant in our lives, we tend to put them off. Doing the easy things first is a good option: we clear our environment, our schedule, our minds, so that the difficult task can be focused on. This is my favoured technique. The problem with it is, we can keep putting off the difficult task. That’s procrastination! That’s when we need to persevere!

What I like about this quote is that it’s a reminder that perseverance itself, can be broken down into achievable chunks. If we keep going until we reach the next step, we’ll get through to the end. Think of perseverance as a journey with many stops, not just destination. Reach the step, enjoy it for a moment, breathe, and carry on.

Anything worth doing is worth persevering for. Make the struggle count. Make the most of it. Success will taste so much sweeter in the end. But pause along the way and enjoy the steps too. Make it a lifestyle.

Writing a novel is a mammoth task. 90,000 words is not the only task: they need to be the right words, in the right order, to make the right story. It’s daunting, to say the least, especially with the demon, Doubt, sitting on the writer’s shoulder, whispering – or yelling – who do you think you are? Or, your writing is rubbish! The only way to get through it, is to break it down, scene by scene, paragraph by paragraph, word by word. Persevere until the demon, Doubt, gets the message!

Life is also a mammoth task. It also needs to be stepped through, broken into chunks, lived in scenes! Perseverance is required for each stage, each goal, each battle. Don’t race to the end without stopping to appreciate the passing of each one, the beginning of the next one, and where you are right now.

Perseverance requires patience. It requires stamina. And it requires the ability to appreciate each step before we move on to the next one.

 

More brilliant advice:

“Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.” Rob Bell.

Being Disliked and Not Needing Praise: The Benefits

How do you feel about being disliked?

If you answered, ‘I couldn’t give a stuff!’ it’s likely you’re being defensive. Let’s be truthful; we’re social animals and we’d all rather be liked.

But there are benefits to not minding, and maybe you’ve worked that out already.

When we’re children and we want to please our parents. As school kids, we want to please other kids: the cool kids, the smart kids or the sporty kids. We want to fit in.

Many adults still strive to please; the daughter who studies accounting instead of art, the husband who chooses the secure job instead of the one that excites him, the friend who keeps quiet instead of declaring a different opinion, do so in order to please others.

They fear causing an argument. They fear rejection. They fear being disliked.

They strive for acceptance and recognition and end up living a life according to someone else’s idea of how they should live.

We have no control over what someone else thinks of us. Others don’t have control over what we think of them.

We can’t make people appreciate us or agree with us. So, isn’t it better to be honest? Isn’t it better to choose the life that we believe will make us most happy? And, isn’t being honest a better way to form true, solid relationships with people who like us for who we truly are?

If we can accept ourselves as we are and recognise our own ability and limitations, if we’re not always seeking recognition and praise, we will be able to live life in accordance with our own values.

I’m one of those people who likes to please. It disturbs me if someone is upset with me or dislikes me. I suffer if I feel misunderstood and I will keep quiet rather than argue. I like to be praised and recognized for my achievements and will adjust my behaviour in order to get it.

But lately I’ve been wondering if it’s worth it. I’ve even been wondering if my trying to please indirectly contributed to the breakdown of my marriage. If I’d had more confidence in myself, would that have made a difference to my relationship?

Trying to please is hard work. A desire to please comes from a place of uncertainty. Am I worth it? Am I good enough? Will he still like me? Are we even sure what someone else wants?

If we’re trying to please, we’re trying to obtain praise, recognition, acknowledgement. The very desire to receive praise comes from a place of need, to have our self-worth reinforced.

It betrays that we’re not doing something purely because we want to. And it’s requiring someone else to behave a certain way. Expecting reward makes us even more vulnerable, and invites conflict.

Trying to please is not living the way we honestly want.

Are we being true to our values and beliefs if we’re worrying about what others think of us? 

Living life trying to please others, or even one other, is not a rewarding or free way to live.

Accepting ourselves as we are, fulfilling our tasks to the best of our ability without needing someone else to tell us we’re worthy, and following our own path, are surely better ways to find happiness.

With these thoughts in mind, I’ve been endeavoring to achieve self-acceptance.

I was advised to read a book called ‘The Courage to be Disliked’, by the Japanese philosopher, Ichiro Kishimi and the writer, Fumitake Koga. The book portrays the philosophy of Adler, one of the three giants of 19th century psychology, alongside Freud and Jung.

Adler states that all our problems are interpersonal relationship problems. That means, how we live our lives in relation to other people.

One of the first principles is the separation of tasks, that is, knowing what is our own task and recognising the boundary of someone else’s task.

My behavior is my task. How someone responds to that behaviour is their task.

Adler says that knowing and not crossing these task boundaries is the gateway to harmony in our lives. Crossing the boundaries causes conflict.

Imagine that your mother-in-law has ‘tidied’ your linen cupboard while you were out. Or your friend suggests it’s time you repainted the house, disciplined your child or lost weight. Do you think you’d be delighted with their recommendation? I think not!

The reason there is conflict when someone encroaches on another’s task is because there is the implication that they know best: they’re superior, you’re inferior. A feeling of inferiority or superiority comes from a vertical vision of relationships.

A fundamental principle of Adler’s philosophy is that all interpersonal relationships be horizontal, that is equal. The housewife and the company executive are equal, just not the same. Economic superiority has no connection to human worth. If people are equal, there is no need to compete with others. It is not about being better than the next person.

It is about being self-reliant and the best person you can be.

Without a feeling of superiority or inferiority, it is easier to live your own life and not encroach on others. When you recognise your own ability and limitations, you can find the courage to change what you can change and improve yourself. You can move forward without worrying about what the other person is doing or what they think of you. It allows you to contribute to society while at the same time being yourself.

When you contribute to the lives of others, committing to your own community, you come to accept your existential worth. To have self-worth you need to feel that you are of use to someone.

 If you feel that you have purpose you will feel that you are contributing.

Happiness is the feeling of contribution.

It will result in seeing others as comrades and knowing that you have worth equal to others. People wish to belong and have a feeling of ‘it’s okay to be here.’

Being disliked by someone is proof that you are exercising your freedom and living in freedom.

It is a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles.

Being disliked by people is inevitable, just as it is inevitable that we dislike some others.

Living your own life the best you can, choosing the best path that you believe in and your own lifestyle without blaming others or trying to please others, is all you can do.

What another person thinks of you, if they like you or dislike you, is that person’s task, not yours.

In conclusion and in the words of the author,

“Learn to delineate your own task and what is another’s. Contribute, knowing your own worth, not for praise or recognition, but for having a sense that you are beneficial to the community. An awareness that ‘I am of use to someone,’ gives us the courage to live. Accept ‘this is me.’ Having the courage to be disliked is having the courage to be happy.”

 

https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/self-help-practical/The-Courage-to-be-Disliked-Ichiro-Kishimi-and-Fumitake-Koga-9781760630492

 

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Am I a Product of Childhood TV?

Browsing Facebook the other day I came across a Post, shared by a friend of similar age, that showed a compilation of the many things that the Skippy, Aussie star of Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo, could do. https://www.facebook.com/abcnews.au/videos/298065574306482/

This fantastic collection of show snippets had me laughing out loud and led to a lot of reminiscing of all the shows that I had watched as a child. I realised that they were all about talented animals, magic and adventure, and I wondered what sort of effect this had had on me.

Am I a product of my formative years’ TV watching?

The first TV show I remember is The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. I have a memory of the star, a handsome German Shepherd, who was very clever and often saved the day. I think he belonged to the boy and they loved each other. Rinty did courageous and clever things to help the US Cavalry keep things in order. I’m guessing I was about three when I saw this re-run in Australia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_nclUG-0SQ  I went on to be an ardent dog lover and as a child had three German Shepherds: Rommel, Kaiser and Max. Rommel was my fearless fun friend and protector and would entertain the kids at my birthday parties with tricks like climbing the super-tall slippery dip ladder and sliding down. He would have given Rin Tin Tin a bit of competition.

Around this time, I also watched The Mickey Mouse Club but I only remember the spelling of Mickey Mouse and the opening song, with Donald Duck. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4C_lUy58Rw Animals that talked and wore clothes, even animated ones, gave me the sense that it was okay to anthropomorphise all my stuffed toys, and I still do!

My first real television watching was Skippy. Every Australian child who had a television must have watched Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo. She was as adept as any human in understanding instructions, opening doors, passing tools and undoing ropes. She was also great at jumping on villains and finding Sonny, the Head Ranger of Waratah National Park’s son. A real hero. I love watching the roos in my yard, especially when they play-box. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hByob-5pPEs

SI with Nola Sep17 (3)

Then, of course, there was Flipper, the friendly dolphin who went out of her way to assist the boys, the other main characters, with their tasks and adventures. She had a talent for communication, could pull boats and play tricks. I still get excited to see a pod of dolphins catching waves with the surfers.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azEOeTX1LqM

All the human lead-characters in these shows were male which didn’t register with me at the time. I related to them just as well as if they’d been female. But I wonder if the example set, that the boys took the lead, were more important and had the fun, affected the way I saw myself in relation to boys. I like to think of myself as adventurous, but I have always relied on a strong male, or a protective dog! I’ve used licence here to call Skippy and Flipper, female, for a bit of balance.

Lost in Space was pure fantasy to me. I never was one to dream of space travel and wasn’t science oriented, but I loved the robot and Dr Smith’s performance. Strangely, I only now realise that the robot’s sidekick was a boy too! Damn!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJrw6imp7f8

Mr Ed, the Talking Horse was funny because, he was a horse, of course! He had a jaunty attitude and a ridiculous dialogue with his keeper, Wilbur. Ed was beautiful, a palomino, and I didn’t stop to wonder what was making his lips move. I just assumed he was talking. Why not? Maybe horses are smarter than dogs and dolphins and kangaroos!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkksL5KYC_c

Finally, I Dream of Jeannie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eAwLoHInLk and Bewitched https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9jbX8GX83E took over as I got a little older. Both highly attractive women could create magic, be perfectly groomed and achieve anything while being sweet. Sounds just like me!

I fancy that I can communicate with any animal (or stuffed toy), have adventures as exciting as any boy, spell well, detect Danger in alien environments, and look like a domestic goddess while juggling critical tasks and averting catastrophes.

I’d say I am a product of the magic of these childhood TV shows. And I wouldn’t have it any other way! How about you?

 

 

My favourite childhood reading was Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven. The series had plenty of adventure, girls and dogs. But that’s another blog. https://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/secret-seven.php