Can I Ask You A Question?


Women are controlled (If you were any good you’d be thin)

Are mistrusted – (FGM)

Are to be feared (otherwise educate them – why not if they’re not up to much?)

Are to be objectified (child brides/super models)

And yet… They feel powerless.

Why?

Why when the establishment everywhere and every time seems to see women as so powerful they must be constantly controlled, why are women the only ones who can’t see this power?

Imagine what might happen if that power was unleashed?  Not power as we know it where women are ‘powerful’ if they are like men or liked by men.  But the real, thumping, all-encompassing, generative, protective power of real women.

Imagine what might happen?

Imagine – for example – in places where a girl who is raped must kill herself to restore her family’s honour, if the mothers in these places not only tried to protect their daughters but said to their sons – “Marry her son, she’s been raped but that is something that was done to her, not by her and so her honour is clearly intact – which is more than can be said of the men who raped her.  I am your mother and I am not just standing up for her, I am also really standing up for you.  I am trying to teach you that it’s always the perpetrators who are the guilty ones – not the victims.  Always.  I want you to understand this son because I want to make sure that your honour remains intact.  Because I love you.”

Imagine if that happened.

What’s stopping it?

Do You Feel The Love?


The first step in changing our world is an examination of what actually constitutes reality. We are all products of our environment and as a result we inevitably take many things for granted, believing them to be the natural order of things.

Social reality is an expression of human agreement, someone is the president of a country and has the powers of that office because a system of government is created and acknowledged by the inhabitants of that country. When the fundamental agreements which frame belief and behaviour change, social reality will change.(1)

In the early twentieth century, Antonio Gramsci, who spent most of his life in one of Mussolini’s prisons, identified a phenomenon he called cultural hegemony. Gramsci used this term to describe how we all believe that the way things are is the natural order of things.

A good example of how cultural hegemony operates is slavery. There was a time in the Western world when slavery was considered ‘the natural order’. Certain people were seen as a slave class and were owned by other people. Social realities, and even the economies of the time, were built around this idea and nobody – even the slaves in all likelihood – thought there was anything that could be done to change it.  Slavery was, in fact, so much part of social reality that wishing to escape from it was seen as an illness.

In 1851, American physician, Samuel A. Cartwright described a mental illness he called drapetomania – an illness he believed afflicted slaves who were inclined to run away. Cartwright said this illness was a result of masters who, “made themselves too familiar with [slaves], treating them as equals.“(2)

He went on to say that,

“If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master or overseer, humanity and their own good requires that they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which was intended for them to occupy. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away.“(3)

It’s now clear to us that slavery is not the natural order of things but rather a social reality based on economic motives and mistaken ideas. People like us made that reality.  And, equally, people like us changed that reality.

So, how do we tell the difference between unchangeable reality which is outside of our control and reality that can be changed? As someone pointed out to me recently not everything is possible.  But what happens if we just accept the limitations (as we see them) and don’t try to change things? If God had wanted us to fly he’d have given us wings…

The question is tricky.  How can we tell the difference between mutable and immutable reality before we begin?  Maybe there is a solution just around the corner which we can’t see from where we stand?  Which seems like a good reason to start out.  And yet it is true that some efforts to effect change will be futile – so, how much banging our heads against the unchangeable can we stand before our heads explode?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, by the way.  Sorry.  But maybe you do.

I have been thinking about it though and all I can come up with is that I wonder if the answer is something to do with love?  Not Hollywood love but real, raw, visceral, never-giving-up love.  The kind of love that parents have for their children.  The kind of love that holds the atoms of a stone together.  Where nothing is too hard or not worth the effort even when the chances of success seem slim.  The kind of love that makes us try and try and try even when we fail and fail and fail – and then when we’ve tried everything possible – we try something else.  Maybe we try the impossible.  Because it matters.

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1) Paul Lample, Revelation and Social Reality, p.9

2)  Cartwright, Samuel A. (1851). “Report on the Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race”DeBow’s ReviewXI.http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3106t.html. Retrieved 2007-10-04.

3) Arthur L. Caplan, James J. McCartney, and Dominic A. Sisti (2004). Health, Disease, and Illness: Concepts in Medicine. Washington, D.C.:Georgetown University Press. p. 35 ISBN 1589010140.

Maybe Everything Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard?


As I said.  Maybe everything doesn’t have to be so hard?

Maybe all we need to do is find our natural position in the world and then lean into it?

Maybe that’s what it takes to blossom?

I know that’s easier said than done.  I know it can be hard to feel that what we have, naturally, to give to the world is what the world needs from us the most.

I know that in a world that constantly advertises its vacancies for people who are prettier than we are, or smarter, or thinner, or richer, or faster or fleeter of foot than we’ll ever be, it is hard not to see ourselves as inadequate.  Not to try to be some of those things that the world seems to want us to be.

But maybe you and I are wasting our precious time here trying to become something we aren’t?

Maybe that energy would be better employed working out who exactly we already are and what we can already do and then developing that? No matter what the world thinks?

Have a look at Rory McIlroy in the clip below.  I wonder if those commentators would have seen then, what they see now?

To see things in the seed, that is genius – Lao Tzu

(P.S. – this video is also for my husband and children – bet you never thought I’d use a golf example, guys…)

One of The Most Widespread of All Human Rights Abuses…


In 2008 a ten year old girl in Yemen, Nujood Ali, succeeded in obtaining a divorce from the husband who beat and raped her.  She has been allowed to divorce but has to pay more than $200 in compensation to her husband.

In 2009 a twelve year old girl, Fawziya Ammodi – also in Yemen – died after three days of excruciatingly painful childbirth.

Her baby also died.

Obviously legal protection is needed to shield girls like these against being traded and married and abused.  But the real key to the end of this suffering is education.

We need to become creative about how we might deliver education to the child brides that survive their awful experiences and then, at least, there will be a hope that their daughters will be spared the same fate.

If you are interested in this horrendous abuse of little girls then you may also be interested in  a study called – The Worst Places to Be a Woman – Mapping the places where the war on women is still being fought.  This study is by Valerie M. Hudson who is professor and George H.W. Bush chair in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.  It makes interesting reading –
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http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/08/26/yemen.divorce/index.html

http://articles.cnn.com/2009-09-14/health/yemen.childbirth.death_1_minimum-marriage-age-child-marriages-child-brides?_s=PM:HEALTH

Could I Do This?


The truth?
I don’t know.
I agree with the sentiments expressed in this short film and admire these people and their courage and their commitment to action and hope and change for the better but I’m not sure I could be as magnanimous if someone took my child.
But I’d really like if I could.
I don’t admire success or fame or accomplishment. I don’t aspire to be like anybody else really – certainly not in regard to what our societies tell me I should want to emulate. But I do aspire to be as open-hearted, as brave and as far-seeing as these people.

The Road to Self-Knowledge


Reza Fani Yazdi is a human rights activist, writer and former political prisoner but this recounting of his story is remarkable precisely because it is, in many ways, a common-or-garden ‘how I met my wife’ story .  There is something wonderfully and touchingly ordinary about him and his story.  Boy meets girl.  Boy loves girl. Boy kisses girl for the first time in an interrogation centre…

But there is something very unusual about Reza Fani Yazdi – even more unusual than the backdrop of his love story with his wife, Sohaila Vahdati – and that is his clarity about who he is and what he believes.  He has come upon this knowledge in the most difficult way imaginable but he has come upon it nevertheless.

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Just Because This is Lovely


I’m no expert on Dylan Thomas but they say he wrote Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night about his father’s descent into old age and death.  It is a beautiful poem and to me, as well as being about the inevitability of death, it is also about the need to try, to ‘rage’ until the bitter end.  In everything.  In the full knowledge that death is inevitably coming this is a plea not to surrender.  Ever.  To keep on going.  Keep on raging.  Until the absolute end.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

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Once I Had a Nosebleed


The title of this post is misleading.

I have had many, many nosebleeds in my life.

Some big.  Some small.  Some medium.  And a lot more than once.  I am extremely prone to nosebleeds and can spontaneously begin to bleed from the nose mid-conversation.  I am reliably informed that this is very disconcerting to watch. I have had nosebleeds while eating, drinking, talking, working, driving, walking, sleeping, watching TV, in the shower, at weddings – you get the picture.  If I was in a TV programme or movie I would be pretty sure that this unprovoked bleeding in a character would mean that he/she was either about to die (House/Six Feet Under) or was possessed by aliens (can’t think of an example but you get my drift).  Anyway, this is the story of one of my nosebleeds.

When I finished secondary school I went to work for the summer in Holland (really called the Netherlands but everybody calls it Holland).  I was employed – along with hundreds of other students – in a factory packing flower bulbs.  It was fine.  It was fun.  I was seventeen and it was a big, big adventure and then, one day I had a nose bleed at work.  It started the usual way by spontaneously pouring down my face.  I went to the bathroom and it continued to bleed, I applied pressure, threw water on my face, my neck, my wrists – did everything I knew how to do (as trained by my mother the nurse) and still it persisted.  It bled and bled and bled.

In the Ladies’ toilet in that flower-bulb factory there was a long, stainless steel sink along one wall with numerous taps overhead.  Running parallel with the sink was a big mirror. I stood there.  Miles and miles from home, my blood all over the stainless steel splash-back and mirror, blood all over my face and hands and clothes and a stream of Dutch women coming in to try to help me but all failing and resorting to hysterics.  I looked at myself in the mirror as they held my wrists under the cold water to try to stop me passing out (does that really work?).  My eyes wide with terror, my face white and blood streaked – I began to freak out.  Crying and screaming and buckling at the knees.  Somewhere in the all-encompassing hysteria someone called a doctor.  I had nothing to do with it.

First thing I knew about the doctor was when he appeared in the distorted cacophonous reality in the Ladies’ toilet. The noise bouncing off the tiles and steel and glass was like knives. Me crying.  Middle-aged supervisors and office staff high-pitched chattering like hysterical Dutch magpies.  Water everywhere.  Blood everywhere.  He appeared as if out of nowhere and just stood looking at me in the blood smeared mirror.  After a few seconds he spoke (in English) – “Stop.”

At first the sound made no sense.  He said it again.  “Stop.”

This was absurd!  Clearly he was missing the fact that I was dying.  It was obvious from the blood bath and even more obvious from the wailing women and worried men all around that my young life was ending in the bathroom of a flower-bulb factory.

And it was such a pity.  If I was going to die at seventeen I would have liked it to be for some heroic reason.  “She saved a child from a burning building/runaway train/stampede.”  Not she had a nosebleed to death.

The doctor was unmoved by the scene. He really wasn’t getting it.  I was dying and it wasn’t even romantic or worthwhile.  But this Dutch doctor didn’t seem to care.  I cried on.  The women wailed on.  He didn’t move.  Didn’t fall to his knees sobbing and wringing his hands at the tragedy that was unfolding in the factory bathroom.  Instead, he just stood there, calmly, as if nothing important or terrifying was happening and repeated himself quietly.  “Stop.  Stop it now.”

I was furious.  He was clearly a heartless bastard who didn’t care about me or anybody else…

I stopped crying.

The doctor was kind to me then – he packed my nose (which was horrible – I’m sure some of you have had to have it done) and ignored the fact that I was not only ungrateful but frostily furious with him.

He was such a fool!  How dare he speak to me like that!  Was that all he’d learned in medical school?

Maybe it was.

If it was all he learned I now see it differently to when I was 17.  Now I think he’d learned quite a lot.

He’d learned to take responsibility and put his neck on the line and keep to his own truth.

He’d learned that even though everything might be broken it was never going to be fixed while everything was flying around in the air.

He’d learned that – like blood – sometimes we need to staunch the flow of our emotions, even temporarily and even artificially – if we are to survive.  And he’d learned that it was more important to do what he knew to be right than to get pulled into the world of an hysterical 17 year old – and a roomful of almost as hysterical adults.

I never knew his name.  I was too busy being mad at him.  I hope he had – has – a nice life.