Tell Me About It…


We have no control over many of the things that happen to us in our lives but if we can make sense of what has happened, we will usually construct a narrative to explain it to ourselves.  This narrative is more than just a story, it’s our escape hatch after trauma.  It’s what we can use to help us to overcome whatever horrible disaster has befallen us. Climb over it. Make good our escape.

Dan Siegel maintains that people who have horribly traumatic childhoods make excellent parents once they can make sense of their own story – no matter how awful.

 

No matter what happens – once you can look it in the eye and make it your story it loses its power to control you.

We have told stories since forever which means they are commonplace in our societies.  But common as they are, they are still essential to our well-being, safety and resilience.

We explain away myths and legends as primitive ways to explain the natural world – and they did indeed have a function in this regard – but it’s possible that they mean more than just that to us. It’s possible that they explain truths and experiences that are too subtle or difficult to approach in other ways and it’s possible that they allow us to construct narratives that function like ladders on which to climb out of the holes into which we may have been thrown.

If this wasn’t the case, then why do we still love to tell and hear stories? Whether it’s science fiction or vampires, rom-coms or action adventures surely our attraction to stories – myths – is because they are still fulfilling the same purpose for us that they have since time immemorial?

Stories Are Us


We use stories for everything – it’s how we understand the world. 

We tell ourselves stories to explain what happens inside our heads – “I think I fell in love with her that day I saw her walk across the street in the rain.”

We tell ourselves stories to explain what happens inside our bodies – “As soon as I eat mushrooms I can feel the blood rush to my head.”

We tell ourselves stories to explain what happens outside us – “Everything was OK until the day he got that job and left for China.”

Even when we go crazy we invent new stories to explain the surreal world to ourselves.  To others it may be hard to understand what we are thinking and doing but even so, regardless of how mad we really are, within us we are following a definite, coherent narrative that makes sense within it’s own world.

We work our way through the maze that is life because we narrate our lives to ourselves,

to each other,

out of the past,

into the future.

Coarse and delicate, soft and hard, terrifying, comforting, hopeful, black and white and grey and red and pain and flow and plans and hopes and kisses and tears and touches and blows and green and hot and then and then and then…

The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.  
-Harold Goddard

Previously on – As Seen on TV…


I came across this video on entertainment-education and thought you might also like to have a look –

Educate Girls and Change the World


There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls.
Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General

I can’t say it better than that – or this –

http://itonlytakesagirl.blogspot.com/

The Wolves Inside Us


Español: Lobo en el zoo de Kolmården (Suecia).

A Cherokee boy was upset with a friend who had done him an injustice and he went to his grandfather for advice.  The old man sat him down and told him a story.

I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.” He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.” (1)

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(1) http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TwoWolves-Cherokee.html

The Tale of the Iron Fish


Anemia is a serious problem throughout the developing world and it has serious consequences for the health of women and children in particular.   After he graduated from the University of Guelph, in Canada, and while awaiting the start of his post-graduate studies, Chris Charles took a summer job in Cambodia.

Much of his work concentrated on was trying to persuade villagers to increase the amount of iron in their diet. Charles and his team tried to persuade the village women to cook in iron pots or put chunks of iron into their pots while cooking as the iron transferred into the food can help combat anaemia.  But the women refused – the pots were too heavy and the chunks of iron were – well, probably just too ugly.

Undaunted, Chris Charles and his team kept working on the problem. They tried all sorts of iron shapes to no avail until they hit on the idea of making a shape that looked like a local fish that was considered lucky.  This time it worked.  The women liked the 3-4 inch lucky fish and began to cook with it in their pots.

As it happens, the iron fish really was lucky, at least insofar as it brought health and well being to the villagers.  Within a short time the use of the iron fish helped anaemia levels to plummet.

This is an example not only of innovation but also learning to – figuratively – speak the language of the people with whom they were working.  When the development workers offered the iron fish in a way that could be understood by the locals, they heard what was being said and participated in the process of helping themselves.

Deceptively simple.

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Photograph – University of Guelph grad student Chris Charles with the iron fish that  women in Cambodian villages now put in their cooking pots to help raise the levels of iron in their bodies.

Sometimes a Trail of Tears can lead to Kindness


The Trail of Tears is the name given to the forced relocation of Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  The relocation was mostly from the southeastern United States to present day Oklahoma.  The removal included the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations.

This forced movement not only dispossessed many Native American nations, it also resulted in thousands of deaths from exposure, disease and starvation. The name, Trail of Tears, originates from a description of the removal of the Choctaw Nation in 1831.

Sixteen years later, in 1847, the Choctaw survivors of the Trail of Tears heard of the Great Famine in Ireland. They heard about the dispossession and starvation that had been going on in Ireland since 1845. Though clearly not wealthy or advantaged themselves, they responded by collecting $710 and sending it to help starving Irish men, women and children.

According to a written account at the time, “Traders, missionaries, and (Indian) agency officials contributed, but the greater part of the money was supplied by the Indians themselves.“(1)

The Choctaw sent the money to Memphis – one of the cities in which the military had gathered them before they set out on the Trail of Tears.  From there it made its way to Irish famine victims.

The astounding actions of the Choctaw are an example of how suffering acquires meaning when it is transmuted into understanding and generosity.

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Photograph – Famine Memorial, Dublin, Ireland.

(1) https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/michael/www/choctaw/retrace.html

The Only Failure is Failure to Learn


David Damberger works with Engineers without Borders. In this talk he explains the importance of facing up to failure – not as an exercise in shame but in order to really be open to learn and innovate.

Convinced of this by their own experience, Engineers Without Borders Canada have begun to publish an annual report of their failures.

They have also set up a web-site – http://www.failure.com – where NGOs can go and post examples of their own failures and research and learn from the failure of others.  As it says on the site –

By hiding our failures, we are condemning ourselves to repeat them and we are stifling innovation.

Failure in the development sector is no different than failure in any arena of professional or personal life.  As long as we persist in hiding our failures and pretending they don’t exist, we will continue to really fail in reaching our objectives.

Ironic.

Have a listen –

Going Your Own Way


You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go. (1)

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Dr. SeussOh The Places You’ll Go!

  • Dr. Seuss (iknowwhathuntsyou.wordpress.com)

I am Spartacus…


In their book, Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn tell the story of an Indian neighbourhood – Kasturba Nagar – a place where the inhabitants are Dalits (Untouchables) and the lanes run with sewage and desperation.

For almost fifteen years, Akku Yadav and his gang ruled the slum with weapons of terror.  They robbed, tortured and murdered at will – much of the time choosing rape as their preferred method of controlling the people.  In this area rape is so stigmatizing that the victims often remained silent, which allowed Akku Yadav to act with impunity.  The few that reported the crime were ignored by the police.

The slum-dwellers say Akku Yadav once raped a woman right after her wedding and that he and his gang dragged another woman – who was seven months pregnant – into the street where they raped her in public view.  They also gang-raped another woman just ten days after she’d given birth – that woman was so humiliated she killed herself by dousing herself with kerosene and setting herself on fire.

In addition to the rapes, Akku Yadav once stripped a man, burned him with cigarettes and made him dance in front of his sixteen year old daughter and tortured a woman by cutting off her breasts and cutting her to pieces in front of her daughter and neighbours.   One man, Avinash Tiwari, planned to go to the police, so Akku Yadav butchered him as well.

The inhabitants were terrified of Akku Yadav.  25 families moved away but most had no hope of escape, so they took their daughters out of school and hid them in their houses to try to protect them. And the police didn’t help – as long as Yadav targeted Dalits they didn’t interfere.

Usha Narayane is from this neighbourhood but her parents struggled and saved all their lives to educate her and her siblings.  She has a degree in hotel management and was due to begin work when she went home for a visit.

Akku Yadav was rampaging as usual.  He raped a thirteen-year-old girl and then he and his men went to the neighbours of the Narayanes to demand money. The gang broke up the house and threatened to kill the family.  The neighbours were too terrified to act, so Usha went to the police to file a complaint for them.

The police told Akku Yadav what she had done and he and 40 men surrounded Usha’s house.  Yadav had a bottle of acid and he shouted at Usha to back down.  She barricaded herself inside and called the police – but they didn’t come.  So Usha turned on the gas in her house and told Yadav if he came in she’d blow them all up.

The neighbors were unsure what to do but when they saw Usha fighting back it gave them courage and they hurled sticks and stones at Yadav and his men.  The gang ran off.  The Dalits were ecstatic – for the first time ever they had defeated Akku Yadav and his men. The slum-dwellers burned down Yadav’s house and he was arrested for his own protection.

Akku Yadav’s bail hearing was scheduled and rumour had it that he’d bribed the police and was going to be released.  The hearing was set for a court miles away in Nagpur. Hundreds of Dalit women marched to attend. Akku Yadav strutted into court, confident and unrepentant. He saw a woman he had raped and called her a prostitute and said he’d rape her again. She ran forward and hit him with a slipper and then all the women came forward and surrounded him screaming and shouting.  They threw chili powder at the police guarding him and then the women pulled out knives and began to stab Akku Yadav.  They had agreed that each of them would stab him at least once.  They killed him and cut off his penis and then marched back to Kasturba Nagar. The slum had a party – the monster was dead.

Everyone knew Usha Narayane had orchestrated the murder but she wasn’t in court that day and though she was arrested nobody could prove her involvement.  The woman had decided if they all stabbed him no one wound – or one woman – could be said to have killed him.  A public outcry followed the murder of Akku Yadav and the plight of Kasturba Nagar became public.  A retired high court judge took the part of the women saying they’d sought help from the police and had been abandoned.

This is the type of story that clearly demonstrates to me the type of moral dilemma that plagues our world.  Akka Yadav had clearly caused immense suffering and was no loss to humanity.  The police were corrupt and the Dalits had no recourse to justice.  One has to wonder if it is just to allow suffering to continue.  Or to allow the tyrant to thrive.

And yet…

Perhaps it’s the savagery of the attack but somehow the solution feels wrong as well.  It reminds me of war. But having said that – what else could they do?

I don’t know the answer.

What do you think?