More happiness in the news…
Happy news… only happy news… this week is just the latest in a line of horrible things going on in the world…
…apologies… I am full of cold and forgot to do anything for this… here, have some happy news things (again)!
Hello! More happiness in the news for this Sunday (that is, if we’re still here after the end of the world that’s supposed to be happening on Saturday 23rd… are we still here?)
Let’s see what we’ve got:
It’s another week where I feel like kindness is needed (as are all weeks; I know), so here’s some kindness in the news…
Not much thinking today I’m afraid… it’s been such a horrible week with so many people suffering that I’m thinking I need to read a little kindness in my news… so without further ado…
I swear I remember talking about this before on here, but it seems that now, more than ever, it’s time for a revisit.
A few years ago I was in Budapest, and against, I suppose, my better judgement, I was talked into visiting the House Of Terror.
As per the website:
Having survived two terror regimes, it was felt that the time had come for Hungary to erect a fitting memorial to the victims, and at the same time to present a picture of what life was like for Hungarians in those times.
To say that the experience was harrowing is misleading. I’m told that it’s not even the most graphic of memorials, yet since then I’ve not been able to set foot in another.
So here’s the cliffnotes version of what it was like.
Walking into a dark room with large TV screens flickering black and white images, with a soundtrack that fits many a nightclub I have visited in my time; think Nine Inch Nails, because that’s all I could picture, I didn’t think anything would be that bad. Only, once I got closer to those screens, I think I never wanted to hear that music again.
Bodies. Countless bodies, churning over and over in the dirt, moved by machinery as though a farmer was ploughing a field. There was no sparing of the delicate viewer; I’m from the UK so I’m more used to a diluted vision of these kind of things. Eastern Europe does not spare you the details, and perhaps rightly so; if you fail to be moved by these images, it’s horrifying to think what will become of this world.
These bodies, and I can’t stress enough how many of them there were, were discarded as though they were little more than dirt. I’ve seen more care and attention paid to dead pets than these poor souls were shown, because to the people that did this to them, they were less than that – nothing of any importance. Something to be controlled, abused, then disposed of once they’d been drained of everything they had.
After that initial nightmare, things only got worse. Audio accounts of concentration camp survivors, videos, remains of possessions, records, pictures, the cells where people were held. The uniforms of the guards and the things they did, and description upon description about the conditions, treatment, and degradation of people – people, just like any one of us, but those who another group of people had decided were beneath them, and not like us at all.
This is in living history. There are people alive today that lived through those conditions, that treatment, and you can see it in their eyes when they talk about it; those memories are never going to leave them. How could they? How must they feel today, then, when they see the rise of white supremacy that is creeping back into existence in our world. Not that it’s not always been there, of course; it just seems we have forgotten a little of the horrors of what that means.
We can’t forget what happened. We cannot go back to that.
The same is true when people bemoan things like Black Lives Matter. Again in living history, there are people alive today who can recall, as children, being exhibitions in human zoos. Slavery isn’t something that happened millennia ago; in fact it’s going on as we speak. Segregated restrooms and Rosa Parks making a stand on that bus wasn’t something that happened in the time of our ancestors. Cases of police brutality, when institutional racism allows what’s essentially murder, might get sensationalised in the news, but it’s happening. When we say things like can’t you let it go, we’re better now; no, we can’t. Because that attitude isn’t going anywhere. And we are in no way better. There are still those amongst us who look down on people whose skin colour is anything but white.
We have oppressed and suppressed, and okay, perhaps it is not you, or I personally doing that oppression, but when you’ve grown up in a world where you’ve never suffered prejudice purely on the basis of the colour of your skin, how can we know what that feels to exist like that? How can we be ignorant to it? How can we know the constant, background fear that walking down the street is automatically going to get you the wrong kind of attention? How can you know for sure that purely for your skin colour, you aren’t being judged?
A story, since sometimes that’s the best way to explain what I’m thinking. A few years ago, I was on a train, and a group of boys got on; probably no more than sixteen years old. There were maybe five, six of them altogether, and in the section of the train I was in, you could practically see the shift in the air. Elderly people held on more tightly to their belongings. A couple eyed them with mistrust and the guy threw a protective arm around his girlfriend. Some of us braced for typical boisterous teen behaviour, which is, really, just as bad. Because these boys, on their way home from a long day at school, happened to be black.
At the next station, we all got off, and those boys stood to one side to let that couple pass, and two of them held their hands out to help one of those elderly people down from the train. And then they went about their business, laughing and teasing each other along the platform, oblivious to our prejudice. Which, I suppose, is a blessing.
I can’t say I’ve never been racist. I’ve never set out to be, and growing up in a multicultural city, I never thought my behaviour was that. But when the views of your parents whisper at you and tell you to clutch your bag closer to your chest because there’s a man on the escalator with you that’s black, or any other such ‘small’ kneejerk reaction; how is that not racism as well? It is; even if we don’t want it to be. Even if we never set out to be that.
We’re not born with prejudices, they are learned behaviours. I think the key to making our world better is simply educating ourselves to be better, to monitor our behaviour, and change ourselves when we catch ourselves doing things like that.
What we’ve done in the past – complicit as passive spectators, or our own personal actions; that doesn’t really matter – we need to learn this lesson from. The way we treat Muslims at the moment is an echo of both of those scenarios mentioned above. Our society is drumming a fear of Muslims into us, leaving some of us eyeing anyone who happens to be Muslim with suspicion, and doing all we can not to cross their paths.
Can we not see our patterns of prejudice and discrimination are repeating themselves. Those who bastardise Islam in the name of terror are winning, every single time we allow such prejudice to pass. We can’t let them win; we can’t let hatred win. Not the Neo-Nazis, or the weekend white supremacists, the anti-Muslims, the bigots and catch-all racists – anyone who thinks their voice and life is more important than the next person who doesn’t look like them.
We have to be louder than them, we have to be stronger. If we don’t stop what feels like a downward spiral, who’s to say in a few years we won’t have ourselves another Auschwitz? Or another, more discreet, politically-backed version that allegedly ticks all the boxes of doing what’s best and human rights, but underneath all of that is nothing but sanctioned oppression? And though it does none of us any good to live in our pasts, we can’t ignore our living histories of oppression. We can’t go back to any of that.
I had an experience this week that I thought I might share, because if ever there’s proof that we need to re-educate ourselves about things – and ourselves – then this was another stark reminder.
I’m currently in a place where, due to things I’ve seen and experienced for myself in the past 12 months, I’ve got the idea lodged in my head that it’s a pretty prejudiced place. Having had to deal with some pretty nasty misogynistic wank last year, and having gotten into arguments with apparently bright, intelligent people who revealed themselves to be racist, it’s firmly cemented the idea that the values and ideals of a large amount of the people here are not in line with my own.
Now, I’m aware that all of that makes me sound like I’m some kind of wannabe saint, or have a saviour complex; I don’t, but on the days when social interaction doesn’t leave me running for the hills in fear, I do, and have, stood up for people on the receiving end of stuff like this. Just one human looking out for another is all; the same I hope we all do for anyone (neither does it take away from all the prejudice in my own country, but that’s a story for another day).
This place I’m in, late afternoon, a young Muslim man walked in, big, friendly smile for everyone, and my heart just sank. Now, before you roll your sleeves up and prepare to type at and berate me, my heart didn’t sink for seeing him, but in anticipation of the reactions of those around us based on the kind of reactions I’m used to seeing. Because again, this place only a year ago had some fairly unkind things to say about immigrants (they’re still saying them), and even worse things to say about faiths that aren’t Christian (heard enough of that last week).
So here I am, bracing to be That Person, who smiles to reassure this man that whatever he’s about to hear is not the voice of all of us, getting ready to start an argument if I hear even the slightest hint of nastiness towards him, and what happens? Absolutely nothing. He’s welcomed, same as any other guest, laughed and joked with, and teased by the (amazing) staff as though he’s just another person. Which he is, of course he is; it’s me who was making a big (though silent) deal out of it, expecting the worst, and I can’t help but feel that that says an awful lot more about me than it does about anyone else.
Prejudice is everywhere, we know that, and it would be naive and wrong to pretend otherwise, but is my assumption that people will be prejudiced any better than the prejudice people have against those of, say, other faiths? Because in that moment, when I reacted like I did, it didn’t feel helpful. I wasn’t doing anyone a favour or standing up for them them; what I was doing was being just as judgemental of the people I expected to do the judging.
A difficult conundrum.
Because you don’t want to be thinking ‘I’ll be defensive just in case’, yet you also don’t want to be oblivious to those receiving prejudice around you. Getting that balance right is complicated, and I think I need to do some serious thinking about how I react to things. I’ve come to a point where I’m expecting the worst of everyone, yet want to defend everyone and support them at the same time, and if that isn’t a headmess then I don’t really know what is…
This is a lazy post, because I could rewrite this a thousand ways and it wouldn’t ever be enough…
It’s rare that I’m away from technology long enough to miss what’s going on in the news, but yesterday (that would have been the 12th), I was only online during the day to check messages. Charlottesville was quite the kick in the gut to read just before going to bed, and that’s just from the view of a long-distance observer: there is no imagining for me what it must be like there currently. It’s little more than a platitude I know, but my thoughts are with everyone there, and I hope that you and those you know and love are all okay as well.
This is not my view of the world. This is not my outlook, my way of thinking, or how I live my life. I’ve seen anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and racism and xenophobia – and all the other vile things about humanity in quite a few places – but seeing and experiencing this stuff is completely different. And whilst I can sit here, and mean it when I say I am thoroughly and utterly ashamed to be white for all of this awful, awful stuff that keeps happening, it means very little in the scheme of things, because there’s little I can do but police myself and my own actions. All I can say, which I think (hope) a lot of us are feeling – which a certain world leader should have been saying from the moment it and other atrocities happened: not in my name. This is not my view. This is not my outlook. These are not things that I endorse or support, and these terrorists do not represent me, nor my beliefs. I am so sorry for what we keep doing, for all the things we have done.
Please don’t take this as a dismissive this is not us. It isn’t, I don’t want it to be that because I don’t want to distance myself from this as though this isn’t a problem. Nor do I want to feel complicit in something so hateful; it’s about trying to find the right balance, to try and find a way to be supportive, do better, to undo all the hate that’s in the world. I’m working on that.
This week we’ve seen torch companies and local stores and celebrities and city leaders and regular citizens all denouncing those activities carried out by, let’s face it, Nazis. There’s no other way to describe them, White Suprematism is one way, but it’s not enough, it’s not big enough or revealing enough of what the events of Charlottesville represent. That the one person who should have made a stand against this to help turn the tide of those people who think this behaviour is acceptable, who should have distanced himself from their activities took so long to even really talk about it, is disgraceful. And anyone who watched that speech came away still unable to say with true clarity that he even did that; if you aren’t scared, if you aren’t horrified, I really don’t know what world you’re living in.
We need to do better. We need to stop giving violent hate crime the label of terrorism when it’s another religion or race, yet dilute it into something far less horrendous when it’s our own. We need to… I don’t know what we need to do. Truly. I’m not a politician, or someone with any kind of influence or power, I don’t speak with any kind of authority at all. But I know we need to do something.
I am so sorry we keep doing this and finding ways to justify our actions. This is not justifiable, it just isn’t. But sorry can be a very empty word; it’s long overdue the time to think about what we can do to make changes that stick, and stop all this prejudice, hatred, and bigotry in the world. The question (and challenge) now is how. Maybe this is the question we need to be asking ourselves every day; how can we make this world better? How can we build a society where we are proud to belong? How can we rise up and be a force for good, equality, all the positives we can be a collective humanity when we’ve put in power someone who seems to want to do nothing but destroy everything and segregate us all? Honestly, I don’t know.
Love and hugs, people, love and hugs; in this moment, it’s all I have to give xx
This is a fairly personal thing to be talking about, which isn’t something I’m fond of; if you speak to me on other blogs/social media, you’ll know I always (at least try to) have a mostly sunny outlook, am fairly positive, and act like the world doesn’t faze me at all.
It does faze. Every moment of my day, in every way possible. You learn to put up walls and false smiles well enough, though, and you can fool anyone, can’t you?
This past, I think it must be getting on for three years now, I have been at the mercy of something I’ve been jokingly calling a head mess, but it’s probably fairly obvious it’s a little more than that. I’m not sure the intrusive thoughts I have should have as much power over me as they do, or that it’s completely okay to have constant nightmares, to get so anxious about doing anything that’s out of my comfort zone – and for that, currently that means just about everything – that it feels like my heart’s not trying to claw its way up out of my throat, but fling itself out of my chest alien-style. The constant being-on-the-verge-of crying or screaming – or both at the same time – is also a fun thing to experience for any situation I don’t already know the outcome of (which, let’s face it, is most).
I can spend an hour walking around a town trying to find a cafe to work in, because every time I come to one I look in and don’t think I fit in, or decide people are looking at me funny, or maybe the step’s a little high and I’ll make a fool of myself by tripping up. I rarely make eye contact with anyone, rehearse conversations with just about everyone, and have an army of excuses for why I don’t have to go outside. It’s a very odd feeling needing to keep moving, yet terrified to step through the door to do that.
Now, it’s not all bad, I’m mostly functioning in at least some ways, namely in writing; in fact anything I can do online that doesn’t involve an actual, live conversation and I’m doing great. But the interaction with real life people thing is… complicated. Either I’ve lost my nerve, my trust in people has completely withered up and died, or the world really is as awful as I’ve conjured it to be. Don’t ask me; I just live in my head, I’ve apparently got no control over what goes on in there!
The question is, how do you go forward from that? I know there’s some who’d say helpful things like ‘go to a doctor’, but when you’re phobic about that kind of thing and think you’re going to pass out just for walking past a hospital, that’s a little problematic. And the counselling route is an even bigger no no; when you’re the person everyone comes to with their problems, it’s very difficult to flick that switch and share what’s going on for you (in my experience, anyway).
I don’t know. Online, I feel like I might be doing okay. You can’t really tell how much a person is falling apart if they don’t tell you, and there’s always a way to word things so people won’t know how badly things are going. But in the Real World, things are more mucky. I apparently have fooled the people I have to interact with that all is well, but what happens when someone sees through all of that? What do I do then?
This isn’t a plea for help, this is just a typed out musing, and I’m sure there are other people feeling the exact same way. I just… this isn’t something I talk about generally, and I guess I’m feeling my way into doing that. I’m not sure it’s my thing; fiction and made-up existences are far more interesting and easier to navigate!
Life is complex; why didn’t we get how-to manuals?