Hope in the Dark

I’ve been reading ‘Hope in the Dark’ by Rebecca Solnit. I picked it up at the Hay Festival earlier on in the year. I kind of kept going to read it but then finding something else to read instead. I by chance watched Josie Long on IPlayer and she recommended the book, so then I had to read it.

I have started trying to form an Amnesty International society at my university. This book has been invaluable in getting me to think more about what it takes, thinking about what I’m actually doing and having realistic expectations.

The book was originally published in 2005 so a decent amount has changed and progressed since but it’s eerie how in a way it hasn’t at all and how well the book still applies… Different people, same situations etc.

There is a large focus on American politics. Bush and Blair and the time of the Iraq war beginning. This was slightly before my time (as in I was about 9 so not really aware of the world) so it was difficult to get as involved with the book as I hoped I would. But Solnit writes really well and I get the points that she was making. I found it difficult to fully gauge some of the significance of what was written.

Solnit has since added a number of Forewords to her newer additions which are great introductions.

So very broadly, the book for me, mostly told me about what activism is, what has been successful and what it means to be successful or to have success or to not succeed. There were some really key thought provoking chapters in the book. Sometimes seemed screamingly obvious but not something you’d necessarily think about too deeply.

A quote in the book from Paul Goodman

“Suppose you had the revolution you are talking about and dreaming about…  … How would you live, you personally, in that society? Start living that way now!”

Solnit looks into the emotions associated with activism and tragic events. Comparing despair and hope.

“Despair demands less of us, it’s more predictable and in a sad way safer. Authentic hope requires clarity – seeing the troubles in this world – and imagination, seeing what might lie beyond these situations that are perhaps not inevitable and immutable”

She looks at the different types of activists and news bringers. Those that do well in defeat and ‘doom’. This is linked to the psychology that activism is more bolstering identity that achieving results. ‘demonstrating one’s own virtue rather than the realisation of results’.  I think I can think of a number of people who would be pessimistic, assume to worst and not try to make it work and then take in the glory when it turns out that they’re right. (which was more likely to be the outcome anyway)

I found it very true that “tales of decline and fall have an authority that hopeful ones don’t”

But activism itself can generate hope because it already constitutes an alternative and turns away from the corruption at center to face the wild possibilities and the heroes at the edges or at your side.

The revolution that counts is the one that takes place in the imagination, many kinds of change issue forth thereafter, some gradual, some dramatic and conflict ridden – which is to say that revolution doesn’t necessarily look like revolution.

Being able to see the world differently to what is put in front of you can be the biggest step in a revolution. Solnit uses a fantastic analogy of a theatre. Civilians being the audience and the actors on stage being presidents, prime ministers etc Big wigs. We don’t see what’s going on back stage or anywhere else in the theatre. But sometimes we do, sometimes we can see through the actors and when enough of us have, that’s revolutionary and that’s what the bigwigs are scared of.

What I really enjoyed about this book is that sense that even if you don’t see success or you don’t feel like you’ve made a difference, actually you probably have. In a small way you may have supported a movement, spread a movement to more people and in that way starting to stimulate a change or progression.

“It’s always too soon to go home. Most of the great victories continue to unfold, unfinished in the sense that they are not yet fully realised but also in the sense that they continue to spread influence.”

This is Earth, it will never be Heaven

Perfectionists don’t make very good activists essentially. When anything less than total victory is failure, progression is not going to be able to be appreciated. There will always be cruelty, violence, destruction but we can reduced it. ‘There’s an inability to to recognise a situation in which you are traveling but haven’t arrived to the destination. The world is always being made and is never finished.’

Victory is not some absolute state far away but the achieving of it. It wasn’t the moon landings but the flight etc

“The way you win people over to your side is try to present the information from some perspective they’re familiar with”   Velasquez

A better world, yes; a perfect world, never.

Rebecca x

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Dunkirk

I wrote this about two weeks ago after I saw the film.

I’m currently in Devon on a university placement. I’m staying with two other girls on my course who I didn’t really know at all before coming here.One of them inspired us to go and watch Dunkirk as she had really enjoyed it the first time she saw it.

The film is intense the whole way through and the way it has been filmed, the dialect and story telling is amazing.

There are some books and films and pieces I come across that make me shudder and get a tiny sense of what the war must have been like and this film has really shaken me. I found Sebastian Barry’s Birdsong to do similar too.

We talked about the film afterwards. Said how the fact it isn’t always throwing body parts around and there isn’t much blood actually for us made it feel more realistic. I think I’m so far removed from any kind of war like environment that too much can be unrealistic. But this seemed to just be right. I felt like I was reliving people’s lives.

And the world we’re living in now.. is this what they were fighting for?

For my position in the world, my life could only be worse. I’m so lucky with everything I have. This film only showed me more. But I’m very privileged. I’m safe in a little bubble for now. But for people in general I don’t think the war was fought for the current state we’re in and going to be facing in the oncoming years.

The world is so volatile at the moment not including in the parts of the world already enduring war… which we have so little knowledge about. Pressures are rising. From the local, country wide to worldwide there is so much unrest. No one is happy with anything.

I still have a daily life that’s progressive and I could easily turn a blind eye to what’s going on. I’m in that fortunate kind of position and a huge number of the people in Britain are. There are many people in many countries that will go on as if the world is fine – just that food prices, petrol prices go up, the weather is unexpected, there are more restrictions put in place but they’re moan to themselves, to their friends and family but leave it at that and carry on. It’s their life that they’re concerned with; that their life isn’t altered too much is what they care about. I try not to be like that but it’s hard. I don’t feel like that’s enough. That we should be doing more to help those we don’t know or see everyday. We shouldn’t just take things for granted or accept them for what they are.

The privileged often have the privilege of getting their voices heard. They just need to see that those that aren’t as privileged at them need help.

Brexit came up. And the people I describe above who voted the leave. They have seen their world change recently – more people moving into the area, schools getting busy, GP appointments practically impossible to get. Their life has been affected and they left the Eu to stop it being affected more in the future.

It’s like they can’t see the bigger picture. They don’t want to or can’t I’m not sure.
But actually have they stopped and realized how much they really do have.

Some do and some don’t and not everyone who voted Brexit will be what I’m describing etc!

But this is the people I know.

I watched a short video from a girl who escaped North Korea and all the books I’ve read and articles.

I just don’t understand it. How have we got to this point?

I probably am just a rambling student who doesn’t know what they’re talking about but I think that life should be simple and can be simplified. Because what ever this is at the moment isn’t what anyone asked for.

Why is so much life being wasted. And not even just that but murdered, mutilated and devastated.

Rebecca x

Pages for us

Feeling a little lethargic this morning!

Have now finished reading Pages for her and Pages for you.

I read them the wrong way round but it’s actually worked out perfectly. I read the older story (for her) before finding out the original story of when Anne and Flannery met. (for you)

While reading both books they made me look into my own relationship and some of the past. Anne and Flannery have an age gap. Flannery is 17 while Anne is 28. The gap is more of a mental and experience age gap than actual numbers.

It made me uncomfortable because I got so into it and it reminded me of relationships, especially one that I had when I was about 18. Made me cringe and made me think about the differences and what I thought I wanted and the naivety of me and Flannery. And knowing how the first novel ends after reading the second there’s just so many what could have beens or what have beens and how differently lives could have played out. But actually the end of Pages for her is pretty wonderful and each is in a much greater position.

There was something very delicious about the words in the book. Like I couldn’t be satisfied and kept on reading. There was so much connection and understanding and the words rung like satiety and hunger and devour. It was quite a naked carnal kind of book. Ripped of convention and propriety, honest and truthful, grounded lust and hunger, human raw emotion kind of book.

Signs of a good book I would say.

They could be placed in the LGBT category in a book shop. But what I loved about the books is that the fact that they’re two women hardly ever comes up. More so in the second. It’s not a coming of age book. It’s two people falling in love and a book about their relationship. It was refreshing. The women are probably bisexual, Anne certainly is but again, the word is never mentioned nor discussed. It would be very very easy to replace Anne or Flannery with a male character and the story would still work.

I’m glad I read the second book first, I think I’d be heartbroken to have finished the first without access the second. Ahh. I’m seriously moping.

Rebecca  x

 

 

Change and ‘The Power’

I’ve been feeling pretty rotten over the last couple of days. Had episodes of probably what is vertigo, essentially, dizziness and that run down- bleurgh feeling. Feeling sea-sick as I woke up at 6:45 and as I tried to get out of bed the, ‘why am i doing this?’ question came to me and I got back in and emailed to say I wasn’t coming in. I have spent most of the day reading ‘Power’ by Naomi Alderman. I finished it. And i’m quite confused by how I feel about it.

I’ve had a look at other reviews of the book to get some other insights.

It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting and I gorged on the first 100 pages or so because of how inventive it was . I think as the story developed it did lose some of it’s realistic appeal to me. Yes, the story is pretty fantastical but I feel it wasn’t supposed to be just that.

I really enjoyed the first 100 pages because I really felt a lot of aspects were covered by Alderman. It felt like there was a lot of clear messages to be taken from it. How different people coped and reacted to the changes that happened. I think it wasn’t what I thought because it wasn’t actually as nice and successful as I’d hoped. I think the idea that women are more powerful than men, to me, would mean that greater, fairer things would happen. This wasn’t the case and my naivety has been put to shame!  It isn’t power over another that is successful… Ever. It’s not dominance and submission (oi oi) but being on the same level and this is what this book shows. Too much power in any hands can be a bad thing.

The particularly poignant part in the book is quite early on and it is when women start rioting and cannot be controlled and are feared because of their power. There’s a dialect something like “what do we do?”,  “we kill them.”,  “But we can’t kill all the women in the world”

At this point it very is man vs woman. Which actually is totally pointless because both need each other.

And  it makes you think about other riots and wars. And you think, this is pointless too? We are at war against each other. It’s pointless. It’s power not wanting to be lost. But what are we actually fighting for? Those at the top already, what are they actually defending that’s worth defending anymore? Are we asking to be heard or asking to take over and be in charge?

Most minorities just want to be heard and to have fair treatment. That’s what the women’s marches, the LGBT marches that i’ve been on have been about. They were for me anyway.  How can humans be so anti-eachother? Just seems like such a daft concept when you take a step back and look and what we’re doing now and what we’ve done for ridiculous numbers of years. And for what?

I dunno, all I want is to achieve a couple of things that I’ve always wanted to achieve. Do good where I can and use what I have. Power has never been something I have been after so I wouldn’t know! #simplebutcompletelife 

I lost the flow of the book by the end. I don’t think I quite caught the point of some of the character’s stories, maybe I haven’t digested it well enough yet. I thought the book was very honest and fair. There wasn’t an agenda to the book I think apart from a look into power and where we are at the moment. I think I wanted Alderman to talk more about the injustice in parts of the world but she didn’t go into too much detail. Having read a book recently which I reviewed a lot of the countries talk about – India in particularly the reactions really resonated.

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So I’m moving out this weekend back home for the year. I’m on placements all over the UK and in other countries come next week so I’m pretty much going to be living out my car, Betty.

I’ve been in this little room for two years and It hasn’t dawned on me that I’m saying goodbye to it yet. I was reading and it’s been raining all day and with my cup of tea I saw a photo opportunity. My phone never sees what I see but it got close enough.

I’m half packed. It’s going to take a couple of trips. You can see the magazines i’ve yet to read and leaflets about jobs and careers on the side. You can see flowers that Rosie bought me. They’re probably past their best now but i’m not ready to let them go. There’s a half empty box for packing, my keyboard which was fun to play for the four weeks that it fitted in with my routine. My wooden post from one of the marches I went on. I intend to use it again at some point.. It did have a poster on it..

I do and don’t like the idea that I don’t know where I’ll be in a years time. I think I am naturally a home maker and I do want a home or nest of my own. My own nook. Makes travelling all the more special because you have something special to come back to. 

 I suppose I have just been in so many places that I’m just looking forward to not having too much upheaval for a short time. Until I get bored and a wandering eye ;).. 

Rebecca x 

 

 

 

Plastic Free Month: 5 days left!!

I have 5 days left! Although I think I’m so used to what I’ve changed and started doing that I’m going to stick with a lot of it.

I had a big test this weekend that’s just past. It was a vet conference up in Lancaster. Loads of lectures on how /where/when to get your first job etc. Bloody overwhelming but it was really good.

We stopped a couple of times for coffee and I brought my reusable cup which wasn’t an issue and brought snacks to stop me wanting to buy anything!

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I meant to take a photo of all the freebies and plastic stuff that was out and available but totally forgot. But I’m sure you can picture what it was like. There were loads of stalls of companies with leaflets and freebies and sweets everywhere. I was pretty good at not picking anything up! It was so hard though! But it’s crazy how much plastic was there and as a freebie probably used a couple times and then thrown away or forgotten about!

Fortunately we always had normal mugs and plates so I didn’t have to worry about much other than that!

I also found these in Waitrose! Binliners have been an issue this month. But as I’m not throwing a huge amount a way these little paper bins are pretty ideal!

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I got a voucher for doing some bits at uni. AND WENT SHOPPING. Swoonnn

I was hoping I would be able to avoid, magically, my period this month. But that didn’t happen and actually it’s been a pretty grim one. I get really bad stomach pains and back ache. Usually for the first 24hrs which is usually well managed with ibuprofen and heat packs. I’ve had to take the odd day off sometimes just because of how bad it is. Not only the pain, but the emotional ups and down and actually how knackering it is. Bit of a mess basically!

Fortunately being on research I could take it slow. This time the pain wasn’t as bad as it could be but it lasted for three days -_-  and ibuprofen just didn’t really seem to cut it. So this was me in the library… haha. ..

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I’ve eaten so much chocolate.

God I begrudge periods so much. Ugh. Because I know that I’m fine and that if it wasn’t for the mood swings and the pain I’d be really productive and this happens monthly. ugh. At least everyone gets colds so you take it when it’s your turn to have one! Not just 50% of us. ugh! But I think I’ll need to write another blog to rant this one out! 😉

I did take some ibuprofen this week which was cheating as it was in plastic. I spose i didn’t actually buy it, i already had it and tried to take as few as possible?? but ultimately i cheated on being plastic free.

With regards to what products I use. I have used a mooncup for years and have reusable sanitary towels too. Love both!  https://ecofemme.org/ … This company sells them and for everyone you buy they donate to girls in other countries where they haven’t got access to them! Definitely recommend.

And on that note! 😉

Rebecca  x

 

 

Plastic Free Month: 15 days in!!

Hey!

So the 2nd week has gone much better. I’m getting used to not being able to use plastic and how to get around it.  I have accepted that it just takes a bit of extra organizing and a bit of compromising.

Carrying water with me, eating before I head out, picking up fruit and veg and always carrying a bag, finding time to cook a big batch. Cleaning is easy, though I do want to order a scour sponge i’ve seen online that’s plastic free and friendly etc, cloths just aren’t cutting it! Carrying deodorant, toothpaste and breakfast with me when I stay elsewhere, it’s not actually that hard.

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I went to the opera at the weekend and because I can be a bit of idiot and forget things, I ended up arriving a lot later that i meant to. Worked out fine for the opera but meant we didn’t have time to grab some proper food. We had to pop to a shop to get some sandwiches/on the go food. There was absolutely nothing that I could eat in any of these shops. I did however find a bar of chocolate in only cardboard and foil! Bingo!! It was beautiful!

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I have definitely been eating more healthily again. (shes says after talking about chocolate). Although I have started buying things in jars, such as jams, chutneys and honey, peanut butter. I don’t usually buy them (to be a little healthier and because they can relatively expensive..ish.. and i tend to eat a lot in a short space of time) but they’re great for adding a bit of extra flavour to things.

I had a massive craving for cheese (again with the healthy eating?!) while I was shopping the other day. I had a tupperware on me and the guy behind the counter agreed to fill my tupperware up with cheese!! Best day ever! Only down side is that I did have to have a sticker. So not plastic free. However it did made me think about the benefits of buying in bulk. I could have bought a packet of cheese half the size and used more than double the plastic. This will definitely be something I’ll be keeping up after this month is over.

 

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One issue that I’m having at the moment is that I could really do with some new shoes and a new blouse or two. I keep going to have a look in shops and online and am either unsuccessful or see the plastic tag and just think.. I cant’!! So in that respect I’m saving quite a lot of money. And actually it really is making me use what I already have and is encouraging me to think about what I have and what I could do instead. It’s also encouraging me to not really care either.

The photo with the chocolate bar you can see my shoes, I’d have loved to wear sandles with that outfit. Those shoes were the daintiest/ not over the top and kinda smart? things I could justify wearing. I got to the point where I was running out of time and just said bleurgh who actually cares and walked out wearing them. And you know…nothing bad happened! Excellent!

I have also realised how much I’m starting to do by myself again. So I go through phases of trying to be self sufficient, i grew some vegetables and herbs a couple of years back when I was living at home and I loved it! Can’t do that at uni. But what I have started to doing is making my own bread, vegetable stock, crisps, meals from scratch, buying bulk herbs from markets and freezing them, buying fruit from markets and dehydrating, freezing them. I’m hoping to make some jam or use them in cakes as well as eating them for breakfast.

As well as food, I wanted to buy some flashcards for studying the other day, but obviously they all come in plastic packaging. I realized that actually i already have tons of card and could make my own.

I am just naturally thinking of alternative things I could do. And it’s been a really cool couple of weeks. Really difficult in some respects. I went to another BBQ on Sunday but this time bought frozen veggie burgers in cardboard with me and that was fine. I could have made my own! But didn’t have enough time haha.

There are definitely cons!

For example, all the dried food I bought from wholefoods came in paper bags and when tired I keep forgetting to double check what I’m actually pouring on my porridge….!!

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Also, I can’t easily receive flowers as a gift this month because they all come in plastic packaging. Quite gutting really !!  😉  … it also means that I can’t buy any too so i’m saving a small fortune in gifts xD

Rebecca xx

P.S loving all the Pride stuff coming up in London!! ❤


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To the older me 

Rebecca,

Lots of aspects of your life will change in the next few years. You have no idea what you will see, do and where you will end up. But the way you think now feels right and fair but still you have so much to learn and figure out.

Remember that you will never be able to second guess someone else’s story. Before you go to judge and put them into one your ingrained default stereotypes talk to them, learn about them. Realise how similar and different you are.

Remember where you grew up and what you saw. Remember the people you met and the situation.

At the end of each month, ask yourself if you’ve helped anyone, volunteered or donated your time or skills or donated money. If not, why?

Remember how you still want to change the world and still think it’s possible. Remember that you can still be settled and curious and explorative. Remember that if you are not happy with something you can change it.

Remember that you can’t just look out for yourself, you need to be able to see the bigger picture. Not everyone is in your position. Remember to practise being in other people’s shoes.

Remember that the world is not finite and that you simply can’t have everything you want. Compromise is good and healthy.

Remember to do the things you love and inspire it in others. Remember that you don’t have to be pushy or competitive. Grow at your own pace and don’t over do it. Take breaks and analyse.

Remember to be the best person you can be, because then your time will never be wasted.

Rebecca x