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

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 

 

 

 

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

Book: The War On Women

 

I bought this book at the The Hay Festival a couple of weeks ago. I’d just been to a talk with Christina Lamb, Helena Kennedy, Rachael Jolley and Joan Bakewell discussing the author – Sue Lloyd Roberts who passed away recently and before properly finishing this book. Helena Kennedy really impressed me.

It has probably been bad timing. With the recent terror attacks and general fear and worry and pain in the world this book has certainly not lightened the mood.  I’ve really struggled to read this book, but it’s been equally as captivating. It makes daily activities like my studying and aspirations feel null, void and in vain when there is so much work that needs to be done elsewhere.

Sue Lloyd Roberts was a TV journalist and I knew very little about her before the talk. She sounds absolutely brilliant. She traveled around the world videoing and interviewing the people she met with stories to tell. She seemed to get really involved with cases and helped where she could.

So the book talks about how women are treated throughout the world, in cultures, during war, in wealthy and in un-wealthy areas.

The first chapter is on Female Genital Mutilation.

“In Britain our tradition is to respect local customs and not to insist on integration. We respect tolerance and accept cultural differences but it allows abuse to take place behind closed doors.”

I think what I found most exciting about the way Sue went about her work was that no-one seemed un-interviewable. I feel her quote above is right regarding British people. I wouldn’t feel comfortable stepping into someone else’s culture and telling them their practice is unethical, mutilation, appalling and not at all beneficial. The chapter and a chapter on arranged marriage goes on to discuss how the British government tries to avoid doing too much to stay liked or because it doesn’t see the consequences.

With FGM, Sue was not afraid to go directly to the women who carried out the cutting. It was well described in this chapter, It was an uncomfortable read (and the books carries on like it). In the past, reading about the practice I guess I just hoped it wasn’t quite the butchery I imagined.  No, it’s entirely butchery.  A shock to me was that 90% of Egyptian women have had FGM (at the time of the book being written).

The book made me think about how it is all so well hidden and going on without anyone knowing (or with everyone knowing but allowing it!). As I’m sitting here writing this, I naturally  assume other people next door, or down the road or in the next town are doing similar and just unwinding before bed. But are they? There is so much going on right this second and I’m so entirely oblivious.

Before reading the book the word rape would just resonate with me as a horrible word, meaning abuse and dark and twisted, impact, devastation. But the word appeared so often among so many chapters that by the end of the book it was almost tiresome. As if to say to men ‘can you get a hobby and find something else to do please’.  There are no words. There is no respect for women.

In the book it explains that in cultures where women are absolutely objectified, rape is commonplace and rarely punished. Something so horrendous to me and many other women and men can become the norm it appears when it is not actively taught as being wrong. It’s portrayed in the book as being a right of men to be able to, an entitlement. Over and over the same picture is shown in the chapters.

The book has a very big running theme in that all of the acts carried out against women were caused or could be prevented by men. A lot of it is dominance, submission and control of women. I really got the impression that many of the men don’t seem to think twice about what they’re doing. Like there is no conscience because they never developed one. They were brought up to think a certain way.

I have absolutely no sympathy for the criminals in this book, most of them know exactly what they are doing and deserve all the punishment coming to them but it was a question I asked myself. “How much are they actually to blame if that’s all they know and that’s what they’ve seen and been taught?”

I think it’s even sadder in many ways that in these cases these victims could have been spared if the the men had been brought up differently. The amount of pain suffered and lives wasted because of essentially a simple thing. It’s hard to find enough appropriate descriptive words. But it’s heartbreaking to read about. While reading the book I felt very much like I wanted to stand up for women and help make the world better. But then you think yeah, well, it’s all well and good me going to try and help when I’ve never experienced anything even remotely close to what was in the book. But that is what the author did.

One of the last chapters on India chilled me to the bone. I don’t often get angry but I could feel my blood boiling. I wanted to punch something. I wanted to do something. It covered the 2012 Delhi Gang rape. I think it was so poignant that after Jyoti Singh’s uncommentable ordeal and while she was in hospital before she died she apologized to her parents for causing a fuss. The idea that the victim caused the attack or is at fault runs throughout the book too.

I’m so sheltered by most of the brutal acts that happen in the world. This book has well and truly opened my eyes to a couple of them. I could talk about the book for a very long time. What Sue found out and got out of people ( The good and the bad) she interviewed is remarkable. Her ability to understand and delve into the minds of men and women has been really well emphasized. I will just heavily recommend that you read this book. And be prepared to be shocked.

Rebecca x

The stories spread so vastly over the world. I have always said to myself that I wouldn’t travel to countries that allow or don’t certain things which i disagree with. Reading the corruption that is everywhere including here in Britain of course it makes me wonder whether I ever could justify traveling again. The India chapter made me consider whether I would want to go to the tourist areas and spend money there when I visit the country. I feel like actually, I’d rather only give money to the charities there, to the people directly and not to the government that does little to help the suffering that is going on.

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