Tea-Cups

Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody.

~ Jane Austen

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My sister has recently started reading about the meat and dairy industry. Anyone who has read about these industries will understand why her initial discoveries are leaving her horrified and wanting to remove any trace of animal product from her life. How we treat animals, for the most part, in these industries, is wrong.

Prior to educating herself on the animal welfare issues associated with hoeing into that succulent piece of steak, that you purchased in it’s airlock packaging off the clean-as-a-whistle refrigerated shelf, she would never have thought twice about cracking a couple of eggs for her omelette, or giving her children big glasses of milk.

My point, is not that we should all turn vegan (though, I strongly believe that if people read half as much as my sister has, that would be the inevitable outcome); rather, that 2 weeks ago, my sister was actively, but unknowingly, funding and facilitating an industry that is cruel and inhumane, because the packet on the shelf told her it was ‘free range’ and ‘cruelty free’.

We find ourselves in the middle of an era of information; which would imply that we, as a species, are currently at the height of our intellectual intelligence – we know more today than we have ever known. Our cups are overflowing with data.

The problem, is that our cups are too often being filled with knowledge that is not supported by evidence. It is not factual. It is opinion. And ill-informed opinions, are dangerous things, especially when they become accepted as fact.

My point… is that education is key.

It is something that no one can take away from you. It is your most valuable asset, your strongest weapon, and most diverse tool.

Make sure, whatever is filling up your cup, is accurate. Based in evidence. Based on facts.

Before you decide that refugees should ‘go back to where they came from’, find out what you would be sending them back too.

Before you make derogatory comments about individuals receiving welfare payments, or suggest that they should be screened for drugs, find out the statistics regarding the reasons why those people are on welfare, and the evidence suggesting that screening recipients would be a costly and ineffective action.

Before you make racist remarks about the Indigenous community, educate yourself about the history of this country, and the atrocities committed. Build your understanding of why things are how they are.

Before you condemn people associated with any particular religion, make an effort to learn about what they actually believe.

Not only does this thirst for knowledge and deeper understanding mean that you will be more equip to make decisions about some of the most prevalent issues in today’s society, it is also an attractive trait.

There are not many aspects of my being that I am confident about. My pride and joy is not rooted in feather-touched eyebrows, perky boobs or legs up to my armpits.

It was not until I was studying my Bachelor of Social Science and working 2 part-time jobs that I even realised what it was about me, that I was confident about. I would serve customer after customer in a retail job, and so many of them would treat me as less than them because I was standing on the register side of the checkout. I even had one woman, who was particularly disgruntled, turn to her children and state, “see kids… this is why you stay in school.”

Never mind that it is beyond inappropriate to think of yourself as better than another person because of their job… but more than that, and the reason why those customers made me so frustrated, was because they were treating me like I was stupid. It was then, that I realised just how important it was to me to soak up every piece of information I could. That if I wanted to be involved in the discussion, then I needed to educate myself on the topics.

I am not surprised by my big sister’s vegan venture; having a deep desire to dive into uncharted waters and fill our cups to the brim with new information, is a trait we share. But it has reinforced for me that it is never too late to reassess your position. To take a look at your tea-cup. To consider whether it is actually full of tea… or something considerably less appetising.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wear the Trousers

Where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?

~ Jane Austen

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In life, we know, there is a right… and there is a wrong.

There is a common understanding it would seem, that if you are not educated on any particular topic or issue… then a) the responsibility to fight for what is right regarding that issue does not fall with you, but also, and quite contrarily, b) you are able to make statements about said issue, be they right or wrong, market these statements to the masses… with little to no consequence to yourself.

The responsibility and consequence both lie with the individual or community who is fighting an uphill battle for their basic human, or otherwise, rights.

We too often rely on the group with the smaller, or non-existent voice, to fight their own battle… and the loudest voices are all to often used to the detriment of that group – often by people who have very little knowledge or understanding of the issues. Or at least, that they have little knowledge is what I have to believe – for my faith in humanity to remain intact, I cannot succumb to the belief that they are, in fact, educated on the matters they so irresponsibly spout about… because this would mean they were fighting against equality… fighting against the rights of another human being… fighting against the protection of children… against the protection of women… against the protection of men… fighting against what is right. And supporting, whole heartedly, and with complete understanding, what is wrong.

People say there are two sides… and some say there are three – black, white… and grey.

I agree.

The water is rarely clear.

In this world, mud abounds.

But there are times, when the water is so clear you can see every single grain of sand.

There are times when what is right, and what is wrong… is not a question. It is not a debate. It is not something we can discuss. It. Just. Is.

Intimate partner violence is wrong. The number of deaths of women as a result of this violence, is wrong. The number of suicides of men as a result of this violence, is wrong.

Abuse against children, of any kind, is wrong.

The sexual assault, abuse and imprisonment of human beings seeking refuge from war-torn countries, is wrong.

The lack of resources given to prevent these things occurring, is wrong.

The fact that any human being on this Earth, has the ability to deny the same rights they enjoy to another human being, is wrong.

I have been asked so many times, “but, what is the answer?”, “how do we fix these issues?”. Truth be told, I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for those questions. But I do know how they will not be fixed. They will not be fixed by our failing to recognise the wrong, and fight for the right. They will not be fixed by having bandaid solutions and surface responses to issues that are so much deeper.

“Fuck off, we’re full.” is not the solution.

“Make me a sandwich.” is not the solution.

These jokes? They are not jokes. They are the loudest voice, determining that there is an ‘us’… and there is a ‘them’. They are the loudest voice, saying that the ‘they’, are less than the ‘us’.

We live in a society where, to go against the grain, is to be rejected. To be mocked. To become the butt of the jokes we so often laugh at, at the expense of others.

Think about that.

You are making fun of someone else’s tragedy. You are kicking someone when they are already down. Instead of standing in front and protecting, you are standing above and spitting.

There is right. There is wrong.

It is just a matter of wearing the trousers and taking control of your own perspective.

If you don’t know about the issue… learn.

I don’t know how to fix these problems… but I do know that the first step is for us to take responsibility for learning enough so that we can decide what is right and what is wrong for ourselves. Because so many of these issues are not debatable… they are fact. The decision is made easy, because the mud is wiped away. The water becomes clear.

So, be brave.

Stop following.

Start thinking.

As Mark Twain so concisely put it, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

 

 

 

 

My White Picket Fence

It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.

~ Jane Austen

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Someone said to me the other day, “I think everyone is sick of the preaching”.

Like a moth to the flame, I took the bait, and asked what they meant. The response was, “You know, with all these ‘issues’ – gay rights, women’s rights… I think people are just over having it in their face.”… “I mean, I don’t have a problem with them fighting for what they want… but they don’t need to ram it down my throat.”

This wasn’t the first time I had heard similar sentiments. That these ‘people’ fighting over their ‘issues’ (their ‘issues’ being their accessibility to basic human rights – just to clarify) really needed to stop making so much noise… because there were people out there who didn’t want to hear about it. People who wanted to bow out of the debate.

It got me thinking… why are some people so involved in the fight – so loyal to the cause… whilst others sit back, and wouldn’t notice if they never heard another thing about any of these ‘human rights issues’?

And more than that, how can a human being watch another, dis-empowered and oppressed group of human beings, fight for their basic human rights, fight for equality, and not stand up and want to fight with them? Why are we so scared of getting our hands dirty? Of having muddy footsteps inside our white picket fenced lives? It seems we have a tremendous lack of empathy.

‘You can go have your fight for human rights… I have nothing against it… but can you do it over there? Over where it doesn’t impact my life? My white picket fence life?’

Then I considered who I had so often heard these sentiments from; the who, was more often than not, white, straight, middle to upper class, men. That is not at all to say that this group of people are the only people to say that they are not interested in the human rights of others, or that they are all disinterested – we know that there are many men that fall into this category that are extremely involved in fighting for these causes. Similarly, there are many people, from many walks of life, expressing that they are not interested in ‘being involved’.

But in my experience, with the people who have expressed those feelings to me, the demographic has always been the same.

Throughout history, it has been this demographic that has been the oppressor. Women have been oppressed by men. The LGBT community have been oppressed by the straight community. Various groups from various communities have been oppressed by white people… This list goes on. How then, can we expect this demographic to have empathy for an issue they have never had to experience? Not only have they not had to experience it, they have been part of the group that has actively facilitated it.

I know, I know.

You, personally, didn’t oppress anyone.

So why should you bear responsibility? Why should you apologise?

You’re right. You shouldn’t. And no one is asking you to.

What you are being asked to do, is not actively facilitate it any longer. And by saying nothing… by doing nothing… you are speaking volumes.

These voices that you would rather be silent, because they tarnish the rose-coloured world you live in, these are the voices that need to be heard. Every voice – on both sides of every argument, needs to be heard. Not only the ones that we agree with, but also, and especially, the ones that we don’t. Because they force us to think. They force us to feel. They push us into developing a stance. They make us act.

It is very easy to sit in a position of privilege, and decide that you would rather not hear about others, who are less fortunate than you. To pretend that, not only is it a problem that doesn’t exist, but it is also not your problem. It is not your fight.

But just as someone born into poverty does not get to randomly choose that they are no longer poor, you, born into privilege, do not get to choose that no longer carries a responsibility. Make no mistake;

By not acting.

You are acting.

Powerfully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Box

I was quiet, but I was not blind.

~ Jane Austen

 

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The Box.

Where we are born. Where we grow up. Where we learn what it is to be a contributing member of society.

Where we learn what it means to be a legitimate person.

White. Straight. Monogamous. Educated. Wealthy.

But it runs so much deeper than that. Being a woman, I am aware of the constant stream of information drilled into me about how I should act, what I should think, how I should dress. When I should learn to ‘keep my mouth shut’, and when it is OK to have an opinion. It would seem that unless it is about the new matte, long stay lip gloss, or whether I should choose the blue plunging neckline dress, or the red skin-tight mini for next week’s wedding (FYI – neither are appropriate for a wedding), the reality is the Box would prefer it if I would kindly refrain from having an opinion at all.

Be polite. Don’t swear. Don’t bully people with your opinion… it’s curious how quickly that translates to, it is not attractive for you to have an opinion. And there it is… the ultimate goal for a woman.

Be attractive.

Be desired.

Be sexy.

My mind, my thoughts, my feelings, my strengths and weaknesses, my entire being… reduced to whether the traits that make me, me, are attractive to someone else. I am not just talking about a man finding a woman attractive… a parent finding their child’s behaviour attractive – not even a parent – a friend, a grandmother, a complete stranger watching a tantrum in the middle of the shopping centre.

“Shut that kid up”, their behaviour is not attractive.

In school, we are dressed the same, we learn the same, individuality is something to be condemned. It does not matter if you don’t like the uniform – because what you like, who you are… is irrelevant.

In university, you can’t have an original thought. If you happen to think of something completely autonomously, you best go research that – because I guarantee there is someone else who thought of it first. And there always is. They always exist. Why is that? Why do we not question why, as intelligent, curious beings, we are becoming incapable of new ideas? Of extending our thinking beyond this cage we have grown up in?

So here I am. A white, married, childless (I know – tick tock), woman.

To ask exactly that. To question everything.

To take on the Box.

The funny part? Someone has already thought of this too.

Stay tuned…