Tag Archives: power

Meeting the moment 2021 #8

Many women in my country and also in my State would have found moments to meet triggered by what was happening in our Parliaments. In the national legislature a woman who had bravely reported being raped in a minister’s office watched along with the rest of the public have her voice drowned out by numerous verbal gymnastics about what was known or not known, seen or not seen, heard or not heard by her employers, law enforcement agencies, peers in the train of investigation. For some this would have been a story of workplace misconduct, for others it would have triggered memories of being sexually assaulted in places that might have been deemed safe such as their work sites or home. Then there is the experience of the witness, people who knew, saw, spoke up or turned away. And then there is us, we are now all witnesses to what we have seen and heard. What would we say if we were to be called up by the court? I would say I saw a woman of courage who was willing to speak up and make visible a crime of power. I would note that the boss of the worksite was unable to understand what the alleged crime was all about and unable to man up and called upon his wife for guidance being bereft of a moral compass of his own. I would point to the way in which the public discourse was going so a bigger frame of patriarchy, power and privilege was unfolding in the conversation and arrows of the gender wars were flying about. Away from the stand, as I doubt I would be asked such a question, I would wonder if the woman from a non-dominant culture or First Nations, or from a non-government political party, whether the story would be in the public domain.

In my State parliament after decades of debate and community led lobbying and meticulous campaigning, abortion was decriminalised. The Bill was brought by a female Attorney-General and almost exclusively the people speaking agains the Bill were men, and almost exclusively women members of the parliament voted to support the Bill which was passed on a conscience vote. I have had so many women talk to me over the years in the privacy and intimacy of friendship of their experience of abortion. I have never initiated a conversation, it usually starts with them stating they know I am a Christian, a Catholic, and so don’t want to offend me and then as they notice a listening ear tell me something of their circumstances. These are not conversations I invite, they come often because they are sharing a moment of grief, providing an example of an irreversible difficult decision, a step deeper into friendship, and a few times it has been because the person was looking for someone to authorise their loss because there isn’t any ritual they were able to find for this kind of mourning. To bear witness to these disclosures, I feel is holy ground, between what is seen and unseen. As the debate wound its way to a conclusion, I expect there were women in the debate, women in the circles of the men speaking who had first hand experience of abortion, although they may not have known that. The debate and now the legislation would have triggered others and like me been a trigger for memories of the women who have shared their story with me. In solidarity I witness these women.

While the debate in the public places of the media and in the corridors of parliaments across the land, and on the floor of the Houses around our nation raises the issues, the concerns, struggles to make and implement laws, women in private places like kitchens, cars, counselling corners, continue to do the work for us all. They find ways to work through power and privilege and untangle moral codes of others as well as their own. Silence is rarely a place of safety and as the adage goes sunlight is a the best disinfectant. The value of these moments this past week feels like some sunlight was beamed into the chambers. While some of the public statements made in the press and those recorded by Hansard by male leaders and elected representatives might feel like a return to the bygone era of 1950s, as a witness to these events, I am meeting these two moments of the week, by celebrating courage and tenacity and noticing a shift in the tectonic plates of patriarchy.

Photo by Chelsi Peter from Pexels

Promises to Tomorrow #4: Play

The more I play today the more silt I am laying down in the river of play for tomorrow … or that is the how the logic goes in the parallel universe of compassionate imagination (thank you Phil Porter co-founder of InterPlay for sowing the seeds of these thoughts and practices with Agnotti Cowie this week). Being playful, and mischievousness break through. In this era of alternative facts, fake news and post truth brings multiple platforms to play.

Being able to laugh (even on the inside) is a way to inoculate yourself from some of the harm of the powers of evil. Satire is a gift to get through hard times – the first all Aboriginal TV show Basically Black in 1973 introduced us to Super Boong, the first Aboriginal Super Hero, it took another couple of generations before Cleverman came to our screens and breathtakingly took us all (not just one person in trouble) to a new place to save the planet (can’t wait for the next series).

Play can reveal, camouflage, inspire, transcend. Without play we don’t learn how to get along with others, build our muscles and find interesting ways to use our bodies and our brains. Play helps us find out what works, form habits and attitudes, beliefs and trust. Play is essential in our human development. Play is sometimes called the “universal language of childhood”. I will often play peek a boo with a child on public transport, even one a few rows away they usually pick it up in a few moments.

Play is too important to be left at the school gate. It gets codified into sport, or the arts as we grow older and improvisation is left to everything other than play! We improvise through the rest of our adult lives, so why not in play too! One of my favourite living poets, David Whyte says with a chuckle directing listeners and fellow poets: “just follow the instructions as if you know what I meant when I gave them to you; isn’t that what you do anyhow all the time?” I have stolen this instruction more than once when working with groups – it is liberating advice.

Playing for play’s sake and noticing the instructions embedded in the experience, allowing the body to be teacher and mind to be taught, allowing the spirit within to be released and captured in a thought not yet fully formed, to be revealed in a contemplative moment – this is the essence of an improvisation practice known as interplay.

Start in small ways …. Instead of for pity (insert your vernacular expletive here) sake – say for play sake. Next time you walk through the security screening at an airport – say Ta Da with outstretched hands or do a pirouette as you exit. Tap dance your way into a lift. Say yes and when you want to disagree and add your own layer to the conversation. Respond to an email with a made up poem. Talk in gibberish when you are lost of words.

I dip into the InterPlay well each year.  To play is a gift and one not to be taken for granted. My promise to tomorrow is to do more playing, to recognise play as a way of exercising and holding power; as a way to unlock possibilities for resistance, resilience, fun and whole-heartedness. I also promise to know and understand the power of play has inherent qualities like following and leading.

peek_a_boo_baby_wallpaper-1024x1024

PS:

Here is a John O’Donohue blessing for one who holds power.

And a few thoughts from past blogs

Save

Save

Dancing with speeches #14 Gandhi

Gandhi began a journey to the sea to make salt with a speech. It was a declaration of war with the most powerful of weapons – nonviolence.  It was a call to leadership, duty, responsibility, action.

A Satyagrahi, whether free or incarcerated, is ever victorious. He is vanquished only, when he forsakes truth and nonviolence and turns a deaf ear to the inner voice.

Each step in the journey to the sea is one towards vastness, openness and with a focus on the horizon is a rare clarity – but once seen can’t be unseen. Swaraj (Hindi: स्वराज swa- “self”, raj “rule”) was used as a synonym  for “home-rule” first by Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati and then by Mahatma Gandhi, and in turn became synonymous with Indian independence from  British colonisation.  But at it’s heart, swaraj is to be accountable to your true self and that is all about self discipline. It is the quest of the satyagrahi, a  person is dedicated to the campaign for truth.  Like the Quaker maxim to speak your truth to power based on the eternal Christian biblical reference of the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), the quest to be true to yourself and to be truthful with others is indeed a discipline. To speak and act nonviolently requires a deep compassion of yourself as well as others.  Gandhi understood these acts require community and a campaign and a confidence if you felled then others will rise up in your place and carry on the journey.  Civil disobedience in the public domain, begins with accepting your cooperation with your oppressor. Nonviolent direct action of sit-ins, strikes, workplace occupations, blockades, or hacktivism is organised, disciplined and focussed on the result. This must be matched with a personal practice to support your well-being and to bring no harm to others.

So many systems, in our first world are enslaving the poor in our country and in turn our first world enslaves the third and fourth worlds. Colonisation has deep roots in systems, hearts and minds – we have to be honest with ourselves. I live on land where there was no just settlement and no recognition of the land as mother, I consume more than my fair share of energy and calories and moire often than not,  I often fail to change my behaviour even though all the evidence is in about climate change. Behaving as if I am not connected to others of my species and other species is delusional – we are all connected.

Withdrawing our cooperation from what oppressors us is at the heart of this quest for truth.  What is the truth that sets you free? Removing yourself from what holds you back or worse holds you down, and keeps you enslaved takes just as many steps as Gandhi took to travel to the sea. Each step towards the sea is one more removing you from what is holding you back.  Just as Polonius gave his blessing to his son as Laertes stepped out with humility.

The steps towards our truth are blessed in nonviolence and taken in good company, the path made easier by those who have gone before us and are taken in confidence, knowing others will follow.

Polonius:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Laertes:
Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82