Learning to Divide the World

As the Europeans began their exploration, their main discovery was essentially how wrong they were and how little they knew. You would hope they would use this shock to be humbled and learn from those around them. We know that was not actually the case and instead they saw it as an opportunity to proclaim they had discovered the “new world”.

In his book, Learning to Divide the World, John Willinsky describes them seem seeing this as a chance to “rebuilt a world that had been lost, and to build it with greater strength and integrity”. I found the language used quite interesting here – greater strength and integrity. This is something we are still led to believe the Western world have over the rest of the world.

Even down to when they implement new laws such as ensuring we all have “British values” – despite the very values outlined (democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith) are universal or can be traced to have origins in foreign lands.  Continue reading

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Capitalising on being ethical 

A few months ago I noticed just how popular being “socially aware” and “activism” in general was. And just how quickly companies were capitalising on this. You had Natwest – “supporting local businesses”,  Nescafé – “surprises for hard working mum’s”. And of course recently we had the uproar with Pepsi massively failing with their protest and collaborating with the police.

And although I can spend time explaining why this particular case is so wrong, I feel like it has already been explained (in a round about but still relevant way) here. Ultimately these companies are trying to capitalise on the work and struggle by oppressed people, without making any positive contribution themselves and trivialising and undermining the whole movement.

What it does highlight is the popularisation of these movements – being part of a protest is not seen as some super left thing to do that “normal” people should not take part in. Being ethical is seen as a requirement rather than an addition. It demonstrates a shift in society as a whole where we are expecting better and want to do better. Continue reading

Advice for someone like me

I was recently asked what advice I would provide for younger women who are like me. Dissecting “women like me” could be turned in an epic graph as I am made of many layers and levels – each with their own barriers to overcome. 

First generation British; eldest daughter – not son; born to two brown migrant parents; one of whom was an abusive predator; the other who was practically a single parent and stay-at-home mum; growing up on welfare; being a visibly Muslim women of colour. 

When it comes to giving advice, I thought about the feedback I received throughout my (short) career on things I can improve. And one thing that has come up time and time again is I don’t show what I’ve been doing. 

I am the type of person that will do what needs to be done, and I never understood the need to do a song and dance about literally doing your job. But I noticed how others around me would. And that meant I consistently looked like I was doing less, even when I wasn’t – and often I was doing more. What struck me also was speaking to people who would describe the work in such positive light – work that I would always consider to be average at best. 

The mix of being a women and expected to just overcome combined with humility being so ingrained into the cultures of many people of colour – we often do not even have the skills to describe or recognise our achievements. 

I realise we are our own worst critics. Not just about what we have done, but when it comes to believing we are capable of so much more. 

And so if I had to give advice to women like me – I would say to recognise this. Do not change your character but recognise that this particular characteristic may not necessarily translate well in interviews and applications, or the work environment. When people give you positive feedback, write it down if you have to. Internalise it. Learn to use it when required. 

You can have humility but also have faith in yourself. 

The good and the bad 

What is it that makes you and I good people and him and her bad people? 

Can law abiding citizens equate to being good people? Laws are after all meant to upload societal values. But what if the law itself is structurally flawed?

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. 

And what about the people who are forced to break laws – steal from hunger, hurt for self-defence? People in desperation – are they bad people?

So maybe it comes down to ones intention? And here’s where it gets messy. Because even the terrorists think their intentions are right. They are striving for the what they believe to be the lesser of two evils. 

And with majority views on what evil even is fluctuating over time and space, differing so vastly around the globe – modesty, sexuality, responsibilities – how can humanity say what evil really is. 

So if we can’t judge what evil is – how can we judge what good is?

Iif we don’t even know what good is, how do we know if we are good people?

News and thoughts 

The last few months have been an onslaught of news – the systematic rise of democratically and legal oppression. Everything from Trump (and how much of a focus there was on the individual rather than the mainstream ideology he represents) followed by the #MuslimBan to the recent EU hijab ban. It’s all been a tidal wave of news after fake news. Exhausting. 

So I have stayed away from it all. I have been doing a lot of thinking – around the political climate we find ourselves in, whether there can be hope in all this – we have seen successes and a uniting of people’s in ways we haven’t seen, when is violence acceptable (following the split in opinion over the punching of the far-right “alt-right” leader), and why are people forced to prove themselves worthy of humanity for people to care (where doctors being affect by the #MuslimBan were seen as more worthy of their citizenship compared to a house wife on welfare for example). 

And I appreciate the above is all a word vomit. Especially on a day like today when we mourn the death of innocent people and wonder again what happened to humanity.  

On our screens we see a hatefilled terrorist who murdered and hurt too many innocent lives. And it’s painful – the waste and cruelty of it all. So twisted and confusing. MUSLIM TERRORIST they shout as soon as they see brown skin. No further evidence needed. It seems this has now been proven false and it is still unknown whether this was a politically motivated attack. 

But news is news, who needs facts when propaganda material is so readily available. Let us headline Tommy Robinson, not an expert not witness but someone who blames “Asian culture” and “Islam” for what happened. 

And I am filled in deep sorrow knowing what is to come. The increase in racism and islamophobia – spitting on the streets, girls hijabs pulled off their head, old men beaten up as they return home from prayer. The strengthing of racist and islamophobic laws. The fuel required by the rising powers to keep on rising. Towering over us with their watchful eyes as they strip away our rights and justice. 

Tighten the borders they should. *But he was born here*. Ship them all out is what they mean. 

And no one will say anything because they are scared. 
Any hope is hard to muster and I can’t help but know darker days are to come

Happy thoughts 

It only takes one thought, an unhappy thought, to slip and fall. Down down down. Into the depths and darkness. Gulping in the smoke and smog. Twisting and turning until I almost hit the ground. Where I will lie broken. 

And that’s where you may find me. Revitalise me with your happy thoughts. That become my happy thoughts. Teach me to float back up. Until I have the strength to fly and then soar. 

So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land! – Peter Pan

A new thing a week

I was reading an article which suggested trying out a new thing a day. Amazing as that sounds I don’t have the energy to attempt that! So, me and my partner decided we would try doing a new thing a week. 

The rules: neither of us could have done the thing and it needs to be in the UK. 

52 sounds like a small enough number but given it’s cold and rainy it’s actually proving to be quite difficult! A real bunch of adventure hunters we’re turning out to be (!)  All the ideas we’ve come up with so far would be great in the spring / summer. But onwards we go and I’m sure this year will be better because of it. 

So far we’ve (1) gone to a book market that neither of us had been to before and (2) went inside a squat to visit a friend. 

The 2nd one is a little bit of a cheat as he has been inside squats before – just not this particular one though. And also it was more of a errand as he’d have to do as he needed to see said friend. But I had just recovered from the flu, it was pouring outside, I had an exam the next day and we were both busy on the weekend. So off to the squat it was! And it was interesting to see a space reclaimed. Not the way I could live but I appreciate people have different life experiences that would lead them to this path. 

On squats – some students have legally occupied an abandoned building in Oxford for homeless people. Please sign this petition to support them. I can’t imagine having to sleep outside in this weather – I am struggling even under my duvet. 

Other ideas we have:

  • Horse riding 
  • Learning and playing a game of chess 
  • Fly a kite 
  • Eat a cronut 
  • Visit Harry Potter world 
  • Visit Hunterian museum
  • Visit House of dreams 
  • Bake something new 
  • Volunteer in a soup kitchen 
  • Trampolining place
  • Secret cinema
  • Pottery class
  • Escape room/time run 
  • Hampton Court Palace or Crystal Palace maze

It’s been a lot of fun so far. Not too outgoing but it is only the beginning and spending that time together – no matter what we’re doing has been great. Even coming up with new ideas has been exciting. 

I would defo recommend giving this a go. I know two weeks have passed but 50 is still a huge number. And you don’t need to do it with someone. Or even with a specific someone – maybe try something new you’ve never done before even if the person you’re going with has. 

Any ideas you have of things we could try would be awesome! And I’ll update you all at the end of year on how it goes. 

The first day 

I do find is weird how we humanise the years like a block of time scheduled by the western world has any control over the fate of the whole world. 2016 was an awful year we see all over social media. It was made into a comical horror “film”. It was 2016 that caused all the deaths of the celebrities and 2016 that caused Brexit and Trump.

2016 and not people. 

In this way we can shift the blame away from ourselves – the voters and non-voters. The friends of fascists and non-friends who did not organise. 

We mourn the names of those who’s names were in lights. And that is understandable and natural. Our heroes, the unfallable, now gone. 

But natural death comes to us all. And though we mourn their dates we do not mourn the deaths of those caused by our hands. Syria, Yemen and Palestine to name just a few. We watch humanity die live from our screens. In their homes, in the sea, in the hospitals. Outside our own doorsteps we have the homeless, unable to apply for help – dying from the cold and hunger. 

Now that we have entered a new year the suffering for the millions will not stop. 

Happy New Year. May we always be concious of our actions, throughout the entire year. 

2016

Looking back at this year I am honestly struggling to think of positives. This year has taken many of our greats, and has replaced them with continual wars, noticeable rise in fascism and  uncertainty.

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The year is 365 days long. Yet it is hard to think of highlights when the most recent news is filled with children dying in Aleppo, Trump and Brexit happening so recently and, on a personal level, being stuck on a project I am not enjoying at all. Our perspectives are warped and bloated – bubbles of despair far outweighing the small pockets of hope we have seen.

And there have been pockets – the election of Malia, the first Muslim women president of NUS – someone who has put liberation in the heart of all she does, #BLM, Momentum. But even Momentum is fractured and Black Lives Matter UK is working on its direction and Malia continues to work on fires caused by those unwilling to give her a chance. I am in a new relationship and it is going very well. And dare I say it, I think I am in love. But we live in two different cities and navigating our relationship long term will be a struggle.

Tomorrow will be like today. A few seconds on a clock do not bring certainty where so much uncertainty exists. Do not provide answers to questions and do not rid us of the pain we have carried for the last 365. But unlike tomorrow we have this concept of a new year. So we can pretend it is a new beginning. We can try and better ourselves at least.

Perhaps nothing will change. But for my sanity I will change. I will refresh my outlook. Go in ready to take on the battles like they are new, with new energy and new resolve. I will try again like I have not tried a million times before. And maybe, just maybe, it will all work out differently this time.

I wish everyone a blessed New year and pray you are able to overcome this year.