Tag Archives: identity

What Does It Mean To Be Foreign?

via Daily Prompt: Foreign

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Graphic comes from livingwaterlutheran.com via Bing

I wonder if the word foreign might eventually be redundant?

Where I grew up in England, my mother from Derbyshire, father from Nottinghamshire, we had dialects, and there were inflections and local flavours within regions and districts, you were foreign if yo came from 10 miles away. I was once asked by an Australian work colleague to translate what a tradie from Yorkshire was saying, he assumed, even though I had migrated as a mere child, I’d know! What astounded me was that it didn’t seem that difficult to understand what said tradie was saying. In Australia, there are subtle accents between east and west, and a variety of indigenous languages. Across this vast land there is also a sense of the local, which has become important across activities such as sport, politics, but especially federal funding.

I was once appointed to serve three towns. I was based in a main centre and would visit the other two on a rota. Once, while in the smaller of the three towns, on market day, I got chatting to some people who were passing through. One of the locals who knew me joined the conversation. At some point one of the visitors asked if I was a local. The local said I was not, and I said I did. There ensued one of those useless exchanges – no you’re not, yes I am. This went on for a split second or two with much positioning and my answer’s better than yours. The true local pointing out that I lived 45kms away in the big town. At some point the visitor asked what I meant. People really shouldn’t ask me questions, it gets tricky, I love to engage, I’m passionate about what I believe so they should be warned.

Little did the visitor know I had been waiting a lifetime for this question.

My answer: I’m local to Australia. Blank stares all round. Then the penny dropped. Derision followed. I never did convince them. Apparently you have to come from somewhere, belong somewhere, be part of something, or the nation, the world, cannot function.

I belong to a small circle of friends who firmly hold to the notion that we belong to each other, and not to any flag, state, or bounded ideal. We don’t much care for petty idealism, sabre rattling politics, flag waving jingoism, or some hyped pride based on place or space. Besides, those beliefs and behaviours have not got us very far.

As the graphic suggests, I’m more for reaching out and taking the hand of another, irrespective of any standard defining characteristics, be they colour, belief, birth country, sexual orientation, class, income, education, and etc. The word foreign is a divisive word, intentionally so, as it defines if you’re from round here or not. I accept that people take pride in where they’re from, and that they need to have conenction and identity, but I wonder if we can dial that back a bit, and focus on being present to hospitality, need, helping, journeying with the other? As is often said, we need to look for what we have in common rather than what divides us.

One of my main influences in life has been music. I have particularly admired Peter Gabriel, formerly of Genesis, who helped pioneer World Music in the late 70s as a fusion of styles and genres working together. Paul Simon has encouraged working with artists from other cultures, notably his album Graceland was founded on this ideal. Robert Plant has similarly worked with and encouraged artists from all over the world.

I was never a diehard Glen Campbell fan, but this song was influential in my thinking. It makes a great point: if we see our brother/sister standing by the road, carrying a heavy load, then it’s up to us to help share the load, to enable the other to get by, to get along. The refrain, “You’ve got to try a little kindness …” is perfect for our world. If we show a little kindness, then the definition foreign becomes redundant, and all people are from round here.

These days I’m local to the globe …

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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A Captivating Dream

via Daily Prompt: Captivating

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It is not slender, it is not pretty (to some), it is not straight or elegant or young. It is in fact old, gnarled and mishapen. It has obviously survived fires, storms, wind damage, dry spells and more. Yet it is captivating for the real life it offers. As with any tree it offers me the Co2 – O2 exchange that is vital to my very breath. It provides shade for the understory and any creature that passes by. Many living things exist in its bark, or depend on its leaves, transpiration, or shed detritus that helps form the humous at its base. Its blossom is a source of nectar for indigenous bees as well as European honey bees, and for a variety of insects. Its seed provides new life and is a food source too. Probably the fact that it is so gnarly has saved it from the tree fellers over the past four decades, so it is a survivor. Which just goes to show that looks aren’t everything. I was captivated by it. It is striking by comparison, and stands out in the forest of straight and elegant comapnions.

Back in 1980, the story of Joseph Merrick resurfaced through a movie made by David Lynch, called the “Elephant Man.” It had little chance of being uplifting, it was in fact, deeply saddening. Merrick died at 27 due to compications of his body weight to head weight ratio. I left the movie feeling quite heavy, mostly because of the lack of knowledge then to help him adapt to a better to life, and also because of how some in society treated him. Merrick was a real person, but not everyone treated him as such.

Scroll forward to another movie in 2001, “Shallow Hal” by the Farrelly Brothers. It was a comedy, but a very real look into the real potential for humanity to be superficial and shallow in regard to relationships. It had a manufactured ending, it was after all a work of fiction, so it ended well. But it resonated for me in my experiences of people who only see the surface of anything or anyone. But in reality, as we develop in life, we are all faced with the moment of choice – are relationships merely about taking, or are they mutual? The latter, of course, relies on our wholeness and our ability to see beyond self.

I am captivated by the life force and life giving capacity of the gnarled old tree. I was captivated by the story of Joseph Merrick and his struggle in the sea of human indifference, a short life that, perhaps, only pointed to the need for a better way, but that was something. And I was captivated by the desire of the makers of Shallow Hal to make the movie resolve in favour of true love, honesty, and integrity (but then, it is a hollywood production) in a world where, sometimes, the complete opposite is true in relationships.

My hope, dream, is that we will all be captivated by the real self in relation to other real selves, that we are not blindly becoming consumers of other people, that we’re not just in some symbiotic dependency, but rather in mutual and interdependent relationships that share values and dreams, love, compassion, and hope ….

In a time when our fellow life forms need advocacy, when sexual identity has become a battle ground, when class remains and economic injustice, and where wealth remains an obscenity, and where leadership has become a vacuous celebrity circus, we need the real.

I’m captivated by the potential of all forms of life, in particular, by the potential of humanity to excell and rise above shallow and look deeply inside to see the true beauty of all living things. Imagine.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under community, environment, history, life, love, nature, self-development

Identity

Identity

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Identity is a matrix really, Am I really Jack White when I do air guitar? As I read Emund Hilary am I really there at the top of Everest?  Did i just get the chequered flag in the Moto GP? Sometimes I’m just in the shadow of life, sometimes I’m clutching onto a map for guidance, sometimes I’m just on the edge, sometimes I’m projecting someone else, sometimes I’m looking into the distance – and am in the distance, and sometimes I’m fooling around and having fun, it’s all in the mix.

When people talk about identity, I think of all sorts of angles, personality, character, experiences, vocation, passions, and also masks. The inner and outer me, who do I want you to see and know? I think of Janus too. We talk about “Showing up”, authenticity, being real. In the end, for me identity is a matrix, but at its core is the gold of integrity.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Anzac Shiboleth, Anzac Religion

My family are English with a solid contribution to both World Wars. Others fought in Korea, and in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising. None of them were one whit bothered about public acclamation, remembrance or wreath laying. They eschewed any hero worship or attempt to glorify their role.

The World War 1 diggers I was privileged to know berated me as a child and a teen when I enquired about their exploits, “son you don’t know what it was like, it was a mugs game and l’d rather not talk about it.” As to the question, “Did you march in the parades today?” I usually got the response, “Not into that bullshit son, went to the pub with me mates.” Again there was no glory, no desire for a parade, a day, a wreath. Part of the anger was that it dragged up awful memories, the trauma. Partly it was anger that people who had no idea inserted themselves emotionally into their experience. And politicians who used the day to manipulate and emote in the media to their own ends. Bastards the lot!

They went for adventure, for fun, out of boredom, loyalty, mate-ship. But they never went for the Anzac Religion. Indeed Anzac or Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was only ever the original Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that came to be forged as Anzac in Egypt in 1914. But Anzac Day was, after South Australia started a day in honour of veterans, promulgated as a national day in 1916 in honour of the Anzac force which fought at Gallipoli. When you realise that the Anzac force was part of an Allied force set up to attack the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany, it might make you wonder what on earth we are on about. The Ottoman Empire??

Besides, why not celebrate the second Boer war, Khartoum, Trafalgar, the Viking wars … the possibilities are endless if integrity matters.

The American war of Independence, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, VE Day in Europe, Independence Day in several African nations, that I can understand. Kokoda as an Australian remembrance would hold more value (a point that former PM Paul Keating made in the 90s). What do all these have in common? That they were part of a national need, part of the national defence. But not Anzac, we were not defending our nation, nor were we actually defending England (geographically speaking).

Yes it was horrific, but which war has not been horrific? Yes it was bloody and lives were tragically lost. Napoleon probably lamented too in his day. But Anzac was pointless, not just because it was a mighty cockup, but because it had no point in the first place, not for Australia.

Ironically, the term that is rattled out every Anzac Day, “lest we forget”, is actually a line from a Rudyard Kipling poem ‘Recessional’ which was a quasi liturgical offering against the vain glory of colonial empire, go figure!

Yassmin Abdel-Magied caused a stir last week when she Tweeted and Face Booked a statement referencing Lest We Forget.

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Photo: Yassmin Abdel-Magied (not credited).

Abdel-Magied said “LEST WE FORGET (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine)” Difficult to establish any anti Australian content, or any Anzac heresy (for Anzac has indeed become a religion). Abdel-Magied has raised a valid point echoed in several journalism pieces over the week, that we have forgotten the value of what we supposedly value, the freedoms, the rights, the safety, our international obligations. We are shallow when we orgasm over wreath laying but ignore the Anzac prayers for peace, when we fail to protest the concentration camps used to house refugees (and I note that only this week that Pope Francis called the detention camps concentration camps – http://www.dw.com/en/pope-Francis-compares-migrant-detention-centres-to-nazi-concentration-camps/a-385488556), and when we fail to value human life which the diggers were apparently defending in the first place.

The irony of the Alt-Reich response is that they bemoan criticism of our treatment of refugees (our continuing racist White Australia Policy) and defend the barbaric actions of the so-called alliance in the Middle East and beyond. Abdel-Magied is right, they have indeed forgotten the meaning of Anzac Day.

I was heartened to see a response to the Alt-Reich in articles like – ‘Remembering fallen war heroes is insincere if it excludes those suffering today’ (Mariam Tokhi in the Guardian, April 27, 2017) or, ‘Over the top reaction to seven words from Yassmin Abdel-Magied’ in the SMH, April 28′ 2017).

The response from her critics has certainly been over the top and when you see the names you smile because it includes, Abbott, Abetz, Dutton, Hanson, News Corp. But when you see the comments from some of the public it curdles the blood. This is not what my old diggers would do or say. This is exactly what they feared – a false emotive, shallow religion of jingoistic nationalism.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term Shibboleth (an Old Testament term) it simply means now ‘test phrase.’ It is used to determine who is in and who is out. It is often a trick question to trip up an opponent. Anzac is our unfortunate shibboleth to entrap migrants, refugees, and those among us who do not hold to the religion of Anzac. And this shibboleth is now being used to attack Abdel-Magied, and those who stand for truly remembering why we fight wars in the first place.

But Anzac as shibboleth, as religion, has also poisoned our national psyche. It is sadly becoming our identity as a nation, that to be Aussie is to be Anzac, is to be militaristically patriotic. I’m not going in that direction, it’s not my religion, and I believe it spells the end of possibility for a positive Australian identity tied to pioneering, harmony, struggling attempts at multiculturism, science, sport, literature, art, in no particular order.

I’m ashamed of the leaders and public who have been so vitriolic in their response to Abdel-Magied, and I’m embarrassed by the pathetic attempts to relive Anzac as if somehow we were there, we understand and know. Bastards the lot.

lets fail the test, let’s not Anzac, let’s find a new identity instead.

Well said Yassmin.

Lest we remember!

pvcann.com

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