My diabetes avoidance a blog

Sheryl Gim, another Word Press blogger has reminded me to clarify that I don’t drink. I wrote a blog about my notebook pile this morning, and she commented on it. I thought I’d reciprocate and went to her site to read, as I’m taking a break from editing today.

I was reading her recent blog today all about how she doesn’t enjoy exercise and enjoys sweet treats, but walks for health, and I remembered that I don’t drink. I do know that I don’t drink, it’s just not something that I think about, probably because I rarely go out so it doesn’t come up in conversation often. Coffee shops are where I’ve spent my past ten writing years. I love the ambience. Especially Cafe Nero’s ambient music.

I enjoy writing this blog, because I like the way I deviate to other things; it’s like a conversation. I hope you enjoy today’s effort.

I was talking about alcohol and went off on a tangent. I gave up alcohol in 2008 when I began divorce proceedings. I realised that year (actually a few years before that), since I’d started a degree and needed my brain cells for that too, that I had gotten into the habit of drinking a glass of wine with my meal again, something I used to do once I’d raised all my children to teenagers.

In the late eighties, when I retired temporarily from a career and became a full-time mum, it was well known that alcohol was bad for pregnant mothers, and I gave up before I became pregnant.

Prior to that I’d been teetotal from the age of eighteen to twenty seven anyway, as I gave up alcohol when I became drunk at a party and realised I couldn’t remember a thing. I was once so drunk at sixteen that a friend had to walk me round the block so that I breathed in a lungful of air and threw-up. After that I stuck to cocktails as I realised that certain mixtures of alcohol were bad combinations. Cocktails had the benefit of lots of juice, which was refreshing, but probably high in sugar, something I didn’t realise at the time.

For me alcohol was always a social thing. My mother and father never drank so I wasn’t really nurtured into it. Perhaps this is why I don’t miss it. We didn’t have the luxury of myriad coffee shops in the eighties. In Kingston-upon-Thames, for example, there was just cafe Mozart, where I worked, aged 16 yrs, and one or two other Italian patisseries, Patisserie Valerie was another. Now of course, cafés are ubiquitous in England and Ireland. But not Wales, and I’ve still not visited Scotland.

Perhaps we should do away with pubs and come up with a healthier alternative for socialising. A few years ago my daughter, who grew up practising ballet weekly, said she wanted to dance. I think teenagers would benefit from open air dance venues.

You don’t sing at dance venues. Perhaps, until we eradicate Covid, it’s not such a bad idea.

One of my notebook piles

Usually, I have a good memory. I do forget. But I’m finding that I remember again in the future, which is great.

One of my notebook piles…

I’m learning physiology as part of a course I’m currently studying to become a personal trainer. I did study human biology at GCSE level (we used to call them O levels), but I don’t remember the physiology. I’m learning about the three energy systems, Oxygen, Lactic and CP (Creatine Phosphate). Did you know you have around 80 mins of energy stored in your body? Well I learnt that last week, and it’s useful to know, since you can level it at your boyfriend when he’s encouraging you to climb one more hill or mountain. Food first. Or, more rightly, fuel first.

‘Black’ and ‘White’ versions of me: A Discussion of writers’ responses to depictions of race and ethnicity in history texts and culture (A slightly altered version of this essay was recently handed in as an MA essay and has been given an ‘A’ grade.)

I was listening to a song by a singer I greatly admire when my friend interjected,

“Why is Sinead O’Conner standing in between two ‘black’ people singing about Irish history?[1] She is ‘white’. They are ‘black’; that is blatant cultural appropriation”, my friend shouted in my ear.

Is sharing creative space with ‘black’ people a provocation; a theft of history? I was challenged by this thought, which caused me to reflect. A rhyme nagged in my ear:

This thought was the start of an essay I wrote and handed in for my MA module on Race and Ethnicity in March 2020, before the ‘I Can’t Breath’ marches and action which began in America and spread to Britain, and my current home town of Bristol, and elsewhere. I thought I’d share my research with you here, as prescribed identity is a topic which I feel personally impacted by. I ended up with several alternative essays, as my research was quite in depth. Should you be interested in the subject, you may find my references useful and I hope you will do me the credit of referencing my research and references, should you choose to write on the same subject; feel free to send me the links, as I’d like to publish them. I shall update my own essay since I shall continue with my research and put in some of the words I cut out, due to the confines of the 3200 word limit. Many thanks! I hope you find this useful.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

I returned from school in a village in south west London in the 1970s complaining; my peers had called me names. I was different. They pointed out my “olive skin”. I was a “dandelion lover”. I remember some kindly neighbour reciting that rhyme, and my sister; perhaps she had more cause than anyone to cling to it, since she was “coloured”. I use this provocative language to make a point. People thought colour meant a great deal; they picked on my sister whenever we were out in the street; calling her names like “Paki”. The mantra in some parts of London in the 1970s was “Pakis out”.

Lester says,

to (mis)advise children responding to their peers’ verbal mockery and name-calling by saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt” is to misgauge […] Words attack and wound.[2]

The idea that the canon and the western hierarchal control of literature and language compels the reader to read through a particular lens[3] that obfuscates real experiences of self[4]; compels the writer to write in a foreign tongue, is one which occupies the thought of many postcolonial essayists. Raja Rao sums this condition up thus, ‘to convey in a language that is not one’s own, the spirit that is one’s own[5]’. This hybridity is the challenge for many of us, both as writers and readers of fiction in a post-colonising age.

Clues about the art of storytelling were idioms; “Stop telling tales”, another mantra from childhood; the proviso on the first page of most fictional stories insisting the story bore no relation to the truth[6]; writers that had something to say about ‘difference’ evoked the word truth; Virginia Woolf said in ‘A Room of One’s Own’, ‘one cannot hope to tell the truth…’[7] Joseph Conrad said in ‘Heart of Darkness’ ‘—but truth—truth stripped of its cloak of time’.[8] If fiction was made up stories, that lie contains a clue about truth in literature and performance.

Commenting on his own lie, Freud suggested that at the point of concealment was where truth could be found. Freud reported that ‘revealing […] intimacies of [….] psychical life […] usually [was] the task of an author [or] poet [….] [and] substituting certain material […] was […] detrimental to [truth]’[9]. Uncovering the parallels in relationship between works of fiction and personal history and myth, between the oppositional dichotomies of truth and lies, reveals something psychological and hidden which art engages with.

‘All literature is scarry. It celebrates the wound and repeats the lesion’[10] says Cixous; this creative assertion suggests literature, like the theory and world it interacts with, repeats and performs that which it interrogates. ‘Tragedy is not an imitation of persons, but of actions and of life. Well-being and ill-being reside in action […] people […] achieve well-being or its opposite on the basis of how they fare […][11] says Aristotle. Being hurt by name-calling is an action and a process of trauma. When we ask “how do you fare?” we might receive the answer, “Not very well, I was called by a name I did not recognise.” This name-calling ‘wound’ hangs in the air of many theoretical interrogations of text.

Language, names, words, have power to inflict pain. The act of writing and revisiting them often re-inflicts the pain, and at the same time offers katharsis; I have argued this somewhere else. My focus here is not on a Kathartic process, identified by Aristotle and interrogated by Freud, but on uncovering how this legacy of language we inherit as post-colonial receivers, and, as creative writers, peddlers of language, and seekers of truth, influences and challenges us to look through a lens with awareness of this ‘wound’; lack of awareness can result in binary or polemic interpretations of literature and art. Because this ‘wound’ is hidden, it relies on the ‘intersectional[12]’ reader to discover what is unsaid in the text.

Showalter insist[s] that theories of women’s creativity must address the intersections of different kinds of discourse in women’s writing, since the best feminocentric writing will be …in dialogue with the dominant ideologies it is trying to dislodge[13]

If Sinead O’Connor appropriates, arguably, I too appropriated an experience of ‘Othering’[14]. I was compelled to write a book which gave Bronte’s Bertha a voice, a literary sequel to Jane Eyre, entitled Bertha’s Journal: A Perfect Immelman [n] sic Turn. What authority did I have—I was asked at a university interview—to appropriate the (hi)story of a Creole? For that matter, a Creole in a book? Surely postcolonial studies and experience is taken up with a particular kind of guilt, that of a homogenous ‘white’ coloniser pitted against a ‘black’ victimised ‘Other’; the implication is race is immutable and overarching; a non-negotiable expression of identity. Standing between two ‘blacks’, O’Connor looks decidedly ‘white’, as do I when stood next to my sister.

Finding myself hybridised in my status as the descendant of an Irish grandmother, I cast about for a place to anchor ‘difference’, as does O’ Connor, I posit, staging a song about Irish history.

The Nigerian writer Ngozi Adichie discusses the diversity of her Nigerian upbringing, and binary reactions to her blackness; she foregrounds this with a reference to an historical written record, referenced here by another researcher[15]. Warning against the binary of a ‘single story’, Adichie observes, ‘The idea [of a] single story creates stereotypes [….] it emphasises how we are different rather than how we are similar’[16]; However, since Adichie references this historical description of ‘black’ people; she is drawing on this as a ‘wound’. When we compare O’Connor to the ‘black’ singers standing beside her in the music video, perhaps we view things from a Western perspective and imagine ‘Oriental’ difference as Said observed in Orientalism. Yet we ‘Other’ the ‘white’ person when we ‘Other’ the ‘black’. The ‘Other’ is […] a […] surrogate and underground self’[17]. The ‘Other’ is not a colour.

The received ‘doxa[18]’ is ‘whiteness’ is synonymous with both colonial and postcolonial power. ‘A black American woman poet …would have her literary identity formed by the dominant white male tradition, by a muted women’s culture, and by a muted black culture.[19]’ This perverse blanket identification with whiteness as an eraser of identity is something which ‘white’ women interact with. I posit all women, regardless of their perceived colour, are obliged to interact with this ‘doxa’—understanding this ‘doxa’ [cal] relationship permits a less polemic perception of difference, releases the male gendered and the ‘white’ voice silenced by the binary ‘doxa’ of the ‘black’ ‘wound’. This wound is psychological: ‘We Africans suffer from a mental illness that we ignore. We […] have an inferiority complex towards Europe[20]’.

Focusing on the apparent binaries in the novel Jane Eyre: ‘other, non-human, bestial […] and whiteness’, Bennett and Royle suggest, citing numerous classic texts, that ‘Far from being a marginal concern of English Literature […] racial difference is central.’[21] However, they also say that the ‘questions of racial and ethnic difference [….] have been marginalized or effaced’[in literature.][22]

‘[…] Myths […] state and enforce culture’s sentences’[23] as we have seen by the re-referenced historical account in Adichie’s Ted talk which alludes to an historical passage that has been re-referenced by other scholars[24].

In feminist theory ‘gender [is a cultural] construct’.[25] There are parallels between binary gender approaches and ethnic abuses. Bronte draws Rochester as Red Riding Hood, by casting him as an actor in a red cloak, in Jane Eyre, ‘Only take off the red cloak, sir, and then—[26]’ suggests that, like colour, the feminine cloak can act as a means of obscuring ‘difference’ as well as signifying it. ‘It is a bit odd […] that God […] feels so strongly about clothes as to issue an edict demanding women and men […] observe strict codes of dress […] Is gender so precarious […]?[27]’ Asks McGowan. By giving the wolf—Rochester—the red cloak of the text Little Red Riding Hood, Bronte surrogated the opportunity to listen to Jane Eyre; wearing the cloak of the oppressed feminine gave Rochester access to feminine language.

Turning to the mantle-wearing Irish poets (the gender signified by the long coats not being lost on me), I want to look at some research on the language used by colonisers of the fifteen and sixteen-hundreds. For centuries the language used to describe the colonised by the coloniser has been the same. James E. Doan notes ‘numerous historians and geographers have pointed out […] countless parallels between the English plantations in north America […] New England and the plantations in Ulster.’[28] ‘To Captain John Smith the deerskin robes which the Virginia Powhatan (Algonquian) Indians wore did not differ much “in fashion from the Irish mantels”’.[29] Doan notes that ‘Spencer identified the Irish with the ancient Scythians, a barbarian Asian tribe’[30] […] the long hair and mantles of the Irish were “Scithian” abuses’.[31] The site of focus here is not racial (a focus on colour), but ethnic; peculiarities of habit, hair style and clothing are the focus of differentiation.

There is contemporary experience of this ‘wound’; on WordPress, a virtual site where writers and readers interact and share common experiences, a south-Korean American relates being bullied at school and called a ‘“ch_nk yellow belly”’[32] describing his elation on finding himself in the recent award-winning film Parasite:

I saw Parasite / 기생충 in a packed theater with a diverse crowd. Looking around, I never could’ve imagined a day in the States when such an audience would watch a movie in my language, with my people, telling our stories[33].

Despite his, arguably, hybrid status, as an American who uses the American spelling ‘Theater’ and then resorts to translating Parasite into the Korean vernacular, the writer’s experience of himself is written as ‘Other’. Thus, the writer looks for himself in film, just as we gaze on the filmed O’Connor and look for ourselves. The writer experiences the ‘black’, ‘white’, ‘yellow’ binary of ‘difference[34]’. This is the overriding ‘doxa’ of our current linguistic and postcolonial inheritance. Quoting Franz Fanon, Massocki says that ‘white and black people are locked in whiteness and blackness respectively’[35].

Yet perhaps something altogether more sinister is at work here. A comment about ‘post boxes’ simulating the burka by Boris Johnson[36], visualising sameness, engages with the hidden/same aspect of the same clothing, concealing sameness. Eun Jung says that, rather than something to restrict voice, ‘the burka represents the right of Muslim women…to convey their deeply held commitments’.[37] The ‘post box’ allusion performs sameness. It is a simulacrum. Boris said he was making the point to defend the right to wear the Burka. What remains of Boris’s argument is the visual aspect of the same post box. O’Connor’s staging of the video reacts against the ‘doxa’ and produces what Barthes termed the ‘para-doxa[38]’ or ‘bliss’. Since ‘The doxa is a stereotypical meaning’[39], O’Connor performs ‘difference’ the ‘paradoxa’.

In the National Geographic the definition of ethnicity and race reads thus:

Ethnicity is linked with cultural expression and identification [….] Race is defined as “a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits [….] such as skin colour or hair colour [….] [with the proviso of] however, both are social constructs.[40]

The previous definition evidences the status quo of the constructed: racial, ethnic and gendered as a catalogued space; catalogued space undermines and diminishes. This is evidenced strongly in workplace inequality[41] where gender signifies difference. Derrida likened catalogued space to a graveyard; ‘the archivization produces as much as it records the event’[42]. Once categorised we must refer to the catalogued, we must refer to the post-box burka. Thus, as Derrida suggests, categorising is a form of violence which ultimately results in the destruction of the catalogued.

I want to turn to records of the language of colonial and postcolonial discourse:

Doan notes ‘Comparisons between the Irish and native Americans may have been made as early as the 1560s’.[43] Doan highlightsthe proliferation of negative images of both groups within English discourse during the preceding period.’[44] The evidence is language which describes both the Irish and other colonised cultures:

Doan discusses a travel book by Margaret Hodgen (1964), thus:

The only way to regard them [the Irish] was through the lenses of a quasi-religious, and quasi-political “anti-primitivism,” [….] Wherever this policy was adopted, the epithets used to describe the folk on Britain’s Celtic border were interchangeable with those applied to the Negroes in Africa or to the Indians across the Atlantic.[45]

Doan notes the similarity in the mission of the English to ‘bring the Irish the benefits of law and civilisation, as the ancient Romans did the early Britons’.[46] Conrad drew attention to this ‘civilising’ behaviour in ‘Heart of Darkness’. Conrad drew a line between the waters of his fictional story, set in the Congo, parallel to those who first landed in Britain; those early conquerors: Romans; suggesting shared history of a colonial past in all British.

Marlowe begins his story,

“I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago—the other day […] nothing but Thames water to drink […] fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death. They must have been dying like flies here”.[47]

This ‘wound’, re-written by Conrad, is evidence of shared history by coloniser and colonised. We are the descendants of a Roman colony. Similarly, ‘From the mid-sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries, Ireland was conquered, “civilised,” and commercialized…’by the British.[48] The language used to describe the colonised was the same.

As inheritors of colonized space, we interact with the apprehended space of the feminine voice which surfaces as a ‘wound’; we share the historical lack of female voice, of access to education and similar rights to power, such as the right to vote. This has a relationship to any colonized experience since it is an experience of being labelled and undermined as ‘Other’. A woman hides desire, is compelled to perform her binary identity, observes Cixous; ‘the effects of the past are still with us’[49]. ‘There is […] no one typical woman,’[50] Cixous insists. Thus, this story of powerlessness runs contiguous to that of any colonised people. There is no typical ‘black’ ‘white’ ‘yellow’ ‘olive’ identity.

Language asserts identity[51]. The French retelling of Little Red Riding Hood (the famous tale about female voice and identity and male dominance) is subverted by Le Petit Chaperon Vert[52], a different story about desire and ‘difference’. ‘[…] elle la detestait vraiment.[53]’ (‘Little Green Hood really hates Little Red Riding Hood’), because the two are opposites. They have different stories to tell. The concept of the rewritten feminine bears a striking relationship with postmodernity, since it offers up the suggestion of countless ‘little narratives’ (petites histoires), as Lyotard argues. ‘There is no single truth’[54]. The addition of Green Hood in Charles Perrault’s tale Little Red Riding Hood challenges the narrative of the pure and good[55] aspect of the mythologised feminine; challenges the idea of a single narrative. Sara Collins, author of the recent novel The Confessions of Franny Langton, said on radio 4, in April 2020, when re-telling her experience receiving ‘doxa’ on writing about racism as a ‘black’ woman’s experience, ‘all experiences are human experiences. Writing about racism is writing about people[56]‘.

***

Loss [t] in translation? – ‘The spread of English […] the source of anxiety [eroding] mother tongues, ethnic identities’?[57]

Despite the much-documented stories about The English Language as a coloniser, ‘control [ling] the imagination’[58], Joseph suggests that we all have ‘many layers of linguistic identity’[59] The site of ‘difference’, Brathwaite notes, is in cadence and in language and performance[60]; this evidence suggests similarities between Irish and Creole experiences as colonised ethnically[61]. The cultural experiences are sought out in the language, reception of it and speaking it, not writing it[62].

The Irish poet Yeats has been criticised for being both ‘coloniser and colonised’[63], Barry draws parallels between Achebe’s writing in Things Fall Apart (which draws on Yeats’s poem of the same name), and ‘Yeats’s evocation of a precolonial, mythological Ireland [….]’[64] This suggests that Ireland was not what it was imagined to be, so Ireland shares its experience of history with any other mythologised nation.

Language asserts an organising power over us, but we are more complex. Wittig puts it fiercely; ‘Concepts, categories and abstractions […] effect a physical and material violence against the bodies they claim to organise and interpret[65] The writer works to disrupt and resist the binary, yet the reader intervenes, interpreting by way of individual personal history and experience; bringing their own secret history to the text which interplays with the text either consciously, or subconsciously.

Conclusion

‘The double or hybrid identity is […] what the postcolonial situation brings into being’[66] says Barry. Further interrogation of a cultural materialist bent might offer insight into O’Connor as hybridised by her history and as identifying with the colonised ‘Other’ since O’Connor’s lyric in the song Famine discusses the theft of language. A liberal humanist bent might focus on the clothing of the singers, or how the video is staged. Practical criticism might focus on the power or persuasiveness of the lyric. It is impossible to list every possible intervention; different interventions bring out different preoccupations in texts and artefacts.

In my opening paragraphs I suggested, it is the hidden which is where the ‘wound’ hides. Feminist intervention offered insight into the similarities between the colonised ‘wound’ and the feminine ‘wound’. A Lacanian criticism—focusing on the subconscious aspect—might interrogate the ‘patriarchal order’[67] as challenged by O’Connor’s butch appearance in Famine.

Barthes’s anti reader-response text ‘The Death of the Author’ undermines the reader as significant[68]. If the concept ‘author God’ is important to understand Barthes’s deconstruction of the text, this concept is undermined since deconstruction is only interested in the text. Why did Barthes insert an ambiguous colon after the assertion, ‘the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author[69]’? The death of the author God gives birth to the individual. A. I. Richards noted that ‘minds [were] private’[70]; totality cannot be achieved with regard to authorial or artistic intention.

I lean towards Coleridge’s idea of the a priori, the already present of existence, the universal core, non-political, not relating to the cultural. However, taking such a position suggests an unbounded freedom, a utopia of thought inaccessible, except in a mythological Garden of Eden, prior to knowledge. ‘Writing [is not] […] where identity is lost[71]’, as Barthes once posited, but it might be the site of retrieval. We interact inside imbedded cultural structures; we react to these structures through the medium of the social, political and gendered, which is the site of the story, we categorise and catalogue to make sense of existence. The garden of Eden story is gendered and political; there is a man, a woman and good and evil inherited throughout story.

Barthes posits; language performs the experience of relationships, which remain divided: ‘I love. I do not love. I understand. I am bored’[72]. Language is the site of hybridity, mythology, desire and confusion; a space where ‘difference’ and sameness collide; ‘Meanings arise […] that differentiate between truth and falsity, reality and fantasy […][73]’ in texts and artefacts. Language and art are the site of a feminised ‘wound’; language and art contain embedded hegemonic and social structures which story stages.

[1] Sinead O’Conner, Sinead, Famine, Universal Mother, 1994

Accessed 24-02-2020

[2] Neal Lester, “Sticks and Stones May Break my Bones…” Airbrushing the Ugliest of Ugly in African American Children’s Books. Obsidian iii, Vol, 3, no. 2, 2001, pp. 10-34. P. 11

www.jstor.org/stable/44511846.

Accessed 24-02-2020

[3] Braj B. Kachru, ‘The Alchemy of English’ Postcolonial Reader, ed by Bill Ashcroft (London and New York, 1995), p. 291 ‘The English language is a tool of power, domination and elitist identity, and of communication across continents’.

[4] [Suffers a] ‘gap between the ‘experienced’ environment and descriptions the language provides […] Postcolonial Reader, ed by Bill Ashcroft (London and New York, 1995), p. 391

[5] Raja Rao ‘Language & Spirit’ Postcolonial Reader, ed by Bill Ashcroft (London and New York, 1995), p. 296

[6] ‘None of the characters in this book is a living person, nor are the units or military organizations mentioned actual units or organizations’, Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (Florin Books, Jonathan Cape: London, 1934), p. 7. Other similar denials to truth were found in first editions of the well-known James Bond series by the author Ian Fleming. More research on the relationship between real and fiction in this author’s work can be found here: The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/mar/22/from-the-archive-the-real-james-bond-1973-dusko-popov-ian-fleming#img-1

Accessed April 3rd 2020

[7] Virginia Woolf, ‘A Room of One’s Own’, 2002, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200791h.html

Accessed 20-03-2020

[8] Joseph Conrad, ‘Heart of Darkness’, Norton edn., p, 36.

[9] Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (Oxford: New York Oxford, University Press, 1999), p. 5

[10] Helen Cixous, Stigmata (London: New York, Routledge, 2005). P. xii

[11] Aristotle, Poetics (London: New York, Penguin, 1996). P.11

[12] For ‘intersectional’ see Showalter and Kimberle Cranshaw.

[13] Yager, 1984, 959, cited in Graham Allen, Intertextuality (London and New York: Routledge, 2006). P. 162.

[14] For ‘Othering’ see Orientalism, Edward Said. Said writes about the difference between the occidental experience and the oriental experience as an east/west divide, both truths competing for the same space in history as does Declan Kiberd in Inventing Ireland.

[15] Doan notes that although various tribes in the Orinoco region were ‘[…] reported to have their eyes in their shoulder, and their mouthes in the middle of their breasts, and that long train of haire growth backwards between their shoulders’ (Hakluyt, pp. 328-29), Ralegh, ‘had not yet visited’ (Doan,p. 91-92), and so this was a mythical account, something Ralegh had read and repeated. As he notes here, ‘such a nation was written of by Mandevile’ (Ralegh in Doan, see A. W. Pollard, ed., The Travels of John Mandeville (London, 1905), p. 133), a mythological account has become subsumed and inherited since Adichie refers to the same quote in her Ted Talk; a focus purely on myth and truth might reveal interesting and complex relationships between truth and lies in literature and performance.

[16] Ted Talks, https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story/up-next?language=en

Accessed 19-03-2020

[17] Dennis Walder, cited in Peter Barry, Beginning Theory (Manchester: New York, Manchester University Press, 2002), p. 236

[18] ‘Doxa’ is a term coined by Barthes which means ‘opinion’ or ‘general opinion’ see the glossary, Graham Allen, Intertextuality (London and New York: Routledge, 2006). Note: Allen disagrees with Barthes’s allocation of ‘Bliss’ – ‘Bliss’ as boredom (ennui), to the text he defines as ‘the text of Bliss’, stating that ‘The text of bliss’ seems to correspond ‘to modern avant-garde writing’ [therefore] ennui (boredom) would only apply to [‘the text of pleasure’] p, 90-91. Allen’s argument is not relevant to this essay (although it would be relevant to a discussion on creative writing per se); the term ‘doxa’ is useful as a way to frame the current ‘frame of mind’ of a given epoch, since writing, and indeed art/artefacts confront our opinions; Barthes has written about the Eiffel tower as a signifier which we interact with; in previous essays, I have drawn parallels with this and the chime of Big Ben which was used to give the illusion in the popular series, The Prisoner, that the protagonist was in London, since the chime was played out from behind a curtain, which is further evidence that artefacts, not just the written kind, offer up opportunities to interrogate; artefacts too interact with ‘general opinion’; for example, Victorian ware, kitsch or retro may be highly collectable during one epoch and not at all collectable in another. (For more insight into the term ‘doxa’ see Plato.)

Sinead O’Conner, Sinead, Famine, Universal Mother, 1994

[19] Showalter (ed) in Allen, p. 160

[20] Massocki Ma Massocki, The Pride of an African Migrant (Pierced Rock Press, 2019), p. 135

[21] Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, ‘Racial Difference’ Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory, 3rd edn., (Pearson: Longman, 1995), p. 209.

[22] Bennett and Royle, Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory, p. 207

[23] Sandra M Gilbert & Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic 2nd edn., (New Haven& London, Yale University Press, 2000), p. 36.

[24] Doan, ‘various tribes in the Orinoco region were ‘[…] reported to have their eyes in their shoulder, and their mouthes in the middle of their breasts, and that long train of haire growth backwards between their shoulders’ referred to by Adichie (See reference 15 & 16).

[25] Ibid, Barry, p. 130.

[26] Charlotte Bronte Jane Eyre (London, Penguin, 2006), p. 234.

[27] Kate McGowan, ‘Structuralism and Semiotics, The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory, Ed., Simon Malpas et al (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), p. 9.

[28] James E. Doan, “An Island in the Virginian Sea” Native Americans and the Irish in English Discourse. 1585-1640. New Hibernia Review/Iris Eirennach Nua, Vol 1. No. 1 (Spring. 1997). P 79.

http://www.jstor.org/stable/20557371

Accessed 22-02-2020

[29] Smith, Generall Historie, p. 32, cited in Doan, p. 81

[30] Works pp.10-82, cited in Doan

[31] Spencer. Works, pp. 10, 101-02, cited in Doan, pp 86-87

[32] https://jsparkblog.com/2020/02/11/why-i-needed-parasite/

Accessed23-03-2020

[33] Ibid (see above reference)

Accessed23-03-2020

[34] For difference see Derrida ‘differance’ (Allen, p. 65) Derrida wrote extensively on difference, although many translations of his work from French into English are difficult to read and understand.

[35] Ibid, p. 30

[36] Boris Johnson, ‘I Compared Muslim Women to Letterboxes’. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2019/jul/06/boris-johnson-i-compared-muslim-women-to-letterboxes-to-defend-their-right-to-wear-burqas-video

Accessed 17-03-2020

[37] Kim, Eun-Jung Katherine. “On The ‘BURKA’ BAN.” Public Affairs Quarterly, vol. 26, no. 4, 2012, pp. 293-312. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41697909. Accessed 17-03-2020. P. 295

[38] Allen, p. 91

[39] Ibid, p. 91

[40] https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/history/2019/02/race-and-ethnicity-explained

Accessed 24-02-2020

[41] Sara Sanford, Ted Talks, How to design gender bias out of your workplace, Sarah notes the behaviour of women when they are asked what sex they are, they perform less well; her research suggests that categories undermine confidence and reduce quality of interactions – https://www.ted.com/talks/sara_sanford_how_to_design_gender_bias_out_of_your_workplace/up-next

Accessed 09/04/2020

[42]Jaques Derrida and Eric Prenowitz, Diacritics, Vol 25, No 2 (summer, 1995), pp. 9-63 Published by the John Hopkins University Press http://www.jstor.org/stable/465144

  1. 17

[43] Doan, p. 81

[44] Ibid, p. 81

[45] M. T. Hodgen, Early Anthroplogy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Philadelphia, 1964), pp. 364-65, cited in Doan, p. 85.

[46] Doan, p. 87 cites Works, 37.

[47] ‘Heart of Darkness’, Conrad, p. 5-6.

[48] Ohlmeyer, Jane. “CONQUEST, CIVILIZATION: IRELAND, 1540-1660.” The Princeton History of Modern Ireland, edited by RICHARD BOURKE and IAN McBRIDE, Princeton University Press, Princeton; Oxford, 2016, pp. 21-47. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvc77n5g.7. Accessed 25 Mar. 2020

[49] Helene Cixous, et al. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Signs, vol.1, no. 4, 1976, pp. 875-893. JSTOR, www.j.stor.org/stable/3173239, p. 877

Accessed 23-03-2020

[50] Ibid, p. 876

[51] Wheatley notes,

Seán Ó Ríordáin […] [who] was criticized– most notoriously by his fellow Irish-language poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi – for his neologisms and failures of intimacy with caint na ndaoine, authentic vernacular speech. [….] Ó Ríordáin writes of finding himself between two tongues and wonders what the point of handling Irish is unless she is all his: ‘Muran lán-liom tú cén tairbhe / Bheith easnamhach id bhun?’(‘What’s the use in handling you / unless you are all mine?’) His condition is one of in-betweeness: Wheatley, D. (2016) ‘The bilingual race / And truth of that water’: Seamus Heaney and the Irish language. Journal of European Studies, 46(1), 10–23. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047244115617716

Accessed 24-02-2020

[52] Grégoire Solotareff Le Petit Chaperon Vert (Ecole de Loisirs, 1996). In this story the fox is said to eat everything that is red including little girls dressed in red, the implication is that Green Hood is safe because she is dressed in green: ‘Le Loup mange tout ce qui est rouge […] la viande rouge, les fruits rouge, mais surtout les petites filles habillees en rouge […]’, p. 33. For this quote see biblio-jeunesse: ‘Un album parodique inspiré de la version du Petit Chaperon Rouge des frères Grimm, avec la présence du chasseur et de la fable d’Esope “le garçon qui criait au loup’, this translates to, ‘a parody inspired by the version of Little Red Riding Hood by the brothers Grimm, and the Aesop fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf’. I have found a version of this in my Aesop Fables edition, and discovered that the title reads The Wolf and the Boy, (Aesop, Wordsworth Classics, 1994, p. 129), however, titles of books often change from one translation to another and from one country to another, and therefore, no one translation can be taken to be the definitive. There is another story in the same edition, entitled The Wolf the Mother and the Child, (Ibid p, 93), which has a part of the Little Red Riding Hood narrative pertaining to food in the story; this suggests that the original was the inspiration for Little Red Riding Hood, (the brothers Grimm travelled and collected the stories), and perhaps the lie told by the mother (the mother offered the child to the wolf, and then reversed this threat in this version), was left out and later put into the Green Hood version. The practice of changing titles and elements of stories to suit particular audiences has not gone away. A quick search will bring up hundreds of films that have changed titles due to mores in the country where they are to be aired. At a writers’ conference I attended several years ago this same topic came up in relation to an educational book by the author, Judy Waite, who recounted a publisher’s insistence on changing the cover and title of her book for a different audience abroad.

http://biblio-jeunesse.over-blog.com/2018/03/le-petit-chaperon-vert.html

Accessed April 4th 2020; note: there is an earlier contemporary version of Le Petit Chaperon Vert, dated 1908.

[53] Ibid, p. 11

[54] Linda Hutcheon, ‘Postmodernism’, The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory, ed., By Simon Malpas et. al. (London, New York, Routledge, 2006), p. 119

[55] As I have said elsewhere, many fairy tales write the feminine as passive; classic ‘female’ characters taken from the staple reading of the 1970s were Sleeping Beauty, or Snow White; LLR strays, but is rescued by a man and promises never to stray off the path again; these are obedient heroines.

[56] Dua Lipa, Sara Collins, Edinburgh Festivals cancelled, Molly O’Cathain, Front Row, BBC Radio 4, April, 2nd 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000gvcy

Accessed 02-04-2020

[57] Language and Identity, p. 183

[58] Ibid, Part 1, p. 9 and p. 13, ‘The Occasion for Speaking’, refers to an experience where a new visitor to England caught sight of ‘white hands and faces on [a] tug’ and reacted with surprise. They had a stereotypical view of ‘white’ people. The Oxford History of English offers further insight into language amelioration, which is often influenced by historical events, such as Nato (‘The working language of Nato [was] English’, p. 376), international conferences and institutions, world wars (p. 376-377), the plague, which Melvyn Bragg wrote about in The Adventure of English; prior to that, Latin was the predominant religious educational Lingua Franca in Britain, as there was a religious bent to education which was led by biblical references; afterwards English, which was spoken but contained confusing dialects, which undermined trade, gained prominence; the Bible was translated into English, see Wycliffe and Tyndale, although Bede too translated parts of the Bible centuries before this. Later, dictionaries were created, and there were attempts to create a standard English for the sake of commerce, and clarity of communication.

[59] Ibid, p. 185

[60] ‘There is a difference in syllabic or stress pattern…an important difference in shape of intonation’ in Caribbean language which was pushed underground. The Creoles’ oral tradition… ‘demands not only the griot but the audience to complete the community: the noise and sounds that the maker makes are responded to by the audience and are returned to him [….] This total expression comes about because people be in the open air, because people live in conditions of poverty (‘unhouselled’) because they come from a historical experience where they had to rely on their very breath rather than on paraphernalia like books and museums and machines’, Edward Brathwaite, ‘History of the Voice’ The Development of Nation Language in Anglophone Caribbean Poetry London and Port of Spain: New Beacon, 1984, p. 312.

[61] Distinguishing between emotional and intellectual language, in ‘Language and Spirit’, Rao observes that ‘The tempo of Indian life must be infused into […] English expression, […] as the tempo of American or Irish life has gone into the making of theirs (Rao, p. 296)’. Looking into the history of the English language would reveal that there are many pidgins, currently in use today, both orally and discursively, that do not make it into mainstream literary publications because of strict rules about language in publications. O’Conner could have expressed her hybridity in a linguistic fashion and, arguably, this would have been a more sophisticated expression of difference. The difficulty lies within communication. From the 1980s English was referred to ‘as […] The Universal Language’ Tom McArthur, English World – Wide in the Twentieth Century, The Oxford History of English, Ed., by Linda Muglestone, (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)

[62] David Wheatley, cites various writers including Biddy Jenkinson,

‘who […] writes in Irish […] refuses to have her work translated into English, as a small rude gesture to those who think that everything can be harvested and stored without loss in an English-speaking Ireland: (Jenkinson, 1991: 34) in Wheatley, David. “‘The Bilingual Race / And Truth of That Water’: Seamus Heaney and the Irish Language.” Journal of European Studies, vol. 46, no. 1, Mar. 2016, pp. 10–23, doi:10.1177/0047244115617716.

Accessed 24-02-2020

[63] Peter Barry, p. 195

[64] Ibid, p. 196

[65] Judith Butler Gender Trouble (London & New York: Routledge, 2006) p. 158

[66] Ibid, p. 196

[67] Peter Barry, p. 114

[68] Ibid, p. 148 ‘The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost […] the reader is without history’.

[69] Ibid, p. 148

[70] Neil McCaw, How to Read Texts, (London, New York, Continuum, 2008), p. 48

[71] Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’, Image-Music-Text p. 144

[72] Roland Barthes, ‘The Grain of the Voice’, Image Music Text (Harper Collins: London, 1977), p. 179-189

[73] The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory, ed., by Simon Malpas et al., (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), p. ix.

Racism, Sexism, and Binaries. A personal History.

I’ve always found the term ‘black’ to signify difference problematic. Maybe because I was a student of art, to me black is a very specific colour when compared to other colours. Yet, of course, it isn’t really a single colour at all. Apparently colour is something the brain invents, and not every culture refers to every shade of colour the way one specific country, or region does. The term blue In French, and probably in other cultures too, refers to several shades of blue; there is no purple in French. In German, the word for purple is Lila.

The term ‘black’ refers to many people of many different colours; therefore it seems to be a term to signify difference.

As a child, my first experience of myself as ‘Other’ (a term coined by E. Said in the comparatively recent work in the history of Imperialism, Orientalism to illustrate the Oriental and Occidental dichotomy), was when someone at my junior school pointed out that my skin was “olive”. I was shocked by this reference, and realized that this child at my school saw me as different and did this by reference to the colour of my skin.

As I got older, my skin became whiter. I stayed out of the sun to avoid skin cancer, as there was a big campaign against skin cancer in the 1980s (which raised my awareness of skin cancer), when sunbed use was prevalent here in the UK and I was a teenager, although I’ve never been on a sunbed; yet I had thick, black curly hair and people often asked me whether I was Spanish. (I am told that my great grandmother might have been Spanish, but I have never had a DNA test, so I really do not know.) Anyway there are rumours, aren’t there, that we all hail from Africa originally, and we are all related, so what is all the fuss about?

Well, the treatment of people that we deem different from ourselves, and the abuse of those people.

Perhaps, more because of other people’s reactions to me, and less anything to do with my own examination of my feelings about my identity, I’ve never felt ‘white’. I’ve always felt ‘Other’ and I’ve always felt angry at history, which was partly why I wrote a literary sequel to Jane Eyre (‘Bertha’s Journal: A Perfect Immelman Turn’), a novella or short story, which attempted to look at the psyche of Bertha, the Creole woman locked away in Thornfield Hall; the secret wife of Rochester.

I have been vocal about my anger at the self-congratulatory attitude of the country I have grown up in (as people who have witnessed this know); for example, questioning visitors to a Raj exhibition at the V&A in 2010 or 2011, about their feelings about what I called the ‘rape’ of India, to this exhibition which glorified the British Empire and exhibited a Rolls Royce as if that were something to aspire to, when there were rooms of beautiful and delicate Indian artifacts leading towards this final display of opulence, which were lost to history. The resulting feeling of the experience of this exhibition was that I felt sickened by the inference, which was that we were civilised and had civilised a people. Fellow citizens seemed oblivious to the obvious ignorance of displaying opulence and wealth gained through the subjugation and slavery of others. They told me we (meaning the British, so that includes you, if you are British), had given them our language.

I am aware that there were many people, in all cultures affected by colonialism, who benefited from working with their oppressors at the time, and you can go to your history books if you are interested in reading about this. But, regardless of this, it is still wrong to continue to revel in something which was long ago (over 200 years ago in 1807 in Great Britain; I will upload further research on this at a later date as notes since this was not a uniform abolition, worldwide), abolished. For this reason, I was heartened and moved to tears this morning when I heard that monuments celebrating prominent slave trade beneficiaries were being torn down and revised. It is confusing for our children that we revere people who have traded in lives of other people. There can be no other way to describe it.As a descendant of an Irish grandmother who was born in Wexford in the 1900s, I grew up in 1960s and 70s Britain being acutely aware that the British projected the Irish as stupid, and cracked jokes about them. I always thought this was interesting, since I knew I was not stupid. (I missed a first at university because I was a single mum with a sick 9 year old at home and handed in two essays late, which reduced my mark by a couple of points to just below the mark for a first; I did fight this, but concessions were not allowed retrospectively, you had to know you were going to get sick.)

Still, although I was bemused by the treatment of the Irish (the knowledge that Ulster was once a colony not being lost on me), I was slightly angry too, which made me pick up another book alongside the standard reading of our Postcolonial Studies module as an undergraduate. That book was Inventing Ireland by the Irish writer Declan Kiberd. That book taught me about what it is like to be in captivity and how playing dumb often pleases those people who are in charge of you. It’s a device that the Irish used to confound the British.

Other research has taught me that there were similarities between the abuses that were meted out to countries and regions that were colonised. Their customs and dress was the subject of ridicule. (Customs and dress tend to be categorised using the term ethnicity.)There are cross overs between abuses of any colonised people and the subjugation of women.

It seems to me that women who behave differently from men, dress differently and sometimes have different or even, as we are learning, the same needs as men, are often derided for this by men. Instead those men should celebrate the difference the opposite sex brings to their business, or table, and see this difference as an asset.Any form of slavery is wrong. The slavery of women in this country is wrong. Paying women lower salaries than men and not taking account of their responsibilities to their children, or accommodating these is wrong. This is a form of subjugation and slavery, and along with all slavery it should be eradicated.

Personally, growing up, I did not find binaries helpful, the binaries of ‘black’ and ‘white’, and ‘male’ and ‘female’ seem to me to be tools of segregation.

Women as slaves and subjects:

Recently, as a means of educating myself about the literature that my forefathers grew up with, I’ve been reading a work by Robert Browning called ‘The Ring and The Book’. This work highlights the attitudes to women who were born out of wedlock in history. Women were thought of as ‘bastards’ and of lower worth.Even as recently as the 1970s, I recall a child telling me (when I was still a child), that she was a ‘bastard’ because she was born out of wedlock. The attitudes portrayed in The Ring and the Book are truly shocking. Both the woman who adopts a child, and passes her off as her own, and the child protagonist of the story are viewed as at fault for being involved in such a scheme, although they are really unwitting players in it; although there are several viewpoints. (The story is retold from several different standpoints.)Nowadays, adoption would be seen as a kind and caring act of charity. I’ve always thought that it is important to step outside of received wisdom and work out what seems right and true, and not to go along blindly with it.

The Other?

Since the absence of love is fear, it probably stands to reason that fear drives people who see themselves as in some way different to you or I to focus on the difference. Yet, any demeaning of another human being as of lower worth than oneself is barbaric.

Statues of reverence like Ozymanidias will one day fall anyway. A chip here a scratch there, not what they once were; a means of immortalizing someone for something great that they did that outweighs all the terrible?

Perhaps we should erect statues to show gratitude to the people in our communities who volunteer or who dedicate themselves to family life, and who do not profit from their work, except perhaps through personal growth which enables them to further enrich the lives of others.

Research:The following researched writing discusses different experiences of abolition:

The abolition of slavery in the French Antilles on 27 April 1848 led to a modification of the legal and judicial systems: the changing legal status of former slaves gave them new opportunities to move around the colonies, at least on paper. In theory, after 1848, everyone should have had freedom of social and spatial mobility and access to the urban centres and their institutions; what happened in practice, however, still needs to be researched.(“Freedom of Movement, Access to the Urban Centres, and Abolition of Slavery in the French Caribbean, “Fatah-Black, Karwan, and Marion Pluskota).https://ku-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/45nsh0/TN_cambridgeS0020859020000103accessed 11-06-2020

The following researched writing discusses different experiences of abolition:

in reaction to slave-trade abolition-Great Britain’s 1807 legislation and the United States’ ban in 1808-cultural producers began bifurcating constitutional from personal freedom in their iterations of Columbia. Anti-slavery advocates still used Columbia as an iconic syncretism of political and personal liberty to critique slavery. Others, however, threatened by the possibility of black freedom associated with slave-trade abolition, staged Columbia to represent political but not personal liberty.(“Columbia the Goddess of Liberty and Slave-Trade Abolition (1807–1820s)”, Jenna M. Gibbs; (see bibliography for full references)https://ku-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/45nsh0/TN_doaj_soai_doaj_org_article_fd994b9dd7804c878ce802a2bd786c21Accessed 11-06-2020

Bibliography:

1. Fatah-Black, Karwan, and Marion Pluskota. “Freedom of Movement, Access to the Urban Centres, and Abolition of Slavery in the French Caribbean.” 65.S28 (2020): 93-115. Web.

2.Jenna M. Gibbs. “Columbia the Goddess of Liberty and Slave-Trade Abolition (1807–1820s).” Sjuttonhundratal 8 (2011): Sjuttonhundratal, 01 October 2011, Vol.8. Web.

Apologies for the formatting on this essay, as I am having issues with formatting this week. Thank you for your patience.Notes:This essay will be updated with further links, quotes and research as are all the essays on this site. Thank you for your likes and time. All best, Hermione Laake (also writes as Wilds).

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, The Film based on the book; released in 2020.

As a child, I loved David Copperfield. I had forgotten what a good story it was, until January of 2020 when I went to the cinema and watched the film. The film is based on the story and is very contemporary, with regard to the problems with finding decent rented accommodation, particularly in Britain.

Dickens was an autobiographical writer, and this work appears to be drawn from the idea of Dickens as a young writer and eccentric child. He did work in a factory and his father was sent to a debtor’s prison, so it is likely that much of his work was based on his experiences while growing up.

This was one of those rare occasions when the film was as good as the book. Although I must go back and re-read David Copperfield, since I must own up to have forgotten it entirely.

The story is a rags to riches and rags to riches again theme, and follows the child Copperfield, who works in a factory, but is a gifted writer, through to adulthood where his fortunes change and he is in the position to help the man who was once benevolent to him.

I won’t give anything away.

The acting is believable and the events are sometimes not unlike the predicament that many people find themselves in nowadays in this world of unreliable rented accommodation (not surprisingly Dickens has been called a social critic), but you come away feeling hopeful that there is some justice in the world and that good things do happen.

A richly colourful film, with likeable characters.

Notes:

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019), is a comedy-drama film written and directed by Armando Iannucci and is based on the 1850 Victorian-era novel David Copperfield.

A good review on the film:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/jan/26/the-personal-history-of-david-copperfield-review-armando-iannucci-dev-patel

When birds lie down

I come to you today, feeling empty. There are no more excuses. Today I witnessed a blackbird lying down in the grass like a cat. I had seen the pigeons do this a month ago, but I thought little of it. Perhaps they had become domesticated, since they had fallen out of their nest and into an uncovered chimney at our house and we rescued them when they were fledglings. They seemed to have decided to camp out in the garden since they have grown. They were a little fat. Perhaps they were being lazy. Or perhaps not. I did speak to my daughter about the pigeons, since their reliance on the garden seems rather comical. She told me she had noticed blackbirds behaving in the same way; this in another county, several miles away. “What?” I replied. “Blackbirds? Are you sure they were blackbirds?” Well, I was wrong to doubt this. Today, I myself observed the same thing. I should know that my daughter is more knowledgeable than I am on many animals and that her almost two decades of observing animals will have stood her in good stead to comment. I didn’t believe her because it seemed too incredible; blackbirds lying down in the grass.

Thing must change. We all need to change our focus to work with nature and not against it.

French lessons

When I was an A level student of French, I remember that we were supposed to write about recycling for our A level paper. But I thought that there were other things we should be talking about. I was serious about having conversations in other languages because I felt that the British were arrogant expecting everyone to converse in English. This approach seemed to me to be one that left the British in an ignorant and uninformed position, and it was dangerous, since when you are only informed in one language you miss nuances and delicate turns of phrase, idiosyncratic sayings and customs which are borne out of experience, and you miss opportunities to learn; everything is seen and translated from your own perspective, which can make you oblivious to the needs and suffering of others. This, of course filters down to our relationship with nature. I decided to rebel and wrote my paper on the demise of the blue butterfly for the exam. That was over twenty years ago in the late 90s, and  I didn’t get a great mark, probably because everybody else was writing about recycling (for me that was old news, since I had been recycling since the 1980s, and grew up with a grandmother that used to collect silver milk bottle tops for the blind and fold her Christmas paper and carrier bags up to re-use them). I am happy to say that for the past two years, I have noticed a few tiny blue butterflies flying around here in south Gloucestershire so something good must have happened to increase their numbers.

Now, having spent much of my childhood outdoors (I used to go gardening with my father who was a landscape gardener and I had a plot of earth in my back garden which I tended, as well as a gardening business of my own which I set up at the age of 11), I am used to the ways of the plants and the wild life that frequent the garden. I was so used to the outdoors that I used to be able to tell the time simply by the position of the sun in the sky to the minute. I was lucky enough to be able to choose to give up my 6-year career in retail management in 1990 to look after a young family, and this meant that I could once again spend time outdoors and in nature. And I did this, planting trees and nurturing my children and the gardens. Because of this, I am experienced enough to share with you that we have gone far enough and we have to stop now because our behaviour is not harmonious.

Forget Covid-19

“Forget Covid-19” may seem like a provocative statement since many people are still at risk. And yet, if we do not change radically, then we will not be living on this planet for much longer and diseases will be irrelevant. When the birds, that never change, begin to change then you need to start worrying. You need to listen and you need to pay attention.

I was idly looking at The Times this morning, having worked on a journal that I do some part-time work for, and having just finished re-reading Dances with Wolves, and having updated two of my blogs, when an article in the Times caught my eye; three women were dressed in face masks to match their outfits. This struck me as odd because still after all that we have learned from Greta Thunberg and the scientists who support her, we are still worrying about our looks even when we have the need to cover most of our faces. In fact, it strikes me as a form of madness. This obsession with the self. This obsession with being seen. And yet, perhaps it is not so mad after all, because perhaps the obsession with being seen is the last death throes of a dying planet. Yet what will we leave behind as our legacy for any future planet but hundreds of photographs of ourselves smiling into cameras? As if we were saying it is ok, I am here. I am happy after all. Don’t worry. The protagonist of the book I was reading, John Dunbar, or Dances with Wolves (his Comanche name), was also someone who liked to be seen, and yet he learnt through a journey of spending time with Comanches and his own people what being seen really means, it wasn’t his clothes or looks that made him what he was, it was his kindness to animals. Read it if you have time. It is about living in harmony with nature and respecting nature.

I may be someone who did not reach my full potential while at school because I was always dreaming, with my head in a book or my eyes staring out of a window, but I know that this was valuable time that I spent (later on, after writing several works of fiction, I went to university and caught up), you see I noticed things. It seems to me that other people do not notice the subtle changes in nature. Perhaps this is because they do not spend time out doors in nature. And we cannot blame them for that. But if you sit in front of your computers all day then you will not notice the strange behaviour of birds and you will not notice changes in behaviour either.

Gardens, like children, need nurture

Gardens are like children they need attention, care and nurture. Without it they wither and die. Sometimes a plant is down to one solitary leaf, and then by moving it you can restore it and it can thrive and grow to eight foot. But you need to know how to do this. How will you learn if you spend all of your days staring at a computer screen and worrying about money–GDP this and KPI that? While you are sitting down you are not exercising your body. Therefore, your body is not thriving and it will find it more difficult to battle with diseases. Surely anyone can see that a few hours in front of a computer is enough for any human being every day. Surely humans are supposed to spend time walking and exercising, taking fresh air and interacting with other humans and nature, face-to-face. When we do not interact face-to-face, we lose the ability to sense cues in body language and in facial expressions. Why are we doing this to ourselves? What is this race that we are in?

We need to stop and ask ourselves whether it will be worth it when we have stored up all the money that we can gather together and we have nothing superficial or meaningless to spend it on. What then? Will there be any ancient trees left to sustain the atmosphere? Will there be any vegetation to sustain the animals that are part of a delicate eco-system? Will there be any animals? When the oceans are full of our cups and plastic what fish will be left to sustain us? Perhaps we can go back to catching and eating birds. But will there be any birds left?

angelaroothaan

A blog that practices involved philosophy.

Emotion Doodles

Children's book illustrator & writer

Social artist

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