ANZAC Day is around the corner and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I have been thinking about last year's tour to the battlefields and cemeteries of the Western Front. I have also been turning over in my head the comments made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in regards to the Christchurch attack.
Mr. Erdogan foolishly invoked the Ottman Empire's defence of its shores against the invading British forces and their allies in 1915 when speaking about the recent Christchurch shooting. Given Mr. Erdogan is facing an election very shortly, his comments had more than a whiff of a populist, political stunt, but they were offensive to both his own people and Australians and New Zealanders alike.
I won't repeat the comments in their entirety here, but Mr. Erdogan suggested that the reason British forces, including Australia and New Zealand, arrived on the beach at Gallipoli more than 100 years ago was based on religious differences. Other than being offensive, his comments are historically inaccurate but they did get me thinking.
Throughout primary and secondary school in New Zealand and Australia, history lessons about WW1 focused primarily (sometimes exclusively) on the Gallipoli campaign. It was told with a rose tint and a sickening kind of nostalgia, but woe betide anyone in Australia or New Zealand who questions Gallipoli or the way it is 'commemorated'. ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand is a no-go, untouchable, unquestionable fact of life: the ANZACs gave their lives so you could be free! Show some respect!
It took many years, but I have come to utterly detest the myth of the Gallipoli campaign, the selective way it is taught in schools and the so-called commemorations that seem to me more celebrations than anything else. For most people, like it or not, ANZAC Day is just a day you don't have to go to school or work and more Australians will head off to watch the footy match in the afternoon than will attend the dawn service.
But, given the messages they get in school and the myths they are fed about 'the first ANZAC Day', can we really blame them?
So, what did happen at Gallipoli in 1915?
The short answer is this: Britain and her allies attempted to invade Turkey, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire, after the Ottoman Sultan had agreed to enter the war on Germany's side. The Ottoman's defended their land from the invaders and, after eight months, British and allied forces were evacuated without having achieved any of their objectives or having gained any ground. Turkish forces suffered the heaviest causalities of the Gallipoli campaign but successfully beat back the invading force. The end.
Yes, really. That is what happened - what really happened - on a narrow strip of the Turkish coast 100 years ago. Ask most Australians or New Zealanders today what happened and you'll probably get an answer like this: the ANZACS landed on the beach and were shot at by the Turks who had the high ground. They continued to come up the beach but kept getting shot.
Until a few years ago, that's certainly the story I would have told. That's the story told in schools, it's the story most Australians and New Zealanders hear from our elected leaders around ANZAC Day and very few people ever elaborate beyond that. I would hazard a guess that most people in Australia and New Zealand wouldn't know that the reason we went to Gallipoli was because the Ottoman Empire had entered the war on the side of Germany; I would guarantee most Australians and New Zealanders would bridle at being told we invading; I would further say that most of us wouldn't know that it was a costly failure, a sound defeat and an utter waste of lives and time.
As you have probably guessed, I've got no patience with the myths surrounding it. When people tell those stories they are trampling on the memories of men who died pointlessly for a fruitless cause: to lie about Gallipoli is to spit on the graves of the ANZACs.
So, what does this have to do with Mr. Erdogan's foolish and inaccurate comments of a week or so ago?
I suppose where I'm going, in a rather long-winded way, is that there was one part of these comments which really stood out for me. One sentence that really caught my attention because of its gross inaccuracy in amidst an entirely inaccuate statement. It was words to the effect of: Why did [the ANZACs] come here except that they were Christians and we were Muslims?
As I have already mentioned above, the reason British forces, including the ANZACs, attempted to invade Gallipoli 100 years ago was due to opposing global and political alliances. Most Australian and New Zealand soldiers on that beach (not all, but most) would most likely have only heard about Islam and met or seen Muslims when they shipped to Egypt for training. The religion of the Turkish soldiers on the high ground in Gallipoli would have been of no interest of them: they probably didn't even know the Turkey was a majority Muslim nation. It was utterly irrelevant to their purpose.
But this is not what makes that particular comment of Mr. Erdogan's so stunningly incorrect. What makes it so is this: on that beach 100 years ago, very nearly every major world religion at the time would have been represented.
I'm not joking.
Let's start with the soldiers of the Turkish army. The majority of them would have been Muslims, as Turkey was a majority Muslim nation, however among those soldiers would have been Coptic and Orthodox Christians and, almost certainly, Jews. Yes, these would have been a minority compared to the number of Muslim soldiers, but they would have been there. Turkey, and the wider Ottoman Empire, was not exclusively Muslim just as Britain, and the wider British Empire, was not exclusively Christian.
On the other side were the troops from Britain's many colonies. The majority of these would have been Christians: Anglicans, Presbyterians and Catholics for the most part, but other denominations would have been represented. Among the colonial soldiers at Gallipoli were several Indian regiments, so there would have been Hindus, Sheikhs and Muslims; Jewish soldiers from all corners of the British Empire would have been found among the regiments of all countries. Soldiers from the African nations that Britian counted among her Empire would have had their own spirituality, and there would have been Aboriginal and Maori soldiers among the Australian and New Zealand regiments who would have had their own tribal beliefs. A particularly moving story I was told regarding Aboriginal soldiers from Australia who died during WW1 is that most of them would not have been able to reach their Dreaming. What we call the Southern Cross, which has many other names in various other Aboriginal cultures, is like a sign post for the spirits to find their way to the Dreaming, but the Southern Cross doesn't show on the other side of the world, so these men who gave their lives for the Empire that had stolen their land are trapped on the battlefields, unable to move on.
So in fact, among the forces at Gallipoli, there would have been a massive diversity of religion and religious beliefs. Many minority religions would have been represented too, and there would have been some soldiers who would have followed no particular religion at all.
No one, and I do mean no one, has the right to politicise terrible events and use them for personal gain. The horrors of the first world war and the more recent terror in Christchurch are not tools to be used by either side to win points in cheap, political battles. In both cases, the dead died needlessly and it is wrong to use their deaths to further an agenda, be it personal or national, religious or atheist, left or right wing. No agenda is worth anyone's life and the dead are not currency to be spent or pawns to be manipulated. They are to be remembered for who they were, by the people who loved them. To do anything else, or pretend they died for some noble, higher purpose, or to use them for your own ends, is nothing more than an insult to their memories.
Two days ago I wrote a shaken post about my feelings regarding the Christchurch shooting. A few people have taken issue with things I said in that post, but I am not going to delete or edit it - if 50 people had just been murdered in your country, in a city you knew and loved, by a psychopath/terrorist, you'd have a few strong things to say about it too, I assure you!
The last two days have brought a higher death toll, the first charges against the terrorist, and support from the world as Christchurch and New Zealand begin to come to terms with what had happened. I have been especially proud of Prime Minster Jacinda Arden's response and salute those Australian Muslims who made the decision to board planes and fly to New Zealand to assist their brothers and sisters (in religion or otherwise) to give those murdered on Friday burials according to their beliefs and customs.
Sadly, the responses of other leaders around the world, from Australia to the US, have been less heartening than Ms. Ardern's. The so-called 'Leader Of The Free World' (who gave the US that title, again?), Mr. Donald Trump thought an appropriate response to this atrocity was to tweet 'We love New Zealand!', after a phone call with Ms. Ardern in which she requested from him and his country only 'sympathy and love for all Muslim communities'. But, then again, I don't think we expected anything better from Mr. Trump.
Another rather bumbling politician on the scene is Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (more on him shortly) who, while rightly calling the attack for what it was: terrorism, spent far more time trying to distance Australia and Australians from the terrorist (I will not say alleged, there is nothing alleged about what this man did) than expression his sympathy for the victims or acknowledging how his own actions and those of his government (and governments preceding it) contributed to the horrific events of Friday.
The terrorist was born and bred in Australia, he travelled, he got radicalised, he posted vile things in equally vile online groups and, on Friday, he murdered fifty innocent people, injured almost fifty more, all of them Muslims and all of them New Zealanders.
Is he representative of the Australian people? I don't believe he is, although I will say that Australia has some of the worst examples of Islamophobia and white supremacist extremism, and it's not just in back alleys, far-right rallys, or online chatrooms on the dark web. It's in our schools, it's in our communities, it's even in our government.
While Australia's current PM has spoken out against these attacks, I find myself struggling to take him seriously when this is also the man who once said that Islam was 'a disease to be vaccinated'. Another politician speaking out against these attacks was former Prime Minister Mr. Tony Abbott, who called them a terrible atrocity and then became extremely uncomfortable when he was reminded by a reporter that he had once proclaimed, loudly and dismissively, that 'Islamophobia never killed anyone'. His attempts to backtrack - 'I wouldn't say that now, obviously' - were both clumsy and insulting: you were proved wrong, Mr. Abbott, and fifty times at that!
And then there is Fraser Anning. His comments will not be repeated, his mention here will be brief, but I can only say that I hope with all my heart that every Australian who turns out to vote at the election in May puts him at the bottom of their preferences. This man has no place in our parliament, no place in our government and is a disgrace to this country. There is a 1,000,000-signature strong petition on change.org to have him removed from parliament (unfortunately this is impossible under Australian law, but it is the sentiment that is important here) and it can be hoped that those 1,000,000 people have their say in the federal election in May, when Anning will be up for re-election. I will also say that I have nothing but the greatest respect for the young man who exercised his freedoms to egg Anning at a recent far-right rally, and that I hope Anning and the thugs who held this young man in a headlock and pinned him down while their fellows kicked him are all charged with assault.
Another politician who has been leading the Islamophobic charge is Pauline Hanson, who reemerged from the political wilderness to find herself once again with a platform from which her despicable excuse for a political party can spew over the rest of us. But where the views she has espoused regarding Islam, immigration, terrorism, refugees and other topics about which she knows nothing were once just far-right ramblings, it is important to see them now in a broader context. As Opposition Leader Bill Shorten rightly said 'not all right-wing extremist hate speech ends in violence, but all right-wing extremist violence begins in hate speech.'
Bill Shorten and the Labour Party and certainly not without blame in this area either, and Labour Governments have been filled with just as much anti-immigration and anti-Islam rhetoric as the current Liberal one. With an election coming up, Labour has engaged in many a dirty tactic and refugees and asylum seekers - many of them from Muslim majority countries - have once again become a political football as each party competes to see who can promise 'the toughest borders' (I find this ironic, given we live on a giant, f***ing island, which means borders are imaginary lines drawn on the shifting sea).
And there is one who, among all those shouting from Canberra, has been oddly silent, and that silence has been especially telling. I am speaking, of course, of the Australian Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton. He broke his silence only today to condemn Fraser Anning's comments, while simultaneously stating that 'the extremist left were just as bad'. Anning blamed fifty dead people for their own murders, the left has its faults and its extremists (all sides of politics do) but it doesn't go around blaming murder on the murdered.
As Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Dutton has never shied away from giving his views on anything with the slightest connection to 'border control'. From stripping Australian Daesh fighters of their citizenship, to denying hard-working, contributing immigrants visas and attempting to deport them in the middle of the night, while simultaneously using his power and influence to benefit his friends and enrich himself, this is not a man who has ever been silent on anything. His Islamophobic rhetoric stretches back to his days as Immigration Minister, before the Ministry of Home Affairs was created, and he has often used the words 'terrorist' and 'Muslim' interchangeably and has said that Australia's focus must be on combating 'extremist, Islamist terrorism'. Never mind that the words 'terrorist' and 'Muslim' have nothing in common, he hasn't acknowledged any kind of terror except that inflicted by Daesh and others of their ilk who, to the best of my knowledge, are about as Muslim as Westpro Baptists are Christian: not at all.
If these are the statements made by Australian leaders - openly, publicly, and with no accountability - then is it any wonder that an Australian committed these atrocities? As Waled Aly put it in the days after the attack 'it came as no shock' that the Muslim community was targeted. They have been targets since the September 11 attacks in 2001, attacks that were committed by a terrorist group who killed far more Muslims on their own soil than they did Westerners on Western soil. This is true for all terrorist organisations based in Muslim-majority countries who claim to be Islamic themselves. More innocent Muslims die at their hand - brutally, with their murders made publicly available via the internet - than Westerns do in terror attacks committed by these groups on foreign soil. Those same people fleeing horrors many in Western countries could not conceive of in their worst nightmares arrive on our shores to be branded with the same name as the very people they fled. Please get your head around that!
Terrorists, regardless of their proclaimed faith, creed, colour, belief or motivation, are terrorists. They commit atrocities against innocents, they murder, maim, rape and destroy. They desecrate cultures and smear entire religions with their filth and many Westerners assist them in their mission - knowingly or otherwise. These people strive to divide, to conquer, to create hate, when you suggest that a Muslim immigrant - refugee or otherwise - might be a terrorist simply because of their religion you are creating a win for the terrorists. You are giving them what they want.
So the buck has to stop here.
Right-wing terror attacks have been on the rise in recent years: the USA, England, Spain, France, Norway and now New Zealand have all seen deadly terror attacks perpetuated by right-wing extremists against innocent Muslims. Western leaders continue to vilify Islam and the Islamic people and then refuse to accept that some responsibility for the atrocities committed lies with them. We cannot allow it to continue.
It is time for leaders to be leaders, it is time we stopped calling hate speech free speech, it is time for we the people to stand up and demand better. Protest, petition, shout, blog and most of all VOTE with the voice you have been given. We cannot ignore the terrible reality of right-wing terror any longer, no more it is the stuff of shadowy, dark-web chatrooms, it has become a shameful part of mainstream political and public discourse and it must not be allowed to continue. Fifty innocent people paid the ultimate price on Friday for the lack of will to acknowledge right-wing terror as the threat it is. We must now be their voice and ensure they do not simply become statistics of a growing problem the West desperately wants to ignore.
In closing, I repeat Mr. Ardern's words regarding this event, so different from those of other Western leaders who are still struggling with the truth that 'one of us' could be a terrorist.
Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have been impacted today. Christchurch was the home of these victims. For many this may not have been the place they were born, in fact for many New Zealand was their choice, the place they actively came to and committed themselves to, the place they were raising their families, where they were part of communities that they loved and who loved them, it was a place that many came to for its safety, a place where they were free to practise their culture and their religion.
I am a New Zealander, so are they.
This is not who we are.
On Friday lunchtime, I was flicking through the paper on my phone when I came across a blaring headline: MASS SHOOTING IN CHRISTCHURCH.
My first thought: there must be a town in the USA called Christchurch. Surely, I reasoned as I opened the article to read, they can't be talking about Christchurch, New Zealand, the beautiful little city in the South Island, a lively yet peaceful place of which I have so many fond memories.
Except they were.
In my horror I left work to call my mother, asking if we still had family living in Christchurch and wanting to know if they were safe. By evening it was confirmed that everyone we knew was OK, yet I couldn't shake a bone-deep sense of loss, of fear, of feeling that something precious and sacred had been defiled.
And, of course, it had.
49 (at most recent count) precious lives have been stolen by the wanton, senseless violence of a terrorist (I will not - cannot - name him, he does not deserve to be identified), more than thirty have been injured, while eleven of those are in a critical condition, fighting for their lives in hospital. Families have been torn apart, lives will never be the same again, and while I believe New Zealand as a nation and Christchurch as a city will come through this, it will take time as we work out how best to pick up the pieces.
As a white, Christian woman I have never had to experience the (unjust, undeserved) hatred or racism thrown at the Islamic community, and I have tried to be there for my friends who have had to deal with these bigots intruding on their lives. Australia, I had no trouble believing, was a racist nation. I never personally experienced it, but I saw it, I witnessed my friends go through it. I was walking down the streets of the CBD one day with my Australian friend when a man from across the road screamed at her 'GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM!' His assumption: her skin was dark, therefore she was the immigrant, but my white skin immediately identified me as an Australian, even though I was not. If I felt sickened by this, however, I know it was nothing compared to how she felt: she was born and bred in this country, I am the immigrant, yet I am allowed to fit into the stereotypical fold of being 'Australian' (I'll actually pass on that one, thanks, as I don't want your version of 'Australian', it's filthy!), where she has to spend her days proving that she belongs here.
It came as no surprise to me, therefore, when it was revealed that one of the terrorists from Christchurch was an Australian. While other Australians may not have stooped so low as to open fire in a place of worship, murdering innocent people exercising their right to freedom of religion, the gross hypocrisy on display from Australian leaders has cemented to me, more than ever, that this country has gone backwards and will continue to do so.
Scott Morrison, our current PM, was quick to agree with New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden that these were the actions of a terrorist, but this is also the man who once said during his tenure as Immigration Minister that Islam was a 'disease to be vaccinated'. Australia's current Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has stated on numerous occassions that 'all Muslims are terrorists' and that 'Islam encourages and approves of terrorism' (both statements are blatantly false), using his position in parliament to throw insults at the approximately 1.3 billion people who adhere to the Islamic faith. And as for Fraser Anning... All I will say is that it is a sad, sad indication of how low Australia has fallen that this man ever reached parliament and was ever given a platform for his views. If ever a man was going to hell, I believe he is.
If these are the views endorsed by Australian leaders, is it any surprise Australia has become a hotbed for racism? That the far-right has got a foothold in this country that precious few are willing to denounce? That far-right speakers attempting to enter this country to preach their hate and division are only barred after massive community backlash?
Australia is racist, it has a long history of racism that it refuses to face, it has ignored and continues to ignore the realities this history and its results. White Australia as a policy might be dead in theory, but it lives on in practice.
And so the fear I felt as I read of the terrible thing that had happened in Christchurch, the dreadful sense of loss was not for myself, but for my beautiful country of New Zealand. The place I grew up, the wonderful, wonderful Land of the Long White Cloud, a place of peace and tolerance and safety.
Was it slipping the way Australia had done? Was it sliding into the muddy pits of racism and intolerance? Was it's progressive, forward thinking history (the first country to give women the vote, a country that has signed and abides by a treaty with its Indigenous people, a land where climate change is seen as a real threat and policy is in place to tackle it) about to be swamped by the filth and bigotry that is white supremacy?
And the place I wanted to be on Friday - desperately, achingly wanted to be - was back home. I wanted to be in my country, with my people, because if the ugly tide of racism is coming to our shores I want to stand with my country and beat it back.
Those innocent people shot on Friday were New Zealanders, you cannot tell me otherwise. They made their homes their, raised their families there, and peacefully practised their faith, just as hundreds of others across New Zealand do. Of the terrorists who stole their lives, one has been confirmed to be Australian, while the nationality of the others remains unknown, but I will echo the words of my Prime Minister in saying this: They are not New Zealanders. There is no place for them in New Zealand. They are not welcome and they do not belong.
I am a New Zealander, not because of the colour of my skin or the religion I adhere to, but because it is home. New Zealanders were killed on Friday, New Zealanders were terrorised on Friday and on Friday New Zealand's Prime Minister did what no other world leaders have done when a white man has committed a terrorist attack: she called it for what it was. I commend her for this, I stand with my brothers and sisters in New Zealand. I condemn terror and racism.
Kia Kaha, this is not who we are.
Yesterday morning I woke up from such a vivid, intense experience I was almost in tears. I called it a dream, but only because I don't have another word to describe it: it happened while I was asleep, but it felt so incredibly real.
I was at my mother's birthday with a large group of strangers, but I couldn't find my parents or my sister anywhere. There was a large selection of folding chairs set up and the strangers were all listening to a woman singing opera. I walked behind the chairs to try and find my family and the woman finished singing. As everyone stood up to applaud the singer, I saw my Grandma and Granddad were in the back row, applauding with everyone else [Grandma passed about five years ago, Granddad roughly three years ago]. As I came nearer, Grandma turned around, gave me a hug and asked me how I was. I was so completely shocked that, instead of answering I said, "Grandma, Granddad, how are you here?"
Grandma gave a beautiful little laugh, exactly like I remember and took both my hands in hers - her fingers were warm and the wrinkles were soft - and said "We never left." Then Granddad leaned over and gave me hug and a kiss, wearing the same smile he used to wear when I was little, before he stepped back, still smiling widely.
At that point I woke up so suddenly that it was disconcerting. For a moment I wondered where they were, why they'd gone and I wanted them to come back because there were so many things I wanted to tell them. I was almost in tears and I could feel myself shaking.
Once I'd taken a few deep breaths and calmed down, I took stock of what had happened and felt a little bubble of warmth in my heart. Something I've wished for a lot since Grandma and Granddad passed was that heaven had visiting hours or that I could just have a minute more time with them. It was a powerful thing, but on Monday morning I got my wish and they came to see me.
Lot's of things are happening this week. I'm starting another weights program, beginning my meditation teacher training and going back to work after being off for almost two weeks due to illness.
Considering all the new things seem to have come together at this one point, I'm going to call it the March Junction, I decided yesterday that I needed to sit down and write out some goals for the first half of the year, and also redo my vision/inspiration board, as it was outdated and needed a revamp.
This is my new vision/inspiration board.
I started doing these boards about two years ago, after Pat and Hilal got back from a seminar by Tony Robins and shared some of the wisdom they had gleaned with EP. My first poster was an exercise I did as a part of a group workshop they were running at the time, but I've kept it up since, as I like having something to look at and to remind me of who I am, where I'm going and what's important to me. It's still based around the ideas of Tony Robins, but this one deviates slightly more than the others and is more personal. I break it down for you below.
Life Mission Statement
The purpose of my life is to be empathetic and empowering. To enjoy my passions without shame and recognise the unique and individual power within myself and others.
What does this mean? One thing that has remained constant throughout my changing boards is my Life Mission Statement. This was the statement I used on my first board and it still resonates strongly with me. It means exactly what it says, there are no hidden words or double meanings in it: I believe everyone is gifted in someway and that it is up to each of us to recognise our own gifts and respect those of others. Share your gifts if you can, assist those who ask for assistance, and accept the assistance of those who wish to share their gifts with you.
To be able to express my desires, sexuality and sensuality without shame or judgement with any and all partners I choose to share any part of my heart, soul or body with. To have these parts of me respected and to return that respect when I am made privy to the desires, sexuality and sensuality of a partner. To acknowledge the unique and powerful individuality of a partner and to have my own power and individuality respected in turn. To be loved 'together-apart'.
What does this mean? This is also something that has remained constant among my boards. This is my vision of a fulfilling relationship, something to work towards if and when I am ready to find a partner to share myself with. I have not been in a relationship or had any desire for one until very recently, but I can honestly say that it is still not a top priority. The last sentence of my relationship vision is the most important for me, as I like and need my space and don't want someone who is going to expect everything to shared or for there to be no boundaries. A couple of days, a week, even a month apart, we should still be able to love each other without feeling the need to be constantly together.
The song Something Just Like This by Coldplay and The Chainsmokers is my idea of a fulfilling relationship: two ordinary people who love each other and acknowledge it.
If the world stopped turning, whose hand would you want to be holding?
What does this mean? This is a new question for me, but when I was working on updating my board and considering whether my previous question was still relevant, this is what came to my head and I felt it resonate very strongly. If the world stopped turning, if it ended, if this was the last day, who would I want to be with? How would I want to spend my time? Where would I want to be? That is what the question asks and the reflection that follows is that I need to give more time to the people I love and cherish, enjoy their company more, because it is their hands I would want to be holding if the world stopped turning. Lately I have been feeling angry and unsettled, focusing my energies into fury at others, but I was the only one cut down by it. Instead I need to put my energies into loving the ones closest to me.
The straws are not the result. YOU are the result.
What does this mean? This is a piece of wisdom I was gifted by an EP member long ago, back when I still did cardio at EP. We were in teams racing for straws; at the time my asthma was playing up badly and I couldn't run as fast as I wanted to and had to step out several times to take a puff of my inhaler before getting back into the game. I felt like I'd let the team down and apologised to the team captain and he said 'What for? The straws are not the result. You are the result. You kept going - be proud!' Ever since that moment I've carried this with me like a talisman in my heart: I am the result, I am still here, I keep coming back, I achieve, I learn, I grow, I continue to move forward. The straws are a metaphor for challenges in life: sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, but always they are there and always we will have to face them. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but if we keep coming back to face them, then we've already won half of the battle.
I have recently been listening to the sound track from Black Panther and one song that struck me was All The Stars by Kendrick Lamar. It was the chorus that particularly touched me, speaking of dreams and the stars which can represent so many things. The stars on my poster represent dreams ready to be turned into reality, paths as yet unexplored, records to be broken and changes to be made as I grow and move forward.
Lyrics from Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway
"I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes til I tough the sky. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change. And breakaway.
- Kelly Clarkson.
What does this mean? As I was reviewing content for my poster, this song - which I haven't listened to for years - just started playing on repeat in my head. It was the above chorus that resonated strongly with me and so I added it to my poster. This year I have already made some changes, I am breaking away from old, comfortable places that I no longer want to be in and stepping out, taking a chance, and moving forward. The lyrics felt like an appropriate homage to this new chapter in my journey.
What does this mean? This is one of my favourite photos of myself pole dancing and one of my favourite tricks: a butterfly. On the surface this just gives my post identity and makes it mine, but I chose this image for more reason than because it is a personal favourite. Last year, when I competed in my very first pole comp, I did this pose on stage having only learned it eight weeks before hand. Eight weeks might seem like a long time, but in terms of pole tricks it's not much time at all and butterfly is an interesting one to hold, because you have to maintain your centre of gravity, hook with your ankle rather than your knee and be confident enough in your grip to kick your free leg back away from yourself, which can make you feel as if you're going to over-balance. It looks beautiful, but it's quite a scary one to learn and then to hold. This pose, for me, represents the combination of strength and beauty, it is a reminder of the time I put myself out there and learned so much.
These four virtues have remained unchanged since my very first poster, but this time I changed how I displayed them and instead attached a photo of myself which was representative of each one to the corresponding virtue.
What does this mean? The Jolly Roger I'm holding actually hangs in my room now, as a constant reminder to stand tall, fly proud, and resist the temptation to agree politely. I wrote extensively about why the Jolly Roger represents determination for me in my very first Straight Living blog post, which you can read here, but I'll mention it again here. The Jolly Roger is a famous symbol of piracy and many variations were used during the so called 'Golden Age of Piracy' to demand the surrender or merchant vessels. Despite the pirates eventually being exterminated by the determined efforts of various empires, their symbol refused to die. In fact, the harder the empires worked to get rid of the Jolly Roger, the stronger it grew, until eventually they were forced to rewrite history and claim it was a warning of imminent death. Something that refuses to die, even when its creators have vanished, is to me a strong symbol of grit, determination and the will to survive.
What does this mean? We live our lives governed, quite extensively, by convention rather than wisdom. Some of these conventions are necessary, but most often they are simply tools used by those in power to exclude and keep others from challenging their privileges. Convention would tell me that 'self-respecting women' do not enjoy pole dancing, they do not think bondage is a beautiful aesthetic, they do not wear leather lingerie, do not shop at Honey Birdette, would not wear thigh high boots and certainly wouldn't pose for a photoshoot in their underwear! But you know what? Fuck that! Rebellion is about stepping outside of what convention tells you to do and embracing what you love. The only thing you're hurting by doing what you want and following your own desires is the societal structure that says you must act, look and feel a certain way to deserve a certain label. But that label in itself is only granted by the powerful who want to keep you seeking it, as it continues to give them unquestioned privilege. This particularly photo is probably my favourite photo of myself, and it rebels again patriarchy, rape-culture, sexism and slut-shaming, which would decry that I could have any sort of self-respect and feel happy posing like this OR that I could have brought these things because they make me happy, rather than to please someone else. It is a personal expression of freedom, a salute to myself and things I find beautiful. A small, personal rebellion against the system.
What does this mean? I love to write, draw, colour, dance, sing (but not in front of people) and just generally create freely. I have been writing poetry and short stories for a long time, and when I started pole, it became a new way to express myself and tell my stories. Being creative is something that is such an integral part of myself that, wherever I go, I bring something new with me. This picture, from my UV Shoot with Broken Ballerina Studio, has me painted as a storm (I didn't do the painting, the photographer's assistants did), but my theme within this shoot was 'I am the storm'. To create is as important for me as to breathe and I couldn't imagine it being any other way within my life.
What does this mean? This photo was taken in my early days of spirituality, when I felt it was important to show faith, but I have long since learned that it is not the outward display that is important, but the internal and personal journey. However, this is still a beautiful photo and it does show me doing something I really enjoy and a direction in my life that I am heading it (see my Meditation Journal for more) and I came to that place through my faith and belief. Faith is inside, it is integral, it is fuel for the soul and brings comfort to my life. Wherever I go, God is beside me.
And there you have it! My vision/inspiration board, all laid out for you to see and understand. Everything on the board has some deep, personal meaning to me and it has been an honour to share it with you. I look forward to continuing to share my journey as I move forward in this next chapter.
In a news article I read this evening, I clicked on a link that led me to a campaign led by voices of faith. They correctly state that the Catholic Church is facing a crisis, not just of child sex abuse, but of its own hierarchy and internal structure, which has kept it stuck in the dark ages and not allowed it to progress forward with the world. Of its many failings, locking women out of leadership positions has been one of them.
Voices of faith are #overcomingsilence with their campaign to encourage women to make their voices heard in the Church. By uploading a simple photo of themselves and including a message, Catholics and supportive non-Catholics (men and women) are demanding the Church move forward and open its leadership up to women. I have joined them. My message was posted live on their website and is up on my Instagram. If you want to get involve, click on the #overcoming silence link above for more information.
More than half of Catholics are women. Decisions made that affect all Catholics are made by men. #overcomingsilence #voicesofaith
For too long the Catholic Church has used dogma written by men, rather than the words spoken by Christ, as its foundation. Christ did not discriminate, he did not exclude, he welcomed all and sought out those who had been ostracised from their communities.
The Catholic Church has ignored its women for too long, spurning the example set by Christ. If the Catholic Church wishes to move forward following the path of Christ it must open its doors to women and accept reform. Let's bring the Church back to Christ.
You don't have to like me. I'm not a Facebook post.
Me With No Apologies.