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Gaza, demonstrations, frustrations, privilege

July 22, 2014 Leave a comment

I really don’t have a clear argument that I’m making, I’m just writing down my thoughts really, which are swirling and confused and distressed and contradictory.

The assault on the Gazans continue. I continue to not know how to respond. I sometimes make it along to the demonstrations here. But what do they mean? What do they achieve? A wonderful friend in Israel tells me how their demonstrations in Tel Aviv are attacked by right wing thugs. I feel so proud of the Israeli peace and anti occupation movements for their courage, not just in standing up to the uniformed and ununiformed forces that try to physically terrorise them into silence, but also for standing by their convictions, their ethics, against wider social pressures. I think of how glad and hopeful and beautiful it is to learn about the German anti Nazis in the 30s and 40s. How their bravery and personal strength and decency and personal honour inspires us today, though their resistance could be painted as a pointless act of suicide. Should we protest because, even though it feels like it doesn’t achieve change*, it is important in and of itself to demonstrate our convictions?

 

Smashed in the face with a riot shield during a demonstration in 1994I was reading 500 Years of Resistance – the comic book – its introduced by Ward Churchill whose “Pacifism as Pathology” I revered at a certain point in my convoluted, ever-evolving relationship with violence. For example, those pictures to the right were taken seconds after I stopped being a pacifist, hit in the face by a police riot shield having sat in the road directly at their feet as they prepared to clear a road of our demonstration. Anyway, my response to Hill’s book was increasing horror, not just at the brutality of the European colonisers as they stole land and resources from the native peoples, but alse at the way Hill and Churchill seemed to celebrate the indiginous’ violent responses. And I was aware, that Churchill would quite rightly point out the priviledge of my position, living as a White person in 21st century UK. Yet still the killings distressed me. I don’t mean the armed, self defence against active attacks, but the cold blooded massacres and executions that are also described, and what I felt was glorification of the numbers killed in battle. I happened to have reached this book in my “To Read” pile at the same time as this latest war on the Gazans, and they swirl around in my brain together. Killing. Racism leading to dehumanisation of people making more pallatable their destruction. Lives treated as disposable junk. Individuals under assault because of their ethnicity and where their homes happen to be.

I don’t follow the news at all anymore. Ah the privilege. I get to not know about bombs firing clouds of indiscriminant murderous darts into residential areas, about hospitals destroyed and vital, in the sense of necessary to life, medical supplies being systematically blockaded from where they are needed. I get to not know about these things because the same act of random chance that meant a Gazan was born into an occupied warzone, led to my being born here. If I choose to, I can not know the details of the horror that is ongoing there, but if I’d been born there I would have no such option because the reality would surround me. And if I find merely reading about what is going on there is distressing, what must it be like for that to be your lived experience?

Other brave, beautiful friends, this time from outwith the Middle East have shared this “Sunday night after seeing the Shayjaia pictures was the worst night. Then, realising that when internationals were announced as being in Al Wafa hospital, Israel called to force evacuation before bombing it, and there were no casualties, wheras yesterday they bombed Al Aqsa hospital (without internationals in it as far as I know) with no warning which resulted in 5 dead and 60-70 injured staff and patients. And we don’t think there are any internationals at all currently free to ride with the ambulances.” The need for international peace volunteers to be in Gaza is clear. (I know people I trust who are fundraising to pay their airfare to try to get over. If you want to contribute, please message me, or leave a comment below and I’ll put you in touch) Why don’t I go? My initial reaction to my friend was to jump at going too. Why did I decide not to? Partly because of my pre-existing plans. I’m on a planned out pathway that will mean I have a lot more skills and knowledge in nursing in low resourse areas come January. That’s something I decided I wanted, and mapped out how to get there, have almost finished paying for the course (a diploma in tropical nursing) and have been organising my living and working arrangements for the temporary move to London for the 5 months of the course. I have a transcontinental loved one coming to visit me for 6 weeks in just over a fortnight (Woooot!!!) I’ve got a two week trip planned and paid for starting on Friday. So there’s all that. Which reminds me of one of Doc’s stories about contacting doctors during the Wounded Knee occupation/stand off in 1973. The doctors had all talked big about civil rights and wanting to support the movements of the day, so Doc had thought it would be easy to fulfill the occupiers request for medical support, however one after another each of the doctors had a “reason” for apologising, saying how much they’d love to go, but unfortunately they have a golf weekend planned, or whatever. All except one doctor who admitted straight out that it was totally what he believed in, but the Feds had guns, it was an armed standoff, and he was too scared to go. Anyway, Doc had some basic first aid skills at that point, so got back to the occupiers and explained the situation, and ended up going himself and being a part of what he later described to me as freedom, even though they were surrounded by guns. Oh yeah, and one of best bits of that story is that the doctor who had actually admitted his fears to Doc ended up going to Wounded Knee after all :)

So yes, I am scared. Its a terrifying war zone. The weapons being used are indiscriminantly killing and maiming people in Gaza. Even without being hit there’s the trauma of being surrounded by all that horror. By witnessing carnage. By being unable to switch off let alone sleep because of constant fear of the ongoing military assault.

And I have that choice. I can give in to inertia and not go to Gaza. I wasn’t born there. For the million that were, my nightmare is their lived reality, because the Israeli government, military and supporters decided that for them.

* Unlike other activism I am involved with, for example http://glasgowsolnet.wordpress.com/ which does offer a direct pathway to meaningful change in the short and long terms.

And, here we go again…

July 12, 2014 Leave a comment

No words either. So much horror. So much death. So much destruction.

View from the donkey's saddle

It’s so hard to find any adequate words to describe the current nightmare in Palestine/Israel, or to describe my feelings about it. Instead, I offer that which I wrote in November 2012–the last viewing of this horror show. Cut and paste a few terms (for example, “Operation Protective Edge” instead of “Operation Pillar of Defense” and changes the references to “last time this happened” to “two times ago when this happened” and everything below is still, tragically, maddeningly, completely relevant. Because we’re seeing the same thing all over again. And again. What’s easy to lost sight of: the human lives impacted in “Round 3” are every bit as precious as they were in November 2012. And December/January 2008/9. 

November 16, 2012
My cell phone rang at 2am this morning. It was my friend Munir, calling me from Gaza.
“Jen, can you hear the bombs?” he asked me.
I could.

As the…

View original post 520 more words

Categories: Uncategorized

Bhopal: celebrate Rachel Corrie’s life

March 15, 2014 2 comments

Imageहिंदी के नीचे

American peace activist Rachel Corrie gave her life defending Palestinian homes from the Israeli army in Gaza in 2003. This Sunday, 16th March 2014, will be the 11th anniversary of her killing.

Here in Bhopal, next to the Union Carbide / Dow Chemicals factory responsible for the destruction of thousands of lives, we will be
celebrating Rachel’s life by reading aloud from her writings. In these she eloquently, compassionately and inspiringly describes injustice, oppression and inequality as well as hope and inspiration; as relevant in Bhopal as they were in Gaza. You are invited to join us in celebrating life, courage, compassion and a spirit of resistance.

Statue of the Bhopal Mother. Opposite Union Carbide factory.
4pm
Sunday 16th March 2014

*****

 

Israel was formed in Palestine by UN in 1948 so that Jews could have a safe country of their own. This was because 6 million Jews were killed during World War 2 in the Nazi Holocaust.

 

Most of the people already living in Palestine were not Jewish and they were forced from their homes or killed in order to make Israel. Since the beginning Israel has continued to expand its borders by fighting and displacing even more people.

 

Today there are 6 million Palestinian refugees. The West Bank and Gaza are Palestinian areas but they are under Israeli military control. Palestinians have to pass through Israeli checkpoints to travel between towns and villages. They are harassed, arrested and killed. Palestinian homes are still being destroyed. When they have demonstrations they are attacked with tear gas and guns.

 

Some Palestinians also fight and kill Israelis in retaliation. All killing of civilians is wrong. The vast majority of people killed are Palestinians, including many children. However the world governments and media do not report the truth so Israel is free to do as it likes without international sanctions.

 

Because of this violence and injustice international peace activists go to Palestine to take action to protect Palestinians and to report on what is happening.

 

In 2003 there were 8 of us from UK and USA in Gaza. On March 16th Israeli soldiers in tanks and bulldozers began clearing land near the houses of some friends of ours. We stood in the way of the bulldozers to protect their homes. For 3 hours the bulldozers and tanks tried to force us to leave by driving up and around us to scare us. Finally one bulldozer kept driving and ran over my friend Rachel Corrie from USA. She was crushed by the bulldozer while protecting the home of Dr Samir, a pharmacist. She died in my arms within an hour.

 

Rachel was 23 when she was killed but already had a profound understanding of the complex situation she was in as a white American in Gaza. Through the articulate emails that she wrote to her parents we can see both her deep sense of justice and her compassion, even for those soldiers who would eventually kill her.

 

This Sunday, 16th March 2014, the 11th anniversary of her death, here in Bhopal we will read aloud from her writings, because she no longer can. We will celebrate her life, her humour, her empathy, her courage and her vision, next to the Union Carbide / Dow Chemicals factory responsible for the death and destruction of thousands of lives here.

 

In both Gaza and Bhopal poor, apparently helpless communities are surviving despite the injustice and assaults on them from distant, unaccountable, powerful people who treat human lives as mere statistics. In both Gaza and Bhopal creativity, determination, strength and solidarity have grown hope and beauty from destruction and despair.

 

In celebrating Rachel’s life and words you are invited to also celebrate the human compassion, ingenuity and resilience that gives light in darkness and provides hope for the future worldwide.

 

 

जर्मनी, इटली और यूरोप के अन्य देशों में नाज़ी हुक्मरानों द्वारा दूसरे विश्वयुद्ध के दौरान 60 लाख़ यहूदियों की ह्त्या की गई | इसी वजह से 1948 में संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघ ने फिलिस्तीन में इस्राइल राज्य  की स्थापना की ताकि यहूदियों को रहने के लिए सुरक्षित जगह मिले |  

 

फिलिस्तीन में पहले से रहनेवाले अधिकतर लोग यहूदी नहीं थे और इस्रायल राज्य की स्थापना के लिए उन्हें या तो ज़बरदस्ती हटाया गया या मार डाला गया |  इस्रायल राज्य की स्थापना के समय से ही यह लड़ाई के बल पर अपनी सीमा लगातार बढ़ा रहा है और लगातार लोगो को अपने घरों से विस्थापित कर रहा है | 

 

आज फिलिस्तीन में 60 लाख लोग बेघर हैं |  फिलिस्तीन के एक बड़े हिस्से वेस्ट बैंक और गाज़ा पर इस्रायल की सेना काबिज़ है | फिलिस्तीनियों को एक गाँव या शहर से दूसरे गाँव या शहर जाने के लिए इस्रायली सेना की निगरानी में अलग-अलग गेट से गुज़रना पड़ता है | ख़ासकर इन गेटों पर फिलिस्तीनियों को परेशान किया जाता है, गिरफ्तार किया जाता है या कभी-कभी मार डाला जाता है | आज भी फिलिस्तीनी लोगों के घर इस्रायल द्वारा तोड़े जा रहे हैं | जब फिलस्तीनी लोग इस अत्याचार का विरोध करते हैं तो उंन पर आँसू गैस के गोले छोड़े जाते हैं, गोलियां चलाई जाती हैं | 

 

कुछ फिलिस्तीनी बदले की भावना से इस्रायली जानें लेते हैं | आम इंसानों को मारना ग़लत है चाहे वह कहीं भी हो | कुल मिलाकर सबसे ज़्यादा फिलिस्तीनी ही मारे जाते हैं और मरनेवालों में बड़ी संख्या में बच्चे शामिल रहते हैं | लेकिन अलग अलग मुल्क़ों की सरकारों द्वारा और अख़बार या टेलीवीज़न में फिलिस्तीनियों पर जारी हिंसा की बात नहीं की जाती और इस्रायल बेक़सूर इंसानों के ख़िलाफ़ अत्याचार जारी रखने के लिए आज़ाद हो गया है |   

 

फिलिस्तीन में जारी इस अत्याचार से आम फिलिस्तीनियों की रक्षा करने के लिए दुनिया भर के शान्ति के लिए काम करने वाले कार्यकर्ता वहाँ जाते हैं और बाकी दुनिया को फिलिस्तीन के लोगों की  हालत के बारे में बताते हैं | 

 

सन्-2003 में अमरीका और ब्रिटेन से हम 8 शान्ति कार्यकर्ता गाज़ा में थे | 16 मार्च के दिन इस्रायली सिपाहियों ने टैंकों और बुलडोज़रों से हमारे कुछ दोस्तों के घरों के आसपास ज़मीन साफ़ करना शुरू किया | बुलडोज़रों से अपने दोस्तों के घरों को बचाने के लिए हम उनके सामने खड़े हो गए | 3 घंटे तक कई टैंक और बुलडोज़र हमारे पास तक आके और हमारे आस-पास चलते हुए इस कोशिश में लगे रहे कि हम डर कर हट जाएँ | फिर इनमें से एक बुलडोज़र ने अमरीका से आई हुई मेरी दोस्त रैचेल कोरी को रौंद दिया | अपने दोस्त डाक्टर समीर के घर को बचाते हुए रैचेल बुलडोज़र के नीचे पिस गयी | घंटे भर के अंदर उसने मेरी बाँहों में दम तोड़ दिया | 

 

रैचेल जब मारी गयी तब वह सिर्फ 23 साल की थी पर उसे मालूम था कि एक गोरी महिला को उस जटिल परिस्थिति का मुक़ाबला कैसे करना चाहिए | उसने अपने माता-पिता को जो ईमेल भेजे थे उनसे पता चलता है कि वह इंसाफ़ के लिए कितनी बेचैन थी और उसे आम लोगों से कितनी हमदर्दी थी यहाँ तक कि उन सिपाहियों  से जिन्होंने आगे चलकर उसकी जान ले ली | 

 

कल, रविवार 16 मार्च को रैचेल के मौत की 11 वीं बरसी है |  कल, चूँकि रैचेल खुद हमें सुना नहीं सकती हम रैचेल की लिखी कविताएँ और चिट्ठियाँ पढ़ कर सुनाएँगे | कल यूनियन कार्बाइड के जिस कारख़ाने की वजह से हज़ारों लोग मारे और लाखों बीमार हुए उस कारख़ाने के सामने हम मिलकर रैचेल को  याद करेंगे, उसके चुटकुले, उसकी हमदर्दी, उसकी हिम्मत उसकी सोच आपस में बाँटेंगे | 

 

गाज़ा और भोपाल दोनों जगह ग़रीब और कमज़ोर वर्ग के लोग हैवानी ताकतों की नाइंसाफ़ी और अत्याचार के बावज़ूद ज़िंदा और ज़िंदादिल हैं | दोनों जगह रचनात्मकता, पक्की नीयत, हिम्मत और एकता से मायूसी और बर्बादी के माहौल में सम्भावना और सौंदर्य का सृजन हो रहा है जो पूरी दुनिया के भविष्य को रोशन करता है | 

 

 

 

दिन : रविवार 16  मार्च 2014 

समय : शाम 4 बजे   

जगह : युनियन कार्बाइड कारखाने के सामने मूर्ति के पास 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Israel was formed in Palestine by UN in 1948 so that Jews could have a safe country of their own. This was because 6 million Jews were killed during World War 2 in the Nazi Holocaust.

 

जर्मनी, इटली और योरोप के अन्य देशों में नाज़ी हुक्मरानों द्वारा दुसरे विश्वयुद्ध के दौरान 60 लाख यहूदियों की ह्त्या की गई | इसी वजह से 1948 में संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघ ने फिलस्तीन में इस्रायल राज्य कि स्थापना की ताकि यहूदियों को रहने के लिए सुरक्षित जगह मिले |

 

Most of the people already living in Palestine were not Jewish and they were forced from their homes or killed in order to make Israel. Since the beginning Israel has continued to expand its borders by fighting and displacing even more people. 

 

फिलस्तीन में पहले से रहनेवाले अधिकतर लोग यहूदी नहीं थे और इस्रायल राज्य की स्थापना के लिए उन्हें या तो ज़बरदस्ती हटाया गया या मार डाला गया |  इस्रायल राज्य की स्थापना के समय से ही यह लड़ाई के बल पर अपनी सीमा लगातार बढ़ा रहा है और लगातार लोगो को अपने घरों से विस्थापित कर रहा है | 

 

Today there are 6 million Palestinian refugees. The West Bank and Gaza are Palestinian areas but they are under Israeli military control. Palestinians have to pass through Israeli checkpoints to travel between towns and villages. They are harassed, arrested and killed. Palestinian homes are still being destroyed. When they have demonstrations they are attacked with tear gas and guns.

 

आज फिलस्तीन में 60 लाख लोग बेघर हैं |  फिलस्तीन के एक बड़े हिस्से वेस्ट बैंक और गाज़ा पर इस्रायल की सेना काबिज है | फिलस्तीनियों को एक गाँव या शर से दुसरे गांव या शहर जाने के लिए इस्रायली सेना की निगरानी में अलग अलग गेट से गुज़रना पड़ता है | खासकर इन गेटों पर फिलस्तीनियों को परेशान किया जाता है, गिरफ्तार किया जाता है या कभी कभी मार डाला जाता है | आज भी फिलस्तीनी लोगों के घर इस्रायल द्वारा तोड़े जा रहे हैं | जब फिलस्तीनी लोग इस अत्याचार का विरोध करते हैं तो उंन पर आंसू गैस के गोले छोड़े जाते हैं, गोलियां चलाई जाती हैं | 

 

Some Palestinians also fight and kill Israelis in retaliation. All killing of civilians is wrong. The vast majority of people killed are Palestinians, including many children. However the world governments and media do not report the truth so Israel is free to do as it likes without international sanctions.

 

कुछ फिलस्तीनी बदले की भावना से इस्रायली जाने लेते हैं | आम इंसानों को मारना गलत है चाहे वह कहीं भी हो | कुल मिलाकर सबसे ज़्यादा फिलस्तीनी ही मारे जाते हैं और मरनेवालों में बड़ी संख्या में बच्चे शामिल रहते हैं | लेकिन अलग अलग मुल्कों की सरकारों द्वारा और अखबार या टेलीवीज़न में फिलस्तीनियों पर जारी हिंसा की बात नहीं की जाती और इस्रायल बेक़सूर इंसानों के खिलाफ अत्याचार जारी रखने के लिए आज़ाद हो गया है | 

 

Because of this violence and injustice international peace activists go to Palestine to take action to protect Palestinians and to report on what is happening.

 

फिलस्तीन में जारी इस अत्याचार से आम फिलस्तीनियों की रक्षा करने के लिए दुनिया भर के शान्ति के लिए काम करने वाले कार्यकर्ता वहाँ जाते हैं और बाकी दुनिया को फिलस्तीन के लोगों की  हालत के बारे में बताते है | 

 

In 2003 there were 8 of us from UK and USA in Gaza. On March 16th Israeli soldiers in tanks and bulldozers began clearing land near the houses of some friends of ours. We stood in the way of the bulldozers to protect their homes. For 3 hours the bulldozers and tanks tried to force us to leave by driving up and around us to scare us. Finally one bulldozer kept driving and ran over my friend Rachel Corrie from USA. She was crushed by the bulldozer while protecting the home of Dr Samir, a pharmacist. She died in my arms within an hour.

 

सन 2003 में अमरीका और ब्रिटेन से हम 8 शान्ति कार्यकर्ता गाज़ा में थे | 16 मार्च के दिन इस्रायली सिपाहियों ने टैंकों और बुलडोज़रों से हमारे कुछ दोस्तों के घरों के आसपास ज़मीन साफ़ करना शुरू किया | बुलडोज़रों से अपने दोस्तों के घरों को बचाने के लिए हम उनके सामने खड़े हो गए | 3 घंटे तक कई टैंक और बुलडोज़र हमारे पास तक आके और हमारे आस पास चलते हुए इस कोशिश में लगे रहे कि हम डर कर हट जाँय | फिर इनमे से एक बुलडोज़र ने अमरीका से आई हुई मेरी दोस्त रैचेल कोरी को रौंद दिया | अपने दोस्त डाक्टर समीर के घर को बचाते हुए रैचेल बुलडोज़र के नीचे पिस गयी | घंटे भर के अंदर उसने मेरे बाँहों में दम तोड़ दिया | 

 

Rachel was 23 when she was killed but already had a profound understanding of the complex situation she was in as a white American in Gaza. Through the articulate emails that she wrote to her parents we can see both her deep sense of justice and her compassion, even for those soldiers who would eventually kill her.

 

रैचेल जब मारी गयी तब वह सिर्फ 23 साल की थी पर उसे मालूम था कि एक गोरी महिला को उस जटिल परिस्थिति का मुकाबला कैसे करनी चाहिए | उसने अपने माता पिता को जो ईमेल भेजे थे उनसे पता चलता है कि वह इन्साफ के लिए कितनी बेचैन थी और उसे आम लोगों से कितनी हमदर्दी थी यहाँ तक कि उन सिपाहियों  से जिन्होंने आगे चलकर उसकी जान ले ली | 

 

This Sunday, 16th March 2014,the 11th anniversary of her death, here in Bhopal we will read aloud from her writings, because she no longer can. We will celebrate her life, her humour, her empathy, her courage and her vision, next to the Union Carbide / Dow Chemicals factory responsible for the death and destruction of thousands of lives here.

 

कल, रविवार 16 मार्च को रैचेल के मौत की 11 वीं बरसी है |  कल, चूंकी रैचेल खुद हमें सूना नहीं सकती हम रैचेल की लिखी कवितायेँ और चिट्ठियाँ पढ़ कर सुनाएंगे | कल युनियन कार्बाइड के जिस कारखाने की वजह से हज़ारों लोग मारे और लाखों बीमार हुए उस कारखाने के सामने हम मिलकर रैचेल को  याद करेंगे, उसके चुटकुले, उसकी हमदर्दी, उसकी हिम्मत उसकी सोच आपस में बाँटेंगे | 

 

In both Gaza and Bhopal poor, apparently helpless communities are surviving despite the injustice and assaults on them from distant, unaccountable, powerful people who treat human lives as mere statistics. In both Gaza and Bhopal creativity, determination, strength and solidarity have grown hope and beauty from destruction and despair.

 

In celebrating Rachel’s life and words you are invited to also celebrate the human compassion, ingenuity and resilience that gives light in darkness and provides hope for the future worldwide.

 

गाज़ा और भोपाल दोनो जगह गरीब और कमज़ोर वर्ग के लोग हैवानी ताकतों के नाइंसाफी और अत्याचार के बावज़ूद ज़िंदा और ज़िंदादिल हैं | दोनों जगह रचनात्मकता, पक्की नीयत, हिम्मत और एकता से मायूसी और बर्बादी के माहौल में सम्भावना और सौंदर्य का सृजन हो रहा है जो पूरे दुनिया के भविष्य को रौशन करता है | 

We’re a wealthy country… money’s no object…

February 19, 2014 1 comment

Compassionate, well argued discussion of differences between when Tory voters are affected by disaster versus the rest of us.

Jane Young

Flooding I’m supposed to be writing an important human rights report, but the political messages around today have tempted me to blog – for the first time since the turn of the year, when my anger about poverty spilled into a much less measured blog than usual. My anger has now got the better of me again…

First of all I must say, very clearly, that flooding is terrible for those affected and my heart goes out to all those who have experienced the horror of dirty, sewage-contaminated water flowing through their homes. This blog is not directed against flood victims, but is a comment on the political message and reality behind the Prime Minister’s promises.

The floods have reached the home counties. Beautiful homes next to the River Thames are awash. This is archetypal middle England. Confirmed Tory voters are now being affected by the floods which have ravaged the…

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Winning with Glasgow Solidarity Network: direct action against letting agency gets ‘admin fees’ back

January 31, 2014 Leave a comment

Small but significant victory as direct action and solidarity brings justice to Glasgow tenants.

Glasgow Solidarity Network

In January, Glasgow Solidarity Network celebrated the successful conclusion of its first campaign in 2014. This is what happened:

Back in 2010 a couple were charged £187 by a letting agency as an (illegal!) ‘administration fee’ in order to secure a new home. When they moved out in 2013 they wrote a letter to the agency quoting the relevant passages from Scottish Housing Law and demanding the return of their money. There was no response to this letter so they made a couple of phone calls to the agency which brought assurances that it would be looked at. However, these assurances were only followed by weeks of silence.

Three paths opened up to them: letting the agency rip them off; a lengthy – and costly – small claims court procedure; or attempting a more direct form of action. They opted for the latter and looked to the Glasgow Solidarity Network to show solidarity and provide aid in getting the money back. A…

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First day at the clinic

December 13, 2013 1 comment

Today was my first proper day at the clinic here in Sambhavna. I’m helping the nurses. They do a lot with a little! The equipment is functional, if basic and with minimal waste.

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That’s our ECG machine! The electrodes are held in place with suction cups for the chest leads and those big clips for the limb leads. Gel is put onto the skin first. It actually takes a good trace!

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Yikes manual sphig! I hadn’t taken a manual BP since I was a student! Haven’t tried it on a patient yet but managed to take another volunteer’s bp with *lots* of faff after the clinic was finished so going to try tomorrow.

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Sharps bin!

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I love this way of letting patients, who are often illiterate, when and how many tablets they should take. This is one pill morning, noon and afternoon, but not at night.

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Humidified oxygen.

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We do a lot of nebulizers as the gas really hurt people’s lungs. The little bottles are salbutamol which we measure out. The masks are washed between patients. Pretty much everything that doesn’t actually touch blood is washed and reused here.

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One of the nurses at the nursing station, and a patient getting iv antibiotics.

We also do a lot of blood sugars here. And injections. But that was less interesting to photo.

All the patients have a little book where everything is recorded and they bring it with them. There is also a book kept at the nursing station. That is in chronological order and logs each patient, their ID and what was done and any readings.

I’m slowly getting up to speed. I did everything but BP’s today. Hopefully soon I’ll genuinely be a help rather than hindrance. The staff here are amazing – the need is so massive and the clinic is very very busy. Still they work hard and well and stay cheery.

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Destination: Bhopal!

December 10, 2013 3 comments

I’m sitting at departures waiting for my gate to be displayed. And on my way to India for 4 months! I can’t believe I’m actually on my way. Feeling very unreal. The free sherbets I partaked of in duty free aren’t helping that, but at least dried my tears – had a very sad goodbye with my sweetie. 4 months without their snuggles!!

For 2 months I’m going to be volunteering in a clinic in Bhopal. Then I’m going to be backpacking about, and visiting a couple of friends, one in the far south and another in Goa.

Thanks to all of you who came to my leaving do on Friday. And those I’ve managed to see or at least speak to to say goodbye. I’m sorry I’ve been so antisocial last few months. I’ve been working long hours to pay for this trip, and to pay off the money I borrowed to do my masters.

The buildup to today has been mostly just anxiety! If I let myself think about actually going to India on my own for 4 months it seems terrifying! I have been excited too, but mostly just when telling someone else for the first time that I’m going.

I know I’ll be fine though. I tend to throw myself into crazy situations that I don’t feel prepared for and not just coping, but thriving.

I hope to:
Be useful and helpful to the people of Bhopal.
Dance
Use lots if different transportation methods
See wildlife
Send and receive a telegram
Sleep outdoors
Learn. Absorb. Develop myself.
Connect with Indian anarchists and other radicals.
See the village in goa that my ex flatmate of 5 years is now back living in.

I’m leaving behind such a rich, full and great life in Glasgow. Going away really emphasizes how much I’m going to be separated from. I’m a very lucky kid!

I’ll be keeping this blog updated while I’m away.

Have a great time yerselves.

X

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Self care, burn out and activism

October 20, 2013 2 comments

***Warning – I’m about to sound really harsh on all of us that have suffered burn out. Really I want to give us all a big hug and make it better. Because, especially the first time, its kind of unavoidable when you first start to realise how shit the world is and try to take steps to do something about it. And I actually have a lot of love and respect for you all. Please read this in the voice of a close friend having That Chat with you because they love you and enemies talk about you behind your back, acquaintances say nothing but those who love you will tell you to your face, in private***

 

Had a lovely day yesterday at the bookfair browsing, acquiring new books, making new connections but best of all catching up with old friends. And so many now are either parents or about to become such! And so many were /glowing/, it was really lovely. It seemed like my friends and comrades*, many of whom have been through intense trauma, have created healing, nourishing lives that both give them good lives but also, as a side benefit, allow them to continue to be sustainably politically active.

There were a few people who responded to my “How are you doing? What are you up to?” with automated responses about political projects, and seemed genuinely surprised (and then pleased) when I expressed interest in the rest of their lives. This included couple of older activists who have been around for decades. I think we can all be guilty of just seeing ourselves as one dimensional political hacks, but this is unhealthy as individuals, as a community and as part of this global, ongoing fight for a better world.

Burnout is real. Almost no activist avoids it. Its horrible. Its disabling. It is detrimental to the individuals concerned and all of those around them. Sometimes its unavoidable but as a community we can and should be actively trying to protect ourselves and each other from it with self-care. In my head not taking care of ourselves is similar to a sort of guilt around being privileged (which we all are by something, be it because we’re white, male, cis, able bodied, straight, middle class, live in a high income country, had access to education etc etc) in that it is actually quite narcissistic. How does feeling guilt about being white do anything to destroy white supremacism? Instead of me seeing recognising my white privilege as an end point, I need to, sure process that, but also transcend that to recognise its not my fault, and that its further using my white privilege to wallow in self pity/loathing rather than take up the urgent call to stand alongside my non white comrades in opposing racism in every way I can. 

So too with self-care. Yes when you finally step through the looking glass and realise how horrific are the systems, structures and products of today’s world you want to do nothing other than spend every second of your existence trying to counter poverty, war, climate change and other oppressions. But you need to transcend that and realise that making yourself miserable is not the same as achieving meaningful change. Yes, you are privileged in all sorts of ways, but no destroying yourself will not remove those systems and structures that are perpetuating privilege. You’re just using your privilege to keep the focus on /you/ as a now suffering whitey rather than on how we fix this mess of a world we’ve found ourselves in. That sounds harsher than I meant. I just wanted to get through how actually harmful it is to martyr yourself to the struggle.

I have a male friend who is very chivalrous. Now I’m not very big, and sometimes I’ll be carrying heavy things. He’ll pretty much always offer to help. Well that sounds fine and nice and helpful. Except he’ll get upset if I say no I want to carry it myself. He’ll get a bit passive aggressive and grumpy about it and seems to want me to almost strain myself so he gets to rescue me. Sound in any way familiar? He’s not a bad person. He just I think really enjoys his self image as kind and chivalrous and the ego strokes of helping others and getting appreciated. But that’s the thing – he wants to do it *for him*. Its not about supporting me, otherwise why would he be unhappy that I’m ok. Its about him being able to feel good for being helpful. There’s a bit of self esteem issues there, and a whole hell of socialisation about being manly. He’s a friend and I love him and he’s far more complex than this wee caricature but I think its a really useful illustration of my point above. Nobody has asked you to feel guilty and beat yourself up for being privileged.  Yes you should definitely look at how its effected you and how you might be being oppressive yourself. But just wallowing in guilt? Beating yourself up? Is this really about helping others or is this actually to make yourself feel good and righteous and progressive?

And ignoring self-care? Ignoring yourself as a precious individual with interests and loved ones and hobbies and goals? Pointless. You will create a burnt out hull. You have made this struggle about you. You’re wallowing in the pain of full-time activism, beating yourself up with unsustainable timetables and that will not change anything.

Worst of all? You, yes I’m talking to YOU, are modelling behaviour for every new activist you encounter. You are unconsciously showing them how to be one of those people who try to make the world a better place. You have an unsustainable routine of meetings every night, early starts, grabbing fast food on the run, smoking and drinking too much, and ignoring non activist friends and hobbies. Guess what – that new person is going to learn from that that that is how activists behave. They’re going to internalise that rubbish about how I need to push myself 24/7 until this big action, during that campaign, until we’ve ended the occupation and destroyed capitalism, and if that thing isn’t achieved its because *I* didn’t work hard enough.

It helps *nobody* if you burn out. Its kind of inevitable its going to happen at least once to you. Its not because you’re a bad person. Its because what we’re doing is really fucking hard. What you can do is encourage a culture, a community of communities that treats everyone, including those on the spectrum of political activism, as worthwhile human beings. As individuals who have well rounded lives. Who regularly take in beauty, kindness, dancing, chocolate, time with loved ones, time alone. Don’t make every film you see about the destruction of the Niger Delta or drones over Afghanistan. Don’t only spend time with other activists. And don’t never mention these other things when you’re with activists. Tell me about how you took your child to the museum and they loved it (you know who you are and I love you!), how you went geocaching and saw a hare (I love you too!) and how you watched Up and ate vegan chocolate cake. Let me enjoy you enjoying your life! And let everyone know that being open to what’s going on in the world and trying to change it does not mean you have to give up everything else that brings meaning and beauty to your life. Be a sustainable activist that both models sustainable behaviour to others, helps create a thriving community that nourishes as all and prefigures the future society we want to create, and actually draws others in because they don’t just see burnt out husks involved. 

You are a beautiful human being. You are no less valuable and deserving of a good life than those in Gaza or facing eviction because of the bedroom tax. And there is no benefit to them if you deny yourself that. Its not only possible, but essential that you are both politically active and do those things that give you grounding and richness. Anything else is a waste of your life, your energy as an activist and that rather good chocolate cake.

 

* This is my blog so I feel free to use words that resonate with me. Comrades is one such term. To me it means those with whom I fight together in the struggle. With some I have shared intense moments of fear, stood strong together, felt that unique connection of knowing that we are collectively putting our lives into trying to make the world a better place. We’ve come up against formidable opposition and somehow passed through that, and in doing so realised how incredibly powerful we as human beings actually are. That not only can we ignore the commands of those in authority, but we can actually make a difference. So to me its a term of love, of respect, of special connection. And the knowledge that if it should come to it we will be on the same barricade, risking our lives together to do the right thing.

What Rachel Corrie gave me

August 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I was with Rachel Corrie on 16th March 2003 when she was killed by the military industrial complex, or more proximally by the Israeli army via a soldier driving a bulldozer who was just one cog of that particular machine.

This is something I only bring up with close friends before, because it is ridiculously narcissistic to be talking about what the ending of such an incredible life as Rachel’s meant for me, still able to walk and talk and love and laugh and fight for a better world.

But now more than ten years on, I’m going to write this on my personal blog.

That day was like a pivot that I swung around and everything changed. I remember even just a couple of days afterwards looking with this fresh new clarity and certainty at what I’d thought before and feeling astonished. It wasn’t that I was naive about what occupation, war and capitalism could do, but that before my role in changing this was more like somebody playing an engrossing game – after Rachel was killed it became my life’s purpose. Afterwards this is what I can and do give my life for, whether that means because I die directly fighting for what I believe in, or because its what I dedicate the hours and days and years I have alive for.

Here’s a not too gruesome picture of just after she was run-over by the bulldozer.  I’m on the left with bleached hair. About now she says her final words “my back is broken” and all pictures from this scene show me holding her head, stabilising her spine as I was trained to by uncle Doc Rosen.

Who was Rachel to me that her killing was so pivotal? A friend, but not a close one. I attach to folks slowly and we’d only known each other about 7 weeks. I liked her well enough, but she was not someone who’s personality I instantly felt an affinity and close bond with. I imagine that that would have changed as time does to relationships especially in such intense surroundings. As I said, I did like her but she was not so close that her death would have changed things as much as they did.

A patient? Well yes, she was one of my first patients. And now, with ten years of caring for people as first aider and nurse, there is a particular hard to describe feeling, like a mixture of responsibility and mission and protection and advocacy, towards my patients, but I had yet to develop that back then.

No, it was because she was trying to make the world a better place. She had taken herself to Gaza, knowing it was dangerous and uncomfortable and scary, in order to try and change things.

My original motives were less clear and altruistic to be perfectly honest. Yes I wanted to make a difference, but I also wanted to experience a different culture and travel some more. I was curious and interested. And I hoped to also help some people. But it was a bit of an adventure as well.

And then the Israeli state apparatus killed Rachel in front of me. And the next day, in partnership with the USA government, tried to physically claim to her body whilst she was in the Rafah morgue.

I was with some other internationals in an internet cafe desperately emailing and reporting on what had happened. The media storm was in full swing. And I was informed that the Israeli army had given an ultimatum that either Rachel’s body was handed over to them, or that there would be a military operation (with scores of Palestinians inevitably killed in the process) in order to recover it.

And that’s when I felt it. No, no the people who’d killed her were not going to take her body. Not without getting through me first. And that was not going to be an easy thing for them to do.

I found this strength solidifying in me. Something I had felt before on occasion but never to this extent. Resolve. Like an iron rod running from the crown of my head, down through my spine and grounding me. I had power. Power to say No and for that to mean something. For me to be able to prevent something happening. That I was strong and capable enough to stand up to both the Israeli and USA states.

We all agreed it was wrong. A violation that the Israeli army should take the body of the person they had killed. I felt a surety that Rachel would not want this, and I knew I wouldn’t had it been the other way around. I also knew that we didn’t want anyone else to be killed, but I felt absurdly confident that it wouldn’t come to that, and I was right!

I don’t want to just now write again about the practical details of what happened, and the twists and turns, the wranglings, the intense cunning we needed, the taking chances and resourcefulness but Will, Greg and I somehow did it, and successfully arranged for Rachel’s body to not be taken by the Israeli soldiers, but to travel safely to Tel Aviv in a civil ambulance with one of us (Will) with her all the way. It was a few hours of focus and belief and determination and creativity that I just don’t think I would have been capable of before.

A crisis like that is a fire hotter than anything I would wish on anybody else, but within it swirling, confused, contradictory parts of me forged into purposeful solidity. Within it I changed at an essential level. The trauma of it all has taken years to get over, and like anything with a half-life, will never totally leave me. But that profound purpose and power and resolve will not only never leave me, but has only grown stronger over the years.

Those people and systems that poison and degrade precious life and beauty and environment? Each new wound that you inflict has an unpredictable, inverse effect that will lead to your deposition. Within each of us that witness and experience the depths that you will sink to, purpose and focus develops and resonates. And even still now, over a decade since she was killed, I will still meet new people who will find out that I was with Rachel Corrie and tell me how they were shocked and angered by her killing and took up or deepened their struggles for a better world because of it.

So, this then was the narcissistic version of Rachel’s death. And sheepish as I feel in posting it, this is my personal blog. And this was the effect that 16th March 2003 had on me. It was a fulcrum. You killed Rachel, and that created in me a strength and lifemeaning and clarity that is part of a growing global, timeless movement for a decent world.

Talking is tiring! Being around people can still be good and needed though…

November 9, 2012 Leave a comment

sometimes I just want to be around folk, but without having to talk with them, as that’s tiring. but especially with people I don’t know very well, or outgoing friends, I feel I need to “perform”. I feel like I’ll be considered unfriendly if I don’t converse. but I need time in my own thoughts and I’m mostly happy and content in my own head. I need to process what’s going on both to work it out, and because figuring stuff out and learning from experiences is so fulfilling for me. even just something you might consider mundane I can find interesting and something I want to think about and figure how it works with other bits of things I’ve thought about before. but talking takes me away from that. instead of figuring stuff out I have to set my energy and brain into trying to negotiate social interaction. this requires constant checking I’m using the right set of rules / filters that I’ve learned from observing previous encounters within relevant social circles. and monitoring the actual conversation and a huge set of other things that I’ve learned over the years as crucial to “passing” as a reasonable social being. and it’s exhausting! and can be so goddamned unenlightening – just another interaction where I’m dragged out of my own thoughts so we can say things to each other that just reinforce whatever social context I’m in. and afterwards I’m going to feel drained from having to spend so much energy talking. sometimes I just want to be around folk, sharing an experience or activity, but allowed to be in my own head and just each of us talking if/when we have something to say, rather than just to fill the silence with energy and time thieving conversation.

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