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Things I Miss (and don’t) – Flower Violet (Stephanie Nixon)

“Once this is all over, Steph, you can come over and we can have a great big hug!”

Things I miss… let’s just start by highlighting that it is a lot of things!

Since the lockdown and being furloughed,  my daily routine been shot, and all the freedoms that everyone once had have now been restricted. However, I am taking each day as it comes, and I endeavor to remain as positive as possible and do what makes me happy.   This pandemic has opened up people’s eyes to everything that they take for granted on a daily basis, whether it’s visiting friends and family, going shopping or spending time out with others. 

Here are some of the things that I miss: 

I miss visiting some of my friends in the local area. I miss having cups of tea and doing shopping with them too.

I miss my occasional trip to Costa, or some cafe, where I can sit on my own, gather my thoughts, and put together my to-do list.

I miss going to my 2 church services on Saturday evenings, and Sunday Mornings. I miss serving the church community, and spending time with people that I love, and supporting Christian campaigns.

I miss taking my dad who his favourite Indian restaurant, and my mum to her favourite Singaporean and Malaysian restaurant.

I miss doing all my face-to-face community work and activities, and meeting with members of the community.

I miss visiting family members, and have had to call and text them to check in on them, and make sure that they are safe.

I miss going out to collect donations of glasses and small ink jets for my local Lions club as part of our local and international service.  

I miss being able to regularly leave my house and go out as many times as I would like to. Before the pandemic, I would often leave the house on multiple occasions (predominantly on Saturdays as I work Monday-Friday) whether it’s to do a family shop run, post bottle tops to Lush, visiting friends and family,  or going for a long walk.

However, whilst there is so much I miss doing, I am getting as much done as I possibly can during this time too, so, it’s not all that bad and negative. 

I am doing so much more writing, have drafted multiple blog posts and have even tried my hand at poetry! (1) I have also immersed myself in other hobbies, such as reading more books, doing longer and multiple workouts at home. I’ve also got more time to continue working on my author page and reach more people (2).

I am calling my partner multiple times a day! Due to being furloughed and my partner working from home, we can speak on the phone for longer periods, and call each other during the day to check in on each other! It’s wonderful being able to check in on each other regularly! ❤️

As I am at home most of the time now, I am using the time to rest, recharge my batteries, and clear my head. Something which I really need to do more of…

I’ve caught up with people that I haven’t spoken to in a while. I’ve connected with old friends from university, and kept in touch with people to see how everyone is doing during this time. It’s been great catching up and speaking to people who I love and  care about ❤️ 

In my part time job as a Member Pioneer, myself and the store have worked tirelessly to help the community. Together, we have donated PPE equipment to district nurses, donated care packs to the police, fire service and NHS staff for their work, and donated 100 Easter Eggs, 50 for nurses and 50 for a local food pantry, to say thank  you, and help struggling families. This was earlier blogged about here:   Love, Resilience and Practicality in the face of a Pandemic  ❤️ 

In addition, there has been a massive increase in the time spent with the family at home! Everyone is together, and we have played games, laughed together, done family workouts, done more baking, did a family BBQ in the hot sunshine, and have spent so much more time together! The family bonding has been wonderful! 

It does ask the question; once this pandemic is over, will we ever take for granted all the liberties and freedoms that were restricted? I know I certainly will not! 

Let’s just take each day at a time – we’ll all pull through this! 

Links

(1) The poem I wrote: Mercy! Mercy! https://blog.sivanaspirit.com/mercy-mercy/

(2) https://www.facebook.com/LifeOfMiraclesAndLove/  

Other

My author page: https://www.facebook.com/LifeOfMiraclesAndLove/

Are We All God’s Children? #BlackenAsiaWithLove

Warning: This is prose is an original work of fiction about an aching and divided world. May we develop a culture that values the strength to love.

 

Somebody once tried to tell me that we were all God’s children,

That all people were born into His kingdom,

Flesh of His flesh,

And meant to reign over the Earth on His behalf, with His grace.

I never bought that crap.

 

If people believed in God, would they alter his garden so drastically, that the earth itself is fighting back for life?

How can we say we were put here by Him,

Only to treat this place like crap!?!

 

If people believed in God, then

Why do so many of us try to rework the image He gave us?

We prick, pull, peel, perm, slim down and slice up our bodies so dramatically, that

We’re often unrecognizable to ourselves.

If we were created in His image, why do we mutilate it so?

I never bought that crap.

 

If people really believed in God, then

Why do we give in so easily to jealousy,

Riding the coat-tails of others,

Admonishing those who do good, but

We’re still victims of what we consider to be as ‘perfect’.

You can’t be Woke in this word unless you’re Jesus,

And you see what happened to Him.

If Jesus Christ walked into the White House, The Vatican or #10 today,

They’d crucify Him all over again.

Did I mention today’s Easter Saturday…the one day between crucifixion and resurrection…

The one day when Jesus is truly dead…

Only the believers believe that he’ll come back.

But His followers today would be ready to make Him a martyr all over again…

Just to keep their story straight.

I never bought that crap.

WWJD Today?

Keep-calm-WWJD

If Jesus walked in here today,

I believe he’d be trying to heal the masses with some universal salve that cures all…

But drug companies saw their profits dive and so they crucified Him.

They were out for blood, and with the strength of their lobbying,

Blood is what they got.

 

 

 

If Jesus walked in here today,

I believe he’d feed the needy.

But conservatives would see their power draining,

Since they needed to demonize the poor as welfare losers.

Jesus was giving them a hand up, not a hand-out, and

Many had climbed out of poverty,

Too many climbed out to manipulate, so

They labelled Him a socialist.

Conservatives got together and decided to crucify Him.

 

If Jesus walked in here today,

I believe he’d rid us of WMD.

That includes guns!

Masses of people are killed by their own guns.

But Jesus wouldn’t want people going around gunning down wild animals for sport, either– Even to the point of extinction.

They called Jesus a tree-hugger because He brought up the near extinction of the North American bison in the same breath as

He gave the stank face to big-game hunters today.

Jesus said:

“Hanging the dead corpse of your kill on the wall was death worship,” and

Questioned if such people could call themselves Christian?

He was here to promote Life.

 

Jesus said anyone was a hypocrite for restricting access to birth control.

He accused those religious zealots of misusing His name in order to control women’s bodies and wealth through meds and policies.

Jesus promoted reproductive choices with the proceeds people always gave Him.

Jesus even invested in birth control for men, including

A pill, an injectable and a scrotum implant.

He claimed He was empowering men to be able to have that choice.

 

Worse still, Jesus was not only a carpenter, but an avid horticulturist…

He grew His own.

Everything.

And He had led pilgrimages through forests to hug trees.

He only hugged trees tapped for logging,

Jesus loved hugging trees so much he’d once got several thousand people to go down to the Amazon and chain themselves to the trees high up in the canopy.

He said forests were his Father’s first cities; who were we to tear them down?

Logging was sacrilege.

 

 

 

And as for this tree-hugging crap,

Jesus was a vegan, too.

He said He couldn’t hurt any of God’s creatures, and

Even though He didn’t suggest we all refrain from meat,

He used His YouTube channel to interview more humane animal farmers around the world.

(Oh yeah, there was also that time Jesus went to Davos – uninvited-

He weighed in on fair trade. Isolationists were none too pleased).

 

He even had vegan cosmetics lines.

He had interviews with His farmers, factory workers, warehousing, delivery, even retailers to show good working conditions and fair pay.

Because of this, consumers said His pricing was fair, and began campaigns to press the other major companies into transparency, too.

LVMH’s sales took nose dive, as did others.

Worse, still, He only marketed His vegan haircare brand, Glory Locks, through

Online tutorials for wooly hair.

His conditioner, Kinky Salvation, became a sensation in the natural hair care community, where

It was discovered that the formula also beat hair loss!

Jesus could regrow hair!

That year, GQ put Him on the cover as The Man of the Millennium.

He caused a bidding war between major cosmetics companies when He agreed to sell His patented mineral foundation, Holy Teint.

There were lines in stores when He released new compact motifs-

The blue dove and the red cross sold out within hours.

Reviews in Vogue, Bazaar, Cosmo and more all said His foundation matched coppery skin tones above all other brands.

His vegan cocoa butter, Divine Skin, had seen sales of Vaseline drop by 50%.

 

As a vegan,

He was most animate about respecting God’s plants enough not manipulate seed genes that can’t reproduce,

Just so farmers would have to buy more each season.

The giants of pesticides and seeds, beef, logging all got together to take Him down.

Big chicken, Big Fish and Big Pork all joined in the Jesus bashing, too,

For they knew he’d soon come for them.

He’d already posted a nasty comment on a viral video about an industrial chicken farm, for which Netflix had given Him a ten-part special called: Unholy Food, Inc.

He went all vegan, too!

Not even honey was safe,

And the episodes of palm oil and avocado saw those commodities’ stocks dive the day after each debut!

Now, that’s gangster!

Jesus was no joke!

 

 

 

 

At Michael Jackson’s funeral,

Jesus did an interpretive dance to the artist’s Will You Be There.

At the end of His performance, He suddenly grabbed the mic in tears and said:

“I love my Jackson 5 nostrils, and I believe if Michael had, too, he’d still be here.”

Katherine and Joe Jackson just hung their heads.

 

‘I love my Jackson 5 nostrils’ quickly became a meme and

Later incorporated into a pop song.

He was accused of being anti-white.

In an MTV interview about the controversial lyrics, He said:

“The clear message here is that…

What we consider beautiful too often has too little to do with our authentic selves.

We do the exact same to mother Earth,

Digging, prodding, cementing over and dirtying up the air and waters of My father’s kingdom.”

Jesus was deep.

 

He was an avid reader, too.

Jesus wept when He read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

When asked for comment He simply said:

“So few in My Father’s kingdom have the strength to love.”

 

For the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots,

Jesus accepted invitations to lead Pride parades all over the world.

People thought he’d had enough in New York, Chicago, Boston, LA and of course, San Fran.

But many were surprised when Jesus was on the first float at Black Gay Pride in Atlanta and DC!

None were shocked, then, when

Jesus showed up at London and Paris Pride and Christopher Street Day in Berlin.

But no one, and I mean no one,

Imagined for a second

That He’d dress up silly and

Dance with a gay Christian Carnival Crew at Cologne’s CSD Day!

When did He even have time to practice those moves?

Who knew He had such an angelic voice…

Until they heard His rendition of George Michael’s Jesus to a Child.

He brought everyone to tears that day in Heumarkt Square.

Plus, everybody loved the performance He did with Conchita Wurst of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga’s Telephone.

The two bearded men literally re-enacted the whole music video !

Who knew Conchita could do Gaga drag?

They popped-locked-n-rolled in spandex just like in the video.

Who knew Jesus had a black-boy-bubble-butt…

Like somebody cut a basketball in half and hung it off His tail bone.

Both videos went viral.

This was way too much for those in Africa who’d used His name to bash gay people.

They buckled down and passed anti-gay laws,

Nigeria making sure they out did Uganda.

They dismissed this Jesus as evidence of the decay in European values.

When He accepted the invitation to Pride in Cape Town and Nairobi…

Those in the region got ready.

Pride was canceled in Uganda.

Others roused lynch mobs from the pulpit.

They crucified Him all over again.

 

If Jesus walked in here today,

I believe he’d heal the disabled.

Jesus wouldn’t heal their conditions by some miracle of making a blind man see, a deaf man hear, or a crippled man walk.

Nah, nothing so simple.

Jesus removed what really hurts – fear and discrimination.

He targeted the stigma against disability.

No longer viewing different abilities as a liability,

Jesus undermined entire industries built around keeping them down.

 

Suddenly, office workers had to compete with the wheel-chair bound because,

Who needs to be able to walk into an office?

People had already seen how Autistic Savants could

Show us patterns in our lives that unfold life’s mysteries,

But Jesus showed the people how every person of every ability had something to contribute.

Charities for the poor fell because,

There were no more poor people – everyone had enough.

Politicians who’d been shoring-up votes by vilifying the Other as leachers could no longer galvanize their base around these fears.

The people eventually elected politicians who represented the people.

Somebody had to “take the country back, to make it great again,” so

Big Lobbying fought back.

Jesus had removed the control large corporations had over these politicians, so

They crucified Him.

 

Needless to say, because Jesus intervened,

There was universal healthcare that cared for the whole body – any body.

They resisted calling Him a socialist, but when Corona happened,

Everyone saw that unlike society, diseases don’t discriminate.

More of those who confessed to follow Him could see the sense in universal healthcare.

Insurance companies got together with Big Pharma and crucified Jesus for he’d taken away their monopoly.

Jesus exposed all their tricks, from

Inventing diseases to which only they had the cure, to

Hiding antidotes when they could instead sell us life-long supplies of meds that

Keep us just barely alive.

Jesus was fed up with humanity, but never gave up.

Jesus not only made room for the disabled, but

Made sure everyone got looked after.

He had to die.

He was much too good for this world.

It was clear to them that the only good Jesus was a dead Jesus –

The dead one they’d created in their holy books.

This resurrected one just wouldn’t do.

 

So, Jesus had gone too far.

War-mongers would vilify Him in the UN, and

Circumvent the authority of the world community, and

Wage a military campaign to track Him down.

For these war-mongers would charge Jesus with hoarding WMD.

They preferred the Iron Curtain to the Prince of Peace, so

They convincingly made the public scared of Him.

 

Big men wielding big sticks hunted Him down,

During a 40-day Vipassana retreat He’d taken in the Judean desert.

24-hour News spent months replaying drone and Body-Cam footage of His last moments,

Where their bullets crucified Him on the spot.

Just as they’d done for Osama Bin Laden,

Crowds of Christians gathered that night at the capitol to celebrate the blood-shedding.

They were death worshippers.

They even built a statue of Him on that spot to commemorate His sacrifice.

Crowds gathered there each Easter for festivities.

A moment of volition and free will

On Good Friday, Christians will remember one of the most important covenants in their faith. The arrest, trial and execution of the head of their church. Jesus, an inspiring figure across centuries, will be in the garden of Gethsemane asking his father “to take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42), but finally accepting his fate. The significance of this self-sacrifice is the glue that connects the faith to its followers, because it is a selfless act, despite knowing in advance all that is to follow. The betrayal, the rejection, the torture, the humiliation and the eventual death. Even the resurrection, appears distant and therefore he will momentarily wish to abstain. Then, comes the thought; if not me, who? This act is conditional to all that will follow and so his free will ultimately condemn him.

These are steps that inspired many of his followers to take his word further across the world and subject themselves to whatever fate they were to suffer. The message rests in pure religious motives and motivations and over the years has eroded the implicit humanity that it contains. People have been able to demonstrate their destructive nature in wars, crime and continued injustices. Against them some people have taken exception and in acts of altruism willingly, sacrifice themselves for the greater good. People of, or without, faith, but with a firm conviction on the sacrament of humanity.

People stood up against oppression and faced the judgement of the apartheid regime that murdered them, like Steve Biko.  People who spoke out against social injustice like Oscar Romero, who was shot during mass.  Those who resisted fascism like Ilektra Apostolou, a woman tortured and executed by the Nazis, and countless others throughout time.  These people maybe knew the “risks” of speaking out, of making a stand, but did it anyway.  A free will that led them to their damnation, but for millions of others, they became an inspiration.  At the worst of times, they shine and take their place in history, not for conquering and victories, but for reminding us all of the nobility in being principled. 

Selflessness offers a signal to all, of how important it is, for all of us to be part of our society.  It is when we dig deep on those qualities, that some may not even know that they have.  I remember reading the interview of a person tortured during a dictatorship, being described as a hero; their response was incredibly disarming. “I am not a hero; I was just there”.  I am quite aware that I write this blog at a time of self-isolation, lockdowns and the daily body count of the dead.  Over a period of weeks, our lives have radically changed, and we live in self-imposed confinement.  We are spectators in a medical drama with serious social implications.  Those we do not quite know, but it looks very likely that these reverberations will last for at least a while. 

It is interesting to see a renewed appreciation for professionals, namely health care and for those professions that we did not hold in high regard previously. Hero as a term seems to be rebranding itself and this may be one of those long-term effects afterwards. Just to remind us all that on this Good Friday, numerous professionals in the health care system, carers, teachers, public transport, logistics, council and retail workers will be going to work with their free will, knowing some of the risks for them and their families. This is their testament, this is their covenant and that forms part of our collective civilisation. Whilst people remind us to wash our hands, I kiss their hands for their altruism

Happiness is, happiness ain’t. #BlackenAsiaWithLove

Outside of ecumenical discussions, far too little is said about the subject of happiness. This is a drawback of western secularism, as discussed below. In the world of work, Occupational Health and Leadership have taken up this mantle, yet still only manage to approximate happiness through measurable factors that contribute to increasing satisfaction and decreasing dissatisfaction (i.e. Herzberg’s 2-Factor Theory). Taking Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into greater account, that understanding eventually incorporated terms such as wellbeing. Yet, again, outside of ‘continuing professional development’ aimed at improving workplace efficiency and effectiveness, far too few resources seem devoted to higher needs such as belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.

Maslow

Those management terms all circle back to mindfulness, to personal empathy and the ability of both the individual and environment to foster dialogue in order to transform conflict. Be it conflicts or differences in needs/wants between co-workers – or across the bargaining table – the ability to communicate and find common ground is increasingly the skill that distinguishes human talents from Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Now, at least, there is a greater focus on developing so-called ‘soft skills’.  This trend responds to our failure to contend with an increasing reliance on, and addiction to technology. What’s more, still, as technology increasingly supplants entire portfolios of routine management duties, how will future workplaces valorise empathy within known matrices?

How do we teach students the value of happiness, the practice of compassion and the skills for effective communication, negotiation and conflict resolution? In so far as leading culturally diverse workforces, the research is as clear as a prayer bell: Innovation requires dialogue – actual talk between equals. Innovation is therefore built on collaboration. Collaboration requires cooperation. Cooperation requires commitment. Commitment cultivates inclusion. Inclusion fosters commitment. Commitment depends on trust-building. Trust-building requires dialogue. Cooperation must be practiced and rehearsed, in addition to celebrated and applauded. We are effectively teaching how to work within a community. Those tools must play the greater part of management toolkit, over and well-over more punitive means of enforcing compliance to rules.

“I’m not here to be your friend.”

Those are words I hope no one would ever hear neither in the classroom from educators, nor in the workplace from managers. It implies the speaker’s inability to distinguish friendliness from being friends. It is indeed a thin line. Social media interactions with colleagues have virtually erased that line – at least re-drawn it. Irregardless – as we say in Kentucky for emphasis – kindness matters! I genuinely pity those who have not learned kindness at home or school; it’s traumatic.

In order to collaborate, to genuinely work together, requires some level of friendliness, beyond cordiality. It is irrational to lead through control and project the image of being in control through distant, dispassionate unfriendliness. BTW, the notion of dispassionate rationality and objectivity have been historically valorized academia even when it was clear.

I would not be the first university student to observe (though lacking the skills to explain): “The professors who prided themselves on their capacity to be objective were most often those who were directly affirmed in their caste, class, or status position” (hooks, 2003: 128). Their inability to connect, acknowledge and come to peace with their own emotionality and spirituality. “At times objectivism in academic settings is a smokescreen, masking disassociation (ibid: 129). Objectivity is a crutch:

“Denying the emotional presence and wholeness of students may help professors who are unable to connect focus more on the task of sharing information, facts, data, their interpretations, with no regard for listening to and hearing from students. (ibid: 129).” 

The smoke and mirrors masks a pain so cutting so deep that skilled educators carve it out of their work, and further discourage it in peers and students. Sadly, I believe that managers have been taught to operate under the same logic. Hurt people hurt people.

Hurt people hurt people.

Today, we’re better able to acknowledge the maturity needed to reveal both one’s strengths and weaknesses – including with subordinates. The key skill is emotional flexibility and consequentially, the ability to seek and offer support. Failing to do so reduces opportunities for team members’ whole-hearted contributions of knowledge and skills. While it is still professional to keep some amount of distance between one’s private and personal lives, social media is a typical example of how those norms no longer apply. Yeah, it’s weird if you’re not Facebook friends with at least some of your colleagues.

What are responsible ways to use one’s public image that aligns with our own personal ambitions and goals? This was simply NOT an area of thinking in the classroom prior to social media. Yet, ‘bullying’ is a relatively modern concept brought to light by the LGBTQ community response to the suicide of a university student as a result of cyber-bullying because he was gay.Itgetsbetter

In 2010, Tyler Clementi, a first-year university student in America, was secretly filmed being intimate with another man by his roommate and a mutual friend, (or so he believed). The two colluded to threaten to out Clementi in what they all knew as a homophobic (university) environment. This resulted in Clementi’s suicide. Imagine such blackmail, bullying and harassment at work! What skills should the educational environments have provided Tyler and his roommates?

The response from the queer community was clear: Hope. For example, activist/journalist Dan Savage launched an internet campaign that encouraged LGBTQ+ youth, which was picked up by mainstream media outlets and entertainment. The #ItGetsBetter campaign quickly amasses hundreds of posts by celebrities of all flavors to combat anti-gay bullying. Things did get better. We put bullying on the map! Be it work or school, bullying is no longer tolerated…at least formally.

Yet, what of genuine happiness, not just survival? While I can’t speak for every faith, the notion of happiness if central to Buddhist philosophy. “The gratification of desire is not happiness,” writes Buddhist teacher Daisaku Ikeda in his 2017 essay collection, Hope is a Decision. What’s more, individual happiness is tied to our interconnectivity. The Soka Gaikkai, a global Buddhist organisation mentored by Ikeda, operates under the slogan “World peace through individual happiness” to acknowledge the interconnectivity of both humanity as a whole, and the place of happiness with the broader objective of peace.

Seen one way, happiness is neatly balanced at the tip of the pyramid of needs, and its inverse: wants and desires. For clarity: While adults may scoff when a teenager says they “need” the latest iPhone or they’ll ‘die’ we responsibly know that those youthful aches and pains are as real to them as any physical trauma one might suffer. We know that showing up at school with the latest cool gadget has as much to do with the higher-order needs for them as we may wish them to perceive their basic needs such as food, shelter and security. Hence, the parenting task becomes one of teaching skills to contextualise such desires and value delayed gratification.

These lessons are too often relegated to parenting due to the secularisation of schooling and workplaces in the west. Western secularism often fails to distinguish religion from spirituality, to the detriment of the latter since we remain staunchly Christian societies, especially to the extent of chauvinism when faced with an ‘other’. Any non-Christian in the west can see the secularism is superficial – even Stevie Wonder can see that. Echoing her own call for greater attention to spirituality in secular education bell hooks quotes HH Dalai Lama’s thoughts in the need for the distinction in the second installment of her seminal teaching trilogy:

hooks-hopeSpirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit—such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony—which brings happiness to both self and others.  … (hooks, ‘Spirituality in Education’ in Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, 2003 pg. 157-164)

Makes place in and around the classroom. As a lecturer, I am a coach, guide, mentor, leader and have even befriended students (particularly after their graduations). One primary aim and source of satisfaction in the classroom is facilitating values-based dialogue across differences in perspectives. My role is not just to dump selective parts of my knowledge into students’ heads, nor simply to train certain skills. Nay, we’re always teaching how to live in a diverse community.

 

To get more in-formation:

Friday the 13th

Odd thing superstition, it makes reasonable and seemingly rational people think and behave in the most irrational and inexplicable manner. Always we notice these behaviours and thoughts in other people, but so many of us carry in the back of our minds equally irrational ideas and beliefs. We hear of football club managers who always wear the same clothes at a game, athletes that engage in the same pre-game routine and of course, politicians who act in certain ways during their election campaign. For the rest of us there are ladders in the street, black cats, that we may avoid or there are dates in the calendar that we take notice. Friday the 13th is one of those Anglo-Saxon dates that people take notice of.

I am sure that some of my historian friends will be able to give a good account of the origin of the unfortunate date, but I can only go with the “official tradition” of Jesus, the 13th student, (Judas) and his subsequent arrest on the Friday before the Crucifixion. The day, somehow, became one of those that we notice, even when we are not superstitious. There is even a psychologically recognised fear of the date Triskaidekaphobia; which in Greek means the fear of 13! Of course social fears are blended with wider social anxieties, whether that is the fear of the unknown or the realisation that in life, there are things that we have little control of.

In the days leading up to this Friday the 13th we engaged with political discussions about what direction the country shall take. The health service, the justice system, the state’s responsibility, all the way to welfare and the state of the union, were all eclipsed by one topic that has dominated discourses, that of the execution of leave from the European Union commonly known as Brexit. Ironically the “exit” preface was used before for Greece (Grexit), and Italy (Italexit) but seems that Brexit has won the battle of the modern lexicon. The previous “exits” where used as a cautionary tale for the countries being forced out of the union, whilst Brexit is about leaving the Union.

Having considered all the issues, this one issue became the impetus for people to give politicians a mandate. Complete this issue before and above all the rest. It is an issue likened to a divorce, given a texture, (soft/hard) and has even been seen as the reason for generational conflicts. Therefore the expectation is clear now . Leave the European Union, and then let’s see what we can do next. The message is fairly clear and the expectation is palpable. Beliefs and hopes of the people narrowed down to one political move that shall terminate membership to the European Union. Of course there are subsequent questions and issues that this act of national defiance may come with. As for the state of the Union, that may have to be the next thing we discuss. This follow up conversation may not be as welcome, but it is definitely interesting. If joining the EU back in 1975, warranted a discussion, then the 1536 Act of Union may become the next topic for conversation. As for healthcare, justice, education and welfare, we may have to wait a little bit more longer. Whether this will mark Friday 13th December 2019 as a date of fortune or misfortune, that is yet to be decided, but that is the same for every day of the week.

Just for your records and for the Triskaidekaphobians out there, the next Friday the 13 is in March 2020 followed by the one in November 2020. Just saying…

‘Guilty’ of Coming Out Daily – Abroad. #BlackenAsiaWithLove

I am annoyed that our apartment-building manager told my husband that a two-bedroom had recently become available, and that we should move in because we would be “more comfortable.” My husband always takes such statements at face value, then performs his own cost/benefits analysis. Did the manager offer a discount, I asked? I mean, if he’s genuinely concerned about our comfort, shouldn’t he put his money where his mouth is? That’s probably just the American in me talking: He was either upselling the property or probing us to see what the deal was – not at all concerned about our comfort. I speak code, too.

 

The most homophobic thing that anyone has ever said to me is not any slur, but that gay people should not “flaunt it.” As if concealing our identities would magically erase homophobia. This reveals that the speaker either doesn’t know – or doesn’t care to know – how readily people everywhere speak about our personal lives. There are random people I have met in every single part of the world, that ask my marital status. It comes shortly after asking my name and where I’m from. The words used are revealing – just ask any divorced person who has engaged with any society’s traditions. Is it deceptive to say that they are “single,” instead? What’s more, regardless of language, preferred terms like “unmarried” reveal the value conferred upon this status. You’re not a whole person until you’re married, and a parent. It is only then that one is genuinely conferred what we sociologists call ‘personhood’. Also, are married lesbians called two Mrs.?

Come out, come out wherever you are.

In many parts of the world, being ‘out’ carries the death penalty, including parts of my father’s homeland, Nigeria. I’ve literally avoided visiting Nigeria because of the media-fueled fear of coming out. I hate the distance it’s wedged between my people, our culture and I. There was a time when coming out was literally the hardest thing I ever had to do. Now, l must come out daily.

Back in the UK, many educators would like to believe that they don’t discuss their personal lives with students. But who hasn’t been casually asked how one spent the weekend? Do I not say “My husband and I…” just as anyone else might? Abroad, do I correct co-workers when they refer to us as ‘friends’? Yesterday, I attended an academic conference. All the usual small talk. I came out a dozen times by lunch.

In teaching English here in Asia, isn’t it unfair for me to conceal from my students the gender of my “life-partner,” which is actually our formal legal status?  Am I politicising my classroom by simply teaching gender-neutral terms like ‘spouse’ or ‘partner’? Or, do I simply use the term ‘husband’ and skim over their baffled faces as they try to figure out if they have understood me properly? Am I denying them the opportunity to prepare for the sought-after life in the west? Further, what about the inevitability of that one ‘questioning’ student in my classroom searching for signs of their existence!

I was recently cornered in the hallway by the choreographer hired by our department to support our contribution to the university’s staff talent competition (see picture below*). She spoke with me in German, explaining that she’d lived several years in the former GDR. There are many Vietnamese who’d been ‘repatriated’ from the GDR upon reunification. So, given the historical ties to Communism, it’s commonplace to meet German (and Russian) speakers here. Naturally, folks ask how/why I speak (basic) German. My spouse of seventeen years is German, so it’d be weird if I hadn’t picked up any of the language. It’s really deceptive to conceal gender in German, which has three. I speak German almost every day here in Hanoi.

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The word is ‘out’.

In Delhi, we lived in the same 2-bedroom flat for over 7 years. It became clear to our landlady very early on that we slept in one bedroom. Neighbours, we’re told, also noticed that we only ever had one vehicle between us and went most places together. Neither the landlady nor any neighbour ever confronted us, so we never had to formally come out. Yet, the chatter always got back to us.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Mali in the late 90’s, I learned to speak Bambara. Bambara greetings are quite intimate: One normally asks about spouses, parents and/or children, just as Black-Americans traditionally would say “How yo’ momma doin?’” In Mali, village people make it their business to get single folks hitched. Between the Americans, then, it became commonplace to fake a spouse, just so one would be left in peace. Some women wore wedding bands for added protection, as a single woman living alone was unconscionable. The official advice for gays was to stay closeted L. While I pretended to be the husband of several volunteers, I could never really get the gist of it in my village. Besides, at 23 years old, being a single man wasn’t as damning as it is for women. I only needed excuses to reject the young women villagers presented to me. Anyhow, as soon as city migrants poured back to the village for Ramadan, I quickly discovered that there are plenty of LGBTQ+ folks in Mali! This was decades before Grindr.

Here in Hanoi, guys regularly, casually make gestures serving up females, as if to say: ‘Look, she’s available, have her’. I’ve never bothered to learn the expected response, nor paid enough attention to how straight men handle such scenarios. Recently, as we left a local beer hall with another (gay) couple, one waiter rather cheekily made such gestures at a hostess. In response, I made the same gestures towards him; he then served himself up as if to say ‘OK’. That’s what’s different about NOW as opposed to any earlier period: Millennials everywhere are aware of gay people.

A group of lads I sat with recently at a local tea stall made the same gestures to the one girl in their group. After coming out, the main instigator seamlessly gestured towards the most handsome in his clique. When I press Nigerian youth about the issue, the response is often the same: We don’t have a problem with gay people, we know gay people, it’s the old folk’s problem. Our building manager may be such a relic.

 

*Picture from The 2019 Traditional Arts Festival at Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST)

We Want Equality! When do we want it?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about equality recently. It is a concept bandied around all the time and after all who wouldn’t want equal life opportunities, equal status, equal justice? Whether we’re talking about gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status. religion, sex or maternity (all protected characteristics under the Equality Act, 2010) the focus is apparently on achieving equality. But equal to what? If we’re looking for equivalence, how as a society do we decide a baseline upon which we can measure equality? Furthermore, do we all really want equality, whatever that might turn out to be?

Arguably, the creation of the ‘Welfare State’ post-WWII is one of the most concerted attempts (in the UK, at least) to lay foundations for equality.[1] The ambition of Beveridge’s (1942) Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services was radical and expansive. Here is a clear attempt to address, what Beveridge (1942) defined as the five “Giant Evils” in society; ‘squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease’. These grand plans offer the prospect of levelling the playing field, if these aims could be achieved, there would be a clear step toward ensuring equality for all. Given Beveridge’s (1942) background in economics, the focus is on numerical calculations as to the value of a pension, the cost of NHS treatment and of course, how much members of society need to contribute to maintain this. Whilst this was (and remains, even by twenty-first century standards) a radical move, Beveridge (1942) never confronts the issue of equality explicitly. Instead, he identifies a baseline, the minimum required for a human to have a reasonable quality of life. Of course, arguments continue as to what that minimum might look like in the twenty-first century. Nonetheless, this ground-breaking work means that to some degree, we have what Beveridge (1942) perceived as care ‘from cradle to grave’.

Unfortunately, this discussion does not help with my original question; equal to what? In some instances, this appears easier to answer; for example, adults over the age of 18 have suffrage, the age of sexual consent for adults in the UK is 16. But what about women’s fight for equality, how do we measure this? Equal pay legislation has not resolved the issue, government policy indicates that women disproportionately bear the negative impact of austerity. Likewise, with race equality, whether you look at education, employment or the CJS there is a continuing disproportionate negative impact on minorities. When you consider intersectionality, many of these inequalities are heaped one on top of the other. Would equality be represented by everyone’s life chances being impacted in the same way, regardless of how detrimental we know these conditions are? Would equality mean that others have to lose their privilege, or would they give it up freely?

Unfortunately, despite extensive study, I am no closer to answering these questions. If you have any ideas, let me know.

References

Beveridge, William, (1942), Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services, (HMSO: London)

The Equality Act, 2010, (London: TSO)

[1] Similar arguments could be made in relation to Roosevelt’s “New Deal” in the USA.

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