There is a Ukrainian orphanage not far from the site of the debris from Malaysian Airlines MH 17. This week the staff have had to send away 200 plus children from the orphanage to somewhere the children “could heal”. Last Thursday as the children were playing in the fields next to the orphanage, bodies started to rain down around them. Not just bodies but body parts. Can you imagine that? For the life of me I can’t imagine bodies falling from the sky around me. I am thankful that I can’t imagine it. But these children will always know.
In all the horrific news this past week, this story really struck me. Firstly the innocence of children being caught up in the wars happening on our planet. But more so because these children live in an orphanage and by that sheer fact it is reasonable to assume that they have already suffered more trauma than any person should. And now to have to be sent away from their ‘home’ so that they can heal from more trauma just seems so wrong to me. These children deserve the protection of adults, yet it is adults who are making these wars.
Another news story and children were playing hide and seek on the beachfront of Gaza when missiles launched in hatred rained down on the children, both killing some and injuring others. Again, children who should be safe.
There has been so much tragedy, affecting thousands of innocent people. And it continues. What scares me perhaps most is that this becomes common place. That we somehow become comfortable with the bloodshed. Of course those affected personally, those who have lost loved ones, they will never become comfortable with it. But what about the rest of us? Do we just become used to this? Please god, no!
If my counting is correct, there have been three planes down this past week. Three planes too many. A quick search on the net today tells me that something like 15 planes have been shot down since the 1980s. I admit I don’t remember any of them. When the tragedy of MH17 is foremost in our minds this week, it is hard to imagine that we could forget. But we will. We will move on and there will be some other tragedy in the news.
I believe that we owe it to the children to remember. To say this is wrong, and to keep saying it until it is heard. It is one thing to say that Ukraine and Gaza are so far away. “What can we do?” “It was not our playing fields where bodies rained down on innocence.” That is so true, but it could easily have been our children, our people.
I do not believe that war is the answer in any of these situations. Bloodshed of innocent people is just wrong. And if we don’t start saying it more, then no one is going to hear.
I feel heartbroken by what is happening in our world. I can’t bear to watch news reports. Like reports of lines of hearses in The Netherlands yesterday waiting to take bodies away for identification. Recently I haven’t been able to cry, even though there have been plenty of things to cry about. Simply there have been no tears. But now I cry.
It would be easier to not watch the footage. It would be easier to say “it’s too hard to watch” but I think I owe it to the victims to watch. More so, I think I owe it to the victims to speak out and say that this is wrong. There has to be another way. I believe that way is peace. And if we, the relatively unaffected, don’t say so then who will?
“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”
Today, in Australia and New Zealand, we commemorate Anzac Day. It is a national day of remembrance in both countries that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders (including animals) “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations”. It particularly honours those Army soldiers who served at Galliopli in 1915.
There are many commemoration services held around both countries and at Galliopli, but I have to admit that it’s been a while since I have been to one. I simply don’t ‘do‘ crowds. That doesn’t stop me from remembering though. While I am an advocate of peace, I have great admiration and respect for those who have served in the past, and those who still serve. I just hope and pray that one day such service will no longer be necessary and we will find a way of living in this world in harmony.
My chief memory relating to Anzac Day lies with my paternal Grandfather. Let me tell you about his war service. Don’t worry. It won’t take long.
My grandfather joined the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Intelligence Division as a Lieutenant to fight in World War Two. He was stationed at home in New Zealand but was required to go overseas regularly. He was injured in an accident (in New Zealand) and those injuries left him unwell for the rest of his life.
That’s it. We don’t know anything else. In the approximately five years my grandfather served, and in the years after, he was never allowed to tell anyone of what he did, and where he went. Granddad died about 25 years later and took his secrets with him.
It strikes me this year as I remember him, and others who served, that the trauma they witnessed must have been immense. Now days we are becoming more aware of the affects of the trauma soldiers face. We recognise the existence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the havoc that can play on their lives in the years following their service. I know we still have a distance to go in understanding the need for help and treatment but awareness in itself has to be good.
But today, I am struck by the lack of this knowledge and understanding back in the time my grandfather served, and before in previous wars. I suspect war was very different then, to what it is today, but no less traumatic. Not just for those who served either.
My father was a child at the time his father was away at war. Neither he, not my grandmother were allowed to know anything. Not then, not ever. The hardship and fear they must have carried with them must have been huge. Remember too, this was a time of no emails, no Skype, simply no communication but the odd letter.
My grandfather, and many others with him, lived both then and into the future with no assistance in dealing with what they had seen, done and heard. The affect on their lives must be beyond our modern comprehension.
Granddad died, from his war injuries when I was three. I have just one memory of him playing in this front garden with me.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
Today I am participating, for the second time, in Blog4Peace… because peace is something that I strongly believe is desperately needed in our world. Bloggers from over 200 countries are participating today, and that just says to me how important our quest for peace is.
Sometimes I’m not too good at sticking to ‘the rules’, especially with blogging challenges and the like. Hopefully Mimi will forgive my errant ways. Usually bloggers create a template of their statement of peace, and post it on their site on 4 November. I have borrowed a template (above) for this post, but came to the conclusion that firstly, I’m a better writer than an artist, and secondly, I had something to say that I couldn’t contain in a template. As well as that my brain isn’t quite functioning straight right now and to achieve both tasks is simply beyond me.
I was watching a movie the other day. A favourite from years ago, of which I have just managed to get my hands on a copy. It is The Mission (1986) starring Jeremy Irons and Robert de Niro.
The brief summary of what this is about is that some Jesuit priests are living and working with locals above the Iguazu Falls in the South American jungle in the 1750s. There is some outstanding music in this movie, probably one of the reasons I love it, but there are difficult moments too when Portuguese rulers take back the land, destroy the mission built with the Jesuits ,and try to enslave the locals. The priest, played by Jeremy Irons, believes that God is love, and violence is a direct crime against that love. He argues that they should trust God rather than fight back. He chooses to stay with the villagers in peace while other Jesuits decide to renounce their vows and fight with many of the male villagers.
It’s hard to fit a movie into a paragraph, but the reason I raise it is the two choices that are made, effectively between peace and war. I sat watching the movie, and there were villagers, priests and soldiers representing the Portuguese rulers dying everywhere. Most of it was played out beside the river and I was struck how easily dead bodies were cast aside, out-of-the-way, so that the fight could continue. It seemed to me those bodies meant nothing, and I was struck with a knowing that I could never kill another being (human or animal), in such a situation because I simply couldn’t allow myself to let them mean so little. It was difficult enough to stand and watch my cat being euthanised last year. I knew it was taking away her pain, but it was so difficult to let a life be taken.
That said, that’s an easy statement for me to make. I’m not back there in the 1750s with the threat of my village being destroyed, and I’m not even in a position where I have to consider that I might be sent to war here in the 21st century. I live in a country (New Zealand) where military involvement is not mandatory. It was for young men (including my grandfather) in the first and second world wars, but as a woman, that was never something I would have had to face doing. Yes, it’s easy for me to say. My choice not to bear arms would not have any affect on my family and/or loved ones. Saying no is definitely an option for me. But I get that for so many, it’s not that easy.
Peace is one of those things that I think we all have our own views of what it is about. For me it is about respecting the value of each human being to a point where that person deserves to be saved. This post isn’t directly about war, although obviously it is not ignored because without peace we often have war. My personal belief is that war is never necessary. There is always another way of solving a dispute, and every effort should be taken to preserve life. Maybe it’s more difficult, maybe it takes longer. Jeremy Irons, in his role, chose to take what he viewed as God’s way. That’s not why I like it but rather what I do I like is the respect a peaceful solution offers to each individual.
We are all worth saving. None of us deserve to be left dead or injured on the side of the road, or permanently traumatised by the horror that soldiers, and the indigenous and local people have witnessed in the name of war. My belief is that peace values each of us. It says we are all too important to be cast aside as I saw in the movie.
That’s why I have taken time out from my usual blogging to take part in today’s Blog4Peace. All of the bloggers taking part in this event believe that if words are powerful….this matters. The wider we spread this message, each in our own way, the more people will see that the right thing to do is to lay down arms and live at peace.
What does all this have to do with blogging for mental health? If we had peace world over then we could all let it be. I am convinced that our overall mental health would be significantly better.
I had firmly in my head, what I was going to write about today. But you know how things happen. We see things, we read things, and suddenly there is a whole new post bursting out of us? That’s me today.
Earlier this morning I came across a picture on a Facebook profile which I found offensive and disturbing (not the image above). I know I’m prone to be disturbed by such images depicting violence, and so usually I have to take a step back and ask myself ‘would others be offended by this picture?’ I thought they would have, so reported the picture to Facebook, hoping that they would also find it offensive and remove it.
I’m not posting the picture here because of how much it disturbs me, and I don’t want others to be disturbed by content on my blog. But it was an image of a woman holding a hand gun to a man’s head.
This is what Facebook reported back to me:
Photo not removed
Thank you for your report. We carefully reviewed the photo you reported, but found it doesn’t violate our community standard ongraphic violenceso we didn’t remove it.
Someone has a gun pointed at another person’s head, and that’s doesn’t violate community standards? Excuse me, but I find that refusal almost more disturbing than the image I objected to.
Interestingly when I followed their hyperlink to graphic violence, I found a lot of words but no specific definition of graphic violence. What they did do was define violence and threats as:
“Safety is Facebook’s top priority. We remove content and may escalate to law enforcement when we perceive a genuine risk of physical harm, or a direct threat to public safety. You may not credibly threaten others, or organize acts of real-world violence. Organizations with a record of terrorist or violent criminal activity are not allowed to maintain a presence on our site. We also prohibit promoting, planning or celebrating any of your actions if they have, or could, result in financial harm to others, including theft and vandalism.” (1.)
But that’s talking about what people say on Facebook, rather than what they depict in their images. What happened to the phrase we all know ‘actions speak louder than words’? The same ‘images speak louder than words’ could apply, but my guess is that because it wasn’t the owner of the Facebook profile portrayed holding a gun to someone else’s head then everything is fine. That’s not fine too me at all.
I accept that the gun laws in my country are very different from in other parts of the world. It is one thing that makes me glad to be a kiwi. But look what the world was faced with just a few weeks ago when 28 adults and children were tragically killed by gunfire. The idealist in me would like to think that social media would have reacted quickly and prohibited this type of violent image to be shown.
Personally I can cope with seeing the image, although I find it very disturbing and unnecessary. I can manage my reactions so that I don’t think that the behaviour depicted in the image is acceptable behaviour.
But my 13-year-old nephew can see this image too, from his Facebook profile. I think he is a pretty wise kid, but he is a kid and I don’t think it’s acceptable that he is confronted by this sort of stuff simply in keeping up with his friends.
I’m wondering what would make it unacceptable to Facebook? All I can think of (and I apologise for the graphic impression) is that is the image included a bullet travelling into the victims head.
Facebook say above that “Safety is Facebook’s top priority“. What a joke. What safety do they actually care about, other than their own? If impressionable minds see the type of image I reported today, they assume that such behaviour is normal and acceptable.
I will never accept that one person holding a gun to another’s head is either normal and acceptable. And God help us if our society gets to the point where it is.
Right now there are people talking about wanting to keep guns away from people with mental illness, but it is not just those people who need to be kept away from guns. It’s the people who think that the use of guns against others is okay.
And in that group, I’d be inclined to put Facebook. Shame on them, they have an opportunity to take a stand against gun violence yet they aren’t interested.
After-thought: There were some other issues about this Facebook profile which should have been of concern to Facebook too. Don’t get me started…
And apologies to any American’s personally offended by my use of this quote today. I simply use it, not to offend, but to make a point:
“You can’t talk about fucking in America, people say you’re dirty. But if you talk about killing somebody, that’s cool.”
Trying to achieve peace within myself has been a life-long battle, not helped by long-lasting mental health issues. Achieving peace is a battle I continue to work on daily. The Dalai Lama says that peace can’t be achieved in this world until I find peace within myself. I think he’s right, purely for the reason that I am part of this world. I am affected by what happens in this world. Sounds simplistic, doesn’t it?
I live in a small country, almost on the edge of the world, called New Zealand. Our population is only 4.5 million. I know that’s pretty small, but it needs to be kept in perspective. Our statistics might not sound much, until you think about the proportion of people in our population affected by the country’s decision to be a part of war. We all with be familiar with the six degrees of separation. In New Zealand, that shrinks down to around two, maybe three degrees of separation.
In the 11 year war in Afghanistan, 11 New Zealand soldiers (including one female) have been killed in combat. It doesn’t seem like much does it? But what if one of those 11 soldiers was your flesh and blood? Then their death becomes personal, and the war has a deep impact on your life.
On top of those 11 kiwi soldiers, there have been many more soldiers from around the world who have died, and then there are thousands of civilians who have also died. If they were your family, this is very personal. If you are/were a soldier there, then this is personal.
Six weeks ago New Zealand sent its last group of soldiers to Afghanistan. This is the last troops that will be deployed from here, as New Zealand is pulling out its troops in April 2013. I watched on the television channels here as those troops said their good-byes to their families at the airport. It was gut-wrenching stuff, not only to see parents saying goodbye to young children and husbands to wives, and vice-a-versa, but for one reason that must have been at the heart of most kiwis watching that day.
Just a few weeks earlier a total of five kiwi soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, in two separate incidents. Those five were from the same battalion as this fresh group were from, at Burnham Military Camp.
How could this new group of soldiers say good-bye to their friends and family, and have any sense of peace of mind, without this in their heads. And how could families say good-bye without wondering whether this would be their final good-bye? Would they come back in a box, like their friends and comrades had? I dearly hope not.
Peace of mind? I don’t think so. All in the aid of fighting a war.
Saying good-bye to troops headed for war is something my father knew only too well as a child. There was very little peace of mind for him as a six-year-old, and my grandmother, when my grandfather would be sent off to World War Two. Some 92,000 kiwi troops went to this war, the maths is mind-boggling to consider just how many kiwis were left at home, with little peace of mind.
You can read more about my feelings about my grandfather’s involvement in Peace Not War (Passion Profile Challenge #1). He was in the Royal New Zealand Navy Intelligence division. He ‘officially’ served his time in the War in the National Home Office in Wellington. ‘Officially’ he never left the country.
Unofficially though, and the reality for my father and grandmother is that, he ‘would go away’ for weeks at time. They wouldn’t know where, or for how long. It just happened that the ‘trip away’ would coincide with a naval ship or submarine leaving Wellington harbour around that day. They could see it leave the harbour from their temporary home in Kelburn.
To this day no one in the family knows where Grandad went, or for how long. He died in 1969 after a long illness related to his war injuries, but he was never allowed to tell anyone the details of his trips away. From the rumours, I think I’m glad about that because there would have been no peace of mind for anyone had they known where we suspect he was, or what he was doing.
Peace matters to me on a personal front because of the experience of my father and my grandparents. But it matters to me on a global basis for much more than this. I don’t believe that we were put on this planet to fight, kill and injure each other, let alone innocent by-standers.
“We are connected to the sky and connected to the earth. Together we are the conductors of nature. Let our song of connection be forever beautiful.”
We are connected to the sky and the earth, but we are also connected to each other. Regardless of our history, race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, sexuality or even simply our thoughts… we are brothers and sisters, as fellow human beings. However we choose to believe that we appeared here on this planet, and regardless of what higher power we choose to believe or not believe in, we are all one species. So why would we choose to kill each other? Why would we choose to destroy another’s family?
I believe that we choose war over peace because it is easier. Certainly not easier for those caught up in it, or watching loved ones in it, but it’s an almost simple way to win an argument. Just kill the opponent, or at least anyone who matters to that opponent. End of argument. Apparently.
If we could simply lay down our arms, and talk.
If I disagree with my neighbour, we stand in the drive-way and talk. It works because we are prepared to listen and understand each other’s perspective. It works, and while we have differences, we can still be friends, respecting each other’s individuality.
It’s interesting that in the past two years, living in Christchurch, we have all been through multiple devastating and deadly earthquakes. As neighbours, we all put aside our differences, and helped each other. The increased bond between neighbours is one good thing that came from the devastation. I suspect something similar is happening today in the areas badly affected by hurricane Sandy.
Peace between neighbours reigned for us in Christchurch, and was a very good thing. More important than arguments was making sure each other had the basic provisions of food, water and shelter. Maybe it’s a simple way of looking at it, but I believe that simple is often best. Talking and listening is often best. It by far beats the need to kill and destroy.
That’s why I have taken part in today’s BlogBlast4Peace. All of the bloggers taking part in this event believe that if words are powerful….this matters. The wider we spread this message, each in our own way, the more people will agree that the right thing to do is to lay down arms and live at peace.
I encourage you to read some of the hundreds of other blog posts on this subject today. See the official site at BlogBlast4Peace for more details.
Make a choice, and take a stand for peace, as I have done, and speak out.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
– Bishop Desmond Tutu Nobel Prize for Peace 1984
“Never doubt that a handful of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead
Some Very Important Credits
My Peace Globes (used here and on my Facebook page) were kindly created for me by my friend, Michelle Frost. Check out Michelle’s blog to see what she is saying about peace today at Crows Feet.
Artwork and Prose from Alison Pearce are both used with her permission. Alison produces some excellent work, which can be seen at Art That Speaks by Alison Pearce. Her site is well worth a visit. Thank you for your co-operation Alison.
“A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe.”
~ Wayne Dyer
Today (Friday) is the International Day of Peace, recognised each year on 21 September. On this day the United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.
I admit that I am less interested in politics in general, and more interested in the recovery and sustainability of people’s mental health, but I have recognised that something that contributes or takes away from my mental health, is when I am disturbed by things I am passionate about. Peace is one for those things for me. And I am convinced that a lack of peace causes great harm to the mental health of so many.
The Secretary-General of The United Nations, Ban Ki-moon says:
“On the International Day of Peace, the United Nations calls for a complete cessation of hostilities around the world.
We also ask people everywhere to observe a minute of silence, at noon local time, to honour the victims – those who have lost their lives, and those who survived but must now cope with trauma and pain.
The theme of this year’s observance is “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future”.
Armed conflicts attack the very pillars of sustainable development.
Natural resources must be used for the benefit of society, not to finance wars.
Children should be in school, not recruited into armies.
National budgets should focus on building human capacity, not deadly weapons.
On the International Day of Peace, I call on combatants around the world to find peaceful solutions to their conflicts.
Let us all work together for a safe, just and prosperous future for all.”(1.)
It is the victims of war, and they can be defined in many ways, are the ones I feel most concerned about because they are usually the innocent ones, the one’s who haven’t chosen war, but get stuck in its path. They are the ones who face years of trauma and pain. I accept that I have never been in a war zone, and neither do I want to be, but I have been in a war zone in my head (and my body in relation to my eating disorder and self harm). I know from that how much damage war does and I believe strongly that there has to be another way to solve conflict.
“I am fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”
– George McGovern
And it’s not just men. Only a few weeks ago my country mourned the death of our first woman soldier in killed in combat. Her death was no worse than the death of the two men who died with her, but it somehow hit home to me, particularly when I watched the footage of the all-female pall-bearer party carry her coffin off the plane that brought the bodies home.
I have complete respect for those who serve their countries in war, but I have no respect for the leaders who craft the wars. Those who send soldiers to war and create conflicts where innocent people are killed. There simply has to be another way.
Because of my interest in mental health I keep asking the question, what must war do to the mental health of those involved? We only need to consider for a moment the statistics of suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst soldiers, but we have little knowledge of the impact on civilians. It must simply be enormous, and I don’t believe that this impact on either soldiers or civilians is acceptable.
I am just one person, many miles from the conflicts that are taking place at the moment. I could say, what can I do? I can’t change anything. But I strongly believe that I can make a difference simply by raising the issue, recognising the event today, and hoping for peace. It’s not easy to change our world, but that is no excuse not to try. I am going to continue to write about this, and as I have said before, have committed to the Blog Blast 4 Peace on 4 November. Maybe it’s not exactly what my blog is usually about, but it is something that I feel strongly about because it has an effect on my life (and yours).
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
As I write today, it is actually September 12 in my part of the world, but I want to recognise that in the United States and around the world, 9/11 is being remembered again today. As I wrote yesterday, 9/11 also marks my birthday, and while this year I have finally been able to celebrate that fact again, I admit that celebrating anything on this day just doesn’t seem quite right anymore.
I find myself almost being apologetic when asked when my birthday is, and I know that I am not the only one who feels this way about having a birthday on such a day. The other thing I note is that until 2001 my birthday was always 11/9 because that is the way we write the date in my part of the world. Now it is so much easier to say my birthday is 9/11 and still know that people won’t think my birthday is November.
But one day on is actually what I remember. It wasn’t September 11 that the world seemed to fall apart in New Zealand, but rather it was waking up on September 12 that I heard that the planes had flown into the World Trade Center towers, (as well as the horror in Washington DC and Pennsylvania), and it was for the rest of that day that we followed the terrible news.
I was in hospital at the time and my favourite nurse woke me saying that the world was ending (that’s not what you need when an inpatient in a psych hospital). I had no idea what she was talking about but in my very unwell state assumed I must have done something really bad. In the next weeks I battled between reality and some sort of depressive delusional fantasy.
I was far from well and it wasn’t long before doctors decided that I was a candidate for more Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT). Lucky me. I was well enough to sign on the dotted line but I knew little else except for concluding by then that 9/11 was all my fault.
The road to recovery has been long but one of the things that has become more important to me is the need for us to work towards peace. There is too much hate, too much bloodshed and too much war in my mind. It’s not something that I feel at all comfortable about, and the need for us to love our brothers and sisters seems increasingly urgent in my mind. Why can’t we stand side by side?
In line with my thoughts on the need for peace, I have joined Blog Blast 4 Peace, a movement of bloggers blogging for peace. This is a group that has been running for six years now and on November 4, there will be a commitment from involved bloggers to write that day for peace. The images included on this post come from that source.
Peace means a lot of different things to me, and it is my hope to explore what it is that I wish for. I have written before about my desire to see Peace Not War, as well as that I admit to being An Idealist. I don’t pretend to think that everyone will agree with what I might think, but isn’t it time we were talking about what we mean by peace and how we can achieve it?
No one wants another 9/11 and while the world has changed much in 11 years, there so much more that is possible so that we can learn to live alongside one another.
“One hand holding on to another. One human telling another human that they aren’t alone. One person sharing their strength and understanding with another person.”
I like this a lot, and while Ruby wrote it in connection to suicide prevention, I see it as something that peace can also achieve, so hopefully Ruby won’t mind that I borrowed it. It applies so well to peace, whether it across the world, in our local neighbourhood, or simply peace of mind for each of us.
Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant Us Peace).
“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
Kia Kaha’ in Maori means ‘Be Strong’ ( or sometimes ‘Stay Strong’). It is a regularly used phrase here in New Zealand in a huge range of places. For example, when the three kiwi soldiers who died in Afghanistan last week were returned home in recent days, Kia Kaha has often been repeated to their friends, families and colleagues.
It is a warm expression of support and encouragement, sometimes used as a greeting; used by Maori and increasingly by Pakeha (white-skinned New Zealanders) alike. It is uniquely New Zealand, and I admit that I like that. If regular readers hadn’t noticed I am proud to be a kiwi.
Kia Kaha Christchurch
The phrase Kia Kaha Christchurch became a popular call after 22 February 2011, when we were struck by the deadly earthquake that killed 185 people. At the time, and since because it continues to be heard today as we rebuild, it seemed like a nice expression of support that the rest of the country was giving us. Actually even Prince William used the phrase when he addressed many Christchurch residents at a Memorial Service in the months after. Someone had clearly told him that it would be a welcome phrase to use, and I’m sure many who heard the speech were encouraged by it.
Yet to be honest, the use of kia kaha after the earthquakes is nice in terms of support but it just doesn’t quite sit right with me.
I read a comment on a blog recently that caught my attention and perhaps summed up what I was thinking but hadn’t dared to even think, let alone, express. It said:
“… I just find the whole earthquake terribly cruel,
depressing, crushing, and awful, and nothing
to be kia kaha about” (1.)
I accept the phrase kia kaha in the manner in which I think it is meant, but when people have lost lives, limbs, homes, possessions, businesses… I’m not convinced that being strong is always the appropriate response.
Don’t get me wrong, being strong was pretty much the only option for so many people in the days immediately following. My own experience was that I had no choice than to be strong as I turned my attention to helping my elderly parents deal with the losses they had encountered. Neither of them were thinking straight, yet there were many things that simply had to be done. They had left their home with nothing, so had no clothes, no money, not even any identification. There was help available for them fairly quickly but it involved dealing with bureaucracy. Yes, even in a disaster someone is going to want forms filled in.
So I had no time to do anything but be strong. There simply wasn’t any other choice. But while being strong was appropriate in the early days, there came a time when it was necessary for me to feel the emotion that I had switched off and buried. It was buried so well I hardly knew it existed. It was only in rare moments with just my brother that I was even able to feel the stress that was building.
Six days later I was fortunate to get half an hour of my weekly appointment with my psychotherapist. It didn’t matter that I was sitting in a field on my brother’s farm talking to my therapist by phone. My friend Plonker was alone in being able to listen in. It wasn’t the usual environment but the chance to talk about how I was feeling made a huge difference to me. I didn’t have to be strong right then.
I worked out at that point where I needed to be strong, and where it was safe to have the feelings that were bubbling over. That made an enormous difference to me, because I knew that there was space for me.
What concerns me is that not everyone has that space, and for many the term kia kaha is the only words they’ve heard. A friend of mine (a man of about 60) told me some months later that he had been diagnosed with depression following the earthquakes and had come to accept that he didn’t have to be strong. For the first time in his life he saw that it was okay to be sad, it was okay to be weak. Having realised that, and with the help of medication and counselling he was starting to recover, but understanding that he didn’t have to be the stoic one in his family was the break through.
Today I came across a blog post saying a similar thing. I’m not exactly sure how I came across it. I guess it was something I fell upon but was exactly what I needed to read. It fits perfectly with what I am saying, although I admit that the post is addressed to men. Carlos Andrés Gómez says in his blog:
” …I was fifteen when I heard about my closest childhood friend being killed in a car accident, and I will never forget this tremendous burden I felt to “stay strong” and “tough my way through it.” I didn’t want anyone to know how much I was hurting. I didn’t want to ask for help. I accepted it as a given that I would bottle up all of my emotions and deal with them alone. I took great pride (at the time) in the fact that I excused myself from the table to cry alone in the bathroom after my father told me the news. I never shed one tear in front of my sister and dad, and it somehow felt like undeniable proof that I was finally ready to be a man. I quietly celebrated that moment of shutting myself down emotionally, as though it were an accomplishment. I wore it like a badge of honor that I could conceal the hurricane of emotions in my chest…”
Whether man or woman I think there are times when shutting down probably seems like the best course of action. It’s what I did in the immediate days after that quake because there was simply too much else that needed to be done. And while I welcome anyone greeting me with kia kaha I’m not sure that it is the phrase I need to hear now. Now I need to hear that I don’t need to be strong. Even if it is only me that gives me that permission, I need to know that it is okay to be as I am.
This doesn’t just apply to the aftermath of natural disasters. It applies in day to day life. I spend a lot of my time concerned with the well-being of other people, and have recently attached a note to my computer screen. It says “sometimes you have to do what’s best for you and your life, not what’s best for everyone else“. For me, this is the message I need. I don’t always need to be strong for others. Sometimes it is okay to simply look after me.
PS.If I have offended anyone in my interpretation of the term kia kaha, I apologise. My intention has not been to criticise the use of the term (which is one I use and appreciate), but to explore the use of it.
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are
strong at the broken places.”
Normally I can find a way to get along with anyone. I am particularly good at getting along with people others might find difficult. Actually I did this for a living for a long time and enjoyed the challenge greatly. Every so often though, I find the odd one who trips me up. One that I find incredibly difficulty to like, and when that happens I conclude that I can not be a very nice person.
Why? Because I was brought up to be a nice person. I was brought up to get along with everyone. My upbringing said ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. Actually I didn’t love myself at all (but that’s another story). I was taught to like everyone and get on with everyone. To be polite and well-mannered. I was taught things like The Ten Commandments. They were actually one of the earliest things I can remember learning and I concluded that these would make me into the nice person I was supposed to be.
I was about 14 years old when I first came across this poem. I know it’s long, that’s why you have a choice of reading the text or watching the clip, based on the text. It made a big impression on me at the time, and today it came back to mind.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all it’s sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
I first came across Desiderata at the house of a woman I had visited with my family. She was someone we knew through church. Someone I never found easy to like. And actually being ‘nice’ had it’s difficulties at times. Actually I never felt like she was being nice to me. She always seemed critical of me. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I didn’t understand her sense of humour so didn’t laugh at what she said. Actually it seemed like she was laughing at me.
I think that’s why I was surprised to find, and read the framed copy of Desiderata in her home. It didn’t really strike me as something she would have. Somehow it didn’t go with the personality I saw, but then it made me start to realise that people are often so much different from they appear.
‘Nice’ was all a nice ideal but not too far from the surface lay some pretty big restrictions. It simply screwed up my thoughts about myself further when I realised that for a few (and it was only a few!) people, I just couldn’t find a way to like them. I couldn’t like what they said and did. Suddenly it condemned me as not a very nice person. I was no longer what I thought I was supposed to be.
I’m not talking a lot of people here. I have been tripped up by one just recently, and that is the reason for this post. Just the occasional one whose wilful ignorance, cruelty and complete lack of regard for other people (and beings) really upsets me. I admit I don’t know how to be with these people and actually I find myself very impatient to get away from them.
Once I used to want to change their thinking. I guess I wanted to be the ‘nice person’ who would change them from their ways. Now I realise that I do myself a favour by not trying to change the sometimes unchangeable. If anything I’d rather spend my energy in making up for some of the damage they create.
I also think that being in ‘nice places’ where I was taught to think ‘nicely’ does not protect me from these people. Actually those nice places contain not-nice people too. I have a lasting impression in my mind of the church-going smokers outside church smoking after the Sunday service. There was an (usually unspoken) impression that these people were second rate amongst the church goers. I hated that. Actually this impression is one of several reasons I eventually started smoking myself. I preferred to be seen as second-rate rather than ‘nice’, if that’s what nice people did. What it might have done for my physical health or bank balance is another issue and I’m working on that, but here were ‘nice’ people judging others.
I can’t just assume a particular group of people will have the compassion and niceness I long to see. I know from experience this is not the case. I learnt that the hard way. Many times over. I’ve also learnt that it doesn’t pay to try to put labels on groups.
I admit that I was confused by the things I was taught, as both a child and an adult. Some things seemed impossible to achieve and some were not particularly helpful to me. Some things ended up harming me and then I wondered where I went wrong (note that I assumed it was always me who was wrong). Nice was not as easily defined as I had been led to believe.
I find that I can now go back to Desiderata and find something I can live with. One part particularly speaks to me:
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the
stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is
clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
I am no more nice than any other being. I have just the same right to be here. I still find it difficult to accept those who are cruel and show no regard for others. I still don’t know how to be alongside them but I don’t think I have to try to re-mould them into ‘nice’ people, or perhaps more importantly, re-mould myself into what might suit them. I don’t even have to understand them. Strangely I still find it easier sometimes to get on with the people who might be defined by others as not nice. I guess I have my own definition of nice nowdays, and that works a whole lot better for me.
Actually all I have to do is be true to who I really am, and if that occasionally makes me into not a sometimes second rate person, then that is perfectly fine by me. I don’t have to like everyone I come across. All I have to be is me.
“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”
On more than one occasion I have been labelled an idealist, and I don’t care. I would rather be called this than have my mind so closed to the difference of others around me, and around this planet where we live.
This morning I woke to disturbing news that three more kiwi soldiers have died in combat in Afghanistan, including our first female soldier ever killed in combat. I know the numbers of soldiers lives lost in New Zealand is negligible compared to other countries but we are a small country. Our population is only 4.5 million and every death is a big loss, of course especially to the friends and families of these people.
I have written about my feelings about war before so I won’t repeat myself. I don’t claim to have a firm grasp on the subject of international relations but I find it so difficult to accept that death in the name of war is necessary. When will it be that we learn to talk rather than fight and kill?
I was taught to live on the basis of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, and while I don’t accept all the teaching I was given as a child, this is one that I firmly hang onto. Simply because my neighbour might be a different race, religion, gender, culture or even sexuality gives me no right to judge them as being wrong.
I also read other news this morning that disturbed me. Here in New Zealand church and various moral groups are arguing over the proposed marriage amendment bill that, if passed, will allow the way for same-sex marriage. While it is an entirely different subject than war, I am inclined to think that the issue is the same. The inability to accept the difference of others.
It is not my place to judge anyone as right or wrong. I am simply another human being walking this planet and I have as much right to freedom as anyone else. I believe that if I should choose to marry another woman I should have that right, and should have that legally recognised as a heterosexual couple would be.
More and more, I find myself objecting to what so many people say is simply ‘right’. I’m not convinced that right and wrong is that clearly cut, and that is coming from someone with the black and white thinking of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). There is hope for my adoption of the colour grey after all. I know that I have family and friends who might disagree with my views but that is okay. I think it’s a whole lot better that I stand for what I believe.
For so many years I couldn’t care less. Don’t get me wrong, I have always cared about inequality and fairness, but because of having my head so far into that mental illness fog, it was impossible to stand for anything. Now though, I get too disturbed by that inequity and judgement to just simply accept it as life. People dying at war, whether soldiers or civilians is unnecessary. People being denied the right to live as the people they are to is also unnecessary. For that matter people (like me) being judged for having a particular kind of illness and being unable to get the job or the home they need? It is also unnecessary.
Somehow we need to find a way to live together in harmony. I might sound like I’m left over from the 1960’s but I will never accept that we can not achieve this. So call me an idealist. I’m a proud one.
“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:
– I shall not fear anyone on Earth. – I shall fear only God. – I shall not bear ill will toward anyone. – I shall not submit to injustice from anyone. – I shall conquer untruth by truth.
And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”