Hello. How has your week been? Good, I hope. Mine has been busy and hectic but I don’t want to say any of that because it sounds like excuses. So, in a bid to keep this functional here’s what I’ve been doing this week to be a better ally.
When I sat down to write this, I felt completely overwhelmed by a surge of guilt and shame. This week feels like a week where I’ve been consumed by my own “stuff” and thus burrowed in my own interiority: I do not feel I have looked outwards enough. The question I keep finding myself asking as the weeks progress is: is this ok? If I know I am not causing any harm, if I am doing my bit in my small pocket of world, if I am being kind, educating myself where I can, stepping up when I can – is that good enough? Lockdown cocoons me and in many ways protects me from the call for grand gestures – I am irked by the lack of opportunities for me to show demonstrable solidarity. Social media feels insipid and annoys me…does that make my seeming inactivity acceptable?
I don’t know the answers to these questions much as I continue to not know the purpose of this “weigh in.” What is my role in this? Where are my skills needed? ….Wait, what are my skills? What do I want this weekly post to achieve? What emotions or actions do I want it to catalyse? Should there be a theme?
^ THAT. All of that is my weigh in. The labour I’m doing to figure out where my voice is needed in all of this; what my “job” is as a white and privileged woman; what I should be listening to, reading, supporting, protesting against. I feel like I need to be everything right now: activist and educator; arsonist and lobbyist; truthteller and anarchist; rebel and mediator. I feel ill-equipped for all of these roles. Unlike florals in Spring, I don’t think this is groundbreaking or novel. The only reason I’m including it today is because I think many reading this might feel the same and, if I can take a step back from myself, I know I would tell you/me that if we are having these internal conversations, then we ARE achieving change. Because we’re transcending reactionary tactics and instead looking inwards to dismantle and deconstruct ourselves. And, as the prophets tell us, it’s only in dismantling and deconstructing that we can create the space for new things to flourish.
Ok, enough babble. Below is how I showed up, butterflied my way closer to diversity and just sat in myself. Oh and how I have been the best and worst of eco-allies.
Climate wins = I have not bought any fast fashion despite the brouhaha of shops reopening; I haven’t become pregnant (well done me); I haven’t gotten on a plane or taken a single unnecessary journey in any mode of energy-consuming transport; I am still a stout vegetarian.
As I write this, I’m eating a Boco pizza that was delivered to my door in a car. I ordered it vegan and THEN added mozzarella (such a game-changer, honestly will revolutionise your life ’cause everyone knows vegan pizzas have the best extras to make up for no cheese) THEN ordered a side of fries and not one but TWO garlic mayo dips. Some might argue that all of this is necessary and I can just about believe it….what was not necessary was ticking ‘yes’ when they asked if I would like my chips covered in parmesan. So there you have it – a meal that had the best of vegan intentions and that I then chose to destroy with ALL OF THE CHEESE.
Oh, and I ate three definitely buttered pastries on Sunday. Consecutively.
And I’ve ordered a delivery of four more for tomorrow.
Not my best week for the climate…
I attended a panel entitled, F*ck Your White-Centred Wellness. I spoke about purchasing a ticket for this last week. Hosted by Constanza Eliana Chinea, it talked about the co-opting of ancestral healing practices by whiteness and how this essential appropriation has robbed many in the BIPOC community not just of access to these practices but a belief they have a RIGHT to participate in these practices. I listened. I took a lot of notes during the discussion. I turned off my phone and didn’t listen, though it would have been easy to, while hacking away through life admin, dinner prep, room-cleaning etc. To sit and just be present with these voices felt like the greatest contribution I could offer – nobody needs my thoughts on this, nobody needs to know how it made me feel.
I donated to a GoFundMe set up by Delroy Mpofu – a transgender asylum seeker living in direct provision for the past three years who desperately wants to undergo surgery that will, in his words, “reunite myself with my body.”
Wrote a letter to my TDs and government Ministers demanding to know their follow-up plans in ending direct provision and their stance on the deaths of SIXTY ONE refugees in the Mediterranean recently. This is the thing I am most proud of. I have NEVER written to a politician before, apart from petition-signing and automatically-generated emails. I have been so obsessed with the idea of perfection – and a complete case of inferiority complex – that I never felt informed, intelligent, or important enough to exercise this very basic right. Today, though, I sat down on my lunchbreak – something I do not give up easily – and I bashed out a letter that was mediocre at best. You know what though? IT DOESN’T MATTER. That subject line – capitalised, of course – is sitting in their inbox, there is one more voice saying ‘no’ I won’t stand for this. I cannot encourage you enough to do the same. If you would like to use my letter as a template you can find it here.
On the refugee crisis, I’m showing up right now by leaving you with this fact: “According to the United Nations refugee agency, attempts to reach the Italian coast from Tunisia increased by 150 percent in the first four months of the year, compared with the same period in 2019.” The crisis no one is talking about hasn’t gone away. It’s getting worse and every government in Europe is openly funnelling money into ensuring people will be denied rescue and will almost certainly face one of two options: death by drowning- the latest deaths including several toddlers and a pregnant woman – or a return to somewhere like Libya which means prison, torture, and assault (often sexual). The third option is at least eighteen months in a refugee camp.
BREAKING OUT OF THE COCOON TO BECOME A BETTER SOCIAL BUTTERFLY
I continue to diversify my Instagram feed. Instagram is the only social media platform I’m really “on” with any level of attention or regularity and so it is the one portal whose algorithm I need to shift. To be honest, I continue to find social media noisy and overwhelming so I’ve been keeping my time on there functional and minimal. Thus, I won’t reference new accounts in this post as I feel to do so would be inauthentic as I haven’t been actively “following” anybody. I am eschewing all IGTV’s and “must-watch” stories.
The truth is, my brain feels like a poorly-absorbent sponge at the moment and I find I can only give my attention to a few, choice voices for anything to be actually HEARD. Instagram is thus, while being diversified, not being perused. I know I will come back to those resources again when I have the energy and in the meantime am becoming very closely acquainted with my new friend: the save button. Lifesaver.
I am doing my utmost not to feel guilty about this because my guilt will only fester into helplessness, closely followed by inaction, ending in disgusted apathy. If I have to go slower than everyone else to keep moving forward, I’m willing to do that.
Checking news sources and reading the same news story from multiple outlets. Do not rely on the Irish Times. If you are only reading from one paper, you are only getting one viewpoint.
GOING BACK TO MOVE FORWARDS
In the vein of sitting with myself and feeling guilt and shame for the great “undones”, I am still only on Chapter Two of Christy Harrison’s Anti-Diet. This is because I’ve listened to Chapter One – the chapter that charts the racist origins of diet culture – three times. Again, superficially this might seem like I’m not doing enough – or even anything! – of worth but I feel the opposite. I relistened because I didn’t feel I was taking in the information correctly.
You see, I’m not trying to merely understand why my own prejudices exist, I am trying to deconstruct and dismantle them. This cannot be done on a cursory reading of a text. At least not for me. Just like learning a new language, one quick reeling off of a grammar rule is not the same as using it to create or pivot a sentence. Both learning and unlearning involve rehashing old information repeatedly, raking over and over the same patch of seemingly insignificant history until I can fully unlearn my biases and my complacency. I might listen to it a fourth time. REMINDER TO ME AND YOU: IT’S OK TO GO SLOW – YOU JUST NEED TO GET GOING!
On this idea of going backwards in order to move forwards, I’ve started listening to the podcast Modern Problem. It charts the history and transmutations of Direct Provision in Ireland and thus is invaluable in understanding how we got here and where we need to keep putting pressure on the government to get to. As I mentioned in terms of “showing up”, I listened to this podcast with my notes open on my phone and actively paused, replayed, and transcripted some parts. I view this kind of listening as “work” and my purpose within it to “sow up.” Not just by lashing it on when I’m doing the dishes but to sit silently with the information and absorb it.
That’s not all I’ve done but it’s enough to share. Perhaps you expected recommendations from this weigh in and thus feel disappointed. Perhaps you feel like reading this was a waste of your time. This is a reminder that if you are coming here to be informed or educated, you are asking free labour of me. This weigh in is not about me promoting your own journey of learning. The fact I felt pressure and shame writing this because I didn’t have enough books, podcasts, petitions, GoFundMes to recommend is proof that I need to take a step back. That, as much as I want us all to be accountable in this, this is MY journey towards allyship. Ostensibly, it might seem like I’m not doing a lot – or anything. But I am thinking, I am oscillating, I am pondering. When I need more information, I will get it. But right now I’m sitting with what I’ve got – just the casual knowledge that every time I use a fatphobic slur when describing my body, I am perpetuating and consolidating abject racism; or that “white” Rice Krispies have white men cartoon characters on their box while “brown” Coco Pops are categorised by a “brown” monkey. This week, that feels like enough for me.
INTENTIONS FOR NEXT WEEK
To compensate for this week’s shame, I’m going to trial keeping an “intentions” section – setting myself weekly waymarkers that break down the terrifying into the doable. Join me?
- Regular and consistent advocacy work. I’ve been looking at a lot of activists who’ve had success in changing legislation and they all say the same: emailing, petitioning and hounding your TD (something I HATE and feels horrendously dull and adult) is the single most effective thing you can do. I’m going to try and be a bit proactive about this, beyond just petition-signing.
- Listen to news updates more – try and catch one bulletin a day?
- Continue going back through my “saved” files of resources I need
- Finish everything I start
- Figure out the format of this weigh in a little more – what do I need it to be? What do I want it to be? And what purpose can it have for others?