Category: Work (page 2 of 11)

in thoughts of you.

‘A betrayal in the activist world is one that cuts the deepest.’

     Jane Barry

I started writing this in April, when I was angry and hurt and the sting of betrayal was stronger than it is now. On most days I don’t even think about it, but sometimes it comes crashing through the door I thought I’d firmly shut.

I wanted some distance from all of the hypocrisy, the back-biting, the gossip, the disappointment. I wanted a breather from the bullshit that is endemic to these spaces. I wanted to step away from the questioning glances, the appraising looks, the whispering.

I thought I had some distance, I thought I’d drawn some lines in the last (nearly) six months. I have gained perspective, I have learnt to unclench my fists and stop grinding my teeth. I take deep breaths, but even now, it still stings.

It isn’t just the hypocrisy of it all {how can one purport to work on issues of privacy, confidentiality, sex-positivity, & then turn right around and gossip about people?}, or the ‘none-of-your-fucking-business’ of it all, it is what it means for me: I worry about my own credibility, my own reputation, and whether it’s taking a beating; whether my ‘successes’ and my ‘work’ is being judged differently; appraised differently now. It’s that I am sometimes so naive, so stupid, so blindly trusting, so… silly.

I feel foolish and it is a whole new emotion.

I should know better than to trust. I should know better than to give people the benefit of the doubt. I should know better than to believe that every smile is genuine, that every colleague is a friend because the political is personal and the personal is political…I should know all this. But somehow, I forgot about peoples’ ambition, cavalier cruelty, unthinkingness, casual hurtfulness. I forgot.

It takes a toll on you, on your self-esteem, on the work you do; and you begin to question everything. Motivation is harder to find, self-respect is harder to maintain.  You worry about everything: whether people are asking you to do things for certain reasons, and if you say ‘yes'; whether that reflects badly on you or not. You begin to question yourself and everything you’ve achieved: did you really deserve it, does everyone wonder if you did, did you get here under unfair pretences, did you deserve any of this; ever?

It plays on your mind all the time.

It isn’t healthy at all. It isn’t right,  and it certainly isn’t fair.

Sometimes, I’m more angry than I am hurt.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve been wanting to switch career tracks and give all of this a huge ‘fuck you’. I love and believe in the importance of what I’m doing; of my work.. but I am tired of the people, of the bullshit, of the questionable ethics. I am tired of trying so hard and feeling so undervalued, so unappreciated, so.. useless. 

It just doesn’t seem worth it anymore. It’s just more than I can handle- looking at people and wondering if they’re truly on your side or if they’re going to say spiteful things as soon as you walk away; wondering if they resent your presence there as something unearned; thinking that you are, in fact, an utter fraud.

I do not want to look at people I trust with suspicion, I do not want to look at people whose work I admire  and feel let-down. I do not want to lose the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt. I do not want to lose the ability to want to trust people. I do not want to lose the ability to turn colleagues into friends, collaborators, co-conspirators.

The toll is too much.

In April, I’d scribbled this in my diary; in an absolute rage

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‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.’

Audre Lorde

I’m reminded of this now, when all these emotions come swirling in again. It is an act of political warfare. It is an act of self-preservation; and everything I wish to do, is really self-care.

I talk about self-care a lot- with my friends, with people I think are struggling, with my fellow feminists and activists.. I think it’s something we’re trained to talk about for other people. We’re trained to respect and support people through their traumas, to support them as they heal, to hold their hands when they hurt. We tell each other it’s important to heal and to nurture and to ‘self-care’. We say the words, but we don’t do the work of it. Our burnout rates, the endemic disillusionment is reflective of it.

We’re- I’m- at crisis point. We need to do the work of self-care- build it into our spaces, make the time for it, refuse to feel guilty when we take it, recognise that we need it and act on it, know that it is necessary. We need to do the work of self-care: be accountable to each other, be good to each other.

The words are easy, it’s time we do the work of it.

The question is, ‘how?’.

To do that, we have to value ourselves; and unfortunately, I don’t think we build that into our systems either. We don’t make the space for it.

I don’t know what to do next, but self-preservation seems like a good first step.

a luta continua.

It’s been a rough week and a bit for the world: so much tragedy and anger and hurt and senselessness. Even Mandela Day couldn’t usher in enough hope for all of us.

A lot of it has hit close to home: one. two. and it feels like a personal blow. You worry about your movements and the struggles, you worry about your friends, you worry about how to continue struggling when it all feels so bereft of point, of hope, of purpose. The HIV/AIDS communities, the LGBTQI communities, the feminist movements… none of us are strangers to loss, to the shock of losing loved ones, the knowledge of death- dying young, unexpectedly, unfairly, too soon, brutally, violently, alone, forgotten. None of us are strangers to impotent governments or intra-governmental processes. None of us are strangers to the politics of death, the ‘how does one make sense of this?’.

The refrain in our movements is to ‘continue the struggle’ so we can honour their memories, their lives; so we can say ‘never again'; ‘one more is too many’. I too am guilty of this- too many e-mails and posts that end in ‘A luta continua‘. I do not mean it cynically- I doubt that any of us do- or as a way to say something when words are hard to find. I think we all genuinely believe this, that it is a way to channel grief and rage into something concrete, into something positive, into something transformative.

But increasingly, I’m worried about what this means and what this says. I worry that we do not create space to grieve, that we do not make space to mourn all that we have lost personally and what a loss it is for our movements. I have learnt that grief changes us, that it shifts how we understand and interact with the world. How loss can sometimes create a hole and we cannot just ignore it, pretend it is not there; but that we must work with it, we must give it the space to be for a while, and we must accept it. It is the last that is the most cruel, because acceptance is difficult; acceptance demands a part of you; acceptance requires time and patience and care. Acceptance is a small, quiet room. We are short on time in our movements, we have begun to treat ‘care’ as a luxury, and small; quiet rooms are hard to come by.

I worry that we are not really acknowledging how this shifts our movements, that it is a larger issue of not taking the time/not having the time to reassess our movements. We have become depoliticised, we have been coopted, our focus has been subverted, we are now multifractioned; and when tragedy like this strikes, when our false silos are revealed to us, and our grief stretches across and wraps itself around the world; it is clear the larger geopolitics that are at play are creating these lines, are fracturing our movements and are shifting our focus. It is this depoliticisation we need to tackle, we cannot continue to pretend that the larger politics have somehow been shut out, that they are not swirling amongst us even now.

I cannot deal with more posts from so-called human rights activists who do not question the role of the Israeli state, but throw around ‘Hamas’ as though it is a justification for Gaza, for the display of Israeli might, for the continued oppression of people, for an apartheid state; and pretend that it has no impact on what we say our struggles are. Madiba knew that all our struggles are interlinked, that we cannot be free while another languishes; that our humanity is tied to each other; that without one we cannot be complete.

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No doubt, it is difficult to politicise. It is rejecting what has become the norm, it is denying what is all to easy to take, and it is remaining vigilant to one’s own culpability; one’s own quiet betrayals; to one’s own unthinkingness. It is uncomfortable and it is a conscious decision to challenge, to disturb, to disrupt; and it can get exhausting, tiring, awkward, unsafe. It is asking the question that causes discomfort, it is the refusing to sit down to obey to stop being hysterical to give in to might to just take a joke. But this is what solidarity is. This is the work of allyship.

And this is the struggle.

A luta continua.

why’d you only call me when you’re high?

  1. This has been a strange summer so far: days where the wind rages and the sky threatens to thunderstorm and spit rain at us like seeds from a fruit’s mouth, and then days like today where the sun rages down and is a bit unkind with its glare and you feel as though it doesn’t matter how quickly the fan turns, your body will never cool down enough, will never stop burning, and you think you can almost see the way in which the heat rises off of you.
  2. I love that summertime means mangoes, but it also means watermelons and watermelon juice and the careful picking-spitting out of seeds.
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    my breakfast.

    When we were little, I was far too lazy to spit out the watermelon seeds and I’d swallow them with the rest of the pulp. My brother told me that I’d grow a watermelon tree out of my stomach, the branches reaching out through my ears and little watermelons for earrings. I believed him, so I swallowed them all- even the ones I’d unconsciously picked out.

  3. Irritation has been easy to come by this month. It is usually in cahoots with anger and frustration. I am not always sure of how to handle it, especially when I feel compelled to respond to peoples’ ignorance and blind-spots. I’ve been good this week about biting my tongue and letting my eye-rolls be enough of a response. It isn’t my job to educate someone, it isn’t my job to make you realise you have on blinders the size of the bloody moon.
  4. On that note, I’m really; really irritated by the constant decontextualisation of violence, how it ignores any structural analysis when reporting on violence against women. This piece on the recent gang-rape and hanging of two girls in rural Uttar Pradesh (a state in India) is shocking in its lack of analysis and contextualisation. It doesn’t even allude to the fact that these girls were from Dalit families (no, having it in the bloody tags is not the same) and that casteism is still an issue in India, that it is linked into to issues of power and power over. It is linked in to issues of access, of infrastructure, of whether a police report is taken or not. To pretend otherwise, isn’t just short-sighted; it’s beyond shoddy reporting. It’s this kind of poor journalism on issues around gender based violence (exacerbated by/intersecting with other socio-economic factors) that leads to immensely pointless and deeply offensive shit (pun intended) like this piece of idiocy. It doesn’t even take into account that over half of the country’s population doesn’t havaccess to toilets and to proper sewage systems and are forced to defecate in public. This is an issue of caste and class and gender and to pretend that it’s as easy as telling someone not to poo in public- people don’t do this because they get some thrill out of it- without considering the larger structural inequities is galling, to say the least. Also note how the UNICEF video doesn’t even really focus on women’s access to toilets- gender blind does not mean it is affirming or that it isn’t a problem or that it’s somehow progressive (*eyeroll*). Just think about the number of girls who do not go to schools because of their periods. Or the two Dalit girls who were gang raped and hanged when they ventured out into the dark fields to relieve themselves.
  5. Also, since Newsweek’s piece on Somaly Mam has taken the criticism and questioning of Mam’s work to the mainstream, organisations that once endorsed and championed her have been quick to dissociate. Not many have offered an explanation or a response around this, and this is a problem for development work as a whole. It ignores the questions and the very valid criticisms that have been levelled against AFESIP and the ways of working, the problematic framing, and seeks to sweep so much of this ‘dirt’ under the rug. I understand implications of funding and larger discomfort around how it affects one’s work and the image of one’s work; but I believe it’s far more important for development spaces as a whole to admit failure, to admit to being wrong, to own up to it, and to learn from it. It’s essential to think about the issues around this and to address them so that this doesn’t happen again. I also can’t help but think these questions have been around for a long, long time- why is it only now that a mainstream publication has printed this (excellently researched) piece that actions are being taken?
  6. On a related note, Maya Angelou passed away and my timelines and feeds have been full of her amazing words and her wonderful histories. I especially love her in this piece -I find it so very inspirational:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxrV2J_OjGo

    What I find disrespectful and frankly, wrong, about the tributes is the invisibilisation of Dr. Angelou’s many avatars and identities. Especially the one of her as a former sex-worker.

  7. Dr. Angelou exhorts us to ‘pick up the battle’- and I feel this is true not just for our activisms, but also for our selves. I’ve shied away from actively writing (beyond this blog and/or work-related things) and claiming that for myself, I’ve shied away from writing in forms that I’m not quite as comfortable in (fiction, poetry, long-form); but I recently did write a piece of ‘poetry’ that I’m not deeply unhappy with. I suppose that’s progress on one of my own internal battles. You can read it in the second edition of Paper & Ink, a zine put together by the wonderful Mr. Martin.  I urge/plead with you to please, please, please buy a copy. I promise you it’s filled with goodness and magic. You ought to submit something for the third edition.
  8. My May Music Project was to listen to entire Nirvana discography. I don’t know how this thing started out, but I was nostalgic for the time when I would listen to bands and know every song lyric and all this random stuff about them. I’m not looking to go back to that painfully irritating version of myself (also, bloody hell; what a waste of time. I don’t have the time or the brain space for this anymore) but I do miss listening to music and just.. that. I also miss listening to entire albums, not just a random track I like; but understanding it in the entirety of its creation.
  9. I’m also finally making headway on a project I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now, and I’ve been throwing this idea around with a few people- online and in other spaces- and when the news of Dr. Angelou’s passing broke and my TL was filled with her words; I was stuck on her last tweet. The phrase ‘the quietude’ stood out. It galvanised me into action, into actually working on the idea rather than just talking about it. I’m hoping to make more progress on it as things ease up on me a bit. I realise I’m being a bit vague, but hold tight: there’ll be lots more soon.
  10. We’re halfway through the year already. I say this ever so often, but where the hell did time go? I realise I’ve spent more of this year on a plane than I expected to, but I suppose; no matter how much your circumstances change, some things remain exactly the same.
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