“The root of the word courage  is cor – the Latin word for heart.  In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics is important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.” -Dr. Brene Brown

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Discussion of hate speech, hate acts, internet abuse, bullying and oppression, sexual abuse, violence of most kinds.

Apology to dyslexics, I hardly ever post this many words with no photos, and the backdrop gets really hard for this much reading 😦

I was on BBC Radio Nottingham on National protest against ATOS and the WCA [work capability assessment] Day (Feb 19th). After being taunted by a Tory MP that I was “to be congratulated on my ability to organize the local protest and perhaps I had a future in Events Planning?” I responded by explaining what an experienced organizer I had been before becoming ill and now doubly disabled, and then I heard myself say: “This is a shadow of what I’ve done, I’m a shadow of who I used to be.”

And that went very deep for me.

In so many ways I am more than I used to be, so many less too…but this expression that all the colour had drained out of me…ouch! That hurt!

Since becoming interested in being part of the Nottingham protest I have had to endure a lot of trolling, betrayal, backstabbing and mean-mindedness. I find hate speech ineffective and alienating, and some levels of it are triggering for me, and I know, many others. As I choose my facebook contacts pretty carefully, I’d always been able to avoid a lot. Now I am able to ‘unfriend’ people and pages I have been struggling with, I can feel the relief.

I find it disturbing how demeaning speech is insidiously becoming acceptable in campaigning, and is promoted by many anarchist groups. I have become a target to be discredited because I objected to swastikas and Nazi imagery on posters, gory images and what I consider to be sexualising  and rape culture speech – I really can’t figure out how to tell you the terms I mean without saying them and risking triggering lots of other survivors, and I don’t want to do that…

Suffice it to say that when I was accused of “playing the victim” and needed to pull myself together, stop being offended by words and be a survivor who tackled the ‘real thing’…I found myself furious, as an ex-campaigner who has done a ton of awareness raising work, and also deeply sad.

This was from a survivor saying they were fine with the term and so was everyone else. Where is their connection to their authentic self? Where is the permission to be vulnerable AND effective?

Don’t worry, I did point out I existed despite them trying to negate me! And I know, even if I was the only one, it would be wrong. I have done that work. I can be vulnerable AND effective. But how is it to be around people who lack respect for that? Triggering, wounding, unsafe, draining. Greyness. Shadowed.

Language matters. Language opens and closes doors. I write how I like on my blog, but I use ‘crystal mark/simple English as much as I can when campaigning. Language creates permission and gives presence and frames of reference within which we examine what we want to build and how we want to build it. How does a person who has been abused rebuild and keep their respect when terms of abuse are used to humiliate? Non-physical but pointed insults attacking the right to acceptance and pride in sexuality, race, gender self-definition, difference of ability, choice of work, whatever the bully chooses to demean, these all create spaces where respect for the person is blurred. And once that has gone, then abuse is possible and condoned, and protected from reporting by the targeted individual or groups.

Thus the rise in use of terms relating to sexual abuse is very worrying, survivors of violence (whether random or targeted) and sexual abuse, bullying, hate crimes and hate speech are definitely a majority in industrialised countries. And yet survivors of abuse are not respected the way we need to be.

Remembering intersectionality, these circles of oppression overlap and isolate, with vocational and financial opportunity offsetting for some, but further disadvantaging others. Class is now becoming a really tangled issue  with the complication of working and unemployed members of each class holding very different experiences of how these systems oppress them : a wealthy Hindu family who work in skilled manual trades, but who have no idea how desperate a sanctioned disabled but originally middle class white person in dispute with the Department of Work and Pensions might be…And a victim of abuse in the wealthy family might still be at greater suicide risk than the person enduring sanctions, if they are very sure they will win their appeal (eg ex solicitor, knows the loophole to argue).

It’s so complex – but so simple: anyone, anywhere deserves to be treated with respect. And if they are being oppressive, their mind will not be changed by being insulted, it will have to relax to let new information in.

The great Audre Lorde said it best:

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”

My response to all that has happened and all I feel is to create a space where inclusive, creative, compassionate campaigning can take place without hate speech.

So I have! 😉

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An unfortunate truth  is I have to be prepared to check out every contact seeking to join the new group, and proofread every post/comment for at least the first month. I know from friends how draining being an admin of a Facebook group is, I now know how grey I feel after reading pages of hate pretending to be effective invitations to people to change their minds, hearts and actions. I want to be colourful again! I don’t want arguments! Spits dummy on floor!

But I have to honour my hurt, and the truth that if I want a disabled- friendly, non ‘hating’ group where anyone can rely on finding a peaceful, positive, constructive place to create small acts of protest, kindness and change…then it will take that. The shadow will shorten as a particular group of activists loses interest, the burden is already lightened by finding so many amazing things to post, my personal page has long been a relay point for loads of inspiration 🙂 Any of you who read Sustainable Man will know how many brilliant initiatives are out there.

I have called it anyone everywhere inspired by this wonderful quote from Martin Luther King:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

and also to reinforce the reasoning behind my refusal to bow down to the bullies: as a disabled person, I have the right to be allowed safe space at a protest about disability benefits. Many people require safe spaces to be able to make our positive and valuable contributions. We are not weak, we are strong when we declare we will work in positive ways, refusing to be divided against the others oppressed by the systems in power. Being inclusive matters, honouring ourselves, staying focused on being the change we want to see matters … speaking our heart truths… being vulnerable AND effective

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1394938094103956/

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