Saturday, March 19, 2011

Today's thoughts

This week a friend had thieves break in to her home. We live in the same building, it was traumatic on two levels. One, for my friend and her family who lost many treasured memories and important papers, and then, for myself knowing that there by the grace, it could be me. Fortunately for her, she missed confronting the perpetrators though the police surmise that they were still in the house when she got home. That in itself was nerve wracking and a lot of prayers were said that night. We found out later that another neighbour had been hit as well. The police were surprisingly helpful, at least the fingerprint guys, but we know, unless there is some fluke, the possibility that my friend will get her things back are slim. 

For her, this incident was the last straw in a long line of circumstances that have forced her to re-think her decision to live in Trinidad. It's been an on-going conversation between us for several years, we ponder our inability to own a home, the ever rising cost of living and the very real fear of being victims of crime. This country that we have given so much to that gives so little back.  In a way, this incident has been a catalyst for making decisions that we have been putting off. 

In the meantime, it is distressing to read the news. The situations first New Zealand and then  Japan have caused the world once again to look at the power of nature and understand that even with the best planning, it can still all go horribly wrong. The stoicism of the Japanese people is amazing, even in the face of such great adversity they are still seen to be behaving in a disciplined manner. They help each other, follow rules and advisories, you might think that there would be a huge break-down in society but so far, they have gone about trying to survive as best as possible under the circumstances without resorting to anarchy. It is an object lesson that collectively we should be carefully observing, there by the grace, it could have been us. 

One thing that becomes clearer each day is that the nuclear crisis has huge long term implications for the future use of nuclear power world-wide. How much more evidence do we need that perhaps we should have moved away from this as a source of power and invested in more sustainable, earth friendly sources? Germany and Venezuela have already re-thought their positions and we shall see how long this thinking lasts. Meanwhile, forgive the pun, we will all face the fall out in some way. 

In the face of these crisies, and other natural disasters occurring in the world, the unfolding events in the middle East that started in Egypt and have spread to Tunisia, Libya etc, you may be forgiven for thinking the prophets of doom and gloom who have taken to embracing the idea that the world will end in 2012, as per the Mayan calendar, are on to something.  Whether or not that is the case, we'll find out to be sure, but in the meantime, it's our planet and we have to live here.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I am woman re-visited

Though it may seem hokey to today's young woman, Helen Reddy's " I am woman" defined a generation of women. As the world commemorated International Women's Day on March 8th, there were thousands of women who had no idea of the significance of the day . They are lucky enough to take for granted the ability to work outside the home, to choose whatever career they wish, to not be limited in their activities by the fact of their gender. Because as those of us who are a little older know, it has not always been that way.

It was as a small child in the 70's that I first heard Ms Reddy's song, it was played over and over on the only station we had TTT. The station has come and gone like many of the pioneers of women's empowerment. They are much to numerous to list here but thanks to the magic of the Internet, they are out there for a whole new generation to experience. The song "I am woman" is simple, it does not speak only about being equal, it talks about empowering yourself and that you have the power over your life. Wow. For a kid who only knew that women were teachers, or nurses or other "womanly" type pursuits it was powerful. For the first time I really knew that I could choose to be whatever I wanted.  Unlike my great grandmother, grandmother and even my mother.  Eventually, I was the first of my branch of the family to go to university, male or female. In my mother's generation she had cousins who went to university, they were considered to be unusual, remember, it was the 70's.  Twenty years later, it was me walking around campus without a doubt that I had the right to be there.

For generations women have fought for the right to work and receive equal pay, to join any profession and be respected not reviled, to wear whatever they choose, to vote, to run a country, to manage their own money. There are still places in the world where this is not possible due to fundamentalism, or parochial societies. In several countries in the Middle East a woman cannot drive a car, go out in public without a male escort etc., perhaps someday too they will have the same rights that women have fought for in other parts of the world. I hope so.

That is why it is so disturbing, the latest trend in female performers, to debase themselves or perform lyrics that are denigrating to women, reality TV which magnifies the worst qualities possible. That women's empowerment is taken to mean that we can behave as badly as possible and then excuse it as "freeing up".  Too many women fought too hard and for too long. Gender equality does not mean that we are better than men or that we should take the place of men, it means that we are evolved enough to value ourselves and to act that way.

Meanwhile, I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.........
I am woman Helen Reddy

Thursday, March 3, 2011

For the Slacker

This one is for my ¨pardner¨, fellow Trini, Slacker.

Slacker has a gift that I could only hope to play catch up with, he is a much better writer than I, his prose often spare, with well chosen words that flow one after the other making sure you want to read. Where I am a journeyman, Slacker is an artist. For a long while he disappeared, we had that in common. We both went away to different places, perhaps to find that core within  that made us want to write, and to write well.  It happens.

As Winston Churchill used to allude to his depression as the  black dog that rode his back, so too have we our black dogs. If I were to describe mine in very literal terms, he would be a hellhound, with red eyes that shine in the dark and is the stuff of which nightmares are made, my own personal Cerebus, guarding or keeping me in? What is it for you Slacker? What is it that keeps you away from the empty page?

Ah yes, us arty farty folk who use any excuse not to do "honest" work! But the so called honest work has been responsible for sucking the very soul and lifeblood of the thing that makes us stand apart; that quality or talent that defines who we really are when we slip the bonds of the suit and tie, impossible high heels and faceful of makeup. The self we hide behind because we must survive, must eat and put a roof over our heads.  Yes, we are excessive, we feel too much, want too much, love too hard and then we do it again and again. Not because we have not learnt from our experiences, we are far more wily than that. Instead, we cast ourselves against the sea of normalcy because we cannot do otherwise. Not the best curse of action, but so be it.

Slacker, I am glad you have come wherever you went to bide your time. And I look forward to the challenge of keeping up with you again. Selah