Category Archives: Identity

Essay: It belong to them, let’s give it back

I submitted this essay for assessment (I got a HD) in the first trimester of last year.  It’s relevant to a twitter conversation so I’m posting it here as submitted.  All errors are mine.

Essay question:

Please research and critically discuss examples of the ways in which museums and/or governments are responding to the issue of repatriation. Do you think they are effectively addressing some of the problems of the past?

Introduction

After the settlement of Australia by the British in 1788, the collection of Indigenous Australian remains and objects began with collected items ending up in both Australian and international museums, and in private collections.  The acquisition of these remains and objects occurred in circumstances that today would be seen as illegal (Chamberlain 2005).  Remains and objects were largely collected “to preserve evidence of cultures that appeared to be disappearing” (Simpson 2009, p. 128), and to support a ‘scientific’ view that Indigenous Australians were “deeply inferior” (Fforde 2009, p. 42) to Europeans.  This essay will examine two case studies of the returns of remains to Indigenous Australian communities, the governmental and institutional responses to repatriation of remains and objects, and how repatriation of remains and artefacts addresses problems of the past.

The Return of Tasmanian Ash Bundles

In March 2006, the British Museum decided to return two Tasmanian cremation ash bundles to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (British Museum 2006a).  These ash bundles had been stolen by George Augustus Robinson in the 1800s and eventually donated to the British Museum in 1882 (British Museum 2006b, Material Religion 2007).  The passing of the Human Tissue Act in the United Kingdom in 2004 and the British Museum developing their policy on human remains in 2005 facilitated this return (British Museum 2006a, Material Religion 2007).

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre had been requesting the return of these items since 1985, and the British Museum initially claimed that they were unable to agree to the request as they did not have the power to de-accession objects in their collection (British Museum 2006b).  The return of the ash bundles involved an assessment that the ash bundles had been “well documented, published, studied and recorded” (British Museum 2006b, p. 1) and that returning the ash bundles would “not lead to any loss of existing information” or “offer any further significant information in the future” (Material Religion 2007, p. 157).

The British Museum (2006b, p. 2) acknowledged that for the Tasmanian Aboriginal community that the existence of the ash bundles and human remains in the museum “embodies all the pain of dispossession and genocide which they experience on reflecting on their colonial history”.

The Return of Remains from Edinburgh University to the Ngarrindjeri Nation, South Australia

The Edinburgh University adopted a pro-repatriation policy regarding human remains in 1990, after long campaigning by Australian Indigenous groups (Fforde 2009).  The remains that the Edinburgh University held were from all over Australia, but the majority of them were from the Ngarrindjeri people of South Australia (Fforde 2009).  The remains of the Ngarrindjeri people had been collected by William Ramsey Smith in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Elmslie and Nance 1988).  Ramsey Smith was Adelaide’s “coroner, inspector of anatomy and chairman of the Central Board of Health” (Elmslie and Nance 1988) at the time and he sent the remains to Edinburgh University (Scobie 2009). Although the remains have been returned to the Ngarrindjeri people via the Repatriation Unit of the National Museum of Australia, the Ngarrindjeri people have not had the funding to rebury all of their ancestors (Fforde 2009, Scobie 2009).

The Ngarrindjeri people have also had remains returned to them from the Australian Museum in Sydney, Museum Victoria and the Royal College of Surgeons in London (National Museum Australia 2003, The Wire 2004), and have reported that the return of their ancestors is healing damage of the past (Scobie 2009)

The return of human remains

Indigenous Australian groups have been requesting from overseas and Australian museums the return of the human remains of their ancestors and objects that were stolen or taken from them.  As evidenced above, the return of human remains from Australian and British institutions has been facilitated by the UK Human Tissue Act and by institutions voluntarily returning remains.  This has not meant that all institutions in the UK have returned remains, or that all remains repatriated to Australia have been returned to Indigenous groups.

The Advisory Committee for Indigenous Repatriation (2014) recommended that for those remains that are returned to Australia without further provenance, that they be housed in a National Resting Place.  Where remains are only provenanced to states or territories, the remains are kept in one of the eight museums funded for this purpose, so that the remains are closer to home and that further identifying work can be undertaken to identify which Nation they came from (Advisory Committee for Indigenous Repatriation 2014).

The Australian Government’s position on the repatriation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remains is that they should be returned unconditionally and voluntarily, and with the collaboration of the relevant peoples (Advisory Committee for Indigenous Repatriation 2014). However, some institutions in the United Kingdom are very reluctant to return remains to Australia.  The Natural History Museum, for example, has previously claimed that they cannot return remains if they those remains will be reburied, or in some cases buried for the first time, because their researchers will lose access to the remains for further scientific examination (Turnbull 2007).  Turnbull (2007) argues that as most of the Indigenous Australian remains held by institutions outside Australia are less than 500 years old, the scientific information that can be gathered from the remains could be gathered from their descendants and that there is no need to retain the remains in museums and institutions.

The return of objects

The Australian Government has stated that they seek “the return of secret sacred objects only from within Australia” (Australian Government Department of Communications and the Arts 2013, p. 6), and not from overseas despite the fact that these objects were often stolen, looted or obtained through “the gross inequality of power” (Besterman 2009, p. 109).  Indigenous Australians who seek the return of artefacts held in institutions outside Australia have to negotiate the return on their own, and generally institutions are not willing or able to return objects (Reppas 2007).

In 2002, Directors at eighteen of the largest museums in the world signed a statement taking a stand against the repatriation of objects in their collections (Reppas 2007).  The museums argued that objects in their collection “find value in their juxtaposition with other objects” (Gorman 2006, p. 79) and that “the privileged position of non-Western objects and cultures within contemporary knowledge systems would not have been achieved were it not for the position of acquired objects within the great museum” (Gorman 2006, p. 79).  These museums claim that current ethical codes or laws should not be applied to their historical acquisition processes, and that their current collections have added to the national heritage of the countries in which they are based (Gorman 2006).  In making these statements, these museums disregard the effects of their previous acquisition policies on those peoples who have been negatively affected by colonialism, claiming that removal of items from their collections would be more harmful than past practices.

The British Museum cannot de-accession objects in their collection after a High Court ruling in 2005 which prohibited the museum returning drawings looted by the Nazis to the rightful heirs, unless those objects are duplicates or useless (Reppas 2007).  The High Court ruled that more recent Acts of Parliament overtook the UK Government’s previous adoption of resolutions and conventions that spoke to the return of objects to people and nations who had been dispossessed of them (Reppas 2007).  Clearly the UK Government is afraid, as per Prime Minister David Cameron’s comment in 2010 that “If you say yes to one [request], you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty” (Associated Press 2016).

Consequently, regardless of how the British Museum and other UK Government funded museum institutions obtained the objects in their collection, they cannot return them to their rightful owners.  This is contrary to the International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) Code of Ethics for Museums (2013, p. 10) which states:

  1. 2 Return of Cultural Property

Museums should be prepared to initiate dialogues for the return of cultural property to a country or people of origin. This should be undertaken in an impartial manner, based on scientific, professional and humanitarian principles as well as applicable local, national and international legislation, in preference to action at a governmental or political level.

  1. 3 Restitution of Cultural Property

When a country or people of origin seeks the restitution of an object or specimen that can be demonstrated to have been exported or otherwise transferred in violation of the principles of international and national conventions, and shown to be part of that country’s or people’s cultural or natural heritage, the museum concerned should, if legally free to do so, take prompt and responsible steps to cooperate in its return.

ICOM’s Code of Ethics is a voluntary set of principles for museums and in this case it is not the museum that is preventing the return of stolen or looted objects but the UK Government, their legislation and willingness to take the matter to court if a museum attempted to return an object.

In 2013 the Australian Government enacted the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act 2013 (Cth) to prevent museums and institutions where objects are being loaned to losing “ownership, physical possession, custody or control of the objects because of:

  • legal proceedings in Australian or foreign courts;
  • the exercise of certain powers (such as powers of seizure) under Commonwealth, State and Territory laws; or
  • the operation of such laws.” (Explanatory Memorandum)

This legislation was created after the Dja Dja Wurrung Native Title Group obtained an emergency declaration under Australian heritage protection laws to stop the return of bark etchings which had been on loan from the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Surrey in 2004 (Fray 2004, Daley 2015).  The etchings were returned to the United Kingdom after the court case to retain them was unsuccessful (Fitzsimmons 2015).

The legislation has meant that the British Museum and other institutions are willing to loan Indigenous Australian objects, and other objects and artworks, to Australian museums and institutions (Daley 2015).  On one hand, it means that Indigenous Australians can reconnect with their culture but on the other, it is a reminder that these objects are held outside Australia and that they were taken from them through theft, force or coercion (Daley 2015).

Addressing the problems of the past

While the return of remains from museums and institutions around the world have been welcomed by Indigenous Australians and the Australian Government, issues remain regarding the return of objects from museum collections.  Tom Trevorrow, the chairman of the Ngarrindjeri Heritage Committee, who has worked to for the return his ancestors’ remains stated that “healing is beginning” (Scobie 2009) now that his ancestors are back on their country.  Fforde (2009, p. 47) states that “repatriation is fundamentally about facilitating the rights of a source community to decide the future of their ancestors’ remains”.  Indigenous Australians whose ancestors have been returned after removal “gain control over their history and culture” and “some dignity is restored” (Besterman 2009, p. 109).

The return of remains to Indigenous Australians rectifies some of the past wrongs against them and their ancestors and it is both a spiritual and cultural necessity as it assists in the preservation of their way of life (Chamberlain 2005).  Chamberlain (2005, p. 349) also argues that the failure by overseas institutions to return objects “could amount to a denial of such peoples’ right to maintain their culture or to manifest their religion”.  However, one option available to museums who are unable or unwilling to return objects to their rightful owners, is to involve the traditional owners of the objects in how those objects are displayed and interpreted which would give the traditional owners a sense of control over those objects (Davies 2004, Gorman 2006).

The Australian Government’s commitment to the repatriation of Indigenous Australian remains and the repatriation of secret-sacred objects held in Australian museums supports Indigenous Australians connection and ownership of their heritage (Advisory Committee for Indigenous Repatriation 2014, Australian Museum 2007).  Returning objects to the originating Nation or peoples goes a long way to assist in rebuilding identity and can help Indigenous Australian cultural renewal through knowledge transmission (Roehrenbeck 2010, Simpson 2009).  Simpson (2009, p. 122) writes that “the repatriation of ceremonial materials from museums may be … linked to strategies to aid recovery from post-colonial trauma, and … to contribute to indigenous health and well-being.”

Conclusion

Although some museums and institutions are repatriating Indigenous Australian remains to their descendants and objects to their traditional owners, there are still museums and institutions who have not done so, or who are unable to do so due to governmental regulation.  The return of remains and objects to Indigenous Australians is highly important to them, and adds to the healing of the ongoing trauma of colonialism.  In the future when museums and institutions that are currently unable to return objects have those obstacles facing them removed, revisiting how this affects Australia’s Indigenous population, what objects are sought, and whether the objects are preserved or used will add to the understanding of the importance of repatriation.

Bibliography

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Associated Press 2016, ‘India changes tack over return of Koh-i-Noor diamond’, The Guardian, 20 April, retrieved 23 April 2016, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/20/india-changes-tack-over-return-of-koh-i-noor-diamond>

Australian Government Department of Communications and the Arts 2013, Australian Government Policy on Indigenous Repatriation, Australian Government Department of Communications and the Arts, retrieved 23 April 2016, <http://arts.gov.au/sites/default/files/indigenous/repatriation/australian-government-policy-on-indigenous-repatriation-august2011.pdf >

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Besterman, T 2009, ‘Returning a stolen generation’, [Part of a special issue: Return of Cultural Objects: The Athens Conference], Museum International, vol. 61, no. 1/2, pp. 107-111. Available from: 10.1111/j.1468-0033.2009.01665.x. [23 April 2016].

British Museum 2006a, Human Remains: Request for Repatriation of Human Remains to Tasmania, British Museum, retrieved 23 April 2016, <http://www.britishmuseum.org/about_us/management/human_remains/repatriation_to_tasmania.aspx>

British Museum 2006b, Request for Repatriation of Human Remains to Tasmania: Dossier Item 1: Departmental Report, British Museum, retrieved 23 April 2016, <http://www.britishmuseum.org/pdf/Final_Dossier.pdf>

Chamberlain, K 2005, ‘We Need to Lay Our Ancestors to Rest—The Repatriation of Indigenous Human Remains and the Human Rights Act’, Art, Antiquity & Law, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 325-352.

Daley P 2015, ‘Preservation or plunder? The battle over the British Museum’s Indigenous Australian show’, The Guardian, 9 April, retrieved 24 April 2016, <http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/apr/09/indigenous-australians-enduring-civilisation-british-museum-repatriation>

Davies, C 2004, ‘Property Rights in Human Remains and Artefacts and the Question of Repatriation’, Newcastle Law Review, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 51-64.

Elmslie R & Nance S 1988, ‘Smith, William Ramsay (1859–1937)’ Australian Dictionary of Biography, retrieved 24 April 2016, <http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/smith-william-ramsay-8493>

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Fforde, C 2009, ‘From Edinburgh University to the Ngarrindjeri nation, South Australia’, Museum International, vol. 61, no. 1/2, pp. 41-47. Available from: 10.1111/j.1468-0033.2009.01673.x. [23 April 2016].

Fitzsimmons H 2015, ‘Indigenous tribe demands Dja Dja Wurrung bark exhibits on display at British Museum be returned’, ABC News, 25 April, retrieved 24 April 2016, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-24/victorian-indigenous-tribe-demand-bark-exhibits-be-returned/6419998>

Fray P 2004, ‘Bark etchings fight’, The Age, 27 July, retrieved 24 April 2016, <http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/07/26/1090693902586.html?from=storyrhs>

Gorman JM 2006 ‘Universalism and the new museology: impacts on the ethics of authority and ownership’, in Marstine J, Bauer A, Haines C, (eds), New directions in museum ethics, pp. 77–87, retrieved 24 April 2016, EBL

ICOM 2013, ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, ICOM, retrieved 2 April 2016, <http://icom.museum/the-vision/code-of-ethics/>

National Museum Australia, Largest return of Aboriginal remains, National Museum Australia, retrieved 23 April 2016, <http://www.nma.gov.au/media/media_releases_by_year/2003/28_april_2003_largest_return>

Reppas, MI 2007, ‘Empty “International” Museums’ Trophy Cases of Their Looted Treasures and Return Stolen Property to the Countries of Origin and the Rightful Heirs of Those Wrongfully Dispossessed’, Denver Journal of International Law & Policy, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 93-123.

Roehrenbeck, CA 2010, ‘Repatriation of Cultural Property-Who Owns the Past? An Introduction to Approaches and to Selected Statutory Instruments’, International Journal of Legal Information, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 185-200.

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Scobie, C 2009, ‘The long road home’, The Guardian, 28 June, retrieved 23 April 2016, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jun/28/aborigines-reclaim-ancestors-remains>

Simpson, M 2009, ‘Museums and restorative justice: heritage, repatriation and cultural education’, Museum International, vol. 61, no. 1/2, pp. 121-129. Available from: 10.1111/j.1468-0033.2009.01669.x. [24 April 2016].

‘The Return of Tasmanian Aboriginal Ash Bundles by the British Museum’, [Interview with the British Museum’s Deputy Director, Andrew Burnett], 2007, Material Religion, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 156-158. Available from: 10.2752/174322007780095735. [23 April 2016].

The Wire, Museum Vic returns Ngarrindjeri remains, The Wire, retrieved 23 April 2016, <http://thewire.org.au/story/museum-vic-returns-ngarrindjeri-remains/>

Turnbull P 2007, ‘Scientific Theft of Remains in Colonial Australia’, Australian Indigenous Law Review, 11(1), Available from http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/AUIndigLawRw/2007/7.html, retrieved 23 April 2016

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Feeling stupid

There is this thing that I… hate… detest… suffer from… something… the feeling of being stupid.  I’m not sure why exactly I have a thing about this, because I know I don’t know everything, nor do I understand everything, and I’m also quite smart… but feeling stupid is something that sometimes really upsets me.

A case in point happened last week, while I was in a work training course.  We were doing a role-play of a real life scenario, and consequently didn’t have ALL the data.  We were provided with a three page summary of what was happening, and my team were the guinea pigs for this case.  This meant that our team was under the greatest pressure in the case study, we had the least preparation time for the two scenarios (they were back to back), and we’d only just been trained in the theory that we were practising.

Halfway through the first case study, I realised I had no idea of what was going on.  The team I was a part of seemed to have read a completely different case study to the one I had read, well that’s how it felt, and I suddenly felt cast adrift.  In feeling like I’d missed a major point or issue in the case study, I suddenly felt like I was stupid, which really upset me.  Upset me to the point of tears, in a training room with many of my colleagues, and members of my senior leadership team.  So yes, I was feeling stupid, upset and humiliated all at once.

It’s not necessarily about being wrong, because as I said, I don’t know everything, and I will be wrong sometimes.  I think it’s a lot to do with how I feel (I was exhausted at the time of that role play), the amount of stress I’m under, and how important my competence/image is at that moment.  Given how I’m still not feeling 100% sure in my current role, feeling stupid is a really big deal.  The added stress of nearly bursting into tears during the role play was extra stressful and extra humiliating.

I suppose that this really ties into some of the important (and mostly fucked up) messages I got as a child.  Image is important, very important.  Being smart was as important as looking smart (I’m not sure how that works really).  I suppose that me becoming an adult at 3 years of age has kinda warped some of my ideas about what it is to be an adult, and what is and is not important.

Next post – being angry.

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Google Plus and why I left

This is relatively old news now, but I quit Google Plus (G+ from here on in).  My reasons were relatively simple, and yet not at the same time.  I had planned to write this post when I quit, but stuff happened and I didn’t.  Stilgherrian’s piece at ABC’s The Drum today reminded me of why I was going to write, and effectively summed up what I was going to say, but I’ll lay out my reasons nonetheless.

Continue reading Google Plus and why I left

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Not throwing caution to the wind

I have this thing about pain, it’s not me.  Which is odd given I have a very very high pain threshold (which almost saw me not go to hospital with an ectopic pregnancy – so my high pain threshold =/= smart).  I tolerate pain well, but I’m still really cautious.  Doing something that might result in injury (running, jumping, paying sports) are things I tend to avoid.  I’m really scared of falling and breaking something of the sudden pain and the resulting scene that would occur.

Though when I do trip and fall (and I’m still yet to break something) the world doesn’t end, and if I burst into tears with the pain, the world doesn’t end, and on those rare events such things happen someone stops to help me or I am with people who stop and help me.

All the same, I still am really cautious and tend to avoid activities that carry the risk of severe pain (except cooking which I partake in quite a lot).  I’m not sure why I’m quite so timid about such things.  I think some of it has to do with ballet and the excessive care that I took not to injure myself so I could still dance (with the exception of skinning my knees when falling off my bike).

No, I don’t think that’s it.  I climbed trees, climbed hills and cliffs and did child-ly things as a child.  I wasn’t hugely daring, but probably more daring than I am now.  So why have I slowed down more than others I know, though technically less than others… clearly it’s a growing up thing.  I’m far more aware of my mortality than I used to be.  I’ve almost died at least once now, so it’s not like I believe I never will.

I’m not upset or worried about my caution, it’s just something I’ve noticed recently and have been thinking about it.

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Guest post: The genesis of my atheism

Hello everyone, my name is James. My wife Rebecca has kindly allowed me to write a guest post on her blog, discussing the end of my Catholic faith and the birth of my atheism. My usual writing topic is video games (here and here) so when I wrote a long email about atheism and Rebecca suggested I put it online, I did not have an appropriate channel through which to share it. This is why she gave me permission to put it on this blog as her first ever guest post. Thanks Rebecca!

– = –

As I showered this morning, I was thinking about the genesis of my atheism.

The process of losing my faith completely was a long, gradual one. At 21 I was a devout Catholic – anti-abortion, homophobic, and everything else that goes along with it. A couple of years ago, around the age of 34, I was surprised by my sudden realisation that a mostly unnoticed process of transition was complete and I was indeed an atheist.

I don’t remember the specific circumstances, but I will filling in some kind of survey or a form (the last census, perhaps?) and I was asked for my religion. Without even thinking about it, I ticked the box marked “atheist”. I then stared at the choice I had made, a little stunned. “I’m an atheist now!” I thought, shocked by the undeniable truth of it. “When did that happen?”

In my reminiscences this morning, I realised that there had been a little termite in the timber of my religious faith for almost two decades, nibbling away invisibly, until one day I found that the once solid structure had been replaced with a hollow shell. That termite was a single powerful idea that I never put into words until this morning.

In essence, that idea is this: God is omnipotent, omniscient, omni-everything-else, and he exists outside our human perception of time. All times are now to God, and all places are in his presence. This means that when he was a spirit floating over the water before the world began (if you subscribe to biblical literalism) he was aware of everything that was to come.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it, already knowing that Adam and Eve would sin, the human race would fall into damnation, that he would have to sacrifice his own son (technically himself!) to save humanity from a punishment of his own devising, and that this salvation would be scattershot at best, saving only a fraction of the people of the world.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it already knowing that the future would hold the Crusades, the Holocaust, the Killing Fields, the Black Death, two World Wars, the Jonestown massacre, and countless everyday atrocities and horrors.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it already knowing that human beings would suffer a multitude of cancers, blindness, brain tumours, strokes, heart attacks, and birth defects ranging from crippling to fatal.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it already knowing that human beings would persecute each other based on features outside their control, that in fact God himself had built into them – the colour of their skin, the place where they were born, the religion of their parents, the sex or gender of their bodies, the sexual orientation built into their brains, and any of the other multitudes of ways in which we make our sisters and brothers into “the other”.

This supposedly supreme being, with the power to make every whim become truth and the ability to foresee every consequence of every action before he has even begun to perform it, could literally have made any world at all. Physics, chemistry, biology, and even logic and causality are subject to the will of the Judeo-Christian God, and any world we can imagine would be within his ability to create.

Yet this is the world he made, with its wars and diseases and injustices without end.

Frankly, any God that believes that this world is the best of all possible worlds is must incompetent, evil, or (and this seems to be the most likely option) simply non-existent.

Without even realising I had been debating silently with myself, I had reached the conclusion that the cruelty of the world we live in is a reflection of its chaotic, unguided development, and the occasional horrific behaviour of my own species is psychological residue of its evolution in a brutal, uncompromising, and competitive environment.

I quote Marcus Cole from the great SF show Babylon 5:

“I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

How terrible a place would the world be if all of this horror was planned? If some invisible deity were wilfully causing murder and death and famine and drought because it aided in the completion of some opaque plan that would only reach fruition in some unhinted future?

No, like Marcus I find randomness far more plausible and comforting that a murderous and vengeful man in the sky who blames me for the very faults he built into me, like Geppetto casting Pinnochio into a bonfire as punishment for his own flawed workmanship.

The wonderful folk musician Penelope Swales said well in her song Monkey Comfort:

Can you see, my friends, why I don’t find my insignificance frightening? Oh, no! I find it comforting. It steadies me. /
When I’m hounded by fear, grief or loss, frightened by my death or yours it grants me some serenity. /
Coz I’m knowing that I will die and take my place in eternity. Ah, just one more monkey that lived on a rock where 10 trillion monkeys lived. /
No more important, nor less essential, than any other snake, bear, insect, or monosteria /
And when I go, it’ll be a compliment to me if some other monkeys grieve.

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What’s wrong with me?

For the past few weeks, the gym has become increasingly harder.  Cardio (the rowing machine) has left me gasping for breath, and I’ve had to stop so I could breathe as I felt I wasn’t getting enough oxygen (no narrowing of vision though, just a sensation).  I’ve been waking up more tired and almost falling asleep at work.  I feel that no matter what I do I’m putting on extra weight.  I look at the stairs at work and my body flatly tells me that climbing them is a VERY bad idea.  Today when I was folding the washing and then making the bed, I was breathing heavily and sweating.  I’m vague and forgetting things that normally I’d have no trouble in remembering.

I know I am actually really tired.  I’ve had a very stressful month[s], I’ve not gotten all the sleep I should or need, and I worked for part of my weekend at Sexpo, as well as organising most of it, instead of resting.  I hope that it’s just stress and exhaustion.  I hope it’s nothing more serious, though sleep apnoea is also on the cards.

The worst thing is that right now I’m very unhappy with me, this is not how I normally feel.  I know that my energy levels are up and down generally, but making the bed has never been an effort for me before.  I also feel that I can’t do much about it right now because I’ve just become permanent at my lovely global multinational, and I don’t want to stuff that up.

So… I’ll make a GP appointment for Wednesday or Friday night and see what can be done.  I know it might be as simple as low iron, slight asthma (worst asthma season in Melbourne for years), sleep apnoea, or stress.  I’d like to know how to fix it, so I feel more like me again.

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A reflection

My girlfriend said to me the other night, after I told her that I was typing out a (yet to be finished) post on language and it’s misuse, that she has really enjoyed watching me get into feminism and speak up about it (I’m paraphrasing).  And my immediate thought was, “no… don’t say that”.

Which I didn’t respond with, because I thought it’d be rude, and I wanted to unpack that and figure out why I had thought it and what I actually meant.  It wasn’t false modesty, I knew that from the beginning, I wasn’t attempting to be humble or to put myself down in order to seek more affirmation or praise, it was something else, and that took a while to pin down (partly because I didn’t have my mirror (James) to reflect for me what was going on in my head).

But anyway… here is what I’ve unpacked so far (and it’s late and I am tired, so hopefully this won’t be too long).  My background is in science, that’s what I studied in VCE and then I did a year of Engineering.  I didn’t understand feminism for a long time, though I would have been called a feminist by some I suspect because I demanded equal treatment in most things regardless of my gender (thanks to my upbringing – another story for another time).  Because I didn’t understand feminist thought and feminist theory, I avoided it for a very long time.  Working in the public service (Immigration – another story for another time also), where I was treated as a person first and foremost and a woman second, also meant that my encounters with sexism were few and far between.

So when I realised that feminist theory and feminism were actually directly relevant to me as an individual, and that with the power of blogs I could write about what I thought and had experienced (something I’d already done on another topic – far more personal and as a diary versus an online unpacking of ideas), I thought, “Why not write about religion, and feminism and stuff” and so did.  At this point, I had not yet discovered the Australian feminist community and was struggling to identify with the US feminist community because many of their experiences did not translate across to me so well.

Then I discovered the Australian and New Zealand Feminist Community (mostly through Hoyden About Town) and was blown away by the amazingness of the blog authors, their firm grasp on feminism and intersectionality, their engaging writing style and their apparent ability to pull a comprehensive post together regarding today’s issue with little (apparent) effort.  I felt like the three year old at the bottom of the tree, yelling up to the bigger and older siblings, asking if I can join in too.  But then that’s ok, because everyone has to start somewhere, and although I think I have good (well I think it’s good) ability to deconstruct an argument and find flaws in it (something learnt at work and through my Business Degree in parts – and my husband’s love of logic which has rubbed off a bit), I don’t feel that I am yet good at linking appropriate and relevant theory to such things.  I feel like I have an idea, but I can’t fully form it because I don’t have the language for it yet.

I’m a feminist with training wheels, which is an improvement on the feminist embryo I was some years ago.  So thank you dear readers for putting up with me as I figure this stuff out, and while I wish I could write as well as the people I follow and read in my RSS feed.

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