Monthly Archives: February 2011

Grief

It seems like so many people I know lost important people to them in 2010. It is such an incredibly painful thing to go through. The finality of death, even when it is a long time coming – the human spirit makes hope hard to give up- and when there is no hope left the pain is astounding.

I remember being 14 and just feeling total shock that the world just kept on turning when my whole world had just fallen apart. One of the most deeply upsetting things that happened during this time was people questioning my grief. Treating it like it was inadequate and imperfect. Because I didn’t cry when people thought I should this meant that I didn’t love enough. Because I sought comfort with ‘inappropriate people’ I was not sincere enough.

As time went on it got worse because I was still hurting so deeply when the people around me expected me to get up and get on with life. In the world that we live in it seems as though grief has a time limit. You are only allowed a certain amount of time out before you have to go back to being a productive citizen. If you don’t then you are milking the situation.

It should be obvious but it often isn’t. There is no one correct way to grieve. People process things in their own ways and there is no set period. You can’t just decided to let loss take the back burner and get on with the rest of your life. I hate that the world I live in does not make allowances for broken people. That compassion is a virtue discarded for the bottom line. I hate that appropriate behaviours are often considered more important than actually dealing with feelings and resolving issues.

My main problem with the kyriarchy is that it never allows those who don’t fit just be. It imposes limits and puts people into boxes, taking away their personhood and reducing them to being simply the glaring fact of their marginialisation.

I see this reflected in placing people into boxes of appropriate and inappropriate grief. Measuring their reactions determined by some arbitrary standard calculated by gender, culture and strength of attachment. These are the small but infinitely damaging ways in which the kyriarchy worms its way into our lives – making us small enough to fit.

The Big Ones

I’m not going to lie. I have a problem with large multi-national NGO’s (LMNGO’S). I vaguely alluded to it here.

Why do I have such a problem with organisations that are allegedly doing a lot of good work? Because they aren’t doing good work. To be fair my actual personal experience is limited to amnesty international but the criticisms I have of them can be extrapolated to other multi-national ngo’s (although not all).

LMNGO’s are Bureaucratic machines
Organisations such as Amnesty International spend the vast majority of their funds on administration and getting more funds. Anywhere from 75-90% of funding can get spent on bureaucracy. I certainly understand the need to fund operational costs but when you consider that small local NGO’s who cannot rely on the goodwill of the public to get funding are usually capped at level of 10% operational costs – even when they are providing services- this seems ridiculous.

LMNGO’s Are Not Effective
It is very hard for these organisations to actually provide what people who are on the ground doing activism need. By their very nature they are not local organisations. They often do not have a nuanced understanding of the local contexts in which they are trying to help social change come about and rely on briefings from privileged experts who may not have any idea what daily life is actually like for the people they are trying to help. They also tend to neglect gendered analysis. This has time and again resulted in ‘solutions’ that do not actually help the people they are trying to help.


LMNGO’s Divert Attention and Resources Away from Organisations which Are Actually Effective

Because of their marketing clout and the substantial effort given to branding, the giving public tend to trust LMNGO’s and they get the largest share of individual donations. The problem is this money is then diverted into bureaucracy and ineffective projects when it could be going straight to small local NGO’s who actually have a nuanced and contextual understanding of the issues.

I guess my main point is that LMNGO’s are like trying to use a hammer when you need a scalpel.

I don’t believe that these organisations are totally useless – but they have diversified from their original purposes – often to their detriment. Amnesty International for example has no history has a development organisation – they were founded to free political prisoners and do political activism around the world and they were very good at it. There is no infrastructure for development work in AI they do not have the in house expertise for it and the they are not good at finding a range of perspectives. Often they end up doing more harm than good.

There are a vast number of smaller local NGO’s out there struggling to do what they know needs to be done. If you are planning to donate money to NGO’s I beg of you – please look past the big ones. It may be harder to find one which you trust but your dollars will go much further.

Thinking About Working Out

So we have established a few posts ago that I identify as fat. More specifically I lie somewhere in the ‘smaller’ fat range.

So I am fat and I also work out fairly frequently. This is my privilege because I am currently able bodied and have the spare time and resources to do so.  One key motivating factor for me working out in a public place (i.e. the gym) is to present an image of a chubby chick kicking butt – running faster and lifting heavier than anyone would expect. This could be bad but I am reasonably careful about training to my fitness level and not punishing myself in work outs. I also work out because I enjoy becoming fitter, more flexible and stronger ( especially stronger, I get a kick out of lifting heavier than boys) and it helps me manage my depression which is currently well in check.

I do however also have a dilemma I don’t want to hand over my hard earned cash to an industry that relies on heavily othering bodies like mine and strongly contributes to the climate of fat phobia. So much so when my gym membership lapsed I started looking around for alternatives that would still challenge me but yet not require too much effort on my part.

that is how I discovered http://www.bodyrock.tv. I wouldn’t go there if you are triggered by images of slim/muscular women not wearing all that much and they do natter on about fat/weight loss quite a bit. However the workouts are short and intense and often don’t require any equipment at all (if an exercise does  I just sub them out for something that doesn’t)

I know I still contribute in terms of hits to the website but it makes feel less cranky than being in a gym surrounded by weight loss oriented crap all the time.

Teaspoon against a tidal wave right?

 

Begging

It has been a few days since I returned from behind the great firewall of China and I am still kind of processing the experience.

I saw one thing in Shanghai that struck me to the core and remained with me through the whole trip. As we left the subway station I saw a woman she was in the kowtow position kneeling with her head on the ground, she had a bowl in front of her with a message in mandarin that I couldn’t read.

She had clearly done this before and had done this for some time as she had a sponge under her forehead to keep it from being directly on the pavement and had a black plastic bag over her body to help protect her clothing. It was winter and the temperatures were barely (if at all) over zero degrees (Celsius).

As the child of immigrants I was brought up to never give money to people like this woman. According to the logic of my upbringing beggars are cheating the system. It was acceptable to be poor and to struggle – but only if you did it a certain way if you bought into the system – the myth of the self made man. If you worked hard then eventually you would be rewarded for it. Beggars however are not working hard. They are trying to take away other peoples hard earned cash by making them feel guilty and awkward and you should never succumb to their ploy.

In Asia when so many people have risen to the middle class from nothing, where the dream of achieving middle class status or higher is the basis for almost everything you do this attitude is very prevalent.  So this woman in order to get enough money to survive and to prostrate herself on the concrete in order to move people enough to give her spare change.

I don’t believe Asia is unique in this regard. Those of us raised with class privilege are often brought up with a strong mistrust of those who do not have class privilege. If they were not defective in some way then they would not be in the situation.

A woman anyway should not have to have her face on the concrete in order to inspire pity in the crowds around her. Each of us should have enough common decency to accept that people are doing the best they can in whatever way they can and thus do the best we can to help each other out whenever we can without questioning their motives and doubting their integrity.

 

 

 

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