Something to do with Kindness

A few days ago I watched a video by Carrie Hope Fletcher in which she describes her experiences at stage door. Given the recent events I felt that it would be wrong not to talk about this.

Carrie is an actress and is currently performing in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In the video she talks about all the abuse that she has been given when leaving the theatre through stage door – from people physically harming her to enthusiastic fans taking away her things –, and the abuse she has been sent via social media upon not appearing at stage door at all.

The situation we currently live in appears to be one where abuse is not such a horrendous word any more, because it has become an everyday phenomenon. It has not even been two weeks since a man walked into a gay night club in Orlando and shot fifty people dead. It’s been eight months since a hundred and thirty people were killed in Paris. Three months ago more than thirty people died in a terror attack in Brussels. Two weeks ago Christina Grimmie was shot by a madman with a gun. And this is just concentrating on incidents happening in the western hemisphere.

I realise that none of these things are linked in any direct way to what Carrie Fletcher is going through. But somehow I also don’t think that there is no connection at all. I doubt that any oft he people waiting for her outside the theatre were or are members of Islamic terrorist organisations. But what I do believe is that the people who join IS or Boko Haram or who go off hurting and killing others on their own accord, those people once waited outside theatres and concert halls to meet their idols too. Those are the same people who would try and kiss someone against their will, who shout angrily when things don’t go their way – those people once could not bear to be rejected.

I’m saying this because I know that members of terrorist groups are not all African or Turks, they are Swiss, German, French and Dutch. They are people who grew up in the same surroundings we did, but who did not feel accepted, who were hurt and did not belong anywhere. And if that’s how you feel all the time, then why not punish your idol for not turning up (when she did all the other nights for all those other people). If that’s how you feel, then why not pull her hair, just to feel it – what harm will it do to you? If you’re a homosexual moslem and were never allowed to feel what you really feel, why not take that anger out on those who live the life you could have had. Your life is hardly a life, so why not destroy theirs?

There is never a reason not to be civil.

Please let that sink in. Even the stinkiest little twit deserves to be treated as a person. Bullies are usually bullied by somebody else, and the only way to break the circle is by being civil. People who shut out others shut themselves in. People who make others feel weak don’t feel strong enough. We will make the world infinitely better if we open our hearts and allow for life to come in. If we just believe to be good enough. There is never a reason not to be civil.

I went to see Les Misérables in London last August. We had some time after the show, so we went outside to stand in line at stage door. Carrie didn’t come out, and that was fine. All I wanted to do was thank her for being an inspiration. I just wanted to tell her that sometimes it is her that makes me want to finish what I started. I didn’t really care about autographs or photographs, and when she didn’t come, Inga and I went out for a drink.

What I want to say is this: Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and sometimes we are disappointed and angry – but so long as we allow that energy to flow through us we are standing only one step away from where a young man with a gun is standing. So smile. Have a drink. Watch Tangled. Hug your mum. Believe that you are good enough.

There is never a reason not to be civil.

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

All About Love by Bell Hooks

I am extremely excited about having finished the third book from Emma Watson‘s feminist book club «Our Shared Shelf» All About Love. New Visions by Bell Hooks; I mean I finished it, and it‘s still March! Yuss! I‘m on schedule!
Sorry. That‘s not why we‘re here.IMG_20160322_233624I never read the blurb because if Emma Watson gives you a book to read you don‘t go questioning it, all right? But I‘m not Emma, so I might as well give you the blurb:

«The word „love“ is most often defined as a noun, yet… we would all love better if we used it as a verb,» writes bell hooks as she comes out fighting and on fire in All About Love. Here, at her most provocative and intensely personal, the renowned scholar, cultural critic, and feminist skewers our view of love as romance. In its place she offers a proactive new ethic for a people and a society bereft with lovelessness.
As bell hooks uses her incisive mind and razor-sharp pen to explore the question „What is love?“ her answers strike at both the mind and heart. In thirteen concise chapters, hooks examines her own search for emotional connection and society‘s failure to provide a model for learning to love. Razing the cultural paradigm that the ideal love is infused with with sex and desire, she provides a new path to love that is sacred, redemptive, and healing for individuals and for a nation. The Utne Reader declared bell hooks one of the „100 Visionaries Who Could Change Your Life.“ All About Love is a powerful affirmation of just how profoundly she can.

To be honest, I had some trouble getting into the book, and at times also to keep reading. For one thing, the autho‘s big on generalisations. Right from the beginning she declares that love means something inherently different for men than it does for women. I generally disagree with feminists who claim that the difference between men and women is purely in the testicles because obviously testosterone does to a certain degree define how prone someone is to violence and other traits we claim as «manly.» Still, to say that «men» see love as such and such and that this would contradict any woman‘s point of view I found difficult to accept. She doesn‘t really leave any window open for cultural norms (I‘m sure that my male Honduran friends have a different idea of love than my male friends from New Zealand), nor does she really mention that her theories could apply to both genders.

Bell Hooks is also quite quick in drawing conclusions based on her own subjective opinion on the matter. For instance, in one chaper, she states without any lead-up:Bild 28I would have liked a little more information or reasoning as to how she came to this conclusion.

There were a number of other things that I‘m not going to go into detail about; such as the fact that she continuously contradicts herself or the beforementioned subjectivity. I still rated it four out of five stars, because from 20,000 ft viewpoint I agree with her overall message. In fact, many of the things she says can be life changing if applied in day to day life.

One of the things I‘m finding most inspiring is the notion that love is a choice. If we want to be able to love we have to let ourselves be loved. I feel she‘s sort of going into what we learned from Stephen Chbowski that «We accept the love we think we deserbe.» Well, actually, what we deserve and what we don‘t is our own decision. We can decide that we deserve the best ever treatment from our friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, parents, etc. Or we can accept abuse as a norm. What is important is that it might be a bad idea to value romantic love over friendship.Bild 29Abuse is not love, the author stresses. It‘s just that sometimes we confuse it for love, especially at a young age. But I completely agree on the fact that if somebody makes you unhappy in any way it is okay for you to leave the realms of this relationship.

Over all the book tries to lay the groundwork for a more loving society. And love appears in so many different aspects of our daily lives; honesty, justice, care, nurturing, forgiveness, selflessnes… the list goes on. Essentially, these are also the foundation of peace.

I hope the sun is shining where you are and I hope you have a lunch date, as I do right now, and I also hope that you know you‘re totally and completely worthy of love, you sexy noodle!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Wow. Just wow. In all honesty, I did not think I would like this book, but I am absolutely smitten.

«Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls „father“, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie, and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.»

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I read this book as part of Emma Watson‘s feminist book club Our Shared Shelf, and I have currently twelve tabs open, all of them full of discussion topics. It‘s way too much to discuss in a singe blog post, so I decided to instead focus on quotations. I promise I‘ll try not to spoil anything, in case The Colour Purple is still on your T-Read list. The language of the book is incredibly beautiful, and the author has the talent of bringing difficult topics to the point.

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With this simple line Alice Walker sums up the message that Celie has received her entire life. How can a woman, who keeps being told that she is nothing, keep her dignity and a sense of worth?

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This is the first time Celie sees another woman defending herself against a man. Up until that point, this has never been so much as an option to her. And Sofia, this woman, puts her own well-being before her husband, while Celie sees no other way than stay obedient and suffer through her abuse head down.

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Throughout the story Celie stays very suspicious of men. In her opinion they are all prone to violence and oppression, which is the only treatment she has ever received. Falling in love with a man, to Celie, is unconsiderable. But Alice Walker also makes it very clear that relationships based on mutual love and trust do exist, and that they have nothing to do with abuse. Also, she emphasises on the fact that a woman can indeed be in love with a man and still be empowered. Love is not a weakness, no matter who it is you love.

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One big topic The Color Purple discusses is religion. Can somebody who has been raped, had her children taken away from her and been pushed into an abusive marriage still trust in a God that‘s good and just and loving? Alice Walker presents the concept of a God that does not believe in sin but wants you to be happy and free. This is a thought that eventually pushes Celie towards emancipation and sets her free.

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Just for context, this girl has only just been raped by a stranger. And yet, she refuses to be defeated by rejecting the belittling nickname, Squeak, that her boyfriend has given her. By renaming herself, Mary Agney resists the patriarchal words he has imposed on her. By doing so, she refuses to let the man in her life gain interpretive control over her.

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People can change and, more importantly, people can be forgiven. When Celie finds the strength and the courage to leave her husband and finally be her own woman, the man who has been nothing but a possessive and lazy bastard finally gains control over his life and finds some sort of inner centre. It is made very clear throughout the story that violence creates more violence, and that no person is violent or oppressive by chance. Celie‘s husband had a father who decided over his head what his fate was to be, so he saw no other way than to control the life of his wive. It‘s only when she takes this piece of control away from him that he sees a way to change.

To me The Color Purple is about love and discovering your worth, and this is made to count for men and women alike. It‘s a complicated setting because women are twice the victim – once in their role as women, but also by being black.

While reading the book, all I could think of was how privileged I am! I could have been anybody, but instead I‘ve been born into a white upper middle class family in freakin‘ Switzerland. If I were even so much as involuntarily touched by anyone people would consider this a violation and support me. No one has ever told me that I‘m worth less because of my race or gender. And that makes me feel so, so lucky!

Definitely read The Color Purple, you‘ll cry and laugh and you‘ll want to spread love. Really, you‘ll just want to wave this book around because it feels as if everyone should read it and that would make the world a much brighter place. Yes, it‘s that good!