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Thursday, 2 February 2017

MARCH ON


I got in a debate the other day (Of late there has been a lot of debating) about the Million Women’s March. The most surprising and sobering part of it was that the disdain was coming from another woman. She, like many critics of the march, said it was simply women complaining, “whining” as she called it about the fact that they didn’t like the result of the presidential election.

I have to admit, I was taken aback. I know there are critics out there, and I know the president elect received a large majority of his votes from white women, but it’s hard to stare at another woman in the face and have her fail to see the greater significance of such an event.

I suppose my question for those dissenting voices is, if the march didn’t resonate with you, as a woman (and I’m not sure how it doesn’t), doesn’t it make you question who did it speak to? What human being that shares your gender felt it necessary to take to the streets to be heard? Do you know any? And were you really listening to what they were saying? 

For those of you that didn’t march, and dare label us with such derogatory language as "moaners, whiners, victims, and sore losers." My response to you is this… we are not victims. That march was not about victimhood.... That march was about power.. those daring to speak up and challenge and not accept what is going on in today’s world, in our country, in the election; it was a reaction to the grave affront on our civil liberties (if you think you are immune to this, wake up, because attack on our rights affects us all) and the glaring religious persecution that is happening before our very eyes (again, it might not be you this time, but who will speak up for you when it does). The march was the beginning of a movement, an awakening, a reminder of our first amendment rights to speak, be heard, and not lie down anymore. (And btw,  the women’s march did not just involve women, it involved men, children and spanned countries all over the world). This movement is bigger than just a group of people unhappy with a result. It was a worldwide statement that our leaders have to be accountable for how they speak and act. The words they use to discriminate and subjugate women or the handicapped, people of colour, creeds, and so on. 

And on that day, we were the voice for the voiceless. 

As I see it, isn’t that the one bridge that links us (those that voted against the President elect) with those that voted for the him – That fact that we demand to be heard, we won’t be silent, we want change. Moreover, if Trump ran a platform on the forgotten, the apparent voiceless, then aren’t those 3 million women marching part of that group? Or because we didn’t vote for the President elect, does our voice somehow not matter anymore?

If the march showed those in power anything it was the fact that we can galvanize quickly and we are not going away quietly. We will stand up for our environment, for our education, for our children; we will stand up for our rights to be paid equally, treated equally and to say loud and clear, language of assault, objectification and oppression is NOT okay. You may not agree with it, but it is our first amendment right to protest peacefully, so deal with it. Moreover, the world is rife with women, perhaps not yourselves, who are paid less, objectified, assaulted and have lived lives of hardship because of their gender. So if you don’t know any, open your eyes and understand that you do not live on an island.

Most importantly, any woman out there that condemns peaceful protest is forgetting a very essential thing: you obtained your very rights through protest. You can vote because women marched. You can drive…marry (anyone of any ethnicity or gender) because people marched. You can hold political office because people marched. There is advancement in the workplace because people marched. It didn’t come for free. People put their lives on the line so you are now able to sit in your comfortable home and enjoy those hard fought for rights.

So, instead of mocking your fellow woman, THANK HER.

And if it doesn’t resonate with you and you still don’t understand it, ask the woman next to you at work, or in line at the coffee place, the quiet one that may have a different skin color than you, or come from a different financial background, or different religion, ask her if that march represented her voice.

You may be enlightened that not everyone sits in the same position that you do.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

WHO ARE YOU?


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes us who we are, our beliefs, principles, and yes, our politics (which obviously are shaped by our beliefs and principles). In light of what’s going on today (from where I sit within in), I don’t know how to move forward without doing this. I think for most, the recent events have brought up a wide array of emotions and many are struggling to find their way through them… without losing their sh*t or drinking whisky at 9 a.m. But the overreaching realization is that there is a enormous chasm in the world (the size of the Grand Canyon) and we better start looking for solutions, or else.

So, I have always thought that change, or introspection shall we say, begins at home, with that one face you wake up to every single day and have to reconcile with. (Obviously these are not light questions and one can fall down the rabbit hole of what is identity, preconceived notions/ideals vs. reality etc. but you get where I’m going with this). Of late, I’ve been pondering my worldview; what has shaped me, and influenced how I approach and interact with the world around me? I truly urge anyone and everyone to do this, if you’re not deep in this exploration already. They say, the only way to truly understand the people across the proverbial aisle is to understand yourself first, and remember we are all human who have arrived at a belief system, however that was shaped. And trust me, I might not understand your beliefs, or agree with them, but I am going to do my best to understand how they came to be (this is my intention anyway, some days I fail miserably at this). I think if more of us did this, we wouldn’t be in the total sh*t we are in.

So, what has shaped my worldview? Here it goes (keep up, cause I go quickly and jump around)….

I live in one of the most cosmopolitan, diverse cities in the world; I am an immigrant within the country that I live. My flat resides between an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood and a predominantly Muslim area (and yes, we all get along just fine) – yes, I am literally between a temple, a mosque, a park, and a pub… I’m sure there is a joke in there somewhere, but why digress.  I have dated and have friends that span the gamut of religions, races and ethnicities; I am married to a man that is mixed race. I have homosexual friends, heterosexual friends, and even a few transgender. I used to bake cookies with the downstairs neighbor when I was little, living in Idaho. I learned early that it didn’t matter if you loved a man or a woman, if you gave me enough chocolate chips; you were fine in my book. 

I grew up with money, but have never let that define me (or have tried very hard not to). On the contrary, the town where I was raised was a ridiculous disparity between have and have not, and I quickly appreciated and embraced the difference. I am the child of immigrants (Middle Eastern/European, Canadian, British, and so on). I am married to a child of an immigrant (Polish/Caribbean/British)… so in essence, my son is the definition of melting pot. 

I have had more jobs than I can count (that have truly run the gamut, from nanny to PA to someone who threw bagels when angry) and have moved over 19 times (in London alone). I am also a writer, which means that not only does it mean you're open to the world and all it has to offer (everything is a writer's fodder) but your job is never safe or secure (and well, don't get me started on the amount they want you to do for free). If you're not up for the hustle, find another job. 

I grew up in nature, surrounded by the most awe-inspiring vistas that left me with a profound appreciation for the planet. Tree = friend. It's the closest I come to a religion. Just leave me in a forest of Redwoods and it will render me speechless (this is not easy, my friends will tell you). 

I depend on the National Health Service in my country (and love it dearly). When I was in my twenties, I dated a man for over two years who had pre-existing conditions that made him uninsurable from birth. He has had over forty surgeries (the count may be higher, I lost count) and he is in debt up to his eyeballs just to try and maintain some sort of quality of life. I watched his emotional/physical/financial struggle day in and day out as he tried to make a living and not be consumed by the hand that was dealt to him at birth. I also had close friends with many who had to choose between fixing their car and getting a pap smear, in short, their health or their livelihood (without a car, getting to work in LA was not an easy feat).

I have been the victim of assault (to be very clear, not rape, but non consensual, I’m going to take you and kiss you and you have no say in the matter #notmypussy) by a man much older than I was at the time and have been in an abusive relationship where I thought I deserved no better. I have known many who have survived abuse, molestation, rape, and assault (and a few who have not). I have been involved in an incident with a handgun that greatly shaped my formative years considerably (and many around me). I have been robbed, but never mugged.

I have lived in 5 different U.S States and have been lucky enough to travel to many countries around the world and experience different cultures (if you are able to, do it. It's essential in opening your eyes to the world around you). I read voraciously and think everyone should. I am not religious - I was raised Catholic, but left the flock - but do my best to respect the fact that many people are. I believe in your right to choose, express yourself, and live your life how you choose (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone).... but not to bear arms, because that affects humanity, and I'd like to have a say in whether or not you can have an assault weapon. And admittedly, I am utterly shocked by those who think they can dictate how I should live mine.

So this is me, in a very small nutshell. All of the above has shaped who I am and why I believe what I believe…

My question is:

Who are you, what shaped you? Can you answer that? And when you start to ask yourself questions, if it gets uncomfortable (or more importantly, feels myopic), ask yourself why? Then look outward and ask yourself, these people I fight against, that I don’t understand, who are they? What has shaped them, and most importantly, where is our common ground?

At this point, I am hoping upon hope that we can all find some… 



Tuesday, 31 January 2017

BE HUMAN


I am an atheist. I’ve never said that into the blogosphere before. To me, one’s religion or lack thereof has always been a personal and private thing (until now apparently). Of course if asked, I’m happy to share my feelings on the subject, but I often find that atheism is greatly unsettling for some people (most want to save or convert me, many have tried, to no avail). And that is fine. I’m very confident in my beliefs and I am not one to inflict them upon another (so don’t mistake this blog as me wanting you to be atheist, please). Moreover, I would like to think that I am accepting of those that believe in something - an organized religion if you will. In my life, I am surrounded by a plethora of people who have all different faiths, ranging from Gaia, Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, and Christianity, in all its forms…(come to think of it, I don’t know many Mormons, may have to work on that).

But for me, religion has always been a complicated thing. I grew up Catholic, or shall we say, I was informed that I was, but realised after so many years that it was not for me. And to my parent’s credit, they seemed okay with me figuring out what I believed. For me, religion – and I am talking about ALL religion, not just yours - brought up more questions than answers. I didn’t understand why there were so many (and each that claimed they were ‘the right one’), I also didn’t understand something that, in my opinion, had so many contradictory rules: “You ARE allowed in our group because you behave/think/look a certain way, but you over there, are NOT allowed for various reasons.” Then there were the things that simply didn't make sense to my brain: “I’m pro life, pro capital punishment,  anti-homosexual, but pro gun,” (and instrument of death as far as I’m concerned)… Huh?! See the contradictions there? Again, no judgement, but you may want to take a very close look at the inconsistencies.

I also didn’t understand and much care for the divisiveness and aggression that organized religion has possessed within our history. If one thumbs through an actual history book, one can see the atrocities, wars, and crimes, that were done in the name of religion, and well, continue to this day. Again, this falls on the shoulders of all religions, so if you think yours is exempt, from where I sit, it’s not. 

What I do understand is the need for community, the importance of faith, and the cohesion and support it brings into many people’s lives. And for that, I say, great. If it brings something to your life and gets you from a to b, then I will never be the one to stop you. On the contrary, I am so happy that you have found something that brings you peace and happiness. This life is too short and too tough, not to find moments of refuge.  But - and this is a big but -  if within this refuge it means you’re ostracizing, judging or discriminating against others, well, then I’m going to raise my hand in the proverbial classroom and call you out on it.

Additionally, a curious thing happened along the way, in my country anyway, in that being Christian became an adjective. I’m not sure when it happened, but one day, it just crept into the vernacular and you started to hear it all the time. “Well that was such a nice christian thing to do!” Christianity became inextricably linked with generosity and magnanimous, selfless behavior. But here is what I found interesting. I never once heard people saying, “what a wonderful Jewish/Islamic/Mormon thing to do.” It was as if Christianity had the moratorium on kindness. In fact, and I’ll take it one step further, other religions began to get pushed to the back seat (and from where I sit as an atheist it all looks the same, sorry, but us it just does) for whatever reason. Certain religions became good, and others became well, bad. Some were even told they were too nutty to even be a religion (sorry, Scientology, but you got the brunt of this one) or too ripe with suppression (AGAIN, show me a religion and I will show you suppression or a history that advocates suppression). In many religions, women or homosexuals, for example, are not always walking out of it with the best deal. Love those Mormons, but bigamy just sounds like something cooked up by a man (if you’re judging a Mormon right now, trust me, there are aspects of your religion they are equally in judgement of… see what a convoluted web this all is?!)

I’m thinking the problem may lie in the fact that if you take a country like the United States that is founded by immigrants, call it a ‘Christian country’ (not sure how we got away with that considering how many natives we killed, or well, that slavery thing (!!) but again.. religion for some can be based on convenience) but pride yourself on welcoming all (Back then of course. My have times changed), well, you see the eventual problem that comes to pass. Hence, why a separation of church and state is a very necessary but heartbreakingly rare thing these days. If you govern in the name of God (your god), then you are pretty much telling your citizens who don’t subscribe to that god (or a god at all) that they can sit down and shut up.

Now, please don’t mistake my point, I am not out to bash religion, I am just pointing out another perspective that is not often spoken and I am asking you to examine your part in things and well, your faith and what that entails (if it's faith, it can take it). Because there are many things in today’s times we are simply choosing NOT to see. If you subscribe to a religion and it calls upon you to love your neighbor as yourself, then DO SO in totality (not by convenience).  From where I sit, if you’re pro life, you better be pro human, and that means humans in all their forms, colors and creeds. Be it a refugee, an illegal alien, or the guy at the office you find very challenging. If you’re pissed off your Starbucks cup doesn’t have CHRISTmas written on the cup, but you are hating on your neighbor cause he prays to a different god, trust me, you’re not Christian. In short, if you’re talking the talk as a person who has a god in their life (whatever god that may be), then you better walk that path. 

Moreover, if you want your religion respected, then please respect others – otherwise you’re just a hypocrite who thinks their religion is right. And you can’t all be right, you just can’t. There is hatred and extremism out there in all forms, in all religions, even amongst us atheists (hmmm, what is an extreme atheist?? An anarchist?), but these days, it is getting far too easy to persecute an entire religion because the big mighty fear machine has fed us to do so. 

I think we have also greatly lost sight of what it means to be human. To have humanity. It’s something most people truly don’t understand anymore. In short, to have humanity means you’re not a racist, myopic, bigoted, ignorant fear mongerer. It means that caring, listening, compassion and empathy - as scary as that is sometimes - is what we should all be focusing on. 

So please, I beg of you, let’s all strive to be humans first. And whatever you are after that, that’s up to you.

Monday, 23 January 2017

THE UPSIDE OF THE DOWNSIDE


Lately I've been accused of being too political, too “liberal," (which by definition doesn’t seem like such a bad thing) or my other favourite, too dogmatic (not sure why my researched facts are dogma and another man's dogma is fact, but hey ho. Must be my pea sized liberal brain). On the contrary, I’ve always prided myself on caring about my fellow human beings (unless they are serial killers, pedophiles or racists and then my patience gets a real run for its money) and have always thought that as we all don’t have the same opportunities in this world, why not even the playing field a bit more. Obviously, my beliefs go much deeper than this, and if you have a few days, we can sit down and hash it out, but moreover, in today's times, being political should be something of which to be proud. 

So in light of our current political climate, I’m not only going to own it, but I have no plans of being anything but. My generation, and many generations that have followed, have been accused of many things: not caring enough, complacency, self-righteousness, not having been through a war (oh I beg to differ, but we’ll leave foreign policy alone for the moment), and a general preoccupation with ourselves. And perhaps like any cliché or generalization, there is a bit of truth in that, but I think fundamentally people still care very much. And lately - if the Women's March didn't spell this out in LARGE capital letters - there has been a huge awakening, a well-needed awakening that has come not a moment too late. As my hero Gloria Steinem so aptly put it, 'this' movement, this action.. is the upside to the downside and it has made me incredibly proud to be a woman (citizen, American etc).

With the latest administration kicking into high gear (I stand by my oath not to utter ‘his’ name (#notmypresident), it has dawned on many – myself included – that the days of inaction are over. In fact, I almost look at it as our constitutional duty to fight against much of what this man, and his administration stands for. Cause from where I sit, there is not a lot of positivity in his message or care for the citizens of this country (all of them, not just some) or the planet that we are so privileged to live upon.

So, we are now faced with a choice, do something, or sit back and let people speak for us and make decisions that will decide our fate (and those of our fellow man/woman/dog/etc), that have no place to do so. For I say this to anyone that asks me to respect this President: respect is earned, and he has gone above and beyond to make sure I understand that women (immigrants, minorities, and so on) do not earn his respect.  His running mate has outwardly declared war on the female reproductive system  and LGBT rights (whilst not only trouncing all over the separation of church and state, but he goes as far as to overtly say that God will be governing as long as he’s in office). His cabinet – or the Swamp Lives, as I like to call them – has shown their overt dislike of the planet, marriage equality for all, LGBT&Q rights, and a universal healthcare package that doesn’t undermine big business. Of course I could go on for days, but I won’t bore you, as I’m sure most of you do your homework and have your own reasons for disliking this current administration.

But I won’t do is apologize. I won’t curtail my posting (if you don’t like it, don’t look at it), I won’t stop exercising my first amendment right, and I won’t accept a President that is devoid of a moral code and has as much restraint as a giant man-baby. 

What I will do is fight. I will act. I will research.  I will encourage, I will pick up the phone. I will not turn a blind eye to bigotry, racism, sexism, or any other ism that crops up. And most importantly,  I will not lie down until this President understands that he does not and will not speak for all of us. 

So, if this is political, I own it. I’ve certainly been called a lot worse.



Thursday, 12 January 2017

GOAT YOGA



It has been a painfully long time since I have blogged, and for that, my sincere apologies. But I aim to be more ‘delighted and disturbed’ this year… wait, I stand corrected; I don’t think it’s possible to be more ‘disturbed’ than I was in 2016, nor is it medically wise.  So let’s kick off 2017 with something delightful, shall we.

Goat Yoga.

Yes, you heard me. Bet you never thought you’d hear those two words together in a sentence. Leave it to the good ol’ Pacific Northwest of the United States to introduce this new trend (although I'm surprised Californians didn't think of this first). Apparently yoga ala goat has become so popular that there is a 1200 person strong waiting list. 

Now, I admittedly burst out laughing when I first read the article and saw the photos. Maybe it's my OCD or fear of goat shit on my back, but having a goat crawl on me wasn't on my list of wants. Then again, deep inside this liberal minded Californian is indeed a cynic battling with what the world serves up, and looking at photos of people in downward dog position with goats on their backs, well, it was hard to keep a straight face.  But, I was certainly open to hearing the positives of letting farmyard animals help me in my triangle pose.

Lainey Morse of Albany, Oregon stumbled across the concept kind of by accident.  She owns a farm, something she had aspired to do for many years, and her aim was to have a gaggle of goats to keep her company. (I guess she found having cats was a bit passé). When a visitor to her farm suggested the scenic backdrop would be a great place to do yoga (honestly, I’ve done yoga for years, but I can’t say I’ve ever thought, farm, manure piles, and flies and yoga made a good match, but hey, perhaps I’ not as open-minded as I thought) Lainey jumped at the chance. But on one condition, her goats would have free rein of the place and could join in on the fun.

And goat yoga was born! 

The farm, appropriately called ‘No Regrets’ hosts these classes to young and old, and anyone seeking a little cuddle from a goat. She calls it a ‘happy distraction’ and says that yoga and nature are a wonderful combination. Which I couldn’t agree more...(it's just the goat thing I'm still struggling with).  “It may sound silly, says Lainey, but goat yoga is really helping people.” Especially, according to Lainey, those with illnesses, anxiety and depression. She learned from personal experience when recovering from her own illness, that time spent with goats, made things a whole lot easier. “It’s hard to be sad and depressed when there is a baby goat jumping on you.”

Well, clearly there is the answer I’ve been missing in 2016. Honey, next time Trump is on TV, fetch me my goat damn it. I need a cuddle!!

Copyright © 2014 Anthea Anka - Delighted And Disturbed