Friday, October 22, 2010


I recently read a blog post by the lovely Becky Hunter, who suggested that we should take time to remember, every so often, that we are going to die (a tip she borrowed from the inspiring novelist Annie Lamott). I think that this is a great idea - although I think that we should mitigate that with the knowledge that we could, as Sarah Wilson points out, live until we are 120-years-old. These combined consciousnesses should encourage us to live fully, while pacing ourselves. Savouring each moment as if it were our last, while knowing that it probably won't be.

In the same vein, I propose that we take a moment, every so often, to acknowledge that we are incredibly lucky. I am painfully aware of the fact that I am privileged. It is not that I am particularly rich or connected (although, compared with much of the world, I am). It's just that as a woman living in a democratic, first-world country, with the freedom to seek education, make a living, marry whoever I want to, do whatever the hell I want with my life... the world is my oyster. Of course, that is not the case for many people, particularly women; whether due to politics, finances, religion, culture, illness or family circumstances. Consciously taking the focus off my own internal struggles makes me realise how small and trivial my "issues" truly are. 

With that in mind, here are a few heart-breaking, yet incredibly important, articles you may find valuable.

Forced Abortions for Chinese Women | Al Jazeera
When I was 17, I watched a documentary in my Human Biology class which was burned into my memory. It canvassed the one-child policy in China, an attempt by the government to curtail its swelling population. A communist initiative, the policy places the rights of the collective above those of the individual. Forced abortions and sterilisations of Chinese women, which are not officially condoned by the central government but do, nonetheless, occur, are a gross violation of human rights, not only for the woman, but also for her fetus. The documentary I watched at 17 showed, in graphic detail, the termination of an eight-month-old fetus, a procedure which was tragically consented to by the exhausted mother after eight long months of haranguing by the local authorities, who receive bonuses according to the birth rate in their district. The woman's stomach is pierced with a lethal injection, killing the baby. She can feel it dying in her stomach, his or her little kicks gradually slowing, until it stops moving altogether. She then gives birth to a stillborn baby (yes, a baby - in Australia, a premature baby is viable at 24 weeks, or six months). Afterwards, she is sterilised. The video I have provided a link for, above, translates the intense sadness felt by a husband and wife who have recently endured such a forced abortion, also at eight months.

The Crimewave that Shames the World | The Independent | Robert Fisk
In this extensive article, Robert Fisk recounts countless honour killings, which have occurred throughout the world, over the last decade. These tragic deaths, perpetrated in the most barbarous of ways, usually by the victims' fathers, brothers or uncles, are reminders that, in some cultures, simply being born a woman is enough to warrant a brutal, unjustifiable murder. The excuses given for these killings include such "slights" as the woman being raped, a suspicion of premarital sex or refusal to acquiesce to an arranged marriage. The most hopeless aspect of these crimes is that they are often condoned, legally and culturally, leaving many of the murderers unpunished. 

The Decade in Pictures | Pixcetera
These incredible photographs speak for themselves, prompting us to remember that our experience is just a speck in the expansive, intricate matrix that forms the, sometimes unrecognisable, world we live in.

It is so tempting to turn away from these excruciating stories; to feign ignorance and concentrate on our own happiness and fulfillment. I cannot emphasise enough how important I think it is to take heed of the unbearable things occurring around us, no matter how faraway they appear to be. If anything, as consumers, we need to support the journalists telling difficult stories, keeping callous governments and cultures accountable, bringing injustice to the forefront of our consciousness. For me, what really drives me in life, as in writing, is empathy. The knowledge that every single person in the world, no matter where they come from or what life they lead, feels pain and love and hurt and joy as keenly as I do, is enough for me to actively seek justice and fairness, and keep my own life in perspective.


Anonymous said...

I almost started to cry when I read the first article, we often Indeed forget how lucky we are to the changes and freedoms that we have. Although I feel that more people should do something with their opportunities, too many people go through life not caring or not being stimulated. It scares me that some people will never contribute or take opportunities because they are never stimulated or never asked to be the best they can, jules

Kimberley said...

That picture is so beautiful.
Lately I have been more aware of how lucky I am and how easy I really have it (in comparison to others)!

Sophie Clark said...

This is a really beautiful and important post. I think that it is true that we are discouraged from thinking about death, particuarly in western societies. It's interesting to look at a country like Mexico which celebrates death. I can't help but feel it might be more healthy than the western obsession with repressing everything and/or reaching "closure" (whatever that is) as soon as humanly possible.

Bianca said...

Very well said!


Anonymous said...

Great post Laura, and you are right - we are incredibly lucky and should try to remember that as much as possible!

Laura Valerie said...

Thank you for your kind word, lovelies!

Julie - I agree, there are so many people who choose to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world, not to experience things because they are too difficult or emotional to fathom. Similar to what Anais Nin wrote in one of my earlier posts. She calls it "hibernating".

Sophie - Yes, I agree, Western culture does seem to tiptoe around death. We use so many euphemisms to describe it, if we do talk about it at all. This is a little off-topic, but, yesterday, one of my clients came to see me. I asked her how she was and she said "I'm devastated - my grandmother has just died". When I told my colleagues after she had left, they said "oh, why on earth would she tell you that?" Well, I asked her how she was, so I should expect an honest answer, right? But I am so used to hearing the routine "fine, thanks" that I was completely taken aback when she divulged what was really going on in her life. I think that more honesty and openness, even with relative strangers, would be a welcome relief in our culture.