Friday, 26 August 2016

Burkinis and Ignorance.

I was in the South of France when the burkini was banned there. I was on a train and reading through the news on my phone and I quietly contemplated what it meant without discussing it with any of my friends. I few days later we were in our room in Barcelona and the article came up again and they expressed their shock and I responded in a way that I'm embarrassed about.

I said: I can kind of understand it, it can be threatening that sort of conservatism.

I've tracked that opinion back to when I was in Turkey on a family holiday 4 years ago and the lovely hotel staff expressed their concerns at the growing level of conservatism in their secular country and the growing number of women wearing full burqas and burkinis at the beach. They felt it was synonymous with an ever oppressive government.

This is what I was responding to when my friends brought the topic up and I didn't give it any thought whatsoever. I immediately regretted saying it because I knew that I was wrong but I was too embarrassed to say so. Instead I internally cringed and tried to telepathically apologise to all the women I'd just oppressed with my own words.

I want to be honest and say how I initially responded because I think that's how responding to something alien to your own world usually works. Isn't it that the first thought is society's ideals rubbing off on you, and the second the thing you actually, truly believe?

So I actually, truly believe that no woman should be told what and what not to wear - especially when it comes down to not showing one's body in public for reasons of belief/faith/insecurity/fear. I don't think I will actually understand why a woman may choose to wear a burqa,  I am not religious and I do not come from a background with those values, but I would never tell a woman not to, because that goes against my own values.

I think I initially reacted to the ban with that pathetic, lowly response because it didn't seem real. I hadn't actually seen a woman wearing a burkini. But then the internet exploded with a terrible story and a terrible image of a group of stern, ignorant looking policemen standing around a woman as they forced her to undress on the beach. Suddenly the ban was real and women in France were not free. Muslim women in France were not free, let me correct myself.

The entire concept of not letting women who choose to wear burqas onto the beach to enjoy the sun and the summer and the sea breeze is just as oppressive, just as dehumanising as an extremist Islamic state. Forcing a woman to undress herself is just as abusive, just as humiliating, just as horrifying.

I'm learning that an ever oppressive government does not just force women to cover their faces and hair and bodies, it forces women to expose themselves and undress their beliefs and values in front of an entire beach of people. In front of mean, careless, insensitive policemen.

Liberté Fraternité Egalité? I'm not buying any of it.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Being afraid.

I have achieved a number of things in the last few months of this year. Some of them more obvious and conventional than others. One of them an extreme emotional challenge for myself.

I became ill with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) when I was 7 years old. I find it hard to describe because I'm lucky enough not to remember why I was unwell, or how the symptoms affected me. My parents are unfortunate enough to remember that. I remember books that my mum had on the illness, as she tried to understand what was happening to me, and various children's groups she signed me up to, one of which I received birthday cards from, to help me understand what was happening to me. I didn't really go to school properly for two years, from year 2 to year 3, and in the years after that I would miss almost months at a time. I remember two women who would come to teach me occasionally at home, and I think that's how I learnt the handwriting and advanced reading skills that everyone else was learning at school.

The thing I remember most from this illness, the thing I can find most haunting, is the clinical anxiety that came with it and followed me all the way to where I am now. I am not clinically diagnosed with anxiety anymore, thank god, but it still turns up in my mind when I'm vulnerable and attempts to make everything a complete catastrophe.

I have memories of this anxiety that I'm not going to share yet, because they're horrible and they make me sad. Maybe I'll write about them one day, in some fiction where it's easier to describe such painful, irrational fear. Today I'm going to write about a good memory; one of my biggest achievements to date.

Most of my anxiety was about leaving home, leaving the country and being away from my mum. I just spent 3 weeks travelling through Europe without my mum, and I am completely alive and well to tell the tale. I can't really explain to you how cool that is.

I've been extremely anxious this summer, because that part of me will never really go away and will come back in occasional, unasked for waves. I think this wave came because of exam stress, but in any case I felt small and vulnerable as all the helpless feelings from my childhood that I haven't really felt for a few years came back in buckets.

One thing I am now lucky enough to have is the ability to deal with such intense emotion, but that doesn't make it in any way a walk in the park. Some of this year's joyous ball of fear arrived on the plane to Greece for a family holiday, it remained for a few days and waned as the week came to an end. I spent some of the nights shaking and seizing up and crying as random and pointless anxiety crept up on me again. I found it really scary, because the next week my mum wouldn't be there to soothe me and I'd be in an unknown, cheap Airbnb or hostel possibly not being able to deal with it.

But here's the thing, I totally was able to deal with it. And I faced every worst fear I've ever had in one go. And I didn't die.

The three weeks away with my wonderful friends made me feel constantly tense and afraid and it felt like more times than not my chest was tight and the world was like when Alice falls down the rabbit hole and everything floats past her and she doesn't know where she'll end up. I had food poisoning in Split which forced me to deal with everything I've spent my entire life desperately trying to avoid and I now have a great memory of myself on the awful toilet floor of a ferry, crying to my mum on the phone, vomiting every 15 minutes.

But I did it. I did it. I did it. I did it. I had the most crazy, amazing, bizarre time and I love my friends and we did it together. We made it to every train and every accommodation and survived wild nights in strange new cities.

I keep having this strange desire to run back through time and tell younger Mollie what she did, what she will do. For a very long time she is very worried that she'll never be able to travel, that she'll never be able to go to university, that she'll never be able to leave home. She's doing all of those things now. I want younger Mollie to see me because I know exactly how comforting that would be, how exciting, how proud it would make her. I know that younger Mollie would see everything she's hoping to become.

If only an older Mollie would come back and do that for me now, for the future. But that would lose half the fun, and half the fear. I guess I just keep going forwards now, right?

Friday, 15 July 2016

What a piece of work is a man.

We do tend to head straight to the obvious cause of terror every time we accuse an attack before we know the truth. It is almost understandable, such is the current climate of things. But it is absolutely unforgivable to quote and give value to a nasty, unthinking islamophobe in the moments before we know the cause of each tragedy. Or even after we've worked out the facts. 

You'll notice that we quote him less when tragedies occur outside our western bubble despite being for the same "reason" as our own interspersed attacks. That'll be because those events do not affect his presidential campaign. They do not help him fear monger. Those who are scared of Muslims do not care about Muslim countries. 

I highly doubt he actually cares about the 84 dead in last night's occurrence. I doubt he cares about French culture, how this affects French lives, French government. He won't mention that some of those who died, who were equally celebrating on Bastille day, were also Muslim. He won't mention that he doesn't actually know why the killer has done what he's done. We don't know what kind of terror he was inflicting yet.

It's important to remember that if these types of attacks are going to happen that we refrain from scapegoating innocent people. Millions of innocent people who are just as horrified by such tragedies as the next white Christian. It's important that we ignore a certain orange (white) member of our own western terrorist group. I'm shocked that in several of the articles from large tabloids that have come up on my newsfeed this morning it was deemed necessary in their live online reports to mention what Donald Trump had said on the matter. What relevance was this? I'm sure most of us can imagine what he would like to say about this incident, and most of us would prefer to steer clear of him given his absolute ignorance on the matter. He's not an expert, or a sensible ally of France, he's not yet a world leader - thank god. He's a racist, narcissistic, islamophobic, nasty piece of work who we absolutely should be turning our backs on most obviously in moments like this. Stop feeding him what he wants. Stop laughing at those horrible things he says. Ignore him, remove his power. Focus on someone else. 

Donald Trump will never have anything useful, or informative, or inspiring to say about occurrences like these. There is no point in making him a part of an important report of unfolding events. He wasn't there. He's not intelligent and worldly. He's an idiot. No one should be listening to idiots. 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Mindless in the midst of it all.

It seems that British politics over the last few weeks has disassembled itself and rearranged its pieces without actually putting itself back together yet. It's like someone has taken a puzzle, albeit with bits already missing and the picture uglier than one would wish a puzzle to be, and has broken it up in their hands, thrown it up in the air and gone "ha ha ha".

Actually its quite interesting to watch this process take place. This accidental reshuffling of the entire House of Commons. It means, in a long and arduous process, that change is coming and that could be good.

As an 18 year old with a current occupation as 'waste of space' in her A Level summer holiday there is not much I can do. I have friends who are worried about it and who are very distressed at the situation, which is understandable, but there is not much they can do either. They can discuss, and form new ideas, and hypothesise, and plan for a new future, but until this all blows over we're at a loss for which pieces we need to be picking up.

I have to say I'm actually trying my best to ignore this fascinating turn of events so that I can enjoy my summer. I've waited bloody ages for this, I don't want to have to worry about the future of British politics. I'm lucky that I have parents who will discuss the situation with me. It reassures me, and informs me that not absolutely everything is going tits up. Well, it is. But that's also ok.

I'm just going to sit back and relax whilst politics tries to remain the same but actually becomes something fundamentally different. I'm going to read books, and lie in the sun, and go out with friends and have a whale of a time. And I'll be ready once I've done that, been mindless in the midst of it all, to work it all out all over again. The political world of my adult life. I'm quite excited.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Stream of consciousness.

It's like I'm always wanting to write something, but I'm not exactly sure what it is, or even how to write it. I make excuses throughout the day to write nothing at all. I'm tired, I've done other things, I deserve a break. Am I avoiding it because I truly don't want to do it? Or because I'm afraid of the result. What if I really can't write what I want to? I want to write fiction. I wrote a lot of it when I was younger, but now I'm too scared. I avoid all the stories in my head so that I don't have to write them down. I have ideas, I just don't know how they will form on the page. I can't get my words to come out right. What was it I was wanting to say again? Why doesn't my voice sound like the other writers I like? Is it supposed to sound different? Is it good enough to just be different? 

Writing this post won't actually make me write something like a short story today, it'll just allow me to scratch the itch that always bothers me. I can get some words out. It's always a relief. I don't feel so guilty then.

I don't know why I feel so guilty anyway. Id love to just laze around and watch tv without the horrible feeling that I have neglected something more important. "Rory Gilmore would just get on with it", I think as I lie like a potato watching her go about her made up life. See, I want to make up characters powerful enough the audience almost thinks of them as real. How can I do that when I don't ever put pen to paper on the matter? 

I wonder if it's worth going on a course. Would I hate it? Would I feel even guiltier? Or perhaps it would spur me on to develop a different voice to myself in a protagonist. I'd love that. To write as someone else. Someone so separate from my own self. 

I wonder if I'll look back at this and laugh as I hold the first copy of my own book. Maybe I'll look back at this and still feel a twinge of guilt. I just wish I would get off my backside and do something.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Giving the finger and moving on to better things.

I went out with my friends last night and I had managed to forget about the referendum until someone got a news alert on their phone of the most recent poll. It was 1:30 in the morning, it wasn't looking hopeful, I started to cry on the dance-floor.

I looked across at my friend George and he looked just as heartbroken as I felt. We hadn't done it, we were going to lose the EU.

I woke up this morning, now hungover and still anxious to read the news, to find that our fears had materialised. An entire wad of idiots had squashed our abundant, interesting opportunities. The older generation quite literally snatched the toys from the baby's hands. People had forgotten how democracy works and didn't realise that their vote "would actually mean anything". It's almost as if brains melted yesterday on the way to the polling stations. And now, what are we to do?

We're going to figure it out.

I am becoming more and more proud of my generation. I think we have a real thing going for us. I think we're driven and clever and waking up from the docile slumber everyone's been under. I think we mean change. I think we can cope with this enormous historical event. I want to tell my peers not to give up, that we can use this for our advantage. This may have turned our future on its head but that could be a good thing. That could push us into properly defending ourselves against the increasingly nasty, right-wing government. We are not a right-wing generation, I'm not sure what we are yet. This is our chance to work it out.

I am bitterly disappointed about what has happened in the referendum. I am disappointed in the older generation, in the politicians, in the unbearable selfishness of this whole thing. But I am not entirely in despair. I won't let myself be. Let this shake us up, wake us up, drag us out of bed and scream in our faces from the streets outside. We're the first generation of the technological age; I think we know exactly what to do with that advantage. That is our weapon. We have our virtual world to protect us. I have faith in that. And, if others have less faith than I do then I want to demonstrate its power. I don't know how yet, but I won't just sit here and let this wash over us. I'll probably write about it, I'll probably try to make discussions happen and open people's eyes. I think that's what I'll set out to do. I think our generation could be revolutionary. I think we can get over this very large and terribly inconvenient obstacle. I think we can give everyone who's let us down the finger and move on to better things. I think I'm going to be doing that from now on.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Democracy?

I don't know how qualified I am to form important political views. I normally go by my instinct, which answer seems more humane. Is that enough? In fact, I'm still finding it hard to think too deeply on world issues. I find it makes me too upset, too angry, too vexed. I want to listen and watch, but it's so heart breaking. And I am helpless, and my blood boils.

I am almost repulsed by politics. I find it hard to follow constantly. I've never understood those who are always watching, listening, reading about politics. How are they not exhausted?

I've avoided all the televised debates on the referendum because I know it will not help my decision, nor will it have changed anyone's minds, only reinforced ideas.

I don't want to leave the EU tomorrow. It upsets me when I think about it. I don't want to be left in the hands of people who find non-existent problems with immigrants to create a hateful stigma around innocent human beings. I can't be doing with the smugness of the leave campaign, there's an unsavoury arrogance about it. I can't be doing with the stay in campaign either for that matter, it seems meek and pathetic by comparison. I hope we look back on this, whatever the outcome, and learn from it. We probably won't. I think I'm going through my political disillusionment because it's tiring and unending and demoralising. I don't feel very hopeful about it. I can't even vote for the party I'd like in my constituency.

Today will be my first ever vote in one the most important political decisions for years to come. I will be voting remain because I have found myself disagreeing with almost everything that leave has said. That's definitely a good enough reason. I don't agree with the xenophobia, the toxic untruths, the wild exaggerations. The idea that our "sovereignty" will be restored if we leave makes me laugh. Do they mean the sovereignty voted for in our undemocratic voting system? I certainly won't be represented if Gove and Boris are allowed to take the reigns. I doubt many others will be either.

I have no time for the Leave campaign because it goes against mostly everything I stand for. If it wins I will be genuinely devastated. It will be my generation that will have to deal with the mess, most of us want to remain. Where's the democracy in that?