Janine Rees, 25th January 2018
Remaining silent is no longer an option for me. I made the conscious decision to do the very best I can to live by my values and morals. I am as human and flawed as the next person, I spent many years in that space of the bystander, remaining silent for fear of persecution, being constantly horrified by the numerous injustices I saw and letting them percolate inside me into neuroses.
This is where denial, food and alcohol are a perfectly balanced trio of medication. About ten years ago something gave way inside of me, some small piece of inner Janine took a step out of denial and dipped her toe into reality. Not a lot of fun mind you, but I am glad I did. It has been an inordinately slow awakening but my intention now is to move in the direction of what I intuitively know is right, no matter what. To live in alignment with my authentic self because I’ve exhausted all other options, thankfully.
As so many others have, I’ve experienced my fair share of trauma and through that journey can recognise and empathise with other scarred souls I come into contact with. I know that inappropriate, aggressive and abusive behaviour is driven by scars. I’m not condoning it, but I know where it comes from. I can’t berate people who choose to live in denial because I myself resided there for so long and sometimes revisit the safety of it. What I can do is offer my experience and others can take it or leave it as they wish.
It sure does suck realising that much of your life is incongruous with your true values. People take offense to your skin shedding as they are not yet, or perhaps never will be, prepared to walk nakedly amongst the clothed. I too used to laugh along with sexist/racist/homophobic (insert all bigotry here) jokes because I wanted to fit in. I was very happy to be one of the crowd. Small fragments of inner strength shone through like becoming a teacher to give kids the individualised help that I missed out on or keeping my name when I got married because I couldn’t understand why I should have to give up a large part of my identity, but in most other areas, I drifted along on autopilot, following tradition and the crowd with most choices.
In my observation, it’s denial and privilege that drives indignation. Someone who makes comments about those on welfare have obviously never lived in poverty, not knowing where the next cent is coming from. No one chooses to live like that. Someone who comments “so what” on the #MeToo campaign has obviously been lucky enough to never have been the victim of sexual harassment or assault. Someone who ignores indigenous Australians’ request to acknowledge a day of mourning rather than celebrating Australia Day as it currently stands, certainly cannot understand the horrors that were perpetrated and are still playing out today.
I am not saying that everyone need give up their current lifestyle (unless you are one of the oligarchy with more money than anyone would need in 20 lifetimes) as I would not suggest someone make themselves sick because another is sick. I am suggesting that we need to be aware of our privilege if we are lucky enough to have it and acknowledge that it may cloud our reasoning and judgement.
“We all have to get by…live in society as it is… you just have to put up with some things” are comments I hear all the time, but I wasn’t living I was barely surviving. My beliefs and views are not set in stone, with new knowledge may come rethinking and a change of view. I know that many of my past decisions were based on an inner dialogue that revolved around fear, lack and not being good enough. Many of my opinions and beliefs were handed down to me through society without much thinking on my part. I had plenty of conditioning to challenge and overcome but as a parent I had to acknowledge that I was now the role model and passing on my beliefs through my words and actions.
After much introspection my values are strong; equality, respect, diversity, compassion and love. Who do I think I am to share my opinions with the world? An absolute equal to everyone else. Many will think I’m crazy and some will understand and that’s perfectly okay with me. I don’t feel the need any more to defend or explain my beliefs other than to unapologetically say I believe some things are inherently wrong and ought not be up for debate, like equal human rights. I believe with some issues it’s not okay to agree to disagree. I can agree to disagree on what ice-cream is the best, I can’t agree to disagree when your opinion causes another person to be oppressed, murdered, hurting, dehumanised, attacked, robbed, raped, lied to, humiliated…
I strongly believe it’s not okay to say, “it’s not my problem, I didn’t do it”. I believe ignoring injustice and mistreatment is as equally out of order as perpetrating it. You can not agree that something should be done and then behave in a way that is in opposition to your words. Acknowledgement is service and of enormous benefit, going a long way towards healing. Silence, on the other hand, adds to the pain.
It’s definitely a work in progress but I now subscribe to a philosophy of non-violence in all aspects of life. I don’t believe in competition and survival of the strongest. I can no longer work in a system that damages children. I am discerning about the products I buy and the businesses I deal with. I have a focus on sustainability and the environment. I am spiritual but do not align with any particular religion, though borrow from many. I believe in the absolute equality of all and will work towards service in that area from here on in.
A few years ago, I founded Sparkt. I wasn’t really sure what it was, other than therapeutic, but I knew I had been sparked into action. Sparked (with an ‘ed’) as a domain had been taken, but my good friend, serendipity, whispered in my ear that Sparkt with a ‘t’ was more inline with doing things a little differently (and was luckily up for grabs). Sparkt mirrors my values in every aspect. My hope is that through Sparkt I can use my gifts, talents and strengths to be of service to those in need and I can support and guide others in this persuit. If I can inspire one more person to live authentically and feel the joy of that, then I will die a very happy person.