Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Beauty In Our Differences

A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our DifferencesWhen I first arrived in England I lived in a place called Luton, and
became friends with a boy called Kym who was my very first British
playmate. We'd hang out together not speaking each other's language
but somehow we were still able to communicate. I developed my first
major crush on him, and one day as he held my hand crossing the road to the park I tried to kiss him. He punched me, as it turns out he was actually a very tall girl.



Once over my shock I tried to make friends with (an actual!) sweet girl who had some sort of degenative condition, and whom I shared rides in and out of school with. Her hand was very clawed and she walked with a limp. I didn't understand what was happening and would try and unclaw her hand whilst speaking to her in Spanish. She would reply in English and of course we wouldn't understand each other, and then she got fed up with me trying to clumsily (and probably painfully), make her hand 'better' so she stopped speaking to me.


Soon after we moved to London and this was on the back end of the Falklands war. One day, alone in the park, I was playing on a wooden roundabout when 3 older boys approached. I still had almost no English language skills to my credit, so of course we couldn't communicate and to this day I don't know what was being said, other than they became increasingly aggressive. One of them stood up and towered over me, and through his shouting I could understand a few simple words- you, f*cking and Falklands. I didn't understand at the time what the Falklands were as I knew them as "Las Malvinas," but in any case, for whatever reason he became very angry and booted me off the roundabout, using my face as a football.

A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences  A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences

I stumbled home, crying with a bloody nose, and hated everything about England and myself. I hated not been able to speak English, I hated being brown, and I hated everything about London and the people there. Within a few months I despised everything even more; kids making fun of me and most of all my mum, who had dared to stand up to some skinheads when they started to pick on an elderly Asian couple on a train. She totally humiliated me as she firmly told the men to stop bullying defenseless people. When they retaliated and started to say things like "f*ck off you paki" she reprimanded them on their lack of geographical knowledge, stating that we were from a completely different continent and they should be embarrassed that they couldn't tell the difference. Aged 10 I wished the ground would open up and swallow me, as I'm sure the countless people who hid behind their newspapers also did, but for different shameful reasons. We were all cowards in our own way that day.

A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences  A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences

As I slowly began to understand the society I lived in, I began to love the Brits, appreciated the diversity and - to this day- I feel privileged to have a British passport as it has opened so many doors for me, and given me opportunities and a life I wouldn't other wise have had. Amongst other things, the Brits taught me tolerance and charity and opened my eyes to the whole world.

A few times however, my privilege has spilled over into arrogance and a sense of entitlement, which has made me behave in ways that still shame me. One time I was in Zanzibar on holiday with a girlfriend during Ramadan. We had enjoyed some drinks at a tourist bar and I took a friend that I’d been hanging out with for a few days back to our hotel. We started to fool around in the pool and my girlfriend came out and told us off for being disrespectful, to which I basically told her that " I hadn't realised I was on holiday with my mum." We ended up having an argument because we couldn't agree on the level of freedom I expected, versus following the local norms.

Months later we fought again, this time because of her passionate stance on the Middle East, which is where her family are from. Understandably, she has strong views about Israel and the Jewish community, however I pointed out that we both have Jewish friends and as a group of people they have suffered more persecution than most. Things became very heated and we had to accept eachother's point of view in a calm manner or our friendship would have suffered.

A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences  A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences

Post 9-11 I was spat at on the tube, a mild humiliation compared to what happened to thousands of other people around the world. People used their fear to justify their hateful actions, and the world started to unravel in ways none of us could have predicted.

The things that I have described (and I could tell you so many more!) are just to highlight that such conflicts can happen to any of us. We all have strong bonds and biases to who and what we know and align ourselves with, yet we all also have the capacity to be compassionate and look past race, colour, religion or sex in order to look at each other as just being human. Conflicts arise from a lack of education and ignorance.

I have been treated appallingly by people who are ignorant, yet when I was younger I regretfully did the same in my ignorance towards others. My privileges with regards to travel have afforded me the ability of being able to meet and befriend people from all nationalities and walks of life, and I guess that now makes me more open minded simply because I've been blessed to have that education.

A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences  A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences

I was recently on a trip with Matthew van Kan and his incredible band and dancers to the Middle East. We discussed the beauty of our differences, otherwise how boring would life be if we were all the same? And each time I looked around any airport and hotel lounges I saw almost everyone shaking their heads sadly as news items on Paris and Mali and other places in conflict unfolded before us on TV. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, and it’s worth remembering that there are far less than one percent who want to harm humanity for whatever reason they see fit.

Which brings me back to cultural discord. Our perceived ‘enemies’ versus reality. In order to make peace we need to...make peace. And as we don’t need to make peace with our friends we must make peace with our ‘enemies.’ So what my pea brain doesn’t understand right now is why we are continuing to follow the path so many before us have walked? How can we make peace by perpetuating war and violence?

Every attack leads to retaliation, every act of war deepens the wounds in the collective psyche of those oppressed. Have we not learned from this? If I were the Empress of the World I would use the money we always miraculously find for war in times of austerity, and instead of bombing a nation I would give aid, refuge and education to the poor souls who are running from the very people who are also supposedly attacking 'us'.  Ignorance is the breeding ground for hatred and mistrust.
Surely stopping to reflect and trying a diplomatic route of dialogue and compromise would be better than the knee jerk reactions of aggression and dominance?

A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences  A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences

Earlier this week I had to get a new British passport, and had to call my mum to get information about my original Naturalisation as a British citizen. She knew the number, the date and all the details off by heart. I asked her if she was absolutely certain, and how could she be so sure. She replied "Claud, I will never forget those details. That is the day you
became safe."

Hearing those words made me fill with tears. Tears of unbelievable love for my mum and all the sacrifices she has made to 'make me safe', and an overwhelming sense of gratitude that Britain had offered us sanctuary.  I also felt like crying for the millions of people around the world that may now not get a chance of a better life. Why should we accept this? I'm guessing that if you look back at your own ancestry and also where you are, or the freedoms most of us reading this possess, you will hopefully understand your own family’s progression through evolution and migration. Why should we deny that right to others?

Greater minds than mine have failed to stem the wars and hatred that has permeated our lives. But if we keep accepting that war is the only way to peace (and think about the total absurdity of that statement), then we will never, ever live in peace and we will perpetuate the same mistakes our ancestors have made.

A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences  A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences

Peace talks WORK. Look at the IRA, look at what is happening in Colombia now. We are essentially territorial and aggressive animals, yet we have the power to change the course of history by negotiating our way through conflict. It’s a very simplistic view. But the alternative has never proved to do anything other than create torrents of bloodshed and
mistrust of our fellow (wo)men. The alternative- the illegal invasion of Iraq- fuelled the creation and rise of Isis. That is as political as I want to get, I’m just a person speaking from the heart, as I don't believe most of the governments who still willingly create propaganda to directly make people afraid of others in order to fulfill their own agendas.

I appreciate that the complexity of certain idealisms and differences of cultures will always mean there are radical differences between us- but I reiterate that the majority of the world DO NOT want to live in fear and DO NOT hate others. Surely that is the basis for helping to protect the vulnerable, not continue to marginalise them in the way we are still doing so right now.

If you are reading this you have privilege. Use it wisely. Start by being kind to others. Always. Good deeds spread just as easily as negativity and hatred. Imagine the collective power we could wield to influence those who are once again leading us into another unnecessary and ill informed conflict? Don’t let fear and media drive hatred, because these ever-evolving physical and psychological barriers and borders are affecting the way we relate to each other.

A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences  A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences  A Tiny Pirate - The Beauty In Our Differences

Think about it. No matter where we are from, who we are, what religious, sexual or other orientations we steer towards, we are ALL one thing. We are HUMAN BEINGS.

Toodle pip you wonderful creatures…

Claud
Xx

 

Photos by Claudia Avila-Batchelor, copyright 2015

 

 

 

 

 

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