To Love and Real Freedom


To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance

I am feeling humbled and moved this fine day… by the fragility of my life and my body sometimes and by the love of friends. In my recovering from whatever it was that took over my body the last few days in the form of intense illness, I was also gifted with amazing soup, boys to the rescue with a chicken emergency and a film from my beloved friend Mike Grenville The Lottery of Birth Documentary. This film is fantastic and a must see for anyone.. but perhaps especially those who have kids in education. I was reminded of many things in the context of this wonderful film;

The damage that patriotism has the potential to do:

‘One of the things that most effectively blinds us to our own role in the world and to examining our own beliefs and our own actions is patriotism or indeed adherence to any pre-established view of the world. But patriotism has a particularly effective role in preventing us from knowing ourselves because you begin with the assumption that you are the best and most desirable country in the world.

That is an essential assumption of patriotism. Of course it can’t be true in all cases and it’s probably not true in any cases. But, it allows you not to see the bad things that your country is doing and not to see the impacts that it exerts on other people. Patriotism is always conceived as a virtue and as such it is a particularly blinding force blinding us to certain realities.’

George Montbiot, Journalist, Author & Environmentalist
speaking in The Lottery of Birth Documentary

The realities of obedience and the importance throughout history of disobedience:

“Disobedience does not imply disorder. In fact, it is obedience that produces the most destructive forms of disorder. War. Poverty and the devastation of our environment.

Freedom has always depended un our ability to identify and overcome systems of arbitrary authority. Throughout history, principle disobedience has served time and again to create a more humane society. The choice is not whether we obey or disobey but rather what we obey and disobey.”

“If there is one lesson to be taken from the violent horrors of the 20th century, it is the danger of not questioning. But we won’t ask a question if we think we already know the answer.”

“As our critical faculties develop, it can seem far easier to rationalise what we have absorbed by chance than to face the discomfort that comes with questioning. But to question is to value the idea of truth more highly than the loyalties to our nation , religion, race or ideology…in short, our inherited ideology.”

And not least the words of Arundhati Roy woven into the film near the end:

“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

― Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living

As I ponder the implications of my inherited ideology and cultural mores, I am struck by how important it is to keep questioning and reviewing with fresh eyes what is actually happening in the present. This is perhaps a little bit easier since I am an ex-pat and it becomes a way of living in some ways. And we all need to re-examine with regularity the things that we take for granted or as TRUTH. For me, this is especially relevant when they come to the education of our children and the educational systems that we expose them to. I celebrate the fierce individuality and deep intelligence of my teenage son as he enters into a system that does not necessarily appreciate being questioned. And it is down to me right now, as a parent and tax payer, to model questioning this system and to celebrate our freedom to disobey rules that are antiquated and shaming.

Take line writing, for instance. I was shocked to find out that it is standard practice to write lines as a normal part of punishment and detention at the comprehensive school, where my son is a gifted and talented student. I thought that went out with hitting with rulers and noses on blackboards! Its 2013 and my genius, albeit disorganised at times, 15-year-old is being asked to write lines! I have begun the long process of  questioning this antiquated practice. I have pointed out to one of the head of science, head of year and the head of the school that this practice was designed to shame and humiliate rather than to teach or educate. If you want to give him community service – OK. Or make him dig in the garden. Great! The head of science said this would seem like a reward and not a punishment. I disagree.

What is more, this school is officially a Trust school and therefore is officially grounded in principles of cooperation, mutual respect, support and collaborative learning. it is meant to be a place of energy and inspiration. I cannot see how writing lines reflects the ethos of this school. I can see that I have a challenge ahead of me. I can also see the danger of not questioning and so I have begun.

And in the end, in a more civilised, free and loving culture which I co-create in my living, these questions can only reap interesting dialogues. And I do not want to be part of the dangerous bunch who do not question, but rather the beauty of an open dialogue and an engaged awake community.

“Together we can create something of great and lasting beauty.”

Here’s to freedom, love, insignificance and lasting beauty!

PS and speaking of Freedom, happy 4th of July my peeps in America. (smile!)