While I am away…

I´ve been putting off blogging because something´s been bugging me, although I have been barking politically on LinkyDing and Twitter.

I think it has something to do with shame and frustration, and trying to work out if and where I belong, and whether that even matters these days.

I am privileged. I am white. I grew up in Australia and left before my mind was opened or smart enough to understand what racism was and how it can be passed on from generation to generation. I thought it only lived in the then Apartheid South Africa, or in the Southern States of the USofA.

Working for a UN Agency in Geneva is where I learnt what racism was and through experiences with certain persons even bunched all of their race, nationality, whatever, into one ill-smelling bouquet.  Mea culpa.

I was still young and naïve and living in a microcosm that reflected the macrocosm, as the Internet also now does. There were super persons from each country, and bastards from each country, too. Usually, the bastards were on top, in more ways than one, and I reckon back then there was no need for quotas.

Last week I saw a documentary on TV. It was about an all-white community in South Africa, a town, where an old woman had rewritten the history books to purge any mention of Nelson Mandela. A father spoke of how good it was to be with people of one´s own culture. A teenage girl said she enjoyed being with people like herself. There was no curiosity about the “other”.

I was reminded of myself before leaving Australia at 19. I had no curiosity about the “other”. I just wanted to go to Vienna and see where I was born. This was the late 60s, early 70s. I found Vienna to be grey and thought it horrible, but I was too young and naïve to appreciate the politics of the time. How wrong I was when I see what is happening in that country today: Scratch the blue of whatever hue and you will find brown.

Via Helsinki, I landed in Geneva, and my eyes were opened to internationalism and the wish to become part of “healing the world”. But it only took a  “fonctionnaire” from India, the Philippines, the USA, France, Liberia and Northern Ireland, to get my back up. We were living in a crucible. We were living in Shirley Jackson´s story, “The Lottery” sadly, but luckily only at the workplace.

My husband and daughter contributed to opening up a new world for me. Through my husband and sport (soccer, skiing and golf), his patience teaching young and old in his spare time, people became people. Our daughter grew up “mutli-kulti” and remains so to this day living in Sydney.

Now, as an old albeit #immodestwoman, I am learning what my privilege has wrought, and am grateful for the friendships that  I have found over the years through writing as an antidote to the day job of what I had erroneously considered a career, friendships that have stretched and continue to stretch my mind and heart.

           Anita Heiss

I´ll be away for several days, but I´d like to leave you with some books to read – very different all of them, but shared as a thank you to their authors as a token of what they mean to me on my path.

DL Nelson

 

There are many more books I need to highlight and I shall do so when, as ever, I next charge with you onwards!

 

          Vanessa Gebbie

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