Overcoming the seemingly insuperable

The room with a view, where the blog began.

The room with a view, where the blog began.

Having spent the last six months intermittently self-flagellating since publicly declaring I was considering starting a blog, I have come to a very humbling realisation. Futile is this tossing and turning of questions such as, who is my audience, what tone shall I adopt, will anyone be interested in what I have to say… In fact, the longer I procrastinate on these self-indulgent yet well-intentioned ruminations, the more experiences I have failed to recount and share with the willing, the less I am inclined to commence. The term vicious circle becomes of paramount significance, and nobody likes a violent shape to weigh so heavily in their thoughts.

So, whilst burning my back bouncing around in the gargantuan Pacific waves, I concluded that today was the day; the day I would placate the seemingly insuperable litany of doubts that I have been so arduously gathering, and just write. So, audience, of whom I know not who you are, I have set a few places for you and hope that you will be patient whilst I find my voice and establish the purpose behind my ramblings.

Having opened this show with a rather verbose introduction, I will put floridity to bed and provide some straight-up context about me, An Activist Abroad. Last year, I completed a Masters in Human Rights. By the end of the course, whilst writing my thesis on Israel’s flagrant violation of Palestinians’ dignity and non-existent freedoms, I hated human rights. Well, not rights per se, but that they seemed to be empty promises, mere aspirations, yet another colonial endeavour and bestowed based on geopolitics and at the whims of mostly men. After all, the most modern manifestation of the human rights movement, born post Holocaust, had thus far failed to significantly assist the disempowered, disenfranchised and oppressed of the world.

The Palestinian flag on a wall in Nablus, the West Bank

The Palestinian flag on a wall in Nablus, the West Bank

I felt enraged, upset, and was bordering on tumbling into total disillusionment. Furthermore, I saw close friends and political activists around me burn-out and others get so wrapped up in their own egos that they had lost sight of the cause that they were fighting for. So, the best solution for me, to obviate exhaustion or even worse, narcissism, was to take some time out.

As an activist, I have felt a deep sense of dissatisfaction coupled with guilt because your job is never done, thus you can never truly relax. After all, poverty is still ubiquitous, women are still almost universally subjugated, the Palestinians are still an occupied people, climate change remains the whopping big elephant in the room that hardly anyone is prepared to discuss yet alone do anything about, bar recycling their bottles and cans, and the list goes on.

Ah, I see the tone has become somewhat depressing. Well, this was where I was at. In order to be an effective actor in the struggle for a more just world, some questions needed to be considered. Here’s a wee list of some of them:

1. What is the nature of humanity?

2. Are we inherently good, or are we predisposed to being generally a bit awful?

3. If it is fairly easy to become a violator of human rights, what are those conditions? What are the warning signs?

4. Is a world free of subjugation, oppression, poverty, racism, sexism, in fact all sorts of isms, possible?

5. If it isn’t, then is my role as an activist to mop up disasters, report on them and then vent my anger at some protest or another?

6. Can I continue in this struggle if it is a fight that cannot be won?

7. What does a just world look like? Is it a utopia?

8. Are human rights a part of the problem?

9. Is history based on a set of hierarchical relationships, which are inherently exploitative?

10. Are hierarchies necessarily a bad thing?

11. What role does violence play in achieving peaceful ends? When does armed struggle become the only option?

12. How can I persuade people to care about the issues I am interested in and take positive action?

13. Will I ever be able to answer these questions, or is this a life-long process?

14. What is my role in this fight? What is the best job for me? What can I cope with? What will I be best at?

So, that’s me. As you can see, I have set myself a fairly challenging task. I never tend to go for the easy option though, so at least I am not acting out of character.

However, due to being nearly killed in an accident and receiving a large compensation, I have the privilege of musing over these uncertainties away from the cold and often hard city of London.

I have been in the Americas now for over six months. I am currently sat at my desk in Posada el Arquitecto, overlooking two bays where waves that surfers dream of crash on the curvaceous shore. Mazunte, a tiny little village on the Pacific coast of Mexico, the birthplace of my first blog entry. What an accolade.

17 thoughts on “Overcoming the seemingly insuperable

  1. Pingback: Repoliticizing As the Bombs Drop on Gaza | An Activist Abroad

  2. Pingback: A state of unknowing | An Activist Abroad

  3. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your blog, and i felt very identify with your questions! I hope to help yu in one way or an other answering them.

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    • Thanks Andres. I am very grateful for you taking the time to read it. I’d be very keen to hear some of your thoughts on some of the questions I will probably spend my whole life trying to answer! Not an easy task.

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  4. Really enjoyed reading your blog, I particularly liked the combo of clarity on these really tricky topics and your honesty. For me the bits where you show your personal side are what makes it really come alive. There is enough potential content on this one post for about a years worth (at least) of blogs. I think an interesting approach might be to take one of the questions (or even an aspect of a question) that comes to you as you get inspired by an event or a person or a musing on your travels and write about it from a personal perspective supported by the depth of your obvious knowledge on the subject. Could be an amazing way to get your ideas out there and also easier for people to absorb, get engaged with and comment on one idea at a time rather than many.

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    • Thanks so much for your input. Greatly appreciated! I am finding showing my personal side a bit tricky as I have been conditioned through years of academia not do so, so it might take me a little time before I can step out of that kind of mode of expression. I have just written my second post, so I hope that that may be slightly less like an essay, a bit easier to read and at least a little interesting! Thanks again.

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  5. I didn’t write that obscure comment!?!? That is a concern, who did? Glad I stimulated some thought, no need to dumb things down to .mcjournalism levels, just bear in mind a lot of people may consume your content on their mobiles, on the go, half asleep on the way to work, hungover blah blah, so make it easy reading particularly as many of the issues are quite heavy going…balance it out! Take it EZ.

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  6. Hello,

    Thought your first blog was a very interesting introduction to what issues you intend to tackle in the future. I really liked you breaking down the questions you have and found myself identifying with lots of them.

    I don’t know in full what Dan said about language but I can sense that some of it might be what I was thinking too (from your response). I suppose I fit into the category of your readers who aren’t academic and don’t have a depth of knowledge about the subject… for me there were words (and sentences if i’m honest) that I couldn’t understand and felt a bit like I was reading an essay rather than a blog. As you say, you’ve just finished at LSE and it’s going to take a while to get out of that style so it’s understandable.

    Otherwise though, very informative and interesting and I look forward to the next instalment!

    Yaz
    p.s. I remember that view from that window!! Happy times…. wish I could be back there now!

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    • Thanks Yazz. I totally understand that the language was a bit too much, so will definitely tone it down for the next post. And yes, I thought of you a great deal when I was in Mazunte. It is still such a stunning place. The waves got very intense in the last few days though, and the lifeguards would not let anybody swim! That was pretty frustrating!

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  7. Most issues of any importance are serious matters, unavoidably the tone of voice is likely to suffer! How do you make people care? The majority of the politically disengaged masses are ignorant and the news management systems do a great job at preserving this. Globally we also have a huge appetite for infotainment and celebrity culture and in truth there isn’t the same demand for real news and journalism and the things that SHOULD matter- It’s just a symptom of the world we live in and westernisation. I look forward to you tackling some of the bigger questions you raised in more detail in your coming blogs…

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    • Thanks Dan. As a journalist, your views on effective modes of communication are greatly received. I also really appreciate the private message you sent about use of language, length and style. These were all things that I was thinking about but am still stuck in the academic mode of writing, which takes a while to shirk! Regarding the behaviours of the politically disengaged, there is an excellent book about how people react to disturbing truths such as adverts about poverty, starvation and human rights abuses. It was the first of its kind, written by an academic called Stanley Cohen at the LSE. The book, entitled States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering, analysed how people deal with denial. An essential read for anyone like myself who is trying to encourage people not to only to not deny, but to act on the information they receive about various pressing issues. It’s interesting though as I am going through a purposeful state of denial to some extent myself. I am trying to not see, to not engage too much in politics (although that is pretty hard for someone like me) and not to act so that when I re-engage completely again, I will hopefully be more vitalised and more effective. Thanks again for your help. I will put my next post up again soon, taking into consideration everyone’s inputs.

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  8. I like the first offering.
    You’re mindful of not getting too heavy, but light and buoyant to keep me interested in this, your private public journey of exploring your thoughts and actions.
    It’s exciting and interesting and honest.

    Check out http://www.themodernnomad.com to see someone as eloquent as you doing something similar.

    Feedback: I’d love to see a picture of you at that desk, and of that beach, and maybe of some of those surfers…

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    • Thanks Sylvia! I have definitely looked at your friend’s blog, and it’s excellent! I am not very adept at the aesthetics part of the blog, and even though I have written a caption underneath the main picture on the first post, it doesn’t state that that was the view from my desk! I have now moved to another room, which is beyond divine, so I will post some pictures of that soon! I really appreciate the feedback. Thanks so much!

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  9. Pingback: Overcoming the seemingly insuperable | An Activist Abroad

  10. Well done for getting this started, and what a beautiful start. If you take this blog as a journey in creativity, without worrying about who your audience is or whether they’ll be interested, then I’m sure all sorts of wonderful discoveries and insights will unfold. You have much to say, and many who are eager to listen.

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    • Thanks so much. I really appreciate your constructive feedback. I think my hesitations and reflections are very indicative on how tough I can be on myself, and so I am attempting to be a bit more fluid and be a bit more caring towards myself on that front. I hadn’t really thought of my blog as being a journey within myself, but I like that idea a lot!

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