It’s hard to know where to begin isn’t it? The onslaught that has been the last week has blindsided so many of us that it’s hard to know how to have a reaction. How do you react to an entire country being given over to hatred and oppression? How do we react to our neighbours advocating for behaviour that taints and diminishes us all? How should we react to individuals and institutions that threaten people we know and love?
That is a lot for one person to take on, that’s a lot for one person to absorb. It’s a lot of anger, a lot of disappointment, a lot of fear. An honest reaction is to want to turn away, to want to take a break, to breathe in the midst of the storm of noise and nastiness. We want to take refuge, we want to let our hearts heal. We want to believe that people are essentially good and will do the right thing; it’ll all be ok in the end.
I don’t believe that.
I no longer believe that people are essentially good and will do the right thing if given the chance. I believe those people exist, I believe there are a lot of them, I know a lot of them. But the truth is, there are a lot of people who just want what’s right for them and aren’t really that bothered about what happens to those affected by those needs or desires. It’s easy to forget about them when they don’t live near us, they don’t work alongside us, they are not our neighbours. When they are workers in fields far away, it’s easy to forget who grows and harvests our food. When they are picking over mountains of refuse on another continent it’s easy to forget who deals with our waste and excess.
We live in a society that tells us more is better. More stuff, more food, more entitlements, more land, more entertainment, more me. More. We are saturated with what we should have, how we can get it and who’s stopping us from getting it. This isn’t about meeting basic needs for most people, it’s about meeting a standard that we’ve been told is important. It’s about getting ahead, pushing past other people and winning. Whatever the cost. We’re not going to be told we can’t have what we want, even when it’s our planet telling us enough is enough. Instead we elect leaders who tell us we can have what we want and don’t worry about the planet, or the workers, or the person who belongs to a different religion to you.
Those people are my friends. And they are probably your friends too. People who happen to believe that covering their bodies modestly is an act of self worth, we are told should be denigrated. I guess we can’t sell self worth, we can’t plaster it on a billboard and use it to push purchases of beer or fast food. And people from other countries? Well they are just weird and don’t deserve to be here. Unlike you and me. Except I’m an immigrant aren’t I? I may be white and educated but I’m a stranger in a strange land as much as anyone else who moved here. Plus, guess what! Anyone who isn’t native to this country is an immigrant too! So while we look at this group and say they don’t belong, there are native people looking at us and saying ‘Seriously?’.
Also women aren’t a minority group, and feminism isn’t a dirty word. We are half of the population and we don’t like it when people tell us who we are and what we should look like and that we don’t deserve to be safe. That we don’t deserve to own ourselves. I get cross about that stuff and I carry a pitchfork around sometimes so just watch it, ok? Because I decide for me, I decide what goes where and who gets to be around me. I decided what I’m worth and I decided a long time ago that what goes in my brain and the words that come out of my mouth matter more to me than anything else. I like messing around with my hair and love me some vintage style but never confuse that for a brain on go slow. I’ve never met a man who impressed me enough to make me think I’m less than him. No one has managed that yet.
When I birth an animal or dig a garden or grow my own food or teach or drag myself out of bed in the middle of the night or at dawn because I’m needed, my uterus doesn’t get in the way. I see things differently, I see things Stephen doesn’t see and vice versa. We are different so we are a good team. My animals don’t care much that I’m female, they don’t care that it is female hands serving breakfast. When they are sick they are glad for the help I offer, when they are naughty they run away as I chase them. The farm is a great leveller like that, it’ll screw with you no matter what apparatus you carry around in your jeans. That’s equality I suppose.
If I need medical help I’m going to ask my friend who’s a paramedic. A woman who goes out day after day and deals with crap I can’t even imagine. Luckily she has a wife at home who loves her more than sunshine, so I think that’s what keeps her strong. But don’t be trying to tell me their marriage isn’t important or good or valid. That woman would save your life, even if you did think that, but don’t think it anyway. It’s a stupid thing to think. It’s a hateful thing to think. Don’t do it.
But what’s that got to do with growing carrots anyway? What’s the point farm lady?
Well the point is this. During the Second World War Britain was cut off from food supplies from other countries and had to figure out how to feed several million people when 60% of her food was imported. Britain figured it out. There are some issues with that legacy (hello factory farming) but one of the big things that happened was that people got back to growing their own. When food is rationed but your garden isn’t, you are very motivated to grow something for the table. My parents were born during rationing and I’ve grown up fascinated by the resilience and determination of people at that time. When I grow my own food it isn’t just to add a sprinkle to the table, it is an act of defiance. I am showing that I am strong, that I can grow things, that I can make something out of almost nothing. It makes me proud, it feeds my family and it’s a little less I have to buy from companies I don’t like.
When I raise animals for my family and to sell to other families, I’m diverting a little bit of money away from factory farming and towards animals who live in sunshine and fields. We are a drop in the ocean but we are keeping our animals out of a system we believe is inhumane and producing healthy food and healthy land. We spend an insane amount of time and money to do it but it feels like the right thing to do. Maybe that’s why we can’t stop even when it feels like too much. Doing the right thing is addictive. It gets under your skin and then you don’t want it any other way.
But it isn’t enough, not even close. It’s not enough to create something beautiful and wonderful and difficult and hard. It’s not enough to sit back in our corner of the world and shake our heads and say “Oh that’s terrible. They shouldn’t do that.” Not nearly enough. We can’t turn inwards and say “I can’t look at that.” We can’t pretend it isn’t happening and keep on keeping on. It’ll take more than that.
We have to dig in. We have to be louder and stronger and more determined. We have to get knocked down and get back up again. Because there are plenty of people on the front lines who can’t look away, who are genuinely afraid and at risk. There are people who are being harassed and harmed and even killed because of the colour of their skin. And that was before a sickening orange demagogue won an election and told the world that being a sleazy hate monger bag of filth, that makes anything that comes out of my animals look like a tasty milkshake, is the way to go. Today a rabbi in my home city woke up to a swastika on her door and ugly words painted across it. No it’s really not enough, but we have to throw everything we’ve got as this problem and we have to never give up.
So this is what I am going to do, this is how I will fight. This may change, this may evolve but for now it’s what I’ve got and so I’m going with it.
My farm is a place where all are welcome and if you disagree feel free not to come here. This is a zone of safety where you are accepted whatever your race, ethnicity, religion, orientation or gender. You may have a hard time if you are allergic to chickens but you are welcome anyway. My own person is a zone of safety too. I will advocate for tolerance, acceptance and normality whenever I can. I will argue, push, cajole and persuade; I will not let things go or be polite, I will challenge and disagree even when it’s uncomfortable. I will never give up, I will never give in.
More than that I will advocate in our society, I will invest more of my time in online and in person work. I will strive towards a safe society for all, because I no longer believe that we’ve achieved that. There is a lot of work to do and I’m going to have to do some of it. Those of us who believe in justice and fairness need to raise our voices and actions to push back those who would oppress, suppress and repress. We need to listen to people of other races and religions and find out what they need us to do, we need to use our privilege (whatever form that takes) to make things better for other people. I will try and do that, I will try to learn and listen and change things.
I will continue to teach my children about their role in the world. I will continue to teach them that they have a duty to help, to improve things, to work towards a better world. I have explained to them that as white males they are already valued more than their mother, more than some of their friends. I hope they will use that to speak out for people with less of a voice, that they will react against injustice with the same honesty of heart as they do now. I’ll be right behind them if they do. I’ll be right behind them if they don’t. But I think they will because when I try to explain the world to them they are furious, outraged and horrified. When I explain that friends of ours are at risk they want to help and do what they can. I trust they they will be good men, I will keep doing my part to make it so.
Last, but not least, I will stay angry. I will light a fire inside myself and I will not let it go out. I will read things that make me uncomfortable and I will not look away. I will use it to fuel my actions, to keep me strong and to give strength to my compassion and determination. I will not hate but I will not yield. I will not shrug my shoulders at casual misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia. I will not let remarks slide by for the sake of decorum, I will ask questions and bring into the light the low lying prejudices that we all possess. That is my job and I will do it.
I will dig inside and find the resources I need to send out something good into the world. I will share the knowledge I have about literature and books and words; I will share what I know about the land and protecting the earth as much as we can. I will teach people that they can do things they didn’t think they could, I will show them that they are capable of wonderful things. I will try to be fair, I will try to be good, I will do my best even though I know I am so terribly, terribly flawed. I will remember this when I look at the flaws of others and feel angry with them.
Let’s take a deep breath and here we go. I hope you are with me my friends, I don’t doubt that you are. But no matter what we’ll keep moving forward and pushing back against the darkness. So if you’re with me let’s get digging, apparently there is a hell of a lot to do.