update

There are a few audio blog posts I have recorded and wanted to put up, but unfortunately my computer and my digital recorder are not on speaking terms at present.  So until I manage to fix their relationship those rambles will continue to be held hostage by the recorder.

In the meantime I will do my utmost to type up some posts, as I hate how empty my blog has been lately, and please do not think I forgot about it!

A Peek Inside?

First of all, I would like to say I am in no way an expert on anything, nor should anything I say be taken as good advice, especially if it goes against better judgement.  Don't be stupid, people.  (End obligatory I know nothing and just like to feel important disclaimer.)

"Multi-tasking more than my processors," "I simply do not have time to die, far too much to do!" "On a scale of one to crazy, I'm a penguin." Okay, so that last one was not my creation, but I love it very much.  To say I am random would be putting it mildly; to say I am all over the place would mean I probably got some sleep.  To keep up or understand me?  Good Lord, no one can.  Not even me.

I like to say I am always connected, always busy, always doing something.  Chances are, I am.  My ex used to tease me when I would open FireFox and there were two home pages set - he would say normal people only use one.  That is not something I can do, even in FireFox, which is my secondary browser.  My main browser - Chrome - loads with far more and is pretty much always running at least three tabs at a time.  Having just.one tab open?  That would be like only having one browser open or only one book (actually no, scrap the book analogy) or only one monitor or only one device.  Unthinkable!  How would I get anything done?

It sounds like I have a penchant for doubles; I do not.  People often question my setup, or my collections of notes, papers notebooks, Filofaxes (I have two, both for daily usage), questionable amount of trees stuck around as postits (I don't get a tree for Christmas, if that helps), and wonder how I manage.  I just laugh and tell them they have not seen my digital to do lists - most cannot comprehend me by that point.

Have I lost you yet?  I hope not.  I am trying awfully hard not to tangent here.

So why do I have so many notes and lists?  Am I some random, insane, crazy Oprah wannabe?  No.  Not at all.  I am constantly stressed, working on multiple things, and trying to figure things out.  People do not ask me what I am doing at any particular time; when my answer is four times longer than a tweet, well that is still normal.  I frequently have the moment of "oh my God sitting - it feels so good" because I have been running around doing things and had no time to breathe.  Of course, moments later I am up and at it again.  Or still sitting (but very differently, because relaxing and work do not look the same) and tapping away at my computer, because that is where my life is.  Seriously, I miss the constant go go go, busy days.  Two years ago I hated seeing empty spaces in my blackberry calendar.  Now, I find it very weird to see an empty rtm list even if it is the daily tasks.  Still weird.  Oh and I have maybe six lists in rtm, plus tags.  I like to keep things organized so when I never see them again I know at least they are labelled with words that are so cryptic I often forget what they mean.

Would you believe (eyebrow wiggle, would you believe this is ... boat nectar?) I have no job, am not in school, and have no social life?  Because it's true, I don't.  My calendar is so empty it scares me, and therefore is not directly visible on my mobile (android, widgets, home screens).  And - surprise, surprise - I hate it.

My brain needs stimulation.  My brain craves stimulation.  It shuts down if it does not have enough to work on.  A couple months ago, having finally finished school (I have been in school since I was 3), my brain tried that.  It was terrible, an absolute nightmare.  Have you ever been stuck in a state of depressed lethargy, even for a moment?  It was like that, but about ten times worse, lasted a couple months, entire time had no idea what was going on, oh and add the constant overpowering urge to be productive.

I need some stress in my life or I have no idea what to do - and trust me, I do not handle the unknown well at all.  By which I of course mean I do not handle it at all and panic.  Doesn't help that I have OCD, does it.  That being said, I do not react well to too much stress either.  It is a delicate balance, finding the right amount of stress to keep me at that happy point between so stressed going to the loo without thinking about a problem I'm trying to solve is just absurd and the "omfg hello brain remember me please turn on point."  But when I get that balance, I am unstoppable.  More than that, when I go to sleep I'm smiling.  Some people say exercise is invigorating, but nothing compares to that.

The reason I started writing this post (on my mobile, so I do apologize if I missed any typos from auto correct or just plain mobile) was to explain what it is like having ADD.  Not to say I failed, but it certainly did not go as planned.  Not that they ever do, mind you.  Do keep in mind I do have OCD as well, which does have some random attributed to it, along with the obsessive compulsive, anxiety nature it is known for.  Am I depressed or bipolar?  No.  Don't trust me, ask my doctor.  Yes that was the right punctuation.  I am saying not to accept me as the expert on that.

So what is it like having ADD?  Many people compare it to watching tv with all the channels on at once.  I have no idea where they got that from, I do not feel like that ever.  For me, I used to describe my brain as having many different trains of thoughts at a time.  At any given moment, there will be at least three going - and that's medicated.  Getting me to focus on one thing is incredibly hard.  Usually I keep something going in the background so I can focus on working; while I was finishing my dissertation it was The Mummy films.  Frequently I find myself wanting a third monitor so I would have more space to pull up windows, because two just isn't enough.

Let me put it this way - there is a reason I am always doing a bunch of things at once, that I seem to know everything (I know I don't but I do get that sometimes), that I cannot have a chair without wheels and the capability to use it, that I prefer L workstations to desks, that I am permanently attached to a mobile that never gets calls or texts, and that I can interrupt all the time when people are trying to have a conversation with me and a while later understand everything they said.  If were to look at an ADD assessment test, it pretty much describes me.  For all the noise and chatter and static I am supposed to be hearing, I'm not.  Am I frustrated my brain and thoughts are so organized, or that I am always twitching or fidgeting, and cannot sit through a lecture longer than an hour?  Not quite, yes but also my OCD kicks in and makes it impossible to stop, and yes.  I hate not being able to sit still, or focus long enough, or any of that.  It really does make university hard, especially in history.  And I do have more random thoughts and ideas cluttering up the place - figuratively and literally.  I am always making notes for later, lists, etc.  But am I frustrated at its lack of organization or that I cannot organize it all?  Not so much.  My brain is full, but it is not full of static or chatter or random indecipherable and therefore frustrating entities.  I know what is going on in there (not all at once because my field of vision (scope) is limited so I would have to pan around to see them all but when I can all of them are immediately clear), what frustrates me is I cannot deal with all of them!  Think of an ever growing in pile (not my one stack of to get to, read, process asap stuff) but an inbox for tasks or something.  You want to see it empty, with everything done (not because it fell in the bin).  But if it keeps getting more and more added, you can't keep up.  You want to scream "I'm only one person!" At it.  But you can't.  Because it's in my brain.  And that's sort of what it is like, some of the time.

In case you have never tried, it is really hard to explain what goes on in your head.  This is not my first, nor will it be my last, but it still does not show what I want.  It's busy, it's weird, it's always doing something.  It loves research, loves organizing, loves lists, loves to be neat and tidy and productive.

When I was rereading Sherlock Holmes, I found myself having a great many moments of individual personal connection with the title character.  When he first explains the cocaine to Watson, for instance, I finally understood a lot more about my thinking and suddenly so much more made sense.  Of course I admire the man's genius and talents, but it is in the subtle character traits that I find him most appealing; there I see answers to unasked questions.

I was not diagnosed with ADD until I was 20 and in third year of university.  When I was a kid it was overdiagnosed, and even still a lot of people do not believe on adults having ADD.  They, clearly, do not know me.  I am not on a caffeine high, or a sugar rush, or in the midst of manic episode.  There is so much going on in my mind and so much I want to do; sometimes it is overbearing.  I know I cannot do it all, but everything is there, and how can I say one is better than the other?  Sometimes, scarily, it does stop me in my tracks - literally.  This has always been the situation, so I learned to deal with it (at least a bit) but it happens.  I get trapped in my own mind - by my own mind.  Every undone (as in not done) task is a looming failure, and I am smaller than any punctuation mark.  Even modern poetry cannot save you now (which is assuming you would let it, personally I'm not a fan).

So what's it like being me?  Busy.  Random.  Try and keep up.  Not physically, mentally.  The connections I make and see as plain obvious are a couple steps ahead of normal.  I just missed that part.  What's it like having ADD?  Busy.  Very busy.  Always busy.  But I love the right kind of busy.  It's just hard to get that right.  And random, well at least I'm not boring!

Human Rights in the Circle of Life

From the day we arrive on the planet and blinking step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done …

If I asked you to consider those words for a moment, it is quite likely the rest of the song would come to mind.  While “The Lion King” was a very influential film for me, it has nothing to do with why I chose those words to begin a discussion on Human Rights Day.  My motives, dear reader, are far more obvious.

When a child is born and lets out his first cry, what is his reality?  Young children are told they can do anything they want to, that the world is theirs to explore.  But when they get older, they become cynical as more and more often they find their effort to be wasted.  Yet, people keep going – they continue to live, to love, to laugh.  Why is that?  Try as one might, it is impossible for anyone to know everything, explore everywhere, help everyone, or understand why.  So are we all united in this sense of failure?  Are all who try to change the world – only to see thousands more innocent lives lost – dreamers with no sense of reality?  Is “The Circle of Life” a sad song?  No.  People everywhere know they share something with the rest of the world – we are all human.  We may look different, sound different, act different, think different – but we are all human.  No matter what the reality of our current situation is, we are all united through our shared humanity.  When a newborn baby lets out that first triumphant “Ready or not, world, here I am!  Now clean me and feed me and WARM!” cry from those tiny little lungs, a new human being has begun life on this planet.

Sixty-three years ago, on the tenth of December 1948, a very different cry echoed forth, heralding a new existence.  After two years of dedicated hard work the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was voted into being by the United Nations General Assembly, and for the first time in human history there existed an official, universal statement of what every human was entitled to by simply being born.  At long last, an understanding had been reached about what it meant to be human; after all, existence cannot be more clear than at birth.  For those of us born after that momentous occasion, we were born with the understanding all human beings are born free and with dignity and rights; those born in recent decades, in the “developed” world, have never had to question our entitlement to these rights – they are fundamental human rights, after all.  And while we take these rights for granted – as we should – we sometimes forget what it means to not have them.

Instead of focusing on people and places who cannot feel secure in these rights – including life – all around us today, I would like to look back at the past.  Call me a sentimental old coot, but when we forget where we came from and how we got here we are doomed to repeat our forbearers’ tragedies.  So let us take a moment and think about this auspicious day in history.

The year was 1948.  World War II had ended three years ago; people were slowly pulling their lives out of the rubble.  The first half of the twentieth century was almost over, but what hope was there for the next fifty years?  After so much fighting – first the Great War, which was supposed to be “the war to end all wars” and then another World War – who could sincerely believe it was over?  A time when “like father, like son” could easily mean a widow burying her sons; the World Wars were but a generation apart.  How could anyone sincerely believe in change when the men fighting the First World War did so to protect their sons from having to suffer like that – only to see it happen while they enlisted?  So many promises went broken, tears shed with the words “you promised to protect us!”  Individuals were not the sole receivers of this wrath, governments too were accused of ailing.  Perhaps most of all was the group of nations hat gathered in the wake of the Great War and promised the world they would work together to make sure it never happened again – but then it did.  Now, in 1948, a similar effort was made – only this time, they succeeded.

Like a phoenix rising from its own ashes, out of the devastation left by World War II came the understanding people everywhere have rights and these rights need to be recognized and protected.  It started slowly, as was to be expected, but quickly the notion of human rights grew and gained momentum.  To quote US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, “Because the human experience is universal, human rights are universal.”  With the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the idea human rights are universal became official – it became real.  The concept was now justified and supported by international agreement.  In December 1948, sixty-three years ago, humanity got its first rights.

People at the time were skeptical about how much this could really matter; after all, they suffered through two World Wars that obviously violated everyone’s rights.  As we can see, that changed and now we take them for granted.  But have we forgotten where they came from?  The rubble left by World War II has (for the most part) been cleared away as people, cities, and nations rebuilt themselves in the aftermath.  More than one generation has lived without war, not having the same dreadful fear that gripped the first half of the century.  For us, that all seems so far away, distant and long in the past.  World War II ended in the 1940s, before the “peace and love” of the 1960s, before the internet, long before terrorism was such a threat.  But was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights really all that long ago?  Numbers are just numbers; they have no real meaning.  So let me put it this way – 1948 was the year my father was born.  I am twenty-three, university graduate, still trying to start my own life – yet my father, whom I love dearly although he hates it when I mention him in my blog, was born before December 10, 1948.  Other than his birthday having passed this year (I did remember), what does that mean?

It means when my father was born he had no universal human rights.  Not just him, no one had them.  Sure, they may have had ideas about what it meant to be human and what it should entitle one to, but until the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was voted into being, none of that meant anything.  Today Universal Human Rights turns 63 – happy birthday!  Take a moment and think about any birthdays, 63 and higher, you celebrated before today.  Those people were born without the same guarantees to life and security that you were.  Remember that it took until the end of 1948 for that to happen.  For me, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is almost as old as my father – almost, but he is still older.  That is a daily reminder of how much more there is to do, and even though I will never do it all, at least I can do my part.  My wish for Human Rights Day is to make human rights a human reality.

It’s the Circle of Life, and it moves us all
Through despair and hope, through faith and love …

December 10, 1948
Human Rights became universal.  Thank you.

"Occupy Wall Street" Needs a Time Out!

Even if you have been living under a rock for the past twenty years, shunning all human contact and leading an impossible existence sustained only on elderberries, by now you must have heard of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.  The basics of this “movement” (it pains me to substantiate its existence) is to protest the current socio-financial state of the world.  Their message: stop allowing the 1% (top business executives, banks, etc.) to rule the 99% (the “people”).  Their method: literally occupy financial districts.

Disclaimer:
I support the right to oppose and protest (within certain logical limitations) and certainly believe there are times when it is the most effective way to incite change.  Just wanted to get that out of the way before I start in on the rest …

This “Occupy Wall Street” movement may have, at its very core, a logical and perhaps even decent idea – but no one will ever know.  There is an old adage – actions speak louder than words – which I believe sums up this entire situation into a nice and tidy package of five words.  Personally, I can sum it all up in four letters – as can many others.  Disregarding my personal views for a moment, these four letters are still of great importance as they show the frustration and anger felt by the general public.  Is this negativity directed at the 1% being protested against?  No, it is because of the protesters.  To use another adage, everything has a time and a place.  Protest, believe it or not, falls into this category of “everything” and therefore is not always the best course of action.  Here, I would say, is a prime example of this – this is not the right time and place for a protest like this.

Before dismissing me as another disillusioned youth, hear me out on this matter.  First, I would like to pose this question regarding the “Occupy Wall Street” movement – what have these protests accomplished?  The logical starting query is “What are they trying to accomplish?” but I think by this point that is as clear as it will ever be.  So, we move on to what they have done.  And truly, what?  They brought media attention to their “movement” and broadcasted their message around the world.  They have certainly managed to impact and disrupt parts of society at all different levels.  They have managed to challenge the infrastructure and support networks of major cities all over the globe.  These are not all bad things, per say, and I would dare to say there have been positive consequences.  But were these changes intentional?  And the answer to that is no, the positive changes coming out of this hoopla were not and are not the ones demanded.  Instead, they are just the result of the challenge to municipal infrastructure – and would have been cheaper, easier, and safer to address in other ways.

So what of their goals then?  Have they convinced the “1%” to change their ways and listen to the 99%?  Let that sit for a moment … think on it.

WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!  The 1% they refer to is fairly simple and easy to understand – they are the ones at the top of the financial sector.  They have too much control and are out of touch with the rest of society.  A bit of a stretch, but okay, we can work with this.  But the 99% - now here is the problem.  Who are the members of this unseen, unspoken, wholly ignored and utterly disgruntled 99%?  Logically, they are the rest of society, the ones who are not a part of the 1%.  According to the protesters, they are the ones who want change, the ones who see no other way – the ones like them.  Somehow, these protesters feel they are a fair representation of the invisible 99%.

Yea … no.  For the protesters to be a proper representation of the 99%, the 99% would have to support them and their goals.  Perhaps the vast majority of the population do not agree with the current management of the financial sector; perhaps most people want to see change.  Or perhaps the opposite is true; who really knows?  Do you see my point yet?  Allow me continue.  If 99% of society were in agreement on an issue – any issue – the entire structure of Western governments would collapse.  Where are the parties, where is there room for dissenting or opposing opinions?  Quite simply, there is none.  So remove the rule of the 1% - but then anarchy and chaos ensues, and nobody wants that (for good reason).

How, then, are people supposed to voice their opinions and incite change?  Thus far protesting has not led to their goals being realized; in fact, it has succeeded at the opposite.  What about overthrowing the problematic rule?  Ah, but that will not work either.  Are there any options left?

Yes – the DEMOCRATIC approach.  The same system that gives people the right to protest like this also gives them legitimate and respected venues to address the issues.  Instead of camping in the middle of a city – completely unsustainable behaviour, for those environmentalists out there – how about acting like grown-ups and using those brains that are supposed to be there and, oh I don’t know, TRYING TO FIX THINGS LIKE A MATURE PERSON AND NOT A TWO YEAR OLD!

The comparisons between the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and a toddler in the throes of a temper tantrum are nearly endless.  What the protests HAVE managed to do for us – the actual “99%” who are neither at the top of the financial sector nor a part of the childish stupidity – is ensure we can never address the issues properly ever again.  Any real, legitimate concerns buried deep underneath the “movement” can no longer be brought up in a proper context and discussed, debated, and addressed without these protests coming up and lending a negative impact to any claim to legitimacy still left.

Am I angry?  Yes.  Am I fuming mad?  Oh bloody hell yes.  Do I like the current financial setup?  No, not really.  Is that why I am seeing red?  No – the idiots “protesting” against it and effectively barring me (and others like me) from actually working WITH the system that GAVE THEM their right to protest to calmly and maturely fix the issues.

So for the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, I have one question to ask – HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO GET ANYTHING CHANGED IF NO ONE WILL TAKE IT/ME/THE ISSUE SERIOUSLY ANYMORE? 

Je me Souviens

Je me Souviens



Remember the fallen
Remember the brave
Remember the heroes
Who went to the grave
Fighting for freedom
And what they believed
Remember the soldiers
Who died to be free

Remember the fighters
Remember the strong
Remember the survivors
Who suffered so long
Boys off to war
Still not yet men
Who should they be
If they come home again

Remember the willing
Who gave up their lives
Hoping in vain
No more would die
Remember the heroes
The brave ones, the few
Who went off to fight
They knew what to do
 
Remember the ones

Who stood up so tall
To protect the future
Surrendered their all
Remember the dreams
They all left behind
Survivors in body
But broken in mind

Lest we forget
The people who died
Lest we forget
Those who suffered and cried
Lest we forget
What it all means
Lest we forget
For we are their dreams

Je me souviens
Or is it a lie
They fought for our future
When we sent them to die
Lest we forget
The words of the free
Chanted by children
But what does it mean



Too Young for a Memoir?

Today one of the many articles featured by The Globe and Mail is entitled "Is 36 too young for a memoir?  Not for Michael BublĂ©" and poses a very interesting question.  At what age is one qualified to write a memoir?  Does it matter who the person is?  Delving further in pursuit of the fundamental basis of this question, what is needed to write a good memoir?

A memoir is, as the name suggests, a collection of memories and reflections.  It is very personal, though how far into private matters it goes depends upon the author - the cynic in me would like to say it is the editor, publisher, and the public who truly decide such matters.  Regardless of who controls the depth of the material, the source is always the same - the one whom the memoir is about.  In a way, a memoir is like an autobiography; it tells the story of the author's life.  The difference between the two emerges in the way the story is told - a memoir is not meant to carefully detail and outline every single important experience in the author's life, rather to share the thoughts and feelings surrounding personal life-changing events.  An autobiography is, in a sense, more factual than a memoir as it is supposed to be based upon verifiable, quantitative, and preferably documented events.  In comparison, a memoir is the qualitative, emotional, story-like companion to the autobiography; its material is not found in national records, likely is not documented, and has a very clearly biased perspective.  They are not the same, though they run along similar lines - and because of the differences in their nature it is not advisable to apply the same criteria standards to them.

What qualifies someone for an autobiography, or a memoir?  Upon what criteria are they to be judged and deemed capable?  Essentially, what is necessary for either?  For an autobiography, the answer is simple - important events.  What has the person done during their life that is of great importance to the world around them, what sort of records are there to research and analyse?  As stated, an autobiography is factual in nature and based upon quantitative facts.  The "personal" element is important, primarily to keep the reader from sheer and utter boredom, but the purpose of the work is to address the what, not the why.  A memoir, on the other hand, is like the tabloid of social historical research.  It has its basis in fact - it is not a work of fiction, after all - but its focus is not on objective analysis.  Here, the "personal" perspective is the entire purpose of the work, its sole source and its essence.  Unlike an autobiography, a memoir is designed to address the why, not so much the what.

"Is 36 too young for a memoir?"  As expected, the answer to this is vague and utterly useless - it depends.  A memoir is based on memories of the important happenings in one's life that influenced and shaped the person.  Age itself is of no consequence; experience, rather than breaths, is the true determining factor.  No one but the holder of the memories and reflections can be the judge of that.  An autobiography, on the other hand, is much easier to determine - what has the person done so far?  Most people have not accomplished enough by the age of 36 to warrant an autobiography, but perhaps they have been through enough life-changing experiences to feel they have something to share with the world.

Taylor Swift, a young singer and songwriter from the United States, is said to be writing a memoir (or perhaps already has, I do not follow these things closely because I truly do not care).  She was born the year after me, so she is younger than me.  And she is ready to write a memoir.  I am not able to write a memoir now, nor do I think I would be able to write one for many more decades.  I am 23, after all, and just out of school.  Yet, someone younger than me has gone through enough and lived enough to write a memoir.  This does not bother me in the slightest, nor does it make me feel like I have accomplished nothing in my life.  In fact, I am happy to see someone younger than me willing to take on such a challenge.  If she has something to share with the world, then by all means, share it.  Show people that age does not matter - because truly, it does not.  Age is just a number we assign to track time, but as any geriatric will tell you it is what you do during that time that defines who you are.

So is 36 too young?  First tell me what that 36 means to you.  If it is the number dictated by the calendar, then yes, you are too young.  But if it just some form of measurement for the time you have spent living, learning, and exploring life, then perhaps you are not too young.  Generally, if you feel you are ready to write a memoir, then you probably are - regardless of age.  So go for it.  Show the world what you are made of.  Show the world what it has made you, and what you have become.  Share your story - but first make sure you have one to share.

Article:
"Is 36 too young for a memoir?"

Fairytale Romance

In fairytales the princess is always in need of rescue and when her prince slays the evil dragon saves her from the tower, they live happily ever after.

By slaying the dragon, breaking the spell, or defeating the windmill as the case may be, the prince is going through a lot.  He must succeed where everyone else has failed, a challenge hard enough to prove his valour and worth.  To the princess waiting to be rescued, it proves her worth too.  She must know how hard it is to get through to her, after all who in their right mind goes after a dragon and to statistically guaranteed death?  The test of valour ends there, before scaling the tower and rescuing the princess.  That extra distance her prince is going for her.

There are many flaws to fairytales, but the happily ever after makes more sense.  If going forth to statistically guaranteed slow, painful, and torturous death, slaying the dragon/spell/windmill holding her captive, and then climbing a tower all in hope of rescuing the princess is not a sign of love and devotion then what is?  Part of it can be written off as tests of princely character, but the rest is still far too taxing to just be after sex.

If a man is willing to endure the most extreme tests of his physical, mental, and whatever else the story contains character for someone, he has most certainly proven how much this person means to him.

What War is to a Child

A mate of mine sat down with her young son (about five years old) to write cards for soldiers as a part of Operation Christmas Cards. He had a few questisons for the soldiers, and they were just so cute I had to share them with everyone. When I told my dad, he laughed and then said "what war is to a child." It is adorable, and once again points out the innocence of a child looking at violent conflict.

His questions for the soldiers:

  • Have you killed any dinosaurs?
  • Have you met Iron Man?
  • Have you seen any robots?

Thinking of You Candle


Thinking of you
Missing you
I know you've gone on to a better place
That's why I didn't cry when I saw you lying there
Or when they lowered you into the ground
Because I know you finally found peace at last
You're finally free
But I still miss you
You were always strong
Even when your body was not
And your mind was breaking
You were always strong
Thank you for it all
Now that you're gone
I still think about you
But I know you're in a better place
Because now you are at peace
Finally free
But I still miss you

Died in Vain

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – the ending of the War to End All Wars.  Thousands of hopeful, youthful, energetic, and ambitious young men went off to fight in the Great War.  Most never returned; those who did were never the same afterwards.  Why did they go?  After a couple years it was clear the devastating impact the fighting had on the soldiers, but still many volunteered and went off to fight.  Why would they?

Some did it for King and country, others for the money, some for the adventure, but most went for the hope that this truly would be the “war to end all wars.”  So many fought and died for this idea, believing their sacrifice would save future generations from having the same pain they did.

We look back on “the Great War” and refer to it as “World War One” because less than twenty years later Germany had begun what we refer to as “World War Two.”  To us, in our modern perspective, the two wars are connected, and it is rare to consider one without the other.  But to those who lived, fought, died, suffered, waited, endured the first war – it was all with the hope that it would be the last one, that there would be no more war.  To them, it was the Great War.  No number, no “world war” title; it simply was “the Great War, the War to End All Wars.”  When armistice was called at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11:00, 11 November 1918) the world sighed in relief – it was finally over.  Peace, at last.

Or at least it was supposed to be.  That was supposed to be the end of “buying the farm” for young soldiers – a phrase originating in the World Wars, meaning a young soldier had died.  (The money his family would be paid for his death was frequently used to pay for the family farm).  Look at us now, almost a century after the “War to End All Wars” ended.  When the church bells in Europe ring out the eleventh hour on 11 November 2011, will there be no warring, no fighting across the world?  Have we really learned anything, or did those men all die in vain?  Is their sacrifice truly worth that little to us?

There is a small town in Poland with a very unique tune that plays from the church tower.  It is centuries old, and although it is now done electronically, the tradition has remained in place since the Middle Ages.  The story goes like this: one day a young trumpeter saw the enemy’s army approaching the town walls and knew he had to raise the alarm.  Sounding the bells properly would have taken too long, so he climbed to the top of the church tower and played out his warning on his trumpet.  Before he was able to finish he was shot through the throat with an arrow.  He died, but the town was warned and they were able to fight off the attack.  Since then, the tune is always stopped at the same point he had been stopped, to forever remind all future generations of his sacrifice. 

Je me Souviens

There is a poppy I carry throughout the year, not just for the one day a year when the country gathers together to officially remember.  Because it is not just one day a year that men and women have suffered and died in hopes of making my life better.  Because it is not just one day a year that I check the Army's list of fallen soldiers for people I know.  Because it is not just one day a year that their sacrifices matter.  Because for those who make it back and those left behind one day is not enough.  Once a year we recite "In Flanders Fields" and try to instil upon the children the costs of their freedom and their lives, but it is not once a year that we enjoy it.  The poppy is just a symbol - but it is a powerful symbol.  It tells us all to remember the fallen, remember the survivors, remember the sacrifices, remember the costs.  Ironically the plant itself can help one forget - but we use it to remember.  From the English saying "Lest we forget" to the Quebec motto "Je me souviens" we must remember.  We must never forget.  We must remember every single day, because every single day we live the way we do because they died the way they did.

Whispers in the Night

It has been a while now that I have been back and thus far I have accomplished nothing except stress and panic and the like.  But, somewhere amongst the "oh my god I'm a complete loser who has done nothing" chaos, I have found time to think and reflect.  I do believe it is high time I share some of these whispers.

Being back "home" again is not easy.  This has been listed as my permanent address for the past ten years, but several of them were spent far away.  When I returned in September people would ask me if I was happy to be home. Edinburgh is my home, this is just my permanent address until I can leave for good.  Until then, however, this place will be my residence and I will need to find a way to deal with the problems.  Some of the people who know me know I was not a happy teenager (putting it mildly) and had many issues, some of which continued on well past high school.  Well, this is where most of them happened.  Being back but without the same problems is strange, and while I try to embrace the positive differences, many of the same stressors are still present - and as much as I hate it I feel like I am slipping back again.  Sometimes my daily struggle is just to stay afloat.

I have mentioned my mate Sherri a few times when writing about myself, usually in reference to some of the important lessons she taught me.  Her way of addressing issues is very academic, very focused on identifying and addressing needs and wants.  If you read her blog this ought to make more sense; I have witnessed it firsthand.  As I probably have mentioned, her approach has been incredibly helpful to me.  Whether it is intentionally academic in nature or not, I can understand why such an approach is helpful to her and me.  It allows someone who does not have the same basic foundation as everyone else to mimic the expected actions in a wholly rational and logical way.  It justifies everything and provides a solution to the problem.  Think of it like a scientific equation, if you will.  Identify, rationalize, address, justify.  By doing so the need is not only recognized and fulfilled, thereby justifying it, but one's existence is also justified.  To you it may seem obscure, but to me it is the most important part.
Learning to identify the specific need and put it forth as a requirement is hard.  Explaining it to others and hoping they will understand is even harder and by far scarier.  For me social interaction is one of the most challenging parts of my life.  Telling someone very directly "I need this" referring to an intangible can be very tough, especially if they do not understand.  Sometimes it goes far better than expected and life becomes a lot easier, but even so the important part is being able to identify and address the need properly.  It may be a blunt system, but it works for me.  It makes sense, it is logical and understandable.  Just like identifying hunger again (the first,time I said "I think I'm hungry.  I should eat" was a very emotional moment) being able to say "I need you to respond to my messages so I know you read them" is very intimidating - but worth it.  No matter what happens next, I gave my need a voice and put myself forth as worthy of the request.  Small for many, I hope, but it is a huge step for me.

So even though I feel like I have gotten nothing done and have nothing to show for my life, I know that I have come a long way in my own life.  Realizing that it was not until the end of January/early February that I started to overcome my issues and looking at how I am dealing with problems now, in early October, I cannot help but smile.  It was tough, incredibly hard - but I did it.  Yes, from time to time I come close to going back to what I knew, as it is as familiar as this place, but I never seem to make it that far.  People may think I am simply being overdramatic with a lot of what I say, but no, not really.

Looking at me now I hope one would not have thought nine months ago I was the way I was.  For me it still is a reality shock I have troubles with sometimes.  But when I am stressed so far past gone I take insane to new definitions (cue recently) I am still able to rationally identify what is going on and say that I am scared out of my mind and that is the problem.  I can look at old memories and say "not now, I still need some time for this but I will be back" and know that I am not missing my ex, instead I am missing the feeling that someone loved and cared about me.  And when I see that, I can remind myself that I am strong on my own, as I am, for who I am.  So even though there is a slight sting, I can accept it for what it is - a growing pain.  It may be a purely academic approach to emotions, etc, but I do not care.  I would not understand it any other way, and if I cannot understand what I am feeling how can I take care of it?  It may be rough for others, but this is me and who I am.  I still have some learning left to do and I intend to do it.

(picture of me late September; I was hoping to compare it to one from December but evidently do not have 
that one at the ready.  Silly me)

Too Busy to Care

Earlier I wrote about the famine in the Horn of Africa and the needless suffering of innocent people, especially in Somalia.  Whether you continued to follow the story or not, the situation has not improved.  People are still dying, parents are watching their children starve to death, children are watching their mothers raped in front of their eyes; the earth continues to spin.  Life goes on.  I would think it goes without saying life as a refugee, particularly in a refugee camp, is not to be wished upon anyone.  The atrocities and tragedies described during the global appeal for Somalia were shocking to many; sadly, they are the harsh reality in most refugee camps, especially those that are overcrowded and unable to support the vast number of people who arrive hoping to flee an even worse situation.  Most of the time, these people go unnoticed by the rest of the world as others are far more concerned with other issues – the economy, the Palestinian bid for statehood, the tumultuous situations in Libya and Syria, to name a few.  For the individual, problems of direct and personal importance take priority over the suffering of others – after all, how can one help refugees a world away when there is so much at home to fix?  Is that not the job of some politician or bureaucrat somewhere?  Yes, it most likely is someone else’s job to fix the problems faced by refugees inside and outside of camps, but does that exempt one from caring?  If you were faced with similar circumstances, how would you feel knowing the rest of the world had that same idea?  What if it was you or your family there?  Think about it.

 

When it comes time for your family’s evening meal, imagine being there with your children and having no food for them today.  Tonight they must go to sleep with empty stomachs.  There is no water to quench their thirst, either; they must go without.  Instead of sleeping on a nice bed or in a sturdy crib like you have at home, your children will have to spend the night on the ground, in squalor, with little or no protection.  Surrounding them are thousands of people living in the same conditions as you, suffering from the same lack of care.  No power means no nightlight, no glass of water or bedtime story, certainly no stuffed animal or any other bedtime necessity.  As your hungry children try to sleep in these conditions, you cannot honestly reassure them it will be better tomorrow – the truth is this is your new home, and although it is somewhat better than the one you left, this is reality.  When your children wake again, there will be no food to give them, no water, no comfort or reassurance.  Hopefully today no one will be attacked or raped; hopefully all of you will survive the day.

 

Imagine your life without your children – they once existed, but now they are dead.  You loved them dearly, there is no denying that, but circumstances were terrible and some could not survive – you did everything you could but you just did not have enough food or water or shelter for them.  Even now, your own survival is in question and it is quite possible you will not see tomorrow either.

 

Tonight when you go to tuck them in, stop.  Turn around, leave them there.  Do not say good night to them, do not turn on the nightlight or read a story; simply ignore them.  When they start crying, continue to ignore them.  Listen to their pleas, but do nothing.  Know that they are suffering and hurting – but do nothing.  Go ahead, try to ignore it or drown out the sounds.  That will not make them go away, though, and you know it.

 

How long could you do that?  Does it bother you to know they are there and you are doing nothing to help them?  Why, because they are children and they need to be cared for by those who can?  Or is it because they are your children, and you can hear them crying?  Do you think I should care that they are suffering?  They are not my children; what does it matter to me?  Your children could die right now, screaming in terrible agony, and my life would carry on without even noticing.  Tell me, why should I care at all, even if the circumstances leading to their demise was preventable?  My life is not affected by them and I have plenty of other problems of my own.  Yes, it is a terrible tragedy, never should have been allowed to happen, you will never be the same, la dee dah, life goes on – for everyone else, that is.  Your life is ruined, but no one else in the world cares.  It could have been avoided quite easily, but no one did anything.  Sorry, but they have their own problems to deal with like making sure their children go the better school or buying more luxury goods they could easily live without.

 

After all, it is far more important to have a fancy new car with all the options than it is to spare $5.00 and a few minutes to save your child’s life.  If you are lucky, they may find the time to say “what a tragedy” it is when children die from something so easily preventable – but do not liken this to action, as nothing more will be done.  Too bad, so sad; now get out of my life forever.  Refugees are not people anymore; they are facts and figures.  That is why you are not concerned with helping them, right?  Or is it because your children need to have a dvd player in your fancy new SUV more than other children need to eat?  Sure, thousands of people are starving to death – needlessly – every day, but your children are your priority and it is very important they have the best money can buy.  So what if you could have saved a few lives instead – so long as it is not your child.

Animal Abuse

This was posted on my facebook and I wanted to share it.  I did not write it, it is not mine at all, and I claim no credit for it.

I DIED TODAY. You got tired of me and took me to the shelter. They were overcrowded and I drew an unlucky number. I am in a black plastic bag in a landfill now. Some other puppy will get the barely used leash you left. My collar was dirty and too small, but the lady took it off before she sent me to the Rainbow Bridge . Would I still be at home if I hadn’t chewed your shoe? I didn’t know what it was, but it was leather, and it was on the floor. I was just playing. You forgot to get puppy toys. Would I still be at home if I had been housebroken? Rubbing my nose in what I did only made me ashamed that I had to go at all. There are books and obedience teachers that would have taught you how to teach me to go to the door. Would I still be at home if I hadn’t brought fleas into the house? Without anti-flea medicine, I couldn’t get them off of me after you left me in the yard for days. Would I still be at home if I hadn’t barked? I was only saying, “I’m scared, I’m lonely, I’m here, I’m here! I want to be your best friend.” Would I still be at home if I had made you happy? Hitting me didn’t make me learn how. Would I still be at home if you had taken the time to care for me and to teach manners to me? You didn’t pay attention to me after the first week or so, but I spent all my time waiting for you to love me. ... I died today.

Love, Your Puppy or Kitty

Updated: The Palestinian Authority Applied for Full Membership

Today, Friday 23 September 2011, Palestine applied for full membership with the United Nations.  I have already blogged about it a bit, and right now my life is incredibly stressful (mostly family related) so I am just going to share the link tweeted by the UN today.


Yes, the UN is on Tumblr; so is the WFP and many others.  They are also on Flikr, Youtube, etc.  It is rather amazing how information is shared these days.  Anyways, they say it best. :)

May they one day rest in peace

Today there were two executions I strongly oppose - opposed, I suppose, is the appropriate word now - one was in Georgia, the other in China.  The one in China I did blog about a couple days ago; I do not think countries should have the right to try and execute foreign nationals.  The case in Georgia, well that was one of those ones that makes the death penalty seem ridiculous.  Troy Davis (if I have the name spelt wrong my most sincere apologies; I am currently blogging via mobile) was denied clemency at every level and killed for a crime he claims he did not commit.  There is no physical evidence implicating him, several eyewitnesses recanted, and the entire case was shoddy at its best.

Even if he is found innocent in the future, he will still be dead.  In Canada, the death penalty was abolished over 50 years ago.  Still, cases of wrongful imprisonment have been major issues when convictions were overturned many years later.  These people were still alive, but the Canadian government was forced to address a very serious issue when it came to restoration - how much was the innocent person's life worth during or for the many years spent in prison?  Here, at least, they can be faced with this incredibly awkward question and even if they spend centuries arguing over the proper monetary amount, they still can do that.  Troy, no.  He will never have that opportunity.  His life is gone, forever.  No amount of money or anything else can buy back or make up for time spent wrongly imprisoned, or equate a part of a life.  In comparison, though, at least they have a life to consider.  Dead men are just that - dead.  It is quite a permanent condition, and one that can never be rectified.

Find the man innocent after his execution, he is still dead.  To say it is a step for justice would first require justice to fall down a mountain, then roll ever so slightly towards the other direction.  Yes, it is a good thing, but it has no real depth.  Had they not executed him then they could go through the awkward public apology and release, and applaud the staying of the sentence.  Instead, he is dead and the likelihood anything will ever be done about his case is incredibly slim.  Hopefully lobbyists will push it through and have it seen to; do not let him die in vain.  What concerns me most is not the clout needed to make it happen, rather I am very worried there is not enough evidence for a proper case.  I would really hate to see this die a slow death in bureaucratic red tape and never receive any resolution at all.  This is not me saying he was innocent or in any way passing judgement over the case; all I say here is there is not enough proof to warrant execution.  I would have liked to see it go back to court, to be assessed once again, and hopefully with less emphasis on witness testimony.

People make mistakes all the time; this one may have cost an innocent man his life.  Or, it may have sent a killer to his grave, but is it worth that risk?

Hello, is there anybody out there for me?

In general I try to keep unrelated personal bits out of this blog, but seeing as how this one (in a sense) gave birth to a relevant post, I shall include it and hope it somehow follows the example set forth by my mate whose blog is to the right (hint hint!).

One of my Filofaxes has a space at the bottom of every week in which to write the most memorable moment.  This week, there were two very memorable ones to record when I was updating my diary (schedule, dayplanner) on Wednesday night.  The week starts on Monday; both events came from Tuesday.  One was my birthday, the other throat cancer.

Needless to say, my life has been very stressful lately.  Friday night I had a mini meltdown and decided I was not going to have a birthday this year.  In the end I did - at 23 I cannot continue to act like a brat for no good reason, I have to be an adult now.  The night did not go as I had hoped, but it was fun at times and I sure as hell have had worse.  And to be fair, I had cancelled everything, was ill for a while and did not feel up for anything, and there really was no time to plan anything.  But my bezzie got me a card and a cake and an Oilers cup foam holder things and it was great.

What really kills me is I don't really have anyone to talk to about the other, major issues.  Lots of people say they care and are always there to listen - and I appreciate this greatly, don't get me wrong - but I cannot just talk to anyone about it.  I can, but I would really like to talk to someone who at least understands a part of it.  So I don't bring it up or mention it, except to my one mate who is awesome and also understands a lot of it.  As much as I hate constantly taking up her time with my problems, I really do feel a lot better afterwards.  I wish I could openly talk to my best friend about these things, or be able to discuss them with other people I talk to a lot, but I simply can't.  First there is the huge issue of bringing it up, then there's the talking part and no one knows what to say.

As ridiculous and juvenile as it is, I do sometimes wish someone would push me to open up about things.  I have learned that I cannot expect anyone to do anything remotely like that, and that I have to learn to be strong enough to do that on my own ... but still, it would be nice.  Yes, it would be letting me take the easy way out and avoid responsibility, but I think the part that I like most - perhaps I am just deluding myself - is the feeling that someone actually cares.  Fairy tales and movie romances do not happen in the real world, I know, but on occasion I give in for a moment and imagine someone doing that for me.  Perhaps I am just incredibly insecure and want someone to overcome the challenges to prove it is not a joke or something of the sort.  Or perhaps I am just an overly-emotional female.

I wish I could say there was more of a point to this post, but sadly, there is not.  Originally this was where I stated there were two executions today, but that turned into its own post .



How many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free?

As you are most likely aware, Palestine has begun the lengthy process of asking the UN to recognise it as an independent sovereign state, separate from Israel.  The reaction to this has ranged from favourable and encouraging to direct opposition.  Given the state of global politics and international relations at the present time, one would expect Palestine to garner support from other Islamic and Middle Eastern nations, perhaps some mild recognition from Western nations, and for Israel to be the primary opposition.  This seems to be mostly true, though Palestine is gathering a lot more support than I would have anticipated (good for them, I am pleasantly surprised); the most disturbing difference is the reaction of nations like Canada.

When I was in Scotland, I came across several pro-Palestine, anti-Israeli domination* protests.  In Canada, however, I never encountered one pro-Palestine demonstration of any sort, anywhere.  Before, I thought this was done out of respect for the parties involved and possibly for the best not to directly choose a side; now, I know better.  Yes, Canada has always been very pro-Israel throughout this long conflict but I was willing to live with the naive (or just plain silly) idea that it was a matter of supporting the “official” state as recognised by the UN so matters could be resolved peacefully.

For a moment I will quickly diverge onto a tangent to add some background clarification; I will be quick, please bear with me.  Throughout my academic studies the concept of “nationalism” has been rather prevalent, not just in regards to Canada or medieval Scotland but many other groups and times as well.  So in today’s world, the modern and contemporary life I live, I abide by a simple definition as to whether or not a nation (defined as a group of people sharing similar characteristics, background, etc.) is a country or sovereign state – does the United Nations recognise and regard them as an independent, sovereign state?  To me, this is what makes a country a real country.  Until the UN recognises them as such, I do not regard them as an independent state, and I expect all others – governments especially – to do the same.

Now, back to Palestine.  Like I said, Palestine has quite a bit of support from other countries, whether it be a limited “go for an upgraded status” like the EU offers, or full support from countries like Egypt where the Israeli embassy was stormed and attacked (there were other factors involved as well, it was an attack on the state of Israel by Egyptians and not entirely related to Palestine).  Personally, I am quite glad to see this happening; it is definitely time for someone to step up and bring this conflict to an end.  Obviously, Palestine gaining UN recognition will not end the Israeli-Palestinian fighting, but it certainly will help by placing them on equal footing, at the very least.  And if Palestine was to take a bold step towards establishing freedom, going to the UN like this certainly is the way to do it.  I applaud them for this, and for understanding that violence is not always the answer to asserting oneself on the world stage.

What I cannot applaud is Canada’s reaction.  Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, has clearly stated this is not the right course of action.  “I think there’s no likelihood of this initiative by the Palestinian Authority doing anything to further the peace process.  I think it’s possible that it could be counter-productive.” (Harper to reporters at the UN headquarters, quoted in and taken from the Globe and Mail’s article “Palestinian UN Statehood Gambit ‘Counter-productive’ Harper says”)  He believes Israel and Palestine should go back to their negotiations if Palestine wants to be recognised as a separate country.

Right, because that has done brilliantly well over the past, oh I’m sorry, how many years now?  Sorry, Harper, but no.  Negotiations, peace talks, treaties, and whathaveyou between Israel and Palestine have been going on for decade – and thus far have only resulted in more violence, more human rights violations, more innocent lives lost.  There is a song by Bob Dylan, “Blowing in the Wind”, that I think aptly describes this situation - “How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they’re forever banned?  How many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free?  How many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see?  How many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry?  How many deaths will it take ‘til he knows, that too many people have died?”  How long must we sit by and pretend negotiations and talks are going to bring about a resolution to this problem?  How many generations must live with no hope, no future?

In general, I specifically remain neutral on the Israel-Palestine debate because I do not feel it is possible for me to fully and completely understand both sides of the argument.  That being said, I fully oppose any and all human rights violations by either side, and do think they both should be able to appeal to a neutral, higher power if necessary.  Right now, this is what Palestine is doing, and I support that action.  I support them going to the UN instead of waiting for the rest of the world to get their act together and do something.  Given the events that have happened during my lifetime, I do question the level of power Israel has in that part of the world and I do not have any faith in other countries keeping it in check.  It is a very delicate subject and incredibly influential on international relations, so I do understand why other governments may not be willing to intervene.  But if they will not do it, then who will?  The burden of solving this tremendous issue has been left to Israel and Palestine; now that one of them is stepping up to progress it further, with international and unbiased assistance, I think we should be applauding the effort and certainly not instructing them to go back to methods that clearly are not working and only make matters worse.

 *the purpose of these protests was to promote an independent Palestine, free from Israeli occupation, rule, attacks, etc.  This is a very touchy subject so I am trying to be very tactful in my wording; please understand the goal of these protests was to remove Israeli control from Palestine and was not meant to be a direct attack against the nation or people of Israel itself.


St. Andrew's Square, Edinburgh, July 2011

A picture I took at St. Andrew’s Square (Princes Street) in Edinburgh, July 2011.  I did not want to photograph the people.


“Blowin’ in the Wind” was originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan, but I grew up listening to the Peter, Paul, and Mary version.  I strongly suggest listening to the lyrics, or at least looking them up.


Here are some relevant links:

I follow the UN and related organisations on Twitter, so I do apologise for the lack of articles to list here.  With the number of tweets I get each day it would be near impossible for me to properly reference and cite them all here.

Equality of Opportunity means the Freedom to Fail

On Twitter the World Bank has been tweeting about women and equality, with the hashtag #thinkEQUAL.  There have been many responses; I suggest reading some of them.  It is interesting to see what other people think equality means and how to go about achieving it.  I have responded a time or two, but Twitter has this annoying habit of limiting me to 140 characters - not even words.  So, I am going go take this opportunity to expand on this topic and write a little post about it.

Equality for everyone means having the same opportunities, regardless of any factors.  It gives the individual the ability to choose what to do next, and lets everyone pursue their own dreams without being fenced in at all.  Equality of opportunity - this is how I define an equal existence.  A lot of people see equal opportunities as meaning everyone has the same right to succeed.  True, they do have that same levelling point.  But what I feel is all too often ignored in discussions about equality, opportunity, and chances to succeed is the very important opportunity to fail.

Having the resources and opportunities necessary to succeed is certainly something I have had my entire life, growing up in a developed Western nation a part of a white collar middle class family.  My entire life I have been aware of how lucky I am to have these chances, that I can not only go on to study higher education but I can also decide how I want to use my life.  Not everyone can, and I know that.  It pains me to think of the people who cannot choose their own paths, and while they seem to be mostly women (I would assume the statistics are still just rough guesses based on crude amounts of evidence) I do not categorize this as a woman's issue alone.

The first reason for this is simple - if we, as a species, are ever going to overcome gender or sex based discrimination, then we must learn to see past these lines.  While we talk about equality for women, are we not forcing them into a state of inequality by categorizing them?  Men, too, by pitching them against women in this sort of battle.  I am in no way saying men and women are treated equally everywhere - anywhere, even - but instead am trying to point out the biggest flaw in this campaign.  So long as lines are used to divide people, no matter how or why, or even what the intentions, the groups will exist as separate from each other by the very nature of the whole thing.

Promoting equality is good, but what are you really promoting?  Is it what you want to promote?

Now, for the second part of this post on equality, and back to the idea of equality of opportunity to succeed.  Success is marvellous and certainly should be the goal, but as we all know, life does not always go that way.  Even with opportunities and resources, sometime success just does not happen.  Then what?  Most people would say to try again, to learn from the experience and apply it to the future.  Sounds good, certainly advisable - but what if you cannot?

Equality is more than just having the same opportunities to succeed - it also means having the freedom to fail.  Not long ago the UN posted an article about a Somali refugee who was fleeing the famine.  Like most, her story was one of incredible survival; it nearly brought forth tears.  But what really got to me was not how inspiring the tale was; the part that has continued to haunt  me since I read it is her response to her ordeal.  She kept going because she had no alternative; she survived because she had to.

This refugee, a brave and inspiring Somali woman, did not have the same opportunities as I did at that same time.  While I was trying to finish my dissertation so I would not fail it, she saw only one option in her life - survive.  Me, I had many opportunities at that exact same time, including the chance to succeed.  More importantly, I had the opportunity to fail.  I could do wrong, mess everything up, and I would still be aliveand relatively okay.  But her?  She could not fail; it simply was not an option.  And that hit me the hardest out of everything - having the opportunity to succeed is wonderful, it lets you overcome difficulties and challenges that stand in your way.  The opportunity to fail, however, is what makes the attempt possible.  Surviving failure is what gives that leap of faith a chance.  Without it, risks come with costs far too high - mostly, life.

When you think about equality and what it means to you, please remember these points too.  Dividing lines cannot exist alongside equality, and it is the opportunity to fail that truly defines the freedom to succeed, which is the aim of equality.