Remembering the other; a reflection of Auschwitz.

To a reader who may dream a dream…

IMG_0431 1This photograph may not look like anything much, but this is actually the exterior of the gas chambers at Auschwitz. I sat silently staring at it for nearly an hour last year. And during this time, I took this photograph.

Visiting Auschwitz was a peculiar experience. I was struck by what I can only describe as a dark emptiness in the pit of my stomach as I walked around that day… I studied all the ins and outs of World War II and the Holocaust at high school and University. I did an entire subject in the second year of my undergrad degree on the Nuremberg trial. But it still surprised me to learn that 80% of everyone who arrived at Auschwitz was immediately sentenced to death.

Right beside the gas chamber is a replica of the gallows where Rudolf Hoss was hanged. And right beside that is where Hoss’s children’s playground once stood. One might have asked what perversion possessed Hoss to allow his children to play so close to a site where hundreds of thousands of people died, on his orders. But I really doubt there was any perversion at play, perhaps it was just a factor he didn’t think of any great importance. To Hoss, the Jews and the Romany gypsies alike were not in fact people at all, and their deaths were inconsequential. The Jewish children who were sent to the gas-chambers because they were of no use, were not deemed children by Hoss. They were something ‘other’ than children.

I have other photos from Auschwitz too. One of the room where the the hair of so many thousands of murdered women lies lifelessly in piles. I thought about the care and energy I’ve dedicated to my own hair as I caught glimpses of locks that could very easily have been mine. I have many photos of the rooms filled with shoes. Some of them tiny little ones belonging to infants and some of Espirillas similar to those that have now found their way back into fashion seven decades later. And these photos speak to me, but not quite so much as the one above does.

This photo will always be a reminder of the dangers of something we do, and our government does on behalf of us on a daily basis. When we ‘other’ people, we make them less worthy of our compassion and our remorse. (The week I went to Auschwitz, the Australian government had announced ‘The PNG solution‘ which allowed them to send Asylum seekers arriving on our shores by boat to Papua New Guinea for processing and ‘resettlement’… Resulting in gross human rights abuses.)

Othering begins as relatively harmless and without malice. And then it transcends into something else… Apathy for those who are treated as less than we are in the name of sovereignty, and protecting our own interests, apathy for those who are sent to places out of sight, that that in turn they are out of mind. And it ends where this photograph was taken.

Advertisements
Posted in blogging101, personal essay | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The motivation to blog; a love letter to cyberspace.

Dear cyberspace,

I very secretly started this blog early last year, and posted a few times then pretty much forgot about it. I guess it slipped away into the abyss of things I started and never finished, ideas I had and never accomplished. I like to think of myself as a what my mother would call a ‘doer’ and not a ‘gonna’… But I guess not telling anyone meant that I wasn’t accountable to actually continue blogging.

I always wrote as a matter of instinct, I wrote poetry in history class whilst I was supposed to be learning about the battle of Hastings. And when my teacher discovered my poetry and threw it away, I wrote about how much I detested them in poorly worded notes to my girlfriends who sat beside me.

As an adult I’ve continued to write when I’m  happy, when I’m sad, when I’m hopeful and when I’m disillusioned. I write about the people I love, I write about the places I love. When I want to let those I love know how I feel, I write it down, because honestly, when it comes to the things that I care about, I find it easier to write than I do to talk.

So I guess my reason for blogging is because I want to share the things I care about with others. And for me, the written word is the easiest medium of doing so.

So from here on in cyberspace, I aspire to share my passion for the written word wholeheartedly. And I promise not to keep our romance a secret 😉

Love Lorelei. x

Posted in blogging101 | Tagged , | 2 Comments

‘Confronting’ the burqa: An open letter to Prime Minister Abbot.

Last week, I shared an open letter to former prime minister Julia Gillard. In light of the current prime minister, Tony Abbott’s recent remarks on the burqa, I decided to write another open letter. This time to the Australia’s current prime minister.

Dear Mr Abbott,

In light of the recently proposed policy that women wearing the ‘burqa’ be banned from entering the chambers of parliament, I’ve got to thinking about this as an issue. Firstly, about the fact that I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a women in Australia wearing the Burqa…And I wonder how many women have actually attempted to attend parliament house whist doing doing so? I’m gonna go out on a limb, and say- perhaps none. Hmmm, is it possible you have the burqa confused with another form of attire worn by islamic women? (Here is handy a reference to help you tell the difference) 

Secondly, I was somewhat taken aback by the language you have chosen to use to describe your personal feelings about the burqa when addressing the nation. You saying that you find the burqa to be ‘a very confronting form of attire’ reminded me of a conversation I once had with a former colleague who told me that they found unshaven legs on women to be ‘confronting.’ At the time, I remember asking ‘how can hair on someone else’s body be “confronting”?’ Of course, I’m hitherto still waiting for a coherent answer.

I’m not sure what you (or my former colleague for that matter) meant when using the word, ‘confronting’ but according to the Oxford english dictionary to be confronted is ‘to have something in front of you that you have to deal with or react to.’ Personally, I don’t feel confronted or (that I have to ‘react to’) women covering their faces, or likewise with hairy legs. On the other hand, I did find it confronting when my prime minister (that’s apparently you Mr Abbott, a white, middle aged, man from a middle class background) should appoint only one woman in a cabinet of nineteen ministers. I found it even more confronting that you went so far as to appoint yourself ‘Minister for Women’ after making making it clear that you not only have no clue what it is like to BE a woman, but also that you have demonstrated very little empathy or insight into some of the issues that impact upon Australian women today.

Violence against women remains a universal issue that I am deeply passionate about, and I am confronted that any man in a position of power would feel it was appropriate to publicly declare that he believes that ‘this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that a man’s right to demand, I think they both need to be moderated so to speak.’ Hmmm… there is this thing called ‘consent’ Mr Abbott. In other words, yes a woman has a right to ‘absolutely withhold’ sex whenever she chooses. Because her body is her own, and not public property.

I felt very confronted when a member of your party hosted a fundraising dinner that featured a menu including “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs and a Big Red Box” And I continued to feel confronted when your response was to say only that this was ‘tacky’, but not to withdraw your support. I continue to feel confronted by your views on abortion: Which you have referred to as ‘the easy way out.’ Have you ever even asked anyone what it is like to have an abortion Mr Abbott? If you had, I’m fairly certain you’d be hard pressed to find a woman who would describe the experience as ‘easy.’

The very fact that you feel it is your place to declare privately, let alone publicly that you ‘wish (the Burqa) wasn’t worn’ demonstrates the blatant male-privilege that that is present throughout your belief system. What any woman chooses to cover her body with, whether it be a Burqa or a bikini has nothing to do with you Mr Abbott. This basic right to personal liberty and autonomy is one of the most paramount to understanding women’s experiences and I am appalled that you, as the apparent ‘Minister for Women’ do not realise this.

I hope that in the future you can be more responsible about the comments you make publicly, and consider the potential implications of your words. Given the misconceptions that many Australians continue to have about islamic women, your views only serve to perpetuate a cycle of intolerance. If you genuinely do feel ‘confronted’ by this issue then I suggest it be something that you seek further understanding of in your personal time, rather than throwing such thoughts out into an already tense society where muslim women are a minority, already facing marginalisation. Regards, Lora.

Posted in feminism | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Make it count: An open letter to former Australian Prime-minister Ms Julia Gillard.

Dear Ms Gillard,

When I first heard that you had been stood down as Australia’s prime minister, I was sitting on a 747 bound for Abu Dhabi, just about to depart Melbourne. I can remember that instant very clearly, the subsequent feeling that at that moment I was all too glad to be departing the country I love so much… and that I surprised myself by letting out a gasp.

Looking back, I don’t think that it was shock that made me gasp, although I was certainly shocked that Rudd was successful in challenging your leadership. Looking back, I believe that I gasped in sadness. I wasn’t always fond of your policies, aJuliand very often completely disagreed with your position of many issues. I very openly favour the Greens over the Labor party, and honestly gave up following Australian politics some years ago. I believe what saddened me in that moment was the empathy and admiration I came to feel for you on a human level, rather than a political one.

I’ll always be pleased to say that during my twenties, I witnessed the election of both America’s first black president and Australia’s first female prime minister. These are achievements I had once believed would never eventuate during my lifetime. I can’t describe the overwhelming sense of hope I experienced at these times… But unfortunately many other things I witnessed during my twenties thwarted this hope.

I was nothing short of ashamed to observe the blatant lack of human decency present in the way you were treated by both the Australian public and your peers. In the years 2010, 2012 and 2013 I watched a brave women be systematically abused, and an entire country contribute to and tolerate this abuse. In your time as prime minister, you were chastised, ridiculed and slandered. They used your body as a means of character assassination, as they always do with women, who’s bodies are seen to be public property anyway. (When was the last time anyone looked at Kevin Rudd’s thighs, let alone criticised them?) Further than this even, you were pornographised against your will, and attacked and demeaned on the basis of your sexuality by the media and the public. But still, in the face of adversity you never stopped trying to overcome the doubts you were continuously confronted with. Day after day, you held your head high and carried on. Blow after blow, you maintained your dignity and refused to fall apart the way they hoped you would. For this you have my genuine admiration.

I’m not sure what the future holds for women in politics in this country. But I’m compelled to fear that any other women to be in a future position of power will be subject to the same shameful treatment that you were. And so I call on you to continue to speak loudly and without shame. I call on you to continue to demonstrate the same dignity and self-respect you always have.

Ms Gillard, I wish to offer you a sincere and heartfelt thank-you. Woman to woman, I thank you for your bravery. I thank you for doing your best. But most of all, I thank you for inspiring myself and other women to do the same.

Sincerely, Lora.

P.s: I think you look positively gorgeous in your Twitter profile pic. So I’ve added it to this post.

Inspired by the Daily prompt: Make it count

Posted in daily prompt, feminism | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The refugee from the future.

Inspired by this week’s writing challenge- That’s absurd I gave writing an absurd tale a try…

‘My parents came here for a better life’ he said placing his hand upon her knee. ‘And did they find one?’ she asked cautiously. She was always cautious when she was with him, There was so much about his manner that put him on edge… He’d seen so many things in his life, spent so many years as an outsider. She had heard that his family had been among the first refugees to arrive, and back then they had really suffered. He snorted and smiled, ‘well I guess I’m still working out what a better life is supposed to be…’ he threw his head back, downing the last of his beer. She shifted uncomfortably beside him, wondering how he could drink so much and still speak so clearly.

‘Did your mother warn you about boys like me?’ he asked her. ‘Well, of course she did. She’d die if she knew I was with you… My mother is a true victorian lady… She still refuses to bear her ankles.’ She declared proudly. ‘You say that like it’s a good thing…’ He pulled her closer again.

At first those who traveled from the future to seek refuge in the past were not liked or cared for… But with them they had brought tools and ideas that made life easier and unconscionable stories of the world as it would become. Not to mention their apparent aspirations to save the humanity from it’s own destiny, and these things had ensured their eventual acceptance.

The refugees had chosen the turn of the century as their destination because they said that this was when the world had begun to change for the worse, when all nations had began to become alike and economies had begun to centre around corporations rather than state.

‘But mixed marriages are so frowned upon!’ she said suddenly pulling away from his kiss. He responded quickly: ‘Love is love, and people are people, it doesn’t matter what time they come from!’ The futurites spoke so strangely, the girl thought to herself.

Posted in fiction | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Seven Tankas of my arrival…

(Inspired by The daily post weekly writing challenge Full Tanka)

The year I was born,images

The miners had gone on strike,

From womb I was torn,

White room full of white strangers,

Privacy comodified.

 

Nineteen eighty four,

Coal coated the streets in blood,

The filth’s sent to war,

Men cried at the picket line,

police held hands to stop them.

 

Martyr lay sleeping,

A blissful induced coma,

Spawn’s lonely weeping,

Mother’s greatest sacrifice,

in the sharp end of a knife.

 

The year of my birth,

Horn of Africa near lost,

Starv’d babes of less’r worth,

Ethiopia famine

Filling TV screens with tears.

 

They marvelled at me,

And my peculiar health,

Life a sight to see,

While mother came close to death,

‘With child’ did not suit her well.

 

Mrs Thatcher’s height,

Unstable business prospers,

Triumph of the right,

England an uneven mess,

Covered in high rising damp.

 

I go back to then,

And look at my fresh pink skin,

Aunties clucking like hen,

Joyous forest of new life,

Ocean in my eyes born blue.

Posted in poetry | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What would happen if my fantasy dinner party came to life?

I’ve often been inclined to drill people about who they would have at over for dinner if mortality, social location and geography were no barrier. My fantasy dinner party always changed, but there were a couple of guests who made it back every time. But what would happen if I actually had Karl Marx, Germaine Greer, Joseph Merrick, Bob Dylan and Marilyn Monroe over for dinner? What the hell would I feed them anyway..?

CollageItI was surprised Aunty Germain made it this time, She’s avoided my dinner parties like the plague since that time another one of my guests referred to Margaret Thatcher as a feminist and she responded by she throwing a piece of steak at them and telling them to read up on neoliberalism. (No, Aunty Germaine is not my actual aunty, she’s just part of my family in the fantasy world where I’m married to the late Jeff Buckley, and Leonard Cohen is my uncle who comes over and sings for me when I’m feeling down and in need of some inspiration.)

By the time, I put the entree out we had all lost faith that Marilyn would make it. Always a mystery, she sauntered in an hour late, tripping over the arm of Karl’s chair on the way to her seat. She became flustered and embarrassed immediately and was more apologetic than necessary stating that it had been foolish of her to wear such impractical shoes. Bob snorted from behind his smoke in the corner and told her to ‘come sit by me babe’ although his tone was less than inviting.

Aunty Germaine gave him a sideways glance and said in a condescending tone that it was kind of him. Marilyn sat down beside Bob, coughing delicately on his cigarette smoke as she did. She was trying so very hard not to stare at Joseph, who she thought was such an unfortunate looking fellow. Marilyn apologised again to Karl, who’s work she said she had once admired, but lord knowns that had gotten her into some trouble. Karl nodded kindly, and motioned towards the bread basket I had put out a few minutes ago. Marilyn seemed reluctant to take any and nudged Bob who said he was happy with his joint.

Joseph hadn’t spoken since Marilyn came in and I was uncertain about whether he was captivated by her beauty or feeling shy, so I asked him if he’d seen any of her films. Joseph declared that he hadn’t covering his mouth as he spoke but said that he had read somewhere that she was very interested in Shakespeare, and asked which of his works were her favourite. Marilyn declared that she was enamoured of Romeo and Juliet, but before she could explain further, Bob, who was now finished his joint and leaning back in his chair sighed loudly, and she became quiet once more.

Germaine shot Bob another poisonous look, and asked him which play he might have preferred. Bob shrugged, and asked why she would even bother to ask him a question she had no interest in the answer to.

By the time dessert was served, Bob had pulled out his harmonica and was serenading the table, although his attention seemed particularly focused on Marilyn, who really was more interested in her drink by that point. Joseph was also mesmerised by Marilyn, and was busy creating an origami bird of paradise for her with his napkin.

It was around this time that I spilt the flute of champagne I was attempting to pour for Karl, who seemed all too unimpressed. He asked me if I always served my guests champagne, as he was handed several napkins from Joseph who was eager to ease my embarrassment. ‘Well yes, but that I’m a real socialist in every other respect, I promise’ I proclaimed awkwardly. I regretted my words immediately when Aunty Germaine loudly asked what the hell wine had to do with egalitarianism anyway. She finished the last sip of her own and held her flute out for more champagne to which I obliged.

Being a hostess can be hard work sometimes…

Posted in fiction, personal essay | Tagged , | Leave a comment