Are You With Me?

Following the death of Sarah Everard, the Harry and Meghan interview and the heated debates about Black Lives Matter movement, I found myself wondering what kind of society we are or we have become. I thought about the desperate need for us to create a compassionate culture within which tragedies and challenges are far less likely to happen; where the automatic reaction when they do is to hear others’ voices, not to deny their perspective.

I have written about my personal experience of abusive relationships, in particular about the terrible imprisonment of traumatic bonding and the sense of self actualisation and reconnection with the self I had lost, which finally allowed me to escape. The same phenomenon can act just as powerfully at an organisational and societal level. Again I am losing myself, looking to leaders and politicians for some spark of hope and finding none, feeling I have little personal power and waiting for them to rescue me. The challenge at a structural level is to find a collective voice, a sense of being able to change something destructive into a wise and compassionate debate, even movement. Politics has let us down in so many ways; its inherent competitiveness and self interest, even amongst those who wish to restore and renew, of their very nature work against collaboration and inclusivity and weaken the chances of bringing about radical change.

I want to share a personal experience, the elements of which may be familiar to you. A few months ago I went into a sandwich shop where the owner began to rail against a traveller camp on the outskirts of town. His analysis was that this would now be sorted out as ‘that terrible Human Rights Act’ was finally gone as we have left the EU. There was no testing of the water to see if I was in agreement with his views, no engagement and no debate. I stood in silence and dismay, paid for my purchase and resolved never to go back. Yet my voice remained unheard, my views unexpressed and my feelings invalidated. Many times I have thought about that encounter and tried to imagine how I should have replied; how I would love to have told him that his facts were wrong, the Human Rights Act is UK legislation and it protects all of us. How I wished he would never be in a position to need it and that he could hear the traumatised voices of his fellow human beings who do. Yet as on so many occasions in my life, I allowed myself to be defeated by the dominant voice of another. Back in the seductive arms of my trauma bond I seemed still to imagine that I could have influenced the views of someone whose heart and mind was closed. When will I finally learn to walk in a different direction?

Whilst we may find ourselves traumatised and diminished by the enormity of the need to heal ourselves and our planet, wherever we can we must ensure that compassionate voices are heard up to the highest level. In the face of the insidious erosion of rights and protections we have seen in recent years I feel it is time to speak my truth, because I cannot any longer wait for someone else to say it for me. We are witnessing the normalisation of bullying, the age of impunity where actions which would have attracted serious consequences in the past go unmarked and often unchallenged and the systematic undermining of freedoms hard won. The voices of young people who will inherit what we have created are seldom heard.

I have broken my silence, are you with me?

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