Last night at Wine and Whiteboards, Penny Locaso said, “to solve a problem, you need a definition.” The idea of these talks is to learn from other peoples perspectives but it’s also a lesson in listening.
We discussed whether happened in America could happen here (general consensus was that it was already - we’re just in a bubble). Could that same Xenophobia, racism, fear of otherness, finger pointing at non white people happen in Australia? Hasn’t it already? Why are we obsessed with the US election yet ignore what’s happening in our own back yard? Why are white people called ‘ex-pat’s but non white are called immigrants? Should we really be surprised by the result in the US?
We talked about studies we’d read, articles we’d seen, headlines we’d absorbed, the filters that guide our thinking, our assumptions and of course, our perspective based on personal experiences. We talked about how shame, anger, fear and violence are linked and examined our own relationships with shame around money, family, community and the irony of a group of white women talking about these issues on a Friday night over wine, as if we had any insight into otherness, being from middle class backgrounds.
A while ago I read an article in The Guardian about a prison psychiatrist who said said they’d never seen an act of violence not perpetrated by shame. We talked about the link between white anger, poverty, and what happens when you’re in survival mode and you’re taught that everyone is your competition for a job, to survive. How ‘abundance’ is something that perhaps people who can afford brunch think about. How it’s easy for us to judge other peoples hardships, and to make assumptions about them, but impossible to put ourselves in their shoes, or intellectualise their pain, struggles and also their fears, their anger, because it was deeper than them yelling racist slurs, or being fearful of the Other.
If anger really is about shame, and Brene Brown students can help me out here, maybe we’re pissed off about the US election because we’re not doing enough here to help, to change the conversation in our own backyards, and we (I) feel guilty about this, too. But, you know, not too guilty to give up abundant brunch.
A really smart cookie said this at one stage: “I grew up poor. And if you don’t know about how money works, and you don’t know how to look after yourself, you’re fucked.”
This one stuck with me. I know how to (finally) look after myself, but I earn ok money and I still don’t know how money really works.
I didn’t want to use this post to preach about looking after yourself, but it did turn some cogs in my brain. If we’re lucky enough to be able to get money, or be able to look after ourselves, maybe we should stop being so hard on ourselves.
Maybe me, sitting with these other intelligent, well read, thoughtful and kind men and women, maybe this is, kind of, our way of therapy. Because the discussion wasn’t actually about solving the problem, although I did hear some cracker ideas. It was about being heard, listening to each other and saying to one another: you perspective and experience matters, too.
A therapist once said to me: ‘the fastest way to feel better is to help someone else’. And last night, for a brief moment, you know what? I didn't feel any clearer on how to solve that giant cheeto problem. But - I also felt hopeful that by learning more about how the world works, I'd be living in the dark slightly less and be remotely helpful in some little way in future.
Thanks Penny and Rob for a really interesting discussion. More info on their sessions here.