I gave a talk on Wednesday at ThoughtWorks for the Sydney Tester’s Meetup on those key principles I use in my training programme to train and place marginalized young people into high tech jobs. Jobs that usually go to University Graduates, not instead to those with no degrees and are considered the least in the community.
I want to share something it was said by David Mowaljarlai, Ngarinyin Lawman. (Australian Elder) I kept a transcript of his talk from some 20 years ago.
I hope it’s not dry or unrelated to you the reader. I think through the sharing of other cultures you will see more clearly your own, and how much the past is repeating today.
David’s people set up a Bush university in Australia for people to learn directly from them, these are the words he’s spoke introducing the school.
“We old people in the Law, there’s not many of us left now. We’re all dying off, or been killed off by alcohol and disease and heartbreak because we’re still not in our country, our proper place.
Our gift will give you your meaning, your belonging. We have to give it to your now before the time runs out. For a long, long time we have been trying to give our gift to you but we are always blocked.
We’re blocked by media because they don’t know how to talk to us. We’re blocked by university people because they lock up our knowledge. All our evidence has been locked up in universities and museums. Doctoral people write down our evidence in languages that are too hard for anybody to understand. They’ve written it up so that the meaning is lost. Our gift is not just systems on paper. It is the experience of life.
We’re blocked by politicians who are frightened we might lock them out of their power over us. Their fear stops them from listening to us properly, Lawmen to Lawmen.
We’re blocked by Gardia law because the rules of law shut up our mouths and only let us speak through Gardia lawyers in courtrooms in cities. Our gift is lost this way because lawyers have to obey Gardia thinking.
We’re blocked by Gardia economic development because their mineral wealth is in our country and they don’t want to be stopped from getting it out. And pastoralists who let their cattle run all over our sacred space, cutting up the country with their hooves, spoiling our sacred waters, killing off our animals, our totems, our identity. This cattle mob block us from our Law sites, our paintings, where we camp and do our ceremony. They take Gardia tourists to our sites without our permission – without knowing sacred meaning.
We old people want to tell you this. We want to give your our gift so you can belong properly in this country and not be afraid. We want you to fill up your emptiness with meaning so you can respect us and our country. We’ve been trying for a long time. This is what we want to before our time is up.
We want to teach our young people their meaning, their belonging so they stop getting lost to emptiness and alcohol. We want to teach Gardia young people so they stop killing themselves and getting lost too.
We want to teach all Australians about their belonging in this country so they stop destroying their meaning before it its too late. They’re ignorant of what they’re doing because they don’t know. They can’t understand how to relate to land, and how land looks after them if they don’t learn these things. We want to teach them that respect.
We want to leave you our heritage. Not in university papers that nobody reads or understands. We want to teach you in our country so you experience what we know.
We can’t do this while Gardia keep making laws and protests and arguments to keep us out of our proper place. They just run us out of time doing this. We know what we want to do, and we know we have to start our important work now before its too late and we’re dead gone. Everybody will suffer, really suffer if we die before we can give you our gift…….
We Ngarinyin have a vision for our country and it is our gift. Bush university is one of the big ideas we want to start.
Already we have filmed a lot of our sacred places and our ceremony so after we’re gone our children and you have that evidence. We have already started taking people from the cities and overseas into our country for them to get their meaning.
We want to develop our own communications station in our country so everybody can talk to us directly, not through somebody else. There are people in American, and Germany and Canada trying to contact us to learn from us. We want to teach them.
Our story is being written up in art. This is starting to go out to all the world. We’ve been broadcasting our radio for everyone to hear. We’re speaking at places where Gardia come to listen at seminars and conferences. We’re talking everywhere to tell people about Ngarinyin culture, Ngarinyin stories, Ngarinyin meaning. Gardia are really enjoying filling up with these stories.
We’re doing all this so we can start up our Bush University. White people are crying out to learn about our culture, and we cry because we’re blocked from teaching.
…The country is not going anywhere. The minerals are not going anywhere. The paintings are not going anywhere. There’s plenty of time left for them. Only we are going somewhere. Our time is running out. “
Context: Response made to a British white supremacist justifying genocide and theft of indigenous land.
The idea that all human beings were into conquering and killing is one of the things that White Supremacists have used to justify genocide, rape, and massive theft. And I’m guessing any supremacist of any colour would feel the same; saying that it’s human nature, I say; they say that to justify their own traits of greed and pride.
You can glory in the genocide of the millions of deaths that the British were responsible for, but much of the early deaths were due to the disease that he spread, often deliberately, more than his capability at war. At War the British when it came to the Maori were cowards.
Primarily the British went into battle with the Maori outnumbering them three to one. But they died usually 50 Brits to 1 Maori. It was a complete shock to their idea of White superiority.
Here are some of the causality lists as a result of battles between the British and Maori:
Battle of Puketekauere/Onukukaitara just outside Waitara Taranaki
Approx. 400 British troop’s v 130 Maori.
British losses = 60+ dead – Maori losses = 5 dead
Battle of Te Ngutu o Te Manu west of Normanby Taranaki
Approx. 360 British troops v 60 Maori
British losses = 50+ dead – Maori losses= 3 dead
Battle of Moturoa north of Wanganui
Approx. 400 British troops’ v 150 Maori
British losses 50+ dead – Maori 1 dead
Battle of Gate Pa just outside Tauranga
Approx. 1700 British troops’ v approx. 230 Maori
British losses over 100 dead – Maori losses believed to be 15 dead
The list of battles could go on and on with only a few occasions where the British fared better than Maori.
Maori beat those with ‘superior’ weaponry with smarter tactics, intelligence based on research and a greater understanding of the human nature at that time. Head-to-head, was the British ‘better at war’ against the Maori? Obviously not.
Am I suggesting the Maori are a ‘superior’ race? No, I’m not. There’s only one race; Human and Maori contain the flaws and virtues of the collective state of being human. Some Maori tribes like those in the South and Chatham islands are incredibly peaceful ready to die rather than shed human blood, some were once warlike but changed to become world trailblazers in peaceful movements like Parihaka (which later influenced Gandhi and King), some were incredibly brutal in war, some compassionate; feeding and caring for the British wounded even after the most bloody of battles and some tribes were led by land and glory seeking assholes.
But in your case, anyone HUMAN would not glory in the genocide of other humans as a badge of honour. That’s mainly about being an ignorant dickhead.
I came home yesterday and I was surprised and excited to see a small white package waiting for me, all the way from Canada. It was from Prodigy Pictures the producer of the Dark Matter science fiction show, that was shockingly canceled in Firefly fashion, well before it’s run was complete.
(Canada! Do you know how very far away that is? Really really far, so far they live one day in the past. That’s far!)
I had written a couple of letters to them, online and I’d sent hard copies by snail mail. Prodigy instead of trashing or selling props they were generously giving them away to fans. They sent me back a signed Dark Matter t-shirt, a medal off Six’s chest and this lovely letter.
It really came at the right time. In one of those letters was part of a song, I had written for an online friend Claire, I’d known for many years first meeting her on the paranormal board for the X-Files. Last week I had to make a sudden and unexpected trip to Alameda California, from Sydney, Australia where I live. Claire was on life-support, she was suffering complications from colon cancer and was expected to pass away at any time.
I made my first, last and only visit and was surprised that the family held off taking her off life support until I arrived. I was moved and humbled that no one questioned the depth of friendship we had formed over the years. I said my goodbyes stroking her hair until she passed away.
In one of the letters to Prodigy, I shared this verse, because Claire epitomized so many of the relationships of ‘unseen’ friends I’ve made online:
“Sometimes, I admit I wonder at the words upon the screen
How just mere words can bind us, with faces still unseen
But few we trust to share with, those words we will not say
So quiet in the night we write and give our hearts away.”
It’s been a week now and I’m past that first raw stage of grief, but my chest still hurts and I cry easily.
So when this gift arrived, a gift from that wonderful, silly, fun, creative joyous greater community of sci-fi geeks where I found Claire and so many other wonderful people. And I get a gift that’s being celebrated now by more online friends of another wonderful show, I don’t why…but for me, it just felt like a gift from the Universe.
How very wonderful it is to be part of a human community that forms wonderful connections through art, film, and writing.
#DarkMatter, #ProdigyPictures @ProdPics
This is a piece of silliness that went through my head, whilst I was lying stretched out on my bed this morning waiting for my armpits to dry from this new roll-on deodorant (Christmas present to myself, it’s expensive but it’s one of those rare deodorants that doesn’t contain cancer-forming aluminum.)
Here’s the first part of the thought; Why don’t all women get PSTD from childbirth?
I mean it’s friggin extreme pain? The experience can include; sadistic doctors hoisting your legs up in stirrups, which works fine for them, but intensifies pain for women and promotes back injury. A bunch of strangers looking at your privates. I’ve heard of women being slapped by nurses or doctors and yelled at for being ‘wimps’, ‘silly’ or ’emotional’. Lower abdomens being sliced and spread apart, induction that brings on rapid and violent birth. A lot of blood, poo, and pee. Plus pain that can go on for hours. So you know? Why don’t women get massive PSTD from childbirth?
Now I hear a lot of women have a much better go of it these days, depending on where they live than some of the experiences of above. Even some new-age type experiences that have put them on a cosmic connected high.
But still, for most, it doesn’t. Does it?
And if it doesn’t, the second part to my thought is; can we learn from the experiences of women who have had ugly birth experiences and not experienced PSTD and apply that lesson to other life circumstances?
I’ve made some deep friendships online with people over time. We’ve bonded over favorite Sci Fi shows; the X-Files, Farscape, World of Warcraft raiding, and long-term projects around the hidden histories of Native peoples, homeless housing or cats. Over time I’ve shared more with these friends, than with blood family. Many of these people I’ve never met in RL. My current love is; Dark Matter, I love the community that gathers around great storytelling.
I have a particular affection for the showrunner Joseph Mallozzi, his active engagement with fans; the behind scenes look at putting the show together, the sets, the arts, the process, the people who make up the project. It’s awesome not just for the show, but for anyone interested in any part of that, the insight into the inner workings is a small part of the total inspiration that makes this community so devoted and passionate. You’ll find his blog here: https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/ Check it out.
I know a lot of people don’t get the depth of friendships, you can make online. There is I think even a stigma associated with online friendship, a persistent doubt that “real” intimacy can only be created via physical encounter, that these people are strangers. I don’t think that’s true. I often find it safer to share things you feel, things that others might judge as quirky, a tad weird, or things that you’re shy about, online.
People are amazing when they’re inspired. This is what makes great shows – great. That people are inspired by it to make art, share humour, start telling stories all out of passion. The experience of community and online friendship’s inspired me to write a song, (no experience, but I sang it to a group who said it didn’t suck). It’s my first attempt at song writing.
The key message is in this verse:
Sometimes, I admit I wonder at the words upon the screen
How just mere words can bind us, with faces still unseen
But few we trust to share with, those words we will not say
So quiet in the night we write and give our hearts away.
My most favourite heroes were in science fiction they’re usually misfits.
When I was growing up I patterned myself after characters in books and on TV. Stories raised me. I had gone through 30 plus homes by 14 or so, caregivers or approximations thereof came and went and I didn’t model myself after any of them.
The crew of the Raza’s like that, and it’s misfits that have become family. Their ‘real’ families, for the most part, were shit. Hateful stepmothers, that want to take your birthright, an experimentation tank of sadistic scientists, a slob pile of thieving cutthroats who killed a loving childhood, unintended abandonment by accidental parental death? Maybe only Six had a great upbringing. Or maybe Android, because she was created as an object of love and out of love or respect, given a chance to have her own existence. And she was wanted.
Those kinds of characters I can relate to. Those kind of characters are real to me.
When I was in my twenties I worked with street kids – ‘good homes’ loving parents all that kind of stuff, is PURE FANTASY. Home as a safe place? Is. Not. Real.
As an unprotected toddler to teen, the world is a dirty, lonely, sometimes breath-holding scary and dangerous place. And often the only freedom is getting lost in books, comics, TV, and film. Science fiction and fantasy create a safe place, even if it’s only a mental safe place.
I like that the crew of the Raza is trying to be better. Sometimes trying to be heroes. And they’re not good at it. I like that. It’s just how it is. You think you’re gonna stop a war and you blow a hole in the Universe and let the aliens in. It happens. I get it. If you’re on your own, or guidance is poor you make some howler mistakes. So…okay, pick yourself up, face it and move on.
Trying to be more than what people think, say or feel about you, is – so hard. I love the Android for that reason, she wants to be more than her programming. She wants to be human. In my culture’s ethos/religion the core of it revolves around one question:
“You ask me: What is the most important thing in the Universe?
I tell you, it is to be human, to be human, to be human.”
(In English it doesn’t translate, an emphasis on the different syllables for the Maori word ‘human’ changes the meaning each time; human; the full maturation of body and spirit, human; connection to an infinite now, human; connection to all things that are related to you -which is for us, like every single living thing there is or ever was.)
The scientific discussions lately about what makes us, ‘us’, is not a debate around nature versus nurture or even the interplay of nature and nurture. Lately, it’s that our deliberate acts, deliberate choices can rewire us. We can create ourselves.
That’s why Android is so cool. She’s creating herself. So can we.
When you’re young and come from a really shit place. You hope for the heroes that never come. When you’re older like now for me, you can BE the heroes – or at least a really good sort. A guide and pointer for people who are going through bad places and times that you’ve travelled through yourself and got all the way through.
I love Dark Matter it creates a family out of misfits and bad guys. They’re not perfect. They’re not Star Trek Next Gen’ squeaky clean. People aren’t, but they’re still worthy of love.
I love Dark Matter for the really good story it is, for Joe Mallozzi’s infectious enthusiasm and embrace of the fans. I love how a great story creates a community. I love, love, love the show.
I love how a great show creates a sense of family and for some of us in some important times of our life that really is the only sense of family we know.
Saturday I went with Fatima, to the land we are planning to have a little Eco-Village of Tiny Houses for Women Refuges and Homeless. The women come from all over, different cultures, places, ages and religions. They gather over a few days, get to know each other, share food, sleep and get to be around people going through the same things as they.
When they have a women’s retreat they go to this tree it’s called “The Meditation Tree’. They’ll sit around it and on it and meditate.
But it’s also called the “Resilience Tree”. Fatima pointed out the tree is broken, like many of the women. It was completely knocked flat. If you look closely you will see that much of the tree is dead, stricken and bare. But there are 3 big fat roots that hold onto and dig deep into the ground – and it still lives. The top branches have reached up again – this tree has been knocked over but she’s not out for the count! 🙂
The women gather round this tree to tell their stories, but it’s a place where they leave the bad feelings behind – broken or not. They get back up, they move on – and they live.
I find myself the owner of a sunny little Tiny House, which I’ve called the Rad Pad. It came about because earlier this year late March, I organised Sydney’s first Tiny House Building Course. – I’m proud to say.
There was such a diverse mix of people attending; young couples, middle aged professionals, students and married couples. People came from all around Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and one brave Kiwi flew in from Singapore. I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s true we have a few things in common; we value having more life, than we do using a lot of that life to get stuff. We pretty much knew nothing about using a hammer or a saw, let alone able to build a house from scratch. Lastly, we pretty much had a blast, it was exhilarating to know we can in fact build our own homes.
Part of our course was filmed by the TV station SBS Living Tiny check it out, unlike a lot of media commentary of late, they did a fair job of tapping into what’s happening here in OZ with the Tiny House Movement.
It would not of been as successful as it was, if I hadn’t brought over the talented, creative and well known Tiny House Builders ‘Deek’ Diedricksen and his brother Dustin (of Relaxshacks.com) all the way from Massachusetts, USA to lead the course. Here is little tutorial he recorded from our course . Do subscribe to his channel – it’s the bomb. I also got the invaluable assistance from Rob Scott a Melbourne House Truck builder and Trainer and a local community college (TAFE) building instructor Anthony kept everything to Aussie standards.
The whole project for me was a real challenge and to be honest; stressful to get everything and everyone organised, particularly as I had no knowledge at all of how to put a building course together. There were a few times, my ignorance could of landed us in serious trouble with the Sydney Council and the training centre. But hey, the Universe is kind to fools, (seriously there were a couple of lucky coincidences and meeting extraordinary helpful people that meant we came through unscarred). Thank you Universe.
The journey is not over though. I want to make some kind of dent in the housing situation for women refuges, kids at risk and the homeless. I’m travelling to Canada and USA this year to look at Tiny House Communities on the other side of the planet. I also donated the Rad Pad to a lovely lady called Fatima as the first of five Tiny Homes we are going to build providing temporary accommodation for women refuges when they come to her beautiful grassy property in Goulburn. Moving forward, we’ll continue to run the training courses, because we one provide training to people wanting to build their own homes, two cover the cost of a new Tiny House’s materials and three in effect have ‘free’ labour building a new Tiny for the Refuge Retreat. Therefore far less money is required to pay for additional expenses; off grid solar power, electrician etc.
If any have done this sort of thing before, I would certainly like to get in touch, network with you for support and ideas. My email is Catherine@peepsweave.com. As per usual, I am working all this out as I go along. Wish me luck.
“Inevitably when I get the ugliest comments I click the profile and look…oh this guy doesn’t make anything, so like the dude doesn’t make anything so he doesn’t know what it’s like to be vulnerable and create. Because, but at the end of the day if you don’t create and you’re not vulnerable then you’re just a drone, in a sense ’cause you’re not really sharing what is special about yourself…”( See whole talk here) Felicia Day
Dear Felicia Day,
You inspire me. Strangely, you also comfort me. Your insecurities do. You’re the only person I’ve come across that seems to have had a similiar experiences to myself. I wasn’t home-schooled like you. But I went through numerous homes as a kid before 14, so I was responsible really for my own education in everything.
My social skills I learnt from TV; “Get Smart”, “The Brady Bunch”, popular shows like that back then, Sunday afternoon black & white movies and early morning childrens stories on the radio. And of course books. One of the homes I lived in from the age Seven onwards, the old lady I lived with used to buy me a book each week when she went to town, she ended up by getting me all the classics; Little Women, Black Beauty, Oliver etc. I also got the Encyclopedia volume ‘C’, everything to do with C; clowns, cats, clouds, Canada, you name it, all things starting with C. She couldn’t afford the whole alphabet, so she got me C, as my name started with C; Catherine. If there was ever a quiz show that tested you on C, I would kill it.
For example, I learnt how to punish myself from watching the Brady Bunch. One time, when I didn’t like something I did, I decided to ‘ground’ myself. We didn’t really have that as a punishment in New Zealand in those times. Basically if you did something wrong, you got a hiding. Which is getting hit with a strap around your legs. I could never manage it myself, as I didn’t own a belt. But the idea of limiting yourself to a place, seemed novel. So I sent myself to my room. Useless punishment though, as I would then read or draw and quietly end up having a good time. I pinpoint that as the time, that I stopped having absolute faith that tv had all the answers to life.
So as you can imagine, I wasn’t particularly socially skilled, there was too much moving around; 30 plus homes. But I think like you I got to take charge of my own education and didn’t feel limited in what I was supposed to learn. Or how I was supposed to learn it.
But, since I was on my own most of the times, there are a lot of social skills that I never really got good at. People in the business world, would find that surprising. I can sell and that takes people & communication skills. If I’m working full time, I complete 3-4 jobs a month that gets me $15-22 thousand on average per job. That I think is good, but that type of work actually has a game mechanic to it. It’s a numbers game, it’s a recognition of certain scenarios, responding accordingly, funnily enough it hasn’t got much to do with people. It’s very much a bunch of game mechanics, I play a personna and knowing all the scenarios so well, run on an auto-tactics mode to complete a job. And the ‘mechanic’ aspects of all that really doesn’t have a lot to do with me, that’s operating under the persona. Or maybe thats just me because my Aunt said, Doctors said; I was a little bit autistic as a kid. I operate in the world like it’s a game to figure out, discover the rules, rewards and then work out the talents, skills, abilities and tactics I need to play to win.
But getting back to you, what makes me hope, or encourages me in my new endeavors, is that you don’t seem certain about everything, you stress about stuff, but I see you (as much as a stranger can see you) get stronger, more assertive and sure of yourself as time goes on. It’s the continuing on under uncertainty that I find inspiring because I think what that is all about; continuing. I greatly admire you because I’m sure it’s not an act that you have been at times – truly open and vulnerable. I love you for that.
Of late, I’m doing a lot of stuff that I don’t know how to do. I was supposed to die a few years back. Not surprisingly as these things go, it was something that made me decide to just give in and die if my life had to stay the same. Or live a life doing things that gave me a reason to want to be here. Things I have a passion for. One of those things is having kids learn in real world settings – rather than book ‘learning’, rote ‘learning’, template ‘learning’. All those things I don’t think have much to do with learning at all.
So one of the projects I’m involved in right now is going into that unknown – to make that happen. Although I am bringing to the role a lot of my skills, I’m very good at. I’m on a different terrain to what I’m familar with and I care intensely about the outcomes, I have goals that I think are quite epic but I haven’t figured out the rules of this new game. I don’t really have a persona to rely on. It’s scary, sometimes as I have no other option other than to show up as me, not someone I know or like a lot really. Therefore success or failure isn’t distant from me anymore. Sometimes if I think about it, I feel really vulnerable and wonder who I’m kidding. I can feel lonely, but reading, watching experiences that you and other women I have as heroes share (Janet Tamaro, Jane Espenson, Sylvia Ashton-Warner) I recognise patterns and I intuitively know things will be okay.
You’re a complete stranger, I don’t know you. But, it doesn’t matter. Being you is encouraging me to be me (sort of). Hopefully that works out, or I figure out a new persona, either way – I’m cautiously confident that everything will work out okay.
(There was an hour twitter challenge given by Jane Espenson to write something in one hour, above is what I wrote, If btw, you don’t know who Felicia Day is do yourself a favour and go here: http://feliciaday.com/about/ )