Some claim to know the will of heaven.
Today, I'm waiting for the rain to fall.
Dense clouds fly in from the west to leaven
Dysgenic populations, so they're called.
Fettered by settler colonisation,
Midst appeals for the right to remain free.
The world responds in tergiversations.
Old man casts his oranges to the sea.
Mineral rights, land theft and free water,
Lusts that raze earth 'til young lives cannot fruit,
Displace generations with blood-drenched tears.
The sorry legacy of men in suits.
Foes in torrents doth wield prevailing force.
Pre-emptive strikes simply par for the course.
This poem is my response to a recent podcast interview on local radio with Australian Palestinian, Nasser Mashni. His stories recounting personal experiences of life growing up in Melbourne are skilfully interwoven with bewildering depictions of daily life for Palestinian inhabitants of the occupied territories and the continually-expanding Israeli state. Even with a map, it’s impossible to comprehend the situation via the populist diatribe that floods our media. For clarity’s sake, I highly recommend a listen. https://www.3cr.org.au/radicalaustralia/episode-202002121600/nasser-mashni
The old man throwing oranges into the sea appears in a story told by Sara Roy in her 2007 book, Failing Peace. Her idea of de-development to describe the impact of Israeli occupation over generations has impacted my thinking on this topic for almost a decade.
I wish every human being understood that the colonisations are still underway across the world, nowhere is immune, no categorisation of people who can’t be defined as expendable, no matter how many times we lament this or that previous outcome. If there are resources, if there is land, if there is water, you can be sure that over-the-top prestidigitators waving big guns in the faces of civilians will be used to control whatever they think you have until eternity.
If we want the prevailing force to be otherwise we have to demand it.
This is a bit of an odd post for me, and quite long, so I won’t be offended if poetry readers skip it. Mostly it is published so I/it can be there for myself if it happens again.
Last week I had the distinct pleasure of a totally new and profound experience of hunger. Of course, at first I approached it like a problem requiring an urgent solution. You know, do something, anything, I’m used to overcoming problems.
I tried to take my little bit of money to the usual grocery stores but the buy-in price for something nutritious was so much higher than my available dollars, not even one thing that wasn’t junk food could I really afford, except perhaps milk.
Real food (the GST-free stuff) is ridiculously overpriced in this country lately. So-called fresh food is often shipped in from the USA so the quality is as terrible as the prices are high. Before anyone gets offended, a lemon that is shipped from the USA and made available to consumers here in Melbourne cannot have been anywhere near a tree for months, but it will still usually cost you nearly $2 and you would be lucky to get more than a tablespoon of juice out of it, naturally. They generally taste horrible (not actually ripe and never will be no matter how long you wait) and it would be a miracle if such an item still had any nutritional value. It seemed stupid to waste the little I had on fake food that might not even get me through a single day.
Yes, I reached out to a friend or two, but they were totally unconcerned. For them my situation was impossible to comprehend. I live in a first world country, nobody should ever be hungry for long without the means to correct it.
Still, after a few days of just drinking litres upon litres of water, I couldn’t take the hunger any longer and my mind switched out. I was no longer in a familiar state, the demands of my body were so intense that decision making was becoming increasingly complicated – the more I tried to “think”, the harder things became. I did a bit of crying and stressing out, but then I noticed that behaviour produced such an intensifying of my discomfort, hormones or something, that I had to force myself to stop. Every standard behaviour used far more energy than I had available so I had to drop it all.
After a couple of days I was already dizzy, vague, shaky and very nauseous, not to mention the hunger pains and various other aches and stiffness all throughout my body. Low energy was probably an understatement.
So I waited. I was scared. Not thinking, not moving, except for just enough to get the occasional glass of water. Eventually a different mind took over, highly alert but in repose, knowing that to do or think anything that wasn’t going to immediately bring the nutrition I needed was simply wasting my limited resources. Awareness of even the most basic of bodily processes became finely attuned, I no longer had subtle urgings, instead loud and insistent demands, much like the intensity you experience when you’ve waited too long for the bathroom, except this intensity was for everything I needed: air, food, water, safety and even more surprisingly for me, physical contact with other humans.
It is not so easy to imagine this feeling unless you have experienced it. Thankfully it’s only happened a few times in my life, but never for this long and never with no prospective income on the horizon and the subsequent brain crash. Unfortunately, about half of the world’s population lives like this for most of their lives, first world or not.
There is no question in my mind that I am irrevocably changed by this experience. I can honestly tell you that all ideas about morality, social considerations, planning for the future, taking actions according to one’s will, etc… simply don’t come into it from such a state. You cannot morally judge a starving person’s actions and expect any message to be heard through their ears, other than “I would rather you starved to death.” If you bring them food, they will probably eat it but they will not hear your words nor be particularly grateful for your moralising, only for the food. At best they will act in a way that encourages you to bring more than they need right now so they can eat again soon. At worst, you will be trying to throw them in jail because of their behaviour.
I want you to really know that it doesn’t matter how the situation arose. Most of us would think that knowing how it happened and forming opinions or making suggestions on what could have been done to prevent it is relevant here, it truly isn’t. There is nothing theoretical nor hypothetical about such an overwhelming experience of physical reality.
So after just a few days of not having access to enough food, the fear is intense and real, the ability to process high level abstract concepts becomes extremely limited, instinct for survival is at the forefront of everything I do.
If I did not systematically and strategically go to each store I could find until I discovered a shop with reasonable prices on the basics I think I would have stolen food and I would be in the (in)justice system right now. Early morning deliveries to shops just sit there on the pavement tempting all kinds of very hungry folk like me and it took a bit of convincing myself not to just walk off with at least one of those loaves of fresh bread. If I had dependents I am sure I would have done it (and then perhaps got myself shipped off to a new penal colony on somebody else’s land where sooner or later we ended up hunting the natives for sport). As it turned out I could manage no more than two outings per day to scout around and I learned that on an empty stomach, three glasses of water in quick succession gets me about 40 minutes of walking around for each outing.
After much deliberation, I managed to get some food for about $3 first, then another $6 worth using coins that I found around my flat. The shop assistant was mystified by the process of counting coins as though she had never seen such strange tokens nor learned arithmetic, and I felt ashamed. The African bloke behind me smiled and said, “Yes I know it, you have counted out what you can spend.” I could tell by his shopping and his attitude, he was or had been in the same situation. I admit I was a little jealous of his beef strips and mountain of frozen veggies which was more than my budget at the time. He was right though, it took me ages of checking out the price of almost everything and adding up on the calculator and counting coins from one pocket to the other before I made my final purchases. My brain was so sluggish but nutritional value for money was the only thing in my mind. That food has kept me going. I don’t remember any meal I have prepared before this period as being so satisfying.
I will admit I am still at a loss as to how to get regular vitamin C on this budget though.
This week I have a little bit more cash, through some unexpected good luck for which I am eternally grateful. I have to tell you how much fun I had planning out my next food shopping with this new awareness. Body speaks. Must eat.
It still took about three hours and four trips to various places to get all these items. If I’d gone to my usual stores I might have spent over $100 to get a similar volume of food, but there’s no way it would have been this coordinated and calculated to maximise nutrition and would have required a second or third spend later in the week. You can see how I used my $49 budget below if you’re interested.
What I bought and prepared
lots of chicken drumettes 5
lots of very ripe tomatoes 4
fava beans 3
frozen spinach 0.9
frozen pastry 2.3
olive oil 8
brown sugar 2.5
Things I still had left over
Today is advance cooking day
You have to know how glad I am that I know how to prepare delicious meals or I would find this entire experience depressing. However, I also know how much energy being depressed actually uses now so I am doubtful that depression would be considered a viable response to very many situations in the future. (No I didn’t know it was optional until I was starving.)
This morning I prepared the sauce for shakshuka. Some I will use with eggs and some with the remaining chicken drumettes.
The fava beans are soaked and ready for ful mesdames which will slow cook all afternoon. Will eat with bread, olives, tomato and a parsley, lemon and garlic dressing.
With the pastry feta, carrots and spinach I will make two types of pastry parcels (carrot/feta, spinach/feta).
Some stuff will go into the freezer until I need it. If there is any yoghurt left and I can track down some mint, I will also make cacik with a donated cucumber I have.
That last capsicum is yet to find a purpose so I will probably grill, peel and store it because they usually cost me $3-$5 each, but right place-right time last weekend to get a couple for $2.
I had dinner with a friend yesterday, puttanesca pasta with a kind of garlic bread the day before, half a dozen roasted chicken drumettes the day before that. I still have yoghurt and apricots left for early in the day until that runs out. Over the weekend I made breakfast coffee cake with oats, brown sugar and five spice and that took me 5 days to get through. So yeah I had oats and flour plus a load of spices at home when I was super hungry but I couldn’t figure out how to prepare them without other ingredients.
I also made snagball pasta late last week from marked down sausages and canned tomatoes and shared it with my friend who donated the funds — would have come in handy when I was really struggling but he didn’t hear anything I said until I had restored enough energy myself to recount the whole story. That was $5 of beef sausages, $2 of canned tomatoes, onion, chilli, garlic and $0.65 pasta, so about $9. I can hardly believe how many meals that created, it makes you so full and satisfied. Snagballs is my name for meatballs made by frying chunks of raw, skinned butcher sausages which is cheaper and quicker than doing it all from scratch.
Drop a note if you would like to know how to do any of these meals or if you are local and want to know where I found the bargains. I am sure there are Facebook groups for this kind of thing, but you need a lot of energy for all that scrolling, and seeing as nobody plans ahead for how they will handle the threat of starvation, it’s most accessible when you don’t need it.
The experience has created a simple rule for me. If someone is hungry near you, including yourself, give them food or help them get it. Never mind setting up a plan to eat next week or next month, filling in forms and waiting for approval, this is how the government and charities work. I didn’t qualify for any of the free food around except possibly dinner once per week and at the time I found that out, I couldn’t wait another 5 days for it. Many places still need you to pay even after you qualify, so if you are homeless (how would you prove this so you could qualify?) and can’t find any coins, you are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
Nothing else can be done until a person has enough food. Everybody needs it. Social welfare programs repeatedly fail to understand this if I am being kind, but it’s rather obvious that you are punished severely for falling below the poverty line, or any other line, in our society, regardless that it seems the system is designed to get more and more people into a desperate state of need rather than less. And don’t get me started about those who will feed you God and/or shame with your dinner, hunger exists prior to religion or morality. The only saving you need at that point is the kind that puts food in your belly, sinners or not, we all need food every day.
To me, it says a lot, to live within a social structure that requires people to pass all kinds of tests repeatedly, to get fed. Excuse me, but our Mother, the Earth, already provides. How much extra work and overwhelming stress do you put into getting yourself fed properly in this system? We have been sold on the convenience of our current system, but is it convenient? Ask your body. If you really listen you will be surprised.
I have since noticed that a large part of my long term dissatisfaction or challenges in life are simply this basic problem in one form or another; difficulty getting my basic needs met. It’s been a significant challenge since the day I was born judging by the stories from my adoptive mother of how at 10 days old when she took custody of me, I had huge boils in various places and did not bother to cry any more when I needed something. You gotta love a system that leaves newborns to self-manage because they are too black for the country’s assimilation policy.
Also, nobody really wants most of the types of jobs on offer these days, they don’t suit conscious human beings and it’s only that we must do them if we are able or we may not survive. Even when you do have a job or other kind of income, getting the essentials is not a given and frequently just moves the problem around. Particularly when you try to follow the social dictates but you’re not able to be conforming enough to make it into the privileged class (more people than is ever acknowledged).
Whether you have lots of money or not, whether you are in this or that social class, I bet most of you don’t have the time because it’s still a bit complicated and stressful to get good wholesome food that keeps you healthy unless you are living in a situation where you can grow/forage or exchange with others and your job is awesome and not stressful at all and doesn’t take all your time and attention and you aren’t bothered by the news and, and, and… I can hardly believe I used to go on diets when I was younger, what kind of absurd mind trick is that?
After months of trying to survive on very little I still feel a bit guilty for eating more than one meal per day at the moment, but my body tells me I am too depleted to sustain such a stupid idea in the first place. I also still feel kind of weak so it’s tough to also feel very confident about the future at the same time. Thus I eat now and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.
What makes me happiest about this entire story is now I try to share more meals with others without obligation. I know that whether or not they express gratitude, eating well is one of the most important prerequisites in the world for a human being to thrive; as grandmothers and mothers the world over have been showing us since the beginning of time. It’s also the simplest and purest expression of love I think anyone can offer – I want you to survive – please eat!
Much love to you all.
Shout out to Leah Potter at Sunset Soup Kitchen who shares food with long-grassers in Darwin every night, no questions.
it’s true I heard that in the phase of the neutral mask time is capable of no effective boundary no limitation to what can be perceived like the difference between private and secret
feel the call to push back, minute expansion to inhale again after a long time beneath the river growing privately
this journey involves witnessing countless iterations sense interpretations mangled and put to work by a corrupt general with much bombast and little regard for succession planning to wit
there’s also that witheringly decrepit predilection for emotion-centred reasoning half the team have jobs that accentuate their weaknesses the other half simply don’t trust authority
a revolution might be a celebration a liberation from mortification
a transformation happens countless times every second catch a few we might find every turn of events deliciously funny writing poems on the tablecloths reciting pi to the eighty-second decimal place following our intuition so faithfully that we fall into the arms of the music of the world where even the mess looks like art and simple medicine to heal this and that ailment is in abundant supply
for such a long time I wanted to help the world by imagining it wasn’t already perfect none of it makes any difference I am still a fool on that kind of journey carrying out decisions that literally arise from not knowing believing in a future that is guaranteed to be better if I would just[…]
between private and secret there is a good human and one who always thought they were between astute and arrogant there is showing respect and with all due respect and so on down the list until it is utterly clear a good human does not perform deeds nor utter words that demand great secret-keeping
yielding to force is strength indeed there is no honorable way to keep all the secrets
I gave up fighting every day over forty years ago wanting to be a good person, wanting to be treated right it made no difference to the secret White Australia Policy which cannot be devised by a good human
obtuse and slothlike to comprehend simple things it dawns
the state is there to protect against people like me, not keep me safe loyal citizens and corrupt generals are doing their bit to perpetuate this old bondage, welfare and domination act a social contract that keeps the world churning out perfectly denatured natives.
No. I don’t know what a native is.
I just know that in this particular phase of human lunacy being considered native is not good
these days I wonder why I kept thinking it was temporary surely everyone would return to their senses there are huge gaping wounds in the earth a lot of trees and animals and entire nations are gone even our miraculous reef was too native for the White Australia policy while I am still too native for the family photos
I say, do yourself a favour and keep that neutral mask ready at all times keep your preconceptions small, track down the secrets when you can see everything, how it travels the revolution requires no motive power at all it is always poised on the threshhold of commencement as there are always people across the world who can’t abide being represented by a corrupt general
I’m not the only one who has thought this
yet I’m the only one I know who is locked
in an endless, mindless, cyclical
conversation with myself over the
contradiction of struggling for recognition
in the hope that a few crumbs will fall
from the robber’s table
May we live one more day
To partake in the veritable feast
of appropriated resources
cleaved from appropriated lands by
squishing cultures like flies between
and people —
flies breeding in corpses
the sucked out husks of the eternal
commodified and sold back to us
for the small price of your soul
and a lifetime of fruitless toil
Let it burn, brother
what is left
after the sun
could this be
wheels of time
whorls of life
breathing hope while
one’s too close
two’s too far
finite realms crushed ‘neath
love will not
break lock-step with
what holds true
It was only when I finally accepted the reality of my situation within the dominant paradigm that things started to really shift and rearrange themselves in my internal landscape. It occurred once I gave voice to the understanding that I would never be fully acceptable regardless of whether I followed every rule laid out before me or I ignored them, whether I shut up or spoke up, whether I was naughty or nice, whether I loved or hated. Sure, the language and particular brand of oppression and punishment varied, but the established and reinforced image of “unacceptability of everything associated with Robyn because she must make amends for the terrible misfortune of not being born white” was overwhelmingly persistent.
This is not an idea I picked up via fanciful and naive notions combined with a misunderstanding about society, rather it’s a perspective that was deliberately drummed (or beaten) into me by various people and circumstances throughout my life, such as the White Australia policy intended. The actuality of my being in this society, in this time, in this body, with this mind and animated by this spirit is considered to be some kind of offense to creation, or likened as such, by many a supreme white god during a brief moment of you’ve-got-a-chip-on-your-shoulder righteous indignation and hold-the-liniment-while-I-deliver a tongue-lashing clarity. And I’m talking about the non-racist supreme white gods, don’t get them confused with those other types(!).
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive
—Audrey Lorde, A litany for survival
I’m not going to gloss this…it hurt. To fully accept the level of oppression you have been living under when you are not literally running for your life every day, will likely plunge a person into some kind of temporary depression or anger, grief, whatever. It hurt like I didn’t think I would survive it, and to be honest I am not so sure I did. Eventually, it did stop hurting so acutely, as anyone who’s been through anything can tell you. Once the shock and devastation subsided, after the tears and rage exhausted themselves, beyond all that pain and self-pity and many miles past the “why can’t it be different?” phase – I began to understand simple things.
If everything I do is already tainted because it is done by me, it follows that I am free to be and do as I please. Let that taint be my insignia.
It surprises me that there is no more worrying about avoiding potential consequences and no more wasting my energy on frivolous attempts to be understood, welcomed or appreciated. There are no more external masters to please as they have already proven that they cannot be pleased by the likes of me. My days are no longer populated with “Yessirs” unless I totally accept that behaviour in the moment as my choice and my honour. More importantly, I am now in a position to set my own standards and to judge, to draw boundaries and define borders, to erase and replace them at will, but never to be judged. No, I absolutely do not confer upon my oppressors the right to judge me.
It is inevitable in a divide and conquer approach to discrimination, that I would have no peers, so who would be left to judge me in any meaningful way? Of course, I am not oblivious, all manner of people will have a crack at passing judgement on their fellow humans, but these judgements are well below the standard and level of humanity to which I aspire, thus rendering them entirely irrelevant within the context of my life. Similarly, my judgements are irrelevant to rural families, sporting heroes and every single one of the political candidates in the recent election, to point out a few. We are each operating in entirely different reality frameworks.
The mental image I hold for this set of experiences is akin to climbing a mountain through all kinds of weather, until the moment you break through the cloud barrier into pure sunlight and clear air. At this point, we become invisible to those who remain at the base of the mountain.
I posit that there is no greater gift for freedom than to be considered utterly inconsequential and therefore to be consistently overlooked.
I ask you in all sincerity, is there a greater advantage to the cause for freedom than spectacularly failing to inspire people to want to use me or enslave me to serve their own agendas?
My measures and markers for success are no longer dependent on the persistence of white supremacy as a social norm, and in this manner the race war within has ended and the human journey has begun.