This morning I read a tweet that made me stop and think, “Wait.. what?”
The word that got my attention was ‘bivouacked’. Despite the fact that I am a passionate reader and a scholar and teacher of History, I had no idea what this word meant. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one: plenty of people responded that they had to look the word up.
My trusty Macquarie Dictionary gave me the definition.
Etymonline explains that the use of bivouac in English dates back to 1702, meaning an “encampment of soldiers that stays up on night watch in the open air, dressed and armed.”
It is an image of readiness to defend and protect, which was exactly the context of the tweet. These images of bivouacked soldiers in the Capitol building, Washington DC, are confronting and comforting at the same time. That it is even necessary is heartbreaking, yet in the current political climate, I am thankful they are there.
The word came from French, and before that from the 17th century Swiss/Alsatian word ‘biwacht’ which meant “night guard”.
By 1853, bivouac was also used as a noun to mean an outdoor or open-air camp.
The use of the verb ‘to bivouac’, meaning to post troops in the night dates to 1809, and meaning to camp or sleep out-of-doors without tents dates to 1814. It should be no surprise that the noun became a verb in the context of the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, during both of which the practice would have been common.
Freedom of speech is a human right. It is the right to express one’s ideas and opinions verbally or in writing, either publicly or privately. It is the right to engage in public conversation about personal and public issues and events. It is the right to communicate meaningfully with other people.
Even so, it has it’s ethical limitations.
All individuals have freedom of speech. It is not just the domain of one person, or one group. This means that the right is also accompanied by the responsibility of listening to, and responding thoughtfully to, the ideas and opinions of others. Freedom of speech is a two way street.
It is not the right to cause harm or injury to other people. It is not the right to incite violence. It is not the right to abuse, slander, or misrepresent situations or other people. It is not the right to spread dangerous disinformation. It is not the right to break the law or commonly accepted rules.
The people decrying Twitter and Facebook for banning Trump need to understand these things.
When he opened his social media accounts, he agreed to the terms and conditions. Nobody can have those accounts without agreeing to those rules, which clearly state that one cannot use that social media platform to break the law or encourage anyone else to do so. There is a clearly stated warning that infringement of those rules will result in your account being suspended or cancelled.
There is no doubt that these are the rules invoked when the accounts belonging to a range of criminals and terrorists were cancelled in the past. People and governments actively and rightly demanded that this should be the case in response to the manifesto and live streaming of the actions of the Christchurch mosque terrorist, for example.
It is illegal to use social media to promote illegal activity or post offensive material.
Why, then, should Trump not be banned for inciting a riot or encouraging sedition? Why should his followers not be banned for plotting violence and premeditating murder and insurrection?
The clear answer is that they absolutely should.
Anyone using social media to plan or conduct a criminal act should be banned and then prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have acted rightly. They have not assaulted anyone’s free speech. It is not censorship. Those on the quiet end of a ban have invited that consequence for themselves.
A Few Home Truths About #FreedomOfSpeech #Rights2021 #SocialMedia
Doomscrolling is the act of continually updating and reading one’s social media feed for the latest news on a significant event. It is closely related to doomsurfing, which is scouring the Internet for the same kind of information.
The term has been around for a few years, but found new popularity as a hashtag earlier this year, predominantly in response to Covid-19. It is surging again on Twitter today as people try to stay updated on the results of the US election.
It may be a relatively recently coined term, but it’s fair to say the activity to which it refers has probably existed for as long as easy access to the Internet, especially via platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, has been available.
It’s an understandable behaviour – we want to stay informed, after all. These things matter. We want to know. However, it can also be a very effective self-torture device, as it compels us to focus on what is actually causing our anxiety and distress. It seems that the worse the news is, the more people tend to keep on watching or reading. Some people even become fixated on that event, to the exclusion of other things, no matter how sad or angry it makes them.
The term also hints at the subjectivity of the behaviour: what one interprets as ‘doom’ is likely to be the exact inverse of what another person interprets it to be. It all depends on what outcome one is hoping for whether the course of events is classified as doom or a reprieve.
A highly relevant and helpful Twitter account is Doomscrolling Reminder Lady, who repeatedly tells people to get off the internet and take care of themselves instead.
Elections in Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Canada are more straightforward than those conducted in the USA. Here, the winner of the popular vote in each electorate wins the seat. The leader of the winning party becomes the Prime Minister.
American elections, on the other hand, are more complex and remain somewhat baffling to many of us.
I found this page to be full of clear, concise explanations for all those who, like me, are still wondering exactly how American elections work.
Irony occurs when one thing is expected, but the opposite thing happens or turns out to be true.
When the audience knows or understands something that the characters in a story or on stage or screen do not, that is called dramatic irony.
It should be noted, too, that an event or outcome being ironic for one person or group does not preclude it being predictable for other people
Both irony and dramatic irony are much-loved devices for writers, but they do not only exist in literature and film.
In fact, one could argue that the reason writers use these techniques is because they know that these things happen in everyday life, and that people love it when they do. The profundity of natural irony, dramatic or otherwise, is like crack for writers, who are often keen observers of human nature and behaviour.
Irony is a powerful thing. It can evoke all sorts of responses, ranging from pity to laughter to judgement, depending on the perspective of each onlooker. It can bring about self-pity, humility or significant changes in attitude and behaviour for those who experience it.
When well executed by an author, irony creates plot twists and complications that add depth and complexity to a story, but which also make the experiences of the characters relatable and intriguing for readers.
When expertly executed by the universe, though, irony can blow one’s mind.
Likewise, Trump denied the existence or threat of the virus and casually dismissed the illness and death of thousands of his own people. He refused to wear a mask or observe social distancing, he insisted on holding social events and campaign rallies against all medical advice. That he has tested positive and ended up in hospital with the virus is loaded with both types of irony.
There is little doubt that 45’s illness is a plot twist that he didn’t see coming.
One would hope that his treatment with highly experimental drugs that others with the illness haven’t had access to doesn’t end up doing more harm than good. That would also be ironic.
Personally, I find it impossible to feel sorry for him.
My empathy lies with all those Americans who suffered the disease and who lost loved ones to it while he proclaimed it as fake, and with all those who cannot afford the instant access to hospital care and fancy drugs that he can.
Irony, Dramatic Irony, and the Plot Twists of 2020 #irony #PlotTwist #TrumpCovid #BorisJohnson #JustSaying #blogpost
I was saddened to read what happened to Sharon Cathcart the other day in response to a blog post about racism. Nobody should have to put up with another person’s bad behaviour simply because they are standing up for what is right.
Sadly, there can be no doubt that racism and white supremacy are still living and active in our world.
We see their outworking on the news, on the streets, on social media, and in the actions of hateful people. It can be public or private. It can be overt or concealed.
It seems the only thing it cannot be is eradicated.
I do try, in my own sphere of influence, to teach and challenge others to embrace equality, acceptance, and empathy for what others have endured, and what is still experienced by many.
I try to make people aware of what white privilege is, and why it’s wrong to perpetuate it. Yes, I’m fully aware that I’ve been a beneficiary of it all my life. I’ve had advantages others haven’t, simply because I’m white. That doesn’t mean I am willing to sit back and allow it to perpetuate.
This is why I teach my students about the effects of European settlement of Australia on the indigenous people, then and now. It’s why I teach my students about segregation, oppression, and the Civil Rights Movement, and have them listen and respond to speeches by Martin Luther King Jr and JFK. It’s why I thave them study texts such as ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ and ‘No Sugar’. It’s why I teach about inequality, wellbeing, and social justice. And I make sure they understand that for everything that has happened in the USA, Australia’s track record is no better.
It’s why I challenge people who tell racial jokes, or call people names, or avoid people who don’t fit their ideal.
It’s why I object to the way in which my country continues to detain people who are legitimately seeking asylum on small third-world islands nearby. It’s why I object to policies and practices that continue to discriminate against indigenous Australians.
And it’s why I write blog posts like this.
I do not ever claim to be perfect, but I detest prejudice, discrimination, and everything that goes with them. It’s not just about race: nobody should be excluded, abused or marginalised for being different in whatever way.
I, too, have had hateful messages left on a blog post or three. I know they are intended to upset me, and to deter me from posting something similar again.
Sadly for those responsible, it has the opposite effect. I always figure that if someone is vehement enough to threaten or abuse me over something I have written, I have probably touched a nerve that deserved touching. As my grandfather used to say, “If you throw a stone at a pack of dogs, the one it hits will yelp the loudest.”
He was a wise man, my grandfather. That statement was never made about actual rocks, nor about actual dogs. It was invariably made about bullies, and various other sorts of horrible people, and the way they would always lash out or blame someone else in response to any accusation or opposition directed at them.
That’s the same reason people leave nasty messages on blogs and social media. They resent the fact that someone is calling them out on their hate.
It’s okay for them to say what they want, though. They have rights, you know.
I was coming back here to write about something else, and found that I had a threatening e-mail (via my contact page) and comment (permanently deleted) from a white supremacist in reference to the link I shared about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Suffice it to say that this individual now has the rare distinction of having been blocked.
This is what white supremacy looks like: threatening anyone who dares to show support for people of color, or to speak out about what happens to them.
And that is actually what I came here to write about. When my dad died, I mentioned that he had given away the bride when one of his African-American students, Joe, married a white woman. Her own family refused to attend.
Anyway, we tried very hard to find Joe in time for Daddy’s funeral. The number my mother had was disconnected, and the…
Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and having altered her name slightly by adding an ‘e’, Cochran’s began her career in journalism when she responded to a newspaper article which contended that girls were really only good for motherhood and housekeeping.
Significantly impressed by her response, which she had written under a pseudonym, the editor of the paper ran an ad asking the author to come forward.
When Cochrane introduced herself to the editor, he offered her the opportunity to write another piece for the newspaper, and when she impressed him again, he offered her a permanent job. At that time, the convention was for women who wrote for newspapers writers to use pen names. Her pen name was taken from a popular song, and when the editor wrote ‘Nellie’ instead of ‘Nelly’, the name stuck.
Nellie wrote a series of articles about issues confronting women factory workers which resulted in complaints from the men who owned and ran the factories. When the editor reassigned her to articles on homemaking and gardening, Nellie soon became frustrated and left for Mexico, where she spent six months reporting on the lives of the people. She had to leave Mexico, however, when her article decrying the imprisonment of a local journalist angered the authorities, then controlled by the dictator Porfinio Diaz.
Unwilling to spend the rest of her life writing about things in which she took little interest, Nellie moved to New York in 1887 where, after living in very poor conditions, she undertook a job for The World newspaper as an undercover reporter in the notorious women’s asylum on Blackwell’s Island. It took considerable effort to actually get committed to the asylum, where Nellie experienced all the horrors of the place firsthand for ten days before her release was secured by her editor.
The conditions and treatment of patients in the asylum became known through Nellie’s articles, which were later published as a book. Cruel staff, poor sanitation, dreadful food and the fact that a number of the women were not insane at all — some simply did not speak English, others were sent there when their affairs with prominent members of society had soured— brought about reforms and made Nellie Bly a household name.
In 1888, Bly suggested to her editor that she undertake a trip around the world inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the Workd In Eighty Days, to see if it could be done int hat time.
She left on November 14, 1889, in the clothes she wore, with some money in a pouch that hung on a cord from her neck, concealed by her clothes, and a small bag containing some basic requirements. She travelled by ship and rail, and actually met Jules Verne in France. Her tip was not without delays or complications, but she arrived back in New York just 72 days after her departure — then a world record time.
Later in life, Cochrane became an industrialist and then a reporter on both the events of World War I and the campaign for women’s suffrage in America.
Nellie died of pneumonia in 1922. She had certainly led an interesting life and demonstrated quite powerfully that women were capable of far more than having babies and running a household.
We’ve all heard of Rosa Parks, and rightly so. Her refusal to give up her seat to a white person on a segregated bus sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
The very bus on which she rode is in the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, commemorating her actions and their importance in the history of the nation.
Have you, though, heard of Claudette Colvin? Probably not. But you should have.
Nine months before Rosa Parks’ defiant actions, fifteen year old Claudette Colvin was riding a segregated bus home from school in Montgomery, Alabama, and refused to give her seat up for a white woman.
Colvin was arrested and tried in juvenile court for her defiance. Her mother discouraged her from speaking publicly about her actions, preferring to let Rosa Parks take the spotlight.
I have to wonder, though: just how much did Claudette Colvin inspire Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat? And why aren’t we taught with equal admiration about this brave young woman who made her stand by remaining seated?
I am sure of one thing, though: I will be including Claudette Colvin in my lessons on the Civil Rights Movement from now on. My fifteen year old students need to know that nobody is too young to change the world for the better.
Originally posted on Longreads: Lily Burana | Longreads | January 2019 | 8 minutes (1,880 words) Before Disney sprinkled corporate fairy dust over Times Square and turned it family-friendly, Josef and I worked there. Not together, but at the same time. Not underage, but barely legal. He was a go-go boy at the Gaiety on…
This is a powerful and poignant piece of writing by Lily Burana via Longreads.
I found her writing to be vivid, full of colour and movement.
There was one line that really stood out to me: even though I have not shared the authors contexts and experiences, it struck me as holding the power of #metoo, watered by the tears of every victim of abuse, exploitation and oppression who looks back on their lives and wishes they could be different.
“Just because money makes you say Yes doesn’t mean the body doesn’t store No in its memory — as sorrow, as trauma.”
I, too, store trauma in this way, although my trauma has come from very different sources. In that sense, despite our different backgrounds and stories, her pain resonates with mine.
I recommend this essay, Elegy in Times Square, best read with an open mind and an empathetic soul.
Before Disney sprinkled corporate fairy dust over Times Square and turned it family-friendly, Josef and I worked there. Not together, but at the same time. Not underage, but barely legal. He was a go-go boy at the Gaiety on 46th Street. I was a peep show girl at Peepland on 42nd. Those were dangerous days. Between crack, AIDS, heroin, and that old stand-by, booze, if you weren’t leveled, you were blessed, watched over by some dark angel. We believed we were among the lucky ones.
We didn’t have anything resembling guidance or even common sense to rely on. What we had was the dressing room tutelage of elders scarcely old enough to drink, and the backbone of every sex industry transaction — commodified consent. Customers grabbed whatever they could, based on whatever you were willing to endure. We…
I side against prejudice, hatred, family violence, oppression and injustice.
Therefore, I will state quite openly that I do not endorse Trump as POTUS. At the same time, I do not endorse Madonna’s comments either. There are Australian politicians and various other public identities that I do not endorse, for exactly the same reasons.
If something I post offends you because you don’t agree politically, stop and think before you jump down my throat and give me grief about it.
Am I saying “I hate this person”? No.
I’ll be saying “I don’t like this action or these words”.
They’re very different things.
Chances are, if someone on the other “side” did or said that, you’d criticise them for it, too.
Consider that I will call *anyone* out on bullying, lying to the nation/world, or inciting mistrust, hatred and violence. I will not accept misogyny, sexism, sizeism, ageism or racism as “humour” or “lighthearted”.
Today, it might be someone you like. Tomorrow, it might be the person you don’t like.
Please, be very, very careful about what you defend. More importantly, please be careful about how you defend it.