Farewell...in a good way...you've made me weep.

Saturday 20 October 2012

This morning started off so well. Staring at a fast-approaching departure time for Paris and deciding to ignore potential Pffts, Ahems' and Lulz-at-my-expense I decided  to do my ‘Farewells’ today.

I did not get very far.

Within a few minutes I was bawling my eyes out - consoling myself with a hot muffin and glass of red - or was it the other way around?

Everyone was being so damn kind and thoughtful and loving that I should have been on a high(way) to Heaven…and here I was blubbering.

Not sure which had the effect – the red or the muffin - but regardless, it set me thinking about the nature of ‘weeping’…and the power of Social Media.

Since I joined the Twittersphere a year ago, I’ve done a great deal of it –weeping, that is… some of it from joy… some from empathy for poor souls undergoing hardship… and lately and probably most telling…some from sheer exasperation. Same sort of tears – vastly different instigators.

I’ve seen arguments of late – or is it wishful thinking - mainly from a few Mainstream Media sources of the irrelevance, nay, absolute impotence of Social Media in its ability to faithfully reflect and report on, the thoughts, feelings and political implications of the ‘real common man’ – you and me.

A few Mainstream Print journalists have gone head to head (or should that be finger to finger) against Internet bloggers at 100 paces; perhaps not realizing that other journalists are getting on with it and straddling both worlds with aplomb. [This so reminds me of the 50s and 60s radio actors who feared that those who could perform equally well in radio as they could in that new-fangled television, were going to kill their golden goose.]

Like it or not, we’re all aware that the recent digital uprising from certain Joint-Destroyers against a certain loose-lipped Shock-Jock has startled the doubters by its ferocity and effectiveness.

Sponsors who’ve removed their advertising from within range of said Shock-Jock are very clear that they feel the people have spoken – and significantly so.

But only days ago I noted the suggestion from within Twitter itself, that the campaign against said Shock-Jock was ‘a tad Big Brotherish’ with overtones of Russian Spy movies rather than that well-known Reality Show.

Is there any justification to be had for people in a community to rise up via Social Media and attempt to stifle the right for Shock Jocks and their ilk to say what they like?

I say ‘Yes’.

If the safeguard of stopping to think of ramifications caused by their words does not come from within the very hearts of those who say them – from whence should it come?  As yet – no set rules have had any effect; surely if a community feels someone has gone beyond the bounds of the standard of decency they wish to have in their midst; if they feel that that someone is inciting anti-social actions in others – then they have the right to have their say too.

Let’s look at the point here: If we are in any position of communication-power; be it via print-media, radio, television or the internet…that power (amplified one zillion times of that put out by the funny, sweet and sad little tweets that I received this morning) enables us to make people weep...distressingly.

And who weeps in this way?

I dare you to show me one person on my Twitter Timeline who is not at some stage of their lives going to either: Grieve for the passing of a loved one; agonize over a departed lover; be bullied; despair at a child’s illness or her inability to again conceive; fight off violence; know poverty; feel guilty, unloved, neglected, shy or debilitated by depression…without weeping about it at the same time as trying to lead a ‘normal’ life.

These are our vulnerable times – the times when one word, normally dismissed can push us over the edge. One thoughtless act, one jibe too many, one more show of neglect.

Did Malala Yousafzai weep as they shot her in the head for daring to campaign for girls to be educated?

Did Amanda Todd weep as she put that rope around her neck because of cyber-bullying?

Did Jill Meagher weep as the hands of another took her life away because she chose to walk alone?

Let us ALL think well before we dash off that last word on air… in a tweet …or on paper and ask ourselves this:

Will my words incite someone to anti-social behaviour or make someone weep?

You - my Social Media friends, have embraced me overwhelmingly - and this, on my point of departure is my thank you to you.

I love that you know I cannot hear and yet you send me YouTube Songs; I love that some of you remember the bond we had when you were children; I love your words of kindness and your confidence that I can still mend a graze on your heart with a kiss through the air; I love that you send me links to your own efforts of word and image or articles of great scholarship – (and your faith that I will understand them).

You’re from every walk of life and every level of education; you’re every shade of green regardless of your opinion of deity; and you are as politically diverse as it’s possible to be.

You have (perhaps unwisely) given oxygen to my ridiculous sense of the ridiculous. You have laughed with me, shared secrets and tut-tutted with me. You have let me agonize, hypothesize, empathise and advertise. Above all – you’ve shown such respect and love for one who teeters (but is not yet there) on the edge of the Chasm of The Wisdom of Years that I again fight back the tears.

I DO love you all.

So - Social Media’s irrelevant?

Don’t make me weep!

Back soon.

IS Freedom of Speech really free? Really?

Thursday 4 October 2012

Last night I had a very brief Twitter exchange with a learned friend about the notion – seemingly quite prevalent on the airwaves at the moment - that Freedom of Speech comes with freedom of responsibility.

I do not share that view.

It’s a great defence and it goes something like this: He said/she said this and that so suck it up princess – we’ve got freedom of speech in this country.

Well here’s my disclaimer: I’m about as far away as the moon from being an academic or scholar, philosopher or intellectual. I am but a person who has lived and experienced life for not quite her four score years - let alone her four score and seven as Titus Andronicus would have us say.
And here are my thoughts:

Regardless of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there IS a time in each of our lives when we enjoy complete and utter freedom to do whatever we can or want to do. From the moment we’re born to the moment our wits adjust to the fact that there are certain boundaries to our behaviour… we do as we jolly well please. We wee and poo wherever and whenever we feel like it; shake our fists and hit out at anything and everything; kick and scream and drive everyone bonkers; and some of us are lucky enough to be loved for doing it.

But gradually as our eyes come into focus and cognizance of our environment takes hold, we realize that our actions bring certain other actions… and results. Some will be pleasant – bring relief and our needs met; for some however, the reactions will not be so pleasant. We will all learn accordingly.

And thus it is when we emerge – either by free choice or forcible ejection - from our house, squalid hut, riverbed, igloo, orphanage or mansion into the wide world of freedom - we’re supposedly mature enough to take care of ourselves and be responsible for our actions.

Sadly it is not so.

Some of us will have been shown an age of reason by means of reasonable discourse; some by a thump, starvation or a stick.

Some of us will emerge as everyday citizens going about our business; some will emerge as preachers, brimstone firing on all cylinders; and alas – some will emerge as thieves and thugs… and bullies. All shapes, sizes and colours, we bear the markings and the trappings of those who trod before us.

But emerge we do - given or left to repeat or repeal and find for ourselves values, morals, attitudes, abilities and standards by which we shall live.

And it’s into a country with remarkable personal freedom that we do this emerging. With some notable exceptions Australia is a free country in a myriad of ways. We can largely ‘do our thing’, dress, choose friends and religion and what we say, at will. Albeit ever so slowly, the freedom in the Scales of Equality between the sexes is adjusting, the female dish no longer dragging its bum on the floor; and in spite of fears of Bestiality and Group Unions, Australians in their number appear to be growing in favour of Same-Sex Marriage. Perhaps one day we will even see that in this wide, brown land of ours, there is ample room to share the things we have with those who have nothing.


But how well or wisely are we using this gift of freedom? Are we taking personal responsibility for it? I remember with sadness that it took legislation before we saw the wisdom of rejecting our freedom-to-be-tossed-around-and-mashed-to-pulp in favour of using seatbelts in our cars.

Even in the USA where there’s a constitutional right to ‘keep and bear arms’, one is not allowed to pull a gun out and shoot another for putting insufficient salt in the soup, without taking responsibility for it.

And thus it is with our Freedom of Speech. Are we taking responsibility for the things we say? 

No matter the model we assume, no matter the repeat or repeal of behaviour we take on – are we realizing there’s not one thing we say or do that does not have its consequences of one kind or another?

Earlier I made a disclaimer to address the fact that I am not a Learned Person qualified to speak about Human Rights and the laws of this land. I speak not of Laws against any Incitement of Violence or Hatred.

I speak merely as a member of the Human Race; I speak because I care about the wellbeing of my fellow Man.

Is it not possible that we tread this earth for better reason than to gorge or gloat or indulge ourselves; or rape, murder, brutalise, bully, embarrass, vilify and give pain to another human being?

Is it not possible we’ve been given the freedom of speech that we may uplift the confidence of those around us; that we may encourage, support, share ideas and pull together resources to ensure we leave our world (and those who occupy her) in better shape physically, emotionally and mentally than our forefathers could ever have imagined?

Is this not bringing to the forefront a sense of Human Decency?

Look at the outpouring of grief over the senseless rape and murder of a vital, young woman in Melbourne recently. How many of the tens of thousands who trod the March of Peace knew her? Jillian’s death has come to symbolise the massive Call to Arms against Violence towards Women, against the continuing brutality and misogynistic behaviour some women suffer every day of their lives. 

The message is very clear: Take heed those of you who verbalise publicly, that any words of brutality, hatred or violence will no longer be tolerated. Say what you want by all means; but should you publicly go against the grain of ordinary, common, human decency be prepared to take full responsibility for your actions; and should this cause you loss of income, loss of power and certainly loss of any dignity you may have enjoyed… so be it.

A rather Grimm mix of Fairytale, Myth & Possibility

Sunday 23 September 2012

A rather Grimm mix of Fairytale, Myth and Possibility

One cloudless night, a Sheep, a Cow, a Donkey and a Human looked up from their ménage-a-quatre and saw a planet so bright they followed it.

It led them to an Animal Shelter where there was lots of Hay… Hey, hey how y’all doin’s?

On the Shelter Stage a delivery was imminent.

It proved successful and our four close friends looked one upon the other and marvelled.

‘Cor’…said the Donkey. Don’t blame me.’

'Me neither' said the Cow and Sheep in unison.

Which left the question and the naming-rite to the Human. ‘Y?

Letter to my granddaughters on the Human Condition

Sunday 9 September 2012

Having spent 8 wondrously funny hours with my two young granddaughters yesterday, I returned home at 8pm only to slam into a wall.

No…nothing physical…just a wall of hard, cold, sobering feeling after catching up on recent news.

The first piece I read was the 2012 Human Rights & Social Justice Lecture delivered at the University of Newcastle by Anne Summers on Friday 31 August 2012. Entitled ‘Her Rights at Work. The political persecution of Australia’s first female prime minister.’

It was a tough read indeed.

Almost immediately after reading this piece I received a message on Twitter alerting me to the passing of our Prime Minister’s father, John Gillard.

This was followed closely by another message quoting Sky News Australia’s headline: ‘Gillard misses APEC because father dead’.

It was my stomach that reacted first to all of this. With Olympic panache…it twisted my intestines into multiple knots…escalating into my lungs so I scarcely could breathe.

How could people be so utterly cruel.

My reaction had nothing to do with politics. It had everything to do with my perception that as a race we are becoming utterly de-sensitized to the human needs of others.

For the first time I had to fight down a sense of fear for my granddaughters.  I love them beyond words - delighting in their world full of love and laughter and short-lived tears; their unfolding awareness of surroundings and imaginations inhabited by Green-Footed Giraffes and Grubblezups.

I wanted to rush back and gather them in my arms but as they would have been fast asleep it was not a solution. Instead I wrote them this letter.

My darlings Olivia & Hannah

Thank you for the most wonderful day today. At nearly 4 and nearly 2 you have more energy than your Nanna can ever remember having – even when she had four children (including your mother) under the age of 5.

I’m writing this letter to you because I’ve just been reminded of something I learnt once – many years ago -and maybe when you’re a bit older it may come in handy.

I was in my mid-20s when it happened.

Your Nanna fell off a rainbow. Well…it wasn’t a real rainbow and I didn’t exactly ‘fall’…slithered more like from the top of a huge set in a television studio that had been built to look like a rainbow. A piece of the set had given-way and I landed in rather an un-gainly fashion I imagine, on the concrete floor several metres below.

I’ll cut this short because you don’t need to hear anything but the important details…sufficient to say that I was taken to hospital, diagnosed as a paraplegic, given the prognosis that I would never walk again and after several months sent home to my parents – presumably to stay for as long as they could look after me.

Well darlings, you wouldn’t believe how that changed your Nanna’s attitude to life.

For one thing I had to learn that when you live in a wheelchair…people bend down and shout at you…and I must say that that often made me laugh inwardly because most of them didn’t know I couldn’t hear them anyway.

But oh! what respect it gave me for our wheelchair Olympians.

My dad - your great-grandfather Cato who sadly you never met – was a great carpenter and yes, I know he was a dentist. He endured many jokes about that connection I can assure you. Anyway, he built me a set of parallel bars from which to hang by the armpits in the vain hope that it may stimulate the nerves into action.

It didn’t…but he never tired of lifting me onto his apparatus in the hope that he’d see a flicker of life in those limbs.

Anyway - you want me to get to the point of my story don’t you – even though it’s often you two who sidetrack me in the middle of a story with your treks into the Ranglejangle Jungle.

So here it is.

One day my dad lifted me off the apparatus and onto my bed… and I didn’t thank him. I turned my head to the wall and felt all the resentment that’d been building up for months exploding inside. I hated everybody and everything about my life and everybody and everything in it. I started to voice this out loud…and my head ached and the pain right through my body grew worse and worse.

Then…to my horror, I suddenly realized that my hands and arms were being affected…they began to stiffen, become immobile.

My darling mother – your great-grandmother Cato was sitting by the bed helplessly watching my agitation when suddenly but gently she reached out to me. And I froze. Earlier I’d been reading about the destructive nature of hatred and resentment on the human body; about the need to see their lack of principle or ability to achieve anything but self-harm; about the need to fill consciousness with a positive sense of good.

And in that frozen moment…as my mother reached out and I resolved to change my thinking…my mother screamed.

Horrified, I looked at her face and she was pointing with a shaking hand as my dad ran in to see what the screaming was about.

She was pointing at my feet. Can you guess? My toes…were moving.

Within seconds my mum and my dad were sitting on either side of me. Dad lowered my legs to the floor, they stood me up…and I walked.

Olivia and Hannah…I can’t honestly say that I’ve always adhered to what I learnt that day. Was it a miracle? I don’t know…perhaps Life is the Miracle. But I really have tried hard to remember to constantly reject resentment and any semblance of hatred out of consciousness.

I hope that you will be able to do the same.

And I hope with all my heart that by the time you read this – as vital young women - you will no longer need to tread a rockier path to achievement than your male colleagues; that you will not suffer from a disease called Misogyny that once was rife; that you will not be tempted to replace diligence with jealousy or spite at other’s success and that you will contribute…as we are meant to do…fully and positively to the well-being of the Human Condition.

I love you

Nanna Cato

'Destroying the Joint' Mr Jones? You bet we are!

 Friday 31 August 2012

It is many weeks since I wrote my last post. The only reason for this is because I'm currently living out of boxes. Utterly consumed by the need to find a new home I'm therefore spending every waking hour either online-searching or foot-searching. Been going on for months it has!

Somewhere...sometime soon I hope...someone will agree to allow me to live with my Assistance Hearing Ear Dog.

But that is NOT what this post is about. I was all fired up...ready to serve it up to the Real Estate Rental Market when along comes...Mr Alan Jones.

Oh Mr Jones! May I quote my 3 year-old Granddaughter who, on being told of your latest remark today solemnly said: 'Nanna why does he say silly things?'

This is my letter to you Mr Jones...on behalf of my Granddaughters.

Dear Mr Jones

I am finding it incredibly difficult to write this letter to you…not, I hasten to add because I don’t know what to say…but simply because my fingers are laughing at you. Yes – laughing.

Mr Jones…I know that fingers don’t normally laugh or write blog posts independent of the mind they’re attached to…but mine DO. They’re utterly ill-disciplined, wilful, spoilt-brat-disgraceful digits trying to make me write all sorts of truthful but unwise-to-say things about you.

There! Fingers and urges under control now.

Would that you could do the same with your tongue.

“Women are ‘destroying the joint’” are they Alan?  Wow! You’ve got us all on edge now haven’t you. We’re all getting ourselves into a rage because of you aren’t we.

Wrong. We’re laughing at you. Yes – laughing. And my two Granddaughters aged 3years and 19 months are laughing hardest.

They’re laughing Alan, because they are Hell-bent on doing exactly as you say. They are going to ‘destroy the joint’ all right and they’re going to tell you how.

But first of all…because you write/rage/ogle or simper with no thought or reason other than to attract attention (that no one on this planet would otherwise give you)…let us define our Terms:

When we emerge from a mother’s womb Alan (distasteful enough subject eh? well there’s worse to come) we arrive not with a tail between our legs but one of two options:

1.     An Opening (Oh dear! A female I hear you say?)   
2.    A Dangly Bit (Yay! A male)

Now given that you are prone to Openings of any sort other than human female ones – the posher the better - it seems surprising that you so favour the Dangly Bits. But favour them you do.

My Granddaughters do not have Dangly Bits and therefore they are behind your Eight Ball even before they (Heaven forbid) meet you.

While it can mean any manner of things in our marvellous vernacular from Weed to Home Sweet Home, ‘The joint’ as you see it Alan...is this great country of ours called Australia.

The fact is that Australia was first and foremost occupied by men, women, tribes and families…but that’s incidental to you isn’t it Alan. The important thing is that it was discovered by mentaken by menmanipulated by men, ruled over by men: men firing from the hip and the penis until everything and  everybody yelled ‘Submission’ and the place started to look, feel and sound like a ‘joint’.

Good people over the years have tried to address those injustices Alan and many have contributed much to ensure that this could be seen potentially as a beautiful country – not a joint.

But you’ve done your best to make sure that it stays a ‘joint’ haven’t you Alan. For years with your bigotry, misogyny, sexist rants and bile you have coloured the airwaves blue with stupefyingly successful shockjock results. Turning people against people, group against group. With the help of your like-minded shock-jock and political bros you have maintained this 'joint’ image – a fearful, selfish, mean-minded, greedy country that cannot abide women, asylum-seekers, people with disabilities or our indigenous brothers and sisters…to name a few.

Shame on you!

And now what? Women are daring to rise up, take some of that power away from those with the Dangly Bits in order to equalise the equation…and you’re frightened. Yes – you’re snivellingly, crawlingly frightened that these creatures with Openings dare to show what they can do. They dare to lift that skirt, put down that pail, have a drink if they want to and defy mens’ gaol.

My Granddaughters know they’re as good as the boy or girl next to them in the Kindergarten or Playgroup.

They know that they will be encouraged to be ‘who they are’ to their maximum potential because the women who went before them made damn sure that they would.

But they also know Alan…that they cannot do it alone. They know that if we are to make this Joint into a modern, civilized, healthy and equal opportunity country, men and women must work together. Men and women must mutually respect one another and their individual strengths.

Enough of your bleatings, Alan Jones. Our Granddaughters and Grandsons will work together. You..and  'The Joint' are pass√©.

Assertion v Aggression: How I taught my kids

Aggression is the last thing I thought this post would be about.

It is not my friend.

In my early experience of being bullied as a child, I realised that aggression more often than not started with verbal abuse and likewise that people often seemed to assert their rights aggressively rather than assertively. And thus it was I spent a great deal of energy as a young mother training my daughters and sons to understand and embrace the difference between ‘Verbal Assertion’ and ‘Verbal Aggression’ and an incident in my garden this morning reminded me of that fact.

I’m in the process of trying (once again) to find somewhere permanent for this old body to call home – not easy when one has a faithful pooch. And because I need to move, I was in the garden sorting out my potplants – (like my books, artworks and dog they’re coming with me no matter what).

Now anyone who reads NancyRants on any sort of regular basis would know that I do not hear…I FEEL…what’s going on around me.  But I can lip-read rather well and it was obvious that my young female neighbour at my front gate was yelling at me vigorously and waving what looked like an empty McDonald’s container rather aggressively in my direction. The fact that the veins in her neck were purple and swollen-ready-to-burst also helped my judgement of the situation.

‘Did you throw this over my fence?' she demanded to know. ‘What did you do that for?'  And I must admit here and now the first thought that flashed through my brain was “‘Guilty until proven Innocent’ – must be catching.”

‘No of course not’ I replied…showing as much surprise as I felt. ‘It might have been the wind.’

‘Wind nothing – why did you do it? Sick of it’ she shrieked.

So I opened my gate and beckoned her into my garden. ‘See these plants?’ See these pots? See these gardening tools ? See these bins?’

‘Of course I do, so what?’

‘Do you not see that there’s a sense of order here? Everything has its right place…and the right place for that empty packet is in a bin’ I said taking the packet from her ever so gently and dropping it into my garbage bin. ‘I would no more do that to you than I would do it to myself.’

‘Oh…um…I just thought it ...um...must have been you ’

The aggression melted away. No pushing, shoving, kicking or punching had been needed.

And there’s an even better ending to this little incident that I’ll recount in a minute.

But first - back to Assertion v Aggression in their verbal form.

It was in the late Wal Cherry’s acting classes that I became truly aware of the one place where it's necessary to feed aggression with aggression. It's in the Theatre - one of the few places where tension and drama are vital. In an argument on stage, one cannot build to any sort of tension if the actor playing opposite you does not take his/her aggressive action a notch higher than your previous one until the scene reaches its climax. Bit of a fizzer - if you don’t build on the other’s performance.

And so it is in real life. Meet aggression with aggression and you’ll soon have a fight on your hands.

I taught my kids to meet aggression with assertive reason wherever possible.

But I also saw to it that they asserted their rights without verbal or physical bullying.

With four kids under the age of 5 and living in the Outback…I’d found it vital to self-preservation to set down parameters of behaviour - especially for a trip to the Supermarket. The main one was simple: help me get through this ordeal of shopping and we’ll go and celebrate our success with a little treat. Not only did it work…but it demonstrated perfectly on at least one occasion how to assert one’s rights.

Having had an extremely successful shopping expedition without any of my four whining, whingeing, fighting or placing unwanted objects surreptitiously in my shopping trolley…we set out for our treat. Destination: the local very exciting and rather expensive ice-cream shop that was a rare treat indeed.

We looked at the colourful signs placed on high behind the shop assistant. Huge swirls of delicious creamy confection in equally huge wafer cones held in very tiny hands met our gaze.  They were pricey but within our range for an every-so-often treat.

Deliberation was fascinatingly faster from these offspring of mine than for most questions asked of them and we verbally handed over our choices in double quick time.

To my horror we were presented with five of the tiniest cones imaginable topped with barely a large teaspoon of ice-cream. The looks of disappointment on my kids’ faces was unendurable – this for them was a very rare treat engendering much excitement and good behaviour. They did not deserve this unfair outcome.

I quietly explained to the man behind the counter that these offerings were not what we had ordered. ‘Either you are falsely advertising’ I said, pointing to the misleading signs or you have, for some reason decided to short-change us’.

All he did was repeat how much money I owed him.

‘Could I speak to the Manager please’ I asked, restraining my natural impulse to be a little curt with people who disappoint children.

‘I am the Manager,’ he said.  ‘Now pay up’.

We hadn’t touched the ice-creams as they were still sitting upright on the tray on the counter and my children looked from them to the Manager and back to me to see how I would handle the situation.

At this point I must revert to my own childhood to say that I was raised to live within my means, pay my bills but always question value for money. I have the utmost respect for retailers and their need to make a living – an honest living that is.

I explained all of that to the Ice-cream man who became very agitated and started shouting and threatening to get the police if I didn’t pay up.

The ice-creams began to melt – possibly because of the heat of the abuse being hurled at us - but it was essential that I demonstrated to my kids the veracity of my thoughts on handling aggression.

‘Consumer Affairs will be very interested in your false advertising if you wish to take this further’ I said, not matching his decibels.  ‘Your greed has prevented you from seeing that another teaspoon of ice-cream on each cone may have avoided this scene…but as it is you now have to work out what to do with five melted ice-creams that are not what we ordered and not coming with us.

And with that, I herded my brood as efficiently as a hen with chicks and left the store - icecream-less.

But it wasn’t all bad. We went to a much cheaper place…found much better value and discussed the situation like sensible people over ice-creams that were probably not as exotic but tasted every bit as though they were.  My kids were then aged  7, 6, 4 and 3 and I have to say they are rather astute shoppers today.

Back now to my young neighbour with the shouty voice.

As it turned out…this young woman is a University student – putting herself through a rather demanding degree, struggling with several subjects and not having too many resources at her disposal.

She now has many of my no-longer-needed research books on her desk and probably far more importantly, a new outlook on handling a situation assertively rather than with aggression.

We even shared a cup of tea.

It's little wonder then that my granddaughters, every Wednesday are getting their share of Nanna’s theory: Assertion is always better than Aggression…often with benefits to all.

An Agonizing Explanation & Thank You: 1000 Followers by the skin of my teeth.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Six Characters in Search of an Author is a 1921 Italian play by Luigi Pirandello that was met with shouts of ‘Manicomio’ (‘Madhouse’ in English) at its Premiere.

It is an absurdist play – basically about the relationship between the characters in a play, their author and the theatre.

It came to mind this morning as I was thinking about the Social Media site Twitter and its restriction of 140 characters per message. 140 characters in which you can potentially delight, disappoint, encourage, destroy, stimulate, inspire or terrify your fellow human beings. Yes – there is no ending to the impact that just 140 characters can have on another person’s day or wellbeing … or even sanity.

It is not for the faint-hearted. There are few rules. Grammar and punctuation are all but abandoned and interpretation is a free for all. There are no barriers to swearing, blaspheming, threatening or abuse - and hatred is allowed to pour forth in all its many disguises. It allows visual and text links to all manner of material from anywhere on the planet that is able to support its technology and puts people in touch with like-minded colleagues around the globe. It encourages, intimidates, supports and harasses and it’s here to stay in some form or other for better or worse.

And I LOVE it!

You see…Social Media is not really the playground of the elderly…not yet, anyhow. I think at 72, I’m probably at least twenty years older than some of my dear digital friends and more like forty years older than most. But I’ve been embraced into Twitter’s heartland in a way I would not have thought possible or even plausible.

It has led to my developing NancyRants  - this Blog where I can rant, reminisce or communicate with little children to my heart’s delight.

It has introduced me to interesting people all around the world and through reading first-hand experiences opened my eyes to so much more global activity than I’d ever known before.  In fact – a large part of Twitter has been absorbed into my digital bloodstream – giving me an even greater zest for life.

So it was with a great deal of sadness and regret that only a few days ago, I spent a restless and sleepless night agonising over whether or not to withdraw from Twitter. Earlier that day, Monday 21 May I had been watching the speech from Craig Thomson MP on television. But as is my usual wont, I also had Twitter open on the iPhone beside me and I started to see an outpouring of what seemed to me heartless cruelty; a mob-mentality taunting and bullying a human being.  As his title tells us Craig Thomson MP is a member of parliament.  He has been accused of much, charged with nothing and continues to be tried and convicted by all and sundry in what is to me, a reprehensible display of lack of basic human rights.

And in my state of sleepless struggling I formed the opinion that the phrase -  ‘Innocent until proven Guilty’ of which we are so proud in this democratic country – had become an empty slogan not even worth the sneer wrapped around it.

But worst of all…I faced my worst demon of all. Bullying. I was mercilessly bullied as a child over my deafness – an experience that I handled at the time in my own way (See my last post: Open letter to little children: My 5 Secrets). But until this crisis took hold I had not realised how deeply I’d buried it in my psyche.)

All but taking the decision to abandon Twitter - the fabulous Social Media platform that had so caught my attention and put all the above invective in my face – I ventured the possibility of leaving Twitter in a Tweet early on Tuesday morning.

By Tuesday afternoon – and here is one of the indications of the snowball effect of the Twittersphere and its potential power to move mountains and bring down governments – I had an extraordinary and totally unexpected barrage of responses. Evidence of the beautiful, honest, truthful, encouraging, supportive and loving side of humanity rose to the occasion and convinced me not to ‘cut and run’ but to stand firm and continue to speak out against things I do not believe in, or for those things I hold dear.

And now – just a few days later and about nine months all up (appropriate gestation period) I have reached a personal milestone of 1000 Followers.
 Yes – I know…that’s absolutely nothing in its proper global perspective of Twitter-Followers but nevertheless a fabulously exciting phenomenon for me.

So here is my ‘thank you’ to all of you, who – by your courage of your convictions, your strength and your determination - have inspired me to stay and fight; to put forward thoughts that may be sneered at or derided; to be true to myself at the risk of personal attack and to face the revolting challenge of unmitigated cruelty (look at our Refugees) inflicted on members of our human race by one or more of our own.

Thank you SO much for taking the time to read this. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you all.

Open letter to little children: My 5 Secrets

Tuesday 22 May 2012

I did not sleep last night.

It is a rare occurrence for me but it is one that re-appears from time to time and has done so since I was a small child in a world of silence.

I know the triggers and when I was a child I wanted to run from them. I wanted to hide; I wanted to dodge and weave and pretend I wasn’t there to face the inevitable bullets that would shortly shaft into my consciousness with the precision of a trained marksman.

But I also knew…instinctively, I guess…that until I built up a line of defence, the process would repeat itself.

I did build up that defence – and as I child I called it ‘My 5 Secrets’. It’s stood me in good stead over the years.

Last night the triggers were the relentless attacks on one person who has been pushed to the edge of despair…a feeling I know so well…and I had to work very hard to get my defence working today. I did so with a lot of help from some dear friends...most of whom I have never met.

This is the reason for this letter to the children. If you think it useful I would love you to share it with a child you know.


My dear little Children

Chances are that someone is reading this to you or at least paraphrasing it (you might have to ask them what that means).

And chances are, also that that person is someone to whom I once said ‘Hello’ from the television set when he or she was a child. Maybe it’s your Grandma or Grandpa or do you say Poppa or Nanna like my granddaughters do?

I have no idea what age you are…but one thing I do know is that I am a LOT older than you. I’m 72 and that makes me as old as some of the trees you see in your park. The good thing is…I don’t have leaves sprouting out of my head…well at least I didn’t, last time I looked.

Now cuddle in a little closer because I want to tell you a few secrets that I learnt from MY Nanna.

Secret 1
There is always going to be something that somebody can do and you can’t. Someone will be able to run faster than you…or sing better…or be really good at Maths and Spelling and other yukky stuff.

My Nanna told me this…and it helped me not to be jealous of my friends.

Secret 2
There is always going to be something that YOU can do that nobody else can do. You might know what that something is right now…or it might take you quite a few years to discover it…but you can be sure that it is there because you are UNIQUE. That means that there is nobody else in the whole wide world exactly like you…even if you’re a twin.

Nanna seemed to think I needed to know this…and I soon found out she was right.

The thing about these two secrets is that they are both good! It’s rather wonderful that we can all do something better than anybody else and that’s why we can be happy for our friends and our family. But here’s another secret that Nanna knew.

Secret 3
Not everybody KNOWS what it is that they can do better than anyone else. Do YOU know? Do you think your best friend knows? Or Grandma? Maybe you could help them find it.

Now this brings me to Secret 4, which is a little bit tricky.

Secret 4
Sometimes we seem to be DIFFERENT from everybody else.

 I was!

When I was just a really little kid I couldn’t hear anything like the other kids could…and I still can’t. They said I had ‘profound hearing loss’ which is really just another way of saying I was deaf. Sometimes when you can’t hear anything, you can’t talk…but for some reason, I could talk even though I couldn’t hear my own voice. This meant that most of the kids didn’t understand that I was deaf. But some kids from another school found out. They used to wait for me to come out of my school gate and they’d make a circle around me and start to call me names and push me around inside their circle and ask me to repeat what they were saying…then they’d laugh when I couldn’t. Other kids would join in and soon there’d be a big crowd all pushing and pointing at me and laughing.

Somehow Nanna found out about this and that’s why she taught me about Secret 2.  Have a quick look at it again.

I realized that if I concentrated really hard and looked very carefully at the way the other kids’ mouths moved, I could tell what they were saying. I didn’t know it then, but I later learnt that it’s called ‘lip-reading’. This was something I could do that nobody else could do...and it felt great.

Now I didn’t let on for ages that I could do this…because I wanted to be really good at it before I let anyone know. Then one day when they were saying really terrible things about me I yelled out ‘STOP! I DIDN’T steal Jimmy’s apple and I’m NOT a stupid dummy and I'm not a liar and I’m…I’m NOT going to be taken away and put in a madhouse!’ Every cruel and mean thing they had said to me, I repeated straight back at them.

Well…you would have thought a ghost had them by their pants. They took off and didn’t try that again.

Now this brings me to Secret 5 which is really rather exciting.

Just for a few minutes go back and have a look at Secret 1.

It’s about everybody else isn’t it. It says that everybody can do something special. Well, I learnt to use that as a secret weapon…not a weapon that would hurt anyone…but one that would help ME because the teasing was still going on with other kids who said I was 'different'. Here it is.

Secret 5
 I would look at each kid as he or she was teasing me and I’d concentrate really hard - just like when I was learning to Lip-Read - and I’d think about Secret 1 and try to work out what each kid’s special thing was. What could they do that nobody else could?

And a really wonderful thing happened.

I tried it out on Harry. He was a really big kid for his age…and some said he was a bully at his own school. He was yelling at me and poking at me with a stick so I thought hard about what it could be that Harry could do that nobody else could.

And I suddenly remembered something. At the Inter-School sports day a few days earlier, Harry wasn’t running – mainly because he couldn’t – so he was messing around behind the drinks stand. I was having a drink – because I’d done a lot of running – and I saw Harry bob down suddenly and pick something up from near the garbage cans. It was a tiny bird and it was very scared…and it appeared to have a broken wing. Well…I could hardly believe it…big bully Harry picked that bird up and stroked it and started talking to it ever so gently. He had it quiet and settled in no time. I think he took it home.

That was it! That was Harry’s SOMETHING. And as I looked at Harry I thought about that…and do you know what happened?

Harry gave me a funny look…threw the stick down…and just walked away. Later we became friends and he told me he wanted to be a Vet or a Zoo-Keeper but his Dad had said he was too stupid and too fat. Can you imagine how Harry must have felt? He said that when I looked at him and he threw away the stick, he felt ashamed...but he also knew that somehow he WOULD become a Vet.


Well – they’re my 5 Secrets…and you can have them. Put them in your pocket right now and take them with you wherever you go.

If you do that, you will find you have the most powerful thing you could possibly own. You can use it when other kids are mean, or things go wrong or you don't feel great. 

Do you know what it is? Here’s a clue.

 It can give you respect
And the freedom to fly
The wisdom to solve things
And help passers by
It can help little children
And men tall as hills
Make everything equal
And heal lots of ills
It can calm any anger
And rid you of fear
It’s there in your pocket
For laughter or tear
It’s there for the asking
As tame as a dove
I think you have guessed it
Of course it’s called LOVE