I was cruising my old (hidden now) blog and thought it might help my job search chances if I post some writing samples on this blog. This was written as a guest post two years ago. When I re-read it, I found not much about my personal battle has changed even in my new job. And the world…about the same too. Oh well, onward and upward. – A
Human Rights Day – Dec 10, 2012 Your Voice Counts
On December 4, 1950 the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) formally established Human Rights Day, which is a yearly December 10th event to celebrate the UN’s 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
The 2012 theme of Human Rights Day is “My Voice Counts” which fittingly reflects the events of the ongoing Middle East Arab Spring, recent Presidential election, the plight of non-war mongering Gazans/Syrians and, ultimately, the desperate lack of listeners to billions of human beings.
…half of whom are children. Brave children, like Malala Yousafzai. Smart children, like Severn Suzuki in 1992 and Brittany Trilford whose speech at the recent 2012 Earth Summit quietly highlighted a major disconnect. In an interview for grist.org, Trilford very accurately referred to the summits output as “this completely unambitious document”, taking them to task in her speech.
Watching world events, it just doesn’t seem rational to be locally ethical but globally mercenary, or personally forgiving but unrelenting in policy, publicly magnanimous but secretly miserly. It’s definitely not fair to subtly victimize people who don’t have a voice, when the problem is too few are listening much less responding.
As I write this, it is my 41st birthday of a lifetime of what’s called “issues” with regards to not being heard. My awareness of this has only begun to crystallize in recent years. After all, I am in one of the best places in the world for a woman to experience not having a voice: Saudi Arabia. I’ve always felt unheard. I see this “problem” of the voiceless from the perspective of how it feels to me. It’s a little silly for a spoiled Coloradan to compare herself to a Taliban woman, right? Bear with me.
We become, often, what we’re nurtured into being. We often act on it, even when not in our best interest. I’ve realized a lifetime of feeling helpless and unheard morphed into unconscious actions and reactions to triggers I previously couldn’t put into words, which now feed into people not hearing me.
Anyway, I’ve never consistently felt heard I have a voice. I’m the 5th of 6 siblings, the eldest four all being born within 7 years of each other, while I came six long years later, and my little brother six long years after me. The elder four, naturally, were thick as thieves. They were siblings. They were a complete unit, with an oldest and a youngest, long before I was born. They were friends into their forties, although sadly not anymore. They were the smart ones. They were the ones whose grades I never lived up to…talents I could meet but not sufficiently exceed enough to be separately valuable. I was a blond toy in a dark family.
I was not the 1%.
My poor little brother was toy 2.0 and the terribly cute bane of my existence. I was horrid, un-supportive and rarely loving to him. What did I know of how to treat a sibling? Textbook socialization never happened, and emotional intelligence was vastly lacking in our home aside from hyper vigilant senses of right and wrong and good manners.
Wah wah, I know.
Consider “My Voice Counts” in relation to how terrible it feels to be part of a unit (family, school/work, government) in which participation is mandatory but your input isn’t even considered. The emotional toll when your contributions are irrelevant because the decisions (regardless whether good or bad) have already been made for the collective by those whose membership is senior, whether by birth or creative engineering.
Consider the pain of that for a child. I can tell you, it’s considerable.
I have a voice. Clearly. I’m an opinionated loudmouth with an exasperated mother. I have opinions, to the prior disdain of my siblings, bafflement of coworkers and frustration of linear-thinking bosses. In my family I was pooh pooh’d until I was well into my late twenties or early thirties. “Oh A….” my mothers’ constant refrain. Subtle or outright sarcasm, mocking and disregard were my siblings’ unconscious go-to reactions when I tried to assert my equality at family gatherings in my twenties.
I wasn’t needed. My suggestions were silly, jokes mundane. My contribution was dispensable. But I should be there, of course. No family gathering made sense without #5. Birthdays and Christmas dinners still happened. Not attending would be unthinkable.
I belonged, but I was a non-voting member.
I could easily have become passive (many humans are), eternally doing as told, but since I was raised with a sense of fairness, and wasn’t raised to be stupid or helpless, my natural reaction was to become more verbally aggressive, reactionary, willfully contrary. Not assertive in a healthy way, but too well bred to end up a gang-banger.
Mostly, I was passive until my thirties. I did cooperatively do as I was told, allow myself to be guided and dictated to. When not alone with my inherent resourcefulness, I tend toward passive follower-mode with others. “Unintentionally” raised to be a Stepford child, they apparently forgot I’d have to function independently eventually.
Now, think of this in terms of any person in the world with something to say but no outlet and nobody to value it. Often leaders forget that having quiet, controlled subjects often backfires spectacularly.
Don’t even get me started on romantic relationships. At work, frustration. I could be running the department or division. Nope. Worker bee. No biggie, I actually like being a cog (if properly led). The problem arises when, as senior clinical staff with 20 years experience in multiple other fields, I’m often still unheard. I’m disregarded as a woman, by management, by equal peers, and the message I hear is that my contribution isn’t merely not valued, it is not inherently valuable.
Half the time I don’t feel heard, but half the time who I am apparently causes me to not be heard and decisions are made in spite of me. Like some sort of self fulfilling prophecy, I don’t know how to be the person who’s heard.
Thankfully in today’s economy, I’m still obliged to be grateful for this job. Take a moment to ponder how many billions feel the same way.
In reality the vast majority of why this happens now is my behavior. I recognize this, but it makes me worry for all people without a voice. For people who stay silent because they don’t know what to do. For people who finally burst from suppressed frustration, and hurt others because of it.
I am a Pavlovian dog no longer triggered by others. Aware, but struggling to change gears. Desperately trying to make up for others deaf ears, by trying to become someone who deserves to be heard…..?
Now multiply me by billions of humans, subtract honest self awareness or knowledge of the world from many of them, and assign each some less subtle “issue.” Like unrelenting poverty, abusive unaware parents, or insufficient education. Teenage homosexuality, or life under a political dictator or religious zealot.
I’m a privileged, white, middle class family, upper middle class schooling, doctoral degreed American with a loud mouth.
And I feel powerless and voiceless. I can yell at WordPress until pigs fly, but I can’t make anyone listen.
Now think of the rest of the unheard world. The grandmothers and children in Gaza, women in Somalia, children humans who love nature, Syrians and Egyptians who want their desires considered. Willing taxpayers, like me, who want the choice not to pay for war and corruption…
I guess technically we have a voice now, one nobody can really stifle. It’s called Facebook. What we don’t have is power, or anyone in power to listen. REALLY listen.
Here’s my opinion: I think world all leaders should face up to what they’ve allowed. Own what they’ve created.
What better way to ingrain a lack of social potency than to strip a person of their worth and value and relegate them to being an empty shell with only the right to be guided? What better way to stifle a countries population than to “take care of them” without actually thinking about them, and democratically allow them to vote without actually giving them a selection mirroring their needs? (talking to you Egypt…and you, America)
What better way to control women than to invoke the fearful name of God? What better excuse for disproportional retaliatory genocide than divine right? What better justification for ignoring genocide than cash-based loyalty? What better way to stifle the voice of far more people than we realize, than by overwhelming their volume with louder wads of cash?
And half of those people are on the news and in the streets angrily (and apparently ignorantly) advocating for the right of their leaders to continue these tactics.
The secure tend to be deaf to the insecure (or irritated by them). The rich tend to be oblivious to all but the poorest. The loud unconscious of the soft, the aggressive unmindful of the tentative.
Think about the voiceless of the world. The truly voiceless. We have entire governments predicated on the belief that strong economy and massive military will save the people. Meanwhile children clamor every day for what is important: food, real education, protection of nature, safety.
Think of how the voiceless feel, not being heard and helpless to effect major change without the cooperation of those with power who won’t listen. Where’s a government dedicated to the people… without caveats, excuses or apology?
Personally, I don’t trust anybody to speak for me. From small scale at work to government as a whole, my values and needs and beliefs aren’t represented in meaningful ways. I cannot see news about Afghanistan, Pakistan or the Egyptian elections without thinking there’s no hope the right decisions will be made. I don’t mean “representing the interests of America” right, I mean just plain “right.” I cannot think about the environment versus economics without feeling impotent angry frustration and anger at the feeling nobody who has any power will work to make things better until something catastrophic happens and they have no choice (talking to you, global warming deniers).
Then again, we must be realistic. How many people out there are going to forego making their voices heard in favor of speaking out for the voiceless?
Human Rights Day, 2012 is dedicated to the idea that our voice counts.
Use yours, until somebody listens. Don’t just become what they want you to be.
And if you do feel heard, then maybe it’s time to practicing listening, even when the voice you hear is hardly more than a mewling in the dark.