Moving On

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IMG_2458I need to say thank you. Thank you to the many friends who have left comments, given their encouragement, and assisted with their support of this project which I began in 2010 calling it the 10 City Bridge Run.

There is a period soon after the death of someone who was close to you which is an awkward period. At least, I find it awkward. Awkward because it is time to get back into ‘business as usual’, begin again to focus and work hard, but you know in yourself that there is still some grieving to be done.

I know that it is far from business as usual. Yesterday, I found myself with a particularly short fuse over an incident which was trivial. That was an indicator that all was not as it should be.

Here, I am talking about my brother. On a personal level, I have dedicated the remainder of this journey to honouring my brother’s legacy and in doing so to live out his last words to me: “stay there and keep doing what you are doing.” I don’t want to labour the point. I am not a victim. Life must go on.

It is somewhat surreal to have a personal experience overtaken by external events. The personal experience I am referring to is reconciling the death of my brother with the interruption that came from the extremely tragic incident of the Lindt siege in Sydney, and to a lesser degree the ever-increasing Christmas-paraphenalia that fills the pages of emails and Facebook posts. It is an observation, not a complaint.

It mirrors to some extent the experience following the destruction of MH17. A sad event by any measure, made more poignant by a personal connection with my uncle and his three grandchildren aboard. Shortly after that event, the media were tracking down relatives to interview, and with a relentless pursuit. Hungry for a story compounded by the time-sensitive nature of a story.

I discussed the approaches I had received from the media with some family members after the MH17 had been reported, and argued that I ought to engage with them so as to protect those family members who were closer to the loss. Give the media what they want and little more. With the family’s permission, I contacted a couple of media leads who had been chasing me.

It is a funny experience to be chased by the media. One minute, you are invisible. Then the world changes, and the resources they will deploy to get their man are remarkable. Quite an industry.

Within 12 hours of agreeing to an interview, I was on CNN. Within 24 hours, I was speaking with an Australian TV channel, SkyNews, and had a direct line to Anderson Cooper where we had a personal chit-chat. Credit where it is due, they were all very sensitive to the loss. but also with a pragmatic focus to get what they needed. An impressive machine.

In that regard, I feel some sympathy for the other hostages in the Lindt Cafe. They will largely go unseen, melt back into the community, except that they won’t. They will forever be affected by that experience, knowing that it could have been them that was killed, or maybe if they had done something differently that somehow no life might have been lost. They are the ones that know the real story. The story from their perspective.

I wonder what they make of the sea of flowers in Martin Place, that today are being collected, and then disposed in such a way as to hold that special tribute that those many bunches together came to represent. I wonder what they make of that selfie a friend of mine took when standing in line to lay his wreath with his steely look of resolve that seemed to make no sense aside from a misplaced sense of patriotism, and I wonder what they will make of my friend’s need to then post the photo on Facebook. We are a society made up of many people, and it is an interesting dynamic.

There were many people working in Sydney last Monday close to Martin Place. Many people who have been in that cafe before. Many people whose lives had previously grazed across the path of those two people killed in somewhat-unknown circumstances in the cafe. All of these people have feelings, and everyone who was laying flowers were joining to share their feelings too.

Meanwhile, today and everyday around 16,000 children will die, and many from preventable causes That is a fact. It is not a contest. It does show that media and corporate communications are awesome forces at work in our lives. We are so affected by these forces that we don’t even register the influence.

In light of the Lindt coverage, I felt somehow less entitled to share my grief about my brother. Self-censorship is the worst outcome from fear of public criticism. Legitimacy is an interesting subject, and an arena for much ethical deliberation.

We don’t just move on. We take the past with us, and it shapes us. I have resolved not to be apologetic about asking for support to honour the legacy of my brother. It is my story, it is a story of hope, and in that regard it is a narrative that we can all share. Please share the link below, even if you can’t make a contribution. Please share it because it is a message of hope, and please share it because your kindness is something I value. Thank you.


The Personal Is Political

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Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser, 1940, Oil on masonite, 59,5 x 40 cm, Private Collection. Licensed Replica: © Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008

I remember back to my university days where I elected to study feminist theory during much of my foray into Art History. It was probably one of the most formative academic influences in my life, and the lessons I learnt from long hours absorbed in the beautifully illustrated books under that great dome of the La Trobe Reading Room in Melbourne’s State Library.

This week, I emailed a good friend with some unresolved feelings about what The Personal Is Political actually meant for me.

After crafting many an essay where the expression was deployed with aplomb, I was brought to a halt with the realisation that my understanding might not have penetrated much deeper than a strong intellectual resonance.

My brother’s death and the 10 City Bridge Run which is the epic journey that this blog relates to were intertwined through his son Xander who died an early death as an infant.

I was observing the media circus coveting an exclusive release from the very serious and tragic Lindt Cafe incident. If you think my description of circus is callous, look no further than the exclamation of ‘Congrats!’ from one well-known person in the wake of the heartbreaking conclusion to the siege.

So why was this such an issue? I was taken back to the how the media and government played out the MH17 incident. On board that flight was my uncle with three of his grandchildren.

The resources that CNN alone poured into getting me onto the line were astounding. How was I to make sense of this in my personal life, and then express that to a public audience of friends. To be honest, it had me stumped for a while.

The Personal is Political. More than ever, we have seen this being expressed through taglines such as #illridewithyou. Laying of flowers was a very personal thing to do, but it could be equally interpreted as an expression of defiance against threats to pour good society. The discussions that were waged either side of this often became slagging matches between the Left and the Right.

Harsh? Unfair? Insensitive? Not at all.

It is the tragic events that draw us closer to appreciating what we value most. As painful as that can be, it is a very human experience that we should be open to so as to listen.

The Personal is Political. The activist becomes effective when they move beyond being fuelled by an anger that is distant to their own personal experience. The activist must connect to what matters to them, and know why it matters for them. It doesn’t mean they must be anger, but it often is a by-product of passion.

The Personal is Political. For too long child mortality has been represented by statistics and information stalls giving away showbags full of bookmarks and PostIt Notes. Unless we connect to what matters, and why it matters to us, these Design Forum will be a flop and a waste of time.

I have had a lot of time to think during some of this running. Contemplating why? Getting to that point of thinking maybe I have it all wrong, and I should leave it to the ‘experts’. Those doubts are natural in taking ownership of what an issue means for you. It has to come from within. The Personal is Political.

It is the passion that comes from knowing The Personal is Political that enabled me to get other my hesitation and push the publish button on the campaign to fund this epic journey to honour my brother’s legacy. Please visit the page at this link, share it, and if you are able please contribute.

Whatever you do, just remember one thing. The Personal is Political.