I’m in a reflective mood as I write this. It has been just over a week since the verdict of the infamous Ulster rape trial was announced. The outcome left me heartbroken in many ways, but I have since been heartened by the uprising of protests across Ireland against sexism and injustice. One friend of mine organised a small protest in Geneva, Switzerland, which was a deeply moving gesture of solidarity on her part. The news cycle has moved on to other stories – as it always does – but the impact of this trial will continue to linger on in the minds of Irish women and those who support us for a long time to come.
I have been reflecting lately on something that was said in January by Amanda Ellis, who often discusses both political and spiritual topics, and how the two can intersect with one another in surprising ways. She pointed out in one of her YouTube videos at the start of this year that 2018 – when all of its digits are added together – reduces down to the number 11. She spoke of the two 1s in that number being representative of duality: of two pillars standing side by side, diametrically opposed to one another, but at the same time, forming one complete whole. The two digits in 11 reduce down to the number 2, which further emphasises those conflicting themes of duality and union.
While many people are trying to move the world forward, others are trying with all of their might to hold it back. This story has been repeated again and again by human beings since time immemorial, but Amanda explained that in an 11 year (where duality is the prevailing theme) that pattern will be thrown into particularly sharp relief. 2018 can be a year of enormous breakthrough and hope, but it also holds the potential for determined pushback and retaliation from those who are determined to maintain the status quo at all costs (even when that status quo could be set to drive humanity to the brink of extinction).
This blog post isn’t aimed at debating the various ins and outs of numerology. As I have stated elsewhere on this blog, the thing that really interests me about any kind of spiritual practice is the symbolism behind it: the metaphors it can contain that may (or may not) tap into our imaginations and shed some light on whatever we may be experiencing in our lives. Every person’s spiritual beliefs – or lack thereof – are deeply personal.
“2018 can be a year of enormous breakthrough and hope, but it also holds the potential for determined pushback and retaliation from those who are determined to maintain the status quo at all costs.”
Amanda Ellis’ image of the two 1s in the number 11 as immovable pillars in conflict with one another, each representing two very different aspects of humanity – the side of us that wants to move on from the scars of the past and create a new, more compassionate way of operating in this world, and that side of us that wants to hang on for dear life, even as the old way of doing things crumbles around our ears – has helped me in my efforts to understand what has been going on in the world of late.
I’ve been feeling sombre since hearing about the woman who shot and injured a number of people at the YouTube headquarters yesterday. She used to make videos about veganism and animal rights. The vegan community around the world has been dismayed by this awful incident. In a post I wrote a few days ago, I said, “My decision to embrace veganism was an extension of my core belief in the dignity, autonomy and inherent value of all other individuals on this planet, whether they are of my own species or not.” I absolutely continue to stand by those words today, as I believe that this idea is the central philosophy underlying the vegan movement. To me, the fact that someone who claimed to be so passionate about animals could go out and harm other human beings in this way was very symptomatic of this year’s overarching theme of duality: of two diametrically opposed behaviours being exposed and contrasted in a truly horrifying way.
It has been reported that the woman was driven to carry out the shooting because she believed that YouTube was censoring her videos and stunting her channel’s growth. There must have been deeper problems than that going on in her life, of course – many people have been angered by YouTube’s business model over the years, and as far as I’m aware, none of them have been compelled to go out and shoot people over it – but that is the motive being reported in the media. The woman is now dead and cannot explain what drove her to carry out this attack. It’s impossible for anyone to know exactly why it happened.
There is one other element of this tragic incident that should be highlighted. I am neither a U.S. resident nor a person of colour, so I would never claim to be an expert on this issue, but the one thing I do know is this: shooting at innocent human beings with the aim of seriously wounding them or ending their lives is always a reprehensible act, and the racial background of the perpetrator should never be a relevant factor when judging these cases … but sadly, it often is. There have been countless cases over the years where white people have walked free after killing unarmed, defenceless people of colour. Whenever a person of colour commits a crime of any kind, they are judged far more harshly than a white person in exactly the same situation would be. These facts have rightfully provoked enormous outrage, but it seems that very little is being done to address the problem.
Christopher Sebastian – a black vegan activist whose work I greatly admire – ironically remarked, “Well now, what’s really interesting is to see if we can get some gun control going if female ‘Muslim’ vegans are shooting up white workplaces.”
I’m not sure whether or not this shooter was actually Muslim. Some people are saying that she may, in fact, have been of the Bahá’í faith. Sadly, I think the actual reality of her religious affiliation will make very little difference to those who are determined to use this incident as a means of vilifying and scapegoating all religious and ethnic minority communities in general. The fact that the person behind the YouTube shooting was female is also a highly unusual feature of this case. According to an analysis by USA Today, women are suspects in just 6% of U.S. mass shooting incidents.
I don’t want to engage in any further speculation about the incident – I didn’t know the woman, I don’t know what was happening in her life, and I don’t know the full facts of the situation – so there is not much more to be said, except that it must have been deeply tragic for all involved. I hope with all of my heart that everyone who was injured makes a full recovery, and that all who witnessed the attack – or who were in the building when it happened – will be able to access any psychological support they need to cope with it.
Moving on … the picture below shows the first official campaign poster I saw for Ireland’s upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment. When I saw it a couple of days ago, I was thrilled that it was a Vote Yes one, as I had been dreading the language and imagery that would used on the Vote No posters.
I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have seen a Yes poster first, as many other people I know were bombarded by the bombastic, moralising messages of the No posters before they ever had the chance to see one that – as one friend of mine put it – was “simple and respectful with no horrific images.”
The group who produced this poster – for anyone reading this post who doesn’t live in Ireland – is the People Before Profit Alliance (known as PBP), a left-wing party with a small presence in our national parliament, Dáil Éireann.
I don’t align myself with any particular party. When election time comes around, I just take a close look at the values that each candidate has, to see whether they align with mine. I research how they have tended to vote in the Dáil or in local government bodies on issues that are important to me. If anything, I find that I’m often most likely to support independent candidates. I find it hard to trust political parties or politicians in general, even though I know there are many people out there who are truly committed to doing the very best they can for their constituents. My aunt, for example, is a councillor for Sinn Féin, and I greatly admire the dedication and passion she has for the causes she advocates and the people she represents.
Looking at the things I believe in, I could definitely be classified as more of a leftie than anything else. But I remain somewhat suspicious of left-wing organisations, because I’m well aware that even within those groups, inequalities and prejudices run deep (“brocialism” and racial bias within socialist circles, for example, are all too real). I’ve heard enough stories from friends of mine who have worked with left-wing groups – or been involved in anarchist communities – to know that this kind of thing is all too common within supposedly progressive circles.
With all of that being said, I have to give kudos to PBP on this occasion for being the first political group I’ve seen to put up their Vote Yes posters. I’m expecting Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to be the slowest to put up theirs, and I’m unsure whether Fianna Fáil will put up any posters at all, to be honest, given the avowed conservatism and anti-choice leanings of many prominent members.
When I saw that poster the other day, I was surprised to find myself becoming a little tearful. Cheesy as this may sound, it felt like a true gift to have seen a Yes poster first, when several of my friends had been forced to endure the sight of many No posters before ever witnessing one that affirmed their own perspective. It felt like a sign of hope.
So moved was I, in fact, that I felt compelled to walk after the two men who were putting up the posters, so that I could thank them (I felt just a little bit weird and stalker-ish when I was following them down the street, to be honest, but it seemed important for me to tell them just what the sight of their posters had meant to me, so I carried on regardless).
“Hi. Maybe this is weird, sorry … but I just wanted to tell you that your poster is the first official campaign one I’ve seen, and I’m just so grateful it was a Yes one. I’m dreading the No posters…”
“Oh yeah, they’re all up on the other side of town, but we’re out and about now, and we’ll put these ones up as fast as we can, don’t you worry about that.”
“I just wanted to thank you.”
“No worries. We’ll get the word out!”
I had a similar reaction when I saw a few Yes campaigners canvassing on my road for the very first time last night. I just had to thank them for their courage.
To me, this upcoming referendum is another example of duality coming to a head, with a stark contrast being demonstrated between those who want to move Ireland forward, and those who are determined to retain the status quo at all costs. It is a time of great tension and anxiety for many, but as the battle rages on, I will continue to look for signs of hope.
Photograph of Amanda Ellis accessed via her public Facebook page.
Picture of the number 11 accessed on freeimages.com.
Photograph of Christopher Sebastian accessed on strivingwithsystems.com.
I took the picture of the Yes poster myself!