5 years on and struggling with my silence

This week marks my 5th work anniversary at GCU.   This isn’t going to be a look what I’ve done the past five years post, it’s more an attempt to write something at a point where I find it hard to write anything.

As you know, dear reader, I’ve been blogging for quite a while now – since 2006 which is quite scary in itself.  Over the years I’ve found the act of writing my blog quite centrally to my professional ‘being’.  I’ve never written for anyone in particular, in fact I’ve probably written more for myself. My blog has become a way for me to think out loud, remember ‘stuff’ , share ideas and every now and again have a bit of a rant.  I don’t have any hard and fast rules about blogging apart from a sort of mantra to try and write something at least once a week.  That doesn’t always happen, and recently I have been finding it increasingly difficult to find things to write about.

5 years ago I doubt any of us could have envisioned the world as it stands today.   I never expected to have experienced 2 referendums; to see the UK being taking to the brink by an interminable internal leadership struggle and existential euro angst.  I never thought Donald Trump would ever stand, let alone be elected President of the United States.  I didn’t think the politics of cruelty would ever rise in ways we have seen and suffered from in my life time.

My blog has been, and is, about my work life and I keep it non political.  My political and Political values obviously permeate, but I try not to be overtly political.  Partly this is down to personal choice, but that choice is indirectly linked to many, many other factors.  I’ve never written to be overtly controversial, to bait or to explicitly self promote  I’ve always thought of my posts more as a way of sharing bits of my internal dialogue(s). I also don’t want to invite “the trolls”.  I am comfortable in my little echo chamber.  That said if I feel strongly about something I know that I am in the fortunate position of being able to share those thoughts on this platform. Or so I thought. . .

What happened last week in America to Christine Blasey-Ford has left me speechless, enraged, reduce to tears and at a loss at what to do or say.  Everything I believe in was tested to the absolute limit. It was in another country, but it could (and does, and will) happen here.  “They” won again. The white, male, middle class, middle aged, right wing pulled it off, yet again.  Poor old Bret, having to suffer, having to be dragged in front of a congressional committee. But,  hey it’s ok he’s got a job for life now.  Yet again President Trump brazened it out, shameless mocked victims of sexual attack and got away with it.  #metoo is more a case of #notmetoo for him.  Boris Johnston is testing the limits of UK tolerance just now,  no doubt gaining encouragement from his new friend Steve Bannon at every swipe at burkas and suicide belts and every (seemingly) ridiculous photo-opportunity.

What to do, what to do?   The older I get the more I know that context is key to everything, and context is inherently political.  So for all my attempts to fool myself that this blog isn’t political, the constraints I have set for myself around it are of course a  direct result of my political context and how I place myself in it.   Self censorship for self preservation is always there. I am fooling myself that into believing I that I am not a coward, that I just don’t have the words.  I just don’t have the nerve, or the energy most of the time.  I stay silent, I am complicit.

I hope that writing this will help me find the words, help me to move on and find my voice again, to be brave, to be more focused political by being more criticality engaged. Here’s to the next 5 years, where ever they may take me and the rest of us.

10 comments

  1. I sense you are struggling with the feeling that there is something unprofessional about voicing your reflections on the political climate and the societal impact thereof. Let me reassure you – it is good to stand up for what you believe in, our employers do not have the right to prevent us from holding our own opinions and upholding our own values. Be proud of your willingness to question the status quo. If we do not do that we are abdicating our own agency in the democratic process. I am certainly proud to know we share a set of values that will not tolerate injustice in any form.

      • totally get that! The enormity of what is happening around the world is daunting. I have concluded that I need to focus on my sphere of influence and bring as much positivity to it as I can. That is already quite a challenge when all around is so bleak. I have a feeling that if everyone did that we would be making a difference 🙂 (BTW the SNP rocks IMHO)

  2. I’m afraid I gave up on the professional only (OK, a bit of rugby and cricket thrown in) voice on Twitter about the time the political situation in both US and UK, and to a certain extent Aus and other places hit the limelight.
    I am one of those privileged, white, male, middle aged (I’d call myself centre-left rather than right though) and I KNOW I speak from that ‘safe space’ that many others aren’t allowed. I never considered myself to be ‘political’ but seeing the way politics and politicians have been enabled in twisting facts, belittling people I call friends (even if many of them are online rather than in person) and the hurt revealed by the #metoo movement, the #blacklivesmatter people, the treatment of survivors – #metoo again, school shootings, #mentalhealth bullying that has previously directly impacted me but I’d tried to push aside, all seemed to come at once (to me – I’m fully aware, now, that many others have been living those lives for years!)
    Sometimes silence is the right thing to do – it makes the words you do say so much more powerful when you say them. And sometimes we need to vent and rage.
    Find your own balance Sheila – and thank you for speaking out now!

  3. I have just read this for the third time Sheila, as it has made me think so much. So thank you so much for that. You describe your blog as a sort of conversation with yourself and others and I would say that silence plays a part in that conversation. We need silence to hear what others are saying and to reflect on our own sayings. We both attended OER17 and OER18 , and I remember when you did some speaking up at OER18, that I linked that in my mind to conversations that flowed from OER17 but I don’t know if that was the case for you.
    For me, I value the archive nature of a blog so I can see how my views have changed/developed and sometimes I did or said something that I regret. For me that is a challenge of criticality, that we can be subject to criticality (our own or that of others) ourselves. Sometimes I think that social media leaves little space for mind-changing, civil disagreement and admitting our mistakes and maybe that’s why it polarises.

    • thank you Frances, you and some others have reminded me of the need and role of silence, and many things you have said/written have certainly impacted on my thinking and practice. I agree social media isn’t great for reflection – ideal for the trolls!

  4. Hi Shelia, I think many of us are struggling with this. Where can we express our incredulity, our fury, our exasperation? It’s ok to be disheartened and angry right now. It feels like such a huge setback and in the maelstrom of current discussions, expressing any position can make us feel personally vulnerable. And so what can we do? We turn up where we feel able to, we keep the pressure up in our own ways, and we do, where we feel able, speak out about this. I tell my daughter that while certain things are currently, ‘like this’, it’s with the caveat but that’s doesn’t mean it should be, because that’s not the world I want for her. Do I do enough to help bring that change? Probably not, for exactly the reasons you echo. But right now I’m reminding myself that change is messy, change is challenging and it’s rarely straightforward. It’s a long game and in the words of Michelle Obama we may have to pass on the baton to the next generation but we have to keep moving forward, even if it seems in the short term like we’re taking two steps back. And if anything, it’s making me more determined not less.

    • thanks Elaine and yes we must keep going and not give up. I have been so heartened by the response to this post – you all give me hope

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