Strength through struggle [June 2014]

Hi everyone,

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about words, in particular the word choices that we make when we’re writing something or talking to someone. I’ve written a couple of pieces along these lines this month, a general article called Choose your words carefully and then a post examining language priming, particularly in relation to the economy.

All the way through June I was intending to extend those ideas in this email by talking about audience – about the importance of understanding who we’re talking to, and how that’s very different from ‘pandering’ to an audience.

But instead I want to touch briefly on the idea of ‘strength through struggle’ inspired by a friend of mine, performance poet Candy Royalle, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

8226525010_de545e1ab7_z(Picture: Candy performing at an event at Sydney Town Hall in solidarity with the people of Gaza, November 2012.More pics from that event.)

Before she started chemo, Candy shaved off her hair and dreads she’d been growing for over a decade and, surrounded by family and close friends,made a video to tell people about what she was experiencing.

Resonating through Candy’ piece, called Love, is the idea of strength through struggle, that it’s by persevering through hard times that we build strength.

For the past few days I’ve been trying to work out what strength through struggle means to me, but most of what I write comes out sounding philosophical, melodramatic and in the end a little hollow.

(Hence why this June update is happening at the beginning of July).

I’m not trying to devalue my experiences. I’ve been through plenty of times that I would describe as challenging, where I have had to push through past adversity, and I feel my determination to get through those experiences has helped me develop and grow and be able to meet new challenges more readily.

But at the same time, as a self-employed university-educated debt-free hetero white man with a Catholic upbringing, I come from a position of extreme privilege. My main source of direct conflict is myself. The struggles that I identify most with are those where I and people like me are the oppressor. So yeah.

I first met Candy Royalle at an event at Sydney University organised by the Students for Justice in Palestine. Candy and my then-employer, Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge were together on a panel.

Candy performed her poem Memories, in which talks about the struggles of her grandfather, father and herself against war, dispossession and cultural isolation. The performance blew me away.

I highly recommend reading the poemwatching the video and checking out some more of her work.

Mark

PS: on this theme, here’s a quote from Winston Churchill that’s been floating around the internet the last couple of weeks: “If you find yourself going through hell, keep going.”

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