There is a period between the worst of times and the best of times in which there is a lull…. The relief of having escaped a horrible circumstance tempts us to ease back for a while and eventually the memory of how bad things used to be fades.
We start to convince ourselves that things are fine now because we use the worst circumstance as a reference point instead of using the best of circumstances as an aspirational goal to work towards.
We comfort ourselves that things are better than they used to be and teach ourselves to be content rather than focus ahead on the best we can aspire for.
Between the worst of times and the best of times we fall into the trap of forgetting. We forget what used to matter because our discomfort has been eased a bit and we feel we can afford to take a breather.
We forget the tears we shed to get this far, we forget the voices that spoke up and grew hoarse and we forget the sacrifices made by others on our behalf because things are not so bad anymore …because we have known worse we are more prepared to settle.
Over the last two months I have tried to understand why all the things that have mattered to me since teenage-hood matter and why I should bother following the course that I chose.
The older I become the more accommodative I am… of the world and its injustices, of people and their weaknesses, and of circumstances and their imperfections.
I am more ready to concede that my point of view is not the only version of reality and with each concession; I grow less certain of the battles that I choose to wage.
What guarantee is there that my most deeply held convictions are more valid than those of others if my own truth is not essentially the truth of others?
If I believe that the opinions of others are as valid as my own, then what right do I have to wish that my opinions be given primacy over those of others?
If I am right and know myself to be right at what point is it okay to point out the error of another?
I have always worked on the premise that things in life are black or white but now that I am older, I find there are varying shades of grey… and grey is as legitimate a color as any.
In some things it just can’t be black or white, sometimes you have to settle for the middle ground – for the grey.
I have discovered that my desire to stick with black or white…with the extremes was derived from a fear that compromise would mean defeat or that compromise would mean that I had become some kind of turncoat.
I have learned that sometimes you can stand for something without needing to stand against another.
I used to define the things that mattered to me by identifying the things that didn’t matter consequently making the things that matter to me dependent upon those that don’t matter. I have learned that the things that matter to me can and should be able to stand up to scrutiny without being juxtaposed to anything else.
One thing that has always mattered to me is the pursuit of justice – especially social justice. I say pursuit because I recognize it as an aspirational endeavor, as a goal that may not be realized in my lifetime but I work towards it hoping that in pursuing it I may become a better person for having bothered.
Sometimes I am scared that I will become complacent and forget why it mattered. Forget that the rights I enjoy and take for granted today were hard-won by women who came before me. Forget that the privileges I take as my God-given due were once denied to those born with female genitalia. And when we start to forget, we start to think that the battle is won, we start to think that victory is certain and that the status of women within their societies is assured.
But if nothing else, these 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence serve as a rude awakening and reminder that progress in terms of achieving equality in the public sphere does not guarantee equality in the private sphere.
We must not forget that women live the most crucial aspects of their lives in the private, not public domain – in their homes and not their offices; in their bedrooms and not their boardrooms…. And it is in these spaces that they are most vulnerable and that our advocacy efforts cannot effectively penetrate.
As we celebrate progressive laws and policies that advance the interests of women, elevate their status and protect their rights – we must not forget that without peace in their homes, women cannot thrive in their societies nor effectively execute their duties and responsibilities in the public domain.