Hello from England!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write this post for a while. I don’t know who still reads this blog. I’ve read so many blog posts lately from my favourite bloggers who say they are losing the energy or the desire to blog. While this is sad, I understand where they’re coming from. Although I haven’t lost the desire to blog, I understand that the shifting nature of blogging and the sense of disillusion with the uber-polished lifestyle blogs can create a feeling that blogging has fizzled out into something mainstream, mundane, non-individual.

I didn’t mean to make this a post about blogging. It’s actually going to be a long post about numerous subjects that are and are not related. If you feel like reading on, here goes. For me, it’s cathartic to write this down.

I’m in England. This is obvious. The last few weeks have been insanely busy and so overwhelming. You don’t move to the other side of the world and start a new job without feeling overwhelmed and stressed, I suppose. But I’m still recovering from all the emotions, and slowly finding my feet here in Leicester.

It’s natural to start thinking about home in these situations; what constitutes it, what countries and places have to do with it, how you can adapt yet still crave at the same time. But let’s start with the fun stuff first. I.e., pictures of my new apartment, which can be found on my instagram (a few include this, this, this, this and this).

I was so grateful to find this place, because it came after a round of house viewings that depressed the hell out of me. I have to say that I mainly found it because of the Jewish community here in Leicester, who have welcomed me with open arms and have been incredibly kind and helpful. The sense of community they provide to someone like me who has moved to a new city in a foreign country by myself is quite important.

I’ve had friends tell me they feel more Australian when they’re overseas, and I guess I feel more Jewish here. And by that I mean I’ve been compelled to examine exactly what it is I’m a part of (which is a good thing). And I also feel more Australian, and more Israeli. And what I mean by all three can be picked apart by what I mean by home.

It’s easier now to love the things I also hate about Australia. I care more, not less, now that I’ve left and ready to place my roots elsewhere for the next few years, perhaps forever. It’s the same way I feel about Israel, but for different reasons. However, just like nobody outside of Israel lets you forget you are Israeli, no one lets you forget you are Australian here. My accent, a strange combination of Australian and ‘something else’ which could be explained by my first nationality and my first English teacher who taught me English with her own South African/American accent, has been the subject of much comment here. As is the utopian vision many people seem to have of Australia. How I wish that vision was true – land of the ‘fair go’, equality, and eternal sunshine. Well, the sunshine part is correct.

How to begin explaining my sadness about our government, Australia? I can’t even formulate the words. We are an incredibly lucky country in many ways, yet continue to be governed by politicians and successive governments who persist in the delusion that we have it bad. It’s this delusion and an imaginary ‘debt crisis’ (load of bullshit) that has brought about one of the most horrendous budgets to ever be unleashed on our country. This is the cruellest and dumbest government we’ve ever had. I say that without exaggeration.

As I said on facebook when I read about the budget: “I think the Abbott government is beyond ‘conservative’. They are not simply interested in hindering progress, they are ideologically invested in moving Australia backwards. What they represent is an extreme and dangerous right wing mentality that belongs in history, not the present. Part of this is currently reflected in other countries, and we are not unique. But another part of me thinks this is the natural outcome of a backlash to Labor coupled with Australia’s tendency to breed and celebrate an aggressive culture of anti-intellectualism and living in a perspective-less bubble. I am sad. I may be living on the other side of the world now, but this is still my country, and I’m worried about how my parents will retire, how my friends will find jobs, how students I’ve taught will survive the attack on their futures. It’s hard not to care.”

Marginson explained it well in his own words: “It demonstrates the anti-modern anti-intellectual strain in the Australian conservative parties — UK Conservatives and US Republicans would not have done this and it would be simply unthinkable in Europe.”

It’s hard for me to understand what kind of country this government wants. It’s hard for me to contemplate what kind of futures people will have under them. And it breaks my heart to think of the things they are demolishing with their stupidity. But I don’t agree with mocking the people who voted for them, simply because this budget was a betrayal of us all. Even those who voted for them did not ask for this.

Abbott and his misogynistic buddies made mincemeat out of Julia Gillard when she went back on one election promise. I’ve stopped counting how many election promises they have broken themselves, and how many lies Abbott has told. I’m still to see, however, a sustained attack on the scale that was delivered against Gillard in our press and media. Not surprising, since Murdoch hacks led this attack with the intent of aiding Abbott and Co. Yet, the opposition is strangely silent. It falls to us, the public, to make mincemeat out of their lies. So instead of ‘Juliar’, may I suggest a public-led campaign of #phonytony?* Go on, let’s do it. We have no need to be silent about this breathtaking hypocrisy.

Moving on. These complicated, love/hate feelings I have for Australia right now also brought into focus something else I’ve been thinking about for many years. I’m left-leaning in many of my views, and as such, follow a lot of left-leaning commentators online. Sometimes I interact with them on twitter. And sometimes I see something on their feeds which disturbs me. I’m so reluctant to mention this, because I know I’m going to get hate mail for it.** But I’ll be as honest as possible.

I remember interacting with one left commentator on twitter who said she didn’t read any reviews or writing by “an Israeli”, as if that showed her moral superiority. I’ve got news for you, it shows her simplicity. Yet, it’s a position I’m encountering again and again on the left, which leaves me wondering just how ‘progressive’ these extreme positions actually are.

Here’s the deal: people aren’t countries. People also don’t make a moral decision when they are born somewhere. It is a random game of luck and chance, just like many things in life. When you collapse my identity as an individual with a country, you are being racist. You are not being enlightened, or progressive. You are also being rather condescending to the people you claim to support by treating them too as a general mass. I remember when I took Political Science in my first year of university, there was me and a Palestinian girl in the class. Every single time Israel was mentioned, people would stare at us, as if they expected us to explain things for them as ‘representatives’ of our respective ‘sides’. It was pretty insulting. She became my friend, and is still my friend. But I dropped out of Political Science after that first year. Because as I said: we are not countries, we are people, and I was tired of it.

We became friends and remain friends for many reasons. Because we understood, implicitly, what it was like to be reduced as a ‘representative’, rather than treated as an individual. Because we know how to pronounce ‘hummus’ properly. Because we share a love of Kate Bush and cats (the greatest creatures ever created). Because we gossiped about that really cute guy in class who was the only good reason to keep doing Political Science for the whole year (we still talk about him, damn he was pretty). Because I like her as a person and she likes me as a person. Because we are not countries and if you corner us, we cannot explain ‘the conflict’ for you any more than I can explain maths to you. I am not a government, I am not a country.

When I think about Australia and Israel, they are both home. I am allowed to feel messy, complex feelings about my homes. I am allowed to hate and love them at the same time. I am allowed to miss them. I am allowed to see both the good and the bad. I am allowed to love the people there. I am allowed to express homesickness, belonging and love without censure or displeasure from others who have never been there themselves. The landscape of your childhood remains with you. The idea of casting it off seems absurd to me.

In England, these feelings are becoming more obvious to me. I’m no longer willing to engage with people who view my homes simplistically – who decide who I am based on where I was born, where I grew up, or my accent. I expect the same basic decency I try to enact in my interactions with other people.

Take care my friends, the next post will not be quite so long!

*#phonytony is the product of Alison Croggon’s brilliant mind.

**If you’re planning on leaving a comment on how all Israelis are evil, stop right there. I will not publish it. This post is not a political debate about Israel, go elsewhere, I’m not in the mood.

8 comments:

♥ tinyWOOLF ♥ said...

england! i was not aware. i hope you'll love it. i am unfamiliar with leicester. now i shall read back a bit, to find ot how come you've moved all the way up here..;)) n♥

rooth said...

It's good to catch up with you. I've seen your pics from England and was hoping you weren't feeling too homesick. Grab yourself some of that sunshine when it's out. The identity question is one that I wrestle with all the time actually. I am primarily Texan, then American, then Chinese. But because of how I look, I constantly have to explain it to others.

Rambling Tart said...

I feel quite emotional after reading this post, Hila. You've described so many of the things I feel about the countries I've left behind in moving to Australia. I love what you said: "I am not a country." I often have people ask me why America/Canada does such and such. I have no idea. I am not the system, I'm just me, and I love and despise things about every place I've lived. You ARE allowed to feel whatever you feel, to think whatever you think. Countries aren't evil or good, it's the people with power that do evil or good - and even that is rather simplistic. I too am grieving over the Aussie gov't and budget. I came here feeling so safe, like I'd escaped the patriarchal bullshit of the USA, and now it's coming here. Now it IS here. Thankfully now I'm in a place where I can do something: help with the immigration situation, have a voice, speak my concerns. I love this post. Thank you.

Sally said...

Hi Hila! Glad you're settling in on your next big adventure (your apartment looks so cute). I feel you on struggling with homesickness, and on feeling "allowed" to feel what I feel (okay I did not mean to use that word four times in a row, haha). Each place I've lived became a part of me, and I alone can really decide what that means. Hope England treats you well.

Monika said...

I am still reading! Thanks for writing, and as always, thanks for making me think.

Danielle P. said...

Hila, I'm so glad you found such a lovely community that embraced you and made you feel so welcome! They sound amazing.

Identity is a strange beast, isn't it? I had little notion of it before I found myself having to explain Quebec to a French person. It's neither Canadian nor American nor French - it's a little bit of Europe with America blended in. It has a very distinctive way of viewing and doing things, which alternately makes me beam with pride and cringe with embarrassment... Yep, there's no place like home.

The Almost Famous Writer said...

OH MY GOD! You're in LEICESTER?! I can't believe it! You're in MY CITY! How exciting and surreal. Are you a Creative Writing lecturer at DMU? I studied both BA and MA Creative Writing there, and saw the post on facebook advertising for a new lecturer in the department. I daydreamed about taking that position, but I'm nowhere near qualified enough. OH MY GOODNESS! This is just so bizarre. I've been reading your blog for about five years, but have been mostly absent over the past two years. I don't expect you to know who I am. But it's really nice to know who you are, and to know that you are occupying the same space as me. The world gets smaller. Welcome to Leicester. I hope my home will be as good to you as it has always been to me. <3

Hila said...

tinyWOOLF: I hope I'll like it here too, so far things are nice.

rooth: Identity issues are always so caught up with other people's expectations and ideas.

Krista: Unfortunately, not many people think this way, I tend to encounter simplistic thinking, especially when it comes to being an Israeli, even from people who I thought were beyond this simplistic logic. But eh, part of life is dealing with this.

Sally: "I alone can really decide what that means", exactly - which is why I disengage from people who don't get that.

Monika: Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting.

Danielle: I only wish we would all allow ourselves to be complex without explanation sometimes.

The Almost Famous Writer: Well hello! Leicester has been good to me so far, here's hoping it starts to feel like home too.