Here’s a preview of my contribution to this project.
You will be able to see it on the Project O Director’s blog at some point in the near future. Follow the link for the template if you would like to contribute.
Question 1: Please provide a window into who you are, some background information in a not too overwhelming profile here.
I am a writer. A thinker. And a lover of wisdom (will say philosopher when I have the certificate to prove it. They put a lot of stock by paper where I come from).
I was born in the USSR – got the certificate to prove that one. Basarabia? It sounds a little like Bass-Arabia, although I can assure you, it’s no Middle Eastern palm-treed oasis or lagoon crawling with giant bass.
I left when I was fifteen. I got into Hogwarts: What? Hogwarts? I’m a wizard? Wow! Ok, nearly: a scholarship got me into a boarding school in Romania. It was magic though, so Harry can swish the proverbial.
I’m British through and through now. Drink milk in my tea. Comment on the cleanliness or otherwise of public lavatories. Am obsessed with discussing the weather almost as much as Benedict Cumberbatch (I’m not. Honest. See Pants on Fire post!).
Question 2: If you haven’t already done so please provide your country of origin, whether you are male or female, an age would be nice, and where you currently live if that differs from the country of origin.
I live in one of the Home Counties, a short train journey out of London. It is picture postcard English countryside: steeds galloping along country lanes, fields of dandelions and rapeseed (they should really rename that!), cricket on Sundays on the village green, mansion house chockfull of aristos complete with deer-roaming estate grounds in my back garden (or as good as).
We used to be red. We a blue now, after the last election (switched from Labour to Conservative that is), although I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t our village that made the change. This one is so blue, people don’t bother with ink. Just slash a wrist open and dab in. Because, of course, we still use quills over here.
Question 3: Recount the first time you remember having a differing opinion from someone significantly older than you. Do you remember what the topic was about? Did you voice your opinion or hold it to yourself?
When I was a child, I noticed something that unsettled me in the relationship between my father’s parents. He would tell her to shut up in public, suggesting that what she had to say was stupid. I do not recall any occasion when she said anything to deserve it, even if she was no Plato. What was even worse: she submitted. Every time.
I could not correct him. I’d been brought up to respect my elders. But, I knew from that moment on that I would not allow him, or any other man for that matter, to ever dare tell me to shut up. Well: can’t stop anyone saying it, but I’ve got twenty-five solid years of near-continuous education under my belt, which primarily focused on honing my argumentative skills. (Thank you, grandpa)
My friends always comment on how sweet I am to everyone, too sweet. Well. Manners cost nothing, and I’m sure everyone has sufficient irritants in their everyday life without me adding to them. But! if you tell anyone to shut up: I’m on you like Dumbledore on You-know-Who. Yeah! I said it. Watch out Tom Riddles of the world. (Thought you’d enjoy a little thematic continuity here :))
Question 4: What levels of respect were practiced around you when you were a child?
Alright there, comrades? High levels of respect certainly. We were all equals. Some more equal than others, but equal nonetheless. Everyone had the Name-Patronymic or Name-Surname combos added to that.
Comrades turned to the equivalent of Ma’am and Sir post-revolution and USSR breakdown. Incidentally, in my mother-tongue their meaning is closer to Master and Mistress, so that Wild-East-Capitalism and Schizoid-Aliberal-Democracy came with a convenient hierarchy-minded vernacular to fill in the void left by the Soviet corpse. Although sadly, nothing could suppress the stink of its decomposition.
Politeness of address has been something that I have not been able to shake off. But, then again, I don’t think I want to. One does like to be civil, and to make oneself gracious in company.
Question 5: How travelled are you and to what degree do you keep up with international news?
I’m a gluttonous traveller. I don’t think I’ll ever have time or money enough to do as much of it as I’d like to.
I took a gap year in South America, my first experience of non-European culture. Although at that point my experience of European culture was itself very limited. Romania is as good as my country, the differences culture-wise are few and far between. And the UK is not Europe. I know what you’ll say: ‘course it’s Europe – check the map. Technically it is, but it has struggled with its European identity since time immemorial. In a ‘who’s more European’ competition, Argentina would nudge ahead.
I fell in love with Latin America, yet simultaneously my heart went blue and gold-starred. It was the first time that, when asked where I’m from, I’d answer directly, no second thoughts: Europe.
Before the end of my third decade on this Earth, I’ve had a chance to explore twenty-one of Europe’s many states; I would say cultures, but within each state identities are so fragmented, that you’d have to at least double that number (re culture, ethnicity, and language).
I loved the US too, both East and West coast (no experience of mid-America as yet, although Hawaii was lovely – great scuba). Loved the chirpy attitude and the confidence, even if I can’t take the portions: How much can you people eat?
Japan was by far the strangest experience: A moon landing for me. It was a surprise stopover on the way to New Zealand (courtesy of my thoughtful husband – I’d taken up beginner Japanese – here was a chance for me to practice).
I am a citizen of the world.
Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.
It is very tough to pick just one, but I will attempt it. I hope that if you disagree with me to start with, you’ll at least take some time to think it over before rebuffing.
If you are a democrat (i.e. a believer in the norms and values of democracy) then you are a feminist.
How could anyone possibly justify their democratic credentials whilst simultaneously treating 51% of the population as second class citizens?!
So, I will repeat myself ad nauseam if need be:
If you are a democrat, you are a feminist.
Don’t be scared by the label. You don’t have to be a Feminist to be a feminist. In the same way in which you can hold conservative views, without being a Conservative, or behave liberally, without claiming to be a Liberal.
So. Put a full stop to misogyny. Get the t-shirt. Show some respect to your mothers, sisters, daughters and yourselves.
Question 7: What does the right to an opinion mean to you? Is it essential to freedom to have this right? How far would you go to protect that ability?
Opinionated Man: “I value the right to opinion as one of the most important forms of self expression that we have a born right to.”
Yes. It is an important form of self-expression, but further than that… I’m afraid I disagree.
We have no born rights to anything.
“All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as self-evident.” A.S. This is the case for rights too.
Whatever rights we have, are the result of years (sometimes hundreds of them) of real struggle and even bloodshed; advances for humanity gained through political action by countless movements: feminist and civil rights movements, to point the finger at a couple of the culprits.
Do not become complaisant. Be in no doubt about this: You have no born right.
What you have, has been painstakingly built for you, and there will be those who will try to demolish it. Not perhaps with a big loud bang, but in time, like water: patiently, slowly hollowing out your freedom, one drop at a time.
So prepare your mortar, and get ready to patch it back up. It’s a constant back and forth and there is only one way to deal with it:
Question 8: Is it ever right for you to be allowed an opinion while someone else is denied that same right on the same topic?
I cherish my right to an opinion and that of others too. I’ve lived in a time and place when you couldn’t use your voice for fear of reprisal, so I know how much it means being able to speak your mind.
I keep an open mind about… pretty much everything. There is a line however: I don’t tolerate sexism, racism or homophobia (SRH). Cross that line at your own peril.
Liberalism preaches tolerance. Yes. I’ll go with that. But I also reserve the right to stand up for the norms and values that I treasure most.
In a democracy, SRH is not acceptable. If you subscribe to any of the three, then you need to grow up and get over yourself. What makes you so damned better than anyone else?
Question 9: The last question, upon completing this template and hopefully contemplating the issue what does this project mean to you? How can Project O potentially enlighten or help the world?
I will add my hopes to those of Opinionated Man, that this project allows the world a voice. Can’t wait to read everyone else’s entries! I feel compelled to quote Garai here once again, but there’s been enough swearing for one day so…
Here I come instead: You have a voice too. Use it.