I plan to go out and take some pictures tonight. Cloud levels are decreasing and there is a good chance of a near total clear sky at my standard astrophotography spot. However the moon is pretty bright right now (81% of full moon) so I need to wait until it sets and disappears before I have a chance to capture the stars. Since this means waiting until 1am, I have been trying to get some rest and regenerate my batteries for later. This desire though has not been going well. My head is buzzing too much.
One of the projects I have been working until yesterday, was the proof-reading of an interview done in Japanese and translated into English by a number of people. The project has been challenging and has required a lot more effort than adding a few a’s and the’s. The effort was worth it I think because I had to get behind the written words and understand the true meaning in order to produce clear straightforward English. Well at least my version of it.
The woman interviewed is called Reiko Okada and is remarkable in that she has first-hand experience of the production of illegal toxic gasses in WW2 but also helped out at Hiroshima directly after the atomic bomb was detonated there. She is outspoken in the need for the Japanese government and people to admit the war crimes they committed during WW2 but also to apologise to the victims of the atrocities that were committed. She believes that it is only through this process of confession and reconciliation, that the world will find long term peace and humankind will be able to survive.
Reading about Okada’s experiences and her philosophical stance has certainly made me reconsider my role in my country’s attitude to war and helping other victims of war around the world. One of the keys necessary to unlock blinkered attitudes is trying to understand the situation from both sides of the conflict, from both the victim’s and the victimiser’s viewpoint. There are so many situations where this is important from seeing the opportunities in a mosque being built down the road, to appreciating the loses that Syrian refugees have gone through, to supporting the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
But it doesn’t have to be anything big. Out of character today, I stopped and asked somebody who was struggling with a map whether I could, “give them a hand?”. They were looking for the High Street and so I told them where it was (“next parallel street down that way”), took the appreciation and moved on. I know she wasn’t a victim of anything important, but being lost is a pain of sorts, I understood that and helped.
I think it is very easy to ignore what is going on around us but how is society going to solve problems like homelessness unless it actually listens to the people living on the street? I have watched video and seen images of the devastation going on in Texas but it is easy for me to think that this is an American problem, they’re rich, let them sort it out. But I can imagine how terrible it is for people living there and so I have tried to provide some support through supplying a bit of food. It isn’t much but what happens if only 1 in 10 people do something small? In the UK for instance this was equate to 6 million people doing something small, and immediately it becomes something rather large.
I guess I am saying that if some of the majority could stop and support a minority by trying to see a situation from their viewpoint then maybe the world would be a better place. Today I walked into a room with a friend to talk to another friend. There was a single chair and two small sofas in the room. I sat on one the sofas, the friend we were visiting sat on the chair, and my friend I had arrived with sat next to me. During our conversation, the topic turned to understanding how an autistic person might view the world compared to a neuro-typical one. I explained that I had made a conscious decision to sit on a sofa knowing that there was a possibility that someone else might sit next to me. When they did I then made another decision not to follow my instinct of moving to the other sofa because I knew doing so would probably been seen as rude or insulting to the other person sitting on the sofa. I chose to keep sitting on the sofa and conform to social standards even though this compromised my own need for a comfortable buffer zone around me. My friend had no idea this was all going on in my head, she just sat next to me because she likes me and wants to be close.
Is it my job to expend my energy, explaining my behaviour to my NT friend, or it is their job to try to understand the minority? I think we can all try to understand the others viewpoint. It isn’t easy though. How can I, a white privileged man living in the Scotland, understand the experience of young black man living in Houston? How can I appreciate the historical context of slavery and the continuation of being seen as inferior in some illogical way, that they guy has to go through every day? I can’t really go out and get to know him, can I? No, I can’t but I can see similarities in how he goes through life not fitting into the white majority world and me not fitting into the neurotypical world. I can imagine losing everything I owned apart from the clothes on my back, and in this internet age, I can tap a few keys and do something to help someone. I might find climate change deniers challenging but that doesn’t need to stop me from reaching out and doing something positive.
It is easy to preach and to be honest I still don’t know how I reconcile my respect for the Armed Forces and my desire for peace. I didn’t chat to that homeless guy today and find out something about the world from his viewpoint. I have a long way to go before I speak out about my government and their destructive practises of division and self-servitude but maybe learning about Reiko Okada and her life has reignited a dull spark buried inside me. I feel something has shifted and I think this might just be a positive thing.
For further information about the project I was helping on see Yoshikatsu Fugii’s website and his project about the impact of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.