This year marked the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Associations of Australia, a celebration which I was very honoured to attend. Of the many eye-opening speakers, it was Grace Forrest’s heart-felt speech that hit home for me.
“For every 130 girls or women on the planet, one is a modern slave”, a jaw-dropped statistic that Grace supplemented by saying was a conservative measure.
It’s the kind of statistic you think… really? In 2020? How is this possible?
While the term ‘modern slavery’ conjures less frightful images than the pre-conceived notions of slavery; that being images of black Americans in chains being controlled by rich, fat white American men, it is far from being less torturous.
Indeed, modern slavery is all amongst us: the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, even the convenient food we eat can cleverly disguise the sinful human rights violations of thousands of women, just like you and I.
The question I asked myself, as I trotted back to my girlfriend’s car in my sequined dress while carrying my oh-so painful, way-too-expensive heels, is this:
What the f*&K am I going to do about it?
I felt small, pathetic and insignificant.
I felt like I was an enabler.
I felt… hopeless.
I should mention my date that night was with Katie, a fellow pint-sized friend who I met over a decade ago through our shared love of pole dancing and 6 inch heels (which is a whole other story).
Translation: she’s an angel here on earth.
In the past 10 years of knowing Katie, her love for the people around her and her passion for respecting this beautiful world we live on hasn’t wavered an inch.
She was, and continues to be, an inspiration for me. She is doing so much for others; and I felt, at least in that moment, like I was doing so little.
I expressed my feelings… ok, ranted with multiple swear words, to Katie. She listened, considered, and responded with a simple clarification:
“But you do help people”.
“Yes, but… I could be doing so much more”, I retorted.
“We could all do more, but that’s not the point”.
And that’s when it hit me: I was looking at the glass half empty.
I was focusing on all the things I wasn’t doing, which was catalysing my feelings of drowning in a sea of plastic waste.
Over the next few days I took a step back from my life and focused solely on the things I WAS doing right. How I was currently contributing (rather than deducting) from the world?
While this question is seemingly simple, it produces a free-flowing release of hidden information, incredible insight, and conscious behavioural change.
- I volunteer to mentor pre and post-graduate students to enable more efficient transition between academia and the workplace.
- I’ve adopted (rather than shopped for) my two fur children.
- I only use earth-friendly home products and biodegradable garbage bags.
- I am a reusable shopping bag nazi (just ask my partner who now fears for his own life if he forgets to use one).
- And I’m sure there are others…
Could I be doing more? Of course!
And could you be doing more? Of course!
We all could!
But the point is this: feeling helpless is going to get us nowhere fast.
So here’s something to consider: first and foremost, let’s start by celebrating the things we’re doing right so we can build a foundation structured on love and pride, rather than self-hatred and belittlement.
Because at the end of the day: how are we going to love the world around us if we don’t even like ourselves?