I woke up this morning with the memory of a book I once read called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It’s the beautiful and tragic true story of a man – a highly successful journalist – who has a catastrophic stroke and ends up with ‘locked in’ syndrome. He can only blink his left eyelid to communicate; the whole book was dictated in that way in fact. He talks of the feeling of ‘shouting’ to those around him about how he feels – his frustrations, his anger at his plight and at their casual ignorance and insensitivity. He speaks of feeling utterly unheard.
In some ways that feels a good analogy for how I have felt over many years; for the frustration I have sought to convey, for the lens I’ve been given through which to view the world as a working class, single mother, with so much experience of the attitudes and structures that I now see through first-hand experience keep the poor, poor. An analogy for me and those like me being ‘locked in’ to poverty and a life permanently below the glass ceiling. And, despite years of seeking to exert influence upon unjust Church and governmental structures, of being consistently denied the privilege of being heard.
For being heard is a privilege and it’s facilitated, or not, by our culture. I am weary of listening to a middle-class in the Church and the wider world who tell me what poverty and marginalisation is like. Who block my way so they can speak on those issues, who take my words as their own, who isolate my voice so that their more palatable world view, and the status quo, still prevails.
There’s a video clip circulating on Facebook currently showing a young child coming out of a café and giving a homeless man their dinner – ahhh how lovely, and how proud their parents obviously are. But how willing are they to see their child give the poor their school place, their place at Oxbridge, their place in the Board room, their place in the House of Bishops? That’s where the giving needs to happen; those are the changes that are needed to truly impact social mobility and poverty in our society – and the wider engagement and relevance of the Church – in any real and profound way.
So this blog will convey something of my voice on behalf of those like me. The voiceless.
And I may be heard or I may not.
It feels at this point as if it doesn’t matter so much that I’m heard, than that I’ve spoken.