I once pushed three living human animals from my body. Doing this is outrageous, dangerous and really quite seemingly both impossible and ridiculous. It’s a grunting, sweating, death’s-head-grimacing surprise. That pain. Like a large brick object, with long, impossible fingernails seeking purchase in the muck of mucous and blood that also leaks from me without my consent. Wise in the primordial ways of peristalsis, the unborn grinds, inexorably, along a narrow, but infinitely expanding passage-to-air-from-water-Disney-ride that is my vagina.
To think I once thought this orifice was a titbit, attached as an afterthought to my clitoris and other fleshly exuberances, thought of, in the beginning of time, by some benevolent mystical feminine deity, for the sole purpose of my self-gratification.
I then suckled these people, that I had expelled from my flesh and blood body, from milk that flooded from unrecognizably huge breasts. I examined their poo, with scientific precision, before cleaning it from their skin. I experienced an absurd pleasure—a sense of being righteous—as each of them burped without vomiting on me. I never slept. I have known love.
Then the terror. Two, three months into their tiny lives and I am waking to daylight. Why have they not screamed for me to do their bidding two hours before sunrise, as usual? How did I sleep through what is sure to be a waking nightmare? By all that’s worthy of praise, have I slumbered through their deaths? I race to their room to find them smearing the wall, beside their individual cots, artfully and thoughtfully. Intently and silently. With their own excrement.
Losing them to school. Do I know the cage into which I unwittingly trapped them? Uniformed, peer-pressured, comparing and comparative? In the hope they will achieve seeming-success under a captor’s Terms-and-Conditions-layer of well thought out concrete that will pull them to the bottom of the bay as surely as the Titanic on an arctic night? Destined for conformity and questionlessness? Into an idealized but bullshit existence, selling insurance, becoming a doctor or (forgive me, Mother Mary, I didn’t know how glaring delusions actually can be until I reached, oh, forty five) a lawyer. The right to a mortgage and an upgraded car. And that fucking cat. And an opinion, accompanied by a you’re SUCH a control freak comeback. And Botox. And redundancy. Oh, and COVID-19, or some such, later: an escaped pathogen that mutates and causes a bubonic plague we are told was inevitable. That we just have to follow instructions. We will BE SAFE if we follow the rules, and teach our children to do the same.
RULES OF REALITY
We push them away. We hold them too close. We think we teach them to be safe. This is parenthood. This is the inexplicable anxt, the hand-wringing we once thought would never be ours, accompanied by the inevitable outcome of an occasional phone call. A birthday visit. No, it’s okay. I kept them safe. They’re alive—and adults now—aren’t they? I KEPT THEM SAFE. Didn’t I? Didn’t I?!
TO BE SAFE
What a liar. How have I taught safety?
I did not take them to Ethiopia, during the famine, to help carry the babies to the UNHCR tents. I did not drag them to Utopia to have my offspring comprehend what growing up without garbage collection is like, now that the people there have been taught (by the same system that has schooled my children) to be unlearned of the wisdom of the ancestors: hunting, dancing, the beauty of language. And seasons. And the river. I have not grabbed them, now, and caught a flight to Lebanon to help erect shelters after the brutality of the blast.
And, no matter how I cajoled, I did not keep them away from sugar. I talked. The thing we do when we can’t do anything else.
This is not self-abnegation—I have long ago sliced the smug and condescending smile from Guilt’s perennial face. It is realization. I did not teach them. Nothing. I have thought long and hard about this. I caved, is what I did. I thought of them as ‘mine’ when that is clearly a shocking arrogance. I did keep them from predators, though, didn’t I?. No, I did not. I let them drink Coke. I allowed them birthday cakes. I didn’t wonder at the additives or the artificial coloring. At the madness of balloons in the intestines of pelicans. I doomed them to indoctrination. To reliance.
Even though all three of them—today—are in flesh and blood bodies, what of my teaching?
I am talking about the presumption of many, that it’s okay to be cruel. That to reside in a dwelling, in which to stay dry, a body has to go into debt with complete strangers. In the current era, to be successful as a woman, it’s necessary to drink alcohol, even though it’s a toxin,
to somehow be sophisticated and suitably slutty simultaneously, to read auras, cleanse our insides with colonics, be witchy and detached enough to seem like we don’t care but know more than that bloke on the TED TALK, to wear four inch stilettos and get a long labia sliced to an appropriately fashionable size, to sift through several thousand images of ourselves to find the one that sends the message: feisty but available, on the tinder app.
I am also talking about the presumption that World War III will not decimate Melbourne, or Sydney, or London, or Reykjavik tonight, while we sleep. That we forgive the forgetfulness that has blanketed our knowing of Hiroshima, Bikini, Bergen-Belsen, the Clearances, the Slave Trade, the right to beat one’s children to within an inch of their lives and to buy one or two, how much money the church has accumulated from the discarded babies of shamed women who should have known better than to dress for rape, even though they were never told about rape. The abduction of non-Anglo-European, animist, healthy and ancestrally-taught hunter/gatherer children, institutionalized—safe—behind razor-wired protection facilities. The burning-for-profit of primordial forests and bugger all the animal people who live there. It’s lumber, that’s the word I was looking for. Not trees, no, that hints at sentience and we can’t have vivisection if we agree to sentience. The disposable face masks and disease-laden, unoblitarable latex gloves, the feeding frenzy of a corporate cocaine snack, “Food Freedom” destined to induce obesity and Type Two diabetes before the age of twelve, and the ideology of a caring government, blatant or obtuse, dooming my offspring to a life of privilege or paucity.
Violence is not always a broken face or an amputated limb. Violence is also given kindly: ice cream, pizza, chips, beer, fences, a wedding ring, champaign, christmas. Advice. The promise of safety.
This is not about what we can’t change. Like the plastic in the house, the office, the car. The glare of primary colors, neon, the eerie echo of ruined one-dimensional music, and the hallucinatory, unspeakably mindless plethora and volume of non-essential products in a supermarket or online, a person’s capacity to believe that an omnipotent, perpetually-loving, blokey-type-god will save you, if you only believe that he was correct to allow the torture and murder of his child-self for an ideological concept that is truly preposterous, i.e. “sin”: a blooper of EPIC PROPORTIONS when you watch any six o’clock news.
No, this is about fear.
While I taught my children about stranger-danger and the potential harm of smoking pot at twelve, the dangers of driving mummy’s car without knowing the clutch and why a rabbit and an egg on the same day was not actually true, I never taught my children to feel for fear. I never knew they needed to know that.
Have you watched a mouse being chased by a cat? They are REMARKABLE! And most of the time they get away. Why? Because they are afraid. They don’t want to be eaten. Deep in mouse-person’s ancestral brain is the DNA-memory of being consumed whilst still alive, awake and capable of knowing that their left leg is now missing. What’s astonishing, is that even while being in the same situation—for THE FIRST TIME—mouse-person knows the way this could go. So, they run. An understatement, don’t you agree? They DON’T JUST RUN! They weave and dart, use shadow like J. S. Bach composing the Brandenburg Concerto… good goblins and garden gnomes, they fucking-well FLY when they leap between the adjacent building’s highest wall and the compost heap far below.
All because their flesh-and-blood body-memory, vagina to vagina, taught them to be afraid. Is that why human babies cry, with such desperation and denial, when they first breathe air? Because they are afraid? They ARE afraid. And the first thing us larger mammals do is assure them, with a coo and a pat, that everything is alright. They are safe. Look, here’s the nipple, now suck on this.
That’s okay. But there comes a time. I don’t know. Is it at a year old? Three? Seven is way too late. But then, twelve? Having lived into the double digit years, and never being chased by a great white shark whilst paddling at Balmoral Beach, doesn’t make a person safe. Having fed them Kinder Surprise after the tanty in the supermarket is not a protection, nor is it an immunity booster. Swimming lessons are excellent but, knowing what’s underneath them in deep water?… is not usually part of the curriculum.
In the classic Dune series, Frank Herbert invents the Bene Gesserit (I know, I emoted almost exclusively to them in my late teens), one of whom—the Reverend Mother—dares Paul, the future Mau’dib, to place his hand in a box whose contents are unknown. Apparently he’ll die if he doesn’t, and could quite likely die if he does. He does. Then comes the bullshit. Probably the only bullshit in the entire series (of which I am still enamored). A litany embraced by other idiots (I believed it once), like the unequivocal need for a hot shower in the morning:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
AND WHAT A LOAD OF UTTERLY DECEITFUL NONSENSE IS THAT???
The mouse would never get away from the cat, the woman will continue to be beaten, the homeless will continue to be viewed by a suited and indebted-to-the-hilt population as somehow lacking, when, in actuality, they are tribal.
Fear hones us. It gives us an edge—enough—to whisper who can help me? And to sometimes, SOMETIMES, we get an answer.
Fear is going to happen to you. Has happened. Is happening. If you and I are not provided a level of insight regarding this PROTECTION we, or those we love, will be hurt because, trust me, NOT ONE inhabitant of the Warsaw Ghettos said to themselves or their families, Oh yes, cattle trucks, what a good idea. Grossaktion Warsaw, hmm. Sure. It seems like a good idea to pack, don’t you agree?
Martin Gilbert  writes:
“In every ghetto, in every deportation train, in every labor camp, even in the death camps, the will to resist was strong, and took many forms. Fighting with the few weapons that would be found, individual acts of defiance and protest, the courage of obtaining food and water under the threat of death, the superiority of refusing to allow the Germans their final wish to gloat over panic and despair.
“Even passivity was a form of resistance. To die with dignity was a form of resistance. To resist the demoralizing, brutalizing force of evil, to refuse to be reduced to the level of animals, to live through the torment, to outlive the tormentors, these too were acts of resistance. Merely to give a witness of these events in testimony was, in the end, a contribution to victory. Simply to survive was a victory of the human spirit.”
No. We are fed the propaganda that the people just went.
And here, in what’s left of Gondwana:
Generations of Australians have been taught that no wars have ever been fought on Australian soil. Yet as many as 20,000 black Australians died fighting a war of resistance that lasted for more than a century .
When I was a kid at school I was never taught their names. Propaganda says they didn’t mind us coming here, infecting their blankets, giving them grog and taking their children. Oh, let’s build a bronze statue and erect it where our ancestors are now grass. C’mon. It’ll be fun! Like playing Rio Tinto in the Pilbara!
THEY WERE AFRAID. And that fear made them strong. Much as the colonialist regimes would have us believe to the contrary THEY ARE STILL HERE.
Fear is not the enemy. Fear is the immediately necessary story, told to the MOUSE, by mouse-person’s own body. Fear yells: you are under attack!!!! Fear tells us to release MASSIVE floods of proactive fuel-force into our bloodstream, that informs us to run, to scream, to attack back. Adrenalin that is necessary for us to fight. It is the event: the terrifying, immanence of violation and desecration, that releases this ancient, ancestral juice of visceral and overwhelming brilliance and audacity—the response to threat—that we must work at paying attention to. That we must teach our children to feel. To explore without dying. To know how to NOT FREEZE (the third, and most unsatisfactory, of the four f words here: fight, flee, freeze, fuck!).
WHY WE TRAIN
I’ve been quiet as to why, over the many decades, I have trained in one martial art or another. Why I have done this physicality. Hapkido, Aikido, MMA, Iaido. Free weights, until my shoulders look like small, striated melons and I could lift the front end of a small car from where it was seemingly irrevocably bogged. I don’t have to explain my reason. Do I? Was there one? Absolutely. Did I save my kids from harm? Just. Did violence occur more than once? In so many ways that I won’t talk about it to you. I justify myself to no one anymore.
I trained hard. Because I knew fear. Then, as I grew older and became unfuckable I almost thought about stopping. But I didn’t. Some instinct didn’t want me balancing dissolving bones in a steel walking frame at aged 60, perhaps? Because I’d thought I was safe enough to be lazy and eat jelly? Maybe.
Then came the phone call. A couple of nights ago. From a friend, forty years younger than me and in actual danger, albeit not from someone in their house, but from someone who is coming for her. She, too, pushed a small human animal from her vagina. Her experience of that is one thing, the threat implied from a man who considers himself privileged—who WANTS her, despite what she thinks—has her caged and in hiding. Edgy. Alert. Not knowing what to do if he comes to her door, no matter how clever she’s been at avoiding him. So far.
And here it is.
I teach her. Old woman things. Bokken. Bow. How to throw a punch. How to cripple a leg. How to grab him in a clutch and drive a knee over and over and over, into his kidneys. To know how strong she actually is. How unexpectedly accurate a strike with a jo staff can be; how absolute the concussion. To know the ramifications of self-defence under the law (not too jolly). What to expect if she actually kills him. If that is the only option because the cops place an A.V.O. on him and he comes around the following night, in the silence of 4 AM, and sets fire to her house.
To be so utterly confident that she might—just might—react with the strength of that mouse, if the situation becomes necessary.
Teach your kids what fear feels like. Let them understand that their bodies produce the antidote to predation. Don’t sit them down and suggest—after a small, uncontrollably vicious dog has bitten their arm and made it bleed—that they relax and breath deeply, that Mummy will kiss it all better. Get them to say to a pillow I do not mean you harm, but we must kill the monster together, and you need, now, to learn to be as ready to live as the strongest-ever mouse that EVER was, and then help this child beat the pillow on the bed, over and over and over, until they are drenched in sweat, have cried and cried at how far their trust of dogs has retreated from their capacity for love… until they are done. Until the cortisol has left their bloodstream and they can heal.
Mayo Clinic tells us:
“The body’s stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities. But when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of many health problems, including:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
That’s why it’s so important to learn healthy ways to cope with your life stressors.” 
Soft, gentle words can be shared later. Any time. All the time. They are also perennially wonderful. And they will also love you forever (despite their capacity for apathetic behavior). But not at the expense of their lives, their sanity, their self-worth or their relationships when you are no longer able to provide them with the truth of the world. Or worse. If you knew the truth of the world and you told them they were safe, despite it. That you will always keep them safe, when that is a lie. That they will be safe. What did you just say?
You wish somebody had had this conversation with you.
You need your own crash pillow that agrees to an alliance.
You need to teach the child—and know it for yourself—that mice are ferocious when the need arises, and there is the possibility of escape.
You need to open the cage door.
Fear is not the enemy. An enemy is the enemy. FEAR CAN SAVE YOUR FUCKING LIFE.
 Apprehended Violence Order