1. Ongoing Debate On “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”

    Inflammatory headline aside, I found the recent Atlantic magazine article - ‘Why women still can’t have it all’ - to be a really interesting look at how and why women struggle with work-life balance once they have a family. The main argument of the piece is that our current inflexible work culture does not allow for modern family dynamics (aka two working parents trying to find time to care for kids). It is written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who worked for the US State Department for two years before having to leave because her work clashed too much with family commitments. Slaughter argues that until we have a more flexible working culture women will continue to hold fewer top-level positions.

    The article has been quite controversial and widely discussed online (see Twitter hashtag #havingitall), so much so that Slaughter is now writing a book on the topic. There are many critics out there, challenging Slaughter’s argument from various standpoints. Some see the ‘having it all’ debate as only a middle class concern, others say the simple answer is just to not have kids, and others still think the presentation of the article demonstrates a persistently patronising and judgemental attitude towards working mothers. Underlying many critiques is the viewpoint that its not helpful to pose work-life balance as a feminist issue. Slaughter acknowlegdes the concern that as a powerful woman she risks putting out the wrong message; discouraging other women from going for top positions by openly highlighting the personal struggles she has faced, and linking these struggles overtly with her gender.

    There are of course an increasing number of women in positions of power today, who are balancing work and family life successfully. An example of this has just recently come from Yahoo appointing new female CEO, Marissa Mayer, who is expecting a baby later this year. The only way being a CEO and expectant mother has been made possible, however, is through the minimal maternity leave Mayer has agreed to take (just a few weeks, and she will work throughout). This seems to support a point Slaughter makes - that it is only ‘super-women’ making it to the top; those who are prepared to sacrafice more than many would be willing or physically able to. Slaughter poses that if we want to see true equality, meaning 50-50 distribution of the positions of power in society, then we need to acknowledge that our (over)working practices must change.

    Many are extremely grateful to Slaughter for being honest about the fact not all parents (neither men nor women) are super-human, and many are struggling to find time for family and for their high-pressure careers. I can see the critics’ point that the issue of work-life balance is not only a feminist issue, but a concern of society at large. However, Slaughter has highlighted that these challenges still seem to persistently and disproportionately effect women, and in so doing she has provided a fresh perspective that has struck a chord with many. The debate continues, and its really interesting to see so many diverse voices joining the discussion…

  2. Here’s a painting wot i did.

    Here’s a painting wot i did.

  3. Reinventing Malcolm X

    So!

    I thought I knew about Malcolm X. A man who grew up poor and black amid violence and racism, who ended up in prison and whose life was turned around by the Nation of Islam. A man who grew to be one of the most important black leaders in the US, and who was finally assassinated by powerful enemies in the NOI.

    As it turns out, I only knew the legend of Malcom X. The one celebrated in the 1992 film by Spike Lee. The one crafted by Malcolm himself and his autobiographer Alex Haley. The narrative arc of a criminal redeemed and a hero cut down in his prime.

    Malcolm X: A life of reinvention is a biography for Malcolm geeks like me. It’s a definitive account of his life by African-American academic Manning Marable, who died just three days before this epic work was published, a book that had taken him ten years to research and write. It’s the whole story - as complete as it could be (at least without the FBI files that have yet to become public and could still shed some light on Malcom’s life, and death).

    I was so moved by the book that I had to stop reading for a week or two in the middle of it, because I knew Malcom only had a short time longer to live and I wasn’t ready to read about his assassination. It was too inevitable, and at the same time, too soon.

    Marable describes a man who in his last months was rapidly redefining himself, his struggle, and the place of black people in America. He was constantly contradicting his own words, renegotiating his position against the Nation of Islam which had shaped his intellectual and spiritual awakening; against the civil rights movement that he continued to refer to as a movement of ‘Uncle Toms’ while aligning himself more and more with efforts to demand a political voice for blacks. 

    At the same time, he was casting his struggle in increasingly universalist terms, befriending global icons of revolution like Che Guevara and pan-Africanist independence leaders Kwame Nkrumah; converting to ‘true’ (Sunni) Islam and identifying himself with the world community of Muslims, denouncing the strange sect that was the Nation of Islam.

    He was building, I think, a new political identity for himself - and in the process, carving out a new way of being for African Americans. Had he lived, I don’t doubt that he would have succeeded. As it stood, there was no one who could match him and fill that role. His story and his presence electrified people in a way that other black leaders didn’t; he also could legitimately claim to understand the suffering and the psychology of the black masses in a way that middle class leaders like Martin Luther King perhaps could not.

    And even though he would frequently contradict himself, because his ideas and influences were changing so fast, he did embody a kind of truth: he was a walking statement of black pride, of self-worth, of human potential. As Marable writes, “to most black Americans he became an icon of black encouragement, who fearlessly challenged racism wherever he found it and inspired black youth to take pride in their history and culture.” 

    Perhaps, if he had lived, he would never have grown into such an icon - perhaps he would have made one compromise too far for his more militant followers, or made some dodgy political alliances that would eventually have discredited him.

    Yet more than any other figure I can think of, he was constantly learning, constantly expanding his worldview - and he made no bones about it. His death marked an end to all this. That’s the one bit of history I wish I could revise.

  4. Volunteer zombies needed for a Halloween Street Scarefest in London town, whose ‘ghoul’ enough for it?   ~ Laura

  5. How to cope with Stress

    Eat, Smoke, Meditate: Why Your Brain Cares How You Cope

    An interesting article on how our brain deals with stress and why some of our coping mechanisms are detrimental….some obvious points but a reminder why yogis and Buddhists [among others] are so chilled out.  I want that! Wait, no I would like to stop focusing on the my internal ‘self’ dialogue and engage with the external on a moment by moment basis, yes that’s it.

    Ruby 

  6. Taking refuge…In this World

    Has anyone seen this? It’s amazing.

    The film follows two young Afghan refugees on their journey overland to the UK. They’re pushed from hotel to hotel, and pass borders by being hurled from one truck into another. All they can do is trust the people they meet and pray the smugglers/fixers won’t skrew them over, stealing what little money they have. 

    The film is an éxpose of humanity itself. As they boys get further from home they can no longer rely on words to get them through…

    Humour. Football. Faith in God. These universal languages are more than life-saving for the characters in this film - they are life-giving. 

    Cara

  7. East Street Market - Saaaaaf Landan

    I cycled past this wonderful market today. It sits on a residential road between Elephant and Castle and Peckham Rye. I know most of you are north, but if you happen to find yourself in saaaaf London, then check it out - and swing by mine for a cuppa while you’re at it.

    It’s on every day of the week and sells everything from random bits of electronic gear (stolen? who knows…), music, fruit/veg and a load of clothes that I’m not even sure a charity shop would accept. BUT - I did find this amazing little patchwork jacket for £3 that makes me look like I’m in a travelling circus. I love it.

    Today, I bought two courgettes, two peppers, two aubergine and a bunch of toms (I’m making ratatouille) for under £3. And if you’re into aquatic life - there’s loads of fish and seafood stalls.

    Cara

  8. 'Political correctness gone mad' - or plain old-fashioned racism?

    Standing around at the end of a party after almost everyone has gone home, a 34-year old white man says: “We’ve got two Negroes needing somewhere to sleep.” 

    That instantly sounds a bit wrong, right?

    He does happen to be friends with the two men in question. And apparently they have this kind of banter all the time. Which is also his justification for continuing to waffle on, stream-of-consciousness style, about ‘my Negroes’ and ‘my niggers’.

    So here is the question. Is that actually ok? Bear in mind he’s saying all this to me - non-white - and to my boyfriend, whose father and grandfather are black.

    In the event, I felt pretty strongly that it was not ok, and said so. I’m offended by it. I’m uncomfortable with it.

    This left me exposed to a kind of jabbing interrogation - why are you offended? Why can’t I say ‘nigger’ if these guys don’t seem to mind? Why can’t I speak how I want among my friends?

    Understandably, I was pretty uncomfortable about having to defend why I consider ‘nigger’ - one of the most widely accepted to be unacceptable words in the English-speaking world - to be offensive.

    Anyway, regardless of the question of whether or not you think you should have the right, as a white person, to use the word ‘nigger’, isn’t it just a bit weird to rub a word in someone’s face that they have just told you makes them extremely uncomfortable?

    The next morning, instead of any kind of apology, I got a kind of guilt-free “I don’t remember anything I said” and a snide reference to ‘political correctness gone mad’. Which is infuriating, because it’s one thing to be a dick when you’re drunk; quite another to refuse to take responsibility for it after sobering up.

    I feel the need to share this story because I’m still annoyed by it. But - more importantly - I also want to know what other people think: 

    Is it ok for a white person to drop the n bomb on unsuspecting acquaintances if they routinely do so in private conversations with their black friends?

    Am I justified in asking someone not to use the word ‘nigger’ around me?

    And how did we end up in a situation where people in my social circles are using the ultimate Daily Mail cliche - it’s political correctness gone mad! - to defend their right to use derogatory terms about other ethnic groups?

    *

    Pia

  9. How should we ‘Give’?

    There’s an old homeless chap who ‘lives’ somewhere on the route I walk into town and to work on a daily basis. When I see him in the mornings he is almost always bright and genial, wishing me to ‘have a good day Maam’.

    Over the last few months I have got into the habit of doing an extra round of sandwiches in the morning, making sure he at least got lunch a couple of times a week. He never asks for anything if I don’t offer it first, and I did feel that we had some kind of connection. I’d been a bit lax these last few weeks, and he’s been AWOL a lot, so on Friday, to make up for it I slipped him twenty rand (about £1.60).

    On Saturday when I walked home I saw him passed out on the street under a shop awning. Sadly, this not an uncommon sight in Claremont, especially on a weekend afternoon, when weekly shopper footfall has reached a peak, people have given their spare change away, and enough coins have been collected to imbibe some horrific moonshine in the nearest shebeen. What struck me hardest though was the fact that I may be partially responsible for his state on this occasion. And I got to thinking, when is charitable giving no longer charitable?

    I’ll be honest. I’m a bit of a push over. The reason why I make an extra round of sandwiches, or pay a bit too much for the paper or the big issue is a combination of guilt and the fact that I feel slightly better about myself after doing so. But is that really a good enough reason?

    The general consensus among South Africans is that you deserve whatever you’ve got. At first look, when you realise that the twenty rand you gave this guy probably went straight onto booze, maybe they are right. But who am I to really judge when I spent double that on a single Friday night cocktail? What right to we have to decide where ‘our’ money goes after we hand it over?

    We all want to think that we are making a difference by handing over our hard earned cash, especially in the current climate, where every donation seems to take a harder toll on the bottom line. What is the solution? Should we only ever donate to established and transparent charities, where we know that the money will be used to benefit as many people as possible? Should we go with the South African consensus of doing very little, and not looking our fellows in the eye? Or should we take a more personal approach, and actively seek out and select individuals and groups to contribute to?

    I don’t particularly enjoy being so full of questions without being able to think of a solution, but then I suppose if I did have a solution to this problem I would, paradoxically, be quite a rich woman. 

    ~~ Laura ~~

  10. Those Oh F**K moments

    Tonight I went to see a ‘play’ called 'The Oh F**K Moment', it was set up as a board room and the audience sat around a table covered in office paraphernalia and echoed a scene from ‘The Office’.  It was part audience participation and part performance where the actors told stories of their ‘Oh F**K’ moments and recited poems about why we have them, how we react to them and the origins of these reactions.

    We all have these moments where we know that after an event has occurred we can never return to life before, that we have forever changed in the eyes of another or smashed a Ming Dynasty vase that can never be repaired…. but sometimes these feeling are missed placed as shameful or embarrassing things we need to hide.  Instead, of feeling bad and hiding these events, Hannah Jane Walker and Chris Thorpe champion these experiences and believe we need to spend more time talking about them to learn and move on. 

    Every ‘Oh F**K’ moment is part of a pyramid of human cock ups and mistakes that stretch back through history to those days when we would have been caught on the edge of a precipice facing a saber tooth tiger thinking ‘Oh FUCK!’ And how now, for some of us the moment may not be an issue of life or death, rather loosing a memory stick of personal data on a train or calling out the wrong persons name during sex, or, as I experienced, crashing my instructors car during my second driving test….But I managed to take it again, with the same tester (who appeared rather nervous) and passed! (Watch out fellow drivers….)

    They discuss how we are are conditioned from a young age to follow rules and routines and follow the advice of signs and health and safety regulations to aspire not to fuck up rather than embrace the inevitability that we will probably continue to do something wrong/silly/life changing throughout life.

    We are standing on the shoulders of giant fuck ups throughout history and we are still learning from these - so lets embrace this!

    Ruby

  11. Loving thy enemy

    Last night I went to see Enemies of the People at the Rag Factory just off Brick Lane, at a screening organised by PEPY. The story it tells is incredible and unimaginable. 

    Of course, a documentary about the killers in Cambodia’s genocide cannot fail to shock you, even if you are familiar with the details. The sheer scale and speed with which between a third and a fifth of the population were wiped out - systematically, but with few more advanced tools than knives and pickaxes - is almost unbelievable.

    But even more incredible, perhaps, is the story of the filmmaker. Years after his father and brother are killed by the Khmer Rouge, his mother dies in childbirth after being forced to marry a Khmer Rouge soldier, and via a broken childhood spent partly in refugee camp on the Thai border, Thet Sambath eventually becomes a journalist and embarks on a mission to find out the truth about the genocide.

    For history’s sake

    His search takes him higher and higher up the chain until he finds Nuon Chea, otherwise known as ‘Brother Number Two’ to Pol Pot’s ‘Brother Number One’.

    Sambath spends years getting to know Nuon Chea, who lives with his family in a fairly modest wooden house out in the provinces. He builds a relationship with him; he wants the now elderly Nuon Chea to trust him. Eventually, after more than three years, Brother Number Two begins to tell the truth about his past life and deeds as a Khmer Rouge leader.

    Throughout this time, Sambath is also speaking to former Khmer Rouge members much lower down in the pecking order: the ordinary peasant men and women who were ordered to carry out and systematise the killings - sometimes 10 or 20 per day over a period of months - and who have never been publicly identified as killers; who continue to live in the communities they helped to decimate almost 40 years ago.

    It is worth noting that there developed in Cambodia, partly as a means of self-preservation, a culture of silence - people don’t speak about the past much, and the young generation today know little about the events of 1975-79. This was part of the motivation for making the film, to record this history before it is too late.

    Life of a former killer

    Watching the men who killed and the men who ordered the killing, you get the strong sense that it is the farmers-made-killers who are suffering now. They speak of being haunted by memories of what they have done; of regret, sorrow, shame, embarrassment, of feeling like they are spinning inside. They never knew why they were being ordered to kill, and they never knew ultimately where the orders were coming from. They were told to ‘investigate’ the problem, and then ‘solve’ the problem.

    Nuon Chea is much more reticent. He speaks about having to ‘sweep the individual aside’ in the interest of the nation. He says while he regrets that innocent people were killed, he doesn’t regret killing ‘enemies of the people’ - though we’re not sure how loosely these enemies are defined; is it enough to belong to a minority ethnic group deemed to have allegiances to Vietnam?

    It is only when Sambath finally tells him how his own family suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge that Nuon Chea seems to express real regret for the loss of innocent life. Watching this moment, you wonder whether the revelation - coming after years of trust-building and growing empathy between the two men - causes Brother Number Two to question himself at all.

    Love thy enemy?

    For me, the most powerful aspect of the film is Sambath’s ability to see the humanity in a man responsible for some of the most inhuman acts of the 20th century.

    Sambath doesn’t turn to the language of ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’, of ‘closure’, or any of those more complicated concepts we use to talk about death and violence. When he thinks about his father’s slow and painful death, witnesses by his brother, he feels ‘very sad’. When he sees other families having fun with their own children, it makes him want to escape from them, and he feels ‘very sad’. And, when Brother Number Two is eventually arrested to be tried for genocide at a UN-backed court in Phnom Penh, he also feels ‘very sad’. Not because Nuon Chea is a good man, but because he has spent time with him, and got to know him as a person.

    A film that goes against some of your most deeply-held assumptions about loss, trauma and revenge, one which tells you something very fundamental about being human. I’m still trying to make sense of it.

    *

    Pia

  12. Join an incredible cycling community this summer!

    If you know someone who’s into bikes, theatre, summer adventure, sustainable food, social justice, learning new skills or all things green and low-impact, it would be brilliant if you could share this. Thanks!


    SADDLE UP AND CHANGE THE WORLD

    We are currently creating a team of theatrical, bike-loving, green-thinking adventurers for a two-wheeled summer epic, starting in the beautiful Wye Valley. Here you will learn how to live as a travelling, low-impact team of change makers, before rolling on through the south west of England and ending in Cornwall six weeks later. You’ll inspire 1000s of young people at schools and festivals using Otesha’s world-changing workshops and high-energy play. You’ll also visit inspirational projects along the way, such as organic farms and permaculture holdings. You’ll spread the word on how everyone can make the world a greener, fairer place and becoming brilliant at bike maintenance, gurus of group living skills and workshop wizards along the way. 

About me

At Sussex University many moons ago, a bunch of students set up a magazine called Poda Poda. A poda poda is a minibus in Sierra Leone that picks up anyone and anything, and we wanted to embody that inclusive, communal spirit. Now we are all getting on a bit but we still have interesting things to say from time to time.

We hope you like our blog. Email postpoda@gmail.com if you want to contribute.

xxx

Susie Christensen is currently working towards a PhD which concerns the intersections and relationships between neurology, psychological medicine and modernist literature in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. She has also taught undergraduate students English Literature. She likes cycling, reading, apple holders, banana guards, eating, Scandinavia and Freud. She doesn’t like prejudice, ignorance, bruised apples, mushy bananas, the fact she’s mediocre at drawing or Richard Dawkins. She likes to think that her PhD will make a difference to someone, somewhere, somehow, and believes in the power of ideas. Tweet @soozchristensen

Pia Muzaffar Dawson does digital comms for a group of elderly superheroes. She likes buses, racism, fasting for Ramadan, eyeballs, jumble sales, painting, humidity, nasi lemak, Indonesian martial arts and raw fish. She doesn't like ketchup, internet trolls or Richard Dawkins. Her special skill is falling asleep in under 10 seconds and her ambition is to get Desmond Tutu on Twitter. Tweet @pia_muzaffar

Lou works for Quakers, doing various things with paper, words and shapes. She likes food but hates eggs and bananas.
Tweet @louisawright

Laura is PostPoda’s (non) resident Nomad. She has lived in six countries in the last four years and can currently be found wandering the southern slopes of Table Mountain. She likes baking, spotify and climbing to tops of big hills. She had to Google who Richard Dawkins was.
Tweet @agnostic_pope

Tams multi-tasks as a teacher/ green jobs caseworker whilst coming to terms with the fact that she is a very bad multi-tasker and frequently spends late nights in front of computer screens she doesn’t understand but gets through with her love of coffee, reggae, homous and eucalyptus based products. She likes dancing, cycling, green and is at her happiest when swimming outside. She dislikes hanging up laundry and cars, and is considering learning how to tweet.