By Kerri Romeo
`Here! you may nurse it a bit, if you like!’ the Duchess said to Alice, flinging the baby at her as she spoke. `I must go and get ready to play croquet with the Queen,’ and she hurried out of the room.Alice in Wonderland, Chapter VI
After Alice’s initial failed attempts (through logic and compassionate reasoning) to protect the Duchess’ baby, the negligent mother finally passes off her baby to Alice when she has more important matters to attend to (a game of croquet, anyone? Golf is common in our American Wonderland. Or going to sleep on the job when lives were at risk).
For those of us who aren’t in a place of power, we might have the best of intentions. We want to fight racism. We want to fight inequality. We want to demand changes in the systems. We believe what is happening is morally and ethically wrong. We know that if we continue with the status-quo patterns, lives will further deteriorate. Many of us are beginning to understand the consequences of imperialism towards people; towards the environment; towards future generations. Some have always known. We all want to help.
`If I don’t take this child away with me,’ thought Alice, `they’re sure to kill it in a day or two: wouldn’t it be murder to leave it behind?’
It would be murder, wouldn’t it? The violent act of neglect in communities.
But….then many of us judge. The lives of those in the middle class are not directly affected and they cannot relate. The lives of those who are somewhat comfortable, but also one missed mortgage or rent payment or car payment away from struggle feel threatened. When those who are already struggling (and those who support them) start showing their feelings and start revealing harsh realities the comfortable get uncomfortable.
`Don’t grunt,’ said Alice; `that’s not at all a proper way of expressing yourself.’
What is the proper way to express struggle anyway? Who gets to decide that? The people in power just want everyone to behave decently. But is that honest? Is that a convenient cover-up?
And so the narrative shifts from “We want to help!” to “We wanted to help, but….”
`If you’re going to turn into a pig, my dear,’ said Alice, seriously, `I’ll have nothing more to do with you.’
At first, as the baby transforms from a baby into a pig, Alice struggles to recognize the differences and questions their likenesses. Yet, she has already decided she would treat the pig differently than she would the baby. Aren’t they both deserving of compassion?
Is a baby born into poverty less worthy of healthcare than a baby born into an upper-middle class family? Is a child raised by a single mother working multiple jobs less deserving of a quality education because of the zip code his/her mother can afford? Is the father working at a fast-food restaurant 60 hours a week lazy compared to the father working 40 hours as a pharmaceutical executive? Is the struggling parent who speaks in broken english less intelligent than his/her high-society counterpart? Is the family living across the globe less deserving of a stable home without bombs in the backyard than the family living in the American suburbs? A country’s policies and systems reflect the government’s perceptions about this baby, this mother, this father and this family. Do our country’s policies and systems represent them? Or do they divide everything into superior and inferior? Rich and poor. White and black.
What would it look like if we shifted our perception? What if we shattered the capitalist myth that perpetuates the belief that money and race define us rather than community? What if we recognized that the appearance of unity only further divides us. What if we understood that we can stop trying to unite in theory? Because we are already interconnected in reality.
TEJU ADISA-FARRAR discusses why and how we can stop fighting each other due to a scarcity narrative that benefits the small 1%. Learn what collective community is in Remapping Our World on an episode of the “For the Wild”
An excerpt Teju shares from one of her poems:
When the giant wave comes washing over our bodies
Black people become mermaids
And Indigenous people become seeds
What will you become?
Wondering where to go next? Maybe you will find some answers or, more likely, more questions in the next installment…
Kerri is an advocate for the introverted activist. Often at a loss for words in person, she writes to make sense of the world and connect with others. She wishes for more curiosity & kindness in the world.