As I sit here at 9.30am Monday morning (Australian Brisbane time), I am reminded of my promise to myself not to write my lists up on my blog. While it may be useful to me, it certainly does not make for exciting reading.
Or so I thought! Imagine if I were a particularly famous or important person, just for a moment (yep, not me). How about Gandhi, or Aung San Suu Kyi? My to do lists might include
- wake up, remind self of freedom
- eat breakfast, remind self of freedom
- get dressed, prepare for day of freedom
- meet with press, make public statement about Burma and freedom
- await rearrest by Burma junta
- note that Burma junta are just biding their time and not arresting me just yet.
- make another press announcement, this time in favour of making peace with Burma junta
- speak with supporters, look over shoulder to see if Burma junta are arresting me again
- have lunch with supporters
- apply for tourist visa to anywhere but Burma
You get the drift. I think my little life, the one not grand, but small and quiet, with its taken for granted privileges and democratic rights, with my working electricity and driveable car and six bedroom house (admittedly rented), my small easy life, is one that is easy for me to assume. I have the humblest regard for those such as Suu Kyi, whose steadfast adherence to principle and reason causes them to be a target for violent and anti-democratic behaviour, and whose lives become a moral compass for those who are oppressed, downtrodden and destroyed.
Women and men such as Suu Kyi, whose own small lives become a grand drama for the rights of others, become more than footnotes in the annals of history. I admire them. I do not aspire to be like them, or even be them – my upbringing really precludes this, but I certainly wonder how in my own, quiet way, my small way, I can help people like them to realise their dream of freedom and democracy for their people.
As I get older I wonder how I can make that happen. I support Medecins Sans Frontiers, and I regularly donate to charities, but is it enough? My sister Katie is a Native Rights lawyer in Australia. She has been instrumental in helping the indigenous peoples of Victoria successfully claim 25% of crown land as native title, meaning that while the government can still do what they like with the land, they can’t sell it as freehold, and the native and traditional owners have some say over the management of the land and water in those provinces. It’s a huge achievement and I am so proud of my sister for being one of the front line of successful human rights lawyers in Australia. She is one of those little people, whose quiet hard work will not be acknowledged in the wider world, but whose work within a community of grateful indigenous peoples will not be forgotten. She is desperately exhausted, alone and burnt out by this six-ten year battle. And she is my hero. No chest beating bravado, no huge trumpet or fanfare, two minutes on the local news: hers is a quiet victory, and she is a quiet hero.
So while I sit here with my PhD and my home brewed coffee and my complacency, I’m sparing a thought today for the grand and the small heroes of our lifetime. Suu Kyi, Mandela, and my sister.