Homeward bound – personal reflections

Once again I have been amazed with offerings of generosity and trust. Laurie works a relentless 8am-12pm, seven day week. Yet she still allowed me to steal time to interview her and she proof read every post with remarkable speed. What amazes me most about Laurie is her ego-less-ness. Even her husband Ken agreed, “Laurie does not have an ego!” There is not the tiniest hint that Laurie does anything for recognition, power or praise. My guess is that she rarely receives any of these, often barely a thank you, and perhaps more often is not given the respect or gratitude which is her due. The conservation world has its fair share of ego-bound, power-hungry individuals, maybe more than its fair share. Unfortunately it is these individuals who are most likely to become leading figures in large-scale organisations as they satiate their desire for power. It is sadly ironic that people like Laurie who, with their lack of ego are exquisitely talented in seeing all sides to a situation, treating others with respect and mediating conflicting groups, are not generally in the driving seat of large organisations.

But what of me? Where do I (and my ego, I’m afraid I do have one!) go next? I remember a comment from a conservationist along the way, “What a luxurious position you are in, not having to give your opinion on anything you are writing about!” There was an edge to the comment, the suggestion being that as a factual writer I should be presenting my opinions on the facts of a situation. That, for example, if I did not agree with certain views or actions of a conservationist I was working with, I should present those aspects on my blog.

My honest answer in the moment was that I had an agreement with each conservationist to write such things as they were happy for me to write and to give them editorial control to approve what I wrote. And I was going to honour that agreement! This I believed to be the only honourable way to undertake this project; I was an unknown stranger walking into these conservationists lives. Would you let a complete stranger write about you, both your professional and personal life, without the safety net of knowing you could approve everything they wrote?

But, I have also mulled over his challenge considerably as I look to the future. Yes, I understand and agree with the principle of journalistic freedom; that a factual writer should be objective and not have an allegiance to any individual or set of ideas. However, I also believe that journalists can, either intentionally or not, abuse this freedom. Laurie gave me a wonderful compliment, she said, “You listen well. Not everyone can do that. You listen and you accurately reflect what you have heard.” It is all too easy to misinterpret words, an incompetent journalist could conduct an interview and present an entirely inaccurate picture simply because they have not listened well and not recreated the information faithfully. And a supposedly competent journalist could intentionally misinterpret a person’s words in order to present a picture that fits their beliefs or their newspaper’s viewpoint. How often do we really get objective facts presented to us in the media? 10% of the time maybe, if that? Where is the integrity in that? Where is the honour in writing about someone and not allowing them to check for accuracy as to the meaning of their words or intentions?

I also believe I would not have been qualified to offer my opinions on most of the issues I have written about. I am a novice in writing and I am a novice in the field of conservation. Who would I be to state my opinions on issues which I as yet know very little about? I have certain opinions, for example, about fishing and whale entanglement. But I hardly know anything about the matter. I have spoken to one person only on this issue. I have not interviewed fishermen, other conservationists, researchers, NOAA officials or other figures involved. I have not worked within the arena for years to build up an in-depth knowledge of the subject. If I were to state my opinions on this issue, they would be worthless. I could of course, like so many people, do so. I could spout off what I think the real problem is, who is to blame, what the solution is, what everybody should do about the matter… And this would be complete nonsense! Our world is full of people who have decided on their viewpoint, and importantly decided that their viewpoint is the only correct one, and are convinced that the way forward is to force everyone else to agree with them. From politics to religion, to media, to every aspect of life, the temptation is to state a personal version of reality as being the only version of reality. I could easily fall into that trap, it would so suit my ego’s needs to believe that I am right and it is my job to order everyone else around!

So I am still mulling over thoughts about journalistic freedom of expression… I do not believe it is as clear cut as it sounds.

All of these musings are feeding my ideas on what and how I want to write in the future. My idealised wish list for, let’s say 5-10 years down the line, includes:

1. Factual writing and other forms of broadcasting. I want to present factual stories from multi-perspectives. I want to take conservation issues, such as whale entanglement, and present all sides of the issue as clearly and accurately as possible. I want to take human issues, such as immigration, and interview an immigrant, a native person against immigration, a law official, an aid worker… I believe this to be a first step in a process of reconciling conflicting perspectives. Just as in personal therapy a first step is to allow a dialogue between conflicting parts of a person’s ego, maybe the inner child craving love and attention, and the parental voice telling them off for being demanding, so in society a first step is to allow all sides to be heard. As within, so without; the problems which exist at a society level are simply our inner conflicts played out on a larger stage.

2. Fictional writing for adults. I want to continue exploring psychological and spiritual themes. The feral girl story, once complete, will be my longest story. It is a first step maybe. My interests lie in finding metaphors that aid people’s understanding of themselves, each other and life. This, I believe, has always been the true role of mythology and religious writings. We lack metaphor and ritual in today’s world. People are bumbling around with no clue as to their life’s purpose, no sense of meaning or of hope. Everyone can have a purpose in life, not one imposed on them by a set of external rules, but one which they find for themselves in their internal world. Sometimes all they need are a few pointers to help them look within and find their own answers.

3. I would also like to write for children. A friend has used my ‘Whiskie the Whale Spotter’ story with children in a primary school… This has given me ideas for writing fictional stories for young readers… But these ideas are very much in their infancy!

For those of you reading this who may be thinking in practical terms of, “Yes, but what next Amanda? Idealised visions are all very well but how are you going to achieve this and how are you going to live in the meantime?” Hmm, well I would say, “I do not have clue but I will find out as I go!” I’ve got this far and I seem to be surviving. In the immediate future, I have magazine articles to write, the feral girl story to complete, further blog posts on conservationists, relationships to build upon, new doors to knock on and much research into how I progress further. I hope to return to California as that intuitively feels like a good place for me to be. I expect to be working voluntarily, or for the odd peanut thrown in, for a good while to come yet, so I will be living simply and earning my living through dance and teaching. It helps not having children, a home or a pension… Those things will hopefully come at some point along the way!

And in a few days time all work on my career will go recklessly out the window for a couple of weeks as I explore a romance that germinated in Peru, will hopefully grow roots, stem and leaves in England, and may bear flowers and fruit in some other country somewhen in the future… But that is a whole other story which someone else might have to ask my permission to write about one day…!

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