Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Leeds Uni civil liberties talk

Am off to Leeds tomorrow to do another talk on terrorism and civil liberties; the talk is at 5pm and is part of a term-long focus on issues of civil liberties that the students and the University have organised. I don't get paid for doing these talks, but I am lucky that I am able to work flexibly and take time off to do this kind of thing now and again. The debate about freedom and fear, liberty and security, is one I am passionate about, and it is a privilege to be asked to speak, having unexpectedly ended up with this platform because of a chance series of events, and because of my writing in the aftermath about the broader issues the events brought into national focus.

I still find it miserably uncomfortable talking about the personal, experiential side of my story. I have said everything I want to say about what it was like in this blog, I have written a book about it and now, when I am asked to relive it all over yet again, I try to explain that it does not help me to do so and that I do not want to. People always want the drama, the backstory, but I am reluctant to feed it to them, although I will do if it is a necessary part of campaigning or speaking out, which it almost always is. As a brief introduction about why I ended up speaking about civil liberties and trying to get an inquiry into the July 7th bombings, it is unfortunately necessary; if it is just for someone's journalism assignment, as a first person horror story, I don't see the point anymore. It took a long time before I felt able to say, enough: I can't help everybody all the time. Survivor guilt can push you into doing things that are damaging. At least I can disentangle my reactions better these days, and recognise when the price is too high to pay.

I can't do everything I am asked to do, but I try and respond to student requests as much as possible because - well, because I think it it is important. If you don't back up your principles with action, then they're not really principles, they're just opinions, someone told me once, and I took that one to heart. Maybe too much to heart, these last years, but five days in Amsterdam with my love has restored the balance and recharged my batteries somewhat, thank God.


Blogger aka Cate said...

What an excellent story of self-care. You are lucky to have you, if that makes sense. I'm delighted to hear you and J had a great time. Welcome home.

March 04, 2008 10:20 pm  
Blogger poons said...

If you intend carry on these talks, which I do hope you do, may I suggest you create a summary that provides the back story available as a download from here in PDF format for the organisation to give to attendees. Just a thought.

March 05, 2008 11:05 pm  
Blogger redwine said...

Thank you for coming and talking to us at Leeds University. One question I was unable to ask due a lack of time is what are your views onconspiracy theories? I am personally not a suscriber to any of the theories but it seems that there is enormous interst in the throy and that there should be chance for discussion withou the heckling.

March 06, 2008 4:11 pm  
Blogger redwine said...

Also, sorry for the spelling mistakes above, I am in a hurry to fnish my dissertation. My friend wanted to know who you were refering to in your speech to Mr Bliar at the Lords when you said ''you have your job, your loved ones, your health and future still. There are hundreds who do not''. Who are the hundereds?

I hope this is clear.

THanks again

Best wishes with the book, im sure to get my copy when i have the money.

March 06, 2008 4:20 pm  
Blogger Cookiemouse said...

Nice to hear that Amsterdam did its magic for you. I pass by the Krasnapolsky every morning. Did you notice that the window girls are slowly being replaced by fashion displays?

March 06, 2008 8:46 pm  
Blogger Henry North London said...

The hundreds If I can reply on Rachel's behalf are the hundreds who were on that train that morning and are damaged either by Post traumatic stress disorder, minor injuries and those who have lost limbs, bits, hearing, eyes, etc by the flying glass For them, unlike the dead the memory of that day doesn't fade because they see it every morning in their mirror , the other people the hundreds who knew the dead the loss of those people is a continuing void, One does tend to distract oneself if one has lost someone but its never going to replace them, some of us move on, but some continue being terribly hurt and upset by it even now almost three years on.

March 07, 2008 6:58 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

poons - good idea.
redwine- I've looked at the conspiracy theories in detail and find that they are misguided and untruthful, fanciful and inaccurate, and in some cases, downright offensive. Claiming that the bombers were innocent is understandably upsetting to people who were impacted by their actions.

Over 750 people were injured in the 4 explosions, and many more have gone on to suffer long term psychological injury, as Henry points out.

cookiemouse - I noticed that the Dam is cleaning up a bit, which is good - there are still lots of stag groups, but the Red Light area is being smartened up gradually. I feel sorry for the window girls, it's a pretty grim life.

March 07, 2008 11:21 am  
Blogger redwine said...

Ok thanks for the swift reply. Blogs truly are a great form of communication. I am sorry if what I wrote seemed crude, I meant not to come acroos unsensitive. Its just that from being on campus there is such a diverse view of everything it sometimes seems difficult to find the hegemony.

March 07, 2008 11:30 am  
Blogger The Poet Laura-eate said...

I may be talking out of my hat here, but perhaps a psychologist or even acting trainer might be able to help you distance yourself more when you do a reading, so it remains genuine, but not quite so painful and personal.

It sounds like there does indeed come a time when it is no longer cathartic to relate such personal traumas, but in your case people will always want to feel they've heard about them first-hand, which can't be easy.

March 07, 2008 3:01 pm  
Blogger Phil BC said...

On a completely unrelated note, cheers for your comment on the campest video ever and thanks for my addition to your blogroll next time you do a spring clean.

I'll be sure to regularly pop in from now on :)

March 10, 2008 3:48 pm  
Blogger Nicey said...


Mr_Nice here from Urban, gotta say that I am really enjoying your book, you and J sound so happy together, you have a real tallent at writing and getting down on paper the way you feel....
I am only a third of the way through it but I can say that it has already made me cry :(
I am leaving the book on my desk at work and quite a few people have picked it up.....
Your a top girl !
Keep ondoing what you keep on doing !


March 11, 2008 10:22 am  
Blogger Old Fogey said...

Your reluctance not to want to talk about the experience is natural. My grandfather survived the First World War. I could never get him to talk about his experiences in the trenches, though he would talk freely about working on a farm as a prisoner of war. He just didn't want his mind to go back there. Sometimes it is safer to bury things - and go to Amsterdam!

March 16, 2008 12:48 pm  

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