Life & Dreams

Last night I had the strange dream, I was riding up a hill on a trike, a child’s trike. I looked quite ridiculous on it, as I was too big for it; as I rode up, I came to a house, and for some reason I stopped at this house, where there were some older people, entertaining family and friends.  They were sitting down to a shared dinner, I was not asked to join them, and felt like an intruder, which I was, and for some reason I lingered there for a while, reluctant to leave.

There I met a young boy, a disabled young boy, who I seemed to know from somewhere, I think from a hospital, and we got on very well, we were friends.  The young boy and I played chess, he liked to play chess, as we played, I told everyone sitting around us, how I learned to play chess, I regaled them with the story of my dad, the farmer from Spring Creek, who went to Bangladesh, where he adopted me, and taught me chess, they seemed to know him by name.

I left the house, and continued on my journey to my destination, to a tranquil spot on the farm up the hill, where there was a pond below a waterfall, it was so blue, and I recall telling everyone at the house of it.   As I rode up the hill, daylight was diminishing, darkness was falling too quickly.

I felt my fear as I rode, fear of being in the dark on my own, then a large truck came down the hill, towards me, leaving me no space on the road, I had to move as far to the right as I could, so not to be run over, a few minutes later, another truck headed down the hill towards me, threatening to run me over. Then the meow of my cat awakened me, wanting me to let him out.

As I sat drinking my coffee, I reflected on my dream, yes, I understood the meaning; It really did reflect my life during waking hours, as I find myself a transient, trying to build my life out of the wreckage that it is, not only internally, but I look around and find the external surroundings reflect the internal state. I look at the front door, where there should be glass, was boarded up with cardboard, I look at the curtain less windows, the holes, in the doors, and walls, the broken doors on cupboards that will not close, the floors with no carpet, the rubbish strewn about everywhere outside and inside, my belongings sit in a chaotic mess around me in my tiny little room.  The peeling paint on walls, and windows, where no matter how I hard I clean I cannot remove the dirt. This wreckage is an outward reflection of my life so far.  How do I get myself out of this, how do I re-build my life?

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Vikings were never the pure-bred master race white supremacists like to portray

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Clare Downham, University of Liverpool

The word “Viking” entered the Modern English language in 1807, at a time of growing nationalism and empire building. In the decades that followed, enduring stereotypes about Vikings developed, such as wearing horned helmets and belonging to a society where only men wielded high status.

During the 19th century, Vikings were praised as prototypes and ancestor figures for European colonists. The idea took root of a Germanic master race, fed by crude scientific theories and nurtured by Nazi ideology in the 1930s. These theories have long been debunked, although the notion of the ethnic purity of the Vikings still seems to have popular appeal – and it is embraced by white supremacists.

In contemporary culture, the word Viking is generally synonymous with Scandinavians from the ninth to the 11th centuries. We often hear terms such as “Viking blood”, “Viking DNA” and “Viking ancestors” – but the medieval term meant something quite different to modern usage. Instead it defined an activity: “Going a-Viking”. Akin to the modern word pirate, Vikings were defined by their mobility and this did not include the bulk of the Scandinavian population who stayed at home.

‘Going a-Viking’.
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While the modern word Viking came to light in an era of nationalism, the ninth century – when Viking raids ranged beyond the boundaries of modern Europe – was different. The modern nation states of Denmark, Norway and Sweden were still undergoing formation. Local and familial identity were more prized than national allegiances. The terms used to describe Vikings by contemporaries: “wicing”, “rus”, “magi”, “gennti”, “pagani”, “pirati” tend to be non-ethnic. When a term akin to Danes, “danar” is first used in English, it appears as a political label describing a mix of peoples under Viking control.

The mobility of Vikings led to a fusion of cultures within their ranks and their trade routes would extend from Canada to Afghanistan. A striking feature of the early Vikings’ success was their ability to embrace and adapt from a wide range of cultures, whether that be the Christian Irish in the west or the Muslims of the Abbasid Caliphate in the east.

Blending of cultures

Developments in archaeology in recent decades have highlighted how people and goods could move over wider distances in the early Middle Ages than we have tended to think. In the eighth century, (before the main period of Viking raiding began), the Baltic was a place where Scandinavians, Frisians, Slavs and Arabic merchants were in frequent contact. It is too simplistic to think of early Viking raids, too, as hit-and-run affairs with ships coming directly from Scandinavia and immediately rushing home again.

Recent archaeological and textual work indicates that Vikings stopped off at numerous places during campaigns (this might be to rest, restock, gather tribute and ransoms, repair equipment and gather intelligence). This allowed more sustained interaction with different peoples. Alliances between Vikings and local peoples are recorded from the 830s and 840s in Britain and Ireland. By the 850s, mixed groups of Gaelic (Gaedhil) and foreign culture (Gaill) were plaguing the Irish countryside.

Written accounts survive from Britain and Ireland condemning or seeking to prevent people from joining the Vikings. And they show Viking war bands were not ethnically exclusive. As with later pirate groups (for example the early modern pirates of the Caribbean), Viking crews would frequently lose members and pick up new recruits as they travelled, combining dissident elements from different backgrounds and cultures.

The cultural and ethnic diversity of the Viking Age is highlighted by finds in furnished graves and silver hoards from the ninth and tenth centuries. In Britain and Ireland only a small percentage of goods handled by Vikings are Scandinavian in origin or style.

From the Galloway Hoard, discovered in Scotland in 2014.
John Lord, CC BY

The Galloway hoard, discovered in south-west Scotland in 2014, includes components from Scandinavia, Britain, Ireland, Continental Europe and Turkey. Cultural eclecticism is a feature of Viking finds. An analysis of skeletons at sites linked to Vikings using the latest scientific techniques points to a mix of Scandinavian and non-Scandinavian peoples without clear ethnic distinctions in rank or gender.

The evidence points to population mobility and acculturation over large distances as a result of Viking Age trade networks.

The Viking Age was a key period in state formation processes in Northern Europe, and certainly by the 11th and 12th centuries there was a growing interest in defining national identities and developing appropriate origin myths to explain them. This led to a retrospective development in areas settled by Vikings to celebrate their links to Scandinavia and downplay non-Scandinavian elements.

The fact that these myths, when committed to writing, were not accurate accounts is suggested by self-contradictory stories and folklore motifs. For example, medieval legends concerning the foundation of Dublin (Ireland) suggest either a Danish or Norwegian origin to the town (a lot of ink has been spilt over this matter over the years) – and there is a story of three brothers bringing three ships which bears comparison with other origin legends. Ironically, it was the growth of nation states in Europe which would eventually herald the end of the Viking Age.

Unrecognisable nationalism

In the early Viking Age, modern notions of nationalism and ethnicity would have been unrecognisable. Viking culture was eclectic, but there were common features across large areas, including use of Old Norse speech, similar shipping and military technologies, domestic architecture and fashions that combined Scandinavian and non-Scandinavian inspirations.

It can be argued that these markers of identity were more about status and affiliation to long-range trading networks than ethnic symbols. A lot of social display and identity is non-ethnic in character. One might compare this to contemporary international business culture which has adopted English language, the latest computing technologies, common layouts for boardrooms and the donning of Western suits. This is a culture expressed in nearly any country of the world but independently of ethnic identity.

Similarly, Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries may be better defined more by what they did than by their place of origin or DNA. By dropping the simplistic equation of Scandinavian with Viking, we may better understand what the early Viking Age was about and how Vikings reshaped the foundations of medieval Europe by adapting to different cultures, rather than trying to segregate them.

Clare Downham, Senior Lecturer, University of Liverpool

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Making changes for the better

I have always been a fierce fighter…I fight to not just exist but to live.

Ever since I escaped from the house of my childhood enslavement, I have been fighting, and I am guessing that I will keep on fighting, until my last breath.

I don’t always feel like fighting, not when my depression, anxiety, and Complex PTSD takes over, then all I want to do is just not exist, but I do come out of that state, eventually…to continue to fight to change the current situation, for the better.

My bouts of PTSD, anxiety, and depression attacks are my motivators, once they have passed, not at the time they have me under their control.

I fight to change the situation I am in, to reduce or wipe them out of my life, I refuse to sit and wallow in them.  Sure, I want to learn everything I can about them, to understand them, to understand where they come from, what triggers them, and learn as much as I can about them.

I fight to educate the general population, around me on my mental illnesses, and the health sector in New Zealand. I fight to remove the stigma that surrounds my mental illnesses, I fight for people to take notice, and care about it, and stop the apathy of the general population, and the NZ Health Sector.

Way back, when I was a young girl of eight, I was kept locked up for years, abused by the captor, and their friends and family, to a point where I was only months away from death’s door, but there was a part of me who fought to survive, a part of me who was not ready to die yet, wanted to experience life more, and I fought back, even death.

My fighting spirit has brought me around the world, from a small village in Bangladesh, to a big City in New Zealand, via the world, and I am not ready to stop fighting yet.

The only person who can make a difference in my life is me, with the help of my therapist, and the Mental Health team, to whom I am eternally grateful.

I want you to fight, to change the things you are not happy about, do whatever it takes to change them, do not sit there and think there is nothing you can do, you can!

If one doctor is not right, get another, if one therapist is not right, find another. It may take you time to do it, because after each rejection, each fob off, each ignorant person, you will have setbacks, that is ok. take care of yourself while you are there, re-energise your batteries, and start again…but don’t give up, and don’t give in.

 

It’s not about the ‘Bad boy’ or the ‘Nice Guy’

Today I had one of those Eureka moments, during a conversation with a fellow free thinking woman, on men and dating, and our personal preferences.

As we described our likes and preferences, it came about that race, religion, creed, did not matter….all that mattered was that he be an Alpha male, or even a beta male, but definitely not the Omega, and from our own experiences, most of those so called ‘Nice guys’ fall into the Omega category.

Here are top 10 signs you are not an alpha male, according to Askmen.com, in descending order:

10: You let her pay for dinner

An Alpha Male provides for his pack. If she tries to contribute to this, he calmly takes the cheque and says, “I’ll handle this.” End of discussion.

9: You never apologise, even when you are wrong

An Alpha Male has no hang-ups. He simply says, “I was wrong. Apologise.” And he rectifies the problem if possible.

8: You suck up to leaders and seek their approval

An Alpha Male doesn’t suck up to anyone. He is the leader.

7: You Gossip

About your boss. About your buddies. About your girlfriend. You don’t mind pointing out other people’s failings and weaknesses and having a good laugh. An Alpha Male never betrays his pack. He doesn’t need to build himself up by tearing others down.

6: You Panic in a Crisis

An Alpha Male’s natural element is change. Rapid change is simply an interesting challenge to him. He goes into a special kind of ice-cold, almost detached state, quickly sums up the situation, does due diligence if time allows for it, and acts immediately and decisively based on prior experience if there is no time to spare.

5: You act before you think

Male may act with lightning speed, but he always thinks before he acts. He never runs to the corner and goes off in all directions like a type-A guy does.

4: You blame others

An Alpha Male takes responsibility for his own actions.

3: You Lie

To your boss. To your buddies. To your girlfriend. An Alpha Male isn’t a liar. He’s a stand-up guy; he shoots straight. He doesn’t have to slither out of a mess he got himself into. He does what’s right, and lets the chips fall where they may.

2: You Betray others to get ahead

An Alpha Male never betrays a member of his pack.

1: You Bully People

Male takes on a real fight when it is necessary, and only if it is necessary (Alphas are not “scrappers”), but he won’t think twice taking on someone far bigger/stronger/better-situated than he is if the matter being decided is serious. And due to his fierce drive, chances are good he will win.