Saturday, 10 June 2017

Sleepwalking Towards Gilead



Margaret Atwood's Dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, written over a 2 year period from 1984-5, is based upon the 'unlikely' premise that a far-right religious extremist group overthrows the US government, suspends the constitution and forms an authoritarian regime, the Republic of Gilead, in which women are not allowed to work, read, or write and are only valued by their fertility.

At the time she was writing it, the scenario seemed utterly far-fetched. As Atwood commented recently: ''Back in 1984 the main premise seemed ~ even to me fairly outrageous. Would I be able to persuade readers that the United States had suffered a coup that had transformed an erstwhile liberal democracy into a literal-minded theocratic dictatorship?'' (New York Times Book Review)

Unlikely as her concept seemed then, the history of Gilead and the 'herstory' of Offred resonates  strongly today. I believe, personally, that we are sleepwalking towards Gilead, although we are as yet unaware that we have embarked upon the journey. My view is founded upon the way that certain rights are under threat in this country (UK) in a way they have never been before. This is how the journey is unfolding.

*  Control of Language 
Without our conscious awareness, we are subtly being fed new meanings to words that alter our perception of the people to whom they apply. Take the word immigrant for instance: do you not find yourself adding 'illegal' to it? How about Benefit ~ applicant or scrounger? This demonization of certain groups in society has been validated by the government and numerous TV reality programmes, where selective cutting creates a picture of people outside mainstream society.

* Control of the Streets
In the wake of the London/Manchester attacks, how many times have we walked past men in body armour carrying guns? When did this become normal? At what point do we tacitly accept that our 'freedom' is dependant upon men with guns patrolling our streets? Men who are trained to shoot and kill.

*Control of Rights
Theresa May has made it quite clear that she is prepared to 'rip up human rights laws to fight terror'. It sounds 'strong and stable', but behind the rhetoric is a frightening prospect. Consider what human rights consist of:
Right to life
Freedom from torture
Freedom from slavery
Freedom of speech
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
Freedom of movement


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Which right are you happy to be ripped up? And if one, why not two, three, or more? It is a slippery slope. Currently, we stand at the top of it looking down.

*Control of Conscience
We live in a pluralistic multi-culture, where 'citizens of the world' rub shoulders. Many diverse faiths, beliefs exist side by side. I would never question your deity (or none), but when religion and politics shake hands, it makes me uneasy. Theresa May's power-hunger decision to hold on to her job at all cost, has led her to seek support from the DUP, a strict Protestant group that holds strong views on women's rights and marriage. Is this another step on the road to Gilead? In agreeing to prop up her party in the House of Commons, what will they want in return? 

*Control of Nationality
We are beginning to glimpse the forces behind Brexit: the vast sums poured into campaigns, the outright and manipulative lies peddled, the use of analytics and 'bots' to influence the outcome. The dismissal of any 'experts' speaking against the project, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are correct, are dismissed. We 'want our sovereignty back', we 'want to be in control of our borders'. We are continually told that we will have greater freedom post Brexit. In Gilead, Aunt Lydia spoke of 'freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from.' My question is: how can you be 'given' freedom? (see section on human rights)

None of this has happened suddenly, it has been slowly creeping into our national subconscious, aided and abetted by the popular press that peddles its faux outrage, or attacks with vicious venom, any individual or institution that it does not want us to like. As each shock event occurs, here or elsewhere, it seems that fear is used as a pretext to tighten rules and regulations, suspend laws and restrict freedoms. Anybody who speaks out is branded a traitor.



The cry 'it couldn't possibly happen here' echoes hollowly down the ages. It was said by my German Jewish grandparents as the Nuremberg Race Laws were drawn up. The belief that people would come to their senses, and reject what those in government were proposing to do, stopped them from leaving Berlin, and ended with their deportation and deaths in Auschwitz concentration camp. 

As Offred, the heroine of Atwood's novel says: ''We didn't look up from our phones until it was too late.'' We need collectively to wake up, look up, and understand the current direction of travel, before we forget where we started out from.

Sources:
'We have to speak up now' (Jane Mulkerrins. Guardian 10th June 2017)
The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood. publ. Vintage 1966)
No is not enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics (Naomi Klein. publ. Allen Lane June 2017)

The PINK SOFA meets writer, life-coach Shelley Wilson


When THE PINK SOFA, itself no slouch at the writing game (its latest epic: Sofa So Good is currently at number 2 in the Amazon 'No, seriously?' chart) heard that its very good friend Shelley Wilson had a new book out, an instant invitation, with cake, was dispatched! Shelley is a multi-stranded writer of non-fiction, and YA, a blogger and reviewer. So much to discover ...

''I am thrilled to be sitting on the Pink Sofa! To languish in such a well-known spot surrounded by tea and cakes has been on my bucket list for some time so thank you, Carol, for inviting me. I’ll make sure to clear up the crumbs before I leave.
I thought I’d talk about a quirky process I have when writing my books. As you know, I’m a Jekyll and Hyde writer. I pen non-fiction books for the personal development/self-help genre, and I also write young adult (YA) fantasy fiction. The two themes do occasionally overlap, and this is what I believe the gurus call ‘balance.'
In my YA Guardians trilogy, I explored the chakras and working with energy, something I used to do every day in the day job as a Holistic Therapist. To incorporate this into my fantasy books was fun and those readers who understood the law of the universe, energy, and magic could relate to the books on another level.
One of my favourite personal development tools is the vision board. This is a simple process of sticking images and quotes to a notice board and setting the intention to be, do, or have a representation of the pictures in real life. For example, if I wanted to live by the sea I would cover my board in coastal images, seaside cottages, the beach, etc.
With my fantasy fiction, I use the vision board process in a completely different way. I’ll use it as inspiration and motivation to write my novel. I choose images that represent my setting and characters, and I might add pictures of specific outfits or hairstyles.
Here are some of the pictures I added to my board for character inspiration in my new release, Oath Breaker.
Mia



Zak


Sebastian






Seeing their pictures on the wall as I write brings them to life for me. I can look into their eyes and imagine what they would say or how they might act in a certain scene.
I chose Nottinghamshire as the setting for Oath Breaker and even took my children for a camping holiday to Sherwood Forest so I could get a feel for living in the woods. I added some of the photographs I took to my board.
As a visual learner, I find this part of the writing process to be the most helpful. As I write, the book plays out like a movie in my mind and so having the images to hand keeps that film reel going until ‘The End.’
I wonder if anyone else uses a similar process. I’d love to find out, or perhaps your wonderful blog readers have other ways to inspire and motivate their work.

My latest book Oath Breaker is available now in paperback and eBook.
Book Blurb:
Will she follow the pack
Or will she destroy them?
A dead mother.
A violent father.
A missing brother.
When Mia’s father is murdered, it’s her estranged uncle that comes to the rescue, but what he offers her in return for his help could be worse than the life she is leaving behind.
Taken to Hood Academy, a unique school deep in the forest, she discovers friendships, love, and the courage to stand on her own.
As she trains hard, Mia takes the oath that seals her future as a werewolf hunter, but not everyone wants Mia to succeed.
Screams in the night. Secret rooms. Hidden letters. Mia becomes an important piece in a game she doesn’t want to play.
Will the truth set her free, or will it destroy her?
Excerpt:
(Opening scene from Oath Breaker)
The blue flashing lights pulsed through the fractured front window, illuminating the blood splatter on the walls. The click-click of the forensic team’s camera ate into the sterile silence as the officers combed through the living room.
Like something out of a macabre horror show the blood covered everything, coating the threadbare rug in front of the fireplace with its crimson wash. The splintered remains of the coffee table littered the overturned chair, and the smell of death clung to the walls.
I lifted my eyes to look at the police officer who knelt in front of me, his face a mask of professionalism even though he must be wishing he was anywhere but here.
‘Did you see who killed your dad?’ I slowly shook my head as the officer tried to determine what had happened.
‘Someone tried to kill you, miss. I want to help. Did you see who broke in and attacked you?’
I couldn’t answer. The words were stuck in my throat. How could I tell him that my dad was the one who tried to kill me and that a wolf had jumped through the window and ripped out his throat? Who would believe me?
The paramedic dropped a medical kit at my feet and began wiping the blood from my face, the sudden cold of the antiseptic wipe causing an involuntary shudder to run through my bones. The police officer and paramedic exchanged a look. The same kind of look that my teacher and headmaster used to give each other when I tried to cover up the bruises down my arms.
I slumped a little further into the kitchen chair, letting my long dark hair fall around my face.
‘Anything you can give us by way of a description will help.’ The police officer clicked the end of his pen and poised it over the clean sheet of notepaper.
‘Big,’ I managed to say. My lips cracked as I spoke, and I could feel a trickle of blood slide down the side of my mouth. The paramedic wiped it up before moving to the gash on my forehead.
‘It … he was big. Dark hair. Brown eyes.’
The officer noted it down and let out a deep sigh. Not the best description for them to go on, but it was all I could give him. If I’d told him the attacker was hairy, with sharp claws and fangs, the paramedic would have had me committed. I didn’t need to escape from one prison to then find myself in another.
Buying Links:
You can find out about all my titles (non-fiction & YA) on my website http://www.shelleywilsonauthor.co.uk or via my publisher http://www.bhcpress.com
I can also be found lurking with regularity on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ShelleyWilson72 and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/FantasyAuthorSLWilson
Or you can find me on my blog at http://www.shelleywilsonauthor.com
Thank you so much for having me, Carol. I’ll just finish this last slice of Victoria Sponge, and then I’ll be off. Xxx