Pre-trip “Madness”

It’s four sleeps til we fly and there is a certain level of madness that has set in.

I’m irritable, reactive and moody.  It’s complicated by the fact that I haven’t exercised for 10 days because I got the flu.

I’ve decided to stop analysing my “madness” and just deal with it – which means I have to just let it pass with the minimum impact on those around me. Which means talking about it and letting people know I am working on my moods.

Some people dislike the word “madness” – but I have embraced it.  I’m mad.  Sometimes it’s positive madness and sometimes it’s not.

I did a subject at university about the history of medical ethics (bioethics) and the stigmatisation of illness featured prominently in that – from the rise of the asylum to the demise of the asylum, from the witch trials which influenced early psychiatry.

It’s important that we take back terms that have meaning to us.

When I was working as a field anthropologist in Central Australia I tried to engage in two Indigenous languages as much as I could and became quite proficient in one of them.

One of nicknames was “woomeye” (Central Arrernte language) and I thought is meant “mad” until a local Indigenous linguist, scholar and respected elder, M.K. Turner, pulled me aside in Yeperenye shopping village after overhearing some local girls call me woomeye  and she said, “it’s great those girls call you woomeye, you know that?”

“Yes, I said, it means mad in a positive way – full of life, eccentric, etc., am I right?”

“Sort of.  It also means she doesn’t take any rubbish and it’s a strong word, you should be proud of this nickname”.

For those of you who are not aware of the amount of Indigenous languages in Australia (and who still believe the myth there is  only one language spread by weak pedagogies of national history) – click here to be better informed.

I always spoke my mind in community, albeit politely but I always spoke my mind.  Particularly when people where being destructive or blaming or not engaging without making excuses (usually people of my own culture though, I cannot pass authentic comment on anyone else’s cultural behaviour).

I used to think I was offending some people, and I probably did.  Of that I have no doubt.  But my view of madness was defined to me by my own rigid and westernised culture – it was perceived as something different in Central Australia.  Some people say you have to be mad to want to work in remote communities and refugee camps like I do.

I think the world needs a whole lot more of the types of madness that sees people give up comfortable lives in the service of those who are disadvantaged and living in conditions not of their own making – but inflicted upon them by modern life, insane wars and historical dispossession and colonisation.

If that’s “mad” – I’m happy to be “mad”.

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