What is colonization?
To de-colonize, it’s important to first understand what colonialism is.
The dictionary gets right to the point:
colonialism (n): the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically
Succinct…and objective af. What the definition doesn’t mention is how bad colonialism is. And colonialism is very, very bad.
Here’s my edited version:
colonialism (n): the very awful policy or brutal practice of
acquiringstealing/forcing full or partialpolitical, physical, and/or mental control over another country or region or peoples, violently occupying it with their ideologies and settlers (themselves often colonized and/or forced from their lands) and exploiting it economically for the benefit of the colonizers and utter destruction of nature and people.
Colonization is forcing people from their land, taking away one’s language, customs, beliefs, choices, often to replace them with a dominant belief (Christianity; capitalism). It is rape and murder and abuse and resource extraction; it is McDonalds, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Facebook, and Disney. It is planet- and spirit- destroying; it is species extinction. It is the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. It is all around us, a part of every industrial system on this planet.
You can compare colonialism to coronavirus. It gets everywhere, moves fast, kills humans, ruins economies, and no one is immune.
Colonialism isn’t just a virus. Colonialism is trauma. For most of us, it is the original trauma. And it’s passed down, generation after generation, a wound that grows and festers and deepens.
But colonialism, unlike a virus, is man-made. Which means if we wanted to, we could stop it. Right now. End colonialism. But unfortunately, “the legacy of colonialism is baked into every facet of every culture on the planet” and we all know you can’t unbake a cake. Or can we?
Good news! We can un-bake this cake.
All we need to do is decolonize.
The current system—the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, the “interlocking systems of domination that define our reality” is unjust. Born into this system that our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were born into, we internalize the actions, thoughts, words, and mentality of colonialism and thus become colonizers (abusers) ourselves.
We end this cycle of abuse by decolonizing, by rejecting and replacing this system with love.
We decolonize to heal ourselves, our homes, our communities, the land. We decolonize to understand that others are colonized, too. We decolonize to empathize, to reject individualism and become part of a global community. We decolonize to connect to each other, to stop hurting each other. We decolonize to replace hate with love.
But isn’t decolonizing an Indigenous thing?
Nope. Not at all.
Everyone needs to decolonize. Even settlers. Especially settlers. After all, we were colonized, too.
If you don’t think so, ask yourself these questions: do you speak the same language as your grandma did as a child? Does she speak the same language as her great-grandmother?
Do you live in the same place your parents grew up? How about your great-grandparents?
Can you name the first people who lived on the land you now call home? What did they call that land? “Can you name the territory and nation your grandmothers were born on?”
How many bird species can you name that visit your neighbourhood? Zero? One? Ten? Now, how many Netflix shows can you name? How many sports teams? How many brands?
How many of those sports teams use misappropriated Indigenous names while playing their sport on stolen Indigenous land?
Anyway, hopefully you get it.
How do I decolonize?
All healing journeys are personal. How anyone decolonizes is ultimately up to them.
What I want to share is my healing journey in the hopes it may help or inform yours.
I decolonize by asking myself the great questions of life: Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? Who am I?
I put my answers into positive actions.
As I knit, I practice mindfulness.
Knitting is healing in action. Each stitch is a step on my journey.
A stitch, a step, a word, a seed. Each of these tiny things can become something bigger: the tool to decolonize.
We are all colonized
My healing journey began when I recognized that everyone and everything—all the people on this planet, the planet itself, and the systems we live and work within—are colonized. Once I knew that, I also realized that healing would happen by my working towards living a de-colonized life.
The next step towards healing was truly seeing and understanding what I was healing from—what my core wound was. Though there have been several abusers and traumatic instances in my life, I wanted to know why particular personalities and events seemed to recur. To understand why “these bad things always happen to me” was to recognize that something bad had happened to me at some point and how I consciously and unconsciously sought both relief for the bad feelings and, thanks to the abuse, a repeat of the the bad actions and feelings themselves.
After suffering a core wound, we create protective selves in order to not feel the pain of that wound. As Jackson MacKenzie explains in his book Whole Again,
When our true selves are rejected, betrayed, or abused by a trusted loved one (usually parent or partner) and we don’t yet have the emotional tools to heal, it’s common for a protective self to form. The protective self sees itself as separate from others. It becomes more of an observer of the world, rather than an authentic participant. The protective self is usually seeking external validation for proof of its worthiness. To save or be saved. To fill a void it cannot express, to meet an old unmet need. It is largely based around control…Since the inner world is damaged, the protective self keeps itself alive through external measures of worth.
Recognizing the habits I’d formed as part of my protective self was actually easier to do than confronting my core wound. It was easier to see, for example, that I’m an avoidant who piles new projects on top of new projects in an effort to keep busy and feel good.
Letting go of my habits and masks started to reveal my core wound. Recognizing the protective selves I created and working, with mindfulness, to kick those habits kick-started my de-colonizing.
My authentic self
As I got deeper into my healing journey, I kept coming back to this question: Who am I?
All humans are born with the capacity to love, given, as the Mi’kmaq believe, unique gifts from The Creator. It is the job of parents to love and nurture their children in order to help them self-actualize and discover their truth.
According to Justice Murray Sinclair and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,
…for any society to function properly and to its full capacity, it must raise and educate its children so that they can answer what philosophers and Elders call ‘the great questions of life.’ Those questions are:
Where do I come from?
Where am I going?
Why am I here?
Who am I?
These four question guide me on my healing journey. Knitting helps me answer these questions.
Abuse erases our true selves; abuse stunts our growth. Though I’ve always had some sense of who I was, it wasn’t until I started my healing journey that I was able to separate my true self from my protective self. I am now working towards knowing who I am—my truth—and not what my abusers tried to make me become.
Healing can be difficult without action. Particular actions—from gardening and growing food to raising livestock to cleaning my house to quitting jobs and projects to going no contact with abusers—have helped me actively heal.
Knitting is healing in action.
Healing is an awakening.
The Pandemic Sweater is starting to lean towards blue. Blue is my favourite colour so it’s no surprise I have a lot of blue yarn in my stash. Blue has never been a sad colour to me; instead, I find it soothing, calm, and hopeful.
Here’s what Hannah Gadsby says about blue.
Here’s an idea. I say we get rid of pink and give all the babies blue….[N]ot because blue is a masculine colour. ‘Cause that…is false. I love that people go, ‘Blue, yeah, a very masculine colour. Very reliable. Very rational colour, blue. Yeah, you can trust blue. It’s why we’ve got it on flags. Lot of blue on flags. Navy blue. Everyone trusts a boat.’
Blue, if anything, is a feminine colour. It really is full of contradictions…[B]lue is a cold colour. It’s on the cold end of the spectrum. But the hottest part of the flame? Blue. If you’re feeling blue…you’re sad. But optimism? Blue skies ahead!…A blueprint is a plan, but if something happens not on the plan, where does that come from? Out of the blue!
Blue’s a wonderful colour to start life with. There’s room for every kind of human in blue. There’s a whole spectrum, ’cause blue doesn’t demand…it doesn’t demand action like all the other colours. Think about this. You’re stuck in traffic…and the lights turn…blue. Less road rage, people. Less road rage. More accidents, ironically enough.– Hannah Gadsby, Nanette
What is the Diz Knits Pandemic Knit- & Heal-Along?
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has forced most of us to self-isolate at home. With some time on my hands and a hankering to use it creatively, I’m embarking on what knitters call a knit-along (or KAL, a group or social, simultaneous knitting event), and what gamers call a let’s play (“recorded run-throughs of people playing games” that’s part review, part commentary). In my case, I’ll be writing about my knitting as we wait out this pandemic. So, thoughts and tips on knitting…and healing.
Ok, I get the Knit-Along, but what’s the Heal-Along?
I knit for lots of different reasons, but I originally started knitting to stop chewing my fingers, a protective habit I developed as a result of multiple traumatic experiences. With health very much on our minds, as I knit, I will share with you aspects of my personal healing journey (so, thoughts on healing, while knitting).
Why are sharing your healing journey?
Because we all have some healing to do.
I need an adaptable, time-consuming, slightly challenging, stash-busting knit to while away my days in self-isolation.
The Yarn & Needles
The biggest challenge is working with what I have. I’d like to use up my Briggs & Little and Lismore Sheep Farm odds and ends—the mix of colours will look great in a fair isle pattern. The yarn gauges aren’t all the same and my needle size will be a bit off—it’ll be interesting to see how this turns out, and hopefully blocking the sweater will alleviate some wonkiness.
After a little digging, I found this sweater pattern, “Cartography,” at Tin Can Knits. Imagine this with all kinds of crazy colours!
Like a lot of homesteaders, we’ve been waiting for this. Except we thought it’d be climate change or oilmaggedon—a hurricane, a flood, a major ice storm, some inability to get at our oil.
Instead, it’s a really contagious, really dangerous virus.
I keep thinking how in all the post-apocalyptic content out there, the movies and stories we’ve watched and read, the citizens always have to leave. A mad rush out of the city. Traffic jams. Helicopters. Evacuations. Abandonment. People jumping out of cars and running.
Instead, we have to stay home.
It’s a rather passive-aggressive apocalypse.
I recently learned about preppers. They’re the people camped out in their underground bunkers right now, laughing over their cases of canned food. Preppers live their lives prepping for the worst. I don’t think we’re as extreme as peppers but a big reason we started growing our own food (and teaching others to do the same) was to prepare for things like interruptions in our food supply chain and the possibility of food being too expensive to buy. Food security, especially living on an island on the edge of the continent, weighs on our minds a lot. A bad hurricane—or flu pandemic—and we could be cut off from our food supply for days or weeks or longer.
Because I wanted access to healthy, inexpensive food every day of the year, I started to produce my own. I grow vegetables and fruit. I raise chickens. I keep bees.
It’s strange comfort that this pandemic hit just as my hens started laying more eggs. Yesterday we dug out the cold frame and harvested fresh kale. When I planted the cold frame in the fall, I thought, it will be nice to enjoy fresh greens during the spring hunger gap! Eating kale and eggs and garlic from my backyard last night for supper, my thoughts centred on gratitude: having food at home means not having to go the grocery store which means less risk of exposure to the virus.
Not only is my homegrown food keeping me healthy, it’s literally keeping me alive.
Home is where the health is
Home has been saving me for a while now.
It started a few months ago and it also started 5 years ago.
Five years ago I quit a job that was toxic and abusive. The process of filing a complaint, seeing it go nowhere, seeking and finding no support, then finally quitting left me suffering from acute PTSD. I became very depressed and started really looking at the chain of abuse I’d suffered from childhood on. I realized I had a lot of trauma I’d never acknowledged or processed and I began a long, healing journey that continues to this day.
Healing means giving things up and letting things go
A few months ago, I realized my next step on my healing journey was to let go of socializing. With Christmas looming, I started turning down offers to hang out. In the new year, it continued. I told people I was on a “socialization sabbatical.” I told them I needed to stay home and heal.
A few months later, and we’re all being told to do the same.
And here I am, still at home, preparing to…stay at home even more.
So I decided to knit.
I always knit. Since I started knitting, I’ve rarely been without my needles. I knit everywhere, any time I can. I love knitting. A few years ago I even started a little business, Diz Knits. It’s slogan, “bright knits for dark times,” turned out to be quite prescient.
I learned how to knit just before a trip to Europe in 2008. I wanted something to do with my hands while sitting for long hours on planes and trains.
I relentlessly chew at and pick the cuticles and skin on my fingers. It’s a habit I’ve been trying to break for decades. My fingers are often raw and bleeding or covered in bandages.
Through healing I’ve learned how this habit is a physical manifestation of my trauma. Whenever I feel anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, frightened, ashamed…basically any time I feel “bad,” I pick at my fingers. I harm myself to not feel bad. It’s twisted, but that’s what abuse will do to a person.
When a friend once noticed my fingers, I explained this all to her. I said, “when I finally stop chewing my fingers, I know I will be truly healed.”
Well, 12 years of knitting, and I’m still chewing my fingers. Shit, I’m chewing them right now.
I used to feel a lot of hatred towards myself for this habit. I am learning, with the help of mindfulness, to unconditionally love myself. To express love towards myself instead of shame or disgust when I fall into this habit.
And it was slowly working! My fingers were starting to heal.
But then…this pandemic. I’m sure there’s a lot of people chewing their fingers right now.
I needed a project. Something to keep my fingers busy. Some big, bright thing to keep my mind off dark things.
Welcome to the Diz Knits Pandemic Knit- and Heal-Along. You can follow along as I knit and heal. Because knitting helps, maybe it will help you, too. After all, we all have some healing to do.
P.S. Stay home!