The Backstory

Every story has a backstory, every forest an undergrowth, every river formed by an avalanche of drops of rain. I am intrigued by how far back the narrative reaches before the story comes into view for the world to see. I want to share a backstory of mine with you Hildegard.

Several weeks ago Dr Anne Summers, a prominent elder in the realm of Australian feminism hosted two conversations with Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard. During the lead up to the events the hosts invited those unable to be there to send through questions that might be used in conversation. Having an insatiable appetite for social media, conversation and prophesy I sent my question via twitter as requested: It’s 2050 what does Australia look like? Among the hundreds of questions tweeted in, two were chosen and mine was one of them – I was suitably chuffed! The answer was well constructed and thoughtful (you can see it on You Tube my question is at 54:41), and the backstory deserves a mention.

In the front row of the audience was the first woman Premier of Victoria, Hon Joan Kirner who had been a great support to me when I ran for Parliament and it was heart warming for me to know she heard my name after more than a decade. I received several tweets that night from women in the audience letting me know my question was asked – each woman has a different backstory that intersects with mine, politics for one, community engagement for another and another a twittersphere only connection. One of the features of the conversation that had transpired was around the issues of misogyny and sexism and its role in politics. My backstory here was very real as well. When I campaigned with four children in school, I was subject to vilification by some saying I should be home with them and a whispering campaign was mounted in church and community groups that leaked its way into talk back radio and impacted on my campaigning. I advised the local political apparatchiks of the issue and they didn’t really see the problem and very little was done. I forecasted this was the tip of the iceberg and the level of organisation we were seeing around the issue would grow and indeed it did. In addition the cloak that was thrown over the abuse was done in the name of God (a God who bore no resemblance to the one embodied by Jesus). The political wing even gave itself a name Family First, and in good time the candidate opposing me left his party and joined Family First where he remains a member of Parliament (another backstory for another day).

I love social media and its capacity to influence and organise at the micro and macro level in real time. My skills and experience in these media, set me apart from many others in my age group who use some of the platforms like Facebook to mainly keep in touch with younger family members (and I definitely do that as well).  Tools like twitter, facebook and instagram, are charged with dynamic properties for advocates and activists like me. So it is then that the Melbourne Town Hall, and now embedded in You Tube, my question of less than 140 characters was asked by a leading light and answered by a former Prime Minister. The accessibility of these tools in the hands of ordinary everyday people like me are ground-breaking. The Arab Spring will go down in history as the first twitter fed revolution. Without filters and editorial, questions can be posed, thoughts shared and amplified.

When I finally got around to watch the You Tube of the event last weekend, and saw Anne Summers peer into her mobile device to read my tweet I enjoyed seeing the next chapter unfold, knowing that without a back story no question can be formed or asked.

Just as we see the light breaking through at the end of a lane, so  my little tweet connected me back to the story that had taken me along that lane in the first place and by being asked got a whole new audience to consider what the future might be like.

Every tweet has a backstory as real and as true as any other kind of narrative.

And there are backstories down every lane as se hace camino al andar (you make the way as you go, Antonio Machado, Spanish poet).

Lane at Glenstal Abbey

Lane at Glenstal Abbey

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