Dancing with Speeches #41 Manal Al Sharif

Manal Al Sharif from Saudi Arabia rose to fame with a speech from her car. A simple act of defiance. Driving her way to freedom went viral, got her detained and got her heard, face seen and named. She followed up speaking in Oslo and that speech brought her sisters from around the world with her and many in her own country to get behind the wheel and not get arrested.

It always starts with one voice, one face and one name and then over time they are joined by the first follower – this all important person who echoes, pays homage and responds and then over time the movement grows. Call and response are the building blocks to all movements. Single actions lead to collection ones – a walk to make salt brings down an empire (Mahatma Gandhi) sitting on a bus brings freedom and rights (Rosa Parks), walking off land leads to fair wages (Vincent Lingiari). In Manal’s actions she is also asking each and every one of us: What wheel are you going to get behind to drive to freedom?

The wheel is a wonderful thing – and when connected to an engine even more powerful. The axel, hub, spokes, wings, rim, cap, tyre all embellish the humble and technological beauty, of the wheel. And wheels come in so many shapes and sizes, holding meaning and messages – the ferris wheel on steroids that is the Eye overseeing our cities, the wheelbarrow carting our gardening endeavours (and little children) around backyards, the colour wheel offering a kaleidoscope to enrich our senses, the wheel of fortune being spun at fairs and appearing in readings, and the prayer wheel holding us steady in all kinds of weather.

Manal Al Sharif is a woman of means, well endowed with friends to support her and come alongside of her vision for women. She calls out common sense and practicalities – and after all isn’t this the simplicity of equity? A chance for us all to have our hands on the same wheel to drive ourselves to the freedoms for all and not just the privileged few? Her name means achievement and attainment. In our response to her call success will arrive.

How long is this turning of the wheel go on before all women (and therefore all men too) are driven to freedom? The exodus from enslavement by patriarchy and frankly just silly ideas is not yet complete. There is more wheel turning to be done. More songs to be sung. More voices to be heard. More ears to listen. More hearts to open. The wheel is turning and Manal’s hands on her steering wheel in a car she owns, on a street in a city she lives and works in, driving without arrest another turn is taken.

In my tradition, to every season there is a turn and we all need to take our turn at the wheel, to be the call and all the more important, be the response to the call.

This is the time for every purpose and for every work to be turned towards speaking up and righting wrongs towards all women. There is no stop to the turning and whirling. Like a dervish possessed with the ecstasy and mystical love for their God, women of the world twirl and swirl, creating a ferment for change no longer voiceless, faceless or nameless!

we came whirling
out of nothingness
scattering stars
like dust

the stars made a circle
and in the middle
we dance

the wheel of heaven
circles God
like a mill

if you grab a spoke
it will tear your hand off

turning and turning
it sunders
all attachment

were that wheel not in love
it would cry
“enough! how long this turning?”

every atom
turns bewildered

beggars circle tables
dogs circle carrion
the lover circles
his own heart

ashamed,
I circle shame

a ruined water wheel
whichever way I turn
is the river

if that rusty old sky
creaks to a stop
still, still I turn

and it is only God
circling Himself

~Rumi~

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