On the importance of access to care and what massage can do for the politically persecuted
I am a caregiver with a special concern for the welfare of people actively engaged in the defense of a good fair world. Hackers-who-care, human rights activists and lawyers, investigative journalists, many others without a “profession”, and whistle-blowers. People whom I would also like to call caregivers. From what I know, these courageous individuals tend to be overworked, to often give a lot of themselves physically and psychologically, and to become the targets of ill-treatments by the systems of power they disturb - as a result of which they suffer. Some of them burnout, some are imprisoned or experience different forms of restrictions on their freedoms and abuse of their rights. Some die.
There is not much that I alone can do in the face of so much pain, but I still intend to do it, fueled by echoing convictions and gratitude. With the collective initiative Hacking With Care, of which I am part, we hope to be be able to achieve yet a bit more in bringing a variety of care to these people as we go along, and hopefully inspire others to do the same. There would be more to be said about that. For now what I would like to do is to simply describe what it is that I do, the benefits my actions can have for the well-being of the people I have mentioned in their specific contexts. I hope that my brief description can speak for itself and illustrate the importance of such care finding its way to them. I said I am a caregiver. More precisely, I am is a certified well-being massage practitioner. I work with a free combination of bodywork techniques found in oriental and occidental protocols, as well as techniques adapted from the field of psycho corporal therapy, and my own inventions. Each session is a subtle dialogue through which I seek to give, in accord with my competence, some of what is needed by a unique someone in a given moment, so hopefully they will have more life and strength about them when the session ends.
From the layers of the skin, muscles, tendons, connective tissues and bones I contact, the effects of my massages communicate themselves to the other systems in the body, all interconnected. Namely the cardiovascular, nervous, digestive, endocrine, respiratory, immune, and urinary systems. This is how, when applied regularly and correctly (skillfully + observing certain health precautions and contra-indications), they can have great positive effects on the general well-being and health of someone. Although not designed (at my level of qualification) to treat pathological conditions, these massages can work well as auxiliaries to medical care (the ideal situation being indeed working as a team). They can help alleviate the discomforts of certain conditions, potentiate recovery, and before that, they can even be instrumental in preventing pathologies. Generally, they aim to nurture the natural capacities of someone to self-regulate and regenerate; to sustain life's capacities to sustain itself.
I also would like to mention the capacity of a massage session to gently carve an alternative space and time out of the typical difficult daily experience, and, in the case of detention, to maybe, maybe make for a temporary regenerative escapade where there isn't any such possibility in sight. Most importantly, I would like to stress that massages, with their warm attention, specific nurturing touch and holding (similar in a way, to mothering) can restore a sense of deeply felt safety and care, can help find again the bliss of empathy in the presence of one another, for people otherwise constantly under threats and attacks. Even if only a few minutes, these sensations can go a long way in helping someone stay strong. On another level (possibly more abstract to some) I also work with the fact that as a human being I am a natural element, and I intend to convey this element of nature, with me everywhere I operate (with my intentions, the products I use…) especially where it might be achingly lacking, for example in confined, highly technological, or otherwise deprived surroundings.
Needless to say all of these benefits can be very interesting to compensate for, harmonize, and even reverse (if need be), the effects of the other forms of pressures, internal and external, which affect courageous individuals in their bodies and minds as they go on doing what they do for the common good. Don't get me wrong: not all pressures are “bad”. The drive to do good, for example, can be understood as a form of internal pressure. And stress, which has bad publicity, is in fact an adaptive global physiological response, involving all body systems, to make the person fit to respond quickly and with efficacy to adverse situations; to survive, basically. As such, it is meant to be temporary, and compensated by moments of peace and recuperation. Chronic stress, chronic states of hyper activity knowing no alternation with antagonist states, can on the contrary have devastating effects on someone's well-being and health in the long run. So, it is all about balance, and good timing.
The trouble is, for the people I am worried about here, stress is seldom a temporary condition but rather a chronic one, for “the world is in a chronic pain, not me” as one of them rightly put to me once. And so in a world where injustice and abuse take no break (a fact they are all indeed very aware of), it is difficult to pause, and practically impossible when one's life or others lives are on the line, or when there are never ending legal battles. In that context, practically any form of competent trustworthy care that makes their way to them is clearly no luxury and should by all means be facilitated.
For some, not only is it difficult to pause, but it is also very complicated to just access care, due to a number of reasons related each time to the specificities of a given context. It can have to do with isolation, lack of resources, or issues of trust, to name a few.
And sometimes, as it happens, as it will happen, a caregiver is intimidated, barred or restricted from accessing a politically persecuted in need of care, by unwilling or hostile authorities, by arbitrary rules, abusive or ill-adapted regulations. And each time a caregiver does not access someone in need of care, it is the life of that person that is being stepped on, one more time. This is fundamentally wrong, and an issue that should be addressed each time. Maybe this letter can, one way or another, give elements to help do this where needed.