Hi Okiru family, we hope you’re doing good and staying safe! This week we will be sharing this beautifully written piece by our good friend, Liem Nguyen.
I made a powerful realisation this year.
I knew these both as facts but I never joined the dots.
My grandparents, on both sides, escaped famine and communism with ~1 million others in Operation Passage to Freedom in 1954 from North to South Vietnam. My late grandpa told me how he only had a sprinkle of rice to eat in those days.
My parents escaped Vietnam by boat in the early 1980s, after the war, to escape communism too. My mum was locked up in jail twice, getting caught by the Viet Cong and Soviets. The third time, she finally made it out to Australia via a Malaysian refugee camp.
That makes me born of two generations of refugees.
It baffles me. I can only imagine the depths of pain, loss and suffering they faced. We talk about uncertainty these days - but that is on another level. I hear stories of hiding away in underground bomb shelters to avoid the encroaching enemy; stories of entire boatloads of family lost at sea and never found. There is a visceral pain so deep, that it may have never been expressed. And this pain is passed down unconsciously through the generations.
Looking around at my community of friends with migrant backgrounds, I observe a pattern. Their families also bottle up their emotions. The spectrum of expression is a thin band in the middle - tolerating micro frustrations and hoarding affection. They have been numb to emotion that is undesired or foreign. When the tension builds, the dam walls bursts. They snap. Rage, fury and pent up anger come to the front. Or on the other side, there is love through acts of service but never spoken.
Intergenerational trauma is not only common in migrant and refugee communities. Australia is still healing from the effects of the Stolen Generation, where Aboriginal children were legally kidnapped from their families.
White Australia is not immune. Although Australia celebrates World War veterans and the sacrifices they made for freedom - it's followed by a tail of suffering. War brings trauma. Imagine coming home shellshocked carrying PTSD. Imagine what that does to families and how that can spread. We are all feeling those effects in society today - the ripples of trauma.
Across the globe we saw the Black Live Matter movement make waves throughout the world. This impact of institutionalised oppression and slavery can still be visibly felt from centuries ago. Chinese aggression on the West can be traced back to the Opium wars in the 1800s.
Trauma and suffering is a shared experience of the human condition. We all inherit this unconscious suffering from our parents, their parents and beyond.
My curiosity has taken me to distant lands. I miss dearly the adventure and the feeling of not knowing where I would sleep at night - experiencing new countries and cultures. But since we've been locked down for 240+ days, I've turned inward to explore my own inner world.
So how do we turn this trauma around? I don't know. I'm still figuring it out. But it's got something to do with being so goddam good, that you build the strength to lift up those around you. I think Baba Ram Dass says it better, "I can do nothing for you but work on myself... you can do nothing for me but work on yourself."
- Liem Nguyen
A deep and beautiful soul, who has travelled many planes of the planet, exploring the world as it is and introspectively reflecting his own world. He’s a kind and empathetic person with a pure heart who is always willing to bring value to the people around him. Find out more about Liem here!