In a world marked by pain and damage, it’s difficult to put down our shields. Most of us have them; I have several. Usually we are born with some, but sometimes we make them. … All the structural biases embedded in our social existence are shields. … Most of us have shields that protect us against some aspect of systemic harm. Some of us, the most vulnerable to the winds of outrageous fortune, have no shields at all. And yet even the well-intentioned often erase the suffering of others. We put up our shields.

Behind those shields, we are safe from understanding the dimensions of the daily struggle against different forms of unfairness. We are protected, too, from recognising our own pain, and we don’t have to think about how it is linked to the pain of others. If we did begin to comprehend, we would be forced to recognise that the only ethical response is to put our own shields down. And yes, that is hard. But it’s necessary.

Alison Croggon on power, in Overland.