Wednesday, May 16, 2018

To be seen, and not heard

Are we complicit in sustaining a structurally racist patriarchy the world over simply by trying to be nice?
It's a question that has to be asked if we are to achieve anything like a semblance of parity in a world where brutality seems to reign supreme; over our coveted personal spaces and our time; over communities struggling to provide for their basic necessities; over whole nations whose right to exist is thrown in doubt simply because the civilised thing to do is to smile and be silent when appalling, criminal, shameful acts are perpetrated in plain sight of everyone, even those who avert their gazes at the last minute.
When we are confronted by a starkly repelling sight, such as a person being dehumanised in public, our reactions to the fact of its immediately present enactment becomes, first and foremost, a political act. Auto-applying context, judging the degrees against which these acts must be measured, and justifying bizarrely violent responses to everyday events seem to have become second nature to those of us who live in a world without recourse to a fundamentalist ideology that we can use to mask the harsh realities of the world in which we live. Community standards are referred to when we are confronted by uncommon practices that we are loathe to spend a smidgen of time researching, while we could be catching up with people with whom we have the most in common and with whom those same standards can be relaxed without fear of social reprisal.
No one is advocating a world where we question our present-day realities, and that is, in and of itself, a strangely medicated response to a state of absolute abnormality. There is much to be said of the need for maintaining communal peace and harmony, and contributing to the economy by following socially established norms such as; obtaining gainful employment, paying taxes, consuming necessities and luxuries in varying measures based on our skills at manipulating the labour and/or capital markets. But, to condone a direly inequitable global system of basic wants and needs as it affects over half of the world's population while, at the same time, manifestly ignoring the shabby form of the homeless person one purposefully passes by everyday to and from a daily mélange of meetings, appointments, and trysts, is... inhuman surely. Why do we smirk when a colleague who is a little removed from the rest of us, whether in ability, provenance, race, or gender, has that difference pointed out to them in a particularly pointed manner? Why do we nod our heads in understanding when we hear judgements being made in ignorance, biases being aired freely in 'polite' company, prejudices being fortified in solemn solidarity? Are we subscribing to a sense of conformity that it is expected of us, an expectation that a certain amount of rocking the boat within unspoken of parameters is tolerable so long as it doesn't list too much?
Stop being nice to the people around you when they are not being nice to others. There really isn't anything else to say. The wages of your complicity will not overcome a world of heartache, and war, and disease, and waves of refugees descending on your shores, and environmental ravaging, and the question being asked of a quiet night in the stillness of your child's bedroom about why the world is as it is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Toxic Parenting

We live in a world that covets the blame game. Why is my life so dull? Why are my career options so limited? Why can't I find true love? Why do I have mental health issues? Where did my life go so wrong? How did we elect this president?... To each of these questions, and countless more, we have justified our misfortune by casting the villain of the piece in question as, for example: lack of privilege, racial and biological inequity, predatory relatives, so-called friends, enemies... etc. When we do widen the net to encompass relationships closer to home and have it snag our nearest and dearest: parents, siblings, closest friends, staunchest allies... the picture becomes infinitely more complicated. Are we betraying a confidence? Are we the manifestation of selfishness? Are we targeting the persons we love simply to deny our own complicity in our own messes?
Academia is full of studies that reveal parenting to be the worst kind of hit-and-miss shit show in the collective drama of our lives - a crisis that lurches from one happenstance to the next... a cold, hard bed of existential, philosophical, and diabolically continuous dread... a dark, lonely passage unlit and unguided resulting in the revelation of base truths about ourselves that we had, until then, spent most of our lives trying desperately to keep at bay.
We have the best time of our lives at singular moments in the journey that is parenting, surely, but when we see the impact of what we have wrought or ignored, manifested in the shape and form of someone who has relied on us so completely for so long as to be as much of an inescapable reflection of ourselves as possible, do we look back and see the stark pitfalls in the parenting we experienced ourselves... or do we dismiss these sharply affecting insights as the needless, ungrateful, harking back to a different time in a different space at a different epoch in the history of human evolution?
It stands to reason that when we examine our own experiences in the parenting that we had as children, we could avoid some of the mistakes that we now readily forgive our forbears for, in the light of the magnanimity that comes from seeing ourselves as more enlightened persons living in a better resourced age.
When we remember our innumerable moments of shame over the course of a lifetime of dependence on our parents that now seem so silly or juvenile in hindsight, do we also think of what we would have done better? When we reflect on our stubbornly unchanging patterns of behaviour, on the legacy of our ways of thinking, on our memories of a million regrets, do we also imagine that we could very well have done without them being allowed to begin life as small inconsequential bits of mania that were ignored, laughed at dismissively, tolerated as 'oh-so-cute'? 'It is what made us who we are', we think, and live out our days swatting back the rancour that might erupt from the depths of our consciousness and disrupt the nice arrangements we now have for vacation/day/sleepover care that allow us a smidgen of relief from having that unrelenting mirror reflecting back to us; the multiple inadequacies, the lazy neglect, the terrible scrutiny of our subjective experiences with our parents, that are now helplessly being visited on our own children.
To instill a lifelong sense of debt over years and years of repetitive psychological cultivation... to expect a blind obedience to manifestly outdated and treacherously subjective self-sabotaging behaviours... to demand loyalty and allegiance from those who are now charting the various paths of their own lives, based not on what you once knew to be true and are now too scared to challenge, but on their own moral imperatives that have revealed themselves over the course of experiences of which you were never a part. If we are honest with ourselves, these are the antitheses of 'our responsibility to guide our children', aren't they? 'Encapsulating complicated relationships into three glib statements is just silly', you say. 'I most definitely do not identify with any of these', you state, as you call your son for the third time this week to ask why it is he never calls you back.
Perhaps an honest reflection on the sins of the past will make us less anxious of our own inevitable sins to come in the continuous evolution of our collective journeys as parents in this, the bespoke age of dark and limitless confusion.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Finding a fit

The tail of the dragon is long,
Bearing ridges, serrated edges, the marks of a thousand vanquishings.
Would it covet the length of its appendage so much as reflect on its provenance?
But the dragon is unfeeling, we know... and unthinking
Didn't I read today about dinosaurs
And their inability to recognise, from sight or smell,
The toxicity of the flowers that would bring about their demise.

Are we better off
In the now, then, and forever more,
When we barely ward off the danger of our potency
While we revel in the puzzle of our mortality?

Why do I see the mentally ill, the psychologically wanting, the pathologically inclined
In every little morsel of 'content' that I consume?
Are we becoming better at recognising the germ of our own self-destruction
And describing it... in song, dance, and animation
A little too vividly for anyone's cultivated comfort?

After all we are creatures of the gag reflex...
How else would we have survived
The terrifying exigencies of war,
The stark emergency of grief,
The lonely abyss of existence,
The narrow, stifling fact of form?

What is normal, anyway?
The usual and comforting facade of fear?
The car in the driveway, the bloodied knife at the butcher's
Hidden from the prying eyes
Of kids who tallied too long at their first dissection?

Would I the luxury of perpetual arrival
In foreign lands at the dead of night
Staring down a forked road whose outlines barely to discern
One way to defeat
And the other, to a benumbed despair.