Monday, April 7, 2014

In Search of Authenticity

It is as if we are being condemned to live in a world of fakery (sic): Our leaders' doublespeak on every possible issue depending on which lobby is currently their most generous sponsor, the products we consume that loudly proclaim the most irrelevant things they are made up of on their labels and in their branding, leaving the most crucial details of their constitution(s) up to the imagination, the services we subscribe to - in the way that there are always a few stock sentences that are used irrespective of context and subjective experience that incredibly manage to exasperate and bemuse us at the same time... and most devastatingly, our own sentiment - that is being cynically manipulated to expect and be driven by the unnatural ideal of a world full of beauty and passion and adventure and heroism, when in fact none of those things exist to the extent that they are even recognisable to a sensitive and compassionate reading of the true world.

What is authenticity, after all, that it can be separated from truth? That which springs forth from a consciousness that is free of economic and spiritual persuasion, that which remains loyal to the implicit tenets in its own raison d'être, that which is in essence severed from the bonds which tie it to its creator, to roam free in the world taking on uses and forms beyond the wildest fantasies of its deliverer... that is the purest form of truth in the modern world, whichever avatar this product/service/sentiment/art form takes, isn't it?
One of my earliest guides to the dishonest duality inherent in living a modern life came in the form of a reading of one of Murphy's Laws, heavily titled, 'Freeman's Commentary on Ginsberg's Theorem', which states, "Every major philosophy that attempts to make life more meaningful is based on the negation of one part of Ginsberg's Theorem:
- Capitalism is based on the assumption that you can win
- Socialism is based on the assumption that you can break even
- Mysticism is based on the assumption that you can quit the game".
A bit of pop culture discourse right there for those of us who don't get enough of it on our news, in our music, literature and art. But what about the diametric opposite - An embrace of the meaninglessness in modern life? Bringing attention to the gimmickry, the falsehoods about ultimate importance, the irrelevance of our lives in the larger picture of the earth's slow debasement from the continuous assaults of humanity on its person, the sheer distance between the First and Third Worlds and the often dangerous ground that one must travel, ideologically, to even attempt to traverse it... can only do so much. Can we not give up fighting the realities of modern life and the inconsistencies and horrors that occasionally bubble up beyond the surface of this anaesthetized, unethical and debaucherous lie that we are fed (and which we feed ourselves), and resurrect our collective consciousness to its once au naturel state that once gave rise to the theory of human rights, charity and apolitical transnational aid, worldwide travel and the machines that abet it, and the internet?
Am I condemned to lurk in the shadows seeking authenticity in the smile of a stranger, a breath of fresh air, the sight of an untouched vista, a random comment on an article I enjoyed reading... for the rest of my life?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Anarchist in High-Viz clothing

In the process of writing, there always comes a time when the words flow independently of conscious thought - a kind of unfettered motion, if you will... as an automobile coasting towards its destination in neutral on a downward incline, smoothly and steadily realising the fruit of all the combustion and smoke and toil that came before, with the idea of its ultimate purpose now dawning at last.

If only the inexorable path of life could be similarly revealed.

Hardship and effort during the course of daily living become virtues only if they provide a clear mental image of the journey's end - with milk and honey and, hopefully, a comfortable armchair with a footrest and a good book waiting at the finish line. As an end in itself there can be nothing virtuous about menial labour - the passage of hours and hours occupied by singularly uninspired regret in one's own horrid company. I make the distinction, here, between solitude - a pleasant voluntary interlude where one indulges the illusion that he/she is bon vivant and engaged in a bacchanal debate with a rabidly fertile brain... and the act of actually engaging in being practically productive all alone, with hours measured against set targets that are remunerated for, depending on prevailing monetary norms and the economic demand for said labour.

And what of the journey's end, you ask... At a bare minimum, driving human beings to desperate exhaustion in the hope of an existence unmarked by a feral dependence on institutions and/or benevolent relatives is a system that can only ever survive in an unexamined and immoral world, a world that is fast being overtaken by calumnious denial about the cost of our collective efforts at providing all or most of us the means to fulfill that dream of a future independent leisure. The forests are fading, the seas are sweltering, the skies are scorching, the water is waning. Towards what end is this system driving itself? Is it actually possible that we covet our comforts, earned over generations and generations of deprivation, so much that we now contemplate our own devouring by the very processes we put in place to emancipate ourselves from the struggle for daily survival.

In an unexamined world the anarchists always die last.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Forced perspective

Having been exposed to so much material on the adult immigrant/emigrant experience in popular literature and now being myself an unwitting participant on the same odyssey, I suppose I should present my own jaundiced views on the peculiar trauma concomitant with having to view yourself from without, absent the known markers of a life half-lived.

First of all, you look different from the general population - there is no escaping this fact even if you tell yourself that this difference is what you have always experienced even in the society you grew up in. There is a marked difference in having the luxury of choosing to feel the way you do, and having the feeling of otherness thrust upon you from people courteous enough to look away when you notice them noticing you for longer than is a natural by-product of curiosity.

Cringe-worthy television shows on a culture left behind leaves you wondering for the first time exactly what it is you are cringing about. Is it the magnified lens of voyeurism focused on what you always knew to be universally shameful sights and sounds, or is it your natural defensiveness of ways of life that you believe you know more about than the presenters and/or producers of the show you are about to change the channel on, as a reaction to their reinforcement of stereotypes that you are sure they very well could have dug deeper into and exposed for what they are not.

The counter-assault on your sense of privacy and seclusion is something that nobody warns you about. Sure, the air is cleaner and the roads quieter and the parks emptier and the birds do sound somehow happier, but when there is no newspaper man come to collect at the end of the month, or a rarely-sighted neighbour dropping in to drop off a portion of a dish or a gift for your child, or the ubiquitous hawker or garbage collector taking time off from under the shade of the tree that stands within your compound to espouse forth on his/her philosophy of life to no one in their immediate vicinity as far as you can see from the vantage point of your hidden window, you begin to hear the tinny sounds in your head telling you that that surely cannot be an ant crawling up the inside of your cupboard door.

Lastly, the preoccupation with the drama of your own family life and domestic circumstances in relation to those of your neighbours and others you come in contact with cannot in any way condone what you very quickly realize is a result of your own frustrations unrelated in any way to how others behave within their own closed doors. Large living rooms leading on to larger open plan kitchens and massive landscaped backyards can only hide the muffled sounds of rage and remorse in so far as the current direction of wind decides to favour the source of those sounds. Man wasn't born to live alone and he has to learn to live with that. This applies to all men.

I'm sure I've only highlighted the immediately apparent and terribly mundane psychological mise en scène(s) that every recent migrant has to face up to along with the associated assaults of self-doubt at having perhaps made the most important decision of his/her life so far in a wretchedly frivolous state of mind. There is more to come, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Desperately Seeking Situations

Times are tough... Reality bites... Hang in there... It's the economy, stupid... A little struggle is good for the soul... The only way from here is up... Dig deep... Desperate times call for desperate measures... It'll happen soon...

I really don't know what's worse - taking comfort in the mantraic repetition of well-worn cliché or stumbling along day by day in a horrifyingly obtuse optimism dependent on your conjuring up employment via the bare and useless hands that you wring and wring and wring in front of you to little avail.
If I have to be cloyingly honest, I should admit (at least to myself) that I have never been good at finding work. Times past, employment has magically appeared as of a misty morning clearing up to reveal a beautiful day ahead. Of course, I have been aware of the many personalities working behind the scenes to make that timely employment happen, but the act of conjuring up something from nothing, when I have heard it expressed in biographical accounts of successful and not-so-successful people, has always escaped my understanding at the fundamental level of cause and effect. What exactly do I need to do to make work happen so that life in a new country can begin for us, instead of counting down the days till our meager savings run out? How do I go about looking into my beautiful daughter's eyes and listen to her begin to express herself so imaginatively in so disarming a voice and know that the means to allow the fulfillment of the promise of that amazing future standing right in front of me is nowhere on the horizon? What else do I need to do besides constantly revising a hateful and suffocatingly inadequate-looking résumé hoping it will catch the eye of a compassionate recruiter sufficiently impressed by a, likewise, much edited cover letter for application after application posted on site after site? Do I need to solicit my services door-by-door in the neighbourhood and, if so, what services can this overweight and overwrought, wrong-skin-coloured, diffident visage offer kindly souls without? Should I practice a pleading, subservient, wholly desperate put-on air in front of the mirror before I go out for the umpteen time to meet host after host who after listening patiently to our tales of woe promises to do nothing more than take our dirty plates at the end of another useless dinner in the pursuit of that mystifying art of networking?

These and other existential problems take up my days these days.