Thursday, June 8, 2017

Winners, Losers, & everyone else

While we're on the topic of Winners and Losers, let's spare a thought for those who weren't allowed in the game to begin with - The sad sacks who play by all the rules expecting a fair shake at the end. Those invested wholeheartedly in a level-playing field, and in the intrinsic honour in trying hard and not expecting too much except one's just deserts. Those who look up to supposed mentors and patrons and guides and well connected well-wishers and hope a bone is thrown their way eventually. Those who buy into the myth that hard work and perseverance and playing the long game will put you in the same arena as those who have come by their luck the old-fashioned way - through wealth, power and privilege. Those who have to look their children in the eye to tell them to, "hold on darling - for a little while longer before you can go to the gymnasts class or to jazz ballet or that horse riding school", knowing with that sinking feeling that the idea of equity is as delusional and beyond reach as the idea of equality. Those who have no option but to continue doing without thinking, to continue breathing without feeling, to continue to know their place and block out those delusions of grandeur and agency and control. Those who are condemned to be willfully and carelessly misunderstood until there isn't an excuse to misunderstand them any longer after which they are inducted seamlessly into the ranks of the 'us' without the means to be like the 'us' which is a, "privilege that cannot be come by so easily, my friend. Do you think I was born with this double-storey house, this 55 acre farm, this swan-shaped swimming pool in the backyard, this BMW SUV? I worked my ass off for it, son!" Those who are denied the hopes, dreams and longings of everyone else in a miasma of racial and cultural exoticism where what one wants cannot nearly be what 'I' want - "that is so assumptive of you, come on!" Those who will clean our toilets and vaccuum our carpeted surfaces and detail our cars and retreat back into the shadows finally, with all their energy spent and only eyes showing - eyes gleaming in the darkness with envy and jealousy and desperation and hate...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Dawn of a Global Neo-Fascist Polity

It is tempting to see amongst all this doom and gloom in the world today, that the: demonising of civil rights, the extraordinary intimidation of the global fourth estate, the unmasking of an age-old white-supremacist and religiously chauvinist immigration policy around the first world, and the rise of extreme right-wing political parties across great, and not-so-great, democracies, as some last gasp hurrah of a failing metaphorical sceptre of racist paranoia from erstwhile colonising countries that will momentarily overcome their predatory pasts, and are about to step out into a beaming, post-homogeneous sun when all this is over. That assumption is the intellectual equivalent of burying your head in the sand with only your ears sticking out, and mistaking those burrowing noises getting closer to you for dolphin calls from the deep ocean.
Unless you have lived in a rich, consumerist, and apparently meritorious economy for the entire duration of your adult life so far, with breaks in-between to marvel at those amazing distant cultures where women are perpetually graceful and men are forever righteous, it is obvious that people around the world are born unequal. What your name is, where you come from, how you look, and how much wealth you have backing you, determines your experience of life, and always has. In a world that has always been this way, it is easy to ridicule the idealism of those privileged protesters who don't have to worry about putting food on the table, dressing up their school-going children appropriately, and getting to a job under the watchful eye of that supervisor who needs the flimsiest possible excuse to dismiss them. But, it is also easy to assume that life goes forwards not backwards, that head-down sweat and toil hard-nosed hard work will get you and yours ahead, that your children will fulfill their potential with more opportunity than you ever had and be happy in the revealed knowledge that life is more than just surviving. Neither of these manifestations of living is the whole picture. Democracies around the world are facing a backlash from fearful, hateful, misguided, and misdirected local communities, sometimes sacrilegiously supported by recent immigrants, that are constitutionally bound to adhere to the choices of their electorates. Whatever we may think of the choices being presented to us, our levels of awareness and education, and whatever eugenic sympathies we harbour, people have every right to want to be governed by popular mandate. It is, after all, something the world fought bloodily for, over generations, at great cost to homogeneous and ethnic communities, in a world where it was thought that the divine right of kings and queens, and brute force, trumped all. To get riled up over the short memories of ignoramuses, history-deniers, and walled-off racists, who do not see the light when confronted by the horrors of the second world war, or the brutality of colonialism, or the historical crimes of slavery and genocide, is reactionary and denies the responsibility of national political systems that  have neither encouraged a holistic view of the world from a global perspective nor given credence to apparently self-evident interpretations of world history. How could they? Politics is the pursuit of power, and objective facts and subjective empathy and situational context is so far removed from that pursuit as is the idea of 'representation' about getting the plight of the broken-down, homeless, hungry, and agency-less human being on the street into the national discussion.
Blinkers are good for horses being maneuvered through the streets, and for human beings when the task at hand is direct, complex, and clear-cut in its projected outcome. We cannot continue to pretend that democracy in its current avatar is sacrosanct - it cannot be when all that is needed to subvert its beauty, poetry, and goal of freedom, is a law enforcer in uniform taking the law into his/her own hands based on their proclivities.
It is time to change our focus from the institutions that we thought were duty-bound to enforce our hard-won emancipation, to the structures of those very institutions. The need for governments to better reflect what we expect for ourselves and our fellow human beings across the world, through inequality, war, and daily struggle, is paramount, if we are to safeguard the global community from the predation of a few of us who think of winning as an end in itself.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A lighter shade of black

I looked up the opposite for the word evolution today and the best the web could come up with was: decrease, reduction, stagnation, shrinkage, blockage, halt and various other iterations to stop or go back. None of them come close to what I want to describe; the sense of the rolling back of time and experience; that everything we have come to have faith in is somehow being lost to us; the inexorable march of progress, so to speak, coming undone right before our eyes; the negation of the idea that time itself is a progression towards something; that the concept of a cyclical perception of time is just something philosophers earn a living by unconnected to the reality that we all just know or have known since we were born.

It really doesn't seem delusional, does it?

After all, we are getting older from the time we are born, the interior and exterior manifestations of life do change constantly in the human experience, technology becomes upended, people die and other people give birth to more people. Can we really blame ourselves for believing that something similar is happening to the world we inhabit? Not so much in the physical sense of it as in the psychic idea of a society we leave better off as a consequence of us being around for a certain period.

What then is this world we have now come to inhabit? A reactionary, untethered beast; an anthem of war and disenchantment and vitriol and hate; a vile, exclusionary, particulate thing unfettered by civility and discourse and deliberation. What faith will we have left when this fire has burned itself out (as it will, as it must, as is inevitable) that we can once again pick up from where we left off? - In giving meaning to disconsolate lives separated as much by geography as by difference from today's frothing, teeming hordes of rabidity. In rehabilitating our effects on this planet we inhabit so as to safeguard it for generations to come. In constantly discovering the beauty, the serenity, the possibilities, the love in this world. In sharing our uniqueness, our sense of purpose, our ideals and dreams so as to contribute to a shared sense of humanity with those whom we would otherwise have nothing to do with in our day to day lives.

Will the damage not be done by then? Will the strength remain? Will the disillusion and despair give way to a recaptured sense of resolve?

Can we hold on?

Monday, November 14, 2016

I have to write I'm afraid

I have to write, I'm afraid,
Of the despair, and disillusionment, and delinquency I'm feeling,
Of my loneliness, and longing, and lassitude.

I have to write, I'm afraid,
Of the pain, and anger, and rage I'm feeling,
Of the constriction of breath and the tightness in my thighs and feet.

I have to write, I'm afraid,
Of how I'm going to explain this,
To my daughter, to make her understand how we shot our own faces off, and why.

I have to write, I'm afraid,
Of how we have now thrown off these 'yokes' of aspiration, deliverance, and freedom,
In the wake of electing a racist, sexist, lying pig to be leader of what will never again be the free world.

I have to write, I'm afraid,
Of how America deserves this, parading their wretched verisimilitude of greed,
As if it were a virtue worth basing a nationhood on, instead of a multitudinous human failing to be diligently overcome.

I have to write, I'm afraid,
Of how we now mourn the beautiful artists, the magnificent performers, the seductive purveyors of a thousand grand fictions,
And their glimpses of a heaven that can now never be here on earth.

I have to write, I'm afraid,
Of an America that coveted our dreams, that reflected our hopes, that strove for our emancipation,
And just threw them (and us) all under the bus.

I have to write, I'm afraid,
That I am now afraid,
For millions of fates yet to be determined,
For people as yet in chains,
For millions more in limbo,
For millions still in pain.

I have to write, I'm afraid, that I am afraid now,
For us... and of us.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Crisis of Masculinity

As the sordid details of what Donald Trump has done to women over the years emerges in the public domain, as we are enmeshed in the zenith of the controversy that is his Presidential campaign, and as we reflect on what kind of people his supporters must be - to watch and hear detail after detail of his vile misogyny, his deep hatred of women's agency, his naked distrust of gender equality and all the implications that flow from it, and ponder our place in the universe at just this time, I do need desperately to step back and examine with a critical conscience this crisis encapsulating us, this crisis that we seemed to have taken steps to move on from in the west, only to realize that we are as ensconced in it as our caveman ancestors were; which would have been an exaggeration if not for a guest on a television show yesterday explicitly supporting Trump's misdeeds by saying that the history of civilization could be renamed, "Who Gets The Girl".

I grew up in a conservative society surrounded by strong women who seemed to exude a strength that I admired, but knew I would never possess to a similar degree. Everything in my experience pointed to the validity of a woman's agency, that girls could be as ambitious as boys, that sports were as accessible to both genders, that you would challenge a woman on her assumptions with nothing else to go on but your belief that she was less worthy as a woman, only at your existential peril.
When that changed, I really don't know, but I do remember my mother telling me a number of times while growing up that there was a difference between men and women, that certain assumptions could be made regarding propensity and character according to gender, and that we would be naive to assume otherwise.
These were certainly shocking to hear at the time - coming from a woman who determined who she would love and marry, what she would study, how many children she would have, what businesses she would open and when they would close, and how exactly she would deal with the death of a husband who left her with three little children and very little else when he died of cancer when she was thirty-three.
Even later, in team sport locker rooms, and male-only meetings, I did hear overt misogyny that I assumed reflected a dark shame at something the proponent of such talk needed to be relieved of, and never imagined that it was more pervasive than a marginal male persuasion that was restricted to the inadequate, in ways I wasn't really going to be bothered imagining. Every time I heard an overt appeal for what I supposed was juvenile camaraderie, to join in banter ascribing all sorts of fantastical notions related to the 'purity' (or the lack thereof) of women in our society, that 'they' must know their place, that social breakdown was imminent if traditional gender roles were overturned, I always brushed them aside thinking that this braggadocio would last only so long as it was disabused of in an inevitable enlightening encounter with a woman that I didn't envy the proponent of. I remember that I did also imagine that the things I was hearing, and the attitudes that were being disseminated, were a reflection of a society in the death throes of a tiring social conservatism. As a migrant, I have now left that society behind and live, work and breathe in a world where women are ubiquitous; in every career, in every facet of human experience, in every social encounter... and when they are not, the absence is anomalous; to be fought against, to be campaigned for, to be rejected together. I do have a daughter now, and am married, thankfully, to a woman who will rage against the dying of the light, certainly, but also at any subjective disappointment in her life that may not be a reflection of her professional abilities or her personal agency. I am grateful for that because it reminds me of the women I have always known and grown up with and therefore feels familiar, but also because I know that there will never be a time when I will be allowed a laxity in the opinions I hold, or a compromise I make, when it comes to defending and actively supporting the rights of women everywhere.

But there is this question of the Trump supporters, and all those men (and women) all over the world who dismiss the severity of his actions and view them as reflective of a rightful alignment of the place we should allow women in society. And joke about assault. And condone the sexualization of young girls. Where does that end? Where does it begin? What is its use-by date? Is it really related to the perception of the relative uselessness of men in a world where women can do as well, if not better, than men in traditional occupations?
In my opinion, all of that is superfluous. If we cannot regard the people we live alongside, and love, and share meaningful moments with, on par with those we don't; who have nothing more in common with us than a historical notion of superiority based on muscle power or anatomy or sexual submission, then there is certainly nothing wrong with the world at large.
There is something deeply wrong with us.