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.