Friday, May 23, 2008

It's a good day today

Feeling all connected and stuff. Got to the Tibetan Museum today, a really wonderfully well-put-together archive of Tibetan history pre, through, and post-invasion. (Oh, that prefix, "post," you rascal, you never tell the truth.) It was extremely affecting.

I'm amazed by the depth and duration of the freedom struggle. Under immense brutality and oppression, in a country where "legal action" means something very different than it does in Canada, people have been organizing and demonstrating and resisting for more than fifty years. Multiple generations - people born twenty years after the Dalai Lama left Tibet - fighting the same battles, facing the same hostility. I read a first-hand account today of a nun who, with six other nuns, knew what would happen when she planned a demonstration outside her convent in Lhasa: they peacefully demonstrated for 15 minutes, then were arrested, beaten by the Chinese police, and sentenced to 7 years in prison. During this time, she and the others were regularly suspended by the wrists, denied food, kept from sleep, and two of her 6 companions were raped with electric probes. For 15 minutes of peaceful demonstration. 7 nuns outside a convent. Millions of Tibetans, over the last half century, have made the same choice. Millions more have fled their homes, over the highest and most dangerous mountain passes in the world, rather than say (at gunpoint) that they denounce their spiritual leader. Believe me when I say that seeing all of this in photos is much more effective than in writing.

We're all finding our way back into history, aren't we? We lost the thread for a while. The Cold War ended and we weren't sure where we were going. I wasn't there, not really - too young - but it's the feeling I grew up in. All that is different now, or at least it should be. I flatly reject the concept of a "post-9/11" condition - I am one of the many who believe that the rights we should have had on Sept. 10 2001 are no different than the ones we should have today, and by "we" here I mean everyone, everywhere - but if there is a single change in our collective awareness, I think this was it: we got pulled back down onto the timeline, where everyone else was all along.

There was this long period where we thought nothing meant anything, that we could never hurt the world enough that it would come back on us. We were sort of floating in it, and we kind of stopped being able to see each other; these long years where we weren't talking about race, about class, about women or gays, or the uncountable brown people we couldn't name - how passe, to be a feminist, to eat brown rice, how old-school. The few voices shouting in the background, the butt of jokes, the slur returns as a major genre of popular comedy - nigger, paki, faggot, bitch, scheister, hippie - history itself becomes unfashionable, and suddenly that damned prefix "post" is popping up everywhere, telling us all kinds of bullshit we won't see through till later, if we see through it at all.

2001 called bullshit on all of that, I think, and everyone did one of the three things people can do when something seriously calls bullshit on the tidy narrative (or lack thereof) they'd organized their life around:

Some ignored it entirely.

Some dropped off the scene for a bit, staggering, came back knowing they needed to get in this more than they were before - those of us (yes, us, this is me) who hadn't yet figured out how they fit into the big picture realized there was no path they could take that didn't lead them into the center of this clusterfuck, that each step they take, in any direction, is a step forwards through time and therefore towards the culmination of the last century, the sum total of everyone's choices all over the world, and that they better get the fuck in there and start helping out where they can - not to save their own asses, or those of their loved ones, but because it's about fucking time we did. It's just our turn. We got ripped back into history, like I said, and now we know we were here all along, and always will be, so we need to start being smarter about it.

Some, those (often) with the most invested in all those bullshit "posts" - post-racism, post-feminism, post-colonialism, post-communism, post-responsibility, post-capitalism - initiated what can only be called The American Beserk. Here you find, among other things, the Patriot Act and its correlated bullshit, this suddenly renewed (or, I should say, suddenly legitimated) hostility towards immigrants, these mouthpieces on wingnut welfare unleashing this avalanche of crap on the rights of women, gays, minorities. A new, more aggressive phase in the American theatre of neocolonialism dressed up as development, or not: a war that could never be won, paid for with money and lives that will be horribly missed.

Maybe that's what this trip is really about, for me. I've looked around, I see where we are in our history... Canada, the States, Western Europe (to a lesser extent). I feel where I am in it, and I'm starting to see how I fit in, where I can go. And in all directions, I feel live wires tentacling out into darkness, hot pulses of white light sent shooting off every time any one of us moves. But I can't see where they go. Maybe this trip is about being able to follow just a couple of them, out to wherever they're grounded. This is where we are; where are you?

Plus I learned how to embed YouTube video in my blog posts, so, good day.*

*Yeah, I know, you just copy-paste the embed code. Quiet.


Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle:

Have just witnessed the birth of a "super social activist". Congratulations! Just hope that it doesn't tear you apart. You are sensitive and passionate and I hope you can use these great qualities, while at the same time keeping a fine balance in your life. Am enjoying your blogs tremendously.
Love, Grandma

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