Saturday, July 17, 2010

I'll Be There For You

While you're at school, life is delineated into neat chunks bookended by expectations that need to be met. Assignments and projects with set deadlines, exams to be completed on un-moving dates. Always something to shoot for, always something to move toward. This is piss-poor training for real life, but it's the only training we get.

So I'm not all that surprised that once we leave school and are technically free agents (although if you asked me, I'd assert that true freedom doesn't strictly exist and that our actions are bounded by our circumstances and environments, but that's for another day)we still continue the slow, slightly cyclical grind of trying to get to that next milestone and mark off the next thing on the big to-do list of life. As a result we get on this hamster wheel of mundane routine, an opiate of sorts, locking us into a pat, comfortable life getting us to accept the status quo. Combine this with the undue importance placed on the individual (Barbara Ehrenreich calls this "the cult of the individual" near the end of this illuminating and intoxicatingly animated speech) and what we have is an entire population of people trapped in their single-minded pursuit of the next hurdle. Individually ensconced in the same patterns of thought that got them there in the first place. Embedded deeply in the Matrix (or what we like to refer to around here as the kyriarchy).

Distracted by the small things in front of us, it's damn difficult to look up and see the institutional injustices and when we do see them when they're splashed all over the news in an effort to erase them from our public consciousness *cough* (not that it was really there in the first place - which of us learnt about Operation Coldstore in history class? It should be right there alongside the emergence of Singaporean government. Quite a glaring omission, amongst many others) it's so terrifying and ugly and disheartening that it's easy to bury your head right back down in the sand, re-mire yourself in the day-to-day reaching for the next-thing-in-life.

Many of my friends don't want to talk about the things we talk about on this blog. They don't want to hear that hospitals discriminate against fat people - staff in this example (in the interest of your own mental health you may want to avoid the comments on that) or that being oppressed can cause entire populations to birth pre-term and low birth weight babies. I can't really blame them. Outrage is upsetting and the realization that you as an individual is ineffective against these large institutional forces can really ruin your day, your month or even your year (sorry).

Yet I continue to start these conversations. I subscribe to many, high output blogs that chronicle the march of the kyriarchy on our personal rights and freedoms. I hang out with the rest of the animals on this blog and in between watering sessions, which I must note does include a substantial amount of mirth, and discuss these things at length. I do this because this is how us the individual will affect the changes we want to see. If we get enough people talking about it, enough people upset, enough people aware of the gross injustice perpetuated daily just because that's the way things are then things will change. It will be gradual, halting, frustrating and sometimes seemingly futile. But it's not. I'm a firm atheist, but I do have faith in this.

Don't keep your head down, eyes blinkered to the next expectation you feel you must meet. Look up, look around, get mad, join the movement. Reassess what's important to you. You may benefit from the status quo in some measure. We all do, everyone possesses some privilege in some form (admittedly some more than others) and that's the lure of it. That's the bait in the trap we keep falling for. Ignore it. Unplug from the Matrix. Let's get in some ambulatory robots and talk about the things that matter.


Please avoid (1) victim-blaming, (2) justifying any particular instance of oppression/exploitation, (3) explaining that we live in a post-feminist/racist/ablist/enter-oppression-here world, or (4) Mansplaining at all. Barn writers are free to moderate their own posts how ever they deem fit, and not obligated to entertain any comment. If you suspect it might seem offensive, don't comment.

(See our note on comments.)