2013년 9월 27일 금요일

Up on the roof

I like to go up to the roof sometimes, when the weather's mild. I like to look around, observe, and contemplate the scene.

Strange, that I seem to have so much time on my hands in this stage of my life. I guess I used to be more restless. I didn't used to like being idle, though I spent a lot of my life forced into it. It wasn't healthy back then, for it seemed to produce negative outcomes like black thoughts, pent up anger and nervousness.

I suppose I was forced to sit still and think whenever finances limited my resources and therefore my choices of activities; that is in previous episodes of my life. I used to feel trapped when circumstances sort of kept me suspended. I wanted to rebel at the circumstances, but it was futile. I remember that kind of strained and grey calm of the aftermath of various crises, when it seemed like there was so much against me.

Well, all that has passed. Now, my spare time is a luxury. Now, it's a product of success: financial stability due to steady meaningful and enjoyable employment bring the rewards of emotional and intellectual satisfaction, new social associations, plus leisure time and new leisure activities.

Still, I do try to stick to a budget. Never mind, because enjoyment of a simple lifestyle and appreciation of little things in life have always been my thing, really. Nowadays, I enjoy quiet moments of solitude as I did in my youth. It is a kind of freedom. It allows me to think and imagine.

It's even better in the more advanced years of life, because one has all that history with it's lessons of life and social awareness to feed thought. I am free to think creatively and, at last, I'm free to write in the way I have always wanted.

Watching and reading fiction, as well as real life stories amuse me and help to nurture my mind, to be sure. When I'm tired of that, though, I like to get outdoors. Some evenings, I just have to go up to the roof of my apartment building. I relish that kind of space. No-one else's needs or perspective interferes, then. I indulge myself in listening to my own voice in my ear as I survey the environment for clues of nature and humanity.

Yes, I am still on a quest. I never know why or what I'm seeking. I guess I just like the process and the discovery that often pops up.

I like to go up to the roof at dusk. It's a quiet time, a phase between the hub-bub of the day's business and the vices and indulgences of the night. I don't understand the various other means of self-decompressing that many people appear to engage in, which are various methods of excessive consumption.

At dusk, I look out in the half light. I cast my eye down toward the street and see people going about their day's end tasks. There's a woman here or a man there toting a small shopping cart. There's someone with a plastic bag full of new purchases peering into the bag to review what he's bought. Cats begin to peer out from behind corners with temerity. People on bicycles whiz by, coattails flapping. A taxi cruises through, probably having just dropped off someone in this neighbourhood and hoping to scoop up a new fare. Pairs of companions of some sort or another stroll leisurely as they talk. A tired-looking figure in a black suit plods heavily along, toting a heavy briefcase.

I gaze out at the rooftops around me trying to detect anyone stirring. Hah! There's a silhouetted young woman stepping out of the stairwell onto the roof who stretches a bit before launching into a quick strut back and forth, making only 12 high-stepping strides each way. She barely lasts five minutes!

I don't smoke but sometimes I take a cigarette or two up there. It's something to do and sucking on the cigarette helps me think.

I peer over at the place where my colleague used to live, but no sign of life is there now. I miss being able to spy on her a bit.

I review the shops around my building. There's the dog soup-slash-ginger chicken soup place that's so popular. There's the stuffed cramped quarters of the local drycleaner's that may or may not return your item on the due date, depending on the mistress' own idea of priorities. There's the new hardware store where the 30-somethings couple with the wailing child have just opened. No doubt, the wailing child doesn't like being farmed out to relatives and neighbours so that his mother and father can perform duties in the shop.

Up on the apartment towers above me, colored light burst onto the scene and start to flash. Sometimes I imagine that the people who want to put lights in such places have tried to compete with the galaxies, perhaps trying to find their own mark in the sky. Or, perhaps they have tried to create their own lucky stars in the city that can be so kind one moment, and so mean another.

Then, the sky is dark, though clouds can be seen hovering because the city lights are reflected on them in a faint orangish glow. More bright lights flash around me, and the noise grows. It's time to go back into my refuge.

2013년 5월 26일 일요일

About women's power

Right now at this moment, as I write, some women have gathered to view a documentary and discuss the media's influence on women's access to position of power. In the end, I decided to stay home and think about other questions.

Now I'm reflecting on why I took that option. Rather than address their particular question, I'm thinking about a related one: why do they want power and what kind of power are they aspiring to access?

That's really a question of the bourgeois feminist movement: why aren't more women in positions of power, and why and how does the system obstruct women from upward mobility. The answer from the anti-imperialist (progressive) women thinkers and activists is to change the power structures. The question for us in the radical feminist movements is, why are not more women involved in creating basic change of society?

After all, are the conventional male leaders of our society the best role models? Do you want to be a top executive in a monopoly, a manager of exploitation and plunder? Do you want to be a judge or police officer in the system of injustice? Do you want to be a General of an imperialist army?

The capitalist system is a patriarchal system. Having women step into the shoes of the leaders of that system just does more harm to women and working people. Think of Condoleeza Rice, Hilary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the remaining Queens of this and that country--they have played big roles in carrying out big crimes. extending mass suffering and keeping movements for real change down. It is no gain when a female dictator or militarist or corporate mogul comes to power.

Sure, yes, it is meaningful when women of any stratum makes advances and wins freedom, as it is when people of color, immigrants and other oppressed sectors do. And, yes, it is meaningful when violence against women and children is recognized and measures taken to oppose and prevent it. However, just as patriarchy is a feature of the system of monopoly capitalism, so are discrimination and violence. It's a system built upon the worst violence and the grossest prejudices of the monarchies of Europe and European colonizers and local chieftans and gangsters.

If you're not talking about making fundamental change happen, then you're are talking about the false right and false justice of stepping into male reins of power. You're talking about striving to become another ruler or conqueror or one of their managers or technocrats. No, thanks.

I do hope that women in general, whatever their occupation or class, honestly have a different kind of leadership in mind. They have a special skill set owing to the amazing ability as females to bear children and their tendency to be nurturers, caregivers and homemakers because they bear children that can offer a differeent perspective on leadership and societal development.

I do believe that more and more women should think political and participate in debates. That's how they will get true liberation, in my mind, that will enable them and the rest of society to advance and flourish.

I'm not talking about electoral party politics. Most people are tired of that. This is the biggest problem of misrepresentation--of women and others among the citizenry. I'm talking about grassroots community and political organizing. I mean that they have to go beyond social work, school teaching and health care and think, read, write and talk in an exchange of opinions about their most urgent concerns.

Personally, I'm not very interested in accessing any position of substantial power. I don't want to be a boss. That's not to say I don't want to secure and assert my own power as a person. I want my knowledge, skills and experience acknowledged and I want to be recognized in situations where I am fit to lead. I'm talking about meritocracy as part of a democracy wherein peers praise and ask one to be an organizer or leader if one's work has demonstrated merit. I like that concept.

2013년 1월 12일 토요일

Why write? It's only partially out of vanity. I write because I need to do it.

I have always had to write. Growing up, I was told to be quiet. I was told many times in many ways that I was not worthy. I fought. As a teenager, that meant angry outbursts and a method of defiance.

There was no-one to counsel me, so I needed to counsel myself. Many teachers mocked or criticized unfairly. Librarians and parents blocked my efforts to read. School classes were insufficient.

Ironically, I fought to learn. I fought for wisdom. I fought to be able to make decisions and run my life. It was, though, a quiet revolution.

I was in fact, not very verbal. I had natural ability to write. Whatever the teachers did and said, they had to acknowledge that there was talent at writing.

What I jotted down in my diaries, though, I hid in shame or threw away in disgust. I was my own enemy, rejecting my own thoughts a lot of the time. I guess I had a problem in trusting myself, despite my own arrogance, penchant for the unconventional and modest boldness.

Contrarily, I had to believe in myself since there was apparently no-one else to vouch for me. My school chums paid compliments from time to time. There was not much other support. Some people, including those with power over me, signaled fear and hatred. There seemed to be no reason other than because I was good-looking and likable, not to mention good at a range of things. Daggers struck from various directions. With neglectful parents, needling brothers, and scorn from many teachers, I could not trust. I did not let those more sympathetic and kind very close.

Yet, I had to talk somehow. That is because I thought. I could not help it.

Writing let me think and therefore gave me freedom. I could control it. I could defend it from the onslaught of critique by holding it secret.

For decades, I kept it in secret. Whenever I ventured to expose it, offering a poem here, an article there, it was ignored or cut down. Others might read, but usually react without commentary and instead see it as an invitation to talk about themselves.

So much of what passes for discussion is actually a series of monologues, it seems to me. Opinion is met by decree of those in a position to assess (professors, editors, designated--often self-appointed)--community leaders or activists), or it inspires a counter-opinion. In some cases, it provokes mimicry as others might attempt writing in the same way on the same topic without speaker to other authors. In some cases, it is stolen.

Nevertheless,  some sort of gratitude and appreciation would seep out. I relied on that and an inflated ego to push me forward. It was stop and go.

I was never acknowledged as a writer, however. I did not need acknowledgment, though, as much as validation and response. I mostly needed to know I was heard. Most of the time, it felt like I was talking to the wind. It feels like that now.

So much of personal human endeavour feels futile and absurd. Yet, as I age, I adjust my perspective. There is so much we do not know, while we are learning more about the universe, the Earth and human existence.

Being true to oneself and others still matters. Forgiveness and humour are paramount. Leaving judgment to God or whatever source of power, grace and mercy is out in there in the beyond is not a cop-out; I think it is an imperative.

I can just try to be and grow. I can try to see what is happening around me. I can try to determine who is who and what is what. I can build language and expand social reality. I can reflect on what humans can change, and what ought to be changed. I can, should and will advocate for and defend virtue, peace and social justice.

With a lot of experience in activism, I join the voices that support art as a way to be honest and responsible. Not all art is virtuous or responsible. Some tells lies, just like the all media.

I only have my experience. It is necessarily filtered, so I do not feel bad or guilty about that. My experience is my narration. It is my observations, thoughts and emotional responses. As a writer, one cannot offer more than that.

A writer can and should try to develop discussion. I applaud those who continue to try and do not give up. It takes being strong.

Without writing, the thoughts have nowhere to run. They go round and round like a hamster on a wheel. They breed neurosis.

Therefore, thoughts need space. They have to be let out. They can never return, once let go, though.

Solitude and seclusion, by contrast, can nurture a healthy imagination. Too much is unhealthy, while the right dose can cure neurosis, ground oneself, and cultivate stories. Sooner or later, though, the characters and plot have to be let loose. They need to roam. They will consume their creator, otherwise.

I imagine characters in places. That is how the creative process goes for me. I imagine how they respond to situations. I have them meet other characters and give them problems, and watch what happens. Soon, these characters are leading me and turning their own pages. It is exciting to see where they take me. They let me share their experience while they borrow from mine. It is a sharing, and exchange. These characters enrich my life, so I in turn give shape to theirs. I provide some orientation. They must find resolution, so I help them solve problems and make decisions, which can be very hard for me. I have enough problems of my own and am reluctant to solve theirs, but it must be done. When I do succeed, I am pleased. It is also a learning process for me.

I am thankful that life has let me have the luxury of so much time to myself. Having so much time is a strain on the pocket book and socially constraining, but a wealth of thought and creativity grows out of it. It lends me freedom.

There is a lot of imagination churning and characters and ideas that need to find their place in the literary-scape, these days. I am compelled to release and assist them. It is for my own peace of mind and satisfaction, if also for their own good. It is for their liberation which in turn grants me liberation.

Excuse me, then, if this activity is somewhat selfish. It is not entirely. It is a compulsion that can provides some therapy for me, ideas and readers.

Let us do it and see what happens. I am better at talking and writing because I am better at thinking. What do you say if I trust you and you trust me?

-Ed Wise