Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Violence of Articulation - Living in Fear

One of my favorite directors is Anne Bogart, even though I have never seen anything she has directed. I did, however; have the incredible joy of spending time with her in graduate school and even being blessed enough to cook for her. She ranks up there with Sweet Honey in the Rock in terms of awe and Anna Deavere Smith in terms of my girl-crushes.
My first year of graduate school she came to do a workshop with the playwrights and the directors were lucky enough to get a couple of hours of her time, which is due completely to my friend Wonder woman! I sat there with her on my right and she asked why we were here and what we wanted to do with our work once we left. But before that she gave me one of the best life lessons I have ever had: "Pay attention." So simple. So fucking hard. That is what I took from that time with her. Pay attention, which makes so much sense given especially that her background is in Buddhism, mostly Zen. Another lesson in mindfulness. For years I applied that directive just to directing but of course began to see that it was a wider command than just my artistic life.
Wonder Woman took another phrase from our time with Anne: "the violence of articulation." Kali herself. To create you must destroy. To speak is to put energy forth into the universe, be careful what you place out there. That phrase has lately become my touchstone, probably because I get the "pay attention" one even if I don't always follow it. But the last few weeks since the riots in England have caused me to re-think how powerful my words can be.
A really good friend suffered a horrible loss and I, in turn, suffered along with him. His good friend lost both of his children to mob violence. The son was dragged from a car and beaten within an inch of his life. He was put on life support which proved to be the only thing keeping him alive and so they turned it off. He was 16. His sister survived the attach but had been brutally beaten, raped and left for dead. She killed herself the day after her brother's funeral. Parents buried both of their children.
Before I knew the depth of this story I had taken the academic, well-read position. And I had also taken the position of someone caught up in the America myopia. Because I see everything that involves riots through a racial prism that is the same monocle I was looking at the riots in England with. I had seen a few liberal posts on CNN blaming the austerity laws and saying that this was bound to happen given the oppression of the poor people in the affected neighborhoods. And I saw the U.S. and racial profiling and Reginald Denney, and Larry Bird, and that bitch of a sales associate who followed me around the upsale clothing store, and the women who asked me how long I had been taking care of these kids and how much do I charge. Everything through the lens of racism. So after sending my friend, who is not American or British, a link from a public advocate in England saying how he could completely understand what happened and that the government should understand too, my friend and I got into a heated series of exchanges. HEATED.
I was academically dissecting this situation, it's the nature of oppression. Breaking down the language being used by US media - not taking into account that the UK was using completely different language. When my friend wrote back to me with the account of his friend's losses. He ended the paragraph with - "it seems as though you care more about how language is used to describe the situation than you do about the people involved in the situation." Yea, I deserved that. And I immediately began to research this event from every news outlet that was not American or created for Americans. Wow, guess what I saw? People were described by their behavior not by their racial make up. The pictures connected with the riots contained both black, white, Asian and Indian people. They photos were not skewed to make it seems like only one race of people were responsible. The issue was class not race. Back at Lawrence in 1994, Tim Troy repeatedly said that future mass violence would be socio-economic and not race based. It is unfortunate that socio-economics and race are so inexplicably intertwined.
I write this with lack of clarity and with caution as I know that at least 1/2 of the people who read this blog are from academic backgrounds! And I am trying to work out some of the kinks in my logic before I write this for Nanda Mama. But what I really want to say is that I am embarrassed. Embarrassed by my lack of vision. By my completely inaccurate and biased statements. Disgusted that these events took place. Overwhelmed by knowing the details and feeling the pain of someone affected. Despondent about the future of humans. While I continually work at having more love for myself I have noticed a shrinking of my heart in relation to other people. I cannot forgive them their trespasses. And I fight to maintain my internal humanity toward "those people," and I feel as though I am losing the fight most days. I have become more and more conservative as I age. I have become less accepting and more of - just get up off your ass and fix it your life. Wait, isn't that what I have been saying to myself forever?!
The other night in the midst of a panic attack I put on Pema Chodron and right where my ipod picked it up was Pema discussing anxiety. Saying that her teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche had taught on fear and facing it and leaping into it. How he took things that were painful and seemed useless to us and turned them into positive teaching tools. Things like fear and boredom. That when we are afraid or feel the loss of solid ground we scramble to create ground. And in our process we may lash out or blame or become angry with others. And I had been doing a bit of that lately. So, it helps me to see that what I say or write has consequences. That if I am to really do the work of opening up myself and my heart then I cannot afford to close myself off to the basic humanness of everyone - but that does not mean forgiving every misdeed. Nor does it mean ignoring when someone has clearly lost their sense of humanness. Beating a 16 year old to death and then raping his sister - not a forgivable act. Not a human act. Not even the act of the beast. This is something darker and far deeper. And I will not accept, tolerate or forgive. Because the act was not done directly to me but close enough that I cannot ignore it. And it reminds me that in every time someone is hurt, abused or injured it is an affront to my humanness. One death is a tragedy, several a statistic? Time to wrap my head around the statistics.

1 comment:

ilyakogan said...

Unfortunately this is a thoroughly human act. I hope by "the beast" you mean the devil and not actual beasts. Most animals don't do things like this. Right this very moment there are probably thousands of people being raped, tortured, murdered, mutilated, you name it. Just because you don't know them personally or don't have a friend whose friend is suffering it doesn't change the fact. Just yesterday there was a footnote about yet another suicide bombing in Iraq. We grew so bored of those. They happen so often and it's not "people" being blown up - it's Iraqis...

The layer of so-called 'civilization' is very thin. We are a generation that grew up during a relative lull in global violence. And what a lull it was - if you count the number of conflicts in the last 50 years - it's huge. But it is still nothing compared to the scale of World War II, Chinese Cultural Revolution, Khmer Rouge, or separation of India and Pakistan...

I mean this is all our parents' generation - in living memory...

The mere fact that this event or Norwegian shooting or any other "small scale" event shocks sheltered Western European mind such as yours is a good thing. This means that those things are becoming less of a norm at least in some parts of the world.

Wake up and look around you. Watch non-American news - English Al Jazeera would be a good start.