Dystopia, Utopia, or some other opia?

global_warming_cartoon_horsey
http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/globalwarming/ig/ Global-Warming-Cartoons/Dithering-on-Climate-Change.0ys1.htm

According to the Oxford Dictionary online, dystopia is:

An imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.

I imagine that nearly everyone is familiar with this term, since it seems to be the basis for pop culture’s fascination with all things dark, frightening, and otherwise unpleasant. The fact is, fear, ugliness and horror are extremely popular commodities in our society, as the market clearly shows. I find this fact exceedingly sad, and what’s even sadder is the thought that it will probably only get worse before it gets better.

Thing is, we currently live in a society that is not imagined, in which there exists great suffering and injustice, and is halfway to totalitarian right now. The arguably added dimension to all of this is the utter confusion which swirls around us all like some sort of vortex of doom that no one can fully name or explain. I am currently in a bad habit of reading the New York times online daily (and I admit some days several times), in an effort to understand what actually is happening here on Earth. It feels like we are in a collective reality show that is badly written, badly acted, and has falling ratings. Can’t we just fire these clowns and hire some folks to write us a better collective story, with some humor and nuanced acting?

I read a great essay by Shaun Chamberlin, posted in Resilience.org this week that struck a deep chord within my soul. (https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-01-29/realists-of-a-larger-reality/)

He wrote,

“What is necessary, that we might have a future? First, let us consider what we face.

An economy so violently contrary to our human instincts and desires that it leaves epidemics of depression, loneliness and suicide everywhere it goes. That uses mass media and financial stress to hollow our souls and seize control of both our days and our hearts, sparking not only economic and environmental devastation, but cultural and spiritual annihilation. Like villagers glancing fearfully up at the castle of some dauntingly powerful vampire, we live our lives under the shadow of the economy of undeath.

We owe this reality no allegiance. But we owe it respect. It is a worthy adversary, no doubt.

Yet its weak point is obvious. People straight up hate it. They hate their jobs and the materialist hollowness imposed on their lives. Nonetheless, as I grew up inside it the corporate media kept us blind to other possibilities, made it seem patently obvious – only common sense – that continuing to participate in this grim reality is the only realistic option.

But it’s a lie. And while a lie may take care of the present, it has no future. The truth is that it takes immense energy (of all kinds) to keep a population suppressed – to fight all our contrary impulses; to quieten our profound inner misgivings, our spark of creativity and rebellion.”

It seems that the times we are living through now have been foretold by science fiction writers of the 20th century, such as those classics some of us had to read in the name of literature back in high school English classes. Which begs the question: Did we create our current dystopian state of affairs because too many of us read those awful novels and the images went so far into our unconscious minds that we ended up creating them in physical reality fifty years later? Or what?

But, alas, it makes no difference how we got to the chaotic mess we are now in. The real question, as Chamberlin points out in his essay, is What can we do about it? The Beast of the apocalypse is alive, and every bit as hideously evil and grotesque as was described in the Book of Revelation. The zombies are here too, and the living dead, all walking around with their headphones or ear buds in, glued to their electronic devices, and hardly any of them dare to speak aloud while moving through the world any longer. The world has simultaneously become deafening and eerily silent. Humans are listening, but no longer to one another live and face-to-face. The hypnotizers have done such an excellent job of hypnotizing the masses that people can hardly function in society anymore. It’s an apocalypse of social structure, of common language, of basic humanity that we are now facing. Too many have taken the wrong pill, and those who haven’t, whose eyes and ears and voices are open, can see what’s happening and yet are helpless to change it. The world grows more confusing, anxiety-ridden and frightening by the day. Joy becomes narrower and more elusive to touch on the daily.

Towards the middle of his essay, Chamberlin advocates for a complete alternative to being in mainstream society. He gives a picture of hippies sitting on green grass, blissed out, probably high on substances of some kind or other, stating

“I am writing this article from my dear compañero Mark Boyle’s small community in Ireland, An Teach Saor (The Free House). It is a home from home for me, and one of many, many places around the world where the residents are making the logic of money and the market obsolete – abandoning it, before it abandons us. For example, the ‘free pub’ and bunkhouse here – The Happy Pig – is a place where anyone can stay, free of charge, and remember what it is to not have to find money simply to have a place to exist.

You may not have heard much about such places, because that suits the corporate media just fine. But awareness of their agenda brings an emboldening thought. Doubtless, for every bastion of hope and joy you hear of or encounter, there are a hundred more that you haven’t. It is a heartening multiplication that I regularly remind myself of; a counterweight to the mainstream media’s narrow, oppressive ‘realism’.”

It sounds lovely, indeed. In fact, lately I’ve also been pondering the merits of finding myself a bubble world to go inhabit for a while (the rest of my life?) where people are joyful, money and greed aren’t present or necessary, and nature is plentiful. Chamberlain assures us that these utopian places actually do exist, and it is possible to live very well within them. Still, I can’t help but wonder if that is really the best choice for helping the collective world to create a more positive future beyond capitalism. Shall the enlightened simply move out of the rat race that are global cities, and go find some hideaway in the mountains where we can simply be free, smoke marijuana, live off the grid, go vegan, have polyamorous relationships, and do our best to forget all the misery of the rest of humanity? It sounds pretty great in theory…but somehow I don’t think it will quite work out in reality.

It’s 2019, and things are crumbling. We know, deep down, that the world will not, literally CANNOT continue the way it’s been. Capitalism has destroyed the world with a continual, never-ending appetite for consumption. We have collectively bought into the model of greed and endless competition for the bottom line: Money is the world’s god now, no matter how nicely the marketing teams choose to phrase it. The world’s scientists told us last autumn that we, the people of Earth, have roughly 12 years to get it together and seriously change the way we operate, or life as we have known it will be over moving into the future.

It doesn’t get any plainer that this. And yet—Who is listening? Who is changing? I don’t mean light bulbs. Which major governments and corporations are actually making the kind of drastic changes needed to turn this apocalyptic submarine carrier around? 2030 is an eye-blink away.

If you would like a taste of Dark Optimism, watch this Youtube. It’s excerpts from a talk given by Jonathon Porritt and Shaun Chamberlin, describing David Fleming’s views on the world economy and its inevitable collapse.

 

 

 

 

Roma’s Breakthrough Moment for Social Justice

roma_cleo_son_vox
Image credit: https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18102734/roma-review-netflix-cuaron

I got the chance to see Alfonso Cuarón’s new film, Roma, this past weekend. Now that it has garnered many Academy Award nominations, in addition to myriad other prestigious Best Picture awards globally, the buzz around this film has grown huge. Cuarón has created a masterful film in the tradition of the great 20th century filmmakers, such as Bergman and Fellini. Roma is shot in black and white, filled with quiet, contemplative moments, symbolism and authentic touches to give the viewer a true-to-life portrait of his childhood family’s life in Mexico City 50 years ago.

Many reviewers have already written of the nuances and reasons why Cuarón’s film has become an instant classic; therefore I won’t go into those details in this post. I have, however, been pondering an equally, or perhaps even more important aspect to this film’s worth. I would argue that Roma couldn’t be made before now; that it is only in the late 2010s that Western society has evolved enough to understand and accept the nuances of Cuarón’s childhood story, as told from his middle-aged perspective. For the protagonist of his film is Cleo, his family’s young, shy, lovely indigenous housekeeper and nanny. From the opening scene until the last, the story unfolds from Cleo’s unsentimental point of view. We watch her daily life unfold, intricately entwined with her employer’s family’s lives during the years 1970-71. Together they experience the joys and heartbreaks of life within a socially separate, yet loving relationship. Cuarón unflinchingly and tenderly shows us Cleo’s story: arising before the family, helping all four children get ready for school, taking the youngest son (Cuarón himself) to school after the older siblings have left, cleaning, washing the family laundry on the roof by hand (during the days before modern washing machines had arrived for upper-middle class urban Mexicans), along with all the hundreds of small acts of service that a domestic worker does for her employer in the course of a day.

Cleo, like most indigenous Mexican domestic workers, comes from a poor, rural village in the countryside. In the middle of the story, the family and she have gone to visit other family members at a country hacienda for the winter holidays. They walk up and down the hills and valleys of the sunny day, as Cleo reminisces about her home village. She remarks that it looks similar, and the sounds and scents are the same. The wistfulness and longing for her home are apparent, even with English subtitles. Hers is not an easy life, and yet her employer’s family is kind, loving, and obviously care for her a great deal.

There are other striking things about this film. Because it is Mexican-made, Cuarón had the artistic freedom from censorship that American films do not typically enjoy. During a love scene between Cleo and a young man, Fermin, it is he who is nude in the hotel room, while Cleo is discreetly covered by the bedsheets. Cuarón is very careful throughout the entire film to respect the actress who plays Cleo, Yalitza Aparicio, and takes pains to keep her body protected. This was a refreshing reversal from typical American films which have no problem with the feminine body being completely revealed, while the masculine continues to be censored, even in 2019.

In fact, the entire film portrays Cleo with the utmost respect and even reverence. For me, the fact that the housekeeper is the star of the film, and the White-European Mexican mother (excellently played by Marina de Tavira) is the supporting character, proves that we have reached a tipping point for social and class justice in the Americas. The subtext throughout Roma suggests that now, 50 years later, we can finally honor and recognize the invaluable contribution of indigenous laborers to Mexican (and consequently, American) society. In the current state of extreme class and social chaos in which we find ourselves here in the Americas, Cuarón dares us to embrace the indigenous as a beloved part of ourselves, to realize that we are all intimately connected, to move beyond the notion of us vs. them, and to admit that our lives work best when we put love for one another above the false ideas of separation and hierarchy.

If you haven’t yet seen Roma, and are interested in its themes and social commentary, please find a theatre in your area and treat yourself to this important film. And if you’ve already seen it, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and feelings in the comment box.

 

 

 

 

On Fucking as a Phenomenon

It’s the end of 2018. Besides an overabundance of absurd political drama, lots of people in our society (that would be America, or Los Estados Unidos) are as concerned with fucking as ever. Possibly more.

Back in the day…when I was a young woman, the word “fuck” was a curse word reserved for times you were really, really upset, or else kids would insert it into their vernacular to try to be cool. “yeah, fucking COOL, man” was a highly popular slang term at the time. But by now, the word “fuck” has been co-opted by, well, nearly everyone under fifty in this society. From little kids who have no clue what the word actually means, to Millennials on the bus, and pretty near everyone in-between.

Others talk about fucking as an activity, sort of like a sport that some follow. “Oh, he was fucking her, but then she let him know she wasn’t into him anymore, so now she’s fucking his roommate.”  The word is regularly used as an modifier: “fucking RIGHT.” Or, the ever ubiquitous “What the FUCK??!!”  Now, please don’t get the idea that I’m a prude or anything. I have personally used or done all that I’ve described above. The issue is that the term is just, mmm, slightly overused by now, wouldn’t you agree?

fuck_you_very_much_jezebel
image via https://jezebel.com/in-defense-of-the-word-fuck-1555610538

The word itself has interesting roots. According to Etymonline[1], until recently it was

“a difficult word to trace in usage, in part because it was omitted as taboo by the editors of the original Oxford English Dictionary when the “F” entries were compiled (1893-97). Fuck wasn’t in a single English language dictionary from 1795 to 1965. “The Penguin Dictionary” broke the taboo in the latter year. Houghton Mifflin followed, in 1969, with “The American Heritage Dictionary,” but it also published a “Clean Green” edition without the word, to assure itself access to the public high school market.”

There are different theories as to its actual origins, but some good linguistic guesses place it as coming from Germanic and/or Scandinavian words like “ficken. They often have additional senses, especially ‘cheat,’ but their basic meaning is ‘move back and forth.’ … Most probably, fuck is a borrowing from Low German and has no cognates outside Germanic.”[2]

My, we’ve come a long way from the late 19th century, haven’t we! Especially because the word has such popular derivatives, such as fucked, fuck it, fuck off, fucked up, fuck you, motherfucker, cluster fuck, and my favorite (that I just learned from Etymonline), fuckwit. During the 16th century (and probably earlier), the word fuck was considered vulgar English, meaning common, ordinary or of the herd. In 2018, though it’s still vulgar (probably more so than ever), it’s no longer forbidden from either dictionaries or everyday English usage.

Aside from its popularity as an adverb, the stubborn truth is that people in the United States (and plenty of other lands) are absolutely obsessed with copulation. There are probably upwards of about ten million things that humans could concern themselves with, throughout the course of any day. And, clearly some are thinking about some of those ten million things. But. Fucking, the thought of fucking, who is fucking who (or who ISN’T fucking who any longer), and an endless list of the nuances around these base thoughts seem to take up the majority of people’s grey matter.

Is it because humans cannot get a grip on their hormone levels? Doesn’t that start to regulate after about age 25? Or maybe it’s because climate change is hovering over humanity like some stupendous alien invasion, ready to destroy all life upon Earth AT ANY MOMENT, FOREVER? Or, is it possibly because people are really just extraordinarily bored, and obsessing about sex, bodily parts and all things related is a pleasant, harmless diversion?

What if we, as a species, were suddenly able to telepathically read each other’s thoughts whether we wanted to or not? A genuinely frightening notion this is, with vast implications.  I have to wonder if this were possible, would we quickly tire of thinking so very much about sex and fucking—wouldn’t it become passé once it was no longer a game created for our own amusement and titillation, and hyped to the nines by pop culture for profit margins?

Here’s a short anecdote to ponder:  Once, years ago, I met a guy I had gone to high school with. We’d been friends within a common friend group, and I’d always liked him a lot. He seemed like a thinking person to me at the time, and mused on about quantum physics and various other interesting topics that I knew nothing about. We’d been out of contact for many years. Then, in my mid-thirties, we suddenly connected through a mutual old friend. We decided to have dinner and catch up. After a couple of hours of talking and trading life stories over the last fifteen years, out of nowhere, he said aloud, “I wonder what you look like naked.” I laughed uncomfortably, and quickly changed the subject. Eventually, the evening ended and we said goodnight. Needless to say, I never saw him again. That one ill-placed remark completely ruined the evening, and my former fond memories of him forever.

There is a kind of grace to subtlety. Words well-placed, in the perfect moment, have impact. The word fuck used to have a certain power. But now? It’s lost all its former shock. Like so many other overused words, it has no more oomph, danger, or razzamatazz. Same with the continual conversation about the act of fucking. I suggest we start a revolution of thought, leading to a revolution of action. The new revolution will not be based around copulation, the most mundane act in all of nature. Instead, humans might take up thoughts like how to create a world without war, violence, or extreme inequality to while away the hours. Imagine if even a small percentage of people would shift their thinking from fucking to problem-solving, how the world might change. Overnight.

[1] https://www.etymonline.com/word/fuck#etymonline_v_14228
[2] Ibid.