Monday, 21 November 2016

The benefits of being an immigrant / Everyone is relatable

One day we might open all the borders and create a centralised universal basic income for every citizen, everywhere. To get to this stage we need to recognise the worth of every single individual on the planet. Why are we not there yet, and how can we advance to that point?

Australia, the country from which I am privileged enough to have a viewpoint, is firm in the grip of a white supremacy. Collectively, "we" have difficulty relating to people who don't look like "us" ("us" being white people). One example of this is the fact that Australia has never had a Prime Minister who is a person of colour. Oh sure, there are individual PoC who rise to positions of power (e.g. Penny Wong), but as a class, people of colour remain underrepresented in the politics. In an Australia where race (and ethnicity, and immigrant status) is not a problem, 1 in 4 politicians would be an immigrant (to match the general populace).

Perhaps most telling is how Australia currently treats the most economically vulnerable people of colour it has responsibility for: refugees. More than one leftie has suggested to me that the detention camps at Manus and Nauru might more accurately be called concentration camps. I suspect this might be anti-Semitic itself, but it does evoke the death, torture and degradation that is a feature of those sites. Behind this cruelty is misguided fear and hate of people who are relegated to the class of unrelatable. They are instead seen as a scary threat.

It is because white supremacist Australia won't extend its empathy outside its narrow in-group that we have this problem. Empathy has a healing, heartening result. The more examples I have around me, the more likely I am to extend my empathy myself. We need empathy towards people outside our borders, people from developing nations who don't know how to demand the kind of civil rights we take for granted. We need to want to see them to flourish as we do our neighbours. If we wanted to live in a world where resources were spread much more equally, where people didn't need to immigrate to another country to increase their quality of life, then we could put in place the mechanisms needed to make centralised universal basic income a reality.

As an immigrant from Bulgaria, I have the gift of knowing that Bulgarians are, yes, relatable. They are warm, jealous, patient, cold, you name it. You can find any kind of human in a nation of under 8 million - your best friend, your worst enemy or just someone to chat to for a while to help pass the time. Bulgaria is like every other nation on earth. Dehumanise its residents at your own emotional deprivation. If you want a rich and robust appreciation of the human race, empathise with people from Thailand, Libya, Peru... the limit to your empathy is up to you.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Railing against

If you can accept the situation
It would be for the best
There's the truth of you to imagine
So underrated by yourself

Let's dispense with foregone conclusions
Let the rigidity fade with each breath
You're only alive, and
It's only the worst, and the best

Stride by stride, hop by hop
Arriving somewhere worth your while
As you fascinate the fascinating
Leave your mark upon their lives

You've passed every test
Find a way to align with your shine
For many strive for but do not possess
The ease with which you rise

The abyss leers back

Leering at ourselves
Objectifying most parts
Nobody wants another unhappy poem
I'm got compassion fatigue, so I start

I've got my seat at the cafe
I change positions as I please
Sometimes I can't embody ease
So it's a performance of peace

Interrogating that position
Trying to replace
Other people's voices with my own
Finding out what's new

And what I've been carrying far too long.
I don't know myself through this lens
Of compulsory nationalism
Seeking new sense now

Scrubbing the board fresh
So I can start anew
Is that even possible? I wonder
Craving to erase you

The antagonist I've carefully enshrined
Above my wall, standing tall
I know better than to keep you
I can't bear to let you go

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Everything and nothing is obvious

If I could, I would move to Germany with my Australian girlfriend. There, I could live in a more politically progressive country with both girlfriends (for one of them is already living in Deutschland). There are a few things currently stopping me from doing this, and those are:

- I don't know much German, which I would need in order to work there
- I highly doubt I can hold down a job with a regular income
- My Australian girlfriend is unable to come with me

So, right now, things are not looking good for my future as an expat (or 'immigrant twice removed', since expat seems to be reserved for white people). I am stuck with the one voice I can relate to in mainstream politics, Richard di Natale of The Greens, being dismissed by Labour supporters for having the audacity to suggest that Australia should stop being America's lapdog and create its own path in foreign policy.

I am also stuck with Turnbull calling media outlets such as the ABC 'elites', and Shorten (the opposition leader) calling for 'Australian jobs' - that is, scapegoating foreign workers for white people's unemployment. I can tell this is just the beginning. It's obviously going to get a lot worse, and anyone with any sense and financial independence, would have already left this backward nation far, far behind.

Far from punishing asylum seekers with torturous conditions, Germany has humanely welcomed large numbers of people. Okay, so the response has been uneven, with a whitelash of its own, but mainstream society has learnt from its white supremacist past and strives towards racial harmony. And that's just one issue. Germany is a better place to be a woman (or a man who believes in gender equality), as evidenced by the 2016 Global Gender Gap Index. Tertiary education is free for everyone, if you are entering the system after a certain date. The universal healthcare they have is more deeply entrenched than its Australian counterpart. And what Australian philosopher is equal to Nietzsche? I'm willing to learn German if it means I can read Kafka in his favourite language.

Because I cannot move right now, let's focus on the positives:

- My Australian girlfriend, whom I love (no more or less than my German girlfriend)
- My parents' weird but heartening love, and financial support
- I can afford to spend some time in Germany next year (I've already got the tickets)
- A handful of friends who enhance the quality of my life
- A great psychologist

I want to enhance my self-care to the extent that I feel I can cope, no matter which country I am in.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Negotiating Peace (Poem)

I want us to stand
Hand in hand
Looking up
A pre-arranged agreement
Intuitively conjured up

And I want us to sing
Brim with emotion as
The tunes tumble out
With caution and abandon
In turns, it turns out

I'm unwilling and unable
To engineer a sneeze
I cultivate the soothing talent
Of putting myself at ease

Saigon recalled the strict sensibility
Unequivocal obedience, masking all fragility
A red flag or banner, never far from sight
The Western visitor will not be right

But the formerly Communist child
Has found a Western home
And, sure: I feel I don't belong
Yet I'm singing therapeutic songs

Embodying the right to breathe
Experiencing every piece of me
From my scalp to my heel
Feeling what I need to feel

Safe space within

I was once in the same Facebook group as an African American woman who told us that she didn't feel safe being alone in her car one night. It resonated. I don't drive a car or live in the United States as an racial minority, but I have plenty experience in not feeling safe in my body. I hate having a vagina, because it has the capacity to experience excrutiating pain. I am so sensitive to micro-aggressions towards me that I maintain an overweight physique to make myself invisible to the heterosexual cis male gaze.
Anyway, I know on some level that I will be okay, even if I am raped again. I will get physical and psychological help. I will report it as soon as possible. I will do everything I can to make them pay.
I am capable of infinite reinvention, my sensitivity allows me to bask in loving touch. I'm going to be okay.


The above was hard to write. Being vulnerable is hard. But reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay has reminded me of the need to share my experience. We live in times when nobody can guarantee me that I won't be targeted for abuse by a certain hateful minority group within the English speaking world. But I'm taking that risk, because we women intend to win the battle for gender equality. And we won't wait quietly as incremental change occurs. We will push where it's needed.

I tired of the English language world in many ways, a long time ago. Part of my learning Spanish had to do with wanting to escape its limitations. The more I learn, the more I am running to, not running away. It's gratifying to pick up on nuances of culture that were previously inaccessible. For example, I overheard a Spanish speaker describe something as 'para mi gusto' (for my pleasure). The way she said it was spirited and emphatic in ways the English phrase rarely conveys. This was a love affair with pleasure.

I want to learn more, but I am paralysed by indecision (deepen Spanish or pick up more German?), held back by multiple stressors (making the kind of embarrassing mistakes you have no way to avoid is quite stressful for this introverted perfectionist), and easily distracted. Somehow I managed to understand around half of the written word in Spanish, and I have insights into numerous other languages which have been the result of hours and hours of practice. Perhaps I don't celebrate my achievements enough. *takes a moment to do that*