It addresses also the question of secrets—what can be told in the face of fear and shame, what can get heard, if told; the secret spoken yet unreceived because it is dissonant with the harmonies we like to hear.This got me thinking about all my difficulties, over the years, articulating my experiences as an immigrant, and speaking about how existing on the outskirts of cultural hegemony has shaped my life. It’s only the fact that I’ve been getting better at this that has made the past few weeks bearable.
I wouldn’t want to retreat into silence and private life, even if I wasn’t too vulnerable to recent events for that to ever be a possibility for me. Still, if I’m to go on I need to find pockets of hope and joy; to find moments of solace in the things that give my life meaning. Last week I went to London to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I have complicated thoughts about bits of it, but I was also so full of love and gratitude and joy — love for this world and these characters and the amazing cast and stage design; joy that after all this time we got more story; gratitude that I was able to be there instead of just reading about it and wanting from afar, like I did for so much of my life. Also, the big trip I’ve spent most of this year planning is just around the corner; in the next few weeks I’ll get to see places and meet friends and do all my favourite things. If on the one hand I regret that everything that’s been happening has distracted me from anticipating it, on the other hand it really couldn’t have come at a better time. I need the boost more than ever, and I need the sense of possibility that travelling always brings me.
Things I’ve been thinking about:
What vision of hearts and minds, as well as of nation states, are we being asked to buy into? It is the curse of masculinity that men are expected to shed any sign of vulnerability, to hold themselves erect as they strut across the world’s stage, above all behave as if they have always, with no flicker of doubt, believed in themselves.
And it is a curse of male-dominated politics – still the case, despite Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, and now possibly Angela Eagle and Theresa May – that it tends to be the kiss of death for a politician to suggest things are uncertain. It is rarely wise to say that what we most need to do in political life, indeed not only political life, is hesitate, slow down and pause for thought; to allow space for the complexity of who we are. As Edward Said pointed out, there is only a short distance between believing you can subdue the mind and believing you can subdue the world.
The idea of control always presents itself as an island of self-sufficiency or a law unto itself. In fact, the idea of control is meaningless on its own. In a world of rampant inequality and injustice, I can only seize control at the expense of someone else. We succeed in controlling our borders; migrants drown at sea.
The benefit of having women in the cabinet remains to be seen for migrant, low-paid, or abused women. For now, it seems as though there is no difference: the powerful look after the powerful, with gender as an afterthought, or a bargaining chip when trying to deflect criticism for cuts that harm women.
In fact, the point is not just that black lives can be disposed of so easily: they are targeted and hunted by a police force that is becoming increasingly emboldened to wage its race war by every grand jury decision that ratifies the point of view of state violence. Justifying lethal violence in the name of self-defense is reserved for those who have a publicly recognized self to defend. But those whose lives are not considered to matter, whose lives are perceived as a threat to the life that embodies white privilege can be destroyed in the name of that life. That can only happen when a recurrent and institutionalized form of racism has become a way of seeing, entering into the presentation of visual evidence to justify hateful and unjustified and heartbreaking murder.
I’ll see you all in a few weeks. I don’t think the state of the world will have improved by then, but I hope I’ll have found joy and renewed my capacity to hope.