Takesgiving & Black Friday

Um. Thanks Capitalism. Black Friday is approaching, and I’m concerned about your safety. All of you. It’s the one of the days of the year when, apparently, homicide is totally cool so you can snatch up that tv for less! It’s impressive to see the level of ignorance North America displays when it comes to consumerism. I must admit, I’m totally guilty. I’ve been talking about what to reward myself with this year. For the past week, I’ve been looking up the best deals on the Xbox One. Why? What did I really do to deserve it?

We have a kind…of…warped reality over here. We think we deserve these things because well… we work hard. I read something a short while ago that I think explains what I mean better than I can:

“The 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.”

In the famous words of my best friend: “ding!”. And 8-hour workday is generous. Really, it’s more like 10-12 hour days depending on travel to and from work, what kind of work you do, etc. But it’s not all that bad, right? You can always find what you love. Find your passion and work a job you don’t hate. Follow your dreams and you won’t have to work a job you hate. While that’s true, you can pursue whatever you wish. Try, fail, succeed. Any number of possibilities. The reality is that unless there are a certain number of specific circumstances and occurrences that allow for that to happen, you will more or less end up working a job that isn’t your dream job. There aren’t enough “dream jobs”, “opportunities”, and “$$$” for everyone to be on an equal playing field. That’s how the “free market” works. That’s how capitalism works. You want to make a lot of capital, well… you’ve gotta have it to start. While there are exceptions to this… not everyone is going to be the next ______ (insert rags to riches story here).

It takes a lot of guts to take that approach. Give everything you’ve got to the thing you love the most, and all the while you’re kind of just winging it. I believe in the possibility. I believe in the infinity of possibilities, so I guess in way I would have to believe that somehow it would be possible for us to all coexist in some utopian society. I’m kind of conflicted. Duality! Does there need to exist bad for good to also exist?

“No one knows the state of the Lord. The Yogis, the celibates, the austere penitents, and all sorts of clever people have failed. Pause. In an instant, He changes the beggar into a king, and the king into a beggar. He fills what is empty, and empties what is full. Such are His ways. He Himself spread out the expanse of his Maya, and He Himself beholds it. He assumes so many forms, and plays so many games, and yet He remains distinct and detached from it all. Incalculable, infinite, incomprehensible and immaculate. He has misled the whole world. So give up all your doubts; prays Nanak, O mortal, focus your consciousness on His feet.”

Even though this sounds super religious, my interpretation of it is the significance of connectedness between everything. Life on earth. The interconnectedness of water, earth, wind, fire, animals, plants, humans, everything here as an impact. My actions today impact someone, and their actions impact someone else… there’s so much that goes on every day between us all, between everything. It is assumes many forms… in the universe, this force. Whatever it may be… it’s in all of us, in everything, impacting everything all simultaneously. At any moment, things can change. We are in a constant state of flux. We have to relinquish control, all the same time, we have to take control. It’s that duality again! We have to give up the fears, the doubts, the anxieties… we have to focus on the now… the idea that this is what it is right now, in this moment, because that is the only truth there is.


The Manufacture of Different

From the moment I was able to consciously form thoughts and ideas, I knew I was different. It wasn’t inherent knowledge or what my parents stressed on me; it was simply daily interactions with my environment and others that helped shape my understanding of these differences and what they meant. It helped me understand where my place was, what I could and could not do, where I could and could not go, and just about every facet of my life defined by a vastly complex system of classifications.

One of the earliest experiences I recall is the idea of being like everyone else in order to deflect attention from yourself because any deviation from the “norm” draws negative reactions. As a child your ability to comprehend this need to fit in was limited because “fitting in” meant conforming to what was “popular” at the time. Childhoods can be very traumatic, as children and adolescents often make uninformed opinions and decisions. Their source of information is mainly comprised of the playground and what they hear from other classmates, or perhaps the cultural impacts of their families. Being from an Indian family, I was not out of touch with the concept of race and racism. Though I did not experience much racism as a child, I saw it happen to others. I experienced racism more in my teenage to adulthood years. As I child, I faced confrontations regarding my gender more than my race. I enjoyed playing sports from a fairly early age, which became a central part of my life throughout grade school until university. I had never thought that was what defined me as a person. It is interesting to note how these definitions changed over time as my environment changed and the ways in which others defined me. Teasing and name-calling seemed to be a regular occurrence when I went to school or the friends I hung out with at home. I was typically described as a “tom-boy” or “he-she” because I didn’t look like all the other girls at school. My composition did not meet the exterior ideals of what “defined” a girl. Girls were supposed to be dainty, passive, quiet, and had to play with Barbie. I was none of those things and I didn’t own a Barbie, but it was these qualities, these mannerisms that made me different than the other girls. Thus, making friends did not come easy. The girls thought I was too much like a boy and the boys thought the same. At that time, being different didn’t serve me too well, which I find ironic now because it seems as though being “different” is what has become “popular” today. Yet being “different” means everyone is the same “different”.

As I entered high school I began to understand why so many kids dreaded being there. I hated going most of the time and the only people I seemed to relate to were my friends. It wasn’t the easiest time and I certainly let my feelings show, which I always thought contributed to others’ perception of my personality, as an angsty kid with a pessimistic attitude. Nevertheless, I always felt I had more of an open mind than most of the kids I went to school with. Some of my teachers asserted that opinion; they had always told me I was mature for my age and I never decided whether that was a good or bad thing. In high school your identity is so essential to people characterizing who you are and it didn’t bother me until I came out as a lesbian. Through the years, my description changed from emo-depressive kid, to jock kid, and finally – the gay kid. There were other “out” kids at my school and I never understood why it was a big deal when I came out. A part of me thought it was because it confirmed everyone’s opinions. Amrit is a tomboy; therefore she must be a lesbian, but not all tomboys are lesbians. Another part of me thought it was because I wasn’t like other Indian girls at my school: long black hair, slender bodies, and feminine traits. I couldn’t understand why the students and teachers thought that way, and more importantly I couldn’t understand why it bothered me so much. Regardless, it was another facet of my identity that made me “different” and for the people at my school it was confusing. It was then I started to believe the impact of my “identity” on society and how it would influence my life.

University brought a new kind of understanding in the perceptions of my identity. As a criminology student I was enlightened to so many more systems of personal classifications. This class is certainly not my first encounter with the theory of white privilege and some of the articles such as The Invisible Knapsack. Furthermore, Peggy McIntosh and Richard Dyer’s articles on white privilege emphasized the ideas that I have for so long thought about but could never say without any legitimacy. The concept of white privilege, albeit having some idea of what it meant, helped me understand and articulate why I only saw white people on tv and in movies for so long. As a child, my parents never talked to me about race or gender equality. Having heard many racist and stereotypical comments didn’t leave me with a racist, sexist, or other discriminatory worldview. I knew from an early age that if I wanted to live my life I had to keep an open mind and a large part of me wanted to defy stereotypes. My parents came from traditional Indian backgrounds but never impressed their culture upon me. Their parents did stress the hegemonic ideals of their cultural values. Clear definitions of what a girl and boy should and should not be. As I progressed through university, I began to see all the pieces that made up my identity fall into these classifications I was learning about and had experienced through society and my family’s cultural values. Being a female meant I was inferior to males, a homosexual inferior to the heterosexual norm, and as a minority inferior to the white race. Having learned these systems of classification, I concluded that it was in fact these “characteristics” that made me “different” and how they would impact my career, my opinions, my worldview, and basically every facet of my life.

In having realized how my race, sexuality, gender, and arguably my individuality affected my life, I also realized what privileges I garnered and which I did not. Comparatively, I am ranked well below the privileged middle-class white male. However, it wasn’t until I began taking aboriginal-focused classes that I began to understand what my advantages were. The indigenous populations of Canada are the most under-privileged people in this country. Arguably, their culture and people have been eradicated. Descendants of aboriginal origin face immense hardships and extremely overbearing obstacles in defying stereotypes and racism. Being a gay Indian woman didn’t have the same affect on me having known and met several aboriginal women working the sex trade. I realized how much of a barrier my existence played in the lives of these women and the first nations peoples. My day-to-day activities uphold the systemic suppression of the aboriginals much like the white male maintains control over the societal normative. Even further, I realized what my professors meant by categorizations of race, age, sexuality, gender, sex, disability, etc. I focused so much of my attention on what made me different than the white male. I realized I only evaluated myself to that discourse when there were a vast number of comparatives I did not even consider.

Nevertheless, my worldview remained consistent in that societal norms are a discourse people have been subjected to for centuries. The experiences I dealt with in my life such as racism and enduring harassment for being a homosexual didn’t change my opinions on what I believed the social and political values of this country represent. As societies progress, so too will the understandings of the classifications we discuss, or at least that is the hope. Though I want to believe in the possibilities of changing hegemonic, heterosexual norms, I am not that optimistic. Ending systemic racism did not end racism entirely. It found news way in which to affect the unprivileged, even if it were under the surface. I continue to challenge those who discriminate, whether intentional or not, because the first step is knowledge. Having acknowledged who I am has enabled my understanding to reflect universality and the need to change this way of thinking, but that also means acknowledging how my being affects another.

Read an opinion you don’t care about.

When people run in circles, it’s a very, very mad world.

I like coming to Starbucks not because I think it’s a great place to clear your thoughts and be productive. But because it’s so cliche. Even as I sit here, I’m listening to two women talk about women they know. I don’t know shit about these women but $10 say they’re married and unhappy about it, despite being told repeatedly over the course of their lifetime, that happiness is tied to the idea of a good husband, having children, and living happily ever after.

This setting is interesting. As I listen to them gossiping about other women, I’m hearing Mad World play over the speakers, and I’m wondering too… when people run around in these circles, it must be a very mad world. Why is the unhappiness of others so important to your validation of happiness? Is this a measure of where you stand? What you have accomplished? I wonder if we all stopped using social media for a few weeks, what kinds of interactions we would have with each other.

I’d like to see the impact social media has had on the lense through which we see things. I can’t help but think of something my girlfriend said to me, “we broadcast too much of our lives”. And it’s true.

I just had the sides of my head shaved at the salon I go to, and as I sat there paying someone to take hair off my head, I thought to myself… eww, your ego, girl. We’re kind of trapped though. I think sometimes looking “attractive” can affect everything from not getting a job to not having friends to not looking “trustworthy”. A person’s image still invokes an opinion, negative, positive, whatever. Someone wearing designer goods may be perceived as materialistic. Or perhaps that’s just their way of expressing themselves, might be an interest, might be a part of their job description, maybe they’re just wearing those labels for the hell of it. After all, it’s their choice.

I’d argue, is it really a choice though? We all think about, whether consciously or subconsciously on some level, about our appearance. Our image. We think about what we post on social media (sometimes), but I think generally with the intent to show that our lives are at a certain level of contentment. But then, there are the extremes. I just saw what Justin Bieber had posted on his instagram account a picture of what he got for Christmas. It was a private plane. An. Airplane. A. Private. Jet. The instagram account, the twitter account… is it really a choice? Even for those who have long protested for privacy. But how many celebrities interact on social media in one way or another now? For musicians / actors, I think it’s just as important to put those images out there. “Interact with your fans; give them the impression of how “personal” the interaction is. And it works. It wasn’t that long ago that that kind of information wasn’t presented to the world unless it was through Entertainment Television or celebrity magazines. Now, you’ve got TMZ as a major network viewed by millions of people for “news”. How many employees at TMZ are paid to stalk endless celebrity instagrams/twitters/facebook pages/etc, to only regurgitate that information to the masses? “Breaking news: Justin Bieber gifted private plane for Christmas; picture taken from personal instagram”. Yo, it’s scary. Scary times, man.

And I’m sorry I have to talk about Justin Bieber right now but his instagram page is terrifying. The comments section. The things girls are saying to other girls. Are those girls on the other end of that username? And not 53-year-old man beating off to the underage girl interaction. Like, it’s just so fucked up. His life, too. I’m reminded of what Dom said about it maybe being the biggest curse, the severest form of punishment, being worshipped as such … like a god, being treated like one, being someone’s meal ticket… completely being absorbed by the world’s eyes. What a terrifying lense through which to see the world. I’m sure many of you would disagree, lol. “He’s got everything!” It’s trickled it’s way down to us all, I feel like.

I want to start a third world instagram. I bet there’s one that already exists. Light-hearted humour. Where we all go and see the hilarious comparisons between us and them. #firstworldproblems … is this something we use to justify our behaviour? What we use as a measure of our humanity to be like “see, we’re aware of our privilege”… “we just can’t do anything about it, so carry on carrying on”… “-but we’re still aware. so, dont get it twisted”.

Real news article from the Globe & Mail: Vancouver couple struggles to make ends meet on only $25,000 a month.

Whose fault is this? Capitalism? No, no… can’t be. Parents? Yes! You’re a fucking failure of a parent if your kid turns out to be such a spoiled, ungrateful brat! But it’s not our fault, parents say. My parents instilled these values in us, it was our society. So, it’s our society? Yes! It’s definitely our society’s fault! Hmm… I don’t know. I’m going to go with the answer that wasn’t an option and say it’s a combination of all these things. One can’t exist without the others. Capitalism didn’t just win because it was the most effective, lol. Everyone faces the effects of previous generations, good or bad. And we are what makes up societies. Our collective consciousness is a reflection of our perceptions of society and the people within it.

What’s real and what’s not, the line doesn’t exist any more. Neither does the definition. 

That’s okay. Not to be a thief but Maynard just said it so well, and it’s true, but I recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing. Most importantly, I have the most amazing people in my life to celebrate the chance to be alive with, in this matrix of absurdity.

You Couldn’t Stop Me From Giving a Fuck

Someone said to me today that they don’t care what goes on in the world because it doesn’t affect them… that they can’t do anything about those situations. And it made me angry. It should make everyone angry. You should care. Saying you don’t care about those people is like saying you don’t care about yourself.

Everything and everyone is connected. As humans we are capable of any solution. Where there have been obstacles and challenges before, we’ve met them. So why is it that we are unable to resolve issues like poverty, famine, war, systemic racism, genocide, slavery, climate change, factory farming. It’s unacceptable.

Why is it that we are so complacent with our situation because maybe we happen to be happy? Is it not enough to acknowledge that we are fortunate to have what we have and not be in the terrible situations of others?

No. I don’t believe it’s enough.

I read an article a while ago about having “high-empathy” disorder. It made me livid. What is that even? I’m too empathetic? I’m too concerned about issues that “don’t concern me”. No. That’s not right. It’s not okay to start making every feeling a fucking disorder. It’s not okay to tell me or anyone that because they feel empathetic to someone’s situation, that I’m suffering from some psychological disorder as defined by some government-funded bullshit doctors. Here’s a pill because you feel too sorry for people and you don’t know how to function in society.

We’re ruled by an elite group of psychopaths. Seriously. They own the banks that control the governments and media. They fund both sides of the war for profit and they manufacture the consent of the people through the propaganda of the media. These people don’t give a fuck about us. They don’t want us to be capable of critical thinking. They don’t teach that in schools.

They want us to keep our heads down. Get jobs. Spend money. And accept our situation as it is. They manufacture lives and desire. And they brainwash us, keep us constantly distracted with the idea that selling your soul is the only way to save it. Dreams are constructed. “The American Dream” … is it artistic expression? Or is it a formula?

Pay attention to what’s going in the world. Just because you think it doesn’t affect you, doesn’t make it true.