Wednesday, October 22, 2008

For the first time, I'm feeling perfectly competent, just inexperienced.

While it feels good, it doesn't actually translate to any substantial practical differences for the present.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In the flurry of recent bad news, I have been very afraid. I just want to grab everyone that I love, scrunch up into a little ball, and keep them safe. Instead I am called to go fearlessly into the dark night, and I will if you hold my hand.

There are so many things that I am not ready for, and I've decided that I ought not to beat myself up over it. I'm tumultuous in my creative process. And that's ok.

I am good. I can do this.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm so sorry.

I never knew Yes. And I have never known their love. But it probably was the greatest thing that ever lived.
I realized that I was 2 minutes early when I was passing by the purple flowers that were wilting in front of Koerner Library. I stopped because they were beautiful and I had time - 2 minutes. The sun was bright, it wasn't too cold and the mountains loomed in the distance, arching beyond the rose garden. The air was light. Everything seemed steeped in this incredible sense of being. Each shade of purple, red and green had its own destiny and purpose. Even the purple flowers, matyred in the Autmn chill seemed to be testament to a life well lived.

I don't slow down enough.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ok. Wow.

So election time rolled by on Tuesday October 14th, and I didn't vote. Granted I did take my passport with me in case I changed my mind in the last minute . I was considering voting, but between a 5 hour mediation session, a late afternoon seminar and the flu, I didn't have the time to change my mind.

But upon careful consideration, I realized that the only thing that was influencing me to vote that day was peer pressure. Martin was mad at me, Jarrett was sad, Jin was incredulous and everyone was voting out at UBC campus. It just seemed like the thing to do. After all, there was a flashy poster telling me that democracy needed my help, right next to the rock band competition poster, and my heart warmed up a little when I saw a very enthused member of the green party waving his cute placard around. He smiled at me. I love tiny connections like these.

On hind sight, it would've been easy to vote and I wouldn't be sitting here blogging about this. But there have been things stewing in my mind that seemed to have solidifed with my anti-decision, and I am quite pleased about it, much to the ire of a lot of people (especially Martin). Here's an attempt to articulate some of this.

1) I'm not involved

I am Canadian by birth but not by involvement. I am, by some definition, a third-culture kid and my emotional links with Canada are few, despite having been here for 11 years (aged 1 - 5 and 18- 24). To answer Anonymous on J's blog:

" ' ... she rejects the Western fetish for democracy. The system - no, not first-past-the-post, but the smug idea that democracy is really the best system - is something in which she refuses to play a part. ...'

Perhaps she would feel more at home in Russia , China , Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

I wonder if your friend has every been outside comfortable North America."

Yes, I have been outside of comfortable north America. I grew up in Singapore and have travelled somewhat extensively. And FYI, by Singaporean standards, North America is not that comfortable, actually. Yes anon, there are people who, having been to North America, feel that it's not all that hot, but that's besides the point. I don't vote because I don't belong here.

2) I don't know.

I don't know anything about Canada, because I am not interested. I barely remember who John A. Macdonald is and I couldn't tell you ANYTHING about Canadian history, much less about what the different political parties stand for.

On that note, I do not want to cast an uninformed vote. If I undertake to fulfill this 'duty' to participate in forming the government, I would want to take that duty seriously and not be reckless or negligent about it. Now I could go and read up and make myself informed, but there is no impetus for me to. Somewhat due to point number 1. But mostly due to other reasons which I will formulate below.

3) I do not agree with this expression of democracy

I am not saying that I disagree with Democracy. I am saying that I do not take to kindly to how this theory of social organization has been expressed. It's like forcing me to choose between a Filet o' Fish and McNuggets when I hate macdonalds - but it does not follow that I reject the concept of food. There are other ways of organizing the process of citizen participation and I'm not too fond of how it's done here.

And to further clarify, while I'm cool with the idea of democracy (and I do quite like it in my life - to a certain extent), I'm not for the idea that it's the only correct form of government. I think that such a claim is... well... limited and myopic. I am open to the idea (truth/fact?) that various socio-cultural contexts have created varying forms of government, and some forms are more suited to a particular culture then others. But this is a discussion for another day.

3a) What's wrong with the expression of democracy in Canada?

Well, I wouldn't be so pompous as to say it's wrong per se. I just don't think it's adequate enough for me to render my participation.

Firstly, in the words of my libertarian friend,
"I do not believe that the government represents me, the government governs me".
I do not think I could find a party who represents my policy inclinations, as they are supposed to. I would be reduced to finding a party that I disagree with the least. I do not feel comfortable in forcing my political identity into the ballot box - it destroys the nuances and labels me left-wing, right-wing, green and what have you not. But I am not that. It is the nuances that are important to me.

And this leads into my second point, while I am interested in government policies and how they affect the lives of people, I am more interested in the bigger picture: not just about what policies different parties have, but what is the theoretical approach society has, as a whole, toward various issues: relationships, power, money, otherization etc.

Basically, I am interested in the ontological questions that inform our politics. I believe that if and ontological and paradigmatic changes can be sparked, problems can be dealt with at a deeper, more organic and holistic level.

Here's an example, lets look at sickness in our society. Politics would dictate that we look at policies to address illness and the healthcare system. My natural reaction is to look at the idea of health in our society. As a friend once told me, the rhetoric of the medical field defines "health" as the absence of pain. However there are other definitions that could possible be contemplated, such as the capacity to deal with pain.

Now translate that into policy and we get wildly different approaches in dealing with the terminally ill and permanently disabled. In a society where health is the absence of pain, the underlying theoratical implication of that would be that a healthy society is one where there is no sick, aged and handicapped people - wouldn't it then be easier to box these people away for the sake of efficiency?

In the alternative, if health is the capacity to deal with pain, we're looking at a society that learns to incorporate the sick, aged and disabled to be a natural part of our society, to the point where their 'conditions' cease to be conditions. It's kinda like what we're doing with race.

That's just an example with what I do when faced with political issues. You can disagree with me on the above points but I'm just trying to illustrate how I do not see a point in debating policy choices since the differences between them usually stem from a difference in ontology and paradigms. And it is on this level that I seek to engage in. Since there wasn't a platform to express this on October 14th, I didn't care.

3b) What's wrong with the expression of democracy in Canada?

I think the thing that irks me most is this: While the point of democracy is to engage, most people are reduced to bickering. Here is when I dissolve into a rant: Like COME ON NOW. Don't write someone off because he's a Liberal in the bible belt or a Conservative in the west coast. People have different opinions because they're different people. Geez! How hard is that to understand?? I don't want to be labeled because I do not want to be cut off from people who would disagree with me. It's like how I am cautious about labeling myself a Christian - which I am, because the term comes with so much baggage. But there is more to me then a political or religous ideology. And if anyone knew me, they would know that I am more then that.

Anyway that's besides the point. I'm fed up with people bikering and getting all snarky when their party of choice loses. You know that whole "if you don't vote you don't have a right to complain" thing. WRONG. As my very wise libertarian friend says, it's
"if you DO vote, you DON'T have a right to complain"
Because in participating in the process, you are agreeing to abide by the rules which include ACCEPTING that your party of choice might not win. Sulking about it only proves that you probably don't. quite. understand. democracy. Argh. By not voting, I can claim that I did not agree to be governed (by any party that wins) and hence can complain - I just shouldn't expect to be heard.

So that's just that. When it comes to politics, people in general don't seem to engage meaningfully. They bicker and try to one up each other and freak out the population into voting for them, when they should simply present their views and policies and allow people to CHOOSE. The point of a democracy is that individual choices should be respected. But respect is exactly what seems to be lacking in this whole fiasco.

I do not want to be a part of this. I'd rather spend my time and energy loving people. grah.

4) Fetish

The west has a fetish for democracy. It's a nice thought. But it isn't for everyone. I mean.... that every nation should be democratic is an argument that bites itself in the ass. Democracy must necessarily mean that there are a myriad of competing views which, by a process of engagement and civil participation, the majority wins while respecting the minorities (especially in the Canadian context). I mean if there weren't different views, the whole voting process would be moot. So in a global context, Democracy is but one participating view. Just one out of many, and you can disagree, but that is not a cause for disrespect.

And while we're at it, I have one last gripe. I think more people need to get out of "comfortable North America". And NO, a couple of full moon parties in Thailand do not count. I am sick of people telling me that my point of view is a result of having been "brainwashed". Do you honestly think that because you're told that you have free access to information that you actually do? And that no one controls the information that feeds into you? or the way that it is framed?

Capitalism and democracy are ideologies, like any other and they need the belief of their subjects to perpetuate themselves. I think that people here are brainwashed into thinking that this system is the best that exists. I mean it might well be, I'm not saying that it isn't - although I wouldn't be so quick to conclude on this point.

But being brainwashed with the truth, is still being brainwashed. And if one day the truth changes, you're fucked.