Thursday, August 11, 2011

political animals

This is something I wrote way back in the first few months of the year, and didn't post, it's a bit personal, and it has nothing to do with the stuff I normally write about here. But given how the rest of the summer has gone for me and the bizarro situation at home (in England) just now-ish, I figured what the hell.  So that's what this is, the backstory is the revolution in Egypt, which I watched compulsively on the BBC for hours and hours...

I've been pondering some other things.
Like, do you remember the moment you became an adult? Or that you took your first steps to adultiness? (If the moment  you're thinking of is a nekkid one then that's prolly not the one I mean.)
I mean the minutes, hours or days when your horizons broadened exponentially and the world turned into a place to be observed as opposed to a place to move through mindlessly.
Yah, then.
What's going on in Egypt right now has me thinking about this. 
My moment came with a revolution too.
It was late December of  1989 I was 11 (just). It was the second Christmas that the Fat-Man-in-Red wasn't an unassailable truth for me; and I was still so practiced at believing that it almost felt irrational not to believe.
Both my parents, my sibs, my Auntie M and Uncle Ant and my brand-new cousin Gabe were ensconced at a villa in Centre Parcs (80's, English, middle-class Resort and Center O' Funtimes). 
There are a few things that I recall about that holiday. A new teddy bear with a stern/charming face (named Edward, natch). Riding on the back on my dad's bike "yah mule yah!". Taking the big water chute for the first time. And the fall of Ceausescu's regime in Romania and the subsequent days of violence.  
This is me then.*

We are a family of obsessive news watchers. And it was a big year for news.  We watched as the Berlin wall fell. (2 days after my 11th birthday and the same day my teacher had confidently informed me that the wall would "never fall".)  My mum let me stay up late to watch that, but what we saw reported from Bucharest looked different to Berlin; Berlin was all all joyous faces and mullets. The faces in Bucharest were a grim mix of blistering fear, and something that looked unstoppable, hope maybe. We watched tanks firing on Ceausescu's palace and my world got bigger,  the concept of freedom solidified for me. 
I, of course, had no idea what it was like to live anything but a life of privilege, no concept of what the realities of oppression were (thank goodness), but I could feel, and see - writ large on people's faces - the idea that some things were worth fighting - and fighting ugly and bloody - for. 
That Look is in Egypt now;  on the faces of women; and in my (over simplified) opinion, young men always seem to be shouting about something, when young women break down a lifetime of conditioning and start shouting on the streets, well that's when the world is about to change. 
So I watch. Compulsively. For hours. Hoping for the usual things for the brave women and men on the streets, you know, peace, freedom, lives lived well and happily

*Oh my god. The sailor dress. Wowzers.


  1. I, for one, am not a blog reader who feels bloggers need to stick to one subject all the time--I very much appreciate you posting this. And that moment when your awareness of the world broadens--in _An American Childhood_, Annie Dillard describes it as "waking up," and her description struck me so forcefully as true when I first read that book that I've never forgotten it. There really is a moment (or maybe a series of moments) when some switch flips and you become awake to the larger world.

  2. Amy, thank you! I'v just ordered an American Childhood from the library. And while hopping about the internets looking for Annie Dillard I randomly ran into this quote from Mary Oliver, which actually says what I mean here, but with you know, lyricism!
    (I LOVE when that happens. It's like the universe is a favourite Aunty who's given you a well-considered present. Yay for poetry that finds you when you need it!)

    "...there was a new voice
    which you slowly
    recognized as your own,
    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world,
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do --
    determined to save
    the only life you could save."

  3. My moment isn't so eloquent or well written as yours.

    Was in a shop, a 3 year old almost runs into me and his mother told him to watch out for the lady. That's the moment I realised that I was no longer being seen as a girl but as a lady. I felt so old in that moment. LOL.

    We aren't big news watchers, there are times when something big is happening and we watch.

  4. Yes! That Mary Oliver is a lovely one. I'm a bit obsessed with Annie Dillard, actually, so of course, I *highly* recommend reading a lot of her. ;-) (Oh--except maybe her novel[s?]. Yeah, not so much her fiction.) But _The Writing Life_ is probably one of my favorite books on writing, and _Holy the Firm_ has the distinction of being the only book I've ever finished, closed, sat with for a moment, and then started all over again from the beginning. Gorgeous.


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