February 24, 2017
Coming back from a gig that didn’t happen.. I was booked to play Yerli Yabanci but there was no one. Taksim is dying a slow death, the bombs and the terrorists and the police have cumulatively slowly instilled their fear and abuse into the minds of the people so now on a Thursday night at midnight the pedestrian traffic is sparse, the percentage of tourists is almost zero. The street itself is torn apart in places, they are refurbishing the trams’ tracks. Which is I guess a good thing but it just gives an aura of destruction and brokenness as the patched and cracked pavement stare at us with painful twisted faces, while the work trucks elbow their way through the pedestrians and lift walls of dust as they go growling and strutting.
Last night I did a Chris Hedges marathon. I was transfixed. He’s an incredibly well spoken award-winning journalist. He sees it all. He spent many years as a war correspondent in Europe and in the middle east and, I’ll paraphrase here; “When you have seen these countries, you cannot unsee… When they announced the war on Iraq I could not help to think of my friends there, I had to oppose the war.. When we come from privilege, like most white American males, there are things you can never know and you must always work at understanding the people who have nothing, their pain…”
I could relate to a great many things he said, being here in Turkey, in what the west calls the middle east, in a Muslim country for 4 years now, my own understanding of life and purpose and time and place and politics has been bulldozed.
The Muslim thing for example, why are you guys scared of Muslims??? They are just people living life. That’s all there is to it. The amount of fear regarding this in North America is mind-boggling. I read comments of people in Northern BC fearing an ‘invasion’ of radical Islamists… I now live in a city where in the last few months we had bombs after bombs a failed coup d’etat (likely sparked by America) and yet, life goes on. Why are North Americans so scared? The statistics, (real numbers not Trumped numbers) all point to a diminishing of violence almost everywhere. There is a thousand percent more chances of being killed by some gun-toting white man than by any brown person.
By living here I came to realize the atrocious legacy of colonialism. As a French Quebecer, I always hated the history of colonialism. The historical British violence, their deep desire to annihilate the French-speaking people in my home country, just because they wanted to have it all. I felt first hand racism in BC, like being at Queen E Theater in Vancouver and have 2000 rednecks howl their hatred of French people when coaxed by Kenny Rogers… I had an out-of-body experience that day. That was also the day when I said “fuck them” as I had been trying to belong so hard to my beloved Vancouver’s community but never quite succeeding to get beyond the polite “tolerance” they so kindly bestowed on me. (I hate that word… tolerance…)
But here, working in a hostel I met people from Palestine, from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Syria and I saw first hand the horrors that the American, European colonialists distributed and still distribute to people who never did anything to them. Horrors in the name of the economy the dollar and the mighty corporatism. Horrors that steal the hope of the youth generation after generation.
Another blatant fact was how much we have in the west versus how little so many have here. In the hostel the young European and North American tourists come in with a wealth of electronics, technical clothing, shoes, they have good teeth, good hair, shiny faces and this innocence… They walk around with springy steps and with the “sky is the limit” motto. Hedges mentioned this point and it hit me so deeply because I had a first hand experience of realizing this: this “everything is possible if you work hard enough” rhetoric. I realized that this is not true. The possibilities at times here, just don’t exist. Period. In Canada it had a ring of truth.. There is so much more resources, money, will and wealth. Resources and wealth often coming from the labor of third world countries, so when you think of it, the stuff you bought so cheap, was cheap because someone worked for 20 cents a day in abject conditions for you to have it. So the spring in the steps of the westerner comes from the spines of the third world workers on which the oblivious consumer is stepping in all his shopping glee.
And War. It’s so close. Britain, France, America, Holland, Germany are gleefully selling their bombs and having them blown over here… and how many have their retirement investment packages based on the arms industry? The same ones who come here on holidays thanks to the dividends of these investments? I saw and still see first hand the Syrians who find themselves stuck here in Istanbul. Turkey took 3 million of them… Three million in a country a little bigger than the state of Texas. The wildness in their eyes, the kids begging on the street, the fact that they lost everything and sit here on the cold pavement hands out… heart breaking.
Here I have connected with a wide circle of humanity, not just my safe, white picketed neighborhoods where everyone has their “personal space” to be duly respected. People from Iran, (yes, they are just people like you and me.. not the enemy) Iraq, Palestine (oh how heart breaking…) Africa… I heard their stories, their struggles, their passions and desires… Beautiful humanity dealt a bad hand.
I don’t know how I can connect with my white, privileged upbringing. How could I and others around me complain all the time about what we didn’t have. (we had SO much) Yet, I will never belong truly here. I am a yabanci, a foreigner. People are generally accepting, I have never been openly berated or threatened for being here and being a foreigner. Not sure a Muslim woman wearing a hijab in Quebec could say the same… I feel a loss of direction, because I realize how much of what gave me direction was just part of the programming. How to be, what to want, how to think, the expectations of the group towards one in terms of income, social standing and of course the definition of success. The moment you sit in front of the TV, read a magazine, listen to the radio… you start absorbing the conditioning, what is good, what is bad, what you should be as a woman, a man… who to trust.
It’s as if I woke up from a long long dream that I thought was solid ground. The culture is just an indoctrination meant to keep everyone blind. Oh it’s Christmas: buy, buy, buy. Oh it’s Valentine’s day: buy, buy, buy. Oh I am a woman I need hairdos and 15 different types of outfits. Oh I must be successful and make money. And most insidious, the belief that you are never good enough in a million different subtle or less subtle ways, because if you were good enough, you wouldn’t need all this shit they are telling you to buy.
Hedges is merciless in his indictment of this capitalistic culture. A culture that has to conquer everything and own everything in order to monetize everything. And as blind followers, we have come to accept that food companies poison our food to make money. That our governments give away our land and water to corporate interests. Our governments spy on us and write laws to criminalize freedom of expression. Our doctors keep us sick in order to sell drugs. That we are factually polluting all our water sources with everything from lead, radiation, oil waste in the name of profits (those profits who actually never will profit you) We are allowing massive corporations to wreck natural resources as a matter of course. We have made the “economy” our driving raison d’etre, the fundamental element in our societies, as we can obviously see that our economy being infinite growth using finite resources is an equation that cannot work. But we are hell-bent on continuing this impossible math until the bitter end where one cannot drink water or breathe the air, where the ecosystems have collapsed terminally and where the majority goes hungry.
How do we knowingly create all the conditions that allow the systematic destruction of what keeps us alive?
How do we accept to be told by some plastic looking, self-important, corporate shill on the TV who to hate and who to trust?
I find myself in this place where I cannot move. I cannot go back to my blindness, once you learn to read, you can never unlearn. I followed the elections in both Canada and America and all it tells me is that this system is not working. it is inherently faulty. it is a lie, a fraud, a comedy. Everything I watch on the media speaks of madness. To give these madmen air time and to actually discuss afterwards the inanities that were spewed as if it was something worth anyone’s time is beyond me. Yet we are infighting each other over politics, they win, having successfully divided us to reign over us, and having hypnotized us into oblivion with the rest of the shit on TV and Internet.
We are human beings. We have human rights. The earth is free. The air, the water… the food, fruits, plants, don’t belong to anyone. We are here a short time to care for this earth for the future generations. But we fenced everything and put price tags on all that had form. We were told to conquer by religions (!) by great leaders (!) and conquer we did with an unparalleled violence. North America today stands oh so righteously tall on stolen land having created and still do create immense suffering in our doing so.
I feel too much pain sometimes… and shame. For being human.
When I can, I go look at the trees in the sparse islands of green in Istanbul, Gezi park and Matcka park, they gracefully elongate their fine limbs to the sky, pure beauty, pure magic of life and expression. The sea gulls spiraling in precise mathematical course, the sun dressing them with gold. To feel the earth… Oh mother earth. The shame of us humans, too self-absorbed to care.
We must find our softness again, our sensitivity, our caring, our consciousness, our capacity to be awed and humbled and the willingness to learn again, anew. Because it is a world of infinite beauty and power and expression of divine intelligence and we are one with it. I refuse to think humans are a virus. No, that is the easy way to sanction all destruction and remove responsibility and ethics. That rhetoric is a virus, it’s a duplicitous excuse to permit us to disengage, give up to separate us and leave us drifting in a sea of fear and abandonment. We are all, every atom, one.
What is my place in this world? These days I feel that I have been so blind, so manipulated by the culture, the accepted views. There is so much to discover, yet my need to please, be accepted sent me down a path of blindness where the size of my thighs mattered more than the wonders of the earth, than all that could be explored and understood. I never had regrets in my life… but now I do… and it is a very unsettling feeling. How could I be so limited? So controlled? So un-curious. Why was I not independent and brave and trailblazing? These days are days of awakening, world-wide. We contemplate servitude to the corporate masters and monsters in a degraded society and nature, we toy with the idea of acceptance of this dirty pact. Or the other choice is the difficult road of creating a new world. I don’t believe that the model we have had for the last 2000 years can work. We must own up our humanity with its rights and responsibilities and empowerment. Not be pawns of the state but full beings, aware, intelligent, caring and strong.
And love. Love more than you think possible. Everything, every animal, flower, blade of grass, sunset or wind… Love, unconditionally all that exists because it is as one that we will make it.