You know that $200 I was worried about? We won $200 dollars on the lottery tonight. Trust the Goddess and she will provide!
I was going to talk about some random stuff the other night but I got off on a Nazi tangent, so let me do that now.
- I'm completely obsessed with Bento boxes and accessories. If you aren't familiar with it, it's a sort of art involving packing the perfect lunch. Since it's mostly for kids, there are special cutters for vegetables that make heart, star and flower shapes, there are little bits of plastic grass for decoration, special divider cups of paper, foil or silicone, and little containers that look like bottles or strawberries that hold soy sauce. I'm completely enchanted by the attention to detail that Japanese moms are putting into their children's lunches.
I never did the PB&J-every day thing as a kid. My lunches were cool - tacos, shrimp cocktail, left-over fried chicken, a thermos full of ravioli. Aside from the fact that I HATE the idea of jelly on peanut butter, I always thought the PB&J thing was kind of déclassé, and yes, I would have known that word in the second grade. I was precoscious in most ways, but particularly so in language. I love how the Japanese can take something most people never think about and turn it into an art form.
- Japanese language is so fluid and versatile that they seem to have a word for everything. "Hikikomori" means "one who withdraws" and refers to a trend observed in Japanese boys, but that I believe to be far more widespread, where they go in their room and don't come out. Some start as young as 11, and they don't go to school, then they don't go out, and finally don't leave their rooms except for occasional nocturnal foray that often includes a trip to a convenience store to buy a take-out bento. The availability of boxed, ready-to-go dinners has actually increased to accomodate the hikikomori lifestyle.
Anyone who knows me is seeing a striking resemblance to me in that description. Despite the tendency of most articles on the subject to emphasize the Japanese victims of this syndrome, there are people in most industrialized countries who live the same solitary and nocturnal existence. In Japan it is attributed to an inability to cope with the high expectations and extreme competition focused on males in that culture. The numbers show only 20% of hikikomori are girls, though they also believe that the problem is under-reported in females because of different cultural demands placed on them.
I've only found one article so far that acknowledges this problem in Britain and the US, as well as other parts of Europe and Scandanavia, but I expect to see more. I've encountered too many people like me - agoraphobic, dysfunctional, nocturnal because we can't deal with the activity levels of the day. It's not that uncommon - we just aren't talking about it yet. Anything that affects 1-2% of young males is going to affect the economy in Japan. There is apparently no safety net for hikikomori beyond family. They are trying to develop treatment now that will draw them back out into society, but it's too soon to tell if the assisted living-type programs will have a lasting effect or not. What if it's more than a trend? What if it's an adaptation?
What if a certain percent of the population just can't deal with aspects of the 21st century? Maybe some of us are too affected by noise, chemicals in our environments and foods, electromagnetic fields and a thinning atmosphere. There's a tendency for hikikomori to be very bright, extremely sensitive, and creative, though unmotivated and depressed. What if we have to redefine our concept of "work" to allow for people who can't leave the house or keep a "normal" schedule? If society fails to address the problem, we'll see the potential of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people go to waste. What if becoming nocturnal is an adaptation that will be necessary if the ozone layer continues to degrade? More later...
- I'm indulging these obsessions on Flickr and learning about art at the same time. Just from looking at pictures of other people's art work, I've learned new techniques and found new ideas. It's fun to see what other people are doing, and it gives a kind of permission to try new things that I don't often feel. I've been really blocked for a while, and it's got me painting again, which is a joy. I need more joy in my life. It has also brought up questions about ...
- there are a lot of fine arts being produced by women right now. There's also a lot of crafts and the distinction between the two is blurring. I hope eventually they are considered the same thing. I notice that the women who are into collage and ATC trades refer to their work as "art" rather than "crafts" and I think that's a positive thing. Women have always done the majority of creative work, but it was dismissed for being, of necessity, utilitarian and seen as "less" than art produced by a man with the wherewithall to be a professional artist. If anything, I'd think the art with purpose should have greater value than something that is merely decorative.
Now I'm going to ramble a bit. As with most feminist issues, I think the answer comes from within us. A word like "poetess" or "actress" is often seen as denigrating because it indicates gender, and the assumption is that a feminine gender is "less" - that "suffragette" is somehow a put down and "suffragist" is not because it could apply to either gender. We don't have to buy into patriarchal definitions. Saying "girls" instead of "women" in social circumstances could be taken as a compliment in a youth-obsessed culture, rather than a put-down in an androcentric context. How I hear it depends on my belief about myself. Being called a girl by a man doesn't diminish me because I don't feel diminished. I was never raised to think of myself as less because I'm female, so I don't hear the word that way. A feminist recently railed at me because I wrote about the primacy of the feminine gender in humans. In her mind, she heard a Greek philosopher saying that woman is an incomplete man. In my mind, I hear it meaning that maleness is a later adaptation at best, a birth defect at worst. Same data, different receiver.
Words are certainly important, but I think it's important not to avoid our gender in favor of neutered nouns or pronouns. Virginia Woolf was a damned good writer whether you call her poet or poetess. To bristle at the latter label is to bristle at being female. I like my gender. It's the reaction of the alternate gender that angers me, and that's not so much about genitalia as it is about bigotry.
- The line between sophistication and cynicism is unclear. On one hand, you can't expect people to know anything other than what they've been taught, and most times it's better to let them go than to challenge their world view if they're old or poorly educated. There's a conflict brewing in my clan about nudity in art. It hasn't come to a head yet, but I've no doubt it will in the next 6 months or so. When dealing with someone of limited education and limiting religious values, it is easy just to let them be who they are and expect no more of them. If it begins to affect the way a teen is introduced to art, do you ignore the uneasiness of the brood, censor the materials you give to the kid, or point out that educated people are not shocked by nudity in art, knowing that the last option will have them calling you an uppity liberal?
To use a political example from the not too distant past, do you tell John Ashcroft that he needs to grow the fuck up, or do you let him hang draperies over the bare breasts of a classical Greek statue. If the statue was in his home, I'd say let it go. When the statue is in the halls of a government building, it embarasses everyone except the simple folk who think the way he does. Personally, I'd like members of my government to have at least the level of sophistication one would find in an 18 year old art student. The fact is that the vast majority of them don't. Our congress, for the most part, can't handle the dialog in an R-rated movie, would be offended by the sexual content of a movie like, say, "Tin Cup," knows nothing about the internet except that it has a lot of porn on it and Liberals make more money with it than Conservatives. I know they all have family money, but it really amazes me that these people get elected.
The real problem for me is when I'm dealing with people who ought to know better. The bigotry among the Progressive community is infuriating. For all their posturing and pontificating, they still only pay attention to white males and a few token females. They don't respect women's writing, they don't care about women's issues, and if they profess any kind of feminism at all, it's an ivory tower sort of "white chick feminism" that you find in Universities and the media. Mommy's problem is not whether to work or stay home. Mommy's problem is how to keep the rats away from baby, and keep a roof over their heads after daddy split. It's not about what to wear in the boardroom, but can she work in a mine without getting raped, and will the boss pay her as much as the men. There's nothing dainty or chic about real feminism - it's down and dirty populism that has to reach out to and deal with the poorest and most neglected members of society.
That's a sensibility I don't see anywhere in the Pop Politics of the Lefty blogosphere. The big boys kowtow to the DLC establishment to the detriment of the masses for whom they are supposed to advocate. The women acknowledged by the clique are pretty much all politics. Mix in anything personal, religious or non-news oriented and you're ignored. There's a strong anti-religion bias on the Left, even on blogs that profess to practice some - usually mainstream - religion. It's the Left's Achilles heel, and so far they've been completely inept at mitigating the damage it does at the polls. You shouldn't have to live in D.C. or on a Coast to be taken seriously. You shouldn't have to ignore spirituality altogether. You shouldn't be expected to sneer at viable candidates like Dennis Kucinich and automatically love Hillary because she has a vagina.
I knew when I started this blog that I would be marginalized. My opinions are extreme and I don't mince words. I'm not a politician and I don't have a boss that censors what I write. And, as I said, you can't really expect people to be something more than what they've been taught to be. At some point, though, you really want to tell people to grow the fuck up, and realize that there are voices not being heard and they are the ones ignoring them. You really want them to open their eyes and see that there are people in colors, genders, faiths, shapes and sizes that aren't up to Hollywood standards who still have something valid to say. You want them to live up to that Progressive label they wear so proudly. The Left would be unstoppable if it embraced its inherent diversity of cultures, religions, ethnicities, genders, and opinions.
We made the sandwiches and we've been patient. It's time to walk the talk.
Labels: art, bento, bigotry, depression, Feminism, Flickr, hikikomori, misogyny, Progressive