Culture September 30, 2018
Forwards and Backwards
Whenever I think of living in the world as writer, as thinker, as cultural worker, as identities-in-motion and identities-in-between, I think of the projections we are placed into by others, and by ourselves to ourselves. How others put their own ideas onto us, their assumptions and judgements that follow, align with or compete with the same things we do to ourselves, according to the cultural and language frames we use for ourselves—the labels and concepts of what we learn and think we know. And in addition, there is the reality of a fixed identity or thought that interferes with reality. If we are “hāfu” then we cannot be “pure” or “white” or democrat, republican, woman, man, etc. And then the “human” label also plays its role. “I am human therefore you are wrong in labeling me such-and-such….”
What are all of these words we must negotiate? What do they do to us, for us, and others and what do they do—what effects do they have in the world? We—ourselves—may think that our word or words are doing a particular thing, but often, they just mix with, bump up against, collude, or mimic that status quo, the insignificant, the pleasant, the popular, the rebellious, the cool, the sophisticated, the unpleasant, the kill-able, the imprison-able, the unwanted, the desired. How we must work with the past—which is this moment right now, already past as you read on, and then onwards in time—both backwards through memory. And the present moment—right now, into the future—this milli-second is the heart of cultural change and activism. For most of us, we are somewhere within and in-between a: not caring about either the past or the present and our effects; or wanting to control every aspect of all time and identity. Usually, this is made even more precarious because of a decidedly dominating cultural reality of trivializing, excluding, demoting, and ignoring history according to the nation, culture, and sub-cultures we belong to (noticing the hierarchies of power and priority in naming). It is no accident that “uncovering” and “discovering” ourselves as mixed-beings, and to understand memory that was silenced in the past, often continually surprises us, disgusts us, or delights us—especially if we have been designed by our parents and/or communities, to think of ourselves as mono-racial. And when we reflect upon these seemingly “new” facts of ourselves, our families, and our world, we often become emboldened and proud, or we change certain ways of thinking “self” and “world.” But the serious thing that may be missing for many, is the social aspect of all of these things. It is not only “personal.” For instance, does being “proud” of being Japanese—out loud and verbally, settle well when we are speaking with Filipinos, or Koreans? For a younger generation, it will be somehow different perhaps, than from being with older Koreans and Filipinos, who are closer to the lived reality-memories of death and burning by Japanese hands. And this is not only personal—“I didn’t do anything wrong, why do they abhor me?” There are social effects, memory. But if we ask people to forget about the past and move forward, then what happens? Forgetting is always convenient for the dominant groups anywhere, most of all. Although a hāfu is an individual, being of mixed-heritage also represent the cultures of our ancestors, whether we are close to, or are intimately familiar with those cultures or not. These cultural and national labels represent so many acts of history and positioning on hierarchies of death, destruction, saving, uplifting and loving, we must understand that which we represent. Perhaps as a cultural worker, we will study these things further and deeper so as to be more effective in public, with others, who do not care whether we are “proud” of our identities or not. We are not only personal identities. We represent so much more. And in this way, each of us is quite powerful and agents of change, whether we feel responsible to this or not. And in this way, the ignorance we may carry, will also play its role in the forming of culture, little by little, in the spaces we move, and with the people we encounter.
Featured Image by Edward M. Haugh