Pastures of Boredom

The Conservative Turn

I know people generally don’t like others slagging off their society or lifestyle. I also know that in certain places in the world, at certain times even the faintest whisper of grumbling can get you in a bit of trouble, so before the three (?) of you read this bear in mind that I am just spinning ideas like those Turkish spinny toys that I can never manage to work. I’m just brainstorming out loud.

I’ve noticed recently that this society has taken a sharp turn towards the right and has become increasingly conservative. It’s strange, especially to outsiders, because on the surface it looks like we have all the trappings of “modernity” (if you understand modernity in the most basic sense) what with the shopping malls and technology and people wearing neon trainers, but once you talk to people it quickly becomes obvious that their ideas and outlooks are very traditional. My issue here is not that people have a traditionalist world view, it is that they only tolerate this one view. It is a narrow mindedness that is becoming almost like a sickness, because any discussion that threatens to dislodge the status quo becomes anathema. No seriously, people will clutch their heads and scream while staring blankly into space to drown you out if you say something like “but what makes one family better than the other?”

Our society is not the worst in the world (although catch me on a bad day and you’ll think it was), but it is frightening how things some would consider as social ills, things like tribalism, gender inequality, nepotism, parochialism, sectarianism, these things are seen as normal, part of our “heritage” or even lauded as our most virtuous traits. I see these attitudes increasing, which concerns me because conservatism will only suffocate us further, and dear god, I am gasping for air as it is. These attitudes throttle creativity and innovation, they shackle the free thinkers and risk takers that society needs to progress. And we desperately, desperately need these people, we need the creative types that think beyond the parameters of our little world, we need them to be empowered and encouraged, we need to reward their eccentricity.

If Qatar wants to go from an economy that is completely dependent on unsustainable natural resources to a more diverse economy, we need to open the door for people who can create and not just mindlessly consume. This is the biggest barrier we face to any real development. REAL development, not the development that we are experiencing now (experiencing, not taking part in, mind). The development the country is undergoing today, while mind-blowing, has a lot of people (or maybe just me???) feeling like spectators rather than active contributors. For years I’ve been hearing this phrase of “diversifying away from oil and gas” being regurgitated and burped out from podiums, on TV and in dubious think pieces but I haven’t really felt part of that diversification. Whatever diversification has happened just seems superficial and fragile because no one is truly invested, because so many people cannot be truly invested on account of the sociopolitical barriers.

There is a real problem here, because we invest so much in sending Qataris all around the world to study and learn and get experience and party on the dl, but what is the point if they’re going to come back to a society that is completely intolerant of independent thought and ideas? Or even worse: what’s the point if those people who go abroad aren’t even willing to engage in independent thought in the first place because they’ve been taught to fear it? All that wasted money could have gone into building another football stadium!

I know this isn’t unique to this society. Groupthink is everywhere, or else you wouldn’t have troubling political parties like UKIP (or Britain First!) or the Front National or Donald Fucking Trump as a legitimate contender for the Republican nomination. It is, however, worrying when the hive mind a) encompasses the entire society, so that it does not allow for any alternative views. I mean, you can have an alternative to Trump, contest him and debate his legitimacy and the legitimacy of his ideas and hair on a national level and b) this group is an either-you’re-in-or-out group. You cannot diverge a little bit or else you’re a deviant who must be cast out. You especially can’t differ if you’re a woman because women are, naturally, the physical embodiment of a society’s morals and piety (insert massive eye roll here). This is why women should be “protected” at all cost because society’s entire existence and its religious standing is hinged on their purity in the “eyes of god” (insert an even bigger eye roll, followed by a sigh).

So, this conservative wave is going to impact us pretty hard, because it does not allow for much discussion or debate. It will cause our already tiny, closed society to become even more inward looking and hermit-like. We are already like little parasites growing fat off of our natural resources and not giving anything in return, we are hungry husks, mouths open and drooling for more more MORE THINGS TO CONSUME! Can I call it conservative consumerism? Conservative only in the sociopolitical sense, not in the dolla dolla bills y’all sense.

What was the point of this? Well, I wanted to publicise my rants a little bit, remind people that I am still an angry youth brimming with discontent. I also wanted to tell everyone to chill out and let people live their lives without bringing up the fire and brimstone for fuck’s sake! Most of all, I am convinced that there are some major problems in this society, ruptures between norms and reality, stress between the demands of modern life and the demands of a conformist culture, the disempowerment and alienation of social groups… and I could go on until my fingernails turn blue. I think we need a frank discussion on these issues so that we can come up with realistic strategies to alleviate this gross suffering and discontent. Isn’t our ultimate goal to be happy?

Or, we could just hotbox the entire country.

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Farringdon to Finsbury

I left my heart somewhere in Islington
I was laughing and it fell out of my mouth like a fish
A tramp walked past and kicked it into the gutter

I passed my heart a week later
It was adorned with cigarette butts and tar
A man in a check shirt stepped on it when he crossed the road
I walked on placidly

It rained in May and I thought of my heart
I should have taken it home with me
But now I am six thousand miles away
My chest is full of dust and wind
While my heart melts in a gutter
Gnawed by the Rats of Islington

Give to the Kindred His Due

Her mouth creaked open
A fat, wet tongue slapped rows of white teeth
Her throat convulsed
Grey sludge filled her pink cheeks
And dripped down her first chin

“Palestinians,” she said, “are hateful thieves”
Dark pupils turned red
“You know how the blacks are hostile”
Long hair fizzed with static and pores bled
Staining a Persian rug

My eyes watered from the smoke
Screams melted the wax in my ear
Thirty minutes were an eternity
Until I kissed her on the cheek and left
Until next year

In the waiting room of the french visa office

Waiting. Waiting. A small room filled to capacity. You exhale, someone inhales.  Your knee inevitably rubs against someone’s back or leg or thigh. Your arms touch, short hairs entangling, dancing, and then… nothing but air and awkwardness. A musky perfume of morning breath, B.O. and cigarettes lingers above you. The flickering flourescent light above times the milliseconds since you’ve been sitting on these aluminum chairs with the holes on the bottom. Your bottom oozes into those holes, they impress themselves into your flesh. You, the chairs, the flickering lights, the sweaty arms – you are all the same organism. Pulsing, oozing, lactating together. Meanwhile your ears are pricked for the four syllables that make up your name. The vellus hairs inside your ear canal shiver in anticipation. The sweetest sound on earth! A pied piper’s tune that will cause you to fling yourself right out of that chair and forcefully excise yourself from that revolting organism you’ve become attached to.

But your name is trapped in the mouth of a woman in a pantsuit and a frown, and the milliseconds draw a long line of wasted time. Like a pencil being dragged across an infinite strip of paper, the graphite cracks and the flecks blind you. An hour. Two hours. Will it ever end? You hear numbers being called but none of them are like the one you grip in your hands. Your number.

Yours.

You?

Me?

Who am I?

I am B31.

I am no one.

00:50

There’s a strange kind of guilt that is associated with social media, a guilt and a shame that stems from a feeling of self exposure and vulnerability. It overwhelms me sometimes, the feeling that I have shared so much of myself that there is nothing left for me because everyone’s consumed me already and I’m left hungry and hollow. I want to pull my secrets back from the universe, sieve them out of people’s memories but I can’t and it’s nobody’s fault but mine. But the temptation to share is so strong, it is this hanging fruit, just dangling blurry on the edge of my peripheral vision. It promises me affirmation, human connection and I just want to pick it and devour it and have its seeds grow inside me… but it never delivers its promise, it just rots and dies, turning my insides into mulch. There is no connection in social media because I am not not human in social media. I am an avatar of myself talking to other avatars. I am myself 2.0 or 3.0 or whatever point-oh I’ve reached to at that particular time in my life. We look at each other through pixels and pixels carry no meaning, no warmth, just an endless illusion of both – a convincing parody of could-bes, a mockery. Because, you see, I can’t brush the back of your hand through Skype, I can’t count your eyelashes on snapchat, I can’t smell that mist that rises from your skin and clothes… that odour? That scent? That welcoming nasal orgasm that precedes you. I know this and yet I try to bury this realisation as far back into the recesses of my soppy sodding sad head as I possibly can, back among the nightmares and the perverted fantasies, because to accept this as true would only magnify my loneliness and remind me…

well, fuck.

I surround myself with these avatars to keep me from realising that I am, really, very lonely. Ghostly tendrils crawl out of my brain, gasping for someone and they grasp at air and slither back, disappointed. I fill this yawning with words and words and words and words, letting my tongue slap against my cheek and rub against the inside of my lingual braces until it is a raw, red and bleeding member pulsing in my mouth. Only then can I feel like I have accomplished something, that I have filled up that quota of necessary interaction, whether real or an imaginary parading in front of a reflective window. The sharp taste of iron spreading in my mouth and turning my teeth red is the taste of success. Or… not even success, just satisfaction. The satisfaction of an item checked off a list and nothing more. Like when you remember to buy milk.

I look for people to blame for this state I’m in. Some days I will shake my fists at The System. This global capitalist system, I will tell myself, encourages isolation and individuality. Man (woman?) must be alienated from their surroundings in order to function more efficiently in a capitalist society. The individual, I will go on (knowing in the back of my mind that this is all pseudo intellectual bullshit) must be DIVORCED from any sort of meaningful existence so that the void within them can be nurtured and encouraged to buy shit, the shit that’s clogging up my wardrobe, the shit I can’t even remember buying (a metallic red skirt, why?). Other days I will cast my blame on Society. Yes, I will mutter at the mirror, it is Society that forces me to conceal my TRUE self and pushes me to conform to a very narrow sexist, racist and downright disgusting stereotype of what it assumes to be the Prime Human Form. It is this struggle over control of my narrative that creates tensions within my self and results in anxiety and self loathing. Hah! I will scoff at my reflection (a little bit manically I’ll admit, but usually there is no one around to witness these episodes), that is it! An inherent tension between the individual and the group, a tale as old as time…

And then, perhaps in the darkest times, I will point a long crooked finger at myself. The fault lies within, I would whisper in the dark (it is usually dark when dark thoughts creep in, it is both a scientific fact and poetic prerequisite). I am the problem. I am a disturbed individual, born backwards or upside down, cursed by an ancestor of an ancestor, mishandled by a midwife or damned by heaven. There is something wrong with me, or else why does it seem like everyone is going about their lives as content as coco pops while I’m sitting on this leather worn, fart riddled chair typing in 8pt text and clenching my jaw so hard I could break a molar. Or why do I slip my hand under my pillow at night and imagine it grasping the cold metal handle of a pistol, imagine the smell of the gunpowder as I pull the trigger, imagine the overwhelming smell of blood as… Why does that image send me to bed relaxed? Why is a question I get very often. Why, Eman? Why are you like this? Why do you do this? Why would you say that? Why, why, why, why, why, fucking why as if I could have all the answers, as if those very same questions haven’t been dancing across my mind for years now, as if I could just smile and open my mouth and spill a thousand secrets about WHY. If I could I would gladly plaster them all here now, print them out and bind them and display them proudly on my bare chest. There is a shame that comes with not knowing why. That is why I cover it with the vapid shame of social media, because at least online I can create a Myself that I can explain, that I can back up with references and a nice linear narrative, because it beats the shame of not knowing why.

The F-Word and Language

I was at the library earlier, I had some free time and decided to ignore the red circle on the top left hand corner of my mail app which was steadily growing in numerical value and chill with a costa (or as I refer to it, a caffeinated cocktail of piss and desperation) and a book. As I was waiting for my fix, I noticed one of my friends had shared an article on female genital mutilation. Of course upon reading the headline I began my ritual of quiet tutting and seething at the fetishization of issues such as FGM by privileged Western men and women. The article, while attempting to squirt some modicum of empathy, came of as a condescending case of shock journalism. It treated the young women as subjects that could never have any agency of their own, their only voice was the voice given to them by the benevolent journalist, they were subjects trapped in their own history, they were eternal victims. But publishers love these topics, these topics sell because they are an update on Orientalism, an Orientalism with a conscience if you please.

My quiet seething reminded me of a conversation I had with a very insightful friend of mine. It was one of those long conversations that only come about after 2 am, last for hours, and leave you feeling satisfied. Somehow we found ourselves talking about discrimination between men and women, the questions of nature vs nurture, and the way that language is deployed to relegate women to a subservient position. Now, usually I shy away from even mentioning the f-word, eschewing it for a number of colorful euphemisms, but I have to concede that what my friend and I were doing was engaging in a very feminist conversation. Gasp. Even the fact that my fingers shiver when typing that word ought to tell you something about the state of feminism in our society. That aside, I wanted to share and expand on our conversation because I came out of it with an enlightened view of myself and my ‘place’. It’s a terribly thought out, winding stream of thought so bear with me.

I base much of what I say on my belief that our social reality is a result of ongoing human production. That is, the way we talk, the way we act, the stories we tell about ourselves and others are all things that we create, share, and institutionalize with embedded meanings into tradition or custom or religion or simply ‘the way things are done’. Language is a big one. Our experiences with language involve how we are taught to use it and how it is used to refer to us, and I’ve noticed that in both cases women are relegated to a lower position either that of an object (sexual or otherwise) or that of a rather dimwitted servant. This is analogous to the roles women are expected to play in society. It really begins from an early age, in the way little girls are taught to interact with other people. Any of us with brothers or those of us who have gone to coeducational schools will recall that the idea of speaking politely was heavily emphasized for girls, and speaking “like a boy” would result in a scolding. Boys also have to adhere to a certain way of talking, of course, but while there is a similar socialization process, the end results vary dramatically. When boys learn to toe the line, their reward is acceptance into society. A boy that goes to the majlis for example, and uses “man talk”, rattling off a bit of poetry perhaps, is heralded as a prodigy. A girl, on the other hand, who practices “woman talk” (and I’m sure most of you will immediately understand what I mean by that) is merely doing something that she is expected to do. She is just adequately fulfilling her role as a female.

 

This role that is being fulfilled, I must stress, is a denigrated one. It is a role that requires ennobling; it requires an embalmment of some sort of secondary honor. This is because women exist only as a reflection in the eyes of others. The talk and gossip that surrounds a woman is what shapes her, more so than her personal victories. A woman can hardly wave away the talk, throw up two fingers, declare ‘to hell with people’ and do something purely for her own pleasure. Men certainly can, with hardly any lasting backlash. Egocentricity in men is encouraged, because a man with a strong personality is valued, whereas in a woman it is a flaw. What that entails is that men go through life with the confidence of being able to speak their mind without being belittled or having their gender used against them.

Perhaps one of the greatest ways a woman can be ennobled is by association with a man. Isn’t it funny how men are defined in terms of what they do, while women are chiefly defined by who they do (or who they are associated with, to be less coarse). Perhaps the greatest illustration to this point is the connotations of the terms spinster and bachelor. Both literally mean unmarried, however the word spinster is often lobbed as an insult or uttered in a whisper under a veil. It carries a weight of uselessness and marginalization – something that is unwanted and best swept to the side or under an ornate rug. One of the worst things that can happen to a woman is not having a man, and not taking her full place in society as a result. Without a man we are only half formed beings.

This is a bit of a confused tirade, a result of letting my fingers hit the keyboard and ignoring my inner filter that constantly screams “BUT EMAN IF YOU WRITE THIS PEOPLE WILL INTERPRET IT AS THIS”. The worst thing, and I’ve encountered this way too many times, is that a lot of women will scoff after reading this. They will say that women and men are different because we must be different. They will say that I am insulting women by saying that things should change for us, that we need a greater voice. “Women are treated like queens,” I have been told. Women are polite and discreet and deferential because we are bastions against the degradation of our culture, we are the repositories of morality and civility and tradition. We refine society and make it beautiful. By calling for that to change some women may think I am trying to pull them down, change them into something they do not want to be. I do not want that. What I do want is for us to be aware of the discrepancies, the hypocrisies that run deep within ourselves and our societies and have the choice to become a repository of morality… or not.

Choice.

dissatisfaction (insane rant)

You get this feeling, a general atmosphere, that we are all waiting for something catastrophic to happen. I don’t know if this is just me or more people feel this way, but there is this sense that we’re all just treading water and silently accepting the state of things because we know we are materially well off and we know it is unsustainable so we want to enjoy it while we can, but we also know that there will be a tipping point. We are not prepared, intellectually or psychologically to deal with that, to deal with a break from what we have. We haven’t created any ideology to soften the blow. Society will not be able to carry us when that happens. When drastic change is required out of pure necessity (and not the will of a growling few like myself), where will we be?

And aren’t you sick of living in something temporary? Your entire life feels temporary. Everything you do seems pointless and just an end unto itself. You’re not building anything permanent – if you’re building anything at all. Your entire world feels like a meticulously set up play where all the actors are so good at what they do that they sometimes forget that the characters and the plot are not real. But every now and then they catch a glimpse of the light reflecting off the puppet strings and the transparency and absurdity of the whole charade is revealed. That light is blinding.

How can we get off the stage and create something that has meaning for us, instead of accepting our embedment in a place where we constantly feel like strangers? You are a stranger because you’re always either two steps ahead or one step behind, and nothing you say or do actually fits and you’re out of synch with your surroundings. And with that feeling, where do you go? Where do you run off to?  Because this is your only home, but it doesn’t even feel like it, it doesn’t fit you because even though it created you, you were like its a Frankenstein’s monster. You’re just a mishmash of different parts that don’t go well together, that don’t go well with the environment, so you just walk around like an aimless zombie, not knowing where to go. This is your only home so where do you go? You’ll never be accepted anywhere else because you’re a stranger there just like you are here. You become a creature divorced from time and space, always marked by some indistinctive but highly palpable otherness. The only peaceful end I can see is a complete suicide of the self.

14:01

“Traditional” art makes me want to pull my guts out through my mouth. I don’t mean art that is created by traditional means, I mean art that focuses on traditional objects. Like the oil painting of a woman in a ba6oola or a watercolor of a dalla done in shades of blue. It’s supposed to be a “modern take” but it’s so overdone and boring. And if I see “اللي ما له اول ما له تالي” or “old is gold” again I will fume silently and maybe complain to someone on whatsapp. This fetishization of heritage is ridiculous and sad. Too many people are too busy looking over their shoulder, trying to unearth some link to a past that never existed and no one is paying attention to our present state of disillusionment and alienation. Maybe it’s just me, maybe everyone else is satisfied with looking at an HDR picture of wrinkled hands holding a mesba7 and I’m just an ungrateful interloper. Maybe the feeling of having your body and mind being constantly out of synch is not a disease of our time but my own personal affliction…
Ah.

5:32

I remember when you sat me down and described the democratic origins of the universe. There is a decency to it, you said as I ran my fingers through my damp scalp, detangling a hangnail from a particularly frizzy strand. You told me the universe was schematically organised around the mass and volumetric characteristic of objects. Influence was determined based on a sphere of gravitational pull and not, you said with a sly grin, their promotive abilities. What about black holes, I asked.

There was a long pause. It was almost uncomfortable. Your eyes were like soft eggs, moist eggs covered in a gelatinous film. I almost reached out and pinched a pupil between my thumb and forefinger. I was salivating, I wanted to strip that film off, the way you would peel the thin protein membrane off a boiled egg. I could touch it, touch your veiny eyeball with the tip of my tongue. Just the tip. Not in an erotic way, or perhaps in an esoteric erotic way, a Way. It would lead us both down a path of enlightenment. Just us. I NEEDED to do it. I NEEDED to rest the fleshy point of my quivering tongue on your membraneous eye. I NEEDED to let the words that have been tightly coiled at the end of my burnt and disabled member topple off into the jelly-like basin of vitreous humour at the back of your fatigued eye and absorbed into your cerebral aqueduct. The foam of saliva at the edge of my mouth is a natural alkaloid – a suppressant, an inhibitor, a toxicant. I wipe it off with a salty finger…

I should not have asked you a question, my narcissism overwhelmed me, my reflexive attraction makes me a black hole in your universe, with a heft so influential it pulls you in and obliterates you. I just wanted to watch you speak, I wanted to watch your mouth form shapes, your wormy lips dance themselves into Os and Es. Your voice was nothing more than static to me, your endless ramblings were the background noise to my irrepressible infatuation with your body. To me you were a hollow thing, a thing of flesh and hair and eyes… eyes, and skin. A thing that produced noise, much like the crowing of a cockerel or the roaring of wind in a fireplace – irritating but inescapable in these circumstances.

Languid is such a great word, it’s so expressive. “the trees were stirring languidly in the hot summer breeze” “she rested her head against a pillow and looked up with languid eyes” “the sounds of the city sank with the sun, replaced by the languid hum of the engine” etc.

Shit. Now I’ve used it so much it sounds weird to my ears

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