I’ve been watching a lot of aspirational poverty porn NGO type videos recently. It’s funny how these things work by giving people in the village westerly aspirations. For example, being a pilot, or a doctor. As if to say, they are human too, because they want to be like “us.” Let us give them a stamp of authority and accept them into our humanity, a humanity that they, so desperately want to join. (watch this video, for example)
And, even within these aspirations there is a certain hierarchy. For example, I want to be a doctor vis-a – vis I just want to dance. I think about how that just works. Creating the impression that dancing is a lesser aspiration, a mereness, a lower ambition. It has no “professional” standing (although anyone who has seen me on the dance floor knows that there are people who cannot dance in this world). This word “just” bothers me. And I use it a lot. I find myself saying “I just want to write poetry.” I have been told being a poet is not an aspiration that is enough. We must want to do something “more”
In Bend it, happy multiculturalism Sara Ahmed writes:
“That word ‘more’ lingers, and frames the ending of the film, which gives us ‘flashes’ of an imagined future … In an earlier scene, the song ‘Moving on Up’ is playing, as Jess and Jules run towards us. They overtake two Indian women wearing shalva kamises. I would suggest that the spatial promise of the ‘up and away’ is narrated as leaving Indian culture behind, even though Jess as a character articulates a fierce loyalty to her family and culture. The desire to play football, to join the national game, is read as leaving a certain world behind. Through the juxtaposition of the daughter’s happy objects, the film suggest that this desire gives a better return.”
I’m bothered by why the validation to according these women in Uganda (in the video up there) is tied into the fact that they want the same things that the people in the West do. It seems to drive people towards a norm as opposed to towards embracing diversity.
‘It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.’
– Audre Lorde
This some to me as I think about how quick we are to run away from categories. We do not want to be called “feminist” or “African” or anything else for that matter. Taye Selasie said that African literature does not exist.
I have lost myself, and may end up discussing the Afropolitan. Let me start again.
We often describe things in the terms of “regressive” and “progressive.” Progressive, as many of us know, is something that moves forward while regressive is something that takes one backwards. Very often we use the word regressive to describe our own culture. I’m not sure this is right.
Before you read on, get one thing straight. This is not about the misogynistic, oppressive and down right wrong bits of our culture – those need to be buried very far away.
I’m thinking more about it from the progressive angle. We aspire to be like the west. This is why we have Freedom talk about a common currency even after seeing what the Euro has done to the EU. It is for this same reason that we have musicians like Ke$ha being listened to in the middle of Kisii.
As I write this I see how this could be turned to fuel the mechanism of the west political narrative.
Allow me to rephrase.
All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others
– George Orwell, Animal Farm
A friend asked me about class. I wonder – who defines it? What is this intangible quality that a person has? Is it an upbringing thing? Because we have no choice in who or how we are bred. Or perhaps it is a societal thing (I see the swag generation taking their selfies now). The most accurate response I received is that class is a way of people who were born with money to identify each other. Being born and bred in a certain way helps you identify people who were bred in the same way.
The commercialization of class, and explosion of the media, has led to class being something to be aspired to. And, the thing is, we do have a very clear picture of what class looks like. It is sitting in the back of a Rolls Royce Phantom, smoking a Cuban cigar in your leather coat.
This is a problem.
What, then, I am trying to say is that moving forward doesn’t have to mean moving towards a certain set picture. It may mean opening our minds to the idea that we are different – and that’s okay.