nEGOtiable entitlement

Everyone talks about Ego as if it were
An expanding pit of narcissisms
Overpowering conscious and unconscious realms
A void that reduces mediation
in the face of confrontation
They slip into conceit and wear it until it tears
And I watch it all in despair
thinking ‘how unfair’
I cannot bare the ways in which they stare
Immortalizing the domination of their glare
Naturalizing superiority without a care
But when will I dare
My menial ego presents a facade
a face in constant imposition
a body denying acculturation
Urumai illatha rethum
subjugated without reason
lacking measures of fundamental freedoms
In their eyes,
I am but a destitute re-settler
my Ego acts as if it were
an amateur
I struggle to locate my pit of vanity
navigating realms that have been constructed for me
internalizing what they say I can never be
egoism escapes my identity
but I am entangled within my own subjectivity
trauma informed consciousness

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Mummy,

"Paavum Pillai" (Misfortunate Child)
She held my face as if it were her own
As if she could recognize the unspoken burden of suffering that has passed through generations before us
The blood of women who's pain has never been recognized
Our spines cower downwards with the weight placed on our shoulders
"Naan paavum inda neengal ennai?" (If I'm misfortunate, what are you?)
We struggle to find our natural breath;
gasping for air as if it would be our last bit of life
Only allowing pockets of oxygen to flow through to the next moment
Your right leg,
My right arm-
Our bodies ache with the hate we have internalized
Rather than attempting to unlearn,
we must accept where we are without need for pity-
We survive everyday,
And that is enough.

“Fat as a Family Heirloom”

Families provide an important influence on food, eating practices and notions of health. The conditioning of family meals impacts the consumption of specific foods, development of eating disorders and engagement with unhealthy body image. Obesity is considered a major public health issue among children and adolescents in North America, where the social ecology of food positions individual choice as the cause of the problem . Situating issues of health at the individual level dismisses the stigmatization of individuals who are marginalized by medical, academic and government institutions. Jaclyn Friedman’s Unscrewed podcast episode, titled Fat as a Family Heirloom, discusses fatness with Sonalee Rashatwar. In it, the self-entitled fat-sex therapist analyzes the ways in which bodies considered “unhealthy” are further oppressed. 

In order to frame the neoliberal version of wellness that structures current food systems in North America, this report will utilize theories of social ecology and political economy, as well as incorporate post-colonial, feminist perspectives. Family development is contextual, abiding within five environments. Each of these locational and spatial contexts are unfixed and evolving through the development of political economy. Institutionalized systems of order, service, education, and production, reinforce power relations and social conflict through inequalities. Families are historically embedded; history of colonialism, dispossession and oppression positions families in the neoliberal definition of healthy. Current global, capitalist practices are established by the neoliberal regime, which values privatization and individualization. Families, as units of consumption and labour, are considerably effected by changes in the microsystem, mesosystem, ecosystem, macro system and chronosystem. With time (chronosystem), societal and cultural beliefs (Macrosystem) are influenced by the communal structures (Exosystem) that surround families. Legislation, education and entertainment, popularize beliefs of ‘health as anti-fat’, normalizing it as knowledge and informing  individual characteristics (Microsystem), as well as, relationships (Mesosytem). Medicalization has been a way to manage people without addressing the complex factors that shape outcomes of health.

Public health naturalized the formula of eating and exercising behaviours for optimal health without considering natural body composition, issues of accessibility and constraints of behaviourism. Body weight is not malleable nor under individual control in the same sense that body fat does not signify unhealthiness. In order to address health disparities it is vital to consider how socioeconomic and cultural inequities impact the family. Existing notions of health entails a primary value and moral index of the individual without considering the ways in which bodies considered “unhealthy” are oppressed. Discrimination against fatness is endemic; fat people meet at various social and cultural intersections which include gender, race, disability, socioeconomic status, sexuality, and education. The stigmatization of fat bodies impacts women and men differently, female bodies with fat are seen as hyper visible and deserving of stigma for the space they take up. The experiences of women mirror neoliberal constructions of privilege and inequities. Each family is largely influenced by weight-bias which is a form of oppression that intersects with other systems of oppression.

Sonali and Jaclyn deconstruct popular notions of health and fatness as impacted by various agents of socialization. Questions posed to the small group for discussion were regarding popular and normalized understandings of health and fatness. For example, “What is health?” followed by “What is fatness?”, elicited a productive conversation among cis-gendered, female members of my small group. Each member listed the negative implications of society’s presentation of fatness as an indicator of health. One member claimed “people listen to you when you’re thin”, body size impacts the validity of ones existence, having a body with “excess” fat somehow makes one invalid. The entire group agreed, noting that a false belief many of us have been taught to follow would be to limit food consumption and exercise in order to prevent obesity.

Prior to the modernization of nation-states, humans consumed foods that could be found in nature. The transition of natural or fresh food to processed has normalized the consumption of pesticides, refined sugars, and genetically modified foods. The social organization and production of food has divided land, resources and labour from the product and its consumer. The establishment of neoliberal food systems also established measurements like the Body Mass Index to measure the health of an individual based on weight and height. Tools like the BMI do not assess the weight of muscle and bone density, and arbitrarily categorize bodies based of what “looks overweight”. Healthy diets have been made increasingly inaccessible as capitalist industries prioritize monetary value through mass production.

A major concern seemed to be how stereotypes around fatness specifically impacts women and gender non-conforming bodies, at a very young age. Family can have a negative impact on children’s health and well-being if a child is shamed or bullied about weight. According to Sonali Rashatwar, many overweight females receive less support from their families in comparison to an average weight female. This could be due to fatness’ external stigmatization and its internalized effects as managed within the household. Although there are several factors that effect attitudes regarding fatness, the cycle of obesity could also be a result of family stress. Youth are very vulnerable to the impacts of poor eating habits, increased leisure time, decreased physical activity and poor sleeping habits.

Who or what conditions our understanding of healthy bodies, socially and otherwise? Other key agents of socialization who are almost as influential as family, include toys like Barbie, peers, social media, popular representations of women in entertainment as well as financial and academic stresses. Our discussion on popular culture was extensive, as many could recall more than one character portraying stereotypes and stigmas of fatness. High School Musical characters as well as other Disney shows and films portray fat bodies as evil, monstrous, comic relief or simply unimportant. The only fat bridesmaid in the film Bridesmaids, was portrayed as annoying, quirky, less feminine and deserving of a conventional romantic relationship. To contrast, popular representations of overweight men is generally considered normal or positive instead of negative. Establishing healthy lifestyles and attitudes requires a considerable amount of access to resources and opportunities that privilege some families over others.

Girls, marginalized by age and weight, are indoctrinated to fear fat by the aforementioned agents of socialization. A number of group members mentioned a series of food-related health problems that are common among young women. Some had experienced, and others knew of girls who dealt with food addictions, binge eating, disordered eating, bulimia, anorexia. Jaclyn Friedman and Sonalee Rashatwar share their experience with binging, purging, starving, and over-exercising as well. Having access to a variety of healthy foods and being from a family that habitually consumes meals three times a day is also a privileged assumption for many. Not all families have access to healthy foods, we discussed how common it is for families to eat packaged meals that lack nutrition. In addition, the BMI classifications of underweight, average, overweight, and obese, can be dangerous to individuals suffering with body dysmorphia. All bodies are composed differently; body fat distribution is the interplay of environmental and genetic factors. There are also a number of conditions that contribute to weight gain including hypothyroidism or PCOS. It is evident that there is a lack of education regarding human biology and nutrition that is detrimental to peoples’ wellbeing.

Fat bodies face alienation and discrimination in a number of public spaces, women especially suffer from anti-fat stigmas. Fat acceptance is, however, against the male gaze which infantilizes and objectifies the female body. Feminine sexuality has been constrained by popularized images of Victoria Secret models who do not represent the general public. Members in the group criticized the brand for openly claiming, they do not want trans and fat people representing their products because it is not healthy. The group insists that the models are, in fact, unhealthy due to the lack of body fat and common unhealthy lifestyles among famous people. Fatness seems to transform gender identity; making a fat man less of an ideal “man” and a fat woman less of an ideal “woman”. Fat women are characterized as single, alone, funny or cat lady’s in media. The Body-Size-Diversity movements online seem to provide some group members with likeminded online communities.

Socialization is a “process by which a society passes on its behaviour patterns, attitudes, values, and knowledge to the next generation”. According to the podcast, eating disorders begin as early as the age of 6 or 7, influenced by fat phobia in the family as the primary and often sole agent. Rashatwar claims that eating disorders do not exist in countries where it is healthy and attractive to be larger . Fat has a queering effect on the body where it masculinizes the feminine body. This desexualization has psychological and emotional implications on the individual woman.

Sonalee incites race as a body image issue which informs the ways that marginalized bodies are further oppressed. Being fat and racialized is increasingly dehumanizing on a female body. Many racialized bodies are often naturally thicker or of varied body shapes and sizes. Sonalee Rashatwar considers her body size as heirloom and accepts her hereditary fat now. The interviewee has dated Indian men and had sexual intercourse in secret, yet married the idealized thin indian woman (Friedman, 2018). South Asian culture has been obstructed by Eurocentric colonization and American cultural imperialism.  Fat-Sex Therapist aims to decolonize the body and naturalize curves. Fat phobia is always internalized,“[Sonalee’s] family is super fat phobic because they’re fat”. Fat shaming is a form of obedience, especially in the Asian family; Sonalee’s father stopped talking to her because she didn’t go through with a surgery to remove fat.

Young people are conditioned by unintentional communication regarding what is ‘normal’ which alienates fatness. The common sentiment ends up that fat bodies deserve the stigma they face when fat as unhealthy is too generalizing. There are systemic reasons for why people look and are the way they are; every family differentiates in their access to food, physical/extracurricular activities. Children of highly stressed parents are less likely to live active lifestyles and consuming healthy meals. Yet, according to the podcast and the discussion above, people get more respect when they look thinner. Contemporary society dismisses familial resemblance in fatness, fat distribution and stress factors that influence children’s wellbeing

Canadian-Sri Lankan Tamil Consciousness

Recently, Global Affairs Canada urged Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena to “immediately reconvene Parliament,” which had been prorogued after the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa was named prime minister. Sri Lankans have become accustomed to transitions of power, dating back to Portuguese occupation that began in the 1500s and ended in 1638 after the Dutch-Portuguese war. The Dutch conquest lasted until 1796, when regions were confronted by the Napoleonic wars. In 1802, the British Empire took on reigns of control but eventually, different Sri Lankan social groups and institutions joined forces to protest in hopes of gaining autonomy. Independence, granted to the Sinhala people in 1948, did not bring peace, because Sinhalese authorities dominated in the state and often expressed political as well as cultural superiority towards non-Sinhalese citizens. In 1983, a decades-long civil war broke out between the Sinhalese parliament and an insurgent group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, resulting in a massive flight of refugees seeking asylum. Many found refuge in Europe and North America, but because of its status in the so-called “Commonwealth”, the Sri Lankan diaspora is disproportionate to Canada. Intergenerational trauma lingers within Sri Lankan expatriate communities. In these new spaces, Canadian-Sri Lankan Tamils seek economic gain and sociopolitical stability yet face structural and symbolic violence as a result of White dominance.

Dominant Western, social thought conflated South Asian cultures to be singular and unidirectional while South Asian cultures are complex, diverse and expansive. To clarify the conflation of Southasian Cultures, this paper will synthesize Sri Lankan history. It is vital to understand that in prehistoric Sri Lankan, there was a “slow process of ethnic formations- built- on slower processes of linguistic and cultural diffusion imposed on groups of people whose earlier languages were for the most part unrelated to either Indo-Aryan or Dravidian language families” (Vaitheespara, 2011). Tamil, as a Dravidian language, is spoken by local and newcomers in a number of nation-states around the world. Sri Lankan anthropologist, K. ““Indrapala- [claims] South Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and in Sri Lanka, with parts of northern Andra Pradesh, Karnataka and the Maldives- [formed a] -unified- socio-cultural region (p.48)” speaking the Dravidian language (Vaitheespara, 2011). The language “remains the earliest non-Indo-Aryan language- to be found in inscriptions anywhere in South Asia” (Vaitheespara, 2011). Studies have found that it was not until “1,000–200 BCE -[that] both the Tamil and Sinhala identities begin to crystallize out of earlier languages and identities in the region” (Vaitheespara, 2011). The political instability on this island can be attributed to the “racial theory” that the British Regime legitimized, further establishing an “‘Aryan race’ discourse- [that] was soon adopted in earnest by local Sri Lankan” groups (Vaitheespara, 2011). This racial grouping divides Dravidian and Indo-Aryan language as dichotomous, with one inferior to the other. This binary discourse normalized assumptions regarding racialized attributes, as well as the ethnic groups’ physical and mental capacity. Colonialism followed by the ethnic war misinformed people with a false history of the formation of Tamil culture.

Tamil-speaking Canadians lack a cohesive sentiment of national pride as a result of conquest and war. The Aryan Race discourse presented the false ideology of Sinhala people as the “‘founding race’-[and] neglect[ed to provide a] -systematic historical study of early Sri Lanka- which in turn enabled the initial British accounts of early Sri Lankan history, undertaken mostly by-colonial officials and based almost exclusively on an uncritical reading of local Buddhist chronicles” (Vaitheespara, 2011). In 1948, the British empire “transfer[ed] power to the numerical majority, which provided the Sinhalese-[with the] Sri Lankan government (Sengupta et Ganguly, 2013). The nation-state ratified a slow entrenchment of divisive policies beginning with the “enactment of the Official Language Act of 1956, by which Sinhalese was made the sole official language-[which eventually led to] -ethnic violence against Tamils in Sri Lanka in the early 1980s (Sengupta et Ganguly, 2013). Colonialism normalized ethnically prejudice rhetoric, narrowing nationalist historiography towards Sinhalese dominance.

The ethnic war minoritized and massacred many non-Buddhist, non-Sinhalese minorities with the specific intent to massacre the Tamil population. “India’s external spy agency, implemented- a strategy of diffusion of the Sri Lankan Tamil insurgents by opening bases and- provided substantial training to the four largest Tamil insurgent groups: LTTE, PLOTE, EROS and EPRLF” (Sengupta et Ganguly, 2013). Armed Tamil rebels became increasingly militant and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam violently harmed “other Tamil political parties, members of minority and majority communities in Sri Lanka, and captured government soldiers” (Sengupta et Ganguly, 2013). As a result, many Muslim and Hindu populations from Sri Lanka no longer claim national pride. Instead, Muslim-Sri Lankan newcomers identify with North Indian or Pakistani Muslim cultures while Hindu populations identify with South Indian culture. Although, whiteness is hyper visible to racialized bodies in Canada, many Sri Lankan families continue to be consumers of Indian media, finding a balance between the two cultural identities. Sri Lankan’s claim and maintain culture through language or religion rather than the nationstate.

India has historically encountered various transformations in political, economic and culture shifts that influence multiple groups among a multiplicity of languages, religions, values and lifestyles. Although “Indian cinema is often used synonymously with Bollywood, [it fails to] reflect the heterogeneous and ethno-linguistic specific cinemas of India” (Ranganathan et Velayutham, 2012). Kollywood is the term sometimes used to refer to the Indian “Tamil film industry [which] -had a long association with Sri Lanka-Sinhalese and Tamils alike, -through joint film productions and casting.” (Ranganathan et Velayutham, 2012). However, “Indian–Sri Lankan political relations over the period of the conflict, 1983–2009-greatly impacted on the ways in which Eelam Tamils were depicted or unspoken in Tamil cinema” (Ranganathan et Velayutham, 2012). Neoliberal trade liberalization in “the 1990s, [increased]- global popularity of Bollywood cinema [that]- has generated a great deal of interest, especially in the context of the significance of the overseas Indian market, transmission of Indian cultural nationalism and representations of diasporic Indians in Indian films” (Ranganathan et Velayutham, 2012).

With a lack of Sri Lankan, cultural commodities, many TSC’s consume products of Indian creative industries. The lingual connection between India and other South Asian countries shares a strong bond although dialects differ across regions. Sri Lankan-Tamils living in Western, capitalist countries like Canada, consume popular Indian films in order to connect with a diaspora. There exists a “void in terms of Tamil films making any reference to Eelam Tamils or the conflict, -films gloss over the violence [and] Eelam Tamils are portrayed as victims of war, affable but different to Indian Tamils-[by being] disempowered and – culturally less sophisticated” (Ranganathan et Velayutham, 2012). Tamilness became highly politicized with the war, although TSC’s are misrepresented by Indian films, the language and cultural customs provide the diaspora with a creative commodity that is familiar.

The ideology of development has been attributed to Western nations in which neoliberalism reigns organizational forms. Developed nation-states dominate global politics and are idealized. A false ideology of increased access to resources and opportunities results in the migration of individuals, from under-developed nations, as a survival strategy. However, citizenship related barriers to resources, unemployment and foreign cultural norms stress newcomers as they are pressured to quickly get settled, cover new expenses, and meet family needs. European colonialism has been the most disruptive form of change to occur to humans by humans followed by the outward expansion, and domination of American structures and ideologies. Notions of race, gender, class and sexuality create a hegemonic hierarchy that categorizes and minimizes individuals within dominant organizational forms.

Newcomers deal with a traumatic separation from family and their support group back home, changes in lifestyle and diet, new family tensions due to new domestic roles, mental distress and struggles of starting over in a new country or accessing proper health care. Acculturation is a process of assimilation required for newcomers to a new culture; “the theory has been criticized for assuming that immigrants move unidirectionally towards Americanized lifestyles” (Bostean et al, 2015). American acculturation among newcomers is not bidirectional or unidirectional where failing to assimilate results in the absorption of subordinate groups into the dominant culture.

According to Jin Dal Yong, ‘the cultural imperialism theory has claimed that authentic, traditional and local culture – is being overwhelmed by the indiscriminate dumping of large quantities of slick commercial media products’ (Yong, 2011). American nationalism has had a strong hold on culture through the United States as well as the world. Imperialism is an extension of power or influence, American cultural imperialism is causing a growing imbalance between countries, communities and individuals (Yong, 2011). America dominates the world economy through exports of Western cultural products in developing countries and the institutionalization of the cultural industries all over the world.

As a source of branding for mass commercialization, American nationalism has become crucial in the commodification of American culture. Cultural commodities require an open enough market to succeed across multiple platforms, American popular media targets audience that are only seemingly niche (Yong, 2011). Hollywood has a commanding influence over popular culture and acts as a means of cultural transformation through the creation of cultural products, capital and industries in the globalization era (Yong, 2011). Capitalism presents citizens as producers and consumers, wherein cultural commodities influence individuals to play into the false identity constructed for them (Adorno et Horkheimer, 1944). Identities are being attached to and defined by commodities; individuals are increasingly conditioned by norms of Hollywood. Stereotypical depictions of one race creates a cycle in which Hollywood perpetuates a homogenous identity for those of the ethnicity, that does not exist.

Hollywood deliberately produces commercialized films that underrepresent diverse demographics in order to care for the social utility of the elites. Films act as “agent of socialization”, the representations in film provide consumers with a criteria (Deo et al., 2008). The representation of American ideals and norms outweigh the rationale of the general public because masses are made to follow. The culture industries with greatest economic hold have the power to construct a one way flow to society. The Hollywood elites control the representation and exclusion of others, this power enables media to choose images that “resonate with existing racist ideologies and stereotypes” (Deo et al., 2008). Persisting White supremacy exists in the political economy of Hollywood wherein the elite’s hold economic, social and political control over American culture. Overt racism has transformed so that “racial inequality-persists-camouflaged with a “colour-blind” smile (Deo et al., 2008). Major production companies disregard intersectionality and perpetuate hierarchal norms for mass consumption when creating highly commercialized movies.

As a non-White body in a Western nation-state, this TSCs consciousness is split between characteristics attributed to Canadians and Sri Lankan Tamils. The socio-political community of one’s nurturing determines the ideals normalized by ones mental state. America’s history and the “hypocrisy of the Founding Fathers has passed on a social disease that will never be eradicated in this society because the democratic principles were formed under a false premise” (Moore, 2005). This split consciousness lacks reconciliation between the differing dual identities and causes adaptive as well as maladaptive survival techniques as Black Americans confront racism in adulthood. Moore describes double consciousness as a “maladaptive strategy” to “change [one’s] reality and to take on the characteristics of the oppressor” because it results in psychological turmoil and lingering traumas (Moore, 2005). Whiteness is hyper visible to racialized bodies; its normative nature reinforces the invisibility of Black people in America.

As refugees and immigrants, Tamil-speaking Canadian Sri Lankans suffer the consequences of double consciousness from a different lens. Due to the mental conflict caused by systemic racism and sexism, double consciousness is a tool of balance for African Americans transitioning between the performance of Whiteness due to the perception of Blackness in America (Moore, 2005). In the same sense, a history of displacement and oppression marks the bodies of TSCs. As racialized bodies, the diaspora is disadvantaged from living in racially stratified society. The lived experiences and bodies of racialized individuals are overtly recognized and marked as different from homogenized white norms critique of historical and contemporary representations of hyper-visibility is conducted through representations of danger or fetishized eroticization. The performance of ideological White narratives is required for the ‘passing’ and visibility of a racialized body as a redeemable Canadian citizen.

Cultural appropriation in the dominant American market has become a strategy of stealing from a niche group in order to represent a mass. It is the act of usurping cultural ideologies and simplifying them for the commodification of produced goods. Goldman considers the “bourgeois definitions of authenticity as unmediated, spontaneous expressions of personal identity” establishing a “hierarchy of judgements” (Goldman et al, pg.142, 1996). Modern consumer culture has become increasingly dependant on instilling individuals with voids to fulfill through the consumptions of commodities. Cultural industries act as negation of style by replacing art with misrepresented depictions of reality (Adorno et Horkheimer, 1944). Multinational companies and Hollywood agencies appropriate cultural images in order to sell identities along with commodities. Marketing has constructed a need to fashion brand identities that resonate with new culture; product driven companies look to become transcendent image-based brand visual spaces are indicative of ideologies around gender, sex, class, race, religion and more (Goldman et al., pg.147, 1996).

Naomi Klein, Canadian author and social activist, discusses how the market for consumer goods has become one market in which companies compete for the appropriation of cultural images in order to sell the same produced commodities. In order to emphasize Black culture, creative industries emphasize inner city sports like basketball and ‘ghetto’ fashion (Klein, pg.75 , 2000). Popular representations of the Black community in Hollywood are rare, stereotypical and intended for a mass monoculture of racialized bodies. Most industries are businesses made into an ideology to produce without considering the intersectionality of identities they are presented to (Adorno et Horkheimer, 1944). Creative industries navigating Black culture examine all aspects of youth culture leaching content not only out of styles, attitudes and abilities (Klein, pg.78-79 , 2000). Cultures considered to be alternative are misrepresented in film, television and commercial through a process of co-optation.

The idea of authenticity is constructed through branding; American nationalism and irony in advertisements signify ‘coolness’ as an ideology one most hone in order to fit in with current popular culture. America’s race relations is currently focused on selling white youth on their fetishization of black style as well as black youth on their fetishization of white wealth (Klein, pg.76 , 2000). Many youth among South Asian communities result to appropriating Black culture through the fetishization of urban style that has been constructed through the generalized aesthetic of Black or urban culture. Black people are reduced to “ghetto” portrayals involving the use of bolder colours, bigger, baggier styles, more hoods and cords, prominence for logos, and more construct the hip hop aesthetic (Klein, pg.76 , 2000). Racialized bodies and subcultures are often appropriated by mainstream marketing and advertising on mass scales.

In order to appeal to low and middle class youth, the idea of ghetto cool is harnessed into a mass-marketing science so products reach inner city suburban malls (Klein, pg.75 , 2000). Individuals are expected to recognize themselves in cultural commodities moulded by companies (Adorno et Horkheimer, 1944). Creative industries present an imagined idea of ‘coolness’ riddled with self-doubt to target adolescent youth (Klein, pg.69 , 2000). Middle class ideas of self and identity grow more dependent on accumulating experiences that serve as signifiers of self-worth like wealth (Goldman et al., pg.147, 1996). Low to middle-income groups fall prey to the commodification of Black culture as “cool” which exploits racialized bodies with social and economic costs.

People in power devise ways to keep consumers in line, conforming to the role that individuals are categorized into. The Tamil diaspora has been dispossessed and subjugated multiple times in history. Tamil-speaking Sri Lankan-Canadians have paved a distinct way of life and characterization in Canada despite on forms displacement, imperialism and exploitation. As moving bodies, navigating conflict, and seeking security, the diaspora has been impacted by economic and cultural transformations in transnationalism as effected by globalism. The cultural imperialism of Hollywood’s representation of Anglo-Americans and African-Americans, along with Tamil Cinema known as Kollywood, have had a significant impact on TSC’s formation of identity and lifestyle. In consideration to the multicultural proportions of the population of United States the racial and ethnic minorities have remained underrepresented in Hollywood. A combination of lacking representation and acculturative stressors, in Canada, require a measure of the appropriation and per for  mance of all three identities.

The intergenerational and intercultural experiences of life vary by individual gender, sex, sexuality, class, as well as normalized ideologies such as honour or success. South Asian communities vary widely in the emphasis of cultural expression. Cultural identity experiences of Tamil Canadians also differ as members have origins from India or Sri Lanka and value many religions, traditions, systems of practices, processes of production and expression. In order to contextualize identity formation of the youth diaspora, it is important to understand urgent issues of Tamil people in a globalized world. One’s self-consciousness forms in conjunction to social conditioning and genetic predisposition. The purpose of this study is to implore the construction and presentation of the “self” within specifically the Tamil, Sri Lankan-Canadian (TSC) youth diaspora, as a nationally and colonially determined racial identity. Double consciousness functions as a measure of self-actualization implicated by perceived race, the self-consciousness of Tamil-speaking Sri Lankan-Canadians is socially conditioned.

Evolutionary Changes in Human Diets and the Neoliberalization of Meat

Jason Moore coined the term “world ecology” to argue that humans are a part of nature, illustrating the intrinsic interconnectedness of political, economic and environmental histories (Weis, 2016).  From a paleoanthropological perspective, the human diet has evolved over three million years; the selection of foods, methods of gathering, tools for hunting, and processes of preparation have also developed over several years. Modern scientific evidences investigating the evolution of human diets compare primate and hominoid excavations. Studies and interpretations of prehistoric findings in regard to human meat consumption have been expansive and, often, contradictory. Human pre-history provides insight to the development of human anatomy as early hominids survived through changing landscapes, climates, biodiversity and diet.

Industrialization and capitalism have commodified meat as an essential food source in the current world economy. Modern societies remove humans from the hunter-gatherer mode of production through mass producing foods, using industrial farmhouses, establishing supermarkets and more. Commodity fetishism, in the neoliberal food regime, removes the production process from the meaning of meat. By critically examining the evidence and arguments that have been presented about the role meat-eating has played in human evolution, this paper will critique the link between capitalism and ecology in the “‘meatification’ of diets” (Weis: 4). Meat is produced in surplus yet yields global gaps in consumption; considering world ecology theory, the dominant food system has transformed human production of meat and manifested issues of bioaccumulation and food insecurity.

As closely related primates, humans and chimpanzees share similar genomes, digestive patterns and, in turn, diets. Apes generally share the same basic gut anatomy, enabling connections to be made between transitions in diet and anatomy. Palaeolithic fossil records provide evidence of eight to ten Drypopithecinae apes in Africa and Arabia of diverse sizes with “a frugivorous pattern of molar morphology”, similar to chimpanzees (Stanford et al., 1999). Researchers have studied ape diets over several decades concluding that chimpanzee diets are often “dominated by fruits” and yet, “obtain the protein-require[d] each day (Stanford et al., 1999). There is strong evidence for the sustainability of plant-based diets based on the ways in which apes consume vegetable material such as fruits, leaves, flowers, bark and vines (Milton, 1999). Studies of the dental makeup of australopithecines found most of the species to be frugivorous, while also consuming some insects, leaves, flowers, and other plants (Stanford et al., 1999).

Modern chimpanzees are known to have harvested insects for consumption; considering this, early hominids most likely consumed invertebrates as a primary source of protein. Apes consume invertebrates and, more rarely, vertebrates; therefore, McGrew suggests, issues of food insecurity could be fixed by replacing mammal meat consumption with invertebrates, for nutritional importance (Stanford et al., 1999). Meat-foraging is a debated concept among the evolution of chimpanzees and hominids; some researchers claim meat was not sought but rather “opportunistically” consumed while others claim primates “search for meat during plant food foraging- after the advent of efficient bipedal locomotion” (Stanford et al., 1999). Research suggests that over time, larger, middle Miocene apes most likely developed omnivorous tendencies, however, an evolutionary change in size may have attributed to a hunger for meat.

This is an examination of diets and dietary transitions among primates including recent hominids, gibbons, and pongids together with extinct ancestral and related forms. A taphonomic study of the BK4b (figure 1 and 2), in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, provides evidence of hominin consumption of megafauna, at least 11,700 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene age (Dominguez-Rodrigo et al., 2014). Hominoid diets have historically been generally “omnivorous with the strongest leaning toward the vegetable side” (Milton, 1999). Megafauna, refers to large mammals during the Pleisotene age who frequented BK4b, most likely due to water resources. The archaeologist, Foley, states that significant evolutionary and ecological shifts resulted in the evolution of Homo ergaster, about 1.9 to 1.4 million years ago, adapting “to an increase of meat in the diet” (Stanford et al., 1999). Archaeologists consider the “consumption of megafauna -[as] a significant evolutionary event” ; the site, BK4b is considered an important site for both hominids and carnivores during this time (Dominguez-Rodrigo et al., 2014). The site accumulated large amounts of raw materials, suggesting “thorough defleshing and demarrowing of megafaunal remains” (Dominguez-Rodrigo et al., 2014). According to the taphonomic evidence, “as indicated by the number and size of individuals butchered”, the amount of meat consumed at this site was greater than any other during this time (Dominguez-Rodrigo et al., 2014). An incomplete phylogenetic tree leaves room for critical analysis of varied dietary transitions.

Human dietary origins cannot be traced back to one species nor time or place. Studying cut marks of the ancestral East African hunter-gatherer tribe, provided evidence of “Hadza meat eating-1.75 million years ago-[from] both hunt[ing] and power scaveng[ing], butchering the carcasses selectively and transporting them to favored central locations for consumption” (Stanford et al., 1999). The Neandertals settlement and patterns of meat consumption have been documented at Kebara Cave in Israel and elicit the question of whether hunting behaviour was similar to the “anatomically modern H. sapiens” (Stanford et al., 1999). As nomadic hominoids expanding through various continents, survival was priority and intrinsically related to diet and nutrition. Paleolithic Homo sapiens, from 250,000 years ago in Europe and the prehistoric continental landmass of Europe and Asia, both hunted and scavenged for food (Stanford et al., 1999). Meat consumption provided high-fat and protein-dense components important for balanced primate diets.

Hominids gathered larger amounts of nutrition from environments with the use of food processing and tools. Archaeological excavations of stone tools suggest hominids manufactured ways to capture prey and consume scavenged carcasses (Stanford et al., 1999). Hominoids began consuming meat in order to satisfy nutritional requirements, incorporating a portion of animal  matter to a primary diet of plant-based foods. A study on the preparation of meat for hominoid consumption considered the density of muscle tissue and the strength required to chew the product (Zink et Lieberman, 2016). Low-crested (bunodont) hominoid molars, where the cusps are low and rounded rather than sharp, challenge the consumption of meat (Zink et Lieberman, 2016). For example, “chimpanzees reportedly spend approximately 5–11 h chewing small (~4 kg) animals” (Zink et Lieberman, 2016). Figure 3 provides Zink et Lieberman’s table, estimating the number of chews required depending on the ways in which the meat was masticated. Observations of chimpanzees suggest that hominoids may have used rocks to pound, grind and tenderize foods, in order to masticate meat. Prior to the manufacturing of tools, flakes of stone could have effectively been used to “slice meat-remove skin, cartilage, rinds, and other mechanically demanding tissues,” so it would be more feasible to share and consume (Zink et Lieberman, 2016).

Plants provide a substantial amount of energy for hominoids, however, an increase in meat consumption is considered to have fuelled the initial moderate increase in the size of early humans about 2 million years ago. A study by Elliot and Barclay-Smith comparing the anatomy of hominoid guts found that it is structured similarly to a herbivore rather than an omnivore (Milton, 1999). Omnivores and herbivores cannot process all of the required daily energy, as well as protein and other essential nutrients from meat, whereas, carnivores differ, with a gut and digestive physiology structured to process it all (Stanford et al., 1999). Similarities between the human and ape colon give prominence to the claim that human ancestral lines were more often herbivorous (Milton, 1999). According to Milton, “hominids overcame the constraints of relatively inefficient digestive apparatuses among the hominoids by turning to meat in increasing amounts” (Stanford et al., 1999).

Consumption of aquatic animals in addition to scavenged carcasses may have provided large amounts of nutrients, causing evolutionary adaptations. The size of the hominoid gut has undergone some modifications as changes occurred in an encompassing environment, impacting the diet (Stanford et al., 1999). However, the amount of meat consumed among early hominins remains unclear, especially before cooking was commonly required. Over time, meat consumption impacted the reduction of the jaw muscle and size of teeth, which evolved “by the combined effects of eating meat -[that is] mechanically process[ed]” (Zink et Lieberman, 2016). Decreases in facial and dental size increased other functions including speech production, locomotion, thermoregulation, even changes in the size and shape of the brain (Zink et Lieberman, 2016). The changing forms of hunting, scavenging, and the uses of meat in light of recent data and modern evolutionary theory are still limited. Paleoanthropologists continue to uncover the unique adaptations of the hominoid diet and anatomy which impacted the transition from early ancestors to modern humans.

Human ancestors evolved to consume meat where ripe fruits and leaves were not available throughout the year (Stanford et al., 1999). Hominoids ate plant-based foods as primary energy sources and accessed meat in order to consume the amino acids and micronutrients required in large amounts. Although many archaeologists claim the “incorporation of animal matter into the diet played an absolutely essential role in human evolution” (Stanford et al., 1999), it is vital to consider that sources of plants, particularly cooked starches, also contributed to the increase in brain size. Archaeologists, scientists and political-economists have popularized and de-politicized meat consumption culturally while increasing its domination in the modern world market.

Considering the hunter-gather diets common among animals like chimps and bonobos, it is important for humans to be critical of the ways in which we assemble or accumulate food to consume. From an evolutionary perspective, a “healthy” human diet would be similar to earlier, traditionally consumed hominin diets in which meat, fat and a variety of natural foods are balanced. Evidence for the diets of the homo species including but not limited to Homo erectus suggests the use of stone tools with animal bone debris, marks on the tooth enamel/bone, and the skeletal form indicating functioning wear patterns from chewing. The current global food system as monopolized by industrial corporations have made drastic changes to our diet that make meat, grains and even fruits more dangerous in production, distribution, commodification and consumption. Capitalistic systems of accumulation have appropriated the means of “hunting” and “gathering”, furthering the domination of “market value” in which goods are exchanged.

The creation of the nation-state led to global, industrial and technological innovations that transformed the human diet. Colonialism corresponded with the establishment of food systems; “the first regime was constructed during British world economic dominance from about 1860-1914″ (Winders:27). Food resources have been commodified through socio-political organizational forms and the ideology of neoliberalism structures policies that “advocate privatizing and reducing government spending on public services, removing regulations that constrain markets and eliminating trade tariffs in order to promote economic growth” (Harvey 2005; Alkon and Mares 2012) (Weiler et al, 2015). Food has become a commodity, its cost and processes of supplement are far from the notion of free.

Fordism and Post-Fordism caused norm shifts and currently enforce neoliberal regulation, dominance of agribusiness multinational corporations, biotechnology for expansion, and the naturalization of supermarkets that further us from our hunter gather ways. By the 1980s, America came to dominate the neoliberal food regime and determine human access to food by state control, corporate power, biotechnology (genetic manipulation of food, etc) and the market (Otero: 26). The human diet is controlled by “an overarching global system that governs the production, trade, and consumption of food and agriculture [which]-includes the rules, regulations, policies, and norms that are created by national governments, as well as international agreements, institutions, and organizations”(Winders: 25).  America monopolizes all of the high ranking global food and beverage processing firms.

Unhealthy foods are commodified and marketed to low-income, racialized families (Otero: 146). Modern mass-production of food has resulted in a “growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases associated with the spread of unhealthy western diets (Cordain et al. 2005; Sherwood et al. 2013)” (Weiler et al, 2015). By implementing neoliberal regulations, humans have “generated contemporary health crises (Plahe et al. 2013)” (Weiler et al, 2015). Although evolutionary effects of the human diet are natural, capitalism has “conflat[ed]- the meaning of development with increased consumption” (Weis: 71). Guthman examines the ways in which “socially constructed notions of what’s normal-and ‘natural’” (Guthman, 43), in tangent with class, impacts access to energy-rich foods for low income families (Otero: 17). Food, especially meat, has been stratified by the neoliberal classification of basic and luxury products.

Prior to the modernization of nation-states, hominins combined foods that could be found in nature. Industrial innovations include “new canning technologies, refrigeration, more extensive rail networks, and faster steamships” that result in ecological harm (Weis: 64). The neoliberal markets’ “elevation of animal protein went on to infuse both class and nationalist aspirations in the modern world” (Weis: 64). Chicken is an important meat as it is increasingly mass produced as the neoliberal meat; technological innovations seek to increase [how much]- animals yield flesh, eggs and mike (Weis: 99). These farm animals, regarded as assets, live through “intractable problems which include weakened circulatory, musculoskeletal, respiratory and immune systems – and having reproductive difficulties” (Weis: 125). Humans consuming cheap meat also encounter “heightened risks of obesity, cardiovascular disease and other diseases of affluence” (Weis: 136) . “Livestock production is responsible for-GHG emissions-[which] ranks among the largest causes of climate change of any economic sector” (Weis: 134). Meat is accredited to high nutritional value without consideration for health risks involved in diets involving high consumption of meat or processed and packaged meats that have been genetically modified.

The transition of natural or fresh food to processed has normalized the consumption of pesticides, refined sugars, and genetically modified foods. There is a strong separation between nature and food, wherein the foods consumed are highly processed, packaged and to be bought.

The social organization and production of food has divided land, resources and labour from the product and its consumer. In addition, agricultural businesses’ use “inorganic fertilizers” (Weis: 110) and exploit biological processes for industrial and other purposes that “serve- to greatly accelerate the loss of soil organisms and nutrients” (Weis: 101). Hominin diets would include a variety of meats, seafood, fruits, plants, nuts, eggs, insects, mushrooms, herbs, and spices. Although many consume these foods in the modern day, humans are often not hunting or gathering as much as walking into a supermarket to purchase it. Access is monetarily determined; “the [neoliberal food] system enfolded meat in a heavy veil that severed the commodity from its animal being” (Weis: 69). Rather than having the autonomy and agency to seek, gather, hunt and consume foods, the notion of a healthy diet is increasingly inaccessible to humans over time.

Evolution is an ongoing, unfixed process of biological adaptation, in which hominoids encounter internal and external diversification as well as development. Ancestral hominoids adapted to a variety of environments that have undergone changes in biodiversity, climate and more. It is evident that the consumption of cooked meat, as well as the development of tools and techniques to acquire as much food as possible, resulted in human adaptations in anatomy as well as social cognition. It is not conclusive whether meat alone resulted in biological adaptations such as increase in brain size as many factors, including measures of food preparation, may have been conducive to such transformations. Over 3 million years, massive transformations in world ecology took place as hominoid ancestors transformed into modern humans. The role of meat-eating has been overtly emphasized in human evolution and the modern, neoliberal food regime encourages the consumption of meat for capital accumulation. The combination archaeological research with the critical analysis of political economy could demystify the protein hierarchy that regards meat as essential to the human diet.

The Feminist Standpoint @ SFU

Sexism does not occur in a vacuum, instead it interacts with many forms of oppression that expand over social and psychological realms. The place from which we view the world determines what we focus on as well as what we do not yet know. Gender roles have been socially constructed to be binary, however, there is no ‘concrete’ woman’s experience. Gender interlocks with many existing ideologies that have encoded forms of oppression. Standpoint feminism considers women’s experiences as the point of departure, wherein, women socially construct their world through a process of socialization. Marxist theories regarding societal inequalities like class between the proletariate and bourgeois generated distinctive accounts of nature and social relationships. Each individuals social designation in a capitalist system determines their power, access and control of knowledge. Nancy C. M. Hartsock uses historical materialism to analyze the ways in which cultural, ideological and political practices are gendered.

Standpoint theory explores how knowledge and privilege operate in contemporary society for further “understanding and opposing all forms of domination” Last Friday, me and a number of students gathered at convocation mall in support of the Unist’ot’en and Wet’suwet’en peoples. Sundance Chief Ruben George addressed us, encouraging us to educate people about the ongoing colonial oppression of Indigenous Canadians and need for environmental conservation. It was a walk out in solidarity with the nations, against the use of land for corporate resource extraction and the use of force against people protecting their home. The Teaching Support Staff Union, as a non-hierarchical, feminist, direct democratic trade union, organized the event, and although it was spearheaded by a woman, it was the men that wound up controlling the rest of the day. Two men led the crowd in a march through the university, momentarily disrupting the AQ, shouting phrases like “No pipelines, no way, not ever, not today”. We went up to Andrew Petter’s office, most of us did not know what to expect when one of the men leading the march decided to speak with the receptionists. The woman organizing the event stayed behind as the male student took lead. We entered the room hoping to speak with Petter about Simon Fraser’s commitment to decolonization when we were met with the Vice president O’Neil who said Petter was off-campus and that he was not authorized to make a statement. The two female receptionists looked up at the pale male authority figure, who smirked down at the students holding blind faith in radical approaches to making change. A number of issues were brought up regarding tuition increases, the recognition of the colonizer Simon Fraser, the destruction of fossil fuels and continued exploitation of the university as an institute for innovative shifts but was met with patronizing dismissal. The woman who spearheaded the event rarely spoke up as most of the men in the room took up space. The gender dynamics between the two men leading the march and the woman organizing the event, as well as, the two receptionists and O’Neil, display “the sexual division of labour between men and women”. Epistemic authority differs to dominant forms of power that negotiate ones privilege and knowledge within the given place and time.

Yesterday, the woman who organized the walk out updated the group, explaining that Andrew Petter did not reach out by phone call. Instead, she received an email follow up on the request to meet with the President to discuss the matters outlined on Friday. They claimed to be actively looking for a date and time for the meeting and will follow up with some options for the meeting even though some staff have rumoured that the president has gone to India. From the standpoint of a racialized minority that is cis-gender presenting and passing, I experienced these events with hyper vigilance because the “position of women is structurally different from that of men, and – the lived realities of women’s lives are profoundly different from those of men”. Although I have strong opinions, I feared expressing them outside of the collective shouts through the academic quadrangle, I could not imagine speaking up to the vice president as he cynically smiled back. The material life on campus operates through several functioning structures that are each limited by the involved social relations. A student, teach assistant, staff member and board member will each live a material life that is structured in fundamentally opposing ways. Social ideologies like race and gender also create different visions or representations, and the “vision of the ruling class (or gender) structures the material relations in which all parties are forced to participate, and therefore cannot be dismissed as simply false”. There are several consequences of oppression in my example. According to standpoint feminism, “an engaged- understanding of the oppressed, [and]- adoption of a standpoint exposes the real relations among human beings as inhuman”. Legitimizing, perpetuating and benefiting from gender ideology asserts the interests of dominant patriarchal groups rather than resisting the oppression of minorities.

Commenting on Christie Blatchford’s Reconstitution of Binary Gender Roles

Gender’s fluidity has gained movement through the discourse of cultural properties in accordance to time and space, however, symbolic exploitation in advertising and news alter existing social tensions of masculinity and femininity. Feminine and masculine ideologies have spurred a fixed idea of gender as a natural, binary concept rather than a social construction. A National Post article written by Christie Blatchford entitled, “There may be toxic men, but traditional masculinity is quite glorious” failed to address the controversial Gillette commercial. This woman has several problematic perspectives that can be seen as detrimental to the concept of democracy in Canada. The notion of masculinity has remained fairly static wherein it is characterized by power that may take the form of financial superiority, physical muscularity, sexual dominance and, or power over women. This discourse analysis will consider the history of ideas relating to gender, tracing patriarchal knowledge systems that have held power and informed thinking through specific periods in time.

The article headline and lead validate gender as a dichotomous discourse, in order to justify Gillete’s controversial advertisement regarding toxic masculinity. Blatchford’s statements are organized in a systematic way to maintain the pertinence of compulsory heteronormativity in Canada. Heteronormativity is the notion that people fall into simple, dichotomous gender roles natural to biological sex—it further ensures biological regeneration by denying the validity of queer sexualities. Dichotomous or binary thinking refers to the categorization of ‘whole’ concepts into two parts. This is the conflation of the male sex with the evolving ideology of masculinity as belonging to the same group. The headline acknowledges the existence of “toxic men” and separates the group of men from “traditional masculinity”. This reconstitutes the erasure of trans-inclusivity and female empowerment which was the preferred hegemonic meaning of the Gillette commercial as well as the Me Too Movement. This article overlooks the minorities that were tokenized the corporate marketers who intended to exploit minorities for the increased consumption of their commodities.

The word ‘traditional’ forms Blatchford’s enunciative position on the gender role as an inherent identity that has been established over a long period of time, and has become familiar or customary. However, ‘traditional masculinity’ makes it seem as though this gender identity is conventional or has been accepted when, in reality, gender is fluid rather than mutually exclusive to sex and sexuality. The term ‘gender’ has been used to inaccurately associate behavioural, psychological and social roles with females and males. “Traditional” feminine and masculine discourses are androcentric, in which the male represents both the positive and neutral sex or the standard individual while the female body represents the negative, deviation or variation from the standard. Claiming this role to be “glorious” makes “traditional masculinity” a real, tangible identity rather than ideology. Foucault’s discourse analysis deconstructs divisive power dynamics and the formation of each theoretical concepts that generate new hypothesis’. Blatchford constructs a wider gap between gendered rhetoric and the inferiority of women in writing that, “the men behaving well are why I like the Gillette commercial so much: It shows how the men I know always have behaved, which is why I love them, I guess”. This dismisses the real violence against women who are not only taught to behave a certain way, but also internalize values and ultimately come to surveil themselves.

The gendered roles of man and woman have changed over time, along with the status and privilege involved within the binaries. Discourses are used to set norms and judge behaviours; although acts of sexual harassment, assault and rape are closely linked to power and domination, Blatchford separates this toxic behaviour from traditional masculinity. Masculine identities have been represented as instruments of power and control in Western society. Popular images and characterizations of heterosexual men take up space in physical size, strength, voice and use of violence. Power and privilege are not distributed evenly across race, ethnicity, gender, age, class, or sexual orientation. Masculine identity dominates femininity, making it the inferior gender identity with negative implications for gender conforming and nonconforming individuals in contemporary society.

“living, actively”

One of my previous counsellors spoke with a sense of hesitation when the conversation topics turned unexpectedly darker than she expected.  She was a graduate student still learning to mask physical and emotional responses to the things her clients shared. I almost liked it better that way since she was honest, and didn’t jump to conclusions, suggesting I’m “textbook borderline personality”. She never questioned my validity and so I trusted in her. However, I haven’t seen her since April because she had to take her maternity leave. For 6 months now, I’ve been in and out of counselling, failing to find a practician who fits well for me.

WOC seemingly do not exist in the spaces I have sought help which has been incredibly disappointing. I’m sorry I don’t feel comfortable trusting a woman who claims I am “as beautiful and fragile as an orchid”-I do not need to be dehumanized any further than I have been. Nor do I feel comfortable with her pale female saviour antics, claiming to be my “fertilizer”. And I definitely won’t feel comfortable expressing my discomfort if she is faking crying, taking up my time. I’m bitter and I finally know I have every right to be. If all my failed counselling appointments have taught me anything, it’s that, counsellors can be such great actresses if they were to pursue a career in the arts.

Feeling aimless about counselling, I decided to try a chakra opening a couple months ago. Both sessions I experienced were unexpectedly effective; awakening my core so I could breathe through my respiratory system rather than drawing short inhales and exhales. I have been surviving for so long, I never really practiced living. It may sound dramatic but life generally has been. For the first time in at least a decade, I’ve gone 3 months without experiencing daily suicidal ideation. I am still dealing with depression and anxiety – my sense of security continues to dwindle in the air, pushed and pulled by unstable finances, relationships, opportunities and resources. I’m not exactly going to counselling and no longer taking medication. Right now, I am just trying to hone in on stability from within, by staying connected to my core and practicing my breath… (also work, babysit, volunteer, ace four seminars, research, write, paint, hike, camp, socialize, lfkajg;i.hz;sdj.ckFA>VK)

emerging inner divergence

My story unfolds as I take control of the narrative
Piecing together experiences
as though I were a garage sale puzzle set
slightly worn
incomplete and torn
commodified
capitalized
and casted off
i take back ownership
clinging onto my authority
as if it could slip out of
my fingers
strung onto my palm
limbs linked without appendage
moving motionless
patronized
globalized
sexualized
my body,
out of harmony
the ink that one stained has faded away
each piece grows faint
yet i remain
alienated
silenced
othered
by a forethought
a viable depiction
within a realm of lies
a demoralizing illustration
the fine-tuning of power
enforcing order
upon the racialized
minoritized
exploited and abused
i refuse
their conception
their misinformed perception
as this is my inception
i am no longer simply
exotified
objectified
nor oppressed
as much as i am
politicized
my narrative;
my own portrayal to demystify
through existing actively
gripping onto autonomy
my story; my body
and the  signified 

defragmentation

The beauty of nature is in its resilience. Every tree conforms to its surroundings, every harsh winter and dry summer deteriorates its exterior, and yet, it grows. Rigid, outermost walls branch out to further nurture its inherent environment. Trees are just like us, they bend and break, they’re used and abused. Often ignored, dismissed despite their vitality. Mother nature, indeed. But they keep on living.

The oldest living tree is a Bristlecorn Pine (Balfourianae) in California-over 5000 years old. Wikipedia reports it to be “highly resilient to harsh weathers and bad soils”, (just like us) they just keep on trekking on. These trees are resinous enough to deter desiccation, harmful bacteria or insect, fungi, and general pest invasions. It’s brilliant how evolution, as the natural cycle of life, has made it so existence is ensured through genome development and reproduction. The ways in which ‘nature’ has evolved,in Eurocentric countries, into an ideology rather than reality terrifies me. I look around at the trees, bodies of water, squirrels, loons, bats, fish, crows, raccoons and people amidst campgrounds or hiking trails -and I often still feel extreme disconnection. I shouldn’t be here; in a city trying to hold onto what’s left of nature, in a country thriving on capitalist connections, in a world ordered by globalized neoliberal thoughts. It’s easy to spiral downward when you’re already laying flat, on the ground.

There are a number of trees and plants alike that take longer than expected to sprout into its truest form. The Himalayan Lily plant is magical, more magical than I could ever be at around 3 metres tall. Funny thing is- this plant grows as a clump of glossy leaves for about 7 years before flowering into the crimson streaks, fading into its overpowering, iridescent, white petals. Somewhat tragically, this beauty (Cardiocrinum giganteum) begins decaying slowly once the bulbs have all bloomed into lilies. I’m often tangential but this post may be the worst of it. I’m pretty high, somewhat emotional after coming down from dropping M and drinking last night-but this is going to make sense. We’re all trees or pretty much plants is all I was saying, which is to say as humans, we are all thriving to survive in whatever situation we were born into. It’s what we make of it that matters, I knew that but I didn’t believe it up until now.

I know the lily did not refuse to bloom, it takes its time as it naturally would. I did not refuse to live, but, for so long, I have actively lived for others- putting everyones needs before mine; so much so that I lost my self-consciousness. I could not articulate nor even understand my emotions. Events and experiences, people and places can be silencing, but as long as you keep your mouth shut, you are no longer heard. It takes time to let go, it takes time to reclaim the power trauma holds over the body, mind and soul. Everything has it’s natural progression, no shame in how long one takes to discover mindful introspection.

This year of stable spaces, minimal socialization, constructive relationships, experimental psychedelics, chakra openings, and honest communication has been so good for me. One month ago, I would not have recognized how suicidal I have been over almost the last decade. Neither how immobilizing my self-destructive habits have been. They are a result of neglect, poor interpersonal communication, abandonment, and physiological trauma. No one individual is at fault as we are all born into a system that inherently oppresses, services or exploits us. As much as I love the Himalayan lily for its domineering yet fragile aesthetic, I relate more to Balfourianae’s scabrous stump, serrated pine and corrugated roots.

I have been surviving but now, I am choosing to live. My heart still beats to pump iron deficient blood through my tiny head, imbalanced ears, injured shoulder, crooked spine, aching joints and hot feet. I will not bloom for a moment and wither away, I’ll withstand natures extremities-what do white people say? A little bit of dirt won’t hurt? *dirt*