Wendy Cheng previews my upcoming book: Dream of the Water Children

cloyd - COVER - FINAL -v2

A Black-Japanese Amerasian reflects on life in the present, with the traces of wars and their aftermaths. 2Leaf Press is pleased to announce the publication of Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s first book, DREAM OF THE WATER CHILDREN, MEMORY AND MOURNING IN THE BLACK PACIFIC, in June 2016. In Dream of the Water Children, Fredrick Kakinami Cloyd delineates the ways imperialism and war are experienced across and between generations and leave lasting and often excruciating legacies in the mind, body, and relationships.

READ The Preview Here:   http://2leafpress.org/online/preview-dream-of-the-water-children-wendy-cheng/

Great POST by Mauro Sifuentes – Defining from where we are speaking

My colleague on his blog, has written a very straightforward piece, defining some terms.  When reading posts and comments, those of us who have invented/invested time, energy and commitment into the techniques of oppression that we and others practice as individuals, communities, groups, organizations, nations, etc., it cannot be taken for granted that we are speaking about the same things in the same way.

Especially terms that are ‘loaded.’  The issue is that when people bring certain words up, there are shields and defenses and attacks.  There is a wall that goes up.  When you, the reader, are reading my posts, please understand that all language has underpinnings and differences and purposes, no matter how ‘common’-sounding.

So Mauro Sifuentes has done a fantastic job in presenting what I feel/think/understand to be what I am speaking of when I talk about racism, for instance.  Other ‘ism’ terms are similar.  The issue is how our ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ emotions about these things, work to protect ourselves from being ‘bad’ and therefore not dealing with how it works as a STRUCTURE, not ‘inside’ like some kind of cancer.  That is the common psychological language that keeps people in denial about how the structure is what we live within, through, with, as, and also in resistance to these ‘ism’-forms in various ways and amounts and intensities.

People who have been a target of isms, and have experienced more violence, and/or have seen it expressed upon others through physical, emotional, institutional, legal, military, and other ways in which violence is transmitted, will feel more urgency.

There are many factors in the maintaining of oppression that we practice everyday ‘without meaning to.’

Being mobile, being ‘good,’ equalizing, making people feel good, charity, and a whole host of other things have links to oppression (they aren’t necessarily maintaining, but play their part).  For example, being mobile–both physically and emotionally/mentally/spiritually, are conventient roads to escape and deny.  Being mobile is connected to privilege (some can move further and faster and easier than others due to socio-economic class/caste, race, gender, nation, etc.).

Individualism itself, embedded in individualities and corporate capitalism and western religious ideals, are also a factor in how racism and sexism and heterosexism, for instance, functions.  In other words— have we, as persons, grappled with how our individual sense of self, our individual lives and philosophies, are individualistic, or alienating, or isolating, or without history of community, etc.?  We are individuals, yes.  But individualism is not the same as individuality,  Individualism privileges American-centric, capitalist, community-destroying forms of relations.  Individuality is another thing altogether.

The issue of the ‘survival of the fittest’ in relation to science and progress, is very much an unquestioned aspect of the ignorance and escape from dealing with racism by the so-called ‘good’ people.  So the targets are sad, crazy, or cured through therapy.  The other end is that the targets are all equal to us and these are just isolated events that can just be taken care of with ‘don’t worry, be happy’ or with the understanding that an ism effects ‘them’ and not ‘me’ so I will feel sorry and do what I can for ‘that friend’ or ‘community’ but it really is their business and not ours.

One, and perhaps the most important point of Mauro’s posting, is forgetting and alive-ness.  Being alive is mere surviving when it is cut-off from history.  Our forgetting of where we’ve come from and the processes that create our current world is a primary reason why our lives are the way they are and increasingly smaller and smaller–personal joy and expression and comfort.  This fits in with the current state of the cultural malaise of the ‘meaning of life’ that has been trained into us in the United States, globalizing itself.  Colonialism plays out continually through us and our values.

They are not really ‘our’ values.  However, they are dependent on our forgetting the patterns and structures and powers that create our world and what we have to do or not do, survival, happiness, understanding and knowledge. Or not.

Understanding is the first open light towards change.

Here is the link to Mauro Sifuentes’ post:  Turning Our Backs On History: Internalized Racism and Class Oppression

JERO ジェロ – Performs 晴れ舞台 in San Francisco, April 2011

I cried this past weekend, from seeing and hearing the African-American singer JERO in San Francisco on the night of April 8th at the Mini-concert he gave for the Hapa Japan Conference held at UC Berkeley.

I cried because of one song in particular called “Harebutai.”  This song, which can be named “Gala” but has the concurrent meaning of a Performance Stage that is a wide-open, sunlit, clear sky.  Please refer to my earlier posting which addresses who Jero is, in the history of traditional Enka music in Japan.  He is a huge star at present, in a genre that was relegated to the dust-heeps of Japanese music history, as something passe.  Much like how we treat elders increasingly everywhere, Japan–even as people like to think of it as a nation that reveres elders, is increasingly forgetting and with this forgetting goes history.

Jero performs this song, dedicated to his grandmother, with a sensitivity that records an inter-generational intimacy, where he wants to acknowledge the painful past in Japan (and also in the present) that Japanese women endured, when marrying western men, and in particular, African-American men.  Like my own mother who protected me often from racist brutalization in Japan when I was growing up, the hardships that these women, our mothers and grandmothers endured, are ‘forgotten’ because they are too traumatic and unacknowledged by most of our young.  with it goes knowledge and history that could help us, as human beings, get through our struggles with race, sexuality, socio-economic class and gender relations, among other violent hierarchies of identity, that continue to determine much of our social relations, silences, rage, grief, and international politics, not to mention how these are reflected in our family and communal dynamics.

I cried when I experienced this song.  At the evening get-together after the day’s conference events, Jero was there, offering his quiet, gentle, yet strong presence.  I had the opportunity to tell him that he was living out my own dream as a dark-skinned singer in Japan, considered ‘foreign,’ singing the Enka music which kept me alive and comforted through many dark times in Japan.  These songs, often of sadness and longing, are soulful for me, of my generation, growing up as outsider in Japan.  In addition, the song “Hare-butai” was written by Nakamura Ataru, for Jero, with Jero’s thoughts and sentiments regarding his singing as a way of an offering to his deceased grandmother, who did not get to see him perform on the ‘Kouhaku Utagassen’ show that runs every New Years’ Day in Japan since the Postwar era, celebrating the best of Japan’s popular singing stars.  This show is a testament to artists who have ‘made it’ in Japan and Jero’s grandmother would’ve been proud.

I have included my version of the English translation of the lyrics to 晴れ舞台   “Harebutai”.  You can see get a glimpse of honoring and care and inter-generational respect that has gone into this song.  It is no wonder that folks like me, and especially the older women of that generation alive today, cry upon hearing this song.  It is healing.  And even those of the younger generation now, who had forgotten about the Enka and considered it stupid, are now listening.

Jero’s popularity is not only that he is such an anomaly as a race and nation outsider, who has now been considered legitimate as a singer in Japan, especially in a genre not dominantly considered “American,” ‘Modern” or “Black.”  His singing is actually outstanding and nuanced emotionally in perfect pitch.  His Enka singing is really really good!!  It is not just that.  He is also known for his good character.  But it is also true that many young people in Japan are increasingly identifying and admiring Blackness as a way to resist their homogenization into the general Japanese identity-systems and are creating fewer ways in which the youth of Japan can exist with difference.  This dynamic creates problems as well, because the notion of challenging racism is a fairly new aspect of reality that is only in its infancy in regards to dominant Japanese society.  Histories of racism are complex because of European race-science and its role in the rise of Japan as a nation that could be seen as legitimate by white societies in history, and also its relation to the tightly woven caste system that has ruled Japan for hundreds of years.

I give to you the song and translation with notes, of Jero’s song “Hare Butai.”   The Music video here, of the song “Hare Butai” is *NOT SUNG by JERO* but by a pretty good singer.  Because I could not find the music video of the song online, I have included this version (with the original music background) by another singer, to give you the song.  The other videos are of Jero’s performances, including the popular ‘hip-hop’ moves that are a part of his  Live performances.

“Hare Butai” was written by Ataru Nakamura for Jero, both of them contemporary singers in Japan.

The song’s composer is Ataru Nakamura, who writes beautiful melodies and lyrics from the standpoint of her marginalized and often brutalized experiences as an outsider in Japan as  a MtF (male to female) transsexual, especially during her middle and high school years.

Jero (Jerome White, Jr.) is a computer engineer/English teacher, African American and  Japanese, who decided to fulfill a promise to his deceased Japanese grandmother that he would perform enka – the traditional popular music of Japan – on the big stage.

When Jero performs this song in Japan, many people of my generation and older, especially mothers of the mixed-race children, or who were from poor families, for instance,  who went through the tremendous hardships in war-time and postwar Japan where generational experience was dislocated and displaced by forgetting, cherish this song and often cry openly.

Indeed, during the recent mini-concert Jero gave in San Francisco at the Hapa Japan Conference at UC Berkeley on April 8, 2011, I cried, and almost the entire row in the concert hall who could understand Japanese, cried when we heard this song.  As I have been working on publishing a manuscript about my relationship with my mother, as a mixed Black-Japanese boy being raised in 1950s Japan, I had begun to realize how much my mother has gone through in order for me to be able to live and how often women’s and other marginalized peoples’ and communities’ experience is relegated to the backroads of history.  In hearing this kind of song, there is a healing and inspiration.  I hope that other young people, who understand those whose backs we stand on, can take inspiration from Jero’s example.

Other videos to begin:  a Reuters introduction in English, of Jero and a video of his live performance, complete with the hip-hop a la Japan moves, of his Debut Hit “Umi Yuki” which means “Ocean Snow.”

Here is a Link to an Interview with him from the Discover Nikkei website:

http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2010/2/1/jero/

Live Performance of is DEBUT song "UMI YUKI"



Note on English translation of HAREBUTAI:

I have taken a bit of liberty with the translation to show the emotion that would be lacking in a literal English translation.  I have translated ‘Oira’ as ‘young-one’ or “ol’ me.”  It could be “Me—the young bumpkin” or something like this.  It is a term used by people in the informal form, and is a term used often by people in the rural areas of Japan to refer to “I” and “self” and “we” and “us.” It is a very intimate, tender term, most often used by youth.  So in other words, ‘oira’, all simultaneous include all meanings of Me, I, we, your children, your child, us young ones, we the outsiders, the younger generation, the forgotten generation or people (the rural people), little ol’ me, etc. in this context.

The Term “Hare” is also difficult to translate.  It is usually translated as ‘clear weather.’  It is used to refer to a sky that is blue and open and sunny (as opposed to a rainy day, cloudy day, etc.).  It connotes most adjectives in western languages that may describe the state of a clear blue, expansive, sunlit sky: unfettered.  I have translated it as “clear sunlit, but we must include all other qualities simultaneously: Sunlit, clear, expansive, cloudless, blue, bright, etc.

In Japanese language, much like many languages, the meanings are embedded in the words themselves, unlike dominant forms of English, for instance, where it must be ‘inferred’ or ‘alluded to’ as a ‘metaphor’ or ‘simile’ etc.  In Japanese, many of the words carry multiple meanings simultaneously.  Therefore, in my translation, I played with the many meanings to give more of the texture of the song in my own interpretation, rather than giving a literal translation, which is always contested when crossing languages, cultures, histories, etc.)

The below is a Link to the video of his performance of ‘Hare Butai’ at the Japan Society in New York City.

Remember:  This is *not* Jero singing the song, but is a well-done cover because I’ve not found this done by him in video online.

晴れ舞台

Gala  (The Clear Sunlit Stage)

(Expansive, unfettered, clear-blue/open sky Space-of-performance)

ジェロ

Jero

作曲:中村中
作詞:中村中

Lyrics and music by: Nakamura Ataru

Dark curtains open to a tonight that seems similar to the colors of the news of the world, opens once again

Every time when in the blinding light I cover my eyes, I remember that smile.

Even as I intend to converse with you about  the past, “I’ve forgotten” is all you’ve been left to say.

But Mama, we do know.

Bring it all here to ol’ me, Mama—all those forgotten pasts that

cry at night (like a burden) without even a light being lit.

Because for the kind gaze that you left behind in your homeland,

I want to show them my(our) form/ my (our) actions.

To see and then laugh listening to “The Echigo Jishi Song” so many times until

it’s worn out and torn.

Mama, because you laugh and say that only our songs are precious jewels

We young-ones can’t dilly-dally around.

Come on over here Mama, the dawn is close

It’d be great if you could see my debut, leaving it (for eternal posterity) on the clear sunlit stage.

The name that they announce while I bask under rays of the spotlights is

the name you’ve raised me with.

In place of the past you’ve long forgotten, Mama I’ll give room for your dreams.

Pretty soon the dark curtains will open.  Just you watch!, my form/my actions.

Sezen Aksu: the Queen/Diva of Turkish Pop

Sezen Aksu (July 13, 1954 -) is the quintessential diva extraordinaire, of Turkish pop.  She is the indisputable queen diva of the Turkish pop music scene.  ‘Pop’ music, now worldwide, through the effects of American colonization, always mixes with its locales to create interesting hybrid music that also carries certain themes that repeats throughout the world.  Songs of falling in love, songs of loving what or who we cannot have, separation and longing, devastation and pride, sorrow and joy.  Also, to dance our butts off.  Sezen Aksu’s unique, rough voice carries emotions that many in the Mediterranean are attracted to.  She has influenced pop music in the mediterranean nations, the Balkans and changed the annual Eurovision Music Context with her protege, Ertab Serener.  From the 1970s through today, and continues to break barriers.

She is particularly attractive to me in other ways, making me like her music more.  Her life has not been comfortable, although her fame and fortune has helped her.  She has married and divorced several times, something Turkish society does not like and in some cultures within the Turkish nation, divorcing is a taboo that the woman pays for the rest of her life (although this is not unique just to Turkish sub-cultures).  She has also married an Armenian, works tirelessly and speaks out vigorously for women’s rights and gay rights, and for the rights of the Kurds.  She has been allowed to stay out of jail, even though she has sung songs in the ‘illegal’ language of the Kurdish people, Zaza cultures, and Armenian people  in Turkey, and has co-sung with some of these groups’ popular singers, raising the eyebrows and bringing much-needed discussions at Turkish dinner tables.  She dares the powers that be, to let democracy work, and to love who we love, and for singers and all artists, to express and to live.

I present a nice classical-tinged with a bit of Astor Piazzolla-esque ballad, and a rocking dance song by her.  The remixes of her dance music have been done by hundreds of different musicians.  The dance song ‘Rakkas’ has become a perennial classic in Turkish pop culture and also internationally it is one of the most ‘mixed’ songs in dance clubs by DJs from Spain, Greece, the UK, India, Germany, Hungary to Japan.

Sezen Aksu: wikipedia

Sezen Aksu official site

Kıran kırana

Rakkas

Nation & Person – Bullying & Difference: The Bully Project

I am a person who has been bullied.  As a child in both Japan and the United States, I was the target of bullying.  Both of my parents were also targeted.  The imagined ideal, given to us by our cultures and societies, in the context of certain times, when certain things are happening, allow bullying as a fabric of  legitimizing ‘survival of the fittest’ memes that circulate as universal natural sciences, masquerading as social science as well.

We handle being targeted differently, according to severity, our personalities, the communities we live in or transition into, the time period and circumstances, as well as an effect that anyone hardly mentions:  accumulation.  Bullying is not just about a person or group targeting someone for their looks and/or behavior or race and other factors perceived as ‘go’ lights to offend and abuse, maim and kill spirits.  It is mixed with national and cultural histories as well.  It is usually repetitive because it is the relationship between dominant and subordinate.

As an example; in my mother’s case, she was born in China, then her family fled to Japan when she was little.  Her mother was assassinated by national Japanese soldiers.  My mother’s mother was Chinese and Austrian.  All non-Japanese in Japan in the late 1930s and early 1940s, were suspect and were mostly accused of being spies.  In Japanese schools and neighborhoods, under the fascist dictatorship of Tojo, the police were basically terrorists.  In addition, some people in every neighborhood would be branded ‘good citizens’ by being the neighborhood watch, reporting to authorities and being free to hold people and situations they deemed ‘un-national’ and unpatriotic.  Of course.  As one can guess from this scenario, the racism intensifies, legitimizing very harsh penalties for Japanese who even socialize with or are seen with a non-Japanese, much less being free to marry or whose parents and relations were from different nations and cultures.  This scenario also legitimates all sorts of lies and stories that could be made as a tool of power if one simply doesn’t like someone.  Someone may invent a sordid story which suddenly becomes more true and believable at this point, legitimizing violence.  This scenario, is not too different from other areas and times around the world, when the building of a nation rests on certain intensifications of racism and other forms of marginalizations including local stigmas, legitimating superiorities and punishments.

In addition, my mother experienced being bombed by the Americans and having an older sister killed in Hiroshima.  Another older sister of my mother’s committed suicide after social stigmatization.  She had been kidnapped and made a comfort woman for the Japanese imperial army.  My mother was bullied in elementary and junior high school in Japan, for being non-pure Japanese.  In high school, my mother became a bully, belonging to a band of girls feared at her school.  It is not that one decides, necessarily.  The circumstances warrant some response.  In any case, violence does not just go away.  It always has effects.

One can imagine this tender beautiful, funny woman who is my mother, at certain times, would become an ugly and scary, violent woman.  I would sometimes fear her as much as love her as a mother and confidant.  The fabric of all of our lives are made of this.  Those people who experience non-violence in the home, have most likely been shielded from the exploitative violences that have shaped privilege.  Privilege is sometimes un-thought, unspoken.  For instance, a Japanese woman who has experienced fascist governments, suicides, daily humiliations by classmates, abuse and being ordered around by a stepmother and older brother and is bombed by the Americans everyday and a host of other things, cannot be told to be peaceful and quiet and good.  While that is true, many Americans think that they should, while their families were the ones building the bombs and making the American war effort succeed without bombs to run from or fascist government dictates.  They have been told that the Japanese were bugs that should be smashed off of the face of the earth and that Japanese knew nothing of democracy.  It was a sham, a propaganda, a way to be superior.  The Japanese would also make stories of the Americans and this would keep the violence at a high level in both countries.  Whether one was a soldier or not, it doesn’t matter.  The racist hate-mails I receive in the present day, are not from former US soldiers in the World War fighting the Japanese.  People calling me ‘Jap’ and slant-eye that should die, often come from young people.  Their grandparents have passed it down.  There is a certain worldview.  It is politically incorrect so it is not around on postcards and bugs bunny cartoon shows, or in magazines as they were regularlyduring  the war.  The hatred is kept private, and comes out towards people like myself, unseen to others.  It is often a surprise to classmates and friends and sometimes those racist-carrying people would be defended and I would be labeled a paranoid lunatic who is making it up.  This scenario is one such generalized example of the legacy of racism and legitimate bullying and how it is carried forward.  It looks differently according to climate and circumstance, etc. but it is still there.  Other people have gone through changes about this.  In my mother’s case, being told to be ‘good’  by people who are in a privileged position in relation to the history between the Japanese and the Americans, the being told is a furthering of the bullying.  It already establishes a positioning in relation to violence.  The privileged who carry out the violence, then continues to tell people how they should act in relation to the violence?  This is violence as well.  My mother did not invent fascism.  She was a little girl in a country that was ruled by fascist leaders.  It was not pretty.  But neither was what Woodrow Wilson and the other bankers and corporatists and the military leaders of the US and England did, continuing to fabricate reasons to amass finances and resource-power through militarization and superiority over the Asian nations, attempting to colonize before the World War.

Bullying has many faces.  The inter-personal bullying is a part of how nation-states can become strong.  Bullying is a way in which we may choose ‘the strong’ over the weak.  The CIA recruits people who do not have feelings and who can carry out orders with a smile.  They know how to smile and be charming.  Being detached from compassion is a part of smiling and being charming.  They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  Some of the coldest and calculating people are the most charming.  Yet they are the quiet bullies.  Some are more overtly aggressive while others do it covertly.  Torturing is a learned thing.

In the movieThe Bully Project ( http://www.thebullyproject.com/_/Bully_Project_home.html) one notes in one of the stories that even after a youth kills himself, the bullies come to school wearing fake nooses around their necks as a furthering torment.  It is continuing fun.  It is not thought of as something bad or wrong.  There are smiles and laughter and joinings in. The school board continued to ignore it, because it was embarrassing to them.  They wanted it quiet.  The parents had fought long and hard and yet the school officials kept it hushed.  These parents, however, did not give up.  It is sad that so many of the parents of the other children (the majority), did nothing but listen to the speeches like it was entertainment, telling their children to stay away from the families of the bullied.  In this way, the institution, the school, condones the bullies.  It knew it was.

In doing anthropological/sociological research on prison systems, and the spread of US systems into Turkey and Japan, for instance, which I have done, it became clear how prison systems are related to bullying and the spread of military superiority.  Time and again, when interviewing prisoners and former prisoners as well as prison guards and interrogators, whether reading their accounts or interviewing them myself, that it was important that the military had those who are expert bullies who felt nothing in relation to perpetrating interrogations and torture.

Nowadays, in the television programs and the most popular movies, violent and malevolent speech and physical brutality as a way of communicating distaste and devaluing the other is commonplace.  Smartass comments are funny, even though it is often violent.  Often, nothing different can enter.  As much as we think that every individual makes their own decisions, every individual is in a different position in relation to violence, and depends on class, race, and behavior in relation to masculinity and femininity continuums, body motion techniques (do I walk right? eat right? talk right? etc.).  So the connection between violence, heterosexism and homophobia, patriarchy and militarism are very close in American society and most of the wealthier nations.  Most likely this is becoming more true as we speak, in a globalizing world, in the wannabe countries.  There is less diversity than ever before.  More violence in the world than ever before.  Why?

I want to applaud and support The Bully Project for being one of the strongest voices to speak to bullying and its connection to nation-state, masculinity and manhood, and the non-acceptance of difference.  If we cannot co-opt and/or recruit into our own fold, then we antagonize and destroy.  These are the only options increasingly in the globalizing system.  And we know there are most of us living, who fake it.  Then we wonder why we are depressed, seeing therapists, destroying our families, getting drunk and doing drugs all the time, having addictions, etc. etc.  I do not believe we need more drugs and therapists to cure.  These are social problems related to the violence that is our modern and postmodern cultures, constantly being created by either our actions or our inactions.

My mother turned to bullying for awhile, to combat being swallowed by bullies.  that aspect of her has not changed, even though she is no longer throwing her weight around in school hallways.  Others like myself, chose more silence.  However, later it caught up with me and I tried to take leave of this world.  It didn’t work. Suicide is an ultimate harm to oneself.  I chose other routes afterwards.  My father took the route of trying to assimilate.  As a Black man in the US, he wanted to be the fairest, well-spoken and educated, open-minded man and was truly a humanist.  But he gave up so much in order to be this.  And humanism has so many problems insofar as diversity is concerned.  And there are some things he does not understand because of it.  Short of accusing my father of being ‘white,’ how can we communicate through difference?  My father feels (at least the last few times we spoke) that all humans are alike with trivial differences.  His actions also speak to this philosophy.  My mother is the opposite.  She feels that people are very different and this cannot be reconciled and we have to live with it.

The Bully Project, which is a movie that shows the crisis in which US society shows itself in young people, yet is mostly ignored.  This Project addresses questions about what is legitimated socially and about community and nation.  How can a nation have nice and compassionate kids while everyday we know that bombs fall representing us, onto families who are not running governments, being killed as pawns of difference-equals-expendable?  All the moral preaching won’t work.  It is a lesson in hypocrisy and illegitimacy.  It is a lesson in the violent underpinning of Empire and nation-building.

The Bully Project is about all of us, whether we believe so or not.  Where do you stand? What do we do?

The Bully Project website:  http://www.thebullyproject.com/_/Bully_Project_home.html

No Bully website:  http://www.nobully.com/

“Beyond” as a problem in Race & Difference work

What are the effects of our truths? – Michel Foucault

There is a statement I hear often, when the topic is social issues having to do with racism, especially, but other social oppression and justice-related identity and relations issues as well.  I have a problem with this:  “let’s get beyond the race issue” idea.  I also have a problem with a statement that I see in the trailer for the new movie: Harimaya Bridge. I am very excited by the movie, don’t get me wrong about that.  But it won’t stop us from thinking about certain things, assumptions, worldviews.  So I want to make a few inter-related points about this.

So there is the line in the movie:  ‘there are there are more important ways to identify with people than color of skin”  or something to this affect.

Now these statements about ‘getting beyond’ skin color and ‘getting beyond’ the ‘race issue’ etc.  are very very dangerous weapons that continue the problem of accepting difference.  The statement above sound as if they are going toward peaceful relations, but are actually couching the very problem itself–that which brings the reality of assimilation and colonialism to the fore, and acted out through the processes of globalization, of course.  The gentrifications of identity.

This gentrifying of identity, of supposedly moving beyond race, is a way to say that race/ethnicity are trivial or superficial trappings that hide the real human being underneath.  Usually, this real human being, that is presumed to be what is being pointed to, that is beyond the difficulties of conflict, looks very middle class, and very materialistic, and very homogenized.  There is an assumption that globally, people are the same:  the same values, the same concerns, the same experiences, the same worldviews and the same way of doing things.  Of course the ‘differences’ are just slight–you know–the way ‘they’ cook and the way ‘they’ wear different kinds of clothes, and the way ‘they’ laugh, and the way ‘they’ do their different religion.  It’s all the same God in different clothes, it’s all the same food with different colors and tastes, it’s all the same underneath.

In this way, there is an assumption of sameness.  The reason this sameness seems more ‘real’ is that our world today, is systematically destroying the different.  Usually, the ‘different’ are the ones that make things seem ‘poor’ and ‘uneducated’ and ‘have different values than the good values of individual pursuit of happiness.’   Partha Chatterjee, in his book The Nation and Its Fragments’ speaks eloquently about the system through which our PRESENT ARRIVES.  The present is not eternal.  The present is MADE from the past.  The past is this moment in the next moment.  Do we understand this?  What you are reading right now, is the past.  I wrote this before you wrote it.  In two seconds, two minutes, two hours, two days, two months, two years, two decades–it is already the past once we have read it, once we have uttered it.  IN THIS PRESENT, what is happening?   So Partha Chatterjee mentions that much of modernization and Europeanization of the world, comes with the effect of the ‘extinction of the peasant.’   What do you think of this statement?  Although he is speaking to India and South Asian history in the context of postcolonial realities, that idea which he speaks to, rings true for the entire global movement.  It is our historical present.  We will medicate, urbanize, nuclear-family-ize, middle-class-ize, and make the whole world UNDERSTANDABLE to us.  The other things that we don’t understand, we are just baffled by, and this is not neutral.  If we are baffled by it,  we seek to change it into a ‘higher’ form–we analyze it from our OWN POINT OF REFERENCES  (i.e. — our own cultural/racial/gendered/ and class realities).  The more privileged we are, let’s say–an American or German or Japanese, or Australian, or any region where there are urban and corporate elites participating in the global market, the more we are willing to ‘lend a helping hand’ for those less fortunate.  In order to make them fortunate, they must enter the MACHINE of globalization and the market system in operation today.

The poor nations were made more poor with the structural adjustment policies that require AID–be it for floods, earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, war–be ATTACHED to stipulations and loans and ways of changing the local ways.  So in keeping with this analysis, we have to look at the ways in which we think of racism, sexism, classism, anti-semitism, heterosexism, and the various social oppressions through which our present realities are created.

Getting beyond, means that a person’s ethnic/national/cultural heritage, has nothing to do with skin color?  And is race about skin color?  In the middle class and elite global structure it is very much so but not completely.  If one is educated in Oxford UK, and speaks in a certain way and dresses in a certain way, then they are more apt to be invited to the big boy’s table.  The same goes true for ‘fair-weather liberals’ who pretend to love diversity.  Their friends may be Chinese, Korean, West African, Aborigine, Swedish, Argentinian, Cherokee, Algerian Bedouin, and Finnish, yet they are most likely very much in the same social class, and act in certain ways that are palatable, and perhaps with the same politics and socio-economic level that is evident.  How does urban street African-Jamaican develop in the light of the globalizing world?  Is it ‘their’ culture?  Oppression has very much to do with it.  What has been ‘allowed’ and ‘accepted’ by the dominant is allowed and accepted.  How can one get beyond that which is a history?  A history is not just a bunch of events of the past, no longer alive right now.  Everything has to do with everything.   So a person’s diverse friends are made to prop up someone’s self-image as a ‘good person’ who has a lot of ‘diverse friends’ and therefore he/she is not a racist right?  All of these friends may reject an urban street Latino or African-American or Vietnamese from the ‘other side of the town’ even though his views may be similar to the group of diverse friends.  Of course, we are not supposed to be friends with everyone.  This is not my point.  The point is:  What are we AVOIDING, refusing in our goodness?

Many of us read the many things that are going on in this world, to stay informed, and to critically reflect, and to read things we’re not comfortable with, in order to get the fuller picture.  Many of us do the opposite.  We read what we like, then we believe it to be true, and we ignore the rest.  In addition, we add moral judgement to it.  That’s good and that’s bad or that’s neutral.  But most of the time, we don’t know much about it.  We only know ‘our’ version.  We want to be oh so Good.  And in this being ‘good’ we stay away from what we think is bad.  We are told that certain things are bad.  The school textbooks and many of our teachers and our judges and the police and our corporate managers, and our social work institutions, have already pre-determined what ‘good’ is, and we follow it.  Then we create our own moralities.   So everything is self-evident.  Except that there are many things we have ignored and built opinions and truths about, and form conflicts and evasions and silence about, that may need to be looked at more seriously.

In getting ‘beyond’ something, what assumptions are being carried?  Racial differences are bad, apparently.  If we ‘get beyond’ our racial difference, then we are truly arrived at ‘human.’  This is a big problem with a certain way of looking at ‘human.’  I have had friends who think that everytime I bring up racial/ethnic differences in perspective, and the history of oppression that informs the views and the difference, to call me someone who is ‘bringing up the race issue.’   As if it was not something that SHOULD be brought up.  When it is brought up, what happens?  Conflict.  Perhaps discomfort. Why?  From those friends’ perspective, if I would’ve never brought ‘race’ up, then there would not be any conflict.  They are dead wrong.  There is already a DIFFERENCE.  The conflict happens when there is a REFUSAL on their part, to accept, acknowledge, ADMIT, be concerned with, and be an ALLY to what I bring up.  These ‘friends’ will not accept MY RACE and all it has to say.  Isn’t this right?  The issue is not that I brought up race.  The issue is that these people REFUSE the DIFFERENCE it brings from a supposedly KIND and BENEVOLENT UNIVERSAL human being which is the CORE, apparently.  This CORE HUMAN seems to have No History, No acknowledgements of the power relations that go into decisions and marginalization and empowerments, No differences acknowledged.  The conflict stems from the structure of their assumptions.  It is LOADED with racism, sexism, etc.   It is not that these friends are hateful, or evil, or not nice.  But at the same time it is about that.  IT is because they have chosen to go to the COMFORTABLE location and position of the Universal.

The Universal human being is a tactic of assimilation.  At any moment, after all the poor blacks and homosexuals and mixed race people and the poor white hillbillies and the poor starving Indians and Africans and the reservations and the chemically-bombed and malnutritioned people and all the others, have been successfully annihilated through complete assimilation, that is when they would come after something else for complete control and dominance.  In the mean time, all of us in the DIFFERENCE camp will be thought of as terrorists and nuisances.

So, I refuse to move BEYOND in order to be judged by whom YOU might consider me NORMAL, GOOD, WHOLE and complete as a universal human being which we supposedly are ALL trying to get to (manifest destiny & Christian cultural dominance in our thinking).  Progress, Evolution, change, getting better, being better, evolving, growing, maturing.   These words are great words that I think are helpful and can move us.  However, most of the time, the above words are used to assimilate, destroy, belittle, talk down to, ignore, refuse, forget, and to commit genocide ultimately.  Getting OVER and MOVING beyond are tools for us to oppress ourselves into becoming that which we desire.  We have been made to desire so that will LIVE a CERTAIN way, and to buy certain things.  Nowadays, we’re not thinking it strange that the very people who run the world have gotten us to drink bottled water without a peep.  NO, I refuse their idea of whom I should be.   That would be a SMALL PERSON in my book.  For you….too.  We can become much bigger, more just and more powerful as communities when we do NOT accept difference as CONFLICT. Difference is not the source of conflict.  REFUSAL and ignorance is.

At the same time, I will acknowledge that many people who have been through lifetimes of identities and positions that are ‘underclass’ in this world, no matter where we are, have chosen to want to BECOME the master.  When we do this, we take on many of the masters’ behavior.  We put down, we annihilate difference, we subjugate difference, we assimilate others we think are ‘lower.’

I hope that the success of this model of having us–more and more in this world–internalize the larger and globalizing colonization of the mind, would be deterred and we can change course.  WE may, if we take steps to think, reflect, and watch how we can become more honest with ourselves in a context where history and RESPECT for DIFFERENCE could be struggled with.  In this struggle, we must figure out how to make relations that are ethical and not continually demand everything we want all of the time.  THAT also comes from living in the present system.  Greed and DEMAND and isolation are brothers and sisters of internalized colonization.

Let’s not move BEYOND.  Let us move WITH, struggling to look deeply and to agree to a better world.  We cannot wait for those governing us.  And those governing us are creating new realities for us to be more dependent on them.  Look at our ravaged planet, which is rapidly becoming uninhabitable.  Let us work together WITH difference, to welcome struggle, and to also ask for ethics.

Partha Chatterjee information: http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/chatterjee/

Kabuki 歌舞伎 – the Great Bandō Tamasaburō 坂東 玉三郎

Kabuki 歌舞伎 is a traditional Japanese dance/theater performance art, enjoyed as an avante-garde (even as it was developed) form which developed gradually over various political scenarios into its present form.

Originally performed by both women and men, it soon began to be primarily performed by young men with physical beauty as well as women. In the middle 1600s, the shogun of Japan banned Kabuki because of riots due to the audience members fighting over beautiful men and women (there was no strong heterosexist exclusionary division of imagination at this time in history, much like the ancient Greek and much of the old Ottoman, Roman and Hasburg civilizations, as an example).

Soon women were banned from performing and cross-dressing male actors, raised from a very young age, became the primary performers of Kabuki. The style is highly stylized, bizarre, and nuanced. Many of the story-lines came from Noh theatre, Puppet-performance called Noh, as well as traditional kabuki-intended storylines. Famous poems of their times, song styles from popular and elite forms, and the various instruments from the different art-dance genres, sometimes began to crossover, depending on what the Kabuki performers and productionists wanted to project to the audience.

Kabuki art forms are meant to evoke from the audience, an emotional participation. Some call-outs by audience members during performances are common at certain quieter performances. Kabuki actors want concentration on the forms, gestures and every nuance of movement, and also be transported to another world, as opposed to remaining ‘audience’ members. In this way, much of Japanese kabuki performance, similar to Noh theater, is not a mere ‘watching’ but a participation through sensitivity to movement as much as the story-lines.

Kabuki performance was briefly banned by the US and Allied Occupying forces after WWII, but it was reinstated in 1947. This, coupled with the devastation of Japan after the war and its concentration on re-building, as well as many Japanese institutions and people rejecting many of their old ways, intensified the downslide of kabuki popularity. However, helped by booming interest in kabuki by European, Australian/NewZealand, and American fans, kabuki did not completely die out and has remained an important cultural genre. The best performers are revered and maintained as cultural icons, even if only a handful.

Wikipedia has an excellent overview of this art: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabuki

I have inserted two videos out of the complete 3 in the series to one of the handful of great living modern performers of Kabuki- Tamasaburō Bandō 坂東 玉三郎. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandō_Tamasaburō_V – followed by a short clip from an interview with him.

The videos are narrated quite wonderfully by Peter Griffith and are from an excellent series of DVDs of Tamasaburo’s performances. On the DVDs, the narration can be turned off if you want to just become engrossed in the performance. For understanding what is happening in the pieces, the narration is quite helpful. These other traditional Japanese arts DVDs and other materials can be found at:

Marty Grosse productions: http://www.martygrossfilms.com/index.html

Farside Music: http://www.farsidemusic.com/

After watching, we could, then, discuss what Judith Butler has talked about in relation to coercive gender, sexual orientation, performance, and their relationship with ‘reality’ as far as freedom, art, expression, cultural difference, pleasure and life.