No Hashtag For Me Today; Why #metoo Might Be Distracting Us From The Real Issue

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Mihai Surdu

If you are an active and avid internet user and you haven’t heard about the Harvey Weinstein incident, you must be living under some sort of electronic rock. People on the internet have taken this opportunity to talk about sexual assault, and the systematic oppression of the women due to the structure of the power in the society. I’m glad that people are paying attention to this problem, but I wish like many other internet issues this does not end as a superficial trend that fades and is replaced by the next one.

Parallel to the Weinstein news the online trend you’ve probably seen, #MeToo, has become a hot topic. The hashtag is circling around with the supposition that if all women who have experienced sexual assault and harassment used the hashtag it would show the scope of the problem. I have a question; is the knowledge about the scope of sexual assault the real problem?

Today on facebook I saw some old friends share #metoo. My hand trembled as I started wondering if I too should share the hashtag. But I did not; I told myself that I am not a fan of these social media bandwagons, that I’m not sure if any similar hashtag trends have actually had any positive effect for their cause. That I think the society is well aware about the scope of sexual harassment and assault, that posting a hashtag on twitter or facebook makes people feel good about themselves without taking positive action. Or perhaps it was ‘shame’ that hindered me, you never know with these things.

But there is so much to talk about when it comes to sexual assault; statistics about sexual assault and harassment are not trustworthy for many different reasons, and we all know that. But we also do not need these statistics to know about the problem or its scope. It’s not a new or newly discovered issue, the discourse of sexual assault and rape has been historically used for asserting control over women and their behavior, it’s nothing new. I think we are spreading awareness to help with this issue we need other types of awareness, one’s that help people take action.

A hashtag campaign dedicated to simply checking your name in the victims list will remind people about the problem but will not bring about useful change. I wish there was a hashtag campaign that would encourage speaking up for, and protecting those around us who are facing sexual harassment and assault. If anything the Harvey Weinstein case demonstrates how the power structure silences the assaulted and forces them into compliance. If no one was surprised about the incident, then the problem is not as much awareness but it’s about silence and inaction.

The #MeToo may break the stigma and give the ones who have suffered the courage to step forward, but I think what we really need is to teach people how to potentially support sexual assault targets in their surroundings. I do not even know what the correct protocol is,and I am eligible for #metoo, because we like to shut out the thought of such acts happening in our immediate surroundings. I believe that sometimes our reluctance to acknowledging that these things can happen around us can lead to questioning the claims of those who have suffered. This is what we need a trend for, a trend that brings us together and teaches us how to support each other.

Also it seems there is some fault with the neo-liberal capitalist system; it appears that assets, professional aspiration, and corporate hierarchy are big factors in people turning a blind eye. I do not have appropriate knowledge to deploy criticism in this aspect, but I feel that being a little anarchist, and creating local support communities could do wonders.

What would you do if you picked up signs of sexual assault from an acquaintance, a child, a coworker, a school friend, etc.? How do you think we can counter the silence that protects people like Weinstein?

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What I’ve been reading: Authority (2014)

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Photograph by:

John Hult

“What’s the last thing you remember doing in Area X?”
The answer, unexpected, surged up toward him like a kind of attack as the light met the darkness: “Drowning. I was drowning.”

Authority (2014) is the second  book in the Southern Reach Trilogy, and the story takes place after the events of Annihilation (2014). VanderMeer described the book as “an expedition into the Southern Reach(Spiegelman, 2014);  it is an expedition into the decaying organization that oversees the research and expeditions into Area X.

Authority is a good and interesting book; it’s both like and unlike Annihilation, which in this case is an ambiguous positive/negative position. Annihilation has a biologist as its POV character and is set in the “pristine nature” of the Area X, and VanderMeer is strong in writing about nature. In fact a big part of the appeal of Annihilation was the setting, the mesmerizing, mysterious nature with a sense of the unknown looming threat. Authority however has a government officer for the POV character, and is set mostly in the Southern Reach, which as mentioned earlier, is the department that is in charge of investigating and understanding what exactly  happened or what is Area X. However there are more going on in Southern Reach than meets the eyes.

If the presence of the Ghost Bird‘s, the biologist from the first book, in the story can hook the reader in, Control’s story will soon take over. Control is the new director of the Southern Reach, and the story starts with his first day at work. But being set in a bureaucratic space does not necessarily mean there is less mystery, or weirdness. The reader is hooked as the confidential pieces of information about Area X and Southern Reach become known to Control, and patches of the mystery unravels as if only some lost pieces of a large puzzle are being found; it is satisfying yet not enough to even hint at what is at the center of the picture.

The story sheds some light on some aspects of the first book Annihilation,  but at parts confounds us about what we think we know. We have experienced Area X first hand in Annihilation, but what one might have inferred about it is not fully confirmed. In other words the mystery surrounding the people is somewhat resolved, but the mystery about the Area X is not, which makes sense since as humans our understanding of the universe, or even the planet surrounding us is merely limited to our experience as humans. But Area X is not simply like universe or the nature that surrounds us; no one really knows or understands it or its intentions, and it has not revealed its full hand yet.

He kept in mind the note from another analyst that no other expedition had encountered what he was about to see. Among those that had come back, at least. 

And there is more to why I love the story; VanderMeer uses a narrative technique that I really enjoy. There is a strong presence of an absent character throughout the story. The heavy shadow of the previous director adds a lot to the story, to a point that this character takes a central place. We get to learn about her from whatever and whoever is left behind. The former director had been in the Southern Reach long enough for her presence to be felt everywhere, especially we learn a lot about her through the other employee’s in the Southern Reach. But I felt there was a need for clearance about some of the character’s allegiances towards the end of the story, and I hope that there are more answers in the third book.

Another thing that I love about the book, that I think makes it even a good read for people who might be leery of speculative fiction is the good mixture of humanly elements with speculative ones. Annihilation did a wonderful job with the descriptions of the Biologist’s life before the expedition, her childhood and her relation with her husband; Authority delves into a similar side of Control’s memories and life. However the human aspect in these books is not only limited to the character’s background and their family, or love relations, it is also in the character’s interactions with each other. The characters are facing a horrific mystery but they remain people; they are vulnerable and struggling like many humans would. They are not untouchable single minded characters that are solely focused on solving the speculative element.

(I cut a part of the beginning of the next excerpt for so not to spoil.)

” … and there is something inside of me I don’t understand. There’s a kind of … brightness…inside.”
Nothing in the medical updates, except an elevated temperature.
“That’s called life,” Control said.
She didn’t laugh at that, but said, quietly, “I don’t think so.”
If she had a “brightness” inside of her, then there was a corresponding darkness inside of him.

Now to the negatives; which I have to emphasize are the personal opinion of mine and also might be the result of English being my second language. My problem was mostly with some of the descriptions. At parts the phrases used to describe things are difficult to understand due to selection of words and length of sentences. I regret not having marked a couple of the instances to mention and demonstrate where I struggled with the words.

The other criticism I have is that after shit hits the fan the book plunges into a slow and descriptive narrative for maybe 15 to 20 pages. I feel like this is a criticism I hate to give for many good books might contain similar pacing, but at least for me as a reader grown up and shaped in our times it is difficult to read 20 pages devoted to description of landscape right after something very important has happened. I feel like those pages might have been the darling that VanderMeer couldn’t kill, and I appreciate not killing one’s darlings for the sake of the reader that at best won’t understand the underlying value the book has for the writer. But communication is always a two sided thing and a reader still retains the right to criticism no matter what.

In the end I have to say I really enjoyed reading this book. I had not read any reviews, I don’t really read reviews on books, not at least beforehand. But I had heard from a friend that the book did not do as good as Annihilation. However I feel that even if the book is not on par with Annihilation it is still a very good book, one of the better books I’ve read this year. I will be reading a different book as a pallet cleanser, but I cannot wait to start reading Acceptance (2014).

Anxiety, and ‘dysunderstanding’ of the world

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Recently I have been suffering from another bout of anxiety.  Fearing things could fall apart in my life I had to try and contain them fast, which exacerbates the situation further. The thoughts about how to contain my anxiety brought about a thought in me, a thought that is not new or special in any way but is one of those thoughts that you feel their reality at certain times in your life. I started wondering if having more choices, and the ability to make major decisions in one’s life is a root for anxiety and stress. And the thought took me down a spiral of different thoughts. I have so many questions and so here I wish to share them.

I was wondering if in feudal Europe, for example, people suffered from anxiety and depression as we do. To be honest, many thoughts during my anxiety sessions are about how things are bound to go wrong, and how my life will end up the opposite of my dreams. Thus I wonder, what if I was a peasant girl who had not much choice over job, marriage, place of living etc. Would I have anxiety or depression in the manner I struggle with today? Or would I accept my life as a given and labor away?

The second thought is complementary to the previous one. I ask my self if knowledge is beneficent to humans? By knowledge I do not mean hard sciences, but rather knowledge that is gained in the fields of humanities, social sciences and such. But I need to illustrate my thought with an example. Imagine me as a girl living in modern times in a big city; making a life is difficult and there is not much security, no safety net to catch me if I fall. The society keeps expecting me to be hardworking, to be outgoing and to be active. I am told that a successful person works hard, and does extra fulfilling activities in their spare time. As a result I am pretty burnt out about my situation. In other words, neoliberalism has left me very frustrated. But in what way does the knowledge of my desperation being the result of neoliberalism helps me as a person? Not only am I frustrated with life, the knowledge leaves me bitter, disillusioned, and depressed.

I know that this knowledge is supposed to help us understand our world and correct it, but seeing that neoliberal-capitalism is only starting to maybe dwindle as a result of the unstable situation it created itself I am left to ask if such knowledge benefited us other than adding to the anxieties of our time.

Reading articles about the malaise of our times again and again it strikes me how dystopian our world sounds; no wonder post-apocalyptic genres are so successful and popular these days. But then the question that comes to my mind is that in the larger scale of history, how do our time fare? Maybe we are feeling this way since we can only understand our own experience of the world. Has human experience changed? Are we feeling more anxiety and pain that the people of the past and maybe even future? And more importantly, does our dystopian understanding (dysunderstanding ) of our world adding to the depression and anxiety?

I have yet to fully recover from this round of anxiety; maybe if I felt better these paragraphs would lose meaning. For now I find it worth contemplating: the state of the mind of the humans of our times is intriguing. Of course there are so many different types of humans, under different systems of thought with different understanding of the world. My anxious mind might be one in a small over-spoiled crowd. Mayhap it’s ironic to even ask these questions; sometimes I wonder if the pursuit for an answer is a valid step. Or maybe again these are the workings of my brain being out of balance at the moment.

It’s done, goodbye grad school!

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Many months ago I posted that I have decided to give up on my thesis and maybe go travel. I felt stuck and the thesis seemed pointless, I was stressed and had bad headaches. Giving up sounded like a great idea, since I have always played it relatively safe, and have taken ridiculous steps to secure my goals, without risking much. However this has meant that I have not been able to do much as well, I keep preparing and preparing for a life I hardly get to live. That is why giving up sounded so refreshing.

But then after a while I started to have anxiety again, suddenly travelling plans didn’t sound so fun anymore. As a citizen of my home country which suffers from many sanctions I was worried I would not have a bank account, and thus have a lot of trouble when it comes to managing money. Same was with my passport, there were only a handful of countries I could go to. The chances of getting freelance jobs sounded dismal and the future plans in case traveling didn’t work out, lets just say they ended up being a lot less secure than I had previously thought.

Thus again I was facing anxiety, this time to an extent I had not ever felt before, I was unsure about everything in life, it felt like everything was going to fall apart. my body was numb and my hands were tingling all day, I could not eat and I could not do much other than cry or sleep.

If I did not wish to go traveling and since I fear the day I have to return to my country my only option was to finish my studies so to keep my Korean visa. But I had to ask for money from my parents, which is greatly imposing on them. And also with the help a counselor from my school I returned to work on my thesis again. Now that I think about it, having access to counselling is quiet a privilege I hope that all schools around the world can implement such facilities for the student’s who can hardly pay for such services.

Anyways, I was back in the arena.  I felt unarmed and unarmored, I was taking some light anxiety medication and kept meeting my counselor who mostly just chitchatted with me, but it kept me sane. I had trouble working more than 3 hours a day, I felt stupid, I felt I was slacking, and I wondered everyday if I actually suffer from ADHD. I felt and feel guilty about wasting so much time, but I often find starting a task such as writing or editing my thesis impossibly difficult, sometimes it feels as if I have to push through a physical wall.

But finally it is done! I had my defense a couple days ago, I am editing and rewriting parts of it now. Sick and tired and yet somehow reluctant about not being a student anymore. My thesis is much less than I had wished for it to be. I hear everyone thinks that way about their thesis, but I wished to write something worthy of the 3 years I have spent in grad school. But it is too late now, I was not the researcher academic type, I was merely hungry for learning.

I will have to get a job seeking visa soon and plan the rest of my life from there. My future plans still seem wobbly, and I fear that there might be some destabilizing event’s coming up soon. I fear of life turning out to be a struggle at every point. I hope I can be strong, and I hope that we will be fine.

An October Day In Seoul, Insadong, And Bukchon

I am not used to taking photos with my phone as most do, if I decide to take photo’s I will take the camera out. But rarely occurs to me to record videos. Of course comparing the file sizes and how my devices can handle it the skew towards taking images is justified.

But on this certain day, I and the magnificent Ahimsa were discussing making our own silly Halloween movie called the Vining. In preparation we decided to record shots of nature and street to maybe create a library and use them later. Two months later the Vining’s production is still pending but I decided to compile a video of the less ominous shots and put it online.

These shots were taken from the junction that connects Insadong to Bukchon Hanok Village, and up the green hill that I think is located north of Bukchon. This is a pretty little hill so if you end up in Bukchon and somehow don’t have much to do maybe you can do a tiny hike.

It seems to me that doing a silly montage of a day around town is actually pretty fun. If I do not face much storage problems I wish to do it once more.

 

To Flee Or Not To Flee

This is an account of how and why I am quitting my masters, and how it can fling my life in different directions.

I am giving up on getting my master’s degree after having finished my coursework and a semester of trying to write a thesis. So far the people’s reaction has been the biggest outcome: my parents are against my choice, most of my friends think I am doing the wrong thing, and maybe worst of all, my advisor does not seem to care. Only my boyfriend and one of my friends understand my situation.

It is not that I do not understand people’s points of view, but for one thing I would be happy if everyone would stop saying it’s a waste of two years of my life. Do they think I have learnt nothing in these two years and only the degree makes my education worthwhile? My degree will be a useless one in the current job market and toxic economic atmosphere anyway. My thesis at its best would be a critical study of media representations of something, and it would probably reflect my disdain for capitalism. What company would like that?

However, everything else aside, the truth is that I do not want to give up. I want to have a master’s degree to flaunt in people’s faces when (if) I’m drunk and in a discussion. But on the other hand, I am a third world citizen studying abroad, in a city as expensive as they come, the immigration laws are ruthless, my scholarship is not extendable, and I cannot make it work with my disinterested advisor. Working on my thesis caused me physical pain and mental torture, and to be honest it was affront at creativity. We are often suggested to follow in the footsteps of others and write like others have already done; the ones who do conform better are rewarded best. “Unless you are a great scholar,” my advisor told us “people will not wish to hear new ideas.”

Graduating, and miraculously finding a job here, would give me a chance at a modestly earned life, with undesirable work conditions, in a field very unrelated to my degree, and a promise of social isolation (All my friends have left or are leaving this country). So even if I managed to somehow push through and graduate the employment chances here are slim.

But quitting my master’s degree will launch me into a life of difficulty, and uncertainty. I might have to go back to my home country and (best case scenario) work at an equally undesirable job, in an atmosphere of censorship and oppression, with (way) more than a dash of gender inequality (on top of  it all I would be separated from my boyfriend because he could never get a visa for my country).

My other choice is to begin travelling to a handful of countries that my poor passport can take me to, without money, and with low hopes of being hired anywhere, and slim chances that we might be able to settle somewhere. Yet this plan is the best we have; with uncertainty comes our only chance in coming across something that will change our life for the better or worse.

The problems go on and on, but I won’t continue. I can’t escape the feeling that we have created a world that is unwilling to give space to people so they can live simple, quiet lives. And within this world my best course of action is to graduate, but sometimes you cannot do things even if you try.

Maybe if you have unlimited funds and time you could achieve anything you set your mind on, but I have neither time nor money on my side. This is true for many of us; struggling with choices like this that define our lives, and many times we do not succeed. It is not because we are simply lazy people who did not use our opportunities. Some like me face obstacles in making the best of our opportunity; some never have the privilege of having the opportunity.

The life path I face is unknown to me; it is unstable and that scares me. But I have my boyfriend by my side, and not having to go through it all alone is a big reassurance. Maybe I can find a way to fund a nomad life, maybe I find a decent job somewhere and we will be fine for a while. Who knows what life has in store. What I really wish to do is to make change; find a way to make the world less hostile to humans. At this point I cannot perceive of ways that do not require much money, but it is a good thing to keep in one’s mind.

Things That Aren’t Exactly Going On

It turns out I am simply a lazy person. I am not proud of it or anything; I think there is a problem. The problem is that I wish to do so much that I end up doing not much and on top of that I feel discouraged most of the time.

These days I have to work on my master’s thesis. Not only it is a task of extra difficulty for a person as disorganized as me, I also found the joy of life in watercolors.

Yes watercolors! It’s not that I am a trained artist and do a perfect job but painting watercolors is just magnificent. I spend more hours struggling with watercolors than working on my theses. To top that when I am pretending to work on my thesis my mind is somewhat planning on things I want to try and draw.

I am also slowly writing a short-ish fantasy story. I enjoy writing it a lot but it is very lacking and I have not decided what I will do with it in the end. So another cool thing that in my mind has higher priority than my theses but in reality is of less urgency.

So for me who perceive it all from within my brain I am not being super lazy. But the outside observers definitely see that. I wonder if people have different ways of prioritizing and evaluating their plans and duties.

Then again we live in a society where an active person who is good perfect at prioritizing is considered desirable and successful. Does that sound familiar? Reminds me of something about … neoliberalism.

What if I’m using neoliberalism as an excuse to be lazy?

Cthulhu Kaiju

I want to openly promote a book written by a friend of mine. But be assured that the friend doesn’t yet know about this post and also did not request in any form that I write about him. Also since this is a blog yet without visitors I know that I am not doing him any favors. It is simply a post out of my liking of his works an I wish that maybe I can find others who enjoy his works as well.

Ahimsa Kerp is fantasy writer mostly writing what would be categorized as pulp. Originally from Pacific Northwest he is currently living in Seoul. He is a nice and ambiguously (?) nerdy book and RPG lover. He’s repertoire of fantastic elements is quite rich and amusing.

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His recent book is Cthulhu Kaiju, his homage to the monster and Lovecraft about whose writings he is quite an enthusiast. Here is a link to the Amazon page of the book.

But slyly I am going to ask you to check his Empire of the Undead  which is a historical horror, which is about a zombie outbreak in Roman times. Ahimsa knows his history so it is quite a solid book. If I have time during vacations to do a long post I want to write a review of this book.

 

Secondary World Fantasy

While struggling blindly to find things to build up for my master’s thesis I have come across so much negativity towards fantasy set in secondary world. It is not a new thing since even Tolkien and Lewis had to defend against charges of escapism. What strikes me odd is that we are living in times that we are entirely submerged in narratives through our communication devices and the so called “escapist fantasy” does not seem to me to be a big culprit.

I do feel to think and study it more. Maybe I can update if I come across new thoughts by myself or others.

Gilbo

My friend Ahimsa is running a role playing campaign. I am a newbie when it comes to real life role-playing games. My character’s class is an Alice or Alistair or Fool if you will, who is quite like a normal human but can get exasperated and narrative come to their help (?). By the way the link is safe for work other content of that same blog I don’t know.

So anyways I wrote all that to share the first doodle of Gilbo my character in the campaign.  Check out our campaign’s Tumblr page:

http://lamentationsofthekimchiprincess.tumblr.com/

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