Letter to my Sisters
edited: Monday, March 03, 2003
By Mandy Hager
Posted: Monday, March 03, 2003
Become a Fan
I have a bullshit detector brain...
The thing is, I have this bullshit-detector brain. I don’t know when it started, but it means that everything inside my world, and out, has taken on an edge that makes it very hard to function day by day. Let me explain.
I guess I’ll start by saying that my life is good. By that, I mean I’m loved, and have enough to eat. I own a house that’s built upon a rock above the sea, in a country that is temperate and safe. ‘Good’ may not be true enough – try ‘blessed’.
That said, I could be going mad.
Here’s how it works. I’m blobbing out in bed, right? Watching something brainy on the TV doco channel while I wait to see the late night news. The ads come on and I start thinking of the man who’s doing voice-overs for weight-loss pills – and I’m trying to picture him. Does he practice weeks on end to get that warm-toned, fuzzy ‘best-friend’ burr into his voice? Or does he speak that way at home? Imagine living with a man who sounds so greasy-sleazy that he’d talk you into taking pills that make you shit so badly that you have to wear a nappy. Still, at least (thank all the patron saints) you’re slim!
Then, next, there is a table full of smug-faced whities at a restaurant, condescending to the Indian waiter like he is their personal slave. When, suddenly, the power’s cut they take him home, just like a pet, and have him cook a cosy dinner just for them. That’s P*t*ak’s. I want to throw my fluffy slippers at the screen – it’s clear that what I’m watching here is classic white supremist propaganda in the ruse of yuppie ‘style’. And I wonder why the world can’t see it – and why we feel so hamstrung even if we do… Are we all so caught up in the doctrine of the IMF and WTO that human value must be read in dollar signs? In GDP? In skin tone?
And then, oh god, they play the Ace of Irony – ‘World Vision’ – and they’re pleading right at me, and they know I’m cringing underneath the blankets – making gross excuses for the fact that I’ve not ‘saved a little life, right now’. And it doesn’t matter that I give to every local charity who rings me up, or that I donate goods, and cash, and time. It doesn’t count. Coz when I bleat of poverty, I mean I’m flagging movies for a month, or loaning books from libraries, not buying them. I have no notion of the way it feels to watch my precious daughter dying in my arms from lack of food. Or wailing over bomb-blast remnants of my darling son. Not even close. Yet every mother wants her child to live.
This leads me on to worry for my own two kids – about the world they will grow up in if, indeed, they have the chance to live at all. I worry for their vulnerability, their sense of self. I worry for the dangers in a world they have no power to control. About this point, I feel so sick I have to clap and ‘hands-on head’ myself to stop. We have so much, in this small land, to smile about. So privileged. So safe. So free, that we build fences high around ourselves to keep this precious freedom safe! This same smug blinkered life’s what makes us look away from beggars least they catch our eye and snare our shame. What makes us step right over drunks, or turn our backs on epileptics fitting in the street. Don’t get involved.
Those three damn ads, they form a thesis in my head – about a gross consumer world where arrogant fat white men masticate to images of wide-eyed, bronze-skinned children as they starve to death on the screen before a trillion TV-zombied eyes. Pass the box of chocolates, dear, and mute the sound of buzzing flies.
Of course, on cue, the News comes on. And there’s another shifty millionaire-turned-president, acting out a grown-up version of the my-one’s-bigger-than-your-one game, and spouting forth on ‘righteousness’ and ‘morals’, while planning out the shortest route from oil-well-to-tanker-to-his-personal-bank. And his people ask ‘Why Us?” when innocents are slaughtered, and they huddle close together – shocked, and disbelieving, that the world is round - not just one flat mono-cultural hinterland designed to serve them and pay homage to their tinsel world. Across the ‘great divide’, where water is a luxury and children are too scared to venture out for fear of death, they counter that great nuclear Sword of Damocles with sticks and stones. When your future fails to serve up any hope, it seems to me quite logical to end up fighting tooth and claw (and body-strapped grenades) against the unilateral one-eyed Cyclops in his den. Desperate, yes, I do agree, but sane. Quite sane. I’d do it for my kids. Would you?
I listen to the politicians, and I grow ashamed – ashamed that such dynamic animals as ‘man’ (though perhaps the label says it all) can waste such unique gifts as conscious thought, as creativity and love, in this ghoulish, greedy lust for power and that silly fleeting thing called fame. And we know, sisters – we know – that if we really all stood up and yelled ‘enough’ that we could stop this headlong rush. We have the numbers, and strength – just lack the guts…
I have this bullshit-detector brain. Take me to a party, and I’ll prop myself up in a corner, railing at the pointless drive to drink, and drug ourselves into oblivion. The sad truth is, we live upon a planet stressed to breaking point with other human lives, and yet we can’t connect. We live our lives surrounded by a call to arm ourselves with potions and devices - tasked with camouflaging any links back to our wild past. Yet, scrape beneath the make-up, the deodoriser, perfume and the gym-toned bodies of our dreams, and you’ll find a little hairless creature – one who farts and sniffs and picks its nose, and pees around the borders of its den. We need to seek that fragile creature out, and learn to place it ‘in’ the finely balanced ecosystem of our world – not stretch it out on top to suffocate the weaker ones beneath.
I have this bullshit-detector brain. And the biggest trouble now is that what starts as anger over one advertisement winds in a convoluted path right back to me. It looks me right between my aging eyes with no concessions, or relief. No sympathy for tiredness, for stress, or – maybe- for a brain gone wrong. It’s likely I’m depressed, you’ll say – or simply mad. You could be right. I worry of it, yes I do – between the bursts of outrage over child abuse and TV violence, global warming and genetic engineering, and the… and the… and the…
Truth is madness, madness truth. It sounds like something Orwell said, and though we’ve read his book with shock and outrage at his stark, cruel world, we don’t dare think it may have come to pass. Go read him, Sisters – think again.
We’re told that worry is an illness, but who made this so? The Stepford Wives? The Boys-Own Church? The CIA? So she sees the world too clearly? Lock her up. Finds it all too hard to take? Clearly she’s inadequate…insane. The doctors’ drug up women to the eyeballs - render them defenceless – and then march them home. They never ask ‘to what?’ or ‘whom?’ Don’t ask the ‘why?’ And they label them ‘unhealthy’ and they take their kids – not checking if the madness is reaction to abuse… response to pain...
I have this bullshit-detector brain. At night I lie in bed and write this letter to you, in my head – ‘ghost-writing’ on the grandest scale - in hope of stripping off the garish surface varnish of our lives in order to reveal the rot beneath. We need to fix that rot and make our structures sound, or else they’ll fall. We may not have all the tools to do this job right off, but we have hands, and eyes and ears. We have the words to power up and start this job…why wait?
So this is how my broken-wired circuitry spins the worries round until I’m arguing my state of mental health out with myself. Sometimes the ‘doctor’ wins, sometimes the ‘loon’. Pick your side and make the call. I’ll understand it if you send the men in white to lock me up, I will.
But if you’re swayed the other way, then please – beware. The world will never look the same. Though maybe … yes - just maybe… if enough of us start watching close, and speaking up, we’ll cast the bullshit-makers out and start again… share the blessings as we castrate and de-nude old Cyclops in his sleep.
I have this bullshit-detector brain…