1.03.2008

I’ve recently become addicted to Weeds—the television show, not the wonderful herbal remedy (which is not addictive). While television shows, although sometimes amusing, are rarely thought-provoking, the sudden obsession with certain shows I go through every time I return home is. Why do I get so attached to fictional characters when I’m in this room? Why do I become paralyzed (I haven’t made it through a single of the nine books I brought home with me) by their witty one-liners and gratuitous, not even that freaky sex?

When I come home, I’m always struck by how quiet it is. I suppose that is the purpose of suburbia (numbing body, mind and soul), but striking, nonetheless. It’s quite rare for me to encounter anyone in the immediate vicinity of my house, outside of their vehicle. In fact, I don’t encounter anyone except in my house and whatever destination I choose to go to. There is no public transportation where I live—you have to drive to the nearest commuter bus line. Communities, then, are extremely calculated—one associates with whomever one chooses to associate—or nonexistent.

Digital entertainment is a substitute for the kind of community (or intense hatred) that proximity creates in urban settings. Watching Nancy deal with drug dealers stashing heroin in her garage is not, for me, unlike hearing stories of my friends’ weekend escapades, or watching Nancy struggle with issues of race, class and love in her friendship with Conrad unlike hearing my friends deliberate the merits of pursuing their latest hookups. Weeds has become my community, a stand-in for friends newly immersed in old communities while I debate driving the half hour to the nearest shopping mall I can stand to stare at clothes I cannot afford. Weeds, unlike weed, helps me feel alive.

But is that which the screen—big or small—is to suburbia that unlike what love is, universally? In between episodes of Weeds, I’ve found myself battling with raging hormones and a general detachment from the (many many) objects of my affection(ate lust). I’ve begun to notice the extent to which I confound the two desires that seem to drive a large portion of my actions: sexual desire and the desire to feel wanted or cared about. I’ve always noted an increase in both desires when I return home, but it now seems that what was lacking was the latter, rather than the former (which can generally be taken care of single-handedly).

Falling in love—at least for me—is generally followed by a spirited campaign to win someone’s emotions. Falling in love, then, is more about convincing to express desire than anything else. Falling in love is replacing the television with a human being (the process seems backwards, but the sentiment is the same). Love is wanting to feel that someone cares about you, will look out for your best interest and hopefully have sex with you a few times a week, to boot.

Love is a process of exclusion once necessary (since life was short and procreation was almost inevitable if you were actually having sex). Families, communities are often abandoned for love, as couples create new communities, formerly with numerous little citizens, but now, more often than not, confined to two until much later. The contemporary version of this model of love allows for a certain level of individuality, a rejection of family and community that would otherwise necessitate other ways of feeling connected… like television.

Despite evidence to the contrary, we treat love—as we know it—as something timeless, something that has always existed. But is love really anything more than a product of the individuality so fundamental to the (modern western) human condition?

I love Weeds.

1.01.2008

It upsets my mother when I leave dishes in the sink--one of many illogical triggers of our many illogical spats.

Dishwashing, as simple an act as it is, a simple fact of life, strikes me as one of the ways that different people experience life. I remember reading a book in grade school about a Native American family. The narrator, if my memory serves me correctly, becomes all the more conscious of his difference when his family's practice of washing dishes just before using them comes under the scrutiny of his Euro-American peers. It's a poignant moment of the illogical nature of intolerance--after all, washing dishes just before use is a more sanitary practice. Dishwashing hardly seems like a site of cultural difference, but in my experience it is indicative of the realities of different people.

As a middle-class first gen-er, I've had the fortune of experiencing some degree of immersion, and in a "developing" country, to boot. I was always puzzled when chastised for using too much water while washing the dishes. It never occurred to me that water was not as plentiful there as it was at home. Even if it did, we were on an island, surrounded by water. I would not have understood that desalination is an extremely expensive procedure, and one that does not take place in countries lead by corrupt leaders hand-picked by their former colonial rulers. Especially when those leaders pocket the "charity" of their former exploiters, masters. I would not have realized that droughts are commonplace in former sugar colonies--the deforestation undertaken by Europeans to maximize the profit-producing land available ensures this.

It would be some time before I realized that many people--nowadays, mostly brown--depend on dishwashing for survival. That many live in the United States--my home--on temporary visas or without papers, sending remittances home to their families because, while they can support their families from the kitchens of our restaurants, the economic remnants of colonialism (in effect, continued colonialism) guarantee that serving Americans is better compensated than professional labor at home.

There's an installation at the Tate Modern in London right now--a huge crack in the ground that is meant to symbolize the growing divide between Britain and its former colonies. Appropriately enough, it has become the subject of much debate, not because of the ideas it conveys, but because a number of Brits have failed to notice it and been injured when they've fallen in. It's amazing how well dishwashing encompasses this divide and the deliberate ignorance that surrounds it (deliberate because the silence that surrounds the realities of others has been systematically engineered).