I guess like many Malay Muslims, I was brought up with the idea that in order to achieve happiness, one has to be able to be grateful and content (the more accurate Malay term would be ‘syukur’, derived from Arabic شكر = gratitude) in whatever situation one finds their life in. For this very reason, a lot of us, internalised or the other, grew up with the idea of faux contentment and gratitude that in some ways, render us with less awareness and agency of the systemic inequalities that happen all around us. When you see someone else poorer than you? ‘Syukur’ that at least we have more than they do — sometimes in a more fucked up way, ‘syukur’ that their life, lacking basic needs and thereof, serves as a lesson for us to be grateful for what we already have. When I was in my early 20s, living in the big city with the first job that paid me only barely enough for rent, meals, and commute, I was fed with the idea that “at least I have a job”, “at least I could manage to pay for my rent”, at least this, at least that. I was internalised with the idea to be grateful with the barest minimum, which extended into the other areas of my life — work, relationship, friendship, etc. I was bad with boundaries, letting people trample all over me and shoehorn themselves into every free minute I have, finding myself agreeing with their every critique and gaslighting over me because I did not learn how to argue or defend myself, and failing to negotiate (or even ask) for any raise that I deserved. At one point of time I grew increasingly angry, but also I was raised that to express anger was not appropriate, so anger coursed inside me boiling red and searing while I seemed almost serene, but inside I am the Hulk scene in The Avengers walking into battle while announcing, “That’s the secret, I am always angry.”
It wasn’t too late to come across this tweet, reframing anger as something which is not bad, something that should not be dealt with, but instead — “Your anger is the part of you that knows your mistreatment and abuse are unacceptable. Your anger knows you deserve to be treated well, and with kindness. Your anger is a part of you that LOVES you.” Your anger, according to the poster, as “This person deserves better!!!!!” alarm” and “Anger is your loud, unapologetic friend who doesn’t want you to put up with any bullshit”. I wish I came across this tweet much sooner.
And anger is just what everyone needs to feel right now. For the Ahmauds, for the Breannas, for the George Floyds, for the Trayvons, for the Eric Garners, for the countless numbers of black men and women murdered by the flawed but omnipotent power of racial capitalism, for Palestine, for Yemen, for the anger to be directed towards the power-hungry in Malaysia right now, for the refugees being pushed away from whichever lands they try to seek shelter from — an option which seemed safer from the raining bombs and harms and trauma from the lands they were supposed to belong to, for the wrongly convicted and unfairly incarcerated, for those longing for the fresh air outside the homes they no longer felt safe from, for the everyday workers deemed as ‘heroes’ and ‘essential’ paid with little to no minimum wage in a pandemic that is slowly ravaging their bodies ‘for the economy’, etc. — I could go on and on. But anger is not something we can push away now. Anger leads to imagination, imagination leads to hope, hope leads to action. And with action, we can change lives.
Reading in my tabs:
- Yes, we mean literally abolish the police. Because reform won’t happen.
- Zurairi’s column on the copaganda in Malaysian pop culture, which something that needs pondering amid #DefundThePolice discourse worldwide.
- Toni Morrison said it best, in a 1975 speech: “The very serious function of racism … is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” Racism derails our efforts to save the planet.
- I just did this to hold myself accountable! “Set an alarm on your phone for 3, 6, 9, 12 months from now and when it goes off, look at your life and count how many Black businesses, orgs & artists you’re still supporting. How many antiracism resources are you using? How many of your own biases have you addressed?”
- “For instance in a lot of Western society, I think we see depression and anxiety as a chemical imbalance. And that leads us to seek help through our doctor and getting medication,” she says. “But in East Asia it’s seen as more of a social or spiritual or a family concern – so people might seek spiritual help or, you know, find ways to resolve family conflict.” What we can learn from ‘unstranslatable’ illness.
- I have been thinking about this the longest time — productivity culture has an empathy problem! Also read Anne Helen Petersen’s thoughts on the significant human cost on our privilege to delegate our tasks, summarised in this easily digestible question: “Do you actually care about other people?”
- The work is where we are.
- Reading: Alex S. Vitale’s The End of Policing, Sasha Costanza-Chock’s Design Justice, and Elif Shafak’s The Architect’s Apprentice.
- Listening: This Radiolab episode about octopus mom.
- Viewing: Ursula K. Le Guin, accepting a lifetime achievement award: “We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.”
- Food & Drink: Someone tweeted about adding kimchi inside Maggi Asam Laksa the other day, and to be honest that got me drooling. So I drove to get some kimchi jiggae, and extra kimchi for some midnight comfort food.