Saturday, May 21, 2005

Acting Like Animals - If Only We Would

Today I listened to a presentation about Jose Saramago's book Blindness. When everyone goes blind in the book the social order breaks down. People do terrible things to each other: raping ,starving, defecating any where, murdering, etc. Someone in the group said, "The people started acting like animals." I know it's been said before but clearly it's worth repeating: Non-human animals don't do the horrifying things we do. Certainly one could find all sorts of examples of non-human animal behavior that is shocking to us but it's fairly obvious that you could easily find examples of human behavior that go far, far beyond what any animal has ever done or will ever do. Someone in this same session said something about our humanity separating us from the animals. And that's right, but not the way she meant it. Our humanity is both one of caring and compassion but also of unbelievable destruction and genocide. Animals don't committ genocide; it is a strictly human trait and thus part of this thing we speak of reverentially called "humanity". If humans did act like non-human animals when the blindness stikes in Saramago's book, we wouldn't be shocked and outraged. It wouldn't be a story about how low humans can sink. It would be about adjusting to new circumstances and continuing to live in a sustainable way as best as one could. If only we would "act like animals" more often we all, human and non-human animals both, would be much better off.

Monday, May 16, 2005


This feeling has been creeping up on me. It has come up so gradually that I didn't really even notice it until this past week. Now I feel completely mired in it. It's strange to have this happen because I feel like I'm in pretty good touch with my emotions. I guess I always feel like that and then I realize I have no idea. Anyway, I've been overwhelmed with optimism lately and it's been absolutely beautiful. I feel like I've become a really sound teacher. I feel like I'm becoming a strong musician. It seems as though I'm becoming a better friend, son & brother...and all because the weather is nice. Honestly, it just seems like I can become the person I've always wanted to be. All winter I felt like I was struggling and struggling to keep my head above water, to remain happy about who I've become. Now that we're a few weeks into nice weather I can hardly remember what all the struggle was about. This happens every year and I never catch it until after it's already happened. Now I just want to sustain this feeling forever. If I could always feel this good about myself who knows how happy I could be?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Guaguas & Privillege

One of the things I enjoyed most about DR was travelling by guagua. Guaguas are like minibuses that seat about 24 people and travel between different cities and towns. To get on a guagua you just stand on the side of the road you want to travel on and flag one down. When you want to get off, you just shout "afuera!" and the guagua pulls over. They are ridiculously cheap to use (for us anyway) and they're fun. I really liked travelling on the equivalent of public transportation.

Some time during a trip on a guagua it occurred to me that it was a privillege to travel this way. Guaguas are totally inexcessible to people who have mobility disabilities. This made me think about how I would have enjoyed the trip if I was in a wheelchair. It would have been difficult. Traffic laws are less formal, sidewalks are narrow and obstructed, accessbility laws are either non-existant or ignored. Of course, it doesn't have to be this way. Laws can be changed and enforced, rennovations can be made. Often I'm so impatient with these kinds of situations in the US. The newer city buses are very accessible and the older ones are not. I can't stand that not all of the older buses have been replaced by the newer. An elevator is being installed at the subway on 125th St and it's frustrating that it's taking years (literally) to complete. These changes are occurring (though at an absurdly slow pace).

But I must confront my privillege once again here. It is only the privillege of living in a country like the US that makes me assume that these sorts of changes should come about now in order to reduce the ways that inaccesbility is built into our environment. In a country like DR, long exploited and colonized and now extremely poor, what hope is there that public transportation will be made accessible, curb cuts & other simple yet necessary modifications will occur.

After continuously confronting my privillege for years and years I am still taken by surprise at times by the sheer extent of my privillege.

Monday, May 02, 2005

In Medias Res

I'd like to leave aside introductions and just begin.

I just got back from DR. There was a moment when we were in the "taxi" from Sanchez to Las Terrenas when I thought, "I want to move here." This part of the country is near no cities of note and is actually just a mountain road in between two towns. But there was something in the look of it. I know that I'm romanticizing when I think about living there. And I know that I don't understand what it's like when I think about people living and dying on that little mountain in cinder block homes with no electricity or running water. And even though I know that, I still feel like it would be so good to put aside the game and just work to eat. Work to sleep. Work to talk to your neighbors and have a family. I guess I'm responding to a lack of material goods that I find appealing. I feel guilty for writing this because, again I know that the lives of the people who live on that mountain are not so simple, rustic or bohemian or whatever. I guess it just made me think about the weight that my life has to it with all of my things. (And I really limit myself. Comparitively speaking.)

Well, there it is. I think that might be the image I end up remembering from this trip: those houses and that mountain and the people and me thinking that I want to live right there.