Tuesday 26 August 2014

The impossibility of being Free

Lately, I let go a little, started to wear baggy trousers (God bless that elasticated waist), let my hair run wilder and spotted a few holes in my socks, knickers and now shirts, I let go!! I think this is due to the fact I believe I am naturally beautiful so basic grooming suffices, though I noticed men only  check me out when I wear my hair conformingly straight, it’s like I fit more into their mentally-etched image of the type of women they could consider suitable, because anything curly is considered foreign, wild or difficult.

One day on a plane back (to London) from Algeria, the guy sitting next to me asked me if I was Algerian. And that got me thinking, even if I looked painstakingly English (which I don’t), the very fact I was on an airplane flying back from Algeria could considerably improve the chances I was in fact Algerian. I acquiesced to his delight that I was indeed Algerian and to continue with the charade he said well you’re a bit Shoreditch! A free spirit?  Ha ha ha I said to him ”No I am Algerian, I can’t be a free-spirit” he didn’t get it. Then I went back to my nap from which he had yanked me to question me about the freedom of my spirit and I started to think about that ….and stuff!

A bit Shoreditch?? Moi? Well I never! Anyway, a long story not so short, that got me thinking about the nationally agreed Algerian look and how wearing baggy trousers did not fit into it.  But more about the very notion of “free spirit”, how it got highjacked and “shorditified” as if all the twats prancing around Shoreditch in those uber-skinny jeans or baggy trousers (depends on the level of Artiness or Lositude…or somink), blazers and beards are free spirits or true artists. You can’t be the free spirit you’re dressed to be if in essence you are actually conforming to the Shoreditch image. Conforming being the operative word here.

As an Algerian, who considers herself a creative being I realised I could never claim to be a free-spirit simply because I know to attain the status of true free spirit I’ll have to live a life of a hermit away from all societal coercion, religion or any political distribution of power and social tourbillon of conformity somewhere I can live off the land and recycle my own pee. But perhaps I can claim the title of a rebel, who doesn’t reject all societal obstructions and rules but fights some, rejects some and accepts some.
Besides the Algerian free spirit does not exist; “they” just won’t let it happen! They’ll use the weapon of mass oppression, the rolling of the heads with the lips in a downward line, they will laugh at your strange dress sense and curly hair or semblant of afro you’ve been nursing for the last 3 years with no convincing result; They’ll say it’s just a phase, your hair will be straight again one day, and they will attribute your beard to religious beliefs to save face with the neighbours or will coerce you into shaving it, it’s inevitable. If the phase lasts too long, then it could be a case of hormonal instability or it has already been decided you’re a sore loser and all your quirkiness is nothing other than a mean to hide your loositude (new word)!  It’s just not you, so stop trying to stand out and go get married or something, your peers got married and died already and you’re still wearing baggy trousers and leather bands on your wrists! Seriously!

So to recapitulate; if you have: A pair of baggy trousers or über skinny jeans, some kind of rainbow old t-shirt, quirky jewellery and rubber bands, curly natural hair and no make-up, wash your hair less than once a week, don’t own a deodorant, own a rusty old vintage bike, by vintage I mean stolen and have a jumper with a hole in it, have enough creativity to border on neurotic, the unexplainable desire to break rules and just the right amount of weird! Then you could qualify as a conforming free-spirit! But you’ll never reach full potential or what Nietzsche calls “The Free spirit by excellence”
What is striking here is that even the rebels, free-spirits, artists and anarchists who boast individuality and rebellion find themselves following a certain look, a certain lifestyle, they are manipulated and affected by the same ideas and images and flux into the same urban worm-holes and nukes and crannies of the city (any city) to live amongst other similar-minded people, to escape the more rigid, superficial and shallow sides of the city (again any city) only to find themselves delving into a not so different social tourbillon of conformity and end up pigeonholed like I was on that plane and put in the Shoreditch box.

Conformity and rebellion are part of or two side of the same syndrome, because both are reactions to the same pressure source, though there are those who secretly question society and conformity and there are those who secretly conform like the Shoreditch crowd and whatnots. So you conform secretly, when you straighten your hair until its burnt smell is recognised before you come into view, or when you iron your trousers (focusing on that line that parts your thigh in two -yeah you know who you are), you conform when you think being a free spirit is a way of attracting attention and is often a call for help! You also conform when you become the source of pressure!

Isn't it scary (and a bit boring frankly) to live your life exactly how someone else's or because someone else decided on the status quo and you are just living it within a line drawn by a parent, a teacher or an authority figure or entity?  And every time you try to peer outside of that marked line, you’ll be called a rebel.  It almost feels as though the “free spirit” label was invented to fool people into thinking they attained and are in fact allowed to attain a certain level of free thinking and being without any barriers.

So my point is (finally got there), you can be free to dress the part, but your spirit is far from being free as long as you are shackled by temporary possession and pleasures and can’t resist the tug of conformity and the imposing dams of society, you will spend your whole life a laver never turning into the butterfly.

Dz-chick….a conformist in denial…I think!

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Silence of the World


Every year, on every day of Eid el Fitr (le ptit Eid), feelings of joy, of achievement and happiness fill the air and the souls, as you walk around London, the sight of colourful dresses and happy faces bring a smile to your face (well mine anyway), so many faithful of so many colours, cultures and countries fill the streets of London, visit relatives, mosques and generally just seem to float about parading their joy and enjoying this big reward that is Eid, the day you get to finally eat in daylight! Oh you black elixir, come hither…

Spending Eid at work isn’t the best way I could think of enjoying this special day, but one has not much choice sometimes and one has to do with what one is given. After so many years away from home, you learn to build yourself a second family with whom you can share special moments and feel the love (special thought for a couple of friends who have become our foster parents) with people who understand how important this day is. After a month of hard core Ramadan observance, Eid is supposed to be your reward, a day that always fills you with joy and a high sense of achievement and you wish people understood that, when I say people I mean people who don’t know much about Ramadan, your non-Muslim friends or maybe it’s more a case of your non-cultured friends.

A simple “Happy Eid” will make me feel special, I always explain to my friends that it’s as close to Xmas for us as it gets yet it remain alien to them. Bah! Who needs your “Happy Eid” anyway!

But this year, it’s a different story all together; I am not delving into the joy or Eid, not because of the measly bowl of porridge I had for breakfast or the poor quality coffee brewed by the office vending machine, for this big breakfast day, but it’s more to do with the deterioration of humanity, the suffering and the plight of the Palestinian and Syrian people at this very moment, killings of innocent all over Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, who are certainly not enjoying it for different reasons. Not because they had a bad quality coffee (it was truly shit) from a vending machine which I suspect to be from the first world war, but because some of them don’t have anything to eat, nowhere to live, children are laying down in a hospital bed being treated for war wounds and limb severance instead of scratches and booboos from the swings and slides, others are mourning their amounting numbers of dead whilst most of them are dispossessed, starving, homeless and fighting a powerful occupation backed by: The silence of the world.
So with the foul tasting coffee, the heavy heart and few and far in between “Happy Eid” Wishes, one must learn to be grateful and practice empathy albeit with an after taste of badly ground beans.

Dz-chick…in mourning for humanity

Friday 27 June 2014

Wantotrism dissected

Refusing to get into the grind of the World cup plethora, I shied away from facebook (the source of everything), from all the pictures and videos of Algerian supporters in Brazil and their antics between matches, but it proved an arduous task and an impossibility to anyone with any remote access to any kid of media, to avoid Algerian supporters or the ever catchy Wan To Tré Viva l’Algiré

My first thought was that Algerians needed an excuse to celebrate in unison, as though they’re starved for unity, to be all as one rooting for the same goal, pun intended, then I thought there’s more to it than that, at the sight of the several videos circulating online of our hilariously creative and other narcissistic supporters (Yes you!), brandishing their flags, passports and chemma* to proclaim their right to be THERE amongst these strong nations of football.
Amongst so many things I read about THAT, was this brilliant piece by Dadathwen Eldhoudhi called “Le Wantotrisme pour les nuls” and was absolutely gutted I hadn’t thought of it first, but it turns out there is a whole and actual bibliography written on the topic for over 40 years now. Do your research!

I guess Dadathwen said it all for me but not quite, so I am presenting my first amendment – My vision is somewhat different…
The Wantorism is often synonyms with Watanism, it involves a state of unconscious and often indoctrinated patriotism that often centres around sporting events, mostly international ones, where the perpetrators get to dive head first into a much craved National Unity, where only three colours are brandished, Green, White and Red and only three numbers are chanted One, Two, Three in a slogan complied of Three languages “One, two and Three.  Viva l’Algerie”.  It’s the trinity of Unity.

This induced sense of unity; much like the false sense of romance, music envelopes you in when watching a Hollywood flick and it jerks a tear out of your tired, emotional and ready to cry soul, wantotrism brings back thoughts of struggle, of the martyrs of the war of independence, a sense of overdue recognition and merit.
Algerians are very much like that; soft-hearted and hot-headed. Willing to stand against any transgression, ready to defend Algeria, Arabism, Palestine, Islam, Africanism (depending on the adversary), Syrians, Afghani and Iraqis but not Berbers, Mzab or Twareg, but their music is cool, so the colours will be brandished and unity will be celebrated despite the unexplainable chasm secretly felt but often ignored, maybe it’s imaginary or induced a la Hollywood! You know who's to blame!

The Wantotrisme is the Un-Researched and unfounded sense of ownership and achievement, of overzealous pride of all things “originating” from Algeria, Zlabia, Schumacher, Andalusi music, Islam (The religion not the player), Idir, Tinariwen, Gnawa music, Cheb Khaled, not so much Cheb Mami, any kind of Tagine and Deglet Nour. All chant the co-dependant national anthem and glee.
Wantotrism came about and became a culture, an integral part of the Algerian identity, part hooliganism, part nationalism, funny but irritating, proud yet shameful but above all loyal to itself and to its team, winning or losing (unlike the English fans).  It’s a gene, a mutation, every Algerian has it, the syndrome manifesting itself in some not others.

Some known albeit not very effective antidotes is taking oneself too seriously or being a Judas, at ones own peril. You have been warned.

 Dz-chick….A Prouder Algerian!
* a sort of disgusting sniffing tobacco

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Happiness and Shiny Hair!

I question myself; I ask questions, lots of questions, some silly like “why doesn’t my hair shine? “, others, more existential like “why am I even here?” and “what now?” and with every question, the need to question becomes stronger …so I ask questions, but never actively seek the answers, I never once stopped to ask Lilia how she gets her hair to freakishly shine like that or why I met someone so special, yet so different and so unattainable that I want him with all my might. So I philosophise a little to make it more bearable, meeting for a reason, the great unknown, destiny and other such terms only used in a timely manner and with careful consideration not to sound overly deep and depressing, even to myself.
So to take my mind off things, I hang out with specific friends, the shallow kind, the kind that worry about having shiny hair and collecting rich friends and the latest iphone etc…, I find it helps to relativise on my own life and achievements, or lack of. They don’t worry themselves about why they are here or what’s going to happen to the world if Shale gas is exploited or if World War III starts, they don’t think about Syrian or Palestinian people, they don’t watch the news, it’s easier that way.
I don’t discuss existential questions with them, I am embarrassed, they’ll think I was a geek, they’ll look at me with the same puzzled looks they wear (as much as Botox allows)  when they hear such words as “existentialism” or “neurones”, they’ll think I take myself too seriously, we discuss and laugh about light subjects, other people (not Syrian or Palestinian), we sing and sound awful, we laugh and sound worse, be merry and pretend life is AWESOME, that we are still young and nobody can see our wrinkles if we continue socialising at night.
After about ohhh a minute! I am bored out of my wits! So I hang out with other more existentially motivated  friends, who over-analyse everything and find comfort in learning and using geeky long-ass-complicated words, you nod when you hear them talk, like you understand everything, you will google it later anyway, sometimes you dare to ask what they meant, you ask your questions so intelligently they think you’re debating, sometimes your mind wonders to places and times when things were simpler and choices weren’t as multiple, you continue nodding and sometimes you even give an hmmm like you’re doubting the accuracy of their statement, then you snap out of your day-dreaming through time, past and future, you refocus your dilated irises and come back to realise there is no comfort to be found in the present.
Sometimes I walk past café terraces where people are drinking and laughing, leaving a theatre after watching a musical and I wonder if they’re truly as careless and free as they look, or do they all go home and think “well this sucks!”.
How long does that happiness last? Do we all put on a show for other friends and families? “The happy and I know it show”, or is happiness something that cannot be measured by conventional ways, like the GNH “Gross National Happiness” proposes!
I find myself drawn to the conclusion that only a time-machine can solve my dilemma, that or I find a median or the place where the lobotomised go, maybe where happiness is like a magic potion you can store in a kitchen jar for rougher times, that would stop you from driving yourself grey with existential questions that serve only to torment you and make your shallow friends feel stupider and where your hair is shinier.
The end.
Dz-chick….stealing from the past, selling it to the present…and calling it happiness!*
Inspired by Paul Hawken’ famous (or not) saying: At present, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.

Friday 2 May 2014

Where is evolution when you need it?

I know I have been absent for a while, i thought it's been a while since I ranted about something, I have been too happy lately with the Bouteflika being president again and all, I just couldn't bring myself to bare my usual cynical self, but desperate times etc...just read it you'll have a better idea of what I (and I am pretty sure a number of women out there) are so ticked off about, it all goes back to the basics.

Apparently an average woman gets her period 500 times in her lifetime! Why?? Why!!!! A torture resulting in a staggering number of cramps, headaches, werewolf transformation followed by devouring of all life and chocolates within one mile radius, a colossal number of tampons, paracetamol, chocolates consumed and 0 babies produced.

To think that of all things in your life, your period is the only consistent thing, is tragic, unless you add weight gain…that’s usually another consistency!

Since the day you became a woman, imagine that! At the age of 12 if not earlier (when you start blossoming and rotting at the same time). The worst is when you get it in the middle of the night and you don’t know what’s happening, you make so much noise in the bathroom trying to work it out or hide it, you end up being discovered by your father. Nice!

Bad enough you’ve been trying to hide the little peanuts you had for breasts through endless PE classes and summer dresses, bad enough you were the first one to have it in all your year and so the only one to fast Ramadan when all your girlfriends ate right in front of you.
Then you put up with the cramps, the excruciating cramps and the vomiting (you vomit more when you're younger before you developed that extra-terresterial threshold to pain) and the endless bleeding and the logistics that go with, you don’t know quite how to deal with it, what to use, garlic concoctions and parsley tea and what nots! Mothers (back then) weren’t exactly forthcoming with info and tampons as you all know, are for sluts!
Now, you’re older (yes you are) and you’ve had your share of periods and cramps, just when you think it’s getting easy, you realise it doesn’t. Ever. Get. Easy...

Because your period has a will of its own, it comes at the most inconvenient of times (expect during Ramadan where you have to beg it to come, then it lasts 2 mins) with cramps so bad even elephant tranquiliser won’t help. On your birthday, valentine’s day, on a date or when you have a looming holiday that requires you to be period free like say a diving holiday, you might take the pill (continuously) to make it stop and you’re all smug about it, only to hit you on the day you least expect it and of course with no painkillers or tampons because you were too smug to pack them in the first place! Then after 3 days of horrid bleeding and a mixture of head, breast and stomach pain mixed with nausea, anger, frustration, unexplained horniness and unbelievable cravings, it STOPS. You start waving the flag of victory otherwise known as the lace thong, then, just then; your ovaries are like “haha just kidding with ya”, so you continue to suffer, Japanese flags for bed sheets, white jeans are out for many reasons since the 1980s but mostly it’s related to that big stain you had all day on your butt and no one told you about. You don't know what to wear anymore, social dilemmas and general discomfort usually accompany the all-encompassing ordeal.

You find yourself asking the male cashier for tampons and those super hard-core extra strength period tablets, the ones you saw on that TV ad where they wish you to have a “Happy period” yeah I’ll do that right after I cure cancer bitch!

Swimming is out of order unless you want to re-enact a scene from Jaws. You will no doubt have you period on the hottest day of the whole world of this whole century, coupled with some menstrual hot flushes, so naturally you can’t swim, you'll just sit there feeling BURGH and smelling of gunpowder.

Already can’t button up your trousers you’re so bloated, so you continue the eating frenzy, you devour your entire fridge, you empty the freezer and the local shop whilst watching “come dine with me” like it was porn.
Sex is out of the agenda (for some not all), which is a shame; because as we all know sex solves all problems including periods. And to top it all off, you have to go through all of this in massive granny knickers a la Bridget Jones and a couple of zits on your forehead for good measure.

Then comes man; and his two hanging glands his whole female clan covets with reverence like the world’s balance hung on them, a pair of externally hanging glands that are so fragile you wonder how important our lives are if they really depended on them, nobody covets your ovaries!! You hear him screech from getting hit in the balls and how much it HURTS, well try having a vagina that bleeds painfully every 28 days for the next 43 years then to talk to us about pain.

Of course when you say that, you’ll get the ever infuriating response: “are you on your period or something?”, “aww is it PMS?”, “you’re very emotional at the moment, is it those bad hormones again?” ...There! We taught them about two things called hormones and PMS and now they’re using them against us. They didn’t even know the word hormone before we started yakking about it to them in the operation covert "Emancipation of the Ape" . Because when you’re trying to teach them about it and say things like “oh darling, I think my pms is playing with my head today”, he’ll say something like “I reckon that started a couple of days ago Dear”!!

Ok it’s true, you might turn into a witch (not without reason), you even have the massive zits to go with, your hormones take over and they envelope you in a fog of sensitivity, pain and agitation you can’t think straight and you become the embodiment of La bitch (ok maybe just me)! I reckon Eve was on PMS when Adam had to just pick that apple to make get her off his back, or Marie-Antoinette, had she not been such a royal bitch, I reckon there wouldn’t have been a revolution and what about Helen, had she had paracetamol there would have been no Trojan war! And if it wasn’t for PMS I wouldn’t have been talking shit to you for the last hour (I am talking to the slow readers here).

Ironically the only thing that can healthily rid you of your period and its undesirable sister: the PMS; is pregnancy! Well ummmm ya! Point is Evolution should have kicked in and sorted this mess out.

Dz-chick….I’ll trade you one period for one kick in the balls!
PS:  I often fear that PMS is just a myth and this is actually just my personality! scary thought.

Most popular ramblings!