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!


  1. You got me by citing Nietzsche ! So I want to post my own translation (with a little help from Google Translate) from french of what he wrote once in a letter. I think it sums up pretty well what you have said :
    "Luckily I am devoid of any political or social ambition, so I have to fear any danger from that side, nothing that retains me, anything that forces me to transactions and to caution. In short I have the right to say out loud what I think, and I want once and for all to try the test that will show how far our fellows, so proud of their freedom of thought, endure of free thoughts. "

    (Friedrich Nietzsche, letter to Malwida von Meysenbug, October 25, 1874)

  2. Homo Erectus I see...from now on, I am citing every cranky philosopher and crackhead in history to get you to say something...

  3. Dez says:
    Wa'lah! Why? I'm confused now... I'm wearing a shirt and tie with elasticated waist trousers because of you! wait... even then I'm conforming. My grandad (born 1897) pioneered the look along with others of his generation with his seroual boutika (loubia to Hamidou and his cohorts), a shirt and a waistcoat. He had shaved his beard and went about bare-headed (no hat or chech) was called a heretic (I'm thinking he was called a *oof but my dad probably sanitised the story for my benefit) by his own brother... But seriously, I think we conform the moment we wear/readsay something to consciensously fit in. But if we do/wear/say what makes us happy then what does it matter if it is the same as the next person? afterall we share a huge amount with other so it is only natural that we have the same preferences. That's not to say that we have to comply to a certain look to fit in. Sometimes the conext decides which of the two we are. I go on holiday and my tanned olived skin and curly hair are suddenly the best look around (a case of Houhou yochkor... etc. here)., but come back to Blighty and it's more akin to exotic at best... which is funny considering that most of Essex look like they bathe in Nutella before going out). Anyway, the point is, being an individual(ist) or conformist is not mutually exclusive. The fundamentals of society are shared/common values/things... etc. And the shoreditch lot are the worst kind of conformists: they are more imprisoned in their so-called individualism than any perceived conformist... but going back to the very beginning... why??? wa'aalach??? I was having a good day til I got confused reading this... ! I'm too old to look cool (never did and never will) so this should not concern me... I best go back to my desk job which pays my mortgage so I can afford two weeks in the sun... I bet I'm the only one doing this... I'm such a rebel... Think I'll get a chinese tattoo on my arm... That's how I roll... in the lane next to the fast one...

  4. I almost always say something in response to your posts.. You DzChick are quite a cranky philosopher to me !

  5. DEZ hahaha the problem is that we conform to make others happy not us, rarely us!

    lol @ in the lane next to the fast one...

    Homo Erectus Yeah you have a good attendance ratio I give you that!

    I will also give you another one (not literally if you know what I mean) lol - I am a cranky Philosopher- not on crack- living in my tonto baggy trousers, tonto skinny jeans, wear my hair curly permanently unless I need to conform (i.e. have a meeting/interview etc..) I rarely wear make-up and I cultivate neurosis to give me more charisma, so far not working.

    You're a bit of a cranky philosopher yourself come to think of it...Excellent!

  6. well I'm not so much cranky apparently.... at least from an outsider point of view ! recently my mum's friend told her : "how come ....... (fill the void with the name of your fantasies !) is not married yet ! he looks so "3aqel" (gentle ? nice ? what would be the right word my dear DzChick ?) and "wlid familia" (that's a big already discussed topic in here, so I won't bother to translate !) You should get him to meet some "bnet familia".. You should give him my daughter's phone (tralalala) ! she's sooooooooooooo marvellous and soooooooo "bent familia" and soooooooooooo.... blablabla"... My mother told me that and kept scrutinizing my facial expressions.. embarassing..

  7. While reading my own comment it's now obvious to me that this is MY MUM'S PLOT to get me to meet girls !!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you DzChick for your useful blog, so good for self awareness !!!!!!

  8. I love how your English self is so much freer than your French self :)
    You should always write in English.

    And to get back to your comment, so your mum is plotting to get you hitched! lol that's a normal day in Algeria, get used to it :) at least she didn't actually invite the girl along with her mother or put a personal AD in the newspaper lol

    I got to the point where I am getting some pressure from my mum, merely in the form of semi-questions like "oh I bet you're just scared of marriage" lol what am I 12?

    "3aqel" in this context would probably translate to "Descent man/boy" which I am sure you are, but I bet she doesn't know about the rest of your habits ha!!

  9. The point is free spirits don't own deodorants!

  10. "I love how your English self is so much freer than your French self"
    You think so ? I have an explanation : maybe due to my mean english vocabulary, I'm not keen to elaborate more on things, to conceptualize, or to be playful with the language. While you may find my writings more "grown up" or thoughtful in french due to me mastering so much better la langue de Molière. I may appear more childish or superficial speaking about my mum's attempt to get me married (nothing wrong with that though) which may be confused with a "more free English self". Is the precedent paragraph a proof that you're actually wrong, my dear DzChick ?

  11. It all makes sense to me now!

    Thanks for this post DZ


  12. Homo Erectus Perhaps I am wrong and perhaps you're right...You talk a good case there Homo Erectus but I still think you are freer in English, I read an article about some research that was done on how people's personalities change with the language they're speaking/thinking in and it didn't mention anything about the level of fluency in the language, it was merely how you perceive that said language and how you learnt it.

    Blue Glad to be of assistance :P where did you get to Missy? How’s NYC?

  13. I doubt people's personality change with the language (I mean REALLY change, even slightly).. Maybe some cosmetic changes, for example some crude words algerian girls may say easily to their boyfriend in french, but you can kill yourself and they won't say it in derja (I'm sure all of you girls know what I mean).. That doesn't involve a true change in personnality, in my opinion.. You can drop a link so we can read the article though..

  14. I believe it's the case and it's not because girls can't say certain words in Derja but gladly say it in French (haha so true though)

    ok Read here: Do different languages confer different personalities? http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/11/multilingualism
    and here: Multilinguals Have Multiple Personalities: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117485/multilinguals-have-multiple-personalities

    Here too Switching languages can also switch personality: study http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/06/24/us-languages-personalities-idUSSP4652020080624

    Of course these are all studies and theories, but I subscribe to them, although i believe the main facets of the personality remain constant, the variants are less or more inhibitions, certain complexes that surface with certain languages, anxieties and other perhaps minor changes

  15. I want to vent. Conformity in the Algerian culture is really making me sick. I truly don't understand where these people are heading. They want to fit people in one mold and discourage free thinking or colorful people. free thinking and challenging social and cultural norms is unacceptable. Not allowing people to think outside the box limits progress. their goal is to all dress the same, speak and behave the same way. you need to say machaallah, inchallah, etc...c'est unsupportable!!! I don't know what I am saying anymore, but you get the idea.

  16. hahaha vent away Citro' this is place to do it.
    What always strikes me is that everybody feels pressurised more than anything to conform to the clone image, standard haircut which no matter how long you'll spend explaining to the hairdresser you'll still come out looking like everyone in the neighbourhood, the same outfits, the agreed one for every day (Levis jeans and a very distinctly cut leather jacket) and the agreed on for the weekend (A tracksuit - preferably Lacoste).
    If you wear anything different you'll stand out like a sore thumb.
    Well at least they’re all recognisable internationally ;)

  17. I think you guys are talking about conformity because you live in cities. I'm not far from London but live in a small town where nothing much happens. No one wears Levis jeans or Lacoste tracksuit it's more like Primark tee-shirt and Tesco jeans LOL and certainly not distinctly cut leather jacket. I go out in my baggy trousers or ( oh so nice elasticated ) leggings with curly hair and a rucksack and nobody gives a damn as it's the normal look....On the other hand, when I think of conformity, I would say that we all conform to this consumerist society that we live in. we all have to own iphones , we all have to watch the same TV programs, we all have to go holidaying in the same places etc...otherwise we look odd.

  18. You talk about your rural life and lack of pressure as if you're not conforming to anything :) The fact you say it's the normal look means that's the norm to conform to.

    But as you say as well, we conform one way or another, if you don't albeit a little bit you'll be labelled an outsider or a weirdo.

  19. DZC, It would be fun to read your take on Algerian nationalism. I am Algerian who dislikes nationalism in general. I think it is dangerous and a disease to the individual.

  20. I kinda did over the years...but maybe the Wantotrism one covers it

  21. Dz Chick: " I spotted a few holes in my...knickers" !!
    Dear, deardear, how unsophisticated you have become since last I directed your daily course.
    Here I was thinking you a high maintenance woman. Do you have even more nasty surprises in store for me? If you do, PLEASE let me down easy. I am so beat up from my 10 sweat-filled rounds with *Blue*, and my heart is still in a weakened state. I implore you to do this kind service to one wholly undeserving of it.

    You know who

  22. I made a long comment responding to the articles you kindly submitted to us.. gone by a wrong click.. utterly digusted :-(

  23. You know Who .....still don't!

    What can I say, the years have been unkind to me! my skin is blotchy and my stomach grows (it ain't no baby), my hair is crazy and my clothes frampy! Beyond help I lay...save yourself I say!!

    Homo Erectus Well write it again!!! damn it!!

  24. li fat mat.. :-(

  25. Hi dz bella,
    What if you were wearing an arab dress (hijab),.which is sort of conforming other culture and definitely is not ours! would he still be calling you Sa3oudit! free spirit??
    Ciao bela

  26. Hello M I never heard of this expression before "arab dress" how orientalist of you ;)

    Everyone conforms to something, we conform to our culture through eating couscous and drinking mint tea etc...

    I need to write a new post! my head is full of them...time sadly is the issue. Glad to see you still around though :)

  27. Hi dz Bella,
    What..? Orientalist!.. nahhh.. I prefer to be called Algerianist ;)
    Wallah I always thought that hijab and niqab are arab dress, please accept my apologies for being ignorant ;(
    and still around and loyal to your writing so long as you don't criticize us ;)
    Ciao bella
    Avere una buona giornata di venerdi
    happy Friday


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