Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Before I launch into my ideas about utopias for my dear now-sleeping friend, Hannah, I want to say, I know there are typos, spelling errors and sometimes errant letters that escape my delition button--sometime I will clean up all the mistakes produced by haste--this kind of writing for me comes quick and burning and so I am careless in ways writers should not be. I have only so much energy and for now, I pour it into the raw castings of my thoughts. And`another thing--I must have stifled responses after I replied directly to Wendy in my blog--or perhaps this is an act of my ego to think more then three minds have met mine. Please let me know if your read these words.

Now Hannah, why I cringe a little from "utopian" visions--and as I was thinking about this, I realized that the opposite of Utopia for me is the Diaspora--the permeable world of exchanges between differences, the yearning not for perfection or a blueprint of social conformities, but the shaping of hope from the real, from the clashings of multitudes of life. Now to write these words some 68 years after the Holocaust when Europe became a monster of exclusion unto death for all judged misfits and today, when in America "illegal" immigrants are marched away in the thousands, in the clothes they went to work in, the burly uniformed guards shepherding them away from hope, may appear naive, sentimental or self indulgent. But utopian dreams of perfected societies often carry within them all kinds of potential exclusions--I am not sure utopian thinking allows for much self criticism-- certainties of what should be, born from imaginations marked by their own time, often reflect, even in the imagining of a new state, the restrictions of the old. I think of race and class--as your example showed. In my lesbian feminist life, I have seen the workings of lesbian separatism--as expressed in the utopian--with a small u--world of the Michigan's Women's Music Festival. How wonderful--a place where women could be safe, where women's culture could be celebrated--yes, yes until the vision was challenged by a more gender complex world. What to do with transgendered woman, with women who started life as women but now live as men, with all the variations of the gender dispora, if I may say--then this radical vision of another world, to me, became a reactionary cultural geography where phrases like, "biologically born women only" stand guard at the camp's gates.
You asked me if utopias are suspect, then where do we find hope. In the mess, I want to say, in the mess. I think of the image of the Palestinian man in Gaza, dressed only in a short sleeved white shirt and pants, running towards a machine gun toting militant, trying to get the gun away from him, his civilian hands reaching out, turning the gun away--only a moment on the news covering the early days of Hamas' soldifying its power over the streets of Gaza--this man seemed almost naked in his despair at what Palestinians where doing to other Palestinians--no defenses only his out stretched arms--I almost did not breath so sure I was that in the height of the moments, with chaos all around, the wounded and dead lying the in the street, the freedom fighter would simply pull his trigger--I thought of the young Chinese student in Tiamen Square in front of the world-sized tank, of the half- naked monks of Burma, of the young and old Black Americans who marched down the streets of Selma and all over the American South, of the Jewish man who would not leave his wheel-chair bound Christian African-American work buddy on one of the doomed floors of the Trade Center, of the Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories--Hannah, this is probably no help to you at all but I will continue.
I am not a scholar, have read no books about Utopian workings in the world--except the utopian fictions both of years ago and of the feminist movement--I understand the wonder and the need to articulate dreams of perfected societies--these dreams often grow out of the depths of how much we fail each other, they are calls to rethink institutions and social and economic traditions, they grow out of the paucity of the existing imagination--about gender, about justice, about equality, about love, about cities. Certainly the English and American socialist utopian communities of the 19th and 20 centuries helped to form a more humane modernity. So why am I not more drawn to utopian thinking--is it always being the daughter of an embezzeling mother, a neer do well, who got herself thrown out of so many decent worlds. I think I fear the joining of utopian thinking and nationalisms, of utopian thinking and power over who is human enough to live in the perfected future, of utopian thinking and the free market economy. We are back now, Hannah, as you lay peacefully sleeping, I hope, to the dilemma of your paper--to the dilemma of your women who saw Israel as a chance to make their dreams of a just society live in the desert--except for two problems: they were women and an indigenous people were living out their dreams there as well.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Dearest Joan,

1) I am so glad that you keep writing to challenge and answer 'men of power." But I also wonder about women in power as well as those who back men in power (the Lynn--and Mary--Cheney's of the world), or those who do and say nothing about the atrocities going on around the globe--and in their own backyards. I know that this is not the focus of your particular blog, but I don't believe women should escape comment. Over here in the States so many women believe Hillary is a "corrective" to male abuse of power. I don't agree. I think she is more of the same.

And by the way Joan, you would be glad to know that there are appearing more and more PEACE and political buttons, protests and other signs of intelligent political life in New York City. Union Square is so full of like-minded souls, a swirl of activity--almost daily there is music, art, protest, love and camaraderie.

2) As one the "misfits" of the world: feminist, lesbian, mentally ill, etc., I find the utopian dream one that, like you, leads to suspicion, separation and exclusion rather than collaboration, understanding and inclusion. What about Brave New World?

Your points about lesbian separatism and the Michigan Womyn's Music festival are quite valid, even the (mis?)spelling of women in the festival's name suggests exclusion.

2) Typos are part of, as you mention, the immediacy of blogs, the beauty of the instantaneous (re)action to immediate events that are unfolding before our very eyes--just keep writing and don't worry, we understand you and will keep reading. Just please keep putting it out there/here.

With love,
Stephanie