You will fucking fail / You will succeed too / You will absolutely love it / You are part of a giant, sexy beast

Okay,

I am almost going home. Sort of.

Why sort of?

I could say “oh my god my home is here in Peru I belong here its so fantastic.”

I feel this way. Its true.

I feel comfortable wandering around aimlessly, repeating myself because one cannot understand my accent.  I feel comfortable in this house with these amazing people, who make sure I understand the Pedro Almodovar film we are watching. I feel at home with this beautiful bald dog, I feel at home when I am watching pornographic performance art which gives me conflicting feelings, I feel at home when I am cooking southern (united states southern) food in the southern hermisphere.

Nobody knows what a biscuit is. Or nutella. And to introduce one to these things as they introduce me to rocotto, and more, and more is pretty, well. Damn, its just pretty cool.

I can’t believe the kindness here.

No joke, no joke, no joke.

But I am going home. To the place where I am from. The place that I have been alternately criticizing and missing. The place where I will speak English and it might feel a little weird at first. I’m hoping not to have a strange nervous breakdown.

I probably will. I probably would in about a week anyway. I’m due.

Here are the four things I wanted to write about and think about during my stay here:

“1. The Theatre.

2. Gay Men and their culture.

3. Spirituality.

4. My Feelings.”

I think I’ve done pretty well, to be perfectly honest.  I’ve definitely gotten in touch with my feelings.  My friends know this for sure. They are sick of it.

But too bad because I’m going to talk about them now.

I mean, they’ve become valid here. I feel alot more valid now. Everything is more valid. We’ll see how this holds up against the sometimes invalidating cold technography of Seattle.

(Sorry Seattle, sometimes you are cold and white and grey and hard to engage with and it drives me crazy. And I miss you, because you are also pithy, because you are also delicious. And you have no idea what you are in for when I get back, and I hope I can back up those words.)

And spirituality kind of factors into this.

I mean, I feel much more spiritual when I am in touch with my feelings. Gross. That sentence sucks.

But its true.   So very, very true.

I am figuring out that, seriously, my god seriously, things exist on a horizontal plane.  Things are horizontal in terms of hierarchy. Things are horizontal in terms of relation, of nation. Nations are horizontal. Feelings are horizontal to information. What is empirical is horizontal to what is terribly terrifying and indescribable.

Why did I learn this in Peru?  Why is Peru special?

Its not.

I mean, it is special, its very special, but its not exotic, its not a mystical strange place. Its a place horizontal to our own, special, different, and the same. What is cold is cold, what is spicy, spicy, what is hard to do, hard to do.

The Theater is The Theater.

And what I’ve learned is what I knew, but what I knew was formless, and now adheres to form when it needs too.

And I’ve leaned that there is an urgency to work. There is no time any more to worry too much about criticism. See, there is this terrible, terrible habit that people seem to have before they create anything.

They criticize it.

They try to form it perfectly before they even have started.

And this is not new news. Everyone says it.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
— Ira Glass

My fucking hero Ira.

(I love you Ira Glass.)

But when we sit down to do this, it seems like none of us can get past this idea that we are going to fail.

“Many times I see you as a portrait of torture.”
— Ira Glass

Many people lie and support each other with remarks such as “You are amazing” and “Its going to be so beautiful, its going to be so great.”

Yes. It will be.

But to reinforce the fear of failing by denying it is no better than sitting in your room drinking until you pass out. Because they are the same.

Because good is subjective.

“It’s hard to make something that’s interesting. It’s really, really hard. It’s like a law of nature, a law of aerodynamics, that anything that’s written or anything that’s created wants to be mediocre. The natural state of all writing is mediocrity… So what it takes to make anything more than mediocre is such an act of will…”
— Ira Glass

I say this not to flipantly create without working hard and paying attention to detail. Criticism is so important to improving one’s art.

I say this not to discourage anyone from creating.

WE ARE MADE OF STARDUST.

Okay?

You create without even knowing it.

You act every day.

You cannot avoid it.

You cannot avoid creating, in fact.

So if you are worried about not being creative, that’s too bad, because you already are.

If you are worried about making something good, that’s too bad, because you already are.

If you think you are the best, you are not.

If you think you are the worst, you are not.

You are made of stardust and transmit information just like the fucking rest of us.

“…uncorny, human sized drama”
— Ira Glass

So make something. Especially new theater.  Especially gay men in their culture.

What I’ve learned is that Gay culture is far more expansive than we could imagine, it is far more interesting than simply Lady Gaga (she’s interesting, but shes not the only interesting thing.)

It is from the north to the south, it is across the goddamn globe. And although at times it may seem (to me) to be impotent (sometimes, yes, sorry Seattle. Sometimes it seems impotent.) sometimes it seems to be superficial, sometimes it seems to be all these things.

These are a reflection upon myself. My feelings about myself. (Like every other goddamn thing, sorry.)

I’ve learned we are all part of one great big living gay beast. However sexy and scary that sounds. I like being part of it.

We’re not in the same boat. We’ve all got different ideas of what gay is, what it needs to be, but honestly, although it seems awfully petty, we are fighting together. Whether we want to or not.

And its nice to rest in that.

This is my last post to this blog. (More to come.)

Peru has given me more than I asked. Thanks Peru.

Thank you everyone who let me stay in their house. Thank you everyone who could teach me something. Thank you every one who gave me ideas. Thank you everyone who helped me learn spanish. Thank you everyone who drove me in a taxi, who ate with me, who cooked with me, who lived with me, who agreed with me, who disagreed with me. Thank you for letting me love you.

Thank you.

Now let’s go do something!

 

 

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La Tierra No Es Contra Ti / Pero Tambien Es Asi

Alain Dlugosz Salas:

“mirar el cielo

tocar la terra

ser árbol

y nada más”

Para mi, son importante las cosas al azares.

For me, the random things are important.

Last night I was confronted about my project, (AVAILABLE HERE), by a Cuscueñan actor.  There is a line in the Castillian video that reads:

“La Tierra Es Contra Ti.”

Which is:

“The whole earth is against you.”

And this gentleman was adamant:

“(paraphrased) I agree with the whole of it, but not that line. I do not believe that the earth is against you, I do not believe that the world is malicious. I believe we are all part of the world, so how can it be against us?”

Then he retrieved a book: Tawa by Alain Dlugosz Salas and told me to flip to the last page. And what I read was the poem at the top of this post, which roughly translates:

“To watch the sky

To touch the earth

To be a tree

and nothing more.”

And another:

Si

Ser uno

Ser la tierra

Ser el sol y el agua

Ser la hierba entre la tierra y uno

Ser la pequeña casa que parece reducida

Ser el minúsculo ganado que está todavia más lejos

Ser los árboles que suben juntos por la montaña hasta la cima

Ser la enorme montaña y los copos inalcanzables

Ser el azul descubierto por las nubes lentas

Ser la sensación de ser y saber sentirlo

Ser sonrisa y lágrima de alegria

Ser plentitud y felicidad

Ser instante

Ser.”

Which roughly translates:

“If

To be one

To be the earth

To be the sun and the water

To be the herb between the earth and one

To be the small house which seems diminished

To be the tiny pack of roaming cattle which still is further away

To be the trees which rise together up the mountain to its peak

To be the enormous mountain and the unreachable flakes of  snow

To be the clear blue behind the slow moving clouds

To be the sensation of “to be” and to know how to feel it

To be a smile and a tear of happiness

To be plenitude and happiness

To be an instant

To be.”

And I agree.

I like to be disagreed with. In fact, I think its the point of stating opinion. To disagree.

I had an argument about disagreement, which I believe proves my point.

My friend has said that she does not like to disagree. I think that many are uncomforable with disagreement because it assumes a personal element. Opinions are personal, and many feel attacked when they are challenged.

This is not news.

But how else are they to survive?

Disagreement as a concept suggests war to many people. Disagreement suggests passionate attacking, it suggests terrible conflict and loss on both sides.

But I do not think disagreement is war.

I do not think that it is senselessly violent.

But I believe it is violent.

I want to re-frame violence in this context. Feel free to disagree. In fact, please do.

Violence, yes, is senseless. It is (wo)man eating (wo)man. It is (wo)man subjecting, objectifying (wo)man. Some argue that the distinction between man and woman itself is violent. I disagree.

Because I believe that violence can be made love to: I believe that its organizing principle can be co-opted. And is. I believe that it is creative because it is destructive. And I believe we are here today because of it.

Evolution is violent. As a whole, the earth is a supportive being, giving birth to life, sustaining it, nurturing it. But on a micro-level, the way it sustains life is through constant struggle, eating, consuming of the other, integration of the other.

Do not think I am moralizing or making metaphor. Again, the sort of violence two protazoa inflict upon each other, a lioness upon its prey, a falcon upon the rabbit, the rabbit upon the grass, is not the same sort of violence inflicted by colonialism upon another culture, it is not the same as when a man takes up arms to kill.

But to view violence (itself, in meta-sense, as defined as a clashing of forces) as morally wrong is to exclude what power it may have.

The best way to defeat this sort of violence  is to make love to it, to give it child which resembles it.  By enemy in this sense I mean that which is to be combated. (By this sort of violence, I mean the violence of man against man in senseless struggle. )

I am whirling in circles.

To be clear:

I am (arbitrarily) suggesting two sorts of violence.

  1. Violence as conflict, encompassing all sorts of natural conflict. (ie. protazoa vs. bacteria, plant vs. plant, animal vs. plant, animal vs. animal, species vs. species, idea vs. idea, natural order of dis-assemblage and re-assemblage)
  2. Violence as poisonous product of conflict, as allergic reaction (A man kicks a boy for trying to sell him gum, a man in norway kills almost a hundred, a nation, in [terrible, brutal] retaliation against [terrible, brutal] retaliation, starts a war and places itself into debt solely for its ideology, there’s more.)

I think that in order to end this second sort of violence we must, must, must, must disagree and conflict with each other. Too often have I heard that disagreement is the root of war.  Its not. War is the root of war.

An inability to disagree is the root of war!

And indeed, it is much more complicated than this.  People write for years, they spend their whole lives debating this topic.

And for good reason.

Memories travel through generations, they are transferred through performance, they are transferred through food, they are transferred through books, academia, family, they are transferred, transmitted.

Why are they transferred?

Because they are alive, just as we are. They do it on their own Their bodies, blood, fluid are comprised of our bodies, blood, fluid. They are greater than us; sometimes we worship them. And so, and so, and so…

We exist in a symbiotic relationship with these ideas. We support them. They support us.

But when they clash, when these greater ideas, sometimes encapsulated and named as gods, sometimes as ideology, sometimes as finances, sometimes we, as their body, overreact, as histamines against an allergy, we implode. We destroy ourselves because we perceive a threat.

And there is no threat.

Because ideas do need to be violent (in the first sense).  In order to ensure their survival, they need to strengthen themselves through constant challenge, through disagreement. Their strength is ours. But our folly is theirs.

Thusly, I do believe the earth is against us, yes, I do. Precisely because it supports us.  It places us through tests, it constantly weighs us down through the force of gravity, it exerts pressure upon us in order to strengthen itself. This is not about survival of the fittest. It is about exercise, it is about breaking muscle to build it.

But it does not relent.

Because you are one with the earth, because you are to be, because you are to be a tree, because you are to be the fucking sky, you must also be violently pulled at just as the tree is by the wind, the sky, the atmosphere, is by the solar ray, you must also “be” violently against all that there “is” in order to sustain yourself and it.

All this in the first sense.

And if we make love to violence, if we embrace conflict as inevitable, healthy, then we can vaccinate ourselves against the terrible reactions which can arise from poorly completed conflict.

So please, watch this video and disagree with me about all of this.

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Un Post en Roto Castellano

A Nadie y A Todos,

Yo he pensado mucho en mi proyecto (de este programa) -su forma, su mensaje. No sabia que iba a hacer, pero tengo un idea ahora.

Mi program, quizas como saben, es sobre la relación entre el arte y las politicas, especifcamente in Peru.  Cuando llegué, tenía muchas ideas sobre que iba a hacer, ideas sobre el cambio del mundo, sobre el amor libre, sobre libertad, pero despues unos días se fueron.  Cuando ví la situación (más differente que esperaba) realicé que tenía que aprender sobre arte en general, la política en general, y especialmente el castellano.   Lucho mucho con mi ¨situacion política¨ porque no creo que tengo la experiencia misma que otros. ¿Es una cuestion de privilegio? ¿De juventud? ¿De ignorancia?  No se.

Cuando conocimos mis ideas fueron en las nubes-pensaba en filosofia, pensaba como un idealista.  Y ahora, eso ha cambido. He apredendido que soy un filósofo y un artista tambien.

A dios mio, que aburrido. Lo siento, quiero mucho hablar sobre mis sentidos.

En cada post yo lo dijé.

No necesito quedar in el mundo de filosofia. En este mundo no hay mucho para hacer, solamente pensar, solamente pelear, solamente masturbarse.  Y cuando estes acciones son importantes (¿si?) no son sufficiente (¿si?).

Lo siento, pero este blog es como mi cuaderno. Y para mi para escribir es más facil cuando yo creo que hay escuchadores. (Si se quiere hablar de masturbarse…) Gracias por su tiempo. Hay más para leer.

Entonces, ¿es posible para combinar la filosofia y la academia con acciones fisicos? Creo que si, con confianza.

Por ejemplo, la idea de que todos los humanos estan hechos de estrellas puede ser poderoso. No es una cuestion de ¨enseñarle a la gente popular.¨ No. Es una cuestion de logica.

Si estoy hecho de estrellas, la materia dentro mi cuerpo es antigua. Para que crear un cuerpo, la materia antigua debe reacionarse y tambien crear energia.  Esa energia es como un circuito electrico en una computadora, con un sistema exacto. Cada dia, esa energia esta resistiendo la gravedad de la tierra, y cada dia, todavia se tiene energia extra para caminar, trabajar, enamorarse. Esa energia esta disponsable.

Augusto Boal tiene 4 partes del processo de cambio desde el espectador hasta el actor.  Seguidamente esta la explicacion de como entiendo estas cuatro partes. Estas partes son muy utilies en trabajo teatral, pero creo que es posible utilizarlas en contextos más generales.
1. La identificación y liberación de las formas sociales del cuerpo.
Si se indentifica sus formas, su materia de estrellas, es posible para crear su propias formas, o para usar las formas sociales en maneras nuevas. Es similar del concepto de -buggering- de Deuleze and Guattari. Los escritores dicen que es posible para acercarse al concepto social de atras y darle un ¨niño,¨ un concepto nuevo que es similar y muy diferente en el mismo tiempo. Se puede hacer con formas sociales si primero se aprende como perderles.
2. El conocimiento de la expresión del cuerpo.
Despues de la liberación del cuerpo, se puede eligir como utilizar su propio cuerpo. Su cuerpo no es solamente para las acciones quotidianas, pero tambien es una herramienta para transmitir información al otro.  Diana Taylor dice que ¨performance,¨ en su sentido más general, es un accion de traslado, de información, memoria, todos. Performance ni es solamente en el teatro, ni es solamente para algo público tampoco. Performance es cara a cara, email a email, libro a libro, humano a humano en todos las formas. Se acuta cada dia sin el conocimento! Y cuando lo sabe, se puede utilizar todos las herramientas del cuerpo (boca, cara, manos, prescencia, todos) para expresar.
3. Una idioma nueva
Si se puede expresar con todo su cuerpo, se tiene una idioma nueva para transmitir information. Si se puede transmitir con una idioma nueva, es possible para transmitir ideas differentes. Por ejemplo, Yuyachkani, un grupo teatral de Lima, combina las tecnias de arte visual, teatro, danza, musica, arquitectura y más para decir algos que no se puede decir con palabras solamente. Su obra ¨Sin Titulo-Tecnica Mixta¨ es ¨sobre la guerra chilena, el periodo de Fujimori, terrorismo, etc.¨ pero no intente ¨explicar¨ eso. En lugar, intente mostrar lo que pasa, no en cuanto de ¨hechos,¨ pero en cuanto de lo que pasa en los mundos de conciencia, subconciencia, supraconciencia.
4. Un dialogo
Después se crean una nueva idioma, es posible para hacer diagolos. Puntos de vista en competencia existen, obviamente, y se han debatido en los ruedos del arte, la academia, etc. Pero usualmente esos ruedos se han limitado para ¨expertos,¨ y las idiomas son hyper-especifico. No se puede acceder a la conversación sin años de experiencia. Pero cuando se libera su cuerpo, cuando se crea su propio idioma, cuando se crea lugares para expresar en todos tipos de expresión, así es posible para crear diálogos con todos los puntas de vista.

¿Cuantos veces he explicado Boal? ¿Cinco?

Que estoy diciendo no es nuevo. Pero, como dice Taylor, como dice Delueze y Guattari, como dice bastante mucho, hay la posibilidad para empezar conversaciones.

Si, hay posibilidades.

¿Y mi proyecto? Bueno.

Voy a hacer un video (en castellano y ingles) con consejos sobre las cuatro partes, pero no voy a explicar los cuatro partes como Boal. Voy a ¨bugger¨ Boal.

Haré este video en dos semanas. Estoy escribiendo el texto ahora.

Eso es todo.

Yo se. Parece inútil.

¨Dylan, todos no tiene acceso al Internet. ¿Un video? ¿Cuántos personas mirarían eso? ¿En castellano también? No lo sabes. ¿Y por que la liberación del cuerpo? Hay muchas cuestiones que tienen más importancia? Hay un falta de agua. Hay un crisis financia. Hay inigualdad. ¿Y ofreces tus sentidos? ¿Ofreces un video?¨

Y si. Ofrezco mis sentidos. Ofrezco mi video. Y cada día me criticaré. Confia en mi. Yo se los problemas. Pero, cada día también voy a crear obras que traten dar poder a todos.

Eso es como puedo empezar.

Entonces, por favor. Ayuda me.

Libera su cuerpo.

Enséñame como.

 

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Time to Dance

I think I’ve finally broken through something,  isn’t that something?

Oh no, time for feelings talk.

But not too much, I promise.

Goodness, so, well, let’s look at the last week. (Please review the posts since the 15th if you need.)

Paucartambo = The virgin breaking through the crowd and the demons.

Tourism = A terrifying performance.

Macchu Picchu = Disneyland and the mountains which speak.

Now let’s review the primary themes of the program = Art vs. Politics.

Now let’s review the four primary points I began thinking about (See the first posts of this blog if needed.)

  • Performance
  • My feelings
  • Gayness
  • Spirituality

Now let’s look at Augusto Boals four steps to transform the spectator into the actor:

  1. Discover/Undo the socially predetermined forms of the body.
  2. Make the body expressive.
  3. Enter the body into theatrical language.
  4. Enter the body into theatrical discourse.

Okay…so…Now What?

Time to Dance.

Badly.

Why?

Before I left for Peru, I was speaking with a dancer, who quoted Kevin Kelly from his book What Technology Wants.

“For the average hydrogen atom in our body, the few years it spends dashing from one cellular station to another will be the most fleeting glory imaginable. Fourteen billion years in inert lassitude, then a brief, wild trip through life’s waters, and then on again to the isolation of space when the planet dies. A blink is too long an analogy.”

What the fuck does that mean?

Well it means, for one, that our bodies are concentrated bits of energy billions of years in existence.  Really. And oh my goodness that’s amazing.

The human body is constantly reacting against the oppressive nature of gravity (which never the less holds our bodies together, that complicates the discussion.)

Augusto Boal:

“Each person should endevour to study the force of gravity, which is an actual existing force, pulling us toward the ground 24 hours a day. We are talking about an enormous force-a force equivalent to our own weight! If I stretch out my arm, it requires an enormous effort on my part to keep it outstretched, otherwise it would fall.  If I didn’t make a huge effort, my head would drop, since it has no particular reason to stay upright on the top of my neck….This is such a daily burden that we don’t even realise it is happening. All day and every day, we make this extreme effort, without even being aware of it….That’s something. A huge something. As huge as the force which we have to counteract all our lives.”

So each hydrogen atom in our bodies, while whirling around in the normal circuitry of our chemical systems, is in active resistance against the oppressive force of gravity. Not only this, but those hydrogen atoms, along with oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and other trace minerals, comprise a body/mind (not body and mind, but body/mind, says the dancer. I believe him.)  which is capable of choosing to move itself in resistence against this force.

In fact, this body is capable of much!

Aristotle speaks of three things which comprise a soul:

  1. Faculties: Every possible action a (wo)man is capable of making.
  2. Passions: An actualized faculty, a singular faculty which a (wo)man completes in the actual.
  3. Habits: Reiterated passions, ones which, by nature of their repetitiveness, tend the (wo)man towards the actualization of certain faculties and away from others.

Augusto Boal’s first step of the spect-actor involves the discovery of these (socially imposed) physical habits by the completion of non-familiar passions (rediscovering the full physical faculty by way of games and exercises.)

His second step involves the the ultilization of the newly familiarized and expanded faculty and its passions in order to express.

The third involves the intentional creation of expressive habits which are freely chosen, rather than socially constructed. These expressive habits become a language, which is capable of the transmission of knowledge.

Diana Taylor, in her book Acts of Transfer, writes about how performance can be considered in the broadest sense. Along with traditional forms such as dance, theater etc., the word performance covers:

“…civic obedience, resistance, citizenship, gender, ethnicity, and sexual identity.”

And as a language, performance functions as an “act of transfer”, processing ancient “archival” memory into a current “repertoire” of gestures which combine and transmit this information.

“Archival memory works across distance, over time and space; investigators can go back to reexamine an ancient manuscript, letters find their addresses through time and place, and computer discs at times cough up lost files with the right software…[A]rchival memory suceeds in separating the source of ‘knowledge’ from the knower…[R]epertoire, on the other hand, enacts embodied memory: performances, gestures, orality, movement, dance, singing-in short, all those acts usually thought of as ephemeral, nonreproducible knowledge…[It] allows for individual agency…”

So the language of theater is a repertoire, combinations of gestures, chosen passions of the body which embody ancient memory.

And when this repretoire is entered into a dialogue, embodying not only ancient but current memory, and when this dialogue is determined to examine, critique and change the social constructs within which it lies, then all of a sudden the spectator of one’s surroundings is suddenly the creator of one’s surroundings.

One has then actualized the hydrogen atoms into movement, which is resistance against gravity, which embodies archival memory into gesture, which transfers knowledge, which can be used to transfer previously unheard voices, which can be used to speak to each other.

Good practice?

Dancing badly in a club.  

And to what end?

To practice the actualization of hydrogen atoms.

And then what?

Put it together.

 

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North American Scum

Oh my goodness, what the hell happened in the last week?

I just returned from Macchu Picchu last night, and oh my god Disneyland.

Here is what I mean by this.

When I arrived in Aquas Calientes (or Pueblo/Municipalidad Macchu Picchu, depends on who you ask) it was dark and I was ferreted immediately to my hotel. Of course I was glad for the hot shower, and of course for the bed.

(I was tired from the journey, because several of my collegues and friends decided to turn the whole train-car into crazy party pisco train. We criticize north american loud tourism because we understand it. I do not judge, criticize, but ya’ll, we were loud. )

The train itself had already been an adventure.

“Peru Rail, creating unforgettable adventures, now announces the arrival of expedition train 84.”

We’d been served Mate de Coca on a large map of the Inca trail, along with chocolate covered corn, fried fava beans,  screaming:

YOU ARE IN PERU

And when I woke up, I was greeted by beautiful jungle mountains, mist, and a rushing river. Outside, Disneyland. Peruvian bands which all had the requisite flutes, matching outfits, and of course, the electric drumset and perfectly balanced sound system. Pretty manicured streets, friendly calls from restaurants of:

“Amigo, pasale! No? Friend? Maybe later?”

Massages every three feet, a hot springs with a matching Inca bartender (whose picture was on the drink menu, emerging from a waterfall with long long hair, no shirt, and arms outstretched) and of course, the ride to Macchu Picchu.

We took a bus.

I really wanted to hike, and indeed, packed for it. But we took a bus. The bus line was packed with complaining white people (and us) and merchants peddling ponchos (it was raining.) Oh well.

Then the entrance line, complete with revolving turnstiles, passport checks, and soft “Andean Music” with synthesizers and triumphant key signatures.

Then the tour. We were first scolded for talking too much (and with reason, at least on my end,) and then led through ruins and ruins, with descriptions and facts, and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t paying attention because of the mountains.

Is that wrong?

You see, I’m not really a person that believes in Cosmic Energy as a force. Not really a person that believes that a city like Cusco is “The Navel of the World.” I’m not into feather fairy rainbow talk (yes I am), I’m not into spirits still alive, and I’m not into the Apu, not into the bible, not in the ways that I believe many are, not literally not as answers.

But I am into these things as complicating questions. (What?) They are part of my life in much deeper ways than can be expressed by a microphoned Peruvian flute band.

I am interested in what happened at Macchu Picchu, but to go someplace and say “this is where the…and this is the…and this totally meant…and the king lived…” is as redundant as anything I could imagine. I do like knowing these things, I do like hearing about them, but to be honest, I would rather have read them on my own and explored Macchu Picchu in silence. Because those mountains, those mountains, that view.

You can’t say things like what the mountains say.

This morning this grew into a discussion of culture creation. The culture of Peru, of course, is being co modified into one like a Macchu Picchu playground, where its easy to eat, drink, relax, feel culture, see the world, all for a price. In addition, the culture of the tourist is created, because what is created is assumed to be what “we” want. So, then the (mostly) white European/North American culture is assumed to be one of easy easy easy, of fancy dinners, lazy days, of one which comodifies culture.

Which I can tell you (and you) isn’t true.

To be honest, I’m no anthropologist, I’m not versed in cultural studies, I’m mostly versed in Philosophy and Theater Theory. So that’s the tool I have to use.

And that is what I said in the discussion this morning.

Because action should be taken!

Not contradictory action, but actual action, action which blends these together!

Its time for some exclamation points!

And what actions?

Well, we’re studying art and politics. And those who say that art does nothing are totally wrong and I don’t agree with them.

My professor gave me some advice on something I’d seen the other day: a small boy (5 years old) without shoes had approached a group of drunk Londoners in the main square at around 12 in the morning. And they proceeded to tackle him, shake him away with their foot, and generally get into his face, calling him every little thing you would soap out of your son’s mouth. At first I could do nothing. Then I began to approach, both afraid (I was one against 6) and yet ready to fight. But the little one left, and the Londoners went to spend more money on alcohol. (For reference, a drink in a fancy club might cost 15/s. or $5.46, or 3.96 EUR.)

He came up to me; he was trying to sell two packs of gum for 5/s.(about $1.82, 1.32 EUR) and they had obviously taken offense. When I asked what they were doing, if they were bothering him, his only reply was that they had simply not wanted to buy the gum. I bought the gum. He ran off into the dark, without shoes, without a jacket, without tears, upright, like a spirit, like an apu, like an angel, like all these things I construe immediately because I can only understand this sort of thing spiritually or else all breaks apart.

And in the end it does anyway.

I cried in private. I’ll fucking admit it, I think I’d better.

My friend said to me: “That’s why Cuscuenos hate gringos.”

And my professor said to me: “You’ve now witnessed all kinds of violence.”

And when I asked what I could possibly do, he replied: “Report it.”

And my friend, that night he said: “Well, now you have the indignation necessary.”

And so action?

Well, that doesn’t seem to be so hard now.

IT JUST HAS TO BE SOMETHING.

And while perhaps there is not Cosmic Energy as evidenced by blue light coming out of the earth with healing powers (when one has consumed too much [insert substance/vapid ideology here]) one can still use this image, this idea, utopia as a means by which to just fucking try to save the world. Every day. Just a little. Tiny pennies in a big ass jar.

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An Essay I Wrote for Class

Dylan Ward
7/18/11
CHID472B
Profs. Garcia, Lucero

To Connect to the World: A Brief Ethnography of the Street Vendors in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru

Introduction/Field Site and Research Question

The Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru has been described as the most “touristy” location in the city and perhaps the country. Giant cathedrals tower over a colonial style plaza, complete with cobble-stone streets, an enormous fountain, and, of course, a Kentucky Fried Chicken. While the plaza is a site for many different spaces, many of them revolve around tourism, and the most prominent feature of this is the constant approach of vendors wishing to sell items or services. A group of my fellow students and I set out to observe this behavior between 3:30 and 5:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. (In this paper I have also included descriptions of people and places I have observed at other points in Cusco.) While watching the approach of these vendors towards others, and especially while observing their approach towards us (my research team,) we were able to witness wielding of social power in a manner such as a grand performance. The question is, then, which “powers” each participant wields, in what manner, and to what extent they are participating in this exchange. This essay is an attempt to structure this exchange is terms of a “performance,” in relation to Michael Hill’s article “Inca of the Blood, Inca of the Soul: Embodiment, Emotion, and Racialization in the Peruvian Mystical Tourist Industry.”

The Description and Connection to Hill
The vendors seem to fall into four different “types“. While sitting on a bench in the plaza, one might first be approached by a well-dressed “Indian” woman, usually with a colorful wrap, brimmed hat, flared red dress with petticoat, stockings or leg warmers, and short, black heels. I was approached twice on my own by one of these woman asking if I’d like to take a picture of them for a sol, and I declined. They usually carry trinkets meant as gifts, shawls, jeweler, “authentic Andean music” cd’s, Calabasas, etc. One woman smiled as she shook a calabasa and said “para su madre.” (For your mother.) I was tempted. She seemed to glitter in that moment, warm and comforting, with genuine smile lines in her face. But I declined.

Michael Hill perhaps would describe this as appealing to the “first world guilt” of tourists. Many of the items sold by these vendors seem to have a primary purpose of “being cultural” and therefore “helping to bridge cultures.” According to Hill’s research, tourism which identifies and exoticism the “other” might be an attempt to bridge culture with cash, because of a “have/have not” guilt complex. He quotes a tourist:

“…I feel like shopping [laughing] is sort of like my service, my way of helping the community.”

The second type of vendor is the “hippie” vendor, usually in comfortable clothing and functional shoes, with long hair and a relaxed demeanor. These men and women (usually 20-something white or Mediterranean men with tans) have an easy going energy about them, as though they genuinely want to hang out later. Usually they are selling strands of beads to put in ones hair, necklaces with a vague indigenous design, or are performing juggling tricks or music in the open. They do not usually approach, but when they do, it is with hands clasped and warm smile. After declining an offer for a hair ornament, I was told I was beautiful and to have good luck.

Hill quotes Elizabeth Jenkins:

“[Cusquenos] stood on the earth with such natural grace. It was as if there were an invisible line of energy that connected their bodies to the ground.”

According to Hill, the Andes are often a place for spiritual “quest,” and the idea of “adventurer” instead of “tourist” appeals to many. With the firm eye contact and soft-spoken “real talk,” these types seem to be appealing to those who wish for this sort of “contact with the real.” Therefore, not only might some visitors feel guilt about their visit, but:

“[are] inhabiting class privilege, yet desiring to disown it.”

The third type is the “chic” vendor, who, if male, wears Armani-esque t-shirts, jeans, and fancy tennis or leather shoes. Generally these men are selling sunglasses. Always the price starts around 40 soles, and after several refusals, the price might drop to around 20. The pattern is very set, from the experiences I have had watching my friends buy these “Ray-Bans.” The women in this set are stationed along the edge of the plaza, and politely offer massages as one walks past. They are dressed professionally but still with a lower-cut shirt, and are generally between 5’2” and 5’5”. Walking one block into the Plaza along Aveineda de Media yielded 9 offers for a massage.

Hill quotes some tourists who state:

“Some people like to be able to order tall skim lattes everywhere they go, but we’re not like that.”

Yet later on in the interview, they giggle and admit a:

“…Stash of chocolate covered espresso beans in their hotel room.”

The forth type is the “poverty” vendor, who usually is less than 20 years old. If a boy, shoe-shines are offered. If a girl, dolls or puppets. These vendors do not generally tout their wares as highly as the others, but rather offer short stories of necessity. One boy came right up to me, pointed to my leather shoes (a little scuffed) and asked if I needed a shine. I politely told him no, but he asked again. I replied that I did not need a shoe shine, but he lifted his fingers to his mouth and muttered “es para comer.” (It’s to eat.) And I gave him a sol. And still I feel terrible because it wasn’t enough.

Hill:

“…Many of the tourists I interviewed spoke of how children who approached them begging or vending their products pulled at their heartstrings (while sometimes also annoying them.) Part of the per formative work these children often do is to adequately dramatize abject poverty. While some tourists worried that the children might actually just be ‘acting’ or ‘telling a story in order to swindle some pocket change, others maintained that whether they were self-consciously performing or not made little difference, as the ‘act’ was part of the commodified exchange. If the performance was ‘real enough’ the children were able to gain sympathy and earn money.”

The “tourists” fell into several categories as well. The “hippies,” identifiable by their dreadlocks, functional shoes, loose-fitting pants, and eclectic color clashes, usually hung out with the vendors selling hair-ornaments, and often times rebuked any offer from someone “chic.” One gentleman (“chic”) offered another(“hippie“) a flier to a night club, and the latter looked up from playing the bongo drums and stated coldly “what makes you think I would ever want that?”

Many other tourists had the classic “tourist” look, with floppy wide-brimmed hat, shorts, white socks and tennis shoes, and to them each approach from any of these vendors was greeted with a “No Gracias” as mechanical as it ever could be. It seemed amusing, unless, of course the vendor was poor. Then, after the requisite and polite refusal (much more heartfelt and overdone than usual), they would walk in silence. Perhaps a woman with a camera around her neck would hold her heart and her husbands hand, muttering something. Time would pass. Eventually, the frown would fade, the hand drop from the chest, and the other swing side to side, as the couple enjoyed the afternoon in the sun.

The younger tourist scene seemed comprised of students in small English speaking groups, and vacationers from college. And after the approaches, all seemed to be grandly uncomfortable. I heard one group talking and the phrase “why don’t they just leave us alone?” was said. One girl, after being approached by the same boy that I was, said something along the lines of “But I’m poor too! I don’t have that much money after the ticket here!” She wore jeans, a pink tee-shirt, and sandals. Her friends wore alpaca sweaters and woven side bags.

Interpretation


The exchange rate is currently 2.74 PEN to 1 USD / 3.85 PEN to 1 EUR. Tourists have a financial power. They are able to afford to come, stay, eat, and play in Cusco; they also can afford these small items and services. Therefore it seems that tourists have actually collectively chosen this performance of culture as favorable, by buying into it. They have come to see Cusco, and apparently, Cusco is now a place where shopping has become an exciting adventure, one where someone can buy from an “authentic Andean” or barter with an attractive and friendly “chic” or “alternative” Peruvian. One has the possibility to see the “real” Peru, one “full of poverty” as evidenced by a child’s wide eyes, and for one brief moment, touch the heart of him or her with a single sol.

Yet while power is usually seen as coming from the “top down,” it is clear that this view ignores the more complex, performative relationship that these vendors have with their clients. This experience is, of course, made possible by the demand for it, but it is created by the people who are out in the plaza every day. Each vendor knows which emotional string to pull. This does not imply manipulation. The demand is for these emotional strings to be pulled, and the vendors are happy to oblige. They have a certain control over the heart which defies any sort of intellectual barrier, and this control is granted by the spectator-tourists. This is because traveling to Cusco is also attempting to “connect to the world”. Something exists in the Plaza that fulfills a deep need in the traveler, and the vendors have power over its creation. This power, however, is “granted” by the spectator-tourists, as it would be in any performative space.

So how does each group participate in this exchange of power? It seems thus: The need for investment has created a willingness to perform by (some) Cuscuenos, the willingness to perform has become performance based upon what (most) tourist-spectators buy, this performance deepens as financial stakes become higher, and as more and more wish to “connect with the world,” the Plaza de Armas experience becomes a more lucrative commodity.

Conclusion-Reaction and Reflection
“Force” is not an entirely appropriate word to describe what happens in the Plaza de Armas. There are no overseers, in fact some might make that argument that the vendors have every right to quit and “get another job.” However, conditions are such that a lucrative commodity which bases itself in experience is created.

I’ve seen a clear reaction against this sort of exchange in Cusco. For example, several walls are littered with graffiti such as:

“Peru Para Los Peruanos.”

During a rally for fair wages for construction workers, a sign reads

“No Se Vende Cusco. Se Defende Cusco.”

So, my immediate reaction is my usual one. I have a deeply held distrust of tourism and its so called “selling of culture.” I tend to see things are performative because I am obsessed with the study of performance. These are my biases.

I also have noticed that this is an attempt to remove myself from system. I’d very much like to be an objective observer of this plaza, and to count myself as a tourist is somehow demeaning to me. But everyone in this plaza is participating in a massive exchange. I participate by simply filling space in the plaza. I participate by writing this paper. I participate by categorizing these “performers.” I am a tourist-spectator and I feed the machine.

Clearly, the whole conversation is problematic. There exists inequity even in critiquing the “performance” of the Plaza. However, according to Hill, there lies a solution to these inequities within this system of “exchange“. He suggests that if tourists become self-aware of every part of this system, then they might be able to shift from a spectator standpoint to an active one. What fuels the willingness to perform is financial necessity, and tourists fulfill this need. What fuels tourism is a need to connect with the world, and the Plaza fulfills this need. If tourists recognize themselves and the systems within they participate by spectating, then perhaps a more active role can develop, continuing the financial investment while “connecting” with the world in more active, less consumptive ways.

Hill:

“Such a development would offer yet new ways for [tourists] to think about the meaning or purpose of their trips and might help them avoid the extremes or exoticism or disillusionment…”

Rather than a group of “performer vendors” in front a group of “spectator-tourists,” I would very much like to see a mix of individuals freely and fairly exchanging face to face, active, connected to the ground.

Reference:

  • Hill, Michael. “Inca of the Blood, Inca of the Soul: Embodiment, Emotion, and Racialization in the Peruvian Mystical Tourist Industry.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 76.2 (2008): 251-79. Print.
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A Clean Heart In Paucartambo

If you don´t know what the Mammacha del Carmen festival is, you aren´t alone, and I didn´t until a few days ago.

But its amazing.

Basically, people train and make their costumes all year in order to perform in this festival, and then they do all day and even all night for three days, in various costumes. There are camps of dancers, each with specific music, a specific dance,  specific costume(s), and even attitudes. I do not know all their names.

But there are several, some from the forest, some from the mountains, some make fun of colonial traditions, another seems to be a lamentation of slavery, some are jokesters with whips who attempt to hit each other on their exposed ankles, as well as drunk troublemakers.

There´s not much time: I´m on a public computer in an internet cafe, but I will do what I can to recount what´s happened so far.

The bus ride:

Was dangerous looking. I went from paved road to mountains with guard rails, then to guard stones, then to nothing, then the pavement disapeared and the road was made of rocks, then it was made only of dirt and become one lane, and we were thousands of feet up in the air. It was one of the most beautiful things I´ve ever seen. I also had to clutch the seat in front of me and breathe breathe breathe, because the Andean mountains are proof that things can be really enormous.

But I met a woman next to me who took my mind off the journey with her conversation. She was very patient while my Spanish brain warmed up (its like a muscle, it´s weird) and then we had an extremely interesting talk about faith, about health, about Augusto Boal, about sign language and my desire to learn it, about her daughter. She made sure that I got to where I needed to go and called me an hour later to make sure that I had arrived safely.

To find where I was staying, I asked a man on the street who lead me to a tourist office, which then gave me directions on unmarked streets to a tiny store. I had been led to believe that where I was going was a school, but in fact it was actually the top floor of a popular general store as well. My spot on the floor was near the open plaza where water trickled through a crack in the wall and a large cage of cuis (guinea pigs) cooed alternately soft and loud.

The place was run by a hard-edged woman named Sabina who was brisk and obviously would never take any shit. She mostly watched over the stock and balanced accounts while her even harder edged daughter Theresa demanded correct payment from customers trying to play on her non-existent naivete, twice told  drunk men to get the fuck out of her story, and made sure I was enjoying my coffee and had the correct size spoon. Elvis, her brother, sat quietly in the corner making paper plates for cake out of cardstock.

Did you know that in Paucartambo they make coffee from hot water and a thick black concentrate in a bottle which looks like a magic potion?

After walking around for a while I got caught up in the crowd following the Maqta´s, mischeivous spirit dancers who crack their whip at anyone too near the rest of the dancers. My friends found me and introduced me to Pámala, who only spoke Portuguese.  Several times she asked me if I understood. I did, but I could not respond.

The drinking had already started.

At the end of the market the great valley of Paucartambo laid itself out in the sunlight. While two campesinos cleaned two pigs to my right, a woman sold frog extract on a loudspeaker to my left, and then a great wind ran through the valley and I took off my hat and make a ridiculous looking-back-at-the-pueblo-and-into-the-wind pose.

Then every dance in the Plaza. Every dance moving through the streets in costume and in perfect time.   I was caught in the procession and each group went by my face, angels, spirits from the forest, beasts and monsters, slaves, gods, and so many other costumes I have no cultural context for.

Feeling faint from hunger, I wandered in search of something besides starch and meat, and came across a breast-feeding woman selling bread and apples. I paid her a sol for a few of each, and she insisted that I take more, telling me I looked hungry.  This was not a kind mother of everyone tone, but rather a matter of fact statement, almost out of anger.

That night the fireworks exploding from the square shed sparks so close they almost set everyone on fire and in the distance the great valley became black and then blue with moonlight.

Everyone got drunk. I did a little too.

A small man approached me and told me I had a clean heart. Another man who looked suspiciously like Mic Jagger told me I had spirit in my eyes. Best drunk talk ever.

And then more dancing. The dancers from earlier had shed their costumes, donned sunday clothing, and performed exactly as they had earlier. The gods and monsters and angels and the rest of the things I am not describing in a culturally relative manner were now men and woman parading through the streets. What was firstly supernatural now became human. These men and women conjured these creatures with their bodies, and now laid bare the mechanism, clearly displayed exactly how this tradition had infected them, how something ancient had come through who knows how many years (someone does, not me) and now manifested itself in front of me.

And then me dancing with my friends. I am hopeless when it comes to learning some of these things.

A final conversation with a friend before the end of the night, in which life advice is exchanged, in which I find that there are partners working for the same goals, the same changes in the world that I am. Of course one knows this intellectually, but when one meets another trying their best to create their life…

Well, this summer I have been blessed (yes blessed, I´ll use the word) to meet so many people working towards manifesting the ancient into new forms.  At the start of my journey, someone whom I believe is trying to change the world by radiation. The artists who make new images and new forms, the dancers manifesting ancient beasts, the new writer who I believe might get Peru´s head about the whole gay thing in order, the activists who every day are trying their fucking best.

Last night I fell asleep to the ocean like sound of the cooing cuis.

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I’m in Cusco now, fighting the altitude which I believe makes me more stupid.

I write in shorter sentences. This is kind of a problem when I have longer things to say.

So I will do what I can with shortness.

As per my professor’s request, let me now compare Cusco and Lima.

Lima:

  • Is smoggy and cloudy in the winter
  • Is loud with cars beeping all the time
  • Is cordoned off into very specific districts
  • Is sort of expensive in places
  • Has a beach
  • Has a very specific accent
  • Has taxis which are relatively expensive and apparently unsafe (I never had any problems)
  • Is home to a bunch of political artists which we met
  • Makes me feel very small
  • Is very divided by class (which somehow corresponds to race, although my friend described this to me as ridiculous: 90% of all Peruvians, he says, are “mestizo”-mixed. I can‘t tell.)
  • Has a somewhat thriving theater scene
  • Has a burgeoning gay scene
  • Seems to be a starting point for journeys around the country

And:

Cusco:

  • Usually has clear skies all day in the winter
  • Is two miles up in the air
  • Is actually rather quiet
  • Is less expensive (outside the tourist district)
  • Has a HUGE TOURIST DISTRICT. (I have never seem more white people in big hats that say “CUSCO,” shorts, long socks and tennis shoes taking pictures in front of statues picking their nose, or dreadlocked dirty hippies juggling, smoking pot, and acting more spiritual and worthy than the rest of us. I judge, and I know that he who should cast the first stone…Forgive me.)
  • Seems to use the diminutive “ito” suffix to a lot more words to make them signify something cute, or adorable, or something regarded with affection or a little more love. (Gato “cat” is gatito “little kitten cat,” bebe “baby” is bebito “cute little bundle of baby,” sopa “soup” is sopita “a delicious portion of soup,” sol “sun” is solito “that awesome thing that breaks the clouds and brightens my day.”)
  • Makes me feel VERY white and outsiderish.
  • Has beautiful mountains.
  • Seems also to be divided by class, but I do not see exactly how just yet.
  • Has no theater really that I know of.
  • Does not have a burgeoning gay scene that I know of.
  • Seems to be a starting point for western spiritual seekers who really want to talk to Shamans and take San Pedro cactus and feel one with the “apu” and generally embarrass me by proxy.
  • SO MUCH MACHU PICCU.

The differences abound, of course. There is a lot to think about. (But isn’t there always? My friends are sick with my thinking and worrying.)

One of my friends is from Cusco, and has spent much time between here and Lima. One night, before we left, he hung out with my other friend and I and we drank wine, talked until early in the morning, and it got to a point where we began to talk about Cusco.

(Friend that I mention, if you are reading this, forgive any discrepancies in my reporting. I may be reducing and generalizing, so correct me, or better yet just comment on this post and tell me how wrong I am.)

I sensed, well, forgive me for saying something so silly, but I sensed a great sadness and a great anger about the tourism in Cusco. A term that kept coming up was “selling our culture” and, from what I understood, there was also this anger that this selling was “needed to survive.”

What the fuck is tourism?

Is it exploitative or is it actually helping?

I mean, how necessary is it to walk down a street and receive nine offers of:

“Hello friend, massage?”

Or:

“40 soles para eso. Si? 30 para los gafas. Mira, mira, Rayban? Lo viste? Entonces 25 soles. 20?”

Its a little frustrating to feel at once so exploited and exploitative. It kind of seems like some S & M dance of buy buy buy buy buy.

I am a gringo, si, es verdad.

But how do I tell these people I’m not here to buy things? (Other than perhaps socks.) I’m not here to try to have some shamanic journey, I’m not here to shit on their face, and yet simply by existing here somehow I am.

How do I start a dialogue, ad where, honestly, do I stand?

I saw several graffiti paintings across several walls arriving from the airport which read:

“No se vende Peru. No se compra Peru.”

Which means:

“One does not sell Peru. Nor does one buy Peru.”

And also:

“Peru Para Los Peruanos.”

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High Fiving A Million Angels

I was dissatisfied with my last post.

So here’s another post mainly about my feelings.

Let’s throw the elephant in the room into the air and onto a trampoline and talk about Guilt.

Because oh my goodness I’ve felt its tug and pull upon my heart.

  • 1. Arriving in Lima and driving straight to a hostel, in air conditioning, in a taxi, through areas poorer than I could know.
  • 2. Writing that last sentence itself, for the phrase “poorer that I could know” twinges the guilt further.
  • 3. The exchange rate in my favor, but still my penny pinching; asking for exact change from vendors.
  • 4. Meeting GLBT activists and feeling like I’ve not done nearly enough research on my own country’s movement, but plenty on my own opinions informed by television and the internet.
  • 5. Not doing enough to learn Spanish.
  • 6. Being so afraid of being rude that I do not speak and am therefore rude.
  • 7. Talking about my feelings too much in this blog.

With the discussion of Guilt also comes the discussion of Responsibility.  There seem to be a few camps in this argument.

In (Absolutely) Reductive Simple Simple Terms:

One Says:

“We must do all we can as Stewards of the World to care for the sick and the needy. As those blessed by God/Luck/Our Parents/Hard Work/Sheer Coincidence we have a responsibility to these people.”

Another Says:

“Its not my fault. I have no responsibility in this, and I’m busy enough trying to make ends meet in my own damn country.”

And Another: 

“No guys, it’s totally Capitalism.  Capitalism fucks over each country and is far reaching. We are complicit and therefore responsible for our neglect in trying to change the system.”

And the whole of the argument seems to shift around. I-Hate-Capitalism man blames Trying-To-Make-Ends-Meet man for his complacency, Trying-To-Make-Ends-Meet man wants Trying-To-Help man to help his own country out, Trying-To-Help man gets angry at I-Hate-Capitalism man because of a perceived lack of action, I-Hate-Capitalism man calls Trying-To-Help man’s help a new colonialism, Trying-To-Make-Ends-Meet man wants only to eat and sleep and live the comfortable life he was promised by school and his parents.

Honestly, many men hold all these opinions at once. I do.

Then we see pictures of children.

GUILT. GUILT. GUILT. GUILT. GUILT.

So what do we do?

Must we all do the same thing?

How complicit are we?

Well, fuck it, I’m tired of feeling guilty because it does nothing.

And I’m tired of trying to place responsibility because I think we all have it immanently. To me this means that EVERYONE rich AND poor has a responsibility to look out for each other.

We all have responsibility and different types (not degrees) of power. Some is economic, cultural, physical, and in fact it defies typification itself.

And for me it is firstly to identify my feelings surrounding this.

And for me it is to address this guilt with practical and actionable solutions.

  • 1. Educate myself about poverty from different sources.
  • 2. Write my words anyway. To speak is to think. Words are needed.
  • 3. Give tips, but stay on my budget. Not support exploitative tourism or extraction or industry as much as I can help. Look everyone in the eye and have respectful transactions.
  • 4. Ask questions and look at GLBT history in the United States. Read. Write.
  • 5. Practice Spanish.
  • 6. Practice Spanish.
  • 7. My feelings are important, damn it.
  • 8. Remember this.

So this post comes full circle.  And these problems are too complicated to solve today or tomorrow or by myself or with only one nation because everyone who argues about it is probably right. But fact is, we need to just fucking try something.

Just go for it.

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Be A Beast

I think I’ve landed a little since last night.

So let’s start discussing how to get practical.

Augusto Boal has a four fold process to transform a spectator into an actor, described in his book “Theater of the Oppressed.”

  • “1st Stage. Knowing the Body: A series of excersises by which one gets to know one’s body…its social distortion and possibilities of rehabilitation.
  • 2nd Stage. Making the Body Expressive: A series of games by which one begins to express one’s self through the body…
  • 3rd Stage. The Theater as Language: One begins to practice theater as a language that is living and present, not as a finished product displaying images from the past…
  • 4th Stage. The Theater as Discourse: Simple forms in which the spectator-actor creates ‘spectacles’ according to his need to discuss certain themes or rehearse certain actions.”

Boal goes on to list varying exercises by which one will complete these stages. I am still reading about these varying exercises and honestly should not list them until I know what I’m talking about.

Seeing as though I rarely know what I’m talking about, however, let me make a first attempt to begin applying these stages to my journey in Peru, keeping in mind the overall theme (the relationship between art and politics) and my four personal themes (theater, gayness, spirituality, my feelings.)

So, in grand self-reflexive-write-about-your-feelings tradition, here’s the 1st and 2nd stages as trying to relate to my own private “performance” during this journey. (In the street, in class, when trying to order coffee and getting every social detail wrong wrong wrong.)

So Firstly:

How to recognize social distortions in my body and being?

Boal suggests “muscular alienation” in exercises which force the spect-actor to move in ways he didn’t ever expect to move.

But I’m not in his theater class right now. So….Hmm…

There is a tradition here of kissing as a greeting (only boys on girls and girls on girls but boys on boys too when things are chill.)  This is much different than the stupid limp ass handshake I get when I’m greeted in Seattle. (Still love you Seattle, but seriously.)  So that points something out to me.

But that example is lame.

What about…hmmm…well, eye contact.

That example is not lame. Eye contact is really hard. Don’t lie and say its not because you are probably just good at it.  It takes practice.

Its been the hardest thing lately to sustain such eye contact, especially when I’m struggling in another language. Why is it hard? I don’t know. Some Fruedian/socially constructed/some other reason.

Maybe its my anxiety disorder. Who cares?

Fact is it that that is an example of a social distortion. And so a daily excersize is making eye contact.

(If you’re wondering if this blog is going to become about self-help, know that I am too, and I’m trying not to go to far down that road. But bear with me. )

Another is the slumping of the shoulders; another is the pause in the middle of the sentence (which screws up anyone understanding my Spanish); another is walking on the balls of my feet. Rolling the eyes, playing with fingers while speaking, biting the nails.

Slumping of the shoulders is looking at the ground and my feet is the desire to be alone is the feeling of irreconcilable uniqueness.

Pausing is searching for correct articulation is the desire to be clear is the desire to be myself.

Walking on the balls of my feet is a lack of exercise is being bored by exercise is not liking machismo exercise is not liking the feeling of having to compete.

Rolling the eyes is fear of eye contact is fear of being caught.

Playing with fingers while speaking is too much energy is desire to move around is needing to communicate more than I am saying.

Biting the nails is desire for something in my mouth is I quit smoking and try not to smoke is thinking really hard and needing to release energy is everyday getting better at focusing.

All of these can be considered to be socially constructed, especially considering the concept of the “Looking Glass Self.” Each of these little habits are related to the struggle to communicate.

And none are considered with judgement but rather consideration.

Secondly,

How to make the body expressive?

Boal:

“In our culture we are used to expressing everything through words, leaving the enormous expressive capabilities of the body in an underdeveloped state. A series of ‘games’ can help the participants to begin to use their bodily resources for self-expression. I am talking about parlor games and not necessarily those of a theatrical laboratory. The participants are invited to ‘play,’  not to ‘interpret,’ characters but they will ‘play’ better to the extent that they ‘interpret’ better.”

And so Boal would send participants around the room pretending to be hummingbirds.

(And this is probably why people sometimes make fun of drama class.  And they’re right to do so. )

Is there a way to train one’s self to become more expressive?

Going back to the previous step (and all of therapy last year) wherein I identified my “social distortions”, clearly expressing my self probably involves:

  • Talking with my hands too much. (Though this quickly becomes a distortion.)
  • Speaking directly into someone’s eyes. (However strange this may seem.)
  • Trying to actively listen, especially when I do not agree.
  • Writing this blog.

Good god, this all still sounds like Oprah, like saying affirmations in the mirror.

So the next goal is to move from internal silly time sweet self talk to actual action.

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