Freedom Blues


Melbourne is free. The 112-day lockdown ends and I am apprehensive. Not because a deadly pandemic may kill me but because I don’t think I like the brave new world. It’s all still the same isn’t it?

I’m trying to understand collective memory and grief. I want to see the scars of the people. For things to feel real to know how a state breathes fear and learns to heal. To all those that struggled, can a haircut and a manicure cure you? Will we be robbed of our lessons in humility that we braved in the darkness of isolation by the allure of moving on and forgetting? Please don’t be alarmed by where we go next, humour me because it surprises me more than it does you.

First, I have to address the urge to forget and how our current concept of time moving forwards shapes our resolve to forge on. Why can’t we stand still? I am going to hazard a guess here: Because we are marching to the tempo of capitalist production. BOOM. The product line does not ask us to reflect or pause. It can’t. It merely demands productivity; it demands that the fruits from our labour produce something of value for others. Everything we create is underscored by the idea that it need be consumed. It is our consumption by others that validates our productivity rather than our own. If Instagram therapy accounts purport that one cannot be emotionally healthy seeking validation from others then what the fuck are we supposed to do? I read a book on space-time and quantum physics that told me the human experience is relative. A person cannot exist in a vacuum. That it is necessary to have others around us to react to so we can exist relative to them. Otherwise without relation between objects neither object can exist. See the conundrum friends? How can you seek internal validation if you only exist relative to other people and are also subject to capitalism- an environmental factor that determines your worth based on what you can produce for the consumption of those around you? Riddle me that. Here’s an example I paint a painting. I can only evaluate it’s monetary worth based on whether those around me find it palatable enough to consume. That’s the very base superficial level. Think about the psychology behind that. You are existing in a world where everything is monetized. No doubt, your choice to paint a painting is seen as hours of labour that could be spent on an activity that would net you guaranteed financial gain. Why not paint a house? Honest labour. There is the first side of the prism of our prison. Next, the painting doesn’t exist without the opinion of those around me. I can’t appraise it without having someone else’s value judgment to appraise it against. I think it is good, I can only think it is good if someone else thinks it is bad or it is good. Me thinking it is good, is as good as it not existing. It means nothing. Nothing means anything without relation to something else. And the framework we are trapped in to assess relation between objects, self and time. Fucking capitalism.

Life hack- perhaps instead of asking if my work is good, I should be asking if it’s true. I went to a Basquiat exhibition on a mediocre date and I couldn’t be charming because all I could think of while staring into the artist’s self portraits was fuck he’s crazy (Basquiat not my date, the date was boring which is worse than crazy) and what colours would I pick if I had to draw myself. Spoiler- BLACK.

Yes, you are in the trap. How can you not be? Is it unrealistic to assume that working, an activity you spend a third of your day doing does not effect the way that you approach the rest of your time? You spend a third sleeping and a third ‘free’. Thank the labour laws for the eight-hour workday because they structured your servitude. Let’s take sleep off the table. That’s fifty/fifty of your time between work and ‘free’. Are you suggesting that the time at work doesn’t influence your free time? And by definition work is measured in production. What is a KPI my love? It seems workplaces just pull metrics from the sky to prove that everything can be quantified. Doesn’t it just follow that we take our working mentality into our free life?

So we live at the pace we produce at, it seems only natural. I look at Melbourne re-opening and see people rushing towards their freedoms and wonder where the grief lives? There was an onslaught of talk about how hard lockdowns are and mental health and burn out and self-care and now? Now, we celebrate. And I’m not trying to discount that, but I want in, I want to see what happened to people. Is it amnesia? A coping mechanism that says look, the world is turning and it’s shining and we can move on. Maybe I admire the reckless momentum because I am side lined, still so injured, mired in emotion. I don’t see how emotion and production can live harmoniously. I mean, when I feel sad I scrub a floor so in that regard they cohabitate. Obsessive cleaning is my coping mechanism though, and one I only enjoy when I need to free my pretty little head from my pretty little thoughts. I try and make sense of the pandemic and the greater lesson it serves us and it all feels so pointless but I must remember it is not my responsibility to make sure people learn their lessons. I am not so vengeful even if I am that proud. I am skeptical that a person can be complete or feel integrated without mourning and between beauty appointments the only scheduled time for crying is the shower. I am as fragile as a chip in my fresh manicure.

SJ xx

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