by Iulia Gheorghe
If feelings had different colours, I would definitely be the Coastal Scents 252 Color Ultimate Eye Shadow Palette. As Feist says, I feel it all. I almost feel pregnant with a pulsatile rainbow that kicks and bounces from the top of my head to my pinkie toes (I don’t really know why, while writing this, I found myself searching pinkie toes on Youtube, but I can’t help it but share with you my discoveries). I don’t really show my feelings a lot, because for a long time I really disliked contrast and contradictions, and it happens that feelings are often contradictory and conflicting. There is, however, one feeling that I didn’t know much about. Sadness. I can be often angry, grieving, hurt, in pain, in denial or nostalgic, desperate or heartbroken, but rarely sad. Though when I feel it, I can almost palpate it, an invisible lump stretching under my forehead.
I felt sadness again a couple of days ago. It was just another Facebook pause, or at least that’s what I thought it was. And then I played this video in which Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie was asked by a French journalist if there were bookshops in Nigeria. The novelist was invited by France’s foreign ministry to appear as guest of honour at a cultural event. And then this question kicked in.
“When you talk about Nigeria in France, unfortunately there is not much said about Nigeria, when people talk about Nigeria it’s about Boko Haram, it’s about violence, it’s about security,” the journalist added.
Of course that Adichie responded in her wisely, yet irreverent, extremely intelligent way. But there I was, starring at the screen, feeling sad out of the blue.
I felt sad because I felt living in a world where the shit hit the fan. First we had the hate speech. Then the post-truths. And now, hooray, we violently indulge in feeding ourselves with assumptions and stereotypes, sometimes even pretending to lead the good fight against political-correctness (I would be so curious to see how the wise minds who attack political-correctness would survive - with a clean conscience - in a society based on anti-political correct principles). We tend to mirror ourselves in others: when what we see is different from what we expected to see, we become somehow worldblind, even if we are tied to the otherness on every level and layer of our existence.
I felt sad because it’s 2018 and we still divide people from developing countries in two groups: the savage majority and the brilliant exceptions who are actually forced to come up with various narratives in order to prove that “progress has been made” in their home countries. As Chimamanda wrote in Americanah:
“But of course it makes sense because we are Third Worlders and Third Worlders are forward-looking, we like things to be new, because our best is still ahead, while in the West their best is already past and so they have to make a fetish of that past. Remember this is our newly middle-class world. We haven’t completed the first cycle of prosperity, before going back to the beginning again, to drink milk from the cow’s udder.”
I felt sad because we live in an era of being able to access information at anytime, anywhere and there still are journalists (influencing directly the public opinion) who don’t do their job properly and build up interviews and storylines on lazy assumptions. If only the journalist had listened to Chimamanda’s Ted talk The danger of a single story. If only she had understood that “when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.” If only she had read Americanah, maybe she would have learnt about how not to ask ethnocentric questions.
I felt sad because memories came up the surface, fragments of dialogues that I pushed so hard and so far away in a grotto of unwanted souvenirs. You know, like when something whacko happens and you close your eyes hoping that when you open them, the chaos will be gone.
“Do you have toilets in your country?”
“Why they can’t be all like you, so well integrated?”
“Why so many girls from your country become prostitutes instead of getting a real job?”
As Katie Roiphe pinpoints “such small word choices, you might say. How could they possible matter to any halfway healthy person? But it is in these choices, these casual remarks made while holding a glass of wine, these throwaway comments, these accidental bursts of honesty and flashes of discomfort that we create cultural climate; it’s in the offhand that the judgments persist and reproduce themselves”.
I think those snippets of conversation made me feel as a transplanted organ in a body that can’t decide whether it accepts or not that unknown group of cells that didn’t belonged to it from the very beginning. The journalist’s question to Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie triggered that soreness in myself.
We often talk about our happy places, but I’ve discovered my sad one. It’s haunting, damp and quiet, but I have a masochist pleasure to visit it from time to time.
photo by Diana Rusu