Fragility, naïveté…

This post analyzes the motivation of the play Muñeca de Porcelana (China Doll). It might contain spoilers. You have been warned.

Last Saturday, I watched the Spanish adaptation of David Mamet’s “China Doll”. My friend and I kept guessing why the playwright chose that title, but even at the end, we weren’t able to wrap our heads around the idea.

About the play

Muñeca de Porcelana isn’t just another conspiracy theory-based story. It shows one side of a filthy, golden coin- the price of fame, fortune and power, if you wish. Accordingly, it invites the viewers to guess, assume, suspect and mistrust what’s being said right in front of their very noses.

As dialogues get more intense, thinking becomes the only possible option, because at that point, viewers realize that they have somehow become an accomplice of something horrible, and they need an explanation. So they start rubbing their neurons together, to see if a filament of some sort would light up.

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Image courtesy of: https://madridesteatro.com

The scene starts with a pompous display of wealth and power, where the big boss- entrusted into the hands of the sublime José Sacristán– barks at his loyal assistant because the latter was handing him the day’s newspaper, when he didn’t really ask for it in the first place. The role of the devoted secretary is strongly portrayed by Javier Godino, the perfect complement to the seniority and experience of his counterpart.

What motivated the play?

The piece clearly insinuates that power is concentrated among an elite few; where having money is not enough to get in the “club”.  Membership depends on the family tree and perhaps any ancient personal favor from one clan to another (I doubt if there was one member of that club whose ancestry couldn’t be traced to a Mayflower passenger). Very distinctly, it also shows that even in places that boast of being bastions of democracy, it is still the rich and the influential who hold the key to the machinery of the society.

Oh, but being rich and influential are but tickets to join the club. To remain in it is another hurdle. Exhaustive training is needed if one is to thrive, and a crafty mind with zero moral sense is crucial to triumph. And so that, according to Godino, is the origin of the title, “China doll”. It refers to the fragility of the triumphant based on the fact that he is nothing but a product; victorious, yet always and forever conditioned by the existence of incriminating evidence against him. A chess piece inside the board he is trying to conquer.

The way I see it, the play’s motivation is to open people’s eyes to that filthy side of the golden coin, as mentioned earlier. I’m not sure how society behaved when Mamet launched this opus, but in this generation, people only tend to look at the brightness of an item, not minding the dirty rag that polished it clean.

In an interview, Godino said he had an impression that viewers seem to evade what Mamet is trying to demonstrate, because it causes distress. He alluded to the naïveté to which spectators hold on, as a way to fight the awkwardness. (They’re just missing the point, then. But hey, their money, their choice.)

The ending, though, didn’t distress me. It was just as one would expect people to act given the situation and their current condition.

Et cetera…

At the end of the day, we’re all porcelain dolls: fragile in our naïveté. They don’t say “knowledge is power” for nothing.

Spring Fever II

Amidst the clamor, at the height

of confusion,

your stillness stood out.

Giving color to the season.

Now songs are sought,

poems get written,

laughters are echoed

by hearts

no longer hollow.

Only skies, and seas

and sapphires are blue.

The prevailing woe

is no more.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice, darling,

if I saw you in the corner?

– Karessa Ramos

 

 

Enraged

This path I choose to take.

It is, albeit dark and uncertain,

lighted by the whiteness of rage.

The brightness of this ire,

cleansing, almost healing,

ever burning

the venom I inhale.

So pure and searing,

energizing, never stifling

this life

I live. For now, seething,

yet trusting

that rancor will purge

the foul and the grime.

To reveal a clear, starry sky.

-Karessa Ramos

A short note on: What we criticize as adults, versus our messages to children…

… the future adults!

As a grown-up and before having a child, I used to believe that third parties shouldn’t meddle when a kid misbehaves. I was convinced that it would be unethical. I was so wrong.

As a child, I never really stopped to think about why adults would scold me. But as time passed by, I observed that: I bonded more with nice kids; adults would be more pleasant and agreeable to me; people (young and old) trusted me more… Me and my friends didn’t receive any “prizes” for obeying. The “invisible” hand of our surroundings took care of convincing us that being “good” is better than not.

As a parent, I’ve become even more sensitive to what habits my son could potentially acquire. Suffice to say that I give him positive feedback and encourage him to replicate behaviors that I consider “good” (for instance, when he puts his toys and books in their shelves); I ignore him when he does things I don’t like but can tolerate, and that wouldn’t put him in danger (such as whining) and, I reprimand him if he does something I absolutely cannot agree on (like throwing tantrums, wasting food or hurting our cat).

I started to observe adults and children more. And this is what I’ve detected:

If we don’t like liars,

If we criticize overly-dependent people,

If we get annoyed at those who don’t acknowledge their faults,

If we stay away from people constantly grumbling, and

If ungratefulness offends us…

Then why are we showing kids that lying is OK,

Or that being independent is scary,

That asking for forgiveness is unimportant (anyway, time heals wounds),

That throwing tantrums could get them what they want, and

Why don’t we say “Thank you” enough in their presence?

The fact is, it takes a community to raise a child. For parents like me, the role we have to play in a child’s development is very clearly set. But how could other grown-ups, non-parents, non-family members contribute to a child’s “upbringing”? Here are a few ideas:

Refrain from lying

Adults would tell kids they’ll “come back later”, when they won’t; or scare misbehaving children by telling them “the police would get them”; or some grown-ups simply don’t call children’s attention when caught lying.

Children are not dumb (more on that later), they’d get the untruth of a lie. And believe me: however they might react when they realize they’ve been lied to, is less important than the message that stays with them, “adults lie, so it must be ok to lie.”

Don’t lie to children. Don’t underestimate their ability to process and assimilate information.

Encourage autonomy even in the smallest acts

There are those who treat toddlers like dumb human beings… and you know what? they are not.

Sure, they can’t discuss the socio-economical effects of a capitalist China (yet), but they are very sensitive to what goes on around them, and are perfectly capable of understanding and following instructions, according to their ages.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if and when toddlers start to show interest to do something by themselves, we, as adults, should guide them in doing so– making sure they won’t get hurt in any way. Then, congratulate them if they get it, and encourage them to try again if they don’t.

(Click here for some ideas on age-appropriate chores for children. It’s just a list of ideas, because “carrying firewood” obviously doesn’t apply to everyone.)

Ask for their forgiveness…

… and ask them what exactly displeased them. This would teach them accountability.

As I grow older, I realize I’m not meeting a lot of adults who are able to acknowledge their mistakes, and even lesser ones who could recognize having hurt somebody else’s feelings and apologize for it.

A sincere “I’m sorry” would do.

Ignore kids throwing tantrums…

… and avoid laughing or showing any sign of amusement when a kid is being scolded for throwing tantrums.

Nurture an attitude of gratefulness

I heard somewhere that gratitude is one of the most empowering human feelings, because it’s something we can control. We can choose at anytime of our lives, regardless of how we feel, to feel thankful. Thankfulness also nurtures positive thoughts, which could turn to positive words, and in turn, could translate to full-blown, positive actions. Who wouldn’t want that?

Set an example by thanking children for any small favor they do for you or for others. A simple “Thank you” will do.

– The End-

We criticize so many things in our day to day lives- an activity that leads us to wish for the opposite of what we have in front of us. Most of the time, however, it stops there. Unfortunately. I mean, life goes on: the barista hands you the tall latté, your kid starts playing with boogers, the train arrives…

But, would it be possible for us to just follow through with an action, and not stop on the “wishing” phase? We can actually pursue that train of wishful thinking with a deed, try and turn that wish into reality. Sorry if I’m being demanding. Maybe we won’t live to see it, but we would have made a difference, no matter how small (marginal, as the economists would say).

Thank you.

 

 

Beyond feminism

Last month, people everywhere, everyway have been unstoppably discussing feminism: its current state, desired state, history, anecdotes, personified examples dead or alive, individual views, etc… It is so empowering to see so many support, or at least debate about the topic. We are silenced no more. And by “we”, I mean EVERY SINGLE WOMAN on the planet: from the Alaskan tundra to the lone Pacific Islands; from the ignored and unwanted baby girl somewhere in Sri Lanka, to the trans woman beside me, struggling for inclusion. It matters not where we come from, what we do, what we think of or how we choose to fight and be heard. We are being heard. So, thank you, sisters.

This got me to start thinking about the origin of the feminist movement. Although the dynamics are very complex and specific geographically and historically, the root is simple, really: an oppressed population group who started to join forces to fight for their own rights. A population group deemed weak by other members of the society- an idea that was spread throughout time and space. Until this group’s supposed “weakness” was encouraged, fuelled and even expected.

The deeper I meditated about this and the more I read about it, the more I collided with other materials which showed me the ugliest façade of human nature: the desire to conquer and of power. In their search to transcend their own time and limited space, humans have always sought to overpower those they considered as weaker members of their communities. Hence the wars, pillaging, colonizations, and treacheries, to name a few. Just then, dear reader, it was during this journey when I realized that throughout the history of mankind, women are not the only victims of social injustice and neglect.

Without going very far back in time, nor having to enter certain latitudes, let me introduce to you the first two most neglected members of the society: the children and senior citizens. In this order, because at least senior citizens could vote, therefore, some politicians would actually include their interests in their platforms. But children (minors)? what good are they? and if what I’m saying were a lie, then why isn’t there a serious effort from governments/societies to care for the environment, the heritage of today’s youth?

Next in line: the indigenous communities.

Followed by: people experiencing adapted mobility (I can’t think of a better way to say “disabled”).

Then we have: the youth.

Then there are our LGBT neighbors…

People with rare diseases…

Does the list go on? I certainly hope it does because it would mean we are more aware of their existence and perhaps society could start including them in making decisions. And I hope that in time, we would stop making this list and start making up other kinds of lists…

The injustices suffered by these groups could not be equated to what women have experienced all throughout the existence of written language. But shouldn’t this be the very reason why we should empathize with them, and make their struggle a bit easier along the roads we have tread before? liken it to an older sibling, who has paved the way for the younger ones’ lives to be a bit less difficult.

A friend told me once that it’s such a pity the term “feminism” is having a negative connotation, when all it really wants to convey is “equality”. I respect and believe this. I am an advocate of this, and my conscience is clear, my soul proud, and my heart grateful when I declare myself a feminist.

But I strive to be more than a feminist. In my narrow point of view, defined by my scarce time here on earth, beyond feminism, is humanism.