9 scary reasons Donald Trump can become president in November

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Ok, I’m going to come right out and stake my claim on this prediction – it’s one with a very small chance of actually coming true (but I think that “small chance” is getting bigger by the day):

Donald Trump will become the next President of the United States.

Please note that it is Friday, May 27, 2016 – over five months away from us actually finding out whether or not this prediction comes true.

I’m not saying that this is a good thing, if it comes true that is. Not by any stretch of imagination. I’m just saying that it’s going to happen. And I’ve been feeling like this for quite a few months now. (Bless the intrepid soul of my long-suffering soulmate and life partner who has to hear my incessant geopolitical monologues.)

And here are 9 really scary and true reasons why this is going to happen:

1. The alternative is a neocolonial, predatory capitalist, Wall Street puppet: Hillary Clinton is exactly that. She charges $250,000 for speeches sallivating over Wall Street, the transcripts of which she’s likely embarrassed and/or scared to release. She’s the scion of one of the richest dynasties in America. She oozes elitist, 1%, white privilege. She has been mongering after that power for decades now, and had to wait for her husband to get his scummy hands all over the presidency first – because even among the elitist, privileged white one percenters of the world, patriarchy still holds bloody true. As does the fact that…

2. The US is ripe for a new age fascist movement: The demographics make for quite the possibility of a neo-fascist, American nationalist movement, even multiple regional ones. The fact that the US is quite rapidly un-whitening is making a lot of white people angry (it’s actually expanded upon as one of my points below – I am nothing if not repetitive). Not to mention rising tensions in some of the larger urban sprawls with what is, in effect, a police state. Authoritarianism, power, profiteering, militarism and demagoguery are celebrated with fear and nationalism. A large section of the Republicans and right-wing independents are cashing in, and probably going to regret it in the years to come (but that’s another story). Even so, they are helped by the candidate they have to face in the general elections, I mean…

3. Hillary is just pathetic. And so is Bill: Hillary and her god-awful husband are just so uninspiring and soulless, history will never forgive them (did folks catch his condescending engagement with the Black Lives Matter activists?) They seem to operate the Democratic Party like it’s their own personal fiefdom – I mean, what the fuck are these super delegates all about for crying out loud, and why are they all going for the Clintons when it seems like the actual voters are pretty evenly split between Bernie and Hillary? The Clintons are one of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest reason for Trump getting into the White House. Because Bernie would have wiped the floor with Trump in a general election – but Hillary and Bubba just had to have it their way or the high way. And speaking of pathetic…

4. So is the Democratic Party as a whole: Seriously, America deserves Trump if the majority of the people aren’t capable of moving beyond fascism and fascism light in terms of political parties to choose from (especially if we go old-school for this point with our definition of fascism – as the complete merger of private mega corporations and the state). The Democratic Party defines spinelessness. And worse, they are probably less democratic than even the Republicans (hell, even Hitler was elected democratically, remember). It is quite possible that had the Democrats been forced into accepting the people’s verdict – which like it or not is what the crazy right-wingers over on the Republican side did – Bernie would be the nominee and, I repeat, would have wiped the floor with the Teflon Don come November. But it’s not just the political system…

5. US pop culture is addictive, mind-controlling, garbage: There is no way that a candidate like Donald Trump could come anywhere close to this kind of power unless it was in a country where vapid pop culture ruled the senses. From American Idol to American Sniper to American Pie and everything in between – US pop culture is the Great Population Mind Control Experiment of the 20th and 21st centuries, even threatening to take over the hyper democracy of the internet with viral videos and target tweets. Critical thinking, argumentative discussion, constant questioning, democratic thought, and free speech all take a back seat to pure, unadulterated sensory excitement. Half the country is voting for an orange haired, virulent buffoon who also happens to be a misogynistic, capitalist thug – and they celebrate that shit! How the hell can it happen without American pop culture?

And speaking of pop culture, it’s really when you peruse the comments of news sites online do you realize that…

6. Angry white people are still the majority of the country (and they are getting angrier by the day): I love it when people say white people are going to be a minority in the US in 2050 or something. I mean, even if people of color end up as more than 50% of the population, white folk are still the largest demographic, i.e. still in the majority (unless you think Blacks, Latinos, East Asians, South Asians and Native Americans are all one demographic – and if you do then you might want to read, like, a book or at the very least a Wikipedia article or something.) Those white folk who don’t like seeing the un-whitening of America are angry and getting angrier still, despite having it better than well over 90% of the world’s population. Can you imagine how they will feel when shit starts actually unraveling economically, environmentally, and politically? (I can hear the collective shudder of millions of bleeding heart liberals as we speak.)

And just in case you were wondering if I was only picking on right-wingers, fear not, for I do believe a major reason for the upsurge of right-wing populism under the likes of Trump is also because…

7. Progressives are yet to, en masse, support movements like Black Lives Matter: Yeah, until white progressives and male progressives learn to abandon the Democratic party and the liberal elite (not to mention white privilege and patriarchy), and cede total control and leadership of the progressive movement to women of color and trans people of color, including radical, groundbreaking movements like Black Lives Matter, we’re going to be dealing with human refuse like the Trumps and Clintons of the world for a while to come. And…

8. Frankly, if it doesn’t happen now, it’s going to happen some time soon: Seriously folks, America has been heading in this direction for a while. I think a bunch of people were a little taken aback by all the hope that a highly gifted, dignified, and honorable black president gave us, especially when history had just been made and the speeches were just so very mesmerizing. But then more black people got incarcerated in the years to come. More undocumented immigrants got deported under cruel circumstances. And many of us realized that, no matter how talented and egalitarian a person might be occupying that office, it’s still the office of a brutal imperialist power.

But the real cherry on top of this prediction cake is that…

9. The betting houses just lowered the odds on a Trump presidency: Always a useful bellwether to pay attention to.

The bookies, man, the bookies.

So come November, don’t say I didn’t warn you lovelies.

(Methinks I’ll keep my Canadian passport nice and not-expired…just in case.)

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A Mothers Day rant

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Mothers Day 2016.

As a new and deliriously happy (albeit perennially tired) parent, I’ve never been more cognizant of the astounding importance of loving, nurturing, anti-patriarchal parenting than I am now.

Truly, it is time we as a species got back to more matriarchal ways of living where the invaluable role of the mother (or the matriarch) is rightfully honored in the social, political, economic, cultural, and spiritual realms of society; And not just by honoring those living breathing people known as mothers, but also the loving spiritual bond and evolutionary, nurturing social structure that is motherhood, quite possibly the most important social structure defining humanity’s existence on earth. Above all else though – and especially when I see the two great soulmates of my life, Sus and Daya, together – I realize just how much humanity owes mothers and motherhood. (I know it sounds like such a truism, as it probably should, but there’s a way in which personal experience brings messages home in a way that no other life activity does.)

So without further adieu…

Happy Mothers Day, all mothers out there however you may define yourselves!!!

Yay!

Today is the day designated by Western capitalism and greeting card commerce as the one day of the year we pitiably try to honor the most life-giving, self-sacrificing subsection of humanity.

Today, capitalism and our pop culture society will “celebrate” mothers. (Or really, by the time I come round to publishing this blog post, they would have already finished with the nominal celebration and have just slipped right back into the velvety smooth and sexist comfort of taking mothers for granted.)

These celebrations are most likely going to manifest across the e-social universe with a lot of repetitive typing of the “x” and “o” keys as well as the “<” and “3” keys. Maybe some e-cards, real cards, roses, chocolates, a dinner outing, or a gift or two (our society has a very easy, pay-grade-specific, template to celebrate motherhood).

But as commerce and social media goes about fake-applauding mothers, make no mistake – mothers have been treated like shit for centuries, and humanity should be ashamed of ourselves.

Why should we be ashamed of ourselves, you ask (metaphysical person who keeps getting resurrected whenever I need a literary segue into my next point)?

Oh, how about raw, unfettered patriarchy as a social institution.

As I write this, indeed as you read this, there are millions upon millions of mothers worldwide living under various forms of control and authority imparted by different men in their lives (if not outright violence), usually from husbands or adult sons, but also parents, bosses, siblings, colleagues, relatives, and others – a small minority of whom might even be women who themselves impart patriarchal violence due to internalized oppression. Yet, almost as a rule, mothers tend to always try harder and be more nurturing than male parental counterparts, regardless of the systems of male domination those moms might have faced in their lives. If that isn’t heroism of the highest order, I don’t know what is.

And what of the appalling political and economic rights conferred on motherhood the world over while they courageously nurture their children?

Take social insurance, public or even via private company policy. Barring a few rich Western countries and some corporations who give decent, still often insufficient, maternity benefits, it is lacking for the vast majority of mothers worldwide. Indeed, America – king of the goddamn neo-colonial pecking order right now – should hang its head in shame when a flabby Hollywood monarchy like the UK or even a very confused has-been like Turkey is streets ahead of the US in terms of maternity benefits. (But I am absolutely sure that America is the biggest market for Mothers Day greeting cards today.)

Hell, you need look no further than the sexist garbage that is spouted in pop culture the world over – the naked celebration of violent manhood, and the downplaying of nurturing, loving values – to get a reality gut check regarding the shoddy value placed on motherhood by society at a collective level.

(How so many single moms keep it together and kicking, I will have nary a fucking clue. Salutations of the highest order would be insufficient.)

And finally, when we as a species slowly lost our divine feminine, mother earth-centric, spiritual roots many millennia ago and instead found ourselves wading in the filth of patriarchal religions the world over – probably the most significant shift in humanity towards a male-dominated world order occurred.

But all that’s too much for me to think about as my partner and I take turns trying to comfort our collicky little angel (8 weeks old tomorrow!).

So I think I’ll just sign off by giving heartfelt thanks to my mother and to mothers everywhere – while raising a fist in salute of their daily battles with the man.

Happy Mothers Day everyone.

The Valley that stole my heart

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I wrote a political travelogue about Kashmir during a trip made a while back. It was published in The Kashmir Walla in their 5th Anniversary Issue, hot off the presses this month! Please click on the following link for the piece and do peruse their lovely publication:

The Valley that stole my heart

(or if that doesn’t work, here’s the url – http://thekashmirwalla.com/2016/05/the-valley-that-stole-my-heart/)

 

Race, caste, and friendship

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When I was in grad school in Baltimore finishing up an M.S. in the 2003-2004 academic year, I had quite a few Indian friends around the Baltimore-DC area. Apart from spending time with some distant relatives, I followed the scent of quasi-cultural safety and found my way to an organized group of Indian students who raised money for charities in India. Notwithstanding the somewhat tepid, middle-of-the-road politics in the group, it did give me a few Indian friends who provided a connection to the homeland and the painlessness of not having to culturally translate everything that was said. They were, thankfully, substantially better to interact with than the feudal morons in my previous port-of-call.

Speaking in a mixture of English and whatever Indian tongue suited our fancy, cracking cross-cultural jokes, whipping out puns that required an innate understanding of pop-culture in different parts of South Asia – being with South Asian friends is (and always will be) comforting no matter where I am outside the subcontinent.

At Hopkins, the fact that I briefly fell in love with one of them, while cultivating a nice, albeit very temporary, friendship with another only served to consolidate that bond. In addition, included in the group was a cousin of mine, who had come to the university the year before.

Something happened when I was with my Indian friends. Instantly I was no longer a walking poster-boy for the entire Indian or South Asian community. I didn’t need to step out of my comfort zone in order to interact. I could be myself; the stares and second looks from white folk didn’t pierce me as they did when I was alone. My accent could seamlessly shift from neutral to desi. I didn’t have to constantly watch myself to ensure I wasn’t garnering too much attention. There were no awkward, plastic smiles that one received from folks uncomfortable with who you were and not knowing how to engage with you.

Intriguingly, I had less in common with my Indian buddies in Hopkins than I would have normally needed for lasting friendships. It made me think twice about the power of being with folks who had superficially similar cultural moorings when navigating another world. It was the anxiety of assimilation in a new society that made one assimilate only partially while concurrently seeking a bubble of manufactured comfort. In India, I would have thought they were nice enough to have as acquaintances but probably not as friends, since I had the privilege to be able to cultivate bonds with those whom I was closer to politically and philosophically. In Baltimore, for those nine months, they were my entire world.

Sometimes you needed to travel thousands of miles to learn a little something about the place you just left.

Socially my Indian friends in Hopkins and I came from similar backgrounds. Middle to upper-middle class families, educated in English-medium school and colleges, armed with sufficient privilege to be able to pursue graduate studies in the West. With the class stratification of Indian society, this essentially meant that barring one or two exceptions, we all came from the so-called upper caste Hindu communities.

In short, we were the privileged white people of India.

And, interestingly enough, it was these somewhat similar social roots that brought about some of the sharpest political divisions between me and my friends.

In order to better explain this and highlight what for me was one of the most acute manifestations of this division, I will have to briefly shift to a little primer on one particular, longstanding policy of the Indian government.

It’s called Reservation.

You see, India has its own Affirmative Action program. From a purely legislative angle it is, in my humble opinion, even stronger than what one might see in the States. Most people around the world have heard of the abhorrent caste system. It performs a similar function in India to what race might perform in the Western world with respect to dividing the haves and have-nots. Indeed, I have found many white folk in America and Europe talk about caste with, dare I suggest, a hint of satisfaction that their own class stratification systems seem less intolerant in comparison – a bit of a pass I imagine from dealing with their own shit. But scale of oppression apart, most Indians would be hard-pressed to argue against the viciousness of the caste system, unless they choose to adopt the ostrich technique of sticking their heads in the proverbial sand, or up their not-so-proverbial asses. Those doing so, as is easily guessable, consist almost entirely of upper-caste Hindus. I should know, because it was the community I grew up in.

But somewhere along the line, through a combination of parents who encouraged me to question and learn, as well as some very eye-opening activism in India via participation in an anti-fascist movement that gave me inspiring comrades across caste, religious, and class divides, I was thankfully brought to a better understanding. As I journeyed into more progressive political frameworks, I soon had to face up to my own privilege, the way the system in India worked in my favor from the get-go, and how it was built on the bleeding backs of those who had historically been most brutalized by the caste system. One of the results of that (still ongoing) journey of reflection was that I became one of the most ardent believers in the Reservation system quite early on in my youth (my father, being a bit of a self-identified Nehruvian socialist, inculcated in me the importance of “correcting longstanding injustices with government policies that benefit the historically oppressed”).

Now, everyone knew that Reservation as a policy needed to be honed and bettered. But it was also one that was desperately needed as a minuscule, hardly-sufficient, state policy that attempted to undo centuries of brutal caste-based oppression – something which continues in full force in India to this day, regardless of legislation.

It was in discussing Reservation that I realized how wide the gulf was between me and my Indian friends in Hopkins (and frankly, the overwhelming majority of upper caste Hindus in India and around the world). They were all manifestly against it, many offensively so. And because they had the advantage of numbers, the arguments that we had on the topic often played out under the paradigm of the lone, shrill, lefty weirdo arguing against those of apparently reasonable tongue and mind. There’s a way in which numbers help in lending a façade of authenticity to unjust frameworks.

I couldn’t really blame them (though I did want to occasionally beat the ever loving crap out of them). Were I to have missed the kinds of providential political experiences I was lucky enough to have, I would have joined them in their thinking.

Occasionally I ventured a couple of similar  conversations with American friends in the university community, white ones that is, who joined us for get-togethers or hangouts. Sometimes I had conversations with white folk in my classes. It was during those brief times that I understood the sterile stencil with which privilege etched itself on humanity. There was a deeply disturbing correlation with their disavowal of Affirmative Action programs in the States and my Indian buddies’ disdain for Reservation in India.

We were in Johns Hopkins after all. This was the place where an overwhelmingly black janitorial staff cleaned the halls and restrooms used by a student/teacher population consisting of white people, East Asians, and South Asians. Reservation and Affirmative Action were both the same – programs to haughtily dismiss while casting aspersions that they diluted merit or unfairly discriminated against deserving candidates. It was a place where centuries of racism in America and centuries of caste oppression in India could be blotted out from living memory in one fell self-congratulatory swoop. It was a place where those benefiting from different structures of oppression, thousands of miles apart, mostly unrelated, with different histories and local conditions, could find congruence in a false meritocracy. Had I gone to Spellman College or Howard University, my guess (or hope) is that it would have been a little different.

It made me realize that those who acted as the white folk of India where ultimately not a whole lot different, save a few nuances, than white folk elsewhere. It also made me realize that the institution I was in attracted, for the most part, people of a similar ilk regardless of skin color or ethnicity. All of us Indians who came here to study – we assimilated well. We were the acceptable people of color, who kept our heads down and didn’t assert ourselves too much. We filled the color quota of universities without shaking up the system. We didn’t have the history in America that our black and latino brethren had, so we came with a clean slate. We would be supplicant and grateful for having been let into the country to pursue our so-called potential. We didn’t cause trouble with pesky demands for reparations or restorative justice, because we didn’t like those demands when they were made in our own neck of the woods. We didn’t express anything other than pure and unadulterated willingness to integrate, while making sure our cuisine and movies provided non-intrusive pleasure to the society we were integrating into. We were the immigrants whom xenophobic bigots could tout as the kind of immigrants America wanted, unlike those “illegals” from south of the border. We could be the exotic friends of the white folk, without scaring them. We could give them the pass they needed from their history and, in turn, they gave us the pass we needed from ours. We would willingly play second fiddle, and not even dare to seek the lead. Be offended? Pfft…we would oh-so gladly be the Tonto to their Lone Ranger, the Kato to their Green Hornet, the Apu to their Homer Simpson (hell, we wouldn’t even give a crap that America’s most beloved Indian is voiced in breathtakingly racist fashion by Hank Azaria).

And if they declined our offers of compliant companionship, we would thank them nevertheless for their consideration, revert back to our own little bubbles, not cause trouble, and work hard in exactly the way they would like us to.

Wait…

Did I hear someone say model minority?

Loss (and subsequent reconnection)

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Some dear loved ones recently experienced the loss of a beloved family member – the kind of loss that takes a while to engage and make peace with, but also the kind of loss that sharpens and cements the beautiful memories one has of the dearly departed.

The passing away of their loved one reminds me of how much I have been thinking about that specific point in the cycle of life. I’ve been directly or indirectly thinking more about loss in the past few weeks since the precious birth of Daya (the only human being who currently ties with Sus for the title of Greatest Person on Earth). I know it’s the fear of losing everything. I guess when one is surrounded by love, the thought of loss is an inevitable background score simply because it serves as a reminder that the future is unknown. Of course, a lot of that unknown consists of yet-to-be-experienced moments of happiness and joy, and we do what we can to ensure that’s the case. But there’s no denying the fact that the loss of loved ones, and pain in general, also exists as a part of that unknown future. Loss is a very real and inevitable part of life.

And all of us deal with loss in different ways, traversing the spectrum of health or lack thereof.

When my younger brother left this world due to a drowning accident almost a dozen years ago, I started off dealing with my loss at a very unhealthy point in the spectrum – by hitting the bottle and deciding to let myself go to waste. He then gave me a bit of a spiritual kick in the ass and got me to chill the fuck out. I finally made my peace with his departure from this world by realizing that my relationship with him had just shifted onto another realm; one with different modes of communication than what I use with my loved ones on earth. The pain still resurfaces from time to time but I’m also much more spiritually grounded now and happier in the loving relationship I share with my dead brother. (Some may call me deluded. Some may even say I’m batshit insane. But I’m fairly sure I’m happier and more loved than those people so it’s all good.)

Now, regardless of what you think about my own personal spiritual shenanigans, I do believe there are some commonalities across the board regarding loss that I think are useful to come to terms with in order to get some peace of mind.

High on that list is the very real fact that it is gut-wrenchingly painful and likely to be that way to some degree or the other for the rest of our lives on this earth. This acceptance of pain is only the first step in a lifelong journey of healing. One of the most important aspects of any healing journey I have found is a certain degree of acceptance of that which we can control and that which we cannot. Pain, especially emotional and spiritual pain, is one of those things that tends to fall into that which we cannot really control, but so desperately want to. I sometimes wonder if an acceptance of the pain of loss is what we wish to avoid when we stay stranded in the dangerous limbo lands of either wishing our loved one would come back or trying to make sense of why they died or both. I know I did that when I lost my brother, and am certain that had I stayed rooted in those modes of thinking I would have been a lot more miserable, and maybe even have blamed him for dying (always a dangerous mindset to fall into).

Another commonality I’ve discovered is that loss is and always will be personal. No matter how much another loved one might have shared in the relationship with the one who just died, the bumpy journey towards making peace with the loss is a solo one (with loved ones close by of course). It often involves long periods of self-reflection in order to find ways to build a relationship with the pain, find some peace of mind, and get spiritually grounded.

There are also going to be special aspects of the relationship to the loved one who passed away that no one else is going to understand…or even be able to hold space for. For instance, with my own experience of loss, there were some who thought that because my younger brother happened to be a cousin and not an actual sibling, it would somehow make the loss less painful. I know that people who have non-human loved ones certainly experience a similar kind of callous thinking from society in general. Should I outlive my feline brothers, which is a likely scenario, there will be people in my life who think that, because they are animals or “pets”, their inevitable passing will be easier to handle compared to the loss of human loved ones. They would not know that I can barely bring myself to think about the day when their time on earth comes to an end because of how painful it is.

That inevitable (and very personal) pain is what brings me to what I believe is the most important commonality regarding the loss of a loved one, human and non-human alike, that all of us share – one that’s been usurped by organized religion and religious fundamentalists. I speak about the spiritual or soulful aspect to loss. Personally, I’m of the opinion that without a liberating way to engage with this element of loss, our healing journey will always be incomplete (or at least a whole lot tougher).

Ever since I started knowingly or unknowingly engaging with the idea of losing a loved one (something I experienced only in early adulthood), I’ve found that those people who have experienced loss but have something spiritual or soulful in their lives tend to make peace with the loss in more resilient ways than those who have experienced loss and don’t have something spiritual to help them with the journey towards healing.

Now the reason I say this is because over the years I found this to be the case even with folks who believed and participated in fundamentalist and patriarchal religious practices – Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and others. I wasn’t quite ready to believe that it was actually because of their messed up religious practices that they had found some measure of peace. Partly, this was because I was a more militant atheist at the time than I am now (I know there’s no god, at least no male one, but I do know that goddesses exist).

However, I realized eventually that it wasn’t their religion, whichever one it was, that was the key to understanding this resiliency to loss (or trauma or violence or any other kind of pain we might face in our lives) but the fact that their beliefs provided some kind of resolution to the soulful aspect of loss. Cutting out the fundamentalism and patriarchy from the spiritual process helped me realize the importance of engaging with the soulful aspect of loss – I didn’t need to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater (which is a weird and morbid saying, but whatever).

I am and always have been of the firm belief that a relationship with any loved one is ultimately a bonding at the soul; not because of blood lines, or familial ties, or cultural moorings, or anything else. We love our loved ones and they love us back because there is a spiritual connection between the two individuals. Sometimes that bond is so intense and so powerful that we have soulmates – usually our intimate partners, our children, our best friends, and our non-human family.

Thus, when we lose someone, we experience a spiritual loss, a painful gut punch to the soul. It is an experience that has to be engaged with at that level while reconciling with the pain and the very personal nature of our relationship with the one we have lost. I believe in doing so by reconnecting with my loved one – a soul who underwent a transformation with their physical departure from this earth. The journey can take on different paths for different people, but I think it is the process of reconnection with a departed beloved that constitutes the apex of healing from loss, and also happens to be one of the most beautiful journeys one can take.

Because that reconnection, however it may happen for each individual, reveals in no uncertain terms just how awesome that soul was (and still is), how much joy they brought to our world (and still do), and how brilliantly shone their light, even in times of darkness (and still does).

For the most important realization that occurs with the loss of a loved one is that we can never have too much time with those we love.

And thankfully, love can never die.

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This writeup is dedicated to Missy.

Journey onward oh glorious foot cuddler and wise little yapper.

Thank you for the beautiful memories during our brief time together.

And know that my love and I will always be there for your human family.

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Engaging with martial arts from the standpoint of love, soulfulness, and non-violence

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I have a very difficult relationship with martial arts. I like them. I’m not very good at them. And I’m deeply troubled by them.

I’m especially troubled by the masculine, macho garbage that’s promoted and highlighted the world over in sports and popular culture. There is misogyny, sexism, and gender violence across the length and breadth of the world’s practices and practitioners of martial arts (including, and some might say especially, the armed mercenaries of the colonial state and private capital.)

But I’m also quite fascinated by them. Have been from a very young age. With no real training to speak of save a year at a raggedy Bangalore sports club and some occasional self-motivated workouts, it’s a fascination that has nevertheless stood the test of time.

Not that I’m particularly good at it or even super motivated to become good at it.

For instance, my “martial arts” practice these days consists of reading Bruce Lee’s JKD stream-of-consciousness once a month for 10 minutes, maybe followed by Paulo Coelho’s Manual of the Warrior of Light for another 10, then shadow boxing for a very vigorous 5 minutes, followed by a less vigorous 5 minutes of simple kicks, all while watching Futurama. Wait for a month. Repeat.

So it’s safe to say that it’s not exactly some UFC or Navy Seal shit that I partake in. If you’re looking for that, you’re in the wrong place. I think the martial arts I tend to practice is more the kind for those who also need daily rest and relaxation time with their amazing loved ones, human and non-human, alongside hefty doses of sitcom watching, comfort foods and beer; more Homer Simpson than Chuck Norris when it comes to warrior prowess.

Nevertheless, and with that disclaimer-cum-shameless-nod-to-popular-culture, I’d like to explore what I’m self styling as anti oppressive martial arts, trying to engage with it from the standpoint of three things: love, soulfulness, and non-violence – aka “all that boring, wimpy-ass shit about finding inner peace and all”

I’d like to briefly expand on those three things that define this kind of anti oppressive martial arts for me.

Going ass-first, let’s start with non-violence, and to that we can add, the prevention of violence.

I’m going to borrow a concept from the genius Bruce Lee where he spoke of “zones” of attack and defence. If I remember correctly, they are the kicking zone, the punching zone, the grappling zone, and the trapping zone. To that, I think a particularly important zone is actually the zone of non-violence and violence prevention.

Because truly one of the core values of martial arts, I am beginning to realize, is non-violence.

I mean, just think about it for a minute.

Why the hell would I want to get into a fight?

I am about to become a father for crying out loud.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in self defense and safety from harm or evil. I truly do believe in my loved ones and myself protecting one another.

But to actually have to use violence in order to do that is only if there’s absolutely no other choice.

Ideally, my loved ones and I just want to lead a peaceful, non-violent, fun, safe, and healthy life. (Wouldn’t you?)

So I think a really important tool (or weapon, if you want to get all into that martial artsy language) in anti oppressive martial arts is the ability to prevent violence, avoid violence, calm violent situations down, and promote nonviolence. Because if we’re really honest with ourselves, the times when we are faced with no other alternative but violence are way less often than we are often led to believe, especially when we choose to not be poisoned by male egos and violent mainstream pop culture. For the most part I do believe that safety and preventing harm to loved ones can almost always be done without violence; indeed violence often makes things much worse.

Which then brings about a mindset that is needed in order to avoid violence unless faced with no other alternative, because that varies for many people.

What is the kind of warrior mindset that first and foremost values nonviolence?

I call it soulfulness.

Soulfulness in martial arts for me is about remaining calm, breathing, understanding that our souls can never be harmed by evil, and invoking some spiritually liberating thought in order to deal with any stress or pain, no matter how severe.

Was that a bit too much to digest right there?

No worries. I’m happy to break it down a bit more…

I’ve written previously about how in moments of extremely high stress or pain, often the best (and during the moment, only) thing you can do is to remain calm. Take that breath. And get your shocked system in order to take the next best step to protect your loved ones and yourself. Any training, thinking etc. can go out the window and as such, it’s important to just stay calm and remember to breath.

In order to prepare for that however, it helps to have a belief in the power of our souls. Deep down, fear and panic ultimately comes from our sense of mortality and vulnerability. From personal experience, I’m convinced that people with a liberated sense of spirituality tend to do better in crises and with traumatic situations than those who don’t have that soulfulness or spiritual liberation, because the idea of our indestructible souls is an idea that can provide great strength and courage against that mortality and vulnerability. It can help us brave a lot of evil, especially since evil in this world often has a lot more money, power, and wealth than we do.

Having something to spiritually invoke, however your spirituality might manifest in your life, can be very useful in such moments. In my case, it happens to be a personal chant to the divine feminine, but it can take many liberated forms.

Which brings us to that which we need in our daily lives in order to help us with soulfulness and non-violence, which is love.

We are nothing without love and community, i.e. a family of our choosing, no matter how small or large. Our spiritual liberation and sense of peace can only reach it’s full potential with love.

How, you might be asking yourself right about now, have we come to this in an article about martial arts?

Because I ask myself ultimately why I even do that monthly workout. Why I have this weird fascination for the martial arts, maladroit though I may be in every attempt at them.

And it’s because with every failure I realize that, deep down, at a primal level, we all ultimately fight to defend and protect those whom we love. Thus for me, any true (and relaxingly stress-free) study of the martial arts absolutely must have love at its core.

So the next time you workout on that long bag or smash the air as you shadow box or do your regulation 100 kicks (in my case, a month from now) – remember that it’s very ironically about the peace, spirituality, and love.

You’ll have the most stress-free workout ever.

Super Satchel Man: The Powerless Social Worker (ready to bang his impotent head on the brick wall of injustice)

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Superhero Avatar – Super Satchel Man

Description – The powerless social worker

Special powers – (1) banging a very frustrated head on the brick wall of banal injustice and manic bureaucracy; (2) ability to laugh cynically at the valiant failure of the same.

Alter Egos: Sri (aka Sriru, aka Sriram Ananthanarayanan)

Day Job – lovable loser and maladroit family man.

Super Satchel Man carries a satchel as he goes about his futile superhero duties of working in a healthcare system which mimics the behavior of a really gentle and benevolent fascist dictator prone to occasional bouts of rage.

Super Satchel Man’s Super Vehicle is provided by the public-commons-owned (and operated apparently) Toronto Transit Commission.

Batmobile it isn’t.

A smelly bus it is.

Super Satchel Man is a man of the people, because the people are just as frustrated and batshit insane as he is for even trying.

Life that is.

But Super Satchel Man doesn’t care, because at the end of the day, Super Satchel Man has a large and weird and loving family to go home to

And Super Satchel Man has a bunch of weird and loving friends to hang out with.

And Super Satchel Man has two amazing cats to confide in.

One of whom is Super Satchel Man’s trusted sidekick – snoring on the bed beside him.

[Our next piece will introduce Fuzzy Poo – The Pudgy and Politically Pacifist Siberian Tiger. Until then – here’s Super Satchel Man, ready to drift off into insomnia and a resigned but ultimately peaceful acceptance of his many dogged failures. Goodnight lovelies.]