"Where is it, this present? It has melted in our grasp, fled ‘ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming."
"The commodification of education requires the interruption of this fundamental educational process and the disintegration and distillation of the educational process into discrete, reified, and ultimately saleable things or packages of things….In the wake of this transformation, teachers become commodity producers and deliverers, subjects of the familiar regime of commodity production in any other industry, and students become consumers of yet more commodities. The relationship between teacher and student is thus reestablished, in an alienated mode, through the medium of the market, and the buying and selling of commodities takes on the appearance of education. But it is, in reality, only a shadow of education, an assemblage of pieces without the whole."
We came from our own country in a red room
which fell through the fields, our mother singing
our father’s name to the turn of the wheels.
My brothers cried, one of them bawling, Home,
Home, as the miles rushed back to the city,
the street, the house, the vacant rooms
where we didn’t live any more. I stared
at the eyes of a blind toy, holding its paw.
All childhood is an emigration. Some are slow,
leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue
where no one you know stays. Others are sudden.
Your accent wrong. Corners, which seem familiar,
leading to unimagined pebble-dashed estates, big boys
eating worms and shouting words you don’t understand.
My parents’ anxiety stirred like a loose tooth
in my head. I want our own country, I said.
But then you forget, or don’t recall, or change,
and, seeing your brother swallow a slug, feel only
a skelf of shame. I remember my tongue
shedding its skin like a snake, my voice
in the classroom sounding just like the rest. Do I only think
I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space
and the right place? Now, Where do you come from?
strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.
—Originally, Carol Ann Duffy
From New Selected Poems 1984-2004 (Picador, 2004). Originally published in The Other Country (Anvil, 1990).
This poem resonated with me a lot. All childhood is an emigration; all emigration brings you back to childhood. Migration means starting again, finding yourself a child amidst a sea of people who have known their country & culture all their lives. My ex-housemate from Beijing had this note: I am a 25-year old Chinese man. I am a 2-year old Australian man.
Sometimes it means grasping at thorns, torn between multiple cognitive dissonances. The chasm widens. How does one comfortably straddle the line between being foreign, and assimilating? When my friends laugh at my ocker accent I tell them it’s a survival mechanism. When acquaintances & co-workers find out about my migration history they tell me “you sound like you’ve grown up here” like it’s meant to be a compliment. When other migrants eye me suspiciously & uncomfortably when they find out I’m also like them, but not really. When my born-and-bred mates reference bits of Australian pop culture and politics that I am unfamiliar with after we share a laugh about something else, and I am silent — I’m also like them, but not really.
I know who I am, but I hesitate.
I grew a broccoli plant from seed. Then I cut off 2 heads and made aglio olio with it. This is something to be proud about.
Mile End, South Australia
"Writing — the original technology for externalizing information — emerged around five thousand years ago, when Mesopotamian merchants began tallying their wares using etchings on clay tablets. It emerged first as an economic tool. As with photography and the telephone and the computer, newfangled technologies for communication nearly always emerge in the world of commerce. The notion of using them for everyday, personal expression seems wasteful, risible, or debased. Then slowly it becomes merely lavish, what “wealthy people” do; then teenagers take over and the technology becomes common to the point of banality."
Alvin Toffler, Future Shock
diasporic fragments i.
I’m still searching for “my culture”. I’m ethnically Chinese (nationality: Singaporean) and apart from my name and my face I still don’t understand completely what that means. Of course, Singapore does have a culture, but to understand it you need to take it apart. A former British colony, it now exists as a neo-colony with smatterings of regional Southeast Asia which also prides itself on its “Confucian Asian values”. When you’re Chinese in Singapore your mobility is that of privilege.
Most of Singapore’s English-language culture is influenced by the US. I grew up learning how to speak, read, and write the Queen’s English but I also grew up watching Disney cartoons and being smitten by American MTV. I say ‘soda’ and ‘gas’ and ‘twenny’ and ‘sometning’ and my accent is both rhotic and non-rhotic. Sometimes I roll my ‘r’s without knowing. Over and under.
When I was 21 I hung out with my visiting friend from America and we talked about articles we read that week on Mother Jones and Alternet. Then I went home and thought about the news and commentary I read on the internet and realized that apart from scanning news outlets within the Southeast Asian region everything else I consumed was American.
Part of an essay I am currently writing about my cultural identity, thoughts on the colonized self, and my experiences as a 1st-generation Asian migrant in Australia. Keep checking back for more.
"far from being the case that Asia is this sort of heterosexual place, Southeast Asia has this long history of relative sexual permissiveness, and in fact this allegation that this is somehow not part of our culture is completely back to front – the thing that is not part of Southeast Asian culture or not part of Malaysian culture is really the homophobia, which was imported through colonialism …"
Dr Julian Lee speaking to Lia Incognita for Queering the Air on 3CR Community Radio - part of a two-hour “gaysian” spectacular ft Benjamin Law, Lian Low, Gary Paramanathan, Shinen Wong and many more.
Northbound scenic wonders
Elizabeth South, South Australia
"The fact that I
am writing to you
already falsifies what I
wanted to tell you.
how to explain to you that I
don’t belong to English
though I belong nowhere else"
Gustavo Pérez Firmat
"Hiding places there are innumerable, escape is only one, but possibilities of escape, again, are as many as hiding places."
"Celebrate beating a treacherous system. But remember, there is no god handing out rewards to the most deserving. Don’t pretend that everyone can win."