I grew up with disgust for classism, sexism, racism and bigotry. I was taught that the system I live in was never broken, because it was never working in the first place. I grew up knowing that I live in Babylon, home of the excess only greed can drive. I never got woke cuz I was never asleep. I am as wide awake to the struggle as anyone can be in my position.
We had an 8 inch black and white tv til I was 13, I have never owned a video game and I am a child of the 80’s. It was mind blowing to order a drink besides water in a restaurant or go eat at one besides a very special occasion. I had never had cotton candy or eaten a corn dog, didn’t go shopping in malls or use paper towels to dry my hands in the bathroom. I didn’t get a car, or school money when I graduated. I was just glad to be a stat on the side that said Natives can graduate – no really. We were too poor to afford all those things, but we also didn’t want them. Material possessions and product consumption is all avarice; self indulgent, inwardly and outwardly destructive at its core.
I was raised to relate with people who don’t relate with me; other Natives can’t always tell that i am too unless I tell them. I don’t look quite like them, and I have more education than most. I don’t live where they live or do the things they do, I don’t talk like them or even dream like they do. Like white people, I have never lived on a reservation, and I have never lived in my people’s homeland.
I was raised to be unable to relate with the people who look like me. Those ones feel like they relate with me, not knowing I have no shared experience with them. I had always considered white people to be “them” and brown people to be “us”. When white people include me and I don’t join in they can’t tell why. It’s especially trying when they view their world through lenses that they don’t know about.
When I left the bosom of my family at 19, I was set adrift in a white world I had lived between, but not within… a world I did not understand. I thought I knew a little about the dominant culture since I am an urban individual, had discovered Monty Python, Sci-Fi and come on, some of my ancestors come from France. This new white world was, for me, a paradise I had always loathed – never desired. Except, marketers have found the way to make a fish bite even when he’s not hungry. Like a jolt of electricity can make a muscle contract, advertisements are made to work. I was like Pinocchio in the beginning, fighting temptation. But it was so easy to fall into pleasure when there are so many flavors in Babylon and then I reveled for far too long.
I had to find out if the rumors were true. The stories I heard were like those immigrants hearing that Americans eat cheeseburgers for every meal and there is money everywhere, and everyone is so nice and they tip so well and and and and and it was all true. And people are nice, and polite, and easy going and friendly when you’re white and your money spends, or you’re lucky. I look white, so I get the nice treatment. Capitalism is so lulling in its monotonous predictability that I fell back asleep. I woke back up again one day but I had had to see why that disgust for excess dripped so sourly from my grandmother’s lips. Why my mother did not decorate with items that had no use, no purpose.
It was all so terribly horribly true. And somehow it was worse than I had imagined because these people, if you could call some of them that it would be generous, these people were so shallow, self absorbed, aggressively ignorant, oblivious yet aware. They were inhumane to their unseen victims as they wallowed in their own self-maintained captivity. All I could hear when I woke back up was how wildly dissonant this soundtrack is. The background music is ominous and eerie. The melody is conspicuously innocent and lighthearted, bright and chipper. The movie somehow illustrates the plight while marginalizing it and then insistently moves on to fluff, despite the music cues indicating there’s more to the story. The final scene ends with nothing resolved, set to Bob Marley singing “…think you’re in heaven but you’re living in hell.”