The parasitic existence

The parasitic existence is built upon a habitual and unquestioned way of living off the exploitation of others.

It’s a theme brilliantly covered in Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, with an arresting exploration presenting reality unapologetically, and stylishly.

Parasite highlights not only that the poor are economically dependent on the wealthy, but also that the lives of the privileged are fully and practically dependent on the work of those less privileged.

In the film this begs the question; which of the two families is the truly ‘parasitic’ one? 

(There’s more below …  )

 

Parasite film poster showing the characters in the film

 

At the crossroads of race, gender, or sexuality the question posed by the film becomes more urgent. 

Anyone who has read my blog will know that these themes are covered in various ways, and extensively.

 

Recent events have highlighted a lot of reactions (remember who we’re looking at here). These are best summed up by:

  • Performative anti-racism book-clubs – it’s a start, though it is fast heading down the route of defining a ‘Black’ culture or view of ‘Black’ as only being about race, suffering and oppression, or the equally problematic provider of solutions. Where are the stories of love, travel, joy, and celebration by Black and Brown authors in these scenarios? Why are mainstream publisher’s lists so devoid of Black or Brown writers writing on subjects other than race?
  • “It’ll all blow over. Do what you need to be seen to do till it does.” – actually, I don’t think it will ‘blow over’ and you have to do more than just the performative basics.
  • Playing 1960s tunes by Black artists – great music, but that was then and this is now; did you spot the passage of time with very little change? This is 2020.
  • Photo ops (then home to a clean house after the cleaner’s gone) – it’s good to express support, it really is. But the best thing is to live every minute of every day positively as an anti racist by also calling out in-groups, asking questions and enforcing inclusive diversity. 
  • Bizarrely, watching ‘The Help’ – this one really confused me with its mind-boggling stupidity.

I’m sure there’s far more, but you get the picture …

When any of these reactions are picked up on, we are invariably told with a raging anger that ‘people are trying to do the right thing‘, or trying ‘to help‘.

Then, the inevitable raging against ‘desecration’ and the false equivalence between a statue of a slave owner and profiteer set against the Buddhas of Bamyan – because of course those slave owning profiteers set up a moral code and mode of existence with their fellow beings that is directly equivalent to Buddhism in all its diversity …

Think about it, and you’ll find that’s exactly where we actually are. The systems of exploitation and holding people back are built on those inherited from slave owning profiteers. It is right that we question this, and make root and branch reform.

And the resistance to this comes with other expectations. That one must either not question things, or if one does, to do so in a preternaturally calm way. That the rules of what is debatable and what is not, are set by the privileged, to ensure that ‘people don’t get upset‘.  It’s all about them, always. Their needs, upsets, and feelings always at the centre.

Just have a think about that for a moment.

Why the anger when these reactions are questioned?

Is it an acknowledgement of an enduring wrong yet to be put right?

Then there’s I/we … 

… “need more time”

And this one is the best:

Are you OK? (patronising tone etc.)

> This is an eye roll in words <

Just because your privilege and lack of action is being questioned, do not question people’s sanity. Ever.

Question your own ineptitiude, complicity, and anger.

 

More Time?

Really? Where have you been?! 

There is no more time. The time is now. Because if it isn’t then perhaps the quote, misattributed to Mahatma Gandhi, might actually hold some truth …

Gandhi-misattributed-quote-western civilsation

Step on it!

It’s more than disappointing that the white hot rage received on pointing out that those held back by the brakes won’t be any longer, is met by a failure to step on the accelerator by those privileged to make change.

It calls into question their entire world view and daily practices.

Why?

Because instead of interrogating the way the world privileges them, they question challenge, and undermine change-makers and change-making practice.

It’s time for them to start asking questions in another way. It’s time to question a fundamentally wrong norm, and to turn that rage around to the real target. There’s no time to waste. 

Get real.

  • Allyship is about being willing to challenge your own privilege.
  • It’s about quitting the lectures and the pleading, and being humble and learning to listen instead.
  • It’s about making a stand, every minute of every day, and learning daily how to tackle this for the rest of your life.
  • And above all, it’s about you taking on that burden to understand that for centuries Black and Brown people have had to self-inspect, code switch, manage their behaviours and constantly monitor everything all the time – and well before entering the room, any room, all the time in the room, multiple times throughout the period they’re in the room to watch for the sidling up jibe, the whispered comment, the patronising gush, the snide, elliptical commenting on social media … do you see yourself?

 

You don’t need more time. You need to get on with it.

Read the room.

Now.

 

The positive actions you can take must go beyond merely conforming to a bare minimum.

One part in a play or TV drama with a little signficance, but not enough to de-centre the privilege? No, that’s not good enough.

 

Don’t make the burden of representation fall on one set of shoulders, or even two. The majority of humanity cannot be relegated to that.

 

  • Whose written the story being played out on that stage or screen?
  • How did the foundation school you send your children to make its money? Philanthropy is money laundering after all; albeit washed in conscience and piety.
  • What does the curriculum you were taught, and the one your children are being taught, reflect? 
  • How do systems of food production affect people, economies and environments elsewhere?
  • What is the real story behind disposable fashion?

 

There is work to be done, and you need to do it. Now.

You need to make sure that from front-of-house to decision makers – and all the way in between – the true diversity of life is present, validated, supported and nurtured to make meaningful and lasting change across stages, cinemas, museums, galleries, corporations, finance brokers – all of it. 

> So what’s next? That’s up to you <