Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Todo Madre o un Desmadre

I was yamming with my buddy Kajander and I came up with a fairly silly, but somewhat apt metaphor for a specific type of passionate effort that I've thought on a lot. I've thought of a few examples of the type of effort I'm referring to. Without further ado,

1. I decide to join a street gang. I have little firsthand experience with street gangs; not much outside of sharing a classroom with folks more profoundly involved. I've learned quite a bit academically, which is to say from books, movies, discussions and websites. I have an undeniably powerful affinity for understanding gang life and legitimizing gangs as social clubs. It is with this affinity and curiousity that I come up with my idea. Here's the situation:

I approach a group of fellas who appear to be gang-affiliated in a neighborhood rife with gang activity. Let's go with East LA. I explain to them the aforementioned facts about my link with gangs, and go on to offer them my services. I am very direct about stating my intention of becoming a respected and feared member of their gang. I have not chosen them for who they represent, just that they do, in fact, represent.

My assumption is that they would first laugh, and likely tell me to scram. Here's where it gets interesting. Instead of scramming, I continue to explain to these gentlemen that I'm very passionate about involvement. I explain that coupled with my passion is a willingness to do whatever it takes, literally whatever it takes, to earn their respect. I'm willing to kill babies, rabbis, zookeepers, grandmas, animals, anything. This game goes on and on and I'm probably beaten a few times. Not good enough, my newfound friends, not good enough.

The essence of the game is that it always offers two clear solutions. First, I eventually get murdered or die from a beating, either by 'friend' or foe. Second, I eventually earn the respect of the members of the gang and am rewarded with the rightful (albeit gruesome and heinous) respect for having become a ruthless and loyal killer.

It's being, quite literally, being willing to do _____ to the death.

2. The second example I've thought about is getting close to the president of Venezuela. I know a functional amount of Spanish, but nothing near what would be required to be an advisor to Chavez. The game goes the same way. I simply move to Venezuela and try to find a way to get to Chavez. I write him letters, I get on the radio, I memorize his speeches and those of his predecessors, I become active in bringing the vote out for him, and so on.

Rejection will come often and may come at a price. The price might be physical, but more importantly, there will be metaphysical costs. I might have to, as with the first example, renounce pieces of my moral code. I might be contradicting policy beliefs I have, and might even be involved in hurting people that I truly care about. This is no excuse in this game, however. One must do all one is able in order to achieve the goal, or perish as a result of its attainment.

Now where does this all come from? A multifaceted answer will provide some insight.

First, as might have been deduced by the title of this musing, there is a parallel with my stories and the film Blood In Blood Out. In fact, I didn't even see this until I began writing these words, but it's obvious that the movie had a huge effect on me. In the movie, there is a young man who was born of a Mexican American mother and an Anglo father. He has grown up in a culture of Mexican American street gangs, and wishes to become a respected member of the gang Los Vatos Locos. In the end, he basically gives his life in a similar way as I described earlier in the first example. Even as I'm writing this, I'm realizing how uncanny the similarities are. I guess I'm basically analyzing a theme in the movie. But we've come this far, so I'll continue.

Beyond that, I have some thoughts about vulnerability that relate to the aforementioned stuff. I think that some of the most profound moments in people's lives come in times of extreme vulnerability. I think realization of one's vulnerability is necessary for one to fully give their lives to a cause, whatever that cause might be. I think it's a beautiful thing to admit that you humble yourself before a cause. Most of us don't work this way.

This leads me to the reason I was thinking on this. I don't generally act in this way. Obviously, I try to stick to my moral code, my understanding of logic, and what little I believe or know about the world. I wouldn't want to ignore any of these under normal circumstances. Beyond this, I also tend to intellectualize issues, which tends to keep me from getting involved. I end up in the clouds of academia and I feel as though, while I gain a great deal of knowledge about an issue, I sometimes fail to make a direct difference in that issue.

I am hoping that, in Ecuador, I will embrace my vulnerability, both social in having no compadres and linguistic in having to bridge a gap in my communication. I hope that I can accept my vulnerability and be honest about it with the people involved in things I'd like to be active in. I hope that I express my passion and knowledge for interesting issues and projects. In response, I believe I will be accepted as a comrade in the struggle.

I don't think the metaphor enhances this musing at all. It's not very simple, which I guess is similar to the posting. It's a bit jumpy. Sorry. I'm about to leave the country and my head's all over the place. Geez.

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