Thursday, December 9, 2010

On why I am an artist not a scientist*

I can think of an infinite number of things I would rather do than study science - for example - watch the life cycle of the grass.

And yet, I find myself faced with the dilemma of being labelled an idiot if I don't show some sort of competency in a "real subject". My ego always takes a slight knock (and by slight, I mean as extraordinarily un-slight as possible!) when someone starts talking about something vaguely mathematical or scientific and assumes that pink-loving, headband-wearing little me couldn’t possibly understand.

So when someone asks me, in a tone that suggests they're looking forward to the moment when I am forced to admit confusion and defeat, to explain Inertia (basic physics principle) I find myself in a fix.

See, the artist in me would like to tell you exactly where you can shove your physics principles - I'm thinking of a not particularly sunny place and the current location of your head. BUT..

There's this other side of me. She hates being defeated , by any thing. She's stubborn beyond belief. And she will go to any length to make a point. So instead of just throwing out some poorly phrased retort (mostly because I'm too annoyed to be bothered with syntax and grammar) I make it my mission to answer this question.

And after googling it (and rolling my eyes at the complex language used to describe something I could have figured out in the tenth grade) I can.

The concept of Inertia contributes sweet bugger-all to my life. Now more than ever, I can remember why I dislike science.. None of the equations and theories and laws help me understand what's really important to me. Sure, they've made our world the place it is. But we're running out of oil, our ice caps are melting, our population has been and is growing at a rate too high for us to match with food production. And for all of our science, we can't solve our problems.

Art solves problems. It creates hope. It breathes love. It opens minds. It connects people. Scientists go home to people too. Science isn't going to help anyone raise a teenage daughter.

Inertia – without the science – is the theory that any common object moving at a constant speed in a straight line will continue to do so. It will not spontaneously speed up, slow down or change direction. Also, any common object that is still, will remain still if left to itself. Some force must move the object along. 

Community Child sticking her tongue out
Taken from -- community child sticking tongue out by upturnedface. the response the next person to ask me a science question will get. 

Science figures out what moves common objects along?
Art moves life along. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Racism - As I see it.

Rosa Parks
Maybe you don't know her name, but I hope you do. 

In 1955, she refused to stand up. A small action in itself but sparking a movement greater than anything she would have imagined in the moment - the African American Civil Rights Movement. Events in the USA would change the world, as more and more people began fighting for equality and freedom. 

For South Africa, my home country, 1955 was just the beginning of a long fight. We are a young democracy at only 16 years and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is lauded as being one of the most open and forward thinking constitutions in the world.

But how far have we really come? The creation of equal rights and freedoms doesn't mean the eradication of racism. In a world where people increasingly choose to define themselves by their race, can we ever put racism behind us? When I was younger, my race wasn't something I thought much about, it was the thing I filled in on forms, the way I explained my tanned skin and dark hair. Being indian didn't have any particular connotations for me. But as I grew older, and especially this year at uni, I found that many people expected certain things of me because of my race. I can't count the number times someone remarked, "You don't act very indian." 

Well, what the hell does that mean? I asked some people.
-Being indian means I stick to having indian friends. 
-Being indian means I watch hindi movies and listen to hindi songs.
-Being indian means I am conservative. 
-Being indian means I must be smart and good at maths and science. 
-Being indian means I am spoilt. 
-Being indian means I wear indian clothes and like indian food. 

Last week, I turned down an invitation to watch a hindi movie at the cinema - the response was, "Why? Are you one of those indians that think they're white?"

No, you moron. I just don't enjoy sitting in a cinema for 3 and a half hours. 

I also found that people were surprised to find that I was indian. Most assumed I was mixed race. Why? 
"Because I have english or coloured tendencies." What exactly are coloured tendencies? hmm? Because I sure as hell don't know. 

 I began to notice how defined people feel by their race. Most people attached some sort of pride to their race, the way people are patriotic to their countries. When I didn't do that, it was viewed as me rejecting my heritage, which is hardly true. 

So, people want to be free from racism, but want to identify with their races and create definitions of what it means to be a certain race. Any time you create definite groups, you allow for the hostility between the groups. 

People create separate empires and they clash.
Separate countries go to war. 
Create separate races and define people by them and you'll find racism. 

We've come a long way since 1955. 
I won't detract from that. 
However, I think racism is inherent in all people. 

You can't not see colour. People form identities from their races, if they include their race in who they are, you have to acknowledge it in getting to know them. We all see colour. We aren't that colour though. 

I hope no one else asks me why I don't act indian because I don't know how much longer my resolve to be patient will last. I don't act indian because there is no way to act indian. I am indian, I am from India as are my family but I act like the person I am. I don't feel particularly attached to people just because they are indian. I don't feel particularly proud when other indians accomplish things. 

16 years later and though, we are no longer persecuted for our race, we still defined by it. 
People are inherently prejudiced because that's how we are engineered to think. Us is better than them. We are better than them. I am better than you. And I will side with my own. I'm not saying don't be proud of your race, but don't expect it of me. Don't take what you define as being indian and judge me by your standards. 

1 December 1955, Rosa Parks refused to stand up. 
Well, I refuse to sit down and be classified as people want me to be.
I'll fill in indian on my forms but if you meet me, how about asking me my name instead of "Are you really indian?" 

-- Today is also happens to be World Aids Day. I know my status, do you know yours? --