I think identity as an umbrella captures all of these complicated topics. But still, the self is so complicated that we can carry all of these different parts of ourselves around and they somehow make sense

Aya Aziz: How Do So Many People Fit Into A Single Nobody?

In this interview for Guernica Magazine, Sara Elkamel and Egyptian-American performer and writer Aya Aziz talk about identity, art, sexuality and Islam.

Reading the banal pages of this journal reminds me, more than anything else, of the disconnect between what I thought I was supposed to feel (what a normal person would feel) and what I actually felt. This disconnect followed me for a long time. It’s always there, a hitch or hiccup in the otherwise smooth surface of a day. Single sentences that suggest the other half of the story: “Her party just made me feel depressed. … He is a nice person, very friendly, but a little too “something I don’t like” for me. … I want to be normal, but I’m unable to do it.” It was only years after VOLUME I that I realized the disconnect was the thing I needed to write about.

Wild and the Happy Valley

I’m not finished with the second book yet, but from what I’ve read so far, a comparison of the themes wandering, isolation, space and the search for (a female) self in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Annemarie Schwarzenbach’s Das glückliche Tal might be worthwhile. They are two very different books in very different settings from very different times, but both have a sense of ambivalent longing of strong yet flawed women.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

John F. Kennedy (via thinkprogress)

Great quote. It still feels relevant now. But there is one thing I wanted to point out: He did not mean the US-American poor. The quote is taken from his inaugural speech 1961: 

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

Not only does this passage have a certain condescending neo-colonial tint, but it reminded me of the criticism of Obama’s speech toward Egypt and how he apparently does not direct the same criticism at his own country. This is all part of a (Western) trend to “other” things like poverty or civil rights abuses.  It’s the poor in Africa that need “our” help, the poor in New York just need to get off their asses and find a job. It’s those evil Arabs that commit police brutality, our own boys in blue are just enforcing the law and protecting their own. 

I do not want to compare poverty, police brutality etc. in country A versus country B. The countries are different and sure, on average, “we” in the West are better off and more democratic than other places (especially by our own definitions…) My point is simply this: It is always easier to criticize the Other than the Self.