Sunday, 31 August 2014

Perspectives, bubble gum and a3tini ton facebook

Pink and rosy lenses on my glasses

The first external place you'll end up knowing well after you land anywhere urban is the street. Streets are the arteries that pump and tie up all activities, whether you walk them or drive through them.

I have been walking the streets as a woman, I can't escape my gender, but mostly I walk them as a human being. In the streets, among the vast Algerian skies, the ochres of city houses, the dusty whites of metropoleis, palm trees' flamboyant greens, and the pale khakis of olive orchards, there is quite a crowd. But people aren't walking. Pedestrians appear static. While the act of putting one foot after another is visibly unfolding, no movement to speak of is perceptible.

And so, avoiding collision at a very slow rate into a variety of static but not fixed obstacles may have slowed, and toned down, my perception of several events. One such and which has been popping up much in blogs and radio lately is street harassment.

Movement delimits the width of a dimension.

I do walk and travel alone on foot a considerable amount. While I am quite absent-minded, I am not so to the extend of not sensing a threat. So why haven't I paid any attention to street H, why hasn't it bothered me? Reports aren't fake, nor exaggerated. Have I integrated, from before coming to Algeria, that onomatopoeic obscenities shouted by men at women would be an expected common occurrence, like finding street lamp posts on the sidewalk? Yes, I was expecting it, but equally it has been unconsequential in my daily dealings, I have not changed my habits nor switched personalities, I have not felt threatened. I am not sure why that is, other than I find few behaviours disconcerting, as long as they do not involve a physical menace. Perhaps I am just very ugly and frightening and this has lessened the rate of abuse. Add to that a little blind. 

Degrees delimit the depth of a dimension.

I wonder, perhaps, if I'm not guilty of a worse wickedness than theirs: disdain. Maybe n'hggarhom without having realised it until now. I confess I've never found any normally constituted man unable to make a full sentence worthy of my attention. 'Mademoiselle...' 'Madame...' 'Chebbaaaa...', 'pssst pssst pssst...', 'qbayliyaaaa qbayliaaaa...', 'suce...' don't move me in the least, negatively nor positively. In Tizi Ouzou a few months ago, the waiter who had been hovering about our table asked me for my Facebook name as I left. I felt like giving him a hug and congratulating him on making a complex word string but I can't say complex nor word string in Kabyle so I just told him no. 

As is said in this radio talk (in French):  rape, conjugal violence, street harassment carried out against women are subjects that often come up and are treated in the media, they are not taboo and are openly discussed. As auto-antonyms would have it and as per the law of between distinctly we've already discussed, a majority of men deplore street harassment while a majority of men indulge in it... something's afoot, and all is well in the world of auto-contradictions. Where it leaves women, I don't know. 

We are all moved by a different reality.

There is one type of abuse I find very distressing though: it is the repression of, and against, women's expression of their sexual desires. Does that count as sexual abuse? I'd say it does. And I'd also say harassment is a way to attempt severing this desire at the root. 

When I walk around, no matter the place in Algeria, I see coquettish Algerian women all over, carefully, colourfully dressed and make-up-ed, with or without a hijab. They walk with a confident air, not haughtily with a head held high, nor beaten down with their eyes lowered, their gaze is level headed. Their pace is set at their own speed, it is not induced by fear.

And this is what feeds my pink world and sustains my bright bubble. I know that eventually it will pop but I believe that when it does, it will open onto an event better world.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bayyen - between distinctly

Ain Fezza's Grotto - Tlemcen

In the net that a language weaves, and in the concepts woven into that net, giving shape to the pattern, you can find antonyms. Antonyms, carried by a word, represent a meaning that faces another and stands opposite to it. Like a spatial location, top/bottom, a physical attribute, tall/short, a time stamp, before/after, an abstract, beginning/end. Each word-vessel is separate from its opposite and is spelt differently.

Among the group 'antonyms', there is the peculiar category of auto-antonyms. Peculiar because the same word carries two opposite meanings, both inside a word with the same spelling. There is no graphic difference, no visible identity for each. In English, before both means in front of (I am here before you) and, well... before (have you ever thought about this before?).

Auto-antonyms are absolutely fascinating. Fascinating because they point to and illustrate the lexical extent a word can reach. This category alone points to how complex reality can be, a space in the universe where all is far from black or white.

I have come to realise that Algeria is full of auto-antonyms. The more I travel, the more I find that these auto-antonyms are everywhere in the country - good news as this indicates the Algerian network is a lot more stable, unified and deeply so, than the media and ethno-lore like to make believe.

It isn't that their presence is itself an oddity, I am struck by how many there are. And they aren't just concepts, but people and places standing at once for one thing and its contrary:

Post-colonisation official halls located in colonisation's official halls. A Capital, the centre and gathering place of the nation, who deplores it is the centre and gathering place of the nation. Unemployed individuals who work, employed individuals who don't. Wild imports. One export. A national call for the old to come back. A national call for the young to get lost. Desires for recognition. Giving recognition to no one but one's mum. Holler in public to move forward. Yells in private to remain static. Hospital gardens used as private agricultural space. Agricultural land used as garbage space. Garbage used for selfies. Selfies sent privately for no-sex-dating to begin sex messaging. Men who want their girlfriends to sleep with them outside marriage and then call them whores. Girls who want society to let them sexually emancipate while asking to be traded at the highest mahar rate. Women with admittedly no libido who are romantic masochists. Media that misinforms. Misinformation that reveals purpose. Purpose in the media. Anonymous personae whose real identities are known by all. Groups who reject the claning system while creating clans to group. Francophones who don't speak French. Derjaphones who think they don't speak a language. Kabylophones who think they speak Tamazight. Tamazight made to stand for a singular. The singular L'Algerien used to represent a plural. The plural is one. The singular is ordinary. I could go on.

When oppositions are so at odds, and significance is so devoid of meaning, what happens to the vessel that carries them all. Does it explode and break loose? Does it implode, become a galaxy and expand? Does it move on to the next level of transformation like a Pokemon?

The Arabic root بين bayyen can both mean between and clear, distinct. I've often wondered how can something be both in the midst of elements, shadowed or enclosed between at least two spaces yet be so distinct as to be clear. Perhaps this is exactly where Algeria is situated: بين bayyen, between distinctly, until all sides open away... and we emerge.