A Call to Carpe Diem – International Womxn’s Day Tribute

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Image taken from the American television series, “Westworld”. Feminist critique of the series coming soon.

 

“…I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought. “

From the age of 16, my favourite poem has been Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. What struck me most about the poem is the burning zest for life that the speaker has… his adventurous spirit so restless and irrepressible  even in his old age. Having lived a fulfilling life, the speaker reflects on his experience and looks back not with a solemn nostalgia but with a rose-tinted lens of his glorious youth & how he made the most of his days.

This poem resonated so much with me for years and one of my closest friends and I even attempted to learn it all off by heart. Our selection was a highly unconventional one since most of the popular choices in our class were the more tranquil and gentle poems about forbidden gardens, lost/reunited lovers and seasonal changes or death.

Of course, the speaker in the poem is a man… as are most heroes whose noble and brave life stories are preserved in mythology, folklore and other types of art. My friends and I knew that had we lived in the era in which this poem was written, we most certainly would not have been the target audience. Our roles would not have been the adventure-laden ones with the unexplored lands to discover, conquests to pursue and innocents to defend, save. We were a part of the hidden figures in those narratives, patiently and loyally waiting for our spouses to return from these adventures (Mariana). In these narratives, we’d have no ambitions of our own beyond tending to household duties, or as the glorified mothers, wives or prizes. Or even worse, we would be given the roles of the temptress whose sole purpose in the narrative was to blind him with lust & temptation and to derail the hero from his noble cause … another obstacle he was to conquer in order to further glorify him and his heroic achievements.

And so began my plunge into the type-cast of the angry feminist who seemed obsessed with the way womxn were depicted in the media, in literature, film, art. The one place in which we could reconstruct society and reality, to undo – in one gesture – all the chaotic injustices and inequality with which we struggle in the real world, somehow, in those fictional worlds in which dragons and sea monsters could exist, womxn were still trapped in the rigid confines of societal and cultural norms. So it was instant love when Zukiswa Wanner (who is now my favourite South African writer) said jokingly during a talk she gave at my school, “Behind every successful man there’s what? No, a doormat. Because why must you be behind any man?” It was this joke which had her written off by many of my peers because apparently she had found her own “barely funny” joke more amusing than anyone else did, except me of course.

That’s when I decided to plan my own adventures, noble causes and conquests for thee future. I made bucket lists of places I wanted to visit, causes I wanted to advocate for, people I wanted to meet etc. Slowly but surely, I challenged myself – taking subjects I heard were difficult, volunteered to go second at hiking and abseiling excursions, took a few kicks to the face in karate classes, started community service initiatives, auditioned for the Dance Company and took ballet class then competitive debating and and and… I was living my best life, seizing every opportunity that came my way.

Years later I’m still glad that I made the choices I did and I’m even more grateful that I had all those opportunities made available to me; which is more than I can say for millions of other young womxn in the world today. Just a few days ago, I read about an illegal abortion doctor who’s wanted by the police for practising female foeticide. In an entire 2017, there are still people who view daughters as burdensome and less worthy of life than boys. So of course the normative narrative of heroes,villains, or anyone whose life has been deemed worthy of recognition and immoral glory would be centred men.

So this was reflective day for me. It was a moment to look around at all the platforms I have around me to not only grow myself but to support other young womxn and to encourage them to create their own narratives placing themselves as worthy heroes and adventurers and record-breakers – perhaps by breaking records or perhaps by simply existing, daring to be in a world that says we’re a subcategory to men. to humanity.

We’re here to be more than disposable eyecandy to James Bond, more than Marvel’s damsels in distress, more than glorified pretty muses to de Vinci or yet another obstacle to Odysseus…

Obaa Boni, an exceptionally notable Ghanaian  feminist from whom I draw inspiration quotes in her piece Resolving Existential Angst Through Lemonade: Black Women Are, “I want every Black woman to understand herself not in relation to men or to whites, but in relation only to self existence. Womanhood is not the opposite of manhood. It is not a means to balance the world. Blackness is not the opposite of whiteness, it is not all that whites fail to be” …

I hope we won’t have to  carve through the misogynistic mess in literature to find versions ourselves in characters clearly not designed for us and our amusement. But I hope we become those captains of our own ships and authors of our own immortal narratives.

Asaase Yaa Mma (Obaa  Boni) blog – https://ghanafeminism.com/

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How Tennyson and I would tackle unemployment

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"The loneliest moment in someone's life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly," Scott Fitzgerald "unless you carpe diem" Gugu the Seer

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly,” Scott Fitzgerald “unless they carpe diem” Gugu the Seer

Forget Marie-Antoinette declaring that the peasants should “eat cake” in a time of hunger and extreme poverty.

I think if I were given the task to tackle South Africa’s astounding 25% unemployment rate…I would begin by rounding up the masses of the eager and the not-so-eager job-seekers and give them a good dose of my favourite poem in this entire universe: Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson

This poem says so much. While we’re at it let’s do some collaborative promotion here: #NikeJustDoIt #DeadPoetsSociety #RamboSoundtrack #BruceLeeQuotes #GreatGatsbyGreenLight #DrSeuss’Oh_the_places_you’ll_go

All of this in one poem.

Ulysses

Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1809 – 1892

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known–cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,–
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads–you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.