Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Midnight downpour

The relentless downpour makes me think that maybe God hates me.

I'm eccentric and you're an overzealous puppy.
Five years from now, will we be in hell?

They say passion's the key to success;
But not without discipline, and a stubborn determination.

Jupiter's calling and my heart is trembling.
The clock strikes twelve; earth to melody.

My reward and my punishment.
My joy and my trepidation.

We're one and the same, remedy and poison.
Or perhaps, a parallel universe, operating in tandem.

The sun will shine down on me tomorrow;
A child of God, I know no sorrow.

But in the meanwhile,
Will you hold me forever, in this never-ending downpour?

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Forgiving yourself

I have found that one of the most difficult things to do in life is to forgive yourself.

Sometimes in life, you make a thoughtless decision that ends up hurting the people you love. Other times, you put a lot of thought into a decision but not the execution, and you end up hurting others anyway. At the point of making the decision, you probably thought that the consequences could not be that great; that it would be worth it for the pursuit of happiness and freedom. But as time goes by, you realise that you might have been wrong. Collateral damage. You did not think of the collateral damage. (Very utilitarian of me, I know.)

To cope with the guilt, you numb your emotions and continue making a string of poor decisions. You spiral. And in this downward spiral of poor decisions, you hurt even more people and your guilt compounds. But at some point of time, you will come to realise that while you think you’re doing a decent job in keeping your emotions at bay, the truth is that it is eating you up from the inside.

You don’t know how to love yourself in a healthy way anymore. While you’re capable of physical intimacy, you distant yourself emotionally from others so that they do not become another victim of your miserable life. (I mean, you have a track record now.) And in doing so, you hurt again. You hurt those who love you and want to help you heal.

When you realise this, you can either choose to keep pushing them away, and continue the paradox of indulging in your guilt while numbing the pain; or you can choose to pull the plug on your stoicism and try to forgive yourself. But of course, it is easier said than done. The toughest part about forgiving yourself is when you know that the people you have hurt are still in pain.

I have been in a very bad place the past year, coping with all sorts of guilt but I think I’m slowly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s not because I realised that I have been bashing myself up way more than I deserve, or because I have decided to carpe diem. It is because I’m starting to remember what it feels to be loved, in spite of

my wrongdoings,
my guilt,
my pain,
my betrayals,
my shortcomings,
my doubts,
my hatred,
and my rebellion.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 
2 Corinthians 12:9

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Of madness, discourse and gaslighting

I’ve been slightly obsessed with Shakespeare’s Hamlet the past few days, and came across this short article that I really enjoyed while doing some research. 

For those how haven’t read or watched Hamlet, (I hope my summary does justice) it tells the story of a prince (Hamlet) whose father (King Hamlet) was murdered by his uncle (Claudius, King Hamlet’s brother) in order to marry the Queen and become the new King. Throughout the entire play, Hamlet plots the revenge for his father’s death while his uncle discredits him by calling him out as a mad person. Of course, there are many other things going on in the play but I will dwell on the theme of madness as it is what the article explores.

The article discusses the concept of madness and argues that it is a “subjective and political term.” A person is considered to be mad when he or she behaves in a way that lies outside of societal norms. As societal norms are subjective, so is madness. And by branding someone as mad, it denies them of rights that are accrued to a “normal person”. They are seen as incapable of logic, different and dangerous – “the Other”. This can be used as a form of power play, as observed in Hamlet, where King Claudius’ declaration of Hamlet as a madman causes him to be an outcast. Hence, madness is also political.

Here, the author introduces the idea of discourse (which is the use of language), as espoused by Foucault, and how powerful it is in establishing social hierarchies and achieving personal agendas:

“And, of course, as long as those in power have the ability to define difference as abnormal and insane…they can eradicate any democratic change or disparate voices.”

He then discusses the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, which tells the story of patients in a mental hospital who are afraid to question the harsh governance of the hospital until the arrival of the protagonist, McMurphy. In one scene, the patients are afraid to take a vote on watching the TV in the afternoon, as they are afraid of the consequences. The author observes that the patients are afraid to vote not because they do not have the capacity to do so but because stepping out of their “safe world of insanity” involves significant risks. He also observed that many of the patients are in fact pretty intelligent and “very able to speak for themselves.” However, they accept the label of insanity and as a result,

“Insanity has usurped them of their voices, their decision making process, even their ability to think.”

What I then realised is that this (the power of discourse) applies to all sorts of relationships – between family, friends, couples and people at work. And hence the phrase “politics is everywhere.”

When discussing gender roles, the author observes that “man is given words of strength while women are named after flowers and treated as the inferior of the two opposing terms.” Let me illustrate. When telling a man to take courage, we use phrases like “man up!”, or more crudely, “grow some balls”. On the contrary, when shaming him for his lack of courage, we use phrases like “stop being a pussy” and “stop crying like a girl”. We may not realise it but these are politicized, gendered terms which empowers a group of people (in this case, men) while oppressing the other (women).

At work, I see it in play with the NSFs. It is convenient to dismiss them as “lazy”, “opportunistic” and “always trying to cheat the system”. Before a new batch of NSFs are given the chance to prove themselves, they are already treated with distrust. As a result, we end up breeding cohorts of NSFs who believe that they cannot make a change in their two years of National Service, and squander it away by giving their bare minimum.

Between a couple, you may find that one is always right while the other is always in the wrong. Perhaps, it is true that the one who is right is indeed right most of the time. However, there is also the case where over time, by using phrases like “you’re crazy”, “you’re being oversensitive” or “you don’t make sense”, one may be able to cause the other to doubt their own thoughts and opinions – gaslighting.
As a victim of gaslighting, you would be less likely to speak up about the injustice you might feel in the relationship, as you constantly question yourself if your thoughts are rational and your opinions, fair. You bite your tongue and swallow your pride, letting your partner get his or her way, again and again. Once again, we see how powerful discourse is in establishing dominance.

In Hamlet, Hamlet gets his revenge eventually by embracing his madness, as he realised that “living within this word’s social meaning will liberate him to probe and investigate, to ask questions that would otherwise not be suitable for a prince.” But it is nonetheless a tragic ending – he dies as a madman. For the rest of us who are not pursuing revenge or some other lofty ideal, the best thing we can do is probably to understand the power of discourse and not fall prey to its use as an instrument of oppression. And of course, to not become the oppressor.
© Melody Sim | All rights reserved.