There is a wicked side to personal activism, the side that is at times lonely and even bitter. It’s a collective battle for truth and justice, yet fought individually in our regular interactions and personal choices. Sometimes you look like a total self righteous B. Sometimes you really are, but you don’t actually care because your dedication to getting people to think critically is far more important than stepping on toes. Personal activism means you think deeply, yet the capacity to do so is only equivalent to the depth you allow yourself to really feel. This can be incredibly painful.
(Athena: “the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, mathematics, strength, war strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill” <Directly taken from Wiki.)
Last night my partner and I had a date night out to get some mole (http://mmmtacospdx.com/ Mi Mero Mole, downtown Portland… It is real delicious), followed by the award winning musical Wicked. With our work schedules we rarely get to see each other anymore, and it was really nice to spend our evening doing something we hadn’t done before.
Little did I know that the first half of Wicked would turn into a complete, bitter sob fest for me. For those who aren’t familiar with Wicked, it is an account of the witches of Oz, from a different perspective. It’s actually a very skillful storyline aiming to make the viewer grapple with the ideas of evil vs good, juggling intentions and outcomes while intertwining themes around social ethics. The first scene opens with the munchkins aggressively spewing their disdain for the witch, and excitedly celebrating her final demise at last. Glinda the good witch comes to spread the news and, after being prompted by one of the munchkins, recounts her initial meetings with the wicked witch of the west, Elphaba. The scene changes as we see a school yard appear and enters Elphaba, a very eager, obviously unique individual who is outcasted from the get go based on her glaring differences. Glinda on the other hand is an incredibly dull blonde, who is spoiled, conceited and idolized by her very dense peers. It very accurately paints the portrait of how society tends to idolize the superficial, stamping out those who pose to represent something that strays from predominant mentalities.
Friendship eventually makes its way into the lives of Elphaba and Glinda; their first bonding takes place over Glinda’s attempts to make Elphaba beautiful, though Glinda makes it apparent this is no easy task. She teaches Elphaba superficial and dull attempts to get attention, focusing on outward appearance and glitzy ploys. There is a reaffirming nature that it is important for Elphaba to strive towards being pretty, and by being pretty she will therefore be accepted. I really, thoroughly loathed Glinda’s character. She was very much the representation of all the females out there in this world who feed into unrealistic body ideals and fashionista consumerist trends. These people are then applauded by the masses for their successes of being beautiful, with up to no shits to the depth of personality.
As the storyline progresses, we see Elphaba continuously speaking out for injustice, albeit solely speaking out for injustice. Those around her stay silent or don’t have the intellectual and/or the emotional capacity to notice where injustice is taking place. This painfully resonated with me. We see it in our society, amidst our peers, in classrooms and even at the dinner table. For anyone involved in the fight to keep speaking truth, adversity is inevitable, because people don’t always want to hear what you have to say. Embodying personal activism can be, at times, immensely desolate.
Maybe it was the two margaritas, or maybe it was due to my own recent underlying themes of speaking truth in spite of adversity, or maybe it was just plain ol’ good fashioned PMS. It was probably all these things, but what was created was a sad pile of myself, sobbing sorrowfully in the bathroom as I worked to regain composure quite sometime before intermission. I eventually pulled it together enough to make my way outside to call a soul sister of mine, and continued to cry while we reflected on the plot and recent conversations we’ve been having in revolution. The conversation helped me to regain enough determination to make my way back in and finish the first half of the show.
Intermission came and my partner and myself made our way outside to get some fresh air. I’m still crying at this point. Together we look at the parallels between myself and the main character, the ways that her experiences ignite memories of being outcasted through my late teens and early twenties due to beliefs and conversation topics (if few people want to hear me go on about the state of our society and our environment now, much less wanted to hear it almost a decade ago), the feelings of just being different and not being able to change that, recent feelings of being demonized for starting conversation that personally offended someone’s perceived religion (it wasn’t religion, but it might have well been).
One of the many things I appreciate about my partner is his very solid support in who I am. As I’m crying he reminds me for the third time in the last two days that my path isn’t going to be easy. Truth tellers don’t have it easy, because there are a whole lot of people out there that don’t want to know the truth, they don’t want to change, they don’t want to know they’re part of the problem. I need to get some thicker skin for this path of mine, he says. …Easier said than done. To become mentally and spiritually calloused is to be broken and rebuilt again and again. But really, I don’t think the density of our shields can ever fully repel the sharp, tactless arrows of ignorance when they’re thrown in our direction. Instead we just get better at gathering those arrows and chiseling them into the type of tools that will better serve our future battles.
We return inside and finish watching the performance. While the lines of good and evil continue to blur, whereas justice rarely prevails entirely, we’re reminded ultimately that those who do stand tall will eventually find peace in one way or another. Personal activism doesn’t have to be all that lonely, especially when you surround yourself with the right people who are also dedicated to the path of truth and justice. I am incredibly thankful for my soul sisters, my partner, and to the many others who support me and are also working towards a better world in radical and profound ways. ☮ ♥