Often rumination starts with the meaning of existence, existence is tied to the individual and the society. Very intricately, by induction, this brings us to the meaning of freedom. What does freedom mean? What does freedom in “relation” to society mean? Do we allow the word “relation” when it comes to freedom? Does freedom ally with free-will, which must then ally with isolation- the removal of all variables which might perturb the system so?
My introduction to queer society came through the isolation of the East (read “me”) in the west. The removal of my feathers, the cutting off of my invisible Elfenlied like tendrils which did not feel free to flop about any more. Of course, till now, these tendrils have not yet been accused of bloody murder. But they did feel the box, the box I rendered on them, to keep them tied up inside, four glass walls which the caged bird sometimes thought of as open doors and splat, betrayed itself in its efforts to set itself free. human connections took a different meaning, human connections were machine-like, they needed scheduling, permission, space, no room for errors, careful curation of the personal to showcase the individual that the society permits in its “untangled” web.
However, the eastern individual does not exist. It does not exist in isolation. There is no individual without the society. There is no individual, period. It does not exist. The individual is entangled in the bartering of the emotional. It forms families, in fact, it is born into a family, blooded, un-blooded, and it makes its way through life by wading through an evolution of the family structure wherever it goes, even though the faces of this family might change, the emotions do not. Hop onto a train and you form an instant net of family, strangers who for the moment have meshed together to know your history, you know theirs, food passes itself around, as do children in their delight of finding some long lost happiness in some long lost extended family. The structures snap into face, aunties, uncles, the bua-ji, mausa, mausi, Arre Guddi!, chup! aaja mere god me, aap jao, me apke bete ko sambhal leti hun, koi baat nai, apna hi ghar samjhiye.
And with the evolution of strangers into the family, the individual finds itself back in emotional negotiation space. There is a support system, if the individual fainted or vomited, the mausi would sit with her, hold her, give her water, sooth her, till they hand her off to her next family. The mausa would loudly stop the hawker to get you Frooti and would insist that he would pay and you sit happily, feeling safe in the arms of your family of the moment. The freedom to help, the freedom to ask for help, the freedom to expect human care, wherever you are, even if it is 3 seconds away from home in a new shop, who decides you are their little daughter and keeps you safe or three thousand miles away, in a Pakistani restaurant, who give you that extra puri because you are the extension of their own selves, or their “family”.
The queer society in the west, was born of this craving, the dissolution of the individual for a minute in order to forget the bearing of life’s cruelties alone, in isolation, pretending to be everything to yourself, everything a whole society tries to be. But the closer you are, the more the expectations, the more interconnected your life becomes, the more you are free to impose yourself upon others either to ask for care, or feel entitled to give your opinions in return for your emotional investment. This feeling of entitlement leads to as much a freedom of celebrating connections as much as a repression of the self for expressions the society is not yet ready for, is afraid of, is not used to, does not know the consequences of, has forgotten due to colonialization.
For every “I feel entitled to ask you (a stranger) for some water on a train because I know you will connect to me instantly as you would with your family and will smile at me and we will start sharing food and learning about each other”, comes the entitlement to share our biases and our discrimination. However, this is also a negotiation. Which do we prioritize more? How much of an isolation can we take? How much are we okay to drastically rip the relationship space to have a certain kind of expressional freedom? It is undoubtedly, a painful decision when your whole life is based on interaction, when the value of the freedom to interact freely and feel like you belong to a community and the freedom to form instant families is as much sacred to you as it is to express your “individual” freedom which you and they both think will cause the society pain.
Growing up “today” or change, or asking for certain kinds of freedom then becomes a negotiation of how much of yourself you must give to those you love and who love you in return. And in a society where a simple privilege of holding your teacher’s children in class or having your neighbour mind your kids while you go to work allows your career progression, you are forced, no you “want” to care about what these people think about you. And what you want them to think about you so that you keep those privileges. While getting certain individual privileges might be fighting to make themselves heard as necessary, not having these would wreak havoc in your life. It will undoubtedly be a violent disruption of the fabric.
In such a society, where individuals spaces always overlap, enmeshed in complicated ways, asking for individual freedom then becomes an act of betrayal. While in societies where you have one family to speak of, this is a betrayal of 2-5 people, in a world where you have made instant families your whole life everywhere, this is a betrayal of 1000s of people. Which has millions of consequences. And the first consequence is the withdrawal of love.
And the east is not used to living without love. Familial, neighbourly, friendly love, rather than sexual love. How much of this particular westernization can the east take? There must be some next stage of evolution to find a middle ground between the two.