Thursday, March 4, 2010

Red Shoes dancing on the grave of debt

My sister, Katja, shared with your her crows of debt. This was the prompt for our writing group, RedShoes on Court, which was from Margaret Atwood's book on debt, Payback: The Shadow Side of Wealth:

"Debt can have another kind of entertainment value when it becomes a motif not in a real life plot line but in a fictional one."

So, I asked:

What's so entertaining about debt? Not much so it seems
as our TV screens and movie screens are full of people who have made it,
nice homes, two cars, brand name clothing, dinners in nice restaurants

and no one seems to worry what the bill will come to
or chastise themselves that we shouldn't have eaten out.
We can't really afford it.

Debt is normalized --
join the neighbours!
for the barbeque
celebrating -- not the Olympics --
but the $96,000 / per family that buries Canadians.
The 96,000 dollars in the RED that follows us
as we go about our frantic lives earning less and less
-- but more taxes coming our way this summer.

Why aren't there more poor kids who become Olympic athletes? Oh, the media'll be sure to find the one who did -- this time the darling is Clara Hughes -- and splash her rise from "wild teen" of hardscrabble stairwells to Olympic star glory across our feel-good screens of made-it.

The story of against all odds, when truth be told,
it's about who has the money 96% of the time.

Why aren't there more Aboriginal hockey players, male and female, if sports can provide self-respect, a value system, a moral base that is missing?
Why is this not funded, then?
Why are we not funding this?

Debt. Why is the 'b' silent, anyway?
To what idiosyncracy of the English language
do we attribute the lost 'b' sound?
Deb - t. Sounds more like death that way.

debt, det, n. [O.Fr. debte (now dette), L. debita, things due.
That which is due from one person to another; that which one person is bound to pay to or perform for another; what is incumbent on one to do or suffer; a due; an obligation; the state of owing something to another (to be in debt); a duty neglected or violated; a trespass; a sin.

Today, more and more we think of debt as monetary
as our lives get sucked into smart cards that don't, in fact, encourage smartness and credit cards that are not, despite their self-description, golden.

Yet, debt can have a positive connotation, as in

"I am indebted to my mother for teaching me by example the importance of honesty, speaking one's mind and not backing down."

(My mother is not a liberal, she is not indebted to the school of thought of balance, that namby-pamby hand-holding that nicely explains that each person's point-of-view counts).

No. My mother has learned to read the power relations inherent in the engagements --although she doesn't have the language for that.
How could one who knows her history of poverty, and has witnessed the power hierarchies of small village life in Finland in the 30s, 40s and 50s, ever have come up with the idea that each person's perspective or interpretation counts the same?

She had only her life and that of her sisters
to know that no one cared what they thought.
My mother learned as a young girl that some people in the village had more authority to have their desires and needs known, respected, feared (loss of work/dependence on wages), and dominant, while others,
like my mother and her sisters, what they thought --
who would think to ask?
Why would anyone ask these hardscrabble girls?

Indebted: being under a debt; having incurred a debt; held to payment or requital; obliged by something received, for which restitution or gratitude is due.

So, the concept of indebtedness suggests that to have been reliant on someone,
to have been dependent on someone in such a way that one then learns a moral lesson or principle, actually strengthens one's sense of human decency and integrity, and thus is a good thing.

Gratitute is an acknowledgement of thanks, of having been taught something important to the development of one's character ('maine' in Finnish).

Gratitude is from GRATEFUL, having a due sense of benefits; having kind feelings and thankfulness toward one from whom a favor has been received.

So, the very thing that drives me nuts about my mother --
her adamant defense of her beliefs --
of holding her ground with strong conviction and
shrill powerful voice that can
stab one in the heart,
bowl one over as if hit by a boulder,
set one's ears ringing and clanging,
set one's heart and stomach into spasms and clenches
shock one into hearing her side
-- the way she sees it --
through sheer force of words,
that has been a favor to me
a favor wrapped in a fury
to which I give thanks as I
stab others with my words
knock them down with the convictions
of my words
set their ears
and faces
with the scorching
heat of my words

as I crush their hearts
with my words
kick their guts
with my words
shock them into
with what? why,
just the weapons of
my words.

A woman's mouth.
Fury unleashed.
The dread of
big daddies everywhere --
sitting at the top of the institutions
they themselves have created to grant themselves

Those victims of my wrath might be excused
for not knowing that my tirade
is a benediction
to my mother's lesson
to me.

Why shouldn't women's voices be loud
and biting
and shrill?

There is lots to be angry about.


Merche Pallarés said...

Powerful picture and powerful poem. Great post. Hugs, M.

tasteofbeirut said...

Very powerful poem that I can so relate to!
However, I have been taught self-censorship and I still apply it. I don't let it all out, maybe i should!
Your mother's story moved me.

northshorewoman said...

thanks, women.

My tongue is sharp. Will it stay as sharp as my mother's who has not gone through a middle-class grooming via the Canadian education system or the disciplining of graduate studies?

I doubt it. By the time I'm 76 like my mother, my tongue may be as smooth as a dull blade of a stiletto knife.

Ari said...

A modern finnish woman's mouth is sharp and loud and whatever she's telling out she is never wrong, she cannot be. Even she knows she is wrong she cannot admit it; she more likely hits her head against the wall million times but she cannot admit she's totally wrong and then she has an excellent talent to turn the case to a total contrary direction if nothing else works.

northshorewoman said...

hello Ari,

What sort of head-banging does the Finnish man do?

If the woman's mouth is sharp is his vetela?

Ari said...

Hi !
The worst head-banging is to marry wrong women.
A woman's mouth must be sharp but not in unessential things. If a woman says whatsoever in a loud voice, it does not mean that her tongue is sharp, she must be right at the same time.
Many times when the woman's tongue is sharp; the man's may be much sharper. He often needs to say only one word.

northshorewoman said...

oh dear. the duel of sharp tongues!