I’ve decided to start a grown up blog.
On WordPress rather than Blogger,
and using my ‘real’ name: which is easily confused by a famous writer of bodice ripping romances. It’s a nice and silly confusion.
I’m sick of the way Facebook has dissipated my writing into short comments, and I’m aware of how my critical concerns have shifted from looking at art, and making art, and looking at artists, to looking more broadly, to looking in the world.
My way of looking is influences by my place (sunny garden in Melbourne), my eyes (myopic, blue, itchy), my flesh where my eyes are embedded (pale and wrinkling), as well as what I look at, and what I fail to see, as well as the impact of what I see has on me, and those that are seen.
I’ve noticed a few comments on facebook from white friends in the US referring to “first world problems”. It appears to be a pejorative insult for the preoccupations of those in reasonable material comfort with high and rising cultural and symbolic capital….
Two instances of this struck me. The most recent was a radical maternity blogger from the US having a short whine about her 2 jobs, 2 kids, book deadline, exploded car and dog only knows what else, and then dismissing it all by saying ‘these are such first world problems’. Yes, indeed. Lucky she’s not stuck in a UN refugee camp in Kenya, with no water, or working 20 hour shifts at a factory in China, or…. or… such Catholic speculations! The increasing precarity and crap conditions faced by workers in the US are first world problems, but they are still shite, and still worthy of critical attention, surely!
The second instance was a facebook status update from a more geographically and socially mobile acquaintance who often makes me sick with envy for being younger, prettier and more confident than I ever was or could be, declaring how she was ‘sick of people saying “First World Problems'”. I was so perplexed at this, and dismayed by the vitriolic cheers squad of white middle class boyos violently refuting guilt in the comments feed, that I had to go away and read some Alphonso Lingis. Said acquaintance introduced me to Alphonso – literally – by organising a postgrad workshop at Melbourne Uni when he was in Australia a few years ago. Lingis has been one of my favourite writers for a long time; for articulating the spaces of first world social and cultural mobility so critically and so well, and for showing me how ficto-critical writing can dance a reader through philosophy and the daily passions of every day encounters.
If something troubles me, I like to wear it on my sleeve, or my head, or on a big banner. Suffice it to say, I am deeply troubled by ‘first world problems’. I’m troubled by the implied silencing that hierarchies of oppression invoke, but I am in general troubled by the worlds I inhabit, and this world, where I sit in considerable material comfort, typing away on my laptop.
Blogging is such a First World Problem, surely? I mean the stereotype in the Anglosphere is of the hipster in a WIFI enabled cafe, on their laptop….. I’m not *quite* that, but not that far from it. Most of my previous blogging was undertaken in 24 hour computer labs at my former university, while I was on a PhD stipend. And now, I’m typing in the summer holidays of academic unemployment, eeking out my tax return on the simple pleasures of inner city food markets, while my partner pays the mortgage….
I like to think that blogging is much broader and bigger and stupider and stranger than the self conscious blogopshere of the Anglocariat which I inhabit; the chattering classes who swap and share articles from the Guardian on our newsfeeds, and tut-tutt, about the general monstrosity of neoliberalism.
I am also incredibly wary of the imagined barriers of “the first world” and its so-called problems. I live in a suburb of refugees, some more established than others, but all are bound by economic and emotional ties to other worlds that are not first world. It’s not very hard to access this life of first world/third world porosity, even from the suburban tranquility of inner Melbourne. My neighbours, and some of my friends, sending money ‘home to their families, or the ‘clients’ of nearby refugee detention centres, a bike/train & bus ride away, who are stuck in a nasty limbo between worlds; isn’t their plight a “first world problem”? And then the ultimate problem of settler colonial societies – so many of which are also ‘first world’ – whose condition of existence is bound up in the marginalisation, exploitation and lets say it: genocide of indigenous people. It has been said that Central Australian Aboriginies live in ‘fourth world conditions’, but isn’t their presence, at the centre in bare life conditions, and throughout the periphery of this country in scattered patterns of both poverty and affluence at the heart of what first world problems actually are?
So, as I meander and ponder, it is as and where I am, problematising this stuff of first world problems, and imagining how it can be rethought as an imperative for connection and creation, rather than silence, guilt and denial.