At first by land, followed by sea and then by air.
They made different sounds but spoke the same gestures, “We come in peace”, they said.
Only, at each turn, their “peace” stood for the imposition of their belief system, for soon:
Guns captured bodies in the name of racial hierarchies,
God captured minds in the name of civilising, and
Greed captured wealth in the name of capitalism.
The names, the eras and the perpetrators may have changed but the underlying belief remained the same: inferiority. An inferiority which imposed a foreign system of value and justified the subsequent robbery of it.
And today, as an expat, I ask: “if they are not us, how are we not them?”
When I read Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’ at the age of 16, I fell in love with the novel. Set in New York City in the 1920s, the novel centers around Howard Roark, a young architect who aspires to design architecture in his own style. When he refuses to compromise his values to comply with the architectural norms of beauty, he is mocked and made an outcast. Bowing neither to public shame nor pressure, Roark stands with an unflinching commitment to his values, creating masterpieces that are later recognized for their brilliance. I greatly admired Howard Roark (my mother soon regretted giving me this book).
In Fountainhead, Ayn Rand was painting a world where Roark, an individualist, reigned supreme over collectivism. Today, her world has arrived. Removing the constraints of community, the individual has been emancipated from conformity. But this has come at a cost, as inequality reaches new heights, as humans become each other’s greatest threat and as we recklessly damage the earth, the individual has lost the duty of communal morality. We need to bring it back to solve the communal problems we face today and for this, I believe, we need to judge and shame. It sounds harsh, I know, but let me explain.
There seems to be a trend in society, particularly among the ‘millenials’, to shift from being money-minded to money-conscious. To see money as an enabler for a certain lifestyle rather than an object of life itself. This cultural shift belies the fact that our fundamental attitude towards money remains unchanged: money remains at the forefront of our minds and thereby our choices.
I don’t want this to be the case and so I have chosen a different approach: to not accumulate money at all. Since last year, as a rule, I donate at least a third of my pre-tax income, save little and do not invest. This initiative comes on the back of years of reducing the meaning of money in my life and has liberated my ‘life’ choices from being money-conscious, enabled me to follow my passion and (better) live by my principles. I would not be living in Kenya were it not for this.
Disclaimer: It is very important to note that I can take this approach thanks to a great deal of privilege I have been lucky to receive: no ‘living’ responsibilities (other than my house-plants), no debt, a family that can support themselves as well as myself in case of an emergency, a citizenship that guarantees a basic livelihood and safety, employable skills, good health and (although not a privilege as such) no partner.
I love podcasts as a wonderful way to learn and engage whilst also doing something else: walking, cleaning up, cooking, eating, travelling and even working (when appropriate). I have likely already bothered you with suggestions and rather than perpetually do so, I thought I would outline the podcasts I listen to with different regularity and for different purposes. This list is broken into thematic sections and each is ordered in rough order of preference. Let me know if enjoy any of them or have things to add!
When terrorists attack or natural disasters occur, we are reminded of the brutal finality of death: that one day we will fall and there will be no one there to catch us. As I see it, we will have lived but one life and we shall exist just as we did before our short time on this earth: nonexistent and insignificant. This amazes me, confounds me and troubles me.
(Disclaimer: A creative writing piece so please forgive the generalisations and mischaracterisations! Also a big thanks to my parents for making this trip possible.)
The plane took off from Tokyo and carried over the sea as cargo-ships drifted away on a black mirror. Japan lay awake; restless at night, its endless sprawl burning the clouds auburn. Peaceful, respectful and unique.
When the earth (roughly) completes its rotation of sun by some arbitrary point tonight, the Western world finds an opportunity to reset. Reset the year, the clocks, the wrongs and plan for the upcoming ‘tour de sun’. We take this opportunity to pause and set New Year’s Resolutions. Alas, if only they were effective. New Year Resolutions may be fantastic for gym owners and diet-sellers, but they rarely achieve what they set out to do. This year, I have one resolution: don’t set a resolution; set a habit.