Awareness of Other People’s Humanity

Hello everyone. Since the last time we’ve spoken (yes, I think of this as a conversation and no it’s not weird at all, stop saying that), Donald Trump has become the USA president-elect, the South Korean president was revealed to be a witch doctor fanatic and Lady Gaga released an album where she’s not transfiguring into an Artistic Symbol on the cover. It’s been a strange few months but otherwise business as usual. The South Korean thing is particularly weird because I imagine that would be how an auntie with a hairy mole would run a government. Just ask the downstairs fortune teller how the housing market is going, and then type everything with one finger onto a food-stained Samsung Galaxy tablet with a denim flip case. Didn’t think chronic auntieness was a phenomenon up North, or that the presidency would be accessible to one with such an affliction.

Those things are just the recent happenings in the public sphere. I know my light-hearted tone doesn’t quite set the mood for this, but in terms of my personal life, it’s taken quite a toll this semester, and even that is an understatement. I’m not going into the details of everything primarily because I don’t want to concern you, my dear reader, with my issues. What’s important though is that things have really gotten me thinking about how our immediate environment has the power to blind us to everything else.

I live in a high-rise college dormitory now and I  have a pretty great view over a main road and the West of Singapore, all the way up to the coast. I look out sometimes and can’t believe that there’s so many people in Singapore, and that there’s so much more outside of this country. I can’t really see into apartments but I can see the lights go on and off and I know that there’s someone there flicking the switch who has a life which completely has nothing to do with me. She probably has friends and a Facebook profile, maybe a son, maybe she likes the Angry Birds movie. Who knows. Some apartments have a red light. I wonder if they have a Buddhist shrine. On the road I see motorbikes and taxis and I hope the taxi uncle gets home safe. When I’m in my room writing for hours all I experience in those hours are my thoughts about Laura Mulvey or whatever, but then I look up and I realise how small and insignificant I am. In light of all this, any social obligation seems arbitrary.

We’re getting into philosophical territory now and I hope you bear with me. I think we live in our heads too much, and all these learned social conventions and abstract principles are preventing us to see the basic functions that are happening right in front of us. What my life is. Too often I find myself thinking about an upcoming exam or about Game of Thrones 3-headed dragon theories and I lose what should be common sense awareness about my surroundings. What do I mean exactly?

Fellow young people walking around campus become social NOs to avoid so I don’t give them eye contact. People who are holding brooms and pushing trolleys become Cleaners who are somehow so fundamentally different from me that I cannot speak to them. The woman who wakes up and puts on her orange Foodclique uniform is just the woman who makes me ice milo. Humans stop seeming human to me, and start appearing like robots who have been programmed into my mundane day-to-day. I guess what I really want to say is that I don’t want to forget that the prata man is going through some shit too, and the world won’t explode if I can’t conjure a perfect thesis statement.

 

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