Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sister Dissident

My parents are afraid for my sister. They are afraid of my sister. They cannot argue a word into her world, edge in their platitudes or advice. They cannot convince-coerce her into the paralysis I drown in. She will not be drawn in, resists vigorously and shouts them down. She refuses to be inscribed with their insecurities and annoyance and paranoia, insists she will be her own person. So, predictably, when unable to speak to one child,they whisper instead to me their uncertainties and made-up memories of this-person-that-one-they-once-knew, how he/she was 'disappeared' altogether, ripped out of the world. They knew he/she must have been detained by the system, the invisible-palpable big brother (some gruff beefy number, manhandling and all grappling, gnarled hands, dragging, tearing you away), absorbed into those walls (with the eyes and silences) that came alive, lurched forwards, engulfing and ingesting the angry voice.
They can't tell her to stop her ways, so they ask me to plead with her (I am a conduit). They think she will listen to me, and that I am more the reasonable one, the sensible head fitted (screwed) on right, with feet (cold) on the ground, and eyes always on the level (and closed to everyone and everything, embarrassed by the apathy that's slowly swarming me).
Yesterday oh yesterday (parents are circling-gesticulating) She was at that Speaking Corner. She fraternised (did you hear that, son? She was fraternizing) with some members of the Opposition. (that poor woeful tearfully sad Opposition) She told us that many of them are educated people (lucid, she said, lucid and clever and their ideas well-thought-through) but their rebellions are quite makeshift (half-baked, non-strategic, bound for failure) We tried to explain that she mustn't be there (mustn't be seen there - mustn't be seen - the walls have eyes - ears - they can sense you have stepped away from the straight and narrow) She frowned at us and stopped talking (she stopped listening) stormed off, went away, we've lost her (she's in her room a lot, bashing out some speech on the computer) we've lost her. You need to speak to her (you need to bring her back to us) She's in her room (please advise her, she'll listen to you) She won't listen to us. If they catch her. If they listen to what she's saying. We had a friend there (I have a friend in the Police force, and he told me they are keeping an eye on her). She is our only daughter. You need to speak to her before it's too late (she is our only daughter). Circulate-gesticulate, and it almost drives me mad.
I will try, I say. (there is no try - why do I feel like you're going to be the death of me?)

So I take her aside one morning. The exams are at last over for her, and she's thinking of what next to do, whether to head for some of the discussions with opinion-makers and mover-shakers of ideas-dissent-analytical-criticals. She's planning for some trips to the Speaking Corner, and she's made a series of separate speeches already. I can see how much effort she has put in. The bold parts, the highlighter (red, yellow, blue fluorescent in streaks). She is ready, my sister the dissident. She is ready to take on the world - talk about speech, about being able to voice one's heart without fear of repercussion, and about the oft-time lack of consultation that our government roils and spoils in, spilling over its mandate into the everyday, explaining it away with their monopoly of swaying, unspecific rhetoric. She will critique all these things. I see that in the pages of her speeches, and the articles she hopes will be published by our seemingly adventurous and easily-censured newspapers. On her desk are also invitations to be at public forms, as a panellist, to make her voice heard. She notices I am looking over her war-plan, and smiles, hoping I will be proud of her. I keep finding this all-too-familiar, and can't shake the sudden pain in my mind. I want to say something (no words), but can't. She's still smiling and starting to point at things to draw my attention to them: a newspaper cutting about how her blog entries have gained so much attention that the bigwigs in the universe of the senior administration have grown agitated and responded, an interview in a magazine where the senior editor has explored the undead youthful voice of idealism and its greenhorn (green. sick. youth) boiling towards dialogue/discussion, unafraid and enthusiastic, bruising for a fight, challenging the status quo. She wants me to be proud of her (I'm silent, attentive, and I wish I had something to say). She begins to explain that I should not be afraid. She says I shouldn't be troubled, and that she is old enough to know what to do, and how to handle the pressure. She says that I should trust her. She elaborates that she sees (the fear in the eyes that tears the heart) the awkwardness of the Opposition members who've approached her, hoping to consume her abilities and her energy, and those who are desperate and weak and devoid of resources want to plug her into their massive network of doomed, sinking ships. She can see that, she says. She is not blind. She wishes my parents could understand. She doesn't want them to be frightened anymore (we cannot be afraid. we cannot be afraid. if we are, then they win. if we have better ideas, then we have to say them, we have to do them justice. if we have the better ideas, then people need to hear them, people need to know something is better, that somewhere there is a chance that there is more to life, that there is more than just the narrative of only the one-party, that there is a different definition of honour, a different meaning of a citizen, a purpose to dissent, a hope and a purpose and a heart behind what we say - and if our heart speaks, and we have the better ideas - oh my brother - if we have the better ideas, then... we... win. we win.).
I'm nodding absent-mindedly, reeling from her. (she is dangerous, and she is too strong, and she is too ferociously independent, too violently convinced, dangerous and threatening and too difficult to subsume, adopt, usurp and co-opt)
When I open my mouth to speak, it is with words that come from another world, the kind that I never expected, the type that I didn't think I cared for, and each one ripping a part of me out, and killing me in her eyes (sister, oh my dearest sister, this is all pretty words and big ideas that in the end mean nothing - your idealism is today, but apathy is forever... if you are apathetic you will survive, and if you stay out of the battle (choosing some, or really choosing none) you will live, and if you don't speak up you won't be noticed, and if you stay anonymous they won't accuse you of anything because you're slippery like a wraith- unknowable, unfathomable, non-existent and ... (don't say that don't say that, I can't believe you're saying that) nowhere to be found - sister, there is no (please stop! please!) use being pinned to an opinion (I don't want to hear this! After all you've seen, after all you know about me) - there is no use being filled with all this youthful idealism when in the end, you know that older and wiser, years from now, you will look back on all of this and laugh (damn you! damn you!), mock your assumptions about the brittle ripple you are making in the big pond that is society - but it isn't a pond, sister, it is an ocean, and you are a bleeding-heart-pointlessly-vociferous teardrop in that ocean. (I thought that you -) Stop now. Idealism is Today, Apathy is Forever.)
I think she will cry, and at first it seems certain. But she never does. There will be no tears to end this. She smiles wanly, as if her youth is twisting away and she can feel it. (I know you are one of them. I know now. But I'm different from you, my brother. I'm different from you. I won't be made to lie down-let myself die.
I won't. I'm better than you.
I will be better.
And you'll see.


Blogger Raeven G. said...

Do you or do you not care for your sister? Your taking her aside, is it only because of your parents? Their "circulate-gesticulate". Do you do it only for the sake of your sanity?

Very, very unclear.

I'm not asking a stupid question, for there are people who would,if in your shoes, take "her" aside for the sake of their own sanity.

9:44 AM  
Blogger bastard said...

ni na beh.
you every post become more and more cheem.

wah lau i read this my head si bei pain lah.

but end of day hor...
i actualli liked this post bestests of allz.

rather more literary than usual don't you think.

9:10 AM  
Blogger le radical galoisien said...

Raeven: I think most of his "relatives" are allegories.

3:21 PM  
Blogger tiki said...

If she is good enough, she can rival CSJ and go into jail, all the same.

O, our martyred nationalists.

11:14 PM  
Blogger SpaceMonster said...

In case you are still reading this. Very impressed by the poetry. Best lyrical prose I've read of a local political nature. Love the use of parentheses and the sense of paranoia and schizophrenia, and the linking of the personal and familial with the social-political, kind of reminds me of Kundera. Hope you are still writing.

7:22 PM  

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