Persia, Russia and Jamaica. And yourself?
The repetitiveness and relentlessness of patriarchal destruction calls for Radfems to put the State of Atrocity to the back of our minds from time to time. Radical Feminists live by Crone time and as such we are therefore never wasting Time when we chat or write about things that excite us and inspire passion. It is our moral duty to search out pockets of space outside the Fathers’ State of Lechery.
Fauchcat left a comment here linking to snippets of a movie based on the biography of Annemarie Schwarzenbach. She went on an expedition to Afghanistan with a British woman Ella Maillart, travelling through Persia. Here are some clips from the movie “Journey to Kafiristan” . It looks magnificent.
Below are some selected quotes:
Man: Hello, Are you a member of our society? Only members are allowed access to our stack room.
Ella: My name is Ella Maillart [shakes hand] My greatest wish is to be admitted to the Royal Geographical Society.
[Man allows her to follow him]
Ella: I’m preparing a new journey to the Hindu Kush to a tribe of nomads in the mountains, the Kalir. I’m looking for maps on that region, North of Kabul…
Ella: …Kafiristan. It’s just a white spot.
Man: Terra Incognita. One of the last unexplored territories.
Watching the link left by Fauchcat stirred up old memories in me, that I had long forgotten.
Annemarie: Why of all places do you want to go to this valley?
Ella: Few people have traveled there. It’s not easily accessible. It’s in a wild, high mountain with lots of ravines.
Annemarie: Kafiristan…a name like in a fairy tale.
Persia has always been somewhere I’ve wanted to go.
Annemarie wrote a book entitled Death in Persia based on her previous visits to the country. She was there during turbulent political times in the region. Kate Millett, author of Sexual Politics, was also inspired to travel there, a journey which led to her writing the book Going to Iran . Kate was there during the 1979 revolution, and was expelled from the country for marching alongside Iranian women.
As Wanderers, what is it that makes us want to visit a place? Is it the Elemental Spirits that send for us and call us there? The wind and water sprites are different everywhere. What are they like in Persia? How hot does it get there? My body wants to know. What are the rhythms of the days? What do the people eat? What can I learn from the women: about food, about life, about the world?
To me, it’s all in the name– Persia. Persian People. Persian rug. Persian cat. Persian Poetry. “Iran” is not quite so eloquent, and apparently this word is rooted in the word “Aryan”, as in “Aryan” race, because Persia is where this race originated.
Language surely belongs to men today, but perhaps it was first invented by women. I shall continue to refer to Iran as Persia, because I like the sound of it better. It comes from the word Parsava which meant border, borderland. Elemental women might feel a greater affinity with such a word. Aryan is apparently is rooted in the words bold, noble and distinguished. Those are words which don’t really appeal. So you see, the word “Persia” calls me there, and has never lost its beauty; the word “Iran” tells me to back off and leave the place alone because, to me, it means mullahs, shadow women in black and war.
Persia evokes: Sunsets, Wolves, Cool Blue and White Marble, Ravines and Valleys, Rivers, Queens and Princesses, Empresses. Great Poems, Female Warriors and Commanders. It is also a country of wine.Wine’s discovery in old Persia predates French wine. The earliest evidence of winemaking dates from 5400 B.C., in the Haji Firuz Hills, near western Azerbaijan Province.
The second place of my dreams is Russia.
When I was 14 I arrived there to compete in a dancing competition, and in the home-stay family that they put me with there was a girl of my age.
Thus began my love affair with Russia (and with her). We wrote letters to each constantly for the next three years. It was in the days before the internet. I remember being more excited than I’d ever been before when a letter from Russia came through the post. I lived for those letters. As soon as I got one I would quickly write a reply then skip (yes, skip) to the post office to post it. We joked that, having carefully saved them over the years, there were enough letters to wallpaper both our bedrooms.
At seventeen, after begging my mother for the money, I traveled to Russia alone to see her. The stay was everything I’d hoped for. We went away to a summer cabin in the forest, trailed around St Petersburg city drinking beer, and visiting her family (she was living alone in an apartment).
I decided to study Russian at university, which led me to stay there for a year. My friend and I met up as much as we could, but she was busy with work, and I was busy with study and the magic was quickly disappearing. We didn’t really get each other as much as we used to. One morning I watched her getting ready for the day with pin-curls in her hair and wondered why I felt she was slipping away into quicksand. I’d opted for a perm myself. I’d had it done in England, which must have been just as unnerving for her. We no longer held hands when we walked down the street together like we had in earlier years.
At some point, we had begun writing about “boys” in our letters. I’m not sure which one of us started it. We both betrayed each other, knowingly. One night at her place she began baking a cake. She used magic to conjure up meals and cakes out of what seemed to be no ingredients at all, with whatever happened to be lying around. She could make soups that tasted of a spring day. Extraordinary delicacies too. This cake happened to contain yogurt. She threw the ingredients together without measuring them. She gave me a slice, ate some herself, but then kept the rest for the man who was visiting her that evening.
Soon after I returned to England, and we lost touch.
We found each other years later on Facebook. Both of us were married and we found to our surprise that we were both living in the far East. Mysteriously, she had moved from St Petersburg to Vladivostock, around the same time I had moved to Japan, which meant she was living about three hours away. She came to Japan to stay with me. I was pregnant. We both made the best of the situation.
She’s gone back to North-Western Russia now and has three kids. Maybe I’ll get to see her again someday.
I haven’t even begun writing about what an enchanting place Russia is, but let’s just say it’s a part of the world where dreams are created.
As a child I’d read about sailors found on streets knocking back rum, who surely must have just returned from the direction of Jamaica. Pirates too. They were also known for it. Ever since I was a child, reading about Jamaica in any context made me feel I had been given a key to some special unknown place.
I began listening to reggae when I was 15 and would just lie in my bed allowing the images the music invoked washed over me. Warmth. Music. Colour. Life. Brightness. I imagined people out dancing and walking at night, rather than hiding from the cold at home. My favourite tune was “Kingston Town”. Apparently Jamaicans living in London and other big cities during the seventies used to move furniture out of their homes in preparation for weekend parties where they would invite fellow Jamaicans and dance the night away to reggae. There was no reggae on the radio in those days so people rigged up sound systems. The furniture was moved out, and the floor-to-ceiling length speakers were moved in. When I heard about this it was as though I had discovered another jigsaw piece about life. What else would you do if you were from the land that invented reggae except dedicate your weekend to having fabulous house parties? I realize now it was inconvenient for women to have to put up with this moving about of furniture because these events weren’t just hosted by young people. But when you’re 15 all you do is think of life in terms of partay. As such my attraction to Jamaica was sealed.
Anyway… when I was admitted into a psych unit last year ( something I am ashamed of admitting to) a Jamaican grandmother befriended me. She was 51 but she looked 31. She had been picked up by the police for smoking somewhere she shouldn’t have been. Reading through the lines, my guess is she kicked up a fuss about this and as a result was deposited at the mental hospital.
We sat together every day in the lounge. She dressed impeccably, in figure-hugging dresses, and one evening another patient weaved tight little plaits into her hair. She spoke to me about Jamaica, a place she had been to eleven times, because it was where her mother was from. She regaled stories about recreating Jamaica in cloudy England, of Sunday gatherings with recipes and drinks made out of rum and coconut. It was left unsaid, but I wanted to say to her “Show me Jamaica someday”
Aren’t we all looking for our place in the sun, asked Tracy Chapman? I ended up in Japan. In the comments of another post Black Metal Valkyrie asked me about Japan and I’ve thought a lot about it since then.
Japan has the potential to be the balm for a weary soul. The climate, the animals, the nature, the scenery, the flowers, the crops.. all of it is magnificent. The problem with Japan, I found out too late, is that it’s crawling with males. They spoil any elemental connection to the world and nature that a woman might have. They disrupt it. They get in the way. These men are masters of spooking women out of their Selves. I think Japanese men in particular have had to try harder than other men to interrupt women’s thoughts and get inside their skin, and the reason for this is the character of the natural world here. The biodiversity of plants and insects is extraordinary.
Women’s connection with, and knowledge of, nature would have served them well historically. Indeed at one recorded point in history ( 170-248 ) the Japanese people refused a male leader, deciding only to follow the great Queen, magician and witch Himiko. When she died, a man was appointed as King but nobody obeyed him and he along with his followers were slain. Himiko’s thirteen year old niece stepped up, the people accepted her as Queen, and order was restored.
It is said that Japan became a patriarchy quite late in comparison to other parts in the world, and I’ve no doubt it was women’s fiercely protected connection to the natural world that staved off the rot until the last possible moment, until Japanese women were finally defeated. Still today, people remember that the sun goddess, Amaterasu, played a central role in creating the world, and her worship became the central element in the Shinto religion developed by the island peoples.
But mark my words, Japanese men are making up for lost time. Nature is no longer strong enough to help women preserve their integrity against the collective male force in the four small islands of Japan. Japan can actually be used by Radfems as a measure of how strong patriarchy is and of what we’re dealing with. Their power has culminated over the years to the point where they have successfully severed women from their Selves by combating and vanquishing nature’s soothing and healing presence, so that women are reduced to preoccupying themselves with potted passions– only those passions legitimated by the rulers.
On the surface (commercials, postcards, Spa days), nature is espoused as being important, but not in a truly Elemental way. The culture has somehow been designed in such a way that although you can see nature and sometimes touch it you can never be immersed in it. As a Canadian friend of mine, who has lived in Japan longer than me, once suggested to me, although the nature is not as beautiful in our own countries, we can at least be “in” it, and surrounded by it, should the mood take us.
She was right. This is not the case in Japan. You can only approach nature in certain ways, and in certain situations. Most peoples’ contact with it is regulated, regimented and a little sterile. Although there are certainly more natural dangers in Japan than in Western countries (such as typhoons), and these might prevent people from being immersed in nature at particular times, I still think this severance from nature is a deliberate and effective tactic on the part of the P. I feel that under normal circumstances there would be more of a continuity between people’s lives and the natural world, not just lip service being paid to the archetypal autumn leaves and spring cherry blossoms. You can see remnants of this ancient continuity, but it’s not really here anymore. Nature has become objectified. It’s hard to explain. Even when you’re in it, you’re not. It remains always on the periphery. Or maybe nature’s spirits are playing a trick on us foreigners. At any ratel you feel something is missing. The rampant construction industry depresses the soul and puts pay to any claims made by Japanese leaders that this patriarchy is made up of nature-lovers.
I had fun choosing those images, I don’t know if you noticed.
Tell me where you would like to go one day. What made you interested in that place? Have you ever been somewhere that you would recommend? Do you have family roots outside the country you were born and a yearning to return to your place of origin?
Tracy Chapman, She’s got her ticket
She’s got her ticket
I think she gonna use it
I think she going to fly away
No one should try and stop her
Persuade her with their power
She says that her mind is made
Why not leave why not
Too much hatred
Corruption and greed
Give your life
And invariably they leave you with
Young girl ain’t got no chances
No roots to keep her strong
She’s shed all pretenses
That someday she’ll belong
Some folks call her a runaway
A failure in the race
But she knows where her ticket takes her
She will find her place in the sun
The night seems to fade,
But the moonlight lingers on
There are wonders for everyone
The stars shine so bright,
But they’re fading after dawn
There is magic in Kingston Town