Sometime in 2020, I wrote this:
WHO ARE WE?
We are those from the teeming lands.
We are chameleons. We eat rice and burgers. We drink arrack and whiskey. We are the East and the West, the ancient and the new, the bastard lovechild of machined denim and handloomed cotton.
We are paradoxes. We live chaotic lives in chaotic worlds, born into difference, and we carry difference with us. We shift under identities that fall apart on closer examination. We take labels and discard them. We are at home in the highest office and the lowest tea-shack on the road.
We are shapeshifters. We live through freedom and intolerance; individuals and communities; unity and difference; and we thread the grey needle between these lines every day of our lives, as we have for thousands of years.
We have no American dream, no stiff upper lip, no #eatpraylove, input-output myth. We are those who are detained at airports. Our governments betray us, and those with friends in high places run amok. We live and die knowing our deepest voices will be drowned out by the shallowest of those elsewhere. When they are heard, they are pigeonholed into caricatures, robbed of all nuance.
WE ARE RICEPUNKS.
Ever since the first days of mass media the narratives we have seen, in paper, on screen, have relegated us to the role of court jesters and zoo exhibits. Our cultures are by turns quaint and full of exotic wisdom, and in the next breath they are savage and backward. Our tales are bastardized by both the patronizing and the excessively woke, turned into cannon fodder in battles we care little for.
We are diversity taken to the thousandth power – not in the weak checkbox just-another-uniform crap of the West, but diversity born of new world orders colliding head-on with old orders that trace their roots through centuries, that embed themselves in every facet, from language, to art, to music, to politics.
We are societies bound not by one utopia, or two, but by tens, hundreds, thousands. We worship not one god, but millions. We are gleaming cities with police states and sprawling slums built by democracies.
We are pride and humiliation, scattered and united, by turns modern and advanced and by turns ancient and decrepit, an assembly of systems that stretch across thousands of years, a Frankenstein’s monster stitched at scales never fully grasped.
WE ARE RICEPUNKS.
Our parents are people that have dwelt in our pasts; burrowing into our myths, reminiscing of times when we were great. We are here to turn the gaze outward. To imagine multi-cultural, multi-polar worlds, not built around one truth, but several. To imagine new world orders; to describe ten thousand utopias, each different from the last; to bring variety to a world sorely lacking.
We are here to take back the narrative, to show the world our side, to break our stories out of the zoo they have been put in to and help them regain their rightful place in history. Our difference is a competitive edge, not something to be ashamed of.
We understand that this task is not easy.
We understand that much of what we want to say will not be heard. We might be born into a rigged game, where the house always wins, and the cards have been dealt.
But the rapid democratization of information, the power of social media, the ready availability of tools and technology for the production and distribution of our stories have made it possible for us, now more than ever, to fight our battles. Our stories will be heard, one way or the other.
Let us play.