Copyright © 2001 by Scott Fogden, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.
- When Marlowe was young and met with particularly grand inspiration he would be moved to kick the crutches out from under his crippled friend. Since this brought more trouble than blessed marvel he was conditioned to smile instead. Clara had learned to fire milk and flour into bread from her mother and to ride horses bareback from her father; looking back these memories amused her.
Marlowe is usually called Mark, and Clara used to be Rabiya Kadeer.
- The occasion of this 'story' takes place not as a still image frozen in time, nor fully animated but as a sort of 'tick-tock,' 'back & forth,' left / right slip - like a holograph being shifted under the sun. So, it is a depiction of a moment without time rather than within it, precisely the kind of moment that initiates Time and drives it onward. Back to the holograph, though.
- Mark is in front of a room filled with children - Clara and her friends celebrating her eleventh birthday.
- Mark is 'Future Cat' today, the popular Japanese cartoon character. Waking up this morning, Mark was less than impressed to be loaning out his mascot talents for free, but by now he was feeling some gratification from the endless applause and laughter that he brought out of these kids. Mark's father had volunteered him for this party as a close friend of Clara's dad. They both work with Southern California's Uighur community (Mark's father works with Cultural Survival Incorporated publishing anthropological studies of Central Asian peoples and Clara's dad immigrated to the US from Northwest China's Uighur region five years ago). "It's bad enough," Mark said, "having to wear this swampy suit all week let alone for charity." He works in Magic Park's (a suburb of Disneyland) 'Public Relations & Personification Division.' The mask smelled of a fatter man's sweat, but he had no proof of that.
- With his back to the children 'Future Cat' dances bow-legged in a star formation, one leg held high the other supporting - the sunlight shifts - the first leg drops and the other is in the air. The children clap and smile sitting cross-legged on what are normally prayer mats.
- Leaning to the left, 'Future Cat' is perched in front of a clean white wall. Spotless, it made him feel connected to the Kadeer family and part of the Uighur community because it was the same wall as the one in his house and his friends' who lived next door. Suburbia wasn't his ideal, but it did force a link between all of its residents.
- To an extent, then, he was thankful for a clear wall that did not keep him at an arm's length like the smell of 'specialty' spices in the kitchen and the abnormality of his light hair and pale skin.
- It does not stand as a barrier; the White Wall constructs and furnishes a notion of plurality and inclusion.
- Leaning to the right, the wall in front of Mark was wallpapered and adorned with a photograph of an old man wearing dusty clothes and a long sword. His head was turbaned and reminded Mark of 'The News.'
- He was uneasy with the hardened gaze that declared an enemy of the outsider, the other, and the 'Non.'
- This man was a leader for sure. He talked with his people and shouted against the enemy, but was fittingly silent in this picture. In fact, he had never spoken with authority until now. In the mosque and on the battlefield he had never spoken in a language of power, but now in suburban California in the context of a 'birthday party' - slash - 'brand promotion' the meaning of his subject is exposed, from one mascot to another.
- The occasion of this moment represents the dilemma of the Uighur nation as seen by The West. Mark as 'Future Cat' is face to face with Modernity as he shifted from Left to Right. The purity and comfort of the White Wall are universal ambitions, enlightenment, progress, and the future; the stylized, sacred wall told a story of conflict, regress, and the past.
- Everyone knows the Tibetan movement for freedom from China. It upholds the virtues of the West's universal freedom cause: a peaceful society being engulfed by the dominating colonizing force of the Chinese state. Moreover, the Tibetan cause has continuously and thoroughly 'sold' itself to the West. Everyone is captivated by truths even in the most romantic treks to the Tibetan plateau by Brad Pitt. But, the Uighur movement illustrates modernity in conflict with itself. We say, "China's size should not mean domination over this distinct people, however sparse in population and poor in development." National freedom is the greatest and most powerful force of the last two hundred years because we reserve the right to identify with our cultural past as we move to the future: self-determination (Article 1 of the UN Charter). But, we counter, "freedom at what cost?" The force that drives Uighur independence is intimately linked with the Pan-Turkic / Pan-Islamic movement, inherently hostile to the enlightened forces of the Western, liberal democratic order. Its ability to mobilize extremes (i.e. jihad) has precipitated much of the reactionary violence of the post-Cold War world. And, one thing the West, China, and Russia all agree on is the containment of Islamic Fundamentalism; it threatens state sovereignty and national security.
- The Global Economy dictates what parts of national cultures are useful. As such, the force that has constructed the modern history of Northwest China and "the 'Stans" is the same force that supplied Europe with silk, spices, tea and countless other Oriental goods. Beijing today presses forward to reopen the Silk Road building highways and rail networks that connect Turkey with Western China. Again, the inherent paradox of historical progress is highlighted: while this link will drive modernization into Central Asia, it will also unite the forces of Pan-Turkic and Islamic separatists who wish to draw new dividing lines between themselves and China as well as the West.
- At their back, Uighurs have the force of the inevitable exposure of their plight; media coverage is increasing as Deng's liberalization and 'opening' of China takes shape. The Uighur community of the US doesn't even reach 300, but this provides somewhat of an additional attraction. In a world dominated by supply & demand discourse, the census taker grants political power, as the scarce and exotic nature of the Uighur people is one of their greatest attractions. If only Hollywood could bring Brad Pitt to the Silk Road, we could all experience the rustic, honest people of Central Asia that have been robbed of their future and past simply because they were caught between Europe and Asia.
- But increasing nationalist sentiment in China and Russia do not bode well for the Uighur nationalist cause. Both the Russian and Chinese state have decided to work together to quell any threats to the integrity of their borders. They will continue to work in earnest to increase Russian and Chinese state influence and further marginalise Islamic culture.
- The absurdity of Mark is that he dances as a joy-filled, fuzzy, light-blue cat while his 'true,' swampy self peers out anonymously. Everyone privileges the swampy Mark as the heart of this being (despite their interest in the façade), but it is only inside the belly of 'Future Cat' that Mark is able to perceive the truths that constitute his being. It is not, after all, his possession of independent thought, or 'will' that made him a healthy baby, or an audacious child, or a shy pubescent; these were all co-requisites. The emergence of his self, much like yours and mine is dependent on the emergence of his - or our - other. Therefore, in the same way that 'Future Cat' depends on Mark, all identities are embodiments of sub-entities and deficient alterities. For 'Future Cat' to take on the true persona that the Japanese manufacturer Sanrio demands, there has to be a 'swampy Mark.' So, at a macro level, the perception of the White Wall and the religious portrait are two mutually constituted perceptions. Mark looks to the pure, White Wall thanking and praising it for its 'secular' beauty. It is clearly however, part of a modern, American, industrialized identity that has been forged in contrast to the pre-modern, exotic culture that underpins the religious warrior.
- What fine line does Clara walk? How much power had the census taker given her? She had, after all, fallen in love with Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic and sewn a Britney Spears patch on her school bag. All of this can be found on her website, though, where Kids (both Uighur and Non) discuss "Kid Stuff." Despite the obvious conflict with her Muslim tradition, she gives more power to her ancestors than they have ever known. The medium or language of the "Kids Site" provides everyone in the world (who own personal computers) both a concrete electronic link and a cultural link to Uighur culture. Thus, she has established a site for Uighur knowledge and materialized a common Uighur heritage in a language of power.
- She loved Western 'pop' culture, cars, TV, amusement; she loved all of these things in addition to horses and God. But not in the same way that her suburban friends did. First, she felt horses were not for entertainment or fun but the centre of community and village survival. And, God was not part of a trinity contemplated on Sundays in a church with stadium seating. God transcended all life at all times, "there is no god but God." To some extent this divergence from her modernized individualism undermined her relationship with a mostly Christian group of friends. Sometimes even her friends' parents would act so ignorantly about Muslim people, she hated to see this rotten underside of the 'American Dream.' To resist the 'modern-American-industrialized' Clara, though, would not only alienate her, but diminish the power of her pre-modern Uighur heritage.
- The census form made Clara a new robe for every day of the week. Monday she was female, Tuesday under-fifteen, Wednesday a visible minority, Thursday Other (please specify:), Friday is a Muslim holy day, Saturday Not Applicable, and Sunday she took to herself. She went through the week: reproductive on Monday, non-productive on Tuesday, lazy or hardworking on Wednesday (it depended), counterproductive on Thursday, and the rest of the week depended on the weather.
- Discrimination drives 'will' forward and back. Between life and death there are decisions and distinctions that turn the wheel of history. As the holographic image of 'Future Cat' dances from left to right - shifting faster now - and the children's hands from open to shut, silent to 'slap' - faster still - the distinctions are blurred into both an inseparable 'whole' and an incomplete set of 'parts.' The whole is a wide class that embraces both exotic and familiar, and all prejudices from the past that fuel discriminatory progress, the only sort. The parts are at the root of discrimination always making up a self-proclaimed whole or universal truth. Our selves are always normal (at least more normal than anything else), what we know is never abnormal, and our knowledge forms the basis for discriminating good from bad. This, as mentioned, is the initiation of power and history: from normal (culture), to natural (knowledge), to good (power). At the same time, though, these distinctions require an equal and opposite constitution of the other. The slide from normal to natural to good forms in the dust of abnormal, unnatural, and bad.
- At a certain point in the dance Mark was met with particularly grand inspiration. I've heard it said that releasing sweat to a certain point brings on a 'high,' or ecstatic experience (a more concentrated release of endorphins). Some people eat chili peppers and drink rum to induce this, but the Southern Californian summer and a large insulated cat suit were enough on this day. He was in a rhythm now and, if anything sped up to meet the tempo of the clapping. Although Sundays usually found Mark on the Couch, and that was as comfortable a place as any - perhaps this extra activity was much needed.
- Intensity heightening, tempo building as the light is shifted over the holograph at a faster pace. The image blurs and the whole becomes indistinguishable from its parts; Mark's elation peaks as does Clara's amusement. The structures have fallen apart and the White Wall is melding into the stylized. It is the impasse of history that defines this moment, discerning a detailed, definite image has become impossible.
Fifteen to sixty-four are the official 'productive' ages according to statisticians. Back
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