Some months ago, I went for an early morning run with a mate at my fieldsite. After a short trot together, she left for work, and I decided – against all advice from my adopted Aboriginal family and many others – to put off my fieldnotes and continue a few more kilometres on the road alone. A short way up, I saw in the distance a lone figure seemingly dancing about on the road. I was all at once entranced, curious, astonished, and frightened. I turned and returned speedier than ever before!
A while ago I read something on Twitter that got me thinking. The tweet read something along the lines of: “What kind of sci-fi dystopia are we living in where robots taking all our jobs is considered a problem?” A slightly more positive spin on this is: “The problem isn't that robots are taking over our jobs, the problem is that we've created a world where that's somehow a bad thing.” These feel like somewhat glib responses to increasingly complex questions about inequality and automation; however, what they actually ask are fundamental questions about what we value and how we structure society. In essence: “Why should we work?”
I chose to go flat. But I almost wasn’t allowed to. This is largely due to the unacknowledged psychological tension that underlies deeply gendered illnesses: that it is possible to have one’s gender or sex taken away by disease or disability; literally eaten by cancer and its aftermath. The sick person is then framed as one who has been robbed of the “natural” trappings of motherhood, wife-dom, and feminine sexuality. The aesthetics of breast cancer therefore remained fixated on a loss of idealized womanhood.
Having meaningful conversations about systemic racism and social immobility can connect people as much as the act of absorbing someone else’s microcosm of grief and relating to it. Ideally, I think, the conversations should encompass both the macro issues and the micro everyday scenes: acknowledging the social values that might hinder social change and communicating the process of witnessing everyday pain that reminds us of our shared humanity.