Occupation: Social worker, political activist
The norm is the shanty. The norm is the zinc roof. The norm is garbage by the side of the street, construction debris in front of half finished houses. The norm are jalopies falling apart, filled to the brim with passengers. The norm is raw sewage, open for all to see. The norm is barefootedness. The norm is perpetually receding — but never eradicated — chaos. We are the norm.
The first world is abnormal, a monstrosity, and inexplicable tumor. Its neatness is not normal. It’s cleanliness is not normal. Its orderliness is not normal. It’s gridlike perfection is not normal. It’s level of development is not normal. The energetic demands of its denizens is not normal. The amount of garbage generated by its citizens is not normal. Their designer clothes, their matching fabrics, their fashion are not normal.
It does have a semblance of normality, but it’s only that: a semblance. Such complexity requires an outlet, such apparent perfection and wealth are predicated on imperfection and poverty. There’s dirt under the rug. Homelessness, the projects, the Third World. The first world needs a closet were to store its junk. There is no such thing as a first world without junk. The first world generates and depends on junk. The junk we muddle through looking for recyclable parts to manufacture the cheap devices it will consume and discard and end up in the junk pile that we muddle through looking for recyclable parts to manufacture the cheap devices it will consume and discard and end up in the junk pile, endlessly.
And the World Bank and the IMF try hard to convince us that we can get out of the junk pile and attain first world status if we take on their loans. But the loans are unpayable and keep us firmly tethered to the junk pile. A Ponzi scheme where we are actively looking for the next idiot to pay up so we can move up the pyramid… Except we are the last idiot and gave up our nest’s egg.
And now this.
I knew exactly how this was going to play out as soon as I woke up that morning and found myself turned into a white man, my family turned into a white family, my neighbors and friends become a throng of white people. Our children, white children. I knew, I knew.
I knew what was going to happen at the border, I knew I was going to happen at the United Nations, I knew what was going to happen to our NGO, I could hear the telephone conversations I was going to have with friends abroad, with government officials, with other activists… I even knew what the presidential candidates on both countries were going to say. Exactly.
Because now the guardians of the junk closet were indistinguishable from the closet owners. We had lost our mark, such an easy mark to spot. And I knew that too: that they would come up with something to mark us again.
I was right on everything.