Monday, May 27, 2013

Lucidity is an Impairment: Reflections from a Fancy Resort

"One of the most effective devices is to encourage debate. But, within a system of unspoken presuppositions that incorporate the basic principles of the doctrinal systems, these principles are therefore removed from inspection; they become the framework for thinkable thought, not objects of rational consideration."   Attributed to Noam Chomsky

Because of the kind generosity of my husband's employer, I find myself at a very high-end, immersive luxury resort on the Mexican Riviera. This is a place we could never afford ourselves. Like my husband says, maybe we could throw caution to the wind and scrape enough to pay for the room, but then how would we eat? And we couldn't bring our kids, who were not invited this time around either.

Not only do we have a beautiful, exquisitely designed, completely detached and private, oceanside suite with huge patio and our own small pool (well, it's bigger than any hot tub I've seen, but you can't quite swim in it, but it's lovely for cooling down), but our meals at three different excellent restaurants with food as well-prepared as any I've had at high-end restaurants in big cities like New York, are completely covered. This incudes alcohol and I can personally say that the mojitos here are beyond delicious.

The resort is on something like 50 or more acres and we have bikes at our disposal as well as golf cart "buses" that drive by every 4 minutes. There are two pools, but by pools I mean stunningly landscaped and designed outdoor spaces with huge water features to swim in. I know that designers and architects have words for these kind of spaces. I don't have the vocabulary and I am not writing this to promote or critique the place so I won't name the actual establishment. 

The whole design and landscaping and "experience" is beyond anything I have ever encountered. The grounds between suites, for instance, are designed with plants, of course, and spaces with sand and rock; the sand is raked regularly so that a ripply design is always part of the look. At night, the whole place is lit beautifully, including what seems like thousands of torches and various types of candles.

Every single person who works here is sincerely friendly and eager to please in fluent English. Having spent part of the day yesterday in the actual nearby town, I can report that this attitude is a corporate rather than a local trait.

This place is not just an exemplary business case, but a design marvel, a customer service model of excellence and maybe even a work of art.

I am extremely grateful to Dave's employer for such a generous gift. I am also grateful to my husband who received this treat as a reward. And I am grateful to my kind parents for looking after my children while we are away. I'm also grateful to all the kind, hardworking people here. I'm just really grateful to have a space to be idle and take in the beauty and the sun and the swimming. One of the greatest pleasures of this trip is not having to worry about cost. The other, especially for me, is to be able to exist for a few days in an almost decision-free environment. It is a gift and a rest.

But me being me, I will commit some sociology (as per the remarks of our country's dear leader) and express some of my sadness.

One thing I notice about most of the American women at this resort is the way that femininity is expressed/suppressed by will. There are very many worked-out/starved-thin women here. Almost every woman here wears insanely high heels. They are also very smooth. In my usual pathetic and futile way, I decided that my act of decolonization would be to come here unshorn. I have not waxed my legs or shaved my armpits (never in my life have I been able to wear a heel over one inch). I also don't have a worked-out/starved thin body but my body is relatively acceptable for a place like this. 

My act of flat-footedness and hairiness has gone unnoticed, I would say, because as a woman of 51, I am a fairly invisible person in this milieu. The ladies here are not all young, but many are and the ones about my age try way harder than me.

Almost everyone that is a client is white and American. No shock there. There are also a few Mexican people but they are whiter Mexicans. I have seen two black people, a few Asian (perhaps Chinese descent) people (who could be American or Canadian or from some Asian land), and an extended family from perhaps India. The people with the most blatant non-acceptability seem to stick to their private spaces. 

There is a young couple perhaps in their early 30s maybe even just late 20s; I imagine that he is a Mexican gangster and that she is a Mexican prostitute. She has a surgeon-made face and melon boobs, he is really muscular, wears muscle shirts with skulls on them. They are Latino-looking with dark hair and extremely deep tans. But I heard them speaking with British accents! They go to the pool but kind of stay off to the side in a cabana. The first night I saw them, only Dave and I were at the pool and they were making out. Ew.

I see gay guys at dinner but not at the pool.

A really obese Mexican guy and his stunning wife or girlfriend do hang out at the pool. She is gorgeous but I don't peg her as a sex worker because she is so effortless about it. I had never seen an obese lady by the pool but I've seen some on the golf carts and at dinner. Today, however, an obese black lady in a long dress made her way to a beach chair, but chose to sit in an out of the way area, staying in her long dress.

I saw a couple holding hands on the beach, him about 60, her about 30. Ew. Not at pool.

I think of Foucault's picture of the disciplinary society.

I am uncomfortable here. Ha ha. Like I'm comfortable anywhere. But I find it difficult to simply settle into letting the legions of kind people wait on me. This place costs a small fortune. I have no idea how the kind people get paid but I can tell you that the same waiters and hostesses who smile at you at night are also there first thing in the morning.

I've been reading one of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther novels, which I highly recommend. The Nazis. The Communists. The French Nazis. The CIA. That is probably the order of worst to even worse. Quite the history lesson.

In North America we labor under the mythology (Chomsky's "framework for thinkable thought")  that everyone gets a fair chance. Besides pretty much ignoring the history of First Nations people and the slave trade, not to mention the legions of poor immigrants who upon leaving grinding poverty/starvation/war often found/find grinding labor and poverty/poor social and labor conditions. 

Still, we've exported the idiotic myth and the general population of the world hopes to have yellow brick roads in the form of big houses, stainless steel appliances, boobs and cars. I teach within the post-secondary system where somehow, even though most jobs exist in service and retail at close to minimum wage, we tell our students they will have a chance on the job market. I'm not saying some don't find rewarding jobs, some do, but wouldn't it be better to focus on less magical thinking?

The reason people (especially people who believe they are entitled) don't like to "commit sociology" is because it's fucking sad and it forces us to look at our relationship to power and by power I do not mean some abstract concept, I mean violence and domination. 

Marx made some good observations about the balance of power, Stalin used Marx insofar as the ideas were useful to his holding onto power. The German people were fucked after the first world war. Gangsters eventually ruled, allegiances shifted, Jews were a handy scapegoat. It is sickening to imagine how the people of Germany could let what happened happen.

It is even more sickening that in our culture we do not ever, NOT EVER, have to imagine what happens to the many invisible people who are affected by our industrialized way of life. NEVER. In my opinion, what we are is worse than Nazis. Most people in Western culture have no idea about the way--often violent and exploitative--our objects arrive on our store-steps. More people die from poverty every year than were killed by the Nazis.  But what I would argue is worse, is that the deaths are invisible.

I did not think my way to this realization. As Chomsky observes, our culture does not allow for thinking such thoughts (Rule No. 1: downers not allowed). 

I felt my way. 

Facing my pain, labelled as illness and mental illness, over DECADES has led me to be able to understand that my pain is for the deep, worse-than-Nazi shit we have created. 

I believe, more than men, that women are in touch with their sensitivity and compassion. But through the willfulness required to be literally on our toes, always sexually attractive and, most of all, not taking up too much space with our bodies, we lose touch with our sensitive spirit or suppress and deny it. I thought and often still fight beliefs that I am crazy and ugly and ungainly. I am undeniably always awkward. I can write and profess and present better than I can show up day to day.

The culture of sexualizing women is directly related to the culture of domination and crushing of spirit and heart. 

What would be nice would be if human beings let go of the magical thinking/masculine-energy idea of power-over and give in to their natural ability to feel empathy and thus look after each other. But that would require vulnerability.

And, as my friend Susan Belford, who is a therapist, says, in this culture "our behaviours and personality come from a place of needing to protect ourselves from awareness of vulnerability and, so, we're so busy acting against vulnerability, it's just not something we can even see."

And, so, we live on a beautiful planet, separated from our true natures, willing to let it all be destroyed for "fun," a few baubles, and a dream of security.

Is it nice to come on a trip to a beautiful resort in Mexico and have delicious food and be waited on? Yes and no. Lucidity is definitely an impairment.

1 comment:

  1. You know I agree with much of what you say.... except you missed something important.

    See as a male, no matter how nicely groomed, I could never look stellar enough to enjoy being in a relationship where my wife took me to such a wonderful resort.

    My point is to exceptionally beautiful women our society's preferences give them a ticket to paradise, even if they are without brains or skill.... or money of their own. It is of course those who cannot get this treatment who usually complain.

    I have to add that I have been used as a gap filler by women seeking social advancement to a higher level. It isn't any less nice feeling like your wallet is all they want, not who you are, and your self-worth is in a bank account.

    I doubt I will ever see such a place as you describe...