Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Explaining a Vulnerability Vigil to US Tourists: A) They Listen and B) the Extinction Symbol Makes it Easier

So yesterday I did my 30th Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil. I stood across from the British Columbia legislature building (the seat of the provincial government).

To recap, for a Vulnerability Vigil, I stand naked in a public place at least once a month, with a sign, for at least an hour.
Holding a sign with the Extinction Symbol and speaking with a US tourist.
Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil, May 26, 2014.

It was a very pleasant vigil for me for two reasons. For once, I was actually warm. I was standing in the setting sun and it wasn't very windy. Usually I freeze. Victoria is a windy and often non-warm town.

And, because it happened to be a day when cruise ships stop in at Victoria's harbour, many American tourists who were wandering around came up to talk to me. Usually I am not approached. Canadians mostly blow by and are often non-warm.

It was interesting and invigorating to actually have people ask: why are you doing this? (I mean, it's a reasonable question, but people rarely ask me, including many people I know personally.) And then they listened to the answer.

Americans are often considered oafish by people of other nationalities. If I ever had an "Americans are an oafish people" thought, I must now revise it and chide myself on my ignorance.

I would describe the people who spoke to me as probably not rich (I think these cruises are often people's trip of a lifetime experience) and not super-sophisticated; if there is such a thing, they appeared to be "ordinary" Americans. The guy in the photo above is white but several people of various other races/ethnicities spoke to me too.

This was my second month holding the Extinction Symbol sign. I love the Extinction Symbol sign. It makes it all easier to explain. (Like somehow billions of people live in poverty/tens of millions are displaced by war/entrenched misogyny/government supported violence/destruction of indigenous cultures/environmental destruction/etc./etc./etc. can't be seen as urgent but the idea of a human-caused mass extinction causes people to sort of twig...)

Here is a typical conversation from yesterday. I had several conversations like this.
US tourist: Why are you doing this? Is this a protest? 
Tasha: Well, I've been doing the Human Body Project for more than 8 years. I started doing performances where I showed up naked and unscripted to be as vulnerable as possible and to share that vulnerability.
Then I started doing this street work in January of 2012. I do it once a month for an hour. It's sort of a protest but more like a ritual of "being the change." I stand naked to be as vulnerable as possible, in solidarity with the world's most vulnerable and the vulnerable earth.
This is the Extinction Symbol. Have you seen it before? 
US tourist: No, what is it? 
Tasha: It's a symbol that's meant to bring awareness to the fact that humans are creating a mass extinction. Like when the dinosaurs all died? Except when that happened it took tens of thousands of years. Humans will pretty much accomplish a mass extinction in about 700 years from, like, the time of the Industrial Revolution. Most life on earth will be extinct by 2400. So, in other words, all humans are vulnerable. 
US tourist: In other words, we're doomed. What's causing it? 
Tasha: Mostly global climate change, development and pollution. 
US tourist: I don't really see how standing naked with a sign will help. 
Tasha: Well, I believe that civilization equals domination equals ego. So humans don't understand vulnerability or how to be vulnerable. So I figure this is like a wake-up call but also like a way to kickstart evolution or change consciousness. Our brains need to change. But, hey, I feel pretty hopeless. I also do this as an outlet for my rage. I can't believe people walk around like everything is normal. This helps me not drink myself to death. I feel hopeless but I can still do something.  
US tourist: Wow. Good for you. That's gutsy.
Then they ask me, is that my husband? (How nice that he is supportive.) Do I have kids? (All parents embarrass their kids.) And whether I get arrested. (I tell them I put my underpants on when the cops hassle me and they laugh.)

I don't know. Maybe it's one of those cases, like this must be a crazy Canadian thing to do! And that's why they talked to me. But I was impressed and heartened by my encounters with American tourists yesterday.

1 comment:

  1. I have never been to Canada, but if I do, I hope to meet you. I am a nudist and I preach the gospel in the nude (where possible, mostly at nudist resorts). I don't stand on the street corner naked, because here, they will associate it with sexual harassment and sexual predator, even though there is nothing sexual about it. Keep up the great work, and don't let humanity get you down. There is more to life than you think.