What does unity mean to you?
After all, it's just a word.
It's a strong emotionally charged word, and shouldn't be used recklessly. Right Rick James? Specially after you've punched someone in the forehead with it.
Before I begin...you are not mistaken. This is a music and art blog and an international compilation of original content. There are pieces from 17 artists, including myself, in this single page, and they are at the bottom of this essay. I just have a lot to say about this word...
Where was I? Right. Unity.
At the risk/pleasure of sounding like a flower child tree hugging hippy communist, to me, unity is about being one big global family, that sticks together, trusts, forgives, and loves. Would be nice to have everyone agree on certain points, but a unifying ideology is not a prerequisite. Unity is about functioning together in spite of our differences because in my mind, everyone is equal and deserves love and kindness. Unity isn't just about others belonging to our clan. It also refers to the confidence and reassurance that you too belong. It's a circle. Not only do you let others inside the circle, but you are also confident that you belong. This clan belongs to everyone equally, and we all have the right to be in it. That's the beautiful thing about circles: they don't have any corners or sharp edges. This circle is our earth; this clan is the human race.
The reality is that words like “unity” serve as a vehicle to transfer a sexy idea. Yet words and ideas are meaningless without concrete and congruent actions to bring them to life and make them real. The sense of belonging and including others is something that is challenged time and time again, and for some more so than others. We still have barriers to break, and recently, it feels like we're being crushed by the weight of the same old ones. Women are still (again? No, still) fighting the battle against inequality. Our LGBT brothers and sisters still fear for their safety and rights. People from eclectic backgrounds who have called an adopted land their home for years and even generations still find themselves in jeopardy. There are a lot of us who are made to feel unwelcome in our home, place of work, in our own damn body. We don't all feel like we belong.
On this massive beautiful blue floating rock with enough land, water, resources, entertainment, intelligence, love, cellphones, WiFi zones, laptops, books, music, clothes, money, oil, anything you think is crucial to our livelihood or merely comfort, there are still those who believe that some are better than others - and in spite of the scientific evidence, we still have to explain and enumerate all the reasons why and how we're equals. And don't fuckin' tell me it's because of survival, I don't buy that shit. Don't tell me there isn't enough food for the world's population when grocery stores throw away a massive amount of food every night, and make it illegal for you to feed hungry people with it (except in France. Merci France! No fromage, or food should go wasted). Don't get me started on women's rights and role. Don't tell me that war protects "our" people when all it does is kill the youth in order to protect the interest of those who push the buttons. Don't piss in my ear and tell me it's raining.
If it's not a lack of resources that divides us, then what is it. Why are we so divided? Why is the government trying to put up more walls between us and prevent us from becoming a single entity?
When united, we are unbreakable, and they cannot win over us. They cannot control us, sell to us, kill us aimlessly and shamelessly, because together, we will say no. We will mock their wars and walk away from their speeches. I have a hunch that they don't really want that. The ruling class conducts market research to find out what's a good way to manipulate and distract us while they play their game of world domination. Now, and maybe for as long as humanity has been around, it's been hatred of the other. Whether we fight for religion, land division, class, skin color, genetic makeup, or political belief, it has always worked on us. We can blame the government for creating a divide and normalizing hatred towards certain groups. But what they're really doing is profiteering. We the people have normalized hate. We are the ones that have shown them that it works. Therefore to address this situation at hand, we need to address the problem of hate and division between us people. But how...?
Allow me to take a stab at the psychology of racism, sexism, LGBTphobia, any form of hate, or in short alterphobia (fear of the other). Imagine being afraid of the water because you have no idea how to swim. You avoid and even hate water because you're afraid it could hurt you, even though your body is made up of about 60% water, and it's your damn fault you don't know how to swim. Maybe you nearly drowned when you were young, or maybe your mom nearly drowned and didn't let you anywhere near a pool and thus passed her fear onto you, or that all you hear on the media is about water related deaths and injuries, never seeing the beauty of a splash fight in a public pool, synchronized swimming, sailing, you get the picture. So you have this unjustified fear of water, and you avoid it with all your might and even go as far as saying you hate it. Now imagine we're not talking about water. Alterphobia, is not necessarily justifiable or even based on real experiences or information, and ultimately leads to hate, avoidance, and hate-related actions and speech.
Hate/fear exists on a spectrum where on the one end you have no fear and thus no hate, and then you gradually move to the other extreme where you have people willing to shed blood in its name, and might even be willing to die themselves. This latter end of the spectrum has served as the motivation for people to commit unspeakable acts. Every day, we lose more lives people to blinding hate. How does this fear infect people? Is there a cure?
Maybe alterphobia is a form or mental disorder. We can recognize some tell-tale signs of psychological instability. In some of the extreme cases people display symptoms that might hint at a panic or anxiety attack, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, or even psychosis. Throughout time, one of the most misunderstood and marginalized groups have been those with mental disorders. This is no laughing matter, and these are very serious and damaging symptoms that when left untreated, can be harmful to the individual, their family, peers, and society as a whole. But this isn't representative of the majority of the alterphobia we are dealing with.
Most likely though, alterphobia is not an incurable mental state. Rather, the majority of the cases are a resultof underexposure, inexperience, and in short, ignorance. Fortunately, there is a cure for that: exposure, education, and experience. I now have the good fortune to live in a very multicultural city, but I was born and grew up in a homogeneous society and I remember what that kind of ignorance looks and feels like. I also know first hand how a few years and a couple of good conversations can truly change a person's perspectives towards the unknown. However a lot of people might not get the life opportunity to change their environment to see and experience diversity. It could be that because of fear/hate, they don't want to, or are more resistant to opening their mind and heart. Perhaps they don't even have an excuse for their narrow mindedness and avoidance. People will use the negative and positive outside influences to form an opinion about the unknown. This persuasion can be swayed in either direction based on the type of information that they either chose to surround themselves with, or in most cases, that is readily available to them. Yet, regardless of the underlying cause behind alterphobia, there is hope. Hope that with a holistic picture and enough information and exposure, the person will let go of unfounded fears and hatred. Hope that eventually, this person who has been afraid of the water their entire life, will finally get on the ledge of that pool, jump in, splash around and swim goddamn it, swim!
We are not voiceless in this process. Love, acceptance and coexistence are values that we should hold dear, and have to give it a stronger and louder voice than separation, division, fear and hate. We can't play a passive role in this and complain that the media doesn't paint a just picture of minority or marginalized groups. The media hasn't done a great job at focusing on love and goodness, and there is yet to be an executive order on loving thy neighbor. It's up to us. We have to normalize unity. In order to truly give love and acceptance a voice and the chance that it deserves, we need to discount hate, drop the labels, avoid categories, and steer clear of assumptions. We're not getting more people to believe in love if we go around branding people, calling them names, giving up hope for them to change, thus resorting to our own brand of alterphobia and exclusion. We have to promote peaceful discourse, to listen, learn from and teach to one another, and find out how we can all trust one another again. Together, we are more powerful than any law or government agency.
Look (wo)man, I'm not here to make excuses for alterphobia. I don't stand in unity with a hater- au-contraire mon frère. What I'm trying to say is, I think we can change the world with love. We won't make a person's heart open up to love by hating them. That will actually put up their defenses and isolate them, reeling them back into their circle of haters. Assuming everyone who voted a certain way fits into one single category doesn't make us right, or better than the people we're avoiding. It actually makes us sort of the same, fearing for our safety and that of our kin. We need more people in our circle- the circle I talked about at the beginning- the one with no corners, full of love and acceptance. In this circle, we need to discount hate as an entity, and believe in the power of love to move mountains, and even change people's minds.
To make the world a better place, we have to allow love to win against hate, and that it's the right way to go. It's not beyond repair. We can't give up on so many, so fast. We are the parents, the teachers, the fearless and the lovers. We are the people, the masses. Who, if not us, will take on this impossible feat? Who if not us will spread the magic of love and peace?
After all, it's easy to stand united with those we agree with and love.
But that's just me. What is unity to you?
Below is a compilation of original art from around the world. This is what unity looks and sounds like.
Peace, love, and unity.
Naghmeh, Chau Argentina, and Home
A few weeks ago, I went on a trip to Argentina. For days and even months before I left Montreal, the world was going through dark days. I wanted to escape it all.
I was afraid. Afraid of having a layover in the USA, afraid to backpack and camp alone as a woman, of the people I would meet and the ones I wouldn't meet, the darkness at night and the lessons I would learn in the light of day. All of these fears were shaking my being and belief in unity and love. So I knew I had to go- to break down my own barriers and to abolish my fear.
There was no time for fear; there was just the moment, the people and the places. No need for politics and religions; there was only love. Love, coffee, water, music, land, sea, sleep, laughter, advice, chocolate, trust, cheese, mountains, love. With some, I simply shared a few words. Others, I shared a lifetime's worth of memories and a friendship that I hope will endure the test of time and distance. Regardless of the why where who and how, I was united with these beautiful souls from all around the world. This video is a collection of greetings, from some of the people I met throughout my journey. Some say hello and goodbye more than once- funny how life kept reconnecting us and giving us the chance to share more together. There are many missing from this compilation; it was hard to remember and maintain cellphone battery life to document every goodbye through the different experiences and emotions. Our magic is still in my heart.
To those of you who put up with my iPhone in their face, thank you! I have really loved putting these videos together and reliving our experience together, over and over.
We may be far apart, but we are united.
Con mucho amor,
"Home" is about regaining your faith in humanity through the darkness. It's about giving up on love, only to be reminded why it's still worth fighting for. It's about a town with no borders, and unity without boundaries.
My name is Naghmeh and this is my RockBlock. You can navigate through the rest of my website for more about me and my music, and you can like me on facebook to stay posted about the blog posts or subscribe to my mailing list at the bottom of this page.
Marissa Kay, Trans is love
San Francisco, CA
Mikaël Cardin, Unity
Eileen Torrez, Freedom
San Francisco, CA
Aydin Matlabi, A Toy That Reaches Past the Physical
"I work in violent environments. From war zones to communities struggling for freedom. Therefore I create art in relation to these challenges. During all my trips, I have been exchanging gifts with local children who build or find their own toys.
I was curious how a simple object can psychologically protect a child from the atrocities he/she has lived and is living in. Collecting toys from around the world, I try to bring to a presence that power of protection these object give a child. I have collect over 30 of these toys. Yet one of these toys has more power then all the rest. The tuna can car build by Michel.
Michel is an orphan at the orphanage Bumi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which I am an ambassador at. Michel exchanged his tuna can car for a soccer ball. He was excited cause his "worthless" tuna can car brought him a new soccer ball. Five months later Michel passed away.
His tuna can car is always on my desk. I keep on thinking of how we are all united, and how we are all one. A simple old tuna can, some soda caps and a string, all coming from around the world, to finally be reformed as a toy. I was united with Michel, his tuna car was build to unite him back to his childhood and now that toy unites me with him, wherever he may be."
Netiel, Todo Mi Ser
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Sergio David Saveliovsky, Never too late
David and Daniel Wilkenfeld, Daddy Don't Cry
"The song was written a few days after 9/11. The world was still in shock and I thought of writing a song about parents comforting their children . When I realized it was the parents who really needed comforting, this song came to me very quickly. I rushed Daniel, who was 11 at the time, into the recording studio immediately, and he nailed the vocals. At the time, I figured the song would be irrelevant after a while, but it seems it never really will be. The message is that together, we can survive anything."
Daniel, the voice of this song, is a part of a non-profit organization called WISTA. Find out more on their website, and like them on Facebook. Find out more about David, the writer and composer of this song and like him on facebook.
RyVo, Promise to wake me
San Francisco, USA
Joel Alan Taylor, Chicago
San Francisco, USA
Dolores Cobach, On my way
Buenos Aires, Argentina
On my way speaks about keeping your loved ones in your heart, about remembering with love those who have been so kind and sincere to you. These lively images, flavours, perfumes, will keep them forever united to you through the infinite and timeless power of love.
Make sure to check out more on Dolores and like her on facebook.
Zulu Irminger, The Embrace
Featured as the banner of this page.
Sella Malin & Maysan Nasser We're all people
From Israel and Syria, written in venice, italy
Maysan is from Syria, and I'm from Israel. We wrote this song in Venice in the spring of 2016, while on a music / poetry tour through Italy with a band of expat artists from the Paris open mic community. We had just met each other; within the first few minutes of meeting, our souls had deeply and thoroughly connected -- and we could not understand how two people who were so ridiculously similar in so many ways could come from cultures that were steeped in hatred for one another. This song is to remind us that regardless of how many ways we are brainwashed to believe that we're different, we all come from the same fucking soil, have the same bones, and would do a hell of a lot more good standing together than apart.
Sella Malin, Here
New York, USA
For me, a big part of unity is the concept of minorities rallying together, and non-minorities rallying beside them, supporting them. More than ever now, in the political disaster we currently live in, we need to make it clear that the ostracized, harassed, silenced groups still have a voice, and we need to open our minds up to their perspectives and their struggles. The idea of unity coaxed this poem out of me because we cannot be unified as a people until we are fully unified with women and recognize the oppression that women still face -- until we are all willing to understand and speak up for such perspectives.