#18 - a call, a prayer, and a question

What would you do if you came face-to-face with a bear?

Hi! I’m Hima Batavia - a writer, cultural producer, artist, and community organizer based in T’karonto and the great infinite. This newsletter is a space to write liberated futures into being and…play. You can learn more about me, my social location, and this newsletter here.


let’s go deeper

I’m going to ‘host’ a weekly Clubhouse conversation to connect more deeply around liberated futures. This is an experiment to see how it feels but my intention is to hold space for many voices to share, process, learn, grow, laugh, play ++

Some topics I am interested in exploring over the weeks and months include: decolonizing the psyche and body, feminine leadership and personal power, South Asian identity, privilege, and ancestry, relational healing in families, friendships and romantic relationships, sacred/spiritual practice, community/system design, collective work and healing, reorganizing space and cities post-pandemic and play. #multipotentialite #curiousmind

I would love to co-host if any of these topics speak to you (or others!). Message me and let’s collaborate + more details next week.


a call

The Internet was a pretzel this week. First, an ex-royal couple spilled the predictable racist-tea of the still standing, but increasingly frail monarchy in an already historic interview, followed by a snowstorm of support, analysis, and admonishment. Then, the brilliant activist, Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu had to use her sacred, precious energy to tell a white English man fully embodied as the proud intolerant character on a cringe neocolonial reality TV show called ‘news’ about himself in response to said ex-royal Duchess. At the same time, the world celebrated women - the holiday where we all still go to work, which originated in 1907 as a protest organized by anti-capitalist American socialists and suffragists seeking employment equity and voting rights, that has since been absorbed by capitalism and girl boss energy rather than meaningful systemic change. And finally, the monarchy issued a hollow D&I statement and is reportedly in crisis meetings for the foreseeable future.

In reviewing these intertwined events over the last 6 days, we may be tempted to be shocked, surprised. ‘You can’t script this stuff!’ But we are in such a fortunate moment to reconsider this impulse because we have real-time access to Black radical feminist analysis - from folks like Rachel Ricketts and Ijeoma Oluo amongst numerous others who from lived experiences and devotion to liberation can track the chronic symptoms of colonialism, colorism and all its cousins in these cultural moments, which as somatic and sacred scholar, Dr. Amber McZeal, says, is vague and ambiguous by design. This analytical work is being shared so rapidly so that we are not stunned by reproductions of oppression. Disappointed, upset, frustrated, and angry - absolutely. But not stunned.

Because the response that we need at this moment is steadfast clarity about how oppressive systems infiltrate and permeate, biblically, across every modicum of public life. To topple a behemoth - you first need to see it fully, exactly as it is, and then sincerely advance a stalwart push in the same direction. When we collectively mobilize to redesign systems that protect and liberate Black and Indigenous queer and transwomen - the most vulnerable community in this distorted matrix of racial capitalism and patriarchy, we will all inherently get free. Do you believe me?

The hold up is that we’re not all moving in the same direction, plagued by vacant goals to uplift any and all women, even those who practice bespoke feminism that seeks to preserve whiteness and wealth and TERFs, or ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminists,’ who are actively collaborating with conservatives to legislate anti-trans policies, amongst other opposition groups. We can have compassion for all women’s experiences under the patriarchy AND have the humility to acknowledge our positionality within the intersectional axis of power, privilege, and domination, acknowledge where trauma is manifesting as self-preservation, denial, fear, and shame and how it is preventing us all from liberation, and follow the lead of Black and Indigenous queer and trans women who have the most precise insight on how to redesign systems of freedom.

Truly, we have everything we need to usher in a new, beautiful world. It’s already happening in small, incremental ways, but a controlled fire for healthier soil demands us to be earnest in intersectional solidarity.

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a prayer

Just a few short weeks ago, Quebec granted the Magpie River, a long-time sacred and healing place for the Innu of Ekuanitshit, legal rights as part of a global ‘personhood’ movement. The river now has nine legal rights, including the right to flow, the right to biodiversity, and the right to legal action (chills!). While this is the first time a river has been granted legal rights in ‘Canada’, this recognition gives me a glimmer of hope in our capacity to establish structures to protect and reconnect with the living world in a meaningful, respectful, reciprocal, and equitable relationship.

The designation has echoes from the ‘social movement’ being led by Indigenous communities in Ecuador, called Sumak Kawsay (translated as 'good life’) more formally since the 2000s, though the idea is deeply embedded within historical and present ways of being. Social movement is used contentiously, as scholar Lucia Gallardo notes, and is rather considered an ‘irruption that makes visible the presence or the existence of non-capitalist values in our historical present,’ rather than a new and novel idea acknowledged through the state’s colonial gaze. While the ‘movement’ grants nature legal rights to contend with placing decolonial and anti-capitalist organizing within a capitalist system, the ethos is local everyday living as opposed to an abstract and universal idea promoted by the state, neatly packaged for a TED Talk.

The nuance to consider when Indigenous teachings and practices begin to be adopted by the colonial state is the risk (and potential strategy) of obscuring and delegitimizing ongoing conflict and struggle. This is true in both Canada and Ecuador.

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a question

Dear Hima,

I’m reaching out because I’ve heard through the mango vine that you are a camper now. I’m sort of vaguely interested in camping given our limited pandemic travel options, but one thing, or should I say one carnivoran mammal is clawing me back. What would you do if you came face-to-face with a bear? Or rather, what should I do? Your response will weigh heavily on my future relationship with living outdoors in thin sheets of nylon and polyester.

Sincerely,

Camping Curious

——————

Dear Camping Curious,

Your question comes at a good time because it’s only been a short three weeks since I learned there are actually bears in Ontario Provincial Parks.

Even if I did ‘know’ sooner, I most likely would have filed it away in an ‘urban myth’ cupboard, because sometimes, and especially when you are exposed to the wild with nothing but a cooler of lukewarm beer and some hand sanitizer, ignorance is truly bliss. And that bliss is otherworldly and it can sound like eavesdropping on a school of hooded warblers during morning choir practice, smelling like coffee marinated in dew, tasting like a fertile sun, and looking like the tireless choreography of an evening fire. Camping is pandemic-friendly AND entirely worth the hassle of spending 12 hours preparing and traveling for 48 hours of bliss, even if ignorant (so far, three days has been my limit).

Though, I suppose I did not answer your question about what I would do if I did in fact actually meet a bear. Something you should know about me is that I am at my best in moments of impending doom. The heightened risk compresses my wistful mind into precise action. I suspect I earned this matriculation from some genetic adaptation to intergenerational and personal trauma, but a skill is a skill, am I right? This unsought talent of mine was best observed when I hosted a Christmas party at my flat in Green Park, New Delhi in 2013. Our place was packed with sweaty bodies and hummus from Defence Bakery, which had a creamy consistency I have never been able to replicate. It was almost midnight, early in Delhi, and before any dinner would have been served. I had managed to have a meaningless conversation with almost everyone there - mostly about the upcoming standard ex-pat holiday trek back home to Canada (‘when do you leave?’ ‘when do you come back?’).

The paradox of being the host of a gathering is that you bring people together because you want to be with your friends, but in trying to hang out with everyone, you actually spend time with no one. In the middle of one particular meaningless conversation, my eyes manically shifting to survey the law and order of our two-bedroom home and the refill status of pita, I heard a high-pitch shrill. Michael, the American rural development worker who wore a lungi most of the time, was seizing on the ground. His fiancé, Nandini, who was one half of the marriage ritual that was to take place a few weeks later at a fancy resort in Kerala for which we would all travel for, was screaming his name. A pool of blood slowly ballooned around Michael’s head. We assumed the worst silently, that the blood was pouring out of someplace close to his brain.

Within seconds, everyone was a doctor, but no one was actually a doctor. Someone came running from the kitchen to force-feed him a metal spoon so that he wouldn’t choke from his tongue - a widespread medical myth contested on credible sources like WebMD. Another shouted to hold his head up as electrical currents ran through his body. My friend Alison rang every doorbell in the building, neglecting the time stamp, with no plan, only panic. A heated debate broke out between local Indians and ex-pats on whether calling an ambulance was useful; local Indians certain of the service’s unreliability and ex-pats holding out hope of Western-like systems.

It took me a minute to ingest all the cues, but when they finally alchemized I firmly shut down all the voices and became the faithful conductor - deciding to drive to the hospital, designating a driver, and assigning 6 men to carry Michael, who was now dead weight, down four flights of narrow stairs. No one was to follow, and everyone was to keep quiet. By the time we got Michael in the car, he was regaining consciousness. The blood wasn’t from his eye, but his eyelid, which hit the sharp corner of the coffee table on the flight 6ft down from consciousness, missing his cornea by a fraction of his standing angle. Thank goodness. At the hospital, the doctor was uninterested in the case, convinced Michael had taken cocaine, even though he lived a sober lifestyle. His eye was bandaged, and in his disarray, he wondered if he was now to expect a lifetime of episodic seizures. Back at the apartment, the air was thicker than Delhi’s usual film of pollution, and we replayed the evening’s events, analyzing every angle until the party morphed into group therapy. While stress processing all the worst-case scenarios, all the hummus got eaten.

I was pleasantly surprised by my own self-management in a moment where we almost lost a groom in our living room, which is all to say, maybe I will be pleasantly surprised how I show up during my theoretical (but reverse manifesting) run-in with an Ontario bear. The protocol states you either make a ton of noise or stand completely still, and given my affection for Buddha, I opt for the latter strategy. Maybe I believe if I am fully present, I can send good vibes to the bear. Maybe even communicate with them in another realm. No one talks about this strategy but I think it is legitimate.

You’re probably wondering how to develop these surgical skills. I’m going to go ahead and make some leaping assumptions about you — if you’ve never camped before and you live in Ontario or somewhere in Canada, there is a high probability you are a person of colour. If you are a person of colour, as a settler on this land, there is a high probability you have amassed some traumatic experiences simply by existing in a dominant system that well, is blind to our inherent greatness and sometimes wants to hurt us. This likely has primed your senses for bear-friendly ways. You’re more prepared than you think!

In the end, if a bear does maul me, I am comforted knowing that my last days will be spent in local newspapers. Years after my death, when people consider the risk of going camping due to the fear of crossing paths with a bear, they will stumble upon my case and pity my fate. It must be said, local newspapers, if you find this newsletter, know that in your coverage of my demise I want people to know they should still absolutely go camping despite my fatal end. The best thing that will happen is that you merge with the land and forgo your human-centeredness for a bit, and the worst thing that might happen is that you die famous.

Hope that helps. Don’t forget your headlamp and see you out in the wild (or outhouse)!

Hima

P.S. Only 67 people have died from a bear in North America since 1900. Your chances of being murdered are 60,000 times greater. Weigh the odds and have fun.

P.P.S Have a burning question for me? My replies are open!

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