Returning to Toronto

And I’m back in Toronto. I can tell most of all by the air, by the smell of it. The hot moist bath that passes for summer in Ontario. The bus crashes over the broken suburban pavement as we drive by a shopping mall. Other scents – the musky, oily flavour of the subway, the savoury smell of jamaican patties, (hot, plentiful and cheap at nearly every station). And most of all the people. The smelly, fat Canadian people. Poorly dressed, little sense of colour in the suburbs, and no one to tell them not to wear short shorts if you are a middle aged man with pasty white calves. The best dressed man on the subway reminds me of the worst dressed Arab in Palestine, with jeans coloured too light and an unpressed shirt of the wrong colour.

But I love this place. Or at least, I love many things about it. I love the lack of security. I love the peace, the huge tracts of land with no border crossings. I even love the dream, that anyone can come here and not be discriminated against. That we have “racial harmony”, and no violent “sectarianism”. There is no war here, although not because there is no reason for one but because the natives haven’t been strong or organized enough to mount a sustained campaign against the state for generations.

You know, usually there is air conditioning on the subway. The thick, fat, wet air in here is not altogether normal. “Normal” on the subway in the summer means too cold, which is particularly bad for bodies because it prevents them acclimatizing to the heat. In the summer it’s better to just sweat. Although, that’s hard when we don’t have any clothing appropriate for the conditions – I’ll fix that by starting a trend of wearing dishdasha (I’ve brought one home in my luggage).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sad to be back. Whenever I think of this morning, this morning, at the Kalandia checkpoint, squeezed between thousands of muslims needing to get to Al Aqsa to pray because it’s friday and Ramadan. Arguing with soldiers, needing to get through fast to catch my flight, instead paying a taxi to drive me round through the settler checkpoint, which connects settlements in East Jerusalem with settlements on the other side of the Wall. That checkpoint is the polar opposite of the Kalandia crossing – Israelis and internationals can pass through without delay. Such discrimination, such apartheid, especially since the Arabs delayed at the Kalandia checkpoint do not even intend to leave the “West Bank”, will not cross the Green Line, will not leave Occupied Palestinian Territory.

But I feel better prepared this time, better ready to acclimatize to the bullshit of Canadian life. Better ready to enjoy a bit of the summer. Better ready to clean my life from the drama that I don’t need, not to let disagreements weigh me down. I feel stronger for travelling, stronger for making places that seem “extreme” here, normal to me. There is truth in those places, and pure people. Where there is conflict, you will find simplicity, and that simplicity is a candle in the dark of a world overloaded with its own analysis of itself, overloaded to the point of the impossibility of action, the impossibility of transformation, the impossibility of conflict.

I don’t need to convince everyone. I don’t need to be right every time, to win every argument. What I believe is beyond rhetoric, beyond political correctness. It is in the body, in the expanded sense that text fails to reach yet feigns to convey. What I believe in is not revolution of the body, but the body of revolution, and the redemptive character of resistance.

 

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