As[I]Am Podcast, Drop That Hyphen Ep 1: On Community

V. It does. Have you ever identified as something and then changed your mind and, you know, grown out of a space? Or something that used to feel very comfortable to you that doesn’t suddenly anymore? How do you deal with that?

A. Oh yeah, definitely. So, you know, I’ve definitely been part of communities where the community just sort of splinters and fractures. And it’s usually, in my experience, it’s always – almost always – it’s been around race. You know, when I first moved to the States, I was always around white people for reasons that I’m not going to go into right here because they’re way too complex. But when these communities fracture, it’s pretty awful. It can do like a lot of damage to people. But also sometimes, like the most recent community that I was part of that sort of started to split up, it was interesting because people splintered off and did their own thing based on just affinities and friendships that we had formed while we were in that community together. So even though that community is not what it used to be, there are other new communities and I find that really interesting, you know.

V. You were mentioning about art and community. And also being [in] your individual space as a safe space. And you know sometimes like, you read something and you just click with it, or you’re like ‘yes! I get this so much’. And sometimes that can be the safest space – that, that like… I can’t think of the word [laughs], but that feeling between the words sitting in your mind, that’s the most comfortable space. So, you know, we can add a reading list to the end of the podcast of poems, or short fiction, or even non-fiction that you feel you just read it and you’re like ‘this is kind of world the I want to be in, this is the type of writing I want to do, or something like that. I think that would be great too.

J. I think there are times and spaces that are limited, almost. I was thinking about this recently at a conference that I was at for social justice leaders of faith that are in the Millennial generation, so young folks pretty much. And I had never been in a space like that before. [It was] this five day conference and it was obviously limited by time, not necessarily limited by a community because we continue with that. But we discussed a lot of the styles of activism that are harkening back to the 60s in the United States. And sometimes I think that when we harken back to that we’re trying to re-create something that isn’t useful right now. And so I think about that with community and spaces as well. So it’s like, well maybe what we need right now are those little spaces, those little communities that came out of your community that splintered off rather than…

V. This big whole movement.

J. Right, yeah! Maybe there’re just different ways of approaching it. You know, people see the internet as threatening to mass movements, and really I think it can mobilize mass movements, it can mobilize different styles of community and communication, but we just don’t know what it looks like yet because we’re redefining everything every two minutes, you know? It’s a refresh of the page and that’s a refresh of our thought process around it.

A. I’ve like personally been thinking a lot about civilizational decline and how moving from Southeast Asia to the United States, to like the center of this declining empire, has been really really interesting. And as civilization declines, people become less specialized, and things become less complex. And my intuition, and also some of the books that I’m reading, is all about going back to a village sort of mentality, where we have these small communities that are really like ‘we take care of each other.’ And there’s also this interesting thing where there’s actually a certain amount of connections that our brain can actually make and I think it’s around 200, and that beyond that you just can’t.

V & J. Yeah.

A. So that’s why I’m so skeptical of people who have like 1000 friends on Facebook. I’m like, yeah, this is more like a brand.

J. Yeah! Like, are you friends?

A. So yeah, I think that when I conceptualize of what communities are going to look like for the future – this is just my intuitive self speaking – and it’s like, villages that are interconnected with each other that can connect and form mass movements when they need to. But I’m thinking about the way – and this is new to me seeing the mass activism, mass movements of the 60s, which in my part of the world led to national projects, and those national projects are failing big time. So I’m very skeptical about mass movements anymore because they’re almost always led by men! [laughter]

[musical interlude]

J. This first episode of Drop that Hyphen was made possible by the hard work of contributors Veda Kumarjiguda and Alex, as well as editors Amanda Zhang and Jordan Alam. This podcast was created in partnership with Project As[I]Am. Project As[I]Am is an online Asian American social justice publication aiming to challenge dominant media narratives around what it means to be Asian American. Through writing, art, and critical discussion, we are building a community of opinionated artists and activists, and giving them a platform to share and be compensated for their work. To ask a question or find out how you can contribute, shoot us an email at editors@projectasiam.com.

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