Today I met with one of my young Singaporean friends, a designer who will begin a master’s program after the summer and we had a long conversation that was poignant in its entirety. He told me that his grandma and her friends have begun to talk about global politics and what is happening to our world today. He said that he was surprised to notice that increasingly people who ordinarily would never have concerned themselves with these issues of pomp and circumstance were beginning to talk about little else. Such as supermodels and fashionistas – he had a summer job helping backstage at a fashion show recently – and he asked me why would it be so?
I asked him what did your grandma’s friend say? He said, she’d sighed deeply – these are venerable old ladies in their seventies – and said, you know when I was young, and the Japanese occupied our lands [The Malay Peninsula – what is now Singapore and Malaysia] during the last world war, I saw death up close. I saw young men being beheaded in the kampungs and their heads put up on spikes. I saw sorrow. And it has been over 60 years and I thought that I would be able to grow old in peace and my grandchildren would grow up in this abundant fragrant green world of ours. And for a while, it seemed to be so. But now, in the twilight of my life, death has returned. With a vengeance. To so many and for so little. Why should it be so, she asked.
And I sighed. Deeply.
Then I asked him, and what did the models say, backstage, when you hurried and scurried to iron their clothes and sew them in tight, into their gowns? He said these are young, extremely beautiful women who are just doing their job. They aren’t supermodels or jetsetters. Just ordinary people – some who had hauled potatoes on their back, in their native lands [they were from all over the world] until spotted and polished into what they do now. And till now would never have even pondered much less discussed the state of the world today yet all they talked about was war and death and pillage and fear. They said they’d never seen before, as they were doing now, during their travels from one exotic location to another, just how much people had begun to treat other people so badly. And they asked, why is this happening? Why must it be so?
Do you have an answer for them? I don’t know.