Silence. The solem melodies of a trumpet and a guitar had left a room of 200 people still. From various corners of a dim-lighted space, snuffles fused the air together with melancholic tunes played out serenely by huffs and finger tips. Minutes into the performance, artist Ibrahim Maalouf lifts his instrument from his mouth and lets his head pend. At that moment, we were no longer strangers, we were no longer individuals disconnected by the cold reality that we had left behind, if only ephemerally. In that instance, we became a collectivity of human animals with aching hearts, patched wounds and scarred cuts, crying together, mourning together, and yet sewed together in a common struggle of survival in a dreary world. At that moment, if only briefly, we were naked, we shared our nakedness, and laid bare our vulnerability freely as the thousands of layers of social repression evaporated into the air and were exchanged for a mutual sensation of a melody so strong, so powerful, so as to lo leave an entire room silent…

I realized then that, whilst happiness might only be true when shared, reality only becomes real when the masks worn and the roles played in our daily lives fail to matter and cease to exist. This is exactly what happened there, then, at that specific moment. It is exactly through the crude unleashing of shared human sorrow and suffering, in this case channelled by entrancing music, that we can break with the socio-political chains of slavery. It brings us to an understanding that whatever we are crying for, whatever it is that is bearing suffering upon us, it is not right, it is not working for us. It requires fixing. When shared, we realize we are not alone, that this is not just my problem, it’s everyone’s. The fixing required thereby extends beyond the individual case, to the larger structure and system we have been socialized into.  When we realize that in order to fix our condition, we need to destruct and erode  our entire political cosmos, we can start thinking about initiating a true revolution.

It is perhaps for this very reason that exposing vulnerability and suffering is stigmatized as a sign of weakness, femininity and personal failure. We thus need to constantly show a face of fake happiness to inform the public that nothing is wrong, and thereby prove that the status quo works. It is suppressed  in our society for fear of what it might uncover: unhappiness, depression and dissatisfaction that are tied to larger structural problems of a system that is failing us. When they are revealed, they are dealt with as individual cases of pathology that require medicalization, not revolution. No wonder then, that the business of pharmaceutical drugs and therapy sessions to “cure” depression, anxiety, and other “psychological disorders” is so incredibly large and profitable.

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