Some years ago, I began to notice the reticence of really smart people to answer what would appear to me to be even the most simple questions. I should have thought harder, at the time, about why that was. But, y’know, I didn’t.
“It is true that we don’t know that men are equal. We are saying that they might be. This is our opinion, and we are trying, along with those who think as we do, to verify it. But we know that this might is the very thing that makes a society of humans possible.” -Jacques Rancière
When the xenophobic riots of May 2008 rocked South Africa, Thabo Mbeki was roundly criticised for dragging his feet on deploying the army into the townships to resolve widespread violence that the police seemed unable to contain. Not because the army would have been ineffective in quashing the violence, but because he was unwilling to publicly recreate the apartheid-era symbol of soldiers in the townships, recognising the power that the juxtaposition of soldiers and shacks would have in the public imagination.
I’ve spent the twenty-four hours following the release of the Marikana Report sitting and reading it, making reader’s notes as I go, as a service to those who won’t have the time to spend going through the 600-page document. So having taken a massive nap since, I want to just share a couple of thoughts on it
From what remained of the dream in the morning, I can recall only that it was a beetle of some kind. Painlessly living in my finger somewhere, and vibrating a lot. Or shuffling unsettlingly and drawing attention away from more important things, like rest, and calm, and life. Opinion, unsurprisingly, differs on what an insect in a dream means.
Sometimes I return to writing out of inspiration, sometimes out of need, and sometimes through an indirect kick in the pants. Despite my dereliction, I had a post half-written in a journal somewhere, because I love how writing by hand slows the process of thinking about structure and cadence. Enough to make writing so much smoother. But that post is still mostly crap. And so you get this.
The metaphors of light and dark are wrong. So blissfully, but deceptively wrong. Light must always win. Its advance can only ever be so. Can only, can always be met with dark’s retreat. Night’s dissolution. It is where there was none. Presence into absence. The conquering flood of what is into the space of what wasn’t.
Rap music in a Gottingen Subways outlet. The old kind of rap. The kind to stir a heart into resolute anger at the world and its injustices. At the institutions that deny liberty and call the result Normal. Fair. The kind of rap that no Subways would have dared to play in the 90’s, but can laugh at now. Humiliate through tinny takeaway speakers. Like the immigration official that’s taken a liking to Bob Marley, or the corporate cat who enjoys Alanis Morisette and Shirley Manson.
[Journal Extract, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2011] In Dispatches, Michael Herr titles his first chapter ‘Inhale’, and his last ‘Exhale’. I’ve been thinking about that writing tactic a lot lately. The notion that this – all of it – is like some coiled spring or compression/decompression cycle. That it can only be made sense of Read More …
For whatever strange reason, I seem to mostly write late at night. Sometimes – if I am so taken – I might sit and compose a post in the early evening, but never in the morning and almost never in daylight. With the exception, perhaps, of periods on the road in places where internet access sets with the sun. But the ideas of ‘daylight’ and ‘daytime’ in England are ambiguous at best, and often have very little to do with each other.
26 December: Epulu Ranger Station, Democratic Republic of Congo. But for the early arrival of the pygmies from yesterday, the morning would have started unremarkably. Yesterday’s thunderstorm delayed the trade in Ituri forest crafts, but this morning, they arrived with scores of necklaces made from forest nuts, small seeds and bark rope. Plus a musical instrument Read More …