Monthly Archives: February 2008

that we are stuck

This is worth reading through, if you want to get a take on racism and the debates on it in South Africa today.

For more on this story – the sadistic video made by four racist young men, all Afrikaner I think – go here. Someone said the story reminded them of the incident I reported in Mali a couple of years ago involving a North American diplomat among others. Both involve humiliation and exploitation, and force us to ask not simply why did the perpetrators do it but why did the perpetrated participate apparently so willingly? That does not mean to deny that clearly the guilty here are the perpetrators. And from what I understand, the video is symptomatic of institutionalised racism in Bloemfontein university. But I am interested in the relationship between attacker and attacked, persecutor and victim, violator and violated. Frantz Fanon is to whom I, for one, will return (as I always do).

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straight jacket

I could be wrong, but from what I have gathered, the ability to write well requires watching everything all the time, including yourself and your thoughts and imaginings as well as everyone else’s. It’s like spying on yourself. I wonder if the Stasi and the KGB produced good writers, people trained to spy and watch each other all the time, trained to spy on each other’s farts even. Spying on a fart. That level of observation must have produced a few decent writers. Writing a fart. But perhaps their weakness was the inability to observe themselves after all those years observing others. Except that observing others is of course also about observing yourself. That’s the whole point perhaps. Maybe that’s why those spying regimes finally crumble because people can’t cope with the spying on themselves. That is of course what happens eventually. You don’t need to train the spies because people teach themselves, willingly, how to spy and how to watch and how to tell the authorities who is who. The subtleties of deviant behaviour. There is a level of madness required to spy on others and to spy on yourself, to watch continually for interesting behaviour and then note it and write it. It must be a form of madness. Which may sound pretentious but I’m absolutely sure I’m onto something her

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straight jacket

I could be wrong but from what I have gathered, the ability to write well requires watching everything all the time including yourself and your thoughts and imaginings as well as everyone else’s. It’s like spying on yourself. I wonder if the Stasi and the KGB produced good writers, people trained to spy and watch each other all the time, trained to spy on each other’s farts even. Spying on a fart. That level of observation must have produced a few decent writers. Writing a fart. But perhaps their weakness was the inability to observe themselves after all those years observing others. Except that observing others is of course also about observing yourself. That’s the whole point perhaps. Maybe that’s why those spying regimes finally crumble because people can’t cope with the spying on themselves. That is of course what happens eventually. You don’t need to train the spies because people teach themselves, willingly, how to spy and how to watch and how to tell the authorities who is who. The subtleties of deviant behaviour. There is a level of madness required to spy on others and to spy on yourself, to watch continually for interesting behaviour and then note it and write it. It must be a form of madness. Which may sound pretentious but I’m absolutely sure I’m onto something here.

It just occurred to me (thirty minutes later) that it could be the other way around: the best writers become the spies precisely because they’re so good at observing. Think about it…

P.S. The book Flat Earth News by Nick Davies would, by the sounds of this review, finish me off entirely. I would not be able to read it without talking to it, shouting out in agreement with it, and then slowly softening into depressed silence about the state of the British and much of the world’s media. It’s not just the printing crowd who regurgitate unverified facts as shock and awe news reports, it’s the broadcasters too. Yes, of course, the BBC has a long history of regurgitating the wires. One of the ways I found I could sell stories easily to the BBC was to first write them for one of the wires I, unhappily, worked for during brief periods of my reporting career. Until the producers had seen the story on Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Presse or a.n.other, they wouldn’t believe it. It’s still the case. And another odd thing was that the BBC’s ‘two source’ rule often applied to two agency wires. But in some countries of the world, the wires get their information from the same people. And certainly, I have known many BBC stringers who – due to meagre salaries – also worked for the wires. I could go on and on and on…

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no dogs in the streets

The truth is, there’s a lot of self-censorship going on. Perhaps that is what is feeding the imagination. Gazing from bus windows and car windows and office windows wondering whether he has ever raped anyone, or how many times she’s been raped and how old she was the first time. Wondering whether he has got a gun at home, or a knife in his pocket, or whether he’s looking over his shoulder because he’s anxious about the man walking ten feet behind him or whether he’s actually wondering whether he can get to the woman in front without the man behind quite noticing. The truth is, the high walls and sloping electric fences no longer seem ugly like they did at first. They have become unremarkable. But they are there. And the walls and the fences and the rolls of razor wire and the barbed wire and the patterned metal security fencing keep pushing out, pushing out from the boundary into the mind, the memory, the spirit. When the clouds come down over Johannesburg, so low that the fading crimson I LOVE JOZI disappears behind the thick grey curtain, the fences expand and surge beyond the plot perimeter and the grey tarmac roads narrow and swallow and it seems that we are living under the authorisation of the barrier. There is more empty space than space with people because so much space has been walled off. There may be no way in and no way out. On the outside, zombies stroll the streets not knowing who else is a zombie and who else might be an alien. No familiarity in faces, no familiarity at all. The old grey-skinned lady, rolled stockings hanging from her ankles and a stained pale pinafore hanging from her shoulders, opens her garden gate and throws broken bread crusts for the pigeons whilst sucking on a thin cigarette. Will she die naturally, or be murdered? How many people are transferring their wealth abroad as the pigeons peck around her slippered feet? How many people are readjusting their furniture and carefully placing buckets under holes in the roofs of their shacks? How long will she stand out in the rain? Where are her children? Have they left her here, for opportunities in Dubai or Putney or Brisbane? How much of their day do they spend worrying about their mother? Not very much as it turns out. She was what was called a terrorist, devoted to the cause not the kids. Her only son hasn’t spoken to her for 11 years despite his wife’s pressuring, which increased dramatically after she’d had a fright one day, looking out of her window through the rain to the pool. The washed eiderdown she’d left drying between two white plastic chairs was stretched over the lip of the shallow end of the pool. It was bulging at the fold with a large weight that was hanging like a dead body inside.

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remembering Liverpool

liver.jpg

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a hungarian puddle

benno-puddle.jpg

Thank you B, in Eger

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what is going on

It is less what does happen than what does not, what does change than what does not. If you keep looking hard, listening hard, thinking hard, you will notice that the large adjustments are in fact only very miniscule alterations of the overall illusion of the bigger picture. The participating peoples of the planet are only really partaking in the image that is (re)presented with the help of a presenter presenting what we are promised is the present. But what is really happening is what is happening inside the body. All else is an illusion. The great changes result in no change, which is not controversial when you speak to the individuals who represent the majority. There are no great changes, they will say. They will show you this with examples in their day to day lives and it becomes harder and harder to refute, so one must return to the presenter. Without the mediation there would not be chaos but there would be crisis and more depression. More people would break down. Less people would marry. Fewer people would work. Which is why the mall is so important. The mall provides us with a reason to live: to reach the mall. Forever treading and turning to reach the mall. Everything else is part of oblivion. This is what the media should be reporting. The oblivion. Not the figures and the comings and goings and the crashes. The oblivion. That is where lies the truth. This is where, what and who we are. Of course if the media mediated on the oblivion it wouldn’t be oblivion any more. So best leave oblivion oblivious. Isn’t that what we are doing anyway?

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