We should have turned at the corner

We should have turned at that corner where the crucified man pointed
the way. At that corner where Chaka washed his hands in blood. At
that corner where the road to Kampala leads to Buchenwald. At that
corner where black learned men in disgrace sink their differences with the
rest. But we will drive through the independent countries where lucid
minds shatter through thick windscreens. Where original thoughts veer
and crash into ancient lamp-posts. Where promising youths are driven to
drink cynical toasts while you and I clap with one hand the praises of the
human traffic. We should have gone the other way; with Hieronymus Bosch
scrawled massacre nightmares on the Coca-Cola billboards; with Dylan
Thomas written states of mind that crack mountains; with Soyinka drawn
typewritten portraits of madness rooted in sanity in the Africa hereafter. I
should have turned at that corner where history moulders in grimy basement
rooms. Because the blow to my jaw did not solve his problem. He broke the
chair on my shoulders and stood back to observe how even this did not solve
anything. Not once had I moved toward the savage penitence which would
have released both of us from the crude scenario. I had been beaten up
before for not behaving like people wanted me to, especially not expressing
appreciation or gratitude and sat there, eyes open, seeing nothing. (74)

The shamanic way

The shamanic position is inevitably and definitively naive*.  Bataille said of Nietzsche that one can only understand his writing as a complete disorientation and dissolution of thought, with the imperative to reorient oneself to the world again.  One can see how this works in the case of Nietzsche as the destruction of a religious worldview, with what he terms the “death of God” necessitates a revision of everything one had previously held to be true.  An ongoing project of revaluing all values is imperative just so that one may continue to live in the world and feel one is doing so realistically.

A temporary state of madness, or what Nietzsche seems to hold as an unhealthy disorientation toward the world is followed by a period of recovery, where one is an invalid who nonetheless is reaching for a foothold.   The loss of ones worldview can be fatal and (take it from me) is an extremely unhealthy state to experience, both in terms of the mind and the body.  Nonetheless, if one can recover from this maddening state, one is automatically stronger.

It is remarkably difficult, however, to recover from a complete loss of one’s worldview.  There is always the possibility that the struggle to recover oneself will take such a toll on mind and body that a deeper kind of traumatic illness will make its way into one’s bones and one will die before one’s time.  Nothing is assured in this whole process of accepting loss and attempting recovery.

I used to take the approach where I used other people as radar beacons and effectively beamed my ideas off them to see how they would react.  That seemed to be a way to find out where I might fit in the totally new world I’d moved to after having been ripped out of my place of origin at the age of 15.

Honest engagement was extremely necessary, but equally hard to come by, as in most cases one has done the ordinary foundational work in any particular culture by the time one has reached one’s mid-teens.  Except this was not the case for me.  I’d done a totally different foundational work.  It was as if I’d studied for a maths exam and then had to take an English exam.   I felt like a ridiculous person.   In a way, I hated myself, while in another way I revered myself that at least I knew so much about maths.

But what I couldn’t do without was other people’s reactions.  “How am I improving in my English?  Are all of the remedial lessons paying off?  Is anything I’m saying starting to make a little bit of sense?”

Many people took the opportunity to feed me a lot of misinformation, because obviously I must be putting them on.  We all tend to make the assumption that others generally know as much or as little as we do about the important facts of life.  Our brains naturalise our accumulated knowledge so that it seems we have always had it.  Furthermore, we do not experience the sensation that we all enjoy very specific types of knowledge, due to the naturalisation tactics of our brains.  Being part of a unified culture makes us view what we share with others who are similar to us for historical reasons as the entirety of knowledge that can be obtained.  After all, othe majority of one’s mental actions overlap with those who have had the same cultural background as oneself and a similar range of accumulated experiences.

Those who go mad through no fault of their own know something different.  They know from their own hardships that the overlap of knowledge between your mind and mine might be much smaller than either of us would like to fathom.   Since we both want to naturalise our knowledge set and make it seem to be universal, we both struggle against any indication that any part of our knowledge could be relative, indeed a product of historical contingencies.

The weaker party ends up by becoming batlike, learning to cope with cultural blindness by flying by radar.  I’ve been an invalid of this sort for too many years:  blinded and resorting to secondary forms of awareness.

But Nietzsche and Bataille and anyone who has known complete disruption harmonize with me.  They are, indeed, discordant beings, who give hints as to how to find one’s way out of the mess, or totally calamity.

Maturity in the shamanic sense is to no longer need to build one’s knowledge.  One has enough, now, to orient oneself effectively and with a sense of emotional satisfaction.

Knowledge, after all, is also emotional knowledge.  Where are the watering holes so that one can revive?  If one is batlike, one has to discover these before too much time has already passed, or otherwise one weakens perhaps permanently.

I was able to find a few, but for two decades it was always a hardship to maintain these.

I’ve had to do all sorts of things in the backwards order and in the wrong ways.  I’ve often been poisoned by the wrong waters, but how is one to know unless one tries them?

I understand, now, at least my own territory — what is poison to me and what is not.

 Maturity is harder to achieve when one brings oneself up, but it is at least, in a sense, fuller, since one does not take the word of the authorities for truth but tests everything oneself.

One feels beyond grateful, having made it to this point, to those who gave a great deal of their knowledge in a way that helped instead of hindered.

The level of desperation one has one one does not know things is frightening and extreme.  But self-knowledge brings satisfaction — no matter how long its accumulation takes.


* While the noble man lives for himself with trust and candour (gennaios, meaning “of noble birth” stresses the nuance “upright” and also probably “naïve”), the man of resentment is neither upright nor naïve, nor honest and direct with himself. His soul squints. His spirit loves hiding places, secret paths, and back doors.
[emphasis added] http://nietzsche.classicauthors.net/GenealogyMorals/GenealogyMorals10.html

Very little is enough

I have discovered, over time, that all wrong-headed people need is enough rope. You give them as much latitude as they could wish for — and even more than they would like or expect — then watch them implode inwardly.

I’ve never known this not to happen, although I’ve often been surprised when somebody implodes in my presence. Since they haven’t mastered their own minds, but are looking to lean on another and draw from their energy, their own minds condemn them when they’re left to enjoy all the wonders of their bad-tempers and their terrible advice and their vacuous minds. Almost no assistance is necessary to trigger the implosion. Sometimes approving of what they dislike about themselves is enough. Almost anything is enough.

Postmodernists and their aversion to The Truth

The thing with the po-mos, is that they basically get their notions indirectly from Nietzsche, but they don’t really understand his criticisms.  For Nietzsche, shoots of Enlightenment start a historical march toward The Truth, which in turn lead us to the recognition of the Death of God.  Thus it leads humanity to an existential crisis, in having to face what one does about one’s knowledge of reality when Truth starts to take on more and more of a negative stark quality, for instance by pointing to our mortality.   The sacrifice of the fanciful illusions entailed in religiosity, at the altar of The Truth, seems pointless from a perspective that already admits God is Dead.  So one has this quandary as to what to do about Truth, from an atheistic perspective.  It’s a philosophical issue, bringing up issues of historical progress and aesthetics and what it means to live the good life, and what it means to be ethical.   It is not wise, for instance, to be compulsively, brutally honest.  Nietzsche eschewed such absolute dictates of behavior.

For Nietzsche, the advancement of Enlightenment thinking was inevitable, but it was also very important that one had to handle this inevitability in such a way that finer feelings and aesthetics and so on, that were part of the religious tradition, were not tossed out along the way.

But anyway, the French bring in their critique of instrumental reason in the 20th century, and it ties in quite well with Nietzsche’s modulated stance toward the Enlightenment.   But the French do to philosophy what they do to a model on the catwalk, which is to dress [her] up in excessively exaggerated and sometimes shocking ways.  It’s a cultural trope and I think it does not translate well into Anglo-Saxon culture, which takes everything too literally.

Anglo-Saxon postmodernists are idiots in my view.  They are sophists who do not even know they are sophists.  Above all, they are the victims of their own unclear thinking about issues.

Literary postmodernism is neither here nor there, but ‘philosophical’ postmodernism is a piece of nonsense, except in the case that you are French.  Then you really ARE ironic and irony is your bread and butter.

And if you really fear progress, you need to look at it more closely to notice what it is you feel you fear.   If I am too ‘enlightened’ it may not be that I start to kill people, but that I have to start acting more like an adult.

It really isn’t adult to insist, for instance, that we cannot comment on what happens in some very patriarchal societies because for all we know a woman being stoned to death for some sexual misdemeanor might actually enjoy her full cultural participation in that way and who are we to insist she shouldn’t.  That is what I would call a childish lack of engagement of the imagination.

Overall, I don’t think sophistry is clever, not unless the people doing it have a much better idea of what they’re doing and their aims in going about it as they do.  You can’t just rest assured that it is the right thing to do because you are combating the capital T in Truth.


Hi, Yeah, I think you’re talking about BLACK SUNLIGHT. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, there is a deliberate attempt to turn the direction of the English language toward black culture, slam poetry included.

It’s that kind of exploration of a contradiction. Black enlightenment. African enlightenment, NOT European rational enlightenment. It evokes surrealism and stands out as a historical contradiction in terms. The “European” race brought “enlightenment” to Africa, but what is African enlightenment on its own terms?

The symbolism doesn’t really refer to anything, just the contradictions in the nature of being, that make the brain bleed. What does it bleed? Surrealist thought.

That’s really all the psychedelic trip in and of BLACK SUNLIGHT is really about. You’re caught at historical odds with yourself, if you are a black and educated (as was the author). But we are all caught in this same relationship to some degree.

Whenever one finds that one has no choice but to be in contradiction with oneself, for instance historically and in relation to one’s predilections, the mind cracks open — there is black sunlight.

Black sunlight is in a way a psychotic nightmare, but it is also very revealing of the tensions of the historically engendered unconscious mind.

Another book you might like, although it is a bit tamer and more intellectual, is THE BLACK INSIDER.


Q&A: the “disciplined” character

A. I will try to answer your question, but as usual I should remind you that my response is based on conjecture, albeit having thought about these issues for many long years.

Discipline, in the case of an old-fashioned character, largely like mine, is inner.   I think mine was based very much on the military style regimented culture of Rhodesia, along with the Victorian (19th Century) British notion that children were to be seen and not heard.   I was also, that is to say, brought up in a way that was very detached from my parents from an early age.   Adults were real people but children considered more akin to animals.   Well, that attitude was paradoxical as it led to an enormous about of libertarianism of spirit, along with very rigid notions of what children had to do whilst being actually observed.  Along with this, I also learned an attitude of discipline from my father’s rages.   I had to be sure to withdraw my own emotions until these storms had passed.  That means learning to impose my own emotional discipline from a very early age.
Now, all of my conjectures have come about as a result of being misread by people.  They maintain there is a universal character structure, and that I am just the same as them, and yet they insist on misjudging me, which means they are wrong as a simple matter of logical deduction.  To be exact:  people see the libertarian or wilder side of me and think I must be out of control and can easily be harnessed by their wills.  But their own deductions are wrong.   At the very foundation of my character is a layer of very extreme emotional discipline.  Like turning on or off a tap, I can choose to feel a great deal or almost nothing at will.  And even if I feel a great deal of pain, I can express myself in such a way as if I do not.
Now, I think (I conjecture) that having this kind of facility of mind is part of the old-fashioned character.   I see that modern people do not assume I have it, which is like assuming I don’t have any special gears I can flip to engage with social or emotional terrain that is much rougher than usual.   I can, though.  Take me on and I can go rugged.   One uses less energy when the social emotions are turned off and I could go my whole life like this.
But the modern type has their emotions much closer to the surface of their being.   It’s a different structural type.   They can also be stoical, like me, but there is something qualitatively different about it.   They seem to “bear up” under social criticism, whereas I don’t take “social” anything seriously, although if I identify a tangible threat I go to war with it.
Now, in a way, we could flip the whole thing over and say that modern types have had too much SOCIAL discipine when they were growing up, at least from my perspective.   They seem to be socially embarrassed by many things that would not worry me.  I, then, have been brought up extremely libertarian compared to them, except from the authoritarian paradox.
In all, I can surmise that how one is brought up from a very early age has a HUGE impact on who one is — one’s basic characterological structure.  
That doesn’t mean that all is lost, though, if you happen to have been brought up in a different way from others.   They key is to be able to work with what you’ve got.  Can you work with it or not?   Do you NEED to have discipline imposed from the outside, or is that just an ideology?   Or to look at it in a different way, supposing discipline were to be imposed on you from the outside, now that you are an adult, whom would that serve?   It may in fact serve you IF you are looking for structure, but it’s not automatically beneficial.
I have another theory, too, which is that in early childhood, we make adaptations that give us a certain functional psychological equilibrium.  There are pluses and minuses to every adaptation.  For instance, it is likely that I learned extreme emotional control so as not to be present to my father’s rages.  This has left me with the legacy of being able to control my emotions in a very precise way, especially in situations of extreme hardship.  On the negative  side, I am inclined to emotional repression, switching myself off without being aware that I am doing that.  
In general, then, look for the pluses and minuses of every adaptation and work with it.  I have gradually been able to make myself more socially and emotionally aware in relation to myself, but this takes many decades.   In the mean time, try to find out what is beneficial about your particular form of adaptation.  Good luck.


Q   Hey Jennifer, I want to ask you something in relation to your late videos and some thoughts I’ve been wanting to get your perspective on, rather than solely my own and that of the psychoanalyst I visit. Do you think structure in a character can be built later in time as opposed to early childhood? Maybe the presence of structure results in feeling your limits. How is structure developed in any case? I sense it has to do with investing into something or even fooling yourself into it….but then the investment itself will crumble down if structure isn’t present, or maybe this happens only if you don’t know what your desire truly consists of and mistake the demands of an external agent as your own desire.



A   The question you ask is very general, so I can only answer generally.  But to my mind, the so-called oedipus complex, which would be better called the authoritarian complex, so that one does not get it mixed up with notions of sexuality and gender, is built at later times.  In my view, it also seems to develop more slowly, as you are gradually molded to the fit of your society.   It’s what military bootcamp is about, and why they break you down so as to build you up into their own shape.   They don’t want you after the age of thirty or so, because by then you can’t be remolded.


If you’re molded to one society and then you have to fit to a different society of course this is problematic.   Certainly one feels a different set of limits to everyone else in that case.   In fact, apart from cases of deliberate transgression, one may only FEEL that one has a character structure at all if one is among those who simply FEEL differently about things as a matter of course.


We all “invest” in something as we get older — we subconsciously invest in the idea that are societies will continue and will be able to support us… we invest in the feeling that our authorities can teach us what is important and what we need to know….we also invest in the notion that if we conform to what is required of us from our society and its authorities, we will not be harmed.   These are all subconscious investments that shape our character in youth.   Also, if the authorities are particularly frightening or violent, we may develop a rather too narrow and shrinking character structure at a fairly early age.



Heads must roll!

Originally posted on The Australian Independent Media Network:

ed killesteyn

Yesterday the Australian reported that

“Australian Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn and WA Electoral Commissioner Peter Kramer handed their resignations to Governor-General Quentin Bryce today.

The resignations come just a day after the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, declared the WA Senate result “absolutely void”.

Mr Killesteyn had been under immense pressure from the government over the loss of 1370 ballots.

Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson said the Australian Electoral Commission “must regain the confidence of the community”.

“The government will in due course announce a new Electoral Commissioner who will be charged with the restoration of that confidence,’ he said.

Senator Ronaldson had previously warned “the electoral commissioner and the commission must accept full responsibility for what occurred’’.”

I agree that the loss of 1370 votes was a bad mistake but how far does this “heads must roll” response extend?

Should, for example, the head…

View original 827 more words

It’s not important if others “see” or not

I do think people need to start using words with greater care, so that they do not make their own emotional concerns seem to be at the centre of the universe, though. Supposing I communicate to others, as the author may be trying to do, my sense of degradation at work, but I can’t take into account greater extremes of oppression, or variations of it, because I have already used the available words with too great a rhetorical effect in service of myself — well then I have exhausted communication even before I have begun engaging with others.

That is perhaps the problem with most forms of political correctness today. They immediately exhaust the possibilities of communication though the extreme use of language as a rhetorical device. One either agrees with the speaker or walks away shaking one’s head.

But outside the world of narrow, perspectival manipulation, reality opens up. At least, it has the potential to do so. Really, I think the problem with much of contemporary academia, in the humanities, is that it is stuck in this mode of limited, perspectival management. And this tendency toward socially engineering what kinds of meanings are permitted to be expressed is deeply entrenched in much of general society as a whole. That is why I have not been able to express very simple and even banal things about my past, but had to write a book to get thse things out of my system. People would stop me and imply I’m not permitted to speak of them. And then they would go to work on me, trying to manipulate my perspective so that I would take in reality in a much more narrow and socially contrived filter.

And in fact, that was quite traumatising, not because of the views I was expected to embrace as such, but because I was not permitted even to say the very plain and trivial things I wanted to relate about my past experiences in Africa. If you can’t relate even matter of fact things, you cannot make a cultural transition from one state of mind to another.

So, in fact that was why I chose not to pursue an academic career, because I can’t walk around in that kind of a straitjacket. It’s not only uncomfortable, but is is unhealthy. One would have first be mad enough to accept it. Some people are, and they comply to a limited degree.

But most people in the humanities are taught to use language to keep out what they sense to be “evil”. Under the label of “evil”, put the unknown, the wild that is just beyond the borders of suburban consciousness, the capacity for free thinking, experiences that happen to have grown up in locations where the gardeners of the contemporary, modern soul have not cultivated anything. Also place most of reality itself. It’s too tough and too wild and too wicked for the contemporary mind to try to come to terms with.

It’s not so much that the contemporary, educated person cannot come to terms with the historical existence of slavery, but they actively resist acknowledging even the slightest thing that is not already part of their purview. They view it as evil and undigestable. They may even downvote any attempts to communicate to them about it, on YouTube.

The manipulation involved in critiquing writers

Something I’ve been reflecting on lately is that it is all just a game, this feminine-feminism, much like most things in US life are a marketing ploy.   People say the sorts of things that others are already primed to respond to, so that they can get marketing leverage.  It is much like using the basic appetites — sex, hunger, desire for recognition — to sell sugary beverages.    If people are primed to feel guilty about not including women, this can be played upon to get the writer of the article about Wikipedia notoriety and funding support.  She certainly does not have to mean every word she says.  Those words are for leverage, on a deep emotional level, not meaning.

In terms of something slightly different from that, the expansion of traditional feminine modes of perception, reaction and behavior, into the mainstream is, I think, recognisable in the demand that other entities ought not to stand apart from the one who judges them, but be one with the judger and melded into a particular shape by him or her.   This extends to much of literary theory as it is currently practiced.   For instance you will find people asserting that the author has “gone too far” or made a structural mistake in his or her mode of writing.   I noticed this most strongly when studying the criticism that had accrued on Marechera’s writing.   For the most part the critics seemed to become out of breath and confused very easily, at which point they would return to that which was already familiar to them, like the concept of fixed identities, or proper social structure or a good upbringing.   They couldn’t really extend themselves very far beyond their anchors in convention.

But what if the author writes a paranoid book not as a mistake, or because he can’t contain himself to write a more sane and sensible book, but because he WANTS us to feel paranoid?   That level of artistry is hard for the majority of critics to countenance, but there is no a priori reason why this could not be so.

That we cannot know for sure what a book like BLACK SUNLIGHT is about, but still we think we recognise certain familiar shapes and forms in it, gives it a paranoid aura in relation to us, the readers.   If a reader starts the book with a feeling of political certainty that war and/or revolution are desirable and for the best, by the end of the book one is left alone with oneself and with a feeling of extreme paranoia about both war and revolution and their viability.  It is a paranoid book, written by someone who involuntarily lived through a revolutionary war and suffered as a consequence of that.

If you can’t take in that message as a critic, perhaps a differerent job would be more suitable for you.   It’s just too conventionally feminine to want to make the author part of one’s own already existing system of values and beliefs and to berate him in a motherly fashion for going outside the bounds of what would be considered normal in one’s own society.   “I chide him because I love him and I want him to do better!”

To demand that others be a part of you so that you can manage them better, shape them, and turn them into what you want them to be, is archetypal feminine relating.   It is the typical manner with which managers, identity politicians, teachers and critics approach the subject today.   They do not allow anything to stand apart from them, to be a thing separate from the mother/teacher/critic.   They don’t seem to even have the courage to say, “I hate this thing!  I’m going to let it go.”   Their instincts are to draw everything under the control, by not permitting separation.

This means you can’t learn a complex lesson from a writer who is trying to teach you about your political over-certainties.   You can’t even see that lesson, because you are too busy trying to impart your own about how there are certain things than can and cannot be said, in terms of your own existing perspective.

The feminine mode is like this though.  It always tries to “shape” the other right away, rather than reach an understanding of what that person or thing is in its own right.   It doesn’t even see anything separate from itself, just some amorphous mess to be reshaped.

And abusers are the same.  They come along and try to shape things, on the basis of the feelings about what ought to be in place.   But this betrays their lack of a desire to even try to understand what has actually come to be in place of its own accord, and in its own right, independently of the manager/critic/abuser.   They don’t even have a faculty for handling real otherness — yet, many of them will talk endlessly about “the other”.  Nothing they love better than talking about themselves!