The Categorical Imperative and colonialism: Revisiting the Oedipus complex:
An incorrect way of reading Marechera is:
1. nihilistically — as a “postmodern” and as if he were merely rearranging ideas “on the surface”, somewhat dadaistically, and in order to amuse himself, whilst not criticising the established orders that he was actually intent on criticising.
Also, via the lens of Post-oedipal blindness.
2. Since, according to Michael Mack’s Freud, Kant’s Categorical Imperative is “The Oedipus Complex”, one ought not to reads Marechera in a kind of subconscious tone of, “Yes, but all the moral answers are already entirely obvious to my abstract thinking mind.” If one does so, your own Oedipus complex is blinding you to what the author has to say about social and psychological complexity.
In fact, more often than not, the points the author wants to make are naturalistic (about society and how we actually experience it without a divine law to mediate its effects) and empirical. “Blindness” is a feature of assuming one has already grasped everything about the world when there is still something more to grasp.
The “Oedipus complex” in terms of the author’s own autobiography and experiences may be reinterpreted (of course metaphorically, which is in terms of what I perceive the whole Freudian system of complexes to be — a huge metaphor about one’s relationship to power…) as a form of intellectual gigantism triggered in the genes and perpetuated by not knowing who one’s own parent really is. In terms of this, one is never satisfied by having “assimilated language”. One is already in doubt whether this language is not the true language, the most efficacious language, the language that will nurture and not mislead one, the language of a true progenitor and not of a spurious host, the language that is likely to last, and not be cast aside by more superior linguistic forms, the language that really is what-it-seems-to-be and not something other.
To introject the father’s law through language under these terms is not an easy matter. One may introject the law entailed in a number of languages — but who is it to guarantee that this is THE language? — the one guaranteed forever? The resolution of the Oedipus complex through the acceptance of castration is the gateway leading away from awareness and experience of personal impulses and away from the bliss of mystical enjoinment with the world, but into an excessive reliance on the pure potency of language itself.
This produces a cascading quality of experience where one finds more and more layers to the onion of identity. The self is never to be found in a completed condition, but always somehow perpetually changes before one’s eyes. One keeps growing and growing as one assimilates new information about language and about its insinuations about realities concerning us that differ from our self perceptions. At the same time, one keeps shrinking and shrinking (as we find more in the language we had come to trust, which we had already assimilated and introjected as our own law), turns out to be false. The self is thus constantly in the throes of change. One can never be satisfied with the result because one is never satisfied that truth has been furnished. (Hence the autobiographical quality of Marechera’s writing as a kind of self-inquisition regarding the matter of how much truth had settled into him at any one time.)
Any colonial child (for example, I, or Marechera) is the bastard child of an elusive father whose ideology would not stick around long enough for it to have become entirely entrenched. Colonialism is therefore an ideology which produces children with an identity on the move. We fail to ‘grow up’ in the sense of what’s expected, never becoming crystalised and firm. Those who mistake our personalities for those of plants or grass, that have established their identities through their acts and appearance once and forever more, will be variously, shocked and scandalized — but rarely disappointed. In Marechera’s terms, “we are changelings.”