Historical forces and psychological projection

I confess to quite an acute skepticism of psychoanalysis because its terms of reference have seemed to me limited to the late capitalist nuclear family, without taking into account social or historical events.    Because this kind of psychoanalysis is worse than useless to me personally, my skepticism had continued to grow and grow. Recently, however, I found this article and considered it embrace a balanced form of humanism.

I’ve learned to steer clear of traditional psychoanalysis because the paradigm it promotes seems to encourage people to believe that is one is suffering in some way, it is likely to be because one is “projecting something”.  I developed the impression that psychoanalysis was often, if not always, a means to expressing an unwillingness to deal with historical facts.   By not dealing with these and with the impact they can have on the psyche, one preserves a sense that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and that nothing  can or should be changed, apart from at the level of the individual.   That is, the person suffering should change themselves, but they should do so in a way that doesn’t implicate others or avoidable historical circumstances in the process of change.   They should just make the changes as part of their moral duty to society, above all by hardening up and not taking any nonsense from anybody.

While I’m sure that the imperatives of bourgeois society are not necessarily the imperatives of psychoanalysis, there seems to be an overlap.  According to the article I’ve linked to, the capacity to dig into emotional states, to find out what is there,  is a core part of psychoanalysis. But, psychoanalysis occurs in a context, which is that of contemporary society, the society of the bourgeois individual.  The functioning of the individual is important within this sort of system, but their individual mental states are not relevant so long as they perform their job effectively.  Forms of therapy that would try to coax a person into expressing a certain impersonal demeanor are particularly noxious, although perhaps quite common.   The article linked above outlines how psychoanalysis is supposed to simply make a person more aware of their hidden motivations, so as to have more control over their lives. The impressive aspect of the article was that it didn’t frame a person’s suffering in terms of individual moral culpability.

My resistance to psychoanalysis as a system has been on the basis that I must necessarily and rightfully defend myself against insinuations based on bourgeois concepts of moral culpability.   I don’t mean to imply that I’m a perfect little angel, in bourgeois terms.   I just want to get rid of the bourgeois framing of experience.   We are not guilty sinners, who suffer because of our mistakes or deficiencies.  This reductive way of viewing human nature does much harm.   Rather, we deal with issues the way we do, sometimes inadequately, because of emotional overload.

Sometimes the emotional overload is so strong that we demand others bear some of its weight.   That is known as ‘projective identification’.  One does not resort to this because one is immoral or lax, but more probably because one does not know how else to deal with the burning intensity of emotional pain apart from spreading it around.   By doing so, one survives, although if the emotions one has to spread are negative, this is highly costly to others.

We may often not come to  like people who project onto us, because they are giving us a burden not our own.   That tends to produce resentment and sometimes rage. If the project is negative, and not made up of overflowing joy, or if authority is not what’s being projected onto us, we may feel that we have no choice but to carry someone else’s pathology.  We might do this willingly or unwillingly, but it can be more difficult, when young, to develop the ego strength to resist powerful forms of projection.


I still have the notion that disaster can strike at any time, and it will be my fault.

I think I understand how that belief came about, but I would never have reached an understanding apart from  my belated awareness of some very specific historical circumstances.

My father’s rage was lit by his mother allowing her husband, his father, to be killed on a flying jaunt in World War 2.   Participating in the war was “the thing to do,” his mother had said.  It sounded frivolous.  He didn’t have to do it, but it was the flavor of the day.  My father said he didn’t “trust her judgement”.  Of course not — because a light tone ought not to be followed by a disaster.  The two aspects of the deadly outcome, the feeling before the world fell apart and the feeling afterwards, are incongruous.  There was much to distrust, including possibly, his mother’s judgement.

All the same, I know what she was feeling, because it was how I felt when harsh and critical judgement were projected onto me.  You see, my father didn’t ‘trust my judgement’ either, on the basis that I seemed like a person not to be trusted.   When I scan the past for anything I may have done to provoke such unwarranted criticism, I do not find it.  It is likely that my gender was the fundamental element that drew this fire.

My grandmother’s internal workings have become mine, to a certain extent, as a result of my father’s issues.  It is true to say that his relationship with her became his relationship with me.  I know how it feels to be blamed for something terrible that one can’t quite put one’s finger on.  I’ve had the responsibility to rectify historical wrongs, but without understanding their specifics.   I just felt guilty.  Also, it was very important for me that the world should know that I was deeply traumatized and not ‘hysterical’ — women of my grandmother’s era were often depicted as ‘hysterical’ and my father was inclined to handle his rage by displacing it — and condemning me.

The plane that went up and never came down was all my fault.   I didn’t realize the source of all the hostility and aggression, but had I understood it all much earlier, my ego would have still needed further years to develop to be able to take the strain of being targeted in this way.

Psychoanalysis may be a useful tool, then, if it helps people to understand the sources of their pains, but it surely takes a great deal more to overcome historically inflicted blows — and, if history is out of its picture to begin with, what then …?


3. The cure for a man who still believes in female hysteria is to wait until he has something very urgent he needs you to understand.

Then say: “I’m sorry. I’m not getting it. Would you try and say that again in a way I can understand? I encourage you to keep persisting, if you like. Or, by the same token, don’t persist. Either way, it’s all the same to me!”

My memoir and the theory behind it

An interview with Allan Shore


His training as a psychoanalyst was critical in highlighting the importance of the relationship between the mother and the infant. But there was a struggle within psychoanalysis – in particular between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein – about how much was really a creation of the infants mind., a phantasy. Bowlby began to fervently argue and bring in data from other disciplines to show that the real relationship, that the real events, not only were there but they were indelibly and permanently shaped there in a way that would affect the way that the personality would develop over the lifespan.  [EMPHASIS MINE]

This is precisely what I was interested in studying when I wrote my memoir!


Bullying, narratives and ideology

I’ve just read an article on Huffington Post regarding thick and thin skins. The writer was, perhaps inevitably, of a religious persuasion. He counseled prayer and dependency on “God” as a solution to stressors.

I’m inclined to think that those who differentiate between having thick or thin skins oversimplify a great deal.

For instance, there are people who do not know their own stories, and who thereby become “thin-skinned”. Their histories have been erased and they are desperate to learn their story from anyone who will give them a hint.

A fifteen-year-old Canadian girl recently committed suicide after being bullied at school and online. It seems her story was hijacked to make her look like something she was not. Since the story of the bullies became psychologically bigger than her original internal narrative, she committed suicide. She had learned from her bullies that she was a bad person. Her understanding of what sort of person she actually was had not developed sufficiently for her narrative to be the dominant one.

Being thin-skinned is a necessary part of the process we all experience in order to learn about ourselves from others. Those who are capable of the greatest learning might be the thinnest skinned of all. If their educators are ethical, educated and wise, these people can learn magnificently. If not, they will be cast onto their own resources, which may be few. They may be overwhelmed by the narratives of others, which may be false or misleading.

Being able to know how much of what others say ought to be taken to heart depends on already having a good level of knowledge about oneself. One is not born with that knowledge, and many of us are still growing and learning. We are, at least, not stagnant.

The new Philistines

Contemporary culture, including intellectual culture, appears to have taken a very philistine turn, whereby everything that is written must necessarily be taken in its most literal sense. Therefore you get entirely stupid interpretations, such as the one that my memoir is about “getting things wrong”. Sure it is, if you lack a sense of humor and are not ready to take a distant stance towards political correctness.

A lot of Jesus’ recommendations are thoroughly shamanistic in that he elevates subjective knowledge over official, authoritarian or materialistic perspectives. This is not to say the subjective knowledge Christians advocate is necessarily wholesome and good, but I’m talking about the abstract form of it.  This attention to the value of experience is the core of Christianity that is worth saving — the patriarchal stuff, not so much.

One absolutely has to be able to take things in a non-literal sense and sometimes in an ironic sense to be any kind of higher human being. Literalness is for those who are still struggling.

Nietzsche, for instance, interpreted literally, ends up being a boorish, misogynist pig with very little to say for himself. If you interpret “masculinity” to mean “males” and “femininity” to mean “women”, then we are left with a prescription for a very rigid social order, where men go about and act heroically and women can’t figure out what they hell that means, because women are too base and uncomprehending to be able to figure out much of anything.

At the same time, there is an equal and opposite danger in not realizing that when religiously based politicians pronounce, “We are loving women best by restricting their freedoms,” they are quite literally being vulgar and contemptuous of women’s intelligence, whilst using a religious veil to cover their ugly demeanor.

Perhaps the resort to literalness is a natural result of people feeling so often tricked. Dorpat says that one resorts to a very literal frame of mind when one senses a relationship has become abusive. One is no longer open enough with oneself or others to be able to dig deeply into one’s psyche.

Altered states of consciousness

The use of psychoactive drugs enables a shaman to discover a cosmology that would make us all connected to each other, in particular via a sense of unity with organic nature, as the prime source and origin of life. The insights gained through exploring this cosmology are useful. The sources of malaise can be ascertained, observed and come to terms with.

The range of possibilities for life may be greater and more widely varied than those observable in everyday existence. Thus, a shamanic journey can lead not only to healing, but to creative solutions to life’s difficulties.

Shamanic experience could also free one from idées fixes through a baptism into new experiences.

This is of course against the grain of Nietzsche, who feared, as Luce Irigaray pointed out, the element of water, including oceanic experiences.

Have no fear that water is “feminine”,as it is only so according to essentialist notions of identity.  Patriarchal religion would urge us to see it in this way, but there is no need to trust patriarchal versions of anything, given that the patriarchal priest is invested in maintaining specific power relations.  We should rather distrust anything essentializing — at least until we can test it for ourselves and work out what its value might be.

Don’t try to mold others

Clarissa’s writing yesterday got me thinking.  I hadn’t realized it was possible to suffer from formlessness.  I may have suffered from it in my early twenties, when I craved a rite of passage to test me, teach me the lessons of adulthood and what society means and how it works.   That was a period in my life when it would have been good for me to begin learning martial arts.  More generally, though, she and I are polar opposites. Whereas she agonizes over formlessness, I have had to try to find ways to escape the imposition of too much form.This is why people who come along and try to shape me for any reason earn themselves the status of my mortal enemy. I have my own internal structure and I’m capable of reaching a fever point in self-discipline.   What I don’t need is someone coming along and arbitrarily trying to impose some structure on something they can’t see.   What I need is to extract the heat, to take off some of the pressure of being fully formed and to be allowed for moments at a time to enter formlessness.I have nothing to fear from formlessness, unlike the fear I have of too much structure, especially when the new structures imposed are unrelated to my existing structures.   To calculate multiple opposing principles and conform to all of them means the temperature rises to the point that I can no longer think. I need simplicity and clarity in order to continue to achieve my tasks.

Psychological structure  has always been a part of my life to the extent that I’ve internalized a sense of structure fully.  I never have to fear losing control or devolving into a state of formlessness, because my early childhood life had more structure in it than I’ve experienced since.   Above all, my primary school had an extremely military structure.  We marched everywhere in single file, recited our times table and greeted our teachers by standing up whenever one entered the room.   We were yelled at, threatened and sometimes subjected to corporal punishment — a ruler on the knuckles for inattentiveness.  That was how I grew up, by internalizing the necessity for such discipline.  Should I drink alcohol or move away from places where form is directly imposed, I still retain this form within myself.

But impose yet another layer of form on me that takes no account of my early training, and I’m in danger of losing my cool.   I have a form of my own and I don’t need two or three more layers of someone else’s necessities imposed on top of that.  A Christian cultural tendency for strangers to come along and morally shape others I find reprehensible. Let people be as they are and function according to their identities.   Don’t come along and try to mold or rearrange them!

European and African shamanistic philosophers/writers

I’ve virtually read every book in the house. That would be about 800 books.  Mike had his collection, which he shipped over from the US in sea bags.  I also accumulated mine, particularly as I wrote my PhD.

Mike’s books consist of heavy historical tomes describing and analyzing the nature of communism in the 20th Century and its shortfalls.    My books tend to be by Nietzsche, Bataille, Marechera and assorted other African writers who give a historical context to my thesis.   Mike’s literary interests include the Beat Poets and texts by classical Greek and Roman authors.   My interests are more contemporary, although I don’t read literature these days.   I stopped reading literature after Black Sunlight blew my mind.   Now I rarely read theory, either.

Theory has always held a fascination for me, but now I think I’ve reached it’s outer limits.  In truth, I felt that I was suffering from all the G-force I could take from theory as I approached the completion of my thesis.  I was applying my version of theory to go beyond my limits, opposing my own superego with all the force my mind could muster.  My emotions began to shatter as I made headway into the stratosphere.   My emotions and my will power became counter to each other.   I could barely keep it together as the external shell of the shuttle of my being began to quake.

Part of the reason was de Sade.  I say this now with some degree of certainty, having pulled his tome of collected works off the shelf.   I’d had to do battle with his elements in Nietzsche and Bataille, by trying to formulate a different attitude and solution, as per my “intellectual shamanism” than the woman-hating that the Nietzschean chain supplies.  Immersing oneself in the intellectual logic of woman-hating writers in order to understand them, and then attempting the difficult task of self-extrication from their zeitgeist, with a surge of woman-hating trolls forever on one’s back was not easy.   I determined, finally, that Marechera did have more insight into the psychological repercussions of woman-hating than either of these earlier authors.  In “The Alley”, a short play, he portrayed how wartime contempt for women made the self-image of the soldier as a valiant protector of women and children into a farce.

Marechera has a kind of combativeness that uses psychological insights in order to overthrow attitudes he finds contemptible.   Hierarchical domination is precisely disliked.  One must be honest about one’s psychological states and not pretend that they are other than they seem to be, otherwise one does not face the fact that war inflicts trauma that requires healing.   Of course, the use of psychologically informed political tactics is not new, for they also form a large part of Bataille’s writing.  His predominant trope of facing death, for instance, is a double-edged sword, intended to push individuals to more extreme limits, beyond the circumscribing limits of bourgeois morality.   In Nietzsche’s writing, he offered that the noble elements of European culture were those most accepting of the need to sacrifice themselves; that is, those for whom “the preaching of death was most at home”.   The other edge of the sword is that the subjugated classes would become ungovernable if they effectively (in my terms) “shamanized” and had strange visions.   They could overcome their fear of death and therefore fear no punishment for their behavour.

If Nietzsche was defender of the aristocracy, Bataille wanted revolution for the working class.  Marechera was in some ways more extreme than either of these writers, more aligned with the lumpen proletariat, at least in terms of choice of lifestyle (vagrancy, petty crime).   For all that, Marechera was more deeply shamanistic in his insights — that is, more aware of the degree to which psychology can be used to manipulate political perceptions.    He was also a master of disguises in his own way.   He thought that one could simply become what one imagined being, for instance a Fleet Street photographer (you just need to wear a number of cameras around your neck and pass yourself off as one).

Marechera was also the least sadistic of the chain of writers.    He had no stake in maintaining any form of social hierarchy whatsoever, so there was no need to try to distort perceptions in any way.  He just had to show up the aspects of the psychologies of groups that they were trying to hide.   For instance, the cost of going to war is that one must live with the knowledge of what war does to women.

Although the European writers mentioned are sadistic, Marechera’s writing isn’t, at least it’s far from being so at bottom.   Despite this, his style finds its place in a historical continuum with Bataille’s perspectives.  That is, he uses politically motivated psychological writing in a surrealistic, stream-of-consciousness form.   His writing has the effect of making one feel like one has entered a privileged realm where one is aware of the glorious fragility of life and its sacred nature.

Even if you are atheistic, you can be in awe of what it means to live and breathe and have existence — life may be being squeezed out of you, but you are still here, to watch it and record it.   At this most reductive level, which is where Marechera takes you, there is the quintessence of life.

Such is the author’s shamanistic propensity, that we can eschew sadism from our psychological vocabularies, and still be sure to have adventures and dare ourselves.  Read, for instance, Black Sunlight.

torn apart left and right

What Rhodesian culture was is very, very, hard to understand. Even I had a hard time understanding it, because I grew up in it but didn’t recognize what either the Rhodesians or the rest of the world were reacting to. The civil war has already started by the time I was born. Then it finished when I was 12 and I emigrated to Australia with my family when I was 16. Once, I emigrated, it was the start of another war, only on a psychological level. My parents wanted me to be staunchly right-wing, but Australia was a more liberal culture, especially the university system. My tendencies were left libertarian, although I didn’t have a name for it at that time.

So, to be independent, I had to go against everything my parents had an emotional attachment to, in an ideological sense. It felt like a kind of acceptance of death — either mine or my father’s — when I eventually realized how hostile my parents had become toward me, when I reached in my late twenties. I had been bullied at work, for being from where I was from. This labour union workplace considered itself a left-wing social organisation. Someone there didn’t like me because of where I was from, and indeed I was rather socially inept in those days — too much so to see it coming or to defend myself. I had suffered from war trauma, not really my own, perhaps, but that of my father. He had been traumatized by war all of his life — first the second world war, which robbed him of his father just after he was born, and then the Rhodesian civil war, which robbed him of his younger brother and sent him on call-up duty, six months in, six months out.

After all this sacrifice and ideological indoctrination against the infiltrating “communists” (the guerilla groups were trained by USSR and China), my father hated anything remotely “left-wing”. It’s not that he took the time to understand it. He had to immediately assimilate to an entirely different culture starting from a very low status position. He had previously been a lecturer at the Polytech. So, he became even more traumatized.

It seems he attempted to solve the problems of his profound, underlying trauma from childhood and beyond and his ideological confusion by lashing out at me. His mother had always been insensitive to him, throwing him into the deep end of every new experience, and allowing others to treat him sadistically at times, without intervening. So, my father developed the view that I was in some sense his mother. He became the frightened infant lashing out at her for her insensitivity to his needs.

Needless to say, this was extremely frightening and confusing to me and made it much more difficult for me to re-orient myself in Australian culture. I’d come from a rural, tribal culture and very little about modernity made any sense to me. I found it extremely inimical.

My failure to adapt also very much angered my father. He saw his own failure (in his parents’ eyes) in me and my behavior.

However, I couldn’t adapt because I was becoming more and more traumatized. People were treating me like I was a racist and uppity, when I was just extremely shy and didn’t actually know anything about people’s subjective values or beliefs.

So the right-wingers were attacking me for adapting and the left wingers were attacking me for daring to migrate to Australia. And people were still very angry, even ten or fifteen years after the war. Family members had been killed in the war, and many Rhodesians wanted to kill anyone who expressed any left-wing tendencies. This was a primitive rage.To leave the conservative culture of Rhodesia is akin to trying to leave the Aum Supreme Truth Cult. Leftists in demand of their pound of flesh make this almost impossible to achieve. If anything, the loss of the war made my emotions of betrayal even stronger. How could you leave a situation when it was so frail and in need? The war and been tribal and personal as much as it had been ideological.

I developed chronic fatigue syndrome — which took me many years to recover from. My body had totally overheated due to this stress.

Most of the onlookers must have believed that this form of suffering was necessary and good for me, for they took the side of anyone who judged anything against me.


Identity formation as political imperative

Identity formation is really, really interesting. I studied it a great deal in my thesis, most particularly the political nature of identity formation through projective identification. I came to believe that this is the most decisive way in which our identities are formed, because it is really almost impossible to resist a particular identity if a large mass of people are projecting that identity onto you. In effect, they are requiring you to play a certain role for them — and my memoir is an exploration of this. For instance, in terms of white, Western culture, I am the dishonourable “colonial”, whom others can automatically use to mark their own superiority. For my father, who was bound to extremely antiquated and rigid standards of masculinity, I was his “emotion” and means of coping with his loss of his country. And then there are the secondary levels of interpellation and distorted interpretations, whereby my efforts to explain this situation is also seen to be a confirmatory sign that I am merely “whining”, for that is what women do, unless they are happy with the status quo, which makes them unhappy.

I am now resigned and happy that at least I understand it and that these ebbs and flows of political emotion have nothing to do with me. I ultimately disowned my subjective connection to the identity depicted in my memoir by means of an extreme kind of mockery of it at the beginning and in sections of the last few pages.

This was my intention: to rupture and a break from the past through an act of destruction: shamanistic destruction involves destroying the identities that others have projected onto you, in order to be more fully yourself.  I do not destroy the fundamentals of my experience by shamanistic destruction, but rather the false meanings attributed to those experiences.

The subject matter of colonialism clearly remains too emotionally raw for most people to address impartially. Nonetheless, I have quite a lot of confidence that in greater historical perspective,  it will be much easier to see that I am making fun of the ridiculous ideas of my identity that had been projected onto me, rather than quoting them because I thought they were true.

The Icarian complex

The Icarian complex involves a determination to reach the heights through moral transcendence. It is not a complex if it is balanced with an ability to stay “down to earth”, or to return there.  If not, however, it is very much a part of patriarchal religious measures.    Let me try to explain how.

One edifice of patriarchal ideology is the always indirectly stated notion on the part of a patriarchal male that “women are responsible for my thought processes.”  As a structure of thought, patriarchal thinking always that it remains itself forever impure because of this tacit premise: the patriarch asserts: “My masculinity would be more pure, more virile, if women were not interfering in my thought processes. Only then would the world really see what I have to offer to it — my magnificence!”

Patriarchal cultures therefore seek to purge, to cleanse, patriarchal society of this putative, insidious “woman influence”.

Various methods are tried, some with greater success at eliminating women than other methods have been. Shaming women, forcing them to cover up, treating them as if they were intellectual infants, killing them because one feels “shame” as a result of their attracting dishonour, forcing them into the house and into silence — all such methods are supposed to release the transcendental male spirit, so that we can see it once and for all.

Despite his often ferocious methods of trying to disentangle himself from his necessary social and historical contingency, which the patriarchal male associates with “femininity”, he is unable to purify himself using his chosen methods. He wants to fly up above the contamination of the fleshly body, but he is heading for a shock. This is because his impurity does not come from women, but from the his own mind, which projects non-transcendent aspects of experience outward and downward and appears to see them as if they came from there.  The insidious influences of life that lead to his sense of “impurity”come from himself alone.

Wilfred Bion versus Jacques Lacan

For Bion, the unconscious is experiential reality that hasn’t been articulated. Indeed, the unconscious can never be fully articulated because it is multidimensional (has, in effect, more dimensions to it than we can simultaneously process with our rational minds). Articulation, therefore, is always a process of simplifying (indeed, oversimplifying for the sake of managing) that which is irreducibly complex.

Bion’s LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE taught me that the unconscious is the damming up of experiential reality, and the work to be done is in the further interpretation — the actually simplifying — of memory, in order to make it manageable, and to reduce the feeling of “nameless dread” (as it were, by giving the dread a name and a social context and meaning).

The naming of the “nameless dread” is the social contextualisation of it, by giving it an objectively recognised form (in words) and/or intersubjectively recognised form (in the moment of the communication of it). The mother of the infant initially is the one who acts to “contain” or hold the inarticulate emotions of the child, and thus she gives social form and shape to them.

The goal of coming to maturity is to convert nameless dread into something that is socially meaningful. Thus the interpretive movement between the “paranoid-schizoid position” of disintegrated self and inarticulated experience towards the “depressive position” that permits social communication, at the price of losing one’s unity with the whole.

The Bion paradigm is also shamanistic: the subject mediates between the multidimensional space of the unconscious field and everyday, limited three-dimensional reality, which can be articulated therefore can be expressed rationally.

Marechera’s The Alley


Object relations psychoanalysis teaches us that as humans we keep many of the intra-psychological devices concerned with ego self-regulation, from our early childhood. As adults we defend our place within society by projecting, for instance, the qualities of masterliness upwards within a hierarchy, so as if to perceive our social context as if our own superior qualities were emanating from elsewhere, from those in the strata of social hierarchy above us. (Menzies Lyth). Likewise, to adapt to the logic of a pre-existing social hierarchy, we may be inclined to project onto those in the social strata below us our negative psychological qualities, being those we find less desirable in ourselves – in the terms of Menzies Lyth, we project downwards our incompetence.

To project upwards or downwards our emotional needs can end up with us losing touch with those particular elements. Along with the infantile but nonetheless adaptive tactic of projection, is the splitting of the self, so that parts of the self are acknowledged as being “really me”, because others are dissociated from, as being “other”.  The loss of parts of oneself – whether that be in the form of the sense of ones competency or the sense of one’s human fallibility (as the loss of the sense of this is also a loss in terms of self-understanding) comes under the contemporary or “new age” shamanistic paradigm as “soul loss”. The restoration of the “soul” – that is, of one’s true self, existing in a form that isn’t compromised by social and political necessities – is the key to shamanistic healing. It is not just the person who is restored and made whole by virtue of “soul retrieval” [term: Ingerman]. Society as a whole needs restoration from the states produced by primeval splitting, to move from stress-related (pathological) modes of coping towards a healthier model of relating within the social whole.

“The Alley” is a play that deals with this issue of societal and personal healing, through an encounter with the split-off aspects of the self. The play examines the traumatic legacy of post-war Zimbabwe (post the second Chimurenga that ended in 1980). Marechera is keen to show how the dissociation from the past (and from aspects of one’s self), in post war Zimbabwe, leads to a mode of forgetfulness that is the forgetting of the self. In such a condition, one goes through life without the sense of who one really is, or how one got there. One needs to face the trauma of the past to affect “soul retrieval” – that is, in order to become who one is, again.

In “The Alley”, a black and white tramp struggle with their tendencies to forget, as they fraternize in the streets of Harare, unable to recognise the cause of their demise. They had both fought in the war of liberation on opposite sides, and they had both had the privileged status of career lawyers, before making their descent into the grey mists of fugue and loss of social status, entailed in living the hobo lifestyle. Marechera borrows from Beckett – in particular from “Waiting for Godot” – in his idea of exploring the life of tramps through an aesthetic and conceptual lens of forgetfulness. His approach involves more of a psychological and political study of post-war Zimbabwe, however, and not being concerned with an existential statement of the human condition, which is how Beckett has generally been read.

The complication that Marechera introduces in “The Alley” is the question of gender and how that impacts on how trauma and recovery are experienced. Whereas Beckett also subtly implies a gendered aspect to his play in naming one of his male tramps Estragon (which sounds like estrogen), Marechera takes the issue of gender further, in order to show that post-war trauma in his contemporary Zimbabwe of the eighties, had a distinctly gendered quality. His mode of writing is both slapstick – Cecil Rhodes is introduced as “Cecilia” – and tear-jerking. This tragicomic mode is designed to break down the current ego-defences of the audience, with their current stress-based and probably pathological adaptations to the social world. It is designed to guide us, through laughter and tears, to see the real tragedy of those whose lives and potential were sacrificed during the bush war. Only then, upon recognition of what was sacrificed and lost, can a real restoration of the soul begin to take place.

As is common in Marechera’s writing, the aesthetics of the play are based upon the tacit psychological understanding that when we’re under deep emotional stress, the qualities we attribute to others are really a part of ourselves, and not something entirely separate from us.  Just as we might be inclined to socially eschew the other for being black or of the wrong gender, so we are also socially invested in maintaining the normal state of affairs that keeps others at a hierarchical distance as the psychologically dissociated aspects of oneself. To be compelled to know the other, through tears and laughter, is to come to know the socially alienated aspects of one’s self – the aspects denied when one adapts to a social role, within what is normal in society: a social hierarchy.

Marechera’s work shows to us the link between psychological self-alienation and societies that are organised by political and social hierarchies. The cost we pay for the latter is in terms of the former. In terms of the patriarchal and socially conservative society that was post-war Zimbabwe (and as it still is to a very large degree), Marechera’s exploration of the gendered base of traumatic dissociation is very radical indeed. Marechera shows that Rhodesia, on the sides of both black and white cultures, has had a patriarchal history, and leaves a patriarchal legacy to those in the present. To fully heal, society has to face that which it has dissociated from – which is hidden behind “the wall” of consciousness, in the unconscious or semi-conscious parts of the mind. Marechera points out that where the black and white men fought each other like “dogs in heat” ( p 46) , redirecting their erotic impulses towards aggression, those who really paid the emotional cost of the war were women – specifically the daughter and sister of the black and white men (who are represented by the two tramps).

The traumatic spectre that hides behind the wall is the damage done by this excessive “sexual” self-indulgence of the bush war to the women whom the men had no doubt sworn to protect. Rhodes – the black tramp – has been given slightly greater authority by author in terms of the moral ground for fighting for his liberation. It is he who introduces his “other” – the white tramp, Robin – to the spectre of his sister, Cecilia, who was raped and murdered by the Rhodesian forces, and now abides behind “the wall” of consciousness.

RHODES: Your daughter, Judy, is right there with her. I can see them. They are kissing.

Robin’s daughter, in turns out, was also a victim of the war, raped and murdered by the black “comrades”. Only when the brick wall in the alley is struck, with determination to know what is behind it, does it give us these traumatic answers about the cause of the tramps’ pathologies. Surmises Rhodes to Robin, speaking again with a margin of greater authority than his colleague has the right to:

I used to suffer from world weariness, but the wall says that too was nothing. I cannot get away from you, though that’s the only thing I want from life, from the whole last ounce of the universe. You also want to get away, but like me, you can’t, and for the same reason. I am your wall, and you are my wall. And the game we tried during the war of mounting each other like dogs in severe heat has not yet been settled. ( p 46)

The way to healing for these men is to face the traumatic and dissociated feminine aspects of these men’s identities, which lies behind the wall of consciousness.

the "mystical" nature of intersubjectivities

Marechera’s shamanism is actually a metacritical approach to the experience of intersubjectivity and the strong political ramifications entailed in having intersubjective experiences.

A naturalistic feeling of intersubjectivity in adult spheres (which is not earned by verbal communication) rides upon the so-called pre-Oedipal (very early childhood) processing and pre-Oedipal functions, psychologically akin to the ocean’s hidden undercurrents, that influence our social behaviour. These include: dissociation, ego  splitting, projective identification,and magical thinking. These pre-Oedipal functions come into existence on the basis of primordial mutuality and nurturance as well as on the basis of a primordial struggle between the infant’s feelings concerning its needs of gratification and the infant’s idea of the mother, represented in its psyche as both sameness and as primordial “other”. They are a way of mediating and resolving these tensions at the level of the bodily push and pull the infant experiences in relation to its mother, as it seeks to assure its own survival. They enable an immature consciouness to reassure itself that all is well, under variable circumstances. They function to create the feeling of wellbeing that will regulate the infant’s nervous system in a way that best assures survival. Thus pre-Oedipal intersubjectivity is a mystical basis for fictions — with very direct materal consequences — which serves a survival function.

We experience the non-rational currents of vestigal pre-Oedipal dynamics driving and determining our directions within the social sphere (as animals experience the pull of forces that drives their migratory patterns), as we react to them at a pre-rational or intuitive level according to what feels natural. Thus, in certain kinds of societies, being cruel to women and blacks just FEELS natural. This is facilitated by ideology, obviously. However ideology cannot cause anything to FEEL natural — although it may give well-sounding reasons as to why some mode of prejudice or discrimination is indeed natural. What makes it FEEL natural is the facility of intersubjectivity, driven by pre-Oedipal dynamics.

Intersubjectivity has an effect on the pre-conscious level which is read subliminally. Just as the communication between the young baby and its mother is preverbal, so pre-Oedipal dynamics (vestiges of our past manner of relating as a child) are also registered non-verbally. (Although language may be used to convey their meanings, pre-Oedipal messages normatively and logically entailed in pure linguistics.)

Needless to say, the pre-Oedipal realm is not experienced by most people metacritically. Marechera’s writing, however is different, and I will argue that it is shamanistic in that he ascertains the hidden currents driving people in particular political directions (shamanistic knowledge). His writing also tries to use knowledge concerning how pre-Oedipal dynamics work, to redirect the currents underlying society into different forms that serve to exert intersubjective pressure that will bring about the writer’s preferred anarchistic model of society. This metacritical approach — which ascertains and redirects the hidden social currents –is what is entailed in Marechera’s attempt at a shamanistic healing of societies.

before the juddering plunge

As Bataille points out in his short essay, there would have to be two “suns” for us, if we were to process the story of Icarus in accordance with what most people believe (falsely) about the nature of reality. Our priests throughout the ages have taught us to bifurcate reality, so that loss, decline and deterioration do not seem to be part of the essence of humanity at all.

The climbing to the height is one thing, and it is understood as a representation of one kind of reality. Let us call it will to power and ascendence through the ranks of homogeneity.

Then there is the cry of alarm, the melted wings and the terrifying falling, away, away from the sun. This registers to our socially conditioned minds as a state of heterogeneity. It registers as discordance, as formlessness. We are alarmed because we implicitly believe the possibility of continuing to ascend to heaven to be infinite. We relegate all fallen heroes to the parade of shame which is populated by those whom we consider to typify those elements of disruption and shame (the heterogeneous) who have no place in well-ordered society.

There is a certain point in Icarus’ journey when upwards starts to become downwards. What was ecstasy becomes grief. To a compartmentalising mind, there can be no association between the spiritual (or psychological) pathway towards ecstasy and the one which leads to grief. They are two different pathways, with two different results. Thus, the bifurcation of the mind, which demands two suns, for Icarus’s falling to the Earth is also a falling into the sun, to be burnt alive by human demands that prohibit a failure of any sort.

Bataille’s insight is that loss can also be a gain, a thrill, a mode of ecstasy, for it is part of life: Indeed, there is only one “sun” (one realm of human experience), and Icarus is falling into it.

understanding heterogeneity (some more)

Bataille’s categories of heterogeneity and homogeneity are (or course!) not moral categories, although they may indicate, in some ways, moral tendencies. They are primarily logical functions — these terms supplying a way of looking at the way/s we organise social reality.

One could not imagine a bigger mistake than turning them into moral categories in order to make one’s belonging to one category rather than another into a feather in one’s cap. This kind of bastardisation has, of course, been attempted with the philosophy of Nietzsche. In fact, the philosophy of Nietzsche has rather been subsumed into some young men’s arsenals as a rather degrading and anti-cultural barbarism — all because they identify with what Nietzsche (in Genealogy of Morals) called “the strong”, without having sufficiently developed their sense of irony to also understand what he meant when he said that ‘the strong’ are also stupid.

No doubt, Batailles’ reinterpretation of Nietzsche was intended to correct some of this tendential crudity.

Rather than making the enormous mistake of identifying with one side of human experience or the other, it is better to understand Bataille’s terms in relation to Lacan’s philosophy, which arguably came out of Bataille’s own writings.

Heterogeneity and homogeneity are assuredly within all of us — although certain individuals and cultures may tend towards one side of this psychological polarity rather than the other side. In general, heterogeneity refers to those aspects of ourselves that we ‘give up’ or repress (the same thing, more or less) in order to fit better into society and gain for ourselves security through stability of identity in relation to others. Heterogeneity means the aspects of individuality (in potential or actuality) which are self directing and without reference to utility or social mores. Rather, they are elements which exist for their own sakes. Heterogeneity (as repressed psychological elements) gives shape to ego, through ego’s tendential exclusion of these elements. Ego (and homogeneity) is what we see. The unconscious (and heterogeneity) is that which we don’t normally see, but that which gives shape to what we do see. This is true as a tendency, but not as an absolute condition of either term.

Beyond this way of psychologically conveying the status of the different categories there are fluctuations and discrepancies on a sub-paradigmatic level (in relation to the implied stability of the metaphysical model. (This is a recursive feature of heterogeneity within the dominant paradigm which is explained logically and in terms of stability — and hence is understood in a homogeneous sense.) Some societies, as well as some individuals, do not repress aspects of individualism (and therefore permit more of that which is tendentially heterogeneous (spontaneous action and thinking for the sake of it) that what other cultures and individuals do. So, Bataille’s concept of heterogeneity implies the instability of elements (or, indeed, a system) within what appears to be a stable paradigm demarking norms of conformity and repression. The paradigm (for instance, Lacan’s) is not stable, but is subject to the disrupting (heterogeneous) counter-forces which conditions what appears to be stable and predictable with a powerful counter-condition of “formlessness” or unpredictability.

Just as homogeneity seems to represent “will to power”, heterogeneity seems to represent that other tension in Nietzsche’s philosophy: “Lord Chance.”

The literature of ambivalence

The move from the heterogeneous realm to the homogeneous realm via the Oedipus complex and its resolution, well, apparently, takes us away from feelings of ambivalence. I guess that one’s dislike for one’s authorities is repressed at this point. One no longer love-hates them. One just feels positive and represses the aspects there are to dislike. Or, in other words, one’s heart is filled only with love.

I suspect, though, that there is a peculiar literature of the heterogeneous, which just reeks with the kind of irony which is facilitated by emotional ambivalence. Such a form of literature is not read well (and is certainly, moreover, not read correctly) by those who have made a perfect translocation to the ‘other side’. From the other side of the Oedipus complex — the non-ambivalent side, the conforming from the heart side — there is very little to laugh about, in all probability. There are just “types” either acting in obedience to, or in defiance of, their clearly allocated and well-defined social roles. (From this other side, one does not find a “type” in rebellion to be funny, but rather appalling, or shocking, or pathetic, depending on one’s most accustomed reaction to a revelation of the flimsy nature of the social fabric.)

Identity politics, then, is not the politics of ambivalence towards one’s own social role. From the point of view of identity politics, one challenges from the basis of the post-Oedipal social power that had been granted one’s particular group within a particular economic setting. One does not challenge anything at the level of being issued with a role or identity. Identity politics, then, is for those who have implicitly acquiesced to power on an individual level, and are still unhappy with their public status. There is a certain place for it. That goes without saying. Still, it is not Marechera’s politics, since he did not acquiesce to power in the first instance. He has not accepted the definition applied to him of “black”, but rather pairs the term with “sunlight”, thus deconstructing it.

marechera and the Oedipus Complex

Adrenaline tells the amygdala that what’s happening at that moment is worth remembering, that this is a memory to be writ in neurological ink.

Could this be why Marechera found it hard to repress his knowledge of the oppressive relationships of power, (as required as a successful outcome of the Oedipus complex, for example)?

Marechera’s work is obsessed with the reworkings of memory and autobiographical trauma. He makes reference to the Oedipus complex (quite a lot), but he himself does not seem to have repressed, in any way, his knowledge of his violent engagements with power.
The normative outcome of the “Oedipus complex” is arguably, if nothing else, an outcome of acquiescing to a power relationship. The weaker must accept ‘the way things are’ as determined by the stronger. As the weaker one, one must bury one’s differences with power, in order to get ahead. So, one “adapts”; one becomes “mature” by acquiescing to the existent forces of power first at home and then further afield.

Yet, what happens if the repressive devices of memory are not allowed to fulfil their tendencies of repressing a sense of frightening and unequal relationships of power? This could happen if one lived in an environment which was already violent — making one hyper-alert to danger, and flooding one’s body with adrenaline which makes one more likely to remember than to forget. Such a dangerous environment was Marechera’s context of upbringing.

How well could “normative” repressive devices, (which enable one to conform by forgetting threats to one’s essential being), be expected to flourish in the ghetto?


Marechera’s feminism

I consider Marechera’s relationship to feminism to be compelling, although it is controversial. Certainly, he makes much of female sexuality in a metaphysical sense, implying that it is both a revealing gnostic force, as well as a psychologically overpowering and destructive quantum. Despite that, I would consider him a feminist sympathiser. He makes a female a dominant and mystical force in BLACK SUNLIGHT. 
He sees that not every female finds that she can adapt her character to the strictures of femininity expected by society. His humourous rendering of the female makeup artist who ended up smashing the faces which she was unable to transform is very telling. It implies his promotion of revolutionary change so that women can express their innate characters (which can include their antifeminine, destructive impulses). He spells out that this is superior to conforming to the conventional feminine characteristics of patience or faith in  producing more superficial cosmetic affects (being a good make-up artist).

two levels in BS

So, there are at least two levels of interest with regard to heterogeneity in Marechera’s BS.

1. The autobiographical and additional sociological reasons for alienation. ( This speaks to the author’s drive to increase self awareness and achieve healing.)

2. The metaphysical experiment of exploring (and exploiting) heterogeneity through a confrontation with one’s own death. The metaphysical approach is predicated on the notion that the ego is itself a social construction, the existence of which is directly derived from that which is excluded from it on principle (these are presocial or antisocial elements aspects of being, which are relegated to the unconscious to become repressed). The same forces get a different treatment, depending on whether they pertain to the ego or to the unconscious. Thus, the possiblity of incest (at a presocial level) becomes the character of the father and conformity (after working through the Oedipus complex) at the level of ego. Thus, also as we see more generally today in the West, the continuously strong tendency to engage in imperialist wars and neocolonialism as part of the unconscious identity of Westerners becomes a kneejerk condemnation of the colonialism of the past at the level of ego. And so on.

facing death

Heterogeneity is also about confronting one’s contingency and therefore one’s death. According to Bataille, facing death was one of the sternest tasks he took upon himself to do. I guess that death is precisely what we are compelled to face when all ego defences are bypassed. It is at the end of BLACK SUNLIGHT that the author faces his own death in the most obvious way. Yet, throughout the book, there are various experiences which bring the writer/protagonist very close to danger, and to some extent close to confronting his own death (whether through existential threat, psychosis, injury, of the deaths of those around him).

A confrontation with death is in fact sobering, rather than intoxicating.

A confrontation with life without its masks, is both ecstatic (intoxicating) and grief-ridden (sobering) simultaneously. Here, we enter the heterogeneous realm of deep and joyful ambivalence.

heterogeneity and trolls

Heterogeneity is expressed when we do something which doesn’t have the value of promoting us or emphasizing our abilities with regard to a production context. It is behaviour for its own sake, and not for the sake of the good of society. A troll  is one who engages in heterogeneous behaviour. Perhaps the troll mistakenly thinks that he is placing himself against the productive behaviours of others, through his trolling. Trolling becomes his very minor and affected way of expressing his heterogeneity, which he achieves by subjectively placing himself against the behaviour which he thinks produces public value.

There are positive manifestations of heterogeneous whims, although it is in the nature of heterogeneity that one can never prove aspects of heterogeneity publicly, no matter how good they seem. All expressions of excitability and pleasure which do not serve to put you into the positive books of some denizen of the production process could be considered positive aspects of heterogeneity (at least, as I am inclined to think of them.)
Well, I’m off to grade some martial arts students.

Through the open window, blows the slashing winds

The heterogeneous parts of our beings are the parts which our educational processes teach us to eschew. The goal of a modernist educational project is to make us all into interchangeable parts -- highly calculable, highly predictable, and highly transparent, in terms of our beings. Once we are transformed into such a pattern of thinking and behaving, we can fulfil a productive role in society. 

The spontaneous and unpredictable parts of who we otherwise would be will have been eradicated from our minds and bodies. We can then be utilised as part of a machine within a giant and more or less (depending on the efficiency of our education) predictable machine. That machine is social order.

To the degree that our educational processes have fit us for the modernist order in an efficient and thorough way, the lure of heterogeneity will lose its attraction for us. In fact our now much more narrow egos (identifying with self and its sense of social order but not with others) will exclude heterogeneous aspects from our conscious minds, automatically. That which is heterogeneous about life will not seem attractive at all (as stated), but these elements will rather appear to be “silly”, “trivial”, “beneath us”, “repugnant”, and so on. This all has to do with the processes of ego defence. We have internalized the lesson that in order to be accepted in society, we have to reject the elements of non-uniformity in ourselves and others. This outcome is a product of the metaphorical working out of the Oedipus Complex (I do not take this too literally — it depicts the dynamics of weaker human beings and their developmental processes in relation to unbending authorities). For those who have been processed fully by the factories of education (and who are therefore, in an almost entirely negative sense, “mature”), to realistically entertain thoughts of heterogeneity is to invite the descent of the superego — a punishment for thinking to break the rules of homogeneous conformity!

For the reasons of this particular dynamic governing our access to things relegated to the unconscious as forbidden to the rational human being, BLACK SUNLIGHT is the hardest book to read in a fluid and persistent manner, from beginning to end. That is because the book is made up almost entirely of aspects of life which we have all (more or less) eschewed as aspects that serve to make us less civilised than we would be. To read BLACK SUNLIGHT persistently is therefore to challenge one’s own unconscious to become more flexible, less rigid, in what it allows one to see.

BLACK SUNLIGHT is the most resistant book to read also because the unconscious will keep clamping down, as if to suggest that what is being read is “merely trivial”, “ridiculous”, “offensive and irrelevant” and so on. This is all the more indication that one is dealing with genuinely heterogeneous material, which the blindly conformist part of one’s mind automatically seeks to protect one from!

I spent more than a year trying to read this book. I read parts of it, and digested parts of it. The parts I read were intense — but always, inevitably, my mind would keep switching off from what I was reading. I took in small sections of what seemed like hilarious and acute political observations and criticisms. Yet, as the writing fragmented or changed pace, I couldn’t keep up with it. There were too many windows to look out of, as well as too much outside of the windows to take in. I had to put the book down and allow my mind time to digest it all.

Finally, one day, I’d made enough progress that I did manage to read the book through from beginning to end. I must admit that my nerves were shattered by the experience! I no longer was reading the book as if it was raising issues which were really trivial or desperate means of attention-getting using material designed to be offensive. It was almost like a different gestalt had seized my mind. Through the open window, I now saw the actual state of life as it really was, vulnerable, delicate and endangered — without any safety nets. My ego was no longer defending me from other people’s realities — nor even from my own experience of reading.

I now felt the ubiquity of danger all around. I experienced the lack of protection of the homogeneous mindset. The book seemed to race from one situation of danger to another, without relief. I felt my heart (and my stomach!) dropping out of me, within a series of “juddering plunges”. I came to feel that this book contained throughout the multidimensional aspects of its storyline, a deeply intimate exposé of both a universal and highly specific self, and its vulnerabilities in the face of the impersonal forces of life. From a perspective of homogeneous life and its concomitant quality of social conformity, this theme of the nakedness of self must also, I believe, imply an authorial self-pity. However, I did not find any self-pity in this book, but rather a courageous facing of reality as it actually is, in its broadest dimensions, with an approach of black humour and deep layers of style. It is the sheer courage of the book in exposing what it does, and in allowing us to see what we would not normally dare to see, which invokes tears.

This is a powerful book — but due to its power, it is resistant to reading on the first attempt. An opposing power relating directly to the reader’s need for security and one’s  desire for social homogeneity serves to insulate us to a large extent from experiencing this book, so that it’s only on the forth or fifth readings that we can truly engage with it.

the anguish of heterogeneity (exclusion from the homogeneous herd)

“I don’t care what you do with me, Brer Fox, says he, “Just so you don’t fling me in that briar patch. Roast me, Brer Fox, says he, “But don’t fling me in that briar patch.”

“It’s so much trouble to kindle a fire,” says Brer Fox, says he, “that I expect I’d better hang you,” says he.

“Hang me just as high as you please, Brer Fox, says Brer Rabbit, says he, “but for the Lord’s sake, don’t fling me in that briar patch,” says he.

“I don’t have any string, ” says Brer Fox, says he, “Now I expect I had better drown you, ” says he.

“Drown me just as deep as you please, Brer Fox,” says Brer Rabbit, says he, “But please do not fling me in that briar patch, ” says he.

“There’s no water near here,” says Brer Fox, says he, “And now I reckon I’d better skin you,” says he.

“Skin me Brer Fox,” says he. “Snatch out my eyeballs, tear out my ears by the roots,” says he, “But please, Brer Fox, don’t fling me in that briar patch, ” says he.

Of course, Brer Fox wanted to get Brer Rabbit as bad as he could, so he caught him by the behind legs and slung him right in the middle of the briar patch. There was a considerable flutter when Brer Rabbit struck the bushes, and Brer Fox hung around to see what was going to happen.

By and by he heard someone call his name and ‘way up on the hill he saw Brer Rabbit sitting cross-legged on a chinquapin log combing the tar pitch out of his hair with a chip. Then Brer Fox knew he had been tricked.

Brer Rabbit hollered out, “Born and bred in the briar patch. I was born and bred in the briar patch!” And with that he skipped out just as lively as a cricket in the embers of a fire.


Take a look at the list of things heterogeneous below. When I was growing up, a lot more of these things were permitted as normal — although certainly not to an absolute degree! Compared to my experiences in growing up in Africa, those who grow up today have an inner life which is totally spiritually emaciated. It seems to me that their schooling system has been designed to remove all things heterogeneous from their lives and thinking.

It is almost like you are all castrated by the time you reach early adulthood!

(My exclusion from the homogeneous herd will be my punishment for having said this.)

Random facts about me

First we have the rules:
We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.


1. My English style can vary. In fact, as of last night or so, I’ve added this new expression to my speech to signify acknowledgement of what you say and my agreement: “Hgooh! Hgooh, Hgooh, Hgoo-oooh.”

2. I suffer all year round from an allergy to various pollens, especially because of where I live now.

3. I like complicated puzzles, and have just spent ten years figuring out one particularly complicated puzzle.

4. I’m not easily socially embarrassed — except in front of myself, if I fail to live up to my own expectations.

5. Since I became mature, I have never sacrificed a part of my personality for the sake of any kind of security.

6. The wilder the weather is, the more I like it.

7. I find that another’s personal courage is a large part of what makes someone interesting to me. If I don’t notice this quality, I don’t notice much about them if anything.

8. I find most TV programmes boring, snoring, worth ignoring.

Please do this meme if you feel like it!

heterogeneous aspects which could be conceived of as ‘moral’

1. extreme psychological and emotional self-reliance. Self-responsibility: perceiving the world through the windows of one’s own perception and imagination, and being aware that one does so! Accepting a self-recursiveness of experience.

2. deep respect for the inviolability of the selfhood of the other and mystery surrounding the other’s existence. The other is not thought to be calculable (therefore not masterable) but rather to be a force unto themselves.

3. using one’s reason (unhinged from the group pressures to social conformity) to determine what is an appropriately moral position with regard to specific contexts.

4. the effective product of one’s actions and experiences serves to revitalise life for others

5. one exposes the workings of the unconscious (that which is excluded from society on principle) in order to make what is unconscious conscious. This removes the blinkers of denial, and enables society as a whole to be more moral.

Some more general socially excluded (heterogeneous) aspects of life that Marechera makes use of in his novel are:

complete skepticism about the social determinants of self-identity (but not about one’s own emotions and the validity of one’s own experiences).

indulgence in madness as a natural recourse available to the individual

individual moral reasoning about what society’s strictures mean

operating on pure impulse

unmitgated self-sacrifice

acceptance of poverty and vagrancy

embrace of the personal and autobiographical

spontaneous (automatic) writing

reconciliation with the principle of violence as an expression of one’s
political rights