Jesuitical cunning

A lot of what many conservatives say can seem like random ideas or speculations, not necessarily coherent, until you unpack them.Consider the poster below I made from the leader of the Australian opposition party’s words.

Click to engorge

Try to ignore the images, in the first instance, which I supplied to show the ramifications of this conservative’s agenda.On the surface of it, the speaker is simply calling for honesty and for balance in our thinking. We could read his words as saying, “Let’s not get all overwrought just because a boss, or other male representative does something wrong, sinning a bit. Instead, let’s open our hearts and realize that he does more good than harm.”

In fact, this seeming call for leniency and kindness hides a fundamental patriarchal ideological structure which is directly patterned by those right-wingers in the US who argue that it’s not so bad to be raped because at least that brings a child into the world.

So, Tony Abbott,  our opposition leader, is implicitly arguing that male energy, no matter how forcefully or wrongfully applied, is always for the good.  His words appeal to a traditional, metaphysical view that female energy is only ever passive and reactive, so it requires male energy to give it meaning, force and shape. That is why having a rapist’s child might be a good thing in the dark minds of sordid fellows — because a rapist is the embodiment of male energy and women allegedly need male energy if they are to become something other than dark matter.

Similarly, even a vicious boss or wife-battering husband could be considered to be doing women some good, by exposing women to the necessary male energy that she needs to come into being in a meaningful way. This is actually the conservative ideology that underlies a text that could otherwise seem benign or genteel to some ears.

2. “Metaphysical” means imaginary. It means it has no relationship to reality. Nonetheless, many people live their lives as if metaphysical notions about the world were true. If enough people do that, it can change the real texture and experience of reality for a lot of people. To take one example, if women believe they are inherently passive they will wait for men to act, and not enjoying life on their own terms. That is why metaphysical precepts are so insidious.

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Tricks designed to get you laughed out of school

Patriarchal types always complain that nobody ever manages to explain to them in a logical or coherent way what patriarchy is and why it must be abolished. Some of those more contemporary ones may in fact read the words of feminists, but these words have no meaning to them, or if they do, the words seem “hysterical”, “crazy”, “emotional”, “reactive”, “oversensitive” and “exaggerated”.

In every one of these descriptions, we have precisely the patriarchal perception of WOMAN.  Patriarchal readers, some of whom may be women themselves, are unable to register any range of experience that is not already part of their conscious self-identity.   They wish to identify themselves with the opposite characteristics to those listed above.   Those opposite expressions to this are what patriarchal people view as “masculine”.

When a patriarchal fellow is unable to understand the substance of the words he is reading, but instead finds himself tripped up by pejorative expressions that enter his mind, guess who is tripping him up?  He is responsible for reading the characteristics he doesn’t want to be identified with into the written word, to the extent that he cannot make coherent sense of what is written, but keeps asking for another explanation.

Such a fellow has no doubt already been told many things by feminists, but he cannot remember any of them, because he has been so intent on projecting the qualities he considers to be negative out of himself and into the text he has been reading.  After that, he can feel disgusted with the text, but not disgusted with himself.   So far as he is concerned, he is empty, free, an undefined essence floating above everything.   Nothing moves him. He is a human being without emotion, without physical body.

Such is the nature of patriarchal projection.  Patriarchal people have been rendered insane by their ideologies, but it is always a woman who are viewed as being “mad” whenever a patriarch cannot digest her words to him.

What is projected into women by the patriarch is actually and precisely the insanity engendered in the patriarch’s mind as a result of his patriarchal ideological training.

Nietzsche,epistemology and shamanistic texts

 Due to the nature and intensity of opposition to the intellectually shamanistic paradigm, I understood there is a formidable amount of emotional investment in the view that both morality and knowledge have predetermined structures.  These are thought to be made known though the inspiration of certain wise men, whilst being inaccessible to women.  Nietzsche, too,  can be read as promulgating a foundationalist position in the pattern of old testament prophets whose oracles were only decipherable by those of the greatest spiritual elevation. Many of his contemporary readers believe that belonging to the generic category, “men”, suffices for one to understand Nietzsche’s works.Shamanistic literature is much more evasive than foundationalist texts about who has the right to understand it.  Nietzsche’s naming of one of his works as Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None is very much within the shamanistic tradition, which appeals to a heightened subjectivity.  If the book appeals to you, it is “for” you, but otherwise it isn’t.In contradistinction to this are the quintessentially patriarchal texts of the Christian God and Allah.  All foundationalist texts seem to fall from the sky already formed but in actual fact are the products of much prevarication and revision.  Given that none of the patriarchal texts lie on a firm foundation, despite the vigorous promotion of the opposite idea, monotheistic religion does not have a better leg to stand on than shamanistic texts.  The idea, “these texts are true because they have an authoritative source”, does not seem to hold up where patriarchal authority is shown to be multiple, historically variable, subject to the political climate and ultimately devoid of an actual God to assure the authenticity of all interpretations.Herein lies the advantage of shamanistic writing, in that it does not require one to first believe in anything in order to gain benefits from it.   One can read Carlos Castandena’s Don Juan without any concern as to whether it is a reliable text.   If Castaneda was in a sense Don Juan himself, having made up all the information and advice, the value of the text remains unaltered.   Psychological trickery is fundamental to shamanism, just as it is a means by which its wisdom can be communicated.    Nietzsche adoption of the tone of an old-testament prophet, despite being nothing of the sort and indeed inimical to the aims of religiously inspired persons, is a concession to the shamanistic spirit of mockery as a means for communicating wisdom. So if you come to the ultimate conclusion that you have been “had” by a shamanistic text, perhaps this is the principle lesson of life you needed learn all along: the meaning and value of skepticism.

According to the principles of shamanism, what one says doesn’t have to be True, but it has to work.   By contrast, patriarchal reasoning demands that something has to be true when it is based on authority.  However, it can neither show that its principles work, nor produce its authority.  One may not be better off with shamanistic texts, but at least one is not worse off.

Morality and the shamanic void

In much of my experience, I haven’t been a “valid human being” at all. I think that is the starting point for shamanic initiation — where one recognizes that one is not a valid human being in some sense. Then one loses one’s humanity and regains it — that is the definition of initiation.

You have to enter non-being. Then, that kind of sticks with you, and you don’t employ moral categories so readily.  There are no longer any ““valid human beings”, just the totality of human experience, for better or worse.

A “valid human being”, for instance, is a moral category implying person-hood, with all that this entails according to people’s trained or educated notions as to what differentiates people from each other. So, on the basis of my education and training concerning “validity” I may come to certain conclusions about the kind of person who is valid, what characteristics they have, how they conduct themselves, their ontological status (as being redeemed by “God” or by morality, or by virtue of the state granting them their “rights”) or what have you. So, I’ll have a certain image of that person, perhaps very distinct, or perhaps rather fuzzy. In any case, I’ve created a categorical demarcation as to what constitutes validity in a human being.

This logically and practically also implies that I have it in the back of my mind as to what would make a human being “invalid”. So, maybe that kind of person would be immoral, evil, strange, not my color of skin, or whatever. In any case, I’ve set up a mental barrier that mediates my experience of the world on the basis of categories of “valid” or “invalid”.

For instance, like a certain male feminist writer does, I might mentally erect a category of oppressed people who have great validity as human beings. On the basis of that, I’d start to show great indulgence and forbearance in relation to these oppressed people. It may happen, though, that mediation of reality through defining a category of oppressed (versus less oppressed or not oppressed) means I can’t experience the shades of grey that make up the world as it actually is. There’s too much mediation of reality and not enough direct experience of it. That’s what moral categorizing does.

By contrast, entering non-being means we can open our minds a bit more, after we are not afraid of losing some structure and entering the void.

The meaning of amoralism, according to Nietzsche and Bataille is to become wilder, stronger in oneself, more independent and less tame. This is not a moral injunction that everybody has to do it. You can try it or not attempt it. It’s not even an issue of having the power of free choice. One can be seduced into trying shamanism, or one can avoid it. There are no transcendental principles governing this choice.

***

NOTE: Nietzsche’s amoralism is viewed most commonly as lauding the rights of the oppressors to oppressor whomever they please. But that view assumes a very morally delimiting perspective, as it makes it out that he was maintaining a moral position on who gets to oppress who. He isn’t.
Bataille’s dalliances with prostitutes have also been criticized for their immorality. But that was precisely the point of Bataille’s actions, to slip out of the grasp of morality.
Thirdly, the idea of renouncing judgement on people would need to acquire a moral motivation since it is a categorical distinction — i.e. that it is a good idea to renounce judgement on others.

Shamanism is not about establishing a moral position but about exploring a psychological void where making moral distinctions has not yet become automatic for you.

 

Handling it on one’s own

After migration, there was an  issue of weird and confusing stereotyping, which fed me the wrong sort of information.  I have since been led to understand that PROBABLY a cultural stereotype was at work, as well as most certainly a gender stereotype.  This information I received, fundamentally another culture’s stereotypes about my identity, made it very difficult for me to get the information I needed to make the necessary cultural adjustments.

It didn’t help too much that I spent the first few post-migratory years not communicating, and then when I did, I spoke about my problems, which had become substantial by then.  I couldn’t understand things fundamentally.  That was my most significant issue. I hadn’t been brought up to understand the world I’d been transferred into.   I spoke English and was white, so I didn’t look like I should be having cultural problems, yet I was.

Ten years down the track and it was becoming clear that I was out of step with all sorts of cultural expectations.   Actually, this may or may not have been true, but it was my sudden analysis, bought on by a heavy episode of dysfunctional workplace exposure.   My project to adapt and adjust, in order to “save myself” became extreme — my motivations became extremely energized.  I looked around for all sorts of advice. I mean, how does one stop the abuse?  Is there some form of conformity that assures it comes to an end?

People told me that there surely was:  I had to get off my high horse and stop being so “sensitive”.   So I took that lesson to heart.  I developed a rude and abrasive manner.  I also tried not to feel anything much at all, unless it was the anger and aggression that had been building up over a number of years.   I sought the ideal solution to defuse this anger and aggression, by joining the army.  I would blow up people, and then the anger and aggression would be out of me and into them.  It was uncomfortable to have so much rage building up, but if I got off my high horse and mixed it with the worst of them, I would surely find a way to move beyond such an uncomfortable inner state.

I learned a great deal from this period of time how it is possible to be extremely calm whilst enduring a state of rage.  I had a bomb ticking inside me and I had to find a way to manually defuse it.  If it did harm in a socially acceptable way, I was fine with that.

I also found it was quite possible to be comfortably alone with my inner state, with no sensitivity at all.  I could respond to people and at times present outward emotions without feeling any inner change at all.

I never forgot, even for a moment, that I had only one goal — and that was an issue of my life and death — to defuse this inner dynamite in the safest way possible.

Undoing identity, undoing fascism

The primitive components of our brains are preoccupied with setting invisible boundaries that are defined by social inclusion or exclusion is .   Nationalism, sexism, racism and all other forms of social identity rely on this primeval mechanism of division and exclusion.

We can’t directly fight these aspects of our thinking, since they are part of our way of structuring the social realm. This part includes certain members socially by exclusion and scapegoating.  “Projective identification” creates negative identities  by scapegoating, whereby those who are perceived to be outsiders of the group are made out to represent the kinds of qualities the group doesn’t want to own as part of its identity.

Fear and pride predominate at this level of consciousness.

  Identity politics, which attempts to make us address our “privilege” has  failed on every level.   It has only led to infighting within the left, which has created a gigantic gap for those who are better organized on the right to perpetuate their agendas.  This they have done ever since the eighties, so that American society is effectively dominated by an extreme right-wing agenda.

Leftist identity politics is just like its right-wing counterpart.  It is wrong-headed because we cannot attack a part of our own humanity without failing.  It is better to understand the workings of the   primitive brain and use our knowledge to become more fully human, and not fight it as snooty moralistic ascetics.

Few people are aware that our brains create basic boundary divisions at an unconscious level.  More specifically, most people take the divisions they meet in the world as natural and logical.   Ethical groups all have essential qualities.   Zionists are crazed and wrong and Palestinians are noble.   That’s just how they seem to our naked eye.  Or, vice versa:   school teachers are leaching off our system and business men are here to help.  That, too, is visible to the naked eye, if one is brought up with the “right” forms of conditioning — that is if one has a pure, religious heart and fears the economic bust.

Just as being aware that the sun rises in the morning is not the same as commanding it to rise, being aware how the mind creates divisions does not mean that one applauds them.

For instance, much has been suggested, in the past, that Georges Bataille, who engaged with the psychology of fascism and understood the psychological states involved in it, must necessarily be a “left fascist” himself.   After all, why study something, unless one in fact is the object one is studying?   If one is not lifting up the sun with one’s eyelids, why claim that the sun actually exists?

I have Michael Richardson to thank for pointing me to Georges Bataille’s shamanism, at least in the sense that Richardson conceives that Bataille’s emphasis on “facing death” was shamanistic and that it was Bataille’s intent to cure himself via this method.

Another trope of shamanism is boundary crossing:

[S]hamans are men in some cultures, either men or women in others, and biologically male transvestites in still others. Some Inuit cultures are especially well-known for their association of shamanism with cross-dressing. If we wish to think about this in terms of symbolic classification, it seems quite logical that crossing one symbolic boundary, that between the sexes, should be made to “stand for” another symbolic boundary-crossing, the bridging of the gap between humans and the supernatural. [David Hicks, quoted by University of Waterloo]

Whereas I’ve heard it mentioned, in a class at university, that Georges Bataille engaged in cross-dressing, to learn about the other side of consciousness he was repressing, I have been unable to trace any written references to this effect.   That is to my regret, for it makes entirely logical sense that Bataille would have engaged in this kind of experience, given his other shamanistic proclivities (documented by me elsewhere).

Dambudzo Marechera, whose writing I’ve also pointed out as being shamanistic, was a  quintessential boundary crosser:

Hell is crossing the railway line

In dark mood on a dark night

This railway line would have been between differently segregated parts of town, in racially segregated Rhodesia.

Crossing boundaries gives us access to experiences we have earlier avoided, but without being aware of our avoidance thanks to the operation of the primitive parts of our human brains.

Shamanistic crossings thus undo the boundary-making that our lizard brains have formulated.   Transgression breaks through the code of primitive thinking, and expands our minds.

There’s nothing necessarily primitive about breaking down primitive unconscious processes, even though the means themselves may seem strange and dangerous to us.   “Watch out!” Primitive lizard brain warns us.  “Boundaries of identity are there to preserve you.  Breaking them down will be dangerous to your health!”

Still, the shaman must be master of the lower mind: This isn’t fascism,  this is the denial of fascism; its undoing.

Shamanistic learning: my stages of progress

Often I’ve been my own worst enemy in life, because of my intense need for the world to simply make sense to me.   When we are in situations where we are really vulnerable, as I was for a long time as a new migrant,  we have one primary need, that is the need to understand how things work.   To have no control over one’s circumstances whatsoever is extremely frightening.  To have a little control, through understanding how things work, can often mean the difference between keeping one’s head above water and the sensation that one is sinking rather dramatically.

Thus, one tries to read purposes and reasons into people’s actions when one can’t directly make sense of them.    That way, one feels a little “in control” even when the reasons one furnishes to explain the negative situations are themselves of a negative nature.   At least, now, there is an internal logic to the situation, even if the logic one is able to discern seems to be acting against one’s well-being.  Making sense of reasons means one can work within a situation that would otherwise simply be too shocking — not just for its hostile character, but for it unintelligibly.

Reading meaning into situations where one is not really sure of what the situation means, because nobody has  explained it to you, has a downside.   One ends up making people’s hostility seem more logical than it is.   I realize that as a white migrant from Zimbabwe, I attracted a lot of politically motivated hostility.   The trouble was I couldn’t see it for what it was — an abstract style of aggression against someone of my origins.   Instead, I tried to find a personal angle, because if it was related to something I was doing personally, I could  correct that.    To see things in a personal light meant I had more chance of taking control.  And I needed that sense of control more than air itself.

My habit of trying to discern reasons, where there were none, began out of this original state of migrant trauma.    Somehow, my capacity to generate reasons generated a very positive outcome.  I began to see the world as being much more intelligent than it was.  Indeed, everything I encountered seemed to be animated by a very high level of intelligence.   Barring the moments when someone lets you down by failing to live up to the wonderful expectations of high intelligence, the world seemed to reverberate with a sense of living being.   As I was becoming more aware of everything around me, I was projecting my own intelligence and being into things.   Those things radiated back to me my own intelligence, in a way that made all sorts of actions seem to be noble, and striving for something higher.

I still didn’t have explanations for some forms of behavior I’d experienced in my past, but now almost everything seemed to have a logical reason and purpose behind it.   That I was the originator of my sense of  there being reason and purpose in all things escaped me.

This changed as I completed my thesis, and learned about the wide variations of experience that come from altered states of consciousness.  We experience the world as we are, not as it actually is.   Of course, this doesn’t mean good or bad experiences originate from us, but rather that we can develop different ways of coping with those aspects, be they good or bad.

Nowadays, I’m inclined to withdraw my intellectual projections from the world at large.  I see it more as it is — that is, there is a lot of randomness and a lot of people rushing around who sometimes make errors of judgement, since the world obeys no metaphysical principles, as such.

I’m not sure what intellectual shamanism has taught me. I know myself better — but that self is always subject to change.   More generally, I’m not threatened by anything anymore.  I realize that what I was most threatened by before was (1) not understanding anything (2) my own intelligence, projected into others, that then began working against me.

I consider I’ve made satisfactory progress for my age.

Gaining independence from an early age

In attempting to fill in the areas of psychology that Freud left blank, Samuel Slipp considers the writings of those who came after Freud, who are concerned with very early childhood psychology and female identity as other than a form of deviance from a putative “normative” masculinity. The attempts by Nancy Chodorow and others to formulate a “psychology of the feminine” are presumably well-known.

Unfortunately, these efforts end up essentializing gender, since they deny, in their calculations, any variables that could influence childhood development apart from the basic binaries of “male and female”, which they take for granted.   The polarities of physics are seemingly invoked in the idea that there exists a stronger repulsive force of the male child with his mother than in there is between the female child and hers.   Separation is hard, apparently, if you are female.   This is a categorical oversimplification, all the same.   There are many other factors, apart from those relating to biology, sexuality or anatomy, that could lead to results other than those assumed.   My experience was of having to get away from both parents, because they often fought, in front of me, about what perceptions they were causing me to have, and how I should be raised.  I was extremely alert to the contradictions that came as reversals – the noisy resolutions that suddenly appeared out of nowhere.  First it was not okay to sit on a wall marked private property, and then it was necessary to do so, so that I could have my photo taken.

I learned to escape my parents control whenever  possible.  Both were too full of tricks and told me little of what I needed to know.   One may also want to escape from painful emotional contradictions, such as hearing what’s not allowed without a doubt, and then trying to understand how the idea of what’s permitted was turned on its end.  Within two painful minutes,”expressly forbidden” had become “necessary and compulsory for you.”

Having very young parents who weren’t quite sure what “impression” they ought to create for me, who thought it important to build one, and who nonetheless vastly underestimated my capacity to watch and understand their vacillations, meant I sought freedom from control whenever possible.   I became a loner,  quite happily involved with my own games.

I never had any doubt that my parents deeply cared for me. Apart from these troubling moments, I felt very secure.  I remember my father walking ten or eleven paced behind me shouting, “She’s getting away, she’s getting away!”  Even if I succeeded in running away from them (which they literally tricked me into thinking I was doing on the beach at Beira, aged about 2),  I felt sure I would end up somewhere interesting and safe.

Neither my biology nor my gender caused me to seek independence from my caregivers, ultimately. That was down to  the positive and negative aspects in my upbringing.  These feelings and support fired my quest for freedom at a very early age.

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Patriarchal power has been normalized to date, and not critiqued by the important figures of Western intellectual culture.

One reason for this is suggested by writer, Samuel Slipp*, who holds that it was because Freud had abandonment issues with his mother, which prevented him from viewing his relationship with his mother in a logical, correct and consistent way. Due to his unstable connection with his mother, he was unable to make any inroads into “feminine psychology“.  Perhaps “human psychology as it pertains to women” would have been a better term.

In any case, from a young age Freud’s psyche was split between seeing his mother in a wholly positive and wholly negative light. He would have had to understand his own psychology in relation to his mother to make sense of hers, but the “light” kept changing on him, due to early developmental issues.

As an important side note: It is my considered view that “feminine psychology” is a practical outcome of patriarchal power dynamics. In my view, an understanding of social dimensions and their changing nature is vital, or else one ends up with the metaphysical postulates one had started with. If women are necessarily “passive” — so be it. That is a fundamental truth of metaphysics. If one has accepts this, one will not be able to turn up any evidence to the contrary, no matter how widely one may look. It is of vital importance, therefore, to differentiate metaphysics (with its religious basis) from genuine science, which is always alert to measuring the changing world “out there”.

But, patriarchal approaches to psychology have ruled supreme, even up until today. What this means is that a certain degree of pathology — including Freud’s own, indicated by a lack of knowledge of “the psychology of the feminine” — has become normalized. Patriarchal dynamics, insofar as they exert a negative and pathological effect on those who come under them, have not at all been understood. Although feminists and sociologists are well aware of the negative outcomes of power as suppression, psychologists, in my experience, lag behind.

I have already written broadly about my father’s experiences with his mother. His father had been shot down in a plane over the ocean, during World War Two. I’m uncertain of the details, except that he was a radio-man in the back of the plane and was fighting on the British side of the war. My father grew up to hate his mother, due to similar abandonment issues to those Slipp describes with regard to Freud. Only, my father’s abandonment issues were more extreme. He also dealt with them differently from Freud. Rather than retaining an unconscious (that is, not intellectually integrated) ambivalence toward his mother, he developed contradictory principles to live by.

The first principle my father internalized was that one must, unconditionally, obey authorities to gain permission to thrive. This was a message from his mother, whose marriage of convenience had allowed my father to have a source of financial sustenance. She had obeyed the patriarchal principle of finding a male breadwinner, in order to support her child, my father.   There was no social security system in Rhodesia   Consequently, he had to also learn to obey this principle of necessity unconditionally. “Even though this new power over you is arbitrary and alien, you must obey it unconditionally.”

The second principle my father had internalized was that unconditional obedience leads to pain, abandonment and a life where one doesn’t get to decide the final meaning of anything. It’s inadvisable to follow this path. My father, in many unguarded moments, made it extremely clear to me that the path of unconditional obedience also leads to relentless, inescapable misery.

My father’s subconscious communication to me has always been in terms of two opposing principles: I command you to submit to all authorities without condition. I also caution you that this path leads to the most extreme form of unhappiness there is on Earth. If you do accept this formula for living, be aware that you will be extremely miserable. Nobody can help you here.”

So I learned a great deal from my father about how not to conform, under pain of risking my very sense of being.

My father’s principles were tricky, though. He’d placed a great deal of emphasis on the side of unconditional obedience. Indeed, he’d label any difficulties in life as being related to an inability to unconditionally trust.

Thus, when I faced some problems in my life, due to taking others at their word too much, which is related to my right-wing culturally conditioned naiveté,  he would always label the problem in the exact opposite terms. “You’re not trusting enough! Your belief in authorities is too conditional.” I learned that this wasn’t so when my father tried to break down my sense of independence, to teach me to “trust”. Once again, it was a contradictory message: “If you give up your power to authorities, you will lose the pain that’s brought about by separateness.” The addendum was: “Only — from experience, I can tell you that this solution to your problems will induct you into desperate and suicidal misery!”

Of course, I decided not to trust my father on this. It was not only his logical consistencies, but his emotional urgency that persuaded me against developing too deep a trust.

Still, there were people who could not help but see things entirely his way. They were people who thought they were on his side, but were actually working against him, because they sided with unconditional trust of all authorities, no matter who they were. That is, they supported the idea that no matter what troubles it had already bought us, the patriarchal structure of paternal authority was correct.  Thus they made the faith-based assumption that if I conformed to my father’s requirements, all would be well. But his own experience, as it had become semi-articulate, had warned me against this.

To trust unconditionally is to cast one’s fate to the winds:  It is to open oneself to any violent storm that may be passing. My father’s integrity had designated this a bad option. I also couldn’t side with unconditional acceptance. This was a demand that came from my father’s would-be allies. Their demands nearly undid me. I had to fight was so fiercely to keep my sense of self.

There are those who read my memoir and decided that my fight for independence from authoritarian control was all wrong. I’ve had those who, in opposition to my father’s semi-articulate plea not to trust the formula of all-acceptance, have demanded that unconditionally I accept a new way of life in Australia. There are also those who cannot understand why I will not conform to my father’s requirements to become his unconditionally accepting mother. I should be the punching bag against which his desperate emotions raged.   It should be clear to them that any child is not equipped to be their father’s mother — to unconditionally accept them, so that they can move beyond the early childhood stage of confusion into adult maturity.

Those who would lay on me the heavy burden of being my father’s mother, correcting the past through controlling the present, have no idea what they are doing to me. A child cannot accept an adult’s burdens — and the story of my memoir is how I had accepted them for too long.

There are all sorts of situations that disturb me profoundly because they seem to be demanding of me, as a woman, that I give my trust and approval to them without nuance or critical distancing measure. I am to accept any authority without questioning or investigating whether it is good or bad.  These situations paralyze me with a threat of annihilation. I can’t engage emotionally with such demands. I’m overwhelmed with numbness.  I disengage.

For my whole life, there are those who have tried to force me to become the pre-Oedipal mother of my father, in the belief that “father knows best” and submitting to authority without question is the norm. In response, I’ve feared every situation that demanded I give my trust, without restriction. Not giving my trust in this way has been the only measure between me and my absolute destruction.  I have often saved my life that way.

Others like to assume this disengagement is related to my ego. I must have such a gigantic ego that I can’t engage with people who demand my absolute acceptance.

The opposite is the case as I am preserving my ego when I disengage. I can’t deal with being anybody’s early childhood mother, or with giving them my wholehearted trust, regardless of their real behavior.

*  Samuel Slipp’s book, The Freudian Mystique, usefully suggests why the psycho-dynamics of patriarchal family structures did not come under scrutiny via Freud.

 

MY REVIEW OF BLACK SUNLIGHT

Marechera’s Black Sunlight is the most shamanistic of all his writing. The book invites us to undergo, with him, a recapitulation of the past – meaning the specific historical past of Rhodesia, and the psychological states that were common to it during the time of the bush war. The term, “recapitulation”, has a specific meaning in terms of shamanism (a term taken from Carlos Casteneda’s books).

To recapitulate one’s past, one must first have a need to do so. This is not to say that all traumas can be recovered from, since some cut too deeply for the one who desires healing to be able to benefit from a recapitulation. Black Sunlight is a novel that invites us to go along with the author as he re-experiences traumatic past events. The book expresses his mental anguish, as it relates to the anti-colonial revolution in Rhodesia.

Marechera invites his readers to go on this highly subjective inner journey, where everything that we would hold to be true and fixed and objective about the world seems to melt into the air, and we are left only with a feeling of complete immersion in the emotions of the time, increasing to an ultimate sense of paranoia and terror as the reader is positioned on the side of the anarchist revolutionaries against the encroaching Rhodesian security forces.

The recapitulation is highly effective – for his psychological approach and aesthetics force us to confront ourselves in “immanence” – meaning in terms of the dynamics of an infant’s early consciousness, before a reality-based ego had been developed. (In terms of Kleinian theory, this is a return to the very early part of the consciousness relating to infancy, which can be understand as a “paranoid-schizoid position“.)

It is hardly surprising that shamanic journeying leads to insights about the psyche and how it can become better grounded. One risks living too much on the surface of reality if one overlooks the engulfing side of nature; the possibility of the loss of self. It is the character of “Susan” who represents the dangerous side, rapacious and engulfing. (We are later to understand the encounter was as a result of having taken the protagonist’s drugs.)

Self-knowledge comes from understanding and accepting that life has two aspects: nurture and aggression. We, ourselves, embody both sides, and accepting this fact enables us to go on towards psychological freedom.

The author’s self-revelation in the final passages of the book, naked and wet, triumphant from his fight with nature but entirely despairing of his negative experiences — reveals to us once and for all, that it is impossible to overcome the fact that reality and nature have two opposing sides. Also: Marechera finds a model for postcolonial metaphysics that is based on something other than blind revenge. It is a very peculiar motion, if you read his novella, BLACK SUNLIGHT.  He starts of with blind revenge and ends up with shamanistic catharsis. It’s very strange to experience this transition with him.

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.

 

Power/identity through perversion

Jennifer: The system exerts a tremendous amount of force to push us into certain roles and into adopting certain “perceptions”.
 
 
Karen: As opposed to a powerful and intrinsic knowledge of one’s own gender/race equality and right.Oh yes…prescribed or recreational drugs are certainly a big keeps of the status quo.
 
 
Jennifer:  Well the “intrinsic” knowledge can also be wrong and limiting. That’s why I propose the shamanistic thing of self-knowledge through perverting the dominant paradigm. i.e. create various perversions of it and find out if any of those are  suitable for you.

Note: The term, “perversity”, offers an ironic take on this matter above, since those who defend the dominant paradigm will always view any kind of creativity in dissent as “perverse”.

GASLIGHTING by applying preconceived identity categories

AN “us versus them” mentality is a basic part of our brain structure. The more stressed we are, the more we will tend to employ these categorical distinctions unconsciously.

In Western cultures, knowledge is considered to be very important. It is viewed as an indispensable sign of competence, especially in levels of society above blue collar working class (which probably explains why I find blue collar types much more companionable).

Unfortunately, what happens when people encounter some phenomenon that they don’t fully understand, instead of slowing down and giving it their full attention, they speed up, wanting to cover themselves with a sense of competence, by asserting what they think they “know” about it. This is likely done in a state of extreme stress, with the threat of ‘failure’ (in terms of not knowing) hanging over one’s head. The effect is a form of psychological abuse, whereby a person is fit into a particular category of identity and deemed to have certain attitudes and dispositions that they can’t remember ever having expressed. If enough people hold that the category of identity has some independent meaning that determines the thinking of the individual, the subject can start to feel as if they’re going mad. Their own experiences have little in common with projected notion of who they are. It’s the individual versus mob mentality.

I have detected that pattern that when people are not listening carefully to what I am saying, but are instead drawing sketchy and categorical conclusions about ‘identities’, this is usually because they are in a state of stress because they fear being shown up for having a lack of knowledge in certain areas.

A state of stress leads to the imposition of a narrow and categorical identity. The one who does this does not intend to do any more or less than deal with a feeling of urgency and uncertainty, to make it depart. These sensations nonetheless guarantee that one will draw one’s conclusions in an “us versus them” way, rather than rationally and empirically.

You need to realise what is going on — that people are ‘thinking’ about you in a regressive way because your type of existence (or your words) makes them feel their knowledge is inadequate. They don’t like that feeling. They are trying to expel it by means of a primitive form of jiu jitsu. They’re trying to make things seem simpler than they are.

The experience of intellectual shamanism is remedial because it acclimatizes one to endure ‘nonknowledge’, neutral consciousness, or formlessness. One can learn to be at ease with not understanding everything — and that way, more information about the world can be obtained, with a minimisation of the use of narrow-minded defence mechanisms.

 

Patriarchal power: an insidious double-bind that undermines mental health

Patriarchy creates a “double-bind” for women who live under its system. Women are expected to concede that patriarchy is entirely rational and reasonable and that they are treated well under it. Those who do not concede this are treated as if they are both irrational and unreasonable, though patriarchal projection, and are candidates for re-education.

The question that patriarchal logic does not permit is whether it is reasonable to expect women to live happily under a system of patriarchy. This  indicates that patriarchy is an ideological system that is concerned with maximizing its control.

In Medieval times, a woman who gained social power was subjected to a patriarchal “test” to see whether her heart was pure. For her to be proven pure, she had to lose her will to live. Should she fail the test, by maintaining her struggle to survive, she was shown to be of impure heart. This meant that she was condemned to die for her sins.

The particular test was the dunking of witches: “If they floated they were guilty of witchcraft, if they sank they were innocent but would have usually drowned anyway.”

Under the existing patriarchal culture, the dunking of witches no longer occurs in a literal way. This does not mean that the fear of witches has disappeared from patriarchal consciousness, only that it has weakened somewhat. In another sense, however, the method of removing “witches” from society has been refined and made more subtle. These days, a “witch” is someone who is angry at having to live under patriarchal control.  While her “evil” status is more figurative, the measures taken against her are no less real than in the past.

Although one’s will to live is expressed in terms of this righteous anger, the patriarchal system views this anger as being indicative of an impure attitude concerning its system of power relations. Only a docile woman, accepting of patriarchal control, is acceptable. The angry woman has to be punished, to bring her into the state of submission of her docile sister.

Only then will she be considered to have been “redeemed”. But, by what?

In the olden days, it was claimed that Christianity had finally saved her, the drowned witch.   Now, it is claimed not too differently, that “rationality” and reason have saved her from her inner savagery. In neither case is she actually saved. Nor are the attributed causes of her “salvation” in any way true.

Rather: it is raw patriarchal power that has destroyed her in both cases.

The dogma of "woman versus reason"

Our quintessential problem  is the way that the idea of “woman” as as such has been encoded, culturally and psychologically, by patriarchal systems. A lot of our rhetorical fire is absolutely wasted, just because of the reflex that patriarchy reproduces in people, that “woman = irrationality”.

Feminists can take a lot of time pointing out that woman are being treated badly, that our treatment is extremely irrational, but ultimately what registers in people’s minds is that the object, woman as such, is an irrational object, and hence that it is not logically possible to treat an irrational object in a rational way.

The reason patriarchies encode “woman = irrationality” is because of the relationship that males have with their sex drives. They must often experience the need to repress their sexuality in order to embrace “reason”.  From this, comes the feeling that sexuality is opposed to reason. Equating “woman” as such with one’s sexual feelings is a small leap for most men, leading them to the patriarchal conclusion that “woman” and “reason” are diametrically opposed.

Protest as we will, our criticisms fall on deaf ears. Those men who are imbued with patriarchal values and perspectives already implicitly understand that women are not treated in a rational or reasonable fashion. But they also take if for granted that it is simply not possible to do so, given the formula:  woman = irrationality/my sex drive.

Of course, the principle works in the opposite direction, too:  men who treat their sex drive as an irrational part of themselves will have difficulty finding willing sex partners or enjoying sex.

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.

masculinity as a product of Western metaphysics

There’s a sinister little trick of Western metaphysics, and one has to examine it closely in order to understand its mechanism. (It is a much different thing to understand its results.) A sense of how this sinister rhetorical trick works has been lurking at the sidestream of my consciousness for several years, but it took Samuel Slipp ( The Freudian Mystique), and more indirectly Georges Bataille, to make its features plain to me.You see, Western masculinity, more often than not, is a product of rhetoric. Whether or not it exists prior to the imposition of this rhetoric, by which it sinks or swims, is difficult to say. What is certain is that the rhetoric intervenes to make a subject either masculine or feminine.

Bataille, of course, uses it against Nietzsche, to prove that he was self-defeating. (I understand this manouevre as an expression of Bataille’s will to power.) Nietzsche, he said, had a will to fall.

“How was that?”, you may well ask.

Well, he ended up hugging a horse in Turin, after he broke down from all the strain. His philosophy led him to that point, obviously, and consequently this must have been his unconscious goal all along. Touché . Or “hoisted with his own petard,” as the Brits of yore might have intoned.

For, masculinity, according to Samuel Slipp, was in Europe metaphysically described and circumscribed by the concept of the active will. Logically, then, for something to happen to you that you had not actively willed to happen, would take you outside of the boundaries of masculinity into unknown territory — perhaps territory that was fatefully “feminine”.

So Bataille was both “saving” Nietzsche’s masculinity and also scoring a point against him when he attributed what may have been a product of fate alone to Nietzsche’s active will: Nietzsche wanted to fall from grace because he had an Icarian complex, Bataille said.

According to Slipp, Freud was in on the same gig of masculinity creation. Except that it was primarily his own masculinity that Freud was creating, by using the logic of “active will” to imply that he was no feminine Jewish dame (an ethnic slur popular during his time). That is, his conceptual system had to posit only “active forces” so as not to be seen as being corruptly Jewish.

Unfortunately this logic of “active will” resulted in Freud seeing incest survivors as subjects who energetically seduced their parents. Passive victimisation would not do as a conceptual construct. The subjects had to be depicted as being at the centre of an active will. Like Bataille’s Nietzsche, then, they could also be seen as being instrumental in orchestrating their own demise.

Western masculinity, as per the above, is a product of a rhetorical device that is nothing if not contrived. This rhetorical device has a tendency to make anyone whose life isn’t 100 percent perfect look like a self-defeating asshole. It’s also very easy to defeat a Western masculinist purely on the basis of his own logic, by pointing out some of the failures in his life and insinuating that he must have wholly intended them, if he is to be masculine at all.

Detachment: shamanic knowledge versus Meltzer’s "object relations"

I now conclude that the “epistemophilic” instinct, spoken of by Meltzer, is something very different from shamanic knowledge, at least as I have studied it in Marechera. The epistemophilic instinct leads to the generation of an ideological framework. You look at the world in terms of ideology — but an ideological framework is really only a framework for an abortive/masturbatory epistemology. Ideology is a claim to knowing that doesn’t come in touch with the real world. It believes it does — and yet it doesn’t.

Shamanistic knowing may encounter the seduction of essentialism (like the epistemophilic instinct encounters in order to produce its ideological outcome — which is overgeneralising about ideologically pre-formulated ‘natures’.)

Tellingly, the perspective of the shaman who RETURNS from natal or early post-natal experience is defined by a capacity for detachment from objects, rather than a state of immersion in them as the object relations school would have it . Thus, shamanistic experience produces a state akin to Buddhistic transcendence of the subjective social relations (i.e. it ultimately transcends the early infant’s consciousness that psychoanalysis describes as  “object relations”).

 

the madonna versus the medusa

It seems to me that the purpose of the psychological concept of “the feminine” (–I am always wondering what that is–) is to create a definite gestalt (foreground-background outline) for feminine figures. The conceptual characteristics of “the feminine” are initially sought for, in the preliminary wandering of the eye over the field. Finally, once they are alighted upon, the outline of a “feminine” character comes into view. This is reassuring, since one has found what one was looking for.

Supposing, however, one sets out in anticipation of discovering a feminine object. One perceives, in the field of vision, certain characteristics that roughly align with denotations of “the feminine”. Yet, ultimately, the outline is not firm, the characteristics keep wavering, the object of vision seems to continue to shift. Would not the failure of the potential “feminine object” to stay within the lines of conceptual demarcation of femininity produce the sense of a “part object” rather than a whole object? The failure to encounter a “whole object” through the conceptual lens of “femininity” (the search for the feminine object) is likely to produce persecutory anxiety, as perception of part-objects refers the mind back to the paranoid-schizoid position of early childhood.

Is it possible that the inherent structural failure of the concept of “femininity” to return to the perceiver a pure enough feminine object, leading in turn to perscutory anxiety as one is left with only a “part object” (the parts of the object that remain feminine), is the cause of misogyny? The failure of the object to appear consistently with the characteristics expected of it produces a shattering of perception, which is threatening to the would-be perceiver of the complete feminine object. This is starting to sound a lot like castration anxiety, but I believe it is only partly related to that — since here the mechanism of “castration” is in the faulty conceptualisation of “the feminine” as well as in the faulty anticipation of it.

Anyway, my experiences tell me that I’m onto something here. Those who do not encounter an outline of the object, which consistently represents “feminine” qualities, in a way that since the gestalt is firm, would be soothing, tend to encounter a Medusa instead, and this is not because of anything that women are doing, but due to a faulty conceptualisation of “the feminine”.

Marechera’s little Pattison

It is not just that the British critic  Pattison and the African writer Marechera are not in the same intellectual league at all, that irks me most about P’s critique of M. Rather, it is that they are not in the same psychological league. It is clear from P’s points of reference — the importance he attaches to civility at all costs, to propriety in terms of giving proper lip-service to one’s parents, and to never plumping up ones resume by claiming that one was doing something for a reason other than the one you really had — that P’s life has been relatively easy, and free of the kinds of storm clouds that could produce real moral dilemmas.

It is Pattison’s vulgar tendency to posture that one proves one’s sanity by abject conformity to the unexamined mores that P, himself, holds dear, that really proves that P and M are not in the same moral league either. M had empathy for those experiencing hard times — and was honest about those situations where his instincts drew a line, cautioning him against any further engagement. Pattison goes in entirely another direction for he demands a purer degree of social compliance from those whom he has hardly known. It seems that the issue of holding onto one’s sanity by unlikely means — by avoiding situations that unsettle it, for instance — does not satisfy P at all. He does not seem to be able to tolerate the fact that somebody who would have been driven crazy by his circumstances found a way to survive them, despite socially systemic pressures that would have floored a poorer mind (or, even more commonly, driven the poorer mind into dull resignation, an unconscious commitment to slavery of the spirit). No. Pattison wants the purest form of social compliance there is — the kind of compliance that takes a job at the Ministry of Information and is so simple of heart and mind that this suffices as life, driving the embattled subject into a deeper and pervasive madness that is purer in its form for being abject, absolute and finally irrevocable.

Pattison hankers for the purest kind of madness that is available to raw humanity. He presses in for his reward —  to bring into abject conformity every aspect of the wild human spirit.

Pathological magical thinking in the pre-Oedipal mode

First, a qualification:  I’m with Jungians in accepting that not everything about “pre-Oedipal” thinking, including magical thinking, is necessarily entirely bad, false and regressive.

After all, if we accept the premise that at the earliest stages of childhood development, we all experienced the world in this way at once stage.  To then hold that early childhood a purely negative or purely psychotic state is to impugn it.  Rather, it is more logical to imagine that early childhood gives us the raw material for becoming adults, including the liquidity that enables us to transform from a raw state of infancy to particular cultural expressions of adulthood.

So, there is likely a creative and productive potential to pre-Oedipal thinking.  Yet, if adults want to harness this force effectively, they must do it by doubling their consciousness, so that a more mature mindset does not lose complete control of those aspects of the self that remain irrational.  Unless this particular sense of shamanistic doubling is enacted, we would  be left with unharnessed and wholly unconscious pre-Oedipal states — which would then be destructive and simply regressive.

Ujheley gives a great explication of pre-oedipal states. Her writing and other texts I have investigated, suggest that part of this regressive mode of thinking involves an attitude that words, once said, are irrevocable, having an effect on others that we would equate with the same force of revelatory truth. Thus, from this regressive perspective there is no human fallibility, no possibility of struggling within an arena which includes both truth and error. Rather, by speaking my words, I make them definitively TRUE.

This literalist interpretation and speaking is of course extreme and odd. Ideas do not become TRUE just because we speak them. Yet, from the perspective of one who sees and experiences the world through the pre-Oedipal modality, all words spoken have what seems to be the FORCE of truth — just because he or she has no internal means for defending against them. Without the means to fend off other people’s judgements, for instance by putting them in perspective, (since emotional perspective is exactly that which one who is stuck at a pre-Oedipal level lacks), words themselves seem to be truths, that one must compulsively accept. Thus a word, once spoken, can never be modified.

Fundamentalist Christians often seem to process information in this way. From my personal experience, this mode of consciousness also happens to be a feature of right-wingers‘ political consciousness in many ways. Indeed, the vulgar ideology expressed by the Bu(l)shite neo-conservatives, that “The reality based community only researches reality, where we are the ones who actually create it,” would seem to stem directly from a regressive pre-Oedipal consciousness, whereby merely speaking your ideas suffices to turn them into intractable truths.

Joke-telling, however, relies implicitly upon the listener’s capacity to tell the difference between reality and illusion. Thus, things I have uttered in a very light-spirited, humorous vein, have often been used against me by right wingers, who go with their accusations with a reprimanding tone: “You once confessed that you were [some negative or shameful thing]!”

 

The pre-oedipal politics of the whole and its parts

The idea of the pre-Oedipal involves the idea of ‘the whole’ — such that one sees oneself as part of the whole – the mother and child together being experienced as an ecological and political whole. A pre-Oedipal perspective (in this same vein) also leads to seeing others as part of the same ontology as oneself. Thus others appear as “other selves”, rather than as those whose trajectories of life are necessarily independent and detached. Quite simply, if other lives intersect with one’s own, then the subjective nature of one’s perception of them makes them “other selves”. Magical thinking, projective identification, dissociation and splitting are all functions within a pre-Oedipal way of ascertaining the world, and in terms of the greater logic of the whole, parts of me may become parts of you and vice versa . In other words, the pre-Oedipal mode of perception employs psychodynamics which shift around parts of identities, within a basically unstable, but unified ‘whole’. Deleuze and Guattari make a great deal of this, in that they see the creation of “part objects” or “useful functions of a person” as being inherent to the way capitalism operates.

The metaphysics of good and evil: a sane insanity

I’m a little busy these days. David, upon return from Thai boxing training in Thailand has us all running around and doing things in a very proper manner. I am, as a consequence, developing a proper boxing stance, and my achilles tendon is crying.

As it screams, I think of Marechera, who was a “manfish” and to this extent in limbo or dead — “subtracted” from humanity himself. A manfish is a person who has drowned, and whose spirit becomes a fish. “I’ve been a manfish all my life. Maria, you did well to leave me. I must go.” And Maria, in the short story about the benevolent mould around the hut wall, signifying moisture as the blessing of the rains, is the blessing of organic life processes. The death of “Maria”, in his short story, is the effect of drought on Nature. Political awareness is the fruit of good and evil which, once eaten, signals the end of the innocent organic life lived in Eden. Marechera — a political, rather than spiritual fellow — is dead to his tribe.

Knowledge of good and evil (politics) equals death: this is the fundamental lesson from the Garden of Eden. And yet the infinity sign twists as we travel along its line, from one side to the other. Knowledge = the promise of power;a satanic delight. Marechera takes sides with the daemonic:. a product of the spiritual “other side”.

There are always two sides of the coin and one preserves this form of the human condition through self-awareness.  Being human: a kind of sane insanity.

growing pains

I’ve made some steady work towards putting all the necessary footnotes into my black sunlight paper now. I just need to acquire a couple more books from the library today, and I am set.

Yesterday evening I drank more than half a bottle of white wine and went to bed early. It is apparent that I am growing muscles in my upper arms and shoulders. Today my right bicept felt all hard and large as if I’d innoculated it the day before.

Glowing pains.

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.