So now I am learning more and more about the answer to the question that has perpetually stalked me. What would it have been like if I’d stayed in Zimbabwe?

Most people don’t have two selves — but I do! I have the self that was born to be conservative and a little bit privileged, but definitely playing the feminine role.

Then, I have the self who’s having none of this — who finds the whole conservative apparatus wholly oppressive, who cannot even fathom how some can live under and near it and not feel wholly oppressed themselves.

So there are these two selves, and one got suffocated. The other one got to live life. (The suffocation of my ‘conservative self’ happened in no small part because others were determined that I should have one; that I should remain conservative at all costs — but the costs proved to be far too high!)

But now I sense it: the “there is one road up” kind of motif. (Or to speak in a more complicated manner, “the road down is certainly not not the road up — as Marechera so provocatively (and no doubt defiantly) suggested.)

Conservative common sense — Yes! It’s now stuck in me like the barbs of so many poisoned arrows. I now “get” it, despite the fact that its outrun its course within a more complex and pluralistic first world society.

But I understand it now — or, at least, I think I do: How my world must have been had I had to hunker down and take all that was thrown, because of economic constraints.

I can see the poison logic of forcing all the members of your family into the feminine role, just to give them a chance at survival. It’s like selling your favourite parrot, after clipping its wings: “This bird will never fly far away from you, sah!”

That is to say: I understand conservative thinking, and how it makes a monkey out of man.

But for all that, I’ve escaped. I haven’t felt like I’d escaped for the longest time!

But the evidence is ….self-evident.

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).

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.

She was in her own black sunlight 2

From Gifts Without Presents: Economies of “Experience” in Bataille and Heidegger

Rebecca Comay

“Intimacy” would involve, then, not the transparency of identity, but
rather the opaque intransigence of what connects at the point of
greatest secrecy. “Normal” communication (in the “profane” sense of
correspondence and consensus) cannot be more fragile, therefore,
than when “sovereign communication” silently rules. The darkness
of “common subjectivity” (to use Bataille’s language) would thus be
prior to the communal mergers of intersubjectivity, at least as clas-
sically conceived.

Communication, in my sense, is in fact never stronger than when
communication, in the weak sense, in the sense of profane language
( . . . which makes us-and the world-penetrable) proves useless,
and becomes the equivalent of darkness. We speak in various ways to
convince others and to seek agreement. . . . This incessant effort . . .
would be apparently impossible if we were not first bound to one
another by the feeling of common subjectivity, impenetrable to itself,
and for which the world of distinct objects is impenetrable. 19, 3111

fighting foes!

Isn’t it wonderful when one’s enemies fight each other? Mister Mufti is completely correct in so far as pointing out that there are a lot of racial bigots in Australia. One doesn’t have to be a different colour from them to invite imposition by their finely tuned mechanisms of bigotry, either!

On the other hand Mister Mufti himself is no superior slab of meat. Would not any well behaved dog certainly turn up its nose at him?