Change

You, Man, go on, tear up the script. I want to see the edges of that paper tear the light when you do it. Sharp edges. Make splinters when you scour wood. And raw, inflamed, cold skin. Scrape it out.

 
And you, Woman, cold as fury, you shall be ice shards in the wood fence. The bits that will pierce him when he reaches for the gate. Unable to burn, you will disappear and leave naught but the thought that if this is winter there must have been another season, too.


Doors

‘Tis a terrible thing, isn’t it, to know that one is utterly responsible for every act, every instant, of this long and strange life…

How does one map the golden dust between the weight of this cross on one’s shoulders and the serenity of freedom? The smiles on all those sculptures say that freedom confers serenity. Others say justice is serene, or should be, and take solace in human formulations of transcendent law.

Crouching at the foot of all things tall–altars, crosses, saints, gods, statues– where do I put aside this bundle of grief? It seems out of place in thy philosophy. I cannot enter, my liege.


Sugarman, there is no why

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/movies/malik-bendjelloul-36-dies-directed-sugar-man-movie.html?_r=0

There is no why. Our questions are allowed, but no answers.

It is heady to flirt with the darkness and the light. Death is enormously seductive in its anonymity but not for those who want to go in and find anything out. You have to be willing to surrender, and do so without belief in a higher grace. That’s why, perhaps, suicide is called a sin; it sins against the possibility of hope, forgiveness, redemption and all that grace, and the agent takes all choice in hand, leaving none for a god. The witnesses cannot bear that. That loss of hope.

For the acteur, to choose death is a surrender unto the archetypal Servant, to consent to become a momentary mirror for whatever we see facing us. To have done with the broken knees of the world.

Is death so different then from the archetypal Lover, the dark eternal god? Both will be angered, because you have come to them before they asked for you, but the deed is done and they, being lovers, must still make it difficult for themselves to allow you to join them. So they ask for a price, a final discharging of debts before the merging. The shoulders of the world.


Reckoning

The poet, a man, had stacked body, heart, mind and god against himself.

I, being what I am, stack body against heart. There! The kindling is laid, and the cross.

 


Pillar and Tree

Tell me how to stand without wish, without desire. Even Kalpataru rears arrested by longings.

Tell me, how to prune to singular aim this multitudinous life, that in pursuit of one invisible longing one may find the flowering and the fruition of all the long years.

Tell me. Is it true?


The myth of reason

Now I take the part of madness and rage, of all malcontents, of Lavinia’s mother and Macbeth’s wife, of Malvolio and all poor tormented fools, and I shall tell you where it begins.

In unconsoled loss—till it becomes an obsession and hunger, feeding on itself, and the very world’s laughter is mockery of pain. And the ravaged heart shows itself in bitterness and distributed guilt.

‘Twould be better if I became the Fool, and not Malvolio, for sourness is unwelcome.  What does despair transgress?

The ground slopes away from several places here and all ways are open. One could go into quiet calm grief, ‘patience on a monument’ and be beloved.
Or one could change and become terrible and dark. One would be feared, Antigone and Medusa, but one would not be loved.
One could diminish and remain oneself, sweeter and calmer, and go into forgiveness.
One could always become the mad peddlar, flying insects on whirling strings, hurling a rain of abuses at everyone who dares the weather of thy mind.

Do you remember _Rudaali_?

In the echo, I say again: I rein myself in because these passions are mine alone. Mine to cherish, mine to burn, mine to parch and revive like the eternal seasons. I have made of these an airy cage, in whose soft light live the images of my obsession, cocooned in dreams. This is mine. In my few unfettered moments I am this. This boundary of freedom I draw with the reach of my stride, this ambit and wall of my heart, this momentary and forgotten gladness. And outside it the vast, sharp shapes of the world.

 


Wars of Justice

Arundhati Roy is an easy mascot and stereotype to measure women/postcolonials/Literary Studies folks from India, and as per usual I was asked to comment on this article on another forum. What follows shows why I did not give the expected answer.

There are many ways to arrange the dialectics of religion and land and state power; Roy uses only one. I am going to declare my scepticism about both sides of her particular alignment right away before I say the following:

1. We didn’t need Arundhati Roy to explain neo-colonialism or settler colonialism. For latter-day Rip van Winkles, corporations have long begun to run the world, India as it exists now is weak fry in this global techno-empire we all live in. No nation-state can oppose or close its borders to transnational money and remain insularly sovereign any more. To talk about India and Modi or any local point of politics, therefore, we need to also talk international geopolitics, risk and relief in this century, not extrapolate from the last century’s abortive trends.

2. The plight of the hundreds of millions on the bottom half of the ladder is not the fault of any one ‘evil thing’; many (as much as we) are complicit. That plight is also not unique to India. Many, many poor, working-class, indigenous and migrant populations are at risk, in almost every country. To agree to divide the good/evil of the world only along class and religious lines is a dangerous game. It led to the Partition; before we say ‘let it lead to the willful fracture’ of more nations I think we should be careful of what is waiting to take the place of the absence of existing power-structures. If we think, “Good fences make good neighbors” what kinds of fences and what kinds of neighbors can fit into that equation?

3. I don’t see anyone who claims to know what’s going on trying to actually allow the middle millions of India to decide for themselves. Most such speakers are trying to convince those millions to take one side or another in some great war against oppressors–state power, elite money, religion, etc. And on the basis of these efforts to ‘teach’ the population to direct their grievances this way or that, subnational groups are beginning to form affective solidarities based on negative identity and victimhood. These don’t make for good politics, national or international.

4. For all her idealism, I do not see a vision of future justice in Roy’s oppositional politics. The number of supporters of Roy and ‘the subaltern’ and ‘the minority’ I have seen do not inspire me with confidence when they share their ideas of future ‘justice,’ because usually identity politics based on grievances require as collateral damage much vengeance as well as the future subjugation of an oppressor population. The cycle of oppositional violence merely continues because the parties do not come to a table for negotiations, only for confrontations and zero-sum moves. Motivations where entire population groups salivate about drawing blood (however metaphorically) and reclaiming a lost ‘right’ by force are not what I want to see in politics in my lifetime.

5. Roy is the darling of militants from Kashmir, those who urge a ‘fight to the death’; a self-confessed ex-militant I met told me to write and remember like Roy. It was an eye-opening moment (a) to be treated like erring Hindu elite when caste and class and deed bar me from said club, (b) to be thought a usurper in a historically native subcontinent, (c) to be expected to support all victims everywhere, automatically, by virtue of my ethnic and gender identity, and through that support to righteously abdicate my previous religious/national/ethnic identity. And that moment told me that one cannot hold dialogue with, interact with or continue to live with final truths, ultimatums and guns.

6. To rephrase a familiar political and discursive motif from decades-old ‘postcolonial theory,’ who speaks for the subaltern? I. e., I wish to draw attention to the exact population groups Roy (and anyone who ventriloquizes Roy) is speaking for, and the relation (economic, political, structural, social and affective) of those groups to the rest of the population of the current Indian nation. The relation of the misery of those people to capital is not the only relation of concern; those people as individuals and as communities made some choices (free or not) and will have to continue to negotiate with whatever/whoever occupies the seat of power (Coca Cola, Bharat Sarkar, Monsanto, fill in the rest) if they want a viable future.

I don’t want to hear Roy speaking for them, I want to hear from them; it will have to be from their own ‘native informants’ first and then their own chosen representatives if possible. I cannot countenance filling in their silence and absence with Roy’s presence.

How do those people themselves understand their current situation? Who is explaining their current situation to them and to what gain? Who is going to explain to the rural dweller the hot urban ‘planet of slums’ we shall all inhabit in this century, one in which arable land, free water, affordable food and freedom of choice will become rarer by the decade? The numbers of the victimized will grow and their experiential positions will shift in the near future. Our sociological analysis of their growing crisis is one thing, ideological division of their worries and fears is another and inexcusable.

I repeat, all political solidarities now are transregional and even transnational. To then put religion and guns and gender and caste into anti-capitalist arguments but to keep out other cultural/economic/international security factors is too deliberately facile and too dangerous.

 

References:

The ‘Subaltern.’ Discursive and conceptual term in postcolonial theory. Quick read here.

Mike Davis. Planet of Slums. Verso, 2006.


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