We have some actual something left, at this particular juncture: transcultural cubism. We are now back to writing. For example, in Canadian literature, generations have missed the apocalypse. The horror and beauty they were an extension of. You can’t hear the screams. It’s not there at all.
If you got this far upriver, you knew that. You know there are only memories of nations. That memoir and biography just will not do. They are as inadequate as history.
The self they serve is dissolving.
One point of view doesn’t get it.
In the meantime,
readers are less beings of mind than conditioned responses. The government finances the training by funding acculturalization, while denying it to the acculturated.
The struggle is other.
The failure of globalization and its historical forms of coherence induces a social psychosis, manifested in a social art, an art of obligatory interaction and aesthetic, a controlled madness,
as though there were laws for atomized emotion.
Instead of feeling trapped, we can be up front about what we want from others. We can accept separate meanings. We can disconnect from lingering assumptions. We can let everything fail.
We can try the premise that there is one humanity and we go through each other.
My experiment today is to:
- take seriously the minute and local and find the meaning of the things that live in it,
- the places where there are not large facts, only small myths to sustain belief in life,
- where each character, as I suspect each person I really know, prefers it that way,
- where sentences are long,
- conclusions short and
- moments of connection frequent and
- wide open.
To do so, I intend to underestimate the power of the afterlife in determining the measure of my own life.
I will give up the comfort of belief in any socialized paradise that I will share with my too ordinary friends and dissatisfied lovers and where my attributes will not be redeemed only tolerated.
I will go for honorary martyrdom in my own lifetime.
I will submit to thought experiments each specimen of fragile humanity imprisoned in my mind.
For the love of marble countertops, even you are in there!
Where there were once gods.
Face it. I have.
Tragedy thrills me. Past and present together on the road. Now and then on the street. The dying flame to the already exhausted reader moth. The next to last word. The thought of you fluttering away into darkness. Children with flashlights and little nets.
Before, I donned disguises.
I still have them all in mind.
- There is the eternal Marxist of the international class,
- the cosmopolitan archetypical exile,
- the writer exposing the rhetoric and joys of realities that do not exist,
- the critical academic of national literature of faux new and improper countries,
- against all the earnestness and nonsense of dying modernity rendered incoherent by globalization,
- first losing short-term memory,
- then long-term,
- then kept alive on tanks of oxygen behind locked doors
- for the protection of society.
- There is a literature, not all literature but some, of trauma and mourning.
It is in this region I had once contrived, and managed, a water pipeline project slashed down a snowy mountain, which had used thirty of our engineers and employed seven thousand of their donkeys. That project spun the money in, despite the locals’ tendency in the beginning, especially the guerrillas, to dynamite it. This was a problem I solved with some payments for their scrappy land, which I put down in the accounts as ‘maintenance’. And when I resold it to developers, I put that down as ‘donations and legacies.’
The new opportunity delighted headquarters. There were one hundred thousand refugees from the war trudging the mountains, there were destroyed orphanages with disabled kids chained in earthen pits, which a venal government which ours had put in power. It was a dream come true. There was no need to make anything up as we had done in the Sudan.
Oh, to be young again in Africa and with a gallon of cooking oil to my beautiful name!
As for raising the required matching funds to the government ones, those raised by us through donations from the weepers at home, we would use photos of the kids in the pits. My minder, a director, an aging academic, fully modern and recreating himself with every breath, drove his stuttering car to them through the bald mountains. The trees had been cut for firewood. The rest houses, like the clinics, had been angrily destroyed during the overthrow. I sat beside him, answering his questions about what the words to old country and western songs meant.
His assistant sat in the back, translating as necessary. She was the country’s only child psychiatrist and pediatrician, who had been deployed exclusively for the children of the elite. Mental disorders were impossible for the masses in the socialist paradise. Proper children were the healthy soldiers of the state. She wept sometimes in the rural orphanages we visited while I photographed.
“I didn’t know,”
We found one place where the kids, a mélange of whom had been disabled or suffering from protein deficiency, or were the children of dissidents, all called ‘orphans,’ were being sold to farmers. The director assured us that this was good social enterprise and permitted, now that they had a modern economy.
‘We will rebuild this all ourselves’ said the psychologist from the back seat. ‘Our doctors, our people. We will overcome this corruption.’
‘Bullshit’ I thought. Our trade ministry knew about the rare minerals in the mountains necessary for the production of British-built mobile phones.
But I was the one who knew nothing. She had bought a bag of cherries to eat as we drove the narrow prisoner-built roads. She passed a cherry over from time to time as I discussed the possible projects and local needs with crusty. I slowly worked out that I was getting a cherry only when what I said met with her approval. Me liking Mozart got a cherry. Me thinking Levi Straus was nonsense got a cherry.
Me praising British know-how got nothing.
For the project, I built an icon museum in her home town, to exhibit the eleventh and twelfth century gold-leafed portraits of the Madonna and Child that the old regime had hidden. The local people loved them, even the Moslems.
I put this down in the reports as a clinic.
I had to be found out, their foreign ministry complained to ours, and I was jailed for embezzlement on returning home on a leave. I was the third aid worker jailed that year. One was a pedophile and one had ‘gone bush’ and burned down a market and killed a pig in Nigeria. Since then, I have decided to flourish. What the hell. The old will never understand the young. The problem is the reverse.
When I get out, I am going back for more cherries.