What do you think?
Rate this book
410 pages, Kindle Edition
First published March 2, 2021
As with any war, the origins could be disputed. Was it their fault, whoever they were, because they had killed Sleepy? Was it my fault because I had nearly killed Beatles and Rolling Stones, who presumably belonged to the same gang as Sleepy’s killers? Was it their fault because they had attempted to rob me? Was it my fault because I had strayed out of my assigned place among the invisible Indochinese who never needed a visit from the Repressive State Apparatus, since we had learned to repress ourselves? Was it their fault because they had not sought an alliance or even just a chat with their colonized comrades? Who were they, anyway, the people with whom we were now at war? …. . I went up to the waiting room [in the Brothel] and found that the eschatological muscle, knowing it to be my last day, had prepared a loan for me: his densely underlined copies of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth, as well as Césaire’s A Tempest.
Self-criticism? I cried. I am nothing if not self-critical! My entire life is a self-criticism session between me, myself, and I! No need to raise your voice, said BFD. If you are so self-critical, said the Maoist PhD, do you see where you deviate from the masses? Why should I worry about deviating from the masses when I am also me and myself? Am I not a mass? Am I not already a collective? Do I not contain multitudes? Am I not a universe unto myself? Am I not always infinitely dialectical as I synthesize the thesis of me and the antithesis of myself?
You have to take the long view. Look at America. No one remembers now what happened to the Americans who chose to side with the British king. Should the American Revolution not have happened, or should we condemn it because all those people were exiled?
And here you are, safe in your asylum, one of the committed. The question is: Committed to what? You have had two years …. , to confess to the crimes you have committed, to acknowledge that after everything you have been through, everything you have done, you are still committed to revolution, which must mean you’re crazy, but no crazier than the first idealistic cavewoman who dreamed of conjuring fire from nothing, whose fate, after she discovered fire, was most likely being burned at the stake by the more cynical cavemen who knew that fire was really something, was power itself, so that even back then at the earliest moments of human civilization, the dialectic was moving back and forth between aspiration and exploitation, a movement that will never stop, for you agree with Mao that the dialectic is infinite, with one important exception, for unlike Mao and Stalin and Winston Churchill and King Leopold and a lot of American presidents and English kings and French emperors and Catholic popes and Oriental despots and countless millions of fathers, husbands, boyfriends, lovers, and playboys, you do not believe that such a dialectic requires the sacrifice of millions in the name of communism or capitalism or Christianity or nationalism or fascism or racism or, indeed, sexism, of which you are guilty, guilty, abjectly guilty, and this conviction in an infinite dialectic that does not require enforcement by a Repressive State Apparatus, this article of faith that history’s wheels need not be oiled by blood, this skepticism about Fanon’s belief in the positive benefits of violence, justifiable given the brutality of French violence in Algeria, but nonetheless blind to the possibility that violence could make us feel like men yet behave like devils, whereas nonviolence could detoxify us and free us from our inferiority complexes, lifts us from despair and fear, and restores the self-respect we need for action, and instead of making us mirror images of our colonizers, nonviolence could break the mirror altogether and liberate us from the need to see ourselves in the eyes of our oppressors, forcing us into the disturbing space of the negative, the nothing, the blank, the void, where we must create ourselves anew, each of us unique, each of us in solidarity with others in their uniqueness, a sincere but maybe stupid belief that makes you a man of either vision or hallucination, but one who insists that humanity already knows everything it needs to know to save itself without resorting to murder, beginning with what the most sympathetic Federico García Lorca, assassinated by the Spanish fascists, once said, “I will always be on the side of those who have nothing and who are not even allowed to enjoy the nothing they have in peace,” an empathetic principle that, if followed with action, whether it is doing something or doing nothing, depending on the dialectical need of the situation, will never lead you in the wrong direction, even if that direction is death, since so many people are committed to the exact opposite principle, to side with those who already have something and want everything
”Being tortured was, in that sense, like going to church. After a while, neither taught anything new. The ritual and repetition simply reinforced knowledge already known but in danger of being forgotten, which was why torturers plied their trade not just with pliers but with the conviction of priests…”