Dashiki Dialogues: Fear and violence in the land of rainbows

2012-10-27 14:36

‘Actually, the suburbs are far more sinister places than most city dwellers imagine. Their very blandness forces the imagination into new areas. I mean, one’s got to get up in the morning thinking of a deviant act, merely to make certain of one’s freedom. It needn’t be much, kicking the dog will do,” said novelist JG Ballard to an interviewer.

I always chuckle with empathy at the late writer’s comment, though my township upbringing means I only had sporadic sojourns into the suburbs. I visited friends and the like in the leafy east of Tshwane.

This means I always had the option to escape whenever the “sinister” features Ballard observes reared their head.

I don’t have to tell you the hood had its fair share of monstrosities to compete with the novelist’s terrain, but those have been well documented.

Here I want to write about a more total menace that I believe has taken over our national spirit, if not just the nature of our politics: our collective propensity for violence and our disdain for things that once gave us a lofty moral position in the world.

Accompanying this is a nasty system of fear.

Those that rule us seem to be increasingly teaching us to live in fear and to react to the stimulus of fear as the primary principle behind our actions.

We’ve become a fearful citizenry that responds only to violence or the threat of it.

The underprivileged, learning that the state speaks through guns, talk back with machetes, and the middle class and the wealthy fearfully retreat into their privilege.

So when a lady gives you a tight smile as she surreptitiously moves her handbag off her car’s passenger seat, pretending to be looking for something in it as you walk by, it’s a violent act of profiling and self-defence.

She’s decided you might want to smash the window and grab it.

“Political correctness is the exemplary liberal form of the politics of fear,” Slovenian scholar Slavoj Zizek notes of modern capitalist society.

Fear now informs everything: fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of the repressive and excessive state itself, fear of ecological catastrophe and fear of harassment.

The poet Papa Ramps diagnosed this new spirit well in his thunderous chant Welcome To The New Consciousness. We can relate to his list of perverse citizens:

“Some cower from hate’s gleam in the streets, while some meet the new dream with a scream. Some read palms and psalms for a sum of things to come. Some strip to their souls to show their holes and some bellow like moles. Some speak the lyrics of
violence in tongues of silence.”

This is indeed the New Consciousness in the troubled land of rainbows.

We spot hostile dashikis and fearful dialogues.

»Follow me on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu


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