The Personal and the Political
by Prakash Kona
Table of Contents|
Part 2 appeared
in issue 159.
I, too, am a land of boundless possibilities. — Rosa Luxemburg
In spite of pointlessness the dance moves. In spite of silence the music is made. In spite of death life reflects its sweetness in compassion. When things happen in spite of themselves we attribute naturalness to them. The same naturalness I attribute to compassion. That I am bound to the world of others outside the categories of class, race, religion, caste and gender is what makes me protest against suffering inflicted in the name of those very categories. They are unnatural and go against the timeless spirit of equality.
* * *
I disbelieve in soul that does not exist in another person’s body. A black man or woman’s soul is black. The soul of a woman is a woman. The soul of a child is a child and the soul of the oppressed is oppressed. The neutral, gender-free, politically correct, transcendent soul belongs to the bourgeoisie that see in the soul a subtle tool of perpetuating false moralities.
The soul of a lover is in love with the world. My soul is with those who suffer injustice and failure. I am willing to renounce the soul in order to love and serve the bodies of oppressed peoples. Their bodies are not a unity and neither are their souls. Both are products of diverse historical circumstances.
It was easier to make peace with soul than the body. The body is a strange creature and to love the strangeness of body meant that I must give up the thought that I possess one. My own body is the body of the ones I love. In giving them my body I recognize the fact that their bodies are worthy of a love greater than the body.
The bodies of the poor, the sick and famished exist in fullness beyond the comprehension of discourse. Their fullness is in the presence they occupy as images on a certain part of the stage. The system owes its survival to images of the leftouts of bourgeois order. What makes the bodies of leftouts real is that they bear life’s realities despite the fact of injustice.
The body of the oppressor is empty because it feeds on fantasies. A false sense of time and space pervades the lives of the bourgeoisie. The order of possessors is the snake that may shed its skin but not its character. We are dominated by a craving for material security that translated to mythic terms becomes those forever tales where the hero finds the dream lover and both live happily ever after.
The immortality of soul is born in these myths. The soul of the sufferer that is transient as the suffering body is the material outcome of the same system that produces the forever myths. I chose transient souls as the source of beauty and love. I loved the body that passed away as if I was standing in mist and my body was a particle approaching the form of rain.
* * *
I am a child of what I love. That does not make my love child-like. My love has intelligence of the dark. I respect the darkness of nature. Love is humility of unknowing. Perhaps never knowing. What seems incoherent in the darkness of another person’s nature is the space that my love seeks to fill. I fill spaces with eyes closed and within heart’s silences.
I am responsible to people I do not understand. My responsibility comes from the fact that I am a part of them. I don’t think I am alone except as a way of feeling. The feeling of responsibility toward darkness that makes people what they are is greater than any other feeling. I am alone in love I feel for fragments of a vision. I feel the same love for those who experience a sense of oppression as if I were they in a fragment of their being. In acknowledging that I am not they I am willing to hear rather than speak.
When I speak I do it with the emptiness of performers in my voice. This tendency to seek oblivion among memories is a source of my sense of humor. That’s how I learnt to laugh at the world’s shortsightedness. The joys of memories are measured by the degree of oblivion contained in them. I did not wait for oblivion to descend upon me. I sought it the way lovers seek beloveds in the warmth of spring dawns.
I am a child of oblivion. My love of the poor stems from my natural affinity to those pushed into oblivion as marginal people. The heart occupies the mind. The mind is a player in a game. The heart is an unsolicited occupant that won’t leave the mind alone. If the mind is full of memories the heart is the source of oblivion.
I seek for the heart in a person. The mind has to play its role in formatting strategies to keep itself in place. The heart rejects all external remedies as poison injected into the veins with the intent of murder. I am one for hearts. My heart is with the hearts of those that suffer. Their oblivion is mine. Beggars are not interested in leaving traces behind. To the beggar one street is as good as another. I envy this need to perpetuate nothing in a beggar.
Marginality is structured into our worldviews. Outcasting is a normal condition for the oppressed. For the bourgeoisie it is a metaphysical worldview. The beggar is the last state of the body’s loneliness. The condition of the beggar is not a chosen one. The fact that it is created makes it all too real. I chose the beggary of the beggar as freedom from the perpetual want of bourgeois living. The humanity of the beggar is that it mocks the complacency that hides the hideous faces of bourgeois ladies and gentlemen.
I love the unprotected life of streets. I fear that I romanticize death. I don’t intend to. I know that the poor are people with all their masks and complexities. Masks that pretend to be faces are masks of the bourgeoisie. Life is standardized in bourgeois society. Revolution saves the madness of art. Standardization is disease. Revolution is cure. I am a child of children whom life has denied the bare minimum. Their future is my present. It shocks my sense of who I am when I see that the worlds I live are constructed. They were long before I was. They seem to anticipate my going away. I refuse to exit just like that. I make a dent in that dike to let the waters flood the stages built of nothing.
* * *
Oppressed bodies born in the dust of struggle haunt me. It must be the way I feel about death and accidents of living that carry the scent of death in them. My saying will not make things different. I am not mentally prepared for the worst. I introspect worlds seeded in me. None of them turned into trees. Shrubs in barren lands are my worlds inhabited by howling winds. I was born carrying these worlds in my belly. I touch myself and I awaken these worlds. I shut myself from dreams and these worlds stomp through passages I’ve closed with the mind’s eye.
I feel oppression in my bones. In worlds that oppress my bones I look for peace. Either I am stupid or dreaming. Neither. I worship stones where stones must be worshipped. I play with water where water must be played with. My habits are instinctual. Defining oneself like giving away money is the easiest thing in the world. I moved to what is slightly more difficult.
The fact that people must live to experience their nature as part of the greater nature of things is the essence of the person. The denial of essence in the name of class, race, gender or any other term makes collective suicide a legitimate alternative. In the eyes of those who suffer the brutality of injustice every weapon is a legitimate one.
There is no doubt that legitimacy is a variable term. States may differ from terrorists as a matter of opinion. That does not make the state right and the terrorist wrong. We’re talking about one body whether it is the terrorist or the one that creates the label. Our sense of equality comes from the body’s vulnerability. Spit, shit, piss and menstrual blood make us equals. We’re cockeyed when it comes to who we are as individual persons.
My physical aloneness makes me an individual. The fact that I’m composed of others makes me a person. The music of the composition in the mosaic of bodies makes me one and the same. I am the one I see in the mirror. I am also the one that I see in the hunger and poverty of millions around the globe whose apparent fault is that they have come into this world as children of the oppressed rather than the oppressors.
* * *
Estuarine notions place me in a conflict. I belong neither to river nor sea. In the estuaries of my feelings diverse waters rage from all sides. I don’t want to dream and I don’t want to die either. It’s a funny feeling that makes you want to live when there is no apparent reason for being alive. Deep in the winter of conflicts I extrapolated the coming of spring. In spring I was red as beetroot. The blood was warm and singing. Spring is benign because it is a time of sacrifice.
The wounds of life are fountains that produce the blood of performance. In moments when the illusion tires the eyes the lover of all worlds wakes up. Love is outside performance. Pity made me mad and then I loved. Pity came from wounds of performance. In pity I felt I existed. In love I was far from being there. It was something that connected me to past and future.
The timeless ocean played with the disappearing wave. I am the wave that means nothing to the ocean. Love is that ocean that brought me to time. The little time I fill is a gazelle in a forest whose green eyes I see as if I was imagining. Love is both forest and gazelle that make it possible for me to imagine.
None of that is love though when I think of it. The ripple in the lake when the woman walks to her death in a Mizoguchi film that she may preserve her dignity rather than submit to her torturers is a moment of love. The death of Gramsci after his long notebook in prison, the murders of Rosa Luxemburg, Gandhi and Pasolini, the life of Genet bound with love to the rejected of the world, victims of injustice and revolutionaries who believed that names were less important than the making of a classless society suddenly I seem to think that love is a possibility that does not require imagination to sustain its flow.
The true measure of the body is its capacity for sacrifice. The happy poems where freedom is the air we breathe is the dream of the subjugated. Sacrifice gives meaning to the poem. The dreamer lives with the knowledge of consequences. The isolation and pain of reality is interspersed with music of that poem where children play all day long in fields where seasons bring sweetness of nature to the ground. My death is material if I contribute to the life where nature can be enjoyed with no idea of possession.
* * *
My vision is constrained by music. I must die for an alternate world. I live to the temptations of music. At heart I am a realist. I like to see things in my own way. Things are themselves as a matter of perspective. I change the same way that a thing is transformed in creative hands. I reject the economics of textbooks. They are lies told to liars and repeated by the same liars using extensive calculations and figures that simply carry no meaning to the utterly exploited. The devaluation of the oppressed in the sale of bodies is the reality of the market. No amount of confusing data relating to stock markets, inflation rate and budgets can disguise the nakedness of truth as we see it inscribed on the bodies of the oppressed.
Revolution needs to observe truths based on the simple facts of daily life. The degradation of the environment, the powerlessness of individuals to affect their lives in a substantial manner, the poverty of farmers in villages, the loneliness of slums, the obvious discrepancy between the elite of owners and the majority of bare survivors, the state hospitals where the poor go only to suffer or die, overcrowded buses and trains and the shameless exploitation of labor at all levels these are the facts on which the revolution is fought.
My will is torn between music of the soul’s silence and cries of the world whose heart aches with impotent agony. My will is not one but many of my selves. Death gives me a sense of unity. Life is diversity of angles from which I view the rose in the bush. Sometimes it is the bush and some other times just the rose. The resplendent moments are when I see both in a flash that goes as if it is to come. The sound of the diseased word ‘money’ and my body trembles that infinite injustice is the hallmark of that one word. The frustrated love of hate is how I feel about things in general. The anger of the vulnerable is my self. The unmitigated strain of tortured sensitivity consumes the body. Self-annihilation is the body victimizing the body.
The self is not the body. The self does not die with the body’s passing. In death I carry the idea of the self with me. The self is annihilated with a conscious act of the will. The victimized body is not liberated through self-annihilation. The body’s liberation is withdrawal from the world of ideas to the reality of other languages in other bodies. I left the circular room of pointlessness. The room did not have a corner and I was looking for a place to begin.
There is no beginning for one who loves words because they represent forms. The artist comes from life in the failed hopes of travelers journeying to interiors of unknown districts. Stranger encounters strangers. That side in me that is strange meets the side in the other person that is equally strange. I don’t meet you under the umbrella of familiar discourses. I meet you in spaces that you never dared to venture alone.
The calculated customs of carefully used words are imprecations to my body. That sluggish use of language dictated by rules is death of a sort. The language that eludes crises in order to remain secure eludes understanding as well. Critical language is the breakdown of familiarity. I had to say something to somebody; otherwise I would die of suffocation speaking the same words to myself over a lifetime.
Art deviates from the predictability of intentionally used words. Intentions are mocked and used to scrub floors of groundlessness. Words are like soap whose meanings slip from the hands and melt away. Language is an insecure game. Power that is desperate to hold on to intentions suffers the fate of the man that clings to reflection of the moon in water. The illusion of intentions that control language is the insanity of the sane in the ‘normal’ world of the bourgeoisie.
* * *
I intend to turn the world upside down. For a few hours I would like oppressors to be in place of the oppressed with memory of their own oppression. I intend to see how it feels for one who brings suffering to another person to experience the same suffering. But these are not one to one relations that happen between people. Noble intentions relegated to the background, I’m aware that power has no place for simple dichotomies. Lust that shuts the eyes of powerful is an almost innate thing.
Given the context, the predatory instincts of the powerless can be as opposed to individual freedom as that of the powerful. The violence of working class men toward women and children falls in that category. Though it is easier to sympathize with poor men than bourgeois males the question of power in relation to the other person is a formidable one. The resistances of working class women are defining instances of the shape of things to come.
To document the instances from which powerlessness speaks to defy power is the job of the historian. There is nothing like absolute powerlessness just as there is no absolute power. Both are relative standpoints. The powerlessness that is not absolute finds its strength from various sources often diverse and haphazard. It is impossible to reach that point unless one actually emerges from that point. This is what entitles the oppressed to theorize about their situation however limited they may seem from more advanced theoretical positions.
The premise on which I argue is that people as individuals know their creative potential for happiness in the struggle to manifest one’s being. To assume that they do not is the insolence of theory. But the context must be carefully defined as we proceed with this assumption. Man cannot define for woman and neither of them can for the child. Social relations are productive acts of individuals. There are definitions that pertain to individuals and not to collectivities.
No amount of rationalization in the name of higher goals can make the sacrifice of one person seem natural. This does not mean that revolutions are impossible to occur. The body of the oppressed being transforms into the body of the revolutionary through moral choices that come out of situations that are connected to wholes via networks of individual wills.
My life is the beginning of the revolution. Countless sacrifices make one revolution. The obligation to give one’s life is the motto of the revolution.
Revolutions that take place in the world of ideas are mockeries of the truth. Revolution is not an idea. It is a productive act with social good in view. The revolution of ideas is about appearances. There are no heroes in a revolution. There are people. A revolution is moral before it is political. The compassionate solitude of freedom is the genius of the revolutionary. I am free in the company of those I love. Among bodies of the oppressed I sought freedom of love. I could die in the process of dreaming other worlds. I choose death to the stultification of bourgeois living.
Copyright © 2005 by Prakash Kona