"I am an ardent supporter of Anthony Brink and the TIG initiative and would like to comment on your analysis of the indictment against Zackie Achmat that appeared at Dean's World.
While I also flinch at times when he ladles on the polemical black satire, I try to take a step back from this to digest the cut and thrust of the underlying message -although find myself not always succeeding in achieving objectivity as Anthony’s style appeals so much to where I come from. I find myself getting caught up in the fervour of his rage against this obscenity that is AIDSism.
This doesn’t, of course, imply that it is the optimal approach in certain circumstances. I do know, however, that he has received formal acknowledgement from the ICC at The Hague and it would appear that they are indeed viewing the matter with appropriate gravity. I sincerely hope that they see beyond the obvious cutting diatribe and focus on the charges at hand, the content of which is a stroke of genius, in my view.
The arena of debate on this issue in South Africa is a minefield of misinformation and media obfuscation that frustratingly touts one view and one view alone. I for one am glad that the kid gloves are off and the bare-knuckled brawl is spilling over into the streets through the electronic media and the judicial system whether here or internationally.
Restraint? Mercy? Where were those considerations in Achmat’s manic campaigning to have these poisons thrust down the throats of unwitting South Africans, spiralling them toward horrific and inevitable death? He knew what the chemicals did to him when he was taking them. He knew how much better he felt when he wasn’t. And yet he still lied about this in order to lull unsuspecting victims into ingesting the same shit that crippled and almost killed him. Where is the humanity or morality in that decision-making process? Bring it on, I say – bring it on and let the blood spill where it may…"
As writers and friends, Mr. Brink and I frequently discuss and argue these matters, about muscle and kick and fury and blood vs. attempted magnanimity and diplomacy. When I get angry, I accuse him of thinking that all American Dissenters are “candy asses,” or “arses,” as Brink so satisfyingly spells the word. Americans, by and large, detest conflict, and we can’t permit ourselves rage because it is not in our emotional spectrum. Virtually all anger goes to the “crazy” end of the scale, and there are pills for that sort of thing.
And we are the most passive aggressive people on the planet. If we are angry what we do is fall silent as the grave, then seek revenge in ways that still keep our anger cloaked like pure shame so when the other person is struck down by it, we can pretend we have no idea what transpired or why they are having such a excessive reaction. All impassioned, emotional responses in America today are considered excessive. So Brink’s screed was like a UFO or something.
I have been stuck in the AIDS conflict realm most of my life, since age 20, and my way of coping has been partly to deny just how dark it is. However, playing devil’s or angel’s advocate, I also sometimes argue to Brink that if we are not careful, we could become the darkness ourselves, become what we rage against.
But actually, I don't think that is Anthony's challenge or problem. It might be mine. I am working out how and when and in what manner to begin to express what rage and disgust I feel. I think in fact, that rage of the caliber Mr. Brink wields and allows, is a sign of both sanity and generosity. I am very burned out, myself, of the constant, chronic, under all conditions, for all eternity, strangely repressed and possibly self-destructive governing dissident ethos that we must all be mild as lambs, and polite and respectful. It becomes morally obscene at a certain point, if nothing else because it is so fantastically dishonest.
There is a chapter entitled "The Reversal Of The Sting" in Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti, and I marvel at the cold Old Testament catharsis and genius of it. In perhaps the most purified sadism of tone in the entire masterpiece, he wrote the following on the laws of warfare, and the urges, instincts, and absolute laws of the long oppressed:
“It is very difficult to get rid of the sting. It must in fact dislodge itself and can only do so if and when it reacquires force equal to that whith which it originally penetrated. ... Suddenly everything is as it was before; only the roles of the actors are reversed. ... One must remember how much will have been done to these people to keep them obedient; how many stings will have accumulated in them in the course of years.”
Celia Farber works full time at her writing and receives a meagre financial recompense for her labors. If you would like to see her continue the work she began two decades ago, in the most free and powerful communications medium ever to exist, please do exactly what you have been doing and remember to say Thank you, Celia every so often. Thank you.