You know how every now and again it feels as if there are so many (too many) currents and dark undertows that swirl about the contemporary world to really make sense of anything?
Athletes who cheat, bankers who steal, the trafficking of human beings sold into slavery, famine, corruption, lies, senseless wars over rich men’s interests, terrible cruelty and violence..
And then there’s the banal stuff…people who steal dreadlocks off pedestrians, men who are killed for not knocking on a door, donkeys in the boerwors…the over 1 BILLION views of Gangnam style on Youtube signalling a new interpretation of what might, in all honesty, represent a true new “global consciousness”.
Trying to fashion some sort of understanding and meaningful tapestry of it all at times seems impossible. Perhaps better to just distract with a You or Heat magazine….the new opium of the masses…
In a baffled retreat Achille Mbembe’s “On the postcolony” offers a place to land and to think. An intellectual runway….
It is a dense and demanding but totally exhilarating read on so many levels and layers. While essentially about Africa and how the continent and its events are “fathomed”, it is about so much more – the intersection of the past and the present, the alchemy of fantasy, dreams, ritual, theatre, the delirium of politics.
Mbembe’s writing does not allow for easy reading…you have to work at it…read some parts over and over again…but then you slip into his frame and it all begins to take form and shape…and to make sense.
At the end of it today…Mbembe’s parting paragraphs helped to snap back mental roller blinds…letting in a thin shard of light….
“Beyond this word (postcolony), we have been interested in the experience of a period that is far from being uniform and absolutely cannot be reduced to a succession of moments and events, but in which instants moments, and events are, as it were, on top of one another, inside one another.
“In this sense, we must say that the postcolony is a period of embedding, a space of proliferation that is not solely disorder, chance, and madness, but emerges from a sort of violent gust, with its languages, its beauty and ugliness, its ways of summing up the world.
“What is certain is that, when we are confronted by such a work of art, Nietzsche’s words regarding Greek tragedy are appropriate; ‘We must first learn to enjoy as complete men.’ Now, what is learning to enjoy as complete men – and women – unless it is a way of living and existing in uncertainty, chance, irreality, even absurdity?”
There I feel much better, hope you do to.