Monday, January 21, 2008


If I talk about chopping garlic, empathy and the ontology of flesh there may well be a subtext. Perhaps this counts as subtext: Kenyans hacked to death with machetes, reports Michelle Faul.

One man staggered past with blood streaming from the stump of his arm, which had been cut off with a machete. The arm was taken by a group of youths and placed on top of a pile of stones barricading an alleyway.

The maimed man, Peter Kyalo, arrived later at Kenyatta Hospital. He said he was warned on Saturday night by Luo friends he might be targeted because he is a Kamba, the same tribe as the vice president, a former presidential candidate who joined Kibaki's government this month.

In a separate incident, around 50 people attacked welder Dominic Owour, a 23-year-old Luo, and tried to cut off both his hands at the forearm, Owour said.

Both men said police watching the attacks did not intervene.

On the NewsHour last week I saw some footage of a man being hacked to death with a machete. He was running down an alleyway, trying to escape his assailant. I felt as if it could of been me running, my flesh hacked open by a machete. Nothing I saw would make me say that the person taking the footage intervened. A skeptical mindset will disbelieve the faintest whiff of nonintervention. Can I talk to you about my nightmares without intervening in some way? Perhaps intervention is the whole point of talking about one's dreams. I don't know. To be honest with you, I can imagine hacking somebody else's flesh with a machete. I can imagine watching such an attack and doing nothing to intervene–in the "comfort" of my living room that may be both the easiest and the hardest thing to imagine. I will tell you that my immediate response upon witnessing a machete attack on television was to empathize with the victim of the attack, and I ask you to accept that as true enough, as something that can be discussed without discussing the interventions that bring it to our attention. Yet since we are talking, perhaps we can talk about interventions.

I wouldn't know how to begin to go about intervening in Kenyan politics. One hopes one's friends are safe. Heads of state issue appeals, as they must. Who can disagree with an appeal for peace? Yet to what avail? The philosophical question to ask may be this: To what does one makes an appeal? A common humanity? A sense of empathy? Perhaps it would be better to ask: To whom does one appeal? A person immersed in whats, no doubt. Well, who wants to live in horror? Who has no guiding sense of empathy? Sometimes I feel as if my whole existence has been an exercise in learning to savor disillusionment.

If I now make an appeal on behalf of all living things, am I telling you my dreams or am I making an intervention? Does the mindset that would regard these as mutually exclusive mislead us? Because I care about you I will never tell you that life is easy, though I may on occasion play with a message–subject it to substitutions, reversals, inversions–to make it easier to digest.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:01 PM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To what does one makes an appeal? A common humanity? A sense of empathy? Perhaps it would be better to ask: To whom does one appeal? A person immersed in whats, no doubt."

That could be read as the difference btwn James' personal god and whithead's impersonal god...But it doesn't make any diff to people getting butchered.

I always remember a quote from Ouspensky (maybe in 'in search of the miraculous') about seeing a lorry load of wooden legs for legs which had not yet been 'lost'.

This was prob. during the russian rev. but the example remains even more acute. It was supposed to be an example of the extreme mechanicality of existence....

I many respects Ouspensky was bore and became an over-intellectual interpreter of G's ideas in England with a silly group of sycophants (imho).

January 22, 2008 12:11 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

That's a poignant image, a lorry load of wooden legs.

I may be having a problem with the poignancy of experience (a theme of Tengelyi's, as I recall). What does poignancy illustrate? There's a passivity that bothers me about the whole business of dreaming, imagery, poignancy, watching television, mechanicality....

Bergson says we laugh at mechanicality, I find it extremely difficult to laugh at suffering. Watching The Sopranos I laughed when Janice stole Svetlana's wooden leg. But not all ironies are funny. Not all poignancies are to be savored. Should we think of mechanicality as an affliction?

January 22, 2008 12:43 PM  

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