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Weeping and Nelson Mandela

December 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Note: The big gap in blogs can be explained by a bit of illness that limited my creative energy for some weeks.  The draft of this blog was written some time ago.

 Although I have always been like this, lately I seem to be even more prone to weeping or filling up. I don’t often sob out loud, heaving with grief. I don’t often cry, with a constant stream of tears rolling down my face, at least in public. I have read that this weeping happens more when one gets older, although I have never thought it was a problem or an important subject to talk to others about. It seems quite normal to me. Like a smile. Like a chuckle. Like a burst of anger, or of annoyance. A feeling that is quite normal, although I guess I don’t really know what to call it. Tragic is too heavy. Sadness of a mild kind maybe. Certainly not depression, certainly not something to avoid, although I do have a sense of being a little bit embarrassed about it when someone is watching. When I am alone, I am way more fearless and just do it.

 At the moment I am filling up a lot reading, watching or hearing about Nelson Mandela’s death. I never was deeply involved in South African campaigns in my political life, although I knew about him, South Africa and apartheid. There were plenty of opportunities for me to BE involved, although less in the countryside where I usually lived. The countryside in France and Britain is very white, very NOT ethnic. Very NOT multicultural. I would have had to travel to somewhere else to me to be very active. In fact, I have never been deeply involved in politics designed or based on “freeing black people” from various kinds of oppression or discrimination. To be sure, I have known about such campaigns, and if ever asked I was a supporter and certainly argued about such matters. But in general, I never have been deeply involved in many campaigns supporting “others”. For example, supporting factory workers, as such, have never attracted me, even though from time to time I have gone to a demo about a closure, or a sacking or some such pro-worker actions. The problem is that I have never felt a deep connection with the lives of workers, even though I did actually work in a factory for two summers of my life, and could easily have claimed some kind of knowledge from experience or reading. Most of my politics have been about “us” and not “them”. Whether I was acting, or identifying momentarily as a student, an American, a university employee, a middle class person, a poorish person, a white person, a person in need of housing, an immigrant, a man etc, I have always wanted and felt most comfortable and genuine working with “people like me”, however that was defined. Obviously there is no one exactly like me, but I am only in the most superficial or deepest way “like” a black person in South Africa. I have never even been there, and at present, might know one or two people who live there, although I can’t tell you who.

 On many occasions I weep at movies, mainly when there is an attempt by an oppressed group to throw off their “chains” and rise up. Even if they are English working class (Ken Loach films, for example), an identity which I only understand at a distance. In addition, I can fill up when someone wins or does well in those shows that bring “talent” to light, whatever the country. Although I seldom actually watch such rubbish shows, except on YouTube. Moving performances of any kind can bring tears to my eyes quite easily. Those spectacles can be even in sports events, like the Olympics, although team performances seldom have the same effect. Seldom do I have strong feelings when “the favourite” wins or someone who is known to be good performs well. It is when “an outsider” wins, or when someone who looks like “a loser” turns out to be a winner. Like the fat, shy American guy who had the voice of an opera star or Susan Boyle, who looked like nothing special at all, and yet blew away the judges when she start to sing. I fill up quite easily watching such “spectacles”.

 Sometimes I am aware that in a movie (I don’t go to the theatre or opera) the creators are trying to make me feel like filling up, by using various techniques. I can see it coming, but I still fill up. They understand me, and they have done a good job, why should I resist? I think that as I have aged, I care less what people think, I don’t try to impress anyone with any particular kind of behaviour, I am more easily able to weep or fill up. I did this when I was young, but it is much more frequent now. It might be that as death approaches, I get more relaxed about who I am, realise my life is not that bad, my accomplishments not worthless, and tend to not give a shit so much. Don’t get me wrong, I still get upset a lot, in what I would call a less delicious way. Annoyed by bad things happening, and upset by my poor actions. But overall, I find that filling up, weeping, is a very positive experience. Getting mad at someone, shouting at them, trying to beat them in an argument is never very satisfying. Weeping is.

 Anyway, the death of Mandela brought on the latest spate of weeping as I watched the ceremonies, the memories, the short films, the news. But last night when taking in a few pure bullshit Hollywood spectacles of the “we have talent” type, it was the same feeling. Same thing when I listened to a couple of YouTube tunes that have hooked me. Must admit, upon reflection, I prefer weeping about Mandela, and about revolt and uprising. Death is a great cause of weeping. I come across that more and more. Even in my daily life, I have a bit of a weep when I use to see objects that remind me of dead friends or family. However, it is not only death or revolt that brings on my frequent filling up. I had one of my most powerful feelings like that watching a birth, maybe 30 years now. So I guess death, birth and revolt bring on the weeping more than anything else.

 All this in spite of the fact that Nelson Mandela was not a perfect man. Many posts I have read tried to be sure that the overall feel-good, he was a hero line was not the only one put forward. He didn’t marry one woman and live happily forever after. His politics went from serious revolutionary (vaguely supporting even violence) to apologist for neo-liberal capitalism as he “matured”. His policies did not really solve many of the big problems of South Africa. The filthy rich are huge in the big cities, with a huge increase in excess consumption by the new middle classes. The poor are as numerous as ever. Although the economy is the biggest in Africa, life is nowhere near what Mandela would have wanted. The ANC wins all elections even though corruption and mistrust are rife. And no other political leader has emerged with even a fraction of the respect Mandela had. Admittedly this is no surprise and WHAM (What Happens After Mandela) as been a big talking point for several years. On the other hand, for an active politician a famous guy, he had numerous character traits none of the others do, in any country, at almost any time. One of the reasons I can weep is that he was a decent guy, and not many of his type exist at the global level.