Blood Sport || Festivals of Violence

May 14, 2008

I have been busy working on a couple of posts — many in draft form still; I’m a bit of a perfectionist you see — but since yesterday, I haven’t been able to write much. I decided to take a moment to say something about the latest episode of public executions, slated to become a new pastime.

Yes, that’s exactly what they were – just because the state was not the main sponsor of the events, doesn’t mean the effect is not the same: terrorizing the citizens and forcing us to conform to our current circumstances, and even start to defend those very acts of terror, as long as they are not used against the more worthy among us.

As I have listened to people talk about what happened – what they saw, think, thought, heard etc. – I have gone over in my head so many times about why the same gaps or omissions are present in everybody’s story.

Nowhere is there a recognition, awareness, a sense, a wish, of what people could have done in that moment.

Always taken for granted is that the show has begun, and that it must go on; it cannot be interrupted, we have been blessed with front seats after all. All that we can and should do is sit/stand and watch, oooh and aaah with mouths agape, hide our faces at the right moment as if we are watching a slasher movie, and take care that none of the spillage messes up our pretty clothes and shoes or stops us in our path, on our way, to what — surely not our own moral deaths.

From the editorial from today’s Gleaner, I excerpted the following:

[…] Sushania Young and how she died:

in Half-Way Tree;

at mid-morning;

on a bright Monday;

in the presence of scores, perhaps hundreds, of people […]

In the heart of a busy plaza, a man with whom she was apparently having a conversation pulled a gun and pointed it towards her.

She ran.

He fired.

She ran.

She fell.

He came over her.

He fired.

Into her head.

He escaped[…]

Reads like a poem doesn’t it?

Each beat also records a moment of time. There’s the pause that is full of possibility. An invitation to disturb the rhythm. To change the outcome of the whole event. And nobody took advantage of it. They were too busy looking. But not seeing. Not seeing how their looking is creating the perfect conditions for the spectacle that is unfolding before their eyes. He chose the location. He chose the time. He chose the mode of execution. He chose the vantage points from which we would see, point, gape. All we had to do was show up and bear witness. Allow him to exit stage left. Past cars that otherwise act as weapons against us. But not this time. Police enter stage right. We don’t know his name. But we know her name. We know all about her. She was young and nice and ambitious. Not a streggeh. Do we know where that cellphone is? What number she dialed? What her relationship to that man was? Any other threats on her life? Would we have let him get away if we knew he was a battyman? These things don’t matter I suppose. She dead an gone now, yes?

As I write this, the “lynching festivals” in early 1910-20s US are coming to mind.

Meanwhile, all attention has been focused on the new Minister of National Security, who is supposed to bring an end to “crime and violence.” Whatever. But when I looked at the list of recommendations coming from the roadmap report, as they call it, I am still asking how any of those could have prevented or even speak to the public execution of Sushania and the others who have been picked off over the last few months.

Where does this roadmap point to how we as citizens can see ourselves as responsible for, and already empowered to make a more just and less criminal-prone society possible, if we wanted to? Where is the pandering and appealing to our collective will to work together to make a different kind of society? I think I am answering my own question. There will be no such appeal. There will only be the paternalistic approach where we are left in the dark, told that it is not our business to ask, and where we are expected to sit and wait while the good men and women of the Ministry do what is right by us. Maybe.

It is clear that many of us are already empowered: with the easy access to firearms; with the knowledge that our fellow citizens are cowards and love the spectacle of seeing and gossiping about blood and brains on our city’s sidewalks more than we love the feeling of having thwarted another senseless death; with the overblown confidence that such things would never happen to “people like us”; with a sophisticated knowledge about how to enact all kinds of criminal transactions – from blackmarket DVDs to unlimited cellphone use, to importing computers for our businesses, to getting bank loans we don’t qualify for, to the line of coke we snorted at the party last weekend…etc. etc. etc.

But to what end?

To whose end?

Are we really so content, so adjusted to the runnings of this blood sport that we can wrinkle our noses, kiss our teeth, step over the dead bodies, and keep on going? And then what happens when it’s our turn to be fodder for the headlines, beauty parlours and rum bar sessions? What then?

Same old same old.

Festival anyone?


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