Dissolving love bars

 

 

Romeo and Juliet (class), Othello and Desdemona in Othello (exterior), Fred and Laurence in Xavier Nolan’s Laurence anyways (gender), Chiron and Kevin in Tarell Lavin McCraney and Barry Jenkins’ Oscar winning poetic childhood story Moonlight (sexuality).

Consider all loving relationships that were hindered due to society’s classifying in either confirming or diverging from the stated pattern. Relationships of love which were stopped, but defied, and survived, and moved mountains. Two jazz lovers with a sense of humour run into each other at a ball in London. The year is 1947, one of them has been a volunteer during the war and is now working as a clerk at a lawyer’s firm, the other is a law student at the university. After a few weeks of dating, they decide to get married.

It may sound somewhat trivial. Two people meet, find a common vibe, fall in love for life. Happens all the time. However, Ruth Williams is white and Seretse Khama is black; moreover, he is the successor of the British protectorate Bechuanaland, today Botswana. The couple’s love turns into an intercontinental political subject of highest concern; both the British colonial rule and the families try to avert the liaison even though there are no legal obstacles either in Bechuanaland or in Great Britain.

But the racism of the period is deeply entrenched in the economic and political conditions of power. South Africa’s prime minister Malan, followed by the Nazi sympathizer Strijdom, instates apartheid and bans marriages between black and white people; upon which Bechuanaland, neighbour in the north, becomes a haven for ANC notable activists Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and the author Bessie Head. A mixed prince couple harbouring democratic ambitions and settling down in Bechuanaland is unthinkable to the white minority government of South Africa.

And Great Britain prioritizes its own economic interests – the British mining companies’ activities in South Africa – and obeys the South African demands.

On the 10th of March the film director Amma Asante’s [Belle] excellent A United Kingdom premieres. The film is based on Susan Williams Colour Bar, the Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation, a book documenting every diplomatic turn and every protest campaign in the battle concerning the existence of the Khama couple.

Large sections of the people in Bechuanaland backed the Khama couple by boycotting  British taxes, and by refusing to cooperate; support organizations in Great Britain cultivated opinion and assisted mass media with argument and facts; racists holding bureaucratic key posts in the British imperial rule were replaced with more enlightened people.

At the same time, students returned from elite universities in the West and created African independence movements that challenged the British colonial system. Supported by a women’s revolution, an overlooked and decisive event told about in the book, but rather skipped over in the film, Botswana became a democracy including women in 1996 with Oxford-educated Seretse Khama as president.

It must be noted that there was a female candidate to the position, Oratile Sekgoma, whom the British refused to cooperate with. A woman in the highest office of the nation “was out of the question”, according to the British. Perhaps it was easy to forget who resided in the seat of honour back home.

Undoubtedly, the love between Ruth and Seretse contributed into shaking the British empire. However, for many years they fought in vain against the economic and political power plays. A private situation construction worker Richard Loving and home worker Mildred Loving in the USA of the 1960’s most probably would have identified with. In Jeff Nichols empathizing film Loving, following Nancy Buirski’s documentary The Loving Story (2011), shown at the Gothenburg Film Festival in February, the couple Loving, she categorized as black, he as white, has a formal certificate to prove their marriage.

To no avail. The police arrests and extradites the newly wed from the state of Virginia. Either they get divorced and move back or they stay wedded and are forbidden to return home. The discrimination laws of Virginia destroy the future of the couple Loving, but racism cannot destroy their love. To both the Lovings and Khamas the choice to give up did not exist, their love gave them no choice. Even Richard Loving was affected by racism and was critiqued and heckled by both white and black people. Ruth Khama equally, especially in Bechuanaland, where, among other things, the white colonists shut her out from social life and denied her to eat at hotel restaurants.

The couple Khama and the couple Loving  were interviewed, in their respective time, and separately, by Life Magazine as part of the struggle for the legalization of mixed marriages. Many sympathizing people gave their support – more in the case of the wealthy couple Khama than in the considerably less privileged case of the couple Loving.

How wonderful then that Mildred Loving’s effort for the right to love turns out to be decisive. Mildred’s external environment monitoring of protest marches on television gives her the idea to write to Robert F. Kennedy, who furthers the issue to a law firm willing to take on the case without billing. The case is tried with success in the Supreme Court, which constitutionally abolishes the ban on interracial marriages, accordingly in the sixteen American states in addition to Virginia that still had racial laws.

The couple Khama opened the eyes of the world to loving relationships regardless of skin colour. The case of the couple Loving became the tipping point that made loving legal in the whole of the US. And eventually with an even wider significance: In 2015, in Obergefell vs Hodges, the verdict in Loving vs Virginia was used to criminalize the discrimination of gay marriages in the US.1 Earlier that year, a resolution acknowledging equal marriage rights including same sex couples was adopted by the European Parliament. A reform that was instituted in Sweden 2009, and recently in Finland (1st of March).

Marriage, or not marriage. Living together, or not living together. Loving relationships, or not loving relationships. The choice ought to be voluntary and equal for all. Every year, the 12th of June, Loving Day is celebrated in the USA in remembrance of Mildred’s and Richard’s victory in the Supreme Court 1967. The celebrators are most often of divergent sex, but an increasing number of freely sexed people have started to party before Pride.

Since everyone’s right to be who they are, or want to be, and everyone’s right to love whomever they want to love, dissolves many borders. Considering the dubious attitude of the new American president towards human rights, awareness of this kind is more urgent than ever.

 

Originally published in AAM 4th of March 2017, translated from the Swedish

  • Susan Williams, Colour Bar, the Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation, Penguin/Random House, 2006
  •  Not. 1. The film The Case Against 8, 2014, tells about the legalisation of same sex marriages in California.
  •  Picture from the movie, actors: David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike

©Arimneste Anima Museum #6

Nanine Vallain

 

 

a story of representation

Which is the image that tells the story of the French Revolution? Evidently, it is the famous popular painting with the bare breasted woman leading the people on to rebellion. A painting expressing the haste and verve of the period. Presumably also possible as a pin up poster.

A painting created almost forty years after the outbreak of the revolution, and not by someone who took part in the events. So, is there an image painted by a person who did take part? But ought not such a work have been discovered and disseminated by critically-minded historians and writers? I search in books and on the internet, doubtful to call into question something so acknowledged, established, and acclaimed as the image of the French Revolution.

Contrary to expectation, under the word liberté, a picture pops up that meets my requirements; La Liberté, Freedom. The artist is Jeanne-Louise “Nanine” Vallain (1767-1815), pupil of one of the period’s most celebrated painters, the neo-classicist Jacques-Louis David. Has the painting survived – does it exist in reality? Yes, says the copyright bureau, the work is exhibited at the Musée de la Révolution française in the town of Vizille in the south east of France.

Wonderful! Except for the fact that I have neither the time nor the finances to visit there. In any case, not presently. So, I print out the two images in colour and put them beside each other; the popular speedy victorious painting by Eugène Delacroix from 1830 and the onerously beautiful painting by Nanine Vallain from 1793. Why are they so different to each other even though they bear the same title, are considered to comment on the same time period, and picture the same allegory? Why is Nanine’s work residing in the shadow in literature and media? How can it be that a painting by a woman, created at the time of the perhaps most renowned historical event, is still largely unknown?

“Please help fill in the facts for this biographical entry”. It is difficult to find biographical facts about the artist. I detect a sentence here and there in French and British art encyclopaedias. Aside from that, near nothing. So, I return to the image, the masterpiece that was left in the cellar of art history for so long. Perhaps due to a happenstance, perhaps because some influential friend of Delacroix thought that one (1) masterpiece of the French Revolution was enough. The exact reason is of lesser importance.

The painting is of importance. I sleep with it. It spins around in my head. The colours – the light blue and emerald sky, the blue blouse, the red cap, the stick, the pyramid, the urn in the background with the date of the storming of the Bastille and the Royal palace, the Human Rights Declaration in rolls, the broken chains on the ground at her feet: She, Liberté, barefooted, muscled, collected, assertive. Sitting. The composition is magnificent.

Forsaken and magnificent. I see before me all the colleagues of today in the category of “women” slowly but surely fade away from the collective consciousness of the future. A relay in which half of the runners and half of the front runners each is given a flamboyant bouquet of flowers. Only to be shown off the track into an existence of nullity. While the colleagues in the category of “men”, just as slowly and surely, fill the emptied space. (Presumably to the extent of around eighty-five percent, the situation today in Swedish school books in history, according to surveys by The Swedish Television and the Swedish daily paper Dagens Nyheter.)

However, exactly in that space, with a dramatic volt from nowhere, it happens. The seamstresses, washerwomen, market sellers, fishermen’s wives, miners, agricultural labourers, maids, waitresses, actresses, prostitutes, writers, teachers, artists burst out of the gaping hole under the exit signs. The family slaves, the peasant slaves, the colonial slaves, the church slaves in the female category.

How surprised and darned they are at us feminists. We who have let them fall into oblivion. But they smile in such a cool manner. They wake me up from my sleep; they pull my ear: Why is the Declaration of Human Rights drooping in the right hand of Liberté? Why is the red cap placed on her pike, and not on her head? Why is she not charging ahead like the woman in Delacroix’ cherished and world-famous image?

Nanine Vallain’s master, Jacques-Louis David, the artist of the time, has numerous pupils, some from the category of women. He is a child prodigy. In his youth, he is invited to participate in the competitions of the Royal French Academy of Arts, however, when failing at his third attempt to win, he goes on a hunger strike. Now, as an adult, he is a dedicated revolutionary, one of the principal men, a friend of the lawyer Robespierre. Jacques-Louis has painted The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons in 1789 and has set the tone, especially for the young people of the Revolution. The Revolution must be prioritized, even in relation to one’s family and friends. The Revolution demands personal sacrifices. Objection and criticism are the same as treason. Unity is everything. You are for, or you are against. If you are against, you are dead. La Révolution ou la Mort.

Jacques-Louis David is the highest official responsible for the Republic’s artistic matters and propaganda – images and paintings and statues that aim to strengthen the people’s support of the young Republic. Hitherto the prime symbol of the people is the popular mastodon icon La Liberté. David replaces her with the classical antique figure Hercules, a gigantic machismo statue holding a miniature of Liberté in his hand. It is shocking. Liberté is the people, the nation, the Republic itself. It is she who must inspire and solace the young men who may die on the battlefields fighting against the monarchies that aim to reinstate feudal power. David gets rid of her, dwarfs her to a petite statuette. How is it possible?

David has voted for the execution of the king Louis XVI. He is a deputy in the National Convention, and together with Robespierre part of the highest national power in the Committee of Public Security. In the autumn of 1793, the National Convention issues an order proclaiming that presumed contra revolutionaries are to be arrested. Under a new law, the law about the suspicious, no concrete evidence is required. Anyone considered not to have acted for the advancement of the revolution may be arrested. The person who deviates from the general opinion is guilty. The person who is perceived to be critical of the regime may be sentenced to death.

Contra revolutionary! exclaims the play wright and literary activist Olympe de Gouges. She is the author of the first feminist manifesto of Europe, Declaration of Women’s Rights, a paraphrase of the Declaration of Human Rights (1789). All human beings, regardless of sex and colour, are naturally and equally included into humanity. Official posts must be open to everyone. Kings and queens should abdicate – not be executed. Children born outside of wedlock must be given equal rights. Divorce must be applicable also to women. The last-mentioned demands have been adopted by the National Assembly, and later the National Convention. If the French Empire does not abolish the slave trade, the Empire must be abolished, de Gouges proclaims. Upon which the colonists begin to conspire to get her arrested.

De Gouges’ posters, put up everywhere in Paris, condemn the terror politics of David and Robespierre. She advocates a popular referendum to decide the form of the national regime. She challenges the deeply rooted binary gender system that is used to hinder political rights. She declares: “I am neither woman nor man, I am both woman and man.” Just how bold de Gouges statement is, may be grasped by comparing it to the view of e.g. the art critique Coup de Pattes (Le Triumvirat des Ars 1783): “A woman who possesses all of a man’s talents to create significant art, is an impossible man, a monstrosity.”

Simultaneously the poor women of Paris are losing their patience. The supply of bread and basic goods is on the rise, but the situation is still very bad. Prices are impossible, and influence is close to zero. The children do not whimper over aching stomachs anymore, they have fallen silent. Marie-Antoinette, occupied with following a diet to fit into the latest fashionable chemise, does not, according to the women, understand her fellows and their plagues. We could have made a meagre soup out of her; the women shout when the queen is guillotined in the autumn of 1793. The king – executed almost a year earlier – he, by contrast, was not so difficult to steer. Some buuh! And vive le Roi! at the right instances and he obeyed. But now the pompous lawyers have killed him. Now they have taken away the only route to speedy decrees, opened garners, and lower prices.

The female category has both driven and supported the revolution. However, it does no longer go their way. The poor women yammer and fight, and report people randomly. On their own initiative they instate taxation juste, righteous prices, i.e. payable prices. In the autumn of 1793, the nation’s regime responds by inaugurating a new time order implicating a ten-day working week. A monthly calendar, picturing half naked young women at work, is used to launch the unpopular project. After campaigns in the press, where the category of women is criticized and blamed for not behaving “like women”, the National Convention resolve that women may not assemble in political organizations and discussion clubs. Women have no freedom of assembly. Women should stay at home and take care of their children and not engage in politics. A few days after the proclamation, the 2nd of November, Olympe de Gouges is sentenced to death. She is guillotined the subsequent day.

In 1792 Nanine Vallain has begun to work on the painting that eventually will ornament the wall of the prime assembly for revolutionary male politicians, the Jacobin Club. Is the painting an assignment or a donation? I can’t find the facts that would verify which; however, a French lexicon from the 19th century states that she joins the radical Commune Générale des Artes in protest of the Royal French Academy of Arts. To paint the picture of the revolution is great. Nanine Vallain does it masterly and in line with Jacques-Louis David’s spirit; truthful to the neoclassical ideals, stylistically pure.

But also in a headstrong way. Liberté reigns in front of an Egyptian pyramid, a symbol of unity and universalism. Or, is it perhaps a symbol of hierarchical feudal society? She is the eye-catcher. Straight-backed, dressed in working clothes, resting momentarily. This is a character of an immense strength. Down-to-earth, a living person, not foremost allegory. She may be anyone among the young women in the decisive Women’s march of 5th October 1789.

So, what is Nanine Vallain suggesting with her master piece? Does the painting tell the women of Paris to calm down? Is La Liberté a propagandist concession to Nanine’s master, art- and propaganda minister Jacques-Louis David, and his statue Hercules? Ought the women deliver the red freedom cap to the category of men, and stop pushing their own political agenda? Interpreted in this way, the painting may be accepted without problem in the assembly room of the Jacobins. And the women can realize that they are not political agents. That they should give their support to the revolutionary men but cease to act of their own accord.

In the summer of 1794 the number of persons who are sentenced to death reaches its culmination. In addition to politicians, the guillotined now consist mainly of poor people, and women. Sixteen nuns from a Catholic Carmelite Order – most of them young and without means and from the countryside – sing hymns when they, one after the other, are forced to mount the scaffold. A young woman is executed with her baby in her arms. The audience at Place de la Révolution and Place du Trône Renversé, including the guards, mumble and turn their heads away.

The assembly room of the Jacobins is gaping empty and few members remain. Nanine Vallain’s La Liberté is still hanging on the wall. The word brotherhood, in the credo Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood, has been taken down from the presidium. Most of the members have been guillotined or arrested. Not by their opponents – contra revolutionaries, aristocrats, or royalists – but by other club members in the National Convention and the Committee for General Security. The terror politics is coming to an end.

Nanine’s master Jacques-Louis David has stomach pains. At the exact right day, Jacques-Louis refrains from participating in the sessions at the National Convention, and by this evades the fate of his colleagues. Not long after, Jacques-Louis is arrested but elupes the guillotine. He has started to paint the reconciling The Intervention of the Sabine Women (1799), in which Hersilia throws herself between the Roman king (her husband), and the king of the neighbouring country Sabine (her father). Jacques-Louis is already friends with Napoleon who will stage a military coup and withdraw the reforms of the French revolution considered sensational at the time; the general vote for men, the abolition of slavery, the equal right to divorce, the rights of children born outside of marriage. Within a few years he is emperor Napoleon’s appointed artist at the court.

What is Nanine doing? In the autumn of 1793, when women are forbidden to create their own clubs and are expelled from public politics, she marries and becomes Madame Piètre. It is a way to survive as an artist. Thus, she may continue to exhibit, but not as Nanine but as M. Piètre. Nanine has ceased to exist. The lexica at the library of the Swedish Royal Institute of Fine Arts show a career gap of several years. Is La Liberté a testament to an artist’s solidarity with the revolution even to the point of namelessness? An expression of dedication, willingness to make sacrifices, and obedience to the revolutionary male power?

Probably. However, I cannot help but seeing a subtle and very elegant protest. When I look at La Liberté rebelliously from beneath, I find answers to my questions about the details of the painting. Liberté appears as a real person, not just a symbol. The red cap – during classical Antiquity a gift to the freed slave – cannot be placed on her head. She belongs to the female category – the never liberated that was not expressively included in the United Nations Human Rights Declaration until almost two hundred years later, in 1981. The Declaration in the hand of Liberté droops because it is an unfulfilled promise.

A sensational but insufficient promise. A promise that did not include everybody and could not feed the many. An affirmation that did not prioritize the right of women to get justly paid for their work, so that they could feed themselves and their family, and gain strength to fight for the ideals of equality and citizen rights.

Nanine Vallain’s image La Liberté is an ambivalence; an artist’s way of expressing herself, getting the job done, yet evade censorship. It is a portrait of a feminist revolution taking a pause. Her hand is holding the Declaration both firmly and tenderly. Liberté has accepted the situation, but has not given in. She is banished, but still present. She bides her time. She is the last one to leave the premises.

 

©Arimneste Anima Museum #6
Published in Opulens Magazine, 8th of March 2017, translated from the Swedish

The lost parallel

 

 

between literature, images of fruits and flowers, bicycles, and titan legs

The overall relationship between humans and the category of animals is much chronicled in European history. In fact, the human-induced killing of animals was acknowledged by Greek philosophers Aristotle, 384−322 BC, and Plutarch, 45−125 AC, respectively, as a kind of war. In the eyes of Plutarch, the killing of animals had profound impacts on human society; here quoted from Moralia, On the eating of Flesh, lecture II:

‘Even so, in the beginning, some wild and mischievous beast was killed and eaten, and then some little bird or fish was entrapped. And the love of slaughter, being first experimented and exercised in these, at last passed event to the labouring ox, and the sheep that clothes us, and to the poor cook that keeps the house; until by little and little, insatiableness being strengthened by use, men came to the slaughter of men, to bloodshed and wars.’

For most people, there were few or no other choices than to obey the master, the sovereign, the owner of the land, and take part in the killing of others, human and nonhuman, in wars and in hunting. Yet, most ordinary people subsisted on a mainly frugal diet, eating that which resulted from working the soil, collecting fruit and berries from trees and bushes, catching occasional fish from streams and lakes. In fact, the killing of other mammals, ‘meat’, was never a standard feeding ingredient for the European majority. The consumption of animal flesh by the society’s elite constituted rather a manifestation of power, towards other creatures, and towards the people.

However, there were parallel stories and parallel life approaches, such as the one suggested by Plutarch. Would history have staged differently, had Plutarch’s warning of the consequences of killing animals resounded through Europe? Some people may have listened and absorbed his wisdom; and ideally, the European continent would then have developed in more peaceful ways.

Anyhow, in the enlightenment tradition, there are to be found traces of Plutarch’s cross-species non-violence, in the writings of Montaigne, Rousseau, and Voltaire, and among some of the revolutionaries, both English and French, during and after the French Revolution. For instance, in his Tableau de Paris from 1782 and 1783, Louis-Sébastien Mercier states about the frequent slaughtering of animals in the city:

‘But his [a young bull] groans of pain, quivering muscles and terrible convulsions, his final struggle as he is trying to avoid an inevitable death; all this attests to the fear of violence, pain, and suffering. Look at the terrible pounding of his naked heart, his eyes darkening and languishing. Oh, who can contemplate this, who can listen to the bitter sighs of this creature sacrificed for man!’ ‘These streams of blood affect the morals of humanity as much as they affect the body and lead to the corruption of both.’

Mercier’s colleague Olympe de Gouges, in her revolutionary thinking, contested both human slavery in the French colonies and the suppression of women, proclaiming all humans in the world, of whatever sex or colour, to be equally and naturally included in the animal realm, stating humans to be the ‘most beautiful’ of all animals. In the years following the French revolution, lamenting its failure, writers such as the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley blamed public butcheries and copious drinking habits for the domestic bloodshed that caused the revolution to collapse. Had the people been less accustomed to the slaughtering of animals in the streets, Shelley argued in a manner reminiscent of Mercier and Plutarch, they would not have accepted the violence that affected fellow Parisians, and maybe the revolution could have survived and escaped Napoleon’s dictatorship and wars.

I have hitherto made references to an almost exclusively male non-violence literature tradition. This is, however, no wonder since for most of European history people ascribed to the category of women – half of the population – were generally excluded from formal learning, qualified education, payment, equal hereditary rights, and sexual rights, civil and political rights. Women did probably write on the subject of hunting and domination; however, this writing is still yet to be discovered.

Nonetheless, in fine art, in the same era as Rubens painted the goddess Diana in a romanticising scene of hunting, several women artists painted themselves or other people instead holding animals, caressing animals, tables of fruits, tables of flowers: Lavinia Fontana, Anna Maria Van Schurman, Judith Leyster, Louise Moillon, Raschel Ruysch.

These hyper-skilled artists may indeed have felt, and known by experience, that Ruben’s Diana was not a real person; that she is a figurehead, a pictorial euphemism, an allegory deployed to depict a reality, which, unless you stage as the mock Diana, has little beauty in it.

Chances are these artists rather identified themselves with the hunted animal, thrown to the ground, robbed of its, his or her possibilities and autonomy by humans who might have chosen to do otherwise. Alternative myths of bravery told in these times may also have come to mind: The story of Francis of Assisi making friends with birds and wolves, and the legend of an anonymous woman defending a deer who, having fled through the woods from a hunting party, finds refuge at her human feet.

Despite the fact that world forest areas are shrinking to give way to feedlots for the mass production of beef, causing oxygen levels to fall and reserves for carbon emissions to disappear, thereby threatening the intertwined survival of human and nonhuman, hunting has nowadays become a popular sport. Indeed, modern hunting in the Northern hemisphere, although in itself disruptive to ecological systems, is marketed as an attractive leisure accessible for people of whatever gender, seemingly natural, but artificially complete, with big heated vans, state of the art technological weapons, and latest countryside fashion clothes.

As many of the things we appreciate and enjoy in modern life are human-made, artfully or not, ranging from bicycles to titan legs, computers, plant meat stuff, and contraceptives, it can hardly be the artificiality that makes hunting remarkable. That which makes luxurious hunting remarkable – in every millennium – is rather the killing of those that cannot defend themselves, the outlook and practice of the one who has everything but goes to war against the one who has nothing but his, her or its own life.

First published in Contributor no 12 2016

©Arimneste Anima Museum #2

 

 

 

 

Rosana Antolí

 

rosana-antoli-quan-les-linies-son-temps-espai-13-fundacio-joan-miro-foto_pere-pratdesaba-7

 

Hur kan tiden visas som form och upplevelse?

Vikten av att ifrågasätta standarduppfattningar om växande, tid och utveckling som linjärt bestämda är numera erkänd. Inte lika erkänt är varifrån denna kritik stammar: urbefolkningar, miljörörelsen och ekofeministiska tänkare.

Men går tiden att tänka som en egen kropp? En ormliknande dito, hopsnurrad runt sig själv? Med återgångar och upprepade svängar, likväl på väg mot kroppsänden, därmed sitt slut?

Rosana Antolís When lines are time, kurerad av Martí Manen på Fundació Joan Miró i Barcelona 1/7 2016 – 11/9 2016, leker med kronologin som koreograferad materiell rörelse, som installation och som cirkulärt agerande: Hur tänker jag tiden? Hur känner jag den?

Antolí gör kritiken av det linjära till form; uppfattningen om tid som något universellt rakt och platt stämmer inte. Som bild och symbol för vars och ens enskilda upplevelser brister den; händelser återkommer, känslor återkommer, viker av, gör språng, far ut, landar, tycks upphöra men fortsätter i samma kropp inuti ett rektangulärt rum.

Antolís tidsorm av ögonblick som staplas i mängd syns här som medvetandemässigt exakt; i överensstämmelse med och beroende av källan, det unika medvetandet:

Du blir av med din sko, du är fem.
Du tappar din sko, du är trettiotre.
Du får inte på dig din sko, du är sextiosju.
Du är elva, du sviker en vän.
Du är fyrtiotvå, du blir sviken av en nära vän.
Du är etthundrasju, du förlorar din första vän, du får nya vänner.

Att genomleva en känsla, att återuppleva den som en ny känsla som uppstår i den gamla. Hur skulle just min eller din tid, våra liv, se ut om de tog form i böjd materia på detta vis? Vilken sorts riktat trassel summerar vår tid, våra medvetanden? När blir just min tid till en form redo att ställa ut?

 

rosana-antoli-quan-les-linies-son-temps-espai-13-fundacio-joan-miro-foto_pere-pratdesaba-2

 

Det är möjligt att tänka frågor om tiden som individuellt existentiellt mänskligt ontologiska, fastän de samtidigt är samhälleliga och civilisatoriska. Hur skulle olika samhällen – kollektiven av människors och andra varelsers – villkor, kamper, ögonblick, trassel av sett och återsett, känt och återupplevt samla sig i en ringlande ormkropp?

26th of August 2016

 

©Arimneste Anima Museum #1

 

 

Råd för det demokratiska försvaret

 

 

Finns det principer som är heliga? Kan principer vägas mot omständigheterna? Alternativt kombineras med avvärjande praktik? I ett förord berättar författaren Dalton Trumbo om hur han under andra världskriget avstod från att låta trycka om sin klassiska antikrigsroman Johnny Got His Gun från 1939 (Johnny var en ung soldat, översättning Kerstin Gustafsson 1987). Beslutet fattades efter att en nazist skickat ett beundrarbrev som visade att bokens budskap riskerade bli utnyttjat i amerikanska nazisters propaganda för fred och pacifism.

Nazister som fredsmäklare och snälla fredsvänner? Det är inte bilden de flesta har av nazisterna, men det var så de ville framställa sig både i Europa och i USA. Nationer och personer och minoriteter som vägrade gå med på diktaten var enligt propagandan emot freden och utmålades som skyldiga till invasionerna och förföljelserna. En i sanning infamt orimlig politisk logik: Går ni inte med på att vi invaderar er, tvingas vi invadera er. Går ni inte med på att vi fördriver och dödar er, tvingas vi döda er. Allt är ert eget fel, vi ville bara bevara ”freden”. I USA kunde nazister ses demonstrera på New Yorks gator med pacifistiska slagord stulna från fredsrörelsen.

Ja, ett passivt USA hade förstås spelat Hitler i händerna. Något Dalton Trumbo i konstens och politikens namn inte ville bidra till. Tidens raster förändrade hans bok och de politiska krafterna kunde missbruka den nya läsningen. Så blev tillfällig självcensur den bästsäljande fredsappellens öde. Trumbo såg till omvärldsfakta för att inte bli en nyttig idiot åt nazismen. Ett drygt decennium efter andra världskrigets slut förhöll sig saken annorlunda – och romanen gavs ut igen (1959 och 1970).

När Dalton Trumbo blev varse tillståndet för sin roman hade han som vänsterman redan genomskådat nazisterna och deras falska tal om fred. Men inte alla var så politiskt insatta, bildade och uppdaterade. Det fanns de som blev lurade – eller lät sig luras. Närapå vem som helst kan bli lurad av bedrägliga aktörer. Idag, med starka högerkrafter i omlopp, utrustade med nya strategier för gamla och dolda agendor, är det något att hålla i minnet. Allt är inte vad det synes vara, och det som synes vara, kan verkligen förhålla sig så.

Varpå vilande debattböcker får förnyad aktualitet. I Denying the Holocaust (1993) visar den amerikanska historikern Deborah E. Lipstadt, nyligen på Sverigebesök med  Antisemitism Here and Now (2019), hur högerextrema agerat sedan andra världskriget för att framhålla nazismen som rumsren och tänkbar.

Lipstadt upptäcker en ombytlig taktik. Först sökte de urskulda den nazityska politiken och Förintelsen, när försöket misslyckades, började de istället förneka. Intressant nog finner hon även att dessa högerextremister som regel omfattade antifeminism med det uttalade kvinnoföraktet som central ingrediens.

För sin kritiska och vasst skrivna bok stämdes Lipstadt i Storbritannien av förnekaren och historikern David Irving – en rättegång hon vann och har skildrat i boken History on Trial (2006), filmatiserad av Mick Jackson med titeln Denial (2016).

Utöver det djupt kränkande mot offren är förnekandet av Förintelsen en märklig företeelse i sig. Hur kan en motsäga något så omvittnat och beforskat? Hur kan en vilja avslöja sig faktaresistent bortom allt förnuft? Tyvärr vet de vad de gör, menar Lipstadt. Genom att upprepa lögner om och om igen lyckas de så frö av tvivel. På så vis uppnår de förvirring samtidigt som de skapar nyfikenhet och kan uppfattas som att de befinner sig på ”andra sidan i debatten”.

De mindre insatta i seriös forskning och kunskap – allmänhet, journalister, politiker – riskerar enligt Lipstadt att bli förda bakom ljuset av dessa yttrandefrihetsmissbrukare i välskräddade kostymer och märkesblusar. I kanadensiska dokumentären Ondskans åklagare – mannen som fällde nazisterna av Barry Avrich (Prosecuting evil 2018) berättar Ben Ferencz, överåklagaren i rättegångarna mot Einsatzgruppen, om en nazistofficers humanitära fasad. Det är en kort sekvens som ställer den nazistiska kamouflagetaktiken i blixtbelysning. Officerens hövliga sätt gjorde det möjligt att bedra än mer effektivt. Se här, vi vill er bara väl, vi vill den totala freden.

Det vill säga freden under stöveln. Fascismens och nazismens modus operandi. Den totala lögnen, den fullständiga oanständigheten. Nazisterna kallade förstaden till Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, för ”staden Hitler gav till judarna”. Rent och snyggt och perfekt, inget anstötligt vid ridån, inget synligt intill stängslet. En kuliss som dolde en motsatt verklighet. När det var försent uppenbarades sanningen. Leendet och friden var en grimas. Och välvilligheten och hjälpsamheten första steget på vägen till utnyttjande och dödande.

Om denna bedrägerimetod har vittnats mångtaligt. Så vad händer om insmygande av avskyvärda ideologier och praktiker sker i ett senare läge, när de uppfattas som givet orimliga och för alltid förbrukade? En situation Lucía Punezo skildrar i spelfilmen Den tyske läkaren (The German Doctor 2013), baserad på en verklig händelse i Argentina under 1960-talet. Filmen tar sin början i det som utgör vardagskittet mellan människor – tilliten, empatin och förnuftet – och visar hur dessa grundpelare kan exploateras för att förvilla och bryta sönder.

I den nazistiska och fascistiska obstruktionen undermineras förtroendet för de närmaste och att tillhöra kvinnokategorin innebär att betraktas som det mest åtråvärda objektet. Och därmed bli utsatt för existentiell fasa. Finns det överhuvudtaget någon jag kan lita på? Kan något alls tas för givet? Med den ordinära tilliten raserad, utlämnas var och en till moralisk och politisk misstänksamhet, tvivel och förvirring.

Vad är då den praktiska lärdomen? Hur kan fascistoida krafter bemötas och bekämpas – med bibehållen medmänsklighet? Det hållbara svaret är att undervisning i demokratiska värderingar och historia måste ske kontinuerligt och börja tidigt i livet. För den allmänna debatten gäller enligt Deborah E. Lipstadt att inte debattera med förnekare av fakta, särskilt inte Förintelseförnekare, eftersom att synas på samma arena får dem att framstå som legitima motståndare och bidrar till att sprida deras budskap.

Deborah E. Lipstadts rekommendation lyder: förbjud inte deras tal, låt dem yttra sig, motsäg dem. Men medverka inte till att de får en plattform. Ge dem inte mark, legitimera dem inte som giltig motpart. Att medverka i en panel är ett sorts förtroendeuppdrag, därför är inte yttrandefrihet för alla detsamma som en plats i panelen. Lipstadts lösning kombinerar självförsvar, utifrån historiska och nutida fakta och erfarenheter, med hyllande av grundläggande demokratiska och medmänskliga principer. Ett råd avpassat för vår tid.

 

  • Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun,  New York: Bantam, 1989
  • Dalton Trumbo, Johnny var en ung soldat, övers. Kerstin Gustafsson, Stockholm: Prisma, 1987
  • Deborah E. Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust, the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (1993), Penguin, 2006

 

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