Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Business as usual

Back in the 1980ies I was a member of A.I.D.A. (Association Internationale de Défense des Artistes), an Amnesty affiliate, whose purpose it was to support artists who were kept political prisoners. People like Orhan Taylan, Karl Gaspar and Wei Jingsheng.

In 1986 I translated several texts about and by Wei Jingsheng (from English into German) for the production of Ariane Mnouchkine's The Trial against Wei Jingsheng at Munich. With a short repreive in 1993, Wei spent almost 19 years in prison, from March 1979 to November 1997, five of them in solitary confinement, isolation.

Solitary confinement was his situation in 1986 when I did the translations. I read about a small cell with a window, high above, that allowed Wei to see a square of the sky. There was serious concern, that he would "go mad" under these circumstances.

If anything is "abnormal" about me, it is my ability to identify. With the victims of injustice, assault, betrayal, abuse... you name it. And, by the way, it doesn't make a difference if the victim in question is a human being, an animal, a plant, a thing, whatever. I identify. I become the victim. I suffer. Why? Because I have been the victim myself. I didn't know then. It took many years and several crises to figure out. Crises: fights for freedom, for independence, for justice. Revolutions. Political, yes. Crisis is also always political. What is the difference between a dissident and a mad person? The dissident is conscious about what s/he is opposing.

I walked about, locked up in a small cell, with only a square of the sky to see. I was about to "go mad". I "went mad ", to a certain extent. To the rest of the extent, I was able to channel my revolution into activism.

One thought kept on milling around in my mind: I would have to go to China and free Wei. Now! Free Wei. Free me.

A similar thought crossed my mind tonight, when I got the news about Ray. Sometimes it's not so easy to turn identification into acceptance and compassion.

I wonder, when it will dawn on people in general, that what is called "help" for "the mentally ill" is nothing but additional, and often the ultimate, oppression of people who have been victimized and deprived of a constructive language of their own.

What I've heard about Ray's hearing, reminds me horrifyingly of Wei's trial: A complete farce. The outcome decided in advance. But while the self-appointed "democracies" in this world loudly protest human rights violations in countries like China, they are blind to the human rights violations that take place right in the middle of them, among their own people. Business as usual.

This is for all the dissidents who have been denied a voice of their own, and who are kept political prisoners under the guise of "help":

Peter Gabriel Biko Live 1986

"You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire"


Abysmal Musings said...

A frighteningly intelligent post. I'd be scared to ever meet you - your brain seems too similar. That remark on identifying and compassion is spot on.

All I mean is it is quite strange when a stranger voices one's one thoughts. It doesn't happen very often.

Take care, D

Gianna said...

yes, a brilliant post...
this song by Peter Gabriel brought back massive memories...

I was part of the apartheid protests at UC Berkeley...the biggest protests on that campus since Vietnam.

We listened to Biko all the time. And sang it in jail after we'd been arrested for blocking a building.

peace to you and all of us who identify with the oppressed.

Marian said...

D: I'm not dangerous! Gentle as a lamb. :D But, yeah, it can be terrifying to come face to face with yourself. And that's what communication always also implies: recognizing oneself in the other ('s words).

Gianna: It's the battle song to me. Or, more to the point: the civil disobedience song... PEACE to you too!