Find us on Google+ my wits' ~ licentia vatum: November 2007

Thursday, 29 November 2007

agent provocateur

"A Dutch conservative lawmaker said on Wednesday he is making a film to highlight what he describes as "fascist" passages in the Qur'an, his latest high profile criticism of Islam"


It’s irritating to read misguided pulp being wrought and sold as relevant agit-prop.

The intellectual arrogance of proselytizing to the rest of us what fascism means [and specifically] in relation to a text regarded as divinely inspired - by millions of people over a period of 14 centuries -lends to an intensifying of the tension and alienation being created in the broader Islamic world by a myopic intelligentsia lecturing on behalf of the broader West, already embroiled deeply in military and political interference in the Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst others, and luxuriating in its cultural and economic bullying of the rest of the developing world.

As a reaction to Western imperialism, those of us identifying ourselves as Islamic at least in a general sense, and who stood on the sidelines because we weren't directly impacted by such attacks, are now compelled to define who and what we really are and where we stand, culturally, religiously and just as people, in the face of this type of mindless, patronizing and ignoble attack on a way of life and modes of existence that are shared and valued by approximately 1.3 billion people today.

Whatever criticisms may validly be leveled at Islam[-ic practices], the sources of the critique, to be effective and cohesive, have to be contained within the intellectual and moral framework of the wonderful civilization and cosmos which Islam is, as many of us experience it, lest we give credence to a fraudulent public relations campaign dressed up as social analysis and bank-rolled by and on behalf of a Western imperialist pulse.

By attempting to understand any [claimed] excesses within the practice/s of Islam from the West’s moral and political point of view is already, dangerously, a capitulation to the quite subtle but no less insidious idea that the West understands something we as moral [Muslim] inferiors don’t.

And that same understanding we think we have, is bewildered- subliminally believing that we have forged the understanding independently of a virulently biased media and intelligentsia - and further perpetuates the myth [within and among ourselves] that Western modes of existence and analysis are superior to ours, particularly where the social and moral differentiations between the two civilizations may seem irreconcilable; and leaves us hovering on the back foot because we're not quite certain where we are on that tense continuum, oscillating between a secularity marked by the lure of a crass [intellectual] hedonism, and the demands of a religiosity whose pedigree we're no longer sure of.

Further, whatever violations of conduct and code in the Islamic world which may be understood and criticized or condemned from a universal and therefore implied objective moral standard, is far outweighed if the same claimed objective measurements are applied to the scale and violations that the West continues perpetrating against peoples and countries it deems (but will not admit to doing such) as inferior, and therefore justified in being vilified and exploited.

dr' a'goon(ed): 'n'ova 'ewe

In quick step, by my own hand, the smouldering joys of tobacco , then cannabis, merely a year after having entered high-school.

Inchoate still the relationship, mustered with licit and-not-so-licit mood-and-mind altering substances, conceived thus, [for] a misfit to the dunya, perplexed as much by this, the material world, bewildered so by a concomitantly writhing inner world, cauldron one to the fire of the other.

The threat, brewed as young adulthood encroached in flagrant trespass, displaced the visicitudes of childhood, in situ the torrents of a determined fate, not to be allayed for that in the name of a boy an elder might protectively in a usual course of affairs previously deflect.

Fixated in fear, curiosity straddles the chasm in accompaniment of instincts bristling at risk.

In the catacombs, subterranean urban lore, teeming with dreams given voice by an ubiquitous pop-media, the poster-boy for a modern collective unconscious, the wise-guy who overcomes the grimy obstacle of human transactional existence,  transcending the malformed fences of a brittle existence.

All, the outlaw needs – smoldering stogie perched on a steely lip - to deal with the dilemma is a drink at hand, a salve to the prerequisite aloneness which such rigours demand, maybe a girl with a heart-and-head-of-gold to tend the wound.

Little else, to maintain a blurry self-esteem.

The gains of a street-drugs remedy to an adolescent negotiating a demanding and contradiction ridden world include an honoured membership to a particular kind of group -- part lumpen-proletariat, part surrogate family, all bound by street alley romanticism and boys-toilet wisdom.

The notion of a Band o’ Gypsies with a tough mentality playing on its own terms in a world it was not entirely in tune with was never misplaced.

Being stoned dissolves anxieties and care. The grey and rigid ethos of school-life seeped back into the concrete and asbestos from which it had been raised,and moulded by equally grey, rigid men.

The underlying tension and conflict of home-life become clearer in their absurdity when, with dagga lending its noxious charm, these, often intractable double-binds, are shown to be the caricatures they sometimes really are -- a confused urbanity which takes itself to extremes so brittle sometime, to evade breakage, only laughter may do

Smoking ganga hacked a path to a space, to the head, that nothing, nor anyone, might threaten. Any remaining interest in formal studiy, all engagement in convention ordaining activity, relationships with family and former friends waned as my relationship with substances and the new vistas they offered grew.

Dagga enhances, throwing into disarray the neuro-circuitry, the experience of what increasingly appears as an unduly complicated, dull, churlish world. Alienated by the received wisdom of inane chatter about interest rates, mortgages, banking, dope slows down time, time running, time running-out. To top it all, I didn’t know the standard device asking a girl out, let alone say boo-or-baa (to quote a mother's stinging refrain) to her; and if said hypothetical girl might humour said hypothetical, frightful musings, I wouldn’t have known how to show her the time of day

But, I was experiencing synaesthesia, so, it didn’t matter -- seeing sounds, hearing colours far exceeds any illusions of this dunya, the world.

The change wrought biologically, jack-booting in time with that kaleidoscopic psychological and emotional cataclysm which adolescence seems to typify,literally mind-boggling, morphing one into adulthood, with all the contortions and shedding such a metamorphosis begets, coping mechanisms trailing by a dizzy margin dizzy the more eating dust.

The scaffold serving transition into young adulthood is meagre, still-born and bound in fright to the simple requirements of childhood, tested beyond its mettle in rapidly unfolding and woefully inadequte philosophical abstractions, plagued by physical changes and desires that a child-like moral system will heft under. The sum of my parts threatened the whole.

A cataclysm, the breech into which authorities won't step, at least decisively, creatively,with care and respect. For them , the sum of their parts too runs riot in whole.

Teachers lack the pizazz, lose it in becoming adult; a profusion of technical knowledge about industry-relevant subjects don’t qualify young people to live, interact and communicate effectively with others. The preparation was to try make you the fit,a working cog to commerce and industry, not a bad idea in itself, but become so when the psychological and emotional infrastructure encasing it is most not even an afterthought.

They couldn’t be blamed for throwing their hands up, in metaphorical despair,  literally too, at times times stopping short of throwing them at me, and placing someone like me, physically and emotionally, in a location where I would be the least damaging to their classroom management motifs.

The maulanas, well, they just throw more bones, brimstone-and-fire kinda stuff. With the prodigiously  adolescent endowed ability to abstract, and the hubris that inevitably accompanies the profound discovery of contradiction from the rarified heights of infallibility, I had proved to myself their threat of hell a scam; at least in one area of my life.

Evidence of the lack in god his deadliest intentfor serious transgressions , as proposed by my parents and religious instructors to me from my earliest recall, presented itself finally in the tchuana tree, too many years stood silent witness  at my former primary school.

This was a tree, we had discovered to our horror and dismay as 8 year olds, which local dagga smokers had subversively consecrated to their own evil ends.

The carving, complex, ornate, more insidious to an  untouched little mind -- the blackened carving made it a tchuana tree, elucidated a precocious peer. When a dagga smoker tchuana’d, he sipped and retained water in the floor of his mouth whence he inhaled, nay, pulled was the word, dagga smoke from a broken bottle-kop pipe. After the inevitable exhalation -- if he didn't of course fall down dead first -- he spat the previously retained water into the carving on the tree, mesmerised further by the bubbles from the descending liquid bursting and releasing wisps of smoke. This ritual, we were duly informed by our young but miseducated friend, might take hold in the dead of night, emblem of the door to and ember of hell.

This vision haunted me for years: the carving, the blackening around it, the tree, and the remains of the totemic rituals around it -- burnt offerings.

I found myself -- near sudden -- a few years later, needing to test this evil, kneading to see if I might provoke the wrath of god. Youth knows no fear. I would discover for myself first-hand what smoking a tchuana pipe meant. Having not being struck down by a bolt-of-lightening, the rest of my fragile moral structure was going to get a working out.


At nineteen, having not completed my schooling satisfactorily, unemployed and paralysed with uncertainty, I ventured forth, only to discover Vesperax and Mandrax, two powerful, pharmaceutically synthesized sedatives, along with a myriad other substances, sometime cocaine and the benzodiazipines, then too Ritalin and Obex: lexicon of the autodidactic street pharmacist, purveyor of fine and custom-built chemical dreams, friend to the emotionally emaciated, neglected and oppressed, expanded.

The effects of these drugs are not unlike those induced by alcohol, but keener and more to the point, less coy in their demeanor, and mercurial in their paradoxically desired menace. My still immature and developing personality deteriorated unceremoniously within a matter of days with the ab/use of these. I might be hurled into a state of disorientation ,and might demonstrate [with] violence if the uneasy path to this chemical oblivion was obstructed. The existential and physical search for the promise of annihilation these substances hold, pharmacological manna from laboratory heaven, became my raison d'ĂȘtre.

In quick time, supply-and-stash of drugs and tolerance exhausted, I came to one morning, to find myself bound hand-and-foot to the four corner-posts of a bed in that evergreen institution of western Johannesburg, known affectionately amongst people of colour as Coronation Hospital. I was dazed. My tongue swollen, cut and bleeding, every fiber of my body twitch' and hurt.

Having been revived by an angel-of-mercy decked out in the prosaic wings of a nurse, I discovered that I had convulsed a few times with the onset of acute withdrawal the night before. The rest of the hospital staff was generally unsympathetic and approached me as one would a menacing and overgrown child. My confusion and despair was to be encouraged by threats of institutionalization in a place of safety for the criminally insane.

To my family, and what remained of my friends, in my naive and damaging eagerness to remove their confusion and anger, I promised too hastily that I would never hurt them or myself again by repeating something-like-this.

After a short, circumstantially enforced stint of sobriety, I became the architect of my own victim hood once more, and this catch-me-if-you-can game was to be the template for a pattern that characterized my life for the next seven years.

Play(?) with drugs, lose control, hit a crisis, get stopped almost dead in my tracks…and start the vicious cycle all over again. With each spiral, the situations I got into got worsee. My behavior and my value-system progressively deteriorated. I lied, cheated, manipulated and stole to protect my precarious and precious relationship with drugs.

By the time I turned 27, my life had become one, long, sustained crisis. I had been fired twice and could no longer hold a job down, had been divorced, had few friends and spent more time in hospital then out of it.

I finally agreed to treatment, where I learned to identify that I was a drug-addict. The process of negating my denial of the idea that I might be a common or garden variety drug-addict was difficult to countenance. For years, the psychotropic drugs I got prescribed to me, usually by the new secular priesthood , I understood as being for depression, stemming from my dysfunctional family as well as dealing with the psycho-pathological calculus of day-to-day life in a country steeped and practiced in an institutionalized racial segregation. I further understood my use of substances as extending my creativity as a musician, and generally improving my ability to communicate with others.

The thought of sobriety at first alienated me. It required sacrificing a central mode of living, abandoning my hard fought for ideas and idealization of the processes and relationships, so much of it gravitating around using alcohol, and other mood and mind-altering substances, whether for recreational or creative purposes.

At the very least, I baulked at having to learn to treat with suspicion even the idea of using chemicals as an act of self-medication for healing.

With time and practice, the sober path has become easier to embrace and more sustainable. I’ve forged a wholly more constructive lifestyle, but not without its challenges of course.

Embracing straightness is confusing sometimes, especially when one looks to straight people modeling values and behaviors that someone like me assumes would be antithetical to those which characterize drug-use behaviors and values.

A number of straight people, who’ve never degenerated the way someone like myself has, seem comfortable in the moral ambiguities, emotional ineptitude and cognitive discrepancies they display, some of it bordering on hypocrisy in its easy presentation as standard rectitude and normalcy. This is perhaps because the behaviors encapsulating these contradictions are marginal enough for the people exercising them to have gotten away with it untested.

What it means is that people like me, trying to [re] adjust, have to sometimes dig deeper to find meaning in the things that straight society seems to take for granted, and search harder for a personification, an exemplification of appropriate behaviour. It’s a tough ask for misfits like myself, but I continue anyway.

Why persist then, when it’s tough and the rewards of sobriety don’t always feel good?

To someone like myself, who started out early adulthood with ambitions that were different to a degree from people who define themselves as normal, it’s unsurprising that sustaining clean time and sobriety can be a mission. In young adulthood, I was drawn to experiences and fantasies that stood in stark contrast and opposition to what just a few years earlier as a seemingly well-adjusted, educated, middle class and god-fearing child I had disavowed with fear and disgust.

Recovery means revisiting and embracing the moral basics of my childhood. I started out on the path of recovery very tentatively, and needed to know that if I couldn’t deal again with the realities of living, that I could opt out again.

I bought into a trick, a mental sleight of hand– proposed by a fellow recoverer- that I could use drugs again if I chose to, but to take full responsibility for the would-be act, to be newly understood, now with full knowledge and consciousness, and with that insight, the act of using drugs to be embraced as a slow but conscious form of suicide, and all the damage [to others] that goes with killing oneself.

20 odd years later, I still fall back on the trick: when the going gets tough, the tough embraces his weakness’ and figures, I can go out and do the relapse properly, but I’ll wait just a little longer to see if gets tougher. If it does, I’m going to top myself, if not, I’ve survived another day.

I’ve survived another day mostly.

The formula hasn’t always carried me through though. Amongst the other psychological and emotional sleights of hand I mostly successfully utilize, I started using drugs and alcohol again, 7 years into my sobriety, thinking insanely once more that I had it under control. I didn’t, and I chalked up more damage.