Jelena Savic

I am a fuckn artist!

A Letter to Fanon, exotic stories; resistance to consumerism of the anti-colonial thought /en February 22, 2017

 

za-blog“In these clean, warm, white, protected spaces of culture, Fanon, not at all like the part of the town torn in a sloppily hidden, criminal intervention by the city government, your life and your fight is safely read, on a cold, cold winter day, in a white, white reading club, with enjoyment, and a thrill, as “The Lord of the Rings”, when the reader’s stomach is shrunken, and the hart shivers from your words, as for the life of an imaginary hobbit, in front of the grate Dark Lord Saruman. And race is imaginary as a walking tree, and there, as with an elvish rope, white privileges are once again made invisible behind the glass walls of the institution of the culture of the grate France, the country whose criminal, dehumanizing, destructive ways, walls and borders you knew too well. The only thing was, Fanon, the background music from behind the glass wall was not right on this day of screening.”

***

This text is made in reaction to the round table “Colonialism and postcolonialism: Critical perspective on the challenged, accepted and controversial heritage” in Belgrade, in the French institute Serbia, on the February 3rd, 2017.  It could also be an unintended, but timely reaction on the talks about “those uncivilized football fans of the football club ‘RAD'”, white Serbian men, who’s racism, with which many minorities live here on the Balkan for centuries, became so visible all over the Europe and America, but with which “civilized” Serbian whites, apparently, “have absolutely nothing to do”.

(Version in Serbian will be on proletter.me soon)

Dear Fanon,

I have been hearing many things about you lately. White, educated and well off women and men in my country on semiperiphery, Serbia, in a perilous time, publish your words and speak of you in the institutions of culture, from quite comfortable and safe places. I decided on this occasion to write to you about several things and keep you updated. Here, we face usual problems in determining who is the enemy. Seems that who is the enemy is not really clear and we apply either – or approach trying to find this out. Violence is mentioned, but not preferred. Women and men of books, consumers, encounter some digestive problems when they read your work. I will write to you about this and the brilliant imaginary story of The Lord of the rings and how I found you in it, about promises, walls which will be broken, and finally, about the music of the wretched to which I hope for.

Who is the enemy?

First thing is, I was caught off guard by the easiness with which white educated folks speak of you and your work in the space of French culture, with a confident smile. Like you did not talk about them, white, privileged, educated people as colonizers at all. Like it is about somebody else. They speak about your work as it is only about how poor Black people from a distant land, in a different time, are made to have inferiority complex by some white, horrible folks, which is why these poor Blacks want to be whites. Of course, with these white folks they have absolutely nothing in common. And they speak of this mask wearing in such a pitiful tone, Fanon, as only whites who think themselves to be untouched and above their whiteness and colonizing acts can do. Poor, poor Black people, with their confounded minds, and some distant whites and their strange colonizing ways, reported in traveling memoirs they, white and untouched by their whiteness, translate. To me, it all appeared much as a special occasion when exotic stories about colonialism, read about in some rare, dusty, old books, are now, in their grace, shared, on a cold winter night, in a warm safety of their institution of culture. Honest to God Fanon, like there is no connection of your work with anything real in this space-time at all! Well, maybe in a distance, with some troubles in the USA.

Funny thing is, Fanon, they still find themselves in solidarity with these wretched, poor Blacks you wrote about, and let us say, the ones from the distant present, with these acts of reading of your work, translating, publishing and speak about it. But, not just that, Fanon, to serve the purpose other than to tell a story on a cold night, they find themselves also in a similar position of colonized people, by some other, this time real, bad, bad whites. Not that it is not true, of course, but sure thing is, Fanon, they do not see themselves, in addition, as the people you described them, these white, educated people, elite of a society, not at all. Nevertheless, no matter how silly the role of the culture is in our wretched society, these people dominate what is left of the public spaces, and contribute to what is left of the public opinion. With wasted privilege, pushing without any resistance, their world views and interpretations of colonialism and anti-colonialism, as light as the winter night falls over our wretched White-city[1]. Our leftists sell themselves quite cheap, and they clap as soon as they hear these academics say “left”.

So these members of the academic elite offer, I would say as usual, theirs in many ways, obviously sloppy, too detailed, recite-like, simplified, tiring, irrelevant and lousy prepared talks to the audience, hungry for critical approaches like yours, who do not even have enough space to sit, gathered by the promise of your name and that term – colonialism, in the city with the major who obviously lazy and sloppy plagiarized his Ph.D[2]., under the city holiday lights, procured on a sloppily hidden corrupted tender, set up by the city government[3], led by this domestic violence perpetrator[4], major of ours. As bad students, as our major was, and not really intellectuals, God forbid, public ones, they offer interpretations of your work and your life, and, as you will understand, the lives of the ones who are not alike to them, protected from their presence, far distant, behind the glass walls of warm, white institutions of culture, in their own clean, white compartment of semiperipheral, wretched White-city we share.

What about violence?

Now, not just that they do not identify as colonizers, but when they identify with colonized, they take that in their position of wretchedness, violence you mentioned is out of the place. Let me explain a bit. The demands you claimed the wretched have, do not necessitate violence, according to them. How well you knew them, white, privileged pacifists! They have sympathy for the resistance towards the center, America and European capitalist democracies, sure. As their enemies, they see compatriots, whites, whom they (even mistakenly, I reckon, in their too often allowed and uncontested laziness and shallowness) see as propagators of colonial politics, however, they prefer to treat them mostly with superficial sarcasm and irony, while on the other hand they equate revolutionary violence you spoke about with reactionary demands of the brute, patriarchal, clero-fascist-nationalist. They say NO to violence. Its, above all, “primitive”. It does not suit them, of course. They wash their hands of those brutal nationalistic retrogrades, and they have no intention to make them dirty with violence what so ever – it is immoral, as much as they washed their hands long time ago from the dirty Roma children, who “dropped-out” from the school, as they are pears, with a gen for dropping,  pulling their sleeves on the streets now, or from the less than 1% of Roma students, or any other “underrepresented”, better put, “washed-hands-of” students, for that matter, but sure thing, they are men and women of books, you know.

Men and women of books

For God’s sake, Fanon, they do things on their, academic way, and they have no time for these irrelevant things, they are men and women of books!; and, comfortable places, it appears, where they can all speak for the whole two hours, accustomed to the authoritarian uncontested space on the side of the greater power of the cathedra, without showing any interest to hear and talk with all these people on the other side. And so they say, colonization was indeed bad, but, in essence, for their purposes of colonized subjects, violence will, of course, not be suitable. They can live with it. Indeed. They can; why they could not live with this colonization from the world political centers, in their warm, semiperipheral places of culture, on one of the windy and coldest days of exceptionally harsh winter, behind the glass walls, looking at the main street?

This is very lovely street, Fanon, as I said, beautifully decorated, and there, for the most of the day Roma musicians, with their chronic illnesses earned on their honest hard street-work, on this weather, play with bare fingers their oriental Roma music, for some other, white people; as they do in many other occasions, when they also play another song on their entertainment repertoire – their national anthem, for amusement. All to amuse whites, so they, invisible, but so easily recognized here as “Black people” ( how a little white kid in a market categorized me, as it did it to you while you were under impression you were French!), would have what to eat this winter, tough for street-job earners, under the bright holiday lights of white privileged corruption.

Consumers  and digestive problems

Let me tell you one more thing, Fanon, which made me resentful before I leave you to your well-deserved rest, since I fear you could possibly got many similar letters these days. Women and men of books have difficulties digesting what you wrote. They say it is easy to “consume” your work. They “devour” it with ease, in a day, or so. This is the word they use, really – “to consume”. These white, educated intellectuals, busy habitual “devourers”, consumers of interpretations and theories are very, very good in “consuming” materials of usually, in many ways, albeit not all the way, alike W.E.I.R.D. people – White, Educated, from Industrialized, Rich, Democratic countries (none apparently helping much in saving us from wretchedness we share, and sometimes they are so quick to consume, they choke a bit, but they wash it down with plagiarism, which is why, I would guess, it is tolerated among them, as a drug of choice).

 On the other hand, often, these theories are about in many ways not alike people – Black, uneducated, poor, Roma people also, like the ones behind the glass walls of the institutions of culture who play that loud music. Well, there is no special name for them. These are just wretched ones, I guess. As you wrote Fanon, white privileged people and their knowledge production is “light and breeze” when it comes to the lives of the wretched ones, so with ease they make theories and speak in powerful, “serious”, academic way about poverty, Black malaise, or criminality, or sexuality of Blacks, or Roma. As they produce it, with the same lightness and “expertise” they learn to consume this knowledge about Black animated cartoon characters they made for themselves, the ones  with big lips, or crystal balls.

 Now, Fanon, neither your life, nor your work are the portions they cannot swallow, as much as a romantic novel bought on a newspaper stand, its apparently so very, very easy. They might even credit you for the way you wrote it, so readable! It’s not like, what Hegel, or Sartre, or Merleau-Ponty, or others to whom they might attribute your work, these “hard” and “serious”, I suppose, white men of Europe, wrote, or whatever it is these white, educated people might have difficulties reading (which is why it must be from time to time they do reach for, or pretend they do not see plagiarism of some former “special”, nice, white, male students who abuse their political power)

They consume fast, run through colonized lives, but contrary to the, I guess, usually expected easy traveling through their system, the difficulty they report is, they feel some discomfort in their stomach. “Like there is a stone in your stomach after reading this book”, they say. Seems that, if consumed as fast food, your thoughts are hard to digest. I say! Good work Fanon, living your wretched life and making the wretched material of resistance to consumerism of anti-colonial thought, making them feel sick! But, alas, Fanon! Judging by the talk I witnessed, I am not sure it has a significant lasting effect! After all, white bodies of these elite intellectuals are trained only too well to get rid of everything producing discomfort. And anyway, just sharing in a protected warm, safe, white space of the institution of culture in a cold, cold day will do its thing (and I mean protected literally, with the detector for metal, or it was just for the books, I don’t know, however, the feeling is the same, with the guard next to it, you surely do feel checked, legit and protected by “the borders” from some possible “ilegit” migrants, academic intruders). Sharing will surely help as much as Espumisan[5], Nexium or what the white doctors, who do not prefer to touch dirty Gypsy bodies, especially attuned to the troubles of the white bodies, might prescribe, to burp, or farth, and chase away this alienating, obstructing discomfort of otherness, helping them to feel again as themselves –  empty, white and privileged as ever, and righteous above all, even wretched, with you on their side, all together. Amazing what public sharing among the supportive and silenced alike people can do!

The Lord of the rings

So there, Fanon, this is what I wanted to convey, my astonishment, and let us say, transfer of shame. But let me just tell you about this grate peace of imagination I found you in, as I promised! In these clean, warm, white, protected spaces of culture, Fanon, not at all like the part of the town torn in a sloppily hidden, criminal intervention by the city government[6], your life and your fight is safely read, on a cold, cold winter day, in a white, white reading club, with enjoyment, and a thrill, as “The Lord of the Rings”, when the reader’s stomach is shrunken, and the hart shivers from your words, as for the life of an imaginary hobbit, in front of the grate Dark Lord Saruman. And race is imaginary as a walking tree, and there, as with an elvish rope, white privileges are once again made invisible behind the glass walls of the institution of the culture of the grate France, the country whose criminal, dehumanizing, destructive ways, walls and borders you knew too well. The only thing was, Fanon, the background music from behind the glass wall was not right on this day of screening.

You were right, the lives of the wretched will eventually find their way in, one way or the other, and the walls will be broken, one day or the other. And I believe you were also right, there will be a lot of broken glass and blood, by Blacks (but that’s nothing new, is it) AND whites, from uneducated AND educated, from the worse off AND the better off, from the street-job earners AND the self-serving intellectuals and politicians. The times are perilous, but, as you knew too well at your time, and what I do not think our academics seriously understand – there are NO INNOCENT BYSTANDERS. There is little time left for them to wipe their bloody smug, blessed smiles off their faces, and METICULOUSLY, SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY read and learn from what you, and many like you, have bequeathed them with your life. I hope they do. For their own good, not for mine.

 

And the wretched music

There is just one more thing with which I will occupy your time. The music I hope for. I, being advised by the white people to value education to save myself from my Roma wretchedness, and, nevertheless, never really being allowed under these white comfortable academic walls, the situation you also knew too well, with many of my white masks, wretched, introjected self-doubts, seeing myself still, among other things, at least as some kind of intellectual, not that I expect them to grant me this ever, I try to learn my lessons. One of them, with their generous help, I learned only too well – to stop expecting anything but offended, frustrated, angry spiting on the offered chances for learning, a manifestation of seriously underdeveloped cognitive and emotional abilities of highly skilled, white, educated people to learn about the life of the not alike people, and the power of their white privileges, ability never measured or nourished in our discriminatory educational system, which all wretched would anyway pass with flying colors, by the way, their life being dependent on it.

So, I do not care if they face their demons at the end, Fanon, all surprised, furious and insulted. O, I hope they do. I could not care less for their anger, I stopped expecting, wishing and dreaming their white blessings, and their small honoraria, since I, after too much time wasted, eventually, learned – I will never be seen as equal, or good enough for them. I could not care less for their emotions, protected, white, privileged lives of educated people, while I stand there listening to their empty talks, with that music behind, humiliated, with disgust, with my stomach, work book[7], and my pockets empty, in the city center, under holiday lights of corruption. I would not object if all of them happen to lose their jobs and end up poor, like many workers whose factories were sold on tenders in a similar corrupted way, about which they tell us little using their ideas about colonization, when they would have nothing. They might actually care for the stories about wretched people for real, when their lives finally depend on it, when biopolitics starts to work in such a way that from your words their muscles relax, and their body gets some peace, all tensed in a constant defense mode, as many Black or Roma readers do feel, as I did.

I reckon, still, this is hardly unlikely to happen, but I wait for the day the music will be so loud, and never stop, when I will not hear them, talking empty white words wherever I turn for critical perspectives, hearing them wasting what is left of my years. All this whiteness, indeed! I wait for the day when their ears will hurt from that wretched music so much, that they will not be able to hear themselves in these left over places of culture and knowledge, vomiting, burping, farting and bulshitting their busily digested left and anti-colonial interpretations and theories of the wretched people’s lives, from their academic positions, won “meritocratically” by horded white privileges, inherited social capital and manners, conformism, strange silences and alliances, deals, the number of walked-over colleagues, and spit out references they managed to produce on the academic assembly line, most of them painfully irrelevant for the silenced audience, starving for critical thoughts which would help them to understand their lives and what the hell happened to their country.

Because, you know, Fanon, while our academics were busy fattening up their résumés, consuming and producing material only understandable to themselves, on an old elvish language of their wise, white academic ancestors, on which there is no word for the poor, Black, Roma or in any way not-alike academics, fighting for their numbers of published papers and positions in academia, the country was taken over and pushed fiercely into tyranny, familiar, patriarchal, nationalistic, but more neo-liberal one this time, and in addition to poverty, corruption and violence, the food shortages, smell of tear gas and bomb shelters become very vivid in all our wretched, semiperipheral, post-war memories. Too often I get the impression they do not understand this with their white privileged bodies, Fanon. It is probably still hard to, from their academic chairs, and piles of books of the cherished, white authors, who rarely knew or lived the lives of not-alike people, behind still holding glass walls of culture, busy, so busy with their academic work, maybe tired from chasing their tails, perhaps, but for sure not working for nine days with a day break, three weeks in a raw night shifts in a call-center of the American taxi company here, or without frozen fingers of the musicians on the streets of Serbia, which indeed flies with a super grate speed, on a good course towards the civil street resistance, no doubt.

Well, I sure hope our academic elite will understand this better soon, with palpable, painful feeling the Gypsy trumpet can produce, even from the far, far, almost dreamt, imaginary Roma lives, contained in their invisible, dirty, smelly, dangerous, and wretched slums, and suburbs, designated compartments of the White-city, from which men and women of books are guarded by the detectors for metal or books. As you said, Fanon, violence is already there, it is everywhere, it is on the hands dirty from whiteness of the “nice”, privileged, white people reading your books, also. I hope they understand that in this perilous time, too many of not-alike, but maybe even more alike than expected people will turn out empty handed, even the white ones, and, sure thing is, as you knew only too well, wretched people with nothing in their hands but broken promises do not have what to lose.

Farewell Fanon,

With my warm regards from the periphery of the academia and the periphery of the cold, wretched White-city, I thank you for your thoughts from your real, wretched life,

Jelena

 

Reference:

[1] Word play, Belgrade translates into the White-city.

[2] http://pescanik.net/velike-tajne-malog-majstora-ili-kako-je-sinisa-mali-ukrao-doktorat/

[3] https://pistaljka.rs/home/read/576 ,

[4] https://www.krik.rs/marija-mali-o-poslovima-bivseg-supruga-ofsor-skrivena-imovina-savamala/

[5] Medicine against swelling and tension in stomach used in Serbia and other European countries and highly advertised on TV with silly scripts like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZzZzqTzIvI

[6] https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2017/02/14/savamala-case-debated-in-the-european-parliament/

[7] Book where your jobs, official working experience is noticed by the National Service for Employment. Usually employers do not register worker not to pay taxes and many people actually work on a black market.