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Archive for May, 2010

When asked to write about aestheticising violence, I thought hmmm…I know many stories of violence, all true, and beginning to take shape as a memoir about my experiences as a runaway.  However, where is the beauty in it? 

I have decided that there is beauty – it’s invisible, but it is and always was there.  It lies deep within me, and the human heart, which continued to beat and contain the glowing coals of love, courage, innocence and strength in those days when I was sure it would stop, even when I wanted and willed it to stop. 

The beauty lies in the spark of hope, which forever finds its home deep within all of us, even when we, ourselves, don’t see it.  It lies in our inner strength to survive that which seems impossible to survive. 

The beauty is that I am now learning to love that young woman, the one toward whom I felt so much self-hatred.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When he smashes his fist into my face, I don’t feel pain.  My head snaps sideways and my body twists to follow.  It is an instant, yet it is forever.  Time doesn’t exist.  My senses are fuzzy, overlapping each other.  I feel blistery blood red and icy blue, I taste fear and panic, I smell my own nightmare rewind and begin again, rewind, begin.  How many times must I live this?  I remember whole stories in this instant, this forever.  They’re reverberations of this story.  Then, adrenaline takes over and I simply feel the need to survive.   Get away, get away, live, survive.  It’s all I know.  It’s all I feel.  I must get away from him…

The old trailer in which we live is far from the scrutinizing eyes of city people.  It’s tiny and dark, even on the brightest days, and holds inside itself the secret of my shame.  Fall sings her song of rich shades, the sprinkle of forest trees within sight, but not very close.  Nothing of the golden, shimmering shades is heard within these walls, only the growling of my stomach and the echoes of my crushed self-esteem.

I want to make something nice, something different, but we don’t have any money, and there are only the usual dried beans and some potatoes.  If I make something special, maybe he won’t be angry with me all of the time.  I just have to be better, that’s all, to try harder to make him happy. 

I know it’s me.  I really don’t blame him for always being mad.  I know I’m not pretty enough, even though he sometimes tells me that I am.  And I’m definitely not smart enough.  Then, there’s my figure.  Who would like anyone with a figure like mine, all thin and lanky?  If I looked like one of the girls in the magazines, or if I could do anything worthwhile, then maybe he would always be nice to me. 

I open the refrigerator again, thinking this time I’ll see something different; same thing as the other two times, an almost finished jar of mayonnaise, and a couple of bottles of beer.  I close the refrigerator door and wonder what to do.  I hadn’t eaten today.  Not that I don’t want to eat, I do.  There is just never enough food.  Maybe I can add the potatoes to the beans and make some soup.  Lots of salt and pepper.  That would be good.  It’s early enough to cook the beans if I start now.

I look once more through the soaked beans for stones before I add them to the pot of water and put them on to boil.  While they boil, I daydream about another life, a life far away, maybe deep in a thick enchanted forest where faeries play and spill sparkling dust of dancing, happy light on everyone, where animals laugh and I magically create full course meals out of beans and potatoes.    

Or I’d live in a faraway land, in a castle at the base of a mountain, which overlooks the sea.  Where leopards cry out in the night and monkeys come by to ask for bananas.  There, I’d be happy with myself; so happy that I’d live with a man who loves me for who I am, and I’d have two orange cats curled up in my lap while I concoct mystical baubles from the bleached bones and shiny shells of the nearby shore. 

I begin cutting the potatoes, and I think once again about all the good food I’d always had at home.  Most nights my little sister would pre-heat the oven and take the frozen TV dinners out of their boxes.  She’d peel open the plastic from the tin foil like containers and expertly put them on the racks to heat.  She was a good cook, even when she was only eight.  My mouth watered at the thought of the shiny metal trays with individual sections containing each food group.   

I remember looking in the refrigerator at home and whining about there being nothing to eat!  When I complained and wanted something different mom always said, “What do you think, money grows on trees?”

I wander over to the window and gaze out at the sharp blue day, a contrast to the dark, dingy trailer with its wretched paneled walls.  I wonder what I’d be doing if I hadn’t run away.  I wonder if anyone remembers me.  I look out and I wait. 

The anticipation is one of the most difficult parts.  I don’t know when he’ll transform from his sometimes charming, benevolent self to a man who is capable of inflicting intense harm.  It’s like living with two people.  When we have fun and all is well, and his personality is charming and amiable, I question my own experiences with the other part of him.  It doesn’t seem possible that so caring a person can also house a nature so tyrannical and brutal.  The more time that goes by, the more often his cruel temperament is unleashed and exposed, and it seems to be getting worse and worse.

I must try not to do anything that will make him angry, that’s all.  The difficult thing is I sometimes make him mad for no reason, just because I’m me.  God, I disgust myself.  No wonder he gets angry with me.  I glance at myself in the full-length mirror that’s on the bathroom door.  I can’t stand my face, all angular and thin.  My nose is too big and my eyes…I hate them, too.  They remind me of my father’s hazel eyes.  I don’t know how he can look at me every day.  I try to cover more of my face with my side-parted long brown hair, but it doesn’t really help.      

I prepare to smile, to be good, to do what he wants.  To be sure his food is ready, to laugh at his jokes, or to spread my legs, if he asks.  I’m a marionette.  He’s the master puppeteer.  I have no choice.  He’ll find me and kill me if I ever try to leave.  He tells me all of the time.  Life’s better for me if I please him.  It’s my only option.

Once, to my embarrassment, he asked me to remove my jeans and looked at me closely there, almost inspected me, and said he’d know if I ever fooled around on him.  I don’t know what he’s looking for, but I’m petrified he’ll find what he suspects is evidence, even though I would never be so stupid.

When he’s nice to me, it’s wonderful.  I latch on to these times when I feel loved.  His brown eyes glint and sparkle as we joke and laugh together, and for a few moments, I forget.  I forget about the biting cruelty of his tongue.  I forget how easily his mood tips to rage.  He tells me no one will love me as he does, and I believe him.  

He’s jealous, too.  He loves me so much he doesn’t want anyone else looking at me or talking to me.  Most of the time that makes me feel special.  Other times it scares me.

It’s getting dark, which is much later than usual for him to be home.  I begin to worry that he’s out drinking. On the other hand, maybe he’s been in a wreck.  Part of me hopes so.

I turn the soup off.  I’m hungry and I think about eating, but maybe I’d better wait.  I lie down on the couch and light a joint, drawing hard.  The smoke curls up and surrounds me with the sweet smell of cannabis.  I drift back in time, to hot, humid days spent walking along the shores of the Atlantic, swimming in its warm sea, letting the sun dry the salt onto my brown body.    

I sleep with the taste of ocean salt in my mouth.

I wake up on the couch.  It’s late.  I hear it again – the creaking of the door.  My defenses come up right away because I can tell he’s been drinking, even before I see him.  I instinctively know it.  He wouldn’t be home so late, if not.  

How did he get the money to drink?  We can’t even buy food.  Momentarily, I am upset.  I almost say something.  I try quickly to push the anger away.  What’s left is anxiety, dread, and a tight, sick feeling in my stomach.  I know what happens when he drinks. 

“Hi.  Do you want something to eat?”  I subserviently ask, trying to mask the anger and fear.   

He comes over, smiles, and gives me a kiss.  I try hard to act normal, as if I hadn’t waited all day to eat.  As if he hadn’t just walked in late at night, on this, our one-year anniversary together.  As if his drunken breath doesn’t scare me. 

He can tell by my response that I’m upset even though I try not to let it show. 

God, he knows. 

I smile.  I’m desperate now to be normal and to make him happy.  To calm the bubbling anger that always simmers under the surface. 

“What the fuck’s wrong with you?”  He asks, and holds my jaw with one of his hands.  He’s not so drunk that he can’t sense my tension.  Tears squeeze out the corners of my eyes.  He holds my face hard and I taste blood from the inside of my cheek.  Survive, live, lie, do anything, just stay alive. 

“Nothing, I just wasn’t fully awake.  I fell asleep.” I lie, desperate for him to think that nothing is wrong, desperate for him to love me and not get angry simply by looking at me.  He lets go.  My body and senses are acutely alert.  My breathing is shallow and nearly as fast as my beating heart.  I’m scared, and I need him to be calm.  I try to take slower, deeper breaths.   

He stands over me, as if wondering what to do.  I feel trapped.  I’ve been here before.  I know what’s coming and I can’t get away.  I will myself to disappear, but it doesn’t work.  Instead, I reach out to him.  Maybe if I show him love he won’t be angry.  Anything to stop what I know I can’t stop.   I see and feel his rage build.  My hand touches his hand and finds that it’s a tightly clenched fist.   

When he smashes his fist into my face, I don’t feel pain.  Adrenaline takes over and I simply feel the need to survive.   I try to get away, but I can’t back away from where I am.  “You make me sick.”  He slowly hisses through his teeth and comes toward me.  I put my arms in front of my face to shield myself.  It’s instinctual.  I’m knocked sideways on the couch, I slide down, and I crawl, desperate to get away.  Live, survive, live, get away, get away, get away, the voice screams in my head.

 

He tries to kick me, but I move out of the way and his brown scuffed boot only grazes me. I always loved the way he looks in those boots.  Like one of those male models, the ones who lean on fence posts and light cigarettes in the ads.  They always have cowboy hats that are tipped down over their eyes, and worn jeans.  He grabs me by the arm and yanks me up. 

I try to pull away.  I need to run into the hallway.  I need to get away from him.  I need to live.  Get out, get away, live, live, live.  “You stupid little bitch, you think you’ll get away from me?” he spits.  I swing hard.  The contact feels good.  The sickening sounds of flesh colliding with flesh seem amplified.  I have to get away.  He doesn’t expect it and it stuns him.  I pull down and disentangle myself from his grip. 

I run. 

I have to get into the bedroom where I can lock the door.  I need a barrier between us.  Get away, get away, get away.  He catches me in the short hallway and shoves me hard from behind.  I fall forward to the ground.  I try to crawl away from him.  The bedroom is tiny and I’m trapped.  I have to live. 

I fight.  I will not win, but I fight anyway.

He kicks me brutally on the side and I curl up into a ball.  He is vicious and kicks me again.  I can’t fight back anymore.  He knows it and it enrages him further.  I try to stop his boot.  All I see is his brown boot.  It’s bigger than I am.  It’s stronger than I am.  It doesn’t stop.  That boot that I love is going to kill me.

Now I’m going to die. He will kill me, just as he’s always told me.  I can’t get away.   

The voice in my head has changed.  Please help me, oh, God.  Someone help me.

 Suddenly, before I die, his rage expends, and he stops. 

It’s quiet.  Only my raspy breathing fills the corners of the room.

I can’t see, but I know he’s left.

I can’t get up to lock the door.  I lie on the floor in a ball and weep.  I don’t see the blood.  My eyes are swollen nearly shut.  My weeping turns to sobs.  It hurts to cry, but I can’t stop. 

I cry out my pain and my anger.  I cry out my loneliness and fear.  I cry for the sorry little girl that I was and for the stupid, hateful person that I am now.  I cry out all of my misery and mistakes, my ugliness and shame. 

Then numbly, I simply stay on the floor, hating; hating him, hating myself, hating my life.  Life is not worth living.  

I want to die.

Tomorrow I’ll find a way. 

Tonight I can’t move.  

 

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As the sun falls behind the forest it takes with it the sounds of the day. The voices of the people, the children’s laughter, the old women’s calls to each other in the fields, the  conversations of the elders sitting under trees. The hoofbeats of the Nguni’s already in their kraals. The birds are still now;  the hornbills, the kingfishers, eagles, buzzards, kites,  subside into a silenced world. 

 It is at this time my mind has dark and light thoughts. I rehear the death bleats of a sacrificed goat. They are load with fear. The blood fills its vocal cords and the bleating becomes gurgled, the blood bubbles out of the gaping wound. I hear the people giving praise of thanks as the offering to the ancestors becomes infused with the wild scent of impepu.  The meat is shared, the skin is put out to dry, the spilled blood scrubbed away, the bones burnt. My darker thoughts turn to Christmas turkey and I walk outside to start the generator.   I pump diesel into the engine until it is full, check the oil level and take the handle off the shelf. I slide it onto the flywheel until it clicks into place, put my two hands around it and crank the engine as hard as I can. The generator throbs into life as it blows out swarms of fumes. The exhaust faces Adam Hansel’s house.  Every third Thursday of the month he arrives with his wife Marion. Dust from his car hurtles into the faces of the people wanting at the side of the road for a lift. He doesn’t see them. He doesn’t hear them when they ask for a clinic at his church and the old sick people have to be taken to Tafelefefe Hospital fifteen kilometres away in a wheelbarrow. His church is for preaching about the sins of the pagans. In his factory the pagan girls are dismissed when their bellies reveal his earthly pleasures. The nauseating diesel fumes fogging up his windows, creeping under his doors are my revenge.

 I slide the handle off the flywheel and put it back on the shelf, turn around and bend over to check the level of the diesel drums. I look down at my tunic: the one corner is twisted into rope. I stare at it, not registering what is happening. My tunic begins to feel tight around my body, tighter, tighter and then I am against it. The flywheel is burning into my flesh, I can feel the heat, like a branding iron, sizzling my skin, steam rising, my tunic ripping.  I push my fingers into the cotton, pull, tear it open like shedding my skin. The rope is too thick now, I can’t get free. I am looking down on myself, guiding my mind, my strength, pulling away from the wheel. I pull, I pull. I call out.

‘Help me, someone, help me, ‘

but I know nobody is there, nobody out there in the thick, grey fumes, nobody to hear me over the thumping, deep throated groan of the engine. It seems huge now, crouching over me. The black, sticky patches of diesel oil on the ground turn maroon. My memory freezes in the blood.

 How long have I been here, I think, as I look at the green, cylindrical belly of the generator, with my tunic wrapped around its wheel. I look down at my legs, my pants are torn off me; I am naked. The noise is subsiding into slow breaths. I watch the red hand showing the amps. It is dropping fast, like the line on a life support machine, then it stops:

THE ENGINE IS OFF.

 I lie in a circle of oil and blood and fragments of cloth. I reach out for the sailcloth against the wall. I want to wrap my body, to cover my nakedness. I try to stand up, a sharp pain runs though my foot and up my leg. I look at my sandal lying next to me.  Chunks of rubber torn out of it, a row of red sequins on one side, the others, scattered on the ground: red sequins glinting through pools of blood.

 Neil is standing at the door, his face white. He lifts my helpless body and carries me into the house. Meryl follows. She unwraps the stained sailcloth from around me, washes my wounds, carries me to bed. I lie there, unable to move- pain striking every nerve.

 After my shattered leg and stomach are operated on, I go home in a wheelchair. I learn to dress my wounds, to get around the house, to lift myself into bed. All through this time the community looks after me. The girls come down the hill to visit me, to comfort me. Winnie is by my side whenever I needed her. She helps me with my dressings, encourages me. The Gcaleka people hear me and with their care I mend.

The doors of the Hansel house remain closed each third Thursday of the month.

 Nobody knows how the engine stopped. The people from Cebe say it’s a miracle. I know now that I wasn’t alone that evening. The stars heard my call. They left their brand on my stomach: a perfect, purple star.

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There her head is now, asleep upon the pillow.  Sun’s up but there she lies.  What a face, beautiful as a pixie boy: large eyes darting behind closed eye lids, high cheek bones, pointy chin, bronze hair mopping up her pale skin.  There she is now late in the day, no alarm clock ringing to wake her up.  It’s Saturday.

Last night she locked herself away, put on Chopin, thought about him out at dinner, changed her mind about cocaine, played 4 poker games simultaneously on-line, won 2 of them, felt alive, thought of him out at dinner, cried, did cocaine, stayed in bed until four o clock in the morning tearing up the week’s photographs.

But now, there she lies.

He’d called at something close to midnight with things to say.  She told him of her state of mind. 

Shortly thereafter he stepped into her apartment, barefoot, out of the rain and there she was, what a face. A bottle of wine on the coffee table, several old movies scattered amongst the beer cans.  But there she was.

There she was, her slight nimble frame holding up her head, her big eyes looking up at him. He looked back.  Questions fired and answers swerved between them.  He’d realized.  He’d walked the road.  He knew now.  She thought he’d known already. 

There she lies.  The sun is high, shadows spill across her soft thin lips.

She’d taken a line in front of him.  He had stayed, only looked away.  That’s when she took his hand and led him to her bedroom.  That’s when he unbuttoned her black satin shirt and lay her down on the white sheets for the first time.

‘You’re beautiful,’ he said.  And she knew he was. 

There she sleeps now, her dreaming head upon the pillow.  He bends over, closes the curtain, gets up to make some coffee, pulls out her manuscript, reads it, looks across the room, picks up the pen, writes at the top of the first page:

willyoumylove?

The doorbell.  There she lies, doesn’t stir.  He answers.  A tall man, pressed pink shirt, shiny black hair, shiny black shoes on a Saturday, come to fetch her for the wedding what do you mean?  Swords criss, swords cross, she wakens, pixie face opens her eyes. Swords bend and break.  She opens her eyes. 

There she is now.  There she is now opening her eyes.

The End.

(And later, once she’d seen his guns & he’d seen her blackboots, she said these words: Iwill)

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OUT OF THE BOX              AESTHETICISATION OF VIOLENCE

MARY OLIVER – The Real Prayer is …

GOYA – Madrid firing squad

ATHENA goddess of war and wisdom

TAI CHI –

 

Aestheticisation is ‘ to make beautiful’ and is particularly applied to art. Violence is ‘ being violent,’ ‘unlawful use of force’. From ‘to violate’ – disregard, treat profanely, disrespect, disturb a person’s privacy, rape. Aestheticisation thus connotes an activity to ‘make beautiful’ that which violates.

There is a world of eternal values and forms – the platonic principles of Truth, Goodness and Beauty. These principles exist in perfect form and are the ground of our human existence.

In the created world Beauty and Violence stand as opposites. Beauty as eternal value and principle of creation, is an aspect which enhances and builds Life. Violence is an action, and an attitude which destroys and harms Life. They cannot be made One.

In Nature’s world, in all species other than human, Violence and Beauty as opposites exists as natural and necessary partners to the processes of life. Plants, animals, birds, fish, insects – each demonstrating Beauty in its own unique way – are born into Beauty, and subject also to the natural, often violent, laws of survival, territoriality, and the elements. This is simply the Life-Death process, fulfilling the process and tasks of Life. . Beauty and Violence, death and destruction are simply and fundamentally part of the death-Life-Rebirth process. It is all as it is.

But we speak of the human condition. In the human footprint, Beauty and Violence also exist as opposites, as part of Life. In the as-yet-little understood evolution of homo sapiens as a distinct species, it appears that an instinctual brain (as in reptiles, animals, birds etc) grew gradually  (appeared immediately) into/as a complex brain with advanced functions in cognition and emotion. We have developed stupendous capacities of mind, heart, senses and feelings , capacities used in the service of both Beauty and Violence as we power our species into dominance.

As humans, we understand, we feel, we sense the world through these capacities and thus it is that we have translated Nature’s cycle of life, death, growth and decay into value-judgement pairs of opposites such as Beauty-Violence. Positive-Negative. Desired-Feared

It seems to be a human response to pull towards us that which we like – Beauty. And to push away from us that which we dislike – Violence. We often live in a series of moments liking and disliking. .To make life meaningful and palatable we must therefore make beautiful (desirable) that which is not-beautiful. We have to aestheticise violence.

We always have a choice. We can transform –aestheticise – Violence into Beauty by seeing the one in the other. When  winter storms pound us with galeforce winds and bitter cold, we have a choice – to be annoyed, or find a way to enjoy ( aestheticise) the wildness. Warm clothes, a fire, hot chocolate, thoughts of the Cape doctor sweeping away litter and stimulating trees to push their roots deep into Mother Earth.

If I, with my dominant cognitive and emotional brain, am to survive the harshness of the world in my own life, I must aestheticise violence. More, I must accept that there is meaning and prupose involved . This is both an important choice and a continuous learning adapting. I know that it is sometijes kind to be cruel. I find Beauty in the smile of a Downe’s Syndrome child. I aestheticise  what I experience /feel as inclement weather by choosing to see the beauty within it – the calm after the storm.

There is, and always has been in recorded history, respect and understanding for the role that artists play in aestheticising violence by expressing and drawing attention to violence through their artworks. These are courageous, honest, visible and often indelible  statements in the cause of Truth, Goodness, Beauty and Compassion.

It is a powerful statement to show Violence perpetrated by humans with malicious and/or self-seeking intent. Our ethical judgement is that this is immoral and unethical and therefore against the common good. It may not be hidden. And so artists, writers, performers bring it to our attention through their works, beautiful in artistic, literary and other expression.  These aesthetic expressions arrest us, impel us to see things as they really are – see Violence for what it is.

In the world of physical and performance art, theatre holds the role of Aestheticising Violence. In our own country, Athol Fugard’s plays  powerfully and artistically take us face to face, mind to mind, into the heart of political and personal violence.

Artists also highlight the Violence done to our Earth and environment, and by this, to our soul and spirit – in aesthetically powerful ways.

One of the oldest ways of aestheticising Violence comes in the practice of Tai Chi, developed thousands of years ago from the marital arts into an opposite practice-art of a flowing and beautiful physical ‘dance’ , each part transforming a martial posture into a soft, flowing, beautiful expressiveness where attack and aggression, defence and deflect, become a dance form. Transforming small and large violence in mind and body into tranquility, strength and grace.

The Age and practice of Chivalry in times of conflict can also be seen as ‘aestheticisation of violence – a true commitment to conducting a personal life with courage and integrity in spite of being required to wage war. The art of Fencing – like Tai Chi – developed from warlike training and conduct.

Perhaps certain personal protest is a form of highlighting a cause and a conviction of moral rightness in an extreme and violent act towards the self – self-immolation, hara-kiri, suicide bombers, suicide . All could be considered a drama /demonstration presenting Violence ( I cause nad effect) and the Beauty –aestheticisation – in personal sacrifice. Perhaps all ritual sacrifice throughout history can be seen as Beauty/aestheticisaiton  ( the cause) in Violence ( the means)

Original peoples all have this true capacity for living respectfully within both Beauty and Violence . All hold an attitude of reverence for Nature and in the killing of animals and plants for survival, would ritually acknowledge their debt for the sacrifice and so sanctify the act . Aestheticise the Violence – more, honour the necessary partnership role that both play in Life.

However, it seems that, with these two exceptions – the artists and the Original Peoples –   humankind in general  has long abandoned an attitude of integrity between Beauty and Violence. We have favoured our own desires above the good of All. And once this is a priority, we tend to sweep under the radar those things which we do not wish, and to take action to increase those things which we desire. It is a small step a sleight-of-mind and -hand, to violate the rights of others. All it requires is duplicity,  self-deception, deviousness, stealth and self-righteousness.

As this happens, we see, consciously or unconsciously, ways to excuse and exonerate the self-seeking through attempts to ‘aestheticise’ dishonest violence. We see and hear the persuasion, hidden or open, that violation is good – is perhaps normal , natural, desirable.

The human story has demonstrated this for thousands of years in violent action and the rationales given to exonerate self from blame. Wars and conquest – to solve the problems and deficiencies of The Other. Religious power – to teach what God would have us know. The Inquisition – torture and killing for supposed transgression of church laws. Burnin of witches – to the glory of God. Feet-binding  and female genital mutilation, sexual abuse  – for this is ‘beautiful’ and sexually desirable in the sight of males.  Violence and violation of mind – “you may not think this for I know best”.

Perpetrators of violence may ‘aestheticise’ their actions to themselves. Sexual abuse might seem like necessity and low or power to the perpetrator. Going to war can seem like a just cause. Cutting down trees and burning forests can be seen as survival. It is the mind-heart that can skew choices and perspectives. All such violation and violence are attributed by the perpetrators as being necessary, good, beautiful. ‘Aestheticisation’ of Violence. Violence is promoted as Beauty

As we humans seek to turn Violence into ‘Beauty’, we do so from the prevailing world view. Thus, a century and a half ago, men considered it manly , skilful and beautiful to shoot tigers and turn a violent beast into a beautiful and proud animal skin. ‘Aestheticising’ the violence. But perspectives change. One hundred and fifty years later humankind sees tigers as Beauty and killing them as Violence – we no longer permit tiger-killers to see their acts as beautiful..

The habit/practice of ‘aestheticising’ violence is moulded by existing circumstances, and moulds ongoing circumstances. Long ago, in the islands of Polynesia, missionaries went out to offer their beauty-truth ( Christianity) to villagers who lived ( they considered) by violence ( cannibalism, no-clothes). This process has, over time, meant violation-destruction of centuries-old traditions and life lived in harmony with nature. These communities will have to aestheticise this violence done to them by rebuilding worthwhile lives from the dregs of apathy and alcoholism.

When we look at many societies, our country, our times, we see ‘aestheticisation’ of violence for, at best ignorant, and at worst, aggressively power-aggrandisement motives. ‘Aestheticisation’ has a sinister purpose. A dangerous state of affairs. Politicians attempt to ‘aestheticise’ their actions with exonerating statements. Corruption is violence. So is arrogance towards elders.  White-washing, blame, excuses are an attempt to make that corruption an OK act. Having 5 wives, mistresses, and many legitimate and illegitimate children is compounded violence against the sanctity of women, children, relationships, education, governance and leadership. Stating this is OK and traditional is an attempt at ‘aestheticisation’ by the man towards his audience. It is in fact another act of violence towards victims and the minds of others. Sinister ‘aestheticisation’ has ongoing intended and unintended consequences.

Excusing, accepting, even applauding the actions of rapists, murderers, criminals, warmongers and the powerful is a deceitful attempt to ‘aestheticise’ their violence, to escape truth, justice, and to make immoral actions palatable and even worthy. Taking unfairly for oneself is violence against another. Impure aestheticisation says “It is my right to have what I want, and to take it violently from another”

As a woman, mother and educator, I am particularly aware that current violence towards the body is especially rife toward the feminine gender. With promotion of the devious mindset that such violence is Beautiful, is good. Violation of the form  and function of the female body is seen in fashion, advertising, cosmetic surgery, crass medical treatments, encouragement to sexual freedom & experimentation in the very young. Young girls are seduced to worship and ape vacuous models raised to visibility and celebrity by the media.. What of high heeled designer shoes with their permanent distortion and injury to the body?. Sexually titillating clothes and behaviour? What of cosmetic surgeons who violently and surgically break footbones and cause lifelong injury and pain – as they claim to remedy ugly feet!  Violence against women and partners is ‘aestheticised’ as “my right to demand submission” Female circumcision, bound feet, perhaps even the chador/burka, are attempts to ‘aestheticise’ the violence of power and abuse.

Dangerous too are the film, media, magazine, television, music industries as they deliberately ‘aestheticise’ violence. Media viewers are saturated with graphic scenes and descriptions of violence, abuse, criminality of all kinds. Power masquerading – ‘aestheticisied’ – as entertainment, excitement, celebrity. The sheer volume of entertainment increases momentum in presentation of gross violence, while simultaneously the perpetrators and actors of such violence are held up to be heroes, men and women of power.

With experience, age and wisdom, come the ability to see through attempts to aestheticise  to the underlying violence. But with young, inexperienced and unformed minds, there is little chance of escaping the skin-deep feast and its cost..

And so it happens that ‘aestheticisation’ of violence in whatever form rolls out  secondary violence by moulding minds to accept violence as normality.

No civilisation or community has ever prospered without leaders strong enough to enable eternal and fundamental values. In our twenty-first century, there are precious few who seem to hold this steady state and operational authority. The pressure of the Age is sweeping Beauty away, and Violation in.  In our own country, why is pornography permitted on accessible television channels, insinuating that it is Beautiful and non-violent? Why do leaders at the helm of deciding what is good for the larger community, allow a daily entertainment diet of violence, violation, abuse , criminality, disrespect, arrogance. Why do we see celebration of violence perpetrated by gangsters, drug lords, alcoholics, fraudsters, thieves – by ‘aestheticisation’ of their actions and products.?

How can the advertising, fashion, motor, credit, banking industries, to name a few, ‘aestheticise’ their activities with promises of beauty, fame, success, riches, popularity? How can we allow such violation of our children, ourselves, our innocent, and future generations?

May our artists, our educators, our leaders, have the courage to express Violence as Violence, with all its dangers, and Beauty as Beauty, with its capacity for Good. May this return our world to a place where all are safe from the predation of those who seek, by sinister means, to do violence unto others.

Marguerite

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Thanks dear Tilla – for your wonderful hosting of us, and the cook’s most stupendous delicoctions. All – and the Tiramisu – of the order of Divine!

Missed you Lana and hope you’re mending fast, and life is flowing smooth.

Thanks to all for another great and liberating evening, stimulating, fun. Just a comment – it occurred to me that Jacqui and I were the ones not comfortable with violence, not really wanting to engage there – perhaps because we have both, Jacqui in very traumatic times, experienced living through wartime, . It is the experience which teaches and permits or doesn’t. If you’ve ever attended the ritual of  military funerals ( more aestheticisation of violence?) you will never erase the horror of needless sacrifice from your deep Self.

See you all at Jacqui’s on the 18th June ( think that’s the right date)

Ciao – Marguerite

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The thunder in the distance sounded like huge sheets of plastic at play between giants. And indeed, she was surrounded by giants.

They were all over this part of the world. One lived in her back garden. A huge creature and very old, it was silent as the days gone by. Except, of course, for the baboons that lived in its creaks. And the birds that sang their songs amongst the Protea trees. And when the rains came in winter, there was a roaring waterfall that spread its silver wings down the slippery surface of the mountain’s ancient rocks.

She wondered what else had lived in those mountains. She wondered what sort of animals had gone before. All this while the soft spills of cloud fell like pin pricks into the pond before her.

She had found the lily, wrapped in its own green outer petals, camouflaged behind the reeds. It seemed closer to the water than yesterday. Although she was happy to have an answer (it had not disappeared into the depths of the pond), she still had many questions. Why had this particular lily closed itself off from the world today when the lily next to it had not? It was something akin to a caterpillar in its cocoon, this lilac flower.

‘Sounds like someone else I know,’ she thought as she rubbed the mud off her feet on the grass. She pulled her skirt up high above her knees and sprinted back to the house.

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She looks up from her magazine onto the street below: people are dashing in and out of shops with black umbrellas. No sign of a white one. She lights her cigarette and sighs. Her mohair miniskirt falls into the soft space between her thighs as a tall man blocks the light at the entrance. He glances at her shoes, shakes his umbrella and walks up to her with an easy confidence.

‘So glad you mentioned the red boots,’ he says. ‘You must be Frank.’

She stretches out her pale, slender arm to shake his hand. ‘How do you do? But you should know I hate to be kept waiting.’ He looks at his watch and chuckles, takes off his denim jacket and eases into the chair opposite her. ‘In Paris,’ he says, ‘It’s not considered impolite to be a few minutes late.’

‘Perhaps I am too punctilious for Paris,’ she says. ‘And how do they rate you here?’

‘I’ve worked with the best.’ His eyes are steady as he slides his resume across the table. ‘Take a look – accounts, awards, it’s all there.’ She flicks through the document. ‘Good. Fine, you’re hired,’ she says, briskly waving the approaching waiter away. ‘Congratulations.’

‘Well, that’s the fastest interview I’ve ever had!’

‘It was a done deal the day I called you.  I’m new here, I need you. ’ she says. ‘And besides, you speak English.  Let’s get straight to the Agency. Brief you there.’

He opens up his umbrella for her as they step outside into the soft grey rain and guides her into a cobbled street where a short stocky man holds open the brass door to the bakery on the corner. The smell of fresh bread wafts towards them. ‘Best baguettes in town,’ he says. Then he points to a shop decorated with intricate mosaics. ‘And that’s where I buy my cheese.’

‘So you live around here?’

‘Yes, I do. And I sure wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.’

‘Will you show me your place?’ He checks the sky that has taken a lunch break and laughs. ‘But what about the Agency?’

‘We can do that later. I want to know what it’s like to live here.’

‘You’ll excuse the mess?’ Her face softens as he takes her arm and leads her towards the square. The pigeons scatter as the heavens open up again and the sound of the rain is hard against the stone. ‘Let’s run for it – head straight for that green door on the other side. Can you see it over there?’

She doesn’t answer. She’s already dashing across the square and she screams as he comes up behind her. She bangs her hand on the wooden door. He grins at her, unlocks the door and runs up the stairs leaving her two steps behind him, breathless. She keels over and laughs as she reaches the top of the stairs.

He throws down his jacket and gestures her into the large white room with its vaulted ceiling and huge sash windows. ‘Wow,’ she says, loosening the black silk scarf around her neck, still getting her breath back.

‘What more does one need, huh?’ He puts down the umbrella and heads towards the kitchen in the corner of the room where the pots above the stove emit a golden glow.

She stands in the centre of the room on the wooden floor. She takes in the bookshelf, the fireplace, the bronze sculpture in the corner, the magazines piled up high on his desk, his paintbrushes, an easel, his laptop on the coffee table. She sits down in an antique rocker in front of the window and notices the small oil painting on the wall next to the fireplace. It’s a girl in a white dress, surrounded by a green field and a blue sky. She gasps. ‘Is that a Matisse?’ Her voice is low.

‘Yes and no. It’s what I do for a hobby.’

‘What, copy the masters?’ Her eyes blank over, mascara smudged.  She pauses and looks at him from afar. ‘I would have thought you’d be into originals.’ She raises herself up from the chair and runs her fingers through her thick black hair. 

Silence.

She straightens out her stockings and the scarf around her neck. ‘I’m sorry but I’ve got to leave now.’ 

He’s about to place the coffee pot onto the stove. He stops mid-air, not sure which way to go. Put the coffee down or respond to her? He puts the coffee down, turns off the gas and makes his way to the hat stand at the top of the stairs.

He walks up to her, looks down at her red boots, still glistening from the rain, and hands her his white umbrella.

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