Colour Blind or Just Blind

Jose Saramago wrote a novel translated as The Stone Raft, published in 1986. It appeared in English in 1994. The story is quite remarkable if simple. One day it appears that the entire Iberian peninsula—for the “geographically challenged”, that is the land mass comprising Spain, Portugal and the British dependency of Gibraltar– ruptures and begins to separate from the rest of the European peninsula. Quite independently several inhabitants of this land mass had premonitions of this bizarre event. When the governments involved discover this two parallel processes are first unleashed. Official plans emerge to pour enough cement into the gaping crevice to retain the link between Iberia and the mainland while the tiny group of clairvoyants become the target of a manhunt. Ironically two countries whose fascist dictatorships had long been profitably—if often surreptitiously—supported by their northern neighbours are now faced not only with a political isolation reminiscent of the decades before the demise of Salazar and Franco. They are to become a physical island separated from the rest of the Christendom to which they had been joined by violence for centuries. The financial meltdown of 2008 was not yet in sight.

Two other remarkable stories followed. Blindness (filmed in 2008) and later Seeing. In Blindness a country is suddenly struck by an epidemic of inexplicable cause by which the citizenry, one after another, becomes blind. The government’s response is to quarantine everyone found blind in a hospital, which soon becomes a prison in which the most unspeakable atrocities occur—but to which the government is utterly indifferent. An ophthalmologist who had diagnosed the first victims himself becomes blind and is arrested. His wife—who inexplicably does not become blind—feigns blindness so as not to be separated from her husband. While in prison she pretends to be blind to save her life but becomes the only witness to the events in the prison. Almost as suddenly as the epidemic began, it ends. Those who have survived the ordeal of incarceration are released. But the doctor’s wife stays silent to avoid repercussions and reprisals.

In the sequel, Seeing, Saramago returns to the capital of this country. It is general election time. The ballots are counted. The government finds to its horror that all the central precincts of the capital have cast white ballots—have voted for no one. Again the government reaches for drastic measures. Incapable of accepting that the inhabitants of the capital have essentially refused to elect any party to the government, they establish a cordon sanitaire around the entire capital while trying on one hand to decide how to correct the election results and on the other to find the cause of this obvious revolt—a revolt merely expressed at the polls. As it becomes clear that argument and propaganda will not change the situation the government orders all the services and supplies to these precincts be stopped—no food, no electricity, nothing. Yet as this siege continues there is no indication that the population is moved. Quite the contrary, life continues for the inhabitants as if the government were not even there. Fearful that this could be contagious special operations agents are sent into the quarantine in search of the cause, the organisation leading the revolt. They find nothing. Finally an agent identifies the widow of the physician who died in the blindness epidemic. All suspicion focuses on her—although no one can offer a precise explanation as to why she should be the principal threat. Nonetheless a decision is made to neutralise her and she is murdered by a government assassin.

All of these stories were written well before the events and conditions with which Europeans and their descendants in the Americas have been confronted since 2008. While the actions and plots are easily associated with the two countries where Saramago spent his life, they very clearly are parables about the condition of Christendom, whether by that one means the part of Eurasia that spuriously defines itself by its “Christian cultural heritage” or the “one nation under god” whose religious fanaticism has successfully crushed the humanism of the Enlightenment and French Revolution and pushed us intellectually, socially and culturally back into the 11th century. ((For an inspiring record of Christendom’s establishment and the institutional model for contemporary political warfare see Henry C. Lea The History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages, 3 vols., first published in 1888. Those who can read German are urged to read Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums. Unfortunately the only one of his books currently available in English is God and Fascism—certainly useful reference.))

The Stone Raft, Blindness and Seeing all tell stories of contemporary life, especially the life forced upon the world’s inhabitants by the psychopaths who developed and deployed the atomic bomb seventy years ago. For liberals and those whom I prefer to call the faux gauche—the phoney “Left”—the past seven decades have been comparatively profitable. They have collaborated in the slaughter of more people than the ancien regime was able to annihilate in two world wars—while assuring us that by preventing the Soviet Union/Russia from joining atomic holocaust, an equally fabricated threat, we were all the time at peace. It stretches one’s sense of humanity to compare numbers but perhaps percentages are useful. Christendom, some call this innocuously liberalism or neo-liberalism, seems to have set a target. I would estimate it as around 20%. Absolute numbers are horrific enough. While murdering about three million Koreans, three million Vietnamese, a million Indonesians and six million Congolese (and counting) is pretty ferocious, approximately 20% of Guatemala’s population, most of the indigenous population of the Amazon, and thousands of peasants throughout Latin America in countries whose total population is scarcely equal to that of any of the great metropolitan cities must count as something less than peace in our time. All these murders were committed without the use of atomic weapons. However, it was no doubt the threat of nuking “brown people” that made it all possible.

We now know—if we want to see—that the only nation to actually use atomic bombs attacked civilian populations, albeit only after destroying as much and as many as possible with conventional munitions. We also know now—if we want to see—that this nation’s ruling class based its military strategy on retaining global domination after 1945. We also know that the only fear that ruling class had was that the Soviet Union would survive its own planned first strike. We also know that the Soviet Union was the first “good example” that a people could—even after the most massive military assault the West had ever launched against the East—rebuild, modernise and attempt to turn a feudal system whose majority population were landless peasants into one capable of feeding, educating and supplying them with a decent standard of living. It was no wonder that anti-colonialism and nationalism after 1945 did not see the Soviet Union as a threat—even if it was not always a very effective ally.

That is to say it is no wonder to those few who can see; to those who see this planet inhabited by human beings and not bipedal profit-seekers.

However, those who can see are as rare as the ophthalmologist’s wife.

I was recently interviewed by a local radio station on the subject of race in the US. The question put to me was whether “whites” killing Blacks is normal in the US. Perhaps one ought to ask what “normal” means here. The US was founded by a ruling class whose wealth was based on trading in human flesh—chattel slavery. The charter of that land did not recognise classes—like the land from whence they came. Instead there were “them”—the great merchants and landowners with their tenant yeomanry and an enormous sea of African “property” to be used to death or killed for failure to be used. Today’s propagandists for this class might call it “accelerated depreciation”. In 1865 there was a moratorium on killing Blacks that lasted about five years. However, as anyone who can see knows it never stopped completely.

In 1945, two “yellow” cities were obliterated. For the next thirty years the US ruling class focused on slaughtering anyone that moved on the other side of the International Date Line. Killing Blacks became a sideline. Liberals and faux gauche attribute this to the so-called “civil rights movement”. Blacks were on the streets protesting. Blacks were arming themselves in self-defence against the “white” State and its paramilitary terrorists. However, those who can see know that this was also the height of African and Caribbean decolonisation. Liberals and faux gauche attacked the radical Black leadership for their nationalism, distracting with insinuations of communism and “reverse racism”. They stood idly as one Black leader after another was assassinated. Of course, African independence was irrelevant to them (as it is today). By the time Martin Luther King had finally realised that Malcolm X was right, he too was dead—cut down by a Phoenix bullet in 1968. ((The Phoenix program, the CIA political warfare campaign that originated during the US war against Vietnam, was never confined, and still is not confined, to overseas assassination. Rather it developed into a template for global political warfare aka the Global War on Terror. See Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program, e-book 2014, reviewed elsewhere by this author)) Those who can see also saw that the destruction of the independent governments of Congo (the murder of Lumumba in 1961) and Ghana (the putsch that forced Nkrumah into exile in 1966) was part of the same war against Blacks who refused to be white property that continues today. the South but New York, 1957

In 2008, those who can see recognised that the last vestiges of Black tenancy in the US were being destroyed by the descendants of the very merchant bankers who have traded in Black flesh for centuries. The last pretence that even urban Blacks were not held in a kind of sharecropping bondage was removed—but liberals and the faux gauche cannot see. Malcolm X was mocked when in his early speeches he demanded a Black homeland in North America with territory. ((Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet“, April 12, 1964; The Black Revolution, Malcolm X, edited by Iman Benjamin Karim)) The reason he was mocked is because those very liberals and faux gauche still cannot see that without land no human is truly free. Wringing their hands with prayers for leniency and better terms for the sub-prime victims, they skilfully avoided the fact that sub-prime—”in the land of euphemism”—is just another word for sub-human. In a legal system that brags that “possession is nine tenths of the law”, no one was suggesting a fight so that those defrauded mortgagors would retain their long-paid-for dwellings. None of the blind, the millions of blind—including what some call rightly “the Black Misleadership Class”—was demanding in public that Blacks stay in their homes, that they seize their schools and municipal utilities in which so many had worked their entire lives. Instead they have gone running for buckets of concrete to seal the gap which they helped create for decades. Sealing that gap means keeping that cash flowing from those who might otherwise finally leave the plantation.

The interviewer also said to me as a rhetorical question: there is certainly no chance of returning to the conditions of the 1950s? I wished time had permitted an answer although he would probably not have believed me.

When I was young I attended school in the birthplace of the Confederacy. I lived on a barrier island with not a single Black resident. The neighbouring island was the point of entry for approximately 40 per cent of the Africans kidnapped and brought to what became the US to work to death “for nothing, for nothing”. ((James Baldwin, Cambridge Union speech, 1965)) However, I attended school on the mainland. In the 1970s about half of the school population was Black. Of course, I seldom had them in my classes because they were almost all in the so-called “basic” classes—but they were there. ((The three-track system at the school was, in fact, a kind of informal internal segregation. The white working class was placed in the “regular” courses and the children of white middle and upper class families were placed in the “advance” courses, at least as long as they kept minimum grades. Whites never seemed to land in the “basic” classes regardless of aptitude or performance. It was essentially prohibited to draw attention to any of this in public.)) The school I once attended now has approximately 3,900 pupils of which only 12 per cent are Black. Ostensibly to balance the congressional representation in a state which originally had a Black majority and now a Black plurality, the district in which I lived was redrawn. This effectively turned what is now the 6th Congressional district into a Bantustan. It is certainly not the only one.

The blind see a Black plurality able to elect people with the same skin colour. This was also the way the National Party saw things in South Africa when it adopted the Promotion of Bantu Self-government Act in 1959. When I was in South Africa in 1991 most people were agreed that this was no way to govern a country. Of course, the majority of people in South Africa are Black.

Of course, if you mention apartheid to a liberal or one of the faux gauche, even they won’t defend South Africa (openly at least). No doubt one will even hear an account of some brave protest in which they were engaged. But when some South African Blacks insisted that not only must the Bantustans be abolished, but also that the land be returned to those from whom it had been stolen and forcibly held then it was tjoepstil. ((Tjoepstil, Afrikaans: silent—also title of a song by South African singer David Kramer from the album Bagkat (1980) much of which was banned in South Africa at the time.)) More likely than not you will hear praise for Desmond Tutu and reconciliation. You are unlikely to hear about the Phoenix-type operations that were conducted throughout South Africa, especially around Johannesburg and in Natal. You won’t hear anyone talking about torched townships and assassinations of community leaders—after Mandela was released and after South Africa’s own Black Misleadership Class was welcomed to share the loot that came from privatising state enterprises that had served and employed both Afrikaaner whites and the Black majority—albeit with grossly unequal performance. By 1994 when the “new” South African constitution was adopted there was virtually no one left capable of organising the return of South Africa to those from whom it had been stolen. The collapse of any countervailing force, capable of supporting or at least buffering the new white onslaught was joyfully welcomed by all those liberals and faux gauche who still keep telling us that with the passing of the Soviet Union “freedom” in the world had prevailed. The US or South Africa: open season on Black people

Those who can see are certainly aware that the leading South African industrial conglomerate—Anglo-American Corporation—was not South African but US-based. It was the Anglo-American group, which led the transition from National Party to ANC government (not rule). This same corporation arose out of the Rhodes fortune, which even today serves to prime the political cadre of the US ruling class. Apartheid was an American invention acknowledged by its imitators in the NSDAP and praised by Hendrik Verwoerd when he first announced the Afrikaans word for long-standing US practice. It was the logical imperative of what Theodore Allen correctly called the “invention of the white race”—a more enduring technology than anything Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison or Henry Ford ever imagined. ((Theodore Allen, The Invention of the White Race, two volumes, 1994/1997, re-released in 2012. Henry Ford was also no stranger to racism as a means of industrial control.))

So when the interviewer said to me that there would surely be no return to the ugly segregation of the 1950s, I had to ask myself what could possibly be uglier than today when Blacks can be shot at will by police or civilians? What could be uglier than allowing usurers to dispossess thousands of Black people from their homes, destroy their neighbourhoods, chain whole families with federally-sanctioned debt peonage? What could be uglier than the largest prison population on the planet turning its Black 80 per cent of those incarcerated into slave labour for private corporations? What could be uglier than today for the descendants of countries destroyed by whites and ravaged by them to this very day?

The St. Louis-born Thomas Stearns Eliot immigrated to the United Kingdom and preferred to be a subject of the monarchy whose descendants enriched — and enrich — themselves with the blood of Africa. At least the author of the Waste Land (()) might claim a country and a language as a birth right. But the death of a Michael Brown would certainly have escaped him.

“My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”

I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.

“What is that noise?”
The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
Nothing again nothing.

“You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember

I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?” ((T.S. Eliot, from The Waste Land, 1922. Eliot became a British citizen in 1927 also joining the Church of England as an Anglo-Catholic. Eliot is probably one of the most prominent members of the white intelligentsia whose response to the wasteland they had created in North America was to seek solace among the white European elite.))

Eliot died in 1965, the same year that Malcolm X was murdered.

Can I imagine anything more ugly? I do not have to because it’s there for anyone who wants to see.

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..