Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Waiting for the Barbarians...

I've just finished reading Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee. At the end of the book, and perhaps the best line, reads something to the effect of "That darkest part of ourselves should be turned only on ourselves first."

The line hit me like a ton of bricks. Imagine the self-hatred, the self-deprication, the low-self esteem if we turned all the darkest parts of ourselves on ourselves.

I experienced a bit of that feeling during my recovery, when the isolation of my suburban home began to make me question my role in the world. I began to feel like I would never be a whole and contributing member of society again... and certainly never thin enough, smart enough, rich enough to have the life I want.

But imagine if all the judgements I have about other people were turned on me. You should see the way my face contorts when someone mentions the president - Imagine if that was my reaction to the mirror every morning.

Now I know that Coetzee was thinking about the dehumanization of one's opponents... that there are a different set of standards for the other side. How often does highlighting that difference result in war, genocide, racism, and economic oppression?

The most disturbing part of the conversation for me is: How often do I contribute to it, simply by my indifference? Is my lack of action as bad as an offensive action?

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Gosh, I gotta read these things before I publish them... so many errors!