Silence is violence – Part 3

Silence is violence – Part 3

OVER the last two weeks I’ve been working
my way round to Rebecca Solnit’s
new book, Whose Story is This?: Old Confl
icts, New Chapters. I’m not offering a
review of the book here, just a few comments
on the premise on which it’s built.

Please just take my word for it, Rebecca
Solnit is one of the most important writers
treading Planet Earth in our times.
Her new book is a manifesto for the
paths we must take to ensure a different
kind of world from our present one.
And when, in the quotation below Solnit
says “We” she is talking about a collective
of different groups of “we”, working
nonetheless for a broadly common goal,
a world different from our current world
of oppression and injustice (and please,
readers, bear in mind what I was saying
before about the moral and logistical
problems involved in “speaking for”).

Solnit says: “we are building something
immense together that, though invisible
and immaterial, is a structure.” This project
is about “race, class, gender, sexuality,
about nature, power, climate, the
interconnectedness of all things; about
compassion, generosity, collectivity, communion;
about justice, equality, possibility.”

And—my observation—to get back to
that idea of “we” and “we”—when a rich
black man asks “should I worry about the
welfare of a poor white woman?” or when
a rich white woman asks “should I worry
about the oppression of a poor black gay
man?” the answer is, yes, they should,
because they may well be party to the oppression

The book contains 20 short essays,
organized into two sections titled “The
Shouters and the Silenced” and “Openings.”
Shouters are those like Trump who
hate the idea of anyone standing up for
their rights, but shouters are also those
who protest the denial of rights.

I do hope
all my readers are shouters in the latter
sense; if not (and I address this comment
to my long-suffering editor) a packet of
throat lozenges should be provided with
every week’s issue of thepost.

Two more quotations from Solnit to
wrap up with and to give you a sense of
what a fi ne writer she is. First, I should
say something about the word “woke”,
because I’m not sure it’s caught on yet
in southern Africa. Whatever its origins,
this is now a term mostly used by way
of an abusive rejection of those who are
sensitive to oppression and speak against
it. Solnit comments “if you think you’re
woke, it’s because someone woke you up,

so thank the human alarm clocks.”

The other comment speaks to all the
struggles—think of the recent campaign to
haul down statues commemorating vile men
such as slave traders, think of the struggles
against colonialism and apartheid, the
struggle for gay rights and (most arduous of
all) the struggle called feminism.

Solnit describes her own waking up to
the struggle of Native Americans (or First
Peoples), who are amongst the most horrendously
unfree in the Land of the Free,
a waking up that occurred when she was
a student, thirty years ago. She then talks
about “the struggle of new stories to be born,
against the forces that prefer to shut them
out or shut us down, against the people who
work hard at not hearing and not seeing.”

Hullo Trump, Hullo Boris Johnson, Hullo
an apparently endless succession of Prime
Ministers in Lesotho (please Ntate Majoro,
try to break the mould—I believe you have
it in you).

Chris Dunton

Previous Brutal assault at State House
Next Mqhayi – Part 1

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