Went to a reading called 'African Visions'. I went because L invited me and I suddenly feel like I should support all the many people who are doing amazing things. But I also went because I was interested to hear from African writers. I have only read, or even heard of, Chinua Achebe (aside from those school curriculum white South Africans) so I was keen to know more. As it happens, the event was part of Black History Month.

The three people were Buchi Emecheta (who was apparently listed in the top 10 British writers in the 80s but I'd never even heard of her), Shimmer Chinodya and the (white) Irish Fergal Keane (sp?) who was BBC Southern Africa correspondant until South Africa's independence. I always admired his reports for his humanity and considered criticism. I was v excited that he was there.

It was all quite interesting and the event was nearly over. The final question was asked. A guy in the back row, who was wearing a camouflage jacket and 24 hole Doc Martins who had come in close to the end, was given the floor. He called out that Fergal was a racist, that how he had described the Tootsie massacre (Rwanda) was racist and that the media, including him, were racist in their portrayal of the land disputes in Zimbabwe. He shouted and ranted and the audience were clearly in shock. I felt the adrenaline surge and hoped it would end peacefully. But it was handled brilliantly both by L and the organiser and the event came to a peaceful close.

It was clear to me from his 5 minute outburst that this guy had never actually read or heard Fergal. I guess he must have heard a rumour, possibly an email or internet 'piece of intelligence' and had come to the reading, spoiling for a fight. I found him frightening, not just in the room, but in his hatred and inability to listen, to understand, to see things from more than one point of view. I know that the media come out with racist editorials and slants in their portrayals of 'the news'. I agree that the way that the British media covered Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe was skewed and misleading. I know that we're all capable of believing racist ideas, let alone saying them or acting on them. I know that there are real issues with having a white person chair an African event. I agree it can be deeply problematic. But like so many people who do question the media, the news, portrayals of history because they know its not the full story, they question it and find other half-answers. Answers that put the blame squarely in one direction. Answers that simplify reality into an US and THEM perspective. These answers frighten me, though I know where they come from. I know they come from a need to understand a world that is racist and a government and legal and economic systems that are partial. But people like this, peole who chose to see half-truths and simplistic good guy/bad guy morality, whether they are us or them, start wars.

I read a completely tedious book over the summer called The Magus. For me, the one good line in the 3" fat book:
(paraphrasing) It is man's psychosis that he cannot understand the relationship between objects. He only sees objects. And the product of his psychosis is war.

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