Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-05-24 - 5:56 a.m.
I had another go at Ms Rose’s Haunting SP and got a bit further on two issues. One was the Jungian dimension - and the author’s suggestion that a particular image of the feminine linked SP and TH - not the muse but a post-muse imago - and the linkage was not that beneficial. Also on the famous Daddy poem. For a long while I thought I just wasn’t going to bother with it on the grounds that so much had been thought and said. But following the Hitler-fest a couple of weeks ago I decided that there was another modern way of reading it.
The problem with the poem is that SP famously flirts with the idea that she might be a jew and that her father is like a fascist. The complaint is that this is an unbalanced equation and that the anterior of the metaphor shouldn’t be used to dramatise a personal situation. I think that this is a fair comment if you judge the poem to be about SP and her father. The first counter to this complaint is that the poem as a poem cracks along and works extremely well - as a sensory manifold. But once you have been sucked into the poeticness of the poem - what can it mean?
It occurred to me that you can read it in terms of a) Hitler being horribly sane b) the German’s being willing accomplices to a large degree and c) the historical root of the Holocaust. As far as c) is concerned that Hitler wasn’t really actively anti-Jewish until after the first world war. The shared ‘illusion’ was that the defeat of Germany at the end of the first world war wasn’t legitimate. Germany had been undermined from within and the Jews were in some sense to blame for this. The idea that Jews were to blame for the 1918 defeat wasn’t just some barmy quirk of Hitler’s - but something that enough of the Germans bought into to give the Holocaust project some ghastly legitimacy in their eyes and for his anti-Jewish rhetoric to promote social cohesion..
So - in reaching for Holocaust imagery - SP is reaching for the viewpoint that imputes historical guilt to a class or category and acts in revenge justified by that imputation. When she plays with the identity statement - I might be a bit of a Jew - she is playing with the whole system or discursive structure of Nazi-revenge-for-history - a structure is never totally articulated in reality but which existed sufficiently for thousands of people to co-operate in some uniquely destructive but mostly secret project - quietly justified in scapegoat terms. So ‘I might be a Jew’ means that I might slip into someone else’s world-view constructed in scape-goating terms and unwittingly play along. I might get mixed up in all that false-identity stuff because it’s a narrative that makes sense of disappointment.
When she says that every woman loves a fascist she is pointing out how great swathes of the culture - certainly both male and female - bought into the Nazi project. The poem isn’t seriously claiming that in her family conflicts her suffering is of the same order as the suffering of the victims of the Nazis. To buy into that identification you would be making the same kind of mistake as the Nazis did when they invested emotional energy in the scapegoat theory. (Of course there are many interpretations of the poem which make precisely that mistake,)
Being through is being through with the whole game of seeing national or indeed personal histories in a scapegoat language or landscape or identities or narratives - especially where unarticulated but quietly understood violence binds people into destructively barmy undertakings . 9-11 and Iraq come to mind for example. When people embark on such undertakings they are fuelled by a perversity which exists at both national and family level - a perversity to which gender-scapegoat isn’t an answer - more truly, the gender-scapegoat phenomenon is another manifestation of the same general mistake - a mistake which both genders happily collude in.
So I decided it is probably a great poem after all - which explains why it has been anthologised so much. Its great because it has primitive poetic power and it is so multi-layered that you have to work so hard to find the true moral centre of the piece - so it is a machine to think with - and to stimulate exactly the kind of the thinking that remains too rare.
Needless to say Saturday night’s BBC Detroit-fest went down a treat . I was interested in the Fontella Bass Chicago theme. I have a ECM CD where she sings back-up with Lester Bowie recorded in 1981 - another kind of Chicago music. It also explained why Curtis Mayfield is similar but different. Watching Standing in the Shadows of Motown for the umpteenth time was great - the sound was different, I think because it was a digital broadcast into a bigger TV than the one I normally watch it on. The concert ensemble versions of the songs were astonishingly powerful.
Talking of digital sound I saw some active Edirol near-field monitors which have fibre-optic and SPDIF coaxial input - just over one hundred pounds - how do they do it for the money?
A book on product platform strategy arrived from Amazon - maybe that will explain.
Listening to Meat is Murder.