“I don’t think we did go blind. I think we are blind. Blind but seeing, blind people who can see, but do not see.” Blindness
Only one book made me bitter and left a lump in my chest as I read it like Blindness by Saramago Jose did. It was Disgrace by J.M Coetzee.
My heart struggled at being heart for days after reading Disgrace. Finding out it had similar effect on most readers —especially the male readers— was no small consolation. It just made me accept I am human after all.
Of the characters in Disgrace, I felt the most empathy towards Lucy — a white lesbian woman raped or rather ‘correctively raped’ to bully her into either leaving her land or as tenancy payment if she chooses to stay — and was indifferent towards her father’s plight — a professor who had a sexual relationship with his student, refused to apologised and was suspended.
Lucy took her pill with a dignified silence— because rape like death is not what society likes talking about— as she wouldn’t admit it happened until she discovered she was pregnant. She even refused to speak out when she saw one of the rapists in her neighbours/former employee’s house because thanks to society, a victim of rape is often shamed and threatened more than helped. Her father, felt less than a man for being unable to protect his daughter and might have even regarded it as karma serving him a cold soup.
Most books like most movies are fictitious. But they wreck our hearts even when we know they are not real, and that nothing we do or think can change the eventual outcome.
I started Blindness not wanting to stop because the book was a spiderweb I was caught in. I had so many questions whose answers I craved for. But half way through Blindness I decided to stop. Lord of The Flies by William Golding and ‘Big Brother’s Watching’ 1984 by George Orwell also had the Blindness effect on me. I did continue and read to the end because the only thing worse than an unread book is an unfinished one.
These books mirror humanity. It shows at the core of everyone is selfishness disguised as self preservation.
Literature is often underestimated by society. Science and Technology may hold the sceptre of power but Literature is not only what defines us, it’s what keeps us in check and will tell future generations about us, just as it helps us understand our past. Yet it is ignored.
The Bible, Korean and other books written centuries ago are beacons of faith and pillars of truths for many. These books have historical, psychological and spiritual accounts of events which guides us still. So it bugs me when people disregard literature because they are too busy or because reading books is not the same as studying.
I once read somewhere that we interprete literature not based on what is written but based on who we are. So while some people might read these same books and be indifferent, I can’t. Some might start, and the immorality met in words will shut them out forever. Unable to read further, the author becomes an untouchable (just as I will find it difficult to read another book by J.M Coetzee.)
Literature makes me see feminism, sexism, racism,religious and tribal intolerance, politics, rape, child trafficking, refugees, IS and global terrorism with humanity tinted glasses.
When I think about these issues I always ask the question of humanity.
Is our humanity not supposed to stop us from questioning the equality of people?
Isn’t it supposed to stop us from consciously hurting and taking advantage of others?
Won’t realising we are all humans help us to become more tolerant and empathetic?
Or do we do these atrocities to each other because we are humans since to err is human after all?
Books like Disgraced and Blindness strips humanity to its bones and leaves the reader to wonder how human he/she is. These books usually do not have a hero or a villian because in life there is no true hero or villain. We are all creatures of reason. Driven to do good or evil depending on what side of the fence we are standing.
At the end of the day, it’s not if we support feminism or not that matters. It’s not even if we preach peace and tolerance or if we exorcise social vices, it’s if we finally understand what makes us humans. That revelation even is a slippery slope because a fundamental part of being human is self preservation. Unfortunately self preservation is the catalyst that turns us against each other. Which I fear will be the singular thing that destroys us all — being pulled apart by the things that binds us.
Ironically, this quest for self preservation is motivated by fear than love. The fear of ceasing to exist or losing a love object (person, thing, memory, emotion, belief or country). This often drives us to protect and that protection like the thin line between justice and revenge is destruction if flipped inside out.
Conclusively, Joseph Conrad said, “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are capable of every wickedness.”
Blindness, Disgrace, 1984, The Lord of the Flies and our daily activities confirm he was right after all.