Civilization After The End

I am posting my final paper for my Violence and Metaphor class because I think it is some really good shit. Enjoy.

It’s below the fold to not annoy people too much and to not take up my whole front page. (Edit: 10-8-09: It’s now split up into multiple parts -hopefully- to make it easier to read)
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“What goes on in a body?”

Okay, friends. As blog authors go I am wretchedly inconsistent. And while this might not be my longest entry or even the most relevant…I thought I should write something. And I wanted that something to incorporate anything I have picked up in one of my classes…

Am I learning anything? I have no idea….

My class on Art and Catastrophe surprisingly doesn’t touch on epidemic at all…but I am still pulling out quite a few useful threads. I intend to document them and write about them in more detail here eventually…but it will have to wait.

For now:
We recently read Yvette Christianse’s novel Unconfessed about slavery in South Africa in the 18th century. The tale follows a portion of the slave woman Sila, who narrates. The narrative begins somewhat chronologically and then quickly begins to distentigrate into a disjointed mess. Sila begins talking nonsense to her dead son, and the audience is forced to very carefully piece together the threads of Sila’s history.

Sila gives birth to eight children over the course of her enslavement. At one point she says that, “life is a disease women get from men” and she asks “do I want my body to become my enemy? Because that is all that can happen.”

I’m reminded a bit of the Volkswagen commericials, and our debates over what is an epidemic…

[Volkswagen Part I] and this one [Volkswagen Part II]

While I can sort of see Sila’s statement…I try to remember that it takes two people to create life. However, in this context…in Sila’s life of slavery…it is not a choice. Sila is continuously raped, almost nightly–pregnancy isn’t her choice. So to her…life is a disease that she gets from men. The child inside of her is an infection…she can’t spread it to anyone…but men can.

So where does this get us?


Later in the novel Sila discusses her owners and masters. She is discussing names…and how her owners have never named her properly, never used her real name…and the importance of what a name is…and how the owners try to make the slaves’ lives read like a book, only including the facts, histories, names, and parts that they want. Sila says that they forget about the other parts of their lives…and “forgetting is their contagion”–so if forgetting is a contagion, and the act of enslaving people is what causes one to forget or is anyway related to that forgetting, then the ability to enslave, hurt, and kill people is a disease, a contagion, an epidemic.

In Vokswagen Part II I ponder what qualifies as an epidemic, and if the popularity of something at a given time could qualify it as an epidemic…then the condoning and acceptance of slavery throughout the world over varying periods of time could indeed qualify as an epidemic.

The epidemic of slavery, the contagion of forgetting–forgetting the importance of human life, forgetting that the color of one’s skin is not a viable judgement of their humanity.

These are the kinds of catastrophe we discuss in my class. Slavery, genocide, terrorism. And I am constantly surprised that while we never go near the subject of epidemic (something I consider to be massively catastrophic, specifically in works such as “The Plague” “Journal of the Plague Year” or “28 Days Later”/”I Am Legend”)–while we never go near it, we are constantly talking about it.

Can’t escape it. It’s all interrelated. All catastrophe is not just easily grouped into a specific “sub-genre” of catastrophe. I recently read an article that broke down Albert Camus’s “The Plague” as a retelling of The Holocaust. It’s never just one thing…slavery and epidemic…epidemic and genocide…genocide is people killing people which is the rage epidemic and so much more.

Some food for thought. I am gonna try, try, try to do this more often. 😛 Keep reading and keep discussing!