About 3/4 years ago, my body and mind endured a head-on collision with the imperialistic, capitalist, cis-heteronormative, white supremacist, ableist patriarchy that we live in. I was left with a body I hated and a mind I didn’t trust. My body felt like a prison and a burden. I hated its inexorable commitment to existing, the way it kept breathing, eating, drinking, needing, wantingand hurting. My mind had lost all of its former elasticity. It could no longer bend, adapt, forget, silence, ignore and mute.
DOOR OLAVE NDUWANJE
I remember thinking that I had finally broken, and not in equal smooth parts, but in a myriad of shards. Everything in me was sharp and cutting. Every friendship, commitment, memory, desire, dream and nightmare, cut and hurt. So much so, that even the taste of food, the touch of light, the rhythm of music, the tenderness of touch, would pain me, nauseate me, repulse me. I would huddle my psyche in the center of my being, hours on end, unable and unwilling to thinkorfeel. I wassuffocating, no, drowning in an ocean of fear, guilt, shame, remorse, sorrow and anger.
Oh, the anger! An anger that I had stored in a lifelong praxis of retreats, concessions, explanations and “agreeing to disagree”. The anger laced every one of those cutting shards of my psyche like the poisonous and intoxicating stench of refined petroleum fuel. Each shard’s reflective coating consisted of the obsessive glare of guilt and shame. Weighted down by the gravitational pull of sorrow, their cutting edges were wetted by the blood thinning properties of fear and anxiety.
When I say that Black Trans-inclusives Feminists saved my life, I mean that quite literally. Without their love, nurture and uplifting, I would not be here. Their healing hands, generous bodies, insightful minds and magical souls, saved me. Without them, I would still be lost and alone in the little, darkened room I occupied in the psychiatric clinic I had been involuntarily committed. These giantesses of thought and practice taught, nurtured, encouraged and reprimanded me into a commitment to healing. Under their guidance, I learned to cherish my fears and anxiety as the nourishing soil of my courage and tenderness. I learned to vanquish my guilt and shame with kindness and transparency. I learned to make space no, to make a nest; a warm and loving nest for my sorrow. And I learned to charge my every pore, my every cell, with the electric power of my anger.
I am angry. Soooo very angry. I am angrier than I have ever been in my life. I am angry and I know it is good. And I rejoice for it and in it. In essence, I am angry because I have hope and the belief that oppression can and must be brought to an end. Or perhaps it is faith, or naiveté. Whatever it may be: that anger has brought me loving purpose, joyful communion, passionate commitment and hope-giving solidarity.
So, I carry my anger close to my heart, I tuck it under my armpits, I fold it neatly into the knot of my waist wrap, I hold it dear and near, sheltered, cherished and valued. Yes, anger is a kind of renewable fuel. In a maddening world, anger seems to be inexhaustible. But anger is also a kind of perimeter alarm system, when triggered it points me to where the violence is. I posit: The violence of oppression, of entitlement, of privilege, of exploitation, of hatred, is a tactile and material intruder. Anger alarms, directs and fuels our legitimate and righteous outrage.
But, in the words of Solange Knowles: “You got the right to be mad / But when you carry it alone you find it only getting in the way.” So, I offer you my madness: carry it with me. I will carry yours too. That way it won’t get in our way, but it can be the way we walk upon. I posit: we can turn our combined anger, concerted anger, undiluted anger, into a kind of yellow brick road. I know it will be a narrow road; curved, winding and meandering at first. But as we mobilise and cement our respective anger, it will turn into a broad boulevard of grievances, a sturdy and inclusive avenue leading to the Emerald City. A city I hope we can all agree we need to evacuate, and then burn down to the ground.
Maybe it is my anger speaking, but I want to see it burn. This treacherous artifice, this nebulous edifice, this murderous scaffold, this bloody altar to the devils of greed must be desecrated and purged. This church built out of mass oppression, pillaging, exploitation and destruction, that shelters and harbours whiteness, must be unroofed, stripped and abandoned to the restorative processes of nature. This unholy union of Europe, of Western “civilisation", of global white supremacy, it must be undone. I posit: Liberation isn’t access or entry to privilege. Liberation isn’t a kind of entitlement. It is my suspicion that black liberation requires the undoing of white supremacy. Queer liberation calls for the undoing of the heterocissexist patriarchy. Environmental justice necessitates the undoing of the global imperialist capitalist order. Standards of beauty, ability and participation must be undone to champion disability rights. Undoing isn’t improving, it is laying bare and doing away with. The university can’t be decolonized without destroying it. Neither the colony, nor the settler’s place of origins. Our house is necrophillic, we must lay waste to it.
I can’t imagine that I am saying anything novel here. You must have heard this before, contemplated it and/or committed to it. You must have! Like I said before, I am new to this. I am not even sure whether I should be here standing before you. I have formulated my positions as theses, but I have should have formulated them as questions. Cause, frankly speaking, I don’t really know what I am doing. As a solidarity worker, writer and politician, I often find myself directionless, confused and lost. And that often makes me feel lonely and overwhelmed. That is why I look for teachers, elders, co-conspirators and comrades. I posit: Let us shun the researchers that do not give back, that do not teach, that mine data and appropriate theory, that re-package it in career-advancing books and publications, and that speak in strange and nebulous language. We need teachers that teach, far beyond the confines of the classroom and the university halls.
I sound distrustful, don’t I? That is because I am distrustful. To understand and dismantle, I must think and rethink actions and words, thoughts and deeds, mine and everyone else’s. I am distrustful, because this system has polluted my very understanding of reality. To think beyond that polluted understanding of reality, means to unthink reality. I dream up novel perspectives, adopt new angles of sight and hearing, I touch and taste differently, I hold myself gingerly and loosely; it is a kind of clowning, this reshaping and unlearning, this dizzying shaking and re-ordering of what I know, think, do and say. I try to write it down, these new tastes and sounds, these alternative shapes and figures. I try to codify and archive these visionary glimpses of alternate futures, unknown pasts and hidden presents.
I posit: Activism is the business of manufacturing potential, trading futures and accumulating directional hope. We can and must write, sing, dance, paint and play alternative realities into existence. Alternatives, imagined, enacted or otherwise, are weapons in our arsenal. Let us dream ferociously and valiantly, then.
I say all this, and I feel an undercurrent of violence moving and lurking in secret folds of my gut. It is the threat of destruction, of revolt, of rebellion, of chaos. It scares me, kind of, and it is also enticing, for the same reasons. Cause, what if all I desire is the reversal of the direction of violence. The oppression of the oppressor has a ring to it, doesn’t it, it holds a kind of promise: the promise of retribution and perhaps, of justice.
Or is my fear of violence also the the fear of risking and losing the little comfort, the little stability, the little safety, the compromised freedom I have eked out in a hostile world.
I posit: We stand to lose the little we have. This work, this commitment to liberation, is a commitment to loss. Loss of comfort, of privilege, of status, of stability. We must lose it all, to the fires that must cleanse this Emerald City of ours. As long as we are its abject citizens, we must become reckless and uncompromising saboteurs. My humble suggestion is: let us at least be malignant agents, deliberate intruders, conscientiously contentious and oppositional hostages.
Olave Nduwanje is zwart, veganist, non-binaire trans femme, queer, feminist, Umurundikazi, neuro-atypisch, geldarm en verbeten romanticus. Ze is een van de auteurs in ZWART - Afro-Europese literatuur uit de Lage Landen en was afgelopen gemeenteraadsverkiezingen Kandidaat-Raadslid voor de Haagse Stadspartij.