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Boeke | Books > Boekartikels | Articles on books > English

Big Book Chain Chat #70: VS Naipaul – a man from another time


Mike Rands - 2011-06-21

Untitled Document

When Osama bin Laden was finally killed the Americans partied. From coast to coast they sang and danced and declared that it was a “great day to be alive”. People across the globe added their voices to the chorus.

I was ashamed to be a human. 

In the quest for finding the bogeyman the greatest power the world has ever known bankrupted itself. Countries were plunged into war, and hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives. The man with the long beard and the shiny eyes was hiding in a house in Pakistan watching porn. The threat he posed to the American Empire was horrifyingly small.

Yes, sexists and misogynists are some of the world’s most disgusting people. If I find myself in the presence of a true sexist, I get hives along the ridge of my spine and tend to fantasise about cutting off their testicles. But I have uncovered another dealing strategy, and one that is less likely to win me prison time – I avoid them. I associate with people who don’t think like that, and I have never struggled for company.

VS Naipaul’s comments are stupid and expose his own bigoted view of the world. But he’s a man from another time.

We live an age where monetary systems are collapsing. We have destroyed our environment. As of this year there will be seven billion of us – which is to say, way too fucking many. Fossil fuels are running out. There is not sufficient water or food to maintain our species. We have destroyed the oceans. In the face of this Mr Naipaul’s comments are mostly interesting for their extraordinary irrelevancy.

It is true that women often represent vulnerable groups in society, and women’s specific plights should, of course, be highlighted. And although it should go without saying, I will say it anyway: men who abuse women are the ultimate scumbags! But “women’s issues” and patriarchy were not things that I was aware of as a child, and when I came across feminism later in life I was somewhat baffled. It has always been evident to me that women were in charge of everything. They had all sorts of skills and abilities that men didn’t have, and men listened to women, or spent all their waking hours dreaming up ways to impress them. Perhaps this was my very unusual and skewed perception of reality, but it was my perception all the same. And this perception is certainly not just mine, and this perception has a lot of evidence to support it as fact. It’s an oft-quoted fact that in New York women on average earn higher salaries than men. Across the globe there are increasingly more women entering postgraduate programmes. Women head up companies. Working women represent a huge force in the economy. Women can express themselves psychologically and sexually in ways that were unimaginable at other points in history.

As for literature, I have read numerous novels, short stories, poems and articles by females and never imagined that there was even a scrap of evidence to suggest any kind of inherent inferiority. On the contrary, I had understood that literature was one of the realms in which women have, for an incredibly long time, had a sufficient measure of access to enable them to compete with, and often outdo, their male counterparts. There are more women who read fiction than men. According to US publishing records over fifty percent of published writers are female. In South Africa it would be hallucinatory to think that fiction was dominated by men, much less white men.

The above entry says that race is a topic for another day. But the implication is that (white) men need special mention, despite Mr VS’s not being altogether white himself. Anyway, let it remain another topic for another day. Suffice to say that the white race’s global dominance was the result of an accident of history. An accident that has been, and is, busy correcting itself. The big bad whitey white man, and the manly man who does his manly things in manly ways, are a thing of another time, of a bygone era. Forget about them. Let them go. The threat they and their views on life pose to the world are laughably small. To rage against them and their control and dominance of everything, is to bankrupt oneself hunting down Osama bin Laden.