Sunday, 5 August 2012

On Milieu and Refuge: a sketch, 11

As I said in the last post: 'The first time I wrote anything on Israel on the blog one person wrote to me asking why I hated Muslims.' That is what he would like me to have said so he could cast me out of the ranks of decent people, as an Islamophobe.

Now somebody perfectly nice analyses me as perfectly nice but as someone with 'a sore spot' and wishes me 'healed'. Once healed I would be like others - as normal as herself, I suppose.

Again it is the question of normality. Some are whole, some are less so. The normal keep a kindly eye on the non-normal so they can discount what they are actually saying in the hope that someone will administer medicine to them.

It is Foucauld who uses the image of Bentham's ideal prison, the panopticon, as an image of the central eye of normality: 'The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the 'social-worker'-judge; it is on them that the universal reign of the normative is based; and each individual, wherever he may find himself, subjects to it his body, his gestures, his behaviour, his aptitudes, his achievements.'

Here is a series of notes in haiku form that first appeared on my Twitter page. The answer to all the questions in the middle is: yes.

The Panopticon
The panopticon / showed the inside of their mouths / where words sat waiting.
The panopticon / considered its own troubles / but dared not speak them.
The panopticon / was like the eye dissected / all humour, all light.
The panopticon / above the open city: / map of illusions.
The panopticon / was its own eyes and ears: deaf, / blind, still curious.
Could any of us / have gazed back, we might have seen / the panopticon.
Could any of us / have heard the faint muttering / of panopticons?
Could any of us / have written the silence of / the panopticon?
Could any of us / have been the panopticon / in the high building?
Could any of us / have climbed into the eye of / the panopticon?
The panopticon / was God of course, smiling down / from his blind tower.
The panopticon / was God, of course, beaming down / on his blind people.
The panopticon / was the magnificat lost / in all the singing.
The panopticon / was whistling Bach to itself, / a fugue of self-praise.
When we broke the glass / of the great panopticon / its eyes kept searching.

The first quotation at the top, about Islamophobia is malevolent. The second is not. But it demonstrates how the rhetoric of normality works.


Clarissa Aykroyd said...

I love these haikus (always found Foucault interesting) and this whole series has been interesting, thoughtful and moving.

Following on from something you said in the comments for a previous entry, I honestly do not know why so many people find it so hard to say something like "the suffering of the Jews and the suffering of the Palestinians are both important and tragic." And not to use incidents in either's history for attack and rhetorical purposes. It's like, the moment you set foot in this territory it's all about being a Muslim-hater or a Jew-hater. And it doesn't have to be so.

George S said...

No, quite agree, Clarissa.