Homage to José Saramago



I want to blog like Saramago: José Saramago, winner of the Noble Prize for Literature, blogger and novelist superb. I would like to have the confidence and skill to express the views that I know we share. José Saramago

Recently in Durban, South Africa, before I had read his blog collection, The Notebook, I was asked whether I would like to visit the Holocaust Museum. “No,” I replied with perhaps too much force, “because I might say or do something offensive because I am so angry about the Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and am dismayed that they learned so little from their own terrible treatment in the hands of the Nazi Government.”

Saramago likened the current Middle East conflict to the story of David and Goliath. How apt that Palestinian children are killed for throwing stones. Saramago wrote that “David’s strength and size have grown to such a degree that it is no longer possible to see any difference between him and lofty Goliath … that delicate David of yore now crews the most powerful tanks in the world …” He pointed out that where the view is held “with deep-rooted certainty … (that) there is a people chosen by God, and they are therefore automatically justified and authorised – in name too, of past horrors and present fears – in any of their actions that result from an obsessive, emotional and pathologically exclusivist racism …” Does this sound familiar? Are we not currently gearing up to fight just such another group, ISL?

Saramago fired his eloquence at a number of targets but did not forget to celebrate those people who have contributed to imagination, thought and social justice.

George W Bush was a target, not a celebrated person.

Saramago asked why in the USA, “a country so great in all things, has often had such small presidents?” He described Bush as a man of mediocre intelligence, abysmal ignorance, confused communication skills and who lied to the world and “expelled truth.” Unfortunately in 2014, four years after Saramago’s death in June 2010, that truth remains expelled but I do not have Saramago’s skill to enhance the argument.

In losing truth we are duped and the most notable duplicitious trick played on us by our respective governments was the bail out of banks following the Global Financial Crisis. His blog of October 2008 pointed out that “… the idea of economic democracy has given way to a market that is obscenely triumphant … whilst the idea of a cultural democracy has ended up by an alienating industrialised mass marketing of culture. We are,” he said, “not progressing, but regressing.” As Stephen Fry in a recent QI said, “A fool and his money are soon elected.”

South Africa could well reflect about both the story of David and Goliath and the loss of economic democracy. It is two years since the Marikana strike that ended in a massacre of the strikers by security forces. These forces were aided and abetted by, Lonmin, the British mining group that was holding out on giving its workers a living wage. Evidence before the Commission of Inquiry indicates that the operation was planned: on the morning of the massacre the strikers were trapped in an area surrounded by razor wire, leaving no gaps through which to escape. The police and security forces ignored pleas to provide strikers opportunity to leave the enclosure. There was clear intent to kill. Why else were four mortuary vans ordered before any shots were fired? (The Guardian Weekly, 19-9-2014).

Marakana had not happened in 2008 when Saramago wrote of the massacre of miners in Chile in 1904 at Santa Maria de Iqique. The issue was the same: the merciless exploitation of labour from a very impoverished community. Again foreign capitalists bought pressure to bear on government forces. Who, one wonders, are our governments for? One might ask the same questions that Saramago suggested we put in respect of the G20: “Why? What for? For whom?”

Saramago wrote in December 2008 that “He who tramples on human rights even one time, in Guantànimo for instance, throws years of law and legality overboard.” We need to bear this in mind as our governments revisit their respective Terrorist Acts where there is a danger of fudging the definition of torture in order to get information. We are indeed regressing.

Thank you José Saramago for what you have written and for continuing to provoke reflection long after you have left us.

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