Thursday, May 28, 2009

Footnote: Derek Walcott on human nature, race, and writing

There are many things to be discussed, important and trivial, such as the president's Supreme Court nomination and Kris Allen as the winner of American Idol, the probability of global warming and the possibility of significant local hurricanes and the fun of summer, but for me and for the moment some singular comments from Derek Walcott (though not about any of those particular topics) will stand in for some of the available complexity...

“It’s wrong to blame the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade entirely on the whiteman,” he (Derek Walcott) stressed. “That’s a lie; it does not tell the complexity of what happened. The reality is the opposite. It’s a two-way evil. The African-American has to get beyond that lie or exaggeration of blaming all the oppression on the white man. There were blacks, who owned slaves in America. It's a perverse nuance of human nature to blame the other man.” Derek Walcott blames not race but human nature. What else does Walcott say? “Plato did not want writers and poets in his Ideal Republic because they criticise too much,” Walcott stressed. “They find it difficult to keep quiet. It’s not necessarily courage that makes poets to criticise; it’s just inevitable that they have to criticise. That’s what is admirable about poets and writers. Writers are not very courageous by nature; all of us are cowards. But there’s a point at which the cowardice is not important. There’s a point where he says ‘the voice that I’m hearing in my head cannot be suppressed; so, I'll put it down in a corner of my cell or in a toilet paper or in a matchbox’. I’'s still cowardice; he’s still afraid he'd be caught. Poets and writers are guardians of heritage; they preserve heritage but heritage is an examination of the truth.” (“Reparation Is An Absurd Concept – Walcott,” by Anote Ajeluorou, Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009).