A counsel of moderate speech

I have, on occasion, been mildly upset by the verbal violence other people, often people I like, use in LJ – as opposed to the kind I dish out, possibly, sometimes. Talk of death by fire or eyes gouged out with sporks for people of whose actions they disapprove…

I had a couple of memories in the last day or so which helped explain this to me. One was of a Trot at political meetings back in 1968 saying something along the lines of ‘What we want is a proper Student Union. You know, like the unions the workers had during the Bolshevik Revolution. The sort of union where, if someone scabs on his comrades, the union takes him and saws his legs off.’

I’ve often wondered what became of that man.

I was also reading about Malcolm Caldwell over the weekend in the Obs – the economist who believed in the Khmer Rouge’s scheme to re-pastoralize Cambodia and deliberately blinded himself to the programme of mass murder and torture that was a part of that scheme right up to the moment when Pol Pot and his cronies decided he was a spy and had him shot.

Specifically I was remembering the stories that were coming out of Cambodia about the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields and how many people, including Noam Chomsky, who had righteously opposed the American bombing, simply refused to believe in them. I quarreled with friends over this back in the day, one of them a young woman with whom I next fell out over her membership of the Blair government and her complicity in the Afghan and Iraq wars.

Back in the 70s, she originally refused to believe the stories and then acknowledged as how it might be the case that the revolution was having to kill a few class enemies.

It’s worth remembering that accepting mass murder as an acceptable part of discourse is something that stays with you when your views change. As the mad Ophelia says ‘we know what we are; we know not what we may become’.

One of the reasons why I have not yet posted about Iris Robinson or the death of Mary Daley is that I am trying to find language that will not lead me into places where I would rather not be. The wind changes and your face gets stuck and it is bad for you; I get migraines when I lose my temper – I get migraines a lot.

Brecht wrote – my own loose version –

I keep a mask
An actor’s mask
From far Japan
Upon my wall.

A demon mask
lacquered with gold
Eyes leer at me
dark empty eyes

Forehead veins throb
with swollen veins.
We feel, the pair of us,
How much an effort malice is.


About rozkaveney

Middleaged, trans, novelist, poet, activist
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10 Responses to A counsel of moderate speech

  1. actionreplay says:

    I’ve been to Cambodia. I have a co-worker who came to Scotland in the 70s whose entire extended family and her husband and her husband’s family were murdered by the Khmer Rouge. I can’t believe someone would apologise for a regime like that once the scale of the evil became known.

    • Anonymous says:

      The depths (and banality) of evil

      On yes they can and will – look at the neo-Nazis – and remember that Holocaust denial is just a thin cover for Holocaust appproval,


      • actionreplay says:

        Re: The depths (and banality) of evil

        Ok wht I meant was – “I can’t believe that someone who is otherwise credible and not a rabid fomenter of hatred and intolerance, eg Chomsky, would be that stupid and blind”.

        Yes, neo-nazis are wankers of the most extreme order.

  2. steepholm says:

    Yep. I’ve said nothing about Iris Robinson either, because I can’t find any words that won’t make me feel like I’m smeared in Schadenfreude. In those circumstances, maybe it’s better to be silent.

  3. tavella says:

    Doesn’t Noam Chomsky _still_ insist that the numbers were exaggerated and what he admits did happen was all the fault of the west anyway?

  4. lovingboth says:

    I’ve often wondered what became of that man

    Either a Labour junior minister or a Tory shadow, probably.

  5. hairyears says:

    There are always ‘Useful Idiots’ and it seems that the more repellent the oppression and mass-murder, the greater the fluency and prominence – or outright celebrity – of the apologists, deniers, liars and oh-so-witty ridiculers of the truthful.

    It astonishes the cynic in me, every day, that overwhelmingly these useful idiots perform for free.

  6. x_mass says:

    i know mary daley said a lot of bad things about people like me. however that dosen’t mean her work wasn’t important to a lot of people. A lot of people found strength and insight through her writing. Since I cant manage to read her her writing without spitting blood, I am left to wonder did her work aid or hinder feminism as a whole. However for some groups of feminist I am sure they have lost one of their finest minds and for them I am sorry

  7. jmkelly says:

    Funny, just yesterday this thought passed through my mind: “If your religion doesn’t teach you to be kind, don’t bother me with it.”

    Iris Robinson’s religion taught her to denounce homosexuality as “vile.” I got a great laugh out of her exposure as an adulteress (I use the word she would use); I love it when self-appointed guardians of the rules get caught breaking them. A mere “come-uppance”? Maybe, but I see cosmic justice in operation.

    Mary Daly’s philosophy led her to say vile things about transpeople. I suppose if radical feminists had the political clout that Bible-thumping hypocrites have, I’d get a great laugh out of that too. As it is, I just feel sad. It’s as if a tentacle of the Roman Catholic Church’s thinking managed to work its way into her thought while she wasn’t looking. The Church’s view on homosexuals has a lot in common with her view on transsexuals.

    Romanticizing violence is a technique of persuasion. Voltaire said, those who convince you of absurdities will convince you to commit atrocities. I would add that one way of convincing the weak-minded is to advocate atrocities; it has a way of paralyzing the critical faculties.

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