31 AUG   to   21 OCT   2008

what is it like to come back from somewhere to find your own life irredeemably alien to you?

you have come back to indifference, you discover, and barely hidden attacks. the so called collaborative strategies you evolved turn out, under examination, to be extractive machineries calculated to destroy your projects one by one, either by blocking or diverting them or subjecting them to unremitting blistering critique, so that they fall one by one, collapsing in wrecks or gradually withering, as they say, on the plant, so that a person falls and collapses, in a mixture of sudden falls and slow subsidence. a person struggles to hold together a minimal middle ground, a sufficient real ground while, in the middle of that clearly failing struggle a person's projects are subject to a critique they can not respond to - a critique so fierce and unrelenting as to reduce any organic material to a mass, nothing, you sense at once, can weather this assault, you have been here before

what is it like to take out this new machine, create a new folder, to begin a relationship with this new machine, on the back of the same old shit, on the back, though, this time, of a new level of intensity, or dread. you met a person yesterday at a garden party in the seaside village of Emsworth who talked uncontrollably about their daughter, whose gigs they were not able to attend. this person turned out to be the main problem person, about whom you had heard so much. it was immediately clear this senior person was barely functioning. in the grip of profound doubt, you are not making sense. alternating between euphoric ambitions and near total paralysis, the middle ground slips and a sense of reality increasingly slips, leaving a stunned silence. it is into this stunned silence that you find yourself speaking without stopping.

can a person give an account of themselves? I mean in terms of cost. of course different values are attached to people's lives when it comes to paying compensation. one person can be said to be a great loss, to a certain community, to their friends and family, to themselves. another person is less of a loss. another person can perhaps barely be said to be a loss. then there is the case of negative loss. you hear somebody automatically objecting, indignantly. but it is not at this level that the debate is being carried out at this time. I mean at the level of courtesy. courtesy has broken down a long time before and is not operative. you imagine that courtesy will be reasserted in the same way complacency, habit will reassert itself, somewhere down the line, permitting the continuation of family life. you are no longer in tanzania. you cannot afford to live your life like somebody else's. you do not live at arm's length. you are not therefore capable of telling stories, whether about your own life or somebody else's, the way Roald Dahl does. you admire that capacity, which seems to correspond to what Bion calls thinking, which is equivalent to forgetting, the rendering unconscious of the bulk of experience as it occurs - in audio recording you call this normalized: when the peaks and troughs are ironed out to prevent distortion. this is something to be admired, in the case of Roald Dahl, it is something you are at first suspicious of, deeply suspicious, but you learn to respect it, even admire it, it is not entirely different from what Primo Levi did, you come to see that, to feel the incompetence of your own thoughts, your own feelings, increasingly as a loss, something to be ashamed of and ultimately to hide, not show, so that the showing, the vast indulgence of showing, which you have always been urged to moderate, turns out finally in fact to have been a mistake, a grave and disgraceful error of at once catastrophic and minuscule proportions. then it becomes a question of can you afford to store all this stuff. I mean can you justify paying ABC self storage on the old kent road to store all your stuff in a locked room, into which nobody goes except you, from time to time, to deposit more stuff until the storage room is full from floor to celiling. this is really the opposite of publishing, right? this is a terrible thing to do and to pay and even expect somebody else to pay for this self storage, when the household is stretched as it is - how do you justify that? how do you justify, in fact, your reaction, when it is proposed that a lot of this stuff is now redundant and could simply be thrown out? your response is disproportionate and because of your incapacity to come to terms with the question of value in this case, you are left literally fighting for shelf space in the house you all live in, to select a single glass to send to a charity shop in order to clear a single inch of shelf space to store something which another house takes for granted and which in this case a person cannot fit in to the large house they can barely afford, not to speak of an additional self storage space packed floor to ceiling with useless documents and old TVs, which, should the storage unit burn down, as your parents' storage unit did and as self storage units often do, as the result of arson, in that case the assessment of the value of all your stuff, which you keep there, would unquestionably be assessed at zero. in the case of blank paper it would have assessable value: reams and reams of it. in its current state we can talk about the cost of removing it and the cost to the community of disposing of it. we can speak of a negative value. in the case of projects that are ongoing, we can go on to ask about the value of those - either in terms of what they produce and which then needs to be disposed of or stored, or in the case of digital production in terms of the opportunity costs associated with this production: all the things that could be being done or made in this time and, in particular, with this equipment, this brand new state of the art machine, instead. Ngome could use a machine like this, instead of the outdated substandard machine you ended up giving them, which came from Armin Bobsien. you were ashamed to present that machine to Ngome, specifically to somebody who works constantly on community development and home based care for people affected by HIV/AIDS, somebody with extraordinary energy and integrity who never drinks. imagine what a machine like this could do for an organisation like that. you can imagine that person working on this machine in the very room they showed you, with its tiny black and white tv and mud floor and a camping stove, with a poster of a modern interior on the wall. immediately afterwards a misunderstanding arose: H had understood that COTC had told P that he, H, had no place to live; now P appeared to be saying, having seen where he lived, that in fact this place of his was as good as having nowhere to stay; whereas in reality this was his home, here in the community. there was a misunderstanding, said P. COTC had been questioning Ngome's certification, not where H lived. P had been talking about M, who had told her he was in temporary accommodation. we were grateful to see H's home; we were full of respect for what they were doing with Ngome. it was nighttime. you were riding back from Mpapura in the pickup. shortly afterwards you had a meeting with a driver who was to take you to the rondo plateau. then you met shahame and he drove you to the bandari club. the children fell asleep before the band came on, all except S who had his fingers in his ears. you never wanted to go to tanzania either. now you're back. you remember your sense of furious paralysis, the night you arrived in the house in Shangani, on the outskirts of Mtwara - a house not suited to a family of five plus two other single people, who ended up sharing a room. as you predicted, that trip, that so called highly successful trip, took a heavy toll on this household, which was at its wits end. what is it like, now you are back, to begin to discover the consequences you anticipated, deeply rooted in the fabric of the household, in a structure you can barely inhabit from moment to moment, in which people constantly fight for space. you are crammed in to this so called eco renovation project, you've already outgrown it, just as L and S had already outgrown their house by the time they built it; now they have moved to a gated community by clissold park. S and L are successful academics; S just got back from Climate Camp; we were digging potatoes. meanwhile M, like you, struggles fundamentally to get a purchase on reality as time runs out. an account has to be balanced. strangely, some kind of balance is demanded, at some level: an account. but who can give such an account. not M. not me. you become more and more aware of this deficit: and more and more desperate first to make up the deficit, then, increasingly, to account for the deficit by factors outside your control. of course it's you who are outside your control; you're too much for yourself; too much and too little; you have no sense of proportion; you have no roots; no soil; no growing environment. you point to the degradation that is around you and which you could never be diverted from; you can't do anything about it because you are endlessly involved in trying to recuperate something for yourself, because needy, devoured by doubt, irremediably alone and unable, after half a lifetime, to tolerate more aloneness. you sat on a bench by a reconstructed seventeenth century granary and talked with __ about how much he hated you. you tried to respond in a positive way and express the value you put on __, which you said you could not express. but a deep vein of bitterness and dispirit, which resurfaces, drags you down. it drags you all down so strongly it is hard to observe, to take part in, to re envisage