On bearing witness…

So here I stand.
At the beginning of this fraught, perilous tour of duty.
And here I already find myself rummaging through my arsenal of countercultural weaponry, running through my inventory of dialectical ammunitions and sharpening the ever-cutting bayonet tips of my moral compass, bracing for the incoming barrage.
The first landmine to avoid in this campaign (note to self) is that of relying blindly on my own biases and refuting alternate notions solely on adrenal impulses. But then again, (sir, yes, sir) I am guilty of it. Court martial will follow, I’m sure. But for the time being no-one is left behind.

Therefore, let us commence. Volley number one.

As first consideration, an initial pondering on the materials encountered on week one at #MAIJCYMRU, I want to briefly touch upon the concept of bearing witness as espoused by Kristof in his gut-wrenching series of reports from the Darfur region (and discussed by Tait: 2012). This is to me, to maintain the analogy of a battlefield alive, the casus belliĀ for this flamethrower post, and the reason why I am now returning fire.

Kristof’s main failure in his considerations, his Maginot line if you will, is epistemological at best and crypto-geopolitical at worst. His investment in the story, his eyewitness, though raw and compelling in its body-contorting affect, revels in its asymmetry.
Its lack of inclusion of institutional voices or the collocation of the narrative outside of a political framework which could have, if empowered, obviated or at least addressed the power-play on the ground, smacks of tendentious and, as Mamdani suggests, promotes a sleight-of-hand distraction from America’s domestic woes and its neo-colonialistic meta-narrative at the time of writing.

Let us be clear: a life is a life, and the tragedy of a murder in Darfur at the hands of a Janjaweed militia is equally deserving of denouncement and exposition as that of a murder in Afghanistan at the hands of a Taliban paramilitary or, crucially, that of an Iraqi child at the hands of an overzealous G.I.
The cautionary tale is that the pornography of horror furnished by contorted, lifeless bodies can be cynically exploited as affordable payload, for their inherent ability to swing public opinion and geopolitical narratives towards piloted domestic outcomes. This practice erodes the ‘sense of meaning’ of the witnessed tragedy, and while it raises the ‘witness’ to the role of adjudicator of moral truth and dispenser of solutions, it demeans and objectifies the subject of its morbidity.

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