Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Posted by Simon Halliday | Thursday, June 29, 2006 | Category: |

“It takes a lot out of you, you know? It's taken a lot out of me, man.”

They are sitting on damp bricks, staring at a gibbous moon. And they are comfortable.

“Violence is strange man, I didn't get it for a very long time, now it dawns on me, and I feel the sun burning the ideas of violence into me. It hurts and I want it to stop, but I also want to know, simply to know and to understand and then maybe it won't burn so much. I don't know man.”

Old friends can talk at each other. I don't know if 'I' am saying these words, or if you and I are old friends talking about 'my' psychological disposition. But the conversation is meaningful, and we're sharing a bottle of good, red wine. It's not a Merlot though. A Merlot would be too sedate. It's probably Pinotage, that's South African. Sweet and bitter at the same time with dangerous undertones that make you want to drink more of it. Yes, a Pinotage. I've just had a swig from the bottle. So may you.

“I couldn't bear the idea of her getting hurt, of something going wrong and something happening to her, equally I had to think of ways to outwit these skelms, these fuckwits trying to attack us, and, you know what, I thought about attacking them, I saw myself punching the guy disarming him, pointing the gun at him and telling him to run away. I saw myself kicking him, ducking and punching him again and again so that he would never do this to someone else. Ever! And I don't only want to cry for myself I want to cry for what I might have done to him were I that much less controlled. Were I closer to the verge of losing it and not caring. I would have hurt him and I would have enjoyed the pain that I felt in my fists for days afterwards.”

Friends know when the other is crying, has cried, sometimes needs to or doesn't want to cry. Maybe I fit into all of these categories, who knows?

“Where does empathy begin and end? What differentiates it from sympathy? Can I empathise with the criminals who threatened to shoot me? Not really. Do I feel sympathy that they maybe be in irrevocably horrific situations from which they don't know how to extricate themselves? Yes. I see the whole seen played out for me in a million different quantum possibilities. Me dying, Amy dying, me killing them, them taking the car, it never happening in the first place. Quantum visions 1 through X. Do I forgive them? I don't know. I get the feeling you often have to love someone to forgive them and I don't know if I can love these men. Maybe a part of me does. The part of me that sympathises. Another part of me empathises with desperateness, that dark space where each of us has been desperate for someone or something, a touch, food, water, a drug maybe, something tangible that we don't have but want or need. There's so much involved, so much that could have happened, could have gone wrong. We dealt with it in a very intelligent and amicable way. Most of all at the moment I forgive myself for being in a situation where Amy was exposed to that, where I was exposed to that. I have the love for that. I take responsibility for being in that situation, at that time, for looking and not looking, for shaking (literally shaking) in the moment, for thinking violence, for lying to the criminals, for working out in my head that I had the remote in my pocket and not handing over the car immediately thinking that I could outwit them. I take responsibility for all of this. I take responsibility for the risk to which I exposed Amy and I. I take this responsibility and I forgive myself.”

Friends listen to the rambling. The bricks are still wet beneath us. The sliver of moon is so bright that we can see the rest of the moon behind it, it looks hidden and shadowed. Umbra. I've always liked the shape and the sound of that word. Umbra. And beneath it our conversation could not be adumbrated by the umbra of the moon. We laugh at my silly word plays. We know that I do that. We have some more wine. You understand more of me maybe. Maybe not. Shadowed.

Currently have 3 comments:

  1. "Then why do you wish to kill me?" Caligula asks Cherea.

    "I've told you why; because I regard you as noxious, a constant menace. I like, and need, to feel secure. So do most men. They resent living in a world where the most preposterous fancy may at any moment become a reality, and the absurd transfix their lives, like a dagger in the heart. I feel as they do; I refuse to live in a topsy-turvy world. I want to know where I stand, and to stand secure."

    "Security and logic don't go together," Caligula replies...

    "Quite true. My plan of life is not based on logic" (Cherea).

    ~ when reality becomes too much for the consious state to bear, feel immense privilege at the fact that we can escape it. Camus did - and then he gave us his play "Caligula."

    ~ I hope your trip is well.

  2. i'm glad to see you are writing so lucidly about something so harrowing - its shows the strength in your mind...
    i hope that umbra covers you & Amy in peace.

  3. Si, my most sincere love and concern. And every joy that, somehow, between all that could, and could not, be influenced by your action, you are safe.

    I pray that you feel whole again soon.