DAY 249: Memories – Harping on a Knee

June 20th, 2018 § 0 comments

My sister, with het usual perspicacity, has suggested that I should keep a blog of my recent life, which has indeed been more than usually mouvementé. My knee – I hate to keep harping on it, and indeed to harp on a knee seems a fine metaphor for a time-wasting occupation – has been giving me much grief despite injections which the NHS, or one particular untrustworthy doctor, swore blind would have me leaping around and throwing away my crutches in seconds, has been grumbling away with increasing intensity; while in an attempt to sort out my parlous financial situation I’ve put myself in the hands of a lawyer (£10 for a phone call) and am trying to produce the usual statement of incomings and outgoings.This work(the statement, are you still with me? Thanks) is a fascinating mélange of fact and fantasy, the facts being the huge amounts spent on school fees and credit card repayments and the fantasies being things like £22 for school trips and video rentals. Do people read this garbage, and what do they do with it? I’ve nearly completed the statement, am waiting for the knee to get its act together, and for the lawyer who in my mind plays Germany to my Greece, the ant to my grasshopper, to wave a magic wand over my debts. And I’m trying to find an analogy between (on the one hand) the difficulties of an old man in Islington, beset with a sea of sorrows and lacking the courage to end them; and the state of Europe, or indeed the world, fenced in, detained,


Campsfield detention centre

ruled by authoritarian maniacs armed with every weapon from video cameras to drones to tear gas and ready to shoot teenagers on sight either if they are the wrong religion or simply (if in an American high school) out of a blind destructive urge. The analogy predictably doesn’t work. Only the pervasive despair does.

 Stories and politics

As usual, I’ve jumped into a debate without realising that it’s been going on for decades, and I probably need a decade of my own (which I don’t have) to catch up with the literature. About a week ago, my eye was caught by some stuff about possible new directions for Palestinian leadership on Al Shabaka; and (I think) in the same estimable publication, something about folk stories, or was it poetry? Which prompted the following brief interjection on Facebook:

‘Hysterics suffer from reminiscences [Freud]
History is a nightmare which I am trying to forget [Joyce]
I’ve been reading recent articles in ‘Al-Shabaka’: on reinventing Palestinian political institutions – yet again! – and on oral history. Somehow in my confused mind these come together, so that people earn a place in the political institutions according to their memories; as streets in Nablus’ Balata camp are named after lost towns or villages. This relates (partly) to the Home Office practice of giving you rights according to how we believe your ‘story’.
I feel that telling stories is currently a more hopeful practice than building institutions. Do the stories have to be credible?’

Apart from misquoting Joyce (‘History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake’, but I think my version has some merits), I find – I surely knew – that the relation between Palestinian political institutions and memories has been endlessly debated over the last seventy, if not a hundred years. I could cite Laleh Khalili’s Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration, although that’s itself far from being the beginning. Palestine, that nation of refugees, has a vast library of refugee stories – literally. And to turn from the discouraging search for a better ‘leadership’ to the search for better stories, of which there are many, could be a much more creative use of the time we have left to us. I do try, in my feeble way, to help refugees have their stories believed; but surely the first step is that the stories should be heard.



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