Guilt

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The other night I dream a name most of you don’t know. It would be irresponsible to reproduce it. We’re in the aerie of an old, twisting castle built of elegant wood panelling, iron rails, and limestone. There are many of us: a tribe. We crouch over slate shingles and jump from one roof to the next. Balconies and corridors are blocked off, and in the passages beyond hiss spider-people making slow progress. It’s understood they are our enemies.

The name turns to me and exposes his back. It’s criss-crossed with deep cuts healed over with dried blood. “Scratch your tattoo into it,” he says, and I balk.

“Excuse me?”

He’s upset. “Scratch your tattoo into it,” he says again, pressing. I have a vague idea he wants me to draw him a cartoon. The spider-men attack, and we’re seperated. All of humanity is refugee, and I, winding my own meandering path through the action (once I fire a missile, but there is no report; someone tells me I’m not to pass back into a section of the castle already lost, I go anyway), come across miserable groups huddled up in patches, spread out on old rags and laying stock-still, as if waiting for death; the fighting goes on all about them, shaking the walls.

From time to time I come across the name again, and he makes no mention of the tattoo. He only seems disappointed. This section of the dream ends.

In the fading twilight, everyone takes up skis and forgets entirely about the spider-people. They slide out windows and off rooftops, alighting on the blue-black snow, slipping in between the shadows of full and tapered pine.

I wish I could offer you an interpretation. The dream happened some days ago. At the time I had a way of relating it, one that was pertinent and Jungian. It is completely lost to me now. Possibilities: the name was meant to represent that I did not give enough of myself to certain friendships, and this might be true; the spider-people were to be in some way associated with my pre-emptive guilt, or perhaps that I do not trust the right kinds of people? It’s all tangled, now.

A story I was going to relate with a more truncated version of the dream involved a very loud, abrasive, developmentally-challenged kid named “Dwayne” who was a year older and rode the bus with us in grade four. I could not understand him, his mores were violent and alien, and to be honest he frightened me. He seemed to come from a different world… he also happened to be the blackest person I had ever met up to that point. I didn’t understand how to conduct myself, not because he was black, but because of the way he held himself and challenged without warrant. He made me uncomfortable, and I think of all my friends on that bus I was the worst affected.

For the first time in my life I wondered if I was racist, which I’d always assumed I was not because of my parents and a steady diet of inclusive, politically-correct children’s televsion. I was consumed with guilt, which clouded most of my dealings with him and the other members of his classroom (which was right next door) because I also wondered if I just might be intolerant of those who weren’t as intelligent, which of course is equally reprehensible, but to me seemed more acceptable.

I just didn’t get along with Dwayne. As I remember it now, white was a minority in my classroom. Most of my friends were East or South Asian. A few were from the Middle East. Of course I didn’t worry about them, because they were my friends. But the guilt stayed with me. It was a larger condition of my childhood, I always felt guilty for one thing or another, but here it came to a point. I think, to some extent, it is still with me.

This is the pre-emptive guilt that I mentioned earlier. I don’t remember how I was going to make it clear in the context of the dream, but somehow I recognised it there. The guilt, I think, leads to fear. I am always wondering whether or not someone might “expose” me for what I really am: a racist, an uncaring and self-absorbed person, an idiot or lazy fool. It’s unhealthy. I am trying to rid myself of it. If you are not worrying about your motives being questioned, your motives will not be questioned. A certain confidence establishes itself. Purity is revealed.

I am not going to try and compare the two in terms of importance, but Christ and Don Quixote are two examples of people who managed to do without feelings of guilt. Tintin is another. The latter two are not inconsequential, in my opinion, but they are direct responses to the former, perhaps even variations on the same person, who had his own antecedents, at least philosophically, in the Western tradition. Of these, Socrates is the most notable.

10 Comments

  1. I hope calling you “white oppressor” over the course of a couple of MSN conversations didn’t scar you.

  2. It’s okay! Really, don’t worry. I’m very fine, and I knew/know you were joking. But when you have always suspected yourself of being one (I guess this is universal in “majority” cultures?), it stings a little more than otherwise.

  3. Jim Jeffries Your other AIM Friend Not Ahmed And So Now Theres TWO Guys You Dont Log In For!!!! EVIDENCE OF WHITE OPRESSORSHIP IS MOUNTING!!!!! December 23, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I call him white oppressor every day, and now he never logs onto AIM anymore!!!

  4. Also I bet Dwayne was like… Sinbad dark, CALL US UP WHEN YOU’RE CONFRONTED BY WESLEY SNIPES DARK BROTHERS PAORTA!!!

  5. Hey! First of all I will be back on AIM/Gmail chat!!! In the New Year!!! But I can’t go on there when I’m… trying to finish a project real bad at work. You know? How can I sort the tables correctly when all of my time is going to early American-Canadian relations? Because the tables do not stand a chance against that.

    Also, Dwayne was definitely Wesley Snipes black! And he was much bigger than I was, I don’t know if that was just the year’s difference or if he was older than that too.

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