Long after the yarns have dried up, the gossip exhausted and the jokes no longer funny. Long after most have drifted off to wrap themselves in blankets and let go into the varieties of sleep and dreaming. Long after the fire has burned down to whitish ash, occasionally glowing red when the breeze visits, blessing the huddled bodies of horses and women and men, there remain a few still sitting hunched in their thoughts and dawn can’t be far away, and look at that, in stalks Judith Butler. I can only imagine her in her black biker leathers, exactly as I saw her dressed when she spoke at a conference I was attending. It must have been the mid-eighties; some psychoanalytic one day affair in Bloomsbury. Though the theme of the conference and what she said I have no memory of. Such is memory! So, in stalks Judith Butler and demands that we – the assembly – give an account of ourselves.
Somewhat alarming in the chilled air of this high plateau an hour before dawn; there is the implied threat of being dragged, probably naked, into the dock and held up to ridicule, subjected to cruel and clever questioning. Guilt is the only possible outcome. Let’s not imagine that dignity will suffice, nor begging for mercy, let alone presenting some pathetic extenuating circumstances.
This must be why we, the apple of God’s eye, the human race, invented torture. There must be some way to stop the bad stories, the defensive nonsense, in order that we can get down to the nitty-gritty. What makes it doubly awful and desperately despairing is that torture doesn’t help – makes it worse in fact. Tell me what you want me to say and I’ll say it!!
It seems that truth and language often have a conflicted relationship. Words appear momentarily to point (waveringly) in the general direction of truth but then a few minutes later it all proves to be bright lights and mirrors. (I have to admit I can’t get the image of Tony Blair out of my mind, or for that matter Cameron, Osborne and Clegg – consummate liars might be one way of describing them). So we in turn have to become consummate students of the silences, the gaps; we have to read between the lines.
Do I have to take all my clothes off? Please, no, not that. Though I suppose our bodies carry a certain narrative truth . . . but really I’d rather not, if it’s all the same to you. Look it’s getting light, we need to get on, reheat last night’s coffee, chew on a heel of bread. We leave in ten minutes.