“It was game season, and there was blood and lust in their eyes. It was no different from Rome in the old days. Gladiators, lions, slaves, the ringmaster, thrust in a ring together. No different. No different at all.” In the next hour, Geronimo practically talks to himself, gives himself a lesson in violence as spectacle. “What are the forces of tradition? How do they bear down on these peoples? We are in their debt really. We don’t get to see this kind of steadfastness in the city. Such an unwavering belief in what should be done, what needs to be done, and how it should all be done. All that urban chic, all the material wealth, the sheer waste. The blitzkrieg of the senses, that’s what our legacy will be understood as.” An anthropologist returning to the city is like a gazelle let back into the wild after years of captivity. This is an intentional inversion, Geronimo says. The zoo from which it escaped is as much a wild terrain as the vast open field, the wilderness that everyone seems to root for. The primal has its dangers too, as the noble savage has shown us. He shouldn’t use “savage”, but the word has reclaimed for itself a new right to be, a chic authenticity. “Violence presumes the spectacle,” Geronimo says, establishing his thesis. In the same hour, outside the window, a mother has picked up a toddler by its collar, and another woman is whipping its back and legs with a strip of leather. There is no rattan cane lying around, so she picks up the closest thing to it. The toddler has its arms on its mother’s hip and thigh. The toddler is hysterical and crying, kicking out like a wild animal. All this happens outside the window, across the street. It too is a recapitulation. It might as well have happened in another country and century.
~Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé has edited more than ten books and co-produced three audio books. These span the genres of ethnography, journalism, poetry, and creative nonfiction, several edited pro bono for non-profit organizations. Trained in publishing at Stanford, with a theology masters (world religions) from Harvard and fine arts masters (creative writing) from Notre Dame, he is the recipient of the PEN American Center Shorts Prize, Swale Life Poetry Prize, Cyclamens & Swords Poetry Prize, and Stepping Stones Nigeria Poetry Prize, among other awards. Desmond is an interdisciplinary artist, also working in clay. His commemorative pieces are housed in museums and private collections in India, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.