Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an award winning novelist from Nigeria. Her work has received near universal praise and she has been awarded fat book contracts and a Macarthur Grant – the so-called Genius award of $500,000 tax free dollars.
Nice work if you can get it.
The thing that irritates The Ink is how these things are part of a system that allows second rate thinkers to get away with second rate thinking and makes anyone committed to a default setting of cynical questioning wonder just what it is everyone else is smoking when they call Adichie a first rate mind.
The Ink is referring to an interview Adichie gave to The Guardian and something she has repeated at various times as an example of what we assume is her self-proclaimed special perch atop the I’m-an-outsider-of-penetrating-brilliance arrived to examine you Americans in your natural habitat.
Here’s the Guardian article:
And here’s the statement in question:
“American democracy has never been tested. You might have disagreed ideologically with George W Bush, but he still kind of followed the rules.”
It’s bad enough that the statement is wrong technically, in that it can not stand on the merits of fact vs being false, because of course, it is demonstrably and catastrophically false, but worse still is the sycophantic ass-kissing that follows because, no one wants to point out that a writer who is Black, and a woman, and from Africa, sounds like a sophomore who just discovered a slogan like “Knowledge is power.” And the failure to call her out, because she has been given protected status, reveals the Guardian as not just hypocritical but, patronizing and enabling bigots precisely because if some knuckle-dragging mouth breathing neocon said the exact same thing, the People’s Republic of the Upper East Side would circle their Volvos and burn the goon at the stake. The double standard is morally corrupt and pours fuel on the fire of inequality.
But there’s no getting around it – she sounds like a dolt or a presenter for Fox and I apologise for being redundant.
First, obviously, because there’s an epic contained in “…he still kind of followed the rules…” after all so did Mussolini and Juan Peron and the soldiers who created The Trail of Tears and Richard Nixon and any number of authoritarian thugs and among the tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or at this point, the millions of people displaced, killed, tortured, deprived, debased, and deceived by Bush II surely a day does not pass by without someone somewhere in the wreckage of Aleppo, or Baghdad or amid the burnt out post-industrial landscape of fine de siecle Imperial America who doesn’t say – well, he did kind of follow the rules.
And Secondly, in fact the statement is not just pedestrian and shallow and utterly moronic, it is worst of all, complicit in maintaining the corporate dictatorship because it denies context, dismisses truth, and with an off-hand casual, as you were, tone of authority, generates an air of nostalgia for a man who was the public face of a private corporate junta put into power by a judicial putsch.
Which then, becomes, ironically, a Trummpian rhetorical reverse sow-cow that sticks the landing by being not just wrong, but a kind of toxin released into the political ecosystem that normalizes lies and the disastrous episodes of blood-letting that follow from the abuse of power.
And to go deeper and deconstruct Adichie’s gem further we find her use of “ideological” to be a giant neon sign of smug dismissal as if she were saying well there are some people who might have petty or abstract differences of opinion with W and the Neocons and Dick Cheney but that’s really just not that important. As if the cynical racist abandoning of the people of New Orleans after Katrina was just a matter of a minor disagreement between tenured professors arguing about how many poor people can fit on the head of a pin, and not an episode of laissez fair ethnic cleansing, or as if telling genocidal lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction were an afterthought, or the deliberate destruction of the economy and the subsequent liquidation of social cohesion, the loss of billions in savings, homes, mental health, physical safety, and jobs were, you know, just a matter of deciding whether or not to sit next to Uncle Frank at Thanksgiving because he drinks too much, thinks Mitt Romney is an honorable man and likes to tell jokes about the negroes.
And it succeeds in this because The Guardian of all rags, allows Adichie a pass – and that allows Bush a pass and disengages him, (and everyone who remains silent) from the truth.
And truth is the very essence of a writer’s reason to be.
And not truth as in, these are the fact and nothing but the facts, but truth as in Faulkner – “The facts and the truth seldom have anything do with each other.”
In other words, Adichie is not required to tell the truth though she is required to be honest and honesty requires that we say Bush did not kind of follow the rules. He soaked them in gasoline and dropped matches on them going so far as to call the Constitution just a scrap of paper. He engaged in an inept, illegal catastrophic adventure combining Oedipal rage with a This Boy’s Life fantasy that was itself one part Kipling and one part Marquis de Sade on cocaine and ground up adderall. Were there a trophy for moronic overreach and self-inflicted wounds W could retire it and set up his own booth in the hall of fame right across from anyone who ever thought it was a good idea to invade Russia or fight a land war in South East Asia. And of course, let’s not forget that piece of ideological trivia where W kind of followed the rules and expanded the surveillance state to such an extent that old East German pensioners and retired Stasi fitness freaks were reaching for their boots while singing Deutschland Uber Alles and tripping over their hard-ons.
But instead of intellectual and moral rigor we get a sleight of hand trick in the service of another just as cloddish lie in the service of what we can only assume is a patronizing tone of amusement at what Adichie seems to believe is American immaturity.
Because having set up the third rate lie about W having been at least, not awful, we get the whammy of: “American democracy has never been tested…”
Yes, it comes first in Adichie’s romp through wonderland, but the logic, such as it is, is really deployed in the reverse. The initial utterly absurd and just plain wrong opener is seemingly in the service of the nostalgia which is, in theory, designed to highlight how terrible Trump is by offering us the chance to wax nostalgic about the Shrub.
But it’s such a whopping lie, such a iceberg of submerged bullshit, it’s enough to gag a maggot.
After all, except for that pop quizz in 1861 to 1865, she makes an interesting point and the big defense of the thesis from 1929 to 1945 was really just a trifle and all that hot air around Civil Rights and slow-motion genocide in South East Asia were really just beside the point.
What matters is that Adichie is here in her bemused manner to tell us historical provincials that it’s good for us because now we’re really going to be put to the test.
But of course, it’s all a lie. She sounds like a buffoon or like any number of other foreign “intellectuals” you can meet across Europe or elsewhere who speak with a my shit does not stink bemused disdain for us Yanks who like everyone else are as imperfectly perfect as…well, everyone else subject to the same contradictions and paradoxes you find everywhere.
But all that is still not enough. The rest of the irritation is aimed at The Guardian, the bastion of the liberal left that couldn’t be bothered to point out the mendacity of Adichie’s comment but instead goes so far as to call her a serious thinker.
All of which leaves The Ink sounding like a pissed off conservative when we are in fact a pissed off leftist who is disgusted with pseudo-intellectual liberals who have other pseudo-intellectual liberals pull the stick out of their asses give it the sniff test and declare – hell yes, pure gold.
The facts are that the Bush-Cheney Junta was an unmitigated catastrophe and has ushered in an era of such gross destabilization that one can’t help but think of:
And not only should The Guardian be ashamed of itself, but Adichie should be as well but, when you’re living in phat $ity the sound you hear more than any other is coins slapping the counter, not the howling protests of the cripples or the disappeared.
Not brilliant but a workman-like review of the general facts that help to put to rest the idea that Trump is a one of a kind historical moment and that America has never been tested like this.