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James Baldwin – De morele basis waarop de ons nu bekende wereld rust, is verouderd, moet veranderd worden

Theo Eshetu heeft overduidelijk een held: James Baldwin, de Amerikaanse schrijver, homoseksueel en voorvechter voor een wereld waarin mensen respect hebben voor elkaars geaardheid, huidskleur en afkomst.

In Atlas Radio komen maar liefst zeven fragmenten voor. Uit drie ‘filmpjes’ op Youtube.

De meeste fragmenten komen uit de dertig minuten durende toespraak The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity. In het najaar van 1962 gaf hij deze speech in een kerk in New York.

Maria Popova, de Amerikaans-Bugaarse schrijfster en bepleiter van het nut van cultuur én kunst, schreef in april 2016 over dit ‘filmpje’ (James Baldwin on the Artist’s Struggle for Integrity and How It Illuminates the Universal Experience of What It Means to Be Human). 

Ze merkt op: Baldwin’s most electrifying point is that the integrity of the artist is an analogue for the integrity of being human — the choice of the artist is a choice we each must make, in one form or another, by virtue of being alive:

Wat zich laat samenvatten als: niet alleen kunstenaars moeten integer zijn, ergens voor staan; die keuze gaat elk mens aan. 

Verrassend actueel
Iedereen die de moeite wil nemen om naar deze of andere fragmenten te kijken zal toe moeten geven dat Baldwin verrassend actueel is. Dat veel van zijn woorden en inzichten nog steeds op gaan. Veel lijkt er de laatste vijftig niet positief te zijn veranderd. 

Atlas Radio 07:22-09:49

James Baldwin and America’s “racial problem” (totale duur: 18:46)

What must be considered is a final act of the white Christian European industrial drama. 

That war may yet spread to engulf the globe, and let’s speak plainly.
We know, everybody knows, no matter what the professions of my unhappy country may be, that we are not bombing people out of existence in the name of freedom.
If it were freedom we were concerned about, then long, long ago we would have done something about Johannesburg.

We are concerned with power, nothing more than that.

They talk about the colour problem, but the truth is that no white American is sure he’s white, and every American negro visibly is no longer in Africa and we know what happened and we know who had the whip; so it was not my grandmother who raped anybody. 

And one has got to decide, I think, that  the actual and the moral basis on which the world we now know rests, are obsolete, must be changed, enterprises are obsolete they are wicked. 

The civilization which is doing this, by doing this, dooms itself. It is not possible to agree with it. 
Nor is it possible to compromise with it.
Freedom is a much overused word and it may not be as real as slavery, which is a very concrete thing, but freedom is what one’s after. 
And as it cannot, I suppose, be given, then it obviously must be taken.

Atlas Radio 16:00-16:55

RBG-James Baldwin and Dick Gregory Baldwin’s Nigger (1969) (totale duur: 43:58)

Now, according to me, and what I hope for in the future, the flesh is all you have.If you want to fight back, there’s no hope for you.
Everything you find out, you find out through your senses.
Everything that happens to you in this frame, this tenement, this mortal envelope.
Which should be a beating of chains and hammering nails through it and hang it on crosses.
They should be, these celebrations, your life, your body and that concept comes back into the world.
It will come back only through the black people have been submerged so long and that will change, not only the black personality, but that  will change the world.

Atlas Radio 23:35-24:08 

The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity (Full Recording) (totale duur: 30:02)

The second proposition is what I really want to get at tonight, and it sounds mystical, I think, in a country like ours and in a time like this.
When something awful is happening to a civilization, when it ceases to produce poets and – when it’s even more crucial – when it ceases in any way whatever to believe in the report, that only poets can make.

Atlas Radio 26:45-27:20 

RBG-James Baldwin and Dick Gregory Baldwin’s Nigger (1969) (totale duur: 43:58)

But you, in this context, you the white liberal – in this context – suffer from your colour. 
Exactly size of my colour, in another, a more brutal context
We gotta face that. 
If one can face it one can deal with it and then it doesn’t matter, but I don’t think it serves any purpose to get anyone’s feelings hurt. 
‘Cause it’s not a matter of my liberation, for example, it’s also a matter of yours. 
If you’re working, if we are working together it’s not because we are gonna do something for the black people, we are doing something for each other. 
To save this really rather frightening world.

Atlas Radio 27:42-28:29 

The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity (Full Recording) (totale duur: 30:02)

And what is crucial here is that if it hurt you, that is not what is important.
Everybody’s hurt.
What is important, what bullwhips you, what corrals you, what drives you, torments you, is that you must find some way of using this to connect you with everyone else alive.
This is all you have to do it with.
You must understand that your pain is trivial except insofar as you can use it to connect with other people’s pain; and insofar as you can be released from it and then hopefully it works the other way around too.
Insofar as I can tell you what it is like to suffer.
Perhaps I can help you to suffer less.

Atlas Radio 42:23-42:57 

The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity (Full Recording) (totale duur:30:02)

The first thing an artist finds out is, when he is very, very young.
As it occurs at that point, in this hypothetical artists life is a kind of silence for reasons he cannot explain to himself or to others . 
He’s up along anywhere

Atlas Radio 51:45-52:40 

The artist’s Struggle for Integrity (Full Recording) (totale duur: 30:02)

The fact that all safety is an illusion.Is in this sense that all the artists are divorced from, and even opposed to necessarily any system whatever. 


You can only take if you are prepared to give, and giving is not an investment, it is not a day at the bargain counter.
It is a total risk of everything, of you.
Of who you think you are.
Who you think you like to be.
Where you think you’d like to go.

Citaat 486 (zondag 20 augustus 2017)

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Door Hans van Duijnhoven

Bibliothecaris sinds september 1979. Werkzaam in de regio Noord Oost Brabant.

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