Killing People is Easy

At this moment in time I am avoiding turning on the news. To hear of more murders and destruction takes the joy out of life.

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This morning I sat and looked out at the part of the planet I am on.

I could see the works of humans. Magnificent buildings and structures.

I am awe-struck that we humans produce such things and I do not use the word ‘awe’ in my conversation lightly (as in: that coffee is awesome, maybe because it is often awful). Awe is something I reserve for God-like actions.

I am also struck by the magnificence of the planet. I am not sure if you can have an objective measure of its magnificence or if humans are so adapted to it that we find home magnificent, but its beauty never ceases to amaze me.

That there are humans that make magnificent structures and have made them for millennium on this wonderful planet, that there are humans that celebrate its beauty, that add to it, these creations make those humans God-.like.

If you believe in God surely God would be very pleased with them.

So I find it hard to listen to the news with so much destruction and murder. Especially when it is done in the name of a God.

Especially when there is a claim that this is the right thing to do, as if some great intellectual feat had been accomplished by it.

As if this was a clever idea done by clever or sensible people with just cause. Especially when they say it was a hard decision!

You see killing people is easy.

I know there are all those stupid films where they talk about a ‘hard kill’, but it is ridiculously easy to kill people.

We have been killing people for millennia in the same manner that we can kill any living thing.

It does not take brains or brawn to kill.

In fact, the more stupid and weedy you are the easier as there are so many weapons out there for the incompetent.

A child can kill by picking up a gun and shooting it.

How hard it that?

How intelligent is that?

How magnificent is that?

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You can even kill people by accident, in a car crash for example. Without planning. Without intent.

You can kill people perversely or by torture, with much pain and suffering. We all know that this is not justice; it is not on the side of right. It is psychotic. You are not a judge or a righteous person. You are a psychopath.

You can kill people by neglect and abandonment, by lack of care.

Oh it is so easy to kill people, any fool can do it.

Why would I want to watch such childish stupid on the news or on a film? Why would you want to do that? What sort of a pervert are you that you play killing games? Grow up. Leave the base animal behind.

Killing people is easy, it is for the stupid, the dull, the base.

What is really, really hard to do is to help people to live,

It is especially hard to help them to live well.

That takes effort, care, love, intelligence, righteousness.

That is God-like.

That is human.

That is magnificent.

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Marlene Dumas

I have only seen one Dumas painting before. I didn’t really get it, but I could see that the technique, the application of colour to paper, was great, there was a beauty in it. The technical ability is even more apparent given that she works in watercolour and inks, notoriously difficult medium, very unforgiving. So her works are technically alluring and brilliantly made. They are beautiful as works, but it is the content that makes me uncomfortable. It is why I have delayed writing about her show at the Tate.

The exhibition of her works had a great advantage on most exhibitions in that there was not reams of text by the curator written in that curious language, art-speak (never say scientists use jargon!). Instead, there were quotes from the artist and some of them were lovely.

Again the work was brilliantly made. But I read the content , what the art said to me, in a way that I wasn’t sure was a in the mind of the artist. I found it racist. Perhaps it was meant to hold up a mirror, but some pieces really annoyed me, not because of their meaning, but because I felt Dumas’ lack of understanding of what she was doing or perhaps care of how they are read by us, the viewer. Perhaps they are only meant for people like her.

There was the array of portraits of black African people which I found looked like a line up or a museum curio.  It may have been what it was like at the time they were taken, she works from photographs and these were old ones, but she configured them in this way. Perhaps she meant to show their individuality, but it was ugly. It reduced their humanity.

One piece was called Jewess. Now come on. Where was the piece called Christian, or Muslim, or Aborigine?  Stereotyping is lazy. Racial stereotyping is nasty.

Marlene Dumas is white, Afrikaans and has moved from South Africa to live in one of the countries that was appalling to Africans, especially South Africans, The Netherlands (Holland), home of the Boers, the Afrikaans. Along with Belgium (think of the ramifications in the Congo) .and the Portuguese, none of these countries have stepped up to the mark and apologised for what they did. Britain apologised. It makes a difference.

While she may be making art, art is not content free.

What finally turned me off was her depiction of religious Jews praying at the Security Wall in Israel.  I found it deeply offensive. I don’t suppose she understands that it was idolatrous. Perhaps she was trying to say the opposite. In that case it was clumsy, a cheap jibe and insulting. It was lazy and stupid.

Coming from an Afrikaans, making work about the ‘other’ without any real engagement seemed to say that you can do anything if it is done with technical aplomb, as if art could be content free. In the end, I loathed it.