Category: I Bismuth
by I Bismuth
STAR Date 6530993002.362083825051397 (See Footnote)
As I crossed Richmond Lock Footbridge I saw a smart suit loitering on the silly side of the railing. Its wearer, youngish, male and pale, was frowning at the river, and one by one was nodding out the seconds, a jumper on his final countdown.
“Good afternoon,” I said as I reached the launch pad. “It’s not a bad day, is it?”
The countdown aborted, he looked over his shoulder.
“No, it’s not a bad day—as last days go.”
“But the forecast for tomorrow is not so good,” I said.
Perhaps this was not the most tactful observation I could make.
“Of course,” he went on, ignoring it, “I have no right to assert it’s not a bad day as last days go. What do I know about last days? I have no personal experience of them. Like everyone else’s last day, this is my first.”
He sighed at the river, preparing to start again from ten.
“May I ask you a personal question before you go?” I said.
“You are not a man who makes a religion of minding his own business, are you?”
“I just want to know why you decided to drown yourself.”
by I. Bismuth
Semi-jogging home along Market Street this afternoon, I passed a lone beauty at a bus stop. And after passing her, I mused to a halt, for I had heard her, or thought I had heard her, speak certain words into her mobile, words that are totally unacceptable in a decent society. Taking a breather (of which, inhabiting the body of a man half my age, I had no need) I made a show of staggering back towards the suspect, and leaned against the stop.
My intention was to monitor the remainder of her call and catch a possible repetition of the offending vocables, but by the time I could sag within eavesdropping range, she was saying good bye, love you, and now here was her bus.
This was frustrating. I did not have much on her, but letting her go would send the wrong message, if only to her loved interlocutor. Besides, she was guilty all right. She was guilty of having made herself a suspect. It was unthinkable that there would be no consequences.
Feeling I could gather more evidence from an entrapping interview with her before turning her in, I followed her on board and to the upper deck. She sat at the front. Waiting for my chance, I occupied the seat directly behind her and breathed on her hair.
But once the bus had moved off and I looked behind us, I saw that, after all, waiting was unnecessary. I had assumed I would have to let the other passengers disembark before I could tackle her in peace, but there were only five of them, and they were already gone. They were well gone. The first was shouting in Swahili up his sleeve, the second was being spasmodic to rhythms throbbing from his headphones like off-shored industry, the third was snoring, the fourth was cutting his toenails, and the fifth appeared to have been dead for several days.
So, satisfied I could go to work on her unmolested, I leaned slowly forward, tilted my head reassuringly, and whispered in her ear, “Don’t be frightened.”
by I. Bismuth
December 27: This evening, despite my pleas for a little quiet Scrabble, Rose treated herself to yet another orchestral concert. Lying on the sofa, legs comfortably crossed at the ankles, hands palms downward at her sides, eyes shut, and chin pointing to heaven, she was a soundbather. And as she received her ear-tanning, I was jealous of a periwigged composer. She was in his company, not mine. I was intruding. Here was a scene for two, and I was some poor devil at a keyhole. Once the last movement had finished with her, though she opened her eyes at me, her smile was for my rival in the machine.
But young old Mozart finds she is hard to please. The music lover is a greedy lover. The brief life of her illicit composer makes her peevish. She reproaches him with having breathed his last long before his inspiration was feeling even slightly run-down. The filling to capacity of Köchel’s catalogue is not enough for her. Only up to K626? No further? If he had employed better time management techniques to his last twenty-four hours on earth he could have dashed off a couple of divertimenti between death rattles. He had disappointed her.
No, even worse—his early departure was criminally inartistic, a kind of burglary. He is a note-thief who sneaked past her too young to his grave, his brain stuffed like a pocket with her rightful musical pleasure.
December 28: Though Rose turned me down yet again and I was expecting no triple word scores this evening either, I was in for a surprise.
She was still on the sofa, but her infidelity differed in three ways from yesterday’s: the concert was televised, and the untimely dier was not periwigged but bespectacled (Schubert was deputizing for Mozart). The third difference was that I came to see my misgivings about her relationship with music not as discreditably personal and motivated by resentment at her canoodling with the spectral masters of sonata form, but as socially responsible and motivated by the moral imperative of stamping out all traces of racism, wherever they may be found. Let me explain how I found them in the insolent beauty of a symphony.
The symphony in question was Schubert’s in C major, nicknamed “Great” for the benefit of the tin-eared.
by I. Bismuth
November 10: It should have been a productive morning. At nine o’clock I was due to chair a meeting of the Over-Whiteness Monitoring Panel, at ten to act as facilitator in a workshop on the standardization of difference celebration, and at eleven to give the Board of Governors my latest recommendations on the Hidden Attitudes Self-Accusation Guidelines. It should have gone all the more smoothly for taking place in the inspiring setting of the newest university building, the Tolerance Tower, fifteen storeys of hope not hate, its design by the leading architects Peter Schlemiel Associates meant to suggest the soaring tip of a gigantic assegai. However, Sunlit Uplands and society as a whole were robbed of those three hours of equality-promotion. A chilling incident was to propel the morning in quite another direction.
It was ten minutes to nine and I was about to enter the Tolerance Tower when my attention was caught by a long streak of studiousness topped off with a crest of startled hair. He had paused to contemplate the statue of Jambo Owambo that stands before the main entrance. There was something troubling about the angle at which he was holding his head that made me watch him. True, any admirer of the bronze statesman at close quarters must have an elevated chin, but it should not be elevated so as to suggest a 1930s propaganda poster and a hero fixing his gaze on the resurgent Aryan future (though admittedly this hero’s heroism was compromised by his resorting to styling gel).
Never one to rush to judgment, I waited for Gel-Head’s next move. And how unsavoury his next move turned out to be! After only a few curt seconds he grounded his gaze, and I was horrified to see him quit the presence and lope away in the direction of the library, setting his coiffure aquiver with each stride.
by I. Bismuth
October 10: Rose and I were at my uncle’s house today. His cantankerousness is as great as his antiquity, so we space our visits to him as widely as my nephewly sense of obligation will allow.
In fact, it was war that was the source of the trouble during the second cup of tea. Somehow the topic of the distant death daily in the news came up, and Uncle O felt we needed a slice of his opinions to supplement the chocolate sponge.
“What are all these wars for?” he said. “Our being in them makes no sense. The disputes of alien races may be interesting to us, but they ought not to be important to us. If they are, something is wrong. That something is either that we are intervening in their affairs or they are intervening in ours. A third and equally unhygienic possibility is that each has a finger in the other’s pie.”
“I’m sorry, that is a complete—” I began, only to be kicked in the shin by my ever-peacekeeping wife.
“You certainly knew what you were fighting for in the Second World War,” she said, fancying she was putting us back on safe ground.
“We thought we did,” said Uncle O, looking grimmer than ever. “War is a gamble. But not a normal gamble. In a normal gamble, you know what you will win if you win and what you will lose if you lose.”
“Have you done any more paintings recently?” said Rose, getting a little shrill, I thought.
by I. Bismuth
September 24: We spent this evening side by side on the sofa doing what we are underpaid to do. While I was busy marking the work of my undergraduates, Rose was tapping away at a re-telling for pre-school tolerance workshops of the traditional African tale of the entire Yoruban kingdom that yearns to be re-located to a nice part of Oxfordshire.
She had reached the point in the narrative just after the Brits-to-be have finalized their plan to apply for a grant to open a Yorubas-This-Is-Your-Lucky-Day Dating Agency, the first ever in rural England, only to receive the devastating news that there will be a delay of a fortnight in issuing their new passports. She was uncertain about the most appropriate characterization of this chilling hitch. Was a delay of two weeks best described as fascist, racist, or Nazi?
With my wide experience of the struggle against evil I was able to offer her an authoritative guide to correct usage. Fascist would be a delay of three weeks. Racist would be a delay of four weeks. And Nazi would be a request to consider the consequences of the re-location of an entire Yoruban kingdom to a nice part of Oxfordshire on the inhabitants of that nice part of Oxfordshire. Le mot juste for a delay of two weeks in issuing the passports is extremist.
She nodded and agreed that this captured the exact nuance of hate involved, and I reapplied myself to the essays of the next generation of the professionally sensitive.
By I Bismuth
September 5: I am hung over from the flu, or a flu, or a flu-like illness, or a viral infection, or a don’t-bother-to-bother-an-overworked-medical-professional-self-limiting-mystery-malady. Whatever it was, it utterly prostrated me. I was flat on my back for a week. And even to an overworked non-medical professional, a bandying of words with an unsavoury brother-in-law does not seem indicated in the latter stages of convalescence.
But I have a sister who was irresponsible enough to graft herself on to a skin specialist (that is to say, an SS man) and who lives just around the corner, so bandyings of the kind I had this afternoon are an all too frequently paid price for my not disowning my relatives.
While Rose and Meg and a cross-section of my nephews and nieces amused themselves in the garden by worrying worms, Walter amused himself in the sitting-room by worrying me.
“Now, Bizzy,” he said, his fingers closing on a wine glass belonging to me filled with wine belonging to me, “you are very hot in your rejection of discrimination on the grounds of race, and yet you admit you are not in principle opposed to discrimination.”
by I Bismuth
August 27: Today I made a discovery: the tooth is racist.
I was on time and I had the waiting room to myself, so there was no doubt that I was next. The expensive muffled whining, rasping, and sucking, the box of toys in the corner, and the coffee table strewn with celebrity glossies all served to put me in the right mood for the needle.
The plastic buses and helicopters with sound effects seemed at least as interesting as the glossies without them, but I preserved my dignity by seating myself near the coffee table and, like a grown up with a carious upper right second molar, turning over the pages of piffle and marvelling at the interior designs lived in by famous smile-wearers.
Although all of them were unknown to me and did not seem worth getting to know, as the sneers welled up within me, I felt churlish in dismissing these publications and their abysmal accounts of the doings of significant nonentities, given the example worthless lives set to the target population. How better to ruin the ruins of normality?
The covers alone were a joy. With one exception they showed unenriched females being enriched. Defiant embraces of de-Aryanization proclaimed, “Watch our thick and thin lips kiss goodbye to your proud pedigree. The faces of our offspring will humble your Euro-uppishness. We thumb our noses at the Beast of Berchtesgaden. Tomorrow belongs to us.” The one exception was a wedding day photograph of two premier league goalkeepers in morning dress, radiant on their happy day.
The indulging of my new appetite for popular pap was suspended by the opening of the surgery door and the emergence of the patient who preceded me, a dreadlocked fellow British citizen. To my ingratiating grin, which I hoped he would instinctively recognize as that of a benefactor, he responded by scowling right through me and leaving without a hint of gratitude. I felt hurt and made a mental note to smile in the mirror when I got home to see whether I was subject to involuntary twitches of White resistance.
“We’re ready for you now, Mr. Bismuth,” said the nurse.
by I. Bismuth
August 4: Today we arrived back at Terminal Five after three weeks of ethical holiday-making in a land replete with victimhood. On the drive into central London we were struck by the contrast between the still extensive tracts of unoccupied greenery even between Heathrow and home, and the overpopulated khaki aridity, beyond the tourist pools, of the whole of the country we had left a few hours earlier.
We feel it must be obvious to anyone with a serious commitment to Anti-Racism that the principle by which specific good things, such as houses and medical care, are allocated to individuals and families on the basis of need, is crying out to be extended to whole populations and to more general good things, such as countries. There can be no doubt that the islands off the northwest coast of Europe are in the category of general good things and that populations trapped in sub-standard parts of the world need them, and need them now. We are confident that when the remaining racist objections (always masquerading as common sense) are finally overcome, these populations will, albeit belatedly, be allocated the general good things they need.
August 5: Since our holiday would spare Hilda any cooking, tea-making, bed-making, boiler-repairing, bath-running, silver-polishing, floor-scrubbing, and washing and ironing, we thought she could make herself useful by redecorating the house, and now that we have had a chance to inspect the new Zuber wallpaper and the gleaming woodwork, I must say she has done a job for which any professional would be only too anxious to submit a bill.
by I. Bismuth
When historians yet unborn tell how the ultimate triumph of Anti-Racism came about, what will be their primary sources in that yearned-for future in which the ground has closed over the last woman of Whiteness, her rainbow children giving her a clenched fist salute at the graveside, and in which no man will ever again have to look in the bathroom mirror in the morning and ask himself what he can do today to atone for his pale face?
To the primary sources for the broad political arc of history must be added other primary sources that offer telling details of the daily lives of the long marchers though the institutions who made the politics possible. The future must know that the strugglers against evil were not all superhuman readers of teleprompters and that some of us had to fit in our struggling with our digesting and our re-carpeting, our loving and our laundry. They must know that the life of the race replacer was not all glamour.
As a professor who has presided for twelve years over the Department of Sensitivity Studies at the University of Sunlit Uplands, and as a digesting and a loving person (though not, I confess, much of a re-carpeter or a launderer) I can supply these humanizing little touches. That is why I intend to keep a diary. My contribution to the projects of those historians who are not yet even gleams in their grandfathers’ eyes is to become a primary source myself.
Let me say a few words about my family.
by I. Bismuth
I had delivered a triumphantly prolix lecture to the International Coven of Sensitivity Consultants, so it was late on a winter’s evening that I returned to the railway station in a nameless provincial city.
My nocturnal walk trainwards took me along a street suddenly silent apart from my own footsteps. Do not imagine that this made me fearful of an encounter with those who are vulnerable to entering the criminal justice system. Fear in that place and at that time would have been crass racism.
But I confess to having been startled by a sudden, dull thud and the squeal of brakes. The sound came from around the corner I was about to turn. As I did so a few seconds later the air was filled with laughter and shouting - a most vibrant sound, a Cushitic tongue I would say, possibly Somalic. There followed a hysterical glissando of first gear getaway. Then I was walking along a street silent once again but for the echo of my own footsteps and the addition of a low moaning a little way ahead of me. It came from a body lying in the middle of the road.
I approached it and saw it was a man in his late twenties with as much blood on display as you would expect in the circumstances.
“Can you move?” I asked.
“I think my legs are broken.”
“This is terrible. What on earth happened?”
“A car came at me.”
My antennae twitched.
by I. Bismuth
As an academic at the forefront of social and cultural transformation I like to keep abreast of the latest developments in the visual arts, and I am a regular visitor to the Shooting Gallery, an exciting little space not far from the university. It presents a new exhibition of contemporary works every couple of months. I never trouble to find out beforehand what I am going to see, being confident I can rely on the gallery’s board of trustees to keep pushing the boundaries of artistic expression, but always the same boundaries and always in the same direction. That, at any rate, was my fond belief. So last week, when I picked up the catalogue and entered the main room, I was totally unprepared for the experience I was about to undergo.
The first thing with which I was confronted was a full-length standing nude, a female with pearly skin, not an over-eater, not a starveling, and with no obvious abnormalities, amputations or signs of substance abuse. The painting was beautiful. There was proportion, order, balance, harmony, rhythm, and unity, for God’s sake. The model was beautiful, too. There was the blueness of her left eye and there was the blueness her right eye, and, as if that were not enough, there was the blackness of her hair, the same hair, mind you, that reached down to caress the whiteness of her shoulders, damn them. What was going on here? I was in the Shooting Gallery ... the same Shooting Gallery. I could not be seeing what I thought I was seeing.
by I. Bismuth
They are out there. They are in here. They are all around us. Is there one near me at this very moment? Do I know what is going on behind that face? Or that one? Am I even now within touching distance of an attitude that has no place in a decent society? These are not comfortable questions, but they have to be asked.
They have to be answered too. Over the years I have brought many offenders to justice, and most of them are unremarkable in appearance and speech. They look like you and me and him and her. Most of the time they seem preoccupied with traffic conditions and discounted prices and their health and your health and warm fronts approaching from the south-west. How better to put you off your guard? But underneath — underneath there stirs the beast.
At the university we are used to relying on our trained antennae to monitor our own and others’ attitudes so as to ensure a perfect uniformity of diversity, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that not everyone enjoys our advantages. Out there, millions of attitude-carriers are still having to go for hours and, in the worst cases, whole days without being professionally monitored, a neglect that can allow the inner beast to grow and strengthen. In my own small way, and as a civic duty, I therefore make it my practice, whenever I venture out into the wild, to hunt it down and point the accusing finger.
A game of skill to prepare you for your new career
by I. Bismuth
Are you wondering how much longer you can hog that job that someone else could be doing, someone with better-qualified skin? Are you uncomfortably aware of being less vibrant than your colleagues? Are you feeling increasingly pale as you look around you? In short, are you guilty of working while White?
If you are, there is merely a delay in finding your innocent successor. I am sorry about nothing in this process except the delay. And yet here I am worrying about your future.
I confess that I struggled with my conscience for some time over how to justify lifting a finger to help you and your kind. As members of the guilty race*, you deserve everything you get and nothing you have. But driving me all my life has been a passionate rejection of prejudice of all kinds, and I have concluded that if I wilfully miss a chance to make a little money which I can use in the fight against prejudice merely on the grounds of avoiding doing what is unconscionable, that can only be because conscience itself has become a kind of prejudice and must ,therefore, be passionately rejected.
So I offer this employment advice to you who fully merit your coming termination, on condition that when you have used it to good effect and you start earning again, you send me my fee**, or better still, you send me your address and I’ll come and collect it myself.
My help comes in the form of the game Nazi Link, a training and development tool.
How to expose the racists for what they are
By I. Bismuth
Here is a little collection of all the answers you will ever need to expose the racists for what they are. I’m sure most of us had imagined that by now exposing racists would be as unnecessary as ducking to avoid low-flying pterodactyls, but sadly we have a long way to go before all citizens are fitted with a complete set of acceptable attitudes. Even in our age of dynamic tolerance, unacceptable attitudes can be heard every day of the week. They can come out of the mouths of work colleagues, relatives, passers by, bus passengers, and persons leaning out of heavy goods vehicles.
Unacceptable attitudes can indeed on occasion be heard coming even from those who have dedicated their lives to Anti-Racism as the ultimate calling. Not even they can be sure that in some secret corner of their psyches they are not harbouring a larval vestige of the greatest evil, a swelling enemy within, awaiting its moment to burst messily through their shirts and ruin their careers.
The demands of Anti-Racism are non-negotiable. They are also without limit in time and space. Anti-Racism must guide society’s every syllable, every fear, every friendship, every seating arrangement, every laugh, every blink, every blush, every breath, every birth, every deglutition. And although this is understood by all decent people, there are amazingly still some true racists out there, not merely Anti-Racists who suffer a momentary lapse of sensitivity and need to be sent on a re-education course, but genuine accepters of the unacceptable, and it is these leftovers from an age that should be bygone who must be our priority cases.
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