Friday, October 14, 2005

the camp dervish at the Bonnington Cafe

Yesterday, at lunch time, N and I were sitting in the Café and reading, when a man interrupted us: ‘sorry, you look like interesting people... are you interested in a conversation? Or would you prefer to keep reading?’
Me and N looked at each other, and said simultaneously: ‘I’d rather keep reading, sorry’.
‘What are you reading?’ said the man, excited. There was something camp about him, and he moved like a water buffalo.
N: just a Dona Tart novel.
Mink: the memoirs of the first British Governor of Jerusalem.
The man sat down at our table, uninvited, his eyes opening: ‘fascinating! I’m so interested in colonial history. Because we are all subjugated by white Colonialism. I’m from India, you know.’
He looked Indian, perhaps, but had a mild Yorkshire accent. He continued: ‘but as Marcos says, we are all Indians.’
N: you mean Zapatista Marcus?
Camp man: obviously. I’m just passing through here in London... but I find it impossible to stay. Such high level of repression. The highest level of repression in the world.
N: hmmm.. dunno about that... have you been to the US lately?
Man: it’s worse here, I’m sure. Everybody you talk with on the street interrogates you, as if they worked for the MI5. It’s because they’re all sexually repressed, they cannot express themselves. It’s like what Foucault says in the History of Sexuality. There is no freedom here. And we Sufis believe you must free yourself of everything. Even of god. Allah is just a sound for us. It doesn’t mean anything.
N: wait a minute... what kind of Sufi are you?
Man: I’m a dervish, actually.
N: I mean, you can’t speak for all Sufis. You can’t lump everybody together. Maybe your Order is different... do you have a sheikh?
(N has recently become sufi himself)
Man: No, we dervishes believe in leading by obeying, like subcomandente Marcos. That’s why Sufism is can be seen as embodying the principles of the EZLN.
N (getting a bit impatient): how can you say that Sufism follows Zapatista principles, when Sufis came much before?
Man: Before, after, it doesn’t matter. You know, it’s like the Muslim story about Jesus. We call him Isha (sic). We believe he died for us...
N: but according to the Koran Jesus didn’t die.
Man: but there are many stories, not just one need to be written. That’s why they had the Fatwa for Rushdie: because he opened many stories in the Koran, while they wanted just the one written story. Writing corrupts speech, because it forces one version. It makes story into propaganda. Read Chomsky. He says it all.
I begun to lose interest and went back to my book. But the camp dervish excited loud voice made it difficult.
Man: I want to overcome this Western Dualism. There is no self. I want to awaken us to the other.
N: but by ‘awakening to the other’ you’re just accepting the self/other dichotomy, not overcoming it.
Man: I’ll rephrase it: awaken with the other. See the other, you’ll see yourself.
N: but that’s so obvious. Everybody knows that.
Man: of course. I tell you only what you always already know, what is always already obvious.
They continued talking for a while, until they came to the subject of Chiruki astronomy, at which point N exploded.
N: you don’t know shit.
Man: fuck you... with all respect. I don’t think you should call yourself a Sufi. Can I have the bill?

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