The Fatalism of Dichotomies is a collection of 8 essays written by Onkarabetse M. Mokgatle**, a Motswana writer with roots in South Africa too. The collection of pieces is framed to be objective, in that it endeavours to explore the New Black Conscious through the scrutiny of some of humanity’s most prevailing dilemmas.
Just towards the end of my high school days, I started a relationship with a girl I had been attending tutoring with. I had been eyeing her for long while and it was clear we had chemistry. One fateful night she asked me to come over and help her with Chemistry and I obliged. Pun intended. Thinking nothing of the invite as the meeting was to take place in the late evening, therefore her parents would be home. Anyway, she introduced me to her parents and they asked what was expected. We soon began revision, an hour or so later her mother brought dinner. We ate and promptly after her parents left us to schoolwork. An hour later she asked me to help her with the dishes. As we were doing the dishes we kissed, well she kissed me. After doing the dishes we went back to doing schoolwork but she asked more about me and whether I had a girlfriend. Anyway, as I prepared to leave, she fully confessed her feelings for me. I felt no need to say mine as I had done so many times before. I just remember it was the 6th , I can never say whether it was October or November. I was going through a weird phase. My first love had confided in a mutual friend that she didn’t love me as I did her. That our relationship was out of pity for me. Anyway, me and the chemistry girl lasted a year. But this is about a particular event that occurred during our relationship. You see, I’m a stiffler for time. I absolutely abhor lateness and disregard for time. The chemistry girl and I had an agreement on her coming over, upon her insistence. We had initially agreed on 6pm. Then she postponed to 8 pm then to 9pm, 10pm. Around 11:40pm I texted her that if it hit 12am and she was not by my side our relationship was over. By this time it had started to drizzle. The poor girl made her way through the rain in less than 5minutes. A trip which usually took her 15minutes.
A question as old as the cognitive renaissance, which is philosophical, psychological and sociological is always brought up. And many arguments can be made for either faction. It resembles the half-full/half-empty glass ideology. The truth of the former however is that the glass is both. Taking it to merely be either/or, is self-betrayal. But the question is; are monsters made or born?
Let us assess our narration. The narrator, tells us that he essentially gave his girlfriend an ultimatum. The girl reacted in a fashion which, in a sense, risked her health for a relationship she clearly valued. The narrator seems to have a level of indifference to the wellbeing of his girlfriend. He mentions it had begun to drizzle, meaning that he knew by the time the girl rushed to make to his house the rain would have probably started to pour with all it’s might, down. We must acknowledge three things the narrator tells us about himself even though not overtly. The first is that during this time he was uncertain of love as his first love had betrayed him. Or at least he, in a sense, believed it to be so. The second is that he has a need for punctuality, something which by extension his girlfriend we will assume must know. The last thing is that he mentions the time which he gave his ultimatum. Meaning he had factored everything and therefore it was very much a premeditated action. He gave her a 5-minute allowance, not enough for her to get ready but not too short for her to complain.
Now that we know what the narrator told us about himself, we look to what he told us about his girlfriend. Firstly, she was very much invested in their relationship- to the extent which she risked her wellbeing for it. Secondly, she was to an extent, in an abusive relationship; at least mentally and emotionally. And lastly, she was herself not just a victim of circumstance but also partook in the act which consequently put her health at risk.
You see the tragedy of life is the perpetrator does not in a sense, get to deal with the consequence of their actions. More often than not it is the next person, whom the victim interacts with that has to deal with issues that were caused prior to their encounter with the victim. In this instance, the girlfriend was paying the price for the sins of a lover who betrayed the narrator. He in turn humiliated her humanity. His actions were in a sense a test of the love. Because he was humiliated by his first love, who knew the mutual friend would most definitely tell him, he knows to distrust love, not just others love for him but his own love for self. By no means is the first love responsible for the actions of the narrator- but we cannot deny the influence they had on his actions. She probably reopened a trauma and confirmed his distrust for love.
Now the question is; are most monsters born or made? The latter indulges the idea that if you take a perfectly moral person and expose them to some treacherous act they would turn into something different from their nature. The former then argues that a monster is a monster and by this function, is prone to acts of monstrosity regardless of circumstance. Comparatively, considering the glass analogy, we must conclude that both are true for both cases. That is, as the glass is half empty-half full, monsters are both born and made. In psychotherapy, in order to analyse whether you are a psychopath, they ask you two important questions; the first being, how did you feel or treat animals, did you kill them? If so, how? The second is one is of you in relation to otherwise. How did you feel about your family members? Obviously, these are not the only questions used to assess you. However, they have the most worth because you see– if a child kills animals in a torturous manner it is a sign of their mental wellbeing and they possibly find some sort of pleasure in the act. And if a child, cannot fathom relationships to even his close kin, it possibly means they suffer from some form of lack of empathy. With these established, we look into the sociopath. By definition, at least in loose terms, a sociopath is the outcome of society’s treatment towards said person or perceived treatment of said person by society– by said person. In a more palatable sense, simply put the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is that the former has no innate sense of empathy or social cohesion, while the latter has by circumstance, been forced to abandon his intrinsic nature in order to survive in an environment otherwise meant to break him.
It is fairly easy to dismiss the humanity of both in the name of their “unnatural” behaviour. What we fear is that both these people resemble our inner nature; therefore we abandon, shun and isolate them. Ipso facto, it is by this action they now become social pariahs who see society as their archnemesis. They in turn do what you do to you enemy, they act out our most vile thoughts. Reigning havoc and becoming menaces to society because it is a label cast upon them, so why not indulge it? Alas and alack, our action or inaction causes the harm we wanted to avoid. It is from this that monsters are made.
But what of born monsters? How then do we explain or deal with them? Well, people do not exist in a vacuum. The major difference between monsters and those who are considered normal people is not the absence of immoral thoughts and horrid fantasies, but that the latter do not act out these fantasies and thoughts. Whereas with the former they do not deny themselves the pleasure of their inner inhibitions. But even so, the monsters do not simply exist outside themselves. They exist within communities. A good analogy is that of the social media outrage on celebrities former tweets and/or social commentary. Especially celebrities of the 80s, 90s & 2000s. What the keyboard activists/warriors, as they are notoriously known, fail to acknowledge is that the celebrities views existed within the context of a society that to some extent and one may argue to a very large extent– accepted those views. So to chastise the celebrities for views that your own parents, uncles, aunts and older family hold is hypocritical, moronic and totally irrational. What is even worse is that most of these keyboard activists lack the same bravado and cohunus in dealing with their own family members. It is this disingenuousness that allows them to detach and therefore absolve themselves from the role which they themselves play in creating and building monsters.
We all bare a responsibility towards each other. Society simply put, as stated and cannot be overstated, is and will always be a common of averages. Our individual identity only exists and is only permitted to exist within the society within which we exist. Our need to absolve ourselves of this responsibility is a true reflection of how we continue to fail to address injustices because we have abandoned our responsibility to one another. A growing concern which has swept most of the western world and by default its colonies is that of what is known as “Cancel Culture“. In principle, one ought to give it the benefit of the doubt purely because it supposed the banishment of the worst members of society, that is, monsters. But its reality is far more delusional and self-indulging. Those who participate in the culture as its bearers uphold themselves as prosecutor, judge, jury & executioner, the grand exception being that they are not a tad-bit impartial nor do they make any attempt to conceal this. Armed with a cauldron filled to excess with diatribes that are in the most part, nothing but their own existential realisation of their minuscule and unimportant nature– they set out to only absolve themselves of their sins by punishing whomever they seem a menace to whatever ideology they impose onto us. What they dismally fail to grasp is that their ideology is in itself self-defeating. One ought to sympathize with them as not to become them. Nonetheless, one cannot help but be filled with callous tedium as it is most improbable one can acquiesce such people. This however does not by any means mean that we should be complacent and desist all effort to rehabilitate such people; lest we now become them.
Therefore, one must adduce with reasonable aporia, that we are to not end this dialogue or risk the inevitable fate of a world that one is barred to exist in some limbus. So as not to be pedantic, if we persist that this course of banishing those we deem monsters with no examen, we shall create a grove in which it’s entirely impossible to decipher the practice of “innocent till proven guilty“. This consequently bearing the fruits of a society which law is utterly and with no consequence becomes subjective with no need for reasonable doubt. But the worst outcome is that most of the protagonist of this culture fail or rather choose to consciously disregard is that they are Frankenstein. And the monsters they are building will one day escape the purgatory of their makers to only feast on them.
It is not inhumane to have fantasies of gothic allure. What we as people have failed to fully realise, in most part due to our grandiose narcissism is that we too are animals. We are not higher than nature, our nature. Despite what we have impressively achieved, at our very core we are intrinsically wired to survive. And by extension are prone to some level of monstrosity. Any failure to recognize and admit to this is one of the most gravely true injustices one can do to self. If history is anything to go by, we are by lightyears the biggest monsters we have ever encountered.
“Harmlessness is not a good virtue. One must always be capable of being dangerous.“- Jordan Peterson
**Onkarabetse M. Mokgatle is a Motswana writer from Mmankgodi with roots in Potchefstroom & Mafikeng in South Africa as well. He has been an avid writer since his pre-teens, but his love for literature dates back to his mastery of nursery rhymes at just 5 years old. He pursued his writing skills via various forms all through his teenage years, eventually moving into facilitating and nurturing other talents in his early 20’s. He eventually took a 2-year hiatus from writing which ended in 2019, when he rekindled his love affair with writing through a series of brilliant ideas. In 2020, these ideas would go on to grow into ambitious multimedia projects originating from Africans, For Africans.