Can the Neo-Colonialists Writers Shut Up? Thank You in Advance – Eunsong Kim
Accusation 1: In order to enjoy this poem, it requires that the reader deploy a white male gaze. It centers the affect of a white, male, global north citizen as he caricaturizes an equation between his/(our) pleasures and the suffering of the Other. The poem utilizes pronouns in a chilling, haunting kind of way – so that the parameters of “them vs. us” are defined from the beginning, moving us cinematically (or more like infomercially) through “their” suffering, and ending with “our” contented positions. The poem protects the pleasures of the white, male, global northerner, and asks for this protection to be pleasurable during its consummation.
The central argument in “A Brief for a Defense” lies not only in the simplistic joy vs. suffering equation, but in a “Defense” for the white male gaze in literature and its continued access to the appropriation of “others.” We must believe in the universal possibilities of the speaker poet – who is omnipresent, white, and male, who cannot be bothered to unlearn colonial names (or names in general!) – and accept his gaze as our own when we read his poems.
Question 1: What is “A Brief for a Defense” talking about? What is the subject/object matter?
Answer 1: A white man who is not suffering drafts a potential defense about the possibilities of delight to anyone who will listen.
Answer 2: A white man who is not suffering is clearly traveling as a tourist or watching a documentary about India and is drafting a potential defense about the possibilities of delight to his one and only Indian friend, who was also his college roommate.
Answer 3: A white man who is suffering cuz his girlfriend broke up with him cuz she didn’t want to date an artist who couldn’t even be punctual or romantic is trying to convince himself that he must move on and continue making art while watching a documentary about India.
Answer 4: A white man5 who is not suffering feels guilty about his bowl of organic pistachio6 ice cream while watching a commercial about micro loans to India. During his bathroom break he asks God if it’s okay for him to have another bowl of ice cream and rewatches the commercial online, to really ponder the situation for an extended minute, but nothing more.
Answer 5: One privileged white man speaking to another privileged dick.
5 Or more accurately, a man-child.
6 Gilbert’s self-imposed poverty is a white privilege. Do not bring this up as his defense.
Eunsong Kim is a writer, researcher and educator mostly residing in San Diego. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in: Minnesota Review, Iowa Review, Seattle Review, Tinfish, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, The Margins and others. Feel free to tweet her @clepsydras. For more: www.eun-song.org.