Confession: secundusStephen Farah
As explained in my last post The Psychological Practice of Confession I have committed to an annual public confession. My first such confession was made at the end of last year (2018). This is my second annual confession. I won’t restate the reasoning behind these confessions here, which would be redundant given my prior post. However, there are a few issues I want to emphasise prior to the confession.
This is done both for the purposes of providing an example of confession to students commencing on the Nigredo Programme and as an act of personal catharsis. Although I choose to confess publicly in this fashion, I don’t suggest it to the reader. Your choice of master confessor (who hears your confession) and the forum and space in which you confess is as important as the confession itself. I do not recommend wholesale, unconsidered confession, which can as easily cause harm to you and to those you confess to as do any good. This is an act of profound honesty and vulnerability and it is essential that it is done in a safe, contained, confidential and held space, to someone able to hear your confession with compassion and wisdom.
I won’t speak here of my own reasons, beyond what I have already stated, for doing this publicly. Not because these are secret, but simply because they would be too much of a digression from the focus of this post, my actual confession.
One last, not unimportant, point to tackle before the confession is this, how do I expect you the reader to read and react to this post. Typically, this is not something I focus on in my writing, I write as I choose to, and you naturally respond in the same fashion. However, I would be dishonest if I did not confess that it strikes me there may be something disingenuous in this act of confession. I am selling an idea: individuation. And not just any path to individuation, but one in which I have crafted much of the architecture. I believe in this regard that the relative neophyte encountering the Centre and our programmes may have a reasonable expectation and motivation for doing them, which is an improved quality of life! Why else, after all, would one embark on such a practice, if its ultimate destination is not a better life?
If that is indeed your expectation, which I can only assume it is, reading this might give you pause. My life right now and for the last few years is not a pretty one. I am not saying it has not included moments of euphoric joy, even ecstasy, and sublime beauty, on the contrary, it has. But simultaneously there has been much suffering to the point of anguish and no shortage of ugliness. It is these, the pain, suffering, duplicity and anguish my confession will focus on. These are the grist in the mill of confession as a practice, this is confession after all not poetry. In that sense, at least prima facie, these confessions hardly constitute an ideal poster advert for the practice of individuation. However, my faith here is that honestly outweighs any act of inauthentic idealization. And that, those truly drawn to this work, have an innate understanding that it is not individuation per se, but the human condition itself that contains suffering. Consciousness, meaning and individuation are the practice of making sense of, mythologizing and ultimately finding meaning in the experience of our humanity. They do not offer an escape from the human condition, if anything they draw us deeper into it.
With that said, let me proceed to the purpose of this post, my confession.
I live in a country that is deeply polarized. These polarizations include the typical economic divide between the haves and have-nots that divide people all over the world. Money is so deeply ingrained in our collective psyche and symbolically significant that to some degree I think the adage of it being the source of all evil, is not without truth. I was reminded of this a few years ago, when my two sons, then both prepubescent, firmly agreed – itself unusual that they should agree on anything, they wished to return to a time in the world before money was invented. My late teacher, de Chatillon Coque, or simply “The Duke” as we referred to him, was fond of saying money is to the outer world, what memory is to the inner, and without access to both forms of currency individuation would remain elusive. I have come to think the new “primal scene” – classically in Freudian psychoanalysis, realizing your parents have sex, is no longer sexual but monetary! It is the first time you get a sense of your parent’s bank balance and how this impacts your sense of self and social standing.
Without getting into an ideological debate about it, whatever your personal view of capitalism may be, what is axiomatic is that relative wealth is a divisive issue. No more so than in South Africa, where social status is inextricably linked to material wealth. In a country with wide scale unemployment, homelessness and poverty, contrasted with obscene wealth in the hands of a few, an emergent class of nouveau riche and those still enjoying the benefits of historical racial privilege, this is a problem. When governmental corruption and incompetence, an eroding national infrastructure and a socio-political narrative that remains stuck in laying the blame for the countries problems on the fast shrinking enclave of whites left in the country, are added into the mix, polarization, factionalism and racism becomes the rhetoric of universal destruction.
It was within this social milieu that I recently spent a weekend away with a friend of mine, who happens to be black. This was an unusual event for me, both because I have very few friends and among those, even fewer black friends. These few days together were cause for celebration, for at risk of indulging in the very thing I will shortly decry, in my limited experience, my black friends are more real, down-to-earth, genuine and warmer than white people typically are. In my not inconsiderable experience, most white people in this country are assholes. Into which class I must regrettably, firmly locate myself. Nevertheless it is not the virtues of either whites or blacks that I wish to here extol, but how I shamed myself in the course of the inevitably politicized rhetoric of our interaction, as occurs with every cross-racial interaction in this country, or if not every, certainly a good portion of them.
In this instance, during our time together, my friend, who will remain unnamed, indulged in various instances of unsubtle white shaming rhetoric. To be honest, I didn’t really take exception to that. I think an inability to laugh at oneself, even to the point of enduring caricature, is cause for suspicion. Here I think we need to stand against the oppressiveness of political correctness and not treat either ourselves or others as sacred cows. However, equally frankly, let me state I did not return the jocularity for fear of causing offence. The more painful issue though was not that as much as my inability or lack of willingness, or a bit of both, to speak out when the topic of local and national politics inevitably came up. Here, my friend in certainly not atypical fashion, indulged in the politics of blame. Blame the white guy that is, in case that wasn’t obvious. My impression, and I could be wrong, but all the same, is this sort of displacing responsibility for the catastrophic failures of the majority black government, over the last quarter century, on historical white privilege, apartheid, colonialism et al. is de rigueur among the contemporary black youth and intelligentsia in South Africa.
The obvious problem with this is not so much that whites are not to blame for many of the country’s ills, no doubt they were and continue to be, although obviously to lesser extent today. It is rather that an attitude of finger pointing, is designed, consciously or unconsciously, to displace personal responsibility. It is the oldest psychoanalytic and ideological tool in the book. If we locate the enemy out there and focus our criticism on him, we can divert our gaze from our own folly. This attitude as history teaches us, rarely produces any constructive long-term solutions. It merely acts as a kind of ideological anti-depressant, I’m not so bad, if only I wasn’t married to/sharing a home/or in this case, country, with this bastard. It doesn’t actually solve anything. It merely keeps the subject ensconced in the myth of it-is-not-I-who-is-responsible-but-the-other-who-is-not-me.
The other problem with this scapegoating is it is little fun, not too put too fine a point on it, to be the scapegoat. Some of this blame, is no doubt, legitimate and fairly laid at our (white) doorstep, more I think, than most white people are willing to concede. But much of it is also in service of an ill-conceived ideology of displacement and obfuscation of the true socio-economic and political challenges the country faces: poor governance, nepotism, corruption, incompetence, greed, a culture of violence, lack of foresight and absence of ubuntu. This leads to an ever-shrinking enclave of whiteness, moving ever closer to the ocean with a close eye to any available points of departure. It would not be going too far to say there are moments when as a white person, I genuinely fear an outbreak of genocidal violence. It is an anxiety inducing state of existence. Against this, I find in myself a perverse sense of patriotism that in my heart of hearts vilifies those who have abandoned this beautiful country.
My confession is this, given every opportunity to speak out and express these views to my friend, a reasonably close friend, someone well educated and with no lack of perspicuity, in the most congenial of possible environments and interactions, I failed to express an alternate view to this chronically constipated mythologem of white-blame. It is not that I am so naïve as to think this would change my interlocutor’s perspective and open his eyes to “The Truth”. It is rather more modestly that it is essential we all speak the, or at least our, truth. Not to, is to be deservedly trodden underfoot of those ignorant of our truth for our failure to express it. 
Why did I not speak out, you may reasonably ask?
Truthfully, I don’t know. I can speculate though.
For one, I am a poor rhetorician. This is a consequence of years of holding myself above muddying my immaculate conceptual apparatus through engaging in discourse with the plebeians. I have spent a lifetime in aloof silent judgment of the utterances of my peers in social settings. Typically leaving social gatherings unnurtured and frustrated from my lack of willingness to engage in the messy provisional and often absurd discussions one encounters in such settings. In addition to a lifetime of solitary frustration and solipsistic inflation, it has consequently left me effectively dumb. When I do finally open my mouth to speak, instead of the sublime utterances of the oracle, I always took myself to be, an untrained ineloquent imbecile painfully tries to articulate a few coherent thoughts. Tragically it turns out not to be like the fine wine I took it to be, maturing every year in its corked bottle into an ever finer vintage. On the contrary, speaking, it turns out, is a skill that like any other does not improve from disuse.
I am apathetic. Like many who can trace their ancestry back to the Mediterranean, I suffer the folly of “mañana, mañana…”, never seeking to do today, what is better left until tomorrow. My disposition is that God will provide anything provident fate overlooks. The virtue of action and hard work evident in the Anglo-Saxon soul is in woefully short supply in mine.
To some degree the above reasons, whilst not untrue, obfuscate the deeper and more painful reason, I am a coward. Well, on even further reflection…. I guess I would have to say I am both lazy and a coward, and these two vices facilitate each other. Nevertheless, it is my cowardice I want to speak of here. 
To put it in simple terms, I am scared to speak out. I am afraid that should I speak out about the corruption, poor governance, greed and collapse of that once great bastion of South African hope: the ANC, pervasive anti-white sentiment and racism – and here frankly, I don’t give a fuck if you tell me its not racism, because it is, I will be vilified. I literally fear for the safety of myself and my family. To be clear, not because I am a public voice, I’m not, but I am white (or whitish anyway, with a goodish smear of olive 😊) and I have no plans to make a break for distant shores in the near future. So I survive – not thrive mind you, but survive, by keeping my head down and not kicking up a fuss, definitely not by alienating the few black friends I do have, who no doubt will rescue me from the pyre should that fateful day arrive.
Were I to ever leave this country, mine would be the loudest voice lambasting the mess South Africa has been allowed to descend into. You see from the safety of distance, were I, for example, to be gifted with a green card to Trump’s dystopian but fully walled version of the American nightmare, I think I would find my voice. But over here, amid the maelstrom, it strikes me that circumspection is the better part of valor. Or at least that is the shit I tell myself to cover up my cowardice.
Lest my strategic and nauseating disposition of turning my coat to the wind is not yet fully illuminated, let me add some colour into the mix, so as not to paint too one sided and white a picture. This ironic and implacable poker face of mine not only remains undisturbed in the face of white vilification. Equally, I should add, in the not too distant past, finding myself at the home of a relative whose friends referred to black people with a disparaging term, not the K word, but a neologism of similar ilk, I said nothing. Not a peep, not even a raised eyebrow. I was content to sit quietly and sip my beer waiting with eager anticipation for the fillets to come off the braai (barbeque). Admittedly these were by reputation fillets of rare distinction, but was my soul a tradable commodity? (Is it, I might ask?) And for the price of a meal and the hope of a return invite? You wouldn’t think so, would you? But alas, apparently it is, and for a relatively low price, at least, measured on a cosmic scale.
Alas, I must confess, without exception, I choose expediency over principle. I am willing to prostitute myself for thirty pieces of silver every time.
An unfortunate state of affairs to be sure. And if my personal pathology is in any way indicative of the national one, short term expediency and comfort over long term principles and values, it possibly affords some insight into why our national psyche is in the state it is. A sad betrayal of the blood shed by true South African patriots for the ideal of a democratic, non-racist, non-sexist nation that could and for a moment was a global exemplar.
Balance of the 2019 confession
It would seem, in line with my Machiavellian nature, I have tarried too long on this single issue and left little time for other more personal and painful issues that should be confessed for this confession to be complete. However, at this point I do not wish to indulge on your generous time and attention overmuch. I intend to be brief with what follows, nevertheless, needs must and let me say a little about the balance of my year.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the last few years of my life have not been easy. About five years ago my life, humble as it may have been, had reached a zenith of sorts. It was the fruit of about fifteen years of concerted effort in a single direction. I had achieved a degree of comfort, security, independence, family, community, love and even meaning. And so, I did what any self-respecting red-blooded man of middle age does, I separated from my wife of two decades and took up with a younger woman.
Bliss, you might think, naturally ensued. Well yes, there have been moments, but quite unexpectedly, a few challenges as well!
For one, in falling in love with this angel, this sublime muse of Dionysian delight and Apollonian insight, this gorgeous goddess, I had set the bar maybe a few notches higher than I was able or had the right to reach. Keeping up with her over the last few years, has not always been easy.
Simultaneously, my ex-wife, in the face of what so often leads to acrimony, displayed a grace, nobility of spirit and generosity of heart, for which I am and will forever be deeply indebted and am no doubt unworthy.
Despite these two paragons of feminine virtue, each in her own way, offering me love, compassion, kindness and selflessness, through this challenging time, I can attest that divorce and abandoning one’s family is not for the faint hearted. I can attest to a fair degree of consequent suffering, at least in my own case. My experience has been a little like these sublime prose of pathos from Jonathan Safran Foer.
He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others–the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the mid-afternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad.”
I am I confess both Catholic and of Lebanese descent, meaning I have an unusual capacity for suffering and self-pity. My family surname ‘Farah’ literally translates as “joy”. I have been given to wonder on more than one occasion whether this name designation was a sincere evaluation of my paternal family’s disposition, which frequently tends to the morbid, or something more ironic in intention. On my mother’s side- from the robust stock but profoundly melancholic nation the Afrikaners, things are little better. There are three generations of suicides- the last three generations that is, I’m not sure about those that came before that: my maternal grandfather, my aunt – my mom’s youngest sister, and, last year, my brother. My nephew too, has confessed to me that on more than one occasion, as a child, I kid you not, as a fucking child (!), he seriously considered taking his own life.
This brings me to possibly my greatest single confession of last year: as mentioned, I lost my younger brother, Michael. He committed suicide on the 4th of June last year after losing an extended battle with chronic anxiety, depression and substance abuse.  He was my only surviving family member; I lost my parents about a decade or so ago. I loved the man, I loved him as much as it is possible to love another human being and losing him has broken my heart. I am angry at him for the way he left us, but also appreciate that his pathology had reached a point of no return.
Whilst it would be untrue to say I wasn’t a good brother, I was or at least grew into one, I was possibly not the brother he needed. Somehow my presence in his life not only did not aid him, but in some sense undid him. I’m not sure why exactly. I could be wrong about this, maybe it is inflated of me to take responsibility for his fate, but if I am to be completely candid that is the sense I get. Worse than that, I was a pretty crappy older brother, when we were kids. We grew up in adverse circumstances, not the most adverse to be sure, but not ideal. Both our parents, God rest their respective souls, were alcoholics. And in that milieu of intermittent trauma and chronic anxiety, an older brother that gave a good goddamn would have served him well. Alas that was not me – selfish was my creed, in both thought and deed.
Once, and I’ll never forget this as long as I live, I had my older cousin Jodee, who I always looked up to, over at our childhood home. And, for some reason I can no longer recall, I had organised breakfast. I’m not sure where my parents were on the day. Anyway, as we sat around the table eating our modest fare -cereal or some such, Michael asked for a second helping. I either ignored him or made some brusque remark as I often would, finding him mostly a nuisance in the presence of my older peers. He repeated his request in some earnest, saying something to the effect of, “please Stephen, I am hungry, can I have some more food?” Now this was a kid of maybe seven or eight at the time. I was either pubescent or just pre-pubescent, the older by six years. Our home situation wasn’t great, and it was to me he turned hoping for some civility, some care and if I could fucking squeeze some out of my stony heart, some brotherly love.
I’ll never forget my reply. Firstly, I laughed at him, and then jocularly, replied, “You’re still hungry hey? What do you think this is, the Salvation Army?”, i.e. get your own fucking food! Delighted as I was with my razor-sharp wit I returned to gabbing with my cousin and friends and to the avaricious consumption of my own meal.
There are only a few moments in my life that I feel real shame for. This is one of those.
Last year, whilst Michael was in a local rehab, his counselor called me in to have a joint session with him. It was obviously uncomfortable, and my conscience was troubled by what might be raised in the session. As it turns out nothing of significance was, and the counselor was not perhaps yet all that adept at reaching beyond the usual textbook drivel. It was something of a non-event. Nevertheless, there was moment, an opportunity for some redemption by confessing and apologising for what a shitty older brother I was when he most needed me. I mumbled something vague and incoherent but failed to seize the moment and come clean about this and apologise as was right to. I didn’t. I missed my chance and although things were already very bad by that point, who knows what my honesty may have done.
I hope if you take something away from this confession, besides the inspiration to tackle your own confession – which I hope you will, it is a reminder not to miss the chance to speak up and share with others your most deeply held and heartfelt beliefs and feelings.
Speak your truth!
Carpe diem, my brothers and sisters, carpe fucking diem!
There is a lot of other shit that happened last year and the preceding years that I need to confess. This is not the place for it though, I have imposed upoun your grace and generosity of attention already overmuch.
I humbly thank you for hearing my confession and am in your debt for doing so.
Very respectfully yours,
Stephen Anthony Farah.
 Official public confession that is, naturally as anyone who writes will tell you, everything you write is a confession of one form or another.
 I am the head of learning for the Centre for Applied Jungian Studies.
 Some years later, my younger son Teague, malleable to the reality principle, is now a firmly committed capitalist and is planning his future economic conquests.
 As opposed to “white”, rather than “African”. All of us living permanently in this country are, by definition, Africans.
 The Nats (the previous regime) did this to limited effect during the hight of apartheid, by setting up “die Rooi Gevaar” – the Red Danger, i.e. the communists, as the source of all local unrest.
 “Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù]) is a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity.” It is often translated as “I am because we are,” or “humanity towards others,” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.”
In Southern Africa, it has come to be used as a contested term for a kind of humanist philosophy, ethic, or ideology, also known as Ubuntuism propagated in the Africanisation (transition to majority rule) process of these countries during the 1980s and 1990s.
Since the transition to democracy in South Africa with the Nelson Mandela presidency in 1994, the term has become more widely known outside of Southern Africa, notably popularised to English-language readers through the ubuntu theology of Desmond Tutu.Tutu was the chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and many have argued that ubuntu was a formative influence on the TRC.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_philosophy
 In line with, in my opinion, Jordan Peterson’s most inspiring monologue For the record I am no fan, but this short monologue was exceptionally good and deserves credit and citation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkiv10F3THI
 I went out to water my garden and check on the swimming pool pump, after writing the previous sentence, so had some time tor reflect. This is itself a confession, because I have little idea of whether watering the garden with municipal water is permitted at this time. We have strict water usage restrictions in place after suffering a terrible drought in the region two years ago, although we (The Western Cape) have made some recovery, restrictions remain in place.
 Trust me if you’re reading this post, have read to this point this point, read the footnote(!), and happen to be South African, you’re in very small percentile!
 Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated