Why does everyone want to make HIV into a Sontagian metaphor? Well, I bet nobody else asked you that today…
I turned on the satellite television in Egypt to watch the evening news on TV Polonia (yes, Polish TV is beamed into the hotels) and there was Simon Mol, handcuffed, walking towards a police van. As he passed the camera he shouted, “The media are manipulating this story – I am the victim.’
For sure the media are distorting elements of the story, as they will; and for sure Mol has been the victim of much in life – that’s why he is in Poland in the first place: but to regard himself as a ‘victim’ in this case is weirdly delusional. With many women HIV infected and many more thinking they might be infected, Simon must be in a very strange place psychologically right now to think he is the victim.
Others however are determined to make a wider point about this – just as Simon Mol has done, and will.
Virtuous blog accused me of something quite nasty. When talking about the Simon Mol posts on this blog (see below) he says I went out in an extreme way to:
‘...defend Mol (maybe not defend, but abstract the case into political sphere away from the actual human suffering) regardless of all. Even if I can appreciate taking a stand of a devil’s advocate, again, the message focuses on the culprit and disregard the victims. In the comments someone notices that the author seems to find Mol suspected of a deed equal to spreading flu, which for me, if proven, would rather amount to a mass murder.
I don’t think that is fair comment at all.
The point of the second Mol post was about how some are trying to turn what are basic human tragedies, lives completely changed, suffering, into a political crusade. It is not me that is doing the abstracting, or the crusading.
(As far as my concern for HIV and AIDS sufferers, I trained as an AIDS information officer back in the late 1980s at University, when the AIDS panic was first sweeping through the UK. Ignorance was rife (many thought you could get HIV from a toothbrush, or from kissing. I have also known people die from the virus. Care I do and have done.)
Margaret Thatcher tried to use the AIDS panic in those early days in Britain to promote what she called ‘Victorian values’. For others it was the ‘wroth of God’, against homosexuals.
So HIV has always been wheeled out to support some kind of political point, both reactionary, or in the form of the dreaded Political Correctness.
This time it's not AIDS and gays, however, it’s AIDS and Africans.
Mol’s behaviour has taken on a much wider significance than to the lives that he has affected. People want to make a point, to push an agenda, to show, as one Polish newspaper headlined it last week: ‘The Consequences of bad ideas.
Peter S Reith – from, I think, the Warsaw theatre crowd that Mol used to hang around with - wrote in Rzeczpospolita that ,”… the ideas that allowed Mol to ravage women must also be held to account.’
These ideas he summarizes as ‘Political Correctness.”
Mol apparently thought that anyone who accused him of being HIV positive was ‘being racist.’ Which, of course, (if he knew that he was already infected - which now seems very possible indeed as he first had a test in 1999 in a refugee camp in Poland - is another example of his capacity for victim based delusions. It seems as though he can’t separate himself and his actions from his position as a black refugee in Poland.
Reith implies Mol yelled at women that even the act of wearing a condom was ‘racist.’
If some women had not been corrupted by the academia and the culture of political correctness to believe that they owed sexual gratification to Simon Mol on account of his skin color and status as a member of an "oppressed" group, this tragedy would have been avoided.
This stretches the meaning, and power, of ‘Political Correctness’ to breaking point, I think...
Watching Ps, Cs and Qs
The classic liberal PC does have many negative aspects. Political Correctness is about ‘speech codes’ – restrictive speech codes; a way of closing off debate; of not being offensive; ‘You can’t say that!’
It all started with the naive belief in liberal academic circles, decades ago that if you changed the composition of words – astronaut instead of space man, chairperson in instead of chairman, etc, sexist thought would simply melt into thin air. Language didn’t reflect reality, it constituted it.
All very daft, of course. By the 1980s ‘PC’ had become a form of political abuse. It became a way the right mocked the left.
But it’s a big jump from that to claiming that young girls had sex with Mol because it was ‘PC’ to do so. The context of speech is important.
’…for many women, having unprotected sex with a black man fulfilled two politically correct obligations: it was trendy to have sex with a black man, and it was also a sign that one was not prejudiced against blacks.‘
I am sure he never meant this, but Mr Reith seems to rule out the possibility that they might have found black men attractive simply because they found black man attractive.
And anyway, remember too that Poland – which, let’s be honest - has a level of prejudice that I am sure Peter would agree is on a rather different level from where he comes from.
In a context where there is genuine prejudice – much of the time innocent, though sometimes ugly, naivety – the act of showing that you are not prejudice seems a powerful statement. It gives the more ludicrous claims of Simon Mol, about not wearing condoms, some traction, purchase, …even sense.
If these women did have unprotected sex because it was ‘PC’ – is that a supposition? – then the consequences have been very unfortunate, life changing.
But if the PC factor is that important – if - then maybe it’s the context in which Mol finds himself in that feeds the victim status he clearly thinks is the only thing that defines him as a person. But if this were a society that had grown to cope with the immigration of blacks then Mol would seem transparently ridiculous.
Maybe these poor girls believed him because some of it was true?