March 2020

Day 5

Raymond Ruyer’s book Neofinalism begins, after the death of God the question is not What is true? but What makes sense?

The question is not whether this or that truly exists but whether its existence makes sense. Its existence, Ruyer is quick to point out, implies ours: does yours makes sense? Does yours makes sense, without truth?

Without truth to make sense of it, does your existence make sense? And is its existence intelligible? Is there any meaning to existence?

Yes there is, immediately personalises it. As does, No there isn’t.

Each assumes the making of sense. Is a commentary on it. Unnecessary.

Truth would seem to be unnecessary to sense. But sense was how truth was found out because how God was found it, launching the new truism: eventually, whatever the prevailing truth, it does not make sense.

But there are certain truths, mathematical or geometrical, aren’t there? which make, will always make, sense. Eternal truths. Demonstrable and experiential truths. Existential truths.

But are they important? Is not their importance simply derived from a godlike quality of being forever true?

What a poor investment the truth has made if all it has to show forever is that the sum of a triangle’s angles… or a line extended… or any constant value… Its constancy itself is its downfall.

It does not require your interest. It does not even need you to notice for it to be true in perpetuity. Like God, when it comes down to it.

That God stopped making sense is not so much the issue as that belief in God ceased to matter.

Is this not the case for triangles, long division, differential equations, for everything from the simplest function to the most speculative?

What is important and is there meaning are one and the same question.

The problem is the point of view of eternity versus the point of view of one who exists. It is not yet a question of consciousness.

Consciousness presupposes the sense of what exists. As Ruyer shows.

And we are strangely attached to what exists and to who.

What is important once our own existence is in question comes to concern not what makes sense so much as what makes sense of our existence.

What is important concerns not what is meaningful to us but what is it without which we have no importance, who without whom we are meaningless.

The field is not large perhaps. It is not the time for making great moral claims. But I’m sure many will be compelled to do so, to shore up their own sense of importance, to salvage meaning from the flood.

The worst will be those, since it is a time of plague, who claim measures of health for moral certainties.

The next worse will be those clogging up the already overworked Breach Line set up by the police for dobbing in those not doing self isolation or social distancing properly.

Moralists. Then busybodies.

What is important will perhaps be a narrow field. But it will be all we require to make sense of ourselves and our existence. Best to narrow it.

Better a few simple elements than many fragile and complex compounds.

Like Mark Hollis says: one note, better that, to be able to play just one note, for it to sound

thigein & conatus

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Day 4

It’s a beautiful evening. The tui are sending out their last and simplest songs of the day, just a few notes.

The bellbirds in the Marlborough Sounds–that are not Sounds, neither are the fiords of Fiordland fiords–at their most improvisatory outdo tui, and are often mistaken for them, although, in taxonomy and appearance they couldn’t be more unalike: tui–black and scintillant with cardinal blue, a preacherly tuft of white at the collar; bellbird–smaller, green, with a duller blue on wings and head.

Did I tell you I saved a kakariki in Paradise?

It had flown into a post on the porch, fallen, its head at a silly angle to its body. This was where we were staying, a cabin, also, as we might say, improvisatory: the porch out of reclaimed glass louvres, the kitchen with gas hobs under a lean-to, sheltered from the wind by reclaimed windows in frames posed in a V behind the hobs, one room, windows at the foot of the double bed, double-glazed as it happens, so at night, when I lit the Little Cracker, it was like a sweat-tent, until the early hours. And the view through those windows at the foot of the bed! Up the Dart Valley, the giant on his back belching pounamu all up and onto the West Coast. The weather coming in and the light dancing on the valley over the crags.

I thought at first the little parrot to be a rubber ball I’d picked up in Mapua, where we stayed at a camping ground advertising clothes optional. A saving, in fact, being able to drop duds and change clobber without the worry of bare bottom land exile.

But then when I stooped over it I saw it’s little neck to be broken. And its wings splayed out, I tried to scoop it up. It skittered away, now dragging its wings as if these were lost of its control. Just before it disappeared under the cabin, where the rats would get it, I caught and cupped it in my hands.

Its head still at a silly angle, it eyed me. Its orange iris, wide eye. Probably stunned.

J. said drip some water on its beak to bring it around, like Opa used to do (when he rescued birds, as he used to also).

I caught some drops on my fingers and dribbled them off onto its tightly clamped parrot beak, miniature.

I don’t know what it was saying with its big orange eye and dilated black pupil, like a sunflower. It looked fucked.

I took the kakariki and placed it on the picnic table which stood some distance on the flat from the cabin. This is where we ate dinner and where I wrote in the mornings. It’s also where we ate the pancakes, bacon, maple syrup and banana J. cooked up for breakfast. Must have been a Sunday. The pancake mix came from Foxton Windmill, a wonder. The only working windmill grinding grain in the country.

It was dusk and we went inside, sat at the foot of the bed, looking out every so often at the kakariki and reading books.

We decided it had been too late for the little bird. Ought we put it on the ground? No, the rats would get it.

Its wings were out from its body. It hadn’t moved its head.

And as the light was halved, J. said: it looked around.

It had looked quickly around once, and as I turned I saw it gather itself up and fly off into the manuka.

As if it had been waiting to be sure. And as if it had been quietly gathering its reserves, checking its escape route, running over the plan. Coast clear–away.

I hadn’t wanted to photograph it in my hands in case it just died. But when I think about its eye and the brilliance of its plumage, parrot greens and blues, unlike the dull earth tones of most New Zealand birds, and their nebulous and indistinct colours, their shy colours, I think it knew: it struck me it was not timid, not a self-effacing creature.

Dark now outside. Tui quiet until tomorrow, when they start as they end the day with their simplest songs. Maybe one or two notes, answering each other over the valley. The family is watching Country Calendar.

Strange miracles. Somebody said quick to tears, my age.

Or course the kakariki probably didn’t need me to move it in order to perform the ordinary miracle of surviving its stupid accident: what kind of bird flies into a post? But perhaps it needed whatever passed between us, or we did, from its bright orange eye.

thigein & conatus

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day 3

hope for change

from this, so we have sort of drifted into another bubble and we have all

but we have not done it collectively

desperation is it?

leading many to hope from here we cannot go back there

how to be certain?

vamos lentos por que vamos lejos

or as many say: how do we go back? in 21 more days do we consider this time as no more than a break in transmission?

in order to create a break in transmission?

at the flattening of the curve will we remember ourselves?

we cannot be certain how many will want to

and how many others will recognise in their neighbours a change of heart

we’ll be all right without you


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Did they act in wartime, like, you know, it was just a good idea? Like it was a good idea to stop people congregating by shutting down things like public communication (wifi) services? (Although loose lips sink ships.) Like, it was a good idea just to stay in your bubble? (Although a bubble’s not a blackout.) And when was it a good idea for an entire population to go along with these good ideas?

Was there, has there ever been, a time when we did voluntarily?

Was it a good idea to go along with these good ideas and then find we were submitting to enforced imposition of what we had previously been going along with because it was a good idea?

Michael Joseph Savage, whose picture appeared behind the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern during her presidential style PM-Office addresses, didn’t quite prepare a peacetime postwar fit for heroes. But his brand of socialism instituted during WWII, soft and Christian-value-inflected as it was, did set the scene for a period of prosperity at least with a bead on egalitarianism (when the word was actually utterable)–doing everything successive political incumbents, after 1984’s Fourth Labour Government, have done their best to undo.

So there was an irony in Savage’s presence behind our PM as she told us about all the things we were being asked to do. A savage irony, in retrospect, after the imposition of Level 4 Eliminate.

Level 4 Eliminate is the point at which we are instructed to stay at home, educational facilities are closed, as are businesses, excepting essential services, at which supplies may be rationed and facilities requisitioned, travel is severely limited, and at which there is a “major reprioritisation of healthcare services.”

The irony is one of omission, since the New Zealand government as agent is omitted.

Government as agent is omitted in instructing people to stay home, in closing schools and businesses, with the exception of essential (to government) services, is omitted as agent acting to ration supplies and requisition facilities, to limit travel, and is omitted as agent directing healthcare services towards its own priorities.

It is a situation compared to wartime but one in which martial law has not been imposed.

Even with the New Zealand government acting like a government, unlike the Australian one, there is no claiming by government of its political prerogative. There is no commitment from government to govern.

What is asked of the population is an accord, an agreement, a contract, and a will to be governed, where government is not imposed.

Where government has not been imposed we have a state of governance in which we are to be the agents of our self isolation. (Its reflexivity may better explain the use of this term than the confusion over whether we are in quarantine or self quarantine before being infected but self isolation upon infection or whether it is the other way around: quarantine, even self quarantine, demands an external agency quarantining or providing the means to; self isolation is DIY, all you need is a home to stay at.)

If it turns out it was not a good idea we, not government did it, in conceding to being governed. And what would the tip-off be?

At what point would we know we had conceded too much to a government that dare not speak its name?

Will it have turned bad when we are asked to go out and catch those who are not doing it properly?

What is going to be today’s or tomorrow’s equivalent of conscientious objection?

At the end of Day 1 and into Day 2 it is an absurd situation.

But it is less absurd than the righteousness of those, and the good humour of those, who are doing it properly, whose righteousness consists in the fact that we are somehow uniting against COVID 19, whose good humour consists in invoking the wartime analogy:

Your grandparents were asked to kill or be killed for your country; you’re being asked to sit on a sofa and stay home. Now, let’s get this right!

I don’t know how we unite in a state of voluntary or enforced social atomisation so extreme we are said to be in ‘bubbles’ of self-isolation.

And what is the connection between these bubbles we are in bodily and those cognitive bubbles we are in digitally, that we are also in voluntarily, in which we are said not to have a single experience that breaks with the continuity of past experience, but to experience the continuous transmission of the same?

What is the connection but that one bubble leads into another (as Peter Sloterdijk has already written, at length)?

Under the ongoing state of exception of a National State of Emergency we seem to have done nothing more than pass through the liquid and diaphanous membrane from one bubble into another. Without there being much difference to note.

In face of a common sense calling on unity against an internal enemy and in the way one good idea leads to another and one bubble leads to another, the recourse to reason outside that of the state, to any reason outside of the state’s, becomes ever slimmer, as do reason’s resources become slighter outside of those to the requisition of which we have conceded. In fact we have recourse to agency not in the way it defers to us or is ours by right but only by reference to the service sectors the state has already auctioned off, those agencies which, although they may be accountable to the state are neither responsible to it nor to us for the supply and provision of their services.

I would like to agree and affirm this period for the good that the private realm withdraws from that public realm in which it can of late be said to have lost all faith.

I would like to agree and affirm this period for the good that the public realm needs to be assessed on the basis of this withdrawal from it and from the fact that we have conceded to it.

What this means is a “major reprioritisation” of the political, of the role of government in the public realm.

It is a global TIME OUT.

To do it properly means to reverse our concession to withdrawal from the public realm at the very time we see it can get by without us as if we were never really part of it.

To do it properly means to claim the political prerogative entailed in our concession, that government fails to claim, entailed in the suspension of all economic activity except for the services essential to public life. At the very time we see a reality that is the political reality, we see money and markets can get by without us.

It is a political reality, not dictated by the commercial reality, of economic activity, as if after all we did for it, after all that work and all that study, we were never really part of it.

National Scandal
thigein & conatus

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…normal transmission will resume after us…


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go viral: or COVID 19 is not life during wartime

I’ve had time to reconsider my previous post. You might have guessed I would. After all, I was just scratching the surface… to see what might come out…

It was not what I intended to say. I had in fact wanted to suggest that the virtual amplification of the virus involves its own scratchiness, an internal irritant: think of it like a large bubble or boil, the anthroposphere. Now think of the increasing pressure, which is not that on corporate-run health and transportation infrastructures–the failures of which we are seeing, we see at once–but is built and building from the accelerated communication of misinformation and information about COVID 19, from the intensification of news, from daily iterations and narrations, and the political management, at once of both viruses, the one afflicting bodies and the one online, constantly online. Both can be said to affect bodies, but the infection pressurising what is done and seen is that from what is said, is in the constancy and insistency of what is said, of it being said. And the irritant internal to this globally resonant bubble or boil is no more immediate than the saying but is less news, is subsumed or drowned under the news, lost in sputum. It is the organic therefore virtual threat to bodies rubbing from the inside at the insides of the anthroposphere which could burst at any point… in the falldown of infrastructures is bursting… but currently at the rate of no more than a trickle, compared to the deluge of information.

Think then how tenuous is the infrastructure supporting the flood and how unaccountable the corporations responsible for its upkeep. Bodies will fail. We take that as given. Political bodies. Bodies of knowledge, cultural and community bodies. Our own.

But the relations which are elemental to the sustenance of bodies, both social and individual: the means of distribution that we call supply chains, for some reason to these we attribute rights rather than duties: it is not the duty of those responsible for these to keep them running: their strength or weakness is displaced onto the means of symbolic distribution for safekeeping. It is delegated to the markets for goods to be distributed.

The distribution through supply chains of the elements to sustain bodies is put upon, as a right-to-provide, the means of symbolic exchange we have described to be the relations enabling communication. It is not a duty-to-provide, can’t be. (The market like the communicative sphere cannot be told, even what is true, it cannot be told.) To the communicative sphere then is given the role of public welfare. To it is granted an intransigence which is entirely illusory. It has become something like the spirit, spirit of the anthroposphere, which unlike the bodies irritant within its bubble or boil, will not, cannot fail.

network critical

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how to go viral: COVID 19

But I bet now you don’t want to. Go viral that is.

Of the many ironies amplifying the sense of unreality around global events, the friction of that rub caused by a mismatch in speeds between the old animal and the new social frames of reference of near-as-speed-of-light-as-possible instantaneity in communications looks to me to be the most resonant echo chamber for the anthroposphere.

First–in an era in which there are no firsts because everything happens at once–were the reports that the actual virus was being outpaced in the distorting mirror of the virtual virus by the spread of misinformation about it.

And then the deluge: because the distortion and speed of intelligence transfer, which we might call information about Covid 19, never let up, in either of its forms; because the news refused to be slow cooked. The viral online virus refused to be slowed. And the appetite refused to abate for news and information about it. And without let up, the flood has brought not only what is unappetising and unpalatable but also what is inedibly raw–the unedifying has been pursued by the overwhelming at such close quarters that one has been confused for the other.

The least edifying of manoeuvres–and I use the word because it has been consciously and inconscionably deployed–is the nationalist or nation-building one. We are at war with this pandemic. And united against it–much as we are said to battle cancer–we will prove our mettle. But it is global. But it is shameful still to deploy, even as metaphor, the talk of nation-building that was behind colonial expansion, that was behind global wars and behind the holocaust. Well, wasn’t that the cause for which the ‘virus’ of selfish market-driven Jewdom was sacrificed? the purity of the homeland? the fatherland?

It is bad and sad for the individual and for people, such as they are, in general, this virus–in as we might say common.

But smell the friction between the slow drowning death, the inadequacy of health systems, downgraded worldwide, and the over-adequacy of the communication systems through which each individually claims his stake in it, her agenda. The whole feelingness of symbolic exchange, the most human thing. The over-adequacy of symbolic communicability for which biological safeguards have been compromised.

The biological response, the response to the biological threat, seems positively improvised compared to the informational one.

network critical

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