September 2020

days 144 – 149

Death is not supposed to be part of the American dream, begins Richard Wolffe’s article for the Guardian. [here] Above this is a photo of a banner reading The Lasting Monument to Trump’s Presidency is Being Built One Death At A Time, above a Goyaesque pile of severed heads.

I watched the first NZ Leaders’ Debate of 2020 last night. It’s posted below, with, the YouTube comments say, the commercial breaks intact, but I don’t recommend watching it. It is not something one chooses or wishes others to watch. It is a troubling watch and this is the best that can be said about it.

It is troubling in the sense that political content ought to be troubling. I am writing about it now because I remain troubled by it and Wolffe’s article reminded me why, with its blandly ironic opening line.

Watching it last night–until I reached the point I could see it would go no further and I could watch no further–I saw clearly the attraction of Trump, Trump, the Monument to whose Presidency is Being Built One Death At A Time. I saw it clearly in the coldest harshest light–in the light of the NZ Leaders’ Debate, in the light of the poverty of vision in the Vision Statements of the Leaders (only two: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins) and in the light of it looking like it was edited by a child.

The problem for a politician in the Post-COVID state is we know she knows where the lever is that stops the economy. Yet the vision of both Ardern and Collins went straight to the economy–and to growth. No mention was made of it being slowed or stopped.

Back to America: The New Yorker, Sept. 7 2020, leads with a Comment column by Amy Davidson Sorkin, who writes that the dominant theme of the Republican National Convention in the week previous was control. America is in danger of ceasing to be America. Evidence to support this claim is suppressed. Sorkin cites Kimberly Guilfoyle saying at the Conference, “They are coming for me, because I am fighting for you!” and “cosmopolitan élites … want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live.” The Wolffe article above puts this down to a strain of individualism endemic to America.

Told the ‘crux’ of QAnon’s “family of conspiracy theories” is that he is “secretly saving the world from [the] satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals” and of course cosmopolitan élites, according to Sorkin, Trump asks, “Is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?”

Sorkin writes, “A St. Louis couple who pointed firearms at Black Lives Matter marchers were rewarded with a speaking spot at the Convention.” She ends: “fear and suspicion cannot be the means by which this country is controlled”, then adds, “That isn’t how America remains America.”

This is not disturbing. It is not politics. This is the secret meaning–which you have to dig deep into the web to find–of Trump not being a statesman: an animal, perhaps, but not a political animal. He is not a politician. He is not available to the bodysnatchers.

Deleuze writes about something called ‘control society.’ [here] He didn’t have this in mind. He had in mind the autoveillant society of self-scoring on performance and psychic investment in types of scoring, ranking and measuring, in individualist competition–as a form of control belonging to the sort of capitalism we have come to think of as neo- or neuro-liberalism.

Here is a quote from “Postscript on the Societies of Control:”

…the factory was already familiar with the system of bonuses, but the corporation works more deeply to impose a modulation of each salary, in states of perpetual metastability that operate through challenges, contests, and highly comic group sessions. If the most idiotic television game shows are so successful, it’s because they express the corporate situation with great precision. [which we can extend to the US Presidency]

On a banner–another banner–in the background of a photo of Joseph Goebbels, 18 February 1943: something I have not seen before in association with Total War–Totaler Krieg – Kürzester Krieg.

Shortest War.

Totaler Krieg. In his speech, pictured below, courtesy of the commons, Goebbels asked those at the convention–another convention–whether a war was wanted more total and more radical than anything even yet imagined.

totaler und radikaler, als wir ihn uns heute überhaupt erst vorstellen können?

You notice that the spelling of totaler remains the same whether it means more total or just total–the German for a total war is ein totaler Krieg.

What the banner then reads is in English not Total War–Shortest War but The More Total War [is the] Shortest War.

Goebbels had earlier referred to the depraved and perverted threat of Bolsheviks and Jews facing Germany–not unlike the threat of the pedophiles and cannibals (and cosmopolitan élites) facing America.

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J05235 / Schwahn / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5434259

Goebbels–at least as far as the banner speaks for him–therefore goes further than von Clausewitz in announcing not a total war–opposable to a limited war–but a more total war.

If you look at the online entry, you will see that the idea of a total war going beyond the political and diplomatic objectives to be achieved by a limited war–going all the way to ideological conflict and achieving an ideological victory, or victory of the idea–is linked by Brittanica.com to Goebbels’s announcement in his speech of February 18 1943. Except that he didn’t announce or ask the conference whether a total war was wanted and neither did the banner behind him advert to a total war being the shortest.

The question then is what is a more total war than one achieving the victory of an idea?

The other question is, with whom is it to be achieved–so that

ham’ se alle Ja geschrien–

they all cried YES.

…? perhaps it is this list from US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera:

those who fight for you

write for you live for you act for you study for you dance for you

parade for you paint and construct for you carry for you build you

inform you feed you nanny you clean you vacuum for you swipe

the grease off your clothes chef for you serve you teach you carry

carry you rock you to sleep and console you

— from “You Just Don’t Talk About It,” Juan Felipe Herrera, in Every Day We Get More Illegal, 2020.

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days following, 105-143

I just watched Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz. More frightening, I just watched a plane disappear above the clouds.

The advice is insistent on how to deal with COVID. From the Stoics. It is part of the general onslaught, a how to of personal reconciliation that would be worthless were it not for the Romantic and soteriological tradition of personal salvation. (That would be the Romantic tradition of nationalist salvation and the soteriological tradition of personal salvation.) For example, suicide and the idea of a personal death. See Schopenhauer.

The two, nationalist and personal, are combined in the idea of Brexit:

https://twitter.com/i/status/1294583688429264896

Here is a snapshot of nationalist culture in auto-affectionate self-parody. And here is a portrait of Schopenhauer with his poodle.

painting inside my skull

it might be useful to think of it shaped like a donut.

and be not conformed to this world

— thanks Isaias Braga

“It was bad back then; society was diseased.”

— writes Julianna Baggott, Pure, (London, UK: Headline, 2012), 63.

“[He] imagines that this isn’t real, that, instead, it’s just some elaborate reenactment of destruction, not the actual destruction itself.

“He remembers once being in a museum … Each display was dedicated to a theme: before the impressive prison system was built, before difficult children were properly medicated, when feminism didn’t encourage femininity, when the media were hostile to government instead of working toward a greater good, before people with dangerous ideas were properly identified, back when government had to ask permission to protect its good citizens from the evils of the world and from the evils among us, before the gates had gone up around neighborhoods with buzzer systems and friendly men at gatehouses who knew everyone by name.”

— Ibid., 236.

“My body is the truth. It’s history.”

— Ibid. 413.

Notes, you might say. But don’t you think we are no longer free to float happily with fragments?

No need.

Yet the demand is more imposing than ever personally to reconcile the contradictions, that are quite public, evident in our political lives.

I would say that our political lives impose but that they are equally irreconcilable for being mutually incompatible, a clamping down here with a liberalisation there, liberalisation of cannabis or euthanasia laws with mandatory mask-wearing and the possibility of mass vaccination being mandatory as well.

The rift is not between the public and the private, making one irreconcilable to the other. It is a general crazing of the public to which the private is not equal, is not enough crazy.

There is no point of view given by state mandate but the mad movement of a conflicting polity, so that any attempt personally to reconcile oneself to it can only end in disaster.

Or in the absurdity of believing a conspiracy is behind it.

As we used to say, undercover of human malice or stupidity, the conspiracy of confusion and disinformation serving political ends–but this time, unpoliticisable, irrecuperable to any recognisable political viewpoint, ends set for self-destruct.

And yet, are we happy to be getting on with the craze of fragments?

There seems to be something like an expectation we ought to be able to understand we take on; we should be able to make sense and reconcile for ourselves the competing interests the results of which we can only anathematise.

That is we cannot undo them.

Cannot analyse them.

Slippery as,

So neonatology as well as neontology concern the study of neons.

— at the antilockdown rally aotea sq. 4.9.2020,
courtesy Simon Wilson
(note cap)

One sometimes thinks that for a voyage to the depths of the human soul one needs a powerful submarine, and in the end is surprised to find oneself in a wetsuit trying to sink into a standard household bathtub.

— Andrés Barba, A Luminous Republic, Trans. Lisa Dillman, (New York, NY: Mariner Books, 2020), 11.

…the demands of international treaties trumped by nationalist interests…

…but also the ramifying in the nationalist arena of conflicting global interests…

It is worth restating these are not macro interests, rather a micro fragmenting … and this bespeaks a kind of vulnerability to the broader strokes–hammer blows–of which the Left seems to have become wary.

Given that you are a force of opposition, what do you want?

Calming devices used to be those narrow perspex boxes in which you could see and witness particulate sorting processes. Sometimes with oil.

Then diving you see a skate, a ray, shake off the sand in which it is camouflaged, and the sand settle.

…it settles without you doing a thing.

This is what you are watching slowly coming down–the pretence is that it happens quickly.

The pretence is that it can–that it can operate by some human, humanly imposed scale of time, of time reduced to the technologically available advanced scale of minute increments speeding past, speeding into the past under what Virilio calls dromological pressure. Speeding into the future. This is what you get speeding into the future.

This is what you get, I have been writing in my other writing: it is not speed except that it is communicable and the speed is of the communication. Which makes a joke of communication.

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