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numbers of jailed writers: PEN does not divest

[from this source:] … tracks the detention and imprisonment of writers, and in 2023, at least 339 writers were detained or imprisoned around the world for their writing or otherwise exercising their freedom of expression. Since the first edition of the Index was published in 2019, we have witnessed a steady increase in the number of writers jailed globally.

the report’s “key takeaways” are worth citing, before getting on to why I am:

  • The number of writers jailed reached a five-year high, with at least 339 behind bars during 2023, an increase of 9 percent from 2022.
  • China, already the world’s top jailer of writers, registered a significant increase, exceeding 100 writers behind bars for the first time. The majority were jailed for online expression that was critical of official policies or expressed pro-democracy viewpoints.
  • The crackdown on writers and the creative community continued in Iran, with 13 new arrests and the silencing of previously detained writers through various conditions placed on their release. Women who wrote or advocated against the compulsory hijab remained particularly at risk, and Iran jails the highest number of female writers worldwide.
  • War and conflict had a significant impact on writers in 2023, as the crackdown on dissent in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and in Russia resulted in substantial increases in the number of jailed writers, placing both countries in the top 10 for the first time.
  • As the annual Freedom to Write Index marks its fifth edition, an analysis of trends over the past five years shows a clear and steady increase in the number of writers jailed globally, from 238 in 2019 to 339 in 2023. Notable increases were seen in the number of female writers jailed, from 35 to 51, as well as in the number of jailed writers classified as online commentators, from 80 to 180.

here are the phrases used to denigrate the incarceration of writers:

writers engage in something called “free expression” with the meaning that

their writing plays a “significant role” in “promoting critical inquiry” …

and “fostering connections between people” …

and (a very interesting one) “cultivating visions of a better world anchored in fundamental human rights”

these phrases are from that source too. Then, writers…

  1. recognize the power of words to affirm historical truths,
  2. develop or maintain culture,
  3. hold individuals and institutions to account.

It is for these reasons that PEN says,

For the same reasons we members of the international community, whatever that means, MUST “assume a greater role in protecting and supporting writers, and ensuring their ability to freely express themselves.”

“But,” says PEN, singling them out, “democracies have been slow to understand that attacks on writers are both the precursor to and a consequence of broader attacks on human rights, democracy, and free expression.”

The turn democracies might be said to have made, explaining why democracies and not autocracies, theocracies or Real Existing Socialisms have been singled out, is to encourage free expression for the frictionless exchange of information; which must be something like Erica Jong’s “zipless fuck.”

PEN America hit the headlines for its cancellation of the 2024 World Voices festival.

PEN was denounced for its response to the violence unleashed by the state of Israel on the people of Palestine. This has been called a genocide in line with similar and much earlier genocides of colonised and disenfranchised peoples.

The Guardian reports that 28 of the nominated 61 authors and translators withdrew their books from consideration for PEN’s annual award ceremony. The festival was due to take place 8 May in New York and Los Angeles.

Among the writers to come out in protest at PEN’s failure to condemn Israeli actions are Naomi Klein, Michelle Alexander, Hisham Matar, Maaza Mengiste, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Isabella Hamad and Zaina Arafat. This so-called “prominent group” of writers, along with others, signed an open letter accusing PEN of hypocrisy. The letter reads in part,

In the context of Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza, we believe that PEN America has betrayed the organization’s professed commitment to peace and equality for all, and to freedom and security for writers everywhere.

The open letter to PEN is doing, in other words, what PEN says is the writer’s job, promoting critical inquiry, fostering connections between people and cultivating visions of a better world anchored in fundamental human rights. It is undertaking exactly that which the democracies have been slow to understand, presumably outside of democracies, is at risk; here it is happening in the USA, a case in point; and under the aegis of a nonprofit international organisation. This undertaking is that of all writing:

  1. to recognize the power of words to affirm historical truths,
  2. to develop or maintain culture,
  3. and to hold individuals and institutions to account.

Hypocrisy is of little personal interest. What I find interesting is the reduction of writing to its weakest elements, to its public utility; a reduction in line with human-rights discourse’s own.

Writing or literature is constrained to the problems it chooses and it will, as Deleuze writes, get the solutions it deserves.

Writing or literature is not free. It does not express. It perceives. It, in D.’s words, on the phone this morning, goes into the funerary pit and comes out spewing its anus out covered in dismembered bodies; it has to and does so freely out of the realisation that being equal to the human castatrophe demands it, demands it of those who would write of that condition at all.

To D. I said, that’s what literature does.

So it’s strange seeing proof of it in PEN’s estimation of the number of writers being jailed at the same time as that proof is doubly denied: once from the point of view of public morality and from the political high ground arrogated exclusively to capitalist democracies; twice by the organisation assuming this high ground and then not living up to its own principles.

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[¿] advocacy’s antonym = complicity [?] {interrupted by Lavender}

… going through the sale theory books at Verso, striking how monotonous the refrain is that these books deal with the present.

Strikes me, because it is exactly of the present that we are forgetful.

back to Verso:

Book after book:

  • in Glitch Feminism the divide between the digital and the real world no longer exists (Legacy Russell)
  • in Immediacy, or The Style of Too Late Capitalism contemporary cultural style boosts (what else?) transparency and immediacy, values absorbed from our current (!) conditions of disintermediation, meaning services like Uber “but for art” (!?) cutting out the middle man … “Immediacy names this style …” (Anna Kornbluh)
  • On the New … need I say more (Boris Groys)
  • 24/7: the ruinous consequences of “the expanding non-stop processes of twenty-first-century capitalism” … [here a blending of uber-timeliness and a super-over-determining temporality: like China Miéville’s train in Iron Council that lays down its track in front of it.] (Johnathan Crary)
  • Hal Foster in What Comes After Farce? confronts the present: where does the “double predicament” (o, innumerable predicaments; perhaps best to characterise the present as predicamental) of post-truth and post-shame politics leave “artists and critics on the left?”
  • Hito Steyerl “wonders how we can appreciate, or even make art, [sic] in the present age.”
  • In The Social Photo the rise of the smart phone and social media have made cameras ubiquitous. They are “infiltrating,” like enemy operatives, nearly every aspect of social life, their screens glowing with malicious intent. (Nathan Jurgenson)
  • “Given our anxieties today about the impact of Artificial Intelligence on labour and art,” Abigail Susek, herself an author of books, writes on With and Against, that Dominique Routhier’s study of the Situationist International “could not be more timely.” I didn’t know that Guy Debord wrote about the impact of AI on labour and art. It makes me anxious to think that maybe he did.
  • on the Situationists again, in McKenzie Wark’s The Beach Beneath the Street, their legacy continues to inspire activists, artists and theorists around the world, up to the present we’re living in right now.
  • in Automation and the Future of Work, we’re living on the cusp of rapid technological automation heralding the end of work. (Aaron Benanav)
  • Henri Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life is just that in three volumes.
  • increased politicisation of artistic practice since the twentieth century’s “bleak” beginning (Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde, John Roberts), neoliberalism’s failure and austerity forcing millions into the precariat, leaving the left trapped in “stagnant political practices that offer no respite” [my emph.] in its sequel (Inventing the Future, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams).
  • Many people have to “double-down” on wage-slavery, working harder, doing overtime and learning to hustle. (Jason Read’s The Double Shift: Spinoza and Marx on the Politics of Work) A must read for students of contemporary capitalism, says Kathi Weeks.
  • Work on the contemporary scene also the topic of Frédéric Lordon’s Willing Slaves of Capital. Renewed interest in communism allegedly paired with an “abandonment of any concrete political perspective in Communism and Strategy (Isabelle Garo). The breaking of the iron law of social reproduction in Transclasses, Chantal Jacquet.
  • Systems Ultra describes a world of networked technologies, global supply chains and supranational regulations we are told is impossible to understand and far beyond our control. (Georgina Voss)
  • James Bridle’s New Dark Age: we live in times of increasing inscrutability. Sinews of War and Trade: China is now the factory of the world. A “parade” of ships full of raw commodities, iron ore, oil, coal, arrive in its ports and “fleets” of container ships leave full of manufactured goods (Laleh Kahlili). The key to understanding the future lies in the past in Lizzie O’Shea’s Future Histories. Road to Nowhere shows us what Silicon Valley, in the words of the subtitle, gets wrong about the future of transportation (by the wonderfully named Paris Marx). Everywhere we turn a “startling” new device promises to transfigure our lives (if not revolutionise them). That’s Radical Technologies, Adam Greenfield.
  • While in an “original and timely book,” well, aren’t they all? Matteo Pasquinelli unpacks the intelligence of artificial intelligence. At a moment, just this moment, “when apostles and prophets” proclaim both a “utopian world of effortless control and a catastrophe of extinction.” (The Eye of the Master)
  • our finances, politics, media, opportunities, information, shopping and knowledge production are mediated through algorithms in Revolutionary Mathematics, Justin Joque (really). And what happened to the public intellectuals “that” used to challenge and inform us? asks McKenzie Wark in General Intellects, generally answering their own question. Who can argue with Fredric Jameson? It’s an age of globalization characterized by the dizzying technologies of the First World and the social disintegration of the Third World where the question of utopia is possibly meaningless. (Archeologies of the Future)
  • our standing, walking body holds the social traumas of history and its racialised inequalities, even, in How We Walk, Matthew Beaumont.
  • walking in the other direction, by walking you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history (A Philosophy of Walking, Frédéric Gros).
  • in the history of colonialism, racism, sexism, capitalism, there has long been a dividing line between bodies “worthy of defending” and those who have been disarmed and rendered defenseless. Illustrations will be found. (Self-Defense, Elsa Dorlin)
  • the crisis-laden capitalism of the 21st century lingers on (possibly because so does the 21st century) in Mute Compulsion, Søren Mau. Don’t despair, one of them was saved: in The New Spirit of Capitalism sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello go to the heart of changes in contemporary capitalism. Don’t presume, theories of “postmodern” fragmentation, “difference” and contingency can barely accommodate the idea of capitalism, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism. One of them was damned.
  • an increasingly authoritarian present. This is Late Fascism, Alberto Toscano.
  • from the outset liberalism, as a philosophical position and ideology, has been bound up with the most illiberal of policies: slavery, colonialism, genocide, racism and, worse, snobbery. Liberalism, Domenico Losurdo.
  • Jessica Whyte uncovers the place of human rights in attempts to develop a moral framework for a market society. Rather than rejecting rights, neoliberals developed a distinctive account of human rights as tools to depoliticise civil society, protect private investments and shape liberal subjects. The Morals of the Market, human rights in their fatal embrace.
  • contemporary debates on Black radicalism and decolonisation have lost sight of the concerns that animated their twentieth-century intellectual forebears. Red Africa, Kevin Ochieng Okoth.
  • another school, another legacy. The Frankfurt School, Immanent Critiques, Martin Jay; the work done by its founding members continues in the twenty-first century to unsettle conventional wisdom about culture, society and politics, Splinters in Your Eye, also Martin Jay.
  • unsparing in its contention that with almost no exceptions the post-Hegelian tradition prepared the ground for fascist thought. The main culprits, Friedrich Nietzsche and Martín Heidegger are accused, in turn, of introducing irrationalism into social and philosophical thought, pronounced antagonism to the idea of progress in history, an aristocratic view of the masses and, consequently, hostility to socialism, in its classic expression comprising movements for popular democracy, especially, not exclusively, the expropriation of most private property in terms of material production. Georg Lukács, The Destruction of Reason.
  • Why do Benjamin, Adorno, Marcuse, Horkheimer matter today? in the words of the title of another book, the ruthless critique of everything existing (Andrew Feenberg) but, this one, Stuart Jeffries’s Grand Hotel Abyss, to end on an up note, looks much more fun.

>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<

The chain of association I form with the term advocacy leads directly to the New Zealand Arts Council, aka Creative New Zealand, aka the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council and, it will not be spoken but it must now be since as such it is in statute, the King Charles III Arts Council of New Zealand.

Why it should do so is not very interesting but that it might help clarify the meaning of advocacy might be.

What the Arts Council’s role is is a matter for policy, where, in the making of policy, for arts and culture, there has over successive governments in NZ been nothing.

Once upon a time the role of the Arts Council was funding and, at an even greater distance in time from us, once upon a time, the legend goes, the role of the Arts Council was advocacy, to advocate, on behalf of artists and arts organisations, to the government. It seems absurd now. That government would have, would ever have had, council officials turning up asking for this or that on behalf of artists, even $$$, seems absurd, especially $$$. Everyone now knows that the government’s job is to save not spend, to pay overseas debt. Payments were reported in September 2023 to be at @3% of USD204,500,000,000, going by the exchange rate 23 March 2024, that’s NZ$341,060,805,500, so NZ$11,368,693,516,666.67 per anum.

In 2000 I had the idea, although the figures were not as overwhelming and the prospect not as absurd of asking for $$$, that advocacy might take another form. Advocacy might take a political form and the Arts Council advocate for the political protection of artists and arts organisations.

The Arts Council could advocate on behalf of artists and arts organisations that what they do, the making they do of art works of every form, be given political protection under statute, the statute, it turns out, already in place at the foundation of the Arts Council, of being a patron. The Arts Council, a crown entity, is in statute under the patronage of his Royal Highness Charles III.

Political protection, that of patronage, would confer on artists and arts organisations a positive freedom, the legal right guaranteed by the legislature, the legal right to cultural production. Artists and arts organisations would be free to make art in whatever form they wished. The central question would cease to be, Where’s the money supposed to come from? And so would the central answer. Funding policy should then be directed to vouchsafing to those artists and arts organisations no more and no less than the freedom to create.

I wrote that this political principle was higher than the economic principle here.

Today I think of this as a positive statement and opposed to the sort of objective view that would repeat the economic question and answer’s centrality in arts’ funding, Where’s the money supposed to come from? To the question of funding it opposes that of advocacy, its answer that higher than the economic principle (of patronage) is the political principle (of patronage) protecting the creative freedom of artist and arts organisation.

I also think of advocacy in this positive sense as opposing the diagnostic view that would simply repeat the problems faced by artists and arts organisations in New Zealand Aotearoa. |…|

legitimating them |…|

|…| = break

the occasion for the above reverie was Shayne Carter’s

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>&

for another occasion, a post from CNZ on F___B___:

this was posted as

in the creative community, we are all now arts advocates, while CNZ is …?

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Adam Shatz’s review of Dosse’s double biography of Deleuze and Guattari led to a question I had not thought until now to ask:

What has capitalism to do to survive?

Shatz represents the argument Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus presents, the first volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, to be dealing with what capitalism has to do to survive because “at its most extreme,” he writes, “capitalism encourages a kind of generalised schizophrenia, a shatteringly intense fracturing of subjectivity.” (source)

Deleuze and Guattari so suggest, Shatz says; maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but does capitalism at its most intense encourage a kind of generalised schizophrenia, a mind-shatteringly intense fracturing of sense of self? … or, is this intense shattering as the subject, as the individual manifests it not the critique of a kind of capitalism?

Maybe it is; maybe it’s not. Another kind of question, If this were the case, if capitalism encouraged a kind of generalised schizophrenia, would it or would it not survive? I think at the moment it does.

Doesn’t it? Most of us, while appreciating the kind of generalised schizophrenia that afflicts the general populace, don’t get as far as schizophrenia as a diagnostic category; we get stopped, or we stop ourselves. We might get a bit manic but as depressives we go and get a bit medicated.

Then, Oedipus, nuclear family, domestic stability, these are the drugs that capitalism used, Shatz says Deleuze and Guattari are saying, in order that it survive the generalised schizophrenia it was encouraging; as if schizophrenia were at that point when Anti-Oedipus was being written a threat to its survival.

It’s harder at this point to say whether schizophrenia did threaten capitalism’s survival: I mean, Deleuze and Guattari were accused of encouraging schizophrenia as a political force to counter capitalism. They wrote as if there was some hope of finding in desire unleashed in schizo flows a revolutionary potential. They wrote as if capitalism might not survive a truly generalised schizophrenia.

Today, as the song goes, I’m not so sure.

Today, the question is, What is capitalism doing to us to survive?

If we can find out what capitalism is using on us, what stories as well as what drugs and what those drugs are for, we can say what it is today that is a threat to its survival. Or…

…it’s our own extinction that capitalism will not survive. Isn’t it strange how covid has disabused us of this notion! Capitalism will get by very well without us. (The failure of biopolitics.)

What do we believe in today apart from our identities?

(&&&[Deleuze])=-1...
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Dubravka Ugrešić R.I.P. literature? 27 March 1949 – 17 March 2023

Who knows, maybe one day there will no longer be Literature. Instead there will be literary web sites. Like those stars, still shining but long dead, the web sites will testify to the existence of past writers. There will be quotes, fragments of texts, which prove that there used to be complete texts once. Instead of readers there will be cyber space travelers who will stumble upon the websites by chance and stop for a moment to gaze at them. How will they read them? Like hieroglyphs? As we read the instructions for a dishwasher today? Or like remnants of a strange communication that meant something in the past, and was called Literature?

— Dubravka Ugrešić, from her website, https://www.dubravkaugresic.com/

I loved Europe in Sepia and regularly dip into her other writing. If you haven’t read her books, they remain and, despite what she says above, that literature does not mean forever, they are forever literature.

(And that of course means that literature and she herself are only, as my friend P. says, dead at the moment.)

In another of Dubravka Ugrešić’s books, The Age of Skin, LARB notes that she is documenting

…“the last battle […] being waged between banning the red star and fully destigmatizing the swastika. The swastika is winning the fight […] black and swarming like cockroaches.”

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in his image

                                                                            
listen to the deep
	along the lines of
the face and darkness.

a spark, a sink
	among the eggshells

outside it all was broken into pieces

and I said, the darkness is not total
	the chaos is not     fatal
		or even original

although, what did Brian think?
	it is genetic	his favourite
drink     his Boy George hat but
      he was skinny  a grenadine
a double, sinking in his beer like pisschrist,
shotglass   wobbles to the bottom of the pint.

bi   drunk and on her single bed he was having
  a threesome with Tracey he came out and said
    with Tracey and a friend, punk girlfriend 
      and he had to stop to take timeout
        he said, two punks and a goth
            he had come they had not
              because of his one lung
          use his inhaler have a cigarette
            then go back in again   because
              he said he liked to watch,


Depth-charge, depth-charger Brian says
   he said it so it rhymes with plays
     it's not a competition to see if he could
       break the record he set on 
   the last time dole day, Thursday's dole day
           of how many he could drink
             and more than once 
           he comes home to the flat bashed in
             and spent the rent and 
               Tracey fixed him up, and he 
                 liked women 

but he said,
    he was sad and had     one lung:

     how many can you 
       and can you afford to


    the shot glass sinks to the bottom
                of the pint glass

       it goes it goes wobbly then goes
                             clink

softly too,

	afterwards, after Brian's bashed in for
		   what he says it rhymes with lays
               to the men at the bar 
        and jokes that pieces are always
      falling off him always are and they
    say fucking queer and Tony pulls him away

		he was deaf in one ear.

		  too soft to hear.

I left him in the mall at Cashel Street
          it was the eighties '83
  badges clinking on his blazer the satin
    lapels stained with dribbles or semen
      always are     I saw him
                with his one leg
                  and crooked smile
                    walk a crooked mile

to see a sad friend that he had who
                topped herself
  so he says it rhymes with stays
    and a man    about a dog
    and a man    about a pea, Miranda said
      who shrinks down to the size
        of suicide
          and is dead         who
                    gets inside your head
            inserts himself in your ear
                              who
                                is bent
who means it always did and stays there

down deeper than a vacuum cleaner
  deeper down than vomit vomit that
    they cannot clear
      a human vacuum cleaner

Tracey now is picking at the carpet
  pinching fluff between her fingers
    finding coins 
      and applecores 
        behind the sofa
          the flat
            came down in a demo
              don't look for it
         I read the cantos in the turret
       but that is not where it began

I began as we all do and I did not become
 insufficient   brothers sisters brothers
                  take my arms

take me outside no I'm not like we all do 
                going to be sick take
                  my hair    need
                    something from me

along these lines and on the fourth day
                    he found inspiration
                      it came to him
                        as it was on
           the first day of creation and
                          God said
                            Order up!

He thought 
        I do think the birds sing to me
                      piu piu piu piu
                        like owls the
                          ringneck doves
                              and a bird
        sang Speak speak speak speak
                            as he passed

            casting shadows on the deep
         and as it was 
            as it was what he was thinking
      at the time I think at the time
            the present
   passed over like clouds casting
                    shadows on the deep

                    why write when I can
                    speak     ? why work
                    when I can sleep   ?

so he dreamt he was a famous star
  playing in a famous scene and
    at the bar a minor bird called out
      Mister where have you been?

he dreamt he was Julie Andrews
  skiing with her groom
    on the mountains of the moon

dreamt of sweeping wide and wider still
  round the corners of a frozen hill
    a snow-carpeted hill
     he dreamt he was in Switzerland

He dreamt of sitting in the window
  with a garden view and his love
    who was a woman who
      He stood up in and
        saw into his soul

and   how many   needed nothing

and he dreamt so he dreamt 
   of the groom and the vacuum
     of the scene and the actor
       of the pea in his ear
         of the man and the beer

         of steps being taken
       suspicions he was faking

how many thoughts are dreams    ?
  and how many dreams are
    how many dreams    are there

as if dreams are our mother
  when she married memories
    after sleeping with chaos

he dreamt of an eternal cafe table
  and of waiting on it
    when God said Order up!
      but he was unable

how many dreams are memories
  and how many thoughts are
    how many thoughts    are there?

his mother in the bath
  her pubes all tangled in the water
    a tattered butterfly 
     who he said to he thought
       it's worth it
         I think so too 
          and waited to

each shall be given
    the deserving and the non
      the believing and the non

god's gift    he said   as an actor
you're not    too soft  
                  for the extractor

Tracey was a human vacuum cleaner
      no, not that way
Is the light on   ?
  Have the right steps been taken
    is the vomit clear?
      is there a man in your ear?
        a man here and   he says
         it rhymes with pays
           no, not that way

suspicions he was faking 
          were mistaken
he did not awaken   god's gift

from the lucky and the un
forsaken and un
  from father son and holy one
      will be taken   God's gift
       he was not and from a man
        in your rear depth-
         charging your beer
          the fizz
           holy un
 from the gearshift she sat on
 to Brian with his hat on
   Louie frothing at the mouth
          one is 
            not enough

from the fizz of creation this
  one man is not      this man
    was my brother    he was
      in arms     taken
        in his image  as was
          God's gift  in his

from mother and daughter
  to mother-daughter too
    to unmother daughter
      my daughter
        how deep is
           the water is it
      
in his image    god's gift
            too    ?








[11 March 2023]

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juan gelman 2 poems \\// a small piece of Animal Joy by Nuar Alsadir

Hay que hundir las palabras en la realidad

hasta hacerlas delirar como ella.

You have to bury the words in reality,

make them hallucinate the way reality does.

- José Galván


epigraph to Relations, poems 1971-1973, Buenos Aires, by Juan Gelman, translated by Joan Lindgren

CONFIDENCES


he sits down at the table and writes
"with this poem you won't take power" he says
"with these verses you won't make the Revolution" he says
"nor with thousands of verses will you make the Revolution" he says

what's more: those verses won't make
peons teachers woodcutters live better
eat better or him himself eat live better
nor will they make a girl fall in love with him

they won't earn him money
they won't get him into the movies free
he can't buy clothes with them
or trade them for wine or tobacco

no scarves no parrots no boats
no bull no umbrellas can he get for them
they will not keep him dry in the rain
nor get him grace or forgiveness

"with this poem you won't take power" he says
"with these verses you won't make the Revolution" he says
"nor with thousands of verses will you make the Revolution" he says
he sits down at the table and writes



- Juan Gelman

– Valerio Bispuri, from Encarrados

“confidences” and the next poem, from Selected Poems, Juan Gelman, edited and translated by Joan Lindgren, University of California, Los Angeles, 1997

NOTE XXV

beloved friends / friends dead
in combat or by betrayal or torture /
I do not forget you though I love a woman /
I do not forget you because I love / as

you yourselves once loved / remember? /
how you walked in beauty through the air / how you fought? /
and the warmth of a woman loomed up in your face /
remember? I remember

having seen in you a woman shining
in the midst of painful combat /
then you shone immortal
against pain / against death /

now sleeping ones some
sweet shadow silently touches you
preparing your stand
against the dogs of oblivion

here’s my idea of character in short: “The essence of pleasure,” writes Søren Kierkegaard, “does not lie in the thing enjoyed, but in the accompanying consciousness.”

Nuar Alsadir, where this is found, continues: Think of a madeleine… When I do, I think of the accompanying consciousness for which the madeleine is no more than the schematic.

Intuition, the most familiar kind of embodied knowledge, often has the adjective feminine preceding it. Hysteria, marked by the conversion of feelings and thoughts into bodily symptoms, is generally seen as a feminine disorder (its etymological root is hystericus, meaning “from the womb”) and carries a negative connotation associated with an emotional excess that obstructs reason–being too much. Even my beloved Joyce reportedly said, in response to being asked what he thought of writer Gertrude Stein, “I hate intellectual women.” What is so threatening about this way of knowing?

“We have been raised,” according to the writer Audre Lorde, “to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings” because it threatens any system that calls upon us to prioritize external logic over internal knowledge. “The True Self comes from the aliveness of the body tissues and the working of body-functions,” explains writer Winnicott of his version of the yes within ourselves, “including the heart’s action and breathing.” Trained to suppress the True Self and what Lorde calls the erotic power of “nonrational knowledge,” we settle for lesser understanding, permitting essential meaning and emotion to be lost.

— Nuar Alsadir, Animal Joy, (London, UK: Fizcarraldo, 2022), 69-70

… the yes within ourselves … aliveness of the body tissues and working of body-functions including the heart’s action and breathing equate with Deleuze’s affirmative power (of the false and) of philosophy, positive difference; and equates with duration, for Bergson. Life animated by duration, in the living tissue and rhythms of breath and heart: it is a wealth, energy source and source of creative energy.

– Joan Miró, Metamorphosis, 1936

YOU ARE HER
EXIT

— Alsadir, op. cit., 297

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On the resignation of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: towards a politics of change

[this article is available to read in personal document format, in black on white, here]

Prime Minister Ardern resigned. Although it deals with what has been said about her time in office and her exit from it, the article that follows is neither valedictory nor a critique. I wanted to deal with what has not been said. I think her resignation speaks for itself but to get to what that is I think we have to go through the most obvious reason for it, the public animus towards her that has led to death threats, threats of physical and sexual violence. I do think gender politics are at work here however the article starts not from the political context but from the antipolitical.

I take this term from The End of the End of History, 2021, a book answering to Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of the end of history when, with the fall of the Soviet bloc, there no longer seemed to be any opposition to capitalist western democracy in its global political reach. History had made it the winner, on the day, at least, because The End of the End is about historical and political forces that have made it appear this no longer to be the case. One of these new forces is antipolitical.

My use of this book comes from its urgency and cogency. With the qualifications that I make below, it is the best, although for the worse, diagnosis, of what I understand of this historical political moment. It is so for its diagnosis of antipolitics. Its urgency belongs to the problem of antipolitics for politics and I see this problem and part of its solution, that I deal with in the final part of the article, as being played out in Ardern’s prime ministership and in the event her resignation.

The End of the End of History states the problem of politics in stark terms: the antipolitics of what are global anti-government movements, in New Zealand particularly in the wake of COVID, and the equally global populism after Berlusconi in Italy, Trump in the USA, Bolsanaro in Brazil, and others, OR political leadership and the organisation the political realm requires. The writers define the political as the conflictual itself and describe any effort to avoid conflict, for example in the intersection, the intersectionality, of leftist programmes of reform, as being part of the problem. In addition, as well as efforts at change that attempt to avoid the political apparatus and its institutions, thinking them incorrigibly corrupted and compromised, included in antipolitics are leaderless popular movements, like Occupy. Political leadership and political organisation are requirements for meaningful political change.

The authors of The End of the End of History, Hochuli, Hoare and Cunliffe, make one more requirement visible, the support of the proletariat. Without the support of the working class, the precariat, all those engaged in the gig economy, the Left is an exercise in pointlessness. They accuse the Left of abandoning the proletariat and its interests. This, they make clear, insofar as populist leaders mobilise and capture anti-government sentiment, goes a long way to explaining the global reach of populism.

The global proletariat has united over the cause of—what else but?liberty. The abandonment by the Left of its own traditions of taking its support from the proletariat also in large part explains the failure of extra-governmental popular movements like the Colour Revolutions, starting with the Arab Spring, in carrying through with the promise of political change. The status quo or worse returns after it not because it does not have the people behind it but for the inability of an anti-political movement to imagine a politics to come after it. As Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Žižek has said, It’s not the revolution that I’m interested in, it’s the day after the revolution and what happens the day after I worry about. Liberty turns out as political irrelevance: it turns out as liberty from politics and from even the possibility of political liberation.

The End of the End of History‘s greatest virtue is the description of antipolitics, that and the definition of politics as conflict, the flight from either politics or conflict turning up as antipolitics. The appeal of fascism joins in antipolitics with the cry of freedom and the appeal to a politics in despite of politics, like Trump’s call to drain the swamp. In New Zealand this antipolitics reached apotheosis with the 2022 occupation of parliament grounds, where the messaging went Left and Right, with Freedom and MAGA placards and the backing of Destiny Church, and somewhere uncharted but unmistakably anti-government with the anti-colonial sentiment of Māori, white supremacism mixing it up with indigeneity.

The occupation was ostensibly to protest lockdowns and mandatory vaccination. As such, the fervour of its antipolitics ought to have died down to the usual smouldering resentment of the alienated, disenfanchised and quite literally dispossessed in the case of Māori. Without cohering into a political programme, it has if anything become more nuggety and metastasised as a strain of antipolitical thought directly in conflict with established political institutions. Or rather it is the entire political apparatus and its institutions that now placed in the context of antipolitics is seen as a singular blob, as no-longer living and intransigent, many-tentacled but dead, a Thing.

One of its tentacles is institutional colonialism. One is empty intellectualism and self-serving academicism and cultural elitism. Another is the Professional Managerial or Middle Class. Another is the arbitrary biopolitical controls of enforced vaccination. Another is the Man who is a woman who is Woke who tells us what to do.

Since each infects the others, all are hateful. For example, government is itself seen to be a colonial institution and the wokeness of the Prime Minister who is a woman is not a sign of moral superiority but of political domination. All are hateful and all is one. Furthermore, as a dead Thing, the Establishment cannot change or be changed. It must—what else?—be hated on, since what this verdict does is leave to antipolitics no political recourse, no recourse to the existing political apparatus and its institutions. Like the Colour Revolutions, a change of regime, as is likely in the next New Zealand election, is sure to lead to the same or something worse.

Where The End of the End of History has a blindspot is where the real impasse is. Antipolitics as a politics that excludes political change, whether for the sake of ruling out conflict or for the reason it cannot by its nature imagine an alternative, exists to hide the fact that neoliberalism is also a politics that excludes the power, the strictly political power, of change. Neoliberalism, by excluding its own political potential, excludes even its possibility.

There is no alternative. Within this purview, of the diagnosis of antipolitics being symptomatic of neoliberalism, seeking support in the proletariat is stonecold cynicism: it is the cancer asking support of its metastases. The winner of the next New Zealand election will do this.

For abrogating that power neoliberalism is a politics without power. Neoliberalism occurs in multiple initiatives practically in all areas of human affairs, from economics to science, cultural management to therapy. Those initiatives are to transfer master slave relations onto a network of governance and interconnected cliency. They are driven, what the economic historian Philip Mirowski calls the Neoliberal Thought Collective is driven, by a fear of totalitarianism along with the insight that the open market, for being a collector and distributor of brain-power, also offers the best to-hand protection against it, against communisation and against fascism. In practice what this has meant is that power is evolved to the technical apparatus running the global financial market. In action what it means is the dark fears around the development of AI and humans becoming both mirror-struck by their own technical accomplishment, as well as politically and economically enslaved by it.

Human conflict is settled by the technical apparatus where the Thought Collective of Neoliberalism, since its thought to avert totalitarianism and the repeat of the catastrophes of the 20th century, is determined to hide and bury human agency. The truth of this is double. The Collective seeks to see it done as well as to hide the fact that it is doing it.

Human actions and agency, at all levels, from science and the workings of reason, to welfare and education, to monetary controls and financial products themselves, are then financialised in order to be put at the disposal of the technical apparatus running the global financial market as far as possible. Here human decisions can be taken out of human hands. Thinking that neoliberalism has failed, national programmes to roll back globalisation, do not restore human agency. Neither do they restore the political.

A small but significant part of this evolution of the human to the technical, of the human conflict that defines the political to the interconnectedness of marketplaces, can be seen in the success, during the last two years of worldwide pandemic achieved of migrating services, again at all levels, education, participation in decision-making, meetings of scientists and of friends, to digitality. The idealism media are witness to with AI, for and against, is reflected in the passage to digitality, as if it had come to save us and by preying on our emotional lives destroy us. This is also seen in academics’ favouring of a post-humanism, the non-human or the more than human. Meanwhile the Superman has arrived and is living in Unreal Engine.

There is also enormous vanity and idealism around the intersecting political interests centred on the ecological movement that want change, appeals to feeling, demagoguery and an old definition of politics revised by intersectionality to be inclusive and non-conflictual. So that it is not really a politics at all. The reason for this is not so much a blindness to what has happened to politics as an antipolitical distrust of a political realm that can effect change, a distrust that is symptomatic and that speaks the truth for the diagnosis of neoliberalism.

Even if the book doesn’t link neoliberalism and antipolitics as I have done, this is The End of the End of History‘s verdict. The question it raises is, once antipolitics is taken into account, and politics is seen to require organisation, political leadership and is understood to be the conflictual itself, not what is to be done but what can be done anymore that can be called politics?

The definition of the conflictual being of politics throws up the background, that is antipolitics, and the attempt by political interests to assuage it, answer it, is one that continually gets caught up in it. I would say it cannot get free of it, as if politics had been usurped by a double that is its negation. The third requirement, if there is hope, it lies with the proletariat, then makes sense. There is more heat, more energy, more conflict and more money, as media organisations are aware and try to capture it, in antipolitics. The path to where the money is at is paved with resentment and it is here that the best intentions lead.

The End of the End of History wants to tell us what is to be done but I think it states the problem more powerfully than it gives the solution. The solution it gives is, like George Orwell wrote, If there is hope, it lies in the proles. The proles in my view are the living symptoms of political neoliberalism. Neither they, because of antipolitics, nor the political apparatus and its institutions, because of neoliberalism, can be captured and mobilised to effect change.

Political change has to come from politics. How can there be politics on top of antipolitics? That, in the second part of this article, is what I want to address.

What struck me first was the metaphor Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern used to announce her stepping down from office: the tank is empty. Others, on only the strength of the news of her resignation, usually accompanied by the soundbite, went directly to her personal life. She must be exhausted. She has had to deal with an earthquake, a massacre, a pandemic and its economic fallout.

The personal fallout is intense on the public figure at the best of times. At the worst it’s almost unthinkable. Then, because politically, as traditionally defined, she, unlike Johnson, has been unchallenged, there is the political fallout of antipolitics. There that conflict has been hottest, where the media have often led, of the death threats, pornographic and misogynist insults, and to repeat Žižek on her behalf, With supporters like these who needs detractors?

Her supporters have not meant to insult but to express their Kiwi familiarity by using the first name while with a male automatically they would use the surname. So, introducing nuance into the valedictory outpouring of opinion, Key’s resignation was compared by one supporter with Jacinda’s. The similarity was that both resignations were timely. In order to protect the brand, Labour like National earlier had given a push. What the brand was being protected from, because without their support the brand would suffer, was the potential of corporate interests to be looking elsewhere, on the basis, indicating that her personal political star had fallen, of the antipolitical storm.

That this storm, although media tried to peddle it to a global audience, was local occurred to some. They wrote that New Zealand had been the envy of the world. Prime Minister Ardern, despite the efforts of media to supplant her locally with sports’ stars, was a star of the world stage. The world’s press, apart from Fox, were largely in agreement with this.

Politics, political commentary, for trying to appeal to a mass audience and to capture its heat, energy, popularity, tends to fall back into antipolitics. Politics, neoliberalism, and its negative, antipolitics, can however be said to characterise the division in opinion, and the divisiveness with which the Rt. Hon. Ardern has been labelled. One side goes to her political legacy, while the other is either loudly or softly cynical.

Her legacy will stand. It will be stronger for her not having led her government to defeat. This is where cynicism creeps in, rather than face defeat, she ran. Or she was pushed.

The pro-political side of the team goes back to her achievements. The less pro, to the many obstacles she faced. The anti says that she achieved nothing, and as I’ve tried to say, given we are under neoliberalism, there’s truth to this. She came in on a platform of change, particularly social change and nothing changed.

The pro allows itself to be swept up by her personal qualities as these were published to the world, her kindness, as well as her statesmanlike endurance under fire. In the eyes of the pro-political, her kindness becomes a political act. Through it she procures political change ruffling the Angry online Birds’ feathers as little as possible. It’s the most sensible of middle ways.

For the anti-political, her kindness is a liability, her smile a taunt. Her retreat from politics is evidence she was never cut out for it. Her hugging of Muslim women after the Christchurch shooting was proof of a mindless pusillanimity. The image, replayed on the big screen in Times Square, proves the world is taking refuge in emotionalism. Mawkish sentimentality, it is further proof of the feminisation, a dangerous feminisation, of a sphere defined by conflict, the political. Again she was not, she is not cut out for it.

That smile is like daggers into the heart of a certain pro-political type. This type sees the whole act, seeing through the whole act, to the reality. It is a publicity stunt, PR. Politics cannot now be distinguished from antipolitics.

The type allows she knows what she’s doing. She’s smart. They sit with the antipolitical as well, since they consider her smile to be her hanging on to power by her teeth.

When it came to the resignation, they didn’t change their mind. They said, You did nothing. Get out! Unlike the extremist from the other side, the anti-political, they didn’t say, We’ll shoot or rape you.

What this pro-political type intended by saying, You did nothing, is, You did nothing in political terms. No listing of her political achievements will dissuade them. Politics is for them free from window-dressing, and the Rt. Hon. Ardern was simply a mannequin. She was dressed up in the shop window, for the Instagram, to sell this season’s fashion in corporatist apologism.

At one end of the continuum of the cynical, although it might not go as far as using the neoliberalism word, she was a front for the interests of private corporations that constitutes the Party line. The attitude is softer, only just, of those who see in her a mascot, and softer altogether of those who say, Can you blame her? For them, the party line is the family, private life and the freedom to have one that holding public office takes away.

Sometimes people take the nearest to hand, the opinions of their friends, their families, their self-regard. Whether on the side of the anti- or pro-political, that neither altogether coincides with being anti-government, is rather anti big government or governmentality, nor matches, but rather tends to cut through these lines, Left or Right, they react out of reflex. They say, You know, Neve, her 4 year-old, could also have been targeted, and Clarke. He’s stood by her. He’s been amazing. I say, Good for her!

In the contemporary context, taking what is nearest to hand includes online interlocutors and these include virtually everybody who has an opinion, whether journalist or bot, critic or fanatic. Anybody who potentially has an influence is near at hand. Lovers the same as strangers are in the positions of intimacy granted by our personal devices.

A lot has been made of how we edit them. We should not, for example, listen to Russian bots. However convincing their brand of propaganda may be, our friends and well-meaning strangers will warn us off. Not a lot has been made however of how inclusive this circle of influence is. We are intimate with the textual services of hundreds, of thousands and virtually of billions (4.74 billion in 2022, Kepios).

The resignation caused an online cull, in my limited view of what was happening online. By the day after 19 January 2023 profile pictures were being swapped out for postage stamp presskit photos of the Rt. Hon. On the Thursday itself, challenges were put up, by that side I’ve called the pro-political, demanding that followers and friends who are anti out themselves. They meant anti the PM, but they also meant to call out those responsible for the resignation.

The strategy was to out themselves as being sad at Prime Minister Ardern’s resignation, gutted that it had come to this, and to see who responded, who was for, who against, who were the haters, the misogynist and resentful. By their misogyny and resentment, amounting to the same thing, would they be known. Once known, they would be cut from the circle of intimacy, unfollowed, unfriended.

Once named, they would be hated on, shat on, sworn at. It seemed like it wasn’t sadness driving this cull but anger at a portion of the local population who were blamed. Her accessibility, her Kiwi accessibility, become a liability, it was to blame for having made the PM a prisoner of her press. Subject to threats of physical and sexual violence, it had forced her out. The tank was empty to deal with it and, the cynical response came back, to deal with her bad press.

The cynical, as I’ve said, need not be anti. They might simply hold their political standards to be higher, but, all down the line, the pro-political line that tends to be leftist, the higher-ups were calling those below them stupid. The haters, the anti, were stupid and did not deserve her. The pro, that type I talked about before, called those who loved her stupid.

The Left finds it hard to acknowledge antipolitics. This is a large part of its ineffectuality today, that it cannot acknowledge either its own as being antipolitics or that the very group it needs to be politically effective and to effect change is today antipolitical. The Left finds it hard to acknowledge its own antipolitics because it tends to neoliberalism, while the Right’s tendency is to antipolitics.

The Left’s difficulty in acknowledging the antipolitics of the working class, and Labour in New Zealand Aotearoa has its roots in the labour movement, that is due to a sense of betrayal, a betrayal that has played out over the decades since 1984 and repeated itself over the shorter timescale of Ardern’s tenure as prime minister, is itself due to two factors. One of them is simple. It links to kindness and the idea of a new kind of leadership to hold up against counter-examples, like Trump, throughout the world.

The simple reason is that Labour sees itself as a benefactor to the poor and downtrodden, the disenfranchised, disenchanted, dispossessed, the working class in short. It doesn’t represent in the conflictual realm of politics them but is their advocate, and this also provides the reason for there being a sense of betrayal, accelerated during the Ardern government. The Rt. Hon. Ardern came to power on a moral mission not a political one.

Politically, what needed to be addressed was neoliberalism and the way it needed to be addressed was and is by taking antipolitics into consideration. This moralism has been part of Labour’s political appeal. However it is felt politically to have failed locally, however Prime Minister Ardern is felt politically to have failed locally, globally she is an example and can be held up against other world leaders for her personal example.

I have already touched on the more complicated reason for the Left being ill-equipped to deal with antipolitics. Labour in NZ has failed to consider or to imagine that politically it represents neoliberalism. There is the historical circumstance of an earlier political formation, liberalism, identified with the Left. But also there is the pressing problem of the present: the political courage to undertake economic change.

Mark Blythe, critic of austerity, co-author of Angrynomics, makes the point that, during the COVID pandemic, the political courage to undertake economic change showed itself as it rarely has done. Even though at the macro level the wheels kept turning, governments, through city-wide and nation-wide lockdowns, turned local economies off. This courage was not however lauded but vilified, as populist antipolitical movements are testament. It was called authoritarian, to set us on the road to totalitarianism.

We have then the fear that inspired neoliberalism and its answer to it, free markets. We also have the Left’s inability to shift itself out of its moral rut, which acknowledging antipolitics would entail. This includes its own antipolitics, dividing the Left, that is the result of neoliberalism.

Left antipolitics like any antipolitics is against politics because it considers it essentially corrupt, so displacing politics onto the market to settle conflict. In the void left, instead of politics, there is morality. There is kindness, doing good, benevolence and advocacy for those labouring underneath but no political representation of them.

The representation the working class, the proletariat, precariat, gig workers, get is moral. It consists in advocacy for rights and whatever economic measures the system can afford. The system itself cannot afford to change, so there is no political courage.

In its way, the Right has taken a similar turn and replaced politics with morality. This stands to reason when we understand neoliberalism is about and came about to settle political conflict, outside of politics, through economic means. The difference between Right and Left is that the Right has no qualms about using the energy of antipolitics to drive its own ends. At least, dissent is present in the GOP but legal recourse is made before political recourse to deal with conflict.

Turning this theme on its head, it could be said that the political system itself or, as some have said already, democracy is incapable of surviving under neoliberalism. The political realm, or democracy, is redundant. All that is needed is economies and the controls that are immanent to them and that by no means should be put upon them. To do so, from either Left or Right, is political overstepping, a step on the path of the authoritarianism that Ardern was accused of by Fox News and that Trump was accused of also, that in fact any leader is who threatens the gentle organism conceived by the Neoliberal Thought Collective.

Sometimes we want to repeat what we want to believe is true. Before the public autopsies of her political leadership that have occurred since the Rt. Hon. Ardern’s resignation, an exhaustive list of her government’s achievements while in office circulated for a short time on Facebook. It came up in answer to critics who, sensing a change of mood, felt it safe to come out and say whatever was near at hand that they had on their minds.

Dating from and covering the 4 years before March 2022, it was a long list: letting fees banned, mental health initiatives implemented in schools, rent increases limited to once a year, zero fees for the first year of study at university, re-institution of apprenticeships, Healthy Homes Guarantee instituted, lifting of restriction and legalisation of abortion, minimum wage increases, as well as benefits’ increases, annually, more state houses built than any government since 1975, UK free trade deal signed, referenda on marijuana and euthanasia laws, veto on new drilling contracts, Carbon Neutral Act put in force, removal of many welfare sanctions, decades’ highest investment in rail, health and education, ban on property purchases by non-residents, Family Tax Credit raised, bright-line property tax raised (concerning the time between purchase and sale), free lunches and free sanitary products in schools, school fees banned, child poverty reduced, gun law reform, highest ever investment in conservation, sick leave doubled, enrollment to vote on election day enabled, parental leave extended, new public holiday, overseas political donation banned, conversion therapy banned, regional development fund instituted, increased investment in public transport, Ministry of Disabled People established, ACC special claims reinstated, hardship grants doubled, investment in infrastructure increased, all while dealing on a daily basis with a global pandemic. Paul Taylor is credited for the list. I shared it from Patrick Waller.

It may be said that the list is of whatever measures the system can afford, that it does not address underlying inequality and the unfairness of the system. It may be said that, rather than representing the needs and wishes of society at large or of those the system discriminates against, it is a list of measures in advocacy, and that it uses the law and legislature as a form of advocacy. This is what the National Party, in its already stated intention to roll back some of these measures, would probably believe and have the electorate believe, that it is Woke advocacy making bad use of the legal and political apparatus. All this may be said, but it is not nothing.

Perhaps if the achievements of the government with Ardern leading it were widely promulgated the mood would change back. Those against her would change their minds. The cynical might say, You’d be wasting your breath.

You’d be wasting your breath, wasting airtime, wasting money. Time and money are wasted thinking the facts speak for themselves or making an appeal to reason. Saying, Look at all she did, and look at what she did for you, you who are not a part of the power elite, saying these things would only heighten the resentment.

She did nothing. Window dressing. The inequalities are if anything now worse than they were before. The cynic will agree, anti- and pro-political meeting at this impasse that is an impasse of the political itself.

Where anti-political and pro meet is at a place that neither reason nor science can touch. It is at emotion. Emotion drives the sense of curtailed freedoms. Emotion drives the anarchic nihilism of leaderless popular movements that are categorically incapable of imagining a political alternative once they have destroyed the existing political structure. They are anti politics and yet there are no alternatives to the conflictual apart from the use of force, the use of police and army, to reinstate what was, but worse.

The question here has been, can there be a politics on top of antipolitics? Given its requirements, how can there be? If however we place the conflict in emotion we can ask, What is the emotion capable of leadership?

It is not pity, it’s conviction. The belief that the COVID vaccines were an attempt by the government at mass sterilisation may be absurd but it is belief. Antipolitics is most often invoked as being a loss of faith in the political system. The question is then how to be believed?

When Jacinda Ardern resigned what struck me was the metaphor, an irony now considering the tank is overflowing, Auckland floods and people have lost their lives and, in view of his measly response, a petition has been raised to oust the mayor. Kindness and pity, conviction in the political act being absent, whatever it might be, in response to this calamity or the ongoing catastrophe of ecological breakdown, would be welcome now. Jacinda has however resigned.

What struck me next about the resignation and that I wanted to avoid was attributing a cause. Some, I’ve said, grabbed what was close at hand. Some, I’ve said, took comfort in repeating either what others had said, finding emotional solidarity that way or in repeating what it was they wanted to believe, either the list of achievements, the legacy of leadership or its absence and insignificance. It held the emotional appeal of its moralism but it was all puff.

Even if you believed it was nothing really, you believed something and gave your reasons. You believed she was getting out and would leave her legacy. You believed she was getting out before she was voted out or because she was pushed.

I considered privately she had been pushed, pushed by those inside the party, not the government. The Labour Party leadership had lost faith in her brand. They no longer believed.

I looked beyond the soundbite and its emotional appeal, the excitement of whatever emotion you felt hearing and seeing her choke up. I think it came as a surprise. I think she was telling the truth. She had not told Neve because four-year olds are like small public address systems.

This is not the conviction I was talking about earlier as being the emotion of leadership but the ability to convince of a conviction. The decision to resign came both out of the blue and from deep personal conviction. Making reasons for it, explaining and mansplaining it, takes away its freedom. Binding it to psychological and political motivations, it does away with it being an act of free will and does away with the conviction behind it, a free political act.

In the act of leaving power, the Rt. Hon. Ardern showed me what being in power might be if to be in power was to act freely and out of deep personal conviction. Both are necessary. Both are necessary for a politics on top of antipolitics, that takes it into consideration as the negative double of neoliberalism. Imagine what defines politics to be the free act based on deep personal conviction. Imagine this to define the political act. Imagine if there were no other political act than the one defined like this and there was no compromise.

A free political act is unconstrained by expectation, by the expectation that seems to be there instantaneously online. The act of a free will announces itself out of the blue. It is a political act for coming from deep personal conviction into the political realm of the conflictual, where, whatever emotionalism may be attributed to it after the fact, it is an event.

Since the claims of the antipolitical are not illegitimate, since its anger is not misplaced, the will to political change has first to go through antipolitics. It has first to take the leap and see in it no obstacle and no obstacle in the political institutions and apparatus where that change, most of all economic change, can be effected. Human agency can only be won back in governing human affairs by human political agents.

Power cannot belong to politics when all that governments can do is either to address themselves to a collective loss of faith in the political or to the technical apparatus that power has evolved to running world financial markets. Fears of AI taking over are like the return of the repressed fear that AI already has. The political act, politics if it is to be defined by the free will and courage to act based on deep personal conviction, can only ever have a human agency.

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“Do you know what it is to feel marginalized, forbidden, buried alive at the age of thirty, thirty-five, when you can really begin to be a serious writer, and thinking that the marginalization is forever, to the end of time, or at least until the end of your fucking life?” – Leonardo Padura’s The Man Who Loved Dogs short excerpts, illustrated

… Asturias, where things were steaming following the drastic abolition of currency and private property and the creation of a proletarian army.

— Leonardo Padura, The Man Who Loved Dogs, translated by Anna Kushner, p.80

With arguments that were perhaps more passionate than rational, Lev Davidovich [Trotsky] tried to convince the Frenchman [André Breton] that a dog feels love for its owner. Hadn’t many stories about that love and friendship been told? If Breton had met Maya [a borzoi] and seen her relationship with him, perhaps he would have a different opinion. The poet said that he understood it and clarified that he also loved dogs, but the feeling came from him, the human. A dog, at best, could show that it made a distinction based on how humans treated it: by being afraid of the human being who could cause him pain, for example. But if they accepted that the dog was devoted to someone, they had also to admit that the mosquito was consciously cruel when it bit someone, or that the crabwalk was deliberately retrograde… Although he didn’t convince him, Lev Davidovich liked the surrealist image of the purposefully retrograde crab.

… Lev Davidovich was the one to blame for Breton’s physical and intellectual freeze: the secretary called it “Trotsky’s breath on your neck,” which, he said, was capable of paralyzing anyone who had a relationship with him since, according to van Heijenoort, exposure to his way of living and thinking unleashed a moral tension that was almost unbearable. Lev Davidovich didn’t realize this, because he had been demanding that of himself for many years, but not everyone could live day and night facing all the powers in the world: fascism, capitalism, Stalinism, reformism, imperialism, all religions, and even rationalism and pragmatism. If a man like Breton confessed to him that he was out of reach and ended up paralyzed, Lev Davidovich had to understnad that Breton was not to blame; rather, Comrade Trotsky, who had withstood everything he had to withstand all those years, was an animal of another species. (“I should hope I’m not a cruel mosquito or a reactionary crab,” Lev Davidovich commented to the secretary.)

— Ibid., pp. 350-351

– Diego Rivera, Lev Davidovich Bronstein (Leon Trotsky) & André Breton

“How is it possible for a writer to stop feeling like a writer? Worse still, how can he stop thinking like a writer? How is it that in all this time you didn’t dare to write anything? …”

“It didn’t occur to me because it couldn’t occur to me, because I didn’t want it to occur to me, and I searched for every excuse to forget it every time it tried to occur to me. Or do you not know what country we live in right now? Do you have any idea how many writers stopped writing and turned into nothing or, worse still, into anti-writers and were never again able to take flight? Who could bet on things ever changing? Do you know what it is to feel marginalized, forbidden, buried alive at the age of thirty, thirty-five, when you can really begin to be a serious writer, and thinking that the marginalization is forever, to the end of time, or at least until the end of your fucking life?”

“But what could they do to you?” she insisted. “Did they kill you?”

“No, they didn’t kill me.”

“So … so … what terrible thing could they do to you? Censor your book? What else?”

“Nothing.”

“What do you mean, nothing?” She jumped, offended, I think.

“They make you nothing. Do you know what it is to turn into nothing? Because I do know, because I myself turned into nothing … And I also know what it is to feel fear.”

So I told her about all of those forgotten writers who not even they themselves remembered, those who wrote the empty and obliging literature of the seventies and eighties, practically the only kind of literature that one could imagine and compose under the ubiquitous layer of suspicion, intolerance, and national uniformity. And I told her about those who, like myself, innocent and credulous, earned ourselves a “corrective” for having barely dipped our toes, and about those who, after a stay in the inferno of nothing, tried to return and did so with lamentable books, also empty and obliging, with which they achieved an always-conditional pardon and the mutilated feeling that they were writers again because they once more saw their names in print.

— Ibid., pp. 398-399

Manifesto
for an Independent Revolutionary Art

Signed: André Breton and Diego Rivera

link here

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patronage, suicide & GENEO (URL pending)

Patreon tells me there’s a simpler way to bill patrons.

(that’s bill)

To bill patrons?!

(bill)

there’s obviously another philosophical persona: the one who has grown up not knowing anything different than what we understand by neoliberalism and

everything is financialised.

(conceptual personae: the Cartesian idiot, Nietzschean dancer, Kierkegaardian knight of faith, and for Deleuze and Guattari in What Is Philosophy?, “the schizophrenic is a conceptual persona who lives intensely within the thinker and forces him to think”; “the schizophrenic is a psychosocial type who represses the living being and robs him of his thought” [from here])

Home | Mental Health Foundation New Zealand tells me,

538 people died by suspected suicide in the 2021/22 financial year (from July 2021 to June 2022), less than the 607 reported for 2020/21 and 628 reported in 2019/20. Males are more than twice as likely to die by suicide than females.

(the full URL is https://mentalhealth.org.nz/suicide-prevention/statistics-on-suicide-in-new-zealand, which can’t help but recall Zapffe saying, The modern barbarity of ‘saving’ the suicidal is based on a hair-raising misapprehension of the nature of existence.

((the first part of his statement is, When a human being takes his life in depression, this is a natural death of spiritual causes.))

what I really wanted to call your attention to in the foregoing was this,

the financial year.

But if you have grown up under neoliberalism, knowing everything is financialised, who cares?

Gen Neo, or Geneo: those born close enough to 1984 to know no prior form of human social organisation than that under neoliberalism

What qualifies the philosophical persona of the neoliberal-who-knows-no-different is a certain take on morality.

What qualifies the philosophical persona of Geneo is to take up the moral to add to a personal sense of value, or status.

It is neither by disposition that Geneo is moral, nor is it for the sake of taking up or upon oneself a moral position. The moral, for the neoliberal-who-knows-no-different, is social capital. It is to increase personal social capital that Geneo has or makes recourse to the discourse of morality.

This requires a further note of qualification: it is to a discourse of morality; and, it is to a discourse which is current and currently recognised to be moral that recourse is made or taken; it is as good and as good as its currency.

Recourse to a discourse of morality in a specific context would have no value were its message not recognisable. It has to compute. It has to be equal to the case in question and equal to the social context where it will have currency.

Geneo, the native neoliberal, does not take up a moral cause through identification with that cause, but rather takes up its message. Neither is it in its spirit that the message is employed. The fit between case and moral message has to be, that between it and personal moral belief need not.

This is why the born neoliberal is a psychosocial type.

Geneo in the most positive sense, in a thoroughly positive sense, uses moral discourse for currency, to gain social capital. Here however is the root of a thoroughgoing schism, a schiz, between social self, the one seeking benefit from the employment of moral messaging, and the morality of that use for private gain.

In seeking to profit from it, the born neoliberal has only a positive sense of morality. Inversely, social capital, capital itself, can be the only value of morality.

The self is split from that value as a social attribute. It can be nothing other than a social value, as exchange. There are no intrinsic values attached to either the self or the moral, but that these are entirely positive. They are exchange values.

What qualifies the neoliberal-who-knows-no-different is not the entrepreneurial self, then, but something with which the entrepreneurial self is at odds.

Geneo is qualified by moral rectitude, by goodness, with which not only the entrepreneurial self but any notion of self is at odds.

Geneo’s goodness is innate. It is given with the world.

The world is not good, however, and, for its absence of goodness, Geneo fails to see itself reflected in it. And then…

Geneo comes to see itself as bad

and would be, but for being good.

(the split again)

What this amounts to in practice is a kind of convalescent sentimentality, a thin-skinned-ness and a vulnerability to the bad that is in the world.

In other words, it amounts to mental health or mental illness.

Mental health is good. Mental illness is bad.

Unfortunately for Geneo, mental health is not a standard by which mental illness can be judged. Conversely, mental illness is generally the standard for the judgement of mental health: mental health is considered generally to equal the absence of mental illness.

This computation is beyond the neoliberal generation; it can neither assimilate itself to a world with which it is at odds, nor to a self the health of which is judged from the point of view of illness.

Geneo lacks this point of view.

It is like saying the goods on sale are ills, and that the good self that is there for the entrepreneurial self to promote, for its goodness, is ill.

Goodness equals only the absence of an illness, like the absence of the self from the world, that prompts the self to absent itself from the world.

Any approach to mental health predicated on the idea of it being the absence of mental illness fails, is failing and will fail, that generation who know no different than life under neoliberalism.

Key to the shift in thinking that takes Geneo, the neoliberal generation, to be characterised by its morality is the shift to financialisation that undertakes morality as a good, to add value.

Key to this shift from considering characteristic of Geneo a certain view of the self, its own entrepreneur, is

a shift away from thinking of neoliberalism as ideological.

Further it is a shift from thinking ‘ideology’ as a kind of undeclared, unconscious manner of being, that is then uncovered, as causative, as acting in the world, by adequate critique.

The question is, putting aside for the moment the question of suicide, one question is,

What kind of critique is adequate to capitalism?

What kind of critique is adequate to a capitalism where everything is financialised?

and… is it an ideological critique? Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus say it is not.

An ideological critique of late, post-industrial capitalism, existing under neoliberalism, fails to grasp the plane of consistency, where everything is financialised.

It reaches under it, for what is not being played out on it, for the reasons of what is being played out, or over it, missing what it is and missing the reasons. These have always to do with what it is because they convene on value.

Value is always positive, adding value always a good thing. It is not judged from the point of view of any bad.

The impasse comes … when what is bad cannot be computed. There is literally no place to go.

There is no place to go, without delay.

OK, so the problem with ideology: it doesn’t do what we are calling Geneo does.

What Geneo does presupposes the possibility to add value always being there. Whereas ideology subtracts, negates or undermines.

It is an under-ideology, or an unconscious, or ex-planation.

Value-adding discourse, the convention of neoliberalism’s ratchetting up of value, particularly off conventions of morality, its innate notions of progress and growth, immediately whiplashes to, How do I optimise my speech acts?

By convention optimisation of speech acts, aka positive thinking, aka buzz-wording resilience, agility, empowerment, that in NZ includes Māori terms, matauranga, te ao, mahi, kaupapa, and so on, does not involve an ideology, say, of woke-ism. It goes further than liberal humanism in what may be called the personological direction. May be its apotheosis.

(personology is perhaps a good replacement for ideology when considering Geneo)

The optimum is simply the best. The Good.

When those who know no other form of human social organisation invoke what might sound to other generations to be hackneyed reformulations of received wisdom, when they do so by reflex but uncritically, it is not to add the moral dimension to their speech acts but its cachet, the cachet of moral authority.

Moral authority cannot be ideological.

It can be personological.

The claim to moral authority, however, is strangely impersonal. It may be called, after the axiom of capitalism Deleuze and Guattari describe in Anti-Oedipus, axiomatic.

It has nothing to do with individual belief, but the belief in belief. Or, the will to belief.

(not ‘the will to believe‘: that would introduce a voluntarism which is absent, a mindfulness in its absence–hence the search for the moral good of mindfulness that is so absentminded)

There is not the willing suspension that would make for the ideologue.

On the other side, the morally reinforced statement is extracted from any doctrine…

That is to say the positive speech act of Geneo is extracted from any ideology. The axiom of capitalism has removed any underneath but refuses to accept itself as being a surface. Conventions of value are like hashtags,

a hashtag morality

(#morality)

of recognisable significances, meaning-making memes.

Plumage, ornamentation, that extra expenditure of energy that is an energy sink and soaks up the surplus, organs of display, the face of facebook, the tweet of twitter, the toot of mastodon, and so on, the (now) so-called ‘social’ that is online, and reflected by human social organisation offline, in, I would say, the power invested in screentime: to these organs of display belong those statements meant to gain consensus, that invoke social and moral values and conventions, attaining to common sense by way of their good sense (as Deleuze might say).

They mean to be liked and repeated. What is on display is the polish given the individual by the personological, where the latter invokes a borrowed social and moral conventionalism that is often majoritarian (for the purpose of meaning to be liked and repeated), where it adds value by so doing.

so, death to ideologies

Ideologies in the case of Geneo are only what is extracted from them to add value to what I say.

Statistical discourse can serve this function, the function not of being evidenciary. The numbers are not rallied to support an argument, the facts rather speak for themselves. Statistics are a medium of infography and therefore one of display.

As we have seen with ‘inflation’ recently… or there is isomorphism between the social human condition and the economic condition, conditional as it is on financial systems.

The end of neoliberalism is supposed to have been ushered in by the wresting back of financial control by nation states. It goes along, this supposition, with the rolling back of globalisation and concerns over national economy trumping those raised over the freedom of markets to set values.

This makes no account of either the socials and persons: being avowedly neoliberal, it is profoundly anti agency.

Humans are preferred to be dumb actors.

dumbness is preferred when it comes to the messaging too.

Conditions which have their etiology in factors of global economy, even as that gobality involves the interaction of state and nonstate drivers, are beyond our understanding.

They are above our payscale,

for the most part. …bring in the consultants.

Now, consultants are performers. Invested in the moral social human conditions, they manifest, they put on display, the greatest will to belief.

Is their obfuscation of the economic conditionality, the underlying conditions, and their overarching ends, ideological?

No. No bad faith here. No false conscience. No unconscious drivers, except the ones we can all accept are in us, sex-death, energetic libido, thanatic preservation of one’s own organism, management of the status quo to the advantage of one’s own organism’s preservation, what is called a feedback loop, for homeostasis. And the personological.

Consultants want to make good sense common, to grow, and display more good sense, as a property of intellectual activity, for it to be its only property (hence IP), so as to get bigger audiences, socials, for that display.

What happens when this goes wrong? We don’t see it going wrong by using the critical tool of ideology. This is the failure of that otherwise excellent book, The End of the End of History.

It is the reason I brought in inflation just before: a system without negatives, the financial system of personological book-keeping.

what I am trying to deal with is this, it is not moral failure but how explain system failure at the psychical level? at the level of personal psychology?

In the cases of young people suiciding I have heard about recently, those closest to them make it seem inevitable, after the fact of their deaths, that they have committed suicide.

Those speaking for them, their families and friends, and perhaps this is only in the cases I have recently heard about (three in the last fortnight), speak to the goodness of the … can we say victims?

Adding to their grief is that there are no warning signs, or that the warning signs come some time before.

The person in question seemed to be doing better. He had been in a bad place, been depressed. She had been in a scene where she was subjected to online bullying, where she was being trolled, and knew who they were. But she had got herself clear of that scene.

They had the self-awareness to be helping themselves, these young people. They had been self-aware enough to accept help.

They were not too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for or to accept help where it was offered. But,

adding to the grief of those left behind is some idea that it must have been the wrong sort of help,

that those who most wanted to help could not, could not have:

so, it was inevitable,

it is now.

It is a terrifying conclusion:

in Zapffe’s words, the spiritual causes, these must be spoken of, before we can accept that suicide is a natural death for a young person.

I have been teaching with young people these past years. At first my impulse was to disabuse them of their belief in the veracity of accepted judgements, to disenchant them, and release them from the grip of ideologies, to free them through showing the historicity of those views they took up in good faith. Views about sexuality, for example, can be dated, analyzed discursively, and historicised, as Foucault has done.

Views about identity and assumptions about its solidity can be criticised, shaken. Views about the solidity of the world, worldview, can be destabilised, deconstructed.

That is, both the world and the I can be shown not only to be constructs embedded in historical time, their own deconstruction, their auto-destruction, can be shown to be always already in process.

Resistance can be worked with, being seen as a cover for deeper processes of destabilisation, always already engaged. The greater the resistance, the greater is the effort of psychical cover-up.

Education must have been about showing us the cracks.

This thing, though, suicide in young people, is a different sort of crack.

I struck it during the lockdowns, teaching online. Although, before that, I had changed approach.

More shocking, I found, for the young people I was teaching with, than prising them open, emptying them out or opening them up, was asking them to choose for and affirm their views, to select for and elect what they loved. And to leave criticism for another lifetime. Life is too short to criticise.

If all you are doing is arguing with an established viewpoint, or taking up a position relative to others’ viewpoints, you are … wasting valuable time.

And there is the expectation that this is what you ought to be doing, that this is what intellectual activity is, what knowledge is about and what education is for: critical engagement means criticising, criticism, deconstructing, as if deconstruction were a transitive verb, an instrument or weapon in the critical arsenal, and not the intransitive verb it is. As if all education is for and as if all knowing stuff is for were to wage war on those who don’t know. As if all education were for is to know better, and to let the other ones know you do, by throwing your stuff at them.

More shocking for young people was to attribute to them intelligent agency, and to say to fight is a waste of time and there is no competition.

You have nothing to prove, and anyway fighting against others, putting the big guns down, cutting them down to size, is not the way to prove it. Affirm your practice in your practice, whether it’s reading, writing or doing and creating. Put that on the surface. Don’t be swallowed by the surface.

What I struck through the lockdowns was a generalised depression, a diffuse, widespread and intense feeling of being unequal to what the times were asking, that the institutions were oblivious to.

Even the ‘institutions’ of online interactivity, of participating and of communication, were oblivious to it.

It was beyond them all.

I got the feeling young people felt like they were disappearing, disappearing in their bodies.

Their bodies were disappeared anyway.

They were absent onscreen.

They were disappearing anyway.

The other thing, the thing that struck me, from young people, was nothing being new to them. I talked with a friend about this. She said, I asked them to do an exercise where they chose an artistic approach diametrically opposed to their usual one.

And they firmly refused. They were all fully grown up abstract expressionists, or analytic abstractionists, or… new narrativists… and that was it.

It was unquestioning, unquestionable. This is what they are. Absolute.

And then the war. The moral cause of Ukraine and Russia. The Information War.

From what I heard, Ukraine was winning. Absent of any historical analysis or perspective, even Maidan having been pointed out, the cause of Russia is immoral, that of Ukraine is where the moral value lies.

Absolute.

the self undivided…

When I listened to the young people I have over the past several years been teaching with, I got the impression this was a new moralistic generation. I got the impression of a new moral conservatism.

Populism, rightism, seemed to go with the territory. So did ideas around settled relationships, marriage and child-rearing, also expectations about material acquisition matching state of life, in other words, a relationship between career and economic status and adulting.

Now I think not so much. Or, now I think, not so much.

Why? because of the contradictions in this moralising. It is not consistent, not consistently of any political hue, in fact, is apolitical. (As The End of the End of History argues, it is antipolitical.)

What drives this moralising is a kind of economics, the personological book-keeping I’ve referred to,

but that makes it sound cynical, calculating and disingenuous, when the opposite is true.

CANDIDE or JESUS?

To compensate for the absence of their being any intrinsic value in recognised notions of morality, and for its emptying out in the social and for the self’s loss of intrinsic value, a friend said many of Geneo, those who’ve known no different than neoliberalism, are and have been, turning to Jesus.

For Candide, recall, This is the best of all possible worlds.

Why is it? because it is reasonable. Human reason has banished all that is unreasonable.

This is what Candide learns, All problems have been solved.

Except that they haven’t.

Discouragement, obstructions, trials and calamities are all true.

Candide faces them, as he does the joys, loves, successes of his life.

Belief in the good means nothing to the world, neither does belief in that belief.

Candide’s optimism is not an ideology.

In the end, we suffer from ourselves but not because we are either good or bad or for the reason that the world is … the way it is.

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Sequoia Nagamatsu, How High We Go In The Dark

He imagines people on the street looking up from their phones and into each other’s eyes–Hello, how are you? Why are you so sad? How can we do better?

— Sequoia Nagamatsu, How High We Go In The Dark, 2022, p. 232

Why read this book?

For the reason it fails, certainly, that it is cracked and a little corny, the links between, like those spiders Kundera talks about in Testaments Betrayed, a little hinky, but that it faces away from convalescence and makes a glancing attempt on the present.

Nagamatsu’s present presses on the sore point, the part about what has been done, the damage that has been done, being past undoing. The damage dealt with is due to climate change and massive loss of human life from pandemic.

Publishing details show that important chapters appeared as separate stories as long ago as 2013. In his endnote, Nagamatsu says by the time of publication it had been in his head for ten years. Like Station Eleven, there is some prescience here. I think it has to do with the sore point: that is, with an adequate diagnosis of the present moment, the long present, its start difficult to date. Deleuze says in an interview, in Desert Islands (2002/2004), “The artist in general must treat the world as a symptom, and build his work not as therapeutic, but in every case like a clinic. The artist is not outside the symptoms, but makes a work of art from them, which sometimes serves to precipitate them, and sometimes to transform them.”

It is at personal risk that the artist engages the present, and this present may be so in very different guises. It may be present in the autofiction of Rob Doyle, as in Threshold, or in that of the South American writers that I love, who seem to have a knack of putting themselves at risk.

They after all call on truth before art. (I am thinking of Mario Levrero’s disgust with Flaubert, in contrast with his love for Thomas Bernhard, whose work, being so intensely and minutely personal, achieves grandeur.) In practice, it means to give the truth your personal guarantee.

This is so far from speaking one’s truth as to make it laughable. What is best in Nagamatsu is there in relation to an impersonal truth he is no more than schematic link to: a truth in general got from pushing on the sore point of the world developed from aspects of his personal history, as if these provided him with keys or emotional cues, that, followed, lead out onto a future history in general, activating a virtual future history, a diagnosis.

What is worst in Nagamatsu seems to be what he has been most lauded for, the humanity, redeeming human qualities he finds. My feeling is that he buys his redemption at below cut price. It is too cheaply bought. Still, the darkness stands.

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