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day 231 – 262 – on being meaningless & ‘a tissue for my eyes’

life during lockdown:

thanks Pavane!

The Assembly adopted draft resolution I, “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo‑Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”, by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Ukraine, United States), with 51 abstentions. – from here

note abstention of both Australia and New Zealand.

US maintains it is a freedom of speech issue.

note also that this is not fake but mirage news.

s: who knows what the new year will bring…

c: it will just make us more nuggetty.

thanks Mark!

A controlled population is a living population

what is the role of COVID-19? to discredit democracy

what is the role of Trump? to discredit democracy

Lohraw: In the future there will be infamy every 15 minutes.

via Ttekceb: And once this first ordeal is surmounted, the next will come along, like buses…

to be meaningless is easy as long as you keep your meaning secret

Talking with an old friend I realised:

a tissue for my eyes please

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfbN_wVDVcw

[Of course, to say to be meaningless is easy as long as you keep your meaning secret is completely disingenuous. Being meaningless is easy so long as secretly you believe that you are meaningful. Being meaningless is easy so long as secretly I believe that I am not. To believe you are meaningless is difficult. … We used to do this thing in Minus Theatre where all meaning is moved up onto the surface. The more meaningful the better. The more intensity of meaning the better. And the more depth of meaning the better. The idea is not for meaning to be lost, to lose or shed meaning from that which previously had meaning and was meaningful. The idea was not to pull meaning up by the roots, to root it out from wherever it sprang. The idea was, the idea is, that once put on the surface meaning can change. To keep it secret (hidden in the deep) or to keep it secretly (because of its depth) keeps meaning the same. So it can’t change. What is meaningful remains rooted in the soil where it grows. But it only seems to grow. What in fact is happening is that meaning has stuck. It remains rooted to the spot. It has only one fixed meaning, when this in fact is only a part of its meaning. A gesture of suicide, what does it mean? Does it mean the desire to rejoin the soil–of meaninglessness? Or is it threatening death to what is too full of meaning, has too much meaning? Suicide seems to be both the absolute statement of personal meaning at the same time as it is the absolute statement of personal meaninglessness. In Minus we would make the gesture and steal it for other purposes. A man tearing out his own hair would be getting his hair done. A woman shooting herself would have suicide as part of its meaning, it would be, in other words, acting. … Acting seems to be both the absolute statement of personal meaninglessness at the same time as it is the absolute statement of personal meaning. It is where the personal changes meaning. Online personal expression fixes meaning. No statement can be made that does not stick to the one who makes it. The selfie mask sticks to the face (…the face to the mask / the root to the plant…). It is not acting but a gesture that by being made is meaningful. And it is not theatre. Or rather it is the worst kind of theatre, the theatre of feelings that are no less meaningful for being manufactured, a factory for the sentimental, a productionline for kitsch, for a politicised engagement with the personal and for a personalised performance of the political. It means taking a stand. Against this: Minus Theatre. What if your meaningful statement was more mobile and less absolute? Your political standpoint–what if it allowed of other meanings? Your personal viewpoint–it is not enough to let there be other and opposite viewpoints from which it either differs or to which it is opposed: what if your personal viewpoint meant different things at different times and places and even the opposite then and there of what it means here and now? Meaning needs to be decomposed just enough for it to become mobile–neither full of meaning nor wholly without meaning. Communication, sympathy, empathy–these are not enough: for each statement, each gesture, each action and each suicide that it is meaningless participates in its meaning. We might say that its deconstruction is present in it, an ongoing part of it, allowing it to travel not only back and forth but in all directions, towards all sorts of unintended meanings and lacks of meaning. Aporetic and ephectic, Beckett writes.]

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day 203 – 231 … Children, Go On Strike!

at 9:16 am on 16 November 2020, M. John Harrison wrote on Twttr:

Complexity, weirdness, characterisations like little stained glass sideshows. Characters do things because they want to. Equally, the text shows you something because it wants to. I see a book controlled by its own mood swings and emotional surfaces. But then I always do.

Today I’ve been writing about hikikomori and the cynicism–without experiencing it–of the answer to this ‘social problem’: restating the social imperative–to participate, engage, make contact, connect–that led to their being shut-in; as if in the great transparent snowglobe or bubble of communications’ technology–aka affective data industries.

The smartest people I knew at school lost their brains when they reached puberty. What is intelligence in children?

What is intelligence to children?

How do children understand intelligence?

Andrés Barba’s novels, The Luminous Republic (2020 in translation from Spanish to English), and Such Small Hands (2008 in translation), give an idea of an intelligence belonging to children. Here children are not captured in or at some kind of developmental state or stage. Neither is there moralising about the capacity to form judgements, the judgement-forming faculty belonging to morality, that children are said not to have acquired; nor in these books do we see an emotional view–in the image of which children’s inner emotional lives create their worlds: no magicking and no sciencing.

The intelligence of children is shown to be that of reason, of a reason unencumbered by … a hesitation here: is it experience of which children’s use of reason is unencumbered? is it judgement? or the judgements of others of which children’s reason is free? … No.

I would say that children’s use of reason is free because it is free of play, unencumbered by play–or free of a freedom with conditions. It is free of the kind of freedom that comes with conditions, the conditions that play has, where you might say to me, You’re not playing any more!

Children’s use of reason does not have parameters within which it has play. The reason of children is free of the parameters of play, unencumbered by the conditions experience of others–the word of others–might impose.

Where did I read that children’s perception of the world was close to that of schizophrenics?

Deleuze writes in The Logic of Sense that we have to take care not to mix metaphors, to go from the series of children, poets, to madmen, madwomen. He cites the example of Artaud against Carroll.

And it would be possible to go in the opposite direction to a similar effect and similarly to err. To go from the pure reason of children, via the application of pure reason in the adult world, that is, science, to the madness of things like human instrumentality or holocaust. The madness of the human object.

According to this second madness that is a surfeit of reason, what is in reason would be insensitive. It would lack empathy. Its very neutrality and purity would have become its liability.

Children lack emotional maturity–a phrase that has evolved with a hole at each end. One end eats what the other shits. What one end eats the other shits.

The automaton-like reason of children. Yes, this only goes so far to explaining it. What it lacks is not emotional experience, the experience of consequence. It lacks system.

And the lack of system of the use of reason in children is the same as that lack of system Kundera finds–and I suspect Deleuze finds–to be characteristic of Nietzsche. Nietzsche lampoons the savants for their system. Kundera places this ‘freeing from system of philosophy’ in apposition with ‘freeing from form (the rigidity of the sonata in particular)’ characteristic of Beethoven, the winning of new freedoms … that can be referred to the problem facing any artist, which has to be answered each time anew–I can’t think of a better word, although I don’t like it, neither anew nor afresh. This problem can be usefully compared with what Julio Ramón Ribeyro (whom I talk about further and cite a reference for below) says about the novel: “For some time now, French novels have been written by professors for professors. [The citation of Ribeyro below might shed light on why it is French novelists.] The French novelist today is a gentleman who has nothing to say about the world, but very much to say about the novel.” And, “Each new writer cross-checks his work with that of the writers who came before, not with the world. In this way we reach rarification in the novel’s material, which could be confused with esotericism.” New writers, Zambra [another novelist, cited below] writes that Ribeyro writes, “try to make of their work not the personal reflection of reality, but rather the personal reflection of other reflections.” [see xv in the work cited below]

Deleuze and Guattari say of Nietzsche’s aphorisms–and speak in a similar way of Kafka’s researches–that they must be plugged into the world. That is, they came from the world. Not its reflection. Not in esoteric abstraction from it. Not trying to curry favour with the taste-judges of today on Instagram. And are not founded, therefore, in emotional maturity, that maturely sets its own expectations of consequence. Ambition.

The reason of children is free of system.

This the works of Andrés Barba show.

Speaking before–although whether this is in the sense of ‘in front of’ in spatial or temporal terms is uncertain*–the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate accord, Greta Thunberg said “there was a state of complete denial when it came to the immediate action needed, with leaders giving only distant promises and empty words.” The same Guardian article [here] reminds us of her solo school strike that “snowballed into a global youth movement” (strange choice, snowballed).

More effective than going on strike from school might be following Greta Thunberg’s example and going on strike from being children.

What if all the children of the world walked out on their parents, their caregivers, accusing them of the grossest incompetence?–bearing them into a world for the calamity facing which they, the adults, take no responsibility–proclaiming their care, their love, for children equates with setting them into a situation which they, the children, are helpless to reverse or stop–by making children, parents, grownups, are, in fact, making them children, that is, helpless!

So they should quit.

So, they leave being children from henceforth to the adults.

We have seen that most of the adults who wield real power are in fact children.

Children, walk out! Go on strike!

Walk out on your own heavy responsibility of being helpless!

Emotionally immature? Not at all!

You have reason! And reason gives you the reason to act!

In other words, stop performing as children. You don’t even get paid!

Take control!

Sieze it!

… Or,

Steal it!

*[it’s not in fact uncertain. The UN-led summit on climate change has been … postponed. A one-day online summit replaces it. One day! Ridiculous when students are paying to attend classes day after day online.]

{also, see here for a nice summary timeline naming climate change milestones … or nails in the coffin … or just stages in the snowball picking up speed …}


“A man should neither conceal nor misrepresent the facts concerning the way in which he conceived his thoughts. The deepest and most inexhaustible books will certainly always have something of the aphoristic and impetuous character of Pascal’s Pensées.” — Nietzsche, The Will to Power: An Attempted Transvaluation of All Values, Trans. Anthony M. Ludovici, available online here, section 424 p. 342

Considering its source, in the volume The Will to Power, selected from the notebooks by his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, wife of Bernard Förster, whose antisemitism she endorsed, the original German source of the foregoing in the Nachlaß eludes me.

Nietzsche’s strongest statement of affinity with Pascal is cited with approval by Kundera in Testaments Betrayed, the first section of Part Six, “Works and Spiders” which I quote in full:

“I think.” Nietzsche cast doubt on this assertion dictated by a grammatical convention that every verb must have a subject. Actually, said he, “a thought comes when ‘it’ wants to, and not when ‘I’ want it to; so that it is falsifying the fact to say that the subject ‘I’ is necessary to the verb ‘think.'” A thought, comes to the philosopher “from outside, from above or below, like events or thunderbolts heading for him.” It comes in a rush. For Nietzsche loves “a bold and exuberant intellectuality that runs presto,” and he makes fun of the savants for whom thought seems “a slow, halting activity, something like drudgery, often enough worth the sweat of the hero-savants, but nothing like that light, divine thing that is such close kin to dance and to high-spirited gaiety.”

“Elsewhere Nietzsche writes that the; philosopher “must not, through some false arrangement of deduction and dialectic, falsify the things and the ideas he arrived at by another route…. We should neither conceal nor corrupt the actual way our thoughts come to us. The most profound and inexhaustible books will surely always have something of the aphoristic, abrupt quality of Pascal’s Pensées.”

“We should not “corrupt the actual way our thoughts come to us”: I find this injunction remarkable; and I notice that, beginning with The Dawn, all the chapters in all his books are written in a single paragraph: this is so that a thought should be uttered in one single breath; so that it should be caught the way it appeared as it sped toward the philosopher, swift and dancing.”

Nietzsche to his sister on the subject of her–it can be assumed?–future husband:

“It is a matter of honor to me to be absolutely clean and unequivocal regarding anti-Semitism, namely opposed, as I am in my writings… I have been persecuted [pursued; verfolgt?] in recent times with letters and Anti-Semitic Correspondence sheets; my disgust with this party … is as outspoken as possible, but the relation to Förster, as well as the after-effect of my former anti-Semitic publisher Schmeitzner, always bring the adherents of this disagreeable party back to the idea that I must after all belong to them…” – from here

apologia pro vita sua

“It’s not uncommon for music superstars, after decades atop their scenes, to try to demonstrate fluency in the music of prior generations to bolster their claims to contemporary authority.” — Jon Caramanica on Bad Bunny, NY Times, 2.12.2020

sadopopulism:

“Permitting either the State or the individual to use murder as part of a political or ethical process forecloses any hope of partaking in a legitimate future. It is like the vengeful Marquis de Sade who, locked in his prison cell, dreamed of a twisted oligarchy that sustains itself through the murderous consumption of everything other than itself. However, the killers are unable to escape the very logic of their system, and they inevitably fall victim to the violent energies they have been fueling.”

— Joseph McClellan, Michel Onfray’s translator, on Camus (in The Translator’s Introduction, A Hedonist Manifesto: The Power to Exist, Trans. Joseph McClellan, (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2015), xi-xxxviii, xvi)

These themes meet in the shared theme of brutality, a subject on which the following sheds some light:

William-Davies-The-New-Neoliberalism-NLR-101-September-October-2016

“What mysterious alchemy vaults people who were largely ignored, or at least by their own lights insufficiently valued, in their own time to this privileged niche in the imagination of their posterity is never fully explainable and is not to be confused with reputation in the conventional sense. … Musing on one of these cult people, their admirers often exclaim, “’ink what she would have accomplished had she lived.” — from here

ink what?

from the same: “In the early 1950s in Cambridge, Massachusetts, [Susan] Taubes and her then husband, the rabbi and philosopher of ideas Jacob Taubes, were the closest friends of my parents, Susan Sontag and Philip Rieff. … It was left to my mother to identify [Susan Taubes’s] body. Much later, she told me: ‘I will never forgive her . . . and never recover from what she did.'”

..

.

In literary land this week: the Bad Sex in Fiction Award has been cancelled, Roald Dahl’s family has apologized for his anti-Semitism, and John Freeman has been named Knopf’s new Executive Editor. — from lithub book marks bulletin 12/11

“Ribeyro’s face is that of a law student who had contempt for the legal profession, or a Lima native who wanted to live in Madrid, who in Madrid dreamed of Paris, in Paris longed for Madrid, and so on, chasing grants and lovers, and especially in search of time to waste writing, in the solitude of Munich, or Berlin, or Paris, again, for a long stay.”

— Alejandro Zambra, in his introduction (“Ribeyro in His Web”), to Julio Ramón Ribeyro’s The Word of the Speechless [which might have been better mute, closer to the Spanish: La palabra del mudo], Trans. & Ed. Katherine Silver, (New York, NY: NYRB, 2019), vii-xvi, vii.

Ribeyro called the diary he wrote, which spans four decades (“Even in the most confessional pages of his diary, an impersonal mood persists,” writes Zambra, “that keeps him safe from exhibitionism or anecdotalism.”

(“Ribeyro writes to live,” he continues, “not to demonstrate that he has lived.”

(“A fragment from 1977 is, in this sense, revealing: ‘A true work must start from the oblivion or destruction (transformation) of the writer’s very self. The great writer is not one who truthfully, in detail and intensely, describes his existence, but one who becomes the filter, the weave, through which reality passes and is transfigured.'” [Ibid. viii]) La tentación del fracaso.

The Temptation of Failure.

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day 167 – 187 incompetence & transformation

The full headline ran … Incompetent Ardern …

someone pointed out, R. I think, that we don’t get journalism of the above quality because Murdoch does not own our media.

not only are they reptilian satanist pedophiles, they’re shapeshifters! 3’30” here

It’s not that David Icke does not support his claims or that there’s bucketloads of evidence to the contrary (just like there are against those stupid beliefs that economists cling to Mark Blyth talks about), it’s rather that his claiming personally to know in manifesting the original seduction of the patently untrue repeats it, producing effects on the real world (just like those stupid beliefs economists cling to).

(Do people prefer stupid beliefs? Is belief a category which it remains heretical to question? So that a personal belief is an intimate part of the individual, somewhere between personality and sexuality, which may in fact be quite impersonal. (Although, Lingis points out with sex we are at our most vulnerable; so to be questioned sexually–even when it is just a matter of words–invokes that vulnerability we physically experience, we physically experience each time.

((And this would also link sex and defecation, not with a primal shame and not in organic unity, engaging the same parts, but with an original compromise–a squatting dog knows it is in a compromising position, like a human caught short.))

on the question of political courage:

The political will to economic courage … this is the subjectline under which I sent Mark Blyth’s three lifts for a post-COVID world to the office of the then PM before the present PM—who are the same person—before the election and before the election her office answered I could be sure that Jacinda would see it; whereas when I sent it to the Mayor of Auckland—as well, come to think of it, as Grant Robertson—silence.

Today, the last day of October, the Rt. Hon. Ardern announced her cooperation agreement with the Green Party, which also made history. The Labour Party having done so for doing what is not supposed to happen—pulling the sword of absolute majority from the stone of MMP, as one cartoonist depicted it—the Greens did it mostly through the personality politic worked brilliantly by Chlöe Swarbrick.

A journalist put it in Q&A to PM Ardern that, with the absence of NZ First holding the balance of power, this might lead us to expect a more transformational government, mightn’t it?

Might it not? might it?

What would a transformational government look like?

I have become interested in the process of applying for a position in a local theatre, run under a charitable trust: a ten year plan / vision statement is a requisite of the application—meanwhile the theatre’s website is all bragadaccio about, well, transformation & disruption. There’s even a bit about between bangin’ art and bangin’ profit choosing art every time. The position currently pays between $90 and $100K. The French have a word for this: bobo. Bourgeois Bohemian. Les bobos sont au pouvoir.

The question I have, looking at the faces of the bobos, is can transformation really be that easy? to sit on a salary of see above and preach bangin’ transformational shizzwazzle?

… of course the same cannot be said of the Ardern government, despite Chlöe Swarbrick saying politics should not be fucking boring, should not be a chore.

So the statement made by Labour of cooperation with the Greens makes no demands for transformation of either, of either … politics or business. After all, did the Greens ever stand on the transformation which would be required to avert climate change being passed into law?

— You will be able to ask questions as well so that you understand what is going to be involved, and to help you participate fully in the decisions.

— You will be able to ask questions, not to be enabled to participate fully in the decisions, but so that you understand what is going to be involved.

— You will not be able to participate fully in the decisions, but you are going to be involved, so ask questions so that you understand.

— You are going to be fully involved in the decisions so ask questions as well on the understanding that this will be your only participation in making them.

— As well as being involved in the decisions which are made, your questions enable it to be understood that you have fully participated in submitting yourself to them.

— Your questions participate fully in the decisions involving you as well as help you to understand that you have voluntarily submitted yourself to them.

— As well as understanding your involvement to have resulted from your decision to participate by being able to ask questions, your questions help you to adjust as well.

–You will be able to ask questions as well so that you understand what is going to be involved, and to help you participate fully in the decisions.

“This is the first in an experimental Media Tropes prison,” said the governor, “designed in order to make inmates feel that they are not being brutalised by a barbaric and outdated system of incarceration, but involved in something more along the lines of a reality TV show.”

“I’ve heard of this,” I said, looking around curiously.

“The layout on the wings is just one of the many TV Prison Tropes that are promoted here at HMP Leominster,” said the governor. “You’ll find the prison is pretty much as you’d expect: the guards are generally mean and unpleasant–except one who is meek and easy to manipulate. The prisoners, instead of being those with a shaky grasp on the notion of consequences, mental health issues or having the misfortune to belong to a marginalised minority, are mostly pastiches of socio-economic groups mixed with regional stereotypes. And rather than fume about the vagaries of providence that got them here before descending in a downward spiral of depression and drug addiction, they prefer to philosophise about life in an amusing and intelligent manner.”

“Does it work?”

“Recidivism has dropped eighty-six per cent,” he said, “so yes, it seems so. It’s certainly a lot easier on the prisoners unless you get caught up in Gritty Realism Month when it all gets dark and dangerous and we have riots and people end up getting shivved. That’s just been, so you’re fairly safe for another ten months.”

“That’s a relief.”

“Don’t count your chickens. Understated violence that counterpoints a wider issue in society can break out at any time, and we have the biennial Prison Break Weekend in eight weeks, so if you want to be part of that, you have to prove yourself with the right crowd.”

— Jasper Fforde, The Constant Rabbit (2020), pp. 271-272.

… “if you think about it,” says one of the characters in Fforde’s The Constant Rabbit, a talking rabbit, “talking rabbits spontaneously anthropomorphised have a chance-factor of around 1 x 1089, which, while not totally impossible, is about as likely as the universe spontaneously turning into cottage cheese. The fact that we’re here suggests that tremendously unlikely things can happen–which would make Gaia reappearing to tweak a few things for the better not so very daft at all.”

“You’re formulating a mathematical proof for the existence of the primordial earth mother based on talking-rabbit probability?” I said. “Wouldn’t that make everything possible?”

“Within the multiverse,” said Kent [the talking rabbit talking], “everything is possible.”

— Ibid., 252.

“You’re trying to run a twenty-first-century world on Palaeolithic thoughts and sentiments.” [another rabbit said.]

“I think it’s in our nature.”

“I disagree,” [said the rabbit]. “Humans have a very clear idea about how to behave, and on many occasions actually do. But it’s sometimes disheartening that correct action is drowned out by endless chitter-chatter, designed not to find a way forward but to justify petty jealousies and illogically prejudices [Mark Blyth’s ‘stupid beliefs’]. If you’re going to talk, try to make it relevant, useful and progressive rather than simply distracting and time-wasting nonsense, intended to justify the untenable and postpone the real dialogue that needs to happen.”

Sometimes it takes a non-human to say what it is to be a good human.

— Ibid., 300-301 {I have included these last two excerpts because they relate to themes I explore in my other writing not because they are indicative of the style or humour of Fforde’s book, which is one of his good ones, one, as can be seen from the prison excerpt above, that as well as making me laugh, I also found moving. And not for its sentimental stereotypes: here they are turned to satirical effect … although sometimes leak around the edges.}

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day 150 – 166: the president is … & other fun facts, like…

 “The American people are all Blanket now.”

— Marina Hyde, the genuine article here.

— found here and shown as it appeared, unedited or altered in any way.

Reality can only be apprehended through a comical, dazzling network of texts–writes Adam Thirlwell introducing his interview with Enrique Vila-Matas by stating what he calls the ‘proposition,’ the ‘basic proposition,’ of the author’s A Brief History of Portable Literature (1985), a proposition that transformed Vila-Matas, in his sixth book, into a true original as well as representing “a new moment in European fiction,” since from now on reality can only be apprehended through a comical, dazzling network of texts.

There is nothing wrong with this as a proposition for fiction, but doesn’t it declare war on reality? [see here–for a war more total and more radical than anything yet imagined]

As a basic proposition for fiction it even sets the standard, a standard that reality has trouble living up to–that it be dazzling.

Comical is a bit easier to live up to for reality. A better word for it in fiction, in the novel, might however be humour in the sense Kundera gives it in Testaments Betrayed.

This work by Kundera is called a novel but titled Testaments Betrayed: an essay in nine parts. It accuses European culture of betraying its own creation, the novel, in failing both to read Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and in failing to defend it.

Falling in other words into the moralising trap which is the opposite of humour.

So it’s entirely appropriate that Vila-Matas represents, in the humour of his novel, a transformation in European fiction, and a new moment, making him a true original.

When thinking of the comical what comes to mind, after world politics and after its representation in local NZ media by comedians–presenting, it should be added, news and current affairs in a comical way (to increase ratings)–so bringing about the comical representation of reality, but not the dazzling representation, of reality; after these what comes to mind are the paintings of Yue Minjun.

— Yue Minjun, The Execution, 1995

It is easy to imagine why Yue Minjun chooses not to smile in photographs. He says:

I was born at the tail-end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, so there were a lot of government-commissioned propaganda paintings around that illustrated the apparent joy of being working class. In most of the these paintings, the subjects were laughing, but it was never clear why. People would be standing around Chairman Mao or around the produce resulting from a clearly bumper harvest, laughing… [and laughing

[laughing their heads off…]

Featuring: the normalisation of absurdity in society … acknowledgement of absurdity brings ontological insecurity of the What the hell’s going on? kind… 32’57” we see the normalisation in digital delivery of the absurdity of glitch: this is called the normalisation of a Mixed Delivery model in higher education. …

You will also notice something strange happening in the above webinar which is an absurdity in itself–the neutering of hypernormalisation as the critical concept it was never intended to be, since it is a technique, a politico-aesthetic technique. This is its HYPER criticality.

And is better dealt with by Adam Curtis:

DADA names the tendency of absurdity to eat itself, starting from the toes, chewing its way up the legs, pausing for a big surrealist gulp at the pelvis, seat of the famous sexual organs, and savouring the crunch and fizz thereof, before moving on to a ping, pinging of flying bits of ribcage, ricocheting off the roof of the mouth, until with a pop, the skull, place of the last stand of the infamous ego, delivers its precious cargo … to be shat out the other end.

What is lost by the good doctors of Lincoln is the aesthetic one-way transaction… in favour of a recuperation which is the DISCRIMINATOR between HUMOUR and COMEDY or POLITICAL as opposed to CRITICAL ABSURDITY

declaring the war of the comical on reality: is this the totaler Krieg that is also Kürzester Krieg? or would be in the sense that it is already won.

his eyes were so blue, it was like looking straight through to a blue sky through a skull.

— Jane Birkin on Graham Greene [from here]

The characters in This Storm [2019] are lurid, brash, vulgar. There is now an occupant of the White House who could fit that description. What’s your opinion of him?


I don’t talk about politics in any circumstances. The current day in America has nothing to do with my books.

— James Ellroy in interview with Andrew Anthony [here]

… one of the things that the pandemic has done is it has shown to millions of workers who have been treated as most disposable, whose work had been most degraded, who were told that they were unskilled, that they were so easily replaceable, that they are, in fact, the most essential workers in our economy. They were labelled essential workers.

And if you look at who the essential workers are, it’s the working class, it’s the people who keep the lights on it. It’s the people who deliver the mail. It’s the people who take care of the elderly. We know who we’re talking about. We’re talking about the people who make the world run.

— Naomi Klein, Jacobin Magazine, here.

While philosophy seems to be reserved for a minority, anyone can have a glimpse of it by falling into sickness or depression. When our vital energies are weakened, Smith claims, our sympathy also diminishes, allowing ‘splenetic philosophy’ to reveal that most of the projects central to our lives have no other basis than the imaginary pleasures of sympathy. Seen in an ‘abstract and philosophical light’, gossip about the rich and powerful or striving for economic advancement no longer seem meaningful. Most people, however, forget this lesson as soon as they recover, and resume chasing illusory pleasures.

Choosing to see the world as we do when we’re ill might seem absurd. Smith’s account of sympathy and philosophy in Moral Sentiments, however, implies that we often mistake ourselves for others, the dead for the living, and illness for health. Indeed, it might be that our everyday experience of the world is sick, and the philosophical life is the cure.

— Blake Smith, Psyche online magazine, here.

A more total and more radical war than any you can imagine.

… still, something about hypernormalisation rankles with me. Is it too ideological?

Hypernormalisation as a component in the strategy of a war more total and more radical than any you have so far pictured to yourself: Note–

NOT Total War, MORE total and radical war, is it the war taken into the living and bed rooms of civilians? We have reached a more total and radical phase of this kind of war, and we have surpassed it.

The earlier phase was already that in which ideology was surpassed. Goebbels is explicit in 1943: this is not von Clausewitz’s Total War–the one of ideology.

Ideological war is only a war of ideas. Ideas have not survived the End of History, 1989, the death of Communism, the self-surpassing moment in which Capitalist Democracy loses its ideological component, and wars lose theirs.

All of those post-1945 wars (it’s W-pedia, but here‘s an interesting list of wars 1945-1989) are being fought without ideological pretext, because such a support is no longer necessary, the Total War has already been won, by Western Liberal interests: … but where was it really fought, if not in the two great wars of the early 20th century, the first of which was the war to end empires, the second of which was the war to end nations, nation-states?

Was it in the earlier nation and empire building wars of colonial expansion that the Total War of Ideas was won? … these wars were not ended by world wars I & II. Post-1945 they just lost their ideological pretext, which was the one of nation and empire building.

Ideas: Wars. What is the next step? Imagination? The war of imagination in which Surrealism aligned with Communism?

Is this the reason for the shrinking horizon of imagination? … As the generation of ’68 dies out… Go ask TINA.

I am shouting: transparency: THEY ARE NOT TRANSPARENT TO THEMSELVES!

this is a conversation which is going on outside the lines I am writing here but it has some sense of general cogency, an applicability to the problem of appropriative strategy: capitalist will is transcendent for incorporation of all strategies that would be in opposition.

it has some applicability to governments–at local as well as state as well as federal level–that bury in justification the hegemonic ideologies they embody.

… yes, I find I myself resorting to the ideological. For the exemplary case of a local council expressing its ideology in the way it spends the rates of its citizens, see Auckland in relation to Wellington at this link, called, wonderfully, experimental: here.

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days 88 – 105: including the comeback of lockdown, ackl; or, papa goff gets a payoff

what kind of report to make, not a record of the days, and this music playing, with its dark intimations, which make you yearn for WAP feat. Megan Thee Stallion and its easy innuendos of something beyond both sex and death. For so it must be.

It must be further out than the body’s passions and further in than the deep well.

Perhaps it belongs to the totalitarianism of data Refik Anadol visualises:

— thanks K!

just as perhaps it is in the ludicology of fluxus, so imagine us saying, who that woman was is not important, but art is alive. I mean let’s keep names out of this.

As I was saying…

Wrong Link

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there are no boundaries in art … or it is the very boundary that is its sustaining cheesewire g-string

a light, fluent surface.

— from here is M. John Harrison talking about a story in his own collection, Settling the World, that taught him how to …

and on this surface, say the philosophical surface or its equivalent in one of Leonard Cohen’s songs, there are mining operations.

These are as energy intensive, writes Bloomberg, or have been, as in 2018 to require 140 TWh of electricity, “rivaling the entire annual electricity consumption of Argentina.”

In 2017, the cost of mining a single bitcoin varied between $11,000 and $26,000–says Investopedia.

What’s more is that the majority of mining takes place in China, and, Business Insider writes, “tightening government security is pushing miners to relocate to places like Kazakhstan and Venezuela.”

These places are Politically Unstable–as my source for these figures presents it:

Hive’s Vision, by contrast, is to build a better digital currency mining infrastructure–go deep in the well–using green power for the blockchain.

Hive is building their “rigs in stable jurisdictions to prolific industrial scales–making them some the world’s largest and most energy-efficient datacenters.” [sic.]

the ascent of Hive

Lockdown

on the edges of a storm. Out the window deep grey tones broken by a white edge of ermine. Fading light but it has been circling all day. The heat and humidity amplified by curtains on each side thick and dark walls of dark water. Solid walls black like black mould creeping up a wall. Like being in an old fridge, hotter for having been an appliance to keep things cold and insulated, its heat exchange broken anyway. Not plugged in beside the road.

We are insulated in the sick insulation of what was once a natural product but is now synthetic, a thready material that is barbed. Not so bad as Pink Batts which is made of glass fibre and gets in our lungs, blows free from the cracks in rooftiles, or under eaves, cracks in never well put together New Zealand homes, gets in our eyes. I remember reading about such glass fibre insulation being recorded as present in the Yosemites. This now spills out globally from the world’s broken fridge. A zoonotic thread made of stripes and bars of genomic fibre.

It’s hot in here, even here, on these evening islands. Windblown by virus fibres.

Perhaps it is pollen.

Like sickly orchids in a hothouse we are being pollinated.

Ah, on another tangent or asymptote it is so refreshing to read Ulrik Ekman’s questions that are network critical but that feed in to the other writing I am engaged in in parallel, the reason for my absence here over stretches–but then I’m never sure there are readers for this here.

Mark Blyth is another voice important to listen to–thanks D.–for his curmudgeonly critical pugnacity on economic matters. He explains what it is the market values, and, as byblow, why it might be whole countries and cities can be shut down–from an economic point of view. Why has the world, the muchbruited and feted globalised world of the global marketplace, not simply sat down and given up and … frozen to death or burnt to a crisp … given the shuttings-down governments have now figured out they can do?

It is that the market values assets and capital liquidity and secondary financial products. The general economic market values nonexistent stuff.

This is why existence can get on very well without it.

Let it.

That’s all we ask.

Finally, the pornography of the human condition we didn’t know we needed:


Not finally. How can there ever be any finality ever again?

the palms of the Bush dynasty reaching out to the Trump.

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day 74 – day 87 of the world winding up business

“When times are hard, like they are now, what’s the use of knowing stuff?”

— the end of Cixin Liu’s Of Ants and Dinosaurs (Trans. Elizabeth Hanlon, (London, UK: Head of Zeus, 2020), 248).

OPERATION LEGEND: “a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across all federal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the sudden surge of violent crime.”

MEETS

Wall of Moms

Portland

…although involuntary hospitalisation and treatment is deemed to violate an individual’s civil rights in the US, running for president would seem to meet the conditions of posing a danger either to themselves or others in order to be held for evaluation…

“Police said they have recovered 420 bodies from streets, vehicles and homes in [Bolivia’s] capital of La Paz, and in [its] biggest city, Santa Cruz, in the span of five days. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of them are believed to have had the virus.” — from here.

…winding up business:

For those who might have thought a drug to treat COVID-19 might have a value beyond measure, no. That its value is capable of measure is a measure of its value.

COVID-19 presents–and is presented by the Guardian article breaking news of the breakthrough–an unprecedented (the article says there ought to be a stronger word) opportunity … to make money.

This is not turning others suffering into profit, profiting off others’ suffering, as the soul is said to off the body, as the body is said to turn the soul’s suffering to its own profit, but a profitable speculation on turning the suffering of others around, profiting off the prospect of the positive outcome of their future health.

You can read it for yourself and make sense of what kind of breakthrough is being celebrated here.

Have you been wondering about representation? American critics have been pointing out the debt–suppressed–still owing–20th century dance in the West owes to Africa, and in America, black dancers.

This is not any kind of reciprocation, payment or token but look at Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring being prepared for a tour that with COVID-19 didn’t happen:

Evening. I have been reading about von Zemlinsky in a poem by John Ash. The first part dwells on or in this word evening in English, German and Turkish. Ash has adopted Istanbul as his home city. I wonder how he feels about the Hagia Sophia, about Erdoğan leading the first prayers–at least in the front row of bent over figures, for the camera op–since it has become a mosque and is no longer a museum. Did I imagine him wearing a mask? Erdoğan that is.

What does it mean for the Hagia Sophia to become a mosque? has it reverted to being a mosque? is this a reversion or is this progress? and if progress to what far horizon are we bound? and we might even ask so literally.

I have been following Tim Mackintosh-Smith in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta. He stops in Turkey, second leg of the journey, in three episodes [1, 2, 3]. The Hagia Sophia is a place when our documentarian visits that epitomises the interpenetration of Christianity and Islam in its architecture–high above the heads of those bowed in prayer now, are images, not so much graven as mosaic, Christian icons.

Strange to have seen that the Hagia Sophia twice in very different circumstances so recently.

Von Zemlinsky is yet to reappear. Or perhaps he has pre-appeared.

Besotted with the Alma who wed Mahler and on Mahler’s death married Gropius, of Bauhaus–of the building, incidentally we used regularly to visit of an evening in Berlin, evenings spent following the Wall in its nearby span through our neighbourhood of Kreuzberg–he, von Zemlinsky, held himself to be so ugly he could not bear the sight of himself. A dwarf. And writes Ash, how many of these giants of the Western musical canon were short: Berg towered over most of them. Stravinsky. Mahler himself. Schönberg. Von Zemlinsky, the dwarf.

Where would he have pre-appeared but in the poetry of Bolaño? where there’s always a dwarf, and a hunchback, like he inhabits a Tom Waits song.

There exist slow-acting déjà vu. Perhaps I am yet to hear von Zemlinsky’s 4th Quartet, to have tears–what does Ash say?–dashing from my eyes? Unless I … and haven’t we all imagined we would sooner or later meet this criterion … have not the heart, not the sensitivity, cannot feel, do not understand the musical language, have lost the sense of its symbolic relatability? have been rendered with the rest of these generations who are now living deaf to it? We might not be falling into hyperbole to ask whether this is not a deafness or an intellectual dwarfism, a dullness that afflicts the whole of our civilization. And what would it mean if it did?

My friend–long distance–by email–but I hope she does not mind that I name her as a friend–Aliette Guibert-Certhoux liked to say we have lost in the West a common symbolic frame of reference–we have lost the Symbolic. She includes among her own friends Guy Debord and Baudrillard.

She wrote very movingly on the death of Baudrillard he was a favourite of the nurses, the old … I was about to write roué, and, as I am lacking acute accents within easy reach, I looked up the word. We know that a roue is a wheel. What roué refers to is the wheel which would be the punishment for a debauchee, for all those litanised by the #metoos: he would be broken on a wheel.

Does this make any sense?

The wheel. The Wall of Moms. The #metoos.

I was surprised that an Australian feminist thinker could not countenance–that means face–the late Irigaray. She would only consider the early Irigaray. Not the Irigaray of the evening who wrote so strongly it is perhaps only a true understanding of sexual difference that will, that can, save us.

And Oscar Wilde? will it also save Wilde? … He enters the poem of Ash, by way of “The Birthday of the Infanta.” And this pre-appearance is so striking I have to quote what it turns up, noting first that it handles of a dwarf hunchback:

“The Dwarf mistakenly believes that the Infanta must love him, and tries to find her, passing through a garden where the flowers, sundial, and fish ridicule him, but birds and lizards do not. He finds his way inside the palace, and searches through rooms hoping to find the Infanta, but finding them all devoid of life.

“Eventually, he stumbles upon a grotesque monster that mimics his every move in one of the rooms. When the realisation comes that it was his own reflection, he knows then that the Infanta did not love him, but was laughing out of mockery, and he falls to the floor, kicking and screaming. The Infanta and the other children chance upon him and, imagining it to be another act, laugh and applaud while his flailing grows more and more weak before he stops moving altogether. When the Infanta demands more entertainment, a servant tries to rouse him, only to discover that he has died of a broken heart. Telling this to the Infanta, she speaks the last line of the story ‘For the future, let those who come to play with me have no hearts.'”

You see? It is as we feared.

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days 40-50 – or, walking in circles

Doug McEachern, says his bio, in the book I have in my hand, left school wanting to be a writer. The book I have in my hand evidence he succeeded.

Having left school, he was caught up in the ’60s. The bio puts it that he was “led astray by the political urgency of the campaigns against the Vietnam War and conscription.” This was in Australia.

It gives some indication of what is to follow, Stardust and Golden–the name of the book I have in my hand.

The author then enjoyed a long and “successful” academic career, where is not stated, before leaving university tenure for South Australia “to become a writer.”

This, his first novel, might give us a clue: Stardust and Golden is published by The University of Western Australia, 2018.

It returns us to the 1960s–

Several days of persistent heat forced forward memories of life before all-pervasive air conditioning.

–runs the first line of the novel, making redundant all of the foregoing.

We might recall the opening line of Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers: It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.

And we might consider there is no common measure.

Or we might consider the 1 million planets Raymond Ruyer invokes to demonstrate “that the power of chance is very limited”:

“Consider 1 million planets, each inhabited by 2 billion humans. Each of these humans (106 x 2 x 109) during 1 billion years, tosses every day a die forty thousand times (in one thousand series of forty), that is, practically does nothing else. Approximately how many times would a series of forty sixes arise?” The impression is that such a series will be produced at least some of the time. We can wager 19 against 1 that it will be produced, because (106 x 2 x 109) x (109 x 365 x 103) is still 20 times smaller than 640. Because the duration of life on earth is approximately 2 billion years, it is easy to see why it is extravagant to attribute to chance alone the formation of a nervous system, a circulatory system, the eye or the internal ear, whose ordered complexity has no common measure with the arrangement of a series of forty sixes.

— Raymond Ruyer, Neofinalism, Trans. Alyosha Edlebi, (Minneapolis, MI: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), 163. (Note: original work published in French in 1952.)

From the puffline of Graham Swift’s Booker Prize winning Here We Are the phrase–

pulls back the curtain on the human condition.

The removal of the statue of Hamilton in Hamilton, Morgan Godfrey writes, augurs in a new age: …”and after him every statue celebrating the men who made the empire. It’s 2020, after all, and postcolonialism is giving way to decolonisation.”

There are then in his article for the Guardian some nice turns of phrase with “the tragics” and “the nostalgics” used to call out the empire defenders. That is defenders of the misbegetting of colonial monumentation in the present time of decolonisation.

Morgan Godfrey ends with, “The only way to acknowledge the history they made–invading the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki–and the society they’re responsible for–where Maori are on the wrong side of every statistic, from incarceration to joblessness–is to tear it all down.”

There are many wears of tearing it all down.

Consider the work of Nicola Samorì:

– from the Cannibal Trail series, 2017, oil on copper, detail
– from the Malafonte series, black Carrara marble, 2018

Donna Tartt recently described the process of writing a novel as like “painting a large mural with a brush the size of an eyelash”. My own favourite–

writes Edward Docx, also for the Guardian

is that it’s like trying to fill a swimming pool with a syringe. Or, in a different mood, that writing a novel is like trying to hold a vast and intricate maths equation in your head that seeks to represent reality and through which you are trying to lead people without them ever getting wind that said equation is, in fact, impossible to solve or that, actually, it might not represent reality at all.

Docx, a writer, is introducing his review of Daniel Alarcón’s novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, which, he writes, makes gains (walking in circles?) on the side of the equation, while losing on the side of “immediacy, intimacy and involvement.”

Docx, the writer, answers the question, what we might call the ontological question, on his personal website, of the meaning of the writer’s existence, by writing that being a writer means “to give precise and enduring expression to the human experience”.

Alarcón is not found to have failed in this regard. But the assumption that immediacy, intimacy and involvement are what is being calculated in the above equation is not given as part of the equation.

Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream makes me think of two other perfect short novels, or novellas, Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami, and The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima.

I just noticed that the puffline on the front of Alexandro Zambra’s novel Documents is Daniel Alarcón’s.

On page 51 of Documents, Zambra writes this suggestive phrase–

I sometimes think, from this suspiciously stable place that is the present

From this–the same?–suspiciously stable place that is the present, I think–

the poem

is much better

now you

are looking at it.

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days 31-39

My copy of Alejandro Zambra’s Not to Read in its white card cover blue inside embossed with the logo of Fitzcarraldo Press, having taken as long as it does to push a ferryboat over a mountain, has arrived. The day of our return from Rotorua.

Its translator says about writing: “We write to multiply ourselves.”

Its writer, on the other hand, Alejandro Zambra, in another, a beautiful book written about being a secondary character, against the notion the author is (ever? always?) a primary character, Ways of Going Home, says about writing:

“To read is to cover one’s face …

“To read is to cover one’s face. And to write is to show it.”

Faces might be understood in the fullest sense Levinas then his translator, Lingis, gives: an absolute imperative to which we respond because we must, for which we are responsible.

Faces call on us to respond. With all sorts of ruses, cupidity, nudity–eyes rolling in viscosity, entirely as exposed as uncovered genitalia; entirely as penetrating as the genital (and other, neuroliberal, for example) penetralia.

J. went running in Rotorua. A good place I have discovered is a place where water comes out of the ground hot.

In this period following the COVID-19 call not to let aerosol spit loose, not to be promiscuous in our gazes or exchanges, face to face, she found the ones she encountered while running on the path through the redwoods would set their faces and not meet her eye. She remembered, as I do, as we do, the New Zealand of threat: and she speculated that we still do not meet each others’ eyes because we might want to beat each other up.

Well, this is true. You don’t meet my eye on the street if you think you are being confronted with the threat of violence.

Whatchoo lookin at?

or, then you answer, and:

Come ere n say that!

In this NZ, reading a book is not hiding or saving face, it is exposing it to:

fuckin poof!

Reading? clearly an elitist white colonial pastime.

(It’s always intriguing to know what translates poof to the female equivalent. Lezzie it ain’t. Doesn’t contain the requisite threat of violence.

(fuckin bitch! perhaps. But this is more likely to be preceded by a short interchange in which presumptions to intellectualism are invoked and questioned.

(fucking bitch! Think you’re smart! & so on.)

J. had been worrying, running on, worried, about the averted gazes and looks of the women she passed. Turned a corner, then, at the beginning of a track leading uphill she had intended to take at a walk, she saw a group of patch-wearing men. And she decided to take the uphill track at a run.

But what were they doing there amongst these giant trees? They were of course walking. Not on bikes. They were walking in the trees.

And how can anyone amongst the redwoods not be affected by them?

Lingis writes of the sequoia in the way that they face us with an imperative too. We take it on ourselves to breath in to our cores and to pull ourselves up from the depths of ourselves upright. We learn not rigidity but the reaching up of our uprightness from them. We stand straighter and breathe deeper from them. And we discern in them the deepness of life into which they plunge and from which they soar upwards. Their solidity. Not their stolidity. Their airiness, their breath and rootedness. Not their territorial uprootedness. Not the threat they experience of that territorial rootedness being challenged.

So there are challenges to the colonial experience of Maori here. The redwood is an import. The plantation of redwoods here at the edge of Kaingaroa forestry is a colonial imposition on the landscape.

Driving through this landscape, from Auckland to Matamata to Tirau to Rotorua the “home of Maoridom” as a sign by the Blue and Green Lakes put it, how can anyone escape from the sense of a colonial imposition that has razed the forests, impregnated the land with foreign grasses, and, in autumn, with trees which colourfully lose their leaves? Land for which the use is farming and the economic advancement of populations in a global marketplace for primary produce?

Striking vacant land, you ask, seeing no meat or milk producing occupancy of animals, you ask, What’s the use?

Then these gangmembers in the redwoods, as J. said, aren’t they enjoying the trees? Isn’t this good for them and for us?

I didn’t need to think too long about this theme we, because we grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, have often revisited–of the threat of violence every look may contain–to say:

But it is their exposure that is in these eyes. They feel exposed.

And probably more now since COVID-19. They are exposed to a threat of invisible violence. They are also socially exposed: someone may be judging them as to how well they follow the rules, social-distancing, self-isolating, uniting against the virus.

We feel and have felt so vulnerable in this country, that we do or do not choose to expose ourselves.

That we hide as if from the threat of violence. But strangely the cultural order tends to be maintained that we do not expose ourselves in writing or film-making or dancing or theatre-making or composing music or poetry and do not write books to expose ourselves and do not appreciate those who do. As if we ourselves were being exposed.

Then, by the same wariness of local censure and fear of the threat of violence, we still now look to cultural production–to even the production which is that of our own culture–to put us on the world stage, to take us to a global audience, which exposure we will not experience as our own, personal exposure but claim as national pride.

So we are proud of ‘Jacinda’ and of our efforts in the world and we look to the ways in which we may capitalise on our success in fighting COVID-19–and we find culturally we are succeeding, inviting Avatar here, getting Benee airplay, without the least exposure of the facts.

And isn’t it good to be exposed in this way?

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day 52 – 55: our demands

… we have just discussed it. And together, as a team or nation or society or whatever the hell it is, we can do it! We can beat this normality back into the slimy hole from which it has once again begun to slither. Or the right off the barren promontory from which it has once again begun announcing itself. Like those poles with loudspeakers on them announcing the party line. We can hack it down, we can Hone Heke axe it down because the flag should not be a loudspeaker.

All that needs to happen… perhaps I should put it in bullet points, talking points, Trump decision points, that he prefers above facts … but it is no more than a suggestion. A necessary one.

All that needs to happen is that you and I and yours and mine, that we tell the government 2 things:

  1. government is about taking over permanent control of those controls that control the economy–including taking power over them from off the so-called automated mechanisms and systems of the market: such automatic systems were anyway installed sometime, their operation managed and maintained, by actual people, so can be suspended;
  2. we are going into lockdown on an annual basis. We are appropriating social isolation. We, the people. Whether bosses and managers and businesses and so on like it or not, every year, for a period not shorter than 4 weeks, we do not go to work, to school, and so on, except to engage in essential industries: we need food, and obviously, from our experiences this year, toilet paper and some other basic goods (and wine, or sake, or vodka, beer, marijuana, and other legal highs), and we need access to medical facilities for the vulnerable, and the vulnerable equally need our care, and the little errands we might run for them which make all the difference in our communities. And then we choose a date… And we do it.

This is better than the occupy movement, if you think about it.

But you want to know if the good will of banks and lending institutions and landlords and service providers for electricity and gas and water and telephone and internet connection will be there in the absence of a pandemic, like COVID-19?

We must insist that the government insists that it is.

Be kind, we say, to the planet and to our social and psychic ecologies, for the well-being of our hearts and spirits and minds and what is wrongly called psychological well-being, as if it were treatable (no, it simply exists under conditions which are less internal to human bodies and brains than social, under whatever (economic) conditions are those of society), so also for the social ecology, which term we today must use in preference to the more usual economy–for obvious reasons.

As for the planetary well-being, this should also be obvious. 8% reduction in carbon emissions. Each year until at least the end of the century. 2100.

80 years. 80 lockdowns x 4 weeks–or longer if you like? why not extend for six?

Not quite the sabbatical principle–but that’s OK.

We can. We can beat this thing. This capitalism. This normality. This planetary degradation. This human and species extinction.

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day 50, 51

but who’s counting?

The return to work. The return to normality.

Well, let’s not. It is as we have known for some time.

Franco “Bifo” Berardi writes, is worth quoting at length, because so good:

…we will never be able to return to normality ever again. Normality is what made the planetary organism so fragile and paved the way for the pandemic, to begin with.

Even before the pandemic exploded, the word “extinction” had begun to appear on the century horizon. Even before the pandemic, the year 2019 had shown an impressive crescendo of environmental and social collapses that culminated in November with New Delhi’s unbreathable nightmare and Australia’s terrifying fires.

The millions of kids who marched through the streets in many cities on March 15th, 2019 demanding to stop the death machine, have now reached the core and the climate change dynamics have been for the first time interrupted.

If we simply pretend to return to “normal” we might have to face violence, totalitarianism, massacres, and the extinction of the human race before the end of the century.

Normality must not return.

We won’t have to ask ourselves what is good for the stock market, or for the economy of debt and profit. Finance has gone to hell, we don’t want to hear about it anymore. We will have to ask ourselves what is really useful. The word “useful” must be the alpha and omega of production, technology and activity.

I realize that I am saying things bigger than myself, but we must prepare ourselves to face huge choices. When the story ends, if you want to be ready you need to start thinking about what’s useful, and how you can produce it without destroying the environment and the human body.

from here

This is perhaps the reason I am still counting the days.

Bifo ends with the question he says is the question the revolution must begin with: who decides what happens next?

If we let the powers that be, if we let be the powers that be, we are letting the political managers continue in the delusion they are taking temporary control–let us stress this: if we let the powers that be be, they, governments, will continue in the delusion their takeover of the controls governing economies from nation to nation across the globe to be a temporary one, pending the return to force, the resumption of normal mechanisms for economic governance and management.

We know these normal mechanisms to be markets and their governors, monopoly producers and financial institutions and ratings agencies (that is those rating economic performance for entire countries). (And by producers we should understand also those in the business of harvesting data, our data.)

Can we afford for governments to step back from economic control? Or ought we not be saying this is what governments ought to be doing?

And the proof they ought to be is that they can.

How extraordinary that governments have become the alternative to capitalism. But then who could really accept that capitalism and democracy are compatible, or able to be said in the same breath or phrase: Capitalist Democracy is like saying Cainist Abelism, or Abelist Cainism.

So the revolution is the renationalisation of national economies?

Normality must not return.

Instead of returning to work tomorrow, I am waiting for the results of my first COVID-19 test. I took the test yesterday.

I took the test because I went to a day of preparation for the public performance of my official role, as a representative of a social (civic) service, with a catch in my throat. Not a metaphorical one. Although the metaphor is appropriate.

And upon asking whether I ought to be amongst my colleagues, with respiratory symptoms–albeit of the lowest order, the matter was put to their vote.

I left in great uncertainty. Which the test entirely rid me of.

Even if I test negative, under NZ’s current status of a Level 2 Alert, those with respiratory symptoms should stay home.

It is extraordinary for governments to provide an alternative that is less devastating to humanity or the earth and its forms of life than free market capitalism simply by taking over the controls of national economies.

It is equally extraordinary at a much reduced scale that even a social (civic) service, such as my employer, should pursue the uncertainty which would allow it to return to business as usual.

The uncertainty now, 50, 51 days in from the announcement of lockdown in NZ, pertains to the difference between following the rules, which are social, voluntary, soft, and abiding by the law, set by the legislature–under a state of emergency as it would be under normality–that is the principle of democratic government: that is the principle that a democracy makes, imposes and imposes as enforceable, its own laws.

So I have misled you but not entirely.

I have misled you on the order of the instructional manuals masquerading as information, which come in powerpoint format, in facile slides with tasteless ornaments, sad graphic interventions, off the shelf.

(I remember in the 1980s the word for what was cheap or a bargain in the BDR–a country which like the DDR no longer exists–was democratisch. What was cheap, even if nasty, was called democratic.)

I have misled you because their voice is not declarative: they are not stating a case. The voice is imperative.

  • wash your hands
  • stand well back from the toilet
  • wipe the lid
  • lower it
  • raise it
  • sit on it
  • take 20 minutes to warm it up (COVID-19 hates warmth)

The imperatives they voice apply to the state of affairs which they do not articulate, let alone declare for, but which they assume.

Do these documents–these instructions in conduct, or what is called where I work, behaviours, in order to differentiate them from a code or discipline (itself assumed)–then produce the states of affairs to which they apply?

Yes.

It is like religious instruction–in fact has an element in this country of religiosity to it for the adoption of karakia, prayers that are the lipservice to honouring Treaty obligations through the adaptation to managerial ends by public institutions of Te Reo, Maori language.

It is like a discipline. But like the law of COVID-19 management that dare not speak its name, but chooses to go by a rule–a monastic rule. But like the government that dare not take on the command of the economy–even in the face of a pandemic! and the normality of the ongoing state of emergency that human society is in now. It is a voluntary discipline which has become one and the same thing as personal decision.

Who decides on normality these days?

I am also reminded of a scene in which Foucault, in Philip Horvitz’s account, remonstrates against the terrible and absurd fact that after all the freedoms won by gays, with AIDs it has been willing to give away to the experts the right to have the pleasure of sleeping with whom one pleases how one pleases.

The danger, is not the disease!, it is in renouncing desire that the danger lies.

(The need for a discourse of renunciation then is taken up in the document of instruction: the one it is imperative to read… before your return to work.

(It explains how to wash your hands,

(and how to go to the toilet.)

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