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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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have you heard the one about … : kinda a follow-on from the yobbism post

With serendipitous timing Adam Shatz’s Writers and Missionaries: Essays on the Radical Imagination (Verso, 2023) arrived today, serendipitous because of what I left out of said yobbism post. I had Oliver Bottini say it instead. There it came down to no longer belonging to a community of whatever sort and not missing it but instead missing the feeling that what one said, did and wrote was in some sense an answer to that community, had a necessity, the necessity of being answerable.

This is Levinas’s definition of responsibility. It has an ethical dimension that is absolute. God, for Levinas, is an individual to whom one is answerable.

In turn we are put in mind of Lingis’s categorical imperative. I made it the basis of the last phase of Minus Theatre’s work.

Lingis takes categorical imperative from Kant for whom it was, in Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, 1785), those foundations or that groundwork, the basis of moral obligation. Lingis takes this literally. He invokes the ground, the earth the other stands on, the air the other breathes, the fire of life in her, the water life in him depends on, the elements. Here, like Levinas, he says the basis of ethical behaviour is in a disposition towards the absolute other, God-the-individual.

He has us in a supermarket in a country where we don’t speak the language. Someone in front at the checkout turns to us. They smile in recognition at our mutual helplessness before the elemental dependence we share, both of us. We smile back in recognition of what the elements make imperative: we stand on the ground, we breathe the air, we are warm with life and our bodies, watery objects, move and flow in time. Perhaps we are not conscious of this but the point is that we can recognise it, we can recognise it in our disposition towards the other, as an absolute, an imperative.

Or the other calls on us by name, Hey, Simon! And I find I have to answer without the mask of a social role but in my own name. I affirm in so answering that I am answerable. I choose for this, in my own name, I exist, Simon.

Or we are ill and illness pushes us up tight against the body. It is unescapable, the unavoidable fact of our existence, its dependencies absolute. Take them away and we cease.

In Minus Theatre, a development of our practice that I didn’t carry over into the exegesis but was the reason I called it Minus Theatre: Scenes | Elements, this elemental imperative was to be consciously recognised. It took time. One actor faced another across a distance that became significant since it contained air, the air both were breathing, ground, the earth that let them stand, warmth, the warmth from their breath and bodies, and the moisture, the wateryness of those bodies in their movements. And then one would move … and the other would become answerable to that movement. The movement need be no bigger than a smile.

Yes, there is this community and the question it posed to me too to which I was answerable. I was after all responsible for this group, Minus Theatre, coming together; although it was my practice for a PhD. it was a group practice that that work followed.

And there is the community into which I politically awakened in 1981. This was not only the year of Halt All Racist Tours, the year we protested the visit of the Springboks to New Zealand. This was the year the union, Actors’ Equity, a poor thing now, took all actors out on strike, technical staff joining them in solidarity. (Some of the history is here.) Theatre’s were closed, the professional theatres, the profession a poor thing too, the community theatres. Almost unspeakable now, there had been 10 of them, in all the major centres, the communities, in NZ. And to speak about it is what that political awakening asked from me. To Whom Can I Speak Today?–the words of a poem adapted by Lambchop as the following lyric, also covered by David Byrne, the link for which at the Dalhousie University bears this note, (A dispute over suicide, Egypt, before 2000 BC):

To whom can I speak today?
The brothers they are evil
But the old friends of today
They have become unlovable
To whom can I speak today?
The gentleness has perished
And the violent man has come down on everyone

To whom can I speak today?
The wrong which roams the earth
There can be no end to it
It is just unstoppable
Death is in my sights today
And when a man desires
To see home after many years in jail

February through December
We had such a tragic year
As separate as the fingers
Or suddenly
As one
As the hand

And the violent man comes down on everyone
And the violent man comes down on everyone
And the violent man comes down on
Everyone

It’s odd to see how much of my work is a struggle with the idea of community. Political philosopher Roberto Esposito brings the ideas of community and immunity together. They are from the same root, munus, meaning an individual’s service or duty to the public body, including and going up to the sacrifice of his or her body, for example in the gladiatorial arena. And I suppose it could be seen to include self-sacrifice in the political arena or self-immolation.

Esposito does something similar to Benjamin, in suggesting that when state-violence enters into the moral relations of a cause it becomes yobbism or, in the old style, totalitarian. He points out that if a positive value is attached to us to distinguish us from them the result is totalitarianism, so that the positive way through is to choose for the negative, the nothing, the void, which must then itself be annulled.

With regard to community, Esposito writes, “It’s only through the abolition of its nothing that the thing can finally be fulfilled. Yet the realization of the thing, which is necessarily phantasmic, is precisely the objective of totalitarianism.”

I’d heard the one about the death of the author. From the eponymously titled essay by Roland Barthes, 1967: “It is language which speaks, not the author” … To assign an author is to foreclose on the possible meanings of the writing.

I hadn’t heard the one that Shatz, in Writers and Missionaries, follows it up with: Foucault defines the author as “the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning.”

Foucault two years later undoes what Barthes does: not the author’s suicide but a principle of thrift applies.

Barthes is calling for meanings to proliferate, Foucault calling for de-proliferation. The reader is a means to proliferation, the author a means to de-proliferation, of meaning: a sponge, a filter or screen.

Shatz reads as the antidote to Claire Dederer’s Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma. That book set out the dilemma of our choices as consumers being raised to the status of ethical decisions. The dilemma is what we choose to avow has too much meaning, meaning that continues as it prolongs the meaning that preceded it, meaning that we cannot shake, choosing to or choosing not to, not to see, read, serve, work, listen, feel and so on. Shatz says,

“In this book, I try to describe how such works [as have changed the way we think about the world as have Wright’s Native Son, Lévi-Strauss’s Triste Tropiques, Derrida’s Of Grammatology, Barthes’s Camera Lucida, Said’s Orientalism, Lanzmann’s Shoah] came into being: their position in intellectual history, but also their place in the lives of their creators. I make no attempt to present their authors as models for contemporary emulation or social media branding.”

… and,

“The flaws that I describe may, for some, call into question the value of my subjects’ achievements. That is not my view. It is impossible to study intellectual history without suffering heartbreak from time to time. (Just think of Arendt on Little Rock, Chomsky on Cambodia, Foucault on Iran, Angela Davis on East Germany, Sartre on Israel, Malcolm X on gender, or any number of writers on Stalinism.)” … “The purpose of these essays is not to establish a moral balance sheet but rather to explore the difficult and sometimes perilous practice of the engaged intellectual: the wrenching demands that the world imposes on the mind as it seeks to liberate itself from various forms of captivity.”

Explaining what to liberate means, Sartre:

“And he captured the desire for freedom that, as he saw it, lies behind all creative writing. Freedom, he insisted, is ‘at the origin’ of writing, since ‘no one is obliged to choose himself as a writer.’ Writing, therefore, ‘is a certain way of wanting freedom; once you have begun, you are committed.'”

3% writes D. to me, the 97% need to be able to other 3% of its number, just to be safe. And, therefore, the 3% have this service to perform of being the inside-outsiders.

What if no matter how many are othered there is no safety to be found?

Is it the same thing, human advantage over other humans, as has driven the biological advantage of humans over other animals? And would this not be less technology, technical advancement through prostheses, than social advancement? the need for variation within human community leading to big-brain-edness being therefore the big social brain of humans compared to other species (with perhaps the exception of aquatic mammals and primates who are also social-brained)?

Communities in Esposito’s political deontology have to be destroyed that are improper. These are the ones who abjure social relations, who keep their gifts for themselves, sharing economies. The social organisation crushes them and keeps a blank space where the obligation of relation was, that obligation which led to those services (of munus, munera) rendered within community, the commitments made by individuals to each other. It becomes an immunological space … of nothing given that is not first discounted for being an improper use of time, work, commitment, freedom and so on and displaced by symbolic exchange, by a conventional sign that sits on nothing and so annuls nothing.

For example this library has been made into a council service centre. A fellow librarian was subjected to a complaint regarding roading. I suggested posting it as anonymous on behalf of the complainant on the Auckland Transport website, since roading is not within the remit of council, however, the library is. We are council employees. This has allowed to the service of being a library the addition of extra services to the public.

Librarians here are council officers so I ought to have said that it’s not within our remit to deal with complaints in regard to roads but, I abjure this relation.

Does this mean that librarians form some kind of community on the basis of holding the relation to council in contempt? It would be one where we share amongst ourselves values that do not fit and are improper; it would be an improper community: but council does not go out of its way to crush it. It would rather turn libraries into a sort of parasite.

The reason is the yobbism that prevails prevails in general and librarians are complicit in it. We are not then we but further divide. We are dividual.

The evidence for this yobbism in the library has everything to do with work culture, in the old style, and a downgrading of, professionalism. So it goes to an ethical consideration, the ethical consideration of what constitutes professional practice and practices.

The library has become a parasite on technical culture and it is this that has detrimented library practices, or, as has been said here, destroyed the profession. It can be said then council, through its technical culture and its imposition of a work culture in its place, has brought about the destruction of the professional community.

Now what the object was above in speaking of the place of nothing that replaces community, in the example professional community, is both to draw attention to the void left and how a shifting series of signs nullifies it. Among these can be counted the imposition of work culture that no longer has a chain of command but a reporting line, that is no longer designated library service but is part of connected communities.

Nullification can take the form of doubling and simulating. How we know it’s a double is the plural. There are always small flaws in the simulation. Of course this is how we recognise God’s work as well, by its small cracks, by the irreality that survives in its interstices.

We might talk about AI as the grossest yobbism of technical culture.

“We, the indivisible divinity that operates within us, have dreamt the world. We have dreamt it resistant, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and firm in time. But we have consented within its architecture tenuous and eternal interstices of unreason to know that it is false.”

— Jorge Luis Borges, “Avatars of the Tortoise”

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the yobbism of the given

The tenets of civilisation are now being written by the authors of the gravest barbarity. Times have changed since Walter Benjamin’s day.

I’m informed I’m up to 1,990 posts and 298 pages. My father before he died said, Life is too short to read square white world.

Space is a social construct within the many, many, many dimensions of time. The notion offers no consolation to people who cannot negotiate the space they’re in, like animals, in the words of the title of Gilles Châtelet’s book–To Live and Think Like Pigs: The Incitement of Envy and Boredom in Market Democracies.

Justin Clemens reviewing my doctoral thesis lauded the concept of minoritarian conventionalism. I had a very specific context when I came up with the idea, a group formed around my practice, Minus Theatre.

We can choose the conventions we follow so long as we limit the number of people included in the subject, we. If we do not we are bound to follow the conventions of the space and spaces we inhabit, the same for any other animal in its habitat.

The point is elective rather than selective. It’s out of habit that we say the sun will rise, and rise in the West; the beginning of science fiction: the sun rose in the East.

Deleuze follows the line of Spinoza, Hume and Nietzsche, on his own and then with Guattari. This line is not of good sense and public morality and not, according to the conventions, determined to be natural and belong to human nature, we have no choice but to accept, of common sense.

I have left Bergson out but he can be placed anywhere in relation to the other points on the line, which are, a body’s powers of action are in relation to its power to be affected (Spinoza), custom is to the social as habit is to the individual: both may be chosen (Hume), and the social is the sum result of the choice of those forces that would affirm it in its values and that only return through the individual’s re-affirmation of them, that is, as resentment (Nietzsche). All three concern the basis of freedom that Bergson leaves undefined because it is in indetermination.

Music, the answer is music. “He had the great courage to place his knowledge and energy at the service of a cause that could never be won in a single lifetime, at any price. Fighting doggedly in a western world traumatised by guilt at having allowed the genocide of the Jews to happen, while having redeemed itself on the cheap at the cost of denial and blindness in relation to the Palestinians, Said managed to maintain his positions without ever ceding an inch of his territory to the anti-Semitism he abhorred to the same degree.”

Dominique Eddé is writing about Edward Said. Said and Daniel Barenboim together founded the Divan Orchestra, now known as the West-Eastern, its website here.

Friends, Said and Barenboim, the website tells us, together “realised the urgent need for an alternative way to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The most recent post on Divan’s website, an opinion piece by Barenboim, is dated 16 October 2023. Today’s date is 23 February 2024.

As at 21 February 2024, Al Jazeera reports a death toll of 29,708 Palestinians and 1,139 since 7 October 2023 in Israel. Of the first number, it reports 12,300 were children and 8,400 women.

Common sense and good sense are like night and day, which does not mean there is not a twilight, an horizon between them, a morning light and a growing gloom. On 31 October 2023 Le Monde featured an opinion piece by Dominique Eddé, author of Edward Said: His Thought as a Novel.

She writes there, “it is time for each and every one of us to make a huge effort if we do not want barbarism to triumph at our gates.” She echoes Walter Benjamin, who, according to his friend, Gershom Scholem, held that were three things Zionism must abandon, its racism and “racist ideology” and its “‘blood experience’ arguments.” (source)

… “a cause”, writes Benjamin, “becomes violent, in the precise sense of the word, when it enters into moral relations.” The source cited above links to that for this statement and also provides a gloss on Benjamin’s essay in which the statement occurs, “Zur Kritik der Gewalt.”

Benjamin’s word for violence, Gewalt, is defined as state-violence. State-violence when it enters into the moral relations of a cause becomes yobbism, we might say.

Is there any state and any state-violence that has not currently entered into the moral relations of a cause? How, when the given is yobbism, take up a cause against this cause?

Victor Double said to me, Thank you for your help, Mr Taylor. My help consisted of contacting AT (Auckland Transport) on his behalf, as an AT agent, about which I could say more, since I work at a public library, to ask that his AT Gold Card be credited with the price of his ferry ticket, approximately NZ$30 from downtown Auckland.

Since the Gold Card allows the holder free travel on public transport if used before 9am, he had he felt been wrongly charged. He’d caught the 9am ferry which boarded at five minutes to, he explained; he didn’t usually travel with his poodle; and there were a lot of people, tourists, to board.

He gave his name, asked to confirm his identity, and, asked for his date of birth, he hesitated before giving the year, 1939. He was, he said, afraid that made him 85.

Were they going to refund him? A query would be raised, for review and, pending that, no definite answer.

I was aware, I told him, that even catching the ferry five minutes before nine you could be zapped. Thank you for your help, Mr Taylor, once the transaction was complete, said Mr Double, and left with his straw hat and his poodle.

Why burn books when you can burn libraries? Burning Al-Kalima library in Gaza is not an isolated event. Since October 7 at least 14 other libraries have been either completely destroyed or badly damaged by the Israel Defense Forces, enough to confirm the burning of libraries as an objective.

The list given by Literary Hub includes,

Gaza University Library, on October 9

IBBY Children in Crisis Library (destroyed by air-strike once before in 2014)

Diana Tamari Sabbagh Library (also used as a shelter for people), on November 25

Al-Israa University Library

the National Museum (looted and then demolished), on January 18

the Central Archives of Gaza

the Great Omari Mosque and library (housing one of the most significant collections of rare books in Palestine)

An earlier article lists librarians and archivists killed. Justine Profane, a guest (her name recalling Walter Benjamin’s “Theologico-Political Fragment”), comments:

“Barbarous cancer is idiots like you. Change your avatar you specious racist as you seem to have a problem with Jewish lives and this is all you can muster. You accuse us of barbarism but yet here we are as you parade around sounding more and more like David Duke and sending money for the slaughter. The Leni Riefenstahl Arts Council applauds you. You also never answered my question earlier: How long have you hated women? Here’s another questions: You think a beta like you could handle a loud mouthed real woman, especially a Jewish woman like me?

“Sit down, you misogynistic troll.

“Your hatred is on your and your support for it is the ugly reflection in the mirror. Not mine and not on me.”

Edward Said Library (Beit Lahia) has also been destroyed. (source: Librarians and Archivists with Palestine) David Lloyd writes on the conference and workshop which took place in Ramallah, “Walter Benjamin in Palestine: On the Place and Non-Place of Radical Thought,” in December 2015:

“To emphasize the contradiction between intellectual study and a commitment to practice, or between the privilege of the foreign scholar and the burdens of the Palestinian living under occupation, seemed almost too easy, a form of hasty thinking, even. Those of us who had committed to engage in these workshops, unsure even whether we would be allowed by Israeli authorities to enter Palestine, despite the workshop’s focus on a major and self-consciously Jewish intellectual, had chosen to participate in study under a state of occupation. We came there from diverse and incommensurate histories and motivations. We were philosophers by training, artists, film-makers, historians and theorists, activists and translators, and sometimes several of those at once. … Above all, we had committed not to a mere intellectual exercise but to the furtherance of a principle, which is that the intellectual life of the occupied and oppressed is not a luxury, but a fundamental expression of the possibility of living in common.”

“The attempt to destroy Palestinian intellectual life is as unstinting as the uprooting and burning of the ancient olive trees of the Holy Land, some 800,000 of which have been destroyed in the course of Israel’s occupation.”

I am at the end of this post and I have not yet said what I came here to say (as usual). And as usual, I have let others speak. In the end it was easier to let them speak, like the crime novelist Oliver Bottini, who says of his character Louise Boní, “For years she’d been pleased she no longer belonged to a community of whatever sort…”

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chain(links) & magic(realism): US prisons ban fantasy and scifi

the first link lays it out:

— Moira Marquis, “Censoring Imagination: Why Prisons Ban Fantasy and Science Fiction,” LITHUB, December 7, 2023

— Francesco Queirolo, Disinganno, 1753

disillusion.] The Neapolitian Raimondo’s dedication is truly beautiful: the life of his father is used as an immortal example of…

And looking for the text which brought me to Disinganno, not finding it, but going by way of Emmanuel Carrère, a writer who takes a bead on being free of illusion led me to another who does too:

The text however, tying up these loose ends, I really wanted to link to is “On the Radical Escapism of Magic Realism” by Eden Kupermintz. On the little bit of magic required for immunity from communal reality, and le sens commun,

“This is not to say that magical realism cannot deal with ‘grand’ events like the fall of regimes or life and death. But it is usually that those events transpire from the small, the every day, and the mundane, where that mundane is ‘fed’ a small degree of magic.”

— from the magical realism essay, here at (Seneca: Animum debes mutare, non caelum [you must change your spirit (or self or mind), not the sky {non caelum}]) notthesky.com. Note the title in the link, which would make “On the Radical Escapism of Magic Realism” the subtitle. It is…

— more from Eden whose take on war in Gaza (death toll surpassing 17,700 11.12.2023) is that of…

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Dear Greens,

Kia ora Simon,

I can feel it: the green wave is surging.

I’m emailing you today from Tāmaki Makaurau where I’ve been visiting violence prevention organisations, and I can tell you that the momentum is growing. I’m invigorated by the aroha of people up and down Aotearoa, some who’ve never voted, or never voted Green before, or people who have been with us through many elections. …

wrote Marama Davidson,

then asked for money

signing off,

Mauri ora.

Ngā mihi nui ki a koe,

Marama Davidson
Green Party Co-leader

I replied,

No, Marama. 

Give up on carbon credits and marketisation of the ongoing disaster of market capitalism. 

Use and endorse in party policy the power of the legislature to create a legal framework restricting carbon emissions at the point of their emission. Fining emitters use business to adapt to the legal framework. 

UBI should be policy. 

You join the ranks of the enablers if you do anything less. 

Best, 

Simon Taylor, PhD. 

Kia ora Simon, 

This is it. This is our time. The time is now for the Greens to change the shape and direction of the next government. 

wrote James Shaw to me …

and asked for money,

GIVE TODAY AND MAKE IT A REALITY

Today Luxon is backpedalling trying to rationalise how he’ll work with NZ First and ACT. But truth be told, he’s desperate to get into power – and he’ll do anything, work with anyone, to get it. Even if it means putting our country at risk. 

which as a sideline is interesting, sad and ironic: the Greens and the Left by extension (see below) appealing to conservative values and risk-aversion, when taking a risk is what is needed

James Shaw signed off,

I’ve never felt more hopeful about the future of our country. 

Ngā mihi nui,

James Shaw

Green Party Co-leader  

which, receiving an automated reply, I answered,

I would vote for you if you dumped the whole idea of a carbon market. 

What is the purpose of the legislature? 

Introduce a legal framework restricting the level of emissions--at their points of emission. 

Fewer planes, fewer trucks, fewer carbon burning factories, in fact none. 

Use business and the market to adapt to the legal framework. This is the only place where a market is of any positive use. 

Best, 
Simon Taylor, PhD. 

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fresh from the Mouse vs the Meataxe

the Right Honourable Chris Hipkins vs Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition of New Zealand (wiki) Christopher Luxon played on the television last night, the first of the leaders’ debates for this year’s election, 14 October 2023.

It was moderated by 1News Political Editor Jessica Mutch McKay and was the first time voters got to see the leaders of the country’s two main parties going head-to-head in a primetime debate.

Jack Tame conducted what was risibly called (at the link above) analysis after the debate. Jack greeted Jessica with the embarrassing stupidity that, neither Chris nor Christopher, as they were interchangeably referred to throughout her moderation, but she had been the ‘winner.’ The analysis that followed featured an unbroken string of sports metaphors and was equally embarrassing for all involved, whoever they were.

…but who were Chris and Christopher? (one seemed always to be bigger in the shot, as if he had been eating) … the question was not really gratified with an answer. The sole gratification to come from the debate was its signalling of the end of adversarial politics in New Zealand. The contestants felt no need to distinguish themselves. And didn’t, either personally or professionally, either with their political or personal acuity, and neither were the policies of the parties they represent distinguished nor was any effort felt needed to do so.

Chris L, the Meataxe of the title, best described the differences in the party-line each was there to push (or pull) as their having the same aims but getting there different ways. He said this several times. It was odd. And, when it came to cogovernance, sort of like the guards and kapo getting together in front of the ovens … and exactly like that when it came to climate change.

… but then there they all are, including the Greens and Te Pāti Māori, Act and TOP and NZ Fi(r)st, the Meataxe and the Mouse’s parties, warming their hands …

No. They’re not warming their hands. They’re melting their crayons. It’s a colouring in competition. It’s all the colours of the rainbow. It’s paint by numbers but all the numbers are called Chris and…

It’s the political future of New Zealand Aotearoa and were it in the slightest involving it would be a nightmare or a gameshow if you felt the contestants were in the least engaged… but they are not. They are absent. They are Chris.

… and I had thought of illustrating this post with with a song from Aldous Harding’s Warm Chris album… or this,

… but it’s too familiar and filled … with actual meanings … or this, its meanings are more of the moment,

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recently I struck a strange cavil on fakeduck

It was as follows:

I’d posted a list, shared, from Peter Larsen, a list of all the arts bodies, organisations, institutions, potentially affected by Mayor of Auckland Wayne Brown’s austerity policies. (The plan is to claw back some $300m+ by further gutting the gutted and hamstrung and hung-out-to-dry (because it has been very wet) city of Auckland, supercity, super.) And a nice person commented

Wow that is a lot of jobs and a lot of mental health support removed from the community… 🙁

I answered

please don’t reduce the role of arts to mental health

The nice person:

excuse me? Having art in peoples lives improves peoples lives. Having community outlets and hubs to join. Please don’t simplify my comment when I obviously wasn’t stating all benefits to having arts funding. 🤦‍♀️

And:

I’ve grown up in the arts community since I was born and pretending art doesn’t improve mental well being is just ignorant.

Now. I just want to say this here. Perhaps you will be able to make sense of it.

Please increase the role of arts in mental health

but

Please do not reduce the role of arts to mental health

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$25 in two cents: two quotes that got away, from The_Future_For[of]_Arts_Development_in_Aotearoa_New_Zealand doc

“Pay us $25 hour to be here.”

“Artists need good wages, not the $25/ hour CNZ has been putting forward for some time (it’s too too low for contractors that many artists are working and have to pay tax).”

these come from under the subheading Artists need to be paid fairly and recognised as professionals

and this subheading comes under the heading Leadership

and this leadership refers to the organisation never to be known as the King Charles III Arts Council

but I like these quotes and cite them here to show the diversity of opinion among artists

and arts organisations.

I cite them to show the difficulty faced by this organisation. I mean

they clearly and plainly contradict each other. And apart from drawing attention to

this contradiction

I can imagine no other reason for that organisation to cite them. We

must, I say we must be put in mind of this small discrepancy:

the document has two titles. In one it is for Arts Development in Aotearoa New Zealand. In

the other it is the Future of Arts Development in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is The Future for

Arts Development in the title for the pdf but the document itself has the title The Future of Arts

Development. …this difference might be like those breadcrumbs of QANON. Unless

the organisation wants it both ways. It wants to dictate the future as well as indicate it. It wants to

answer the question what will the future be for arts development in Aotearoa New Zealand with

the answer it has already given. The future for arts development in Aotearoa New Zealand is the future

of arts development in Aotearoa New Zealand. One title points to the future and the

other raises the question of that future. For asks what does the future hold. Of relegates it to the past

where it will have been. If it has been at all.

In this way of is a question of a future being of the arts. Except

that the problem is further complicated by the compound noun arts development. What does it mean?

The future of arts development may be the only way it can develop. To state the future of arts

development is to prescribe if it is to develop how it will develop. Whereas to state the future for

arts development is to project into the future what development there will be. There is still some

ambiguity.

The future for arts development may mean what use arts development will have. So the

question of the use of it will be raised. What’s the use of it? And does the document address in

any way that use?

Some of the quotes do, the quotes that the organisation scares us off with its raised eyebrows. They

do kind of. They, the quotes are not about arts development or its use but about the use

of arts. Imagine if the document were titled The Future for the Arts in Aotearoa

New Zealand. The quotes that talk about the use of arts make the arts out to be a form of

therapy. The use of the arts is for mental well being. What is the use of the arts? And then

what use does development for the arts have? What is the difference between that and

this, What use does development of the arts have? This question of the use of

development makes it clear that development serve the arts since it is the development

of the arts that is in question. It is the arts being developed. The other,

development for the arts applies something to the arts that it calls development but

which may be the opposite of development. Development is meant for the arts just

like the development of children is for them but has usually historically been

detrimental to them. In other words for means meant for and is well-meaning even

if in practice it causes maldevelopment. Just like that the organisation that

never will be called the King Charles III Arts Council means well. What it does

is another thing. It means well by producing a document for and of the develop-

ment of arts in Aotearoa New Zealand but this assumption undergirds it, that

the arts don’t so much need funding as development.

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The Future of Arts Development in Aotearoa New Zealand AKA The Future FOR Arts Development in Aotearoa New Zealand … AKA ‘Future Island’ charting a course for it, illustrated with stills from Clutch Cargo

here’s the pdf: https://creativenz.govt.nz/-/media/Project/Creative-NZ/CreativeNZ/PageDocuments/Future-of-arts-development/20230508_Future_For_Arts_Development_Report.pdf

says CNZ: “We agree with many artists and arts organisations that where we are now doesn’t serve our communities and will not improve without an intentional and significant shift.”

says CNZ: “It’s important to us to co-design the ‘future island’ with those who will be living on it.”

this may raise some eyebrows, says CNZ, while acknowledging that since Covid-19 Creative New Zealand hasn’t always delivered for all artists and arts organisations in the way they’ve needed. It says eyebrows about sharing some of the quotes it heard from people on their experiences and beliefs of how the arts is funded in New Zealand …

before the eyebrow-raising quotes, the organisation cites 5 challenges it needs to address:

  1. CONNECT TO ARTISTS AND ARTS ORGANISATIONS (note, not institutions) based on trust, respect and longevity (yep, that’s what it says) (note, this is challenge No. 1)
  2. FACILITATE ACCESS to work with the organisation in both “process and interactions” (whatever that means)
  3. GIVE COMMUNITIES A GREATER SAY IN WHO GETS $$$ AND IN [something called] ARTS DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES, “so that specific and nuanced arts development needs are met more effectively” (if you say so) (although meeting arts development needs more effectively sounds more than ever like meeting the development needs of children more effectively) (and this is not to speak of an implied similarity)
  4. MEET A STATED REQUEST TO USE THE ORGANISATION’S STATUS AS A CROWN ENTITY “to broker relationships between artists, arts organisations, territorial authorities, local governments and businesses to build better communities” (now to whomever made this request, be careful what you wish for) (and–the status of CNZ under statute is that of a crown entity thanks to the patronage of His Majesty King Charles III of Great Britain: decolonise that!)
  5. this challenge is headed as ADVOCACY. Good. However the description goes like this, “a challenge to use our existing government relationships more effectively so the lives of artists and the value of the arts are better respected and understood.” hmmm… Is that advocacy?

Co-design – is a buzz word that gets a lot of airtime in this document. A way forward is being co-designed. Co-design goes further than in consultation with … I’ve seen co-design in action. It’s not pretty. No… It is pretty. Like post-it notes in different colours are pretty.

The only technical word in co-design is the word design. What it is is a participatory design process. It’s pretty, like sunlight, says the commercial site for the Sunlight Foundation. This organisation presumably has co-designed global access to sunlight for all the nations of the world.

This May, in its last week, the organisation previously known as the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council (and never to be known as the King Charles III Arts Council) will take the next step to “co-design a way forward, with small groups of big picture thinkers from both the arts space and Creative New Zealand working on the high-level architecture” … &blahblah. One of its longterm goals is for communities to be the “accountable decision makers for their arts development needs.” (As above, read special needs.) It always intrigues me how it is that while painting the picture the organisation is not seen to be, and is not in the picture. Here it’s addressing its delegation of the work it does to those it is supposed to serve. I suppose this is really like a commissioned artist and the communities are like those commissioning the portrait that will paint them and their special arts development needs.

Note that this longterm goal of shifting decision making, no. That’s not right. Shifting accountability for decision making, decision making that the organisation is still being paid to do, a number of fulltime arts-organisational fulltime wages’ worth of being paid. This longterm goal is complex. It will take more time than co-designing whatever that first bit was.

By the end of 2023 expect to see some changes, warns the organisation. The cap on the number of applications for the April 2023 funding round lifts from 250 to 450. For the August and October rounds there is no cap on the number. The organisation is going to be speaking clearly and plainly and will clearly and specifically name people within it to have a conversation. That’s nice.

I’ve just gone through and to facilitate legibility have increased the size of the font in this post. This is probably the sort of thing you can expect from the organisation. Also know that you can always talk to me. Please use the contact form.

The organisation is embarking on this change journey for you and with you. However, it already concedes here, before the journey has begun, that leadership and advocacy changes (see 4. & 5. above) involve areas in which it has less direct control. That’s OK though. It’s going to get back to you before the end of the year with a plan, a seachart.

Ouuuuugggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff

arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghtweoirukgdfbkvuh

agrrrrrrrrssssssssssssssssssssssssssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzshshshshhsh:

just sneaked a peak at the quotes.

not really, is all a bit lilylivered and yallerygreeenery and not enough uzis

on (dis)connection: “CNZ needs to be humanised. It is operating like a huge corporation and is totally out of touch with the art world in NZ.”

short-term thinking:

“Project focus is admin heavy and doesn’t allow for creative and long-term thinking.”

“We need art funding that isn’t project based–research fellowships, residencies, development time without outcomes.”

“You say you want to support us having ‘sustainable careers’? Let us think beyond projects so we can actually have career sustainability.”

“Please, I beg you: GRANT GENERAL OPERATING FUNDS!!! It is simply poor funding practice not to support general operating funds. All CNZ grants that organisations are eligible to apply for should be able to fund general operations. Not allowing that forces organisations into oppressive and reactive ways of working.”

interesting: this concern, which seems to have elicited the strongest response, has not really been taken up by the organisation

“Aotearoa New Zealand’s performing arts sector is served by enterprising organisations that may be regarded as ‘essential services’ within the overall infrastructure. Unless they meet rigorous criteria that may allow them to apply for multiyear funding, they are obliged to apply for shortterm Project Grants, competing with one-off creative projects, when they are neither one-off nor creative. What would it take for on-going funding to be available to such enterprises on the basis that the services they offer are seen as essential, valued, and well delivered?”

I like this one too:

“We need to be allowed to fail, if only to glimpse what possibilities lie in the experimentation without needing the weight of garnering critical acclaim.”

of course critical acclaim means numbers not the work of critics

And this:

“CNZ actively distrusts artists. Failure should be possible.”

And:

“Projects that can generate bums on seats aren’t necessarily innovative–judge work on its artistic merits, not popularity then help those artists learn how to build an audience.”

(in)accessibility:

“We are artists, not grant writers.”

“We need a sense of community not a sense of competition.”

“CNZ’s competitive tendering model is far from best practise; and is inherently, manifestly and demonstrably unfair. It’s prejudicial. It’s also open to inconsistent, incompetent and sometimes corrupt implementation via the assessments system.”

in fact the organisation’s five challenges oddly misrepresent the concerns in the quotes. Have a look. See what you think.

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