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the end of the end (of history) is not the end of the purpose (that declared itself in 1946)

Dani Rodrik’s policy trilemma holds that “democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full.” – from here.

I just misread that as politics in the (twenty-) first person

D. writes to me the foregoing, under the subject-line, Re: Anti politics at work,

He includes this example of Sovereignty Versus Trade, here.

Re: Anti politics, a twerk, my reply:

how does it devolve onto (or into) the trilemma otherwise than with a shift back or retreat into national sovereignty? National sovereignty has not been at the top of minds (the Carl Schmidt buzz notwithstanding) for decades, since, I would say, 1946. It has not been because it is dirty and guilty of ethnic cleansings, genocide and holocaust. In other words, it is human.

With the bruited, louder than it is real, turn from outrightly and forthrightly neoliberal policy, national sovereignty reemerges, but in what form? Does it reemerge in the clash, in the antagonism, between politics and economy, that is inside political economy? The Mexican example would seem to say so. But then, that is in a poor, a tabescent form: hardly fit, agile or having the resilience of entrepreneurial culture, the verve of it, and its clean hands, while the burnouts fall like Satan.

Is it then as economic self-determination that national sovereignty reemerges? It is in that case inside the state. That sounds serious, that sounds like serious division, but politics is still not thinking, is not thinking yet, because this political problem is really a matter of hypocrisy, subterfuge and covering, covering for a financial system of globalised free markets conducting their business in the abstraction layer of the technical apparatus the purpose of which is not to need politics. Its purpose is not to recognise exactly national sovereignty, as its purpose is also to avoid what is human, with its obvious pitfalls.

This is what The End of the End… is lacking, but I will wait and see, as I read further.

If you are reading this and have not read The End of the End of History, I recommend you do.

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introduction to a poem

This is an introduction to a poem called ‘All it Takes’ or ‘Clay Birds.’ Although I hesitate to call it a poem. But that’s my problem. Not yours. And I’ll be talking about that in another introduction.

I was listening to the editor of The Economist magazine. When was it? It doesn’t matter. The magazine’s been going for 36 years so they’re probably still doing it now. Every year they do a report on the year. And this one was for 2021.

Asked about what he felt was going to happen with the pandemic—the announcer covered himself and sort of undid the question by saying nobody can know—whether it was going to develop from pandemic to endemic, the Economist editor said Omicron looked like it might be the bridge from a pandemic situation to the situation of an endemic. Where we get vaccinated every year for Covid along with our other flu jabs. Then he went on.

He said that the first two decades of the millennium were very settled. Talk about rolling back neoliberalism, and so on. Local issues, but issues raised within a period of global stability, so it felt. Then 2020 hit.

People say they’ll hunker down, that they’ll wait for things to get back to normal. I don’t think they will, he said. I think the shape of 2022 is the shape of the coming decades, where we have more chaos.

We have it at all sorts of levels. From climate change to our fragile democracies. People living under autocracies, like China, although I think they prefer to call it socialist democracy, and in Eastern Europe are asking political leaders to do something. Rising prices for basic goods, housing. Distribution networks strained and disrupted and supply chains breaking down.

We are going to have to get used to chaos and this poem is about that. Called ‘All it Takes,’ because all it takes is a little chaos. At the social level and for nature. It’s natural to want to preserve the status quo.

We can see it in this country, how conservative forces can take advantage, because all it takes is a little chaos. These forces can mean well. They often do. Take the minor level of the national library. The so-called book cull. The chaos that’s been unleashed.

What has changed I think, which the poem addresses, is you can have your little chaos, you can indulge in it if you will. You can have your little coup. You little revolution. But conservative forces, and by that I mean forces of conservation also, whose good intentions are taken advantage of, because this is what has changed, conservative forces know it suits them. It suits the oligarchs. It suits the corporate hierarchy. It suits the rich and getting richer.

They know that all it takes is a little chaos to preserve the status quo. And the funny thing is that the left, perhaps the reason for the other title of the poem, are made of straw, easy to ignite. To sow more chaos, and, like clay birds, to take potshots at.

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the déjà vu of an extensive and multifarious declaration of perplexity, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, The Shape of the Ruins, the past that is ruined, in its jealousy, by the present’s 2 minutes hate

… the worst vices of our digital societies: intellectual irresponsibility, proud mediocrity, implausible denigration with impunity, but most of all verbal terrorism, the schoolyard bullying the participants got involved in with incomprehensible enthusiasm, the cowardice of all aggressors who used pseudonyms to vilify but would never repeat their insults out loud. … our modern and digital version of the Two Minutes Hate: that ritual in Orwell’s 1984, in which they project an image of the enemy and the citizens give themselves over to physical aggression (they throw things at the screen) and verbal aggression (they insult, shriek, accuse, defame), and then go back to the real world feeling free, unburdened and self-satisfied.

— Juan Gabriel Vásquez, The Shape of the Ruins, translated by Anne McLean, 2018, pp. 180-181

– Gordon Matta-Clark

I don’t know when I started to realise that my country’s past was incomprehensible and obscure to me, a real shadowy terrain, nor can I remember the precise moment when all that I’d believed so trustworthy and predictable–the place I’d grown up, [the] language I speak and customs I know, the place [the] past [of which] I was taught in school and in university, [with a] present I have become accustomed to interpreting and pretending I understand–began to turn into a place of shadows out of which jumped horrible creatures as soon as we dropped our guard. With time I have come to think that this is the true reason why writers write about their early youth: you don’t write about what you know and understand, and much less do you write because you know and understand, but because you understand that all your knowledge and comprehension are false, a mirage and an illusion, so your books are not, could not be, more than elaborate displays of disorientation: extensive and multifarious declarations of perplexity.

— Ibid., p. 439

– Majestic Theatre, Wellington, 1987

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fifty-fourth part, called “subject matter LIV,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

subject matter

The role of political management over the last two years of pandemic, or, to be histrionic, plague, has looked to be a direct use of biopolitics. Control of populations has been control of bodies, control of movement. And there looks to have been something sacrificed.

Biopolitical policing of populations, infected populations, has seemed to bring about a concession of the kind, since it is on a global scale, not seen since the mass mobilisations at the time of the globalisation of warfare, in the first and second world wars. Apparently it turns on matters of economy, this concession, where it is both disincentive to ‘growth’ and incentive to a type of specialised ‘wartime’ economy, to which the first makes its concession. Or sacrifice. But the sacrifice the political apparatus makes to biopolitics is of itself.

I think we can see this in a small change made in the vocabulary of New Zealand government representatives. As if by policy, for political reasons, the change has been from speaking of the vaccination metric in terms of the ‘protection’ of populations to speaking of it as immunisation. From a medical, scientific standpoint, this change seems unmotivated.

In consideration of climate change could or would we similarly replace environmental protection with environmental immunisation at stake might be human affairs in their entirety. The environment would need to be immunised against every human action. Can we imagine what this immunity might look like?

It has been said that it is capitalism, the capitalist plunder of resources, from which we must protect the environment. OK, why not immunise it? The thought is also there that we might do so by introjecting the problem—of capitalist plunder of resources—into the economic form of capitalism. The carbon market to trade in pollutant emissions seems exemplary in this respect. And the thought is there too, and to the contrary, that pandemics are natural forms of defenses: that is, the nonhuman environment’s immunity system.

We can, however, lay human affairs in their entirety at the door of politics. Or should that be at its feet? Then, I would have thought, since the forms of social organisation of politics are sacrifice, it is at its feet that they already lie. And herein the concession: biopolitics in fact looks like an abrogation of politics and a reduction in its political means such that it has no power. Or, it is immune to the charge making it responsible. Is immune to being asked to take responsibility: for what? human affairs in their entirety; every human action.

Politics no longer answerable, the forms of social organisation of politics sacrifice, the immunisation of populations as a political project: well, what meaning does this have other than the auto-immunity of political systems? That is, it’s no longer about the suppression of symptoms symptomatic to power but of political immunisation against those powers. They slide off, like the skins of images. So that the most obviously biopolitical plays into the freedom of politics from tragic necessity, from the tragic necessity of responsibility, plays as, slipping up on its own skin, comedy.

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#TrueCost

https://www.adbusters.org/full-articles/truecost

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twenty-seventh part, called “the subject XXVII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

the subject

A selfish actor surveys his gesture. In it she sees a world. One in which she is she. Or he is. She pats the pelt of it. And this reference to self, in it are recalled all of his lines, in her mouth, his in hers, and so on. All of the blocking. The mise en scène, which we learn from Anthony Bourdain we can shorten to mise, in a crucial distinction from the en abîme of what we might call ‘life.’ That is, Bourdain speaks of the kitchens where he spent most of his working life, and of the chefs he worked with, from whom he learnt both his craft and his style.

He is speaking of the setup particular to each chef, why she comes in first thing, sets up, puts on her apron, unrolls her bag of knives, puts each in place (the sous was entrusted with sharpening them the night before), and prepares the working space. And abuses anyone who shifts a thing a centimetre before service. An altogether different approach from self-reference.

The selfish actor comes on stage and remembers her lines. The unselfish type, for which we don’t yet have a name (the opposite of the selfish actor is not the selfless), comes on stage and forgets them. He, or it, no matter, loses track of the mise, is unaware of the blocking. And yet, and yet, hits the mark, speaks the part, or, better, acts the part, whereas a selfish actor just performs.

We might ask, in view of a strategic approach to theatre, if not to writing on theatre, since this is our purpose, what are the different conditions of subjectivity? And why should we attach a pejorative sense to performance? Are we dividing it in half as we have language, not into speech versus writing, but preexisting, structured system and having forgotten structure? Same with acting, thinking, doing: each has another inside it, which for the sake of that inside, it forgets.

So is a selfish actor forgetful of performing? Or is it the other type, that seems the better, forgetful of it all being no more than a performance? Isn’t the very type of the selfish actor, its epitome, the one who believes her own hype? something like a competitive performer, a high-performance athlete of the stage.

After all, he needs self-belief to survive in a sometimes harsh world. This is the commercial reality. But it is not a commercial reality we need embrace in the theatre, is it? become the bitches of, give it airtime. It’s said: that depends on how many theatres you want to see close.

I think the question here is exactly of a language, and of losing the power of speech, losing that power to speak for itself and on its own terms, of theatre, but of any kind—even the kitchen where Bourdain has his mise. Being the bitch of the commercial institution, of commercial institutionalisation (the institution being the level at which power speaks, to power), means theatre stopping performing. Performing means losing self-reference. It’s a language thing, so, Bourdain has his mise.

What then is the reference of the subject, if not itself? We can directly say it is its undoing. Because in the subject, theatre, itself, herself (himself, the accommodation is to the pronominal not to the commercial reality), is a stage. It underlines the action, or the performance. This the selfish actor knows, but she does not feel the cut, or is inured to it, scar-tissue, and so on. The cut dividing, we might say, poverty from riches, or just cause from poor excuse, that plays out across its surface, because as a surface it is an opening. Each time an opening, an outside. So things, the most profound things, riches, the justice of good causes, are undone at the most superficial level of the surface.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

If you would like to receive these posts, as they are written, as letters addressed to you, please send me your email address.

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twenty-sixth part, called “the subject XXVI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

the subject

The selfish actor: it was remiss of me to introduce him and give no other description than the abstract—she identifies the depth below the stage as her own—and the advice that everybody knows the type. The selfish actor is the most common, even the dominant of the figures we see on the stage, but not for dominating. You might call it a professional hazard. Either that or a privilege of position.

Firstly, let us say a selfish actor is not a bad actor. The problem is she has become the model of the good actor. The selfish actor is often very good precisely at acting.

What affords us this precision? Let’s move past the abstract and look at what he does. A selfish actor takes the stage without any discomfort. What does she see? What, as Donnellan might say, is her target?

Donnellan’s admirable move is to de-psychologise acting. The actor does not act from what is inside him; he acts from what is outside. And the character is like a shell. In a way that is almost Deleuzian, he also invokes the crack.

An actor projects what the character she plays, which is no more than a shell or mask, sees, without it needing to have any reality whatsoever. The character is in the world only inasmuch as the actor can evoke it for herself. That is, this world belongs to the actor. The target is its point of interest, the bit it is reduced to by perception. The target therefore moves and changes with the changing, moving interest of the character.

Donnellan therefore maintains a distance, a psychological distance we might say, between actor and character. An actor’s technique is operational. It operates the character through projecting what this character perceives. The impression aimed for is liveliness, the life of the rigidity of the mask. And here it is worth noting that mask-work does exactly what Donnellan describes: it pares down the world the mask inhabits, who is a subject of it, its life world or life language, say, to singular points of interest.

The mask is an instrument to focus in on what exactly the character, of the mask, and generally, perceives, which will always be a portion or point in that world: the target he is trained on, and by which entrained, since the actor follows it, keeps it in sight. Like a good hunter, she does not chase it, but as it were sits inside it. Ideally, it becomes a point of contemplation, a moving, changing point, subject to all the vicissitudes an actual living world would visit on it.

The danger is not the identification of the actor with his character, or mask, but that of taking the target to be representative of the world. To believe it is real; when this is exactly what an actor is called on to do: which is why a selfish actor is a good actor. The selfish actor acts as if these phantasmatic projections, which her character, the part played, the mask worn needs to be life-like, were real. Were actual living targets.

A selfish actor then has an excellent understanding of what acting is. He understands it to be what it asks of him. And acting becomes a self-less act. But he is a selfish actor!

Consider what is asked of the slave. She has been volunteered for the games. An island has been fabricated in the middle of the colosseum, and it has been populated with wild animals. Trees provide some cover, and rocks, and other low plants, but not so much she will not be seen by the onlookers when she is attacked.

She smooths down the fur on the pelts that are her costume. She plays the savage inhabitant of an island about to be eaten by lions imported from the Barbary coast. But she is about to beat her fate because when she runs, when she screams, when the lions’ claws tear her flesh, when she sees her ‘children’ eaten in front of her, her ‘husband’ running away, and when she is herself picked up in the lion’s jaws and shaken like a toy, when her arms are flailing out and her legs treading air, and some vital organ is punctured or her spinal cord is broken, she will be acting. She will be acting when she dies.

The problem is not not knowing the difference between reality and the projected reality of a role’s interests, which give life to the role, and of which its (life) world (life language) are comprised. The problem is not confusing reality with art, the actual with the artificial. The problem is not not knowing the limits of the stage or of forming too strong an identification with the role. The problem is with thinking that it is you giving everything you’ve got: the problem is identification with the self.

It is too easy to call this ‘ego’ and the selfish actor an egotist. No, no. The selfish actor is self-less in doing what he is tasked with, but this fulfillment of his tasks is seen to be the selfish actor’s and not the character’s or role’s. A selfish actor is even self-less when it comes to acknowledging others, both in their roles and in their performances, inasmuch as they help her in the construction of the world.

We see this clearly in the case of our politicians. A selfish actor can, however, be damning of those who are not helpful. She is first to call out those actors who undermine her in the performance of her role, who don’t play their parts—who are not as good as she is. And who undermine the world she is painstakingly engaged in constructing. Target by target. Interest by interest. Point by point.

To say this of our political representatives is no mere analogy, because they, if they are any good are selfish actors. And we judge them by the same being good at what they do. And we pick at the masks and attempt to pry them away from their faces. So, this is a problem too: the selfish actor has become the model of the good politician.

What a selfish actor is is still an actor. And is so not for belief in the world but for belief that this world exists entirely without consequence. A selfish actor knows he has no power actually to do anything in the world. That is, too well because this too is that with which she has been tasked, she knows the limits of the stage.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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Lecture on Academic Writing–delivered online for AUT 14.9.2021

Part I
Part II
Lecture-2-in-5-parts-with-intro-1

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fourteenth part, called “a way in XIV,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

It’s a funny idea that the resources we draw on are within. Psychic or subjective resources. We might want to draw on the theory of humours. Invoke all the shades of bile, call for a bloodletting when we find ourselves too sanguine. Seat the different sources in the organs, the spleen, our hysteria in the womb.

It’s as funny to say it’s from the womb as it is to say that nurture, with its atmosphere of trust, or that early self-disgust that was inculcated when banned from dealing, or handling, the bodily humours, brings about such narrowness or breadth of range—in what we are able to metabolise of social life, of social psychic life, psychically: as if on one side as a subject you were once tabula rasa and on the other the fix was in, the genes had it in for you or had it at all, and all that was necessary was the trigger, the trigger points. Or switch points, for latent or recessive capacities. And as funny is the idea of a social interpellation, a social dynamic, that we are filled with contents, subjectively, by the social institutions of our time and place. And so filled to a limit, but told the filling is infinitely divisible: we can be anything.

We can be, but on the understanding that it is not a thing. It is a one. And the division is a choice. We can make it. It is made for us. Which is it?

We are no doubt split between the two. And sometimes we have no choice about this. The one rears up and severs our social, psychic relations, and those of the will itself: taking away the ability of the will to will. Which it can, when it did, not because I let it, asked it or even was aware of it. And what can I add through the will that now I cannot? Because it seems to me we feel its free exercise not in the choice we make, not in the use we make of it, but in its uselessness. It comes to us and we let it take us like a wave.

Then I have contradicted myself. The will is able to will not because I let it. Then it comes and we let it.

It’s almost as if in the first instance it comes as an opportunity, then it takes us with it, or bears us. As if it is a matter of compunction, or moral lesson of the will, that I would be a fool to miss. That I, as we’ve said, will be disappointed, but only after the earlier disappointment, for having left it too long, for being afraid. But what has happened has been the division itself, that we, in our finitude, infinitely experience. We are either looking into the black hole, in the process of being swallowed, or are looking out to sea.

It’s a funny idea, that the will bears us, that the other I am is borne of the self. The self one isn’t. But where does this actually occur? What produces the subjective resources that might be infinite within our finitude? Within your finitude that is only the finitude of the one. To say, one was.

Isn’t this talk the interval talk that the silly talk abjures? That dealing with the profundities in the comfort of the foyer, in respite from the play, film or show, putting to rights our understanding, hashing out whatever intention was to be communicated, whether there was one, and leaving, in company or on one’s own. With the connotation that here society confronts its depths. A certain society does. Having come and paid, in the best possible scenario, for the experience.

What am I saying? In the best possible scenario society confronts its depths as a right, and not the privilege of a certain bourgeois or colonial type. And, in the best possible scenario, it’s not even for its own good that it does. It demands edification as much as entertainment, finds one in the other, and these not to the preclusion of any one class, type or group but part of its belonging as a whole. Another one who come collectively to exercise free will to will themselves other than the one society they were.

The failure of the notion of inclusivity, in cultural participation as in political engagement, for these, is the same as that of diversity, for and in political and cultural representation: its exclusion of difference, its exclusion of actual division, internal and in depth, as separating the itself of society from what it may become. The oneself of the individual from what it may become. It is a staging not of a surface—surface differences, because aren’t they all?—we are only superficially divided as a society—this inclusivity and diversity attest to, because we’ve got to try!—without depth, but of a depth without surface. A profound superficiality, as Warhol once said.

The profundity of silly talk. The superficiality of interval talk. Where performance is useful to us is in its profound superficiality: it is, on the surface of the stage, in constituting an outside.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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sixth part, called “what is theatre? VI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

What is theatre?

What is it necessary to do now? What is it necessary to say? Two suicides come to mind. Why?

Neil Roberts’s and Mark Fisher’s. Neil Roberts wrote “we have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity,” drew a peace sign on the wall, and blew himself up in the toilets outside the Wanganui Computer Centre on the 18th November 1982. He was 22.

Mark Fisher taught at Goldsmiths. He was ten weeks from the end of a seminar called “Postcapitalist Desire” when he died. 13 January 2017. 48.

Fisher’s writings are voluminous. Of Roberts’s we have that one line. Police said of his body that they’d be picking up bits for weeks.

Then the infamous statement of Stockhausen on 9/11, that it was “the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos.” Next to it, he wrote, composers are nothing. 17 September 2001.

Why do I submit these to my timeline here? Because these are not performances. And perhaps this is what, despite everything, I want to affirm in them.

I was going to begin with Beckett. After asking what is it necessary to do, what is it necessary to say, I was going to say, we can’t go on. We go on.

Until of course we don’t. And this is what, in his way, Beckett was affirming too. The three other figures each go in quite another direction.

I don’t want to reduce the lamentable to the gestural. Make light, or exhort to action. Joshua Cohen, psychoanalyst and writer, says of a case of depressive inertia, the desire not to do anything, completely to stop, is not symptomatic.

Telling yourself to stop is not symptomatic of any other desire. The impasse to productivity has no other outcome, than, Beckett again, failing better. What is as impossible as imagining an alternative to capitalism is always that, not merely difficult.

From this point I was going to talk about the decision to step out onto the void that the line the stage draws under events is stuck to. You will recall Nietzsche’s Seiltänzer, whom Zarathustra bears on his body and buries as a friend. The wire artist. The risk and the necessity.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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