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what does Rona (thanks M.) tell us about mor(t)ality? days 14, 15, 16

I just read that Hal Willner–genius of collaboration–died of symptoms consistent with C-19 (as M. relates, Rona, in Oz). See this, since we are in one:

And this:

And:

It is also shocking to read that named celebrities are being COVID-ed, coveted, and their deaths converted to the virus’s … dominion. For Rona will have dominion: and this is easy, in the isolation of lockdown, to neglect.

That there are deaths unobserved. Funerals unattended. Obsequies undelivered; or given by digital token attendance; by priests and others holding holy office in bulk to caskets waiting to be interred.

That the dying are dying without human touch. (Alphonso Lingis writes so well on this.) They are dying without contact; that those dear to them cannot come near. They are dying uninstructed in the patter of commonplaces attendant on those dying delivered by the ones who don’t know what to say. Say anything! the parents say. Say anything, we tell ourselves–the contact, the touch of a hand is enough, the brush of a hand against a cheek, or a cheek caressed.

That some of us are living as the others are dying, without a body other than our own to keep us company.

But is it worse for those who cannot be at the bedside? And for the medical staff who stop them, for the nurse who bars the way; and for the doctor who knows his gloved hand, or her medical patter not to be enough. To be in fact insulting, an insult to the life; whose interest now is in passing through this latest trial and not in why or how it is occurring.

It must be worse for the mothers and fathers, for the children, for the brother, sister and the lover of those who are now sequestered awaiting the final prognosis.

And this must be the worst.

And then it is not so bad many are revelling in self-congratulation that their institutions recently made the switch to digital. That books are available through the token of a digital presence.

Courses are provided online. The outsourcing to digital providers is vindicated! The outlay on IT and digital infrastructure is justified!

Just wait for augmented reality and haptic feedback! It will all be suited so well to the next pandemic! think of the apps!

And then, think of the numbers.

But I had had no intention of making these token comments.

My mind had still been on the political where there is no pulse.

I had had an enlightening conversation with my family–but tonight my family have been using the outdoor bath I had been building as I had had in mind the politics–and in that enlightening conversation I had entirely failed to enlighten them and they had had to be dragged kicking and screaming all the way there … and all the way back … for my trouble: well if it was my trouble let me bathe in my own trouble! marinate in that polluted water!

But now… we are neglectful. Even though I had been wanting, waiting and wanting, to say how governments have not wrested powers away from those to whom they gave them–for whatever good reason, because I’m sure the reasons for government must be good.

Governments have not wrested powers, even as these powers are their own, of legislature, back: there is only talk of rules; laws are much harder to come by, especially those limiting the powers of economic and market players.

Disaster economics. The point is not that there will be profiteers in this situation. The point is it will neither be to the political profit of government nor to good reason. And it is not the point that economics can claim the prerogative of running most of the business of being human. The point is governments have not taken back what they gave away and that they will not, even as extreme as, in some cases, even as authoritarian, in some, it has been.

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Day 7+

…the difficulty of taking on Chomsky’s warnings about the threat to democracy is that it has already been given away because of the threat posed to it by authoritarian takeover, most latterly shown to insist in populism.

…the social order henceforth and the market are coincident.

No coherent political position can be made from this current state of (exception or) affairs, except an economic one: a managerial or administrative position. Such as that described by H.G. Adler in Der verwaltete Mensch.

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Day 6 & 7

Mike sent me this from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Thanks!

So…

…at least it’s…

AIDS / HIV is said to have claimed 25 – 35 million victims since 1981

no recent pandemic compares, except the Spanish flu

the giant remains the bubonic plague

but there’s something quick, nasty and disingenuous in comparing death tolls

better to consider the management of diseases afflicting populations:

Not forgetting the Plague of Fascism, COVID 19 the sideshow:

Nuclear war – global warming – death of democracy – and the interconnectedness of it all:

“2 billion are at home” … “if they are lucky enough to have a home” … “what does this discourse about war tell us?” with COVID 19 as an “enemy”

Chomsky: to manage the crisis we have to move to something like wartime mobilisation…

…Chomsky in part blames the collapse of institutional structures for the severity of what we are experiencing now with, from COVID 19…

and he gives voice to the options being “highly authoritarian borderless states to radical reconstruction” and transformation to the question: How do we want to live?

Of course this question is not so much about natural life or lifespan or individual health as it is about social or public life: but since Thatcher and Co. killed it, what weight or importance does the question of society carry?

since the health of the nation is pegged on economic health: 2 trillion Federal Reserve dollars are not for medical but financial aid.

…then there is the 1971 interview in which Foucault and Chomsky face off:

Foucault concedes that he allows very little to individual creativity.

It will be a matter of epistemic change. And we cannot know the factors beforehand which will drive it.

As Deleuze might say, we need to keep a look out.

Restraining the discussion of COVID 19 to that about the unity of a National Subject–as its transcendental condition and at the same time naturalising historic Nationalism to procure immunity–when that immunity is from the dissensus of individual dissent as from consensus, because it cannot be a crisis of the social order, and its acts will not be claimed by government: whose acts are more in line with a kind of autoimmunity to its own authoritarian moves (insisting on voluntarism in self isolation and social distancing)–or restraining the discussion to one about how we effectively mobilise, well these of course are not about creative dimensions pointing towards anything but more of the same.

And it may be a good long time of counting the death toll before we tend to count the toll taken on the social or the public realm. Politics have long since ceased to be representative of this realm.

That is public passions run contrary to politics as they are currently practiced.

the question will not be what to do?

but how to do it together, as Srećko Horvat points out

then how to free doing it together from the communicative realm, which also no longer coincides with the social or with social passions, as even Chomsky can see

social distancing is a fact of social media

self isolation is a fact of communicative networks

What to look out for then are breaks in the continuities

the major continuities of our generally backward-looking ways of talking about what’s going on, our memorial approaches,

what to look out for then are changes of habit, cracks that tend to deepen

and jump from one area of public discourse to another

electricity.

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Day 5

Raymond Ruyer’s book Neofinalism begins, after the death of God the question is not What is true? but What makes sense?

The question is not whether this or that truly exists but whether its existence makes sense. Its existence, Ruyer is quick to point out, implies ours: does yours makes sense? Does yours makes sense, without truth?

Without truth to make sense of it, does your existence make sense? And is its existence intelligible? Is there any meaning to existence?

Yes there is, immediately personalises it. As does, No there isn’t.

Each assumes the making of sense. Is a commentary on it. Unnecessary.

Truth would seem to be unnecessary to sense. But sense was how truth was found out because how God was found it, launching the new truism: eventually, whatever the prevailing truth, it does not make sense.

But there are certain truths, mathematical or geometrical, aren’t there? which make, will always make, sense. Eternal truths. Demonstrable and experiential truths. Existential truths.

But are they important? Is not their importance simply derived from a godlike quality of being forever true?

What a poor investment the truth has made if all it has to show forever is that the sum of a triangle’s angles… or a line extended… or any constant value… Its constancy itself is its downfall.

It does not require your interest. It does not even need you to notice for it to be true in perpetuity. Like God, when it comes down to it.

That God stopped making sense is not so much the issue as that belief in God ceased to matter.

Is this not the case for triangles, long division, differential equations, for everything from the simplest function to the most speculative?

What is important and is there meaning are one and the same question.

The problem is the point of view of eternity versus the point of view of one who exists. It is not yet a question of consciousness.

Consciousness presupposes the sense of what exists. As Ruyer shows.

And we are strangely attached to what exists and to who.

What is important once our own existence is in question comes to concern not what makes sense so much as what makes sense of our existence.

What is important concerns not what is meaningful to us but what is it without which we have no importance, who without whom we are meaningless.

The field is not large perhaps. It is not the time for making great moral claims. But I’m sure many will be compelled to do so, to shore up their own sense of importance, to salvage meaning from the flood.

The worst will be those, since it is a time of plague, who claim measures of health for moral certainties.

The next worse will be those clogging up the already overworked Breach Line set up by the police for dobbing in those not doing self isolation or social distancing properly.

Moralists. Then busybodies.

What is important will perhaps be a narrow field. But it will be all we require to make sense of ourselves and our existence. Best to narrow it.

Better a few simple elements than many fragile and complex compounds.

Like Mark Hollis says: one note, better that, to be able to play just one note, for it to sound

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Day 4

It’s a beautiful evening. The tui are sending out their last and simplest songs of the day, just a few notes.

The bellbirds in the Marlborough Sounds–that are not Sounds, neither are the fiords of Fiordland fiords–at their most improvisatory outdo tui, and are often mistaken for them, although, in taxonomy and appearance they couldn’t be more unalike: tui–black and scintillant with cardinal blue, a preacherly tuft of white at the collar; bellbird–smaller, green, with a duller blue on wings and head.

Did I tell you I saved a kakariki in Paradise?

It had flown into a post on the porch, fallen, its head at a silly angle to its body. This was where we were staying, a cabin, also, as we might say, improvisatory: the porch out of reclaimed glass louvres, the kitchen with gas hobs under a lean-to, sheltered from the wind by reclaimed windows in frames posed in a V behind the hobs, one room, windows at the foot of the double bed, double-glazed as it happens, so at night, when I lit the Little Cracker, it was like a sweat-tent, until the early hours. And the view through those windows at the foot of the bed! Up the Dart Valley, the giant on his back belching pounamu all up and onto the West Coast. The weather coming in and the light dancing on the valley over the crags.

I thought at first the little parrot to be a rubber ball I’d picked up in Mapua, where we stayed at a camping ground advertising clothes optional. A saving, in fact, being able to drop duds and change clobber without the worry of bare bottom land exile.

But then when I stooped over it I saw it’s little neck to be broken. And its wings splayed out, I tried to scoop it up. It skittered away, now dragging its wings as if these were lost of its control. Just before it disappeared under the cabin, where the rats would get it, I caught and cupped it in my hands.

Its head still at a silly angle, it eyed me. Its orange iris, wide eye. Probably stunned.

J. said drip some water on its beak to bring it around, like Opa used to do (when he rescued birds, as he used to also).

I caught some drops on my fingers and dribbled them off onto its tightly clamped parrot beak, miniature.

I don’t know what it was saying with its big orange eye and dilated black pupil, like a sunflower. It looked fucked.

I took the kakariki and placed it on the picnic table which stood some distance on the flat from the cabin. This is where we ate dinner and where I wrote in the mornings. It’s also where we ate the pancakes, bacon, maple syrup and banana J. cooked up for breakfast. Must have been a Sunday. The pancake mix came from Foxton Windmill, a wonder. The only working windmill grinding grain in the country.

It was dusk and we went inside, sat at the foot of the bed, looking out every so often at the kakariki and reading books.

We decided it had been too late for the little bird. Ought we put it on the ground? No, the rats would get it.

Its wings were out from its body. It hadn’t moved its head.

And as the light was halved, J. said: it looked around.

It had looked quickly around once, and as I turned I saw it gather itself up and fly off into the manuka.

As if it had been waiting to be sure. And as if it had been quietly gathering its reserves, checking its escape route, running over the plan. Coast clear–away.

I hadn’t wanted to photograph it in my hands in case it just died. But when I think about its eye and the brilliance of its plumage, parrot greens and blues, unlike the dull earth tones of most New Zealand birds, and their nebulous and indistinct colours, their shy colours, I think it knew: it struck me it was not timid, not a self-effacing creature.

Dark now outside. Tui quiet until tomorrow, when they start as they end the day with their simplest songs. Maybe one or two notes, answering each other over the valley. The family is watching Country Calendar.

Strange miracles. Somebody said quick to tears, my age.

Or course the kakariki probably didn’t need me to move it in order to perform the ordinary miracle of surviving its stupid accident: what kind of bird flies into a post? But perhaps it needed whatever passed between us, or we did, from its bright orange eye.

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day 3

hope for change

from this, so we have sort of drifted into another bubble and we have all

but we have not done it collectively

desperation is it?

leading many to hope from here we cannot go back there

how to be certain?

vamos lentos por que vamos lejos

or as many say: how do we go back? in 21 more days do we consider this time as no more than a break in transmission?

in order to create a break in transmission?

at the flattening of the curve will we remember ourselves?

we cannot be certain how many will want to

and how many others will recognise in their neighbours a change of heart

we’ll be all right without you

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…normal transmission will resume after us…

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listen with your eyes; also read Cixin Liu Three-Body with your mind

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Deleuze|Guattari studies conference Tokyo 2019

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say, fear…

… is underestimated as a political risk. As soon as afraid, for loss of position, simple social advantage, or political status, the most primitive opportunistic intuition sets in–as if the limit condition for responsibility, in individual, social or political dealings, was accident aversion.

Safety culture is then symptomatic of a fearful society. Health is too: whether it is the health of the planet or of the foetus.

Fear does not drive career politicians or political usurpers to seek advantage, status and power. Fear drives them to avoid its loss.

Fear is the more forceful driver for those selfless ones on the left; and not because they have advantage, status or power but because they do not find in advantage, status and power as much meaning, while these are goods in themselves, in principle, for those others on the right. Still, for the ones on the right, fear prevents them from easily relinquishing advantage, status and power at the promptings of democratic process or change in political economy. They hold on: fear has them holding on; while the others on the left are fearful of taking hold.

The goods in themselves those on the left are fearful of losing are those based in the communicative realm, of consensus, or of the show of consensus, democratic principles, middleclass principles of fairplay, equality, and values called qualities to contrast them with the quantities of financial economy. This is the area where the left most needs a Nietzschean critique–an analysis that gets down and pulls up their servility by the roots.

What is called populism procures for the value of popularity a newly elevated status: but at the cost of those who care about it, who may even have gained most from it, becoming fearful for its loss.

What drives compulsive gamblers? It is a strange psychopathology, and a sociopathology when something large like global human ecocide is being gambled on: it is not fear of loss that compels the compulsive gambler. Loss can always be denied.

Loss can always be denied if it is seen to concern the future. A compulsive gambler lives inside the present moment of the gamble being made. This moment can be called mindfulness.

Mindfulness is inversely symptomatic. It diagnoses from within the pathology annulling the future for the present gain to be had from it. Mindfulness is not mindful of fear. It should be.

Fear is more basic than being mindful of what we have to lose. It is more direct and basic than any reflection on our own advantage, status or power. Yet fear is discouraged, except when dealing directly with our own personal welfare. A fear that is mindful of the risk of global human ecocide is discouraged. It is thought that this fear would be paralyzing.

The abjection of safety and health cultures consists in their continued reverence for what is to the advantage of the individual. The abject reality of safety and health cultures is the level of control they exercise over the individual, for the good of the individual.

The fear is not seen that drives people with power, status and advantage. In fact all we see of it is their paralysis.

They are paralyzed in the face of fear even while their faces attain a strange mobility and their actions acquire a character strangely hollowed out by hyperactivity. Their faces turn away, on the inside. They twitch. Their actions run in circles. They follow the same route as the traumatised, covering the same ground with a compulsion to repetition which resembles that of gamblers.

Fear in the case of those in the public media is of the nature of ongoing stagefright. It is visible in CEOs and in local and global leaders. But privately many experience the same stagefright.

Fear is the friend, the best and most reliable friend, to the one in whom it takes the form of the most primitive opportunistic intuition: it enables success through its utter lack of regard for consequences of any kind. It even makes the person in whom it is allowed to govern appear fearless. Fear then lives in an endless now where the one in whom it governs is only scared when he or she is not afraid.

[illustrated with images by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes]

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