textasies

days 144 – 149

Death is not supposed to be part of the American dream, begins Richard Wolffe’s article for the Guardian. [here] Above this is a photo of a banner reading The Lasting Monument to Trump’s Presidency is Being Built One Death At A Time, above a Goyaesque pile of severed heads.

I watched the first NZ Leaders’ Debate of 2020 last night. It’s posted below, with, the YouTube comments say, the commercial breaks intact, but I don’t recommend watching it. It is not something one chooses or wishes others to watch. It is a troubling watch and this is the best that can be said about it.

It is troubling in the sense that political content ought to be troubling. I am writing about it now because I remain troubled by it and Wolffe’s article reminded me why, with its blandly ironic opening line.

Watching it last night–until I reached the point I could see it would go no further and I could watch no further–I saw clearly the attraction of Trump, Trump, the Monument to whose Presidency is Being Built One Death At A Time. I saw it clearly in the coldest harshest light–in the light of the NZ Leaders’ Debate, in the light of the poverty of vision in the Vision Statements of the Leaders (only two: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins) and in the light of it looking like it was edited by a child.

The problem for a politician in the Post-COVID state is we know she knows where the lever is that stops the economy. Yet the vision of both Ardern and Collins went straight to the economy–and to growth. No mention was made of it being slowed or stopped.

Back to America: The New Yorker, Sept. 7 2020, leads with a Comment column by Amy Davidson Sorkin, who writes that the dominant theme of the Republican National Convention in the week previous was control. America is in danger of ceasing to be America. Evidence to support this claim is suppressed. Sorkin cites Kimberly Guilfoyle saying at the Conference, “They are coming for me, because I am fighting for you!” and “cosmopolitan élites … want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live.” The Wolffe article above puts this down to a strain of individualism endemic to America.

Told the ‘crux’ of QAnon’s “family of conspiracy theories” is that he is “secretly saving the world from [the] satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals” and of course cosmopolitan élites, according to Sorkin, Trump asks, “Is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?”

Sorkin writes, “A St. Louis couple who pointed firearms at Black Lives Matter marchers were rewarded with a speaking spot at the Convention.” She ends: “fear and suspicion cannot be the means by which this country is controlled”, then adds, “That isn’t how America remains America.”

This is not disturbing. It is not politics. This is the secret meaning–which you have to dig deep into the web to find–of Trump not being a statesman: an animal, perhaps, but not a political animal. He is not a politician. He is not available to the bodysnatchers.

Deleuze writes about something called ‘control society.’ [here] He didn’t have this in mind. He had in mind the autoveillant society of self-scoring on performance and psychic investment in types of scoring, ranking and measuring, in individualist competition–as a form of control belonging to the sort of capitalism we have come to think of as neo- or neuro-liberalism.

Here is a quote from “Postscript on the Societies of Control:”

…the factory was already familiar with the system of bonuses, but the corporation works more deeply to impose a modulation of each salary, in states of perpetual metastability that operate through challenges, contests, and highly comic group sessions. If the most idiotic television game shows are so successful, it’s because they express the corporate situation with great precision. [which we can extend to the US Presidency]

On a banner–another banner–in the background of a photo of Joseph Goebbels, 18 February 1943: something I have not seen before in association with Total War–Totaler Krieg – Kürzester Krieg.

Shortest War.

Totaler Krieg. In his speech, pictured below, courtesy of the commons, Goebbels asked those at the convention–another convention–whether a war was wanted more total and more radical than anything even yet imagined.

totaler und radikaler, als wir ihn uns heute überhaupt erst vorstellen können?

You notice that the spelling of totaler remains the same whether it means more total or just total–the German for a total war is ein totaler Krieg.

What the banner then reads is in English not Total War–Shortest War but The More Total War [is the] Shortest War.

Goebbels had earlier referred to the depraved and perverted threat of Bolsheviks and Jews facing Germany–not unlike the threat of the pedophiles and cannibals (and cosmopolitan élites) facing America.

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J05235 / Schwahn / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5434259

Goebbels–at least as far as the banner speaks for him–therefore goes further than von Clausewitz in announcing not a total war–opposable to a limited war–but a more total war.

If you look at the online entry, you will see that the idea of a total war going beyond the political and diplomatic objectives to be achieved by a limited war–going all the way to ideological conflict and achieving an ideological victory, or victory of the idea–is linked by Brittanica.com to Goebbels’s announcement in his speech of February 18 1943. Except that he didn’t announce or ask the conference whether a total war was wanted and neither did the banner behind him advert to a total war being the shortest.

The question then is what is a more total war than one achieving the victory of an idea?

The other question is, with whom is it to be achieved–so that

ham’ se alle Ja geschrien–

they all cried YES.

…? perhaps it is this list from US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera:

those who fight for you

write for you live for you act for you study for you dance for you

parade for you paint and construct for you carry for you build you

inform you feed you nanny you clean you vacuum for you swipe

the grease off your clothes chef for you serve you teach you carry

carry you rock you to sleep and console you

— from “You Just Don’t Talk About It,” Juan Felipe Herrera, in Every Day We Get More Illegal, 2020.

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days following, 105-143

I just watched Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz. More frightening, I just watched a plane disappear above the clouds.

The advice is insistent on how to deal with COVID. From the Stoics. It is part of the general onslaught, a how to of personal reconciliation that would be worthless were it not for the Romantic and soteriological tradition of personal salvation. (That would be the Romantic tradition of nationalist salvation and the soteriological tradition of personal salvation.) For example, suicide and the idea of a personal death. See Schopenhauer.

The two, nationalist and personal, are combined in the idea of Brexit:

Here is a snapshot of nationalist culture in auto-affectionate self-parody. And here is a portrait of Schopenhauer with his poodle.

painting inside my skull

it might be useful to think of it shaped like a donut.

and be not conformed to this world

— thanks Isaias Braga

“It was bad back then; society was diseased.”

— writes Julianna Baggott, Pure, (London, UK: Headline, 2012), 63.

“[He] imagines that this isn’t real, that, instead, it’s just some elaborate reenactment of destruction, not the actual destruction itself.

“He remembers once being in a museum … Each display was dedicated to a theme: before the impressive prison system was built, before difficult children were properly medicated, when feminism didn’t encourage femininity, when the media were hostile to government instead of working toward a greater good, before people with dangerous ideas were properly identified, back when government had to ask permission to protect its good citizens from the evils of the world and from the evils among us, before the gates had gone up around neighborhoods with buzzer systems and friendly men at gatehouses who knew everyone by name.”

— Ibid., 236.

“My body is the truth. It’s history.”

— Ibid. 413.

Notes, you might say. But don’t you think we are no longer free to float happily with fragments?

No need.

Yet the demand is more imposing than ever personally to reconcile the contradictions, that are quite public, evident in our political lives.

I would say that our political lives impose but that they are equally irreconcilable for being mutually incompatible, a clamping down here with a liberalisation there, liberalisation of cannabis or euthanasia laws with mandatory mask-wearing and the possibility of mass vaccination being mandatory as well.

The rift is not between the public and the private, making one irreconcilable to the other. It is a general crazing of the public to which the private is not equal, is not enough crazy.

There is no point of view given by state mandate but the mad movement of a conflicting polity, so that any attempt personally to reconcile oneself to it can only end in disaster.

Or in the absurdity of believing a conspiracy is behind it.

As we used to say, undercover of human malice or stupidity, the conspiracy of confusion and disinformation serving political ends–but this time, unpoliticisable, irrecuperable to any recognisable political viewpoint, ends set for self-destruct.

And yet, are we happy to be getting on with the craze of fragments?

There seems to be something like an expectation we ought to be able to understand we take on; we should be able to make sense and reconcile for ourselves the competing interests the results of which we can only anathematise.

That is we cannot undo them.

Cannot analyse them.

Slippery as,

So neonatology as well as neontology concern the study of neons.

— at the antilockdown rally aotea sq. 4.9.2020,
courtesy Simon Wilson
(note cap)

One sometimes thinks that for a voyage to the depths of the human soul one needs a powerful submarine, and in the end is surprised to find oneself in a wetsuit trying to sink into a standard household bathtub.

— Andrés Barba, A Luminous Republic, Trans. Lisa Dillman, (New York, NY: Mariner Books, 2020), 11.

…the demands of international treaties trumped by nationalist interests…

…but also the ramifying in the nationalist arena of conflicting global interests…

It is worth restating these are not macro interests, rather a micro fragmenting … and this bespeaks a kind of vulnerability to the broader strokes–hammer blows–of which the Left seems to have become wary.

Given that you are a force of opposition, what do you want?

Calming devices used to be those narrow perspex boxes in which you could see and witness particulate sorting processes. Sometimes with oil.

Then diving you see a skate, a ray, shake off the sand in which it is camouflaged, and the sand settle.

…it settles without you doing a thing.

This is what you are watching slowly coming down–the pretence is that it happens quickly.

The pretence is that it can–that it can operate by some human, humanly imposed scale of time, of time reduced to the technologically available advanced scale of minute increments speeding past, speeding into the past under what Virilio calls dromological pressure. Speeding into the future. This is what you get speeding into the future.

This is what you get, I have been writing in my other writing: it is not speed except that it is communicable and the speed is of the communication. Which makes a joke of communication.

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

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

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

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

— thanks K!

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

As I was saying…

Wrong Link

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

a light, fluent surface.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the ascent of Hive

Lockdown

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

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

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

Perhaps it is pollen.

Like sickly orchids in a hothouse we are being pollinated.

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

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

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

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

Let it.

That’s all we ask.

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


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

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

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day 74 – day 87 of the world winding up business

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

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

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

MEETS

Wall of Moms

Portland

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

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

…winding up business:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does this make any sense?

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

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

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

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

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

You see? It is as we feared.

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days 62-73 showing 60% at 17:17

There is nothing “most beautiful and most wonderful” about the coronavirus, to return to Darwin’s words, but it, too, is a thing of nature. We cannot wish away our connection to it.

— from LA Review of Books

We cannot wish away our connection to COVID-19. Darwin, Karl Kusserow writes, doesn’t allow us to forget the connectedness of all life and to wish away the parts we don’t like. Not that we have a right to life equal to or comparable with the virus, any virus; not that it can be claimed the virus, that viral life, because alive, mutating, reproducing, like us, is alive in the same way as us. This is not connectedness–and is as far from connectivity mediated in communication as we can go. Still our connnectedness constitutes us together. We are as connected conditions. For different forms of life.

We don’t simply depend on the same or a comparable structure of particles in aggregate. We depend as much as the virus on life being possible, on the conditions being available. They are to us and they are for the virus.

We don’t need to understand COVID-19 in its clever opportunism or admire its survival strategies. How like a body, how like a gene of our bodies, it is selfish, as Dawkins wrote, and how its wants are not so dissimilar from ours.

But the virus, this one, and the next zoonotic species-leaper, are connected to us and the climate we have and continue to disrupt, parts of the same planet we are spoiling. And this is Kusserow’s point. That image of “magnificent desolation”–the earth floating in darkness. The darkness on the face of the deep. Swirly blue marble–a kid’s thing. The darkness undivided and too deep ever to be divided.

So what did God actually do? to make such a strange bedfellow for hermself as Creation, and such a strange one for us as our virus, the one we are connected to; the one whose claim is that of a gene, a viral gene, like ours.

My note here read: what if connection in community were more like this?

How develop communities when we are in community with the agents of our destruction?

It is for the sake of everyone in the world that the slave asserts himself when he comes to the conclusion that a command has infringed on something which does not belong to him alone, but which is the common ground where all men–even the man who insults and oppresses him–have a natural community.

— Camus

the big nudes

if we can delay one day

On the virtues and aporia of economics:

In the meantime, the reduction of a society and culture to dependence on mathematical abstraction has infantalised a grown-up civilization and is well on the way to destroying it. Civilizations self-destruct anyway, but it is reasonable to ask whether they have done so before with such enthusiasm, in obedience to such an acutely absurd superstition, while claiming with such insistence that they were beyond being seduced by the irrational promises of religion. Every civilization has had its irrational but reassuring myth. Previous civilizations have used their culture to sing about it and tell stories about it. Ours has used its mathematics to prove it.

Yet, when this relatively short-lived market-society is gone, we will miss its essential simplicity, its price mechanism, its self-stabilising properties, its impersonal exchange, the comforts it delivers to many and the freedoms it underwrites. Its failure will be destructive.

— David Fleming, Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy, Ed. Shaun Chamberlin, 2016, from the epilogue.

Roberto Bolaño warns of the dangers of picking up and reading Osvaldo Lamborghini with bare eyes. He also attributes to Lamborghini a third but secret strain running through contemporary Argentinean literature, from the writer Bolaño calls his literary executor, César Aira.

Lamborghini, writes Aira , “insisted that all of the great novels were run through with a slight melody, a little jingle.” He has earlier remarked on Lamborghini’s fascination for a single line in Dickens’s David Copperfield which makes the rest of this work redundant.

David accompanies his maid Peggotty to feed the chickens. She throws the grain and the hens peck. “But the boy is looking at the freckled arms of the woman and he marvels that they don’t prefer to peck there.”

Aira writes, “That passage enchanted him.”

Aira, who, Bolaño writes, takes up the secret third strain running through Argentinian literature commencing with Lamborghini, invokes Leibniz to explain this monadic aspect of Lamborghini’s writing, of expressing the whole universe in microcosm.

He writes, “I remember, incidentally, Osvaldo had a method for writing when, for some reason, “he couldn’t write”: it consisted of writing one small, unremarkable phrase, and then another, and then another, until he had filled a number of pages. Some of his best texts (like “La mañana”) are written that way; and it is conceivable that everything may have been written that way.”

Bolaño has several times saved my life. Reading his Unknown University led to this work: a kind of record.

I had just finished my PhD. I thought I was doing what I should be doing. In the academy, but not of the academy, since also engaged in artistic research, I thought I had proven myself. Both as a teacher–I taught through the years I was working on my doctorate–and as a scholar-practitioner. But…

And just the other day I picked up his essays, Between Parentheses. His work returns me to the fact of the value of literature. Of course it’s religious but not ass-kissing. And sometimes Kundera will do, with his emphasis on humour and the irony the regime can’t stand. And with his reminder of how easily we sink into moralising, moralising by proxy, decreeing on behalf of … Phoebe Bridgers’s screaming has just now interrupted my thought

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day 52 – 55: our demands

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

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

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

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

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

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

We must insist that the government insists that it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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day 50, 51

but who’s counting?

The return to work. The return to normality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Normality must not return.

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

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

from here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the revolution is the renationalisation of national economies?

Normality must not return.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I have misled you but not entirely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

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

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

Who decides on normality these days?

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

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

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

(It explains how to wash your hands,

(and how to go to the toilet.)

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day 45, 46, 47, 48, 49 a plethora of performative pamphleteers

If you’re anything like me which there is no reason to suppose to be the case you are being subjected to a plethora of performative pamphleteers.

You know which there is every reason to suppose the .ppt effect or the .pptx effect–not unlike the QR-code effect in being that of technology supposed to be dead and buried but now everywhere–: information presented as slides, landscape format documents, sometimes with graphic ’embellishment’–a colourfield brightening up the margin, a wavy line in orange, or other ornamental excrescence; and declarative statements in bullet points, usually passive but for that no less aggressive, paggro, as they say.

  • Bang: social distancing is to be observed
  • Bang: gloves are to be worn
  • Bang: hands are to be removed regularly and dipped in preserving fluid
  • Bang: this is the bullet point the point of the bullet pointy or hollow rubber and bouncy eyegouging and … just a warning. OR is it?

punctuation is to be used sparingly not to mess up the graphic effect

  • Bang

David Byrne used powerpoint as an artistic medium for his 2001 work called ENVISIONING EMOTIONAL EPISTEMOLOGICAL INFORMATION

it was not ironic. But prescient.

Although the product of an effect, what effect do they have, these informative presentations?

Is it, as David Byrne’s work suggests, an artistic one?

What do they do? They do not so much apply to a situation–say, for example, the return to work–aka the opening of the economy[!]–augured by NZ’s decreasing its level of alert–becoming less alert?–to the Level 2–as declare for one. And if that state of affairs did not exist before–as Level 2 did not for Level 3–they produce it.

In fact these patronising and pretentious powerpoint presentation style pamphlets or documents envisioning emotional epistemological information produce the states of affairs to which they apply.

They are therefore performative.

  • to put it into perspective, by Fabio Gironi (which I have helpfully reformatted to bulletpoints to aid informativability and so on):
  • It is obviously a medical science crisis, straining our current-best understanding of viral behavior.
  • It is a healthcare crisis, which should lead us to reconsider the political and economic attention we’ve so far given to our national healthcare systems, particularly for what it pertains to the care of the elderly.
  • It is an economic crisis, an unprecedented stop of the global productive machinery the effects of which nobody can completely predict, and once again questioning the sustainability of global capitalism.
  • It is a social crisis, highlighting the gaps that divide social classes in terms of access to healthcare and personal freedoms.
  • It is a psychological crisis, forcing millions of people worldwide to be locked in their houses and in their heads, shouldering the burden of a crippling anxiety about the future (or perhaps even fighting alone their own demons and pre-existing mental illnesses) as well as isolating children, for whom frequent social (and physical) interaction is a condition for a healthy development.
  • It is a technological crisis, demonstrating how many countries’ data communication infrastructure is far from ready to offer internet access to everyone, something that now as never before in history is being perceived as a basic need, on par with access to electricity and running water.
  • It is a logistical crisis, for both the spread of the virus and the consequent lockdown have highlighted the problems that accompany the constant movement of goods and people across the globe.
  • It is a political crisis (both at the national and at a global level) since the governments of most countries have proven unable to offer a convincing, effective, and unitary response to the crisis, almost invariably failing to quickly adopt containment measures, and since it is putting to a hard test political and economic international agreements, ill-equipped to truly face a global emergency.
  • It is a democratic crisis, since the current lockdown status quo raises questions about if and to what extent democratic countries have the right to curtail personal freedoms in the name of public health (or indeed if a democracy is at all able to deal with the problem), and since the state of forced captivity in which many are living is causing the emergence of selfish, illiberal and intolerant sentiments.
  • It is an educational crisis, for our school and university system was never designed around the remote delivery of knowledge, and both teachers and students are struggling to adapt to the constraints they have to deal with.
  • It is (the symptom of) an environmental crisis, where the emergence and spread of these new viral strains is facilitated by the unconstrained anthropic modification of animal environments. … there is essentially no domain of human activity that wasn’t (or will not be) touched by the consequence of this global viral outbreak.
  • [and just to be clear Fabio Gironi wrote these crisis-descriptions, I did not; he did not know how much more effectively they might be presented as bulletpoints, I did; although I did not go all the way and choose a slide format, landscape, that you might click through and so be thought to be engaging or activating the information herein presented; despite that neither your engagement nor your activation make any difference to the performance–it’s like participation in the old days. A pretence. Prescient.]

I have always thought sincerity to be the enemy of art. There is some distance between the humour of a great critic and the grim nit-picking sincerity of a minor one–and it resides in the grimness, the sincerity, the humourlessness. And this finding is backed up by Milan Kundera in Encounter. A friend contests the validity of works by a novelist who maintains his apolitical stance in the face of Communist occupation.

Hrabal is, the friend says, a collaborator. Kundera comes back at him: but his humour is the opposite of the regime which afflicts us, like a virus, with its grim certainties. Think of the pleasure a single one of his novels gives to people. (He published several under the regime; his apoliticism even though it could not be coopted to its cause was thought not to be a threat to it.) Think of the world without them!

So perhaps the threat to the sincere is the enjoyment people get from the insincere? And we must proceed here, as the great Raymond Ruyer says when approaching the notion consciousness is generalised over scales of self-survey rather than over species of animal including the human, with the greatest delicacy. Because comedy is sometimes sincerity at its worst, grimmest and most defensive. (NZ news is now dominated by comedian presenters.)

What then differentiates humour from humourlessness? What makes it decisive in the face of a regime like the Communist one?

Unfortunately we have the added complication of political correctness to deal with. But also the grimness and sincerity in the struggle to have identities recognised which fall outside the square, the straight, the white and the world as it is.

The millions who don’t fit in, as the brilliant Manifesto of Julian Rosefeldt has it. Remarkable for its humour. Brilliant also for dealing with artistic manifestos in this way, performatively, in a time when performativity itself is pursued with such grim seriousness. J.L. Austinesque.

But how to square this with the notion of the anaesthetic theatre–or music or painting or architecture–that does nothing to challenge existing values? That has a laugh.

Hence the delicacy.

Is every dystopia, when done right, quite apart from pushing out from the now to speculate on a worst possible scenario, not also very funny?

And is it not so because it does not take off from now but from a caricature arrive at the ridiculous?

And is it not not speculative–also such a grim category–but Rabelaisian? I seem to remember that Rabelais in English translation was placed in the same manger as that in which and from which English philosophy was swaddled and sprang. That is in that it was not better but already back in the seventeenth century, with Thomas Urquhart, already Pythonesque? or Jam-like in the age of Chris Morris? Possibly the one thing English philosophy ever had going for it. Until infected with the virus of analytical sincerity. Positivistically chaste, sober, correct and… grim.

Maori language is currently supported in the same spirit by public institutions in NZ. That is the support of Te Reo such as it is has a purism about it, a chastity, sobriety and correctness which have nothing to do with a language.

Humour is always on the side–language is–philosophy–and art are–of the mistake.

Preeminently, mistaken identity. The humour that is not one. The language that is not one. The philosophy that is not one. The art which is not. The ethics of an anti-ethics, of Vila-Matas‘s refusal! and Busi‘s No!

More prescience [bulletpointed for ease of understanding let it slipdown with the well-lubricated ease of a spoonful-of-honey, or if too phlegmy think of a greased pig slipping quickly between your legs, whoops!, before you knew it]:

  • Even before
    • social media,
    • dating apps,
    • smart devices and
    • highly personalized forms of media streaming,
  • one can think of the
    • modern,
    • Western,
    • affluent social subject
  • as a distinct center of
    • self-management, for whom
    • the rest of the world
    • – including others – appears as so much
    • data to be managed. [Claire Colebrook]

The question is how much of this inanity can one put up with? before saying no. Before announcing an antiethics. Before calling it quits. Before quitting it and calling it.

All this would have benefited from being in slides. Like those TED talks have. Like any pitch worth its pitch–or is that pith?–has. (And isn’t it strange that academics now do this, like tech-app-designer-webbed-fingered persons seeking confirmation and money from the so-called angels?)

I set up square white world not to be. (And was assisted by K. at Version, thanks K. You will note that K. too is taking the art route.)

I already knew irony not to be the sort of fancy trick it was claimed to be. It was again David Byrne whom I first heard say

  • no more irony

So how about sarcasm? as the lowest form of wit

how about it? and cliché as the lowest form of critique

  • now we have ironic sorts of currency, like
    • Bitcoin

Of course, on an industrial scale–and scaling is key–irony becomes cynicism–as long as someone’s doing well out of it.

Can one ever do anything as sincere as saying no?

I’d given K. (another K.) an early epic to read: on a visit to her room she said she had read it, and, handing it back she added

  • Do you really feel like that?
    • Is it really how you feel?

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day 39-43: what is political beauty?

On day 33 why is religion the thought that corresponds to the preceding virtues of good wine & food, good politics & sex, good art & conversation? Why is it not philosophy? When it is a matter of thought.

Because it is a question of practice.

Is philosophy not a practice? Well, I ask you: Is philosophy a practice?

Or is it eminently impractical? Do we not look for a practical philosophy in our popular intellectuals? Alain de Botton. Even Slavoj Žižek. Or Noam Chomsky. And Naomi Klein. And those whose star is sinking or has sunk. Susan Sontag. Edward Said–who gave to intellectuals a task in wider society. Michel Foucault–now seen as a prophet, to the undoing of his philosophy (we might say, exactly). Who else?

The Classics? Aristotle is still rolled out to examine unexamined lives and provide a happy medium. Plato is disenfranchised of his franchise in Socrates, who is rehabilitated as the sceptic he was not. Manqué, perhaps.

Do we not look for an application first then fit a name to it, later? And are those public intellectuals not most popular who come with an application already flagged? Waving their flag? Kings and Queens and Jacks and Knaves of philosophical territories whose craftmarks are emblems sewn in appliqué into the general motley. Or melee. Houses and lineages of refereed citation. Schools and academies of followers?

The undoing of philosophy is in authorship and authority. Religion has no such qualms. And note: in the Western tradition, we still leap a couple of thousand years to prefer the Greeks over the sainted pedagogues, Anselm or Aquinas, or John the Scot. Or earlier, Augustine in Algeria: Lord make me pure but not yet.

Even the apostates are passed over for the pagans. Or we want to see in rebellion the scientific spirit not the philosophical one. (Spirit in the Humanist construction is not suspicious.) Religious means only a discipline of thought … How funny when you think of it that our scientific spirit is pursued religiously, without, except in academic journals, attribution of names; while philosophy is all who said what. (Mirowski maps the ramifications of opening science with the spiritual can-opener.)

In places Voltaire did not reach or that Rousseau did either a respect for the nobility of a Natural thought unsullied by Culture (i.e. Enlightenment Humanism) still prevails, or one is celebrated for not having suffered the castration of an original philosophy from its root in religion. Buddhism, as we know well, becomes a useful household cleaner. Yoga is the recognition the body is the spirit from many thousands of immeasurable years ago (time immemorial) (although a matter of Western projection). So also projectively, Islam spawns radicalism (although a matter of a Western inspiration for Pankaj Mishra (here) going back to our first two figures).

Nonwestern religious thought is seen to be superior in the same Rousseauean sense that gave us the noble savage. Few of nobility have resulted. But many optative savages, whose minority belonging need only be attested to by the declarative, I identify as … a cannibal or an algorithm?

Philosophy, the Enlightenment legacy, the cogito, the churchy inheritance which held onto the split between mind and body, materialising it in the discourse of neurology, like a psychic vacuum cleaner, sucking aesthetics into the bag–neuroaesthetics–and relegating metaphysics to a cultish following and the gender-class-race politics of Dead White Men: what could be more a religious undertaking than eternal return? But then Communism is now metaphysics. And metaphysics is a matter for belief. And its childish suspension. Studies in mental health have shown it’s healthy to have something to believe.

Isn’t a religious experience one we seek out?

Isn’t a philosophical experience one of consolation? (Boethius imprisoned could ask, where is this famous consolation of philosophy?)

Isn’t a poetic experience one of whimsy? made of fancy bread?

And isn’t scientific experience one of the mundanity of existence? engaging a loss of innocence that everything is really as dull as it appears to be.

Until there is an unprecedented event …. “[The disease] can attack almost anything in the body with devastating consequences,” says cardiologist Harlan Krumholz of Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, who is leading multiple efforts to gather clinical data on COVID-19. “Its ferocity is breathtaking and humbling.”

Good politics, what might this be? Does the Center for Political Beauty have the answer? (It is interesting how different it looks unEnglished.) Is good politics not now more problematic than good religion? (K. sent me links to this and this. And I find all I want to say is that to hinge political beauty on the Holocaust is the aesthetic effect which has been sought for it under neoliberalism to the abdication of the power in politics and the commendation of the beauty in letting the market–including the art market–run it.)

… where is that breath of fresh air? that mind breath Ginsberg said was a poem, is it here or hereunder

Or is it that data turns consumption against itself?

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What we are witnessing is the complete re-orientation of the global economy away from the petro-dollar to the data economy: days 34-37

I cannot reconstruct how I have got here, but I can tell you where I have got. You are probably not interested–who is? who has the time to be?–in the journey anyway. The conclusion will be bare. Just a bare line hanging without the scaffold of support.

What we are witnessing is the complete re-orientation of the global economy away from the petro-dollar to the data economy. We are seeing the completion of a process of re-orientation begun during the global crisis which had its inaugural moment with the bombing of the Twin Towers. At this time it became politically expedient to empower tech companies in the collection of data.

Data, farming it, harvesting it, owning it, selling it, mining for it, drilling into it, has become a more profitable industry than the oil industry. The data-dollar has outstripped the petro-dollar. The crashing in value of the petro-dollar and the crisis of oversupply in the energy market brought about by government-imposed lockdowns and the closing of national borders, particularly as it has affected the aviation industry, have leveraged the end of an era. COVID-19 marks the completion of a global re-orientation to the data-economy begun in pre-existing conditions of fear. Now the fear is of physical contact, digital contact is the solution.

It is as a spokesperson for a local social service writes, a contact-less digital solution, that without irony will be the complete solution to the contact tracing it is necessary to conduct. Asking our people to sign-in on a paper register and keep a diary of their movements can only go so far.

Social workers and educators move to online provision of services, often speaking to gains in efficiency and efficacy. Click and collect apps move the smallest transactions online, and whole stores migrate: New Hope is the name of the local dump shop, salvaging what people have thrown out for re-sale; it has now an online presence and offers click and collect, but not yet a proprietary app.

And this is where the frontline is: in compassionate examples and moral justifications. New Hope re-sells to benefit local initiatives. Social services take down names and personal details, aiding contact tracing, for the good of the society. The greater good has once again entered common parlance.

The farming of personal data from apps is for the greater good. For COVID-19 and for the complete re-orientation of the global economy. The complete solution.

He doesn’t like information,” the official said. “He likes decision points.”

I add this fragment as the most complete explanation for the otherwise incomprehensible statements of the POTUS.

I add the following fragment as ammunition for the frontline.

I went back to Milan Kundera for his view on kitsch, about the cruelty sentimentality and mawkishness cover over, and recalled how Kundera listened to Varèse and Xenakis, finding, especially in the latter, consolation. He asks himself why? Why, when he could be listening to Smetana? and recapitulating in its patriotism his nostalgia for homeland and for collective belonging.

He writes, equally brutally, perhaps, to the brutality he describes, and again, forgive me quoting at length:

“Despite Stravinsky’s denial that music expresses feeling, the naive listener cannot see it any other way. That is music’s curse, its mindless aspect. All it takes is a violinist playing the three long opening notes of a largo, and a sensitive listener will sigh, “Ah, how beautiful!” In those three notes that set off the emotional response, there is nothing, no invention, no creation, nothing at all: it’s the most ridiculous “sentimentality hoax.” But no one is proof against that perception of music, or against the foolish sigh it stirs.

“European music is founded on the artificial sound of a note and of a scale; in this it is the opposite of the objective sound of the world. Since its beginnings, Western music is bound, by an insurmountable convention, to the need to express subjectivity. It stands against the harsh sound of the outside world just as the sensitive soul stands against the insensibility of the universe.

“But the moment could come (in the life of a man or of a civilization) when sentiment (previously considered a force that makes man more human and relieves the coldness of his reason) is abruptly revealed as the “superstructure of brutality,” ever present in hatred, in vengeance, in the fervor of bloody victories. At that time I came to see music as the deafening noise of the emotions, whereas the world of noises in Xenakis’s works became beauty; beauty washed clean of affective filth, stripped of sentimental barbarity.”

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