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days 31-39

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

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

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

“To read is to cover one’s face …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatchoo lookin at?

or, then you answer, and:

Come ere n say that!

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

fuckin poof!

Reading? clearly an elitist white colonial pastime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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days 23 – 30: the week since

Talk–always hard to know how cheap–how dear–usually, Oh

Dear

–there is talk of the coming recession–“like none in our lifetime” (whose? a strange shared lifetime?)–and of the autocracies evolving from draconian measures adopted under exceptional and unprecedented circumstances.

I don’t think this is the danger.

It is at once sillier. And finds its niche (whose? a strange shared niche?) in the devolution of public powers.

The danger is not an evolution but a kind of by-kill or by-product or friendly fire effect from states of emergency having been declared and prompting more or less sensible public policy-making.

The danger is localised autocracies.

Devolved ones.

Not centralised ones.

Maybe even networked ones.

After all, is Trump really the danger?

The fact that he has the Button in his manbag, as Stewart Lee writes, that a sociopathic narcissist can unleash worldwide atomic conflagration on a Twit-whim, a Twhim, a Twheem, spells trouble. But it’s the kind of trouble we know how to get ourselves out of because we’ve got ourselves into it before. Or, rather, because we have, out of familiarity, a kind of habit of stupidity–out of the bad habit of being human–, we don’t. We sit and watch spectacular stupidity engulf the world like an atomic conflagration we are a hair’s breadth from.

The political danger if we really want to talk–and face the bill of talk–about autocracy is that the government at the local level, that councils arrogate to themselves powers they have not known before.

Our own mayor in Auckland earns a lot. But Stephen Town earns just under $700,000. Along with 7 other staff of Auckland Council who earn over the Prime Minister’s $471,000 (B.C. – before COVID-19); while 48 Council employees earn more than Mayor Phil Goff’s $296,000–it is alleged here.

These guys–six of the 7 earning close to what Stephen Town does are men–are clearly oligarchs already. (Same source.)

The annual rate of pay above which Auckland Council staff have been asked to take pay cuts voluntarily is $100,000. It has neither yet been advised who has volunteered–although we know the Rt. Hon. Ardern has–nor by what amount to have their pay docked. And who can doubt that it will be on the front pages of our popular presses and bruited widely on Council websites and through the Social Media Council employs staff to manage?

Some social services are being asked to take contact tracing data from the public which uses them. They are being asked by the Ministry of Health of New Zealand to ask of their users, members, patrons (but never customers) contact information. This information the Ministry undertakes to destroy within 60 days. However, responsible for the forms staff fill out to supply this data is Council … and herein again a wheel turning … without the gears necessarily meshing … because the ones responsible for putting together the forms to extract the data from the users, members, patrons, civilian population are not the ones who are responsible to that population. What are then the responsible ones being paid to take responsibility for?

What does Stephen Town and other CEOs in the staff oligarchy actually do? I see him smiling a lot. And I saw a funny picture with some grinning partner to his device in the foreground that made it look like he is a dwarf. Which is not in itself funny. But under the circumstances is.

The forms gathering data being made out by its service providers for Council include a privacy policy that is Council’s. The usual we can as we see fit … The problem arises that the we is not the Ministry of Health of central government but that of local government.

Is central government the third party to local government? as per the privacy policy’s sharing with third parties in the provision of Council services?

But this logic of devolution of responsibility goes further: paradigm shifts in budget spending are not in and on principle transferred from central to local government.

If the Council wants austerity to reign–and cover its deficit–and keep on paying its staff-oligarchy it will have it.

If this is not the paradigm of the NZ Treasury … the reality is the autocratic possibility of local government devolved through the services it pays the money to, the money that doesn’t reach the people or the city.

Of course from a business perspective the high salaries of Council CEOs are justified. It’s just it is no longer the paradigm of the Ardern government to conduct this kind of salary pissing contest.

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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 29, 30 & 31

I knew that the promise of this crisis, that it didn’t make any; least of all did it promise through the slippages entailed in the political management of the crisis any reevaluation of the principles by which that political management is in government informed.

What is meant here by political management is shutting down economies; what is meant by principles are those on which the business-as-usual of economies is based. Then by reevaluation is meant the power of a political will, of government, to change those principles on which the business-as-usual of economies is based.

At best what we have had over the period of economic shutdown–which can be taken quite literally in the lockdown of the public realm to the private and domestic realm–is a vague period. It has been one of not knowing how it will come out, of not knowing if any political strategy is going to work, and of not knowing, or of having inadequate knowledge, of what is really going on.

On one side we have felt the state flexing its muscles, sometimes behind the vanity screen of voluntary adherence to social rules, and out in the open, the enforcement of an almost arbitrary authoritarianism, then through the complicity of private agents jamming police lines dobbing other citizens in for breaches, Stasi-like. On the other side we have experienced what has felt almost like an over-reaction. Although to say so is to fistpump with the types of people whose opinions Trump mainlines, so we won’t be saying that.

The enigma continues in the prospect of many workplaces becoming filled once more, but by people doing very little; the businesses themselves propped up by subsidy and returning to work workers who will have little work to do. This has been, will have been, another of those embarrassing moments when that light negligee of economic dogma has shifted–showing, unsurprisingly, but nonetheless still shockingly, no body, nobody!, underneath.

Others have been a universal living wage having been coughed out to millions without any government whining about if you don’t work for it, just die, you just die! (As it happened this was what a Russian friend said to a Chinese friend, then both laughed and said: And we both had revolutions!) And if we take into account that the pretext for this coughing up is not say so bad as some global pandemics (but we won’t say that), then has it been too easily sidelined, the economic orthodoxy of neoliberalism? Has it given up without a fight? (The enemy COVID-19 is… evil evil evil, but hardly lifethreatening to the world economy! or globalism!)

But some of the explanation can be found in the price-mechanism of Hayek-inspired (who said so? Mirowski said so!) neoliberal thinking. That is, the machine is supposed to run independently of government actions, government being relegated to irrelevance, otherwise known as governance.

Then what happens? State governments shut down the mechanisms of the market, almost as if they no longer know what they are; almost as if they have forgotten that these levers and stop buttons used to have big signs on them saying use by political prerogative IN EMERGENCY ONLY!

The market is the market’s to shut down!

What to say about the promise–some commentators have evoked the work of Mark Fisher, who talks of the present as haunted by the possible futures which have never come to pass, and now never can. Why haunted? because of the hope, because of the promise … even if it’s simply one of a technological utopia. (I recall undergoing training at primary school in how to deal with all the leisure time I was going to have to endure as an adult, when technological progress was going to have, was supposed to have, coincided with enlightened social policy.) Now the future’s here and it’s hardly what we expected. … But then the future gets here again, with COVID-19, and it’s really not what we expected!

And again it returns, the future, bearing the φάρμακον, the pharmakon, that Greek gift–think Troy as well as Austerity–Derrida so well interprets.

And with the promises of returns to work looming, for me and some young people I know, as if this were the promise, I picked up Kundera’s book Encounter. It reminded me about the role of kitsch in hiding human cruelty.

And in view of the certitudes of work, as opposed to the enigmas we have suffered through, and suffered from, I read: “The existential enigma has disappeared behind political certitude, and certitudes don’t give a damn about enigmas. This is why, despite the wealth of their lived experiences, people emerge from a historic ordeal still just as stupid as they were when they went into it.”

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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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we must in a world we cannot, days 10, 11 & 12, 13

I have moved some of my comments onto the <<empyre>> listserv this past several days, named a soft_skinned_space by Melinda Rackham its founder, in Melbourne, 2002, now based at Cornell.

I was moved to pass on Levi Bryant’s article “A World is Ending,” and to point to what I had already written into and out of squarewhiteworld.

Bryant wrote a beautiful book on Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, with the best explanation of the three syntheses of time.

“A World is Ending,” rather than a philosophical response, is the response of an academic professorial chair to COVID 19, a chair the pandemic, in its impact on Bryant, had made so spikily uncomfortable, “A World is Ending” talks of a before and an after, much as there was a before and after to history, according to Fukuyama, to which the attacks on New York’s Twin Towers come after.

“A World is Ending” does talk philosophy. Kant’s shadow falls heavily over the whole thing. And it is because of him, his transcendental framework, and Heidegger’s world worlding, that we can get anywhere close to one ending.

The carpentry of the world is coming apart. The unity and continuity on which we can support objects has gone skew-whiff, like a set of shelves, or, the heart of the girl in Lloyd Cole’s song, like crazy paving, upside down and back to front.

And not least the things at the market have taken on some alarming characteristics: each one is morbidly fascinating, as it steps up to threaten us, in its own right addressing itself to us with the demands of its potential toxicity. It has become unfamiliar and alien.

Rather than transcendental it is now in Levinas’s terms transcendent. A world is ending when common things transcend our ability to comprehend them.

This is not to say I don’t love the reading of the super market in fragmentation. But it is the case in exactly a transcendental sense. At least this is what I think Deleuze describes with his failure of time’s third synthesis, the synthesis of the future, which would ground the first two syntheses of time, and orientate the world to the continuity of the future, to it being continuous with past and present, a time making sense of our life’s journeys retroactively–but it can’t, it can’t make this kind of sense, if anything new is to come out of something as big as a world ending, or even for a window to open a crack, letting in a little fresh air.

The super market. The wiping of hands. The wringing of hands. And the breath restricted to recirculation in our masks. Our masks.

An empyre contributor, Gary, came back with this paragraph from Merleau-Ponty, in a letter to Sartre, 1953:

I have in no way renounced writing on politics… What I have decided to do since the Korean War is a very different thing. I have decided to refrain from writing on events as they are unfolding. This has to do with reasons that belonged to that period, and also with reasons that are permanent. … I have suggested a number of times that what the journal [Les Temps Modernes] should be doing is not take hasty positions, but rather propose lengthy studies. … What I had in mind was to act as writers, a type of action that consists in a back and forth between the event and the general line, and which does not simply consist in confronting every event (in imaginary fashion) as though it was decisive, unique and irreparable. This method is much closer to politics than your method of ‘engagement continue’ [continuous engagement] (in the Cartesian sense). Indeed, precisely in that sense, it is more philosophical, because the distance it creates between the event and the judgement one passes on it defuses the trap of the event…

And they are clearly right, Merleau-Ponty and Gary. This advice is something Sartre would never follow.

But I was moved to ask Gary through the door opened by Bryant’s world ending, his chair against the door, whether the notion of politics when applied to today’s conduct of politics by governments might not, like the before and after, and like Fukuyama’s history’s end, be an exaggeration? An emplaced exaggeration, and I would say for that reason a theatrical exaggeration?

(But this is to follow on in a groove I have spared you from, writing in my other writing.)

Time has intervened, synthesised, opened out again, chairs have moved on the decks, deckchairs, dreck has shifted. To one side. And we’re offbalance again.

We watched Funny Games. If you recall, the action ramps up quite rapidly.

It’s eggs. Eggs dropping from whitegloved hands. Sound familiar?

Communications cut off for our hero family unit. George the son. The failure of the pater familias to read the writing on the wall….

It should remind you to retrace, retroactively making sense of, the course of events: Is the significant lapsus the father’s to pick up on the signals the mother is sending?

Is this what launches the entire family unit into tragedy?

Very quickly, in Anouilh’s definition of tragedy, the spring that is wound up tight uncoils. Fate becomes ineluctable. Delivered as if by a clockwork mechanism.

The philosophically inclined will see here the cosmos in its clockwork continuity. Chairs rotating. Musical chairs. Before … the playing of dice with the universe. Indeterminacy. Or uncertainty. Bohr or Heisenberg.

But it should remind us to take care.

Or should it?

This is not Heidegger’s care.

It is the crayfish noticing the water growing warmer.

The mother getting some kind of formal organic inkling that things, that oceans ought not be warming, that this big stainless steel pot of self isolation and social distancing, in which we have let ourselves be immersed, ought not be getting awful hot…

What I had to say on <<empyre>> to Gary, and Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Heidegger, Kant was that there is a representative layer, a gestural level, to this whole boiling water thing going on underneath.

There are signs of it in the apologetic tone struck by our own PM: government departing from the script, economies fragmenting: between the economies of the many and economies of social atomies.

But more than this more than this when is it clear we have to get out … ?

And quite apart from the moralising imperatives of the We must kind, who say, after this We must save the planet… We must…love each other well… We must…act like it’s after and not before, like history has not ever ended before and re-started. We must see finally see neoliberal we-musts for the ideological interpellations they always already were. (Even Trump says this.) We have seen the global economy get stopped. We must acknowledge that… We can make it stop. This endless despoliation of the globe. This endless devastation of the social sphere. This pointless endless pointlessness.

We also watched Paolo Sorrentino’s The New Pope.

It is in every way sublime.

Not the Kantian sublime.

But care, take care, the forces are heating the water, despite themselves, good governments and bad governments, are apologising… lost moral compass… all those moral values we have been asked to call in to Crisis Line… when they are all middle class values.

Can we live in a world, I don’t know if I can, in which politics does not concern itself with the tragedy unfolding, says it cannot, cannot, while all around the critics and the commentators, less the media these days, but, well, that’s sad, another sadness to have to bear, all of them, tell politics what we must do and that we must do it … and that current events have shown we must.

With the blood heating or the blood cooling, the atmosphere, not even the atmosphere, is keeping pace with the global political climate: which is a climate, since 1946, scared of its own possibility, and the failure, and the prevarication, are as nothing compared to … the escalation, the mechanism wound up tight, ready for the spring to release, the water to heat…

Have you heard the screaming of the crayfish?

White gloves.

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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 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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Days 1 – 2 LOCKDOWN & NATIONAL EMERGENCY

Did they act in wartime, like, you know, it was just a good idea? Like it was a good idea to stop people congregating by shutting down things like public communication (wifi) services? (Although loose lips sink ships.) Like, it was a good idea just to stay in your bubble? (Although a bubble’s not a blackout.) And when was it a good idea for an entire population to go along with these good ideas?

Was there, has there ever been, a time when we did voluntarily?

Was it a good idea to go along with these good ideas and then find we were submitting to enforced imposition of what we had previously been going along with because it was a good idea?

Michael Joseph Savage, whose picture appeared behind the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern during her presidential style PM-Office addresses, didn’t quite prepare a peacetime postwar fit for heroes. But his brand of socialism instituted during WWII, soft and Christian-value-inflected as it was, did set the scene for a period of prosperity at least with a bead on egalitarianism (when the word was actually utterable)–doing everything successive political incumbents, after 1984’s Fourth Labour Government, have done their best to undo.

So there was an irony in Savage’s presence behind our PM as she told us about all the things we were being asked to do. A savage irony, in retrospect, after the imposition of Level 4 Eliminate.

Level 4 Eliminate is the point at which we are instructed to stay at home, educational facilities are closed, as are businesses, excepting essential services, at which supplies may be rationed and facilities requisitioned, travel is severely limited, and at which there is a “major reprioritisation of healthcare services.”

The irony is one of omission, since the New Zealand government as agent is omitted.

Government as agent is omitted in instructing people to stay home, in closing schools and businesses, with the exception of essential (to government) services, is omitted as agent acting to ration supplies and requisition facilities, to limit travel, and is omitted as agent directing healthcare services towards its own priorities.

It is a situation compared to wartime but one in which martial law has not been imposed.

Even with the New Zealand government acting like a government, unlike the Australian one, there is no claiming by government of its political prerogative. There is no commitment from government to govern.

What is asked of the population is an accord, an agreement, a contract, and a will to be governed, where government is not imposed.

Where government has not been imposed we have a state of governance in which we are to be the agents of our self isolation. (Its reflexivity may better explain the use of this term than the confusion over whether we are in quarantine or self quarantine before being infected but self isolation upon infection or whether it is the other way around: quarantine, even self quarantine, demands an external agency quarantining or providing the means to; self isolation is DIY, all you need is a home to stay at.)

If it turns out it was not a good idea we, not government did it, in conceding to being governed. And what would the tip-off be?

At what point would we know we had conceded too much to a government that dare not speak its name?

Will it have turned bad when we are asked to go out and catch those who are not doing it properly?

What is going to be today’s or tomorrow’s equivalent of conscientious objection?

At the end of Day 1 and into Day 2 it is an absurd situation.

But it is less absurd than the righteousness of those, and the good humour of those, who are doing it properly, whose righteousness consists in the fact that we are somehow uniting against COVID 19, whose good humour consists in invoking the wartime analogy:

Your grandparents were asked to kill or be killed for your country; you’re being asked to sit on a sofa and stay home. Now, let’s get this right!

I don’t know how we unite in a state of voluntary or enforced social atomisation so extreme we are said to be in ‘bubbles’ of self-isolation.

And what is the connection between these bubbles we are in bodily and those cognitive bubbles we are in digitally, that we are also in voluntarily, in which we are said not to have a single experience that breaks with the continuity of past experience, but to experience the continuous transmission of the same?

What is the connection but that one bubble leads into another (as Peter Sloterdijk has already written, at length)?

Under the ongoing state of exception of a National State of Emergency we seem to have done nothing more than pass through the liquid and diaphanous membrane from one bubble into another. Without there being much difference to note.

In face of a common sense calling on unity against an internal enemy and in the way one good idea leads to another and one bubble leads to another, the recourse to reason outside that of the state, to any reason outside of the state’s, becomes ever slimmer, as do reason’s resources become slighter outside of those to the requisition of which we have conceded. In fact we have recourse to agency not in the way it defers to us or is ours by right but only by reference to the service sectors the state has already auctioned off, those agencies which, although they may be accountable to the state are neither responsible to it nor to us for the supply and provision of their services.

I would like to agree and affirm this period for the good that the private realm withdraws from that public realm in which it can of late be said to have lost all faith.

I would like to agree and affirm this period for the good that the public realm needs to be assessed on the basis of this withdrawal from it and from the fact that we have conceded to it.

What this means is a “major reprioritisation” of the political, of the role of government in the public realm.

It is a global TIME OUT.

To do it properly means to reverse our concession to withdrawal from the public realm at the very time we see it can get by without us as if we were never really part of it.

To do it properly means to claim the political prerogative entailed in our concession, that government fails to claim, entailed in the suspension of all economic activity except for the services essential to public life. At the very time we see a reality that is the political reality, we see money and markets can get by without us.

It is a political reality, not dictated by the commercial reality, of economic activity, as if after all we did for it, after all that work and all that study, we were never really part of it.

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