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αποίησις: on the alpha privativum

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the free and creative play of transcendental ideas ::: illustrated with three paintings by Wolfe von Lenkiewicz

Another kind of madness, constantly wanting to draw attention to one’s own insights, like some placard-carrying apocalyptic in Time’s Square.

— Damian Lanigan, The Ghost Variations, Weatherglass Books, 2022, opened at random, p. 69

I’m writing a long note about cinematic time but, as always, encountered something along the way, only tangentially related to that theme, but that seemed to demand another note. Unless I am mistaken and as I write the note up here the tangent feeds back in again to the long note on cinematic time. The tangent was suggested–the same source as the seed for the note to come–by John Ó Maoilearca and Keith Ansell Pearson’s introduction to Henri Bergson: Key Writings.

There they write, Bergson’s Kantianism and his Berkeleyism, in short his idealism, is shallower than either Berkeley’s or Kant’s. It does not have its roots in the categories of human understanding, as with Kant. It does not originate solely in the perception of the mind, as with Berkeley. It is instead virtual.

What is Bergson’s idea of the virtual? what is it in light of his views on time? Time for Bergson is duration. The time marked out by the clock is time translated to the dimension of space, since the clock is counting spatial divisions. These divisions are contingent on conventions of counting the day and night as fundamental units, so they are broken up in space, according to a conventionally 12 hour day, but not in time.

Science tends to use clocktime. Philosophy says Bergson need not, because a philosophical understanding of time should try to get at what time is in itself. Bergson also takes duration, time as duration, to be free of the determinism that its contingency installs.

He thinks duration free of the constraints the conventions of measuring time lead to, that duration is a freedom for creativity beyond conventionalism. This creativity is neither abstract, like the geometric measurement of time as space, nor actual, like the spacetime given in relativity theory as a chrono-geo-determinism. It is instead virtual.

– Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp, 2018

What this shallower of Ó Maoilearca and Ansell Pearson means to me is a reflection. Transcendental ideas for Bergson are as shallow as a reflection. I see a reflection on still water of the trees above, and above them, the sky and stars, but this leads me to think of another sort of reflection, one equally as shallow, as on-the-surface, as the reflection in the water. Whereas this one is in space, the other is a reflection in time.

Everything that makes up the reflection in space, in the water, is actual. The surface is an actual surface. It exists. It may only be made of light but that light exists and it is the condition for there being a reflection. I say this because of the mystery and magic, the not-quite-real quality, mirrors traditionally invoke. Their not-quite-reality is not yet virtuality.

A reflection in time is virtual. So the virtual for Bergson relates to time, time as it relates to itself and is in itself, apart from space, contingency and the conveniences of measurement. The virtual is time reflecting on itself, on its own duration.

Deleuze further qualifies the virtual as being distinct from either the possible or the potential. What is virtual is not a pool of possibilities that are held in potential. Possibility and potentiality relate to reality along that continuum going from possible reality to existing reality. The constraints of possibility are again in evidence.

The virtual in contrast relates to actuality and is unconstrained by either possibility or its potential for realisation. Freely creative, the virtual resolves, works itself out in what is actual. The virtual is real without existing in actuality.

The possible exists without being real. Existence adds to possibility what was missing, reality. The formula stating that the virtual is not yet, not quite and no longer is insufficient and misleading. It limits the virtual to complete realisation only when actualised, when nothing is missing from virtuality.

– Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, A Lady Writing a Letter, 2018

Thinking about a reflection in time I think is a better idea. It also relates virtuality to Bergson as an aspect of his insight into time being pure duration. Like the reflection in space, from it nothing is missing and everything is at the surface. This is what I take from Ó Maoilearca and Ansell Pearson’s shallower.

It doesn’t necessarily lessen the difficulty of imagining the virtual. However, if we move from this surface or across this surface according to Deleuze’s ideas about counteractualisation I think we can come closer to understanding how the virtual works, and how usefully to think of it. Counteractualisation is to go from the actual back to the virtual.

Counteractualisation of transcendental ideas, for example, without removing their reality removes their depth or height. It sets ideas jostling on the same plane or surface. It returns them to their shallowness.

No longer are they standing in judgement. No longer transcendent, not yet subjected to a moral tribunal, they are not quite themselves but no less real. The reflection in time effected by counteractualisation reintroduces the freedom and creative play to what was thought to be determined and determining.

The question of idealism for Ó Maoilearca and Ansell Pearson comes up in relation to Bergson’s use of the term images. All four chapters of Matter and Memory, 1896, feature the term. Bergson’s use breaks with philosophical convention and is suggestive of a link, as I said at the beginning, to cinema and to the note on cinematic time I am concurrently working on: what are images if not pictures, whether moving or not?

Ó Maoilearca and Ansell Pearson point out that in other places than Matter and Memory Bergson makes use of the word ideas to mean the same thing. The etymology of idea is from the Greek word εἶδον for to see and then to ιδέα, meaning form or (visual) pattern. Bergson’s shallow idealism more or less flattens the meanings of idea and image. Images are as much physically present as they are in play on the surface, as they are registered on a reflective surface or recorded on film.

– Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, Iodame, 2018

The note to come, that on cinematic time, will take up on the confusion of images in play and bodies in movement and what that means for our sense of time and duration. The purpose here is to go in the reverse direction, rather than from (cinematic) images to (temporal) forms or ideas, to go from images that have a reflection in time to ideas which have virtuality, virtual and transcendental ideas. Counteractualisation is not only meant for either ideas or images, ideal forms or transcendental ideas.

I think of counteractualisation as engaging a surface or plane of temporality or, as Deleuze and Guattari say in What is Philosophy?, I think of it as taking slices of chaos, and of art, science and philosophy each doing so in their own ways. My practice with Minus Theatre was to bring to the depthless surface of the stage the deepest and most intensely felt experiences where they could be brought into play, like transcendental ideas, where they could jostle against one another, free of their baggage, of judgement, of moral implication. This free and creative play, whether it is of transcendental ideas or physical bodies freed from defensive moralising, is of the virtual reflection in time or, better, is on it.

Not then improvisation, the movement in play is ex-temporised. It takes place by coming into being. The reflection in time is what makes in chaos the virtual slice.

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Julio Cortázar says, “Each of Pizarnik’s poems is the hub of an enormous wheel.”

Si pour un fois de nouveau le regard bleu dans le sac rempli de poussière–je parle de moi, j’ai le droit–cette attente, cette patience–si pour une fois de nouveau–qui me comprend?–je pale des jouets brisés, je parle d’un sac noir, je parle d’une attente, je parle de moi, je peux le faire, je dois le faire. Si tout ce que j’appelle ne vient pas une seule fois encore quelqu’un devra rire, quelqu’un devra fêter une blague atroce–je parle de la lumière sale qui courre à travers la poussière, les yeux blue qui patientent. Qui me comprend? Une seule fois encore la petite main entre les jouets brisés, le regard de celle qui attend, écoute, comprend. Les yeux bleus comme une réponse à cette mort qui est à côté de moi, qui me parle et c’est moi. Si pour une fois de nouveau mes yeux terrestres, ma tête enfoncée dans un sac noir, mes yeux bleus qui savent lire ce qui exprime la poussière, sa lementable écriture. Si pour une fois encore.

— Alejandra Pizarnik

If for once again the blue gaze inside this sack full of dust–I speak of myself, I have the right–this expectation, this patience–if for once again–who understands me?–I speak of broken toys, of a black sack, of an expectation, I speak of myself, I can do it, I ought to do it. If everything I call doesn’t come to me just once again, someone will have to laugh, someone will have to toast with an atrocious joke–I speak of dust riven with sullen light, blue eyes patiently marking time. Who understands me? Just once again the small hand among broken toys, regard of her who waits, listens, understands. Blue eyes as a response to this death right next to me, which speaks to me and is me. If for once my earthen eyes, my head stuffed in a black sack, my blue eyes which can read what dust scrawls, its pathetic handwriting. If again each time.

— trans. Forrest Gander

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in his image

                                                                            
listen to the deep
	along the lines of
the face and darkness.

a spark, a sink
	among the eggshells

outside it all was broken into pieces

and I said, the darkness is not total
	the chaos is not     fatal
		or even original

although, what did Brian think?
	it is genetic	his favourite
drink     his Boy George hat but
      he was skinny  a grenadine
a double, sinking in his beer like pisschrist,
shotglass   wobbles to the bottom of the pint.

bi   drunk and on her single bed he was having
  a threesome with Tracey he came out and said
    with Tracey and a friend, punk girlfriend 
      and he had to stop to take timeout
        he said, two punks and a goth
            he had come they had not
              because of his one lung
          use his inhaler have a cigarette
            then go back in again   because
              he said he liked to watch,


Depth-charge, depth-charger Brian says
   he said it so it rhymes with plays
     it's not a competition to see if he could
       break the record he set on 
   the last time dole day, Thursday's dole day
           of how many he could drink
             and more than once 
           he comes home to the flat bashed in
             and spent the rent and 
               Tracey fixed him up, and he 
                 liked women 

but he said,
    he was sad and had     one lung:

     how many can you 
       and can you afford to


    the shot glass sinks to the bottom
                of the pint glass

       it goes it goes wobbly then goes
                             clink

softly too,

	afterwards, after Brian's bashed in for
		   what he says it rhymes with lays
               to the men at the bar 
        and jokes that pieces are always
      falling off him always are and they
    say fucking queer and Tony pulls him away

		he was deaf in one ear.

		  too soft to hear.

I left him in the mall at Cashel Street
          it was the eighties '83
  badges clinking on his blazer the satin
    lapels stained with dribbles or semen
      always are     I saw him
                with his one leg
                  and crooked smile
                    walk a crooked mile

to see a sad friend that he had who
                topped herself
  so he says it rhymes with stays
    and a man    about a dog
    and a man    about a pea, Miranda said
      who shrinks down to the size
        of suicide
          and is dead         who
                    gets inside your head
            inserts himself in your ear
                              who
                                is bent
who means it always did and stays there

down deeper than a vacuum cleaner
  deeper down than vomit vomit that
    they cannot clear
      a human vacuum cleaner

Tracey now is picking at the carpet
  pinching fluff between her fingers
    finding coins 
      and applecores 
        behind the sofa
          the flat
            came down in a demo
              don't look for it
         I read the cantos in the turret
       but that is not where it began

I began as we all do and I did not become
 insufficient   brothers sisters brothers
                  take my arms

take me outside no I'm not like we all do 
                going to be sick take
                  my hair    need
                    something from me

along these lines and on the fourth day
                    he found inspiration
                      it came to him
                        as it was on
           the first day of creation and
                          God said
                            Order up!

He thought 
        I do think the birds sing to me
                      piu piu piu piu
                        like owls the
                          ringneck doves
                              and a bird
        sang Speak speak speak speak
                            as he passed

            casting shadows on the deep
         and as it was 
            as it was what he was thinking
      at the time I think at the time
            the present
   passed over like clouds casting
                    shadows on the deep

                    why write when I can
                    speak     ? why work
                    when I can sleep   ?

so he dreamt he was a famous star
  playing in a famous scene and
    at the bar a minor bird called out
      Mister where have you been?

he dreamt he was Julie Andrews
  skiing with her groom
    on the mountains of the moon

dreamt of sweeping wide and wider still
  round the corners of a frozen hill
    a snow-carpeted hill
     he dreamt he was in Switzerland

He dreamt of sitting in the window
  with a garden view and his love
    who was a woman who
      He stood up in and
        saw into his soul

and   how many   needed nothing

and he dreamt so he dreamt 
   of the groom and the vacuum
     of the scene and the actor
       of the pea in his ear
         of the man and the beer

         of steps being taken
       suspicions he was faking

how many thoughts are dreams    ?
  and how many dreams are
    how many dreams    are there

as if dreams are our mother
  when she married memories
    after sleeping with chaos

he dreamt of an eternal cafe table
  and of waiting on it
    when God said Order up!
      but he was unable

how many dreams are memories
  and how many thoughts are
    how many thoughts    are there?

his mother in the bath
  her pubes all tangled in the water
    a tattered butterfly 
     who he said to he thought
       it's worth it
         I think so too 
          and waited to

each shall be given
    the deserving and the non
      the believing and the non

god's gift    he said   as an actor
you're not    too soft  
                  for the extractor

Tracey was a human vacuum cleaner
      no, not that way
Is the light on   ?
  Have the right steps been taken
    is the vomit clear?
      is there a man in your ear?
        a man here and   he says
         it rhymes with pays
           no, not that way

suspicions he was faking 
          were mistaken
he did not awaken   god's gift

from the lucky and the un
forsaken and un
  from father son and holy one
      will be taken   God's gift
       he was not and from a man
        in your rear depth-
         charging your beer
          the fizz
           holy un
 from the gearshift she sat on
 to Brian with his hat on
   Louie frothing at the mouth
          one is 
            not enough

from the fizz of creation this
  one man is not      this man
    was my brother    he was
      in arms     taken
        in his image  as was
          God's gift  in his

from mother and daughter
  to mother-daughter too
    to unmother daughter
      my daughter
        how deep is
           the water is it
      
in his image    god's gift
            too    ?








[11 March 2023]

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who killed my father

I picked up today Édouard Louis’s book with this title. I added a question mark. Then removed it.

Because without a question mark it is a statement. I couldn’t see it at first. It doesn’t ask who killed my father. Rather it states who did it.

I cite it only to lead where it led me when it was a question, since I could ask the question, who killed my father. And I could answer the question but I could not state who. Who killed my father?

I have been writing about my father. Writing imaginatively, not factually, and without thinking very much about… what can I say? Who killed my father.

First there was the responsibility I felt towards his life. Second is responsibility for his death. What killed him was his life, but his life, for such a little phrase, carries with it a load.

His life entails, although it doesn’t follow from it, all that he gave his life for, all that he lived for. It engages in fact everything that was not him. His life is small compared to what for him life was about.

How do I, how does anyone address themselves to the dreams, principles, the values and ideas, that a father lives for? If I think of my mother. In contrast I think of her living for life. Not like my father, living for some thing.

And many would and should side with someone who lives for life. Perhaps they say it is more admirable to live like that and that living for some thing, some intangible purpose, is not at all what it purports to be. It is actually self-centred, selfish and even cruel.

My mother also lived for my father and her children and out from them for those they in turn loved and lived for. But she did not live for what my father lived for, although she sympathised with it. She loved my father for that little bit of him that was his, which he probably couldn’t see, which I doubt any of us ever really can.

As I said, I felt responsible too for his responsibility, the responsibility he chose. I felt less responsible for his life, the responsibility he didn’t choose. So that I can say who killed my father turns on the responsibility he took on, the fate he chose.

It is to do with what he thought himself to be doing when alive. It is implicated in what he struggled and fought for. And what he thought was worth the fight.

A book by Barack Obama passed through my hands called Dreams from My Father. In it the dreams might be of an imported cultural inheritance, finding a place in a new culture for them. I suspect many fathers die on the job of this, but is it the job that kills them?

As a question who killed my father is both gendered and generic. Who killed my mother doesn’t translate it. It pertains to a general state of affairs. As a statement it is the particular story of who killed my father. There again is the question of responsibility that is of a calling, that is ethical and political.

What my father was called to do was particular but is applicable to fathers in general inasmuch as they take on and become answerable to it. Some ethical or political mission you might say. And why should this be?

Do all fathers die in the way that the question who killed my father can be asked? If asked, is it only askable by a son? Is it only asked by a son inasmuch as a son is, as I have said of myself, at least in part answerable, responding to a father’s calling in a way that calls on him too?

Can we put down the burdens of our fathers? We can choose not to respond, choose to make that choice, but I know that if they are sins then, got rid of, they can bounce back in unpredictable ways. There are of course matrilineal sins and gifts and griefs.

And grand missions that sons can see as much as daughters. Is this mostly due to them being unfulfilled, unfulfilled dreams, things left undone or partly done? And is this the case because of men and often because of that other choice, having children? Or not choosing to but having children anyway and then being forced into a position of self-denial, of living one’s life for one’s children, having had them, regardless of any mission one might have had in one’s life? (I forget the writer whose first advice to students in her lectures on writing was always, Take control of your fertility.)

I’ve just reached the part in Retrospective, a book I am reading slowly on breaks, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, when Sergio Cabrera has gone to visit his ninety year-old father and been told by him that he, Sergio, has betrayed everything they had lived their lives for. It is another book, after The Man Who Loved Dogs by Leonardo Padura (some excerpts here), about the failure of communism. His father, Fausto, like Sergio a real character whose life has by Vásquez been imaginatively reconstructed, of course includes in his condemnation his son: You have betrayed everything that we lived our lives for.

Sergio Cabrera Cárdenas was appointed, by President Gustavo Petro, ambassador to China in 2022. And this makes sense because in the novel based on his life, his life and his father’s, Fausto moves the family to China, almost out of the blue, where Sergio and his sister acquire the language, and Fausto and his wife teach Spanish to the Chinese. With his father’s words on his betrayal, Sergio enters a deep depression.

You might say that this is the point the novel comes alive for me. I ask myself about who is to blame for the failure of communism. In Padura, it is Stalin. But I also ask myself if my own father were alive would he think that I had betrayed everything we had worked for in our lives? And I quickly answer no.

It’s not that the stakes are so much smaller for me. When dealing with the responsibility for a life how could they be. I still take my father’s side on who killed him. I can see their faces.

Some of them would be the ones he himself would have pointed out and some are not. And his face is of course among them. For not taking responsibility for the part of his life he didn’t live for, the part he was loved by my mother for, that part that we can’t simply reduce to his physical health or his living being or his beating heart. His face is among his killers’ for another reason too.

And this is more complex. It is also more or at least it has been more burdensome, more difficult as his son to disinherit, to shuck off. Another oversimplification: it is that his dream was quixotic… And again, I would add, too quickly, perhaps every such dream is?

My honorary grandmother, Davina Whitehouse, recognised it as such in the most elegant way, in the form of things. She brought him gifts from what in those days we used to call overseas. One of these gifts was a Man of Straw, from Mexico, a crucifix made of straw. Another was a beautifully carved wooden sculpture of Don Quixote, the man himself, that my ex-wife now has in her possession. You see, I still couldn’t keep it.

Fanny Howe’s The Winter Sun is subtitled Notes on a Vocation. In it she asks, What could I call what was calling me? Her answer is, A vocation that has no name.

I am led there by “Since early adolescence I wanted to live the life of a poet. What this meant to me was a life outside the law; it would include disobedience and uprootedness. I would be at liberty to observe, drift, read, travel, take notes, … and struggle with form.” Jennifer Hodgson quotes it. She writes, “‘outside the law… struggling with form’ pretty much hugs together everything I think about/can’t stop thinking about”.

When my mother said to me, You are a born teacher, it felt like a death sentence. The year at teachers’ training college, where she had lectured but had not continued for not having gained a degree or higher qualification, where my grandmother had been more-or-less sent while her sister, Ava, whom she never spoke of, was one of the first women to enter Victoria University, that I would have been required to do to get my teacher’s certificate, seemed like a forced admission of guilt. The guilty acceptance of what I was born to do.

When, as Ginette McDonald visiting the café he was running at the time told my father how she had loved working with him as a director in theatre, he said to her, You should try working with Simon. He’s a great director, it felt like being sentenced to live rather than a life sentence. The more so for being indirectly given.

I’d recently staged Antimony. Here’s Francis Till’s review, attributing all the magic to Kim Renshaw, the producer, who did work wonders but it was my brother and I who were responsible for transforming the space. Mum and Dad attended with Beanie, Davina Whitehouse. It was if not the last one of the last pieces of live theatre she attended. (She died on Christmas day 2002. Here’s a piece I wrote for her.)

The part of life we cannot see is our insertion among material things. We can take it up as our calling to make a temple of the body. In attending to it as a temple we make an idol of the materiality and lose sight of the life. Is it better to put the temple that is the body to the service of something else?

I am suggesting our insertion among material things concerns not only the organs we cannot take out and inspect, to establish their health or proper function, their malfunction or the affects of accumulated time and habits on them. It includes also the rhythms of those organs, their breathing, pumping, living periodicities, that in sum are equal to what it means to be living, since they, from the largest organ of the skin, to the smallest bacteria, equate to its time or to its timing.

Its own time produces the inner experience that it cannot have any experience inner to. It is at the surface, a timing, and what we normally think of as our identity is no more than a key to it, a connecting dash, and discontinuous with the living tissue, connecting to it by contiguity, by a cut.

The cut is also question of when, of timing. To make it so or measure time in the materiality of the body, life, is to place a cut in the cut. It is to place it at further and further removes while maintaining its contiguity. So the temple of worship can be superimposed on to the body and coincide with it in space but not in time.

When I was very young my father explained to me the difference between vocation and avocation. You can have an avocation for the priesthood, he said. The distinction seemed to hang on belief.

What did my father believe in deeply enough he might consider it his avocation, give his life for as well as, and at the same time as, having it taken from him? To say my father believed deeply enough in theatre he might have agreed it to be an avocation at once goes too far and not far enough. Too far because he would not go all the way with theatre directing being any more than a profession, a vocation. Not far enough because saying theatre makes it the answer to a question that is not fully formed.

The question would have to have a political component. I think a political theme has been lurking here the whole time. It’s in the title to Édouard Louis’s book and I’m sure it’s in the content of the book. As being in the nature of fathers in general the theme’s political tinge or seriousness is perhaps what has drawn me on. Does this mean mothers are exempt from or excluded from political seriousness?

Who killed my mother as a title, although it might have political resonance, would not have the same resonance. Perhaps I am wrong but I am imagining two sets of generalities, pertaining to my mother and to my father, ethical and political, and necessarily then to my relationship to them. I am thinking out from these two personal cases and imagining them to bear on some general things that can be said.

The difference in resonance applies to my mother’s avocation. She was a born teacher, and as such saw this in me, but she was not born a teacher. She was born an actress and she directed from the perspective that gave her. She also taught from the perspective given her by directing from the perspective of an actress, if that makes any sense.

Who killed my mother. Neither in the form of a question or of a statement does this work for her. My mother died for medical reasons not for political ones. Although the medical reasons were exacerbated by her grief over the loss of my father so it is possible there is a reflection here of the complication of her living for him and him not for himself.

He lived for something other than himself. It was a greater health and a political reason to which he was responsible. I would say it was the responsibility of necessity. And it is this political reason that makes work both the question and the statement of who killed my father.

The hardest thing to get rid of is my own answerability to what he took to be his responsibility. His responsibility was to say what was necessary. In Minus Theatre, Edward Scheer, noted writer on Artaud, in his report on my doctoral thesis project said that I had reduced theatre to ground zero. He meant to nothing.

I had got rid of the whole apparatus of the literary theatre. Productions were in multiple languages. I had got rid of most of narrative. In getting rid of the dramatic conflict my father said was essential to drama, I had got rid of drama. And yet would he have called it, as in Vásquez’s Retrospective Fausto did to his son Sergio Cabrera, a slap in the face of everything you and I did in this life? No. That’s why to call his avocation theatre is not enough.

He insisted that theatre has to say what it is necessary to say and, in a move away from an overtly political, programmatic or issue-based theatre, what cannot be said in any other way. He also insisted, in line with this second point, that theatre is an art form. Certain plays are necessary, and normally get written, at the time, but theatre is in service to itself as an art form before literature.

The art of theatre has its own artists. These include playwrights but they are members of a collective engaging in the collective work of artistic creation. I tend to think of the group artist being the company (as you can see from this manifest from the 90s). Although artistic responsibility follows from it, I am concerned with the first point here, the responsibility of necessity.

The formula, responsibility of necessity, suits the ideas I am trying to express of an avocation as a calling. The religious sense of calling meets the political one and social responsibility meets responsibility to one’s brain and heart and sex. This is to put into words a gesture my father made to Paul Minifie, then directing at Theatre Corporate. The gesture was intended to express just this necessity, of theatre having to appeal here and here and here, and, preferably all of them.

Minus Theatre was a form of theatre as necessity. And so it was found to be irrelevant, passed over as an academic exercise, by the same considerations, if not the same people, who killed my father. I have no doubt focused down too narrowly over the course of this writing but I think it is the question or statement that has drawn this out of me.

Who killed my father is important. It’s important to remember. It’s important to remember for me personally since so few still do. Yesterday I heard Grant Bridger had died.

Yes, there are some who die of not wanting to remember. Of those who are still living I can only think of Shirley Kelly, member of the Southern Players, one of the first theatre companies in New Zealand, who remembers the ones who would rather forget than acknowledge their debt and she is very very old. In German, the word for debt connects with the word for guilty, Schuld and schuldig.

There are some who would rather die than admit in failing to acknowledge their debt they are siding with the killers. Since by their actions they have found the killers innocent, they would protest their innocence all the louder. It is always a very loud silence surrounding guilt.

And the guilt of the killers is the source of the silence, who maintain their silent exclusion zone, while making the usual theatrical gestures of mollification, like the noise around cancel culture. The necessity of responsibility is the necessity that there be responsibility. The question who killed my father is answered by the statement.

It is not the necessity of holding those responsible who are but of being responsible, answerable to the memory. To be answerable to what might be called a political memory or a memory of politics. In this case what does it mean truly to remember? What does it mean for a son, for a daughter to be called on to answer for memory?

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John Ash

Poetry magazine suggested, “John Ash could be the best English poet of his generation,” which prompted John to remark wryly, “Why ‘could’?” [- from here]

I know I mix the present with the past,
but that’s how I like it:
there is no other way to go on.


- John Ash [- from here. Chancing on an old post [here] where I quote some of John Ash's "Unwilling Suspension," from Disbelief in a book from the Poetry Book Society that was how I first read him and finding the interview [again, here] was the occasion for this post.]

John Ash was a great poet and a meditator on spiritual landscapes, which in his case, was all too casually named as "travel writer." [- from here]


I should like to write something for John Ash
I should like to write something to John Ash

                                                       John Ash,

I should like to have written something to you
I should have written sooner.

so, I should like to write something for John Ash
I should like to write something

I should write something
I
              write something

                                                      

            write 
                                                              Ash


I should like to leave the city
                                               for the island
I should like to leave the island
                                                  for the city

I should like to leave for 
                                       Aphrodisias

I should like to leave these ruins

                                                 for those
Nero subjugating Armenia, personified and depicted after Penthesilea, the Amazon Queen, at Aphrodisias, 20-60CE, Western Anatolia.
The inscription:
Ἀρμενία
[[Νέρων{ι}]]
Κλαύδιος
Δροῦσος
Καῖσαρ Σεβ-
5αστὸς Γε-
ρμανικός
– in its place the name of Claudius,
the name of Nero, in the dative case,
indicating that Armenia is subjugated to him?
has been erased after damnatio memoriae,
his memory damned, his damned memory

John loved the waiters who made him feel at home; in fact, they were part of both his physical and emotional landscape. [- from here]

my father also made this discovery in hospital, Simon! Come on! He’d smile like he knew the game was up and I’d be forced to admit it. Yes, those swing doors did go through to the dining room and kitchens of a restaurant and not out onto the ward.

When my father was dying,
he did a lot of traveling.
There were nights in the Tyrol,
Days spent by the banks of the Rhone
or Rhine, and for reasons we couldn't
fathom, frequent trips to Bristol.
Then there was the matter of his sight,
which had begun to betray him years before.
We didn't know what he was seeing,
so each day became a desperate act
of interpretation, but sometimes
the things he saw, or thought he saw,
made him almost happy for a time,
and towards the end, he invented
an underworld that took the form
of a crowded bar or pub, located
directly below his hospital room.
It was entered by means of a long staircase,
And a narrow passageway, at the end of which
the doorman checked your papers carefully.
Once inside, there was singing and dancing,
And everyone drank "good, Irish whisky."
This was puzzling:  he never drank whisky,
never frequented a pub.  Even his phantasm
of the good life was not his, and soon
these inventions or borrowings failed him.
He became convinced that a key was lost
under his chair.  Nothing more. Always the lost key.

- from To the City, John Ash

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On the resignation of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: towards a politics of change

[this article is available to read in personal document format, in black on white, here]

Prime Minister Ardern resigned. Although it deals with what has been said about her time in office and her exit from it, the article that follows is neither valedictory nor a critique. I wanted to deal with what has not been said. I think her resignation speaks for itself but to get to what that is I think we have to go through the most obvious reason for it, the public animus towards her that has led to death threats, threats of physical and sexual violence. I do think gender politics are at work here however the article starts not from the political context but from the antipolitical.

I take this term from The End of the End of History, 2021, a book answering to Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of the end of history when, with the fall of the Soviet bloc, there no longer seemed to be any opposition to capitalist western democracy in its global political reach. History had made it the winner, on the day, at least, because The End of the End is about historical and political forces that have made it appear this no longer to be the case. One of these new forces is antipolitical.

My use of this book comes from its urgency and cogency. With the qualifications that I make below, it is the best, although for the worse, diagnosis, of what I understand of this historical political moment. It is so for its diagnosis of antipolitics. Its urgency belongs to the problem of antipolitics for politics and I see this problem and part of its solution, that I deal with in the final part of the article, as being played out in Ardern’s prime ministership and in the event her resignation.

The End of the End of History states the problem of politics in stark terms: the antipolitics of what are global anti-government movements, in New Zealand particularly in the wake of COVID, and the equally global populism after Berlusconi in Italy, Trump in the USA, Bolsanaro in Brazil, and others, OR political leadership and the organisation the political realm requires. The writers define the political as the conflictual itself and describe any effort to avoid conflict, for example in the intersection, the intersectionality, of leftist programmes of reform, as being part of the problem. In addition, as well as efforts at change that attempt to avoid the political apparatus and its institutions, thinking them incorrigibly corrupted and compromised, included in antipolitics are leaderless popular movements, like Occupy. Political leadership and political organisation are requirements for meaningful political change.

The authors of The End of the End of History, Hochuli, Hoare and Cunliffe, make one more requirement visible, the support of the proletariat. Without the support of the working class, the precariat, all those engaged in the gig economy, the Left is an exercise in pointlessness. They accuse the Left of abandoning the proletariat and its interests. This, they make clear, insofar as populist leaders mobilise and capture anti-government sentiment, goes a long way to explaining the global reach of populism.

The global proletariat has united over the cause of—what else but?liberty. The abandonment by the Left of its own traditions of taking its support from the proletariat also in large part explains the failure of extra-governmental popular movements like the Colour Revolutions, starting with the Arab Spring, in carrying through with the promise of political change. The status quo or worse returns after it not because it does not have the people behind it but for the inability of an anti-political movement to imagine a politics to come after it. As Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Žižek has said, It’s not the revolution that I’m interested in, it’s the day after the revolution and what happens the day after I worry about. Liberty turns out as political irrelevance: it turns out as liberty from politics and from even the possibility of political liberation.

The End of the End of History‘s greatest virtue is the description of antipolitics, that and the definition of politics as conflict, the flight from either politics or conflict turning up as antipolitics. The appeal of fascism joins in antipolitics with the cry of freedom and the appeal to a politics in despite of politics, like Trump’s call to drain the swamp. In New Zealand this antipolitics reached apotheosis with the 2022 occupation of parliament grounds, where the messaging went Left and Right, with Freedom and MAGA placards and the backing of Destiny Church, and somewhere uncharted but unmistakably anti-government with the anti-colonial sentiment of Māori, white supremacism mixing it up with indigeneity.

The occupation was ostensibly to protest lockdowns and mandatory vaccination. As such, the fervour of its antipolitics ought to have died down to the usual smouldering resentment of the alienated, disenfanchised and quite literally dispossessed in the case of Māori. Without cohering into a political programme, it has if anything become more nuggety and metastasised as a strain of antipolitical thought directly in conflict with established political institutions. Or rather it is the entire political apparatus and its institutions that now placed in the context of antipolitics is seen as a singular blob, as no-longer living and intransigent, many-tentacled but dead, a Thing.

One of its tentacles is institutional colonialism. One is empty intellectualism and self-serving academicism and cultural elitism. Another is the Professional Managerial or Middle Class. Another is the arbitrary biopolitical controls of enforced vaccination. Another is the Man who is a woman who is Woke who tells us what to do.

Since each infects the others, all are hateful. For example, government is itself seen to be a colonial institution and the wokeness of the Prime Minister who is a woman is not a sign of moral superiority but of political domination. All are hateful and all is one. Furthermore, as a dead Thing, the Establishment cannot change or be changed. It must—what else?—be hated on, since what this verdict does is leave to antipolitics no political recourse, no recourse to the existing political apparatus and its institutions. Like the Colour Revolutions, a change of regime, as is likely in the next New Zealand election, is sure to lead to the same or something worse.

Where The End of the End of History has a blindspot is where the real impasse is. Antipolitics as a politics that excludes political change, whether for the sake of ruling out conflict or for the reason it cannot by its nature imagine an alternative, exists to hide the fact that neoliberalism is also a politics that excludes the power, the strictly political power, of change. Neoliberalism, by excluding its own political potential, excludes even its possibility.

There is no alternative. Within this purview, of the diagnosis of antipolitics being symptomatic of neoliberalism, seeking support in the proletariat is stonecold cynicism: it is the cancer asking support of its metastases. The winner of the next New Zealand election will do this.

For abrogating that power neoliberalism is a politics without power. Neoliberalism occurs in multiple initiatives practically in all areas of human affairs, from economics to science, cultural management to therapy. Those initiatives are to transfer master slave relations onto a network of governance and interconnected cliency. They are driven, what the economic historian Philip Mirowski calls the Neoliberal Thought Collective is driven, by a fear of totalitarianism along with the insight that the open market, for being a collector and distributor of brain-power, also offers the best to-hand protection against it, against communisation and against fascism. In practice what this has meant is that power is evolved to the technical apparatus running the global financial market. In action what it means is the dark fears around the development of AI and humans becoming both mirror-struck by their own technical accomplishment, as well as politically and economically enslaved by it.

Human conflict is settled by the technical apparatus where the Thought Collective of Neoliberalism, since its thought to avert totalitarianism and the repeat of the catastrophes of the 20th century, is determined to hide and bury human agency. The truth of this is double. The Collective seeks to see it done as well as to hide the fact that it is doing it.

Human actions and agency, at all levels, from science and the workings of reason, to welfare and education, to monetary controls and financial products themselves, are then financialised in order to be put at the disposal of the technical apparatus running the global financial market as far as possible. Here human decisions can be taken out of human hands. Thinking that neoliberalism has failed, national programmes to roll back globalisation, do not restore human agency. Neither do they restore the political.

A small but significant part of this evolution of the human to the technical, of the human conflict that defines the political to the interconnectedness of marketplaces, can be seen in the success, during the last two years of worldwide pandemic achieved of migrating services, again at all levels, education, participation in decision-making, meetings of scientists and of friends, to digitality. The idealism media are witness to with AI, for and against, is reflected in the passage to digitality, as if it had come to save us and by preying on our emotional lives destroy us. This is also seen in academics’ favouring of a post-humanism, the non-human or the more than human. Meanwhile the Superman has arrived and is living in Unreal Engine.

There is also enormous vanity and idealism around the intersecting political interests centred on the ecological movement that want change, appeals to feeling, demagoguery and an old definition of politics revised by intersectionality to be inclusive and non-conflictual. So that it is not really a politics at all. The reason for this is not so much a blindness to what has happened to politics as an antipolitical distrust of a political realm that can effect change, a distrust that is symptomatic and that speaks the truth for the diagnosis of neoliberalism.

Even if the book doesn’t link neoliberalism and antipolitics as I have done, this is The End of the End of History‘s verdict. The question it raises is, once antipolitics is taken into account, and politics is seen to require organisation, political leadership and is understood to be the conflictual itself, not what is to be done but what can be done anymore that can be called politics?

The definition of the conflictual being of politics throws up the background, that is antipolitics, and the attempt by political interests to assuage it, answer it, is one that continually gets caught up in it. I would say it cannot get free of it, as if politics had been usurped by a double that is its negation. The third requirement, if there is hope, it lies with the proletariat, then makes sense. There is more heat, more energy, more conflict and more money, as media organisations are aware and try to capture it, in antipolitics. The path to where the money is at is paved with resentment and it is here that the best intentions lead.

The End of the End of History wants to tell us what is to be done but I think it states the problem more powerfully than it gives the solution. The solution it gives is, like George Orwell wrote, If there is hope, it lies in the proles. The proles in my view are the living symptoms of political neoliberalism. Neither they, because of antipolitics, nor the political apparatus and its institutions, because of neoliberalism, can be captured and mobilised to effect change.

Political change has to come from politics. How can there be politics on top of antipolitics? That, in the second part of this article, is what I want to address.

What struck me first was the metaphor Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern used to announce her stepping down from office: the tank is empty. Others, on only the strength of the news of her resignation, usually accompanied by the soundbite, went directly to her personal life. She must be exhausted. She has had to deal with an earthquake, a massacre, a pandemic and its economic fallout.

The personal fallout is intense on the public figure at the best of times. At the worst it’s almost unthinkable. Then, because politically, as traditionally defined, she, unlike Johnson, has been unchallenged, there is the political fallout of antipolitics. There that conflict has been hottest, where the media have often led, of the death threats, pornographic and misogynist insults, and to repeat Žižek on her behalf, With supporters like these who needs detractors?

Her supporters have not meant to insult but to express their Kiwi familiarity by using the first name while with a male automatically they would use the surname. So, introducing nuance into the valedictory outpouring of opinion, Key’s resignation was compared by one supporter with Jacinda’s. The similarity was that both resignations were timely. In order to protect the brand, Labour like National earlier had given a push. What the brand was being protected from, because without their support the brand would suffer, was the potential of corporate interests to be looking elsewhere, on the basis, indicating that her personal political star had fallen, of the antipolitical storm.

That this storm, although media tried to peddle it to a global audience, was local occurred to some. They wrote that New Zealand had been the envy of the world. Prime Minister Ardern, despite the efforts of media to supplant her locally with sports’ stars, was a star of the world stage. The world’s press, apart from Fox, were largely in agreement with this.

Politics, political commentary, for trying to appeal to a mass audience and to capture its heat, energy, popularity, tends to fall back into antipolitics. Politics, neoliberalism, and its negative, antipolitics, can however be said to characterise the division in opinion, and the divisiveness with which the Rt. Hon. Ardern has been labelled. One side goes to her political legacy, while the other is either loudly or softly cynical.

Her legacy will stand. It will be stronger for her not having led her government to defeat. This is where cynicism creeps in, rather than face defeat, she ran. Or she was pushed.

The pro-political side of the team goes back to her achievements. The less pro, to the many obstacles she faced. The anti says that she achieved nothing, and as I’ve tried to say, given we are under neoliberalism, there’s truth to this. She came in on a platform of change, particularly social change and nothing changed.

The pro allows itself to be swept up by her personal qualities as these were published to the world, her kindness, as well as her statesmanlike endurance under fire. In the eyes of the pro-political, her kindness becomes a political act. Through it she procures political change ruffling the Angry online Birds’ feathers as little as possible. It’s the most sensible of middle ways.

For the anti-political, her kindness is a liability, her smile a taunt. Her retreat from politics is evidence she was never cut out for it. Her hugging of Muslim women after the Christchurch shooting was proof of a mindless pusillanimity. The image, replayed on the big screen in Times Square, proves the world is taking refuge in emotionalism. Mawkish sentimentality, it is further proof of the feminisation, a dangerous feminisation, of a sphere defined by conflict, the political. Again she was not, she is not cut out for it.

That smile is like daggers into the heart of a certain pro-political type. This type sees the whole act, seeing through the whole act, to the reality. It is a publicity stunt, PR. Politics cannot now be distinguished from antipolitics.

The type allows she knows what she’s doing. She’s smart. They sit with the antipolitical as well, since they consider her smile to be her hanging on to power by her teeth.

When it came to the resignation, they didn’t change their mind. They said, You did nothing. Get out! Unlike the extremist from the other side, the anti-political, they didn’t say, We’ll shoot or rape you.

What this pro-political type intended by saying, You did nothing, is, You did nothing in political terms. No listing of her political achievements will dissuade them. Politics is for them free from window-dressing, and the Rt. Hon. Ardern was simply a mannequin. She was dressed up in the shop window, for the Instagram, to sell this season’s fashion in corporatist apologism.

At one end of the continuum of the cynical, although it might not go as far as using the neoliberalism word, she was a front for the interests of private corporations that constitutes the Party line. The attitude is softer, only just, of those who see in her a mascot, and softer altogether of those who say, Can you blame her? For them, the party line is the family, private life and the freedom to have one that holding public office takes away.

Sometimes people take the nearest to hand, the opinions of their friends, their families, their self-regard. Whether on the side of the anti- or pro-political, that neither altogether coincides with being anti-government, is rather anti big government or governmentality, nor matches, but rather tends to cut through these lines, Left or Right, they react out of reflex. They say, You know, Neve, her 4 year-old, could also have been targeted, and Clarke. He’s stood by her. He’s been amazing. I say, Good for her!

In the contemporary context, taking what is nearest to hand includes online interlocutors and these include virtually everybody who has an opinion, whether journalist or bot, critic or fanatic. Anybody who potentially has an influence is near at hand. Lovers the same as strangers are in the positions of intimacy granted by our personal devices.

A lot has been made of how we edit them. We should not, for example, listen to Russian bots. However convincing their brand of propaganda may be, our friends and well-meaning strangers will warn us off. Not a lot has been made however of how inclusive this circle of influence is. We are intimate with the textual services of hundreds, of thousands and virtually of billions (4.74 billion in 2022, Kepios).

The resignation caused an online cull, in my limited view of what was happening online. By the day after 19 January 2023 profile pictures were being swapped out for postage stamp presskit photos of the Rt. Hon. On the Thursday itself, challenges were put up, by that side I’ve called the pro-political, demanding that followers and friends who are anti out themselves. They meant anti the PM, but they also meant to call out those responsible for the resignation.

The strategy was to out themselves as being sad at Prime Minister Ardern’s resignation, gutted that it had come to this, and to see who responded, who was for, who against, who were the haters, the misogynist and resentful. By their misogyny and resentment, amounting to the same thing, would they be known. Once known, they would be cut from the circle of intimacy, unfollowed, unfriended.

Once named, they would be hated on, shat on, sworn at. It seemed like it wasn’t sadness driving this cull but anger at a portion of the local population who were blamed. Her accessibility, her Kiwi accessibility, become a liability, it was to blame for having made the PM a prisoner of her press. Subject to threats of physical and sexual violence, it had forced her out. The tank was empty to deal with it and, the cynical response came back, to deal with her bad press.

The cynical, as I’ve said, need not be anti. They might simply hold their political standards to be higher, but, all down the line, the pro-political line that tends to be leftist, the higher-ups were calling those below them stupid. The haters, the anti, were stupid and did not deserve her. The pro, that type I talked about before, called those who loved her stupid.

The Left finds it hard to acknowledge antipolitics. This is a large part of its ineffectuality today, that it cannot acknowledge either its own as being antipolitics or that the very group it needs to be politically effective and to effect change is today antipolitical. The Left finds it hard to acknowledge its own antipolitics because it tends to neoliberalism, while the Right’s tendency is to antipolitics.

The Left’s difficulty in acknowledging the antipolitics of the working class, and Labour in New Zealand Aotearoa has its roots in the labour movement, that is due to a sense of betrayal, a betrayal that has played out over the decades since 1984 and repeated itself over the shorter timescale of Ardern’s tenure as prime minister, is itself due to two factors. One of them is simple. It links to kindness and the idea of a new kind of leadership to hold up against counter-examples, like Trump, throughout the world.

The simple reason is that Labour sees itself as a benefactor to the poor and downtrodden, the disenfranchised, disenchanted, dispossessed, the working class in short. It doesn’t represent in the conflictual realm of politics them but is their advocate, and this also provides the reason for there being a sense of betrayal, accelerated during the Ardern government. The Rt. Hon. Ardern came to power on a moral mission not a political one.

Politically, what needed to be addressed was neoliberalism and the way it needed to be addressed was and is by taking antipolitics into consideration. This moralism has been part of Labour’s political appeal. However it is felt politically to have failed locally, however Prime Minister Ardern is felt politically to have failed locally, globally she is an example and can be held up against other world leaders for her personal example.

I have already touched on the more complicated reason for the Left being ill-equipped to deal with antipolitics. Labour in NZ has failed to consider or to imagine that politically it represents neoliberalism. There is the historical circumstance of an earlier political formation, liberalism, identified with the Left. But also there is the pressing problem of the present: the political courage to undertake economic change.

Mark Blythe, critic of austerity, co-author of Angrynomics, makes the point that, during the COVID pandemic, the political courage to undertake economic change showed itself as it rarely has done. Even though at the macro level the wheels kept turning, governments, through city-wide and nation-wide lockdowns, turned local economies off. This courage was not however lauded but vilified, as populist antipolitical movements are testament. It was called authoritarian, to set us on the road to totalitarianism.

We have then the fear that inspired neoliberalism and its answer to it, free markets. We also have the Left’s inability to shift itself out of its moral rut, which acknowledging antipolitics would entail. This includes its own antipolitics, dividing the Left, that is the result of neoliberalism.

Left antipolitics like any antipolitics is against politics because it considers it essentially corrupt, so displacing politics onto the market to settle conflict. In the void left, instead of politics, there is morality. There is kindness, doing good, benevolence and advocacy for those labouring underneath but no political representation of them.

The representation the working class, the proletariat, precariat, gig workers, get is moral. It consists in advocacy for rights and whatever economic measures the system can afford. The system itself cannot afford to change, so there is no political courage.

In its way, the Right has taken a similar turn and replaced politics with morality. This stands to reason when we understand neoliberalism is about and came about to settle political conflict, outside of politics, through economic means. The difference between Right and Left is that the Right has no qualms about using the energy of antipolitics to drive its own ends. At least, dissent is present in the GOP but legal recourse is made before political recourse to deal with conflict.

Turning this theme on its head, it could be said that the political system itself or, as some have said already, democracy is incapable of surviving under neoliberalism. The political realm, or democracy, is redundant. All that is needed is economies and the controls that are immanent to them and that by no means should be put upon them. To do so, from either Left or Right, is political overstepping, a step on the path of the authoritarianism that Ardern was accused of by Fox News and that Trump was accused of also, that in fact any leader is who threatens the gentle organism conceived by the Neoliberal Thought Collective.

Sometimes we want to repeat what we want to believe is true. Before the public autopsies of her political leadership that have occurred since the Rt. Hon. Ardern’s resignation, an exhaustive list of her government’s achievements while in office circulated for a short time on Facebook. It came up in answer to critics who, sensing a change of mood, felt it safe to come out and say whatever was near at hand that they had on their minds.

Dating from and covering the 4 years before March 2022, it was a long list: letting fees banned, mental health initiatives implemented in schools, rent increases limited to once a year, zero fees for the first year of study at university, re-institution of apprenticeships, Healthy Homes Guarantee instituted, lifting of restriction and legalisation of abortion, minimum wage increases, as well as benefits’ increases, annually, more state houses built than any government since 1975, UK free trade deal signed, referenda on marijuana and euthanasia laws, veto on new drilling contracts, Carbon Neutral Act put in force, removal of many welfare sanctions, decades’ highest investment in rail, health and education, ban on property purchases by non-residents, Family Tax Credit raised, bright-line property tax raised (concerning the time between purchase and sale), free lunches and free sanitary products in schools, school fees banned, child poverty reduced, gun law reform, highest ever investment in conservation, sick leave doubled, enrollment to vote on election day enabled, parental leave extended, new public holiday, overseas political donation banned, conversion therapy banned, regional development fund instituted, increased investment in public transport, Ministry of Disabled People established, ACC special claims reinstated, hardship grants doubled, investment in infrastructure increased, all while dealing on a daily basis with a global pandemic. Paul Taylor is credited for the list. I shared it from Patrick Waller.

It may be said that the list is of whatever measures the system can afford, that it does not address underlying inequality and the unfairness of the system. It may be said that, rather than representing the needs and wishes of society at large or of those the system discriminates against, it is a list of measures in advocacy, and that it uses the law and legislature as a form of advocacy. This is what the National Party, in its already stated intention to roll back some of these measures, would probably believe and have the electorate believe, that it is Woke advocacy making bad use of the legal and political apparatus. All this may be said, but it is not nothing.

Perhaps if the achievements of the government with Ardern leading it were widely promulgated the mood would change back. Those against her would change their minds. The cynical might say, You’d be wasting your breath.

You’d be wasting your breath, wasting airtime, wasting money. Time and money are wasted thinking the facts speak for themselves or making an appeal to reason. Saying, Look at all she did, and look at what she did for you, you who are not a part of the power elite, saying these things would only heighten the resentment.

She did nothing. Window dressing. The inequalities are if anything now worse than they were before. The cynic will agree, anti- and pro-political meeting at this impasse that is an impasse of the political itself.

Where anti-political and pro meet is at a place that neither reason nor science can touch. It is at emotion. Emotion drives the sense of curtailed freedoms. Emotion drives the anarchic nihilism of leaderless popular movements that are categorically incapable of imagining a political alternative once they have destroyed the existing political structure. They are anti politics and yet there are no alternatives to the conflictual apart from the use of force, the use of police and army, to reinstate what was, but worse.

The question here has been, can there be a politics on top of antipolitics? Given its requirements, how can there be? If however we place the conflict in emotion we can ask, What is the emotion capable of leadership?

It is not pity, it’s conviction. The belief that the COVID vaccines were an attempt by the government at mass sterilisation may be absurd but it is belief. Antipolitics is most often invoked as being a loss of faith in the political system. The question is then how to be believed?

When Jacinda Ardern resigned what struck me was the metaphor, an irony now considering the tank is overflowing, Auckland floods and people have lost their lives and, in view of his measly response, a petition has been raised to oust the mayor. Kindness and pity, conviction in the political act being absent, whatever it might be, in response to this calamity or the ongoing catastrophe of ecological breakdown, would be welcome now. Jacinda has however resigned.

What struck me next about the resignation and that I wanted to avoid was attributing a cause. Some, I’ve said, grabbed what was close at hand. Some, I’ve said, took comfort in repeating either what others had said, finding emotional solidarity that way or in repeating what it was they wanted to believe, either the list of achievements, the legacy of leadership or its absence and insignificance. It held the emotional appeal of its moralism but it was all puff.

Even if you believed it was nothing really, you believed something and gave your reasons. You believed she was getting out and would leave her legacy. You believed she was getting out before she was voted out or because she was pushed.

I considered privately she had been pushed, pushed by those inside the party, not the government. The Labour Party leadership had lost faith in her brand. They no longer believed.

I looked beyond the soundbite and its emotional appeal, the excitement of whatever emotion you felt hearing and seeing her choke up. I think it came as a surprise. I think she was telling the truth. She had not told Neve because four-year olds are like small public address systems.

This is not the conviction I was talking about earlier as being the emotion of leadership but the ability to convince of a conviction. The decision to resign came both out of the blue and from deep personal conviction. Making reasons for it, explaining and mansplaining it, takes away its freedom. Binding it to psychological and political motivations, it does away with it being an act of free will and does away with the conviction behind it, a free political act.

In the act of leaving power, the Rt. Hon. Ardern showed me what being in power might be if to be in power was to act freely and out of deep personal conviction. Both are necessary. Both are necessary for a politics on top of antipolitics, that takes it into consideration as the negative double of neoliberalism. Imagine what defines politics to be the free act based on deep personal conviction. Imagine this to define the political act. Imagine if there were no other political act than the one defined like this and there was no compromise.

A free political act is unconstrained by expectation, by the expectation that seems to be there instantaneously online. The act of a free will announces itself out of the blue. It is a political act for coming from deep personal conviction into the political realm of the conflictual, where, whatever emotionalism may be attributed to it after the fact, it is an event.

Since the claims of the antipolitical are not illegitimate, since its anger is not misplaced, the will to political change has first to go through antipolitics. It has first to take the leap and see in it no obstacle and no obstacle in the political institutions and apparatus where that change, most of all economic change, can be effected. Human agency can only be won back in governing human affairs by human political agents.

Power cannot belong to politics when all that governments can do is either to address themselves to a collective loss of faith in the political or to the technical apparatus that power has evolved to running world financial markets. Fears of AI taking over are like the return of the repressed fear that AI already has. The political act, politics if it is to be defined by the free will and courage to act based on deep personal conviction, can only ever have a human agency.

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I SPOKE THUS

I spoke. It was the end of the second world war.

Thus I spoke.

                Let the lesson not begin.

                Let the lesson continue from the camps.

Let the counting begin, let the milling begin, let the

great rendering down of the fat of the,

of the survivors continue, in the joy of the showers,

continue, of the victims, set out the moulds, there

at the outset was hope, hope was the outset, let the
 
making of soap and hope survive, and survive hope,

survive hope. 


                Let this not be the lesson,

                            that hat der Herder gesagt,

in the hundred-yard stare in the silence in the fat

silence, in this light and thinness of bones

in the skin, in this fat hope founded

found no hope in hope. You see, I spoke, 

I spoke without raising my eyes

from the wall, and the wall and the wall and the fence,

were not taken dancing or music or love or death even

but hope, sagt der Herder, was dead, death, led to death.


Silence in that science, science of fat and hope,

where the thinness of soap, grausam,

grey gruesome things washing grey grey water

survive hope, thin gruel drips from the lips,


the lips, too, thin, giving order to the order:

start the lesson. At the end of the lesson

will be a test. You will pass the test,

you will sit down and pass it, and go on, you

will be the lesson and the test and the start

and the end. 

                You will text the test, you will

write the test, you will like the test.


I spoke to the rest. I made my request, saying

           who shall I praise? and what hands upraise?

these are the tools, these are the teeth, and this is the

        truth, this is the truth we shall not forget and lest

    we forget it shall not be told, it shall not be told 

what hands are these and what they have made. Forgive said the old

old poet old Ez. I talked to the rest, duly, burble burble they


said, so, burble burble said old Ez. And this was the test.


Let the lesson not begin but let the pall be lifted,


    let the appalling not be shrouded or muffled

or clouded

    one more moment by silence, let voices replace

the violence, and the violins play in silence, 

            lest the truth not be forgotten

                may another beautiful saying not

                    be spoken and no more be

                        begotten. What hands

                            upraise...?


I spoke to the grey where the rest were standing

    understanding not because of manners

may no more various things, vari-coloured, mottled

    mixed be glorified,


Down tools, I said. Now, now you are free. The human

    wall was grey and left the pink before the

        bulldozer.


Understanding the wall, it rose in a wave, in a

    fuck off sort of wave, waved me away


mixed together arms, legs, faeces though no more

faeces were left, no guts spilled because none were

neither nor hair either, bones in the thinness, in the thinnest

of soils, the soil that is like air


and the lesson went on into the air. Who shall I praise?

    no human you


        buried


because that is the truth. Gather then in the future of soils

    in the future of ills, the test is that too. 


Together you have waved me away. I spoke then to praise

    the silence

                and that you understood because it was

                    your skin I spoke of


                        no longer mixed or various

                            but unseeable


in the many pointed night, in the night nothing like

unanimous.


but there see you had raised 

       whatever you like to call it the measure of a

        farm or camp where the humans are in exile, yes



there above the mess or yes more or less measuring the 

rest


    as if measuring the distance, with faces like sieves,


 the thickness of a skin, still the silence couldn't get through


and you knew,


knew it in the shadows where shadows of living, 

            lived lives gathered 

                together        gone


                    like a lividness 

                        rubbed back to health


and coming back to yourself with a fuckoff sort of wave


what are these shadows I still see on my skin?


they are so various and fleeting, I must be overheating


water the earth


I spoke thus I spoke to the crust rolling, to the whole

    hurtling through space and 

        thus speaking in this place

            lost your trust. Disgrace


followed me. Until I saw, though I could easily


have missed it, that I might


                               turn and stare


turn to where I'd come from down all the long

years


and take its poor hand or the paw it offered me



        to lead me back to whom as if home.









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24 December 2022
for Christmas 2022

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patronage, suicide & GENEO (URL pending)

Patreon tells me there’s a simpler way to bill patrons.

(that’s bill)

To bill patrons?!

(bill)

there’s obviously another philosophical persona: the one who has grown up not knowing anything different than what we understand by neoliberalism and

everything is financialised.

(conceptual personae: the Cartesian idiot, Nietzschean dancer, Kierkegaardian knight of faith, and for Deleuze and Guattari in What Is Philosophy?, “the schizophrenic is a conceptual persona who lives intensely within the thinker and forces him to think”; “the schizophrenic is a psychosocial type who represses the living being and robs him of his thought” [from here])

Home | Mental Health Foundation New Zealand tells me,

538 people died by suspected suicide in the 2021/22 financial year (from July 2021 to June 2022), less than the 607 reported for 2020/21 and 628 reported in 2019/20. Males are more than twice as likely to die by suicide than females.

(the full URL is https://mentalhealth.org.nz/suicide-prevention/statistics-on-suicide-in-new-zealand, which can’t help but recall Zapffe saying, The modern barbarity of ‘saving’ the suicidal is based on a hair-raising misapprehension of the nature of existence.

((the first part of his statement is, When a human being takes his life in depression, this is a natural death of spiritual causes.))

what I really wanted to call your attention to in the foregoing was this,

the financial year.

But if you have grown up under neoliberalism, knowing everything is financialised, who cares?

Gen Neo, or Geneo: those born close enough to 1984 to know no prior form of human social organisation than that under neoliberalism

What qualifies the philosophical persona of the neoliberal-who-knows-no-different is a certain take on morality.

What qualifies the philosophical persona of Geneo is to take up the moral to add to a personal sense of value, or status.

It is neither by disposition that Geneo is moral, nor is it for the sake of taking up or upon oneself a moral position. The moral, for the neoliberal-who-knows-no-different, is social capital. It is to increase personal social capital that Geneo has or makes recourse to the discourse of morality.

This requires a further note of qualification: it is to a discourse of morality; and, it is to a discourse which is current and currently recognised to be moral that recourse is made or taken; it is as good and as good as its currency.

Recourse to a discourse of morality in a specific context would have no value were its message not recognisable. It has to compute. It has to be equal to the case in question and equal to the social context where it will have currency.

Geneo, the native neoliberal, does not take up a moral cause through identification with that cause, but rather takes up its message. Neither is it in its spirit that the message is employed. The fit between case and moral message has to be, that between it and personal moral belief need not.

This is why the born neoliberal is a psychosocial type.

Geneo in the most positive sense, in a thoroughly positive sense, uses moral discourse for currency, to gain social capital. Here however is the root of a thoroughgoing schism, a schiz, between social self, the one seeking benefit from the employment of moral messaging, and the morality of that use for private gain.

In seeking to profit from it, the born neoliberal has only a positive sense of morality. Inversely, social capital, capital itself, can be the only value of morality.

The self is split from that value as a social attribute. It can be nothing other than a social value, as exchange. There are no intrinsic values attached to either the self or the moral, but that these are entirely positive. They are exchange values.

What qualifies the neoliberal-who-knows-no-different is not the entrepreneurial self, then, but something with which the entrepreneurial self is at odds.

Geneo is qualified by moral rectitude, by goodness, with which not only the entrepreneurial self but any notion of self is at odds.

Geneo’s goodness is innate. It is given with the world.

The world is not good, however, and, for its absence of goodness, Geneo fails to see itself reflected in it. And then…

Geneo comes to see itself as bad

and would be, but for being good.

(the split again)

What this amounts to in practice is a kind of convalescent sentimentality, a thin-skinned-ness and a vulnerability to the bad that is in the world.

In other words, it amounts to mental health or mental illness.

Mental health is good. Mental illness is bad.

Unfortunately for Geneo, mental health is not a standard by which mental illness can be judged. Conversely, mental illness is generally the standard for the judgement of mental health: mental health is considered generally to equal the absence of mental illness.

This computation is beyond the neoliberal generation; it can neither assimilate itself to a world with which it is at odds, nor to a self the health of which is judged from the point of view of illness.

Geneo lacks this point of view.

It is like saying the goods on sale are ills, and that the good self that is there for the entrepreneurial self to promote, for its goodness, is ill.

Goodness equals only the absence of an illness, like the absence of the self from the world, that prompts the self to absent itself from the world.

Any approach to mental health predicated on the idea of it being the absence of mental illness fails, is failing and will fail, that generation who know no different than life under neoliberalism.

Key to the shift in thinking that takes Geneo, the neoliberal generation, to be characterised by its morality is the shift to financialisation that undertakes morality as a good, to add value.

Key to this shift from considering characteristic of Geneo a certain view of the self, its own entrepreneur, is

a shift away from thinking of neoliberalism as ideological.

Further it is a shift from thinking ‘ideology’ as a kind of undeclared, unconscious manner of being, that is then uncovered, as causative, as acting in the world, by adequate critique.

The question is, putting aside for the moment the question of suicide, one question is,

What kind of critique is adequate to capitalism?

What kind of critique is adequate to a capitalism where everything is financialised?

and… is it an ideological critique? Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus say it is not.

An ideological critique of late, post-industrial capitalism, existing under neoliberalism, fails to grasp the plane of consistency, where everything is financialised.

It reaches under it, for what is not being played out on it, for the reasons of what is being played out, or over it, missing what it is and missing the reasons. These have always to do with what it is because they convene on value.

Value is always positive, adding value always a good thing. It is not judged from the point of view of any bad.

The impasse comes … when what is bad cannot be computed. There is literally no place to go.

There is no place to go, without delay.

OK, so the problem with ideology: it doesn’t do what we are calling Geneo does.

What Geneo does presupposes the possibility to add value always being there. Whereas ideology subtracts, negates or undermines.

It is an under-ideology, or an unconscious, or ex-planation.

Value-adding discourse, the convention of neoliberalism’s ratchetting up of value, particularly off conventions of morality, its innate notions of progress and growth, immediately whiplashes to, How do I optimise my speech acts?

By convention optimisation of speech acts, aka positive thinking, aka buzz-wording resilience, agility, empowerment, that in NZ includes Māori terms, matauranga, te ao, mahi, kaupapa, and so on, does not involve an ideology, say, of woke-ism. It goes further than liberal humanism in what may be called the personological direction. May be its apotheosis.

(personology is perhaps a good replacement for ideology when considering Geneo)

The optimum is simply the best. The Good.

When those who know no other form of human social organisation invoke what might sound to other generations to be hackneyed reformulations of received wisdom, when they do so by reflex but uncritically, it is not to add the moral dimension to their speech acts but its cachet, the cachet of moral authority.

Moral authority cannot be ideological.

It can be personological.

The claim to moral authority, however, is strangely impersonal. It may be called, after the axiom of capitalism Deleuze and Guattari describe in Anti-Oedipus, axiomatic.

It has nothing to do with individual belief, but the belief in belief. Or, the will to belief.

(not ‘the will to believe‘: that would introduce a voluntarism which is absent, a mindfulness in its absence–hence the search for the moral good of mindfulness that is so absentminded)

There is not the willing suspension that would make for the ideologue.

On the other side, the morally reinforced statement is extracted from any doctrine…

That is to say the positive speech act of Geneo is extracted from any ideology. The axiom of capitalism has removed any underneath but refuses to accept itself as being a surface. Conventions of value are like hashtags,

a hashtag morality

(#morality)

of recognisable significances, meaning-making memes.

Plumage, ornamentation, that extra expenditure of energy that is an energy sink and soaks up the surplus, organs of display, the face of facebook, the tweet of twitter, the toot of mastodon, and so on, the (now) so-called ‘social’ that is online, and reflected by human social organisation offline, in, I would say, the power invested in screentime: to these organs of display belong those statements meant to gain consensus, that invoke social and moral values and conventions, attaining to common sense by way of their good sense (as Deleuze might say).

They mean to be liked and repeated. What is on display is the polish given the individual by the personological, where the latter invokes a borrowed social and moral conventionalism that is often majoritarian (for the purpose of meaning to be liked and repeated), where it adds value by so doing.

so, death to ideologies

Ideologies in the case of Geneo are only what is extracted from them to add value to what I say.

Statistical discourse can serve this function, the function not of being evidenciary. The numbers are not rallied to support an argument, the facts rather speak for themselves. Statistics are a medium of infography and therefore one of display.

As we have seen with ‘inflation’ recently… or there is isomorphism between the social human condition and the economic condition, conditional as it is on financial systems.

The end of neoliberalism is supposed to have been ushered in by the wresting back of financial control by nation states. It goes along, this supposition, with the rolling back of globalisation and concerns over national economy trumping those raised over the freedom of markets to set values.

This makes no account of either the socials and persons: being avowedly neoliberal, it is profoundly anti agency.

Humans are preferred to be dumb actors.

dumbness is preferred when it comes to the messaging too.

Conditions which have their etiology in factors of global economy, even as that gobality involves the interaction of state and nonstate drivers, are beyond our understanding.

They are above our payscale,

for the most part. …bring in the consultants.

Now, consultants are performers. Invested in the moral social human conditions, they manifest, they put on display, the greatest will to belief.

Is their obfuscation of the economic conditionality, the underlying conditions, and their overarching ends, ideological?

No. No bad faith here. No false conscience. No unconscious drivers, except the ones we can all accept are in us, sex-death, energetic libido, thanatic preservation of one’s own organism, management of the status quo to the advantage of one’s own organism’s preservation, what is called a feedback loop, for homeostasis. And the personological.

Consultants want to make good sense common, to grow, and display more good sense, as a property of intellectual activity, for it to be its only property (hence IP), so as to get bigger audiences, socials, for that display.

What happens when this goes wrong? We don’t see it going wrong by using the critical tool of ideology. This is the failure of that otherwise excellent book, The End of the End of History.

It is the reason I brought in inflation just before: a system without negatives, the financial system of personological book-keeping.

what I am trying to deal with is this, it is not moral failure but how explain system failure at the psychical level? at the level of personal psychology?

In the cases of young people suiciding I have heard about recently, those closest to them make it seem inevitable, after the fact of their deaths, that they have committed suicide.

Those speaking for them, their families and friends, and perhaps this is only in the cases I have recently heard about (three in the last fortnight), speak to the goodness of the … can we say victims?

Adding to their grief is that there are no warning signs, or that the warning signs come some time before.

The person in question seemed to be doing better. He had been in a bad place, been depressed. She had been in a scene where she was subjected to online bullying, where she was being trolled, and knew who they were. But she had got herself clear of that scene.

They had the self-awareness to be helping themselves, these young people. They had been self-aware enough to accept help.

They were not too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for or to accept help where it was offered. But,

adding to the grief of those left behind is some idea that it must have been the wrong sort of help,

that those who most wanted to help could not, could not have:

so, it was inevitable,

it is now.

It is a terrifying conclusion:

in Zapffe’s words, the spiritual causes, these must be spoken of, before we can accept that suicide is a natural death for a young person.

I have been teaching with young people these past years. At first my impulse was to disabuse them of their belief in the veracity of accepted judgements, to disenchant them, and release them from the grip of ideologies, to free them through showing the historicity of those views they took up in good faith. Views about sexuality, for example, can be dated, analyzed discursively, and historicised, as Foucault has done.

Views about identity and assumptions about its solidity can be criticised, shaken. Views about the solidity of the world, worldview, can be destabilised, deconstructed.

That is, both the world and the I can be shown not only to be constructs embedded in historical time, their own deconstruction, their auto-destruction, can be shown to be always already in process.

Resistance can be worked with, being seen as a cover for deeper processes of destabilisation, always already engaged. The greater the resistance, the greater is the effort of psychical cover-up.

Education must have been about showing us the cracks.

This thing, though, suicide in young people, is a different sort of crack.

I struck it during the lockdowns, teaching online. Although, before that, I had changed approach.

More shocking, I found, for the young people I was teaching with, than prising them open, emptying them out or opening them up, was asking them to choose for and affirm their views, to select for and elect what they loved. And to leave criticism for another lifetime. Life is too short to criticise.

If all you are doing is arguing with an established viewpoint, or taking up a position relative to others’ viewpoints, you are … wasting valuable time.

And there is the expectation that this is what you ought to be doing, that this is what intellectual activity is, what knowledge is about and what education is for: critical engagement means criticising, criticism, deconstructing, as if deconstruction were a transitive verb, an instrument or weapon in the critical arsenal, and not the intransitive verb it is. As if all education is for and as if all knowing stuff is for were to wage war on those who don’t know. As if all education were for is to know better, and to let the other ones know you do, by throwing your stuff at them.

More shocking for young people was to attribute to them intelligent agency, and to say to fight is a waste of time and there is no competition.

You have nothing to prove, and anyway fighting against others, putting the big guns down, cutting them down to size, is not the way to prove it. Affirm your practice in your practice, whether it’s reading, writing or doing and creating. Put that on the surface. Don’t be swallowed by the surface.

What I struck through the lockdowns was a generalised depression, a diffuse, widespread and intense feeling of being unequal to what the times were asking, that the institutions were oblivious to.

Even the ‘institutions’ of online interactivity, of participating and of communication, were oblivious to it.

It was beyond them all.

I got the feeling young people felt like they were disappearing, disappearing in their bodies.

Their bodies were disappeared anyway.

They were absent onscreen.

They were disappearing anyway.

The other thing, the thing that struck me, from young people, was nothing being new to them. I talked with a friend about this. She said, I asked them to do an exercise where they chose an artistic approach diametrically opposed to their usual one.

And they firmly refused. They were all fully grown up abstract expressionists, or analytic abstractionists, or… new narrativists… and that was it.

It was unquestioning, unquestionable. This is what they are. Absolute.

And then the war. The moral cause of Ukraine and Russia. The Information War.

From what I heard, Ukraine was winning. Absent of any historical analysis or perspective, even Maidan having been pointed out, the cause of Russia is immoral, that of Ukraine is where the moral value lies.

Absolute.

the self undivided…

When I listened to the young people I have over the past several years been teaching with, I got the impression this was a new moralistic generation. I got the impression of a new moral conservatism.

Populism, rightism, seemed to go with the territory. So did ideas around settled relationships, marriage and child-rearing, also expectations about material acquisition matching state of life, in other words, a relationship between career and economic status and adulting.

Now I think not so much. Or, now I think, not so much.

Why? because of the contradictions in this moralising. It is not consistent, not consistently of any political hue, in fact, is apolitical. (As The End of the End of History argues, it is antipolitical.)

What drives this moralising is a kind of economics, the personological book-keeping I’ve referred to,

but that makes it sound cynical, calculating and disingenuous, when the opposite is true.

CANDIDE or JESUS?

To compensate for the absence of their being any intrinsic value in recognised notions of morality, and for its emptying out in the social and for the self’s loss of intrinsic value, a friend said many of Geneo, those who’ve known no different than neoliberalism, are and have been, turning to Jesus.

For Candide, recall, This is the best of all possible worlds.

Why is it? because it is reasonable. Human reason has banished all that is unreasonable.

This is what Candide learns, All problems have been solved.

Except that they haven’t.

Discouragement, obstructions, trials and calamities are all true.

Candide faces them, as he does the joys, loves, successes of his life.

Belief in the good means nothing to the world, neither does belief in that belief.

Candide’s optimism is not an ideology.

In the end, we suffer from ourselves but not because we are either good or bad or for the reason that the world is … the way it is.

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