thigein & conatus

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

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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.









...

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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“the past is a fire that eats up the present”

“Our vast imaginations pull in the opposite direction from our small, frail bodies.” – from here

Consciousness covers itself.

Consciousness covers itself with abstractions, with the abstract, as much with materialities, in the pragmatics of everyday life.

In the pragmatics of everyday life, the “social absolute”–Seitaro Yamazki’s fossils of the future.

Reminds me of “not the relativism of truth, the truth of relativism”–Deleuze and Guattari.

A critic questions the absolute. Is it capitalist? Is it not so much absolute as absolutising?

Is it relativisable? for example, through historicising what was thought absolute, see if it has been constructed, when and how. Then it can be made relative to historical circumstance, some determinations some accidents.

Is this deconstruction? No. Deconstruction starts from what is already there in the construct, the social construct, the epistemic construct, that is always at work to undo it: deconstruction has to do with an inner contradiction, a tiny difference and an infinitesimal crack in the foundation which will be singularly responsible for bringing the edifice down.

To see how it has been made so that it can be unmade: how the trick was done to undo it. It is usually words and their effect on institutions: is this Foucault’s genealogical method?

Yes, first is showing the social absolute is not absolute, but not by using the critical method. Not by using the critical method because the critical method is also historicisable, is too timely.

Another absolute is called for… this is a bit like Alex Hochuli, George Hoare and Peter Cunliffe‘s suggestion that leaderless political movements are ineffectual; especially so when looking at anti-politics. Anti-politics has its leaders, leaders whose appeal is of a different quality than political, that is mythic, iconic and demagogic. (probably why political dirt does not stick to them)

Social absolute covers: a social self.

Yes, social self is individuated: the Other is an individual. God is. Absolute is.

…so the individuation has a timeline that it is relative to, so what? Critic of the critic asks.

Consciousness, political consciousness, covers itself in its timely exercise: in the pragmatics of everyday life.

Under consciousness is not the time of the social absolute but the individuating absolute, an internal time. An infernal time: the past is a fire that eats up the present.

knowledge is a determination of the future: use it

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ancestory

ancestors were onto something
or on something

one way
cul de sac

unrolling or creeping
the surprise of mistaken
identity

rude not to notice or
to kill them again

who took
who gave their lives
who furnished nation
who in a thankless nation

someone’s darling
served a cold dish

did not deserve
horror mainly
 dig them up now see
 who’s horrified

whose disease
 we surpass
  whose disease is

if you could only open up
your mouth not talk
in bird sounds

and visiting me again, is it a
surprise I cannot reconstruct
the agony ate you up

you follow me now. Beasts

of religion or
what is
belief no hope no agony
 
 must be the right word
  and contest life
   over death on.

Conscious is over your shoulder
not standing.

It lies about
where you are, cloud
 in the upper atmosphere
  unrolls, creeping 
   things are the impulses
    you have and hold and
     have
      hold, You strike out

in dreams.
alone. play your many pipes
	play and dance and sing
       in birdsong if it has to be 
you
     did not kill
                       or stole
	
	are not a man
planted your seed not
 in the carcase
	your sin in the hill.



...
“you are only the living face of those who have gone before”
— 20 August 2022
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22 August 2022

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putting it to the vote:

…the lyric has limitations. I’ve found myself impatient with the lyric form. And that’s the reason I changed my style, a rebellion against the traditional, contemporary, lyric form of, say, William Carlos Williams. I had had it that way. I found my language was responding to the form rather than to my sensibilities. I was getting a little too self-conscious about it. So I decided: Cut loose and give emphasis to the imagination rather than to the line. By “imagination” I mean also the intelligence within the imagination, giving the intelligence its opportunity to explore the imagination as far as it will go. Of course it has a form, but it’s a form that constantly renews itself because the intelligence is restless. Emotions tend to repeat themselves over and over again, whereas the intelligence is constantly renewing itself, recreating itself. Therefore, I feel in the prose poems the emphasis is on the intelligence with an undercurrent of emotion. In the lyric form the emphasis was on the emotion and the intellect was the undercurrent. I’m also following Pound’s rule, that poetry should be as good as good prose. That it’s a vernacular, colloquial thing. And vernacular, the colloquial, doesn’t sing. It talks. If you want to sing, then you write an elevated line, an elevated language. Occasionally, I’ll do that. There are moments. But, on the whole, the contemporary tradition is talking. And if that’s the case, then why not come out and use the prose line?

— David Ignatow, The Art of Poetry No. 23, interviewed by Gerard Malanga

Today I was resolute. I was following Baba Yaga’s advice: (see below) and not choosing between the different callings but listening for which would burn the rest up. And then I read César Vallejo (below), who led me to David Ignatow (above and below).

I began again to doubt the direction I’d given myself in the morning. And so, as if the imagination is a democracy, I’ve decided to put it to the vote. On the evidence you have here, should I:

a) write more of those pieces (for example, here) that in extremity (for example, here) come close to poetry?

b) continue with the letters that started here, the first part reaching its completion one year less one month ago at number 68? (This is what I resolved to do this morning; the second part, about writing, is unfinished business.)

c) write that book proposal for a booklength study drawing out the implications of the ideas developed during the series of lectures about moving image: animation and schematism (lectures 1-5); modulation and screentime (lectures 6-10)?

d) develop the same material as in c) for publication as separate articles in peer-reviewed academic journals?

e) give up writing altogether? It’s flattery to call it writing anyway. What I do is scribblage. After all, when “everybody’s a fucking writer,” there’s already too many.

f) all of the above?

g) Other: suggestions welcome!

How to vote: please use the contact form.


IN A DREAM

a vacuum cleaner held over my head
is drawing out my brains through my nostrils,
blood running in a column straight up
into the vacuum bag whining like a jet engine.
I feel my intestines too beginning to move up
through my gullet and soon they will be pouring
through my nose. My bones quiver in their sockets,
my knees are shaking. I sit down,
emptiness is becoming me. I can no longer think,
I just listen to the sucking vacuum.
Here goes my heart, straight up into my throat
and choking me, pumping in my throat.
It is filling my mouth, it is forcing its way
between my teeth. The vacuum roars
and my mouth flies open and my heart is gone.

How is it I keep writing?
The vacuum roars and whines alternately,
my ears stick to my head but now my head
is rising, a wind is whistling through my skull.
My head is being lifted from my neck.
Take me altogether, great vacuum:
my arms, legs, sex, shoes, clothes,
my pen gripped in my whitened hand
drained of blood. Take me altogether
and I triumph, whirled in the vacuum bag
with my satellite heart, brain, bones and blood.

— David Ignatow, May 1973

Stumble Between Two Stars | Traspié entre dos estrellas

There are people so wretched, they don’t even
have a body, their hair quantitative,
their wise grief, low, in inches;
their manner, high;
don’t look for me, the oblivion molar,
they seem to come out of the air, to add up sighs mentally, to hear
bright smacks on their palates!

They leave their skin, scratching the sarcophagus in which they are born
and climb through their death hour after hour
and fall, the length of their frozen alphabet, to the ground.

Pity for so much! pity for so little! pity for them!
Pity in my room, hearing them with glasses on!
Pity in my thorax, when they are buying suits!
Pity for my white filth, in their combined scum!

Beloved be the sanchez ears,
beloved the people who sit down,
beloved the unknown man and his wife,
my fellow man, with sleeves, neck and eyes!

Beloved be the one with bedbugs,
the one who wears a torn shoe in the rain,
the one who wakes the corpse of a bread with two tapers,
the one who catches a finger in the door,
the one who has no birthdays,
the one who lost his shadow in a fire,
the animal, the one who looks like a parrot,
the one who looks like a man, the rich poor man,
the extremely miserable man, the poorest poor man!

Beloved be
the one who is hungry or thirsty, but has no
hunger with which to satiate all his hungers!

Beloved be the one who works by the day, by the month, by the hour,
the one who sweats out of pain or out of shame,
the person who goes, at the order of his hands, to the movies.
the one who pays with what he does not have,
the one who sleeps on his back,
the one who no longer remembers his childhood, beloved be
the bald man without hat,
the thief without roses,
the one who wears a watch and has seen God,
the one who has honour and does not die!

Beloved be the child who falls and still cries
and the man who has fallen and no longer cries!

Pity for so much! pity for so little! pity for them!

_____________

¡Hay gentes tan desgraciadas, que ni siquiera
tienen cuerpo; cuantitativo el pelo,
baja, en pulgadas, la genial pesadumbre;
el modo, arriba;
no me busques, la muela del olvido,
parecen salir del aire, sumar suspiros mentalmente, oír
claros azotes en sus paladares!

Vanse de su piel, rascándose el sarcófago en que nacen
y suben por su muerte de hora en hora
y caen, a lo largo de su alfabeto gélido, hasta el suelo.

¡Ay de tánto! ¡ay de tan poco! ¡ay de ellas!
¡Ay en mi cuarto, oyéndolas con lentes!
¡Ay en mi tórax, cuando compran trajes!
¡Ay de mi mugre blanca, en su hez mancomunada!

¡Amadas sean las orejas sánchez,
amadas las personas que se sientan,
amado el desconocido y su señora,
el prójimo con mangas, cuello y ojos!

¡Amado sea aquel que tiene chinches,
el que lleva zapato roto bajo la lluvia,
el que vela el cadáver de un pan con dos cerillas,
el que se coge un dedo en una puerta,
el que no tiene cumpleaños,
el que perdió su sombra en un incendio,
el animal, el que parece un loro,
el que parece un hombre, el pobre rico,
el puro miserable, el pobre pobre!

¡Amado sea
el que tiene hambre o sed, pero no tiene
hambre con qué saciar toda su sed,
ni sed con qué saciar todas sus hambres!

¡Amado sea el que trabaja al día, al mes, a la hora,
el que suda de pena o de vergüenza,
aquel que va, ñpor orden de sus manos, al cinema,
el que paga con lo que le falta,
el que duerme de espaldas,
el que ya no recuerda su niñez; amado sea
el calvo sin sombrero,
el justo sin espinas,
el ladrón sin rosas,
el que lleva reloj y ha visto a Dios,
el que tiene un honor y no fallece!

¡Amado sea el niño, que cae y aún llora
y el hombre que ha caído y ya no llora!

¡Ay de tánto! ¡Ay de tan poco! ¡Ay de ellos!

— César Vallejo, October 1937 (translated by Clayton Eshleman)

WHERE SHOULD I PUT MY ENERGY?


Dear Baba Yaga,

I am blessed with many interests, talents, and

desires. They pull me in different directions,

thereby ensuring that movement is forever lateral

and never forward. How do I determine which of

these fires to stoke?


BABA YAGA:

Whether or not you may say so, there is always ;

one fire louder than the others, more consuming. ,

Who knows why–maybe the twigs it devours are aged

best, maybe the wind is stillest around it. It is

not for you to think on. Let this fire get too ;

big. Let it threaten the forest. Let it eat the

other fires around it, until they are living in it.

You will see ; abandonment of yr smaller flames is

not needed to grow yr wildest, most dangerous one.

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

— Taisia Kitaiskaia, ASK BABA YAGA: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles, (Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017), 139.



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on transcendental experience … after Mario Levrero

Mario Levrero begins The Luminous Novel… he is a writer from Uruguay, was. An unnecessary detail, perhaps. Alejandro Zambra, a writer I admire, Chilean, as it happens, or happened, like Bolaño, yet very unlike him, writes about Levrero that we cannot, we readers, we cannot hope to understand that mythical beast, that chimaera, that the literature of Latin America is, without taking in the part Levrero has in it. He says something like that.

And we might for a moment consider the chimaera. Mythical, yes, but also a fish…

…although to call it a fish is to dismiss the inventiveness that’s gone into it. …but also man-made, the chimaera:

…here pictured as a kind of babble of bodies.

Chimaera is mythical, fish and … here made by Kate Clark:

Or, consider the following, in view of literature, from E.V. Day:

The chimaera is also a work of conscious and deliberate construction. Matching chicken and lion, bird and reptilian parts. To put on display, and this is the key word, don’t you think? display.

4222 years ago, the Egyptians weren’t engaging in the earliest known taxidermy for the sake of producing chimaera to display. Embalming and processes of corporeal preservation, of animals, including humans, was conducted not for the living but for the dead on whom these practices were being used. Unless we consider that the exhibition of the dead was not as we understand it but for religious purposes.

Was the intended spectatorship some kind of cosmic audience?

Probably not, because the way out into the cosmos was back in through the world, a world of living deities and cosmic entities present rather than having to be presented, not requiring elaborate rituals, for example, in order to be presented, but already there, in attendance. And these were waiting to see themselves join the throng of the dead.

Their embalming and preservation must have seemed like having to join the queue, for the afterlife. Death.

And now they see themselves sail the stygian waters of the Nile into the omphalos of night. They don’t leave their bodies… no Judgement will have to restore the lucky ones who got the winning ticket to their discarded corpses.

Embalmed, taxidermied, they wait in line, the living gods, and travel over into death beside themselves, beside themselves, if everything has gone well with their preservation, beside themselves in the same way as we might think of an other world being beside this one. An early multiverse.

It is also the Egyptians we tend to thank for our first glimpses of chimaerae. (The word itself is something like a chimaera.) The Sphinx, whose riddle is herself. The bird-headed people, the dog-headed, and the alligator-headed dog.

When does this all change?

Is it at the birthplace of the human individual that Siedentop announces with the advent of early christianity? When, he maintains, before a subsequent crackdown by the institutions of a priestly caste, there were just as easily female communities and communities in which women were considered individuals as they were male… children, individually, born with a relation, a corporeal relation, to the living body of Christ, and, to life everlasting?

So Larry Siedentop maintains in Inventing the Individual: the Origins of Western Liberalism, 2015.

If you bear in you this inner connection, in your living body, this special relation that is special to you, would not the display of the dead pass to individuals to behold? Would you not already have in hand your ticket, to join the queue…?

General exhibition would be a thing institutions might want to have some say over, so restricting entry to an other world, and cutting out the ones not worthy for being somewhat… chimaerical. Raising ticket prices, and so on.

Cutting out animals entirely. Women. Naughty children. Saving them who’ve not had time to sin. Little angels. But all would press against the gates, to see… the exhibition.

Instruction enters. Education, and edification. Now it is on how to live beside yourself, next to your immortal part: the real you. It is no longer the practice of separating to be rejoined in the afterlife.

Until we consider resurrection in the body. Then we have to consider which one the dead part is: and it is clear. It is the body of the animal to which the soul is glued on, by cosmic taxidermy. Well, not really. More by transcendental taxidermy:

the human soul stuck to the body of a corpse… and which the afterthought? For the afterlife, the latter.

…Is resurrection in the body metaphorical? or… virtual?

This would make sense. I mean: it would make sense. The rational part of sense, to which the soul is the best proportion, the perfect ratio. … And freed from the body takes off, like this:

Pause.

What part is the insubstantial again? and what the rendered insubstantial? the de-prioritised?

It’s that old body of the animal again, of which the chimaera is the perfect example: a constructed thing.

A mechanical thing, even, that David Bentley Hart rails against with such seriousness. Seriously. (In a nod to Hart I wanted to say, with such wanton solemnity.)

A book I am reading. Roland is a dog. He talks to the narrator on serious subjects like the dismissal of the transcendental experience (of living beside yourself, body and soul) by the mechanistic world view. The book’s success will be in the measure to which Roland separates himself from the views of Hart, the narrator.

From instruction, edification, tutelary and educative purposes, to … entertainment, would seem to be the path followed by chimaerae into modernity. Entertainment and art, that is. And we ought to think of those lesser souls belonging to lesser bodies, bodies more chimaerical, like those, classically, of women. And of the children who are yet to be edified and educated; and of non-whites, yet to be colonised, indentured, and given a mission.

Too embodied, these ones.

Will Hart allow his dog, Roland, to be one of these?

And what of the bodies of literature, like Latin American literature? The chimaera of …?

I don’t think Zambra really uses the word, chimaera. χίμαιρα is the female form of χίμαρος, meaning, in Ancient Greek, male goat: female goat.

– Jacopo Ligozzi, c.1600

I said female goat… but we do have here the fire-breathing part, and the querulous lion: is this masculinisation concessionary?

We can ask the same of literature, of course, as well as we can whether it is non-concessionary.

Mario Levrero begins his novel… this happens in the first two pages… by relating the sort of psychologism that Hart might reject.

Levrero tells us that he had a transcendental experience, which he told a friend about in the form of an anecdote. Why an anecdote? Because the etymology of anecdote is clear: it means unpublished account (ἀνέκδοτος = ἀν- not + έκδοτος published. έκδοτος derives from έκ- out of or ex– and δίδωμι, which is the first person singular of the verb to give).

Levrero’s friend says he must write it down. It would make a great novel. A great and luminous novel, perhaps, like we have here in our hands.

And Levrero says no. Impossible. Impossible to recapture the transcendental experience, to do it justice, in anything more substantial than an anecdote. End of discussion.

Except that it’s not, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning.

Levrero forgets, and this is the important point: he forgets the friend’s instruction, the friend telling him what he must do; he has, afterall, rejected it. And, anyway, it turns out they are no longer friends.

He forgets it. Levrero says, of course, what he is in fact forgetting is his resistance to his friend’s advice. And from this resistance comes the whole problem. The problem that is The Luminous Novel, in its published form. Because his opposition to the idea inflames it.

He tries again and again to write down the anecdote in which he relates his transcendental experience. And he dismisses each effort, and destroys it. But, the next important point: the urge and urgency to pursue the idea no longer comes from the friend, the friend who is no longer a friend, but from Levrero himself. It comes from inside him.

He attributes to himself, to his inner being or core, or soul, if you like, the demand, the commandment to write … and even tells himself it was own idea. It came from him…

And what is he doing, then, the poor man, torturing himself, when every effort to write down the story of the transcendental experience is in vain?

One thing is for sure, he can’t write his way out, he can’t write himself out of this problem, because he is the problem!

He is the problem and the cause of the problem and he can’t cut himself into two halves, even if they are unequal halves, returning to himself once he has cut himself off from or cut out the criminal part. The corpse, if you like. The animal. He can’t claim transcendence by following the only part that is transcendental.

As I said a psychologism, or a psychological ghost story. And, like Hart’s, a spiritual one.

The friend is ghosted, dead to you, and you tell yourself it is you yourself who told you what you must do because of what you had done.

(&&&[Deleuze])=-1...
...
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only

the old sensitive trees    you see on the coast here

they can make you believe   life is sad

gods in the forest


a character's always he or she or they
never it Levinas    the French Jewish philosopher

my friend, Alphonso Lingis, you can call me Al
and when you call me, I am called to myself
    to answer for myself, Al
       as if my self is what you have when you're busy
               doing other things    also from Lithuania

anyway, Immanuel Levinas insight is God is individual
is not the general category of transcendent Being
       an individual    like a character, he she and they

they pull their own roots out of the ground

the old sensitive trees do not oppose the young
and when you meet God, it's like anyone

hey, how ya doin? like the song ...

they throw themselves they hurl themselves off cliffs

yell, Bollocks overboard ! 

and hurtle out of bed like they are leaving this life

any gods       must die?

it's a question you can only answer with a proper name.

...
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grief, and a sense of loss…

we have to …

no, we don’t.

wake up?

no, we don’t.

and it is as if we are passing through a dream…

pass through

dreams passing through a dream…

pass through

gathering the images to us we want

desire is like turbulence

in our transit

who has time these days to furnish themselves

for the interior decoration of their minds?

who has time to…

choose carefully, cos you’re gonna be spending a lot of time in there …?

who has room?

to gather together the images around us…

we want?

in our transit, passing through.

and I recall your 20th century critique of an airport,

a hotel lobby, or foyer: that it was merely a place to pass through,

a transit lounge. Decorated by …?

“architecture is the first science of sensation”

I think we need more screens.

we don’t. cos you’re not gonna be spending much time in there, at all

and pushed up against the body by pain, it has evicted us

pushed up against the wall… it’s nice to have something to watch

out of the corner of your eye

Lou Reed & John Cale knew Andy knew:

a pathology, which the Quay brothers say somewhere is what they need to find

as if a pathology were … no, yes, a character or gave character, by giving to the work

direction: to the transit, direction

gathering together the images … in the turbulence of a wake,

a passing through, in the turbulence of a …transit.

in pain, we lose our sense of independence to

the body,

like an alien thing, like an image we didn’t choose or want.

Who has time, anyway, to furnish the room of the mind?

…or sick, discovering my time is not my own…

it passes differently, differently passes, with indifference to … the wallpaper.

time we have no choice but to pass through

rewards of loss, in shame

but loss, no matter still

what we have really lost is the body

no, we haven’t. It is, as used to be said of desire

repressed.

but loss, no matter still:

still in your room, still against the wall, still

evicted from your sense of self, out of the corner

of your eye: images.

Are they the one’s you would have chosen?

it was repressed, your desire. Now it is not.

but the shame is how your body has evicted you

the sense of loss is from its betrayal.

...
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