thigein & conatus

day 33

a propitious day to state the sabbatical principle, of one in seven is our rest taken, one day in seven, one year in seven

work is the saddest passion it will never be done

and rest relief on the seventh according to the seven virtues:

good wine

good food

good conversation

good sex

good art

good politics

good religion,

that follows them that is their thought and that accompanies each with thought and that follows rest relief from work

and from the sabbatical principle the good of birds mountains fish and seas, not men, women

and the virtuous things that are without number

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day 29, 30 & 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The market is the market’s to shut down!

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

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

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

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

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on the amputation of infected members of society, III, day 20

I wrote that poverty is like a disease. But that it is one much easier to contain than COVID-19.

Although the same technologies are in practice engaged in containing it. These technologies include education and “contact tracing.” Among others: Rt. Hon. Ardern pointed to story-telling, a technique so venerable noone would dare question its morality. Story-telling can be shown to work in its absence, because if we can’t tell a story about how the disease came to be present–attributing it to credible causes–we must isolate, contain, but not necessarily treat, whoever has it.

You don’t have to get at a disease’s causes to know who is infected. They may be those whose narrative doesn’t fit. Imagine a terrorist who has no cause! It’s like an infection the transmission of which you cannot trace.

This is why “contact tracing” is included in the technologies of containment.

But overnight I began to doubt that poverty is like a disease, or that the comparison can reasonably be made between disease and poverty, especially during these “unprecedented times.”

Education is held up as some kind of cure for poverty. Story-telling might be. But does contact tracing apply?

I returned to thinking about my original inspiration in Gloria Kim’s use in a post to the <<empyre>> listserv of the term phantom touch. She used it to refer to the experience summoned through association–watching a movie where people are in physical contact–of feeling the touch of another, like a spectral caress. Not one’s own phantom limb but an other’s against one’s own.

If we are the virus, as the meme goes, who is this other, whose limb touch’s one’s own?

They are a member we, the virus, have cut off. But whose touch we still remember. It is recalled to us watching a movie, perhaps, the sensation of that touch.

As you saw from my previous post, this led to an association being made with society, to a society that, in Thatcher’s phrase, does not exist.

And so I asked if society were not itself a dead limb or a dying or dangerously infected one finally lopped off.

This led me to poverty. And to the question of our acceptance of society’s nonexistence reaching its conclusion in self isolation. We might say it reaches this conclusion by way of social distancing, familiar to anyone who has used a cellphone, now being a rule.

Social distancing is not quite a law. But seems in some places to be enforceable.

Social distancing might reasonably be said to mean distancing oneself from society just as self isolation means isolating oneself from it, cutting oneself off, or, in the phrase phantom touch, cutting the other off and cutting off other members of society.

If society does not exist, we are not members of society. We belong to communities. The Christchurch Shooter, you recall, was labelled one who did not belong. He did not belong in our community, said Rt. Hon. Ardern.

Years ago I remember being in New Caledonia, where I was billeted by a French family, in a beautiful white house on a hill.

One day, after breakfast, I remember I went out to explore the garden, which, because unfenced, seemed to me to be vast. It extended all the way down the hill, and in a gully I discovered a series of corrugated-iron-clad sheds or shacks, backing onto the hill.

I knew garden sheds from home, so thinking them unoccupied–I had seen smoke coming out of the chimney of one of them, but had dismissed this as a sign of habitation–the French family was all up in the house, anyway–I went around to the front. A whole Kanak family was there, three adults and several children.

I didn’t immediately recognise any of them because they were not wearing their uniforms. But then, after being spoken to severely by the man, one of the women came out, and I saw she was the French family’s maid. She was wearing a striped T-shirt, a brightly coloured skirt and had a saffron yellow scarf holding her hair back. The man was the gardener.

He wore dirty shorts and a short-sleeve collared shirt open to his waist. He had a stick or a poker and was poking the flames of a small fire with loose blackened rocks around it and a billy on a tripod above it in which something seemed to be cooking. Seafood maybe. It actually smelt really good.

The French family’s maid had served breakfast not so long ago, and she and I had chatted. I found her French easy to understand and she had been friendly. The French family were quite severe and opinionated when it came to French-New Caledonian affairs: they felt like they were treated as second-class citizens. But I remember the French Mum saying she went to Paris every year shopping.

The French family’s maid first tried to shoo me off. She told me I shouldn’t be there. But seeing that I didn’t understand, she started to smile and began to treat my being there as quite funny. She attempted to share the joke with the man, but he was not having it. He told her–I understood from his gestures–to get me away.

Now the woman who was the maid came right out and ushered me around the corner from where the kitchen was set up under the lean-to, and where these people obviously lived. And I went with her. I realised I had invaded their privacy and I felt guilty for that. But it was impossible to explain that in my country we have garden sheds but that people do not live in them.

This is the story tracing my contact with the infection of Kanak poverty. I could have had the experience in New Zealand. But I doubt the contrast would have been as great as that between the French family, all in white, in a white house, the son, slightly older than I was, I remember wore the whitest plimsolls I have ever seen, and the black family at the bottom of the garden.

I think I must’ve mentioned something to the French Mum, since she was more approachable than the Dad, behind his French newspaper, because I remember her face changing, her countenance as they say darkening. Do I really remember thinking she regarded me with suspicion from that point on, as something of a traitor, of class or of race?

Was the Club Méditerranée at Anse Vata really just being built when I was there? I seem to remember the French Dad pointing it out from the convertible he picked me up in to show off the coastline. I also remember delicious minty drinks being served on a magnesium white deck overlooking a deep blue swimming pool right on that coast, at the home of friends’ of the French family. I have tried to find out what that drink was ever since.

Lingis writes of the contagion of misery.

You might think it presumptuous or importunate to talk of poverty, misery and suffering as if they were transmissable diseases. That it does those who are afflicted out of something that is theirs and cannot be claimed be another not so afflicted.

But to see someone who is poor, who is suffering, who lives in misery or who is just miserable, is to catch something. It is to catch on to feelings that have no certainty, that leave one with no certainty of what to do or of what to feel. Guilt? Remorse? Sympathy?

Isn’t the meaning of society to see and to know there are people living at the bottom of the hill? to know how they live. Isn’t for a society to want to improve the conditions of those, not so one can feel good about oneself but good about the society one lives in? And isn’t it also to have mixed feelings, uncertain compassion, as Lingis writes? To not know what to feel. To know only that one has been called on to feel.

To not know how to act but to know one has been called on to act.

With the amputation of others in self isolation, with social distancing, we grow neglectful.

Our preexisting negligence or our inexcusable ignorance sees an opportunity. (As Rt. Hon. Ardern states with regard to the loss of 200 jobs in NZME, it is due to a preexisting condition.)

Worse than this, there can be no more solidarity with the poor, those in need, with problems, with the problems which define society; with the amputation of society, they are placed out sight, and like ghosts and phantoms, they become invisible.

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enjoy your resurrection, day 17, into day 18

Once resurrected then what?

And what bits will be and which won’t?

What will society lose? the weakest and most vulnerable?

…or the sense that they are… having lost the sense of their welfare being our responsibility and of our meaning society.

There may never have been any society in general. But it is just as true to say there may never have been any body in general.

Of course there is the external society.

Of course there is the external body.

But neither the body nor society are relations to true externalities–until they include the experience of a society-of-others and a body-as-other.

Just this, or that which Lingis calls in his eponymous work the community of those who have nothing in common, is what is meant by bearing responsibility for the weakest and most vulnerable. And we might say making accountable the strongest and most powerful.

When do we experience the otherness of the body? When we are deprived of the touch of the other. Our own limbs start to feel eerily bereft as if they have lost touch with the sense they made before. Why did I have this hand if not to caress? Was it always meant to tap tap tap at the keyboard, to turn the pages, to work the remote, to slice and dice, to be endlessly scrubbed?

When do we experience the otherness of the body? When part of it is infected. Or afflicted. It is the opposite of a phantom limb. A dead limb. An arm in a cast. A dismembered member. A face, even, swollen and strange, only the eyes recognisable as our own.

When do we experience the otherness of society? When every other person we meet might be the potential carrier of a disease.

When part of it is infected. Or afflicted. …Perhaps even when part of society is afflicted with being weak, or poor, or vulnerable, we experience its otherness.

When we feel power over a part of society we are haunted by the feeling that we are the same as them. We want to deny it. Sometimes we can. Sometimes we cannot.

Levinas writes that this is the response to the address the other makes, the imperative she places on us to respond, and as Lingis takes on this thought, it is the stranger, the diseased one in the street, who reaches out his hand to us… making us responsible. Sometimes we can deny it. We might turn around to make sure we are not being seen turning away. Sometimes we cannot. We are haunted by that sick face… haunted by our own powerlessness to help. But what really were we being called on to do?

All we are being asked to do in order to get through the absence of treatment for COVID-19 is to treat society as infected.

We are not asked to deny those parts of society infected exist.

We are asked to cut them off.

resurrected, what will that do?

Fisher wrote that we are haunted by futures, our futures sometimes imagined glorious, sometimes perfidious, the possibility of which actually occurring is absent.

They are the phantom limbs of our current society, of our current social organisation. And they itch. And we scratch. A literary scratch there. A cinematic one here. Utopian here. Dystopian there.

At least we can take refuge in the thought we were not responsible and are not accountable for the not-coming-to-pass of futures, global, environmental or social.

We can take refuge in the thought we are responsible and accountable only for our individual ones. That we did not put away savings for a son or daughter; that we did not buy health insurance… that our private dream was never realised …

But this presence of those present who are cut off because infected…

can we take refuge in the thought we were forced to

cut them off?

(Thank you Gloria Chan-Sook Kim whose phrase ‘phantom touch’ in a post to the <<empyre>> listserv gave occasion to think these thoughts.)

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

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

And this:

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this must be the worst.

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

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

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

And then, think of the numbers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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day 8 or the impossible – goes into day 9 or CANNOT

Dear reader,

As you will by now already be aware, approximately 2 billion of earth’s human inhabitants have found themselves under voluntary or enforced, and everything along the continuum, home arrest, otherwise called ‘self isolation.’ These have also had foisted upon them a physical noncontact zone called ‘social distancing.’ As Prof. Chomsky has pointed out, see previous posts, social distancing is the normal state of affairs when everyone’s on a cellphone, locked, as Dr Leonard Cohen sings, into their ‘hopeless little screens.’

We have made, on this blog, two points:

1) the continuity of ‘cognitive bubbles’ with the now enforced or voluntary–and everything inbetween–bubbles we are expected to inhabit now, or those we have imposed by force on us, and everything inbetween (called foam or surf);

2) this is not life during wartime. It cannot be. In the same sense there has been no war since WWII.

How do states raise funds for war?

How do sovereign states raise the funds necessary to conduct war on other sovereign states? How do these sovereign states afford to mobilise themselves in defense?

On this the whole question would turn.

This: CANNOT.

Meaning: what cannot be done and what is impossible to do.

A state mobilised in its own defense, or in order to conduct war on another, can: rely on banks, issue its own government bonds, accrue debt, burdening future generations; depend on its people to support the cause, since they are what it represents, imposing higher taxes; control subsequent and consequent inflation by increasing the money supply–called today quantitative easing, and applied under an ongoing state of exception which makes peacetime states, under international fiscal directives, enact wartime austerities.

We know austerity to entail the privatisation of expensive public services and the selling of publicly owned state assets, fixed, like hospitals and schools, energy infrastructures and telecommunications networks, and working, circulating in labour markets, made to circulate, undercut and degraded and underpaid, but not only for profit. For in fact states to unburden themselves, and to incapacitate themselves, so as to be fleet, agile and adaptive; so as to move to a more managerial stance; and to the increase of economic capacity.

In the eventuality of war or of a mobilisation being called for to fight the scourges of drugs, terrorism or contagious disease, do we imagine states reburdening themselves with heavy responsibility? Or do we imagine a managerial stance to continue and a chain unfolding, like a Jacob’s Ladder, down through the level of service provision, through supervisors, branch managers to the frontline staff, where each divests unto the next above?

The Bluebridge frontline staffmember, with the magenta hair, told us in Picton, despite the extenuating circumstance of having been required to be present at 6am, on a Saturday, with others suffering the same circumstance, when, on a Saturday, there is no ferry sailing, that she could only go on what her supervisor had told her. The list for standbys would be made up at 11am. And not before. Our presence was required to be resumed if we hoped to go on the list.

To ask different of her, to be angry, is simply untoward. She cannot do any different than she has, and she cannot have done.

This was the time, contemplating the Cook Strait separating South from North Islands of our small Pacific nation, we felt like immigrants in wartime. Watching perhaps the last sailing.

The situation was of course complicated by the other service provider–Bluebridge does not have a monopoly–which, when approached, informed us of a limit of 200 per sailing. On boats with over a thousand capacity.

We retain the nomenclature ‘essential industry.’ But in truth, in modern wartime as in modern peacetime, can there be any requisitioning of such industry?

Would this not be the ideological crime called out by the current US President, the Orange Thing (not to speak of the other South American Thing [a Coisa]), as being a Chavez-ism?

And we are reminded of all those times there has been an absence of recourse, the Jacob’s Ladder having pursued its downwards trajectory which somehow looks to be upwards, from the underpaid, underinformed, almost mostly unformed frontline staff, when they told us this or that rationally available course of action was foreclosed. And not only that but as a line of rational inquiry, or one of argument, it was censurable.

At stake in the impossible of the it cannot be done is then the virtual category of capacity. It is not that the state is incapable in its current mobilisation. There is no capability at all.

Dear reader,

There is no capability at all left in its institutions.

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Day 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moralists. Then busybodies.

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

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

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

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Day 4

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

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

Did I tell you I saved a kakariki in Paradise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Days 1 – 2 LOCKDOWN & NATIONAL EMERGENCY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a global TIME OUT.

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

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

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

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MINAMIDERA

Minamidera-2

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luz es tiempo
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