Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The New and Improved Guilt-Free/ Feel Good Liberalism

Our daily lives are mostly a mixture of drab routine and unpleasant surprises – however, from time to time, something unexpected happens which makes life worth living. Something of this order occurred at the memorial ceremony for Nelson Mandela last week.

Tens of thousands were listening to world leaders making statements. And then … it happened (or, rather, it was going on for some time before we noticed it). Standing alongside world dignitaries including Barack Obama was a rounded black man in formal attire, an interpreter for the deaf, translating the service into sign language. Those versed in sign language gradually became aware that something strange was going on: the man was a fake; he was making up his own signs; he was flapping his hands around, but there was no meaning in it.

A day later, the official inquiry disclosed that the man, Thamsanqa Jantjie, 34, was a qualified interpreter hired by the African National Congress from his firm South African Interpreters. In an interview with the Johannesburg newspaper the Star, Jantjie put his behaviour down to a sudden attack of schizophrenia, for which he takes medication: he had been hearing voices and hallucinating. "There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation," he said. "I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry. It's the situation I found myself in." Jantjie nonetheless defiantly insisted that he is happy with his performance: "Absolutely! Absolutely. What I have been doing, I think I have been a champion of sign language."

Next day brought a new surprising twist: media reported that Jantjie has been arrested at least five times since the mid-1990s, but he allegedly dodged jail time because he was mentally unfit to stand trial. He was accused of rape, theft, housebreaking and malicious damage to property; his most recent brush with the law occurred in 2003 when he faced murder, attempted murder and kidnapping charges.

Reactions to this weird episode were a mixture of amusement (which was more and more suppressed as undignified) and outrage. There were, of course, security concerns: how was it possible, with all the control measures, for such a person to be in close proximity to world leaders? What lurked behind these concerns was the feeling that Thamsanqa Jantjie's appearance was a kind of miracle – as if he had popped up from nowhere, or from another dimension of reality. This feeling seemed further confirmed by the repeated assurances from deaf organisations that his signs had no meaning, that they corresponded to no existing sign language, as if to quell the suspicion that, maybe, there was some hidden message delivered through his gestures – what if he was signalling to aliens in an unknown language? Jantjie's very appearance seemed to point in this direction: there was no vivacity in his gestures, no traces of being involved in a practical joke – he was going through his gestures with expressionless, almost robotic calm.

Jantjie's performance was not meaningless – precisely because it delivered no particular meaning (the gestures were meaningless), it directly rendered meaning as such – the pretence of meaning. Those of us who hear well and do not understand sign language assumed that his gestures had meaning, although we were not able to understand them. And this brings us to the crux of the matter: are sign language translators for the deaf really meant for those who cannot hear the spoken word? Are they not much more intended for us – it makes us (who can hear) feel good to see the interpreter, giving us a satisfaction that we are doing the right thing, taking care of the underprivileged and hindered.

I remember how, in the first "free" elections in Slovenia in 1990, in a TV broadcast by one of the leftist parties, the politician delivering the message was accompanied by a sign language interpreter (a gentle young woman). We all knew that the true addressees of her translation were not the deaf but we, the ordinary voters: the true message was that the party stood for the marginalised and handicapped.

It was like great charity spectacles which are not really about children with cancer or flood victims, but about making us, the public, aware that we are doing something great, displaying solidarity.

Now we can see why Jantjie's gesticulations generated such an uncanny effect once it became clear that they were meaningless: what he confronted us with was the truth about sign language translations for the deaf – it doesn't really matter if there are any deaf people among the public who need the translation; the translator is there to make us, who do not understand sign language, feel good.

And was this also not the truth about the whole of the Mandela memorial ceremony? All the crocodile tears of the dignitaries were a self-congratulatory exercise, and Jangtjie translated them into what they effectively were: nonsense. What the world leaders were celebrating was the successful postponement of the true crisis which will explode when poor, black South Africans effectively become a collective political agent. They were the Absent One to whom Jantjie was signalling, and his message was: the dignitaries really don't care about you. Through his fake translation, Jantjie rendered palpable the fake of the entire ceremony.

-Slavoj Zizek, "Guardian article"

Monday, December 30, 2013

Eighteenth Century London? Or Modern Day New York?

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse
- William Blake, "London" (1792)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Make Me Stronger!

You are my best enemy
My greatest enigma
That I can't catch
You are the one that I redoubt
After that I run
Without catching my breath

You are the one that I despise
Warned conspirator
You aim my agony
You are the shade of the sun
An ink that never dries
An imperfect tattoo

You are the vice of my virtues
The one that surrenders
When I feel lost
You are my battlefield
My fatal intoxications
Fruits of my mood

You are my heart-drier
My peril remains
The source of my pain
You are the one that I drowned
Undeath and rapid
Ready to start

Ready to start

You are my best enemy[x4]

You are my best enemy
An ink that never dries
An imperfect tattoo
Ready to start
Ready to start
Ready to start...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Cunning of Unreason

By contrast, as Zizek acknowledges in "The Parallax View", an immanent notion of the Real - a Real always encountered within the Symbolic order as its negative limit - requires faith that the Real upon which one acts is a dimension of the "pre-symbolic X" from which that Symbolic order emerges, so that one's act bears the potential of opening thought to a greater fullness of being. (Zizek 2006: 390 n. 21) The 'faith' that Zizek terms a groundless "methodological idealism" goes beyond the Pauline faith that calls for acts without the support of any "big Other". This idealism is rather the faith, corraborated only fragmentarily and indirectly via practical experiment, that reality is structured in this manner - the condition of possibility of the specific Pauline faith-act that trusts this or that identification with the not-All to be significant. This blindness of act is redoubled insofar as Zizek additionally remains committed to the possibility of a singular act yet-to-come upon the immanent Real, which will radically reconfigure the Symbolic order: for without such an act being performed, without successful instances of re-ordering the Symbolic, there is no evidence that reality is so ordered. And, unless Zizek makes an appeal however implicitly to the kind of theological horizon of "Otherness" for which he criticizes Derridean messianicity (Zizek 2003: 140), he must accept a deep 'blindness' of act, which threatens to undermine its claim to be ethical no less than the naivety of the twin's act threatens to undermine their ethical stance in "The Notebook".
- John McSweeney, "The Cold Cruelty of Ethics: Zizek, Kristof and Reflexive Subjectivation"
London Grammar, "Wasting My Young Years"
- h/t: Jen Nifer

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I am MORE than a Camera

...and therefore more than a mere Spectator
When Interpassivity is NOT enough!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Idyll's of Women

Francis Picabia, "Lady in the Face of Idol"
While in Hanold's mind he believes that his attraction to Gradiva is based on love and veneration, in fact his dedication is to his own attraction. This theme of the veneration of woman in thrall to the master of male desire can be seen in Surrealism as well; thus their fascination with Jensen's tale is not difficult to understand. The machine, like a fantasy image such as that presented in Gradiva, is a means of augmenting one's own power without surrendering agency to another. This is the connection between the image of Gradiva and the myth of the machine: they are not reviled, but "loved" within the bonds of control.
-Alan Foljambe, "Surrealism and the Story of Gradiva: Male Idealization of Women"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why Should a Piano Lecture Humanity?

Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: 'Thou single wilt prove none.'
-William Shakespeare, "Sonnet VIII"

On Days of Reckoning, Future

All profits disappear: the gain
Of ease, the hoarded, secret sum;
And now grim digits of old pain
Return to litter up our home.

We hunt the cause of ruin, add,
Subtract, and put ourselves in pawn;
For all our scratching on the pad,
We cannot trace the error down.

What we are seeking is a fare
One way, a chance to be secure:
The lack that keeps us what we are,
The penny that usurps the poor.
- Theodore Roethke

Monday, December 9, 2013

On White Democrat's "Solidarity" with America's Blacks

The Constitutive Lie Behind Democratic Party Solidarity
Politicians and their Constitutive Lies

Despite the fact that their turn to political action stems only from a perceived threat to their imaginary enjoyment, the Michigan State students are at least able to conceive themselves as political beings and enter into a political arena (however isolated that arena might be). To most people, the very words "politics" and "politician" are the equivalent of obscenities, and conceiving of one=self in political terms is anathema. This increasingly popular attitude indicates the ease with which one can conceive oneself as detached from the political sphere, as a apolitical being. We avoid politics because we think we can - and because we see it as both an alien and alienating process. But the attempt to avoid alienation is really just an attempt to avoid the social order: any emergence of the subject in the social order is necessarily alienating, a process in which the subject gains a symbolic identity at the price of his or her being. According to Lacan's formulation in Seminar XI, "when the subject appears somewhere as meaning [ie, as a symbolic identity], he is manifested elsewhere as 'fading,' as disappearance." It is this experience of alienation that the word "politics" evokes today, and in this sense, animus towards "politics" or "politicians" is implicitly animus towards the very idea of a social order. To involve oneself in politics would be to tacitly accept the necessity of one's alienation - a prospect the contemporary subject would like to avoid at all costs, precisely because this alienation makes evident the failure of one's private, imaginary enjoyment. A sense of alienation indicates that the imaginary realm is symbolically mediated, and "politics," insofar as it is alienating, constantly reminds us of this mediation.

On one level, it is easy to see mass emnity towards politicians in populist terms, as the healthy expression of hatred on behalf of those ruled towards those who rule them. And perhaps, even as recently as twenty years ago, this was the case. Today, however, such a position is no longer tenable. Today we hate politicians not because they are representatives of the ruling class, but because they compromise - or to put it more clearly, because they lie. The lie of the politician is not, as we often see it, an indication of moral failure, but an act that inheres the very idea of social relations. In order to interact with each other socially, we must agree to keep up certain appearances, we must, in short, both accept and proffer widespread deceipt. Social existence demands, for instance, that we inquire politely after the health of people we don't really care about, that we refrain from telling colleagues what we really think of their work, and that we listen to friends with an attentive expression even when we are bored to tears. The continued existence of the social bond is itself deceipt par excellence. The social bond exists only because we collectively believe that it does, and yet it exists with the pretense of being substantive. This lie at the heart of the social bond is the fundamental constitutive lie, the basis for all the polite, social ties that follow from it.

Politicians must engage in this kind of lying all the time - speaking so as not to offend the Other - or else they would never get elected to any office. The politician's lie as such is not a manipulative lie, but a constitutive one, an indication that she/he respects - and is trying to answer - the desire of the Other. Though we might fantasize about a politician who actually tells the truth, such a phenomena is nonetheless structurally impossible: once someone is in the position of running for office, she/he is necessarily wholly invested in ther desire of the Other, so that even telling the truth from this position would be a form of constitutive lie...

...To refuse to accept the constitutive lie and to despise politicians for it is to disavow the power of the Other, insofar as the constitutive lie explicitly acknowledges the Other's hold over us. But this disavowal, like all disavowals, doesn't make that power go away. Historically, subjects have taken up these lies as a part of their social duty. Today, however, they occasion resentment in subjects, because in being forced to lie, we feel explicitly the demands of the Other - and we feel that we are betraying out private, imaginary enjoyment and thus betraying the imperative to enjoy. Which is not to say that we are experiencing an outbreak of mass truth-telling among contemporary subjects. Emnity for the constitutive, necessary lie is not emnity for all kinds of deceipt, just for the deceipt demanded by the social order. Many types of non-constitutive lies proliferate today and don't occasion the same kind of hostility as the politician's lie. Fabricating a background on a resume, cheating on an exam,, making up sources for a research project - none of these lies are forced upon us by the Other, and hence, they do not make apparent the Other's hold over us. When we lie in this way, we are, in a sense, being "true" to ourselves, insofar as we are advancing our own private interests, our private enjoyment. In contrast, the politician's lie represents a threat to this enjoyment, as it forcefully reminds us of our own castration - what we are accustomed to feeling and against which we recoil. When we recoil from the politician's constitutive lie and disavow it, we enact a disavowal of castration, and this disavowal becomes almost di rigueur in the society of commanded enjoyment.

This recoil from the constitutive lie is simply the manifestation of hostility towards the social order and its constitutive hold over us. Such hostility develops because we perceive the social order as a continued threat to our ability to sustain our private enjoyment, not because we are actually revolting against symbolic authority. What we fail to see - and what psycho-analyses takes pains to point out - is that no matter how private we feel this enjoyment to be, it is always located within the symbolic order. The social order is not the enemy of this imaginary enjoyment - nor is it threatened by it. What we imagine as our radicality is actually that which locates us firmly under the sway of symbolic authority. Our experience as subjects today is dramatically misleading: it prompt us to feel, almost inevitably, as if we are radical beings. The society of commanded enjoyment does offer us the opportunity to realize this feeling of radicality in action, though few of us actually do. Instead, we remain content with our isolated, private enjoyment and the image of radicality. But the isolation of private enjoyment and its seeming radicality are never as isolated and radical as all that. Recognizing this is the incipience of a politics with more at stake than my private enjoyment, because politics as such can only begin when we realize just how radical we aren't. The command to enjoy does open up this political possibility. However, we don't engage in a radical political activity as long as we remain confident that we are already radical. Instead, we retreat into apathy, and as we do, the public world erodes.
- Todd McGowan, "The End of Dissatisfaction?: Jacques Lacan and the Emerging Society of Enjoyment"

Friday, December 6, 2013

What If Sharks Could Communicate Ideologies...?

Ideology is the 'self-evident' surface structure whose function is to conceal the underlying 'unbalanced', 'uncanny' structure.
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Plague of Fantasies"

Monday, December 2, 2013

On the New Ethic of the Post-Modern Era

Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.
- Andy Warhol

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I'll Carry my World

Let those who will of friendship sing,
And to its guerdon grateful be,
But I a lyric garland bring
To crown thee, O, mine enemy!

Thanks, endless thanks, to thee I owe
For that my lifelong journey through
Thine honest hate has done for me
What love perchance had failed to do.

I had not scaled such weary heights
But that I held thy scorn in fear,
And never keenest lure might match
The subtle goading of thy sneer.

Thine anger struck from me a fire
That purged all dull content away,
Our mortal strife to me has been
Unflagging spur from day to day.

And thus, while all the world may laud
The gifts of love and loyalty,
I lay my meed of gratitude
Before thy feet, mine enemy!
- Lucy Maud Montgomery

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Quantum Constructions

The state of being two
diametrically opposed conditions
at once is a profound
volition of intuition.
Magic should be enjoyed.
How weird the world really is,
how great its chaotic action,
benign or otherwise,
the joy of the universe
racing in fundamental
- Garrett Phelan, "Quantum Poetry"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Life After Symbolic Suicide

In the film, Waldowski tells Hawkeye that he has suffered a "lack of performance" with a visiting nurse and now believes he has latent homosexual tendencies. Soon after, he reveals his desire to commit suicide and seeks advice on which method to use. Hawkeye, Trapper and Duke (Tom Skerritt) suggest that he use the "black capsule" (a fictitious, fast-acting poison). At an impromptu Last Supper, Painless takes the capsule (actually a sleeping pill) and falls asleep in a coffin to the strains of "Suicide is Painless". Hawkeye then persuades Lt. Maria "Dish" Schneider (Jo Ann Pflug), a nurse who is returning to the U.S. the following day, to spend the night with Painless and cure him of his problems.
- Melancholia transformed. In the mourning I'll rise. In the mourning, I'll let you die!

Monday, November 18, 2013

On Becoming a WIlling Participant in the "Others" Desire

The Self-Castrating Figure

You’re running and ... johnny’s song
Nobody thought, oh nobody thought
What johnny thought
Nobody knows, nobody knows
What johnny knows
Only johnny knows, what I’ve done

No one is talking bout the of the ...
Until the day johnny had no clue
What I could do
If you were in my shoes, you’d do it too
If you were in my shoes, you’d do it too.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Big Tools

from Wikipedia:
The title references an idea first conceived by Carl Jung and later expounded upon by Drunvalo Melchizedek concerning the possibility of reaching a state of evolution at which the body would have two more than the normal 46 total chromosomes and leave a currently disharmonious state. The premise is that humans would deviate from the current state of human DNA which contains 44 autosomes and 2 sex chromosomes. The next step of evolution would likely result in human DNA being reorganized into 46 and 2 chromosomes, according to Melchizedek.

Furthermore, the song references a wish to experience change through the "shadow"; an idea which represents the parts of one's identity that one hates, fears, and represses, this exists as a recurring theme in the work of Carl Jung.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Being In the World

“Dasein exists. Furthermore, Dasein is an entity which in each case I myself am. Mineness belongs to any existent Dasein, and belongs to it as the condition which makes authenticity and inauthenticity possible.”
- Dreyfus, H., "Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I"

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

You Ain't Gots ta B'lieve, Hon'!

William Butler Yeats, this arch-conservative, was right in is diagnosis of the XXth century, when he wrote: "...The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / the ceremony of innocence is drowned; / the best lack all conviction, while the worst / are full of passionate intensity." (The Second Coming, 1920). The key to his diagnosis is contained in the phrase "ceremony of innocence," which is to be taken in the precise sense of Edith Wharton's "age of innocence": Newton's wife, the "innocent" the title refers to, was not a naïve believer in her husband's fidelity - she knew well of his passionate love for Countess Olenska, she just politely ignored it and staged the belief in his fidelity... In one of the Marx brothers' films, Groucho Marx, when caught in a lie, answers angrily: "Whom do you believe, your eyes or my words?"

This apparently absurd logic renders perfectly the functioning of the symbolic order, in which the symbolic mask-mandate matters more than the direct reality of the individual who wears this mask and/or assumes this mandate. This functioning involves the structure of fetishist disavowal: "I know very well that things are the way I see them /that this person is a corrupt weakling, but I nonetheless treat him respectfully, since he wears the insignia of a judge, so that when he speaks, it is the Law itself which speaks through him". So, in a way, I effectively believe his words, not my eyes, i.e. I believe in Another Space (the domain of pure symbolic authority) which matters more than the reality of its spokesmen. The cynical reduction to reality thus falls short: when a judge speaks, there is in a way more truth in his words (the words of the Institution of law) than in the direct reality of the person of judge - if one limits oneself to what one sees, one simply misses the point. This paradox is what Lacan aims at with his les non-dupes errent: those who do not let themselves be caught in the symbolic deception/fiction and continue to believe their eyes are the ones who err most.

What a cynic who "believes only his eyes" misses is the efficiency of the symbolic fiction, the way this fiction structures our experience of reality. The same gap is at work in our most intimate relationship to our neighbors: we behave AS IF we do not know that they also smell badly, secrete excrement, etc. - a minimum of idealization, of fetishizing disavowal, is the basis of our co-existence. And doesn't the same disavowal account for the sublime beauty of the idealizing gesture discernible from Anna Frank to American Communists who believed in the Soviet Union? Although we know that Stalinist Communism was an appalling thing, we nonetheless admire the victims of the McCarthy witch hunt who heroically persisted in their belief in Communism and support for the Soviet Union.

The logic is here the same as that of Anne Frank who, in her diaries, expresses belief in the ultimate goodness of man in spite of the horrors accomplished by men against Jews in World War II: what renders such an assertion of belief (in the essential goodness of Man; in the truly human character of the Soviet regime) sublime, is the very gap between it and the overwhelming factual evidence against it, i.e. the active will to disavow the actual state of things. Perhaps therein resides the most elementary meta-physical gesture: in this refusal to accept the real in its idiocy, to disavow it and to search for Another World behind it. The big Other is thus the order of lie, of lying sincerely. And it is in this sense that "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity": even the best are no longer able to sustain their symbolic innocence, their full engagement in the symbolic ritual, while "the worst," the mob, engage in (racist, religious, sexist...) fanaticism? Is this opposition not a good description of today's split between tolerant but anemic liberals, and the fundamentalists full of "passionate intensity"?

Niels Bohr, who gave the right answer to Einstein's "God doesn't play dice" ("Don't tell God what to do!"), also provided the perfect example of how such a fetishist disavowal of belief works in ideology: seeing a horse-shoe on his door, the surprised visitor said that he doesn't believe in the superstition that it brings luck, to what Bohr snapped back: "I also do not believe in it; I have it there because I was told that it works also if one does not believe in it!" What this paradox renders clear is the way a belief is a reflexive attitude: it is never a case of simply believing - one has to believe in belief itself. Which is why Kierkegaard was right to claim that we do not really believe (in Christ), we just believe to believe - and Bohr just confronts us with the logical negative of this reflexivity (one can also NOT believe one's beliefs...). 1

At some point, Alcoholics Anonymous meet Pascal: "Fake it until you make it.." However, this causality of the habit is more complex than it may appear: far from offering an explanation of how beliefs emerge, it itself calls for an explanation. The first thing to specify is that Pascal's "Kneel down and you will believe!" has to be understood as involving a kind of self-referential causality: "Kneel down and you will believe that you knelt down because you believed!" The second thing is that, in the "normal" cynical functioning of ideology, belief is displaced onto another, onto a "subject supposed to believe," so that the true logic is: "Kneel down and you will thereby MAKE SOMEONE ELSE BELIEVE!" One has to take this literally and even risk a kind of inversion of Pascal's formula: "You believe too much, too directly? You find your belief too oppressing in its raw immediacy? Then kneel down, act as if you believe, and YOU WILL GET RID OF YOUR BELIEF - you will no longer have to believe yourself, your belief will already ex-sist objectified in your act of praying!" That is to say, what if one kneels down and prays not so much to regain one's own belief but, on the opposite, to GET RID of one's belief, of its over-proximity, to acquire a breathing space of a minimal distance towards it? To believe - to believe "directly," without the externalizing mediation of a ritual - is a heavy, oppressing, traumatic burden, which, through exerting a ritual, one has a chance of transferring it onto an Other...

When Badiou emphasizes that double negation is not the same as affirmation, he thereby merely confirms the old Hegelian motto les non-dupes errent. Let us take the affirmation "I believe." Its negation is: "I do not really believe, I just fake to believe." However, its properly Hegelian negation of negation is not the return to direct belief, but the self-relating fake: "I fake to fake to believe," which means: "I really believe without being aware of it." Is, then, irony not the ultimate form of the critique of ideology today - irony in the precise Mozartean sense of taking the statements more seriously than the subjects who utter them themselves?

In the case of so-called "fundamentalists," this "normal" functioning of ideology in which the ideological belief is transposed onto the Other is disturbed by the violent return of the immediate belief - they "really believe it." The first consequence of this is that the fundamentalist becomes the dupe of his fantasy (as Lacan put it apropos Marquis de Sade), immediately identifying himself with it. From my own youth, I remember a fantasy concerning the origin of children: after I learned how children are made, I still had no precise idea on insemination, so I thought one has to make love every day for the whole nine months: in woman's belly, the child is gradually formed through sperm - each ejaculation is like adding an additional brick... One plays with such fantasies, not "taking them seriously," it is in this way that they fulfill their function - and the fundamentalist lacks this minimal distance towards his fantasy.

Let us clarify this point apropos Elfriede Jelinek's The Piano Teacher, which can also be read as the story of a psychotic who lacks the coordinates of the fantasy which would allow her to organize her desire: when, in the middle of the film, she goes to a video cabin and watches a hardcore porn, she does it in order simply to learn what to do, how to engage in sex, and, in her letter to her prospective lover, she basically puts on paper what she saw there... (Her psychosis and lack of fantasmatic coordinates are clearly signalled in her strange relationship with her mother - when, in the middle of the night, she embraces her and starts to kiss her, this displays her total lack of the desiring coordinates that would direct her towards a determinate object - as well as her self-cutting of her vagina with a razor, an act destined to bring her to reality.) 2 At the very end of The Piano Teacher, the heroine, after stabbing herself, walks away (from the concert hall where she saw the last time her young lover) - what if this self-inflicted wound is to be conceived as "traversing the fantasy"? What if, through striking at herself, she got rid of the hold of the masochistic fantasy over herself? In short, what if the ending is "optimistic": after being raped by her lover, after she got her fantasy back at her in reality, this traumatic experience enables her to leave it behind? Furthermore, what if the fantasy she puts on the paper she gives to her lover is HIS OWN fantasy of what he really would really like to do to her, so that he is disgusted precisely because he gets from her DIRECTLY his own fantasy?

More generally, when one is passionately in love and, after not seeing the beloved for a long time, asks her for a photo to keep in mind her features, the true aim of this request is not to check if the properties of the beloved still fits the criteria of my live, but, on the contrary, to learn (again) what these criteria are. I am in love absolutely, and the photo a priori CANNOT be a disappointment - I need it just so that it will tell me WHAT I love... What this means is that true love is performative in the sense that it CHANGES its object - not in the sense of idealization, but in the sense of opening up a gap in it, a gap between the object's positive properties and the agalma, the mysterious core of the beloved (which is why I do not love you because of your properties which are worthy of love: on the contrary, it is only because of my love for you that your features appear to me as worthy of love). It is for this reason that finding oneself in the position of the beloved is so violent, traumatic even: being loved makes me feel directly the gap between what I am as a determinate being and the unfathomable X in me which causes love. Everyone knows Lacan's definition of love ("Love is giving something one doesn't have..."); what one often forgets is to add the other half which completes the sentence: "... to someone who doesn't want it." And is this not confirmed by our most elementary experience when somebody unexpectedly declared passionate love to us - is not the first reaction, preceding the possible positive reply, that something obscene, intrusive, is being forced upon us?

In a kind of Hegelian twist, love does not simply open itself up for the unfathomable abyss in the beloved object; what is in the beloved "more than him/herself," the presupposed excess of/in the beloved, is reflexively posited by love itself. Which is why true love is far from the openness to the "transcendent mystery of the beloved Other": true love is well aware that, as Hegel would have put it, the excess of the beloved, what, in the beloved, eludes my grasp, is the very place of the inscription of my own desire into the beloved object - transcendence is the form of appearance of immanence. As the melodramatic wisdom puts it, it is love itself, the fact of being loved, that ultimately makes the beloved beautiful.

Let us return to our fundamentalist: the obverse of his turning into a dupe of his fantasy is that he loses his sensitivity for the enigma of the Other's desire. In a recent case of analytic treatment in UK, the patient, a woman who was a victim of rape, remained deeply disturbed by an unexpected gesture of the rapist: after already brutally enforcing her surrender, and just prior to penetrating her, he withdraw a little bit, politely said "Just a minute, lady!" and put on a condom. This weird intrusion of politeness into a brutal situation perplexed the victim: what was its meaning? Was it a strange care for her, or a simple egotistic protective measure from the part of the rapist (making it sure that he will not get AIDS from her, and not the other way round). This gesture, much more than explosions of raw passion, stands for the encounter of the "enigmatic signifier," of the desire of the Other in all its impenetrability. Does such an encounter of the Other's desire follow the logic of alienation or that of separation? It can be an experience of utter alienation (I am obsessed with the inaccessible obscure impenetrable divine Desire which plays games with me, as in the Jansenist dieu obscur); however, the key shift occurs when, in a Hegelian way, we gain insight into how "the secrets of the Egyptians were also secret for the Egyptians themselves," i.e., into how our alienation FROM the Other is already the alienation OF the Other (from) itself - it is this redoubled alienation that generates what Lacan called separation as the overlapping of the two lacks.

And the link between these two features of the fundamentalist's position is clear: since fantasy is a scenario the subject builds in order to answer the enigma of the Other's desire, i.e., since fantasy provides an answer to "What does the Other want from me?", the immediate identification with the fantasy as it were closes up the gap - the enigma is clarified, we fully know the answer...

When theologians try to reconcile the existence of God with the fact of shoah, their answers build a strange succession of Hegelian triads. First, those who want to leave divine sovereignty unimpaired and thus have to attribute to God full responsibility for shoah, first offer (1) the "legalistic" sin-and-punishment theory (shoah has to be a punishment for the past sins of humanity-or Jews themselves); then, they pass (2) to the "moralistic" character-education theory (shoah is to be understood along the lines of the story of Job, as the most radical test of our faith in God - if we survive this ordeal, our character will stand firm...); and, finally, they take refuge in a kind of "infinite judgement" which should save the day after all common measure between shoah and its meaning breaks down, and (3) the divine mystery theory (facts like shoah bear witness to the unfathomable abyss of divine will). In accordance with the Hegelian motto of a redoubled mystery (the mystery God is for us has to be also a mystery for God Himself), the truth of this "infinite judgement" can only be to deny God's full sovereignty and omnipotence.

The next triad is thus composed of those who, unable to combine shoah with God's omnipotence (how could He have allowed it to happen?), opt for some form of divine limitation: (1) first, God is directly posited as finite (not all-encompassing, overwhelmed by the dense inertia of his own creation); (2) then, this limitation is reflected back into God himself as his free act - God is self-limited (He voluntarily constrained his power in order to leave the space open for human freedom); (3) finally, the self-limitation is externalized, the two moments are posited as autonomous - God is embattled (the dualistic solution: there is a counter-force or principle of demoniac Evil active in the world). However, it is only here that we encounter the core of the problem of the origin of Evil.

The standard metaphysical-religious notion of Evil is that of doubling, gaining a distance, abandoning the reference to the big Other, our Origin and Goal, turning away from the original divine One, getting caught into the self-referential egotistic loop, thus introducing a gap into the global balance and harmony of the One-All. The easy, all too slick, postmodern solution to this is to retort that the way out of this self-incurred impasse consists in abandoning the very presupposition of the primordial One from which one turned away, i.e., to accept that our primordial situation is that of finding oneself in a complex situation, one within a multitude of foreign elements-only the theologico-metaphysical presupposition of the original One compels us to perceive the alien as the outcome of (our) alienation. From this perspective, the Evil is not the redoubling of the primordial One, turning away from it, but the very imposition of an all-encompassing One onto the primordial dispersal. However, what if the true task of thought is to think the self-division of the One, to think the One itself as split within itself, as involving an inherent gap?

The very gap between gnosticism and monotheism can thus be accounted for in the terms of the origin of evil: while gnosticism locates the primordial duality of Good and Evil into God himself (the material universe into which we are fallen is the creation of an evil and/or stupid divinity, and what gives us hope is the good divinity which keeps alive the promise of another reality, our true home), monotheism saves unity (one-ness) of a good God by locating the origin of evil into our freedom (evil is either finitude as such, the inertia of material reality, or the spiritual act of willfully turning away from God). It is easy to bring the two together by claiming that the Gnostic duality of God is merely a "reflexive determination" of our own changed attitude towards God: what we perceive as two Gods is effectively the split in our nature, in our relating to God. However, the true task is to locate the source of the split between good and evil into God himself while remaining within the field of monotheism - the task which tried to accomplish German mystics (Jakob Boehme) and later philosophers who took over their problematic (Schelling, Hegel). In other words, the task is to transpose the human "external reflection" which enacts the split between good and evil back into the One God himself.

Back to the topic of shoah, this brings us to the third position above and beyond the first two (the sovereign God, the finite God), that of a suffering God: not a triumphalist God who always wins at the end, although "his ways are mysterious," since he secretly pulls all the strings; not a God who exerts cold justice, since he is by definition always right; but a God who - like the suffering Christ on the Cross - is agonized, assumes the burden of suffering, in solidarity with the human misery. It was already Schelling who wrote: "God is a life, not merely a being. But all life has a fate and is subject to suffering and becoming. /.../ Without the concept of a humanly suffering God /.../ all of history remains incomprehensible." Why? Because God's suffering implies that He is involved in history, affected by it, not just a transcendent Master pulling the strings from above: God's suffering means that human history is not just a theater of shadows, but the place of the real struggle, the struggle in which the Absolute itself is involved and its fate is decided. This is the philosophical background of Dietrich Bonhoffer's deep insight that, after shoah, "only a suffering God can help us now" - a proper supplement to Heidegger's "Only a God can still save us!" from his last interview. One should therefore take the statement that "the unspeakable suffering of the six millions is also the voice of the suffering of God" quite literally: the very excess of this suffering over any "normal" human measure makes it divine. Recently, this paradox was succinctly formulated by Juergen Habermas: "Secular languages which only eliminate the substance once intended leave irritations. When sin was converted to culpability, and the breaking of divine commands to an offense against human laws, something was lost." Which is why the secular-humanist reactions to phenomena like shoah or gulag (AND others) is experienced as insufficient: in order to be at the level of such phenomena, something much stronger is needed, something akin to the old religious topic of a cosmic perversion or catastrophe in which the world itself is "out of joint." Therein resides the paradox of the theological significance of shoah: although it is usually conceived as the ultimate challenge to theology (if there is a God and if he is good, how could he have allowed such a horror to take place?), it is at the same time only theology which can provide the frame enabling us to somehow approach the scope of this catastrophe - the fiasco of God is still the fiasco of GOD.
-Slavoj Zizek, "With or Without Passion"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Imprint or In-Print?

That mirror
Which makes of men a transparency,
Who holds that mirror
And bids us such a breast-bare spectacle see
Of you and me?

That mirror
Whose magic penetrates like a dart,
Who lifts that mirror
And throws our mind back on us, and our heart,
until we start?

That mirror
Works well in these night hours of ache;
Why in that mirror
Are tincts we never see ourselves once take
When the world is awake?

That mirror
Can test each mortal when unaware;
Yea, that strange mirror
May catch his last thoughts, whole life foul or fair,
Glassing it -- where?
-Thomas Hardy, "Moments of Vision"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Posing Poseurs

So where are the liberal outcries about denigrating and exploiting Native American culture for monetary gain? Who will be the "magical Indians" whose lend "No Doubt" a PC Pass, or does "beauty" not need one?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Travels with Dante

This obscene virtual dimension is inscribed into an ideological text in the guise of the fantasmatic background that sustains the emptiness of what Jacques Lacan called the Master-Signifier. The master-Signifier is tha signifier of potentiality, of potential threat, ot a threat which, in order to function as such, has to remain potential (in the same way as it is also the signifier of potential meaning whose actuality is the void of meaning: say, "our Nation" is the thing itself, 'the supreme Cause worth dying for, the highest density of meaning - and, as such, it means nothing in particular, it has no determinate meaning, it can be articulated only in the guise a tautology - "Nation is the Thing itself"). This emptiness of the threat is clearly discernible in everyday phrases like "Just wait! You will see what will happen to you!" - the very lack of the specification of WHAT exactly will befall you makes the threat so threatening, since it solicits the power of my fantasy to fill it in with imagined horrors. As such, the Master-Signifier is the privileged site at which fantasy intervenes, since the function of fantasy is precisely to fill in the void of the signifier-without-signified, i.e., fantasy is ultimately, at its most elementarv, the stuff which fills in the void of the Master-Signifier: again, in the case of a Nation, all the mythic obscure narratives which tell us what the nation is... This gap between the Law and its superego supplement concerns the ambiguous status of political representation, the constitutive excess of representation over the represented. At the level of the Law, the state Power only represents the interests of its subjects; it is serving them, responsible to them and itself subjected to their control; however, at the level of the superego underside, the public message of responsibility, etc., is supplemented by the obscene message of unconditional exercise of Power: laws do not really bind me, I can do to you WHATEVER I WANT, I can treat you as guilty if I decide so, I can destroy you if I say so... This obscene excess is a necessary constituent of the notion of sovereignty (whose signifier is the Master-Signifier) - the asymmetry is here structural, i.e. the law can only sustain its authority if subjects hear in it the echo of the obscene unconditional self-assertion.

It is similar with anti-Semitism: Jew is the Master-Signifier, the ultimate empty point of reference which accounts for the (inconsistent) series of phenomena that bother people (corruption, moral and cultural decadence, sexual depravity, commercialization, class struggle and other social antagonisms ... ); as such, the figure of the Jew has to be sustained/encircled by the swarm of fantasies about their mysterious rituals and properties. 6 However, in the XXth century, this link between power and invisible threat gets in a way redoubled or reflected-into itself: it is no longer merely the existing power structure which, in order to sustain its efficiency, its hold over its subjects, has to rely on the fantasmatic dimension of the potential/invisible threat; the place of the threat is, rather, externalized, displaced into the Outside, the Enemy of the power - it is the invisible (and for that very reason all-powerful and omnipresent) threat of the Enemy that legitimizes the permanent state of emergency of the existing Power (Fascists invoked the threat of the Jewish conspiracy, Stalinists the threat of the class enemy up to today's "war on terror," of course). This invisible threat of the Enemy legitimizes the logic of the preemptive strike: precisely because the threat is virtual, it is too late to wait for its actualization, one has to strike in advance, before it will be too late... In other words, the omnipresent invisible threat of Terror legitimizes the all too visible protective measures of defense (which pose the only TRUE threat to democracy and human rights, of course)if the classic power functioned as the threat which was operative precisely by way of never actualizing itself, by way of remaining a threatening GESTURE (and this functioning reached its climax in the Cold War, with the the threat of the mutual nuclear destruction which HAD to remain a threat), with the war on terror, the invisible threat causes the incessant actualization - not of itself, but - of the measures against itself. The nuclear strike had to remain the threat of a strike, while the threat of the terrorist strike triggers the endless series of strikes against potential terrorists... The power which presents itself as being all the time under threat, living in mortal danger, and thus merely defending itself, is the most dangerous kind of power.
-Slavoj Zizek, "Move the Underground"

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Elisa - "L'Anima Vola"

The soul flies
It just needs some fresh air
If you look into my eyes
Search for my heart
Don't get lost in its reflections

Don't buy me anything
I am gonna smile if you'll notice me in the crowd
Yes, it is important that
I'll be for you in any case and anywhere
The one you have known forever

A kiss is like the wind
When it slowly blows and yet it moves everything
And a strong soul that can be on its own
When it looks for you it is just because it still wants you
And if it looks for you it is just because

The soul dares
It gets lost
And then finds itself again
And look how it dances
Whenever it knows you are there watching

Dont't bring me anything
As long as I'll know i can stop an instant with you
If I can make it
Then I'll be able to recognize you through a thousand storms

A kiss is like the wind
When it slowly blows and yet it moves everything
A strong soul who is not afraid
When it looks for you it is just because it still wants you
When it looks for you it is just because it still wants you
And if it looks for you it is just because...

The soul flies
Doesn't get lost
The soul flies
Doesn't hide
The soul flies
What does it need?
The soul flies
Doesn't fade away

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

OVER-Identify with ME!

It is against the background of this constitutive tension of the Law between public-written Law and superego that one should comprehend the extraordinary critical-ideological impact of the Neue Slowenische Kunst, especially of Laibach group. In the process of disintegration of socialism in Slovenia, they staged an aggressive inconsistent mixture of Stalinism, Nazism, and Blut und Boden ideology. The first reaction of the enlightened Leftist critics was to conceive of Laibach as the ironic imitation of totalitarian rituals; however, their support of Laibach was always accompanied by an uneasy feeling: "What if they really mean it? What if they truly identify with the totalitarian ritual?" -or, a more cunning version of it, transferring one's own doubt onto the other: "What if Laibach overestimates their public? What if the public takes seriously what Laibach mockingly imitates, so that Laibach actually strengthens what it purports to undermine?" This uneasy feeling is fed on the assumption that ironic distance is automatically a subversive attitude. What if, on the contrary, the dominant attitude of the contemporary "postideological" universe is precisely the cynical distance toward public values? What if this distance, far from posing any threat to the system, designates the supreme form of conformism, since the normal function of the system requires cynical distance? In this sense the strategy of Laibach appears in a new light: it "frustrates" the system (the ruling ideology) precisely insofar as it is not its ironic imitation, but over-identification with it - by bringing to light the obscene superego underside of the system, over-identification suspends its efficiency. (In order to clarify the way this baring, this public staging of the obscene fantasmatic kernel of an ideological edifice, suspends its normal functioning, let us recall a somehow homologous phenomenon in the sphere of individual experience: each of us has some private ritual, phrase [nicknames, etc.] or gesture, used only within the most intimate circle of closest friends or relatives; when these rituals are rendered public, their effect is necessarily one of extreme embarrassment and shame - one has a mind to sink into the earth.)
The ultimate expedient of Laibach is their deft manipulation of transference: their public (especially intellectuals) is obsessed with the "desire of the Other" -what is Laibach's actual position, are they truly totalitarians or not?- i.e., they address Laibach with a question and expect from them an answer, failing to notice that Laibach itself does not function as an answer but a question. By means of the elusive character of their desire, of the indecidability as to "where they actually stand," Laibach compels us to take up our position and decide upon our desire. Laibach here actually accomplishes the reversal that defines the end of psychoanalytical cure. At the outset of the cure is transference: the transferential relationship is put in force as soon as the analyst appears in the guise of the subject supposed to know - to know the truth about the analysand's desire. When, in the course of the psychoanalysis, the analysand complains that he doesn't know what he wants, all this moan and groan is addressed to the analyst, with the implicit supposition that the analyst does know it. In other words, i.e., insofar as the analyst stands for the Big Other, the analysand's illusion lies in reducing his ignorance about his desire to an "epistemological" incapacity: the truth about his desire already exists, it is registered somewhere in the Big Other, one has only to bring it to light and his desiring will run smoothly. The end of the psychoanalysis, the dissolution of transference, occurs when this "epistemological" incapacity shifts into "ontological" impossibility: the analysand has to experience how the Big Other also does not possess the truth about his desire, how his desire is without guarantee, groundless, authorized only in itself. In this precise sense, the dissolution of transference designates the moment when the arrow of the Question that the analysand pointed at the analyst turns back toward the analysand himself: first, the analysand's (hysterical) question addressed to the analyst supposed to possess the answer; then, the analysand is forced to acknowledge that the analyst himself is nothing but a big Question mark addressed to the analysand. Here one can specify Lacan's thesis that an analyst is authorized only by himself: an analysand becomes analyst upon assuming that his desire has no support in the Other, that the authorization of his desire can only come from himself. And insofar as this same reversal of the direction of the arrow defines drive, we could say (as Lacan does say) that what takes place at the end of the psychoanalysis is the shift from desire to drive.
Slavoj Zizek, ""Why are Laibach and NSK not Fascists?"

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Driving to Desire

We can see, now, how we are to conceive the opposition between desire and drive. Insofar as desire remains our horizon, our position ultimately amounts to a kind of Levinasian openness to the enigma of the Other, to the imponderable mystery of the Other's desire. In clear contrast to this attitude of respect for the Other in its transcendence, drive introduces radical immanence: desire is open to the transcendence of the Other, while drive is "closed," absolutely immanent. Or, to put it in a slightly different way, desire and drive are to be contrasted as are subject and object: there is a subject of desire and an object of drive. In desire, the subject longs for the (lost) object, whereas in drive, the subject makes herself an object (the scopic drive, for example, involves an attitude of se faire voire, of "making-oneself-seen," not simply of wanting to see). Perhaps this is how we are to read Schelling's notion of the highest freedom as the state in which activity and passivity, being-active and being-acted-upon, harmoniously overlap: man reaches his acme when he turns his very subjectivity into the Predicate of an ever higher Power (in the mathematical sense of the term), i.e. when he, as it were, yields to the Other, "depersonalizes" his most intense activity and performs it as if some other, higher Power is acting through him, using him as its medium - like the mystical experience of Love, or like an artist who, in the highest frenzy of creativity, experiences himself as a medium through which some more substantial, impersonal Power expresses itself. The crucial point is to distinguish this position from that of the pervert, who also undergoes a kind of "subjective destitution" and posits himself as the object-cause of the Other's desire (see the case of the Stalinist Communist who conceives himself as the pure object-instrument of the realization of the Necessity of History). For the pervert, the big Other exists, while the subject at the end of the psychoanalytic process assumes the nonexistence of the big Other. In short, the Other for whom the subject "makes herself... (seen, heard, active)" has no independent existence and ultimately relies on the subject herself - in this precise sense, the subject who makes herself the Other's object-cause becomes her own cause.
-Zizek, "From desire to drive: Why Lacan is not Lacaniano"

Monday, October 7, 2013

The ShutNado Blues

You can't always get it
When you really want it
You can't always get it at all
Just because there's space
In your life it's a waste
To spend your time why don't you wait for the call

(Just gotta get used to it)
We all get it in the end

(Just gotta get used to it)
We go down and we come up again
(Just gotta get used to it)
You irritate me my friend
(This is no social crisis)
This is you having fun
(No crisis)
Getting burned by the sun
(This is true)
This is no social crisis
Just another tricky day for you

You can't always get higher
Just because you aspire
You could expire even knowing.
Don't push the hands
Just hang on to the band
You can dance while your knowledge is growing

(It could happen anytime)
You can't expect to never cry
(Patience is priceless)
Not when you try to fly so high
(Just stay on that line)
Rock and roll will never die
(This is no social crisis)

Another tricky day
Another gently nagging pain
What the papers say
Just seems to bring down heavier rain
The world seems in a spiral
Life seems such a worthless title
But break out and start a fire y'all
It's all here on the vinyl
(No crisis)

Repeat verse 1.

(Just gotta get used to it)
Gotta get used to waiting
(Just gotta get used to it)
You know how the ice is
(Just gotta get used to it)
It's thin where you're skating
(This is no social crisis)

Just another tricky day for you fellah

Friday, October 4, 2013

Entering Ideology - Will You Be My Mirror Frame?

paraphrasing: "Art has been reduced to a purely functional notion, ie- representing the function of beauty rather than exercising it"
- Zizek, "The Fragile Absolute"
The Lady of courtly love is an interesting concept, because she is not in any way defined by her own character. The Lady is, at a surface level, a woman that exists only as a wholly idealized version of what a man wants; however, at a deeper level, she is something a man avoids attaining because if he does, his Ideal will be shattered (Žižek 2407-2408, 2414). First, it is important to understand how the idealization of a woman works, as it is sort of a window to the rest of courtly love. Lacan said of her: “The Lady is never characterized for her real, concrete virtues, for her wisdom, her prudence, or even her competence. If she is described as wise, it is only because she embodies an immaterial wisdom or because she represents its functions more than she exercises them” (Lacan qtd. in Žižek 2407). According to Lacan’s idea of the mirror stage, the Lady is, for no real reason at all, a fantasy ideal, the “I” that the young child found in the mirror. The Lady is a representational object, something that man finds to have meaning simply because he desires it to be so: the Lady, “deprived of every real substance,... functions as a mirror on to which the subject projects his narcissistic ideal” (Žižek 2408). The Lady, is, then, one of the “phantasies” that is “manufacture[d]” by the mirror stage (Lacan 166).
- Caitlin Matwijec, "High Society Love, or Woman as Nothing"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Need Some Good Hollywood Bad Guys...Just Re-Brand Them as Republicans!

...for they are never the fungus among us.

Perhaps THAT is the root of "Communist/ Socialist" ideological filter. The herd uber alles. But only "one" herd... so we can love them "ALL" (which means there will always one whom we HATE! For the "Kulak" (aka "Republican") is "Great Enemy of the People".)
...just more proof that Hollywood has run out of "good" bad guys.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ideological Fueled Fantasies

The only 'good' bad guy, is the bad guy who can keep the flaws in your ideology from materializing and exposing its' falsity...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Eternal Optimism

"The Sound of No Music"

In life there is no music
To warn us of danger,
Or sudden love. No strings
Start sobbing, no shark-attack
Knife beats, no gothic
Heart-clutching crescendo

ell (sic) us, don’t go down those stairs!
The shocks
Of burglar in your bedroom, metal
Railing through your chest, bus
Driving through your car, all
Happen, like sudden joy,
To totally inappropriate soundtracks
Or none at all. Blackbirds practise
Their phrasing, soap operas bleat,
A toilet flushes, as our life changes
Or ends, as we think, more
Than our pre-cinema ancestors did,
How, how can this happen, and to me?
-Quantum Sheep

Friday, September 20, 2013

Why Kill Off Authors?

"The author is the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning"
- Michael Foucault, "What is an Author?" (1979)

How else can you appropriate their mental labour? If there are no "author's" proper, only "author functions", then the individual's role as "cog in the machine" is affirmed and the writer's legal rights (to "property" - copyright) "erased". You may now through "custom" begin to legally appropriate the author's already completed efforts and attach new meanings (and authorities) to them for whomever (and whatever) project you wish!
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
- Randall Jarrell, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" (1945)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Yorkshire Greetings!

At this moment the door was flung open, and a shrill voice was heard singing:
'To the Looking-Glass world it was Alice that said,
"I've a sceptre in hand, I've a crown on my head;
Let the Looking-Glass creatures, whatever they be,
Come and dine with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me."'
And hundreds of voices joined in the chorus:
'Then fill up the glasses as quick as you can,
And sprinkle the table with buttons and bran:
Put cats in the coffee, and mice in the tea—
And welcome Queen Alice with thirty-times-three!'
Then followed a confused noise of cheering, and Alice thought to herself, 'Thirty times three makes ninety. I wonder if any one's counting?' In a minute there was silence again, and the same shrill voice sang another verse;
'"O Looking-Glass creatures," quoth Alice, "draw near!
'Tis an honour to see me, a favour to hear:
'Tis a privilege high to have dinner and tea
Along with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me!"'
Then came the chorus again:—
'Then fill up the glasses with treacle and ink,
Or anything else that is pleasant to drink:
Mix sand with the cider, and wool with the wine—
And welcome Queen Alice with ninety-times-nine!'
- Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"

Monday, September 16, 2013


from Wikipedia -
The distancing effect, more commonly known (earlier) by John Willett's 1964 translation the alienation effect or (more recently) as the estrangement effect (German: Verfremdungseffekt), is a performing arts concept coined by playwright Bertolt Brecht. Brecht first used the term in an essay on "Alienation Effects in Chinese Acting" published in 1936, in which he described it as "playing in such a way that the audience was hindered from simply identifying itself with the characters in the play. Acceptance or rejection of their actions and utterances was meant to take place on a conscious plane, instead of, as hitherto, in the audience's subconscious" Brecht's term describes the aesthetics of his epic theatre.
Is the essential function of "fiction" and "rationality" generally, to create a subjective "distance"?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Missed Me?

for every word
a dream
every vision
a cumulous joy
the dream
summoning vastness
the world
wide asleep.
- Pablo Soborio

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Island Possibilities

My life, my life, my very old
My first badly closed off wish
My first affirmed love
You had to come back
You had to come back
I had to know how life could be better

When our bodies played with their happiness
And endlessly came together and were reborn
And endlessly came together and were reborn
To enter full independence
I know the trembling of being
The hesitation to disappear
The sun which strikes the edge
And the love where everything is easy
Where all is given in the moment

There exists in these times the possibility of an island
There exists in these times the possibility of an island
My life, my life, my very old
My first badly closed off wish
My first affirmed love
You had to come back
You had to come back
I had to know how life could be better

How life can be better
When our bodies played with their happiness
And endlessly came together and were reborn
To enter full independence
I know the trembling of being
The hesitation to disappear
The sun which strikes the edge
And the love where everything is easy
Where all is given in the moment

There exists in these times the possibility of an island
There exists in these times the possibility of an island
The only "fully realized" sexual relationship in the entire Ring is the incestuous link of Siegmund and Sieglinde – all other amorous links are a fake or go terribly awry. Take Siegfried and his Tante Brunhilde (Wotan, her father, is also his grandfather): the time-gap between Siegfried and The Twilight can be considered a time of sexual bliss, a time when, off screen, intense love-making goes on all the night. However, an indeniable hollowness pertains to Siegfried's and Brunhilde's ecstatically-triumphant duo which concludes Siegfried: this duo's love-passion is clearly contrived, a pale shadow of the intensity of Siegmund's and Sieglinde's passionate embrace that concludes the Act I of Walküre. And, magnificent as it is, the great awakening of the couple in the Scene 2 of the Prelude to The Twilight is the beginning of the road to gradual disintegration – however, this ultimate "travel with my aunt" enables Brunhilde to gain the highest knowledge: the outcome of the last events is "that a women becomes knowing." One should not be afraid to ask here a stupid and direct question: which is this knowledge? What, exactly, does she get to know? The lines in which she is defined as "knowing" give a very precise reason: "Mich musste der Reinste verraten, dass wissend wurde ein Weib." (The purest had to betray me, so that a woman became knowing.) It is this betrayal that makes her all-knowing: "All things, all things, all I know now; all to me is revealed." In what precise way did Siegfried's betrayal make her knowing?

The answer is provided by a so-called motif of "renunciation," arguably the most important leitmotif in the entire tetralogy.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Brunhilde's Act"

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Death of Desire

Whoever forges a ring of it (das rheingold) wins the wealth of the world and the immeasurable power it brings...

...only he who renounces love and love's desire may be able to learn the magic to forge a ring from the gold.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Twilight of the Gods

"Linguistic danger to spiritual freedom.-- Every word is a prejudice."
- Nietzsche, "Zarathustra (The Wanderer and his Shadow)"

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On Symbolism

The Symbolic - Although an essentially linguistic dimension, Lacan does not simply equate the symbolic with language, since the latter is involved also in the imaginary and the real. The symbolic dimension of language is that of the signifier, in which elements have no positive existence but are constituted by virtue of their mutual differences. It is the realm of radical alterity: the Other. The unconscious is the discourse of the Other and thus belongs to the symbolic order. Its is also the realm of the Law that regulates desire in the Oedipus complex. The symbolic is both the "pleasure principle" that regulates the distance from das Ding, and the "death drive" which goes beyond the pleasure principle by means of repetition: "the death drive is only the mask of the symbolic order." This register is determinant of subjectivity; for Lacan the symbolic is characterized by the absence of any fixed relations between signifier and signified.
Tony Meyers, "Slavoj Zizek: Key Ideas"


In the Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan develops the neighbor as “das Ding”, (the Thing) a pre-symbolic object characterized primarily by affect and appearing in the symbolic realm prior to any and all representation. Das Ding is a substanceless void, and in structure it is equivalent to the neighbor, or the Other. The Other takes on a “thing-like” character based on an excess materiality that always resists symbolization in the register of the real. This Other as object is filled in by a certain distance, what Lacan refers to as proximity, a proximity that is identical to the neighbor. As Lacan comments, “the neighbor is identical to the subject, in the same way that one can say the Nebenmensch that Freud speaks of as the foundation of das Ding as his neighbor.” Lacan’s theory of the neighbor-as-das-Ding is rooted in Freud’s conception of das Ding:
“and so the complex of the neighbor divides into two constituent parts the first of which impresses through the constancy of its compos[i]tion, its persistence as a Thing, while the other is understood by means of memory-work…”
-Daniel Tutt, "The Object of Proximity"

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cultural Clash of the Civilizational Titans!

Why are today so many problems perceived as problems of intolerance, not as problems of inequality, exploitation, injustice? Why is the proposed remedy tolerance, not emancipation, political struggle, even armed struggle? The immediate answer is the liberal multiculturalist's basic ideological operation: the "culturalization of politics" - political differences, differences conditioned by political inequality, economic exploitation, etc., are naturalized/neutralized into "cultural" differences, different "ways of life," which are something given, something that cannot be overcome, but merely "tolerated." To this, of course, one should answer in Benjaminian terms: from culturalization of politics to politicization of culture. The cause of this culturalization is the retreat, failure, of direct political solutions (Welfare State, socialist projects, etc.). Tolerance is their post-political ersatz:
The retreat from more substantive visions of justice heralded by the promulgation of tolerance today is part of a more general depoliticization of citizenship and power and retreat from political life itself. The cultivation of tolerance as a political end implicitly constitutes a rejection of politics as a domain in which conflict can be productively articulated and addressed, a domain in which citizens can be transformed by their participation.
Perhaps, nothing expresses better the inconsistency of the post-political liberal project than its implicit paradoxical identification of culture and nature, the two traditional opposites: culture itself is naturalized, posited as something given. (The idea of culture as "second nature" is, of course, an old one.) It was, of course, Samuel Huntington who proposed the most successful formula of this "culturalization of politics" by locating the main source of today's conflicts into the "clash of civilizations," what one is tempted to call the Huntington's disease of our time - as he put it, after the end of the Cold War, the "iron curtain of ideology" has been replaced by the "velvet curtain of culture. Huntington's dark vision of the "clash of civilizations" may appear to be the very opposite of Francis Fukuyama's bright prospect of the End of History in the guise of a world-wide liberal democracy: what can be more different from Fukuyama's pseudo-Hegelian idea of the "end of history" (the final Formula of the best possible social order was found in capitalist liberal democracy, there is now no space for further conceptual progress, there are just empirical obstacles to be overcome), than Huntington's "clash of civilizations" as the main political struggle in the XXIst century? The "clash of civilizations" IS politics at the "end of history."

-Slavoj Zizek, "Tolerance as an Ideological Category"


What occurs between Monteverdi and Gluck is thus the failure of sublimation: the subject is no longer ready to accept the metaphoric substitution, to exchange “being for meaning,” i.e., the flesh-and-blood presence of the beloved for the fact that he will be able to see her everywhere, in stars and the moon, etc. - rather than do this, he prefers to take his life, to lose it all, and it is at this point, to fill in the refusal of sublimation, of its metaphoric exchange, that mercy has to intervene to prevent a total catastrophy. And we live in the shadow of this failed sublimation till today.

Michel Houellebecq’s novels are interesting in this context: he endlessly varies the motif of the failure of sublimation in contemporary Western societies characterized by “the collapse of religion and tradition, the unrestrained worship of pleasure and youth, and the prospect of a future totalized by scientific rationality and joylessness.”. Here is the dark side of 1960’s sexual liberation: the full commodification of sexuality. Houellebecq depicts the morning after of the Sexual Revolution, the sterility of a universe dominated by the superego injunction to enjoy. All of his work focuses on the antinomy of love and sexuality: sex is an absolute necessity, to renounce it is to wither away, so love cannot flourish without sex; simultaneously, however, love is impossible precisely because of sex: sex, which “proliferates as the epitome of late capitalism’s dominance, has permanently stained human relationships as inevitable reproductions of the dehumanizing nature of liberal society; it has, essentially, ruined love.”. Sex is thus, to put it in Derridean terms, simultaneously the condition of the possibility and of the impossibility of love. The miracle of sublimation is precisely to temporarily resolve this antinomy: in it, love continues to transpire in the very imperfections of the sexual body in decay.
-Slavoj Zizek, Brunhilde's Act

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Last Temp-tata-tions

This brings us to what, for Lacan, is the ultimate ethical trap: to confer on the fantasmatic gesture of deprivation some sacrificial value, something that can only be justified with a reference to a deeper meaning. This seems to be the trap into which The Life of David Gale fell, a film which has the dubious distinction of being the first big Hollywood production to include an explicit Lacanian reference. Kevin Spacey plays a philosophy professor and opponent of the death penalty who, very early on, is seen delivering a course on Lacan’s “graph of desire.” Later, he sleeps with one of his students, loses his job, is shunned by the community, and then gets blamed for the murder of a close female friend, ending up on death row, where a reporter (Kate Winslet) comes to interview him. Initially certain that he his guilty, she begins to have doubts when he tells her: “Think about it―I was one of the biggest opponents of the death penalty, and now I’m on death row.” Pursuing her research, Winslet discovers a tape which reveals that he didn’t commit the murder―but too late, since he has already been executed. She makes the tape public, however, and the inadequacies of the death penalty are duly revealed. In the last moments of the film, Winslet receives another version of the tape in which the whole truth becomes clear: the allegedly murdered woman in fact killed herself (she was dying anyway of cancer), and Spacey was present as she did so. In other words, Spacey was engaged in an elaborate anti-death-penalty activist plot: he sacrificed himself for the greater good of exposing the horror and injustice of death penalty. What makes the film interesting is that, retroactively, we see how this act is grounded in Spacey’s reading of Lacan at the film’s beginning: from the (correct) insight into the fantasmatic support of desire, it draws the conclusion that all human desires are vain, and proposes helping others, right up to sacrificing one’s life for them, as the only proper ethical course. Here, measured by the proper Lacanian standards, the film fails: it endorses an ethic of radical self-sacrifice for the good of others; this is why the hero makes sure Winslet receives the final tape―because ultimately he needs the symbolic recognition of his act. No matter how radical the hero’s self-sacrifice, the big Other is still there.
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Two Sides of Fantasy"

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sucking Upon Monkey Balls

In his seminar on the Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan elaborates the distinction between two types of the contemporary intellectual, the fool and the knave:
The 'fool' is an innocent, a simpleton, but truths issue from his mouth that are not simply tolerated, but adopted by virtue of the fact that this 'fool' is sometimes clothed in the insignia of the jester. And in my view it is a similar happy shadow, a similar fundamental 'foolery', that accounts for the importance of the left wing intellectual.

And I contract this with the designation for that which the same tradition furnishes a strictly contemporary term, a term that is used in conjunction with the former, namely, 'knave'... He's not a cynic with the element of heroism implied by that attitude. He is, to be precise, what Stendhal called an 'unmitigated scoundrel'. That is to say, no more than your Mr. Everyman, but your Mr. everyman with greater strength of character.

Everyone knows that a certain way of presenting himself, which constitutes part of the ideology of the right-wing intellectual, is precisely to play the role of what he is in fact, namely, a 'knave'. In other words, he doesn't retreat from the consequences of what is called realism; that is, when required, he admits he's a crook.
In short, the right-wing intellectual is a knave, a conformist who refers to the mere existence of the given order as an argument for it, and mocks the Left on account of its' utopian plans, which necessarily lead to catastrophe; while the left-wing intellectual is a fool, a court jester who publically displays the lie of the existing order, but in a way which suspends the performative efficiency of his speech. Today, after the fall of Socialism, the knave is a neoconservative advocate of the free market who cruelly rejects all forms of social solidarity as a counterproductive sentimentalism, while the fool is a deconstructionist cultural critic who, by means of his ludic procedures destined to 'subvert' the existing order, actually serves as its' supplement.

What psychoanalysis can do to help us to break this vicious cycle of the fool-knave, is to lay bare its underlying libidinal economy - the libidinal profit, the 'surplus enjoyment', which sustains the two positions. Two vulgar jokes about testicles from Eastern Europe illustrate the fool-knave opposition perfectly. In the first one, a customer is sitting at a bar drinking whiskey; a monkey comes dancing along the counter, stops at his glass, washes his balls in it, and dances away. Badly shocked, the customer orders another glass of whiskey; the monkey strolls along again and does the same. Furious, the customer asks the bartender: 'Do you know why that monkey is washing his balls in my whiskey?' The bartender replies: 'I have no idea - ask the gypsy, he knows everything!' The guest turns to the gypsy, who is wandering around the bar, amusing guests with his violin and songs and asks him: 'Do you know why that monkey is washing his balls in my whiskey?' The gypsy answer calmly: 'Yes, sure!', and starts to sing a sad and melancholic song: 'Why does that monkey wash his balls in my whiskey, O why...' - the point, of course, is that gypsy musicians are supposed to know hundreds of songs and perform them at the customers request, so the gypsy has understood the customer's question as a request for a song about a monkey washing his balls in whiskey... The second joke takes place in medieval Russia, under the Tatar occupation, where a Tartar horseman encounters, on a lonely country road, a peasant with his young wife. The Tartar warrior not only wants to have sex with her, but - to add insult to injury, and to humiliate the peasant even further - he orders him to hold his (the Tartar's) balls gently in his hands, so that they will not get too dirty while he copulates with the wife on the dusty road. After the Tartar has finished with the sexual encounter and ridden away, the peasant starts to chuckle with pleasure; asked by his wife what is so funny about her being raped in front of her husband he answers: 'Don't you get it, my love? I duped him - I didn't really hold his balls, they're full of dust and dirt!"

So: if the conservative knave is not unlike the gypsy, since he also, in answer to a concrete complaint ('Why are things so horrible for us.../gays, blacks, women/?'), sings his tragic songs of eternal fate ('Why are things so bad for us people, O why?') - that is, he also, as it were, changes the tonality of the question from concrete complaint to abstract acceptance of the enigma of Fate - the satisfaction of the progressive fool, a 'social critic', is of the same kind as that of the Russian peasant, the typical hysterical satisfaction of snatching a little piece of Jouissance away from the Master. If the victim in the first joke were a fool, he would allow the monkey to wash his balls in the whiskey yet another time, but would add some dirt or sticky stuff to his glass beforehand, so that after the monkey's departure he would be able to claim triumphantly: 'I duped him! His balls are even dirtier now than before!'


...Each of the two positions, that of the fool and that of the knave, is thus sustained by its own kind of jouissance: the enjoyment of snatching back from the Master part of the jouissance he stole from us (in the case of the fool); the enjoyment which directly pertains to the subjects pain (in the case of the knave). What psychoanalysis can do to help the critique of ideology is precisely to clarify the status of this paradoxical jouissance as the payment that the exploited, the servant, receives for serving the Master. This jouissance, of course, always emerges within a certain phantasmatic field; the crucial precondition for breaking the chains of servitude is thus to 'traverse the fantasy' which structures our jouissance in a way which keeps us attached to the Master - makes us accept the framework of the social relationship of domination.
-Zizek, "The Plague of Fantasies"