Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reverse Atavism

LE garcon délabré qui n’a rien à faire
Que de se gratter les doigts et se pencher sur mon épaule:
“Dans mon pays il fera temps pluvieux,
Du vent, du grand soleil, et de la pluie;
C’est ce qu’on appelle le jour de lessive des gueux.”
(Bavard, baveux, à la croupe arrondie,
Je te prie, au moins, ne bave pas dans la soupe).
“Les saules trempés, et des bourgeons sur les ronces—
C’est là, dans une averse, qu’on s’abrite.
J’avais sept ans, elle était plus petite.
Elle etait toute mouillée, je lui ai donné des primavères.”
Les tâches de son gilet montent au chiffre de trente-huit.
“Je la chatouillais, pour la faire rire.
J’éprouvais un instant de puissance et de délire.

Mais alors, vieux lubrique, à cet âge…
“Monsieur, le fait est dur.
Il est venu, nous peloter, un gros chien;
Moi j’avais peur, je l’ai quittée à mi-chemin.
C’est dommage.”

Mais alors, tu as ton vautour!

Va t’en te décrotter les rides du visage;
Tiens, ma fourchette, décrasse-toi le crâne.
De quel droit payes-tu des expériences comme moi?
Tiens, voilà dix sous, pour la salle-de-bains.

Phlébas, le Phénicien, pendant quinze jours noyé,
Oubliait les cris des mouettes et la houle de Cornouaille,
Et les profits et les pertes, et la cargaison d’etain:
Un courant de sous-mer l’emporta tres loin,
Le repassant aux étapes de sa vie antérieure.
Figurez-vous donc, c’etait un sort penible;
Cependant, ce fut jadis un bel homme, de haute taille.

- TS Eliot, "Dans le Restaurant" (1920)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

On Clemenza...

SEXTUS: It is true, you pardon me, Emperor; but my heart will not absolve me; it will lament the error until it no longer has memory.
TITUS: The true repentance of which you are capable, is worth more than constant fidelity.

This couplet from the finale blurts out the obscene secret of clemenza: the pardon does not really abolish the debt, it rather makes it infinite - we are FOREVER indebted to the person who pardoned us. No wonder Tito prefers repentance to fidelity: in fidelity to the Master, I follow him out of respect, while in repentance, what attached me to the Master is the infinite indelible guilt. In this, Tito is a thoroughly Christian master.

Usually, it is Judaism which is conceived as the religion of the superego (of man's subordination to the jealous, mighty and severe God), in contrast to the Christian God of Mercy and Love - one opposes the Jewish rigorous Justice and the Christian Mercy, the inexplicable gesture of undeserved pardon: we, humans, were born in sin, we cannot ever repay our debts and redeem ourselves through our own acts - our only salvation lies in God's Mercy, in His supreme sacrifice. However, in this very gesture of breaking the chain of Justice through the inexplicable act of Mercy, of paying our debt, Christianity imposes on us an even stronger debt: we are forever indebted to Christ, we cannot ever repay him for what he did to us. The Freudian name for such an excessive pressure which we cannot ever remunerate is, of course, superego. It is precisely through NOT demanding from us the price for our sins, through paying this price for us Himself, that the Christian God of Mercy establishes itself as the supreme superego agency: "I paid the highest price for your sins, and you are thus indebted to me FOREVER..." Is this God as the superego agency, whose very Mercy generates the indelible guilt of believers, the ultimate horizon of Christianity? One should effectively correlate the superego unconditional guilt and the mercy of love - two figures of the excess, the excess of guilt without proportion to what I effectively did, and the excess of mercy without proportion to what I deserve on account of my acts.

As such, the dispensation of mercy is the most efficient constituent of the exercise of power. That is to say, is the relationship between law (legal justice) and mercy really the one between necessity and choice? Is it really that one HAS to obey the law, while mercy is by definition dispensed as a free and excessive act, as something that the agent of mercy is free to do or not to do - mercy under compulsion is no mercy but, at its best, a travesty of mercy? What if, at a deeper level, the relationship is the opposite one? What if, with regard to law, we have the freedom to choose (to obey or violate it), while mercy is obligatory, we HAVE to display it - mercy is an unnecessary excess which, as such, HAS to occur. (And does the law not always take into account this freedom of ours, not only by punishing us for its transgression, but by providing escapes to being punished by its ambiguity and inconsistency?) Is it not that showing mercy is the ONLY way for a Master to demonstrate his supra-legal authority? If a Master were merely to guarantee the full application of the law, of legal regulations, he would be deprived of his authority and turn into a mere figure of knowledge, the agent of the discourse of university. (This is why even a great judge is a Master figure: he always somehow twists the law in its application by way of interpreting it creatively.) This goes even for Stalin himself, a figure which we definitely do not associate with mercy: one should never forget that, as the (now available) minutes of the meetings of the Politburo and Central Committee from the 1930s demonstrate, Stalin's direct interventions were as a rule those of displaying mercy. When younger CC members, eager to prove their revolutionary fervour, demanded instant death penalty for Bukharin, Stalin always intervened and said "Patience! His guilt is not yet proven!" or something similar. Of course this was a hypocritical attitude - Stalin was well aware that he himself generated the destructive fervour, that the younger members were eager to please him - but, nonetheless, the appearance of mercy is necessary here.

And, if anything, in our late capitalist societies, this perverse logic of mercy is brought to extreme, as the ultimate expression of the weird unity of the opposites that permeates our attitudes. Today's hedonism combines pleasure with constraint - it is no longer the old notion of the right measure between pleasure and constraint, but a kind of pseudo-Hegelian immediate coincidence of the opposites: action and reaction should coincide, the very thing which causes damage should already be the medicine. The ultimate example of it is arguably a chocolate laxative, available in the US, with the paradoxical injunction "Do you have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate!", i.e., of the very thing which causes constipation. Do we not find here a weird version of Wagner's famous "Only the spear which caused the wound can heal it" from Parsifal? And is not a negative proof of the hegemony of this stance the fact that true unconstrained consumption (in all its main forms: drugs, free sex, smoking...) is emerging as the main danger? The fight against these dangers is one of the main investments of today's biopolitics. Solutions are here desperately sought which would reproduce the paradox of the chocolate laxative. The main contender is safe sex - a term which makes one appreciative of the truth of the old saying "Is having sex with a condom not like taking a shower with a raincoat on?". The ultimate goal would be here, along the lines of decaf coffee, to invent opium without opium: no wonder marihuana is so popular among liberals who want to legalize it - it already IS a kind of opium without opium.
- Slavoj Zizek, "La Clemenza di Tito, or the Ridiculously-Obscene Excess of Mercy

Sunday, January 20, 2013

More Not Enjoying Yourself and Feeling Guilty for It

The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript
Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.
When evening quickens faintly in the street,
Wakening the appetites of life in some
And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript,
I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning
Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,
If the street were time and he at the end of the street,
And I say, "Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript."

- T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Friday, January 18, 2013

I NEED another trauma for my Ego to grow...

...This explains the so-called neo–fundamentalist appeal: As sociologists say, in postmodernity, in a reflexive society, there are no firm values, no nature or tradition, people who are used to a firm set of values get lost, long for safe haven… The other aspect of it is the exact opposite. It’s the postmodern subject of total permissiveness who gets caught up in so many prohibitions that precisely in order to be happy, the secret message between the lines of the totalitarian appeal to follow the master is, "If you follow me, you may." You may with impunity rape, sexually harass, kill, etc. I know this from personally talking to some years ago members of the old regime in Belgrade. There message was, "Before we were living this regulated life. Now at the point of us becoming Serb ethnic fundamentalists is that we may." Even before Adorno and Horkheimer, Brecht was attentive to this falsely liberating aspect of fundamentalism. Totalitarianism is not only "safe haven, firm values, we give you a sense of stability", it’s also a kind of false liberation. Which is why in an article from a year ago I offered as a metaphor for totalitarianism, the German fat free salami, whose slogan is Du Darfst. If you obey me, Du Darfst, you can have your salami without fat. Let’s go on. What happens in this superego universe of weak paternal authority? I think the references to two films are of some interest here. On one hand, Roberto Benigni’s "Life is Beautiful", in which the father in the concentration camp constructs a web of fantasies to protect his son from the trauma of the camp. On the other hand, Thomas Vinterberg’s "Celebration", in which the father is not only not the protector against the trauma but the source of the trauma, the rapist father. In one case we have a father assuming an almost maternal protective role and who relies on pure symbolic appearance, creating a protective web for his son, a father who is a kind of ersatz placebo. On the other hand, a father whose core we arrive at through the dismantling of all protective fictions — at the end the father is unmasked and confesses to be the brutal rapist, having sexual exploited his children, a kind of true revival of the Freudian Ur–Father from "Totem and Taboo". It’s my old thesis that Freud was right, he just got it in the wrong temporal succession. I claim that in this obsession with false memory syndrome, imagining some brutal raping father, it is not that, as Freud thought, that we have first in some mystical past the rapist father who possessed all the women of the tribe and then through the murder of the father, the father returns as symbolic authority. It’s rather the opposite. The symbolic authority disintegrates and what fills in its void is this brutal Ur–Father. It’s the modern totalitarian masters who are much closer to this Ur–Father figure. So what about these two father figures? It is crucial to avoid the trap of conceiving these two fathers along the axis of appearance vs. reality. It’s not that Benigni’s good father is a pure appearance of the protective maternal father and then that when we scratch the surface we get the violent real father. "Celebration" tells us a lot about how today, in the false memory syndrome of remembering being molested by one’s parents, Freud’s Ur–Father is resuscitated. "Celebration" tells us this precisely through its artificial character. The ultimate paradox of the film is that it’s the ultimate nostalgia. This horror of the rapist father, instead of shocking us, it articulates a kind of nostalgic longing for the good old times when we had fathers who really had force, and when it was really possible to experience such traumas. This is the paradox I want to address. One would expect that fantasies are defenses against traumas. We have a traumatic experience, we cannot endure it so we build up a protective fantasy web of fictions. I claim that we invent, as a protective web, trauma itself. Now, we would normally expect that concentration camp life would be the trauma and we build a fantasy to shield ourselves from it. But perhaps the trauma is the fantasy we construct to protect ourselves from something else. But what can be worse than concentration camp life itself? Let me return again to the opposition of the two fathers, imaginary and symbolic. I claim that what these horrifying figures fill in is the gap of symbolic authority. These two fathers, protective and rapist, have nonetheless something in common although they are opposed. They both suspend the agency of symbolic law, or symbolic prohibition, the proper paternal agency of authority whose function is to introduce the childhood into the universe of social reality with its harsh demands. The reality to which the child is exposed without any maternal protective shield. Benigni’s father offers the imaginary shield against the traumatic encounter with reality, instead of introducing us into reality. Vinterberg’s rapist father is also a father outside the constraints of the symbolic law, with access to full enjoyment. These two fathers fit the opposition elaborated by Lacan between the imaginary and the real. Benigni’s father offers the imaginary safety against the brutality of lawless violence, while Vinterberg’s father is this very violence outside symbolic law, and again what is missing is simply the father as symbolic authority. So what happens with the functioning of subjects when symbolic authority loses its efficiency? I claim we get subjects who are strangely de–realized, deprived of their psychology as if we are dealing with robotic puppets that are obeying some strange blind mechanism. As a metaphor I would like to introduce the method I learned of how they shoot soap operas in Mexico. Their timetable is so fully packed because each day they have to introduce a half–hour of the soap opera that actors do not have time to learn their lines in advances. How they solve the problem that on the set actors have earphones on, and behind the set there is a man trained reading the lines. So without any practice, the actors are trained to immediately enact the orders. "Kiss her, slap her, withdraw, apologize…" Of course, this minimal gap makes something ridiculously theatrical about it. I think that one of the reasons why David Lynch is one of the filmmakers of today is that in his films we find the same effect, scenes where actors produce stupid cliched statements in quite an earnest way. Another example from contemporary cinema can help us to clarify this point. I’d like to briefly refer to Spielberg’s film "Saving Private Ryan", which has an apparently unmilitaristic message in its brutal depiction of the bloodbath of war. I claim that it is secretly and in a refined way a militaristic film. The way it depicts the horror of film supports the recent tendency of the American army, first fully realized apropos of the bombing of ex–Yugoslavia, to promote the fantasy of war without casualties. Of course this goes only for our side, but I believe that the really ultimate fantasy is we will have war which is somehow virtual and takes place nowhere. In the last bombardments of Iraq a few months ago, in daily reports Baghdad was depicted as just a normal city, as if the bombing is just a nightmare which happens during the night and somehow life goes on. It’s as if war becomes simply virtualized. What’s my point here? I will try to answer the question of why we fantasize about violence. This tendency to erase death itself from war should not seduce us into endorsing the standard notion that war is made less traumatic when no longer experienced by soldiers as an actual encounter with another human being to be killed but as an abstract activity in front of a screen. That’s the idea, that today war is virtualized, nobody even sees the bodies, it’s a kind of videogame. What I learned from talking with war psychologists in the States is that the result is not less guilt but more anxiety. Even in the Gulf War of 1991, I read that in a report, that of American soldiers who had psychological traumas after the war, the majority of them were not as you would expect the ones who actually killed the Iraqi soldiers. It’s even the obverse correlation, those who experienced the war as strictly virtual, they didn’t feel guilt but an unbearable anxiety. This can retroactively explain another paradox. Already in World War I a mysterious phenomenon occurred which is I think a kind of military counterpoint to false memory syndrome. Sixty to seventy percent of soldiers remember this mythical, "authentic" experience of warfare such as that hailed by Ernst Junger. I see you, my enemy and briefly our gazes meet, there’s an authentic real encounter with another flesh and blood being, then it’s always the same, I stick you with a bayonet and throw you over my shoulder. However, according to all data it’s maximum one half percent that actually had this experience of killing in face–to–face combat. Far from being the ultimate traumatic point that you try to erase, the need to have this face–to–face encounter rather has a pacifying aspect of getting rid of anxiety for us. What really causes anxiety is virtualized warfare. My point I hope is now clear. This opposition between modern, virtualized warfare and the need to have the brutal encounter with another soldier this opposition is ultimately the same as the opposition of Benigni’s father and Vinterberg’s father. In the same way that it’s not that unfortunately we have to kill real persons and then we imagine how nice it would be to play just keyboard wars, but that it’s the soldier playing war behind the screen who is full of anxiety and fantasizes about a face–to–face real encounter, which although it would make him guilty would give him a real guilt, but the true horror would be to have a father like Benigni. That’s unbearable, that’s suffocating. It’s Benigni’s son who then fantasizes about a secret, concealed but nonetheless violent rapist aspect. You say "My god, my father cannot just be this maternal, ersatz placebo, that would suffocate me. I need to imagine some horrifying secret behind him in order to survive family life." This then is the deadlock of the superego. How do we get out of this deadlock? By means of what Lacan calls the act. The act means precisely breaking out of this deadlock. What is an act? Psychoanalysis knows a whole series of false acts. Psychotic paranoia, violent passage l’acte, hysterical acting–out, obsessional self–hindering, self–sabotage, perverse self–instrumentalization, all these acts are not simply wrong compared to some external standards. They are inherently wrong since they can only be properly grasped as reaction to some disavowed trauma that they displace, disavow or repress. For example, Nazi anti–Semitic violence was false in the same way. This entire large–scale frenetic activity was fundamentally misdirected in a massive passage l’acte betraying the inability the real kernel of the trauma, the social antagonism. What I claim is that anti–Semitic violence was not only factually wrong, in the sense that Jews were not really like that, they were not exploiting Germans, or organizing a universal plot against humanity. It wasn’t only morally wrong when judged against some elementary standards of decency. Of course it’s morally wrong but that doesn’t really hit the mark. If you claim it was factually wrong, in the sense that "Jews are not really like that", because the moment you accept the discussion in these terms, you are lost. Let’s say that in the 1930’s you try to answer a Nazi by claiming "Wait a minute, you are exaggerating." If you check it out the truth will of course be somewhere in the middle. Of course there were some Jews who were seducing German girls, why not? Of course there were some Jews whose influence in media was very strong. That’s not the point. We get a cue here from one of my favorite dictums of Lacan. Let’s say that you have a wife who sleeps with other men and you are pathologically jealous. Even if your jealousy is grounded in fact it’s still a pathology. Why? Because, even if what the Nazis claimed about Jews was up to a point true, anti–Semitism was formally wrong, in the same sense that in psychoanalysis a symptomatic action is wrong. It is wrong because it served to replace or repress another true trauma, as something that inherently functioning as a displacement, an act of displacement, as something to be interpreted. It’s not enough to say anti–Semitism factually wrong, it’s morally wrong, the true enigma is ,why did the Nazis need the figure of the Jew for their ideology to function? Why is it that if you take away their figure of the Jew their whole edifice disintegrates. For example, let’s say I have a paranoiac idea that you are trying to kill me. You miss the point if you try to explain to me that it’s morally wrong for me to kill you in pre–emptive self–defense. The point is, why in order to retain my balance do I need the fantasy of you trying to kill me? As Freud points out paranoia is not simply the illness, it’s a false attempt of recovery. The true zero point is where your whole universe disintegrates. Paranoia is the misdirected attempt to reconstitute your universe so that you can function again. If you take from the paranoiac his paranoiac symptom, it’s the end of the world for him. Along the same lines, we have false acts. What an authentic act is precisely what allows you to break out of this deadlock of the symptom, superego and so on. In an authentic act I do not simply express, or actualize my inner nature. I rather redefine myself, the very core of my identity. In this since I claim that an act is very close to what Kierkegaard was trying to conceptualize as the Christian rebirth. Kierkegaard was very precise in opposing the Christian rebirth to the pagan pre–modern Socratic logic of remembrance. This is the crucial choice that psychoanalysis is confronted with. Is psychoanalysis the ultimate in the logic of Socratic remembrance, where I say "I must return to my roots, it’s already deep in me the truth of my unconscious desire, I just must realize my inner self", or is psychoanalysis dependent on an act in the way that Christianity is an act, where you are born again, not in a religious sense, but redefine what you truly are. You go through a symbolic suicide and become another person.
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Superego and the Act: A lecture" (August 1999)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Those Who Tear Apart so as to Rebuild and Begin Anew

I Never Prize an Easy Fair

The huntsman o'er the hills pursues
The timid hare, and keenly views
The tracks of hinds amid the snow,
Nor heeds the wint'ry winds that blow.
But should a stranger mildly say,
Accept the game I kill'd today;
The proffer'd gift he quickly scorns,
And to th' uncertain chase returns:
Such is my love; I never prize
An easy fair, but her who flies.

- Callimachus (c. 310-240 B.C.)

Monday, January 14, 2013


Life with the Non-Cannibal "Autre" [Other]
A distant prayer, carried by the evening wind
Enlivens leaves in their languid dance.
Hear the song of the old trees, singing for you
For the dark, resting woods.
So many seasons have passed; they did not wait.
The golden leaves dying on the ground
Will be reborn under bright skies
As this weatherworn world remains the same,
And tomorrow, you and I will be gone.

“In general, I try and distinguish between what one calls the Future and “l’avenir” [the ‘to come]. The future is that which – tomorrow, later, next century – will be. There is a future which is predictable, programmed, scheduled, foreseeable. But there is a future, l’avenir (to come) which refers to someone who comes whose arrival is totally unexpected. For me, that is the real future. That which is totally unpredictable. The Other who comes without my being able to anticipate their arrival. So if there is a real future, beyond the other known future, it is l’avenir in that it is the coming of the Other when I am completely unable to foresee their arrival.”
- Jacques Derrida

On Eating "More" than the Ear of the Other...

I am cannibal
Marrooned with you I will starve
You too good to eat!
- Ken e Hall

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Marketting Heteroglossia

from Wikipedia
The term heteroglossia describes the coexistence of distinct varieties within a single "language". In Greek hetero = different + glōssa = tongue, language. In this way the term translates the Russian разноречие [raznorechie] (literally "different-speech-ness"), which was introduced by the Russian linguist Mikhail Bakhtin in his 1934 paper Слово в романе [Slovo v romane], published in English as "Discourse in the Novel."

Bakhtin argues that the power of the novel originates in the coexistence of, and conflict between, different types of speech: the speech of characters, the speech of narrators, and even the speech of the author. He defines heteroglossia as "another's speech in another's language, serving to express authorial intentions but in a refracted way." Bakhtin identifies the direct narrative of the author, rather than dialogue between characters, as the primary location of this conflict.

Friday, January 11, 2013

...the Power of Christ Compels You!

However, psychoanalysis has made us familiar with the clinical history as well as the psychic mechanism of compulsion neurosis. Thus the history of a typical case of touching phobia reads as follows: In the very beginning, during the early period of childhood, the person manifested a strong pleasure in touching himself, the object of which was much more specialized than one would be inclined to expect. Presently the carrying out of this very pleasurable act of touching was opposed by a prohibition from without. The prohibition was accepted because it was supported by strong inner forces; it proved to be stronger than the impulse which wanted to manifest itself through this act of touching. But due to the primitive psychic constitution of the child this prohibition did not succeed in abolishing the impulse. Its only success lay in repressing the impulse (the pleasure of touching) and banishing it into the unconscious. Both the prohibition and the impulse remained; the impulse because it had only been repressed and not abolished, the prohibition, because if it had ceased the impulse would have broken through into consciousness and would have been carried out. An unsolved situation, a psychic fixation, had thus been created and now everything else emanated from the continued conflict between prohibition and impulse.

The main characteristic of the psychic constellation which has thus undergone fixation lies in what one might call the ambivalent behavior of the individual to the object, or rather to an action regarding it. The individual constantly wants to carry out this action (the act of touching), he sees in it the highest pleasure, but he may not carry it out, and he even abominates it. The opposition between these two streams cannot be easily adjusted because—there is no other way to express it—they are so localized in the psychic life that they cannot meet. The prohibition becomes fully conscious, while the surviving pleasure of touching remains unconscious, the person knowing nothing about it. If this psychological factor did not exist the ambivalence could neither maintain itself so long nor lead to such subsequent manifestations.

In the clinical history of the case we have emphasized the appearance of the prohibition in early childhood as the determining factor; but for the further elaboration of the neurosis this role is played by the repression which appears at this age. On account of the repression which has taken place, which is connected with forgetting (amnesia), the motivation of the prohibition that has become conscious remains unknown, and all attempts to unravel it intellectually must fail, as the point of attack cannot be found. The prohibition owes its strength—its compulsive character—to its association with its unknown counterpart, the hidden and unabated pleasure, that is to say, to an inner need into which conscious insight is lacking. The transferability and reproductive power of the prohibition reflect a process which harmonizes with the unconscious pleasure and is very much facilitated through the psychological determinants of the unconscious. The pleasure of the impulse constantly undergoes displacement in order to escape the blocking which it encounters and seeks to acquire surrogates for the forbidden in the form of substitutive objects and actions. For the same reason the prohibition also wanders and spreads to the new aims of the proscribed impulse. Every new advance of the repressed libido is answered by the prohibition with a new severity. The mutual inhibition of these two contending forces creates a need for discharge and for lessening the existing tension, in which we may recognize the motivation for the compulsive acts. In the neurosis there are distinctly acts of compromise which on the one hand may be regarded as proofs of remorse and efforts to expiate and similar actions; but on the other hand they are at the same time substitutive actions which recompense the impulse for what has been forbidden. It is a law of neurotic diseases that these obsessive acts serve the impulse more and more and come nearer and nearer to the original forbidden act.
- Freud, "Totem and Taboo"

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Invisible Wealth

“Ousia phanera is property whose transfer is seen by others, and ousia aphanēs is property whose transfer is not seen.

The Run Upon the Bankers

The bold encroachers on the deep
Gain by degrees huge tracts of land,
Till Neptune, with one general sweep,
Turns all again to barren strand.

The multitude's capricious pranks
Are said to represent the seas,
Breaking the bankers and the banks,
Resume their own whene'er they please.

Money, the life-blood of the nation,
Corrupts and stagnates in the veins,
Unless a proper circulation
Its motion and its heat maintains.

Because 'tis lordly not to pay,
Quakers and aldermen in state,
Like peers, have levees every day
Of duns attending at their gate.

We want our money on the nail;
The banker's ruin'd if he pays:
They seem to act an ancient tale;
The birds are met to strip the jays.

"Riches," the wisest monarch sings,
"Make pinions for themselves to fly;"
They fly like bats on parchment wings,
And geese their silver plumes supply.

No money left for squandering heirs!
Bills turn the lenders into debtors:
The wish of Nero* now is theirs,
"That they had never known their letters."

Conceive the works of midnight hags,
Tormenting fools behind their backs:
Thus bankers, o'er their bills and bags,
Sit squeezing images of wax.

Conceive the whole enchantment broke;
The witches left in open air,
With power no more than other folk,
Exposed with all their magic ware.

So powerful are a banker's bills,
Where creditors demand their due;
They break up counters, doors, and tills,
And leave the empty chests in view.

Thus when an earthquake lets in light
Upon the god of gold and hell,
Unable to endure the sight,
He hides within his darkest cell.

As when a conjurer takes a lease
From Satan for a term of years,
The tenant's in a dismal case,
Whene'er the bloody bond appears.

A baited banker thus desponds,
From his own hand foresees his fall,
They have his soul, who have his bonds;
'Tis like the writing on the wall.

How will the caitiff wretch be scared,
When first he finds himself awake
At the last trumpet, unprepared,
And all his grand account to make!

For in that universal call,
Few bankers will to heaven be mounters;
They'll cry, "Ye shops, upon us fall!
Conceal and cover us, ye counters!"

When other hands the scales shall hold,
And they, in men's and angels' sight
Produced with all their bills and gold,
"Weigh'd in the balance and found light!"

*Nero, signing the death sentence of a condemned criminal, exclaimed:
"Quam vellem nescire litteras!" ("How I wish I'd never learned to write!") Suetonius, 10;

- Jonathan Swift

"Vision is seeing what is invisible to others." -Jonathan Swift-

...not that which is visible to all (ousia phanera)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Be Quiet My Heart!

For me it's time to throw into trash
my wooden heart, for good,
it's the skull set with sparks
that I come to give my resignation.

Go, birds of my body
close your pretty mouths of passion.
dozens of accidents of love
have never give me reason.

Be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
Be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
Oh, be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
Be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
I only know the one who gets carried away.

I fabricate myself a stone heart,
to become a big boy
the one whom you would be proud of
and could keep a house.

But a sunny day like this you raise up
with a stupid idea
of digging memories and dreams
in the trash of passion.

Be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
Be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
Oh, be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
Be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
I only know the one who gets carried away.

I have cracks
in my shoes.
It is certainly
my stone heart
which makes me earthquakes.
Be quiet my heart.

Be quiet my heart; my heart, that's you
I thought that you had killed yourself and she
wouldn't remember you.
Besides it's not worth
of break yourself like that;
you are going to frighten her again.
Oh be quiet my heart,be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
listen to me, -I don't recognise you.
be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
listen to me, -I don't recognise you.
Oh, be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
Oh, be quiet my heart, -I don't recognise you.
-I don't recognise you.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Reinterpretting Democracy

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, "The Battle Between Carnival and Lent" (1564-1638)

Carnival Of Guilt

I was greeted well enough at the door,
Giving my ticket to the clown.
I saw attractions by the score,
Still, none seemed to slow me down.

I heard laughter all around me,
Yet, I felt a silent jeer.
No, it didn't take me long to see-
I was not welcome here.

Heads were turning, eyes were burning,
Suddenly, all laughs were gone.
Only silent glares and my stomach, churning
In repulsed fear, pushed me on.

I walked faster, yet so did they,
What this horde wanted, I did not know.
Running to the nearest door on my way,
I found myself at "The Freak Show".

Sneaking backstage, in hopes to hide,
I saw a two- headed man in a fight-
Against himself, each head taking a side,
And neither side was right.

Both looked at me, without words being said,
Each pointing their given hand to a door.
Smiling, as if somehow my thoughts they read,
They knew what I was here for.

Walking inside, with what I saw-
Thought, defunct, my human eyes.
Though inside I was struck with awe,
I tried not to show surprise.

A four legged woman walking-
With a man who had no legs at all,
Living, loving, laughing and talking-
As if he stood ten feet tall.

A bearded lady singing, soft in tone-
To a man with two noses.
A man so skinny he looked to lack bone-
In the mirror, practicing poses.

I stood, amazed, at the shapes he took,
As my misdirected thoughts ran.
It seemed he could make himself to look-
Like anything but a "normal" man.

As if sensing my questioning mind,
A boy approached, beginning to speak.
Saying, "Stay, safely, here awhile, you will find-
The answers that you seek."

I looked down, seeing each arm without hand,
But pinchers like a lobster, instead.
He said, "There's things the world won't understand-
That can be grasped, here, full- fled. "

He gestured to a snake-skinned man-
And said, "Beauty, truly is in the eye.
Viewed by the world, a charlatan,
Won't you give the magic mirror a try. "

So I stepped over and took my view,
Beheld a man without a face.
It was suddenly so clear, I knew-
I had finally found my place.

And every night people stop just to stare,
And maybe we raise their self-esteem.
Some pity us, thinking it's not fair-
Some think we're just here to scheme.

But I recall the other side, I know-
What leads you to jeer and jilt.
And what you see as "The Freak Show"-
Is just your carnival of guilt.
-Michael Anderson

Thursday, January 3, 2013

If only...

William Hollman Hunt, "The Triumph of the Innocents" (1883-4)
A great cause of the night is lack of the sun.
- Shakespeare, "As You Like It" (Act III, Scene II)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How Would You Like Your Eggs?

Salvador Dali, "Soft Skulls with Fried Egg" (1977)

Lacan characterizes the libido as an imaginary bodily organ he calls the lamella or l’hommelette. The latter term means both "omelet" and "little feminine man"; Lacan offers it as a witty play on Plato’s myth that human beings were originally egg-shaped androgynes who were only later divided into the two sexes. Lacan, knowing how to make a good French omelet, also knows how to capture the floating, insistent, sometimes queasy character that desire assumes when imagined or intuited apart from its objects. He simply breaks some eggs: "Let us imagine it, a large crepe moving about like the amoeba, ultra-flat for passing under doors, omniscient in being led by pure instinct, immortal in being scissiparous. Here is something you would not like to feel creeping over your face, silently while you are asleep, in order to seal it up." Isn’t it possible that what is thrown toward the opera in the dream of Freud’s young man is not something proper to the dreamer’s body but the adhesive substance of l’hommelette? And since the throw targets no specific scene, but only the operatic conjuncture of music and drama, orchestra pit and stage, wouldn’t it be possible to see in the throw a recognition that opera is always already the site of l’hommelette, always already covered at every point of its surface with the substance of desire?