“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, October 06, 2006

Es war einmal ein Fischer und seine Fru…

Well, LI has been on a tear this week.

1. First, we proposed that there is a dialectic in history, which can be seen in the divergence of form and substance over time – over, that is, human time. And that form goes ‘wild’ – that the form in which substance is presented can spread in unpredictable ways, capturing other seemingly unrelated issues and themes.
(When the fisherman went home to his wife in the pigsty, he told her how he had caught a great fish, and how it had told him it was an enchanted prince, and how, on hearing it speak, he had let it go again. ’Did not you ask it for anything?’ said the wife, ’we live very wretchedly here, in this nasty dirty pigsty; do go back and tell the fish we want a snug little cottage.’
The fisherman did not much like the business: however, he went to the seashore; and when he came back there the water looked all yellow and green. And he stood at the water’s edge, and said:
’O man of the sea!
Hearken to me!
My wife Ilsabill
Will have her own will,
And hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!’

Then the fish came swimming to him, and said, ’Well, what is her will? What does your wife want?’ ’Ah!’ said the fisherman, ’she says that when I had caught you, I ought to have asked you for something before I let you go; she does not like living any longer in the pigsty, and wants a snug little cottage.’ ’Go home, then,’ said the fish; ’she is in the cottage already!’ So the man went home, and saw his wife standing at the door of a nice trim little cottage. ’Come in, come in!’ said she; ’is not this much better than the filthy pigsty we had?’ )

2. Second, in the “choose a philosophy of history” game show, we chose, absurdly, Michelet over Marx – the satanic notion of playing things in reverse, which Michelet, romantically, imagines to be the essence of the witch, is for us the essence of freeing ourselves from the white magic of our times. Reversal, of course, is a big term in Hegel and Marx as well. Umschlag, the reversal of the negation caused by the negation of the negation into the positive, is one of those complex little twists Hegel throws into game. It became Marx’s favorite gesture – he was always inverting things. Like Michelet’s witch, Marx uses reversal to exorcize the white magic of the sacred – in his case, capitalism.

(The next morning when Dame Ilsabill awoke it was broad daylight, and she jogged the fisherman with her elbow, and said, ’Get up, husband, and bestir yourself, for we must be king of all the land.’ ’Wife, wife,’ said the man, ’why should we wish to be the king? I will not be king.’ ’Then I will,’ said she. ’But, wife,’ said the fisherman, ’how can you be king–the fish cannot make you a king?’ ’Husband,’ said she, ’say no more about it, but go and try! I will be king.’ So the man went away quite sorrowful to think that his wife should want to be king. This time the sea looked a dark grey colour, and was overspread with curling waves and the ridges of foam as he cried out:
’O man of the sea!
Hearken to me!
My wife Ilsabill
Will have her own will,
And hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!’

’Well, what would she have now?’ said the fish. ’Alas!’ said the poor man, ’my wife wants to be king.’ ’Go home,’ said the fish; ’she is king already.’)

3. Third, we returned to the question of the anxiety betrayed by recent shabby overthrow of our rights, first as human beings (the right not to be tortured) and then, as Americans (for those who are Americans), the rights protecting us from the grossest encroachments of tyrannical executive power. A child, picking its nose and flicking its boogers, would spend more thought on what it was doing than the pack of Gadarene swine in congress spent in thinking of the consequences of destroying our constitution. In the blogosphere, there was a lot of concentration about how many Dems voted with the swine. Actually, that makes no sense to us. Of course, a certain percentage of the Dems is anti-constitutional. Yes, fuck them righteously, but please – this is a pattern from forever. Usually, civil rights stuff is passed by a coalition of the majority of the Dems and a hefty minority of the GOP. As it was in 1964, so it shall and ever will be – or so the Conventional Wisdom held. The terrible thing is not that the Democratic party holds people who wipe their asses with the constitution, the terrible thing is that the hefty minority of the GOP has evaporated. LI has dreamed of a moderate GOP coming back, somehow. But even witches know that when you poke a man with a knife and he don’t respond and he don’t seem to be a-breathin’, he’s prob’ly ghastly dead. From the San Francisco convention of 1964, nominating Goldwater, to 2006, with the crowing of the Rebel-in-Chief, there’s been a death march inside the GOP. (So the fisherman went. But when he came to the shore the wind was raging and the sea was tossed up and down in boiling waves, and the ships were in trouble, and rolled fearfully upon the tops of the billows. In the middle of the heavens there was a little piece of blue sky, but towards the south all was red, as if a dreadful storm was rising. At this sight the fisherman was dreadfully frightened, and he trembled so that his knees knocked together: but still he went down near to the shore, and said:
’O man of the sea!
Hearken to me!
My wife Ilsabill
Will have her own will,
And hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!’

’What does she want now?’ said the fish. ’Ah!’ said the fisherman, ’my wife wants to be pope.’ ’Go home,’ said the fish; ’she is pope already.’)

However, we aren’t writing this thing to dwell on party politics. We are writing this thing to poke among the carrion in the battlefield, to reign curses down on the powers that be, and to cast spells.

To give LI’s gentle reader a larger picture of anxiety and desire, we quoted Silja Graupe’s analysis of the neo-classical paralogism – to achieve an economic theory centering on equilibrium, it was necessary to postulate a population moved by infinite greed. A peculiarity of theory that reflects a peculiarity of social fact. As the market becomes the site of social interaction, reversing its subordination to the social [the non-serviam of white magic], the theoretical becomes the form of the practical. Greed is no longer a moral description, or even a psychological one – it is simply a social function. It is simply how the white magic survives. Day after day of it, year after year of it, it creates changes on such a vast scale that one can’t even see them. (Then they went to bed: but Dame Ilsabill could not sleep all night for thinking what she should be next. At last, as she was dropping asleep, morning broke, and the sun rose. ’Ha!’ thought she, as she woke up and looked at it through the window, ’after all I cannot prevent the sun rising.’ At this thought she was very angry, and wakened her husband, and said, ’Husband, go to the fish and tell him I must be lord of the sun and moon.’ The fisherman was half asleep, but the thought frightened him so much that he started and fell out of bed. ’Alas, wife!’ said he, ’cannot you be easy with being pope?’ ’No,’ said she, ’I am very uneasy as long as the sun and moon rise without my leave. Go to the fish at once!’
Then the man went shivering with fear; and as he was going down to the shore a dreadful storm arose, so that the trees and the very rocks shook. And all the heavens became black with stormy clouds, and the lightnings played, and the thunders rolled; and you might have seen in the sea great black waves, swelling up like mountains with crowns of white foam upon their heads. And the fisherman crept towards the sea, and cried out, as well as he could:
’O man of the sea!
Hearken to me!
My wife Ilsabill
Will have her own will
And hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!’

’What does she want now?’ said the fish. ’Ah!’ said he, ’she wants to be lord of the sun and moon.’ ’Go home,’ said the fish, ’to your pigsty again.’
And there they live to this very day.)


Which brings us to the story of the fisherman and his ‘Fru’, which is not a tragic story at all. From a “Potte” – a pot, a pigsty – through the stages of secular and sacred power, back to the pigsty. When I was a younger man, all I would see was the servility in this story. An older man in a patchwork state, I can now read portents in it I didn’t see before. Yes, for America, that 'benign power', that new empire, that oh so wondrous enemy of all terrorism (after, of course, having won its greatest war -- WWII -- by the application of terrorism on a scale never seeen before) now wants to tell the moon and the stars how to run in their courses. But as both a younger man and an older man, I have instinctively realized that the market society makes all things comic, and the present shenanigans of our coup crewe is no exception to the rule.

1 comment:

Amie said...

LI, you're on quite a tear! this post of yours has sent me off on a rather excentric orbit, as it has me thinking of a schoolmate of master Hegel - Hölderlin - who also wrote of history in terms of dialectical reversals and inversions, of 'speculative' over-reaching for the sun and the stars.
But, what sets Hölderlin apart from his schoolmate, and from dialectical inversions, is what Hölderlin ties to designate with the term 'caesura'....