Saturday, January 09, 2021

Against Healing!

Susan Sontag, I think of you!

In Illness as Metaphor, when she went after the “anti-intellectual pieties and a facile compassion all too triumphant in contemporary medicine and psychiatry”, she was well aware of the insertion of a illness metaphoric in politics too. In fact, one of the prized sentences in American political rhetoric is Abraham Lincoln’s use of a battlefield injury metaphor, “binding our wounds” – subtexting the Jesus story – to describe the national process of unification. Lincoln, like Bismark, helped forge a new, modern state. It was noticed early on that Bismark’s German was, like Lincoln’s English, a thing of folk poetry. But instead of using the metaphor of injuries (which presupposes the more extensive field of the “body politic”), Bismark was more inclined to peasant metaphors and similes, where the state is pictured as a plough horse, or “putting Germany in the saddle”.
Lincoln’s metaphors are often celebrated, seldom subject to the critical examination we should give to classic texts. What, after all, did “binding up the wounds” of the Civil War mean?
That meaning, in terms of Lincoln’s life, was of course fated not to be. Lincoln swerved a lot. It is hard to know whether he would have swerved towards the Sumner side of radical Reconstruction, which would have built a different America, or the course taken by the Northern bourgeoisie, who threw African-Americans on the pile – there’s a metaphor for ya! – and healed right whitely. But the healing metaphor was on its legs and since then has done a lot of work. Much of it in support of anti-intellectual pieties and compromises with oppression that normalized and spread oppression.
Lindsey Graham, a straw stuffed non-entity who, as Senator of South Carolina, has succeeded in impressing other non-entities, political reporters mainly for center-lib publications, just used the healing metaphor in the way it is always used – to creep around a gross act of oppression and violence.
“As President @realDonaldTrumpstated last night, it is time to heal and move on. If Speaker Pelosi pushes impeachm ent in the last days of the Trump presidency it will do more harm than good.I’m hopeful President-elect Biden sees the damage that would be done from such action.”
Time to heal. We’ve had so many healing moments! Sparing Jeff Davis and General Lee hanging. Sparing the Confederate leaders. Sparing the Jim Crow enforcers. Sparing every eminence, every rich man or woman who ever violated a federal law or salted away criminal proceeds in an offshore account. We’ve healed ourselves into a jolly little corner, where Aryan Nation Cosplayers accompanied by thugs looking to kill a couple of hate figures or two, Pelosi, a coupla Dems, those bitches, mainly, and peeing on the carpet as they went, and killing a cop – all of this is just healable fun and games. The price of healing is put off, and put off. That is, the price paid by comfortable white folks. The price is quite evident on the streets of Columbus Ohio, Ferguson Missouri, in the cancer gulch in Louisiana, in Kenosha, in Louisville, in every metro in this great healed Republic of ours.
But there comes a time to ask a question: what is the difference between healing and the disease?

Friday, January 08, 2021

The Aryan Nation revolution will be televised

 Blow after blow, the Trumpkins must be coming down from their high. Frist "Mr. Trump", as the NYT has taken to calling him - which is a sign that he really is expelled from the countrfy club - made a video in which he said his beloved Patriots were naughty naughty to try to take over the capitol and burn the electoral college ballots. Apparently, his aides said he could be prosecuted. Then the WSJ editorial board, which is close to God - that is, the God of the Right, Rupert Murdoch - said Trump should be impeached. A rare conjunction of AOC and the WSJ! So, shockingly, the fallback story that this was just an antifa false flag is shredded from the top, although I'd guess 90 percent of Trumpsters will soon be assuring all and sundry that the Capitol takeover was a Democratic Party plot. Then it appears the "protestors", as the NYT persistently calls the Aryan Nation gang that took over the Capitol, did kill a cop.

On the plus side, we know that the hearts of every police union president in America is with the Aryan nation and their preznit. So, same as it ever was.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

On balance


 While the aesthetic sphere is full of objects corresponding to the sense  of sight or of hearing, there are no objects directly correlating to the the sense of balance. Dance and sports are the closest we get. Roger Caillois was clever in noticing the role of dizziness in certain kinds of games, which he categorized under the rubric ilynx. Caillois was not a systematic thinker; he was also a Cold War liberal of the very anti-marxist type. These two facts have to be held in mind when reading Jacques Ehrman’s terrific attack on Caillois in “Homo Ludens revisited” (1968), which holds a special place in the history of deconstruction in America.  Ehrman’s attack must have sounded like Martian in 1968, while now it is part of our lingo:

“For finally, if the status of "ordinary life," of "reality," is not thrown into question in the very movement of thought given over to play, the theoretical, logical, and anthropological bases on which this thinking is based can only be extremely precarious and contestable. In other words, we are criticizing these authors chiefly and most seriously for considering "reality," the "real," as a given component of the problem, as a referent needing no discussion, as a matter of course, neutral and objective.”

Still, given the limitations of Caillois ideological adherence to the White Mythology, it is also true that Caillois provides the elements for throwing into question – that is, getting dizzied by – the “very moment of thought given over to play.” Ehrman’s thesis has still not inflected our official historiography, which looks towards vast economic forces, or a high concept notion of politics, as its objects, and leaves aside such things as drugs, inebriation, sport, etc. as minor concerns. You will find much more about drugs and drug smuggling in journalistic history accounts than you will find in any recent academic history of, for example, Cold War America, thus separating “ordinary life” from the “extraordinary” life of the historical process.

The meeting of ordinary life and extraordinary life in the governance of our somatic chemical structure does, I think, go back to how an official sense of balance is maintained and idealized in the moral sphere. Ilynx is not easily exorcized, and it pops up in philosophy too – that very peculiar discourse of extraordinary life. Marx’s notion, or non-notion, of revolution plays an illynx like role in his larger framing of modernity.  Nietzsche’s notion of the “eternal return of the same” – that reactionary version of revolution – is, I think, a form of vertigo, of getting lost in time and space, in as much as time and space are themselves lost, never original, always copied.

Emile Cioran, in the Twilight of Thoughts, writes about vertigo as an existential expression of the most radical doubt. I think vertigo is an important, maybe a governing condition in Cioran’s work. For Cioran, the verticality of the human animal is primary to that animal’s domestication – it precedes language. Vertigo is thus a strike against the empire of the human.

“Everything that is not inert must, in different degrees, support itself. And how much more must man, who only accomplishes his destiny inventing certitudes and only maintains his position by the tonic of illusions. But he who begins to face himself, who slips into the transparency of his own position, who is a man only through the indulgences of his memory, can he still call upon the traditional support, his animal verticality, can he still hold himself up when he is no longer himself?”

For Cioran, the fall into time is really a fall, a threat to the backbone, a passage down and down the dark well.  In Cioran’s opinion, a romantic anarchic one, all of history is an injury to the sense of balance.


Which brings me to an instance of balance finding itself. I saw this. I saw it this Sunday, in Parc Royal, when Adam showed me how he could ride a bike. He had tried bike riding last year in Montpellier, but he never made it past the stage  of his parents holding him up. This year, after ardently wishing for a bicycle, one appeared under, or not really under but leaning next to, the Christmas tree. We took him out to Parc Picasso, one cold Thursday, and went racing about with him. It was A. who figured out that the perfect thing was to hold onto the back of his coat while he pedalled along, his little helmet slopping jauntily over to one side. She would let go for ten seconds, twenty. Then, catching up, hold again. Saturday, I did not go with them to the Parc. And as I was sitting at home, pretending to work, I received a video from A. It showed Adam biking by himself. Biking all around the course in the Parc Royal! I was filled with a parent bird feeling. The nestling spread its wings. The vacant air became a living thing. The boy, 8 years old, attached to a metal frame and two wheels, found his balance Tao. Joy filled the world.

The part that is left out by the thinkers of vertigo.

olivier blanchard and the free lunch: a comedy of errors

  The neolib economist Oliver Blanchard tweeted a very funny comedy bit, in which he played the part of “social democrat”. And he wrote: “As...