File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0106, message 79

Subject: Re: Tantalizing times - arguing for atheism....
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2001 23:30:03 +0800

Howdy Hugh,
Rescrolling through it all, I realise in retrospect that I was enjoying
myself so much I lost track of how much I was writing. My apologies for this
emails length. There has to be at least two or three words in there that
mean something useful.

**No one knows your imaginings, however
> cleverly you communicate, but I was referring to subjective experience of
> external (not imaginary) stimuli.**

But it is exactly your imaginings that are communicated, not the affective
experience, what you actually feel. You must think the experience to place
the boundaries of language around it to think it.
What I am getting at (over all) is that which was (in Modernity) repressed,
or reiterated through social discourse as 'residue' or the Other, is now
surfacing in postmodernity (and I would argue
is one of the defining characteristics of the postmodern) as one of the
qualifiers for 'life' or actually living, as a viable and valid subject
position to reconstruct identity from as a reference point.

Just as side note, to define the relationship I am talking about between
what could be called the normative (bourgeois) Dominant, and the Other. The
Other is not white, middle-class and male. In post-colonial deconstruction
of the oppression of aboriginal peoples a common element was the
construction by the colonisers of the native populace as 'exotic' or
something similar. That is not just something that is a coincidence. The
libidinal (and other affective) economies of the Dominant colonisers were
projected upon the colonised native people. They became everything that the
Dominant could not normatively be in a 'civilised' society. I have probably
explained my position very poorly, umm...

How this fits in with Lyotard?
Well directly it relates to his "The Po-Mo Condition," in particular this
little bit, "The decision makers, however, attempt to manage these clouds of
sociality according to input/output matrices, following a logic which
implies that their elements are commensurable and that the whole is

The extreme of this is the employment of pure (instrumental) reason, as
Peter Marcuse (essay: Glossy Globalisation: Unpacking a Loaded Discourse)
had pointed out as happening with globalisation, and Zygmunt Bouman is his
famous book Modernity and Ambivalence, had argued was a requisite for the
Holocaust to occur (the actual mass murders).

I am arguing that instrumental reason is without any affective anchor (like
Adorno & Horkheimer argued) and that is no biggie, what is happening within
my social environment (Australia not NZ, although that was funny:) and
perhaps others around the world is, to put it bluntly, a major psych job.
The powers that be (or the non-powers that want to be) a trying to arouse
support by relating to our sensibilities rather than to reason (unless
reason is one of sensibilities, but, unfortunately, I don't think it is...).
Our sensibilities being those parts of ideology which we relate to, which we
invest ourselves in.

In Australia we have right wing advocates ramming nationalism and family-ism
down our throats, e.g. Pauline Hanson of both counts, John Howard on
families. Austria has something similar occurring perhaps? And in the US,
what about President Bush? I have read he has down some pretty funky things
to do with church and state...

How can we possibly argue against 'ethnicists' like Pauline Hanson, when
they beat the drum of what it means to be Australian? I think earlier I
mentioned something about the best form of social control (besides a real
big gun) is to construct narratives that place everyone with in it, I
brought up Christianity, and sinners, etc. That is what is happening with
our right wing politicians, they are arguing within a binary logic, i.e. you
are Australian or you are not. There is no grey area. I am suggesting the
only way to engage such positions (for social 'good', but what is social
good, eh, who knows?) is to refute the whole system, i.e. both positions.

> > > > >So let us imagine ourselves "outside" the so-called real >>world,
> > Cosmos,
> > > >>Universe(s), observing all that "is" - Including all that is >>to
> > > :scientists,
> > > >>deists, atheists - the "facts" we obey to survive
> > > > But we cannot escape everyday life, there is no panoptic >point of
> view.
> > > "Imagine" there is.
> > > >We can only reference ourselves relative to >the :world :around :us.
> Like
> > > >in  astrophysics and how >they :place the Earth, for there is >no
> centre
> > to
> > > >the
> > > > universe (or if there is no one has told me:).
> > > "Imagine" a center. **Imagine a center of the universe**

That is why I can't let myself imagine a center, as soon as there is a
center, there is a periphery, and on the periphery is where human suffering
occurs, language itself can't have it any other way.

In the same paper Lyotard asks the question, "Where, after the
metanarratives, can legitimacy reside?"
If everything (perceived and experienced) is subjective, relative to
individual, then the only legitimacy comes from a purely subjective
position. Yes? No?

What I was getting at with the below, is that the purely subjectified
position is the only authentic position, hence the site of legitimacy.
Individuals know this, and seeing as though there is always someone within
the space of the Other, the dominant becomes easily vilified, hence
empowering the Other with authenticity as the victim, as the site of
subjectification. What is lost in all this is intent. But that is another

> > In po-mo I meant there was seemingly essential relativism (not that ther
> > definitely was, sorry:), compared to modernity's relative essentialism.
> And
> > by essential relativism I mean in western societies (I am not in the
> > there seems to be a culture of victims appearing. Or not necessarily
> > victims, but people taking the relative stance of something like "I
> > to be a victim!" (Sort of like in the film American Beauty, but that is
> > stretching it, I just needed an example to illustrate what I am talking
> > about.) As a victim you are oppressed or dominated, and thoroughly
> > subjectified. You become the 'residue' by physical or ideological force.
> > However, it is only the threat of being a victim, not actually being
> > (although, of course, there are real victims)**As noted above**  a
> Thus they create for
> > themselves a position that seems to be that of 'residue', of the Other,
> > 'authentic' subject position, so as to 'authenticate' actions and
> > ideological viewpoints. Or, perhaps, to authenticate an essentially
> relative subject position.**Yes, everything is relative to something
> >> >  ...then there is a collective subjectivity, and we have people
> each
> > other that they believe and feel like they are Christians, or
> or
> > KKK members, or something like that.
> > Don't you think as soon as we imagine a centre for arguments sake, we
> > done exactly that, given those we argue against (whatever the
> > positioning) some ground to stand on. **Those who argue have ground to
> stand on, why else would they argue?**

This is one of those chicken or the egg things... however, what I am
focusing on is exactly where did they get the ground to stand on?
Like (just for an example), did the government say, "Here is some ground now
bugger off."
Or is it a case of them saying, "This is our ground, now you bugger off."  I
think the problem is that both are occurring (not necessarily in the same
instance, etc).
(Kind of like Baudrillard's Hyperreal perhaps, except instead of the signs
being all free-floating, it is the possibility arising of some of these
signs being stuck on something. My problem is, who is doing the sticking?
Who then gains power?)
This also relates to the other stream of emails regarding the Goths I think.
Although that has to do with the generation of the Other as almost a fashion

> > No I meant in a Zygmunt Bauman-esque binary, where there is always an
> > inside-outside logic to language, or in terms of Baudrillard, there is
> > always social residue. Boundaries are being placed around subjective
> > experience so they can be communicated and shared. Human success in this
> > domain can be found in, for example, some love poems, and failure in
> racist
> > slurs.  **Not familiar with those authors or arguments, so it sounds
> vague generalisations, maybe not.**

In the "Birth of Tragedy" Nietzsche turned to some artists didn't he? In
search of answers? I think it was some Greeks or something I can't quite
remember. I think it might have been (and this is pure speculation), because
the closest approximation to communicating the experience itself, rather
than just a report of the experience, comes from art and artistic forms.
Think of your favourite piece of music or song. Or love poems...
The opposite is the reiteration of the inherent power structures imbedded in
the social, by continually recreating the binaries, i.e. using racist slurs.

Where it becomes complex and maybe a little bit more realistic than my above
simplifications, is when people are conditioned to invest meaning into
particular ideological positions. This can be in Nazi Germany telling a
blue-eyed blond kid he is special, or it could be some redneck continually
referring to people with dark skin as 'Niger's. Eventually both parties
accept the labile, the definition. (It may only be in a particular grouping
of social vectors, a relative site that only occurs when the blue-eyed blond
kid is around Nazi's for example, but what could that kid be thinking away
from Nazi's after a certain amount of conditioning? People only have a
finite number of thoughts capable of being thought anyway...)

> > > > >From Nietzsche's point of view, there is no exit from the
> of
> > > >interpretation; everything is 'interpreted through and through'.
> > > > There is only essential relativism, that is what is shared across
> > of
> > > >humanity.
> > > To "believe" there is "only" essential relativism, or "only any other
> ism
> > > seems to be a failure of imagination.
> > But what are we imagining exactly? Following what I call the binary
> of
> > the social there is always something discarded, some residue produced...
> but
> > that is not to say that experiences between persons aren't so similar
> that
> > some are practically the same, or the persons can come to an agreement
> > regarding the similarity. That is, for the practical use of language, so
> > there can be a social at all.  **There are billions of people, millions
> "socials", and the above-named philosophers apparently shared at least one
> of them - Consider the number of countries, thousands of dialects,
> of practicioners of religions.  Most of these socials are afflicted with
> poverty and disease, many are subject to wars, forcible removal from their
> ancestral lands, and occasional genocide**

Yep. My point is about trying to escape the binaries of the social, escape
the oppression. Which requires absolute responsibility (Bauman argues this
is another one of his books, I can't remember which one). A kind of
reworking of the original (Weberian) social contract.

>If anything, I am a
> flightless
> > bird with no wings.. **(in no-zee-land?)**

Nah, Aussie, mate. I meant I am neither left or right wing. I don't have any
particular natural political leanings. (Again, that is funny though:) I
played a lot of rugby with some Kiwis, they were lacking a lot more than

> > > >Perhaps, then that is why  the focus on the 'sublime'? For it is
> > > > (normatively) a trans-cultural experience... it doesn't need to > be
> > > >referenced, for it can't be communicated, only >experienced. >It
> be
> > > >communicated because the >boundaries of language can only
> > > about
> > > > the experience, rather than the experience itself.
> > > It seems that experience is a function of an individual's
> > > accumulation of memories, vs.environmental stimuli i.e. perception of
> > > events.
> > I meant that because of the apparently transcendental nature of the
> sublime,
> > something is shared (on a certain level) with others. Transcendental of
> > insufficiencies of language that is, and hence, reason (of the binary
> logic
> > of the social) itself.**People in Oklahoma City shared an experience of
> transcendental terror for which language was insufficient. As for beauty
> the sublime, when it transcends language (despite the efforts of critics)
> assume there are similar experiences.
> But each individual is different, and each experience is actual only for
> time, only for one place, only for one person.**

Lawrence Grossberg speaks of the affective poles being terror and boredom.
That is what I meant, not the nature of the experience, but the 'amount' of
the experience. Like, not the scale of terror-to-beauty.
Terror ties in with the above (about the social contract) which is why
absolute responsibility for the whole of humanity must be taken by everyone,
not just policing force (of self-proclaimed saviours, moonlighting as
neo-conservative politicians).

> > > It is said that a newborn human sees flashes of light and dark, and
> > "learns"
> > > to recognize its mother's face, by repetition and memory.
> > > Memories are notoriously inaccurate, even short-term, as witnessing
> > > describing an accident or a crime.  Language is
> > > often inadequate, except for simplest objects and events where
> > > words serve well.
> > > Years or decades afterwards, recollection of an event, recollection of
> > > feeling, is likely to be in some degree inaccurate.
> >
> > But which memories are you more certain of? The ones that happened, say,
> > hours ago, or the ones you have had for 10 years? The certainty here is
> not
> > of the events in the 'real' world, but of the events as they are
> in  your head. The memories of 10 years have had more time to, umm, stew
> (?). So
> > that the actual events themselves the are part of the memory are fuzzy,
> but
> > the experience of what is remembered is not. E.g. when you were a little
> kid
> > did you burn yourself on a stove (or some such thing)? Do you remember
> what > colour the stove was (or what the time was, or the day, or the
> of the > stove, or what type of pants you were wearing), or that is was
> bloody
> > hot?!!!**Some memories do remain vividly clear for years, most do not.**

Hmm, how many times since have you put your hand on the stove (yeah I know,
dumb example, sorry)? It is not the fact you consciously think about the
burn or the stove as a memory from the p.o.v. of a little kid, but the fact
that you don't think about it and still don't put your hand on the stove...

I think memories never fade (like never-ever never). (And just as a logic
thing, how do we know when we have lost a memory???) It is just we don't
think about remembering, we are conditioned to believe our 'common-sense.'
What is common-sense anyway? A collection of memories so 'obvious' that they
are just continually assumed and lived maybe? What happens when these
common-sensical things enter into the social sphere? What happens when it
becomes bad to have 'common-sense'? Is common-sense just an extension of our
animal instincts?
(Wasn't there some talk recently about dinosaurs and the size of their
brains being because they didn't need much of a conscious type mind as we
conceive of it (because of their physical bulk), but primarily ran on
instinct, totally off the topic I know, sorry.)

> > Or maybe we just don't like to let ourselves feel such things (because
> then
> > we lose control,  and hence are vulnerable (on some base instinctual
> level) **Perhaps for some people - I think of terror as a feeling that
> is inevitable, something that differs from being affected by beautiful
> objects or performances**

But death is inevitable. Different in what way?

> > Subjective, but a shared (collective) subjective (as mentioned above),
> > 'something' prior must be shared between audience and artist for
> 'something'
> > to be communicated. In terms of Frege, the artist and audience need
> similar
> > 'senses' of the same 'reference. **Collective terror, yes - collective
> sublimity would be like one consciousness, one brain/body/organisim.  Of
> course there's often enough commonalty of individual response to clap
> together.**

Kind of like the Borg!! Or Zen? Or maybe going to Heaven and becoming one
with God once you die?
Surely, amongst all those people out there in the world, someone likes the
same music I do.
Is it a matter of being given a selection of stimuli by the social (or
combination) and selecting or finding that which generates an affective
response (thus creating a finite number of possible experiences)? Or do we
fashion experience out of the void of the world and say "this is sublime"?
Are we passive or active? Do we select or do we create?

This is good fun by the way!


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