File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 119

Date: Sun, 23 Sep 2001 20:26:02 +0100
Subject: Re: Mystify me!


Lyotard described himself, almost as a pagan monk, which reading the 
below I thought is an apt phrase describing the 'reading sense' of the 
mail. I am thinking not the point where he says that he hopes he was not 
'so careless  in  describing  the metamorphoses of eros and dionysus 
that i gave the impression that I was a pagan monk...' but where he 
desribes the 'The monk I tried to become...' remembering the danger 
related to polymorphic paganism being swept away into violence and 
terror... In short I think that  the mail reads, as do many of your 
recent mails, as if written by a 'pagan monk', there are worse things to 
be... The forms of nomadic intellectual which have entered into the 
recent discourses on the list, needs the polymorphic paganism if it is 
to not turn into the gateway for the fascistic violence and terror which 
is often proposed to us as a solution to everything...

Camus is an interesting choice - one of the themes that runs through his 
work is the idea that if an individual commits an act of violence then 
they must be prepared to accept the consequences. The state does not 
exist within that reciprocal framework of violence - there is an 
assumption of immunity - which is slowly breaking down. Recently we have 
seen examples of heads of state, and their associates on trial, or close 
to being put on trial  for their murderous deeds. The attempt to put 
Kissenger on trial being the most interesting . In a decade or so it 
could be Bush and Blair...



Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>Julie, Matthew, All:
>I admit to being disturbed by the recent thread I've had with Matthew
>and my own emotional reactions to it. It brought home to me Lyotard's
>concept of the differend with a vengence.  How difficult it is to
>negotiate a difference of opinion through discussion, logic or the
>"facts of the matter" when the root assumptions that apply can never
>come into language.  This is merely a distant echo of the much more
>powerful differend the world faces at this moment where people I knew
>personally are now dead as a result of this terrible tragedy.
>Matthew thought that during the course of our discussion, I changed my
>mind concerning religion.  The truth, is, however, I have always been
>ambiguous about religion, and have certainly never condemned it outright
>as any would-be archeologist who glanced through these archives would
>soon discover.
>Christianity, in particular, has always been particularly close to me
>because it is the religion I was born into and because I have always
>been moved by the figure of Jesus, the person whom the theologian
>Dietrich Bonhoffer once described as the "man who is for others."
>I previously said that religion constituted a kind of poetics of being
>and Christianity in this positive sense may be called a religion of
>love, where love is defined in the mature, ethical sense of agape.  One
>way to tell the story is like this. When love is encountered, in that
>transforming moment of grace, my personality becomes reconstituted.  My
>ego is displaced, my self is forever dis-centered.  
>Henceforth, I must begin to take responsibility for my own previous
>actions, my own capacity for evil, my own failure to love because I have
>experienced love as a free gift.  Thus, I am moved to share this love
>with others. My former foundations have been shattered.  I discover
>instead that only in the disclosure of myself can I ever hope to find a
>lasting freedom. I must give to each in the same measure that I myself
>have been given.  This is the basis for the convivial community, Kant's
>kingdom of ends and Augustine's pilgrim city composed of strangers,
>nomads and outcasts. 
>What disturbs me most about the current events is the persistent
>insistence upon our own innocence.  As long as we continue to simply
>project evil unto others we will never begin to understand the capacity
>for evil within ourselves. As long as we continue to loudly proclaim our
>own innocence and generosity, we will never listen to what the rest of
>the world is saying to us.
>Julie, you have spoken to us about mothers and their children.  Consider
>this.  Suppose you were a young mother living in Iraq and you couldn't
>obtain food and medicine for your sick, hungry child because of the U.S.
>sanctions.  How would you feel about America then?
>George W. Bush has said: "Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or
>bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done."  But what kind of
>justice he is talking about?  If it just retaliation based on
>maintaining our global hegemony and merely continuing to protect U.S,
>strategic interests, then I fear it will only initiate a new cycle of
>The opportunity exists today for another kind of justice.  America,
>instead of merely defending the status quo, could begin instead to take
>responsibility for its own previous actions and take on a leadership
>role to eradicate world hunger, restore the quality of people's health
>and the environment, and overcome the fear and terror millions currently
>experience on an everyday basis.  Instead of merely dictating to others,
>we would listen to other's voices and act upon their needs.  Then, a
>true Pax Americana could be established, based upon the foundations of a
>more just and less divided world.  
>For this to take place, however, perhaps a different concept of God is
>necessary.  Not the transcendent God who blesses only America, the
>strong and the powerful, but an immanent God who springs forth from our
>own activity and blesses the world, the poor and the multitudes.  In the
>end, as always, you have to ask yourself:  "What would Jesus do?"
>Julie's mention of Sisyphus immediately calls to mind for me the writer
>Albert Camus who wrote the novel entitled "The Plague" after writing his
>famous essay on "The Myth of Sisyphus."  In it, he depicts a doctor and
>others who continue to act and do good even after they realize their
>situation is hopeless and the plague they are fighting will never come
>to an end.   They are not heroic in any conventional sense.  Instead,
>they fulfill Kierkegaard's definition of a saint.  They do ordinary
>things extraordinarily well.  
>One critic, reviewing Camus, once described his philosophy as follows.
>"This world is absurd.  Therefore, we must love one another."
>Perhaps this best describes the kind of justice and religion I am
>seeking.  To answer Julie's question about what good philosophy can do,
>my short answer would be this. The only thing that can impossibly redeem
>this world in all its absurdity is our love and our resistance.    
>Between the Great Refusal and an ecstatic love that embraces all, the
>journey of the nomad pilgrim must be made, on a road that has not yet
>been built, to create a world that has not yet been made.


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