File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 134

Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2001 15:06:00 +1000
Subject: Re: [Fwd: re:  Ethics as a figure of nihalism]


"tryranny of consensus" - there's a nice phrase.

I replied to Steve with some thoughts about "community", and the word has so
many meanings it becomes a problem.

Distinctions are needed.  I share your opinion of the politicians, and
the media.  I was unaware of the Lynne Cheney incident - but it seems stupid
to attack academics on these matters.

Our nation is its people and its government, its military, its billionaires,
especially  as it is seen by other nations.

But the hundreds of thousands of groups of people who live together, go to
school with, work with each other "in person" are "communities"in the
traditional sense of the word.

Our nation, as the "spectacle"  portrayed by communications and
entertainment industries is not a "community"  in the traditional sense.
of the word.  The "spectacle" produces the tyranny of consensus, infects
traditional communities, produces conformity in the masses,
waves of revulsion in some of us.

The "people" are not their government.  "Real" communities are local.
Unfortunately, half of them have deserted the democratic process, refuse to
register and vote, allow plutocratic rule by those who finance camaigns and
make deals with perennial incumbents.

The U.S. as "Empire", (plutocracy in action)  is trying to force "democracy"
on the rest of the world, but it would oppose any nation-state that achieved
power for its small communities, ended financial penetration and
exploitation of its people and resources.
by other nations.

And why not?  When the practice of these abuses
of its own citizens in its own small communities has been so successful, a
deception achieved under the slogans of  a "democracy" that no longer



> A few years ago I was on the search committee in my dept, and we brought
> in a candidate who used the term "community" in every other sentence.
> When I got my one-on-one meeting with him, I asked him what he meant by
> this term. He waffled, smiled, blushed, and said something like:
> "um....well, you know, it's really hard to define...but it's one of the
> few concepts that doesn't have any negative connotations--no one can say
> anything bad about community." I was thinking: wow, those were the
> days--before psychoanalysis, feminist theory, poco theory,
> post-structuralism, deconstruction, etc. He didn't get the job.
> But steve, though I don't really disagree with what you're saying, I do
> think I would add a little texture to it or something. I think that it's
> possible to experience community, to suddenly experience it through all
> the oppressive crap (not just consumerism's crap, either). Today I
> noticed out my kitchen window this giant SUV proudly displaying the
> typical post-911 kitsch: an American flag and a big passenger side
> window sticker saying, in bolded caps, UNITED WE STAND! And it hit me
> that in the first moments/hours/days after the 911 tragedy, that phrase
> seemed descriptive, a genuine attempt somehow to express the
> inexpressible, to indicate the overwhelming feeling of concern and care
> and support for one another that "we" were suddenly experiencing, the
> urge or imperative to pull together locally and nationally. This had
> nothing to do with consumerism and at that early point very little to do
> with nationalism (though, I do think nationalism may have imposed some
> limits to the experience). And the news media was as dumb-struck as the
> rest of us; it was their dream story, but they were caught totally off
> guard and were scrambling around, stuttering, stammering, giving
> unprepped, unpolished accounts of what they saw or heard. The spectacle
> machine that's usually so smoooooth and sleek, bumbled and fumbled.
> Nobody knew what they were doing. And/but still this experience of
> community, of being-in-common, as nancy puts it, was palpable. We had
> very suddenly and very violently been reintroduced to something that
> most of "us" have a tendency to forget: that we are indeed fragile, that
> we are finite after all. And the experience of finitude *is* the
> experience of community, the experience of sharing a mortal and singular
> (unsharable) existence.
> That lasted for about 48 hours in most of the country, I'd guess. Longer
> in NYC. And then...then "we" forgot again precisely what we'd just
> relearned. The radically passive and depropriating experience of
> finitude, of community, gave way to the reassertion of identity and
> sovereignty, in all its nasty forms. You're with us or against us. The
> damn flag became a big money-maker. And this morning that phrase--UNITED
> WE STAND!--exclamation-pointed as it was, struck me not as a descriptive
> but as a prescriptive, as a command. Especially after lynn cheney's
> goons at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni put out that
> McCarthy-ish report citing academics as the "weak link," etc. A kind of
> tyranny of consensus now runs rampant in the so-called land of the free
> to an extent that I haven't experienced in my lifetime--evidencing yet
> again the incredibly shitty side of "community," the fact that the
> experience of being-in-common is obliterated in the very instant a
> project is established by which that community might define and express
> itself (in this case revenge is the major project: war). By which it
> might include and exclude. Meanwhile, consumerism came rushing back with
> unbelievable force, backed as it was this time by nationalism--or,
> excuse me, (ahem) patriotism: Buy a gas-guzzling SUV and support your
> country's economy!!! No interest for a whole year! Etc.
> The question for me, though, is not so much how to "win" against
> consumerism b/c I think we just saw that the latter in fact does fall
> off the register when "we" are exposed to our irreparable finitude. I
> don't think it's primarily a problem of the loss of common myths,
> either--myths tend always to be associated with the establishment of
> some kind of Volk. The question for me, rather, is how to hold onto the
> intensity equal to the level of death, as bataille put it, which the
> experience of sharing-existence demands, without resorting to violence
> and sacrifice to do it.
> Best, ddd
> ___________________________________________
>   D. Diane Davis
>   Rhetoric and Composition (UT Mail Code B5500)
>   University of Texas at Austin
>   Austin, TX 78712-1122
>   Office: 512.471.8765  FAX: 512.471.4353
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: [mailto:owner-
> >] On Behalf Of steve.devos
> > Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2001 5:06 AM
> > To:
> > Subject: Re: [Fwd: re: Ethics as a figure of nihalism]
> >
> >
> > Mal
> >
> > the issue started because of Hugh's belief in communuties having some
> > value and worth
> >
> > "... a continuity of personal relationships and institutional support
> > for those relationships  they affect significant others, parents and
> > children, extended families, tribes, communities."
> >
> > Given that the structure of the communities in question, and perhaps
> if
> > I used the equally specular but different communities of this side of
> > the atlantic it would have been clearer, is predominantly one that
> > oppresses and excludes rather than includes and liberates. In this
> > specific society community is used to place the human subject into a
> > place where they belong. In previous, equally unpleasent societies, a
> > common language placed the subject into its community,  but now the
> > commodity spectacle constructs an artificial reconstruction of
> > community.  Our societies have lost the community that the common
> > language, the myths had been able to maintain. In place of the
> > unpleasent communities founded on death and sacrifice, our communities
> > are founded on commodification, spectacle and division. The divided
> >  nature of our communities constitutes them as inactive because the
> > common language of community is derived from its commodification.
> >
> > False communities and neighbourhoods are generated everywhere - for
> > example - at work 'teams' and 'communities' are built to enable the
> > business to maximise its use of human resources through the false
> > community it constructs. The currently suspended (because of 911)
> > refugee and economic migrant issue in europe, is founded on the myth
> of
> > refugees and migrants being welcomed and this being a society which
> > tolerates difference. The reality is of course different for the
> > spectacle uses the former myth to hide the oppression of difference.
> The
> > use and glorification of redundent and oppressive cultural norms based
> > on cultural, racial, sexual and local stereotypes is normal.
> >
> > If 'community' is being used to oppress and control - which is the
> > result of the excessive commodification - then on a day to day basis
> we
> > need to be careful before we accept the idea that it is in itself a
> > positive value...
> >
> > regards
> >
> > steve


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