File spoon-archives/postanarchism.archive/postanarchism_2003/postanarchism.0307, message 59


Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003 09:42:51 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: [postanarchism] Always leaving the party early? Part 3



Philip wrote:
 
Most certainly, it is not a joke. But you are correct in assuming that I
had not intended the latter, either, though I almost wish I had. Your
comment on the similarity between peace marches and pro-war celebrations
is diabolically insightful!

TMB: Muahahahah!

Philip: Considering this not only from the view to the ends (that both
precede war), I offer these thoughts -- Living in a fair-sized New England
town this past year, the two (peace protest and war support) would take
place, simultaneously, across the street from each other in the center of
town. And there were several days when it was impossible to tell them
apart. Also, as if conjured by the pen of an allegorist, there was an
elderly gentleman who took station upon the median dividing the four lanes
of traffic in the center of the village square. He wore a military uniform
and bore a large post, resembling a cross, upon which perched a tattered
american flag. On the horizontal plank, in tiny, indecipherable letters,
was ascribed the purpose of the man's protest, though, due to their
indecipherability, nobody knew if he, most likely a veteran himself, was
for or against the war. And, to further the sick comedy, his position on
the median was dead-center between the opposing protesters (the "support
our troops" gang and the "no blood for oil" convoy).

TMB: I often think of a political cartoon I'd like to draw: aliens in a
spaceship, watching earth through a telescope, one says to the other, "I
think I see a pattern: they seem to be having celebrations and then going
to war", etc. It is funny how strong the condition of suspicion can get.
At times I imagine that some peace activists were for the war and were
just trying to come to a consensus on how to have an activism that simply
doesn't work so as to enable going to war. The standards of assessment and
critique that peace activists applied to the Bush/Blair/Clinton thing, if
applied to Saddam, would certainly obtain in similar ways. They themselves
make the equation quite a lot. Yet what does this mean, in terms of going
to war, undertaking violence? And what violences did the Hussein family
accomplish? And are we to just stand idly by and let that happen? So what
if they trumped up some reasons to go in? After all, we use such trumping
up in our lives now and again, if the Cause is Right, isn't that necessary
violence? For the record I was against the war, attended numerous
protests, spoke at one, and in my organizing work where I live
(Pittsburgh) was a consistent voice of critique of what I felt was an
inadequate activism.
 
Philip: As far as "broiling soup of flesh" and the violence of mass
gatherings, I was referring to the potentiality for violence which colors
the tension of those events, and which can, at the slightest provocation,
erupt into violent chaos (tienneman square, the thousands of de-centered
civil rights disturbances throughout america in the 60s, labor strikes,
etc.) Even an otherwise innocuous insult from a police officer can
snowball into a riot. Also, violence itself is the purpose of many
mass-events (peace marches included), whether it be the engendering of
more violence or the call to cessation. Nonviolence, if it is to achieve
any form of pacification, must incorporate violence into its own tactical
agenda, as a "threat" : even if their motive is expressed as a nonviolent
deterrence, a crowd of 6,000 people are a "threat" in themselves,
regardless of whether they bear flowers or rocks. Zola's "Germinal" proves
this a thousand times over, and does so with specific regard to
socio-economic factors.

TMB: Yes, this is very important. Is it possible to conceive of a
nonviolence that really does amount to more than, something other than,
"soft pressure that doesn't involve ripping flesh"? The Gandhian kind was
about "melting hearts". There remained within it an idea of actually
reaching, convincing, persuading. It is not without violence: one suffers,
one gets arrested. The gesture of *satyagraha* was to hold (agraha) to the
truth (satya). I know, how can we feel we have enough truth to hold onto
it? Well that's how far that goes. And so there is holding to truth in
such a manner that one holds on against the violence done one. But such
persistence is, itself, a kind of violenceright? One could hop off the
train on which one is being beaten, rather than holding onto the railings.
To hold on is itself a violent. It is a far lower grade violence. It is
not attempting to shut down (read: blockade) the train. It is affirming
one's right to ride the train, even as one is beaten for the color of
one's skin, say, or national origin. Rosa Parks on the bus did not attempt
to stop the bus. Yet of course it caused a furor. Somehow this sense of
nonviolence can be understood as "alternative violence" only in an overly
restrictive understandin. No, something else is going on. The current,
predominant thought is not up to what this is about; the activism itself,
the appropriations of Gandhi, etc. have failed to grasp this other element
very well. It is not worked up, it is often mimed at best. The power of
Gandhian nonviolence lies in these registiers and issues, though there is,
to be sure, a time for the great strike that does shut things down. Such a
strike does have a violence to it, but it also has a nonviolence to it.
Even if it is violent in shutting down businesses, say, it also *can* have
a gesture of respect for and affirmation of the other.
 
<snip>

Philip: I fail to see where I said otherwise. Platonic philosophy does
exactly what you say, it exalts Forms over their Copies (which,
unfortunately, is Nature).  Aristotelian philosophy, which I was speaking
of, is an attempt to relocate these Forms within Nature (though it fails,
as he makes of Nature something of mere potentiality : a vessel, as it
were, for those Platonic Forms).

TMB: Ok.
 
<snip>

Philip: Also, I am wary of signing on for any sort of "decent" or "good"
thinking, to be truly honest. And it seems highly doubtful that we can
ever achieve an "original thinking", either.

TMB: I'm wary too, but we have to have some sense for such a thing and
maintain ourselves in such a sense, standard, etc., all the time.
Pretending we do not have standards (and you appear to have a high
standard in your own writing) doesn't make them go away. I say "decent" as
a better form, i.e., I can't hope to be "good", maybe "decent". As to
"original".heh, I know.Yet I think there is such moment: original not in
the sense of "coming up with something original", though this may happen
at times, perhaps in lots of ways, but simply that one is thinking "for
oneself". Yes, you can have at it all the ways you want, it remains that
there are ways of truly robotically aping what one was taught and finding
ways into a greater authenticity of one's one thinking "originally", with
greatER independence, etc.

Philip: I would place more hope on the manipulation of an existing thought
"arche", and a labored investigation of thought's phenomena.

TMB: Clearly a reference to the great phenomenological rallying cry, "to
the things themselves!", with a history of Cartesianism ("doubt your
dogma, but act normally"). It's a moment. It's got to be there. However, I
do not go so far as to say that we should just set out to hope to only
manipulate exsiting arche. I think this is very dangerous and potentially
very status quo.

Philip: There have been some excellent examples of this in the last
century : in Adorno and Horkheimer's work on constellatory thought (as
inspired by Benjamin), and their experimentation with the fragment;
Deleuze's attempt at a nomad thought, (though, if we take a look at any of
his serious contributions to philosophy, this seems to utterly contradict
his own method);  and of course, Derridean deconstruction (though even
this is highly expository in form); and so on. None of these, however,
deserve the epithet "original";  rather, they are "experimental":
tweakings of the structure, so to speak, with a hope to forge catalysts
within thought's realm, which, I am sure you would agree, is language. It
is only within a structure that one can begin to tear it down.

TMB: yeah, in some ways I agree, in other ways, again, I have to suggest
that there are some new things to think and that the orientation of the
bricoleur, constellator or whatever, may preset the scene with its own
prejudice. As for language being thought's realmwell, I'm pretty
Heideggerian about that: Langauge is the language of Being as the clouds
are the clouds of the sky.which is to say, thought's realm is language and
being, never just "language" which is to say that language is never just
language and to say that something finds its realm in language is a
terrible mistake, though *there is always language*. This focus, with
fixednesses on "text" is a big mistake in my view.
 
<snip>

Philip: But when we are discussing the term "metaphysics", isn't a
reference to "the history of philosophy" almost inevitable? How, as your
pal Derrida might say, can we discuss a philosophical subject
non-philosophically? And to refer to this as a "bureaucracy of thought" is
quite insulting.

TMB: I agree. As to insulting, I don't see it only as that, but at times I
see it as that.

Philip: I'm sorry, but it's impossible to discuss "metaphysics" without
some reference to its philosophical forebears. One cannot forge an
"independent" approach to the term outside of its own grounds, simply
because one wishes to avoid the "bureaucracy of thought".  Nor was I
invoking Aristotle to explain the prison system, at least, I don't think I
was. I hadn't mentioned the Platonic ordering of forms as a point of
departure for investigating peace marches.

TMB: I think one has to make passage in some way *through* such a history
of thought. We see such (re)capitulations of the "history of philosophy"
and thought and so forth in various ways. It is mentioned as such in
Derrida, say. We see it in Heidegger, in Descartes, etc. That history is
there, it stands. However, it is so massive that a certain violence to it
may be necessary. I suppose here you are a proponent of nonviolence And I
suppose I am too. You don't see me *not* mentioning Derrida, not admiring
him as a breathtaking thinker, for example. But at the same time, the
revolution in Heidegger and some before was that if there are fundamental
problems in some ways with vast bodies of thought, "scandals" of misguided
attempts (to prove the existence of the external world, etc.) it is simply
impossible to demand that we give very thorough readings of each text,
each secondary text, etc. But that is just the beginning. In an activist
tendency, the problems pile up. One can barely read in relation to "taking
actions". Texts take on different roles. How does one decide to read just
what of Aristotle when one is working to prevent a war, the starvation of
a million people, etc.? And yet, I know, I know, how does one *not*? It is
well articulated in Derrida's two calls, I guess. In any case, the line
I'm cutting, drawing here, I believe, is in fact a *best overall line* in
regards to these various issues. I can't unpack it right now but there are
certain moves that one has to do in response to these problems, certain
basic values and possibilities emerge as the question of "how to handle
such a situation" is brought properly into view. I hold that such a
"bringing into view", of this kind of situation, is not happening,
according to a certain irresponsibility of thought. In my own way, I
assert that I am deeply in keeping with the spirit of the
Cartesian/Heideggerian moment, if you will, and suggest that it has to
happen in a space that is a bit outside of the very space of academic and
textual production, the archive, etc. It has to happen in certain kinds of
progressions and passages, in a certain kind of "dirt". I claim that this
is a kind of "best solution" in regards to these situations. "This" being,
well a broader rubric/thing I call nonviolence thoughtaction, where
"thought" is meant to preserve some sense for the archive and practices
and cannons, yet is able to get on its feet in a register that is in a
hybrid condition with the registers of "action" we know already. I mean
this in direct response to your concerns here, to be clear. Whether this
response is what I say it is, or is adequate, is quite another matter from
what I mean it to be, of course.

Philip: Nor is it fair to assume that only the anti-intellectual
approaches to modern societal issues are efficacious; to assume that
because an article is in a "hip rag" or "punk magazine" is necessarily the
"good article" as opposed to the more academic version. (Though I feel
that we agree on this).

TMB: Yup, we agree. I'm not privileging any of them, nor tossing any out,
either. I am doing some rather specific things, though.

Philip: Please, do not misunderstand me, though. I do not advocate
academia against its more "liberal" (as in supposedly liberated)
counterpart. I agree with many of the problems you hold against that
academic over-intellectualism, which ensnares itself in a
self-perpetuating spiral inwards, thus rendering itself trite. But you
must admit that its opposite is just as absurd and useless in dealing with
those "original issues" and "activist approaches".

TMB: I agree so much so that I coin a new rubric or condition:
thoughtaction. Access to it is founded in part on this level of discourse,
and these really are real moments that happen all the time, decisions we
make, lines we draw, things we experience as we deal with so many issues.
To grant these spaces and their truth, these usually parenethetical
moments about the layout of how it's going to be, where thought is to take
place and what it is to look like, what kind of books go on the
bathroomshelf or in the library, what kind of activism is to take place,
what it is to look like, what "looking like" is supposed to do in terms of
keeping things in certain forms, etc., this is prerequisite for how I
proceed and it is the space in which I proceed. The spaced is informed by
academic work and activism. For me, I have some sense of requirement for
both: I studied quite a bit, though not with as much breadth as would be
idea. I favor an approach that puts a very high value on reaching some
kind of "deep accomplishment" in at least two, differing areas (arts and
math, say, or philosophy and psychology, or history and music). The depth
issue is very important; it should be, if possible, really deep/good,
"world class" as one might say in music. Likewise, in activism, I favor
some degree of involvement, like it or not, and with a bit of real
effort/sacrifice. I have gone to marches, been arrested, and so forth. I
am not dissing either side of thought or action. I am developing
thoughtaction as such.
 
Philip: Thought requires an object, and, as "bureaucratic" as it may seem,
that object should correspond to the method of approach (or the lack of
one). It is too ridiculous to discuss "metaphysics" by relating it to punk
music, or vice versa, just as it is fundamentally totalitarian to assume
that one's own thought acheives a superior independence because it does
not bother acknowledging the former despots of thought.

TMB: Well your precautions I think are very good. I'm not really doing all
that, nor taking all thinkers as "despots". The consideration of method
(and there is more than method) is very important. I am not not
acknowledging in the manner you indicate.

Philip:  We cannot alter actuality by denying those forces in it which we
don't "agree with" or "support". Nor does this mean that we need to
reconcile ourselves with them. Often enough an author can overburden
him/herself with a dependence upon a slew of textual referents, but this
does not render this the rule. Shouldn't we organize our expositions,
critiques, railings, rants, theories, etc. according to the demands of the
subject of the work (the object of thought). Certainly, appreciation is
something lacking in much modern critical theory (whether opposed to
intellectualism or not).

TMB: I organize my work, which I situate in thoughtaction, according to
the object of reaching a starving child, stopping rapacious institutions,
brutal wars, tyrannical oppression. Laugh all you want. The point is not
to simply describe the world, the point is to change it to a less violent,
better place. The way I go about putting in limits to textual necessities,
demands, etc., when understood better is, I suggest, in fact better than
just about any way one does it anywhere, either within or outside of
academia. You can tell along story about appreciating textuality and
discursive norms, histories, traditions all you like. Many an academic
recognizes a need to be activist as well, to take stands, etc. Which
means, often enough, stepping into spaces and understandings which are, in
truth, deeply insulting to the academic way of thinking and being. If the
activist space were taken seriously, the kind of questions one asks
*seriously* in the academy would be more than just laughed at, one would
be taken as a threat to the Cause. Don't try bringing up crucial issues of
thought in many activists settings. I'm about disrupting and rethinking
the difference between thought and action, the way the sites you mention
constitute themselves, so fundamentally that this tends to lead to serious
problems in the substantive progression of much academic work. It is very
interesting, academically speakingyet it is just as disruptive, or
enruptive, to activism as well.

Regards,

Tom
 



   

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