Tuesday, August 27, 2013

From Law to Love...

Wagner’s Ring is the ultimate Paulinian work of art: the central concern in the Ring is the failure of the rule of Law, and that the shift that best encompasses the inner span of the Ring is the shift from Law to love.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Painting in Two Frames

Piglia quoted as an example of Borges’s claim one of Michail Chekhov’s tales whose nucleus is: ‘A man goes to the casino at Monte Carlo, wins a million, returns to his place and commits suicide.’:
If this is the nucleus of a story, one must, in order to tell it, divide the twisted story in two: on the one hand, the story of the game; on the other, that of the suicide. Thus Piglia’s first thesis: that a story always has a double characteristic and always tells two stories at the same time, which provides the opportunity to distinguish the story which is on the first plane from the number 2 story which is encoded in the interstices of story number 1. We should note that story number 2 only appears when the story is concluded, and it has the effect of surprise. What joins these two stories is that the elements, the events, are inscribed in two narrative registers which are at the same time distinct, simultaneous, and antagonistic, and the construction itself of the story is supported by the junction between the two stories. The inversions which seem superfluous in the development of story number 1 become, on the contrary, essential in the plot of story number 2. /…/

There is a modern form of the story which transforms this structure by omitting the surprise finale without closing the structure of the story, which leaves a trace of a narrative, and the tension of the two stories is never resolved. This is what one considers as being properly modern: the subtraction of the final anchoring point which allows the two stories to continue in an unresloved tension.

This is the case, says Piglia, with Hemingway, who pushed the ellipse to its highest point in such a way that the secret story remains hermetic. One perceives simply that there is another story which needs to be told, but which remains absent. There is a hole. If one modified Chekhov’s note in Hemingway’s style, it would not narrate the suicide, but rather the text would be assembled in such a way that one might think that the reader already knew it. Kafka constitutes another of these variants. He narrates very simply, in his novels, the most secret story, a secret story which appears on the first plane, told as if coming from itself, and he encodes the story which should be visible but which becomes, on the contrary, enigmatic and hidden.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Brunhilde's Act"

Maybe you had to be there....

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Now is the Winter of Our Discontent Made Summer by THIS Duke of York!

from The Telegraph
Archaeologists who discovered the skeleton beneath a Leicester car park last year decided with backing from the Ministry of Justice that it should be reinterred in the city's cathedral.

But their plan met with a strong wave of opposition from groups based in Yorkshire who claimed that the Plantagenet King should be buried at York Minster instead.

In a hearing on Thursday, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave gave the group, known as the Plantagenet Alliance, permission to launch a High Court challenge in what he described as an "unprecedented" case.

But he added that he hoped the matter could be settled without the need for an "unseemly, undignified and unedifying" legal squabble, urging both sides to "avoid embarking on the (legal) Wars of the Roses Part Two".

He recommended that both parties instead agree to leave the decision in the hands of an independent advisory panel made up of "suitable experts and Privy Councillors" who could make a suitable decision based on submissions from each side.

King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and was originally buried at Greyfriars church in Leicester, after his body was carried there by supporters of the victorious Henry VII.

The remains were rediscovered beneath a council car park last year by archaeologists from the University of Leicester, and the University was given permission to decide where they should be reinterred.

But while the discovery of the lost king was welcomed by his supporters in York, the University's subsequent decision to rebury the remains in Leicester Cathedral caused outrage and sparked a legal challenge.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave on Thursday gave the Plantagenet Alliance permission to bring judicial review proceedings against the Justice Secretary and the University of Leicester, with a full hearing to resolve the case expected later in the year.

But in his written judgment he commented: "It is ironic that the Wars of the Roses appear to be returning whence they started – the Temple. Legend has it that John Beaufort and Richard Plantagenet picked the symbolic red and white roses in Inner and Middle Temple gardens.

"I would, however, urge the parties to avoid embarking on the (legal) Wars of the Roses Part 2. In my view, it would be unseemly, undignified and unedifying to have a legal tussle over these royal remains."

He reminded both sides that the archaeological discovery "engages interests beyond those of the immediate parties, and touches on sovereign, state and church", and recommended the formation of an independent panel "who can consult and receive representations from all interested parties and make suitable recommendations with reasonable speed."

Explaining his decision, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said the context of the King's death and depth of public feeling raised an "obvious duty" to consult widely over how he should be reburied.

Some 26,553 people have signed a petition that the remains should be reinterred at York Minster and 8,115 people have signed a petition that they should be reinterred at Leicester. There was also a "passionate debate" on the matter in the House of Commons in March, he said.

"[The case] involves the remarkable, and unprecedented, discovery of remains of a King of England of considerable historical significance, who died fighting a battle which brought to an end a civil war which divided this country," he said.

"The obvious duty to consult widely arises from this singular fact alone. It was obvious that there would be intense, widespread and legitimate public interest and concern in many quarters as to the treatment and final resting place of Richard III's remains."

The University of Leicester said it was "digesting" the judgment but added that it "continues to take the view that the claim is without merit" and maintains it is "entirely proper and fitting" the remains should be buried in Leicester Cathedral.

"We have received messages of support from some including Michael Ibsen, whose DNA, together with that of another direct descendant of Richard's sister, was key to identifying the remains found at Greyfriars in Leicester," a spokesman said.

Stephen Nicolay, chairman of the Plantagenet Alliance and a 16th great-nephew of the King, said: "We are delighted to receive such a full and comprehensive backing for the case."

He added that the group would be happy to leave the decision in the hands of an independent panel.

"We are not interested in a legal fight, we are just trying to make sure the right thing is done," he said. "We would very much like to discuss this in a sensible and mature manner."

Vanessa Roe, deputy chair of the Plantagenet Alliance, added: "The whole point of bringing it to court was that it was the last thing we could do – they weren't going to discuss it full stop.

"As long as the evidence is looked at objectively, I don't see why an independent panel could not take the decision."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bellum Onmium Contra Omnes

“The fragile web of civility is the ‘social substance’ of free independent individuals, it is their very mode of (inter) dependence. If this substance disintegrates, the very social space of individual freedom is foreclosed.” For this reason, civility is a hidden ideology – or rather a successful one – that has become normalized and is unquestioned because it forms the very basis for the idea of human freedom. Unlike religion and law, civility cannot be enforced, since to impose it would mean that perhaps humans are not inherently polite or civil; it is only an act.

In this way, freedom is feigned, according to Žižek. It is delineated as a free choice to behave politely, be tolerant, and regulate internal conflicts. But this is actually the framework one uses to define freedom itself. In other words, freedom could not occur without the abstract idea of what freedom is supposed to be.

To guarantee freedom, ethics demands denial of the pure subjectivity of the Other. The Judeo-Christian command to “love thy neighbor,” says Žižek, makes the Neighbor inhuman. Subjectivity is lost when ethics requires universality: it is not the neighbor who is loved, but the abstract concept – an unproblematic thing – which is subsumed under the title “fellow man.” At the same time, a safe distance or abyss is maintained from the Other through “politeness.”

Žižek uses the example of would-be Adolph Hitler assassins who decided against killing the mass murderer at an opportune time in the mess hall because “it is not seemly to shoot a man at lunch.” This reveals the sheer abstraction of civility and the denial of subjectivity in both Hitler and his victims: the Nazi’s true nature is ignored in order to restore his title as “fellow man” while his victims are made secondary to a strange custom.

Paradoxically, human freedom requires the inhuman treatment of the Neighbor, and the humane treatment of the Other requires that he or she be made an object. Since the Other is unfathomable and terrifying, a civil, free society must domesticate the unknown territory through routine niceties and abstract kindness to a universal Neighbor that does not exist.
from: Žižek, Slavoj. "In Defense of Lost Causes".

Holiest Love, Highest Need

Only the one who can renounce the Power of Love, can get the gold...

Other Leitmotif's
It is a well-known fact that, in the last minutes of Götterdammerung, the orchestra performs an excessively intricate cobweb of motifs, basically nothing less than the recapitulation of the motivic wealth of the entire Ring. Is this fact not the ultimate proof that Wagner himself was not sure about what the final apotheosis of the Ring “means”? Not being sure of it, he took a kind of ‘flight forward’ and threw together all of the motifs. This rather vicious hypothesis was proposed by Adorno (in his In Search of Wagner): Wagner did not know how to end the cycle, so he merely spun together a few obvious motifs; Adorno added that the final bars of the Ring (the “redemption through love” motif) were used simply because they were the most beautiful sounding – beautiful in the sense of kitsch, not of authentic artistic beauty.

One is effectively tempted to paraphrase the ending with this beautiful motif as something like the sentimental wisdom: “What does it matter if all of this is a mess – the important thing is that we love each other!” So the culminating motif of “redemption through love” cannot but make us think of Joseph Kerman’s acerbic comment about the last notes of Puccini’s Tosca in which the orchestra bombastically recapitulates the “beautiful” pathetic melodic line of the Cavaradossi’s “E lucevan le stelle,” as if, unsure of what to do Puccini simply desperately repeated the most “effective” melody from the previous score, ignoring all narrative or emotional logic. [3] And what if Wagner did exactly the same thing at the end of Götterdammerung? Not sure about the final twist that should stabilize and guarantee the meaning of it all, he resorted to a beautiful melody whose effect is something like “whatever any of this may mean, let us make sure that the concluding impression will be that of something triumphant and uplifting in its redemptive beauty …” In short, what if this final motif enacts an empty gesture?
Zizek, "Gotterdammerung or The Reign of Human Love"
Self-Overcoming through negation of Will

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Neigh-Bore Love

The magic power of the voice as object is perhaps best rendered towards the end of Chapter 1 of Marcel Proust’s “The Guermantes Way,” part of his In Search of Lost Time. In a memorable scene, the narrator Marcel, using the phone for the first time, talks to his grandmother:
after a few seconds of silence, suddenly I heard that voice which I supposed myself, mistakenly, to know so well; for always until then, every time that my grandmother had talked to me, I had been accustomed to follow what she was saying on the open score of her face, in which the eyes figured so largely; but her voice itself I was hearing this afternoon for the first time. And because that voice appeared to me to have altered in its proportions from the moment that it was a whole, and reached me in this way alone and without the accompaniment of her face and features, I discovered for the first time how sweet that voice was … It was sweet, but also how sad it was, first of all on account of its very sweetness, a sweetness drained almost―more than any but a few human voices can ever have been―of every element of resistance to others, of all selfishness; fragile by reason of its delicacy it seemed at every moment ready to break, to expire in a pure flow of tears; then, too, having it alone beside me, seen, without the mask of her face, I noticed for the first time the sorrows that had scarred it in the course of a lifetime.
Proust’s very precise description here uncannily points forward to Lacanian theory: the voice is subtracted from its “natural” totality of the body to which it belongs, out of which it emerges as an autonomous partial object, an organ magically capable of surviving without the body whose organ it is―it is as if it stands “alone beside me, seen, without the mask of her face.” This subtraction withdraws it from (our ordinary) reality into the virtual domain of the Real, where it persists as an undead specter haunting the subject:
“‘Granny!’ I cried to her, ‘Granny!’ and would have kissed her, but I had beside me only that voice, a phantom, as impalpable as that which would come perhaps to revisit me when my grandmother was dead.”
As such, this voice signals simultaneously a distance (Granny is not here) and an obscene over-proximity, a presence more intimate, more penetrating, than that of a body in front of us:
A real presence indeed that voice so near―in actual separation. But a premonition also of an eternal separation! Over and again, as I listened in this way, without seeing her who spoke to me from so far away, it has seemed to me that the voice was crying to me from depths out of which one does not rise again, and I have known the anxiety that was one day to wring my heart when a voice should thus return (alone, and attached no longer to a body which I was never more to see).
The term “anxiety” is to be read in the precise Lacanian sense: for Lacan, anxiety does not signal the loss of the object, but, on the contrary, its over-proximity. Anxiety arises when the objet a falls directly into reality, appears in it―which is precisely what happens when Marcel hears the grandmother’s voice separated from her body and discovers “for the first time how sweet that voice was”:
this sweetness is, of course, the extracted quintessence which led to Marcel’s intense libidinal investment in the grandmother.
This, incidentally, is how psychoanalysis approaches the libidinal-subjective impact of new technological inventions:
“technology is a catalizer, it enlarges and enhances something which is already here”
―in this case, a fantasmatic virtual fact, like that of a partial object. And, of course, this realization changes the entire constellation: once a fantasy is realized, once a fantasmatic object directly appears in reality, reality is no longer the same.

Here we might mention the sex-gadget industry: one can find today on the market a so-called “Stamina Training Unit,” a masturbatory device which resembles a battery light (so that one will not be embarrassed carrying it around). It works by putting the erect penis into the opening at the top and moving the device up and down until satisfaction is achieved. The product is available in different colors, widths, and forms that imitate all three main orifices (mouth, vagina, anus). What one is offered here is simply the partial object (erogenous zone) alone, minus the embarrassing additional burden of a whole person. The fantasy (of reducing the sexual partner to a partial object) is thus directly realized, which changes the entire libidinal economy of sexual relations.

This brings us to the key question: what happens to the body when it is separated from its voice, when the voice is subtracted from the wholeness of the person? For a brief moment, we see “a world robbed of fantasy, of the affective frame and sense, a world out of joint.” Grandmother appears to Marcel outside the fantasmatic horizon of meaning, the rich texture of his previous long experience of her as a warm, charming person. All of a sudden, he sees her “red-faced, heavy and common, sick, lost in thought, following the lines of a book with eyes that seemed hardly sane, a dejected old woman whom I did not know.” Seen after the fateful phone conversation, deprived of the fantasy frame, the grandmother is like a beached squid―a creature which moves elegantly in the water but turns into a disgusting piece of slimy flesh once out of it.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Less than Nothing"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cementing the Capstone

Modern society is defined by the lack of ultimate transcendent guarantee, or, in libidinal terms, of total jouissance. There are three main ways to cope with this negativity: utopian, democratic, and post-democratic. The first one (totalitarianisms, fundamentalisms) tries to reoccupy the ground of absolute jouissance by attaining a utopian society of harmonious society which eliminates negativity. The second, democratic, one enacts a political equivalent of "traversing the fantasy": it institutionalizes the lack itself by creating the space for political antagonisms. The third one, consumerist post-democracy, tries to neutralize negativity by transforming politics into apolitical administration: individuals pursue their consumerist fantasies in the space regulated by expert social administration. Today, when democracy is gradually evolving into consumerist post-democracy, one should insist that democratic potentials are not exhausted - "democracy as an unfinished project" could have been Stavrakakis' motto here. The key to the resuscitation of this democratic potential is to re-mobilize enjoyment: "What is needed, in other words, is an enjoyable democratic ethics of the political." The key question here is, of course, WHAT KIND OF enjoyment:
Libidinal investment and the mobilization of jouissance are the necessary prerequisite for any sustainable identification (from nationalism to consumerism). This also applies to the radical democratic ethics of the political. But the type of investment involved has still to be decided.
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Liberal Utopia: Against the Politics of Jouissance"
Cementing the capstone - Shifting battle from the political front, to the cultural front in a post-democratic, consumerist, American society. The post-modernist "political" project, designed and run by the "experts" is essentially "complete. What remains is the task of acculturating all those inhabitants trapped within her walls...

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Big Other is Dead! Long Live the Other's Other!

Lacan once had a patient who believed he was a chicken.

At last, the man was cured. When he was released from the asylum, he crossed the road. Lacan called out, “Why are you crossing the road?”

“To get to the other of the Other,” the patient replied.

“You cretin!” Lacan said. “The other of the Other does not exist.”

“I know,” the patient replied, “but tell that to the fox!”

“I guess he’s cured,” Lacan thought to himself, “at least by Parisian standards.”


Although it may seem that Welles aligns himself with the second reading, things are by no means so unequivocal: he, as it were, adds another turn of the screw by raising “conspiracy” to the power of two―as K. puts it in the Welles’s version, the true conspiracy of Power resides in the very notion of conspiracy, in the notion of some mysterious Agency that effectively runs the show, that behind the visible, public Power, there lies another obscene, invisible, “crazy” power structure. This other, hidden Law acts the part of the “Other of the Other” in the Lacanian sense, the part of the meta-guarantee of the consistency of the big Other (the symbolic order that regulates social life). “Totalitarian” regimes were especially skilled in cultivating the myth of a secret parallel power, invisible and for that very reason all-powerful, a kind of “organization within the organization”―the KGB, freemasons, or whatever―that compensated for the blatant inefficiency of the public, legal Power and thus assured the smooth operation of the social machine. This myth is not only in no way subversive, it serves as the ultimate support of Power. The perfect American counterpart to it is (the myth of) J. Edgar Hoover, the personification of the obscene “other power” behind the president, the shadowy double of the legitimate Power. Hoover held onto power by compiling secret files that allowed him to keep the entire political and power elite in check, while he himself regularly indulged in homosexual orgies dressed up as a woman. When K.’s lawyer offers him, as a desperate last resort, the role of playing the martyr-victim of a hidden conspiracy, K. turns it down, being well aware that by accepting it he would walk into the most perfidious trap of Power.

This obscene mirage of the Other Power brings into play the same fantasmatic space as the famous advertisement for Smirnoff vodka, which also deftly manipulates the gap between reality and the “other surface” of the fantasy space: the camera, placed behind a bottle of vodka on a tray carried by a waiter, wanders around the deck of a luxurious ocean-liner; every time it passes an object, we first see it as it is in its everyday reality, and then, as the transparent glass of the bottle comes between our gaze and the object, we see it distorted in a fantasy dimension―two gentlemen in black evening attire become two penguins, the necklace around a lady’s neck a living snake, stairs a set of piano keys, etc. The Court in Kafka’s The Trial possesses the same purely phantasmagorical existence; its predecessor is Klingsor’s Castle in Wagner’s Parsifal. Since its hold upon the subject is entirely fantasmatic, it is sufficient to break its spell via a gesture of distantiation, and the Court or Castle falls to dust. Therein resides the political lesson of Parsifal and of Welles’s The Trial: if we are to overcome the “effective” social power, we have first to break its fantasmatic hold upon us.
- Slavoj Žižek, "The Two Sides of Fantasy"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Exposing the Hidden Motives Behind Liberal Policies

Still, sometimes restricting your range of vision is necessary to keep your sanity, or hold off a sense of overwhelm.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Sum of All Parts

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an agèd wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought
with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
- Alfred,Lord Tennyson, "Ulysses" (1833)