Pulcinella (Italian pronunciation: [pultʃiˈnɛlla]), a name derived from "pulcino," meaning chick, and "pollastrello," meaning rooster, is a classical character that originated in commedia dell'arte of the 17th century and became a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry. Engineered specifically to be the star of southern Italy, he is described as "the voice of the people, as the direct expression of a people as lively and spirited as the Neapolitans is never questioned." Pulcinella's versatility in status and attitude has captivated audiences worldwide and kept the character popular in countless forms since his introduction to commedia dell'arte by Silvio Fiorillo in 1620.
Pulcinella was raised by two "fathers," Maccus and Bucco, who were as different as two parents could be. Maccus is described as being terribly witty, sarcastic, rude, and cruel, while Bucco is a nervous thief who is as silly as he is full of himself. This duality manifested itself in both the way Pulcinella is shaped and the way he acts. Physically, the characteristics he inherited from his fathers attributed to his topheavy, chicken-like shape. He inherited his humpback, his large, crooked nose, and his gangly legs from Maccus. His potbelly, large cheeks, and gigantic mouth come from Bucco] Due to this duality of parental lineage, Pulcinella can be portrayed as both a servant and master depending on the scenario. "Upper" Pulcinella is more like Bucco, with a scheming nature, an aggressive sensuality, and great intelligence. "Lower" Pulcinella, however, favors Maccus, and is brilliantly described by Pierre Louis Duchartre as being "a dull and coarse bumpkin." This juxtaposition of proud, cunning thief from the upper class and loud, crass pervert from the servant class is one that is key to understanding Pulcinella's behaviors.
Duality is the name of the game with Pulcinella. He either plays dumb, though he is very much aware of the situation or- he acts as though he is the most intelligent and competent, though he is woefully ignorant. He is incessantly trying to rise above his station, though he does not intend to work for it. He is a social chameleon, who tries to get those below him to think highly of him, but is sure to appease those in positions of power. Pulcinella's closing couplet translates to "I am Prince of everything, Lord of land and main. Except for my public whose faithful servant I remain." However, because his world is often that of a servant, he has no real investment in preserving the socio-political world of his master. Nevertheless, he is always on the side of the winner, though he often doesn't decide this until after they've won. No matter his initial intent, Pulcinella always manages to win. If something ends poorly, another thing is successful. If he is put out in a sense, he is rewarded in another. This often accidental triumph is his normal. Another important characteristic of Pulcinella is that he fears nothing. Consequences are of no mind to him, as he will be victorious no matter what. It is said that he is so wonderful to watch because he does what audience members would do were they not afraid of the consequences.
Engraving of Pulcinella in 1700 (1860) by Maurice Sand, found in Masques et bouffons: comédie italienne.
Pulcinella is, however, the ultimate self-preservationist, looking out for himself in most every situation, yet he still manages to sort out the affairs of everyone around him. Antonio Fava, a world-renowned maskmaker and Maestro of Commedia dell'arte is particularly fond of the character in both performance and study due to his influence and continuity throughout history. Of him, Fava explained that "Pulcinella, a man without dignity, is nevertheless indespensable to us all: without [him] ... none of his countless 'bosses' could ever escape from the awkward tangle of troubles in which they find themselves. Pulcinella is everyone's saviour, saved by no one." This accidental helpfulness is key to his success. He goes out of his way to avoid responsibility, yet always ends up with more of it than he bargained for.
His movements are broad and laborious, allowing him to aggressively emphasize his speech and simultaneously exhausting him. He will also get excited about something and move very quickly and deliberately, leaving him with no choice but to halt the action and catch his breath. He is to be thought of as a rebellious delinquent in the body of an old man.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Sunday, February 26, 2017
-Charl Landsberg, ”Commedia dell’Arte"
Are you happy with me
Here where I stand?
Jester in your court
Your loyal servant
My feet pain
Ready with a joke
With a witty reply
The prepared anecdote
To make you laugh
And you laugh heartily
With the food gurgling
In your gullet
Laugh at me
While I whisper
Some advice into your ear
And you call me
To advise you when none look
And I answer as best I can
With the very marrow of my bones
Your loyal servant
In my bright clothes
And my silly walk
As I stand eager
To snatch the gold
From your fingers
That I may go home
And my children will say
“Zanni have you food for us”
And I will say
And my children will say
“But weren’t you funny?
You are a Zanni?”
And I will say
“Very. I was very funny
But our master
Does not get the real joke.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Friday, February 24, 2017
The health of the soldiers ist subordinated to this primary interest.
Comrades (in arms), watch out:
I´ve brought something for you.
This Powder lets you fly
and defeat the enemy soon.
A masterclass product,
a real wonder weapon.
This powder is awesome,
Even there is tremendous fear
take a dose with pleasure
and then into the enemys visor
rise up to the firmament
till the engine burns
with full power
With a little dose of speed
you hurry from victory to victory,
no borders can stop you
an nothing remains the same.
you are rulers in the air
regardless of the consequence.
Still the masses cheer
therefore the enemy will hate you.
Without sleep and without tomorrow
´cause a decoration ist already waiting.
Mistake you for daring
so speed towards ground
Start was often very late, 10, 11 o clock.
Being over London or any other english city at about 1, 2 o clock in the morning.
Sure being tired then.
An then, recognizing that, which hadn´t to be the case, you swallowed one, two pills pervitin and it was allright again.
with full power
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Sunday, February 19, 2017
At a more formal level of his logic of reflection, Hegel uses the unique term "absoluter Gegenstoss" (recoil, counter-push, couter-thrust, or, why not, simply counter punch): a withdrawal that creates what it withdraws from:- Slavoj Zizek, "Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism"Reflection, therefore finds before it an intermediate which it transcends and from which it is the return. But this return is only the presupposing of what reflection finds before it. What is thus found only comes to be through being left behind... the reflective movement is to be taken as an absolute recoil [absolter Gegenstoss] upon itself, For the presupposition of the return-into-self -- that from which the essence comes, as is only as this return -- is only in the return itself.Absoluter Gegenstoss thus stands for the radical coincidence of opposites in which the action appears as its own counter-action, or, more precisely, in which the negative move (loss, withdrawal) itself generates what it "negates". "What is found only comes to be through being left behind,"and its inversion (it is "only in the return itself" that what we return to emerges, like nations who constitute themselves by way of "returning to their lost roots") are tow sides of what Hegel calls "absolute reflection": a reflection which is no longer external to its object, presupposing it as given, but which, as it were, closes the loop and posits its own presupposition. To put it in Derridean terms, the condition of possibility is here radically and simultaneously the condition of impossibility: the very obstacle to the full assertion of our identity opens up the space for it. Another exemplary case: the Hungarian ruling class "had long 'possessed' (ie, patronized and cultivated) a distinctive music, the so-called magyar nota ('Hungarian tune') which in educated Hungarian circles was regarded as a stylistic emblem of the national identity, and predictably, in the nineteenth century, with the great nationalist revival, this style exploded in operas and symphonies. When, at the beginning of the twentieth century, modernist composers like Bartok and Kodalyi started to collect authentic popular music and discovered that it "was of an altogether different style and character from the magyar nota," and even worse, that it consisted of an inextricable mixture of "all the peoples who inhabited 'greater Hungary'- Romanians, Slovaks, Bulgars, Croats, and Serbs - and even ethnically remoter people like the Turks... or the Arabs of North Africa." For this, predictable, Bartok was reviled by the nationalists and felt compelled to leave Hungary.
This, then, is the dialectical process: an inconsistent mess (first phase, the starting point) which is negated and, through negation, the Origin is projected or posited backwards, so that a tension is created between the present and the lost Origin (second phase). In the third phase, the Origin is perceived as inaccessible, relativized- we are in external reflection, that is, our reflection is external to the posited Origin which is experiences as a transcendent presupposition. In the fourth phase of absolute reflection, our external reflexive movement is transposed back into the Origin itself, as its own self-withdrawal or decentering. We thus reach the triad of positing, external reflection, and absolute reflection.
In his critical reading of Hegel, Badiou proposes his own materialist rendering of the quadruple structure of the dialectical process: "indifferent multiplicities, or ontological unbinding: worlds of appearing, or the logical link; truth-procedure, or subjective eternity," plus the Event itself, the additional "vanishing cause, which is the exact opposite of the Whole." As we have just seen, we can find this materialist version of the dialectical process already in Hegel- apropos the British colonization of India, first there is the "indifferent multiplicity" of pre-colonial India; then the British colonizers brutally intervene, imposing the transcendental structure of the colonial order, justified in terms of Western universalism; then the Indian resistance to colonization develops, pointing out how, in colonizing India, the West is betraying its own legacy of egalitarian emancipation. The anti-colonial struggle thus refers to the Idea of India as a secular democratic state, an Idea which originated in the West. The Indian version of this Idea, however, is not a "synthesis" of the Western secular-egalitarian spirit and the Indian tradition, but a full assertion of the egalitarian spirit by way of cutting the roots that ground it in the Western tradition and affirming its actual universality. In short, only when the Western Idea is "ex-apted" by India does it achieve actual universality: when Indians embrace the European democratic-egalitarian Idea, they become more European than the Europeans themselves.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
-Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands.”
Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go send your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child
Take up the White Man’s burden
In patience to abide
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit
And work another’s gain
Take up the White Man’s burden—
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard—
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah slowly) to the light:
"Why brought ye us from bondage,
“Our loved Egyptian night?”
Take up the White Man’s burden-
Have done with childish days-
The lightly proffered laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
e-r-r-r-r...could somebody now please get these "uncastrated/ homeless" others out of here?
Nietzsche, "Gay Science" (377)
We who are homeless. Among Europeans today there is no lack of those who are entitled to call themselves homeless in a distinctive and honorable sense: it is to them that I especially commend my secret wisdom and gaya scienza. For their fate is hard, their hopes are uncertain; it is quite a feat to devise some comfort for them—but what avail? We children of the future, how could we be at home in this today? We feel disfavor for all ideals that might lead one to feel at home even in this fragile, broken time of transition; as for its "realities," we do not believe that they will last. The ice that still supports people today has become very thin; the wind that brings the thaw is blowing; we ourselves who are homeless constitute a force that breaks open ice and other all too thin "realities."
We "conserve" nothing; neither do we want to return to any past periods; we are not by any means "liberal"; we do not work for "progress"; we do not need to plug up our ears against the sirens who in the market place sing of the future: their song about "equal rights," "a free society," "no more masters and no servants" has no allure for us. We simply do not consider it desirable that a realm of justice and concord should be established on earth (because it would certainly be the realm of the deepest leveling and chinoiserie) [concluding poem, Beyond Good and Evil: "nur wer sich wandelt bleibt mit mir verwandt" (Only those who keep changing remain akin to me)]; we are delighted with all who love, as we do, danger, war, and adventures, who refuse to compromise, to be captured, reconciled, and castrated; we count ourselves among conquerors; we think about the necessity for new orders, also for a new slavery—for every strengthening and enhancement of the human type also involves a new kind of enslavement. Is it not clear that with all this we are bound to feel ill at ease in an age that likes to claim the distinction of being the most humane, the mildest, and the most righteous age that the sun has ever seen? It is bad enough that precisely when we hear these beautiful words we have the ugliest suspicions. What we find in them is merely an expression—and a masquerade—of a profound weakening, of weariness, of old age, of declining energies. What can it matter to us what tinsel the sick may use to cover up their weakness? Let them parade it as their virtue; after all, there is no doubt that weakness makes one mild, oh so mild, so righteous, so inoffensive, so "humane"!
The "religion of pity" to which one would like to convert us—oh, we know the hysterical little males and females well enough who today need precisely this religion as a veil and make-up. We are no humanitarians; we should never dare to permit ourselves to speak of our "love for humanity"; our kind is not actor enough for that. Or not Saint-Simonist enough [i.e., not a utopian socialist], not French enough. One really has to be afflicted with a Gallic excess of erotic irritability and enamored impatience to approach in all honesty the whole of humanity with one’s lust!
Humanity! Has there ever been a more hideous old woman among all old women—(unless it were "truth": a question for philosophers)? No, we do not love humanity ["Man is something that shall be overcome": Thus Spake Zarathustra, Prologue]; but on the other hand we are not nearly "German" enough, in the sense in which the word "German" is constantly being used nowadays, to advocate nationalism and race hatred and to be able to take pleasure in the national scabies of the heart and blood poisoning that now leads the nations of Europe to delimit and barricade themselves against each other as if it were a matter of quarantine. For that we are too openminded, too malicious, too spoiled, also too well informed, too "traveled": we far prefer to live on mountains, apart, "untimely," in past or future centuries, merely in order to keep ourselves from experiencing the silent rage to which we know we should be condemned as eyewitnesses of politics that are desolating the German spirit by making it vain and that is, moreover, petty politics: to keep its own creation from immediately falling apart again, is it not finding it necessary to plant it between two deadly hatreds? must it not desire the eternalization of the European system of a lot of petty states?
We who are homeless are too manifold and mixed racially and in our descent, being "modern men," and consequently do not feel tempted to participate in the mendacious racial self-admiration and racial indecency that parades in Germany today as a sign of a German way of thinking and that is doubly false and obscene among the people of the "historical sense." We are, in one word—and let this be our word of honor—good Europeans, the heirs of Europe, the rich, oversupplied, but also overly obligated heirs of thousands of years of European spirit. As such, we have also outgrown Christianity and are averse to it—precisely because we have grown out of it, because our ancestors were Christians who in their Christianity were uncompromisingly upright: for their faith they willingly sacrificed possessions and position, blood and fatherland. We—do the same. For what? For our unbelief? For every kind of unbelief? No, you know better than that, friends! The hidden Yes in you is stronger than all Nos and Maybes that afflict you and your age like a disease; and when you have to embark on the sea, you emigrants, you, too, are compelled to this by—a faith!
Monday, February 13, 2017
-Tony Hoagland, "Dialectical Materialism"
I was thinking about dialectical materialism at the supermarket,
strolling among the Chilean tomatoes and the Filipino pineapples,
admiring the Washington-state apples stacked in perfect pyramid displays
by the ebony man from Zimbabwe wearing the Chicago Bulls t-shirt.
I was seeing the whole produce section
as a system of cross-referenced signifiers
in a textbook of historical economics
and the fine spray that misted the vegetables
was like the cool mist of style imposed on meaning.
It was one of those days
when interpretation is brushing its varnish over everything
when even the birds are speaking complete sentences
and the sun is a brassy blond novelist of immense accomplishment
dictating her new blockbuster
to a stenographer who types at the speed of light
and publishes each page as fast as it is written.
There was cornbread rising in the bakery department
and in its warm aroma I believed that I could smell
the exhaled breath of vanished Iroquois,
their journey west and
delicate withdrawal into the forests,
whereas by comparison
the coarse-grained wheat baguettes
seemed to irrepressibly exude
the sturdy sweat and labor of eighteenth-century Europe.
My god there is so much sorrow in the grocery store!
You would have to be high
on the fumes of the piped-in pan flutes
of commodified Peruvian folk music
not to be driven practically crazy
with awe and shame,
not to weep at the scale of subjugated matter:
the ripped-up etymologies of kiwi fruit and bratwurst,
the roads paved with dead languages,
the jungles digested by foreign money.
It’s the owners, I said to myself;
it’s the horrible juggernaut of progress;
but the cilantro in my hand
opened up its bitter minty ampoule underneath my nose
and the bossa nova muzak charmed me like a hypnotist
and the pretty cashier with the shaved head and nose ring
said, Have a nice day.
as I burst with my groceries through the automatic doors
into the open air,
where I found myself in a giant parking lot
at a mega-mall outside of Minneapolis,
where in row E 87
a Ford Escort from Mankato
had just had a fender-bender with a Honda from Miami;
and these personified portions of my heart, the drivers,
were standing there
in the gathering Midwestern granular descending dusk
waiting for the troopers to fill out the accident report,
with the rotating red light of the squad car
whipping in circles above them,
splashing their shopped-out middle-aged faces
with war paint the hue of cherry Gatorade
and each of them was thinking
how with dialectical materialism, accidents happen:
how at any minute,
convenience can turn
into a kind of trouble you never wanted.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
- Gwendolyn Brooks, "The Lovers of the Poor" (1963)
arrive. The Ladies from the Ladies’ Betterment League
Arrive in the afternoon, the late light slanting
In diluted gold bars across the boulevard brag
Of proud, seamed faces with mercy and murder hinting
Here, there, interrupting, all deep and debonair,
The pink paint on the innocence of fear;
Walk in a gingerly manner up the hall.
Cutting with knives served by their softest care,
Served by their love, so barbarously fair.
Whose mothers taught: You’d better not be cruel!
You had better not throw stones upon the wrens!
Herein they kiss and coddle and assault
Anew and dearly in the innocence
With which they baffle nature. Who are full,
Sleek, tender-clad, fit, fiftyish, a-glow, all
Sweetly abortive, hinting at fat fruit,
Judge it high time that fiftyish fingers felt
Beneath the lovelier planes of enterprise.
To resurrect. To moisten with milky chill.
To be a random hitching-post or plush.
To be, for wet eyes, random and handy hem.
Their guild is giving money to the poor.
The worthy poor. The very very worthy
And beautiful poor. Perhaps just not too swarthy?
perhaps just not too dirty nor too dim
Nor—passionate. In truth, what they could wish
Is—something less than derelict or dull.
Not staunch enough to stab, though, gaze for gaze!
God shield them sharply from the beggar-bold!
The noxious needy ones whose battle’s bald
Nonetheless for being voiceless, hits one down.
But it’s all so bad! and entirely too much for them.
The stench; the urine, cabbage, and dead beans,
Dead porridges of assorted dusty grains,
The old smoke, heavy diapers, and, they’re told,
Something called chitterlings. The darkness. Drawn
Darkness, or dirty light. The soil that stirs.
The soil that looks the soil of centuries.
And for that matter the general oldness. Old
Wood. Old marble. Old tile. Old old old.
Not homekind Oldness! Not Lake Forest, Glencoe.
Nothing is sturdy, nothing is majestic,
There is no quiet drama, no rubbed glaze, no
Unkillable infirmity of such
A tasteful turn as lately they have left,
Glencoe, Lake Forest, and to which their cars
Must presently restore them. When they’re done
With dullards and distortions of this fistic
Patience of the poor and put-upon.
They’ve never seen such a make-do-ness as
Newspaper rugs before! In this, this “flat,”
Their hostess is gathering up the oozed, the rich
Rugs of the morning (tattered! the bespattered. . . .)
Readies to spread clean rugs for afternoon.
Here is a scene for you. The Ladies look,
In horror, behind a substantial citizeness
Whose trains clank out across her swollen heart.
Who, arms akimbo, almost fills a door.
All tumbling children, quilts dragged to the floor
And tortured thereover, potato peelings, soft-
Eyed kitten, hunched-up, haggard, to-be-hurt.
Their League is allotting largesse to the Lost.
But to put their clean, their pretty money, to put
Their money collected from delicate rose-fingers
Tipped with their hundred flawless rose-nails seems . . .
They own Spode, Lowestoft, candelabra,
Mantels, and hostess gowns, and sunburst clocks,
Turtle soup, Chippendale, red satin “hangings,”
Aubussons and Hattie Carnegie. They Winter
In Palm Beach; cross the Water in June; attend,
When suitable, the nice Art Institute;
Buy the right books in the best bindings; saunter
On Michigan, Easter mornings, in sun or wind.
Oh Squalor! This sick four-story hulk, this fibre
With fissures everywhere! Why, what are bringings
Of loathe-love largesse? What shall peril hungers
So old old, what shall flatter the desolate?
Tin can, blocked fire escape and chitterling
And swaggering seeking youth and the puzzled wreckage
Of the middle passage, and urine and stale shames
And, again, the porridges of the underslung
And children children children. Heavens! That
Was a rat, surely, off there, in the shadows? Long
And long-tailed? Gray? The Ladies from the Ladies’
Betterment League agree it will be better
To achieve the outer air that rights and steadies,
To hie to a house that does not holler, to ring
Bells elsetime, better presently to cater
To no more Possibilities, to get
Away. Perhaps the money can be posted.
Perhaps they two may choose another Slum!
Some serious sooty half-unhappy home!—
Where loathe-love likelier may be invested.
Keeping their scented bodies in the center
Of the hall as they walk down the hysterical hall,
They allow their lovely skirts to graze no wall,
Are off at what they manage of a canter,
And, resuming all the clues of what they were,
Try to avoid inhaling the laden air.
- The Jolteon, "Misery Loves Companies" (1/16/15)
When the economy tanks
Unregulated globalized free market capitalism run amuck
People are told to be thankful to have a job
Even if you are miserable with that job
And with service sector jobs making up 80% of employment
Misery is widespread
Underpaid, undervalued, underappreciated
We are human beings for fucks sake
We are starved for more than selling shoes
If being thankful for misery is the best option
It's time to re-evaluate
Welcome to the new "Revolution without revolution". Watch as the elite entertainment media provide us with this brand-new outrage track for the new and improved interpassive made-for-Wall-Street version of, "Don't just stand there, watch me pretend to DO Something!"
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Friday, February 10, 2017
I stood there on the stage unable to get into my groove. The thought of her was the only thing that passed through my mind. That girl created a maze unsolvable by any mere human. She had the elegance of a thousand of the most elegant females. She was my sun and my moon. I could not sleep without the scent of her. She had smelled like a field of flowers planted by god himself. My band begins to play and with every hit of the bass I feel her, she is close to me. My heart stops and in comes what I would love to be my love, my life.- David Gilmour, "The Girl in the Yellow Dress"
This girl, she wore a yellow dress blessed with the curves and skin tone so radiant. I stood paralyzed as she walked forward toward the dance floor. Every cat in the joint was as deep in a trance unshakeable by any level of an earthquake in the moment. I could see their faces scan her from top to bottom ready to leave their spouses for a chance to dance with this girl. I begin to serenade the crowd, but I felt that I could not. My passion was being sipped like a glass of wine from my body by her gaze. what am I doing? I am sad inside and my sax sound’s as sad as a soul left wandering alone. But I am in love with this sadness.
She walks up to this man in a yellow suit and swoons him over toward the dance floor. They begin to dance and I watch despising every moment she holds him. She stares at me and it cuts through me as fast as the liquor I had drank that evening. I feel like I’ve been stabbed and betrayed. But I love her so. Every sway of her hips, every bat of her lashes, every curl in her hair. The hold on my heart this girl had was unmeasurable by any human scale. I feel as though I’ve lost what I never had. That girl in the yellow dress.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
- Andrew Bird, "Sic Of Elephants"
You were right
There was never reason to worry
Money made your eyesight all blurry
Making lists of pacifists
Can't you see how dangerous
The one you chose is
Which brings us back to
Might makes right
So we learn from Wars of the Roses
Pain was only fear kneading your toeses
Making haste to spite your face to cut off your noses
Convince yourself and others that these
Fish smell like roses
Can't you see how dangerous
When you're too content to make a fuss
Can't you see how dangerous
Squint your eyes and see
Elephants, sycophants, elephants
Squint your ears and hear red-faced rants
That's what you are
Can't you see how dangerous
When you're too content to make a fuss
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
- Michael Benkhen, "The Picturesque Anachronism"
Behold the picturesque anachronism, attempting to control are lives.
A donkey and an elephant arguing before our very eyes.
A donkey and an elephant debating all their lies.
Multitudes of donkeys and elephants spreading filth, despite the cries.
We don't need security.
We don't need your laws.
We don't need technology.
We just want to live our lives.
We are humans, not elephants or donkeys-
take care of yourselves and leave us alone.
Take your imperial fascist agenda and shove it-
down your bloated holes.
...Where it will linger like the vomit you make us feel.
Behold the picturesque anachronism, the safari of concrete.
As civilization disbands and crumbles while humanity bows before their feet.
Bowing before their hooves, with their giant pocket books.
Society becomes a zoo, in servitude;
A slave to the status-quo.
A revenge of the animals, we once called our own.
Monday, February 6, 2017
Aimai means ‘ambiguity,’ which is defined as a state in which there is more than one intended meaning resulting in obscurity, indistinctness, and uncertainty. To be ambiguous in Japanese is generally translated as aimaina, but people use this term with a wide range of meanings including ‘vague, obscure, equivocal, dubious, doubtful, questionable, shady, noncommittal, indefinite, hazy, double, two-edged,’ and so on (Roger J. Davies & Osamu Ikedo, 2002). In short, Aimai is an ancient method of communication for Japanese people which has its roots in the need for harmony. As I mentioned earlier, during the Tokugawa Period, Japan was cut off from the outside world. As a result, communities depended on each other to produce food. Collectively, they had to work and cooperate together in harmony in order to produce more. In order to do so they practiced Aimai.from Project Japan
“Natural communication often occurred without spoken words, and people followed their elders because they had more experience, wisdom, and power. In order to live without creating any serious problems for the group's harmony, people avoided expressing their ideas clearly, even to the point of avoiding giving a simple yes or no answer. If a person really wanted to say no he or she said nothing at first and then used vague expressions that conveyed the nuance of disagreement.”
Another reason for ambiguity is the feeling that to speak directly is to assume superiority over the person you are conversing with. The Japanese think it is impolite to speak openly on the assumption that their partner knows nothing. The Japanese value Aimai because they think that it is unnecessary to speak clearly as long as their partner is knowledgeable. To express one’s self distinctly carries the assumption that one's partner knows nothing, so clear expression can be considered impolite. Silence can also be considered a form of ambiguity. For the Japanese, silence indicates deep thinking or consideration, but too much silence often makes non-Japanese uncomfortable.
Once again we can see that being direct and not sharing the real heart but following the interests of the group plays an important role. In the case of Aimai, it also goes deeper assuming that the other person already knows what you want to say even if he or she does not know what you are talking about. This act makes the other part coequal to the speaker, or else it may look very superior and proud if someone explains everything in detail. Of course, this makes evangelism a very hard work, like assuming that they also know Christ and the good news of the gospel.
Some evangelists, especially from Northern America or Europe, go to Japan or even another country in the world with the attitude that ‘we’ are coming to teach something, and ‘we’ know it better and ‘we’ have it all, and ‘we’ come to bring ‘our’ style of worship and serve God. This attitude makes the evangelists or missionaries look like Wagamama—childish and selfish.
However, I still consider Aimai as a stronghold because the Christian message is a direct message and cultural values such as this block the directness of the gospel of Christ to the audience. For this reason, the outsiders going to Japan for evangelism work, or even Japanese Christians, should practice directness in their message and lifestyle. The Christian leaders and pastors and those in authority have to teach the Japanese Christians the basic principles of why it is important to be direct and what directness can do when they witness to an unbeliever.
Friday, February 3, 2017
What if only a G_d who does not see and know all, who cannot read my mind and needs my confession, a G_d who has to rely on a big Other outside Himself- what if only such a G_d can be said to exist? What if total knowledge entails inexistence and existence implies a certain non-knowledge? Such a paradoxical relation between being and knowing introduces a third term into the standard opposition between ordinary materialism, for which things exist independently of our knowledge of them, and subjectivist idealism, for which things exist only insofar as they are known or perceived by a mind- things exist insofar as they are not known.- Slavoj Zizek, "Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism"
This is why the critique of ideology has to contain a theory of constructed ignorance: one of the main lessons of the critique of ideology is that it is not only knowledge that is socially constructed but also ignorance- in all its fifty shades from simply not knowing that we don't know to a polite ignoring of what we know very well, and covering all intermediate levels, in particular the institutional Unconscious. Recall the liberal appropriation of Martin Luther King, in itself an exemplary case of un-learning. Henry Louis Taylor recently remarked: "Everyone knows- even the smallest kid knows about Martin Luther King- can say his most famous moment was that 'I have a dream' speech. No one can go further than one sentence. All we know is that this guy had a dream. We don't know what the dream was." King had come a long way from the crowds that cheered him at the 1963 March on Washington, when he was introduced as "the moral leader of our nation": by taking on issues beyond segregation, he had lost much public support, and was increasingly considered to be a pariah. As Harvard Sitkoff put it, he took on issues of poverty and militarism because he considered them vital "to make equality something real and not just racial brotherhood but equality in fact." In Badiou's terms, King followed the "axiom of equality" well beyond the topic of racial segregation. He had spoken out against the Vietnam War and was supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis when he was assassinated in April of 1968. As Melissa Harris-Lacewell noted, "Following King meant following the unpopular road, not the popular one." In short, elevating King into a moral icon involved a systematic erasure of a lot that was known about him.
One could go on citing innumerable similar cases, from the virtual disappearance of the key Freudian topic of infantile sexuality in our "permissive" era, up to the systematic unlearning of facts about colonized peoples imposed by the colonizers- such unlearning concerns not only the facts, but even more so the ideological space that establishes the coordinates for our understanding of "primitives." (For example, when early ethnologists encountered a tribe whose totem was a bird, they automatically attributed to the tribe members the ridiculous belief that they were descended from this bird.) However, there is also a positive aspect to this process of unlearning. In the final pages of his monumental history of World War II, Winston Churchill ponders the enigma of military decision making: after the specialists (the economic and military analysts, psychologists, meteorologists...) have offered their multiple, elaborated and refined analyses, someone has to assume the simple and for that very reason most difficult act of reducing this complex multiplicity of views, where for every reason for there are two reasons against, into a resolute "Yes" or "No"- we shall attack, we shall continue to wait. In this sense, a decision to act involves unlearning the complexity of a situation. This is why what Hegel calls "negativity" can also be put in terms of insight and blindness- as the "positive" power of blindness, of ignoring parts of reality....
So what did Hegel intend with his notion of "absolute knowing"? It can only be grasped against the background of the immanence of false appearance to truth: take away the illusion and you lose the truth itself- a truth needs time to make a journey through illusions in order to form itself. We must put Hegel back into the series Plato-Descartes-Hegel which corresponds to the triad of Objective-Subjective-Absolute: Plato's Ideas are objective, truth embodied; the Cartesian subject stands for the unconditional certainty of subjective self-awareness... and Hegel, what does he add? If "subjective" is what is relative to our subjective limitations, and if "objective" is the way things really are, what does "absolute" add? Hegel's answer: the "absolute" does not add some deeper, more substantial dimension- all it does is include (subjective) illusion in (objective) truth itself. The "absolute" standpoint makes us see how reality includes fiction (or fantasy), how the right choice only emerges after the wrong one:- Slavoj Zizek, "Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism"absolute knowing is the point at which consciousness reflexively assumes the fact that the share of illusion or fantasy is constituitive of the progress of truth. The truth is not located outside fantasy, since fantasy is a key element of its deployment. This insight compels us to conceive of absolute knowing as the point of traversing the fantasy... absolute knowing is to be seens as the point at which fantasy acquires its place in philosophy... If fantasy first appeared as a negativum, i.e., as the point of failure of a specific philosophical wager, it is now conceived as a positive moment of the deployment of truthHegel thus enjoins us to invert the entire history of philosophy, which constitutes a series of efforts to clearly differentiate doxa from true knowledge: for Hegel. doxa is a constituitive part of knowledge, and this is what makes truth temporal and evental. This evental character of truth involves a logical paradox deployed by Jean-Pierre Dupuy in his admirable text on Hitchcock's "Vertigo":An object possesses a property x until the time t; after t, it is not only that the object no longer has the property x; it is that it is not true that it possessed x at any time. The truth-value of the proposition "the object O has the property x at the moment t" therefore depends on the moment when this proposition is enunciated.Note the precise formulation here: it is not that the truth-value of the proposition "the object O has the property x" depends upon the time to which the proposition refers - even when the time is specified, the truth-value depends upon the time at which the proposition itself is enunciated. Or, to quote the title of Dupuy's text, "When I die, nothing of our love will ever have existed." Think about marriage and divorce: the most intelligent argument for the right to divorce (proposed, among others, by none other than the young Marx) does not involve vulgar claims such as "like all things, love attachments are not eternal, they too change over the course of time," etc.; rather, it concedes that indissolubility is part of the very notion of marriage. The argument is that divorce always has a retroactive scope: this means not only that the marriage is now annulled, but also something more radical- the marriage should be annulled becuase it never was a true marriage. The same holds true for Soviet communism: it is clearly insufficient to say that, in the years of "stagnation" under Brezhnev, it "exhausted its potential, failing to keep up with the times"; what its miserable end demonstrates is that it was in an historical deadlock from its very beginning.
This is why the properly Hegelian view is fundamentally static: things become what they always already are, what constantly changes are static totalities. What historicist-evolutionary "mobilism" fails to grasp is the (properly dialectical) point, made long ago by (among others) T.S. Eliot, regarding the fact that each truly new artistic phenomenon not only represents a break with the entire past, but retroactively changes the past itself. At every historical conjuncture, the present is not only the present, but also encompasses a perspective on the past immanent to it- after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, say, the October Revolution is no longer the same historical event, it is (for the triumphant liberal-capitalist view) no longer the beginning of a new progressive epoch in the history of humanity, but the beginning of a catastrophic deviation in that history, a deviation that came to an end in 1991. The ultimate lesson of Hegel's anti-"mobilism": dialectics has nothing to do with a certain politics or practice being justified in or for a certain stage of development and then losing this justification in a later "higher" stage. Reacting to the revelations about Stalin's crimes at the twentieth congress of the Soviet Communist Party, Brecht noted that the same political agent who earlier played an important role in the revolutionary process (Stalin) now became an obstacle to it, and praised this as a proper "dialectical" insight. But we should thoroughly reject this logic. In the dialectical analysis of history, on the contrary, each new stage "rewrites the past" and retroactively delegitimizes the previous one.
Such retroactive delegitimization makes "vanishing mediators" of past phenomena: although a past phenomenon can be a necessary moment in the emergence of a new form, its role becomes invisible once the New has arrived. Let us take an unlikely example: Ayn Rand's first novel written in English, "We the Living", set in Petrograd between 1922 and 1925. Kira Argounova, the young daughter of a bourgeois family and a strong-willed independent spirit, manages to enroll in the Technological Institute where she aspires to fulfill her dream of becoming an engineer. At the Institute Kira meets Andrei Taganov, an idealistic communist and high ranking officer in the GPU (the secret police); the two share a mutual respect and admiration for each other in spite of their differing political beliefs. Kira finds Andrei to be the one person she can trust, and with whom she can discuss her most intimate thoughts and views. Not even her passionate lover, Leo Kovalensky- a handsome member of the nobility with a free spirit to match Kira's own- can fulfill this role for her. When Leo contracts tuberculosis and cannot get State help for his stay at the sanatorium, Kira feigns love for Andrei and agrees to become his mistress in order to secure his help in getting medical treatment for Leo. Months later, after Leo has been cured, he gets involved in black market speculation. Andrei is tipped off about this venture and, unaware of Kira's love for Leo, arrests him for crimes against the State. Eventually he finds out about Kira's relationship with Leo, and the ensuing confrontation between Andrei and Kira is the most poignant scene in the story. When Kira tells Andrei that she has faked her love for him just to get support for Leo, her true love, his reaction is not the expected one of rage and vengeance, but one of regret at the suffering he has unknowingly caused Kira, and understanding the depth of her love for Leo, for whom she was sacrificing herself. In order to redress the situation, Andrei promises to bring Leo back to her; after Leo's release from prison, Andrei loses his position in the Party and commits suicide.
Although staunchly anti-communist, the novel remains ambiguous: what is surprising is not only the highly ethical reaction of the Bolshevik hero Andrei when he learns that Kira does not love him; even more surprising is the fact that this ethical reaction seems to be part of the communist persona. What is evil here is not simply the Bolshevik revolution as such, but its betrayal, which culminates in the pact between the revolutionaries who have betrayed their vocation and the old corrupt bourgeoisie. It is as if, although the revolution was flawed in its very essence and its corruption was unavoidable, the only path to truth leads through revolution: it is Andrei, a communist (and even a GPU officer) who, confronted with a tribunal, gives the original version of the staple Randian speech praising the individual spirit and rejecting collectivism, a speech whose later versions are Howard Roark's in front of the jury in "Fountainhead" and John Galt's long radio speech in "Atlas Shrugged". Andrei is thus a kind of vanishing mediator: the proto-figure of the Randian hero whose communist roots, still visible here, disappear in her late "mature" anti-communism. The first step in an effective critique of ideology is to render such vanishing mediators visible again- in the case of Rand, to show how even an extreme anti-communist stance was secretly based upon communist premises. (At a different level, the same holds for "The Fountainhead": is not the architecture of Howard Roark, the novel's hero modeled on Frank Lloyd Wright, also uncannily similar to the Soviet modernism of the 1920's?)
Not the least irony of such retroactive de-legitimization of communism in Rand's work is that the same procedure was widely practiced by the target of her criticism, Stalinism itself. This is why, in contrast to Leninism, Stalisnism had no use for the category of the renegade: for Lenin, Kautsky was a "renegade," which meant that he was once one of us, but the betrayed the Cause; in Stalinism, however, there are no renegades, only traitors. When Stalin moved against Trotsky in the mid-1920s, it did not mean that he considered Trotsky a "renegade," someone who had served the revolution in the past but then lost his way- on the contrary, Trotsky became a "vanishing mediator" of the revolutionary process, and the Stalinists claimed that he had sabotaged the revolutionary struggle from the very beginning, totally ignoring his role in organizing the Red Army.
This is why Hegelian dialectics is not a vulgar evolutionism according to which a phenomenon may be justified in its own time, but deserves to disappear when its time passes: the "eternity" of dialectics means that the de-legitimization is always retroactive, what disappears "in itself" always deserved to disappear. This brings us to the crux of the matter, the crux which is, as expected, the subject itself. The Hegelian-Lacanian subject is the ultimate vanishing mediator: it is never present here-and-now, in every present constellation it already vanishes in its symbolic representation. In other words, the "subject" is an X which always already vanishes in its representations, and this is what makes this concept an eminently dialectical one.