And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Thursday, June 30, 2016

You Righties are Jes RAAAACISSSSS

Never mind that your incomes are going down and that your children can't get jobs...

So whenever the people who are generally expected to be "supportive" of your government (the Right) begin to turn on you and believe that your policies are "moving the country in the WRONG direction"... best sit up and take note. Este gobierno se va a caer.

Blame 'the Other', or NOT...

On Nationalism

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit, Stage Left?

from Newsweek
Late in his life, Freud asked the famous question “Was will das Weib?”, “What does a woman want?”, admitting his confusion when faced with the enigma of the feminine sexuality. A similar perplexity arouses today, apropos the Brexit referendum—what does Europe want?

The true stakes of this referendum become clear if we locate it into its larger historical context. In Western and Eastern Europe, there are signs of a long-term re-arrangement of the politica. Until recently, the political space was dominated by two main parties which addressed the entire electoral body, a Right-of-centre party (Christian-Democrat, liberal-conservative, populist) and a Left-of-centre party (socialist, social-democratic), with smaller parties addressing a narrow electorate (ecologists, neo-Fascists). Now, a singular party is emerging which stands for global capitalism as such, usually with relative tolerance towards issues such as abortion, gay rights, religious and ethnic minorities; opposing this party is a stronger anti-immigrant populist party which, on its fringes, is accompanied by directly racist neo-Fascist groups.

Poland is a prime example—after the disappearance of the former Communists, the main parties are the “anti-ideological” centrist liberal party of the former prime-minister Donald Tusk (now President of the European Council) and the conservative Christian party of Kaczynski brothers (identical twins one of whom served as Poland’s president from 2005-2010 and the other as its prime minister 2006-2007). The stakes of Radical Center today are: which of the two main parties, conservatives or liberals, will succeed in presenting itself as embodying the post-ideological non-politics against the other party dismissed as "still caught in old ideological specters"? In the early 90s, conservatives were better at it; later, it was liberal Leftists who seemed to be gaining the upper hand, and now, it’s again the conservatives.

The anti-immigrant populism brings passion back into politics, it speaks in the terms of antagonisms, of Us against Them, and one of the signs of the confusion of what remains of the Left is the idea that it should take this passionate approach from the Right: “If the leader of France's National Front Marine le Pen can do it, why we should also not do it?” So should the Left then return to advocating for strong nation-states and mobilize national passions—a ridiculous struggle, lost in advance.

Europe is caught into a vicious cycle, oscillating between the Brussels technocracy unable to drag it out of inertia, and the popular rage against this inertia, a rage appropriated by new more radical Leftist movements but primarily by Rightist populism. The Brexit referendum moved along the lines of this new opposition, which is why there was something terribly wrong with it. Look at the strange bedfellows that found themselves together in the Brexit camp: right-wing “patriots,” populist nationalists fuelled by the fear of immigrants, mixed with desperate working class rage—is such a mixture of patriotic racism with the rage of “ordinary people” not the ideal ground for a new form of Fascism?

The intensity of the emotional investment into the referendum should not deceive us, the choice offered obfuscated the true questions: how to fight trade “agreements” like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership ( TTIP) which present a real threat to popular sovereignty and how to confront ecological catastrophes and economic imbalances which breed new poverty and migrations. The choice of Brexit means a serious setback for these true struggles—it's enough to bear in mind what an important argument for Brexit the “refugee threat” was. The Brexit referendum is the ultimate proof that ideology (in the good old Marxist sense of “false consciousness”) is alive and well in our societies.

When Stalin was asked in the late 1920s which political variation is worse, the Right one or the Leftist one, he snapped back: “They are both worse!” Was it not the same with the choice British voters were confronting? Remain was “worse” since it meant persisting in the inertia that keeps Europe mired down. Exit was “worse” since it made changing nothing look desirable.

In the days before the referendum, there was a pseudo-profound thought circulating in our media: “whatever the result, EU will never be the same, it will be irreparably damaged.” But the opposite is true: nothing really changed, except that the inertia of Europe became impossible to ignore. Europe will again waste time in long negotiations among EU members that will continue to make any large-scale political project unfeasible. This is what those who oppose Brexit didn’t see—shocked, they now complain about the “irrationality” of the Brexit voters, ignoring the desperate need for change that the vote made palpable.

The confusion that underlies the Brexit referendum is not limited to Europe—it is part of a much larger process of the crisis of “manufacturing democratic consent” in our societies, of the growing gap between political institutions and popular rage, the rage which gave birth to Trump as well as to Sanders in the US. Signs of chaos are everywhere—the recent debate on gun control in the US Congress descended into a sit-in protest by the Democrats—is it time to despair?

Recall Mao Ze Dong's old motto: “Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent.” A crisis is to be taken seriously, without illusions, but also as a chance to be fully exploited. Although crises are painful and dangerous, they are the terrain on which battles have to be waged and won. Is there not a struggle also in heaven, is the heaven also not divided—and does the ongoing confusion not offer a unique chance to react to the need for a radical change in a more appropriate way, with a project that will break the vicious cycle of EU technocracy and nationalist populism? The true division of our heaven is not between anemic technocracy and nationalist passions, but between their vicious cycle and a new pan-European project which will addresses the true challenges that humanity confronts today.

Now that, in the echo of the Brexit victory, calls for other exits from EU are multiplying all around Europe, the situation calls for such a project—who will grab the chance? Unfortunately, not the existing Left which is well-known for its breathtaking ability to never miss a chance to miss a chance.
- Slavoj Zizek: "Could Brexit Breathe New Life Into Left-Wing Politics?"
...or would that be stage RIGHT?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

JBS Paranoid Blues

Is it paranoia if they're really out to get you?

Well, I was feelin' sad and feelin' blue
I didn't know what in the world I was gonna do
Them Communists they was comin' around
They was in the air
They was on the ground
They wouldn't gimme no peace

So I run down most hurriedly
And joined up with the John Birch Society
I got me a secret membership card
And started off a-walkin' down the road
Yee-hoo, I'm a real John Bircher now
Look out you Commies

Now we all agree with Hitlers' views
Although he killed six million Jews
It don't matter too much that he was a Fascist
At least you can't say he was a Communist
That's to say like if you got a cold you take a shot of malaria

Well, I was lookin' everywhere for them gol-darned Reds
I got up in the mornin' 'n' looked under my bed
Looked in the sink, behind the door
Looked in the glove compartment of my car
Couldn't find 'em

I was lookin' high an' low for them Reds everywhere
I was lookin' in the sink an' underneath the chair
I looked way up my chimney hole
I even looked deep inside my toilet bowl
They got away

Well, I was sittin' home alone an' started to sweat
Figured they was in my T.V. set
Peeked behind the picture frame
Got a shock from my feet, hittin' right up in the brain
Them Reds caused it
I know they did, them hard-core ones

Well, I quit my job so I could work alone
Then I changed my name to Sherlock Holmes
Followed some clues from my detective bag
And discovered they was red stripes on the American flag
That ol' Betty Ross

Well, I investigated all the books in the library
Ninety percent of 'em gotta be burned away
I investigated all the people that I knowed
Ninety-eight percent of them gotta go
The other two percent are fellow Birchers, just like me

Now Eisenhower, he's a Russian spy
Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy
To my knowledge there's just one man
That's really a true American, George Lincoln Rockwell
I know for a fact he hates Commies 'cause he picketed the movie Exodus

Well, I fin'ly started thinkin' straight
When I run outta things to investigate
Couldn't imagine doin' anything else
So now I'm sittin' home investigatin' myself
Hope I don't find out anything, hm, great God


Slavoj Zizek, "Beneath the Veil: On the Truth of Islam
What is Islam - this disturbing, radical excess that represents the East to the West, and the West to the East?

Let me begin with the relationship of Islam to Judaism and Christianity, the two other religions of the book.

As the religion of genealogy, of the succession of generations, Judaism is the patriarchal religion par excellence. In Christianity, when the Son dies on the cross, the Father also dies (as Hegel maintained) - which is to say, the patriarchal order as such dies. Hence, the advent of the Holy Spirit introduces a post-paternal/familial community.

In contrast to both Judaism and Christianity, Islam excludes God from the domain of the patriarchal logic. Allah is not a father, not even a symbolic one. Rather, God is one - he is neither born nor does he give birth to creatures.

This is why there is no place for a Holy Family in Islam. This is why Islam so emphasizes the fact that Muhammad himself was an orphan. This is why, in Islam, God intervenes precisely at the moments of the suspension or failure of the paternal function (when the mother or the child are abandoned by the biological father). This is also why Islam represented such a problem for Freud: his entire theory of religion is based on the connection between God and "the father."

But even more importantly, it is this that inscribes politics into the very heart of Islam, since the "genealogical desert" makes it impossible to ground a community in the structures of parenthood or other blood-ties. As Fethi Benslama puts it, "the desert between God and Father is the place where the political institutes itself."

In Islam, it is no longer possible to ground a community in the mode of Totem and Taboo, through the murder of the father and the ensuing guilt which brings brothers together - hence Islam's unexpected actuality. This problem is at the heart of the Muslim "community of believers" - the Umma - and accounts for the overlapping of the religious and the political (the community should be grounded directly in God's word), as well as for the fact that Islam is at its best when it grounds the formation of a community "out of nowhere," in the genealogical desert, as a kind of egalitarian revolutionary fraternity. No wonder, then, that Islam is so appealing to young men who find themselves deprived of family and social networks.

As Moustapha Safouan has argued, it is this "orphanic" character of Islam that accounts for its lack of inherent institutionalization:
"The distinctive mark of Islam is that it is a religion which did not institutionalize itself; it did not , like Christianity, equip itself with a Church. The Islamic Church is in fact the Islamic State: it is the state which invented the so called 'highest religious authority' and it is the head of state who appoints the man to occupy that office; it is the state that builds the great mosques, that supervises religious education; it is the state again that creates the universities, exercises censorship in all the fields of culture, and considers itself as the guardian of morality."
Here we can see how the best and the worst are combined in Islam. It is precisely because Islam lacks an inherent principle of institutionalization that it has proven so vulnerable to being co-opted by state power. Therein resides the choice that confronts Islam: direct "politicization" is inscribed into its very nature, and this overlapping of the religious and the political can either be achieved in the guise of the statist co-option, or in the guise of anti-statist collectives.

But let me now move to a further key distinction between Judaism (along with its Christian continuation) and Islam. As is apparent from the account of Abraham's two sons, Judaism chooses Abraham as the symbolic father; Islam, on the contrary, opts for the lineage of Hagar, for Abraham as the biological father, thereby maintaining the distance between "the father" and God, and retaining God in the domain of the un-symbolizable.

It is nonetheless significant that both Judaism and Islam repress their founding gestures. According to Freud's hypothesis, repression in Judaism stems from the fact that Abraham was not a Jew at all, but an Egyptian - it is thus the founding paternal figure, the one who brings revelation and establishes the covenant with God, that has to come from the outside.

In Islam, however, the repression concerns a woman - Hagar, the Egyptian slave who bore Abraham his first son. For although Abraham and Ishmael (the progenitor of all Arabs, according to the myth) are mentioned dozens of times in Qur'an, Hagar is entirely absent, erased from the official history. As such, she continues to haunt Islam, her traces surviving in rituals, like the obligation of the pilgrims to Mecca to run six times between the two hills Safa and Marwah - a kind of neurotic re-enactment of Hagar's desperate search for water for her son in the desert.

But along with Hagar, there is in the pre-history of Islam the story of Khadija, the first wife of Muhammad himself, who enabled him to differentiate between truth and falsehood, between angelic messages and those from demons.

Muhammad was, of course, the first to doubt the divine origin of his visions, dismissing them as hallucinations, as signs of madness or as outright instances of demonic possession. His first revelation occurred during his "Ramadhaan" retreat outside Mecca, when the archangel Gabriel appeared to him, calling upon him to "Recite!" (Qara', whence Qur'an).

Muhammad believed he was going mad, and not wishing to spend the rest of his life as Mecca's village idiot, he decided to throw himself from a high rock. But then the vision repeated itself: he heard a voice saying: "O Muhammad! Thou art the apostle of God and I am Gabriel." But even this voice did not reassure him; he returned to his house and, in deep despair, asked Khadija: "Wrap me in a blanket, wrap me up in a blanket." Muhammad told her what had happened to him, and Khadija dutifully gave him comfort.

When, in the course of subsequent visions, Muhammad's doubts persisted, Khadija asked him to tell her when his visitor returned so that they could verify whether it really was Gabriel or a demon. So, when the angel Gabriel next came to Muhammad, Khadija instructed him, "Get up and sit by my left thigh." Muhammad did so, and she said, "Can you see him?" "Yes," he replied. "Now turn round and sit on my right thigh." He did so, and she said, "Can you see him?" When he said that he could, Khadija finally she asked him to move and sit in her lap. After casting aside her veil, she asked, "Can you see him?" And he replied, "No." She then comforted him: "Rejoice and be of good heart, he is an angel and not a Satan."

(There is a further version of this story according to which, in the final test, Khadija not only revealed herself, but made Muhammad "come inside her shift" - that is, penetrate her sexually - and thereupon Gabriel departed. She then said, "This verily is an angel and not a Satan." The underlying assumption is that, while a lustful demon would have enjoyed the sight of copulation, an angel would politely withdraw from the scene.)

Only after Khadija provided him with this proof of the authenticity of his visions was Muhammad cured of his doubts and so could embrace his vocation as God's prophet. The first Muslim, in other words, was Khadija, a woman. She represents what Jacques Lacan called the "big Other," the guarantee of Truth of the subject's enunciation, and it is only in the guise of this circular support - through someone who believes in Muhammad himself - that he can believe in his own message and thus be the messenger of Truth.

This is yet a further demonstration of my fundamental contention that belief is never direct: in order for me to believe, somebody else has to believe in me, and what I believe in is this other's belief (in me).

This should be emphasised: a woman possesses a knowledge about the Truth which precedes even the Prophet's knowledge. What further complicates the scenario is the precise mode of Khadija's intervention, the way she was able to draw the line between truth and falsehood, between divine revelation and demonic possession: by putting forward (interposing) herself, her disclosed body, as the untruth embodied.

This is how Khadija's demonstration of truth is achieved through her provocative "monstration" (disclosure), to use Fethi Benslama's term. One thus cannot simply oppose the "good" Islam (reverence of women) and the "bad" Islam (veiled oppressed women). And the point is not simply to return to the "repressed feminist origins" of Islam, to renovate Islam in its feminist aspect: these oppressed origins are simultaneously the very origins of the oppression of women. Oppression does not just oppress the origins; oppression has to oppress its own origins.

The key element of the genealogy of Islam is this passage from the woman as the only one who can verify Truth, to the woman who by her nature lacks reason and faith, cheats and lies, provokes men, interposing herself between them and God as a disturbing presence, and who therefore has to be rendered invisible. Woman, in other words, as an ontological scandal, whose public exposure is an affront to God.

It is interesting, against this background, to examine measures like France's prohibition of Muslim girls wearing the veil in schools? The paradox is double here. First, this prohibition prohibits a symbol deemed too-strong-to-be-permissible, a sign of one's identity that disturbs the French principle of egalitarian citizenship - the veil itself, from this republican perspective, is a provocative "monstration."

The second paradox is that what France's prohibition prohibits is prohibition itself - and, perhaps, this prohibition is the most oppressive of them all. It prohibits the very feature which constitutes the (socio-institutional) identity of the other: it des-institutionalizes this identity, transforming it into an irrelevant personal idiosyncrasy.

What this act of prohibiting prohibitions creates is the space for the "universal Man" for whom all differences - economic, political, religious, cultural, sexual - are indifferent, a matter of contingent symbolic practices. However, in this space, created by the prohibition of prohibition, while there is no guilt, the absence of guilt is paid for by an unbearable rise of anxiety. The prohibition of prohibitions is a kind of "general equivalent" of all prohibitions: a universal and thereby universalized prohibition, a prohibition of all actual otherness.

Therein lays the paradox of so-called tolerant multiculturalism: the more it is tolerant, the more it is oppressively homogeneous. Recall how Martin Amis ridiculed Islam as the most boring of all religions, which demands that its believers perform again and again the same stupid rituals and learn by heart the same sacred formulas. But in fact, it is multicultural tolerance and permissiveness that represent the true boredom.

But if, following Nietzsche's equation of truth and woman, we transpose the feminine veil into the veil which conceals the ultimate Truth, the true stakes of the Muslim veil become even clearer. Woman is a threat because she stands for the "undecidability" of truth, for a succession of veils beneath which there is no hidden core. Precisely by veiling her, we create the illusion that there is, beneath the veil, the feminine Truth - the horrible truth of lie and deception, of course.

To illustrate this point, recall the 1939 Hollywood melodrama, Beau Geste . In this film, the oldest of three brothers who live with their benevolent aunt, in what seems to be an act of incredible cruelty, steals the priceless diamond necklace which is the pride of the aunt's family, and disappears with it, knowing that his reputation is ruined, that he will be forever known as the ungrateful embezzler of his benefactress. So why did he do it?

At the end of the film, we learn that he did it in order to prevent the embarrassing disclosure that the necklace was a fake: unbeknown to everyone else, he learned some time ago that the aunt had to sell the necklace to a rich maharaja in order to save the family from bankruptcy, and replaced it with a worthless imitation. Just prior to his "theft," he learned that a distant uncle who co-owned the necklace wanted it sold for financial gain. If the necklace were to be sold, the fact that it is a fake would undoubtedly be discovered, so the only way to retain the aunt's and thus the family's honour is to stage its theft.

In other words, the crime of stealing is committed in order to conceal the fact that, ultimately, there is nothing to steal! Therein resides the concealed scandal of Islam: only a woman, the very embodiment of the indiscernability of truth and falsehood, can guarantee Truth. For this reason, she has to remain veiled.

This brings me back to the topic woman and the Orient. The true choice is not the one between Near-Eastern masculine Islam and Far-Eastern feminine spirituality (now so attractive to the West), but between the Far-Eastern elevation of woman into the Mother-Goddess (the generative-and-destructive substance of the world) and the Muslim distrust of woman which, paradoxically, in a negative way demonstrates more directly the subversive-creative power of feminine subjectivity.

Let me illustrate this by means of an unexpected reference to a simple work of art. The item numbered PO 24.1999 in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha is a tenth century earthenware circular dish from Iran or Central Asia. It is 43 cm in diameter, and decorated with black writing on white slip is a proverb attributed to Yahya ibn Ziyad reading: "Foolish is the person who misses his chance and afterwards reproaches fate."

Such dishes were meant to solicit an appropriate conversation among the learned men during and after the meal - an ancient and, alas, forgotten art whose last great practitioner was perhaps Immanuel Kant. Such practice is foreign to our fast-food times when we only know business meals ("power lunches"), but not "thinking meals."

What is message of this dish? Just reflect on the temporal dimension of using the dish: when, at the beginning of the meals, eaters first perceive the inscription on the edge of the full dish, they dismiss it as a mere platitude, a lesson about chance and the opportunistic ability to seize it, and wait for the "moral" lying concealed beneath the pile of food. Once the dish is empty, however, they see that the hidden message is the bare platitude. They then realize they had missed the truth in the proverb and so return to it; and upon reading it again, they realise that it is not about chance versus fate, but about something much more complex and interesting: how it is in their power to choose their fate.

This message has touches on the very core of the Muslim experience overlooked by Western Christians. In the Nazi concentration camps, the "living dead," the prisoners who had lost the will to live and just went through motions, were called "Muslims" (the irony of it being that most of them were Jews!). This naming expresses the Western cliche about Muslims as passively surrendered to divinely ordained fate (and then, of course, we are reminded that "Islam" means "surrender").

But a close reading of Yahya ibn Ziyad's proverb - which is ultimately not a proverb at all, but a crucial philosophical insight - quickly shatters this cliche: we place the blame on fate when we miss a chance - but which chance? The chance not simply to act freely and seize the opportunities presented to us, but the chance to choose what we perceive as our fate, to choose a different fate.

In the suburb of Doha, there is a camp for immigrant workers - the lowest among them on the social scale come from Nepal. They are only free to visit the city centre on Fridays. However, on Fridays, entry into a shopping mall is prohibited to single men - officially, to maintain the family spirit in the malls; but this, of course, is only an excuse. The true reason is to prevent immigrant workers from mingling with wealthier shoppers (immigrant workers are alone in Qatar, they are not allowed or cannot afford to bring their families with them).

Let us then step down from the archaeological and art-historical heights into ordinary life. Let us imagine a group of poor Nepali workers resting on the grass south of the central souk in Doha on a Friday, eating a modest meal of hummus and bread on our dish. Upon finishing the meal, they confront the words of Yahya ibn Ziyad and engage in a conversation - and one of them says: "But what if this applies also to us? What if it is not our fate to live here as outcasts? What if, instead of bemoaning our fate, we should seize the chance and change this fate?"

And why should we not take a step further and - back to the scene of Nepali workers eating from a plate - imagine a woman (also an immigrant worker, say, whose job is to clean rooms in a hotel) who serves them food on our plate? What if she has wisely chosen this dish to remind men of the truth that her own subordination is also not fate - or, rather, that it is a fate which can be changed?

We can see how, although Islam constantly receives bad press in the West for the way it treats women, there is a unique potential concealed beneath the patriarchal surface.

This, then, is the message of the item numbered PO 24.1999 in the Museum of Islamic Art. Insofar as we tend to oppose East and West as fate and freedom, Islam stands for a third position which undermines this binary opposition: neither subordination to blind fate nor freedom to do what one wants - both of which presuppose an abstract external opposition between the two terms - but a deeper freedom to choose our fate.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A New Jersualem

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land
- Robert Blake
"Would to God that all the Lords people were Prophets"
Numbers XI.ch 29.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Keep Your Eye on the Donut, NOT the Hole - David Lynch

The very beginning of David Lynch's The Straight Story, the words that introduce the credits, "Walt Disney Presents - A David Lynch Film," provides what is perhaps the best resume of the ethical paradox that marks the end of century: the overlapping of the transgression with the norm. Walt Disney, the brand of the conservative family values, takes under its umbrella David Lynch, the author who epitomizes transgression, bringing to the light the obscene underworld of perverted sex and violence that lurks beneath the respectable surface of our lives.

Today, more and more, the cultural-economic apparatus itself, in order to reproduce itself in the market competition conditions, has not only to tolerate, but directly to incite stronger and stronger shocking effects and products. Suffice it to recall recent trends in visual arts: gone are the days when we had simple statues or enframed paintings - what we get now are expositions of frames themselves without paintings, expositions of dead cows and their excrements, videos of the inside of the human body (gastroscopy and colonoscopy), inclusion of smell into the exposition, etc.etc. (This tendency often leads to the comic confusion, when a work of art is mistaken for an everyday object or vice versa. Recently, in Potsdamer Platz, the largest construction site in Berlin, the coordinated movement of dozens of gigantic cranes was staged as an art performance - doubtlessly perceived by a lot of uninformed bypassers as part of an intense construction activity... I myself made the opposite blunder during a trip to Berlin: I noticed at the sides and above all the main streets numerous large blue tube and pipes, as if the intricate cobweb of water, phone, electricity, etc., was no longer hidden beneath the earth, but displayed in public. My reaction to it was, of course, that this is probably another of the postmodern art performances whose aim is, this time, to render visible the intestines of the town, its hidden inner machinery, in a kind of equivalent to displaying on video the palpitation of our stomach or lungs - however, I was soon proved wrong, when friends pointed out to me that what I see is merely part of the standard maintenance and repair of the city's underground services network.) Here, again, as in the domain of sexuality, perversion is no longer subversive: the shocking excesses are part of the system itself, the system feeds on them in order to reproduce itself. Perhaps, this is one of the possible definitions of postmodern art as opposed to modernist art: in postmodernism, the transgressive excess loses its shocking value and is fully integrated into the establishet artistic market.
- Slavoj Zizek," When Straight Means Weird and Psychosis is Normal"

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Her Anxiety

Earth in beauty dressed
Awaits returning spring.

All true love must die,
Alter at the best
Into some lesser thing.

Prove that I lie.

Such body lovers have,
Such exacting breath,
That they touch or sigh.

Every touch they give,
Love is nearer death.

Prove that I lie.
- William Butler Yeats, "Her Anxiety"

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Omar Mateen's Failed Attempt to Traverse His Sexual Fantasy...

from the NY Post
The ex-wife of Orlando mass killer Omar Mateen claimed Monday that she believed he was homosexual — as it was revealed that he frequented the gay nightclub where he staged the nation’s worst massacre in modern times.

Sitora Yusufiy, who was married to Mateen in 2009 for three months, made the shocking claim on Brazilian television station SBT Brazil.

Her fiancé, Marco Dias, speaking in Portuguese on her behalf, said Yusufiy believed that Mateen had “gay tendencies” and that his father had called him gay in front of her. Dias also claimed “the FBI asked her not to tell this to the American media.”

The bombshell came as a male former classmate of Omar Mateen said he had been asked out romantically by the mass killer, who reportedly was a virtual regular at the Pulse nightclub, having visited it more than a dozen times over the years.

The former classmate said he would hang out with Mateen, hitting gay bars after attending class at Indian River Community College police academy in 2006 — and one time Mateen asked him out “romantically,” according to the Palm Beach Post.

“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the former classmate told the paper.

The classmate told the paper he thought the killer, who pledged allegiance to ISIS before killing 49 at the gay nightclub Pulse, was gay and in the closet.

The classmate’s claims came after reports emerged that Mateen frequented the club for years before Sunday’s massacre.

“It’s the same guy,” Chris Callen, a drag queen who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin, told the Canadian Press. “He’s been going to this bar for at least three years.”

Callen’s husband, Ty Smith, recalled seeing a drunk Mateen being escorted from the club.

“Sometimes he . . . would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” he told the Orlando Sentinel.

At least four Pulse clubgoers remembered seeing Mateen at least a dozen times in the past. But authorities said they had no further information when asked about the sightings on Monday. NBC reported that the FBI was looking into his alleged club visits.

“[He’d get] really, really drunk,” Smith told the Canadian Press. “He couldn’t drink when he was at home — around his wife, or family. His father was really strict . . . He used to bitch about it.”

Callen and Smith said they both stopped speaking to Mateen when he threatened them with a knife, after someone made a joke about religion.

“He ended up pulling a knife,” Callen explained. “He said if he ever messed with him again, you know how it’ll turn out.”

They also shot down claims that Mateen had snapped after seeing two men kissing each other in public.

“That’s bullcrap, right there. No offense. That’s straight-up crap. He’s been around us,” Smith said. “Some of those people did a little more than (kiss) outside the bar … He was partying with the people who supposedly drove him to do this?”

Kevin West, another regular at Pulse, told the Los Angeles Times that Mateen used gay dating apps on a regular basis and even messaged him on a gay dating app, Jack’d.

He even saw Mateen an hour before the shooting.

“He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, ‘Hey,’ ” and nodded his head, recalled West. “I could tell by the eyes [it was him].”

One Orlando man, who refused to be named, told MSNBC that he had seen photos of Mateen on several gay dating apps, including Grindr, Adam4Adam, and Jack’d. He claimed that at least two of the man’s friends had been contacted by Mateen on the apps in the past.

“He was very creepy in his messages, and I blocked him immediately,” the man said.
from Open Culture
Philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek is a polarizing figure, in and out of the Academy. He has been accused of misogyny and opportunism, and a Guardian columnist once wondered if he is “the Borat of philosophy.” The latter epithet might be as much a reference to his occasional boorishness as to his Slovenian-accented English. Despite (or because of) these qualities, Zizek has become a fascinating public intellectual, in part because all of his work is shot through with pop culture references as diffuse as the most studied of fanboys. And even though Zizek, a student of the Freudian theorist Jacques Lacan, can get deeply obscure with the best of his peers, his enthusiasm and rapid-fire free-associations mark him as a true fan of everything he surveys.

The Zizek I just described is fully in evidence in the short clip above from the three-part documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Directed by Sophie Fiennes (sister of Joseph and Ralph), The Pervert’s Guide places Zizek in original locations and replica sets of several classic films—David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and Hitchcock’s Vertigo, to name just a few. Zizek’s scenes of commentary are edited with scenes from the films to give the impression that he is speaking from within the films themselves. It’s a novel approach and works particularly well in the video above, where Zizek gives us his take on Vertigo. As he says of Hitchcock’s film—which could apply to the one he is in as well—“often things begin as a fake, inauthentic, artificial, but you get caught in your own game.” Viewers of The Pervert’s Guide get caught in Zizek’s interpretive game; it’s a fascinating, ridiculous, and unsettling one.

In the clip, through a series of close analyses of plot points and camera angles, Zizek concludes that Vertigo is the realization of a male fantasy, which necessarily involves violence and nightmarish transformations. In the “male libidinal economy,” he says, in the jargon-y psychoanalytic speak of his trade, women must be “mortified” before they are acceptable sexual partners. Slipping out of academic argot, he clarifies: “to paraphrase an old saying, the only good woman is a dead woman.” It’s this kind of blunt and utterly unsentimental way of speaking that raises the hackles of some of Zizek’s critics. But I’m not here to defend him. Watching (and reading) him for me is a game of edge-of-your seat “what outrageous or incomprehensible thing is he going to say next?” and I’ll admit, I enjoy it. So I’ll leave you with a final Zizek-ism. Perhaps it will scare you off for good, or perhaps you’re game for a few more rounds of “perversion” with this encyclopedic critic of the self, the social, and the sexual:

“A subject,” says Zizek, “is a partial something, a face, something we see. Behind it, there is a void, a nothingness. And of course, we spontaneously tend to fill in that nothingness with our fantasies about the wealth of human personality and so on, and so on. To see what is lacking in reality, to see it as that, there you see subjectivity. To confront subjectivity means to confront femininity. Woman is the subject. Masculinity is a fake.”
Lacan's name for what occurs at the end of the cure is traversing the fantasy. But since what the fantasy does, for Lacan, is veil from the subject his/her own implication in and responsibility for how s/he experiences the world, to traverse the fantasy is to reavow subjective responsibility. To traverse the fantasy, Lacan theorizes, is to cease positing that the Other has taken the "lost" object of desire. It is to accept that this object is something posited by oneself as a means to compensate for the experienced trauma of castration. One comes to accept that castration is not an event with a winner (the father) and a loser (the subject), but a structurally necessary factum for human-beings as such, to which all speaking subjects have been subjected. What equally follows is the giving up of the resentful and acquisitive project of trying to reclaim the objet petit a from the Other, and "settling the scores."

Will Britain Reclaim its' Economic Sovereignty?

The lash of European Union won’t tell us,
how many thousands migrants
we must take to our home
or where to build
for them temples and the mosques.
We want to break free from E. U. lies.

We are the people of democracy.
The red tape of collapsing Union
and their bureaucrats’ fat pay,
won’t force us to comply
with their unjust rules -
our bravery over financial slavery.

More taxes, these are the dirty tricks
of bureaucrats’ politics.
We are not the beggars, nor scavengers,
but of noble life challengers.
We are free and proud.
In serfdom our country won’t stay.
- Art Wielgus (2016)


I love the naked ages long ago
When statues were gilded by Apollo,
When men and women of agility
Could play without lies and anxiety,

And the sky lovingly caressed their spines,
As it exercised its noble machine.

Fertile Cybele, mother of nature, then,
Would not place on her daughters a burden,
But, she-wolf sharing her heart with the people,
Would feed creation from her brown nipples.

Men, elegant and strong, would have the right
To be proud to have beauty named their king;
Virgin fruit free of blemish and cracking,
Whose flesh smooth and firm would summon a bite!
The Poet today, when he would convey
This native grandeur, would not be swept away
By man free and woman natural,
But would feel darkness envelop his soul
Before this black tableau full of loathing.

O malformed monsters crying for clothing!
O ludicrous heads! Torsos needing disguise!
O poor writhing bodies of every wrong size,
Children that the god of the Useful swaths
In the language of bronze and brass!
And women, alas! You shadow your heredity,
You gnaw nourishment from debauchery,
A virgin holds maternal lechery
And all the horrors of fecundity!

We have, it is true, corrupt nations,
Beauty unknown to the radiant ancients:
Faces that gnaw through the heart's cankers,
And talk with the cool beauty of languor;
But these inventions of our backward muses
Are never hindered in their morbid uses
Of the old for profound homage to youth,
—To the young saint, the sweet air, the simple truth,
To the eye as limpid as the water current,
To spread out over all, insouciant
Like the blue sky, the birds and the flowers,
Its perfumes, its songs and its sweet fervors.
- Charles Baudelaire, "I Love The Naked Ages Long Ago"

Monday, June 13, 2016

Anxiety: Feeling Mankind's Fall...

One should bear in mind Lacan's lesson here: accepting guilt is a manoeuvre which delivers us of anxiety, and its presence signals that the subject compromised his desire. So when, in a move described by Kierkegaard, one withdraws from the dizziness of freedom by seeking a firm support in the order of finitude, this withdrawal itself is the true Fall. More precisely, this withdrawal is the very withdrawal into the constraints of the externally-imposed prohibitory Law, so that the freedom which then arises is the freedom to violate the Law, the freedom caught into the vicious cycle of Law and its transgression, where Law engenders the desire to "free oneself" by way of violating it, and "sin" is the temptation inherent to the Law-the ambiguity of attraction and repulsion which characterizes anxiety is now exerted not directly by freedom but by sin. The dialectic of Law and its transgression does not reside only in the fact that Law itself solicits its own transgression, that it generates the desire for its own violation; our obedience to the Law itself is not "natural," spontaneous, but always-already mediated by the (repression of the) desire to transgress it. When we obey the Law, we do it as part of a desperate strategy to fight against our desire to transgress it, so the more rigorously we OBEY the Law, the more we bear witness to the fact that, deep in ourselves, we fell the pressure of the desire to indulge in sin. The superego feeling of guilt is therefore right: the more we obey the Law, the more we are guilty, because this obedience effectively IS a defense against our sinful desire.
-Slavoj Zizek, "Anxiety: Kierkegaard with Lacan"

What causes anxiety is the elevation of transgression into the norm, the lack of the prohibition that would sustain desire. This lack throws us into the suffocating proximity of the object-cause of desire: we lack the breathing space provided by the prohibition, since, even before we can assert our individuality through our resistance to the Norm, the Norm enjoins us in advance to resist, to violate, to go further and further. We should not confuse this Norm with regulation of our intersubjective contacts: perhaps there has been no period in the history of humankind, when interactions were so closely regulated; these regulations, however, no longer function as the symbolic prohibition - rather, they regulate modes of transgression themselves.
- Zizek on the age of anxiety

Anxiety is the only emotion that does not deceive: all other emotions, from sorrow to love, are based on deceit… The feeling of guilt is a fake enabling us to give ourselves over to pleasures - when this frame falls away, anxiety arises. It is here that one should refer to the key distinction between the object of desire and its object-cause. What should the analyst do in the case of a promiscuous woman who has regular one-night stands, while complaining all the time how bad and miserable and guilty she feels about it? The thing not to do, of course, is to try to convince her that one-night stands are bad, the cause of her troubles, signs of some libidinal deadlock - in this way, one merely feeds her symptom, which is condensed in her (misleading) dissatisfaction with one night stands. That is to say, it is obvious that what gives the woman true satisfaction is not promiscuity as such, but the very accompanying feeling of being miserable - that is the source of her “masochistic” enjoyment.
- Zizek on pleasure and guilt: "The Puppet and the Dwarf"


Thy soul shall find itself alone
'Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness- for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne'er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!
- Edgar Allan Poe, "Spirits of the Dead"

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Breaker of Horses

I start to hymn the splendid god Poseidon -
Sea lord, shaker of land and barren water,
Master of Helicon and spacious Aegae.
Earth-rattler, heaven gave you two commissions:
Deliverer of ships, breaker of horses.
Joy, earth-surrounder with your blue hair streaming!
Holy one, be compassionate to sailors.
- Homeric Hymns

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Degenerative Neurasthenia

Neurasthenia is a term that was first used at least as early as 1829 to label a mechanical weakness of the actual nerves, rather than the more metaphorical "nerves" referred to by George Miller Beard later.

As a psychopathological term, neurasthenia was used by Beard in 1869 to denote a condition with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, headache, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, neuralgia and depressed mood.

Neurasthenia is currently a diagnosis in the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases (and the Chinese Society of Psychiatry's Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders). However, it is no longer included as a diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Americans were said to be particularly prone to neurasthenia, which resulted in the nickname "Americanitis" (popularized by William James). Another, rarely used, term for neurasthenia is nervosism.
from Wikipedia

Edvard Munch, "Self Portrait with Cigarette" (1895)
Once more I close my eyes.
A violin plays like a blazing fire.
I feel calm yet tears cover my eyes.

The fire burns through my lungs.
I hear the silence of many thoughts.
The concerto ends, I applaud.
Once more I open my eyes.
- Wise eye, "A Cigarette" (3/24/15)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Letters to Britain on the Brexit

Dear Britain,

When Stalin was asked in the late 1920s which is worse, the right or the left, he snapped back: “They are both worse!” And this is my first reaction to the question of whether or not to leave the EU.

I am not interested in sending love letters to the British public with the sentimental message: “Please stay in Europe!” What interests me is ultimately only one question. Europe is now caught in a vicious cycle, oscillating between the false opposites of surrender to global capitalism and surrender to anti-immigrant populism – which politics has a chance of enabling us to step out of this mad dance?

The symbols of global capitalism are secretly negotiated trade agreements such as the Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The social impact of TTIP is clear enough: it stands for nothing less than a brutal assault on democracy. Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if their policies cause a loss of profits. Simply put, this means that unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.

So how would Brexit fare in this context? From a leftwing standpoint, there are some good reasons to support Brexit: a strong nation state exempted from the control of Brussels technocrats can protect the welfare state and counteract austerity politics. However, I am worried about the ideological and political background of this option. From Greece to France, a new trend is arising in what remains of the “radical left”: the rediscovery of nationalism. All of a sudden, universalism is out, dismissed as a lifeless political and cultural counterpart of “rootless” global capital.

The reason for this is obvious: the rise of rightwing nationalist populism in western Europe, which is now the strongest political force advocating the protection of working class interests, and simultaneously the strongest political force able to give rise to proper political passions. So the reasoning goes: why should the left leave this field of nationalist passions to the radical right, why should it not “reclaim la patrie from the Front National”?

In this leftwing populism, the logic of Us against Them remains, however here “they” are not poor refugees or immigrants, but financial capital and technocratic state bureaucracy. This populism moves beyond the old working class anticapitalism; it tries to bring together a multiplicity of struggles from ecology to feminism, from the right to employment to free education and healthcare.

The recurrent story of the contemporary left is that of a leader or party elected with universal enthusiasm, promising a “new world” (Mandela, Lula) – but sooner or later, usually after a couple of years, they stumble upon the key dilemma: does one dare to touch the capitalist mechanisms, or does one decide to “play the game”? If one disturbs the mechanisms, one is very swiftly punished by market perturbations, economic chaos and the rest. So how can we push things further after the first enthusiastic stage is over?

I remain convinced that our only hope is to act trans-nationally – only in this way do we have a chance to constrain global capitalism. The nation-state is not the right instrument to confront the refugee crisis, global warming, and other truly pressing issues. So instead of opposing Eurocrats on behalf of national interests, let’s try to form an all-European left. And it is because of this margin of hope that I am tempted to say: vote against Brexit, but do it as a devout Christian who supports a sinner while secretly cursing him. Don’t compete with the rightwing populists, don’t allow them to define the terms of the struggle. Socialist nationalism is not the right way to fight the threat of national socialism.
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Guardian"

Slavoj's gone all unicorns and rainbows. He keeps pushing for a seat on the Iron Throne....

PC'ness is a Plague...