Sunday, September 28, 2014

Urban Tribalism

“People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of 'race' or 'gender' alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things.”
― Christopher Hitchens

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity." -FN

The poet in his lone yet genial hour
Gives to his eyes a magnifying power :
Or rather he emancipates his eyes
From the black shapeless accidents of size--
In unctuous cones of kindling coal,
Or smoke upwreathing from the pipe's trim bole,
His gifted ken can see
Phantoms of sublimity.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Aplolgia Pro Vita Sua"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Procuring Social Capital

"This is why the key feature of contemporary capitalism is not only the hegemony, but also the (relative) autonomy of financial capital: it may seem like the banks are just engaging in speculation, shuffling numbers here and there, and nobody is exploited, since exploitation happens in "real" production. But why did we have to give billions of dollars to the banks in 2008 and 2009? Because, without a functioning banking system, the entire (capitalist) economy collapses. Banks should thus also count as privatized commons: insofar as private banks control the flow of investments and thus represent, for individual companies, the universal dimension of social capital, their profit is really a rent we pay for their role as universal mediator. This is why state or other forms of social control over banks and collective capital in general (like pension funds) are crucial in taking a first step towards the social control of commons. Apropos the reproach that such control is economically inefficient, we should recall not only those cases in which social control was very effective (this was, for example, how Malaysia avoided crisis in the late 1990s), but also the obvious fact that the 2008 financial crisis was triggered precisely by the failure of the banking system."
--Slavoj Zizek, "Less Than Nothing"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More Names of the Father

The Name-of-the-Father (French Nom du père) is a concept that Jacques Lacan developed from his seminar The Psychoses (1955–1956) to cover the role of the father in the Symbolic Order. Lacan plays with the similar sound of le nom du père (the name of the father), le non du père (the no of the father), and les non-dupes errent (the non-dupes err) to, in the former case, emphasize the legislative and prohibitive function of the father and, in the latter case, emphasize that "those who do not let themselves be caught in the symbolic deception/fiction and continue to believe their eyes are the ones who err most.

Lacan's concept draws on the mythical father of Freud's Totem and Taboo; and was used by him as a strategic move in his opposition to what he saw as the over-emphasis of object relations theory on the exclusive relationship of the individual and his/her mother as a dual pair. Lacan emphasised instead the importance of the third party in the Oedipus complex – what he called “the place that she [the mother] reserves for the Name-of-the Father in the promulgation of the law”. He saw this as a vital element in helping each new member of the human race to move from an exclusive, primary relation to the mother[er] to a wider engagement with the outside, cultural world – the symbolic order.

Anthony Stevens has similarly argued that “Traditionally, the father's orientation is centrifugal, i. e., towards the outside world...his is the primary responsibility for facilitating the transition from home to society'. Likewise the family therapist Robin Skynner sees the father (or fatherer) playing an essential role in the process whereby “the toddler has got to see that Mum isn't God as a first step to seeing that Dad isn't God, and that...he's part of something bigger too”. For Lacan, that bigger context could be seen as “the chain of which an entire family, an entire coterie, an entire camp, an entire nation or half the world will be caught”. The internalisation of the Name of the Father with the passing of the Oedipus complex ensured for Lacan participation in that wider chain of discourse, and was for him an essential element of human sanity.

Psychosis for Lacanians is the exact opposite of the Name of the Father – the absence of that identification with the symbolic order which ensures our place in the shared intersubjective world of common sense. The Name-of-the-Father is thus the fundamental signifier which permits signification to proceed normally. It not only confers identity and position on the subject within the symbolic order, but also signifies the Oedipal prohibition (the "no'" of the incest taboo). If this signifier is foreclosed, in the sense of being excluded from the Symbolic Order, the result is psychosis. Psychotics have not been properly separated from their mother[er] by the fixed name-of-the-father, and hence relate to speech and language differently from neurotics
- Wikipedia

Monday, September 22, 2014


It was a divine hour for the human race.
Before, the Swan sang only at its death.
But when the Wagnerian swan began to sing,
there was a new dawning, and a new life.

The song of the Swan is heard above the storms
of the human sea; its aria never ceases;
it dominates the hammering of old Thor,
and the trumpets hailing the sward of Argentir.

Oh Swan! Oh sacred bird!
If once white Helen,
immortal princess of Beauty's realms,
emerged all grace from Leda's sky-blue egg,
so now,

beneath the white of your wings,
the new Poetry,
here in a splendor of music and light,
conceives the pure,
eternal Helen who is the Ideal.
- Ruben Dario, "The Swan"

Friday, September 19, 2014

The New Society

Down the street as I was drifting with the city's human tide,
Came a ghost, and for a moment walked in silence by my side --
Now my heart was hard and bitter, and a bitter spirit he,
So I felt no great aversion to his ghostly company.

Said the Shade: `At finer feelings let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, has ever been the motto for the world.'

And he said: `If you'd be happy, you must clip your fancy's wings,
Stretch your conscience at the edges to the size of earthly things;
Never fight another's battle, for a friend can never know
When he'll gladly fly for succour to the bosom of the foe.

At the power of truth and friendship let your lip in scorn be curled --
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, is the motto of the world.

`Where Society is mighty, always truckle to her rule;
Never send an `i' undotted to the teacher of a school;
Only fight a wrong or falsehood when the crowd is at your back,
And, till Charity repay you, shut the purse, and let her pack;
At the fools who would do other let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, that's the motto of the world.

`Ne'er assail the shaky ladders Fame has from her niches hung,
Lest unfriendly heels above you grind your fingers from the rung;
Or the fools who idle under, envious of your fair renown,
Heedless of the pain you suffer, do their worst to shake you down.

At the praise of men, or censure, let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, is the motto of the world.

`Flowing founts of inspiration leave their sources parched and dry,
Scalding tears of indignation sear the hearts that beat too high;
Chilly waters thrown upon it drown the fire that's in the bard;
And the banter of the critic hurts his heart till it grows hard.

At the fame your muse may offer let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, that's the motto of the world.

`Shun the fields of love, where lightly, to a low and mocking tune,
Strong and useful lives are ruined, and the broken hearts are strewn.

Not a farthing is the value of the honest love you hold;
Call it lust, and make it serve you! Set your heart on nought but gold.

At the bliss of purer passions let your lip in scorn be curled --
`Self and Pelf', my friend, shall ever be the motto of the world.'

Then he ceased and looked intently in my face, and nearer drew;
But a sudden deep repugnance to his presence thrilled me through;
Then I saw his face was cruel, by the look that o'er it stole,
Then I felt his breath was poison, by the shuddering of my soul,
Then I guessed his purpose evil, by his lip in sneering curled,
And I knew he slandered mankind, by my knowledge of the world.

But he vanished as a purer brighter presence gained my side --
`Heed him not! there's truth and friendship
in this wondrous world,' she cried,
And of those who cleave to virtue in their climbing for renown,
Only they who faint or falter from the height are shaken down.

At a cynic's baneful teaching let your lip in scorn be curled!
`Brotherhood and Love and Honour!' is the motto for the world.
Charles Baudelaire, "The Ghost"

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The New Eristocracy

Rammstein, "Mutter"
A programmatic statement towards the end of 300 defines the Greeks’ agenda as “against the reign of mystique and tyranny, towards the bright future,” further specified as the rule of freedom and reason – which sounds like an elementary Enlightenment program, even with a Communist twist! Recall that at the start of the film, Leonidas rejects the message of the corrupt “oracles,” according to whom the gods forbid the military expedition to stop the Persians.

But what about the seeming absurdity of the idea of dignity, freedom and reason, sustained by extreme military discipline (including of the practice of discarding the weak children)? This “absurdity” is simply the price of freedom. Freedom is not something given, but is regained through a hard struggle in which one should be ready to risk everything. The ruthless military discipline of the Spartans is not simply the external opposite of Athenian “liberal democracy,” but is its inherent condition and lays the foundation for it: the free subject of reason can only emerge through a ruthless self-discipline.

True freedom is not freedom of choice made from a safe distance, like choosing between Coke or Pepsi. Rather, true freedom overlaps with necessity: one makes a truly free choice when one’s choice puts at stake one’s very existence – one does it because one simply “cannot do it otherwise.” When one’s country is under a foreign occupation and one is called by a resistance leader to join the fight against the occupiers, the reason given is not “you are free to choose,” but, “Can’t you see that this is the only thing you can do if you want to retain your dignity?”

It is no wonder that all early-modern egalitarian radicals, from Rousseau to the Jacobins, admired the Spartan and imagined the French Republic as a new Sparta: there is an emancipatory core in the Spartan spirit of military discipline which survives even when we subtract all the historical paraphernalia of Spartan class rule, ruthless exploitation of and terror over their slaves, and so on. It is also no wonder that Trotsky called Soviet Union in the difficult years of “war Communism” “proletarian Sparta.”
- Slavoj Zizek, "Against Aristocratic Pride: Shakespeare and Radical Politics"

Ralph Fiennes effectively achieved the impossible, thereby perhaps confirming T.S. Eliot’s famous claim that Coriolanus is superior to Hamlet: he broke out of this closed circle of interpretive options (which invariably introduce critical distance towards the figure of Coriolanus) and instead fully asserted Coriolanus – not as a fanatical anti-democrat, but as a figure of the radical Left.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Against Aristocratic Pride: Shakespeare and Radical Politics"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Memory Boat Rides

River Ganga originates
from the himalayan glaciers
and flows down to earth
with a mystical, divine influence;
where immerses humans
their endless transgressions,
float around their mortal remains
to impure the heart of a holy river.
Is there a mountain on earth
or a source where one river flows
down to refurbish humans
and cleanse the stains of mind.
Is there a river on earth cursed
like Ganga to endure the burdens
of human submissions and surrender
on one credence and flow like
a silent tear dropp beneath
the moon lit sky..
-Gayatri Nambiar (2008)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Above Kabul

If my heart beats
for Kabul,
it's for the slopes of Bala Hissar,
holding my dead
in its foothills.

Though not one, not one
of those wretched hearts
ever beat for me.

If my heart grieves
for Kabul,
it's for Leyla's sighs of
‘Oh, dear God!'
and my grandmother's heart
set pounding.

It's for Golnar's eyes
scanning the paths
from dawn to dusk, spring to autumn,
staring so long
that all the roads fall apart
and in my teenage nightmares
side roads
suddenly shed their skins.

If my heart trembles
for Kabul,
it's for the slow step of summer noons,
siestas in my father's house which,
heavy with mid-day sleep,
still weighs on my ribs.

For the playful Angel of the Right Shoulder
who keeps forgetting
to ward away stray bullets.

It's for the hawker's cry
of the vegetable seller doing his rounds,
lost in my neighbours' troubled dreams,
that my heart's trembling.
Shakila Azizzada, "Kabul"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sundown Revelation

The summer sun is sinking low;
Only the tree-tops redden and glow:
Only the weathercock on the spire
Of the neighboring church is a flame of fire;
All is in shadow below.

O beautiful, awful summer day,
What hast thou given, what taken away?
Life and death, and love and hate,
Homes made happy or desolate,
Hearts made sad or gay!

On the road of life one mile-stone more!
In the book of life one leaf turned o'er!
Like a red seal is the setting sun
On the good and the evil men have done,--
Naught can to-day restore!
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Sundown"