Saturday, March 28, 2015

Divine Violence in Ferguson

from The European
In August 2014, violent protests exploded in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, after a policeman shot to death an unarmed black teenager suspected of robbery: For days, police tried to disperse mostly black protesters. Although the details of the accident are murky, the poor black majority of the town took it as yet another proof of the systematic police violence against them. In U.S. slums and ghettos, police effectively function more and more as a force of occupation, something akin to Israeli patrols entering the Palestinian territories on the West Bank; media were surprised to discover that even their guns are more and more U.S. Army arms. Even when police units try just to impose peace, distribute humanitarian help, or organize medical measures, their modus operandi is that of controlling a foreign population. “The Rolling Stone” magazine recently drew the conclusion that imposes itself after the Ferguson incident:
“Nobody’s willing to say it yet. But after Ferguson, and especially after the Eric Garner case that exploded in New York after yet another non-indictment following a minority death-in-custody, the police suddenly have a legitimacy problem in this country. Law-enforcement resources are now distributed so unevenly, and justice is being administered with such brazen inconsistency, that people everywhere are going to start questioning the basic political authority of law enforcement.”
In such a situation, when police are no longer perceived as the agent of law, of the legal order, but as just another violent social agent, protests against the predominant social order also tend to take a different turn: that of exploding “abstract negativity” – in short, raw, aimless violence. When, in his “Group Psychology”, Freud described the “negativity” of untying social ties (Thanatos as opposed to Eros, the force of the social link), he all too easily dismissed the manifestations of this untying as the fanaticism of the “spontaneous” crowd (as opposed to artificial crowds: the Church and the Army). Against Freud, we should retain the ambiguity of this movement of untying: it is a zero level that opens up the space for political intervention. In other words, this untying is the pre-political condition of politics, and, with regard to it, every political intervention proper already goes “one step too far”, committing itself to a new project (or Master-Signifier).

Do they not hit the innocent?

Today, this apparently abstract topic is relevant once again: The “untying” energy is largely monopolized by the New Right (the Tea Party movement in the U.S., where the Republican Party is increasingly split between Order and its Untying). However, here also, every fascism is a sign of failed revolution, and the only way to combat this Rightist untying will be for the Left to engage in its own untying – and there are already signs of it (the large demonstrations all around Europe in 2010, from Greece to France and the UK, where the student demonstrations against university fees unexpectedly turned violent). In asserting the threat of “abstract negativity” to the existing order as a permanent feature which can never be aufgehoben, Hegel is here more materialist than Marx: In his theory of war (and of madness), he is aware of the repetitive return of the “abstract negativity” which violently unbinds social links. Marx re-binds violence into the process out of which a New Order arises (violence as the “midwife” of a new society), while in Hegel, the unbinding remains non-sublated.

Are such “irrational” violent demonstrations with no concrete programmatic demands, sustained by just a vague call for justice, not today’s exemplary cases of what Walter Benjamin called “divine violence” (as opposed to “mythic violence”, i.e. the law-founding state violence)? They are, as Benjamin put it, means without ends, not part of a long-term strategy. The immediate counter-argument here is: but are such violent demonstrations not often unjust, do they not hit the innocent?

If we are to avoid the overstretched Politically Correct explanations according to which the victims of divine violence should humbly not resist it on account of their generic historical responsibility, the only solution is to simply accept the fact that divine violence is brutally unjust: It is often something terrifying, not a sublime intervention of divine goodness and justice. A left-liberal friend from the University of Chicago told me of his sad experience: when his son reached high-school age, he enrolled him in a high school north of the campus, close to a black ghetto, with a majority of black kids, but his son was then returning home almost regularly with bruises or broken teeth – so what should he have done? Put his son into another school with the white majority or let him stay? The point is that this dilemma is wrong: The dilemma cannot be solved at this level since the very gap between private interest (safety of my son) and global justice bears witness to a situation which has to be overcome in its entirety.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Divine Violence in Ferguson"

Thursday, March 26, 2015


CITY of orgies, walks and joys!
City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one day make you illustrious,
Not the pageants of you--not your shifting tableaux, your spectacles, repay me;
Not the interminable rows of your houses--nor the ships at the wharves,
Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright windows, with goods in them;
Nor to converse with learn'd persons, or bear my share in the soiree or feast;
Not those--but, as I pass, O Manhattan! your frequent and swift flash of eyes offering me love,
Offering response to my own--these repay me;
Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.
-Walt Whitman, "City Of Orgies"

Monday, March 23, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Totally Eclipsed

You see it coming from above I see it coming from the labs,
How can something so unproofed be your defence,
I feel nothing but the cold
When I’m kneeling on the murble floor.

Watch her leg straighten, watch me smiling, watch them go around on knees,
Thousand miles to see the sacred paintings,
I see nothing but the stars and clouds,
When I’m looking at the sky above.
Don’t You ever dare, to hang on my wall
Don’t You ever dare…

A witch won’t burn, a witch won’t burn,
there’s a world outside the fog but You won’t learn,
We are sirens calling You to stop and turn,
Cause no one awaits your soul but worms,
Hundred million people can be wrong.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Too Dreamy

The difference Between Lacan and 'naive realism' is that for Lacan, the only point at which we approach this hard kernel of the Real is indeed the dream. When we awaken into reality after a dream, we usually say to ourselves 'it was just a dream', thereby blinding ourselves to the fact that in our everyday, wakening reality we are nothing but a consciousness of this dream. It was only in the dream that we approached the fantasy-framework which determines our activity, our mode of acting in reality itself.
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Sublime Object of Ideology"

The Psycho Horde

Friday, March 13, 2015

Transitions into the Subjective

Where do we move between here and there?
What do we become in transition and where
...a place within of meanderings sweet or sour
...and then in sleep is lost many an hour ...yet

Summer wings enfold me and I fly
...soaring; shadow-less I soar
Winter wings enfold me and I die
...'til summer's sweet renewal comes once more

Ancient sounds emerging make their mark
Winter keeps her own notes in the dark
Spring's light brings the soft and fragrant tunes
...while autumn sounds her notes like silver moons

All the while I watch and wait for you
...too sing your song in many coloured hue
Each season turns anew upon the wheel
...when will you awake ...and in that sweet transition truly feel?
- Penny Reilly, "Transition..."

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Confabulating the "other's" Desire...

Until the end of the 1950s, the pleasure principle was identified with the imaginary level: the symbolic order was conceived as the realm 'beyond the pleasure principle'. But starting from the late 1950s (the Seminar on the Ethics os Psychoanalysis), it is, in contrast, the symbolic order itself which is identified with the pleasure principle: the unconscious 'structured like a language', its 'primary process' of metonymic-metaphoric displacement, is governed by the pleasure principle; what lies beyond is not the symbolic order but a real kernel, a traumatic core. To designate it, Lacan uses a Freudian term: das Ding, the Thing as an incarnation of the impossible jouissance (the term Thing is to be taken here with all the connotations it possesses in the domain of horror science fiction: the 'alien' from the film of the same name is a pre-symbolic, maternal Thing par excellence).
The symbolic order is striving for a homeostatic balance, but there is in its kernel, at its very centre, some strange, traumatic element which cannot be symbolized, integrated into the symbolic order - the Thing. Lacan coined a neologism for it: l'extimite - external intimacy, which served as a title for one of Jacques-Alain Miller's Seminars. And what, at this level, is the death drive? Exactly the opposite of the symbolic order: the possibility of the 'second death', the radical annihilation of the symbolic texture through which so-called reality is constituted. The very existence of the symbolic order implies a possibility of its radical effacement, of 'symbolic death' - not the death of the so-called 'real object' in its symbol, but the obliteration of the signifying network itself.
This distinction between the different stages of Lacan's teaching is not of purely theoretical interest; it has very definite consequences for the determination of the final moment of the psychoanalytic cure:
In the first period, in which the emphasis is on the word as a medium of the intersubjective recognition of desire, the symptoms are conceived as white spots, non-symbolized imaginary elements of the history of the subject, and the process of analysis is that of their symbolization - of their integration into the symbolic universe of the subject: the analysis gives meaning, retroactively, to what was in the beginning a meaningless trace. So the final moment of the analysis is reached when the subject is able to narrate to the Other his own history in its continuity; when his desire is integrated, recognized in 'full speech [parole pleine]'.

In the second period, in which the symbolic order is conceived as having a mortifying effect on the subject, as imposing on him a traumatic loss - and the name of the loss, of this lack, is of course symbolic castration - the final moment of analysis is reached when the subject is ready to accept this fundamental loss, to consent to symbolic castration as a price to be paid for access to his desire.

In the third period we have the big Other, the symbolic order, with a traumatic element at its very heart; and in Lacanian theory the fantasy is conceived as a construction allowing the subject to come to terms with this traumatic kernel. At this level, the final moment of the analysis is defined as 'going through the fantasy [la travese du fantasme]': not its symbolic interpretation but the experience of the fact that the fantasy-object, by its fascinating presence, is merely filling out a lack, a void in the Other. There is nothing 'behind' the fantasy; the fantasy is a construction whose function is to hide this void, this 'nothing' - that is, the lack in the Other.
-Slavoj Zizek, "The Sublime Object of Ideology"


I build a wall of insecurities
That may never be crossed
Because if the wall is weakened
My feelings get tumbled and tossed

I never mean to put up guard
But I can’t help it sometimes
I’m afraid of getting hurt
When people start crossing lines

I never wanted to come off mean
I just put up my wall
I only end up hating myself
I never wanted to hurt you at all

I refuse to let anyone close
I’ll only push you away
If I ever seem bitter to you
It’s only because I’m afraid

My insecurities protect me
Or so it may seem to be
Because when my wall comes crumbling down
Nobodies hurt but me
- Haley, "Insecurities" (Nov 2014)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Floating Bottles

O gift of God! O perfect day:
Whereon shall no man work, but play;
Whereon it is enough for me,
Not to be doing, but to be!
Through every fibre of my brain,
Through every nerve, through every vein,
I feel the electric thrill, the touch
Of life, that seems almost too much.
I hear the wind among the trees
Playing celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.
And over me unrolls on high
The splendid scenery of the sky,
Where through a sapphire sea the sun
Sails like a golden galleon,
Towards yonder cloud-land in the West,
Towards yonder Islands of the Blest,
Whose steep sierra far uplifts
Its craggy summits white with drifts.
Blow, winds! and waft through all the rooms
The snow-flakes of the cherry-blooms!
Blow, winds! and bend within my reach
The fiery blossoms of the peach!
O Life and Love! O happy throng
Of thoughts, whose only speech is song!
O heart of man! canst thou not be
Blithe as the air is, and as free?
- Longfellow, "A Day of Sunshine"