This Blog is not Dead

This blog is not dead. Nor is its author. How ridiculous it is when one has no time at all to write and is swamped with a multiplicity of difficulties that make a consistent writing routine an ever-more distant prospect. And then you go and say stuff is not dead further attesting to the fact that it looks that way. Well, it’s not.

Have you heard about the tiger in the Tbilisi zoo that mauled his caretakers before being killed by cops? Yeah, fertile soil for analysis and whatnot. But also just so damn tragic and bothersome for anyone attuned animal imprisonment and its associated problems. Well, let me just say–on a personal note–that if I was a tiger who fled from that damn Tbilisi prison, I’d probably want to kill people too, and fast. Imagine the pain of a being like that, its nature broken, its life severely restricted. That’s one of a million things I’ve been wanting to spill some words on a page about. However, the absurdity of daily life has sovereignty over our whims and desires.

So be it.

Stay tuned and stuff will appear soon. You may not need it, but I do.

Thanks!

This Side of the Fence: Some Remarks on the Animal Liberation of the Anthropos

An essay of mine was published a while back in the journal “Societies.” As naughty as ever, it brings much of my earlier writing together.

Direct download link: http://www.mdpi.com/2075-4698/5/2/314/pdf

Abstract:

Informed by body-phenomenology, pragmatism, and critical theory, this aphoristic essay comprises a consideration of some of the more dire consequences of human Empire-building among anthropic animals. The notion of human teleology, active beneath social class, gender, and other anthropic qualifiers, is theorized as a dead end, an abstraction translated into real power and propped up at the cost of actual bodyselves—fully corporeal living individuals—and attentiveness to their needs. In this context, animal liberation, usually referring to ending the domination of other animals at anthropic hands, is posited as pertinent to anthropic animality, especially under late modernity’s “desomatizing regime”. Animal liberation, it is held, speaks to each and every one of us, though in ways depending on the specificity of our lived situations, and unmasks the ultimate absurdity of attempts to overcome our animal condition, attempts historically coalescing precisely in human Empire.

Keywords: Empire; bodyself; animal liberation; lifeworld; human; anthropos; sensuousness

Painting: Thomas Cole/The Destruction of Empirecole_thomas_the_course_of_empire_destruction_1836

Ecosocialism (Lexicon Entry)

310310978Howdy,

Check out my contribution to a lexicon of human-animal [sic!] relations, still waiting to be published in and around Germany. Meanwhile, it’s been published here, on the website of Capitalism Nature Socialism, a journal of radical ecology, courtesy of Linda Quiquivix and Saed.

Kind or Clever: Rorty’s Synthesis, Itsuki’s Eyes and Voice

RortyRichard Rorty, the noted American philosopher, took part in a Dutch television series titled “Of Beauty and Consolation.”  In an hour-long interview he revealed various autobiographical details and went far beyond the technical matters which so engulf academics these days.  This–the personal, the intimate in philosophical thought–has always meant much more to me than the most convincing theoretical edifice.  You listen to Rorty’s take on William James’ pragmatism, for instance, and it’s all extremely contrived, even in its incessant attempts to straighten his thought out and give it credit where it is due or withhold it where is not.  In a conference room, beauty and consolation are scarcely able to secure a place.

Apart from his general, contagious humility, one thing in particular stood out for me in the interview with Rorty.  Having reflected on the reasons why he’d taken up philosophy as a young man–a sense of empowerment and control in an alienated boy played a large part–he says:

I can still remember things I’ve done to other people thirty or fourty years ago… the emotions of shame and guilt are so intense that, you know, I just instantly try to distract my attention.  It isn’t that I remember inflicting deliberate pain on anybody.  It’s just acts of omission, of ‘it would have been so easy to have done something for her’ or ‘it would have been so easy to be kind, and I wasn’t.’  Something like that…

Soon after, the interviewer asks Rorty what he means by “the synthesis of ecstasy and kindness you’re looking for.”  Rorty remarks that

I have no idea what that would be like but, you know, a way of being simultaneously kind and clever… a way of not having to choose between cleverness and kindness.…  I just desperately hope to avoid the problem.  Can’t imagine what the solution is like…

I wonder if this is a problem.  If so, it seems to me certainly not one possible to solve in thought.  And I realize you might say we’re surrounded by people who combine the two.  But I’d say they don’t combine, but oscillate between the poles of kindness and cleverness, that is to say, of kindness and a certain kind of power of scheming, the rationale of which is to maniupulate and control, and precisely to withhold kindness from another.  So maybe there’s indeed something to think about here.

Hiroyuki20ItsukiIn his autobiography, Tariki, Japanese novelist Hiroyuki Itsuki titles one of the section headings “The Good Die Young.” Mentioning “disgust” with politics, business, the medical establishment, and education, and saying that “even writing this much depresses me terribly,” he continues:

Yet, I have never raised my voice to protest any of those things, and I have almost never written strong social criticism.…  I am no longer young.  I know that I am one of the bad guys, who has in his life up to now pushed aside many other people in my own rush to survive and to get ahead.

This is by no means false humility.  I have deep in my heart a feeling like a heavy stone, which makes me see myself as a worthless person, beyond all salvation.

He goes on to describe scenes from his youth, when his family and he himself were being forcibly relocated from Korea, following the defeat of the Japanese in World War 2.  The description concludes with Itsuki saying that, with their home and all possessions confiscated by the Soviet army, he fled with his siblings and mother–soon to die and before that rolled on a cart by the the young boy–to the south, over the 38th parallel, into a US-run refugee camp, and from there was shipped home to Japan.  Itsuki reflects on this without illusions:

I managed to survive that period of indescribable chaos, and to live to this day.  Whenever I remember the time, I instinctively lower my eyes and drop my voice.…  What made the difference between those who survived and those who never returned, but fell by the wayside?  Did those with strong faith survive?  Or those with physical strength or intelligence?  Was it those who didn’t lose hope, who retained a positive attitude?

I have something buried deep in my heart, a voice I can always hear coming from somewhere inside me saying, ‘No, that’s not it.  The bad people survived, and the good people all died.

You haven’t forgotten, have you?’ asks the voice.

It was those with the stronger egos, the ones willing to push others aside, the ones who possessed a powerful, self-centered will to live, who survived under those extreme conditions.  It was those who were twice as selfish as others, steeped in bad karma, who made it through.

“I was thirteen,” Itsuki writes.  “Carrying my little sister on my back and pulling my little brother along by the hand, I ran  to the 38th parallel.  If my brother was too weak to keep up with me, I was fully prepared to leave him where he fell and keep on running.”

I don’t think, insofar as I can imagine what he and his family went through, that his survival owed to “unthinking life force” and mere “instinct for self-preservation.”  There was cleverness in it, a certain calculation and scheming, a clever readiness to leave the weak and hopeless behind, and this is where guilt comes in.

This is what made Itsuki lower his eyes and drop his voice.  That’s what made Rorty’s own reminiscences painful, leaving him looking for distractrion.  Kind and clever? Like Rorty, I have no idea how a synthesis between them might look, feel, and be like.

Under extreme, life-threatening circumstances, showing kindness clearly may be suicidal.  Under normal circumstances, if you express kindness, there is a possibility you will be hustled and duped.  Cleverness reigns even when there’s nothing big to be lost, because there always already is deceit.  We learn this quickly.  Kindness, then, requires at least some naivete; it requires a suspension of at least some questions and suspicion which might otherwise be posed and employed in being clever.  We may then rationalize, and not entirely without sense, that if we ourselves are disempowered of our cleverness, and if that really weakens us, how will we be able to muster the power to be kind?

I doubt, however, that with those who use this argument to justify themselves, are in any really hurry to be kind at all.  It seems to me that they use the power of language to the end to which, as George Carlin pointed out, it is mostly used: to lie.  Secretly, they feed their fantasies of their self–unique because its theirs–extending ever further into the future, on and on and on.

We learn from Tariki that Itsuki’s brother, saved after the war, “died of cancer in his mid-forties.”  “I remember almost painfully his favorite phrase,” Itsuki writes: “Ii ja nai?”  Loosely translated into English, this means, according to the author, “What’s the use in getting so worked up?”  Listening to Itsuki’s outbursts about what was wrong with things, his brother would “half-whisper it, in his Kyushu accent… almost as if he were speaking to himself.”

And so, through all this, the world goes on, as we–some of us–desperately hope not to have to choose to be clever or kind, already clever in thinking we can choose. Maybe we can. But all of us will soon enough be consumed by the flood. In the end, perhaps Itsuki’s brother was right. It is easier to be kind

The Alien³ Rottweiler

I was house-sitting for my neighbors and couldn’t help myself when I saw an Alien³ DVD sitting on their shelf.  I put it on and chose to play a theatrical version with cast and crew commentary.  The Xenomorph, a great idea with the prisoner-monks, and interesting background regarding the eclipse of analogue visual effects by the flat digital tech that soon overrun the place make this a good movie.

spikeBut then there’s the dog.  If you haven’t seen the movie, there’s a scene in it where a Rottweiler accompanying the monks in the prison is found with wounds across his face and bleeding by one of the other characters.  He would soon be ripped apart by an alien host already developing in his gut.  I get how well this thing fits into the story.  But, as usual, there’s a story behind the story.

The commentary features a revealing bit as to the Rottweiler’s forced participation in the scene (I don’t know who says what here, exactly):

…and this stuff with the dog replaced the ox scene, where originally the creature was supposed to come out of the body of an ox. We had to go to the vet and shave this Rottweiler. Shave those grooves into his face. Stuck a tube down his throat and yanked his tongue out and shaved it.

-In a very humane way… (facetious tone)

-Shaved his tongue? That’s what it sounds like you said… sounds like it.

-That was a hairy-tongued Rottweiler.

-You’d never get away with that in this country.

-Nooo…

“This country” probably denotes Britain, known in animal rights to have higher welfare standards than the US for the animals used and abused for human purposes. It’s pathetic at best, though, to speak of welfare when slaughterhouses and labs and zoos, the mainstay of unfreedom and consequent suffering, are still in operation.

In the movie, of course, we see the dog die first–a buildup for the “more important” deaths to come.  Remember how black people usually die first as well?  Well, this is an example of interspecies racism of the same sort.  Dog people are first in line to go.  Does one still go to the vet to yank the dog’s tongue out and shave it?

Philosophy and Suffering

Writing is always more than an intellectual affair.  If it were only that, it would have an even harder time standing up to charges of superfluity.  To be more than superfluous, it must somehow, through its abstract and in a sense always already alienated means, reconnect with the vital life concerns of those to whom it is addressed and/or those of whom it speaks.  This necessitates a faithful relation of writing to suffering, understood here in a broad sense as both outright misery and the unquenched—and incessantly fed—thirst for reaping ever more out of life’s fragile texture.

Suffering, the fate of bodily beings born from a world into which they fail neatly to fit, and at times barely fit at all, is the central theme of all philosophy which still manages to hold its own privileged, if illusory, distance to worldly dirge in perspective.  Reading a book of theory, even the most abstract and obtuse, I want to know what it has to say to the suffering of those whom it concerns—and I ask who it is that it concerns!  Overwhelmed, and in as much honesty as I myself can take, I assume a place in line of those who have been disappointed with countless evasions, silences, justifications, abstractions, excuses, and false consolations which always leave out those most miserable, those deprived of agency, of influence, of value.

Philosophy, perhaps by its very structure of abstraction and representation, obfuscates its own origins in the carnal agony of generation upon generation of senseless misery, potential for the lucky and actual for the ill-fated, and hardly ever delivers on its always implicit but all too easily forgotten promise of confronting and relieving suffering.

Suffering

Hit and Run

DSC00003In my own neck of the woods some development has been under way for years, turning a once fairly serene place into what feels like a cage.

See, I’ve been glancing at this fancy ad all around here–on billboards, walls, shop windows. It shows a new residential area, enticing as only an ad can make one seem.

This particular ad shows a hip dude walking his mountain bike, wearing shades and all, though it’s already getting dark. You know the what I mean. Then we have some folks discussing heaven knows what near the entrance to their building. Another star–this time a dude in a black suit, what else–is reigning over the neigborhood from his balcony above and in the back.

But all of these people are just an insignificant afterthought–mere add-ons to the splendor of a development scheme.

So what really stands out is not the people. But it’s not even the buildings themselves, either. Instead, what really makes itself seen is a certain absence–the absence of fences, gates, security booths, or cameras. There ain’t none of that in there. DSC00001

Reality check. Some of that development wonder has already been put into place here over the past fifteen years. Only it looks nothing like the ad.

Instead, it looks, as my friend put it once, like a fucking ghetto. Fence on a fence on a fence. Folks wheezing in their cars right by all this and into the underground garage. And then right from there into their apartment, without ever showing their face outside. Hardly ever does anyone hang out around here.

There’s no community here–not in these parts of the area. There’s only people with “stay the fuck away” attitudes, hiding out in their respective fortresses of solitude.

These folks are nice and cultured. Well, “mass-cultured.” They won’t rob or stab you. In fact, they won’t even talk to you. They don’t know each other. They don’t want to. That’s how this space has been organized. Into a fortress. Built for profit, it brings just that. You know what it looks like even more than a fortress, though?

A jailhouse. DSC00002

There’s even a court in the middle of it, though you can’t access it unless you pass through one of the closed gates.

Jailhouse.

Or go around. The court is almost always empty, no matter the weather. Now, If I ever catch anyone there–not passing through, actually being there–I swear I’ll take a pic of that and put it up here as acknowledgement of the developer’s not-so-utter failure.

Meanwhile, my comment is this: What a damn good recipe for isolation! What a great tactic to keep the community dead!

Jailhouse!

But the developers do not care, right? In fact, this plays right into their cunning hands. Once the fence is done and polished, they’re out forever.

If you look into the far background in the third picture, you’ll see what? That’s right, more of the same shit being built. Another hit-and-run.

I get that people need homes. I’m writing this from the cosy interior of a real home. So I get it.

But not like this, not like this. Folks–maybe good people, I don’t know–are left with mortgages to pay for years on end. Putting in work, getting tired of it all, trapped in cycles where they really could not care about how they were sucked in.

They just want out. Too bad. They only got locked in.

Waitin’ on those midlife crises? Oh, they’re comin’!