Phenomenology proceeds from a vantage point: how something appears to us. Certain terms are indigenous to this space, whether it be one explicitly thematized and systematized in a rubric (AKA "phenomenology") or arising from the "Lifeworld" (if you can bear the term) in its own way. In either case, we are given to terms whose function is to precipitate in language the nature of that appearance. The language observes a condition of mutual conditionality: the experience precipitates the language, the language guides, suggests and determines the experience. I put this as a vantage point, but generally it should be regarded as a *dimension*.
The shooter in the Sandy Hook massacre is taken into view, and these terms come into play: "he was odd", "he was quiet", "he may have had Asberger's autism". The last is not a simple phenemoneological descriptor, of course. But it has a phenomenological dimension. In any case, the question can be asked about how this self-showing of the shooter takes place, and what an examination of this might be of use in addressing this grievous problem.
The question of the phenomenological is, if not exactly meta-phenomenogical, in any case second-order in some way. It will admit of its own phenomenological dimensionality, but it is multi-dimensional. As "second order", however, it presents its own issuse, not the least of which is the inherent third and fourth (*ad infinitum*) orders that are necessarily involved when such an order is put into play. One may bear in mind Husserl's emphasis on some need a second *epoche* in, I thin, *The Crisis of the European SciencesI*. I think this will still beg a question or basically initiate what I take to be an inevitable consquence of any level of reflection, which will get involved presently.
I think it shoud be *de rigueur* to think of second order reflection as implying an automatic third + order. For one thing, because it does. And because it does, it entails an immediate problem of the management of such a space and complexity. You see, I'm skipping the phenomenology. One could, of course, explore things like "oddness", and trace them to the ontological-existential constitution of the self. And this could be productive: we might begin to think more intelligently about what this "oddness" might be, given, as is the case here, that the merely odd can transform itself into the monstrous. On the other hand, such a vantage point is a bit self-serving or one might say self-ish: it doesn't really get into the condition of the shooter so much as affirms the condition of our own navigation in a world according to various categories and characteristics of self-presentation of "the things (or people) themselves". We can watch the odd turn into the monstrous, true, but at issue here is more or less intrinsically a matter of preventing this from happening. And for this it seems necessary to break a certain phenomenological spell, a fascination with the world, a selfish orientation towards what presents itself.
Think of it: "well, that's odd...." then, "oh, the odd is changing; it's becoming...monstrous. I hear gun shots. Fascinating. Horrific. I guess this is almost the very definition of horrific. Yes, quite." One may add to this things like the "uses of horror" vaunted by Kristeva: we might imagine how we could use horror in some way or other (I'm not sure why anyone really would want to do this). The issue still remains of preventing such horror in the first place.
And for this we must enter into the relation to the other, the odd other, in a way that exceeds precisely the phenomenolgoical dimension. Most ethical thought that has tried to deal with this has been left with language that either strains at the barriers of this problem of "the other", either as a special "thing", as in Sartre's "hole in Being", or in language that strains at the very bounds of an original self-and-thing pressuposition of "ground truth" (which really is physics), *a la* Levians: the Other (capital "O") self comes to us from a height, Buber: the self is a "Thou", etc.
At least in Heidgger we already have a sense of being with others in the world; we're already with others, as selves, as "who(s)", in a manner that really can't be reduced to a phenomenological moment. While Heidegger made great use of the phenomenological method, this was pretty well methodological. His sense of "Being" had both a phenomenological moment but admited, in the simple "is" of a rich, inter-constitutive "opening-clearing" whose logics utterly transcended the simple vantage point and threw is directly into the fray of Life itself.
A little too directly. With Heidegger, it's just about finding out who is who, not actually changing anything. Sinners and Saints, cross and sword, the wicked and the sane, you name it, it's a cast of characters of End Results in a world of simple decisio and finitude, with scant little understanding of matters of growth, maturation, amelioration, relationshiops, etc. For the latter elements, one would basically have to rewrite the great, black (in the most popular and sobering edition), granitous Tome, which brings us to the present problem.
This text takes flight from a complex starting point and affirms the difficult necessity of managing the "second order" (AKA reflective) space, hereby taking on still more turns of involution in a certain flight. All of this I call "thought", and our phenomenology appears now as a distant point on some planet yet likewise is among the fibers of these wings' feathers. And, I suggest, it is only from here, this most rare space, that change and responsibilty are possible.
The stratospheric space is transformed into another ground, turned forest or jungle, as the space accomplishes itself. In the myriad of possibilties and ways in language and path, words may come to precipitate: *thought*. Action. Amelioration. Nonviolence. Which means irreducible relationsions. Not "who", but Adam, Ryan, etc. This is a spinning: the spinning, as on the Gandhian *charkha*, spins text(ile) from fibers in a kind of rough thread that is based on the suspension of the Empire of texts and tradition, yet retaining a certain continuity for which phenomenology is a kind of odd kin. We could enact the procedure again and again, repeating, as one does with spinning, the steps in different ways, but arriving at something of the same space.
All of this, I suggest, is minimally necessary. It is necessary to get second order. The second implies and invovles the third and more. The problem of the management of this complexity is a first order problem and responsibilty. It *emerges* as a primacy (a principle of emergent primacy). There is a certain flight. A turn on academic and scientific or quasi-scientific philosophy or thought. An act of rebellion. Etc. It is a fundamental condition of responsibiltiy: *the multiplicity of refleciton is a condition of basic, ground-level responsibility*.
We find ourselves in nonviolence/ameliorative thoughtaction. How might we act, given Heidegger's sufficient definition of aciton as having to do with accomplishment, to ameliorate such problems? Yet thinking acts insofar as it thinks, again as per Heidegger. This thinking thinks this passage, reflectively and demonstrably. Here we can get stuck in circling in reflection, or not.
We can reach out to the "odd", but it will disrupt our categories tha produce "oddness" as such. For example. We can understand complex tortions of experience, trauma, etc., that can lead someone to lash out violently. We can address the essence of violence. We can deconstruct violence, make recommendations for school curriculum and best practices. We can identify common problem points in general understanding. We can disrupt some of the problems of philosophy to try to enlist, perhaps release, thinkers to think meaningfully and effectively about what calls for change here. Etc.
Bearing in mind the above vast list of things to potentially do, there appears to be a problem in the conditions of philosophy insofar as they either get stuck in particular vantage point or tend to formulate problems in a manner that is problematic: are they problematic for philosphy or for us, or both? In other words, should we proceed to quesiton what is to be called philosophy *en route* to change? Or is philosophy just fine as it is, thank you? One may think about the liar's paradox, the mind-body problem, phenomenology or one may think about the Sandy Hooks problem, and there is no problem. There is no "Empire" from which we must wrest ourselves in some rebellious spinning of alternative text. Or else, perhaps there is some truth to these inherent propositions.
A sub with the name "Radical Philosophy" tends towards the idea that there is something to think about at a "root" level, with a view towards change. This usually makes use of dominant texts. It rarely undertakes ongoing meditation in the thought of the question of that radicality, even though, as most commitments in this area will affirm, if not attest, "the point is to change it". The world, that is.
Which point? Whose point? When did that point occur? Was that implied by philosophy from Hegel and before? The inception of this sub is a case in point for the fact that thought is possible. We are told: "Nothing is true; everything is permitted. Let us delight in one another, for that is the revolution we seek." The point is not to nullify this sentiment, or to simply add to it something like "let us also take responsibility in the world to make it better", although that would more or less be allowed and probably be encouraged by the writer of that line in the sidebar here. My point is simply that the arrival at such a statement attests to the fact of thought here, of decision, of orientation, of the manage of this third + order process. And that is sufficient for the progression of this spinning.
Nonviolence thoughtaction is a form of radical philosophy, I guess. One needn't use exactly that term, but, I suggest, one must minimally accomplish some of these steps. Why not simply launch a proposal? Why not simply do? Why bother with these other tricky and dirty moves? Why an *epoche* on *epochality* itself? Why invoke a (non-existent or existent) rebellion of at times so-called "anti-philosophy"? Why try to put in abeyance something like Marxian analysis? Why invoke phenomenology if one is seeking to put it at such a distance? How could it ever be even remotely feasible to get so busy with so many grandiose things, managed with the peculiar singularity of a tiny thread of thought, a strange, implausible line of reasoning and "flight"? Altogether, given the breadth of concerns, this is a relatively brief thing to do. A thing that, as I said, might be done again and again in different ways.
And that last observation is a clue for what is, I think, needful: to spin spinnings repeatedly in this way in order to build paths of arrival to nonviolence thoughtaction, but not antiphilsophy, something akin to Gandhian *ahimsa satyagraha*, in a progression that is a bit different from the usual invocation of "direct action" as the Gandhian "trope" that is no mere trope is usually enlisted, yet more in keeping, I believe, with the essence of that hybrid thought and action, that holding-to-truth in engagemnt in the world and with others. If not The Other in so formal and essentially empty a formulation.
For, I believe, it is needful to accomplish this kind of passage; that singlular, strange thread, for all of its difficulty, is both the most needful thing and at the same time the most realizeable thing as well. One can as well perform, in the spirit of inauguration of the sub I quoted here, an act of declaration: I declare myself "a *satyagrahi*. This was not without importance for the *satyhagrahis* of the movement of which Gandhi was a part. There will, of course, be all sorts of immediate associations for the presumed readers (or reader LOL) of this post. They vary: "he's trying to be Gandi", "your'e *not Gandhi!*", "you can't start a movement", "we've got shit on you or we'll make it up to shut you down", "people don't really do that anymore", "I can shut this down by claiming I don't understand it", "no, we're not doing that, we've got this all under control, thank you", "you're not man enough to do this sort of thing, nor philosopher enough to make the moves you're making", "we have a movement, you're just a trouble-maker or confusing things", "you're trying to be a hierarchical leader in a horizontal revolution", etc. These are logics of inauguration, inception, dominance, mastery, engagemnet, role, etc. I might respond to any of the, and in the progression of the response I might affirm various aspects of this "work", as I call it in an abbereviated form. Of this thoughtaction, that is to say.
Least of which do I seek to start, let alone command, "a movement". Yet at the same time, that is precisely what is called for: a movement of thought and action, to respond to this and other problems, necessities, tragedies, horrors, etc., in the name of amelioration and prevention of such harms.
Partly my point is that this, if you get what this is, *is* horizontal, or enarchical, really, while it views the Great Tomes, the body of texts used to back up "the movement" (something like postanarchist or anarchist); that to really get to a non-higherarchical format requires this basic distancing from master texts, and that doing this requires this special work.
It is an invitation to spin in this way, at the minimum. And in the spinning to wrest from the stupor of some kinds of philosophy to a thought that is open to and engaged in the world. Yet a kind of thinking-spinning whose space is a bit hard to clarify, certainly very difficult to master. But part of the point is that the problem of this "mastery", a mastery that no doubt requires most of all the will-not-to-will of nonmastery, the subordination of the artist, the posture of service of those devoted to the world, even the practised skepticism and subordination of will of the scientist.
That is to say: this thinking is all necessary, in one way or another. It may not be a way that is mastered, or prescribed, set forth by some "you" or other; it may not be issued, cleverly or not, in any specific, willful, intentional call to the other; perhaps it must not do precisely these things, and hold to the fact that the world itself is rich witih issuance for which our thought and action are needful, yet trapped, oddly enough, most often in our very commitments to action.
While this seems unweildy, the advantages of it show themselves when one returns to the status quo. There we will see, again and again, the sluggish movement towards change. The dominance of the *naive second order* in which there simply is the real, on the one hand, and the theoretical on the other. A very crude line or *laterance*, and *laterence*, of psychoanalysis. This does not simply take part in the turn of postmodernism: "nothing is true", albeit in a form more like "nothing is simply true", rather than the arched formulation that is pretty hard to buy.
Nothing is simply true. The non-simplicity is a challenge of management of complexity. In this complexity, there is precipitation, like the terms "odd" and "quiet" preciptate in the phenomenological moment. Langauge precipitates. Among these I am given to terms such as "spinning", "thoughtaction", "amelioration", "third + order", "emergent primacy". These are not exactly a system as such; they are more what might be termed *fundamentalia*, touchpoints, way stations, etc.
I am suggesting that by inaugurating in some way these terms in conjunction with a special work that manages this (this is one instantiation of that special work), it is possible to arrive at a place, space, posture, orientation, position, grounding, fundamentality, that is best able to respond to these problems in an essentially accomplishing way. And that failure to do these things will amount to a failure of thought and action to address and ameliorate the problems in question.
From here there would be working groups. Part of it would be engagements, part of it would be spinnings. One might be asked to "spin". A session, a bit like a church meeting, might start with a spinning, as a kind of act of "prayer" that gathers thought, orients. Certain texts might be good for this; sort of akin to "deconstructive readings", but not amounting to deconstrucion. *Decidedly* not. It is deconstruction turned around, into what I provisionally call "enconstructive" engagements. Just medite, if you will, on what a deconstructive reading amouns to. This is different. It might take place in dialogue or multilogue, it might be singular. It might be written, spoken, etc. A group might then move on to discourse, proposals, sub-groups, enarchic activities, working groups, reports-back, some of the usuals of activism as such. Acts of establishment, setting-up (a center, a research entity), etc. These latter will depend on the former, would be released by the former. This releasement is part of what is at issue. It's about releasing thought to the world to take action, a popular theme these days...
The advantage is that the grounds are *understood to be critical*. In this respect, activism as such tends to assume grounds, make its moves unreflectively, etc. This in turn creates problems. Not just any problems: fundamental problems, precisely because the status quo one seeks to change has likewise arrived at its establishment in such a manner. The more activism seeks to move unreflectively, the more it hammers down the grounds of the fundament, closing off fundamental change as it seeks to create just that. The problem of fundamental change is not simply one of using this fundament over that one; it is the problem of opening to the fundamental as such within an Open that is not exaclty the fundamental, but admits of certian fundaments as well, and then managing the space of that opening. The work that manages this, which I am describing-instantiating here, remains far more able to engage the other owing to its essential activation of the space of fundamental thought. This would turn up in actual interactions with others, with the establishment, etc. Someone representing the status quo who might be invited simply to converse may find those workign in this vein to offer some unexpected fresh air, a more flexible approach, one that is able to make linkage with the kind of back-room thinking, brainstorming and decision-making that occurs within corporate or legislative sessions. This might not seem so clear from here, I realize.
This work holds off from taking up a given world-changing systematic prinicipality, like Marxism. It takes off in flight, rather, in that moment activated when Marx said, as I noted, "the point is to change the world". For him, that was a rhetorical switch point, a given, an obvious matter upon which to base some extended workings out of basic matters of change, as if the point could or should be thought in passing, and as if it could or should be accomplished adequately without detour into the question of nonviolence.
To men (and women) of Action, none of this counts. As far as I can see, it is all that really counts, and is precisely, by virtue of precisely that Action, what is not happening. I am calling for action in the face of Action, with this difficult difference represented by the mere *differance* between the capital "A" and the small one.
So goes a given spinning.
Anyone want to spin with me?
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
An encounter with an African American woman, discussing whuppin's in black culture as relating to Martin/Zimmerman
Which is pretty interesting, difficult, certainly an insightful and compelling issue. I'm not inclined to just dismiss it, but it appears to be a bit telling. Does she evince the very thing I'm talking about? That is, does she affirm that very "whuppin'" mentality, and as an African American? She is, it should be noted, a lawyer, a professional, I guess in a way well-to-do, definitely upper income, and her son, she is certain, won't fall into bad crowds. Her main worry, in the conversation, is of his being profiled when he is older.
I point out that he is in more danger of being inculcated by association into some of the more violent veins of black culture than he is of suffering a bad take-down or being targetted for being black by bigots. Not to dismiss that possibility, by any means. But I imagine that he is more likely to wind up at a party of mostly blacks, being there because he is black. And that party will, in turn, be conditioned by black culture, a somewhat racist culture, with norms and standards that tend to predispose its members, such as they are (a mix of willing and unwilling participants, of self-identifiers and, certain, people who are "just people"). And some people from another vein may come to the party. Black, maybe. And violent. Maybe. And there maybe a shooting. And he may get hit by a stray bullet. And I'm thinking that danger is just as great, and probably greater.
And the problem is going to be that her defense against bigotry is going to use up any and all possible critique of black culture. And the problem with black culture is going to be that there are too many whuppin's as an accepted norm, not only of child-rearing, but as a basic logic of justice and amelioration. A logic of retributive justice.
Her response, as I said, was that the rise in black crime is due, as far as whuppin's go, to the rising injunction against corporal punishment, spankings. Blacks are no longer able to make use of an important disciplinary tactic: beatings, or merely spankings (I actually think she stopped herself from saying "beatings" at one point), leading to an improperly raised sub-segment of black males (predominantly) who are too violent for want of this practice in their upbringing.
I do find the basic endorsement of the practice questionable, to say the least. At the same time, I'm just as prone to critique the anti-whuppin' culture as well, insofar as it favors a "time-out" approach (as opposed to what I call ensubstantiation, or gettin' all substantive on a kid's ass when they do something wrong, as a part of remediation or Ubuntu-type justice) . The "time-out" approach favors a seemliness that has every tendency to lead into bigger times out, in the form of imprisonment culture, as kids get bigger and their mis-deeds become more consequential, just as the logics of beatings play out in more serious ways when they feel wronged or wrong someone when the stakes are higher: adult and late-adolescent "whuppin's" take new and more deadly forms, especially when guns are available. She did not wish to attribute the spikes to the availability of guns, by the way. No, she seemed pretty set on defending whuppin's, although frankly I doubt that she beats her son. Interestingly enough.
I don't doubt, however, that she supports the criminal justice system, which is massive, bloated edifice of systematic violence, often masquerading as "nonviolence" in the form of incarceration of various kinds, oiled and smoothed out with psychotropic drugs for the population who can't take it. Et cetera.
So the question I'm asking is: was she in a way speaking for black culture in endorsing whuppin's? I won't bother with the critiques of this general approach by thinking African Americans. I'm just more interested in illuminating this basic situation and asking the pointed, difficult question of whether and how this was a "teachable moment", so to speak, as regards that aspect of black culture that does not enjoy what any broad cultural entity should enjoy: critique. "Enjoy" is, of course, a funny word to use here, but I like it.
I think that withholding critique of black culture in the name of lining up into the ranks of the cause of anti-bigotry is, at the minimum, needful. I liken the situation to there being an elephant in the room covered with a big, brightly colored blanket. That blanket is the cause of anti-bigotry. The elephant, the positive norms and practices of black culture, insofar as it is a definite entity, a culture in which people enlist, on the basis of color of skin or not.
But this problematic, in the end, and in the beginning, is not really specific only to black culture. It is just another instance of a status quo that has yet, in a way, to be adequately named. It is a certain stasis, a stalemated position in which a glaring lack of progress issues from a too thoughtless business of taking the usual sides and pushing, without bringing those sides into view and seeing how they work together to form a system or economy. The general condition is something like modernism cum post-modernism, where the later simply designates reflective progressivism that is tinged with a fairly thorough-going suspicion, coupled with greater conceptual adumbration and subtlety.
The condition I mean to instantiate here is post-postmodern and entails what I call nonviolence thoughtaction. I find it needful to articulate these nominations as it seems somehow essential to the territory, while the failure to launch of this kind of approach appears to lie in the difficulty of managing the issues involved, having adequate umbrella terms and getting one's bearings in this kind of space.
As for the substance of the issue, whether whuppin's are a problem, well, I'd say they are. They lead to a logic of fear, a failure to really solve things, the idea that one does the right thing simply in order to avoid getting beaten. It leads to later, higher-stakes whuppin's, playing right into the ultimate whuppin's: shootings, solitary confinement, languishing in prison, infinite detention, and really, endless wars. Hardly strictly matters of black culture. Which is a fitting point to make, as it should be a general MO of such critique that it does not issue from a focus solely on racial issues, and must make reference to transcendent generalities. This issue, the a problem, indeed, of/for transcendence and thought, is part of the founding conditions of this problematic, the failure to broach which is leading to a whole series of intractable problems we are being forced to witness again and again, be they in the form of persistent problems in black culture, the prisons, the wars, economic stases, etc.
In approaching someone of the usual orientation, one gets, unsurprising, the usual. The usual stance. The usual arguments, the usual causes, played out until they either reach pay dirt or give up and move on to other causes in which to deploy the same arched, single-minded stances. Witness, for example, the strangely mute muttering of Democracy Now, potentially a harbinger of the cessation of the Martin/Zimmerman story: in a recent segment, an "important" bit of evidence was reported: Zimmerman, according to an *anonymous source*, was considered by that source to be racist. That's about the whole of that bit of evidence. Someone called on the phone and said, basically, "I'm not giving my name, But he's racist". And that's news. And Democracy Now will drill to that depths and then pull out the drill bit, if necessary, and move on to other issues. But they will not, absolutely will not, and probably can not, bring into view the whole drilling operation as such.
To do that, to bring the drilling operation into view, requires another approach altogether, which is why, I suggest, the nomination of a kind of post-postmodernism and nonviolence thoughtaction is necessary. Gravely necessary, as evidenced by the wars, by countless (or nearly countless) black on black and black on white killings, by the prisons, by infinite detention, by solitary, by the failure to support nonviolence-based revolution in places where this is, in fact (I suggest), the most critical thing and the only actionable policy, as I think is the case in Syria.
So for me this is not your usual topical engagement; it is another instance, stepping foot momentarily, in the issue of black culture as such, but moving on to other things in the process. This stance pretty much absolutely requires the affirmation of the usual progressive causes: anti-racism, anti-war efforts, even prison activism. I include the last with a bit of trepidation simply because the movement, such as it is, is so incredibly weak and because most strident Leftism is in such a kindred spirit with the very logic of imprisonment, in which it really just turns into "finding the real killers" and putting *them* in the same prisons. A mess? More than a mess. A system that requires transcendent thought to even bring into view. But isn't transcendence a word usually reserved for spirituality?
Indeed it is. Indeed it is.