Thursday, December 8, 2011

Regarding the question of Gandhian "positive programs" and Zuccotti park. There has been discussion concerning whether Gandhi would either try to disband the movement in that location or work to encourage positive programs right there. This mediation works with this issue -- rather like a fiber that one spins, as may become evident to the reader in the progression of the meditation.

It is important to realize is that positive programs also provide sites for meaningful satyagraha. A positive project basically is the bus on which Rosa Parks rode. The occupiers are creating a false conflict in the main; they have to build the bus first. The skirmish line with the police is more appropriate for a movement concerned primarily with police brutality. Positive projects would involve initiatives which would then be sites in which people forwarding their alternatives could run up against the prevailing systems and face the stasis that might well never provide an opportunity for these programs to be implemented without real resistance and holding-to-truth. Thereupon the satyagraha as protest and civil disobedience might -- might -- be needed but would and should only take place out of an original relation to others that itself is essentially good-willed. But therein lies a host of problems that really need explication. It is not easy; it is both highly possible and at the same time very hidden by the over-developed rage and vengeance culture, including the entirety of the Western traditions.

To realize "positive programs" in Zuccotti park or elsewhere and get clear on what this entails requires the decisive turn from the hidden-in-plain-sight capitalism of rage that dominates both Left and Right, creating, quite often, a mockery of Gandhi's own simple – and not so simple -- path and professed belief and practice of a deeper, truer nonviolence founded not simply in a practice of “non-anger” and “good-will”, but rather, quite radically, on a truth upon which that good will is founded. This points to the heart of Gandhi which is apparently simply rarely understood. While many idolize mohan (let us not go along with Chernus in saying “the Mahatma”!), far fewer actually step foot on the path he actually trod (indeed, who would dare call themselves a saint or mahatma, so why bother trying that sort of level of engagement…), which is by no means reducible to creativity, nor even to experimentation with the truth: it is the truth that he experimented with that is the issue.

The creativity to few rightly emphasize remains trapped in the rage culture and rage capitalism that systematically degrades it, in spite of its own ostensible manifestations of "creativity", hiding the fact that beyond the many rage-products we are sold and which have lodged themselves in many hearts, there lie resources of creativity whose quantity, like the light of the sun, can one day dwarf our best efforts today and empower those in great need beyond what is considered in any way realistically possible currently. The path to these “resources” is closed by the great economy that diverts the emergence of this truth. No, it is not the materialism we are constantly told is the “man behind the curtain” determining the stasis and dominance of our culture. It is the great economy of rage and vengeance as this expresses itself in heart, mind, court, social milieus, media, religion, philosophy, theory and activism. It is this culture that must be refused, both in its dark moments, which is easy, but also in its boldest affirmations of “necessary” violence, as in the war in Iraq and the sanctions before and in the rage against oppression that flourishes within progressive culture.

Yet what was Gandhi’s truth? Was it simply the disclosure of the world founded in good-will and nonviolence? In other words, one version of truth? Not exactly. The culture that sells us the truth that the media and capitalism sell us “lies” has sold us many lies as well. They are no mere lies, however. They are meta-lies in service of the greatest lie of all: that materialism and greed are the problem rather than the rage and vengeance culture that goes on unchecked. When the meta-lies are exposed along with the fundamental lies of violence itself, mohan’s truth begins to show itself for what it is: the truth. Without a capital letter, oddly enough! Positive programs (which I term enconstruction, enarchy and envolution) limp in precisely this way: truth is diverted into rage and vengeance culture which serves as the true basis for materialism. Materialism flourishes in violence culture because violence is the great illusion of justice and action, and thus has great stakes in rendering minds being fitted for reception of the spirit of violence. Gandhiji’s fundamental action was the refusal of the reception of and participation in that spirit and illusion.

In other words, the call for the positive program, and the idea that Gandhi wouldn’t be simply protesting as the occupiers are today may be true, but this entails dealing with certain, specific issues. Only when the occupation movement is oriented fundamentally to confront the criminal justice system and vengeance-based media and spirituality will it be able to adequately limit corporate, capitalizing greed and its partner, *consumption*. For this other consumption remains the chief problem: the spiritual consumption of rage logics wherever these occur. They flourish in their own way in the progressive movements and additionally systematically degrade positive projects and creativity, not to mention problem solving.

The decisive confrontation with, departure from and enpositivization of the rage culture need not seem daunting, however. For if one is given to the positive program one need only realize this: that it is not just any positive program that needs to be enacted, but specifically, that program which consists in the unfolding of the essential matters as is needful regarding the elucidation of the rage and vengeance culture. This is a specific, substantive turning, which I would suggest is itself a kind of spinning. I suggest it is an elegant solution to a difficult problem that enables the most full-fledged efforts possible but does not suffer from the problem in which Gandhi’s truth languishes and limps today in the effort to vaunt positive action and *satyagraha* without understanding the situation as regards the great capitalism taking place and what is truly unique about Gandhi’s holding-to-truth.

In other words, there is indeed a great need for the positive program, but if one thinks Gandhi would just be setting up positive programs, think again. And again. And again. In fact, don’t stop thinking at all: realize this, if you will: that the positive program that needs to be developed is precisely the positive program of the unfolding of the nonviolence thoughtaction in its essence that addresses specifically this rage and vengeance, that is to say, violence-based, culture. For that is truly Gandhiji’s – mohan’s – truth. That is the truth of satyagraha. No mere tactic, nor violence of shaming, nor method of trumping up crimes for which to prosecute cops or oust chancellors or fill the prisons with Wall Street bandits, or method of social shunning that capitalizes on the idea that not to physically hit amounts to nonviolence like the sanctions in Iraq capitalized on the idea that not to bomb is relatively nonviolent (the opposite is evidently true), mohan’s first and foremost positive program was this truth, spun together in his first act of spinning truth and action together in satya-agraha. Specific actions were founded on precisely this and in a way only this. This is what eludes most of the “nonviolence” contingent within most movements. The releasing and realization of nonviolence at the same time releases and realizes the potential of the positive program. The rage and vengeance culture shuts down this development systematically because it orients the mind to receive its proffered illusions of violence as such, crippling in essential ways the development of positive potential. Without getting clear on this, calling for positive programs is like suggesting that a firefighter who is spraying a burning house with gasoline point the spraying hose on another part of the house. Satyagraha consists in this: standing in the stream of that gasoline in such a manner as to transform it into water. It is a fitting analogy given the role of the self-immolation of the Tunisian who helped to start these revolutions and attempted revolutions, while we do not serve his hideous and sad suffering adequately if we do not do precisely this.

The finding of nonviolence does not lie in its capacity to vaunt positive programs, although these are obviously quite important. Gandhi wasn’t simply creative. Pushing for these won’t suffice. No, it lies in the happenstance, felicity and unique and irreducible condition that the positive program one chooses to develop is nonviolence as such, a happening that one must strive ever to make happen more, but never with violent force, but only by working to help unfold and develop the conditions of possibility of this turn and specific devotion. For this is at the same time the very form of alternative, restorative and meditative justice, which Gandhi likewise vaunted quite fully in spirit. The radical action of nonviolence lies in this turn. Gandhi’s promotion of positive programs was a fruit of his nonviolence. The lack of the manifestation of this fruit today is an indication of the underlying status of nonviolence. Nonviolence is indeed “creative”, but not simply in order to “solve things in order to ameliorate violence” or creatively interact with violent oppressors, although these things are good and are involved. No, nonviolence fosters creativity in a more original way, and it is out of that specific way that Gandhi was able to vaunt the positive program: that nonviolence opens the eyes of its practitioner far beyond the squint of rage’s hyper-focusing and can disclose rage for what it is: the blinding of possibility that in turn closes the positive program.

This turn is a spinning. This is always in a way the first spinning. This was Gandhi’s spinning. This turn is a kind of revolving that turns and spins, in a kind of revolution that enjoins without toppling, enlists without forcing, enables without owning, enriches without suffering depletion, enacts without pummeling with “action” and force, en-… well you see the role of the “en” in this, and that is why I term what is needful here as “envolution”, which was Gandhi’s mode of revolution and the basic mode of the positive program some are en-visioning. This nonviolence thoughtaction is engaged and creative, unfolding and in a way infinite. I would suggest it is far more Jeffersonian than one might think at first, oddly enough, and that his kind of cosmopolitian, learned, disciplined, skilled, polymath engagement and living might be an important example of the kind of work that is needed. And that really is a bit of a far cry from Zuccotti park, but closer to Gandhiji than one might think, in a way. But it is a far cry from Zuccotti for a real reason, and that has to do with the culture of rage and vengeance and its great capitalizations that continue to hold sway and essentially immolate truth, indeed, Gandhi’s truth. For this we must stand in the face of the stream of rage, the flow of the gasoline, and help to create the happening of the positive program that finds itself unfolding the specific positive program of nonviolence that identifies and release from the strangle-hold of the culture of rage and vengeance that keeps positive programs from developing.

While this thinking seems complex, it is at the same time repetitive and may even admit of a certain beauty and, in any case, an odd capacity for a kind of continuing unfolding. Indeed, it does so just as spinning may be repetitive and may unfold or en-fold together disparate strands and fibers into a certain thread, a spinning thread that may constitute a certain act of affirmation of a kind of freedom and a kind of resistance to a dominating capitalism. I have indicated just what I think that capitalism is. I hereby spin and continue to spin in a kind of joyous spirit (for the moment), what I call *satyagrahaha* that stands within the flow of the flames and gasoline of the culture of rage, vengeance, judgment and its ongoing crippling of positive work, amelioration, problem solving, empowerment and nonviolence in that peculiar manner in which the violence of it is at one and the same time the very closer of the unfolding that this unfolding releases itself from in this spinning that has happened to take up the issue of this very spinning in this way: that it undertakes in the space of the question of nonviolence the opening of the question in light of the nature of that opening and in the darkness of the closure of that opening in the dominance of the violence of many kinds that holds sway both in the darkness of the prisons but in the blinding light of the rage of the movements that protest materialism yet, oddly enough, not so much the prisons, not so much the sanctions, not so much the wars, even. Oddly enough.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Aung Sang Suu Kyi on freedom from fear

The Metta Center recently tweeted this quote from Aung Sang Suu Kyi: "The only real prison is fear. And the only real freedom is freedom from fear." I question this. One way of taking her statement is that she is speaking of her own political reality: for her, her followers, etc., the "only" thing really is the prison of fear. This is, of course, to be distinguished from the prisons she has faced and endured, prisons as such and her own home being made into her prison. And to emphasize a freedom from fear is all to the good, as far as it goes. But how far does it go?

Part of the prison of politics is that it freezes philosophy. Philosophy, above all, is given to question and to include. To ask "what is a prison" is to look at all sorts of prisons, and to say, "this, too, is a prison", often against the urgency of a political agenda that is not so interested in such elaborate and free enumerations and explications. It is not so hard to start listing possible prisons. Likewise, it is possible to work to go through those various examples and draw from them a kind of average or "mean", which is the meaning of the word, what we mean by "prison". This leads to a kind of philosophical definition, something deeper and more essential than a dictionary definition. This philosophical definition aims at giving to language the matter of the essence of the thing in question. Aung Sang Suu Kyi's statement is a reduction: she reduces imprison to one thing: fear. But I won't spend much time in the philosophical moment to list the vast, nearly innumerable things that imprison us, only one of which is fear. Yet, it may be as well that it is one of the effects of fear that it forces reduction, but that only begs the question as to what it means to say "freedom from fear". For this would imply that the freedom from fear would be a freedom from letting fear give us to define that which imprisons as fear only.

I don't raise this question out of disrespect for the truly "noble", in the best sense of the word, Aung Sang Suu Kyi. Nor is it my intention to disrupt our respect for her and her people's struggle, by any means. But I am motivated by several perceptions or moments of understanding: that there are all sorts of prisons and that the reduction to fear as such is itself, potentially, a kind of prison. But also that to understand other meanings of "imprisonment" is of importance precisely to the causes of people like Aung Sang Suu Kyi and her friends in protest for the sake of democracy while in the grips of tyranny.

To realize that there are many prisons, prisons of inability, of disability, of lacks of skills, of lacks of means, of lacks of thought, of lacks of freedom, is to realize as well that there are countless doors that can open to vast ranges of empowerment that, each in its own way, can contribute to the struggle for freedom. The Arab Awakening has begun due to one chief element that is not a freedom from fear, even if imprisonment has been a constant threat in the tyranny of the Arab dictatorships. The Internet is the chief game changer in the region. It has surged in use throughout populations not through some transcendence of fear, although that has surely played a role at times. Its progress has been based on technology. The sheer engagement with the Internet has opened minds to a new reality and realized historical progress to the point that the very idea of the dictator as such has become obviously wrong to more and more of the masses.

In this regard, then, the democracy movement in Myanmar would do well to emphasize not simply the fear that enables some of the imprisonment taking place, with this taking place in a monolithic struggle, however good and noble, but the sheer and simple distribution of the Internet. As the grips of tyranny tighten, of course, fear and actual detention, and the latter is not itself fear but actual imprisonment which has its own, irreducible effects, become a kind of foremost problem, to be sure. But just as fear imprisons, one such imprisonment is the idea that fear itself is the sole and primary prison. It is, in a way, for those in the grips of the most extreme power and enforcement, which is surely the case in Myanmar. But even so, the hope for the democracy movement may lie in the subtle and incremental extension of the Internet, and by this one really refers to freer thought and the simple fact of a "clickable reality" rather than following the prescribed thought of the dictatorial state. The grim struggle for freedom can itself disable this other, more everyday and even joyous work of releasing, step by step, the Internet to the region. It is not reducible to an overcoming of fear, while the famous and often necessary struggle against fear itself can, unfortunately, render us blind to the nature of change and what is required for it. Is Aung Sang Suu Kyi still in prison?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The idea of paths in understanding something like postmodern thought

This is snipped from a message board on which I posted this comment as is:

But then perhaps one of the biggest sins of postmodern philosophers, and here the sense of "postmodern" I use is simply a most general historical sense -- so let me say serious, in-depth philosophers of the last 75 years, say -- is something that is a bigger sin than meets the eye. It has to do with the problem of pedagogy and introduction. On the one hand, a recent I think here of an interview with Derrida on "the question" shows someone speaking quite in earnest and not trying to be difficult. On the other hand, there are things like Glas and, well, most all of what Derrida wrote.

The problem is that if you have thought and read enough you know very well that this material can be difficult yet can also "flow like oil" and be as rich and basically true as a Bach fugue. It points the way to one's own thinking and that, too, can be very rich indeed. But there seems to be hitherto undeveloped basic possibilities for building paths into understanding that are, well, just better than what one ordinarily finds. This problem makes me feel like a worm twisting on a hook, because I already know that there are real pains taken in someone like Heidegger to spell out some things and if you think them through you think, ok, this isn't so hard and this guy is really unpacking more than you think. But I also think, no, wait a minute, there is a great deal more that is possible in terms of building paths of understanding into thought.

The greater sin then pertains to intellectual capitalism and in particular the problem(atic) (should be a "problematic") of the capitalism of talent, performance, production, etc. This problematic is not given to thought. From this standpoint, writing has tended to conform pretty strictly to the demands of the milieus of production: the academy, what scholars/professionals can be expected to be up to speed on, the texts that are being intersected with and referenced, even a certain standing expectation and even demand that philosophy be "difficult".

This relates to general questions of ability and what sort of attributions might go along with it. It relates to conversations that are mere asides, had at professors' desks and in cafeterias or restaurants more than directly in the substantive progression of the work of thinkers.

The issue isn't that though should just be "simplified". I think it should be affirmed that it can, if one wants, be richly complex and involved. But there is the general possibility of building paths into such thinking. Such paths appear to me to differ from summarization, which is, if not quite an industry, a kind of genre and even a kind of emergent mode of thought.

There are a lot of summarizations of postmodernism. They tend to read very similarly. They are not hard to do, apparently, and even seem to establish a kind of space whose contours and conditions are themselves worthy of reflection; they are likely to be more and more numerous as time goes on.

The problem is more along the lines of the "in depth reading". But I am pointing to something other than precisely that scholarly enterprise that one might find either in classes (typically of graduate students) or reading groups who accept the basic conditions and give a given text a go. So and so says that...what do you think the second chapter is up to? does this relate to so and so's other does this concept operate in the text, etc.? All fine and good.

But there might be another kind of introduction. In fact, I'm pretty sure another kind is possible, but one that releases itself from immediately plunging into the text proper, yet which at the same time unfolds a given concept or conceptuality in a very step by step way, introducing something, but instead of just plowing forward and saddling the reader with still more concepts, footnotes, references to still more and vast literatures, traditions, etc. -- all of which would lead to the "aside" conversations at a desk or as an aside; "well, it's hard, yeah, but you gotta read so and so" and that's about it -- it might develop some thinking with another kind of goal, of simply "getting on one's feet" in a certain way, to the point of coming out the other side of such an introduction with a bit more of a real understanding that is not immediately knocked down by overwhelming demands.

It is as if (but not just as if) one faces a conversation in which very able people are busy at at, and one is tugging at their sleeve like a child, wanting to understand what is going on, and is shushed and told to just keep one's place and deal with it. It's also interesting that some of these "children" are people like Chomsky who really should know a little better and who might be expected to affirm that they understand at least something of a very large tradition and enterprise, rather than reduce it all to being incomprehensible.

It's not, by any means, a question of staying with "ordinary language" (hah). Try reading Andscombe's Intentions or Donald Davidson. No, I'm talking about another kind of writing/reading altogether. I think this general rubric has barely occurred to people, and this relates to that "greater sin" and a great unthought throughout the traditions: the question of performative (the performance of real understanding/reading/thinking) capability.

A number of preliminary questions could be discerned in the prima facies accompanying this space which I suspect are just stomped over and ignored.

Perhaps one clue for such thinking, paths in thinking, is that, just as Heidegger is able to take "this Dasein that has Being as an issue for itself" as an ongoing datum and entry into the unfolding of his Analytic in Being and Time, it is possible to take the issue and question of are you understanding, do you understand as itself a kind of ongoing basic datum. Going in and riding along with the question "do you understand me, are you worried about understanding this?" it is possible to establish a ground of understanding. "Ok, thus far we understand that we do not understand". This is fully of a piece with Chomsky's discourse on the matter; his reflections on Continental thought are not hard to understand, in the main.

It is possible then to begin to insinuate into such a progression more an more concepts that give power to that question. This might be a good strategy. As the person dealing with the problem of dealing with in general enters into such meditations, they are then introduced to concepts that are experienced quite fully and effectively as empowering, enabling, illuminating, clear, definite, effective, and formed well enough. This, in turn could do two things: point to ways that such conceptuality could be further developed, indicating a kind of writing, even giving an example that from a certain "from here" could be seen as both opaque and yet something to be desired, and it could then also give preliminary intersections with the more traditional literatre. "From here, you can see how it would be possible to develop more concepts that would basically have you thinking this 'question of understanding Judith Butler' in very 'Butlerian' terms indeed, and without the sense that there is some sleight of hand going on".

There are broader implications for this as well, since such "introductory, transformative dicsourse" also has some fundamental things to say about "thought, everyday thought", as such.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On progressive dialogue

In this complex, a number of associated thoughts: the Satrean ideal of the "active man", politically resolute and got it together ala Che Guevera, say. This linked with the business of the "presentation of philosophy" as "the book" (leaving aside, if it is possible, the issues of the death of the author and whatever massive capitalized enterprises there are long those lines), and dialogue.

With some interactions on reddit, I am finding that on the on hand as usual, dialogue doesn't go that far, on the other hand, it does, occasionally, go somewhere. But the issues what would it mean for there to emerge a more substantial "philosphical" trajectory that really does arise in dialogue? And perhaps this could like with the idea of the opening of thought in the likewise disruption of the notion of the book as such and the whole business of "thinking through being only to enter right back into it 'whole'" ala, again, the Satrean idea. Or a Foucauldian one, etc.

Rather, I favor a concept of thoughtaction that can never fully "return to the world" whole, and which has an inherent critique of that very "wholeness", holisim, "completeness" and the manners in which the sense of the "arena of being" is constituted. This includes the "post-postmodern" questions of how and nonviolence.

This makes so much sense to me, and feels at the same time to a tremendous "assault on", or divergence from, so many of the major assumptions of the world. And yet so right...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Always be slightly wrong

When moralence and errolence are used to obviate anything that get in their way, it is needful to always do something slightly wrong and make the work that of dealing with the "consequences" of this. That is, deal with the seizures, unbridled attacks, using the "wrongness" as the "excuse" to do anything, get rid of anything, ignore everything, etc. Why? Because that is what happens, that's why. It is the major source of what is wrong; it is the major thing that is wrong, plain and simple.

For me, this goes way back. Sometime in 6th grade, I got the sense that my friends were going into a kind of "ganging up" thing that I knew had something wrong in it. I told a story to my friends, of putting a penny on the railroad tracks. It stretched the penny (flattened it) a bit. I was going on to say how far it stretched it. Right then, in my mind, I felt a strong impulse to exaggerate this because of the reaction I knew was waiting around the corner were I to do so. I remember this moment as clear as day. I said it was about 3 inches or something, which is too big for a stretched penny on RR tracks, I think. They seized on this, which I knew they would do. I felt there was something wrong with this seizure. There was.

What was wrong goes very deep. Deeper, indeed, than I could have imagined. And my insight was spot on.