Thursday, June 20, 2002

More on Chomsky and what is being called the 'Chomskian Left':
Alterman sends his praise and his readers to an article by Michael Berube.
Berube seems to think that Bin Laden and his immediate followers are the main problem, and that Chomsky et al.[?] have at one time or another made excuses for him without realizing or by downplaying that he's a fanatic opposed to everything the 'left' might stand for.  It's silly. There is no need to downplay Bin Laden's violent lunacy in order to dissent from the the lunacy of our own leadership. I doubt that Katha Pollitt is unaware of or indifferent to the suicide rate of women under the Bin Laden besotted Taliban. It is Berube's argument that can rightly be called 'a smokescreen': his term for Chomskian - by which he means leftist - arguments. An Op-Ed in The NY Times this week lit into the White House for the stupidity of its power play against the former Afghan King, who was the one man considered legitimate by all parties involved in the Loya Jirga. Bin Laden is no more the central issue in this war than poppy production is the root of a heroin epidemic. The root problem is not supply but demand; the millions who if they will not stand for him, will refuse to stand against him, because he pays at least lip service to their frustrations and their anger. In this country it is only the 'Chomskian' left who seems to understand this.

Saturday, June 01, 2002

"Journalism is to literature what illustration is to art"

Something can be judged a work of it art if its arguments are rendered with an idiosyncratic subtlety beyond what is necessary to communicate its ideas, and which may even oppose them, but which so colors our perceptions that we can not separate the sensibility from the idea without feeling a loss.

Subtlety beyond necessity but not without purpose.

"On my way home. On the train from Boston to Penn Station. Looking out the window thinking about Pissarro and Anarchism. Passing through a suburban industrial landscape Jeff Wall’s images of Vancouver come to mind, and I have a thought that I regret that now we are able to blame ourselves for everything. Our mistakes are now more deadly than God’s. We are becoming used to the bureaucratization of disaster. But those problems which fall into the category ‘what is to be done’ are the preoccupation of only a few, and if most people are no closer to controlling their own destiny, they are also no more interested in it than they ever were. It makes no difference to them if a few men put themselves in God’s place. Their passivity is their freedom. And that freedom will never be taken away."

What’s that building over there?
That’s where the rulers live.
You have rulers?
I don’t know what you mean.
Why do you let them?
That’s what they do.
(pause) Tell me more about them.
I don’t know any more.
Do you ever see them?
(points to two people crossing the street) Two of them are over there.
And are they safe here? They don’t seem armed.
Why would anybody want to hurt them?
Where are you from?
The other side.
You haven’t come before?
Do others come over. I don’t think I’ve ever met one of you before.
You may have.
Really. Why do you come?
Curiosity I guess.
Do the rulers do a good job?
I don’t know. I wouldn’t know what to compare them to.
How do you feel?
Fine. Why do you ask?
Are you a ruler too?
Tell me what you think. Is film an art of images or an art of description? If it’s an art of images is it conservative?
Isn’t nostalgia always conservative?
Are all images nostalgic?
And if it’s an art of description and language, does it represent its motion through time as a pleasure? If it does that Is it radical?
Are you asking if it opposes property relations?
What do you think of the recent films of Jean-Luc Godard’?
He’s trying to hold on to something that’s moving away, trying to convince us that he can let go of it, while holding on for dear life. (pause) And he wants us to watch. He needs our approval, that’s why he became a filmmaker.
Monarchists worship images of God and Fascists worship images of themselves. They believe that if they dream of those things enough someday that’s what they’ll become.
Who does Godard worship?
The dead.
Do you dream of images?
I dream in images.
What’s the difference?
I don’t believe in them when I wake up.
(Every time I leave a Wenders movie I’m hungry an hour later).
Woody Allen idolizes Ingmar Bergman and Ingmar Bergman idolizes Steven Spielberg.
The anxious bourgeois idolizes the regretful intellectual who idolizes the vulgar materialist.
(The awkward American Jew idolizes the sophisticated European who idolizes the assimilated American Jew.) What do you call that?
Jungle fever.
What do you think of the Jews?
They’ve put before them graven images.
Images of what?
Americans and Jews can no longer claim innocence for their vulgarity. Nobody believes us anymore. That’s why we need to stick together.
What do you think of the Germans?
They won the war. That’s why we need to stick together.
What do you think of Jackie Chan?
I like him. He doesn’t worship graven images.
I like to think of all of the arguments about the nature of art over the last two hundred years as a battle between the conservative and the reactionary.
(whisper) Look what I’ve found for you:
“I’m an animal who spends most of my life asleep. I’m never really awake”
(Werner Herzog. Aguirre, the Wrath of God.)   
But if you believe in silence…
I don’t believe in silence.
But if you accept gaps as inevitable…
Why can’t you leave some things unsaid?
Are you trying to trap me now?
I’m terrified of quiet. It makes me think of my mistakes… What does it mean when you point your foot when you sit cross legged? I’ve tried it. My muscles can’t relax. It takes too much concentration.
Maybe your muscles are tense.
It makes me look like a faggot.
Why do faggots shuffle around without lifting their feet off the floor?
They don’t all walk that way.
Why do some faggots walk around without lifting their feet off the floor?
Why do women in curlers and house-slippers walk around that way?.
They don’t all walk that way.
You’re quibbling.
It’s an effect of social immobility and sexual frustration in lower middle class housewives…and in the transvestite prostitutes who worship them…
More graven images.
Where are you from.
Where is here?
Where I’m from.
What do you do?
I live here.
Do you live well?
I don’t know what you mean.
Where do you work?
Who do you work for?
Someone else.
What sort of work do you do?
I work in a factory,
What do you make?
I don’t know.
What does it look like?
A box.
What is it made of?
What color is it?
When I get it it’s gray. But someone told me they paint it later.
What color?
I don’t know, he didn’t tell me.
What goes inside it?
I don’t know.
Does it have any openings in it? Any holes?
Yes. Two on the top, 3 on one side, and 4 on the other.
How do you know which face is the top?
That’s the way it is when I get it.
But they could turn it around later?
Yes I suppose so.
How big are the holes?
The two on the top are big. Together they make up most of the top. Most of the space on the top. The other two are much smaller.
Are the holes round, or square?
And the smaller ones?
Round. Maybe one or two are square actually. I can’t remember.
(Question to a Woman sitting at a desk, winding a watch.)
How do you feel about the rich?
I don’t like them. It’s not that I don’t like them. It’s just that I think that they probably don’t deserve to be so rich. I don’t know if it’s right. All they have to do is move money from one place to another. Move a factory or something. They can put people out of work. Just because they want more money, because other people somewhere else will work for less.
What do you do.
I’m a jeweler.
… But now we have another problem.
What is that?
What if we find out what makes each of us internally consistent? What if I find your true name, that thing which describes exactly what you are?
Then I will always be honest, or predictable at least. And you will be able to interpret everything I say and never be wrong. And of course I’ll know your name as well.
No dishonesty, no subterfuge, no Freud, no art… Then we can all be logical positivists.
But it doesn’t matter. That dream’s irrelevant.
I want unification.
It’s an illusion.
I want the illusion.
Do you want the illusion or do you want the illusion to be real?
What’s the difference?
One means that you have an appreciation of the arts. The other means that you’re a fascist.
I want honesty only so much as it means lack of hypocrisy. More than that I am incapable of, so I am incapable of asking it of anyone else. One may make many mistakes but it‘s dangerous to lie.
Freud was terrified of that, so he invented psychoanalysis.
Did psychoanalysis stop him from lying?
And you?
I lie all the time.
Why do you hate French intellectuals?
I hate them because they’re hippies. They want communication to be unmediated. I remember once, years ago, I asked a friend whom I trusted what he thought of Michel Foucault, since I knew even less of him than I know now. He said he thought Foucault was silly. He blamed 68 for that.
They blame 68 for everything.
Referring to himself, my friend said he was the only person he knew who had ever used Thomas Hobbes to back up a leftist interpretation of history. Two months later I read an article by someone else, a neighbor of mine of all things, which claimed the same thing: that Hobbes argued against a private individualized relationship to God because he thought it contributed to the breakup of all social organization.
He was right.
Somewhere Marx says that the Enlightenment fantasy of the individual is merely an example of useless 18th century humanist Idealism. We are pack animals after all. We don’t last too long on our own.
What do you do when you’re alone?
I masturbate.
Soon after that I decided to invent a new theoretical program. I called it Left Hobbesianism.
(long pause)…Mistakes were made.
(Art is made of Language, not emotions. The emotions we imagine are not ours but those of someone else translated into the common form of language which we understand and by translation, feel.)
It’s dangerous to lie.
But you said you lie all the time. You still sound very sure of yourself. Doesn’t that scare you?
Among other things.
What sort of critique is possible?
Everything is a critique. That means nothing.
Sadomasochism is a critique of the Humanist ideology of the body and the self.
Monarchism is a critique of democratic idealism and of our supposed need to be free.
I’ve always liked The Story of O.
I once had a girlfriend who told me that while she lay on the beach in the south of France reading that book she thought of me.
What happened to that relationship?
Ended badly.
She was a monarchist.
And what about you?
Oh, you know… king for a day.
What do you want?
To describe the world and myself without nostalgia or regret.
What interests me in the end is consistency… pattern, from moment to moment.
The pattern-maker, the one who sees it, or the pattern itself?