Fall 2004 - Volume 7 Number 4
Scripturing the 21st Century American Ways to Empire Undone, Over
, Ph.D., and , Ph.D.
l'anello che non tiene,I
il filo da disbrogliare
-Montale, "An act of faith"
When historians look back at this time period, if there will be any fragments left, one linguistic difficulty will perhaps be foregrounded, one relative to what language to employ in order to describe and give sense to our present conditions.
It is not enough to pronounce that an upside down world has affirmed itself, à la Eduardo Galeano (2000); the metaphor cannot contain the abrupt ruptures, and the on-going fragmentation of the human fabric along Capitalistic lines. If the current state of affairs seems to subscribe to a legitimacy of humanistic values once bracketed by a barbarian heritagehumanism still being the base of our Western culture(s)then the upside down metaphor would be convenient if this process were only a repeat of the darkest of ages.
That is not the case this time, since the power of the media, especially television, has introduced a variable that borders, in our opinion, on the spiritual absolute. Already, in the age of DisEmpire (Empire undone), the ways our bodies move, interact, react, express their condition, our deepest subjectivity (as a reminder of Roger Poole's dormant work, Towards Deep Subjectivity ) are dictated by the moving images of our surrogate society, our drug of choice, a series of programs which are in a constant mirroring dynamic:
Oggi, grazie a un estenuante lavoro in profondità dei media, non esiste più il rimando, la sostituzione e la metafora … Perché una grandiosa intossicazione psicologica è avvenuta e noi non ce ne siamo accorti. (Arona, 117)
["Today, thanks to the exhausting, in-depth work of the media, metaphor, substitution and reference no longer exist. … Because a grandiose, psychological intoxication has taken place without our knowledge of it" Authors' translation].
So writes an Italian journalist in 1998 in a work called "Possessione mediatica". The fact that the media today negate "cross-references, substitution, and the metaphor" allows for a "grandiose psychological intoxication without us noticing anything". The immediate impact of the media is the full mirroring of our psychological space and, at the same time, appropriation and normative education in that spaceof those who have not the tools nor the knowledge of the process. At the same time, as this process becomes more and more pervasive, the marginalization blitzkrieg extended to the new generations ironically indicates the bearers of a resistance as the aliensthose marked in John Carpenter's 1988 "They Live" (written and directed by Kenneth Johnson) a successful 1983 sci-fi television miniseries or in its 1984-85 sequel, "V: The Final Battle".
Perhaps, the key word is 'intoxication', with its fallout onto the world of drug addiction. One would have to heed the stratified messages that come to us about television from the Roman Catholic Pope Woytola to philosopher illuminato Karl Popper in their contributions to Cattiva maestra televisione (A cura di Giancarlo Bosetti, Venezia: Marsilio, 2002). Popper indeed presents us with the possibility of instituting a license for watching television, much as we do with driving a car. Of course, it would be up to society to institute courses for youngsters, and provide them with the tools by which to objectively assess television. On a more practical, commonsense scale, it is drugs expert Terence McKenna catches the bull's eye by saying:
The nearest analogy to the addictive power of television and the transformation of values that is wrought in the life of the heavy user is probably heroin. … Most unsettling of all is this: the content of television is not a vision but a manufactured data stream that can be sanitized to 'protect' or impose cultural values … [N]o drug in history has so quickly or completely isolated the entire culture of its users from contact with reality. And no drug in history has so completely succeeded in remaking in its own image the values of the culture that it has infected (McKenna, pp. 218-219).
Inherent in such an epistemological configuration, the upside down metaphor is the written possibility that there is or that there will be a way out of the palpable intellectual and social darkness surrounding our world. Perhaps, we are already in a cyclical tangent, if this is what it means to be postmodernly aware, which is not altogether different from being out-of-Time with no remedial expediency of the sacredso much then for grafting Gianni Vattimo on Eliade, minus those misreaders of fiction-TV, the Fukuyama zombies. Of course, the apocalyptical discourse is just waiting in the wings, for the binaries that direct this world of ours have been the governing staple of the illuminati's stable diets.
Given that irony and similar tropes are a direct manifestation of the present conditions, what can be done? To escape such direct constraints requires a vision best left to the copywriter; or, to that particular jingle which still animates us, moves us to unforeseen actions, be it wearing an air pilot skin à la Bush, or the imitation of survivalist skills.
Could it be said, this once, that images have escaped the enchantment, or magic casements of our words? Is it not the case that Wittgenstein, and his most formidable reader Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, would have to become a common referent, in an incessant empirical work on language so that philosophy should be the cleaning act of language in our workplace, the world at large? And, to continue, is this not the age not of the look, but of the Image? And, that this being so, doesn't language have to play a catch-up game, where the rules are continuously re-interpreted and the object is phantasmagorical at best, Kapitalistic at worst?
An act of faith is what is required, if not a leap, to work with language, to delineate (sincerely, accurately), the scope of the analysis, to delve into the scripturing of the 21st century by a process underlined by thanatos. For now, the word DisEmpire will do in reference to the net being cast. As part of a struggling vocabulary that refers to this process, we move across surfaces that have, layer upon layer, codified a particular behaviour, a way of looking at things which this struggling grammar might still be capable of infecting and throwing some phosphorescence about, even if bound by a ludic disposition, the Toten Tanz does not require proof.
No starting point is there: the arbitrariness in breaking a causal net is to posit one's self out of the process while part and parcel of it; the schizoid relation is best represented as that of the anthropologist immersed in his immediate, half-comprehensible, surroundings. Yet, some filaments, some narratives appear contingent, ontologically disposed as primary sources.
The general mediatic constructions surrounding the 9/11 events have displaced the historical context while re-framing it as a semi-sacred text, and in so doing these ex-voto, these void ritualistics have re-sacralized the American Dream whatever, whomever the constituency. If this has been an active/regressive response to, a reconfiguration of, the Sixties as it has been said by many a neo-con, it cannot be critically valid. The age of Aquarians, those happy amphibians who marketed themselvesrefusing, while using, the system's structuresinto a stereotypical commodity, had hardly any sustaining political history: Abbie Hoffman was no Jacques Camatte as a condescending exemplum.
We must delve into the mirage, the Image then, sustained by an on-going bias for the words that still best describe the all-encompassing oasis of the Real.II
Da capo: in the beginning was the image … aphoristic remains
In the beginning, the caesura is always apparent. When we mention and nominate objects in the world, they stand to be exchangedtransculturally, they belong to the game of naminga name substitutes another. If the beginning of history was a naming game, language was the space of exchanges. For, as language develops so does the space where cultures thrive and expire.
In the beginning was the verb. The language of motion sets the world apart from the lived and present. Identity belongs to space before words: symbolic utterances are exclaimed to mean the transient occupation of that space. Names collect as those species that can be recuperated. The force and movement behind must be spelled out. The verb which orders nouns around in the ludic naming is already the frozen space where life was the active principle. Because of this, naming is already participatory in the transformation of the world in terms of the Image. The verb, which meant to dynamically free identities from space in a paradoxical fashion, stands as the frame of the Image. When the first drawing set the cave apart from all other caves as an attractor point, it was already the first emblematic tool of domination. The power that was imagined could not only reside in the mouth, but better still in the hand: the claimer/exclaimer, the point where the world could be collapsed into a representational category. This process could claim for itself belonging to the magical world. Still, as images started to move about, with language still unframed, the hand brought the world to the mouth.
The essence of cave art and its emergence is not so much the formal mastery, elegance, and eloquence that it is to gain in later stylistic epochs as it is the transition represented by this exteriorization. After the development of speech, the slow appearance of reflective thinking enters a new stage with pictorial representation. Cave art furthered a development that had been initiated by speechthe integration of the human being into a definite space… (Gebauer 1998, p. 21).
The world now belongs not because it is mentioned, but because images, representations, have already given form to the worldnot according to a dynamic reality, but because of a frozen vision that contains, in the beginning, all the words for the world to know and understand. The image, we know, is the substitute of the word, yet an image kills a thousand words.
What happens then as the image replaces the word? The 20th century has substituted the word with the image. Look, for example, at how Italian and Russian Futurism, early on in the century, played with the word as image or, for that matter, how Italian Futurism gave a kick-start to advertising strategies for Imperial Capitalism. The Internet today, can be seen as the natural offspring of this process of overcoming the word via television, combining in its diffusion of information attractive and moving images with revolutionary speed. Better still, the Video Arcade is our natural teacher for learning how to war.
The maneuver that once consisted in giving up ground to gain Time loses its meaning: at present, gaining Time is exclusively a matter of vectors. Territory has lost its significance in favor of the projectile. In fact, the strategic value of the non-place of speed has definitely supplanted that of place, and the question of possession of Time has revised that of territorial appropriation (Virilio, 1986, p. 133).
The image, then, freezes the world: "Au fond, ce que je vise dans la photo qu'on prend de moi (l'<<intention>> selon laquelle je la regarde), c'est la Mort: la Mort est l'eïdos de cette Photo-là'." [Basically, what I aim for in the photograph that is taken of me (the 'intention' with which I look at it) is Death: Death is the eïdos of that Photograph.] (Barthes, 1980, p. 32). But the image achieves its domination of the world as a representation, fundamentally embedded in our exorcise of death:
Ce n'est pourtant pas … par la Peinture que la Photographie touche à l'art, c'est par le Théâtre … si la Photo me paraît plus proche du Théâtre, c'est à travers un relais singulier … la Mort. On connaît le rapport original du théâtre et du culte des Morts: les premiers acteurs se détachaient de la communauté en jouant le rôle des Morts … la Photo est comme un théâtre primitif, comme un Tableau Vivant, la figuration de la face immobile et fardée sous laquelle nous voyons les morts (Barthes, pp. 55-56).
[It is surely not…through Painting that Photography touches on art, it is through Theatre … if the Photograph seems to me closer to Theatre, it is through a particular relation … Death. We are familiar with the original relationship between the stage and the cult of the Dead: the first actors removed themselves from the community by playing the role of the Dead … Photography is like a primitive stage, like a Tableau, the representation of a motionless and disguised face under which we see the dead - Authors' translation].
History is an image then, not an incantation spoken by the narrative of Humanity. History must be represented for it to exista visual record, not a report of names. The beginnings of historiography in Western Europe, at around the time of the Crusades, were already dependent on the image, both literally and figuratively, for the narration. The Sicilian puppetry school will take care of this for the volgo in its representation of conflicts through the Pupi siciliani. Imagine this, the backdrop a series of images, then a soap-opera like narration. The stage is then left to the performance of the story through the puppetry ancillaries. Television is its death and reclamation, because, by eliminating the human intercession, it achieves the nullifying paradise of the eternal moment.
The 21st century has manifested the creative tension between the image and the word, with a unique quality. In terms of dynamics, the image (even in motion) is a circle, the serpent feeding off its tail (its tale). Without the eyethe image-maker and framerwords could not reassemble time as the unfolding into lived, nomadic reality. This is the privilege of the eyeto be the only sense organ directly connected to the brain. Although the mouth, as a tasting hand, captures the world as Elias Canetti (1960) has clearly explained, it is the eye that constantly feeds the brain with data, and the world succumbs to the choices the brain makes. Light is cast on the final settlement, darkness belongs outside. Darkness is the primordial chaos, the barbarian's shadow, it is the revolt against the ordering eye that frames language as a magic tool. Nomadism is a long spiral towards the stasis of the encompassing gaze.
The eye foreshadows the settlement, the image binds and blinds the nomad to space; words are necessary only as the development of a dying breed, an identity unfixed. Finally, the unbearable identity fixes itself upon space as a celebration of death in life, the necropolisLewis Mumford docethence the village, thereof the city. The city is the auratic image of the construction without. Within, the citysociety as a model, not as a lived experienceemerges out of prayers and holy grounds. Religious practices in the Western world will build cathedrals based upon a restructuring of the human bodyand the cathedral will determine the city space. Notice the horizontal disposition as we move through a cathedral, we enter through the main door into the rib cage, the columns that hold the edifice, that leads us to the altar, the sacred heart. Euripides' motto that "whoever, among men, destroys a city is a fool" partakes of this polyphony of meanings.
The city then is the eye's wink; it is time reframed as the image of the worship of the human body in its passing. André Glucksmann's Dostoïevski à Manhattan emanates from this context, but his text can only function as one of the many corollaries of the celebration of the zombie.
Images present us with a static text and context, take it or leave it. It is not surprising then, in a hyper consumptive world, that our daily intake of images, our craving for a visual panacea, should leave us starved of reality and in a continuous state of excitement. Because we have become addicted to over-stimulation we crave the spectaclethe use of the word "extreme" to describe a potato chip should suffice as the best exemplumsuch as the world of fashion and advertising. It, the spectacle, is the means by which to satisfy those cravings that have made a pseudo-Surrealism our daily bread. This is a way to contain Surrealism's transgressive power. It should not be so surprising that photography has emerged as the most evocative medium in America's attempts to deal with the aftermath of 9/11. Is it voyeuristic, or is it (our) contemporary form of witnessing?
In our role as spectators, we do not watch the spectacle mediated by nature as a stoic integration into the lifeworld as Lucretius says in De rerum natura:
Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis,
e terra magnum alterius specatere laborem;
non quia vexari quemquamst iocunda voluptas,
sed quibus ipse malis careas quia cernere suave est
[Wondrous it is to watch the shipwreck over there
when over the sea the winds clash
and the glooming expanse of waters rages,
it isn't the spectacle of someone else's ruin
but the distance from such fate - Authors' translation].
Rather, our looking from land the sight of the faraway shipwreck does cheer usunlike Lucretiusnot the distance from such a fate. In this reading, the world swung back in the last decade towards a barbarian way of life, and mediatic proximity is what we crave, what even the sight of a shipwreck cannot fulfill, what we have instinctualized through the workings of connectivity. Our modern shipwreck demands our participatory feelings; it actually excels at over-stimulating them. The spectator is not left to consider the world, but becomes part of a specific world: the artificial, the electronic excess. And emotions nourish the space between pixels. Nature is the beast that must be tamed, the ultimate terrorist that must be vanquished for our artificial humanity to triumph. This new metaphor points to another world in our midst, an emancipated economic system similar in intent to the governing structure of The Matrix; yet Morpheus is within, he is the brain unable to reach beyond the participants in Oprah's world.
The spectacle substitutes the cathartic, causing the spectator to evade an active part in the drama of life: anger is elicited yet it can not take the spectator beyond a state of conditioned passivity. A consequence of this is that the spectators' interpretation of the collapsing New York towers as a disaster movie must be guided into a politicized framework. Reading the event politically stands against all previous precepts of power relations. We were taught to read the world aestheticallyfrom Hollywood to Toscani's photographs of the 'United World of Benetton'so that a political outcome could take effect without critical reflection. Leni Riefenstahl's movies, as the mediatic celebration of the bodies of Nazism, are the perfect example of this, and Benjamin's acute, critical reading of the aestheticization of the political world is the most obvious counterpart.
The power of the image as a sequential set holds our gaze while dialogue distracts and/or refracts our spectators' attention. The image then acts subliminally; this becomes more evident when, for example, we mute the dialogue (as with television) and the image itself presents another, eloquent message. In other words, the soundtrack is the necessary noise with the purpose of allowing the image to pass uncritically into the mind.
On the other side of our binary system, words can lead to criticism, they can develop the entanglement of dialectics, or better, of a dialogical process: words recognize other words. Yet, images do not enter into a dialectical process, they appear as an outside agent, a force that belongs to the extraordinary if words belong to the everyday. Words, unlike images, are not a shortcut to some Zen moment. They require a different cultural strategy: reflection. At their best, they engage the listener or reader into the strange process of "being" the other.Consciousness
The phrase "remains of the day" has been used repeatedly to signify the post-attack America; "remains of the day" is the English equivalent of the Freudian expression Tagesrest, referring to the interpretation of the images of the day in the unconscious, dreaming state. In this sense, images are deferred and so is a certain understanding. Deferral connects the image to trauma, which is characterized by a delayed understanding. This is in keeping with Walter Benjamin's notion of the camera's "optical consciousness"the technologies of sight reveal more than we can see through the eye, but the realization of that revelation is deferred.
We might describe the USA as Marlowe's Faust, a restless self-regard. Faust is the epic drama of the Ego that knows no limit; it is narcissism unbridled, where one is destroyed by the power of memory and hope. Destruction by imagesas is our daily experience and breadis, really, re-constructed memory. In a more recent consumption, it partakes of the False Memory Syndrome. The image is obviously mightier than the pen, since it is carved with a flaming blade, the sword of justice. The recuperated practices have been there since we were children: scissors, stone and papera simple naming game.
The photographic image affects mourning and memory which leaves us to question whether, when we envisage an ethics and an aesthetics rising from the ashes of the towers, we are not repeating, this time with full access to the spectacle, the modeling of each and all genocides throughout history.
Memory as literature, and the will, confront the imagination. A Protestant ethic, as a moral authority governing artistic works founded on exclusion, reaffirms itself as a specific form of consciousness. Other forms of consciousness based on emancipatory practices are turned off, shut down by the constant campaign of late capitalismMapplethorpe exhibitions remind us of that.
Memory, in this case, stands as the Will of the Nation, not as imagination. In a society that underwent the condition of a victim in an advertising campaign promoting pro-social behaviour, memory is voided of the imagination. In this respect, Letizia Gabaglio's (2001) analysis, that basically commercials create false memories, is the necessary warning in all of this:
…la vita e' un continuo esperimento di alterazione della memoria in cui i ricordi vengono continuamente rimodellati da informazioni nuove. Soprattutto quando si guarda un messaggio pubblicitario.
[… life is a continuous experiment in memory alteration where recollections are continuously reshaped by new information. Especially when one watches a commercial message - Authors' translation].
The moment it is created, narrative subsumes continuously any other story within itself in a spiraling mode, much like nomadism ends at the city's gate.
Intertextuality is inherently narrative's legitimacy. From city to city, from necropolis to necropolis, narrative, as a representation, claims the theater of the dying. The uncomfortable feeling of being participant in a script, after the 11th of September, stems from the fact that the event came complete with our future memories of it, with reactions already prescribed by the spectacle. In a parody of the False Memory Syndrome, the movies that had already been planted as the guardrail of our imagination, were immediately recalled as the limits of our speeded-up, scripted, reactions. The Internet depository of the magical library of Alexandria immediately rescued us from the flames of unbridled emotions. For example, in a provocative and hallucinatory interpretation on the net, of the fall of the Twin Towers, we can read:
Does the WTC attack feel like a movie? … It has been specifically written as a movie script … the game planners have decided we are now ready for movie spectaculars in real life. You are witnessing a cathartic and intense psychological operation. It is designed to alter your perceptions and hence your politics.
<http://serendipity.magnet.ch/wot/psyopnews2.htm> [last access November 2001]
We are painfully aware of psychological warfare: Richard Nixon's "nasties" coined the term "Nixonian expletive deleted" for this process. Of course, over the years the means become more refined. We all read how Hollywood was called in for supporting the war effort. No one escapes the Spanish Inquisition, sorryno one escapes the American Dream Machine, the spectacular weapon of mass distraction. It is not unreasonable then to read the spectacle of terrorism in Italy during the Seventies as practice for the present. And, to perhaps realize the societal experimentation that the oncoming DisEmpire distributed around its colonies, Italy being one of this experimental spaces where to practice the spectacle terrorism. Hardly a William of Occam, a modern historian could easily establish the connections between the use of heroin during the Seventies in Italy, and the use of crack in Afro-American ghettoes in the Eighties. Debord's Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1998) might have been written just last night:
Such a perfect democracy constructs its own inconceivable foe, terrorism. Its wish is to be judged by its enemies rather than by its results. The story of terrorism is written by the state and it is therefore highly instructive. The spectators must certainly never know everything about terrorism, but they must always know enough to convince them that, compared with terrorism, everything else must be acceptable, or in any case more rational and democratic. (24)
The image returns in an eternal resurrection, as a ritual in the medium of theatre, such as in the play "The Guys", (by Anne Nelson) that was performed in the USA shortly after the tragic events of a September long ago. Of course, the collective human outpouringNew York 2001 as the catharsis of all evils everywhere and anytimedisplaced the last remote connection to Henry Kissinger more than "Nixonian expletive deleted" Chile in 1973. The English-American public at large, the continental drift being an acute condition of our presently eternal times, had to withstand the publication of a work called Chile: the Other September 11, a short book which appeared in 2003. Yet, the various contributors from Victor Jara to Fidel Castro, are they not defaming the imagery sacralized by daring to intersect the discourses of spectacularly drugged experience/s? Or, is this another non-spectacular moment of the DisEmpire being written back to one of its memento nascituri?
The image itself (in consciousness as well as in its tragic representation) becomes a ritualized image. The American populistic reaction is the following unattributable sound bites that can only be a paraphrase in terms of mediatic consensus with its "stunned grief" and absence of "serene peace" and the "irrelevance" of the experience witnessed, as if, we would like to say, reconstructing from the heart of the DisEmpire the verbal techniques of a book never written, made up of thousand of anonymous contributors: "How to deal with desaparecidos".
Ritualization then, is an anthropological response to the fearful and/or the incomprehensible element, which should displace us from history into eternal Time, ad illo tempore. What relation must we recuperate about image and time? Words are not of time; they, paradoxically, stand out of time. The voiced ritualthe mantra, the chant, the chorus, the tragicbrings the celebrant into eternal time as Mircea Eliade has aptly demonstrated. Birth must then be the unequivocal rupture/split from harmonic reality; it is tragedy redeemed by the passage from liquid to air, the first cry that contains the whole process of humanity in Giacomo Leopardi's terms. Images, instead, blind the celebrant to passing time; they seem to continuously foreshadow a passing, no matter what the celebration, since they immediately present Time as the ultimate and failing framing device.Control
Global Capital has assumed control of communications per se and therefore has control over communication and language at every level, which means that the process of global capitalism is changing the imaginary. This is behaviourism applied on a grand scale, a psychological strategy that manipulates images which are subsequently implanted in the unconscious, for use as required. New responses are being persuasively manufactured by this 'mediatic therapy'. In this fashion, the term the 'remains of the day', as applied to Ground Zero, unmasks the manipulation of the imagery by various agencies of Power. Such a grand-scale psychological experiment would 'utopically' achieve the control of humanity's consciousnesssince the 'collective memory' becomes the 'collective unconscious', ready to be redirected according to the needs of Power's self-sustaining mechanism. Because of this process at work, it can be said that America realizes itself as a dystopic materiality.
The changing imaginary throughout most of the world means that the codes of the lifeworld are also changing. Language has been profoundly altered, but its alteration and the acceptance of this had already been prepared by the very fabric of the semiotic structures within language which are ideological, as Augusto Ponzio tells us in Man as a Sign (1990).
A critical interpretation of images after the event, serves to elucidate the spectacle of behaviourism. At present the Other, who does not fit into the moral conception and consumption of the state, is defined as a terrorist, a linguistic strategy of moral reduction. (Might we remember, coincidentally, that the name of the team who won the Super Bowl after the events, contained the word Patriot? Any bookie with a sense of spectacularistic strategization must have made a fortune). Polarization is an old strategy that always works: self-righteous practices against malcontents.
The ideal of America, as we all came to know it in the image of the Statue of Liberty, was based from the beginning on opportunities not be limited by one's own background. In the age of DisEmpire, the present practices are in direct contradiction to the way America had been conceptualized. More than destroying towers and pentagons the talibanic and imagenic neo-situationist Bin Laden was attempting to destabilize, however momentarily, world markets, sending shivers across the various economic agoras. Of course, this great student of McLuhan has been a much needed catalyst for DisEmpire to reassert itself homogeneously through the exploitation of the 'fear of terrorism', and that a rupture in the fabric of critical analysis that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri could hardly have anticipated.
Fear erases boundaries between conscious and unconscious, like behaviourism seems to collapse those boundaries. As William Anselmi and Kosta Gouliamos have stated:
the dominant system deliberately chooses disorders such as anxiety, panic, phobias and fear as vital components of socio-political or cultural learning and communication patterns … Fear becomes the cohesive element that strings societies together. (Anselmi and Gouliamos, 124)
Are we the Other? The process of 'We are all Americans' stems from a proxemic consideration of Ground Zero, that spread as a shock-wave, engulfing the American population and the world at large. Experiencing pain and grief is the emotional vehicle that binds the world as One against the Other. The New York theater scene was the first to re-produce, on a daily basis, the lived experience of pain into this mediated circle of emotions. There is no possibility of remaining 'outside' of the shock-wave effect at any given time. This ritualized spectacle of death serves to satisfy the craving thereby making everyone feel "American" by "experiencing" the pain and grief. The proper emotive response permits the individual to fit into the manufactured moral conception. In fact, in his introduction to Animal Farm, the discredited Orwell discusses the question of comunication and censorship in Western democracies, and particularly in Great Britain. Orwell points out the fact that, in the Western world, there exists a sort of self-censorship dictated by a conformism that limits and circumbscribes the type of discourses one may or may not entertain.
The American model of global capitalism, as we have just proposed, utilizes fear as a weapon of assimilation. But fear cannot work alone, it is our contention; there is another component and that component is seduction. Like fear, seductionwhether with images or pseudo-humanitarian gestures, as was the Marshall planworks by and through the dissolution of the Other.
With the First Gulf War, the US, it has been said, erased the shame of the Vietnam defeat that is, until the actual war with Iraq once again raised its specter. Enduring Freedom derives from the Gulf War. And, is the complete re-reading of Hiroshima, the Conquest of the West, and Columbus' landing as succinctly exposed in Alberto Asor Rosa's Fuori dall'occidente ovvero ragionamento sull'apocalissi (1992).
Seduction dissolves the Other's identity and history in each encounter. Each encounter with the Other is then a process of substitution, one's specific history is replaced by the seducer's, only, in this case, the seducer's history is a commodity which can be exchanged and replaced by a more convenient one. In this sense, and only in this sense, history does not exist. Ernest Renan said that the ability to forget what one has been and done (the bloody past) is the characteristic of imperialism. Subsequently, oblivion is the USA's underlying motive for what the American public is sold as "vendetta" and transformed into "Infinite justice".
Yet, as Thas shown in The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other (1982), the Others were won over by the European ability to perceive itself as the Other. Today, American practices are able to identify the Other's desires and actually substitute them with false desires and false memories.
Interestingly enough, from the point of view of militaristic discourses, the passions elicited by the events in New York have displaced into oblivion the attack on the Pentagon. The anger of the populace was naturally directed towards the New York events (Ground Zero is New York, not Washington), so that the call is to the rebuilding of a/the city. The polis is summoned in the collective imaginary, thereby producing a shift from the suggestion of guilt to the victim's sense of justice.
Unlike what is to be found in the humanistic tradition, the call for oblivion is targeted only in terms of wrath, and not as the possibility for rebirth and peace for the community at large. In the Odyssey's epilogue, after Ulysses' revenge, the agora is the space where people meet with a heavy heart. Between a call to revenge which cannot forget aloston penthos (mourning which does not want to forget), and the rights of the present, it is Zeus and Athena who must intervene by founding oblivion (eklesin theomen: XXIV, 485) so that the odyssey can come to an end on an exchange of solemn oaths. Finally, the call for oblivion (eklesis in the Odyssey) means the act of forgetting not only the misdeeds of others, but one's own wrath. It is only through this process that the life of the polis sprouts again. Yet, how simply realized was the substitutionin the Second Gulf Warbetween the cradle and the Mcdonaldized shopscape of Irax (Iraq plus American Pax). In the Archaeology issue of May/June 2003, published before the end results, a warning opens the issue: "Iraq Alert! An extraordinary heritage is now at risk":
The extraordinary significance of the monuments, museums, and archaeological sites of Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia) imposes an obligation on all peoples and governments to protect them. In any military conflict that heritage is put at risk, and it appears now to be in grave danger. Should war take place, we call upon all governments to respect the terms of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its First Protocol. (Waldbaum, 2003, p. 5)
The news that reached us, after the museums were raided, the scripturing and staging of the event is particularly saucy for our indulgence in extreme tastes. But, who scripted, who gave the directions, who said what to steal and what to leave behind? Such an orchestration aptly shows that no penny should be lost in such 'economic transactions' as wars have become. Not only is a culture replaced ex novo, but the substitution must generate some income for the promoters and sponsors. Nothing, really, is left behind.
Terrorism uses the same methods as imperialistic governments. They rule by fear and conquer through it. No one is safe in fear (horror movies have trained us well). But, which came first: oppressive governments' practices or terrorism?
At the birth of the government of bourgeois Nation Statesthe French Revolutionterrorism is born. Is terrorism the twin, the evil side, of the coin of the State? Who is to say today who is The Man in the Iron Mask?
An alternate reading of the image of the collapsing Twin Towers could be viewed as a hyper-real Toten Tanz. Metaphorically, this ring-around-the rosy embraces two leaders. One is highly visible, the other only intermittently so, and as a deferred and/or delayed image. They complement each other to no end; one is the extension of the other, to form a perfect circle of madness, which we receive intermittently as propaganda and inspiration. Meanwhile, the polis as necropolis is made manifest by the Project of the Two Towers of Lightwhere two beams of light would rise from the ground, substituting the dead towers beyond the New York skyline and into a celestial hereafter, and in such a fashion completing the circle of civilization.
The evil twin is the enemy unto which the defects and misdeeds of the "good" twin can be continuously projected, so that the image of Good can be maintained and the dichotomy reinforced. We can't look at the mirror and reflect on our actions and, as Noam Chomsky has demonstrated, one of the roles of the intellectual is to prevent us from such an unpleasant experience. To avoid the mirror is to avoid seeing our image as "foreign", but television substitutes the "foreign" impact by re-directing our gaze onto the spectacle (which governs) of the Other.
Asor Rosa ends his apocalyptic reading with this statement about the Gulf War: the fundamental duty, at this moment, is not to "be political", but to force the West "to see itself". We could add, television therapy is in order for the subject to de-matrixize the self from the apparatus of happy slavehood. Problem is, no matter the process, and The Sopranos is a reminder of possibilities in terms of television therapy, Narcissus in the story does not recognize himself in his reflection.
The USA administration's unilateralism, its refusal of dialogue with other governments, is a refusal to acknowledge its own shadow since it would have to admit to its own double identity. This behaviour shows, in a sense, a displaced consciousness. It has been stated in many sources that a significant consequence is the loss of a sense of certainty. This shows that letting go of the sense of certitude is quite difficult. If this illustrates the theory of postmodernism trickling into practice, then we must face up to the fact that postmodernism is impracticable, and that it is actually pre-modernism: we cannot, ironically, go back to postmodernism.From a New York state of mind, to a "war state of mind"
War is metaphysicized and the image of Bin Laden as terrorism is viewed as a Leviathan, a creature from the Fifties B-movies. At the same time as the fear inspired by the creature, let us not forget that there is a thrill that accompanies the fear. The metaphor of the defeatable creature acts as a comforting psychological zone for the baby-boomers (and, their emulators) who were formed by this popularistic sub-genre. In so doing, what we are witnessing is a form of retro-McCarthyism, and that nostalgia is a political device in this process.Technocracy
Terrorism evolves alongside the Nation State and is manifested without as territorial expansion through the mechanism of war. So, terrorism is organic to the Nation State as the continuous evolution of war in its technological deployment. In the present situation, we have the concrete proof that terrorism has emancipated itself from the Nation State even as the Nation State dissipates itself within globalization. Terrorism has made it clear that it is not bound anymore by the Nation State. Terrorism proves that the centre is no longer valid as an epistemological category; terrorism exists as a rhyzome, it is inherently nomadic.
The spectacle of Terrorism is a fully independent process, as the image strikes back like the Alien creature, unmasking the evil twin within the American Dream, and actually legitimizing its own presence as the rightful brother-in-arms. "Enduring Justice" is the mediatic recognition of the triumph of the evil twin in the American State; it is the signature that seals the Declaration of Globalization. This passage, the emancipation of terrorism, freezes modernity into a state of war against the symbols that belong to, and identify, "enemy" culture. This is a war against all cultures, unlike what Samuel Huntington (1996) predicted, and that is why the collective memory of the nationas if there could be a collective memoryis being summoned and remodeled.
As the centre of State Power melts into thin air, the era of networks presents itself as the new model for the world order, society, and identity. As stated in the New York Times, in an article from 7/1/02, titled: "Bush's South Asia strategy; keep terrorism as the villain", the notion of territory is being displaced by terrorism. As the author, David Sanger, states: "it is partly a convenient fiction".
Problems are not to be resolved, but managed, by re-framing conflict à la "Wag the Dog". American policies equalize the same process: what works inside must also work outsidesince everyone is an American, you are either "with us or against us" thus revealing the practice. Hubris brings about the unveiling, the process unmasks itself on a global scale as a war on terror, creating a story, a fiction, in order to sustain the process and the life that it has acquired. The public wants the illusion of a recovery of their social and economic self-respect, of their hyper-dignity: the (cracked) American Dream. The underlying problematics are expelled by Just a Spoonful of Sugar … In other words, the common cry is "Give us something, anything" (Answer: "Go shopping!"). The patient is happy even with a placebo, chewing gum medications with a story strip to go with it, you chew what you desire (remember Bazooka Gum?).
Public official confessions such as the US military's bombing of Red Cross warehouses in Afghanistan (Sudan, 1999) indicates another phenomenon in the USA: Love is … having to say you're sorry. As long as you say you're sorry, I'm OK, you're OK. As a justification for violations against humanity, it works beautifully, since the global public has been conditioned by its visual addiction to American reality and confessional TV: the ultimate existential paradigm: L'enfer, c'est l'image de l'autre. [Hell is the image of the other.] (Cf. Sartre: "L'enfer c'est l'autre." [Hell is the other.])
The technological era is the Technocratic Age that threatens to displace or even dissolve both the Christian and Muslim Ages. Already in Scritti corsari, Pier Paolo Pasolini warns against the erasure of humanistic values through the hegemonization of the Italian society of the time by the American capitalist model. His keywords were re-organization and the bringing to the same flat surface all differences, the American way: " … il nuovo fascismo … non distingue più: non è umanisticamente retorico, è americanamente pragmatico. La riorganizzazione e l'omologazione brutalmente totalitaria del mondo (Pasolini, 1975, p. 63)."USA Profile
If we were to apply racial profiling to America, we might say that America is a developmentally-challenged Pinocchio. Our Pinocchio does not reach the end of its ideal state and final execution because of pride and abuse of power. The theme of the sacrifice and death of the hero is the necessary cure of hubris. In Disney's version of Pinocchio, the difference between the wooden puppet and the boy is minimal: the boy still has all the characteristics of the puppet, except that he is no longer made of wood. Like the child that he is, he is still always looking for immediate gratification. Like Peter Pan, another American icon, Pinocchio reflects the chronic infantilization of the public space. Innocence is not a state of mind, innocence is a construction that serves the purpose of the administration of power.
The idealism of youth which drives the USA and which leads to over-confidence, is best represented by Icarus. Icarus, thanks to his father's technè, is able to resolve the stasis of the labyrinth. Like Henri Laborit has said in Eloge de la fuite (1976), the flight of imagination is the actual flight that cancels the city as a labyrinth, the necropolis, the hill of the dead. This becomes then over-confidence: not the resolution of the problem but the solution of power. The instrument of power is a possession: it instills moth-like dynamics of behaviour. For Dante, it is Ulysses' rhetoric and 'folle volo' that lead to his and his friends' shipwreck. The whole American experience is permeated with the tabula rasa syndrome. Everything must always be new. The eye must always experience anew the seduction of the Image. This is Narcissism for the Technocratic Age: as the eye illuminates the image, the image seduces the eye. Reciprocity is no longer a humanistic experience, it is a mediatic relationship.
In the apocalyptic tradition, the new era is supposed to signify a new history of humankind. It is hard not to see in such circumstances the utopic desire at work, motivating whole cultures to transform the world according to the Image, and not to the Word.
The USA, we claim, is a perpetual novelty machine, attempting to reclaim, with each step, the lost ideal of Paradise. The Americanas the spectator at large wanting to be American, and the American as a spectatorbecomes the angels claiming back Paradise. The Lost Paradise, which once was England, and must now be the world itself.
The original loss of a 'perfect world', of an idealized past, of the Fifties, of Pleasantville, of "The Truman Show", is the source of anxiety that permeates the American Dream. If that anxiety does not bring about a new beginning, it will feed on itself until everything around it is dissolved. This leads us then to a not-so-innocent question. Could the fall of the Twin Towers be a philosophical plot by which to revive America? Or, could we also say that Bin Laden called America's bluff? But let's be clear on the use of the name Bin Laden. In Luther Blissett's Totò, Peppino e la guerra psichica 2.0 (2000), we are introduced to several terms that will now benefit our analysis. First of all, the terms Waldganger, folk hero, and trickster are used to identify the phylum that belongs to the mythological swindler who unmasks usurpatory powers from outside the city walls. In keeping with this analysis, Bin Laden could be said to be part of a guerilla communication praxis that injects in pop culture the myth of the struggle. So that, like a trick used by the operators of psychological warfare, Bin Laden becomes a "multiple name", a shield against all the attempts of power to identify and individuate its enemy. In the film Spartacus by Stanley Kubrick (1960), all the slaves defeated and captured by Crassus declare their name to be Spartacus.
As the 'ogre Bin Laden', the character puts back the horror into the narrative so that America is forced to reclaim the original narrative of the fable. The Truman Show is also voyeuristic Disneyland protected by an invisible shield Star Trek-style. The renewed project of Star Wars essentially works as a fantasy rather than as a material shield. In the book L'assedio e il ritorno (1974), Franco Ferrucci analyzes Achilles' shield as the artistic/mimetic reflection of the world, and therefore it is Art that is the shield that protects us from the unknown. Star Wars, however fantastic, cannot compare to Achilles' shield, or in other terms, Star Wars is the poor man's traslatio for Achilles' shield.
Is this then the end of a myth?
According to George Orwell, an opinion that really goes against the current cannot be considered seriously, neither by the popular press, nor by the intellectual press. Already Tocqueville in De la démocratie en Amérique had said something along those lines, that is, the relationship between democracy, communication, censorship and truth can be found in the relationship between democracy and the mass media, the civically-minded and the politically-motivated individual against the distortion and political lies that thrive in Western democracies, and particularly in the American democracy.
The Western populace is made to welcome the new age of surveillance since it provides the much-needed certainty after the failure to identify the terrorists before the act, by the most powerful nation in the world.
The attacks in New York City and Washington make it evident that a free society is not possible, that the events lead to increased control and even totalitarianism. It is the end of pseudo-freedom, the mascara running off the face of the cosmetic democracy.
North America becomes an internment camp, complete with escalating powers of control for the State, loss of privacy and loss of information for its subjects"security", in media-speak. Fortress America is paranoia with a sense of décor and etiquetteleave your shoes outside, if you please.
A surveillance society in which people become encumbered by their personal past is, ultimately and ironically, the new society which will not allow us to ever forget our past. Postmodernism is then the most pre-modern of bio-political realities, since presence is the eternal present, under surveillance.
In response to George W. Bush's request of $379 Billion in 2003 for the military industrial complex, we found that security is founded on force, war, on the soldiers that equal policemen everywhere. This is the new world announced by the president of the mightiest world power. We are face to face with a postmodernization of Keynesianism that recalls Adolf Hitler. All of this happens in a stagnating world under the serious threat of recession. The only possible solution is, of course, an enduring war that should last, according to the strategic plan presented by General Richard Myers (S.D.Q., 2003), about 20 to 30 years. At that point, after thirty or so years, the Bush family should have its nephews well placed in power (we anticipate, given the surge of an ultra-conservative evangelistic State-of-mind, that women will still not be considered strong enough to govern). This undoubtedly gives rise to the representation of what Nietzsche called the last man in Thus Spake Zarathustra.
The attack became the political realization of the dream to absolute rule, the Bush Administration brings back absolutism as a legitimate form of government, thus undoing the dream of the French Revolution; if May '68 completed the consolidation into power of the bourgeoisie, then Imperial Capitalism completes the circle back to the pre-revolutionary era. A possible index of this is perceived through the US support of the Saudi Arabian monarchy. Consequently, Imperial capitalism becomes the undoing of the American Revolution: instead of 1776, we now have 9/11: American Devolution. From 1776 to 2001, after 225 years, the Anti-America (like the Anti-Christ) deserts the real as it ambushes democratic ideals and bushwacks the Declaration of Independence.
The master plan unveils itself before our very eyes. The closing of ties between the USA and the UK, amply demonstrated by the common lies, if even The Economist questions such practices, is the new world order which dates approximately with the landing at Plymouth Rock. Absolution of the displaced reality is the ideal. The American political animus aspires to a sort of "repatriation" but on its own terms. The final realization will bring closure as America strives to legitimize its behaviour thus formulating its own amnesty. Note for example the monarchical implications of the presidential nomenclature to be expected: Bush 41, Bush 43 … .New barbaristic rituals for an old folk (a.k.a., after the war I learnt to love to bomb at conferences)
Perhaps, the markings of a new erawe must always find a point of departure, the novelty or glitch of the programin the academic world, while wars pass us by, must be contentiously sighted as the moment when students were invited to the passage into a status of clients. This passing, this semantic but intentional slippage, reconfigured in the long run the various spaces and individuals that inhabit academia. For the direct consequence of economic discoursing (romancing), these spaces not only meant that the new clients had now a right, inconceivable only a few years back, to contest monetarily their affiliation (the right to excellence, not inflation, since the homogeneity of mark/s democratically appeared), but also to tacitly divest the postsecondary space of non-mainstream discourses and critical self-reflexivity.
In other words, college and university administrations tacitly filtered critical discourses within various departments by pressure tactics derived by language-games where the client became the password. Who would want to contest potential lawsuits by pseudo-individuals armed by a winning rhetoric? Who could resist jumping into the bandwagon of free-for-all Capital? After all, 1989 as a watershed also meant that the various parties of the revolution, the variously historically engaged/engaging social groupings, re-named themselves for marketability and exposure, for the spectacle of politics and is so doing divested themselves of context, and finally of meaning. Along this same route of how meaning is removed from context, Canada was at the forefront of academic "unloading" (of course, the intertext being The Matrix Reloaded). In the late nineties we witness, at Carleton University in Ottawa, the first attack, via the pseudo economic discourse of neo-cons, on the multicultural reality that is a program of languages, polycultures versus monorigidity.
In 1997, going beyond the fashion of chopping positions in selected areas (namely, the so-called Arts), the Carleton administration closes down the language programs, that is German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and for added flavour, Comparative Literature and Classics in their various manifestations as BAs, MAs, and PhDs. In this fashion, Carleton University blossomed from its previous moniker of "last-chance U" into the avant-garde of those practices of a liberated economy that, for example, in Alberta wants the homeless to pay for shelter services. We live in this world, where the victims must pay for their victimization; or, in paraphrasing a Carleton union representative from the Chemistry and Biology department, when a limb has gangrene it must be amputated (and be made to pay for the service). After all, these professors were "poorly trained people teaching mediocre programs" according an editorial in the Ottawa newspaper The Citizen during that period. Perhaps this was prophetic in the scope of the message that rippled mostly unawares throughout the North American-scape. A pre-emptive strike, directed towards those possible forces (this was an over-estimation of the forces at work) that could gather their critical know-how into a vocabulary of action vis-à-vis the continuous state of emergencies. In the end, the general populace is primed into pathological preparation for a continuous state of war (on drugs, on the poor, on the alien). 1984 was, after all, a novel.III
In preparing for the end, so the future is forever near. Steven Spielberg is a Socratic teacher, there is no doubt; and, science fiction is a rhetorical instrument. It is not mere escapism; we would have to add a touch of trite but familial sentimentality: a child wanting a loving mother (AI - Artificial Intelligence), a child wanting forever a father (Minority Report), for that to materialize into being.
In the summer of 2002 a glitch recorded itself onto the radar of proxemic bifurcations in this parallel world of oursbut parallel to what? (Philip K. Dick docet). The release of Minority Report, according to a rapid search on the web <www.rottentomatoes.com/m/MinorityReport-1113879>, randomly gives a questionable set of short-bites of acceptance:
Spielberg has managed to marry science fiction with film noir and action flicks with philosophical enquiryJeet Thayil, REDIFF.COM
An exhilarating futuristic thriller-noir, Minority Report twists the best of technology around a gripping story, delivering a riveting, pulse-intensifying escapist adventure of the first orderUrban Cinefile Critics, URBAN CINEFILE
There are flaws, but also stretches of impact and moments of awe; we're wrapped up in the characters, how they make their choices, and whyIan Waldron-Mantgani, UKCritic
As spectators, we are already projected into the future just passed (with its a priori vernacular) this time not as sci-fi dwellers but as beings of the eternal presence. No wonderment, no ecstasies unfortunately over "shock and awe" since it is the law of circular immediacy that one news will give birth incessantly to other, more entertaining news. Image after image, words are stripped from their necessary musical background into a white-noise wallpaper as images transformed, the necessary noise for our eternal rumination of the same now-ness no comma will ever undo.
How to ignore how the moving images, this time cinema, prepares us for the pixeled spiced-up main dish of American (forever last frontier, naming before-hand the enemy, who must be struck by the mighty force of "in-God-almighty we trust") bravado, and the return to a disorder of centuries ago: pre-emptive strike? The abolition of the nation-state is a sci-fi mechanism in the form of a pre-cognizant, tripartite (mystical and apocaliptycal) mechanism. When, in Spielberg's checkmate, the onus is put on the attempt to control the future as in monitoring its manifestation, what happens to the Foucaultian panopticon? Is it reduced to mere parapsychology, or does it acquire a vicissitude and a materiality of its own? The not-so-distant, anthropological, on-the-field fingering (warning Iran, Syria, North Korea) and its realization as blasé fisting with a velvet glove in Iraq, provides us with the embodiment, however "re-sexualized" for the (Jerry) Springerian public, of gallant crusading and culture crushing, not clashing. If one example will suffice, it can be found in the cultural warning we offered above of a humanistic magazine against the desapareciding of the so-called cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia.
The raids conducted against the various Iraqi museums during the war were pre-ordained not only in terms of a quick, culture-profiting buck, but as the means by which a perfect substitution can take effect: the American way, Starbucks and all from the zero-degree of culture to the eternal American present, for a fistful of relics. No mediatic recall, however significant, can overcome that practice. Let The Sopranos address, filter, spit back in your face, while doing mediatic therapy, the appropriation of cultures as in Episode 2"46 LONG" in the first season. You can admire, not so secretly, the futility of Paulie's attempts to reclaim his heritage by stealing a moka machine in a homogenized, globalized coffee-shop setting. Not even catching the subtle subtexts in Episode 5"College", (the irony of learning in the proper context) saves the remains of the day as in this pregnant exchange between Tony Soprano and his daughter, Meadow (Chase, 2003, pp. 91-92):
T: There was a time, Meadow, when the Italian people didn't have a lot of options.
M: You mean like Mario Cuomo? (beat) Sorry.
T: (sharp) Look, I put food on the table. (beat) My father was in it. My uncle. Maybe I was too lazy to think for myself. I considered myself a rebel. But maybe being a rebel in my family would have been selling patio furniture on Route 22.
M: In college nothing interested you?
T: I barely got in. Actually, waithistory I kinda got off on.
M: (smiles) Yeah?
T: Napoleon. Roman Empire. The Potsdam Conference. That kinda stuff.
M: What's the Potsdam Conference?
T: Potsdamned if I know now.
M: (rolls eyes) Oh, my God. (smile fades) Dad, I got something to tell you.
T: Yeah? (she hesitates) You are not…
M: Jesus! (beat) A couple of weeks ago, me and some of my friends, we were doing speed. We did… kind of a lot of it for awhile.
This juxtaposition between "history" and "speed", how history is overtaken and neutralized by speed (rampant technology, Virilio's vision) is matched by the intertext between Dante's Fifth Canto (Paolo and Francesca) in the Inferno, and Carmela (Tony's wife) and Father Phil, the lusty priest. The admonition about today's power of the image over the word, its seductive and moving Medusa gaze, is a not-so contradictory reminder of Zygmunt Bauman's "liquid stage": … a slogan used in the last decade by a French media network, RTL: 'Information is like coffee: good when hot and strong'. To live up to this credo, the media recycle the world as a succession of events. It does not matter in what order events follow each other. … What does matter…. is that each event is strong enough to capture the headlines, but that each disappears from the headlines before it gets cold. … [T]he quick succession of 'points of public interest' creates the impression we all badly need that we are, indeed, au courant with the change, that we catch up with the steadily accelerating reality (Bauman, p. 175).
In a previous work, Mediating Culture: The Politics of Representation, Anselmi and Gouliamos had this to say about our present condition, how the 'speedy' present hides the problematic of unresolved pasts, and therefore, futures: Thus, a particular manipulation is manifested in the nomadic experience, one where history is denied and/or rewritten in favour of capital's cannibalization of the subject's consciousness through a nostalgia for the future. More precisely, this nostalgia for the future entails a reductive process where history becomes a commodity. The present is excluded since it becomes an eternal present, and the past is banalized according to precepts of mass media practices. … Progress becomes defined according to a nostalgia for the future which is participatory in the millenarian discourse. This pseudo-mythical quality of capital gives rise to the indefinite postponement of self-realization. The schizophrenic subject is reduced to imaginary/illusory identity and participation in consumeristic rituals (Anselmi and Gouliamos, 1994, pp. 122-23).
The EndAlmighty Spectacle, thou indeed are greatest, Amen
As we pass through these difficult times indeed, without mentioning how the international justice system has been altered in the process, how we have gone back to a pre-Westphalia world, how new small nuclear devices are being built for future use (in so doing breaking out of a nuclear taboo which lasted decades), as everything that is alive is speedily voided of eros in favour of that all-American flavour thanatos, one last thing needs to be despectacularized, and that is God almighty.
Sydney H. Schanberg (2003) clearly spelled out for the American reader who is the religious fanatic in the enduring war(s). He quotes author Stephen Mansfield in reporting what Bush told preacher James Robinson before becoming an election robber (let us not forget Michael Moore's work Stupid White Men in bringing home this point about the elections): "I feel like God wants me to run for president. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. … I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it."
There is no possibility for a rational dialogue with a "born again". Reason and faith, however re-constructed, are not simply antithetical, they have no common ground, not even in the brain. At this point, we can only declare the failure of the process and find other alternatives. What else can be done about a man who "refused to eat sweets while American troops were in Iraq" (Schanberg), perhaps ask him to indulge in pretzels, move from sugars to salts?
Unfortunately, the man is a scarecrow, but the crows are his friends who use him as their cover. An interesting book came out in Italy in May, 2003: American Nightmare by Sbancor, a pseudo-name that hides, apparently, an international financial expert. His book presents quite well the intricacies of the political and financial reality that governs our passage into nowhere, utopia finally materialized. From the American Enterprise Institute, to the Project for the New American Century to the New Atlantic Initiative, just to mention a few groups that contain/have contained those interesting figures that surround the sacred President, whose names we shall, here, allow only in a limbo appearance. America, through them, has been preparing since Nixon's departure for a joyful vendetta. Only this time, we must repeat, apart from the political/financial connection, we have the underlining overtext of religious intent that leaves us with an epistemological impasse. Not that we are to accept a return to barbarism common at each turn of the broken moments in history, when Benjamin's angel falls, or in this special case is made to look at himself in the mirror. The metaphor also fails. The angel has become Medusa's gaze, in a continuous game of mirrors. This is what we can still say in special places, such as academia still is. We must, in conclusion, wonder how it is possible that we still have tenure, that we still have freedom of expression (although well hidden), that, in other words, it has not fully capitulated to Leo Strauss' spiritual boys. Perhaps, this is the realm we should investigate as we engage with the rubric of post-colonialism and fall on our knees bewildered by the spectacle of immanence and finality of piggy-backed thanatos.References Aguilera, P. and Fredes, R. (Eds.). (2003). Chile: the other September 11. New York: Ocean Press.
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William Anselmi, Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, is Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta, from which Lise Hogan was recently granted her Ph.D. She is currently doing research in Italy. William can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Lise can be reached at email@example.com.
• The views expressed by the authors are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The College Quarterly or of Seneca College.
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