Not what I am

I wanted to do something that I don’t know how to
do, and offer you the experience of watching someone fumble, because I think maybe that’s what art should offer. An opportunity to recognise our common humanity and vulnerability. So rather than being up here pretending I’m an expert in anything, or presenting myself in a way that will reinforce the odd, ritualised lecturer-lecturee model, I’m just telling you off the bat that I don’t know anything. And if there’s one thing that characterises my writing it’s that I always start from that realisation and I do what I can to keep reminding myself of that during the process. I think we try to be experts because we’re scared; we don’t want to feel foolish or worthless; we want power because power is a great disguise. I even feel odd calling myself a writer or a screenwriter. I do when I have to – I put it on my income tax form – but I feel like it’s a lie, even though it’s technically true. I write screenplays for a living but it’s not what I am.

Cornered 2

I’m cornered, I tell X, they’ve cornered me, they’ve humiliated me, like an animal, like a criminal, like a refugee. I’m backing up on my hands and feet, but they’ve got me in a corner, they’re killing me, except they’re not, not yet, next time I see them I’ll tell them to their faces, I’ll show them who they really are, I’ll back them up, I’ll corner them and I’ll kill them. Except I won’t, will I, I tell X, because even as I corner them I’ll still be cornered, I’ll be carrying my corner into their corner, even as I kill them they’ll be killing me.

Thanopower

Exchange value has to unreel its own inner logic to the end: to mass extinction. The tail that is capital is wagging the dog that is earth.

Perhaps its no accident that the privatization of space appears on the horizon as an investment opportunity at just this moment when earth is going to the dogs. The ruling class must know it is presiding over the depletion of the earth. So they are dreaming of space-hotels. They want to not be touched by this, but to still have excellent views.

[…]

And so the state becomes an agent of generalized surveillance and armed force for the defense of property. The role of the state is no longer managing biopower. It cares less and less about the wellbeing of populations. Life is a threat to capital and has to be treated as such.

The role of the state is not to manage biopower but to manage thanopower. From whom is the maintenance of life to be withdrawn first? Which populations should fester and die off?

Sisyphus doesn’t work here anymore

It’s a pretty stock tactic: present the young undergraduate students of Philosophy with the myth of Sisyphus, and tell them it’s an allegory for human existence. There’s a way to get their attention. There’s a way to get them thinking. Except it’s not. Because Sisyphus doesn’t work here anymore.

Life Unfurnished

Fulfilling your role

They may know that they’re mortgaging the future of their grandchildren, that in fact everything they own will be destroyed, but they’re caught in a trap of institutional structure. That’s what happens in market systems. The financial crisis is a small example of the same thing. You may know that what you’re doing carries systemic risk, but you can’t calculate that into your transactions or you’re not fulfilling your role and somebody else replaces you.

Noam Chomsky

Everything seems to correspond to everything

Joseph Conrad, in an author’s note to his novel The Secret Agent, depicted how the idea of a central female character, Winnie Verloc, took root from a handful of remarks he happened to overhear. Her fictional fate led to a host of additional characters, complete with local colour, political background, and so on. Whenever a new productive phase set in, Kafka’s dynamic was the exact opposite of Conrad’s accretion method. As he had on the night of September 23, 1912, Kafka began to tap a reservoir that was already full. The diaries reveal that the conflicts, metaphors, gestures, and details were all there. In many cases, the images had already taken on linguistic shape. Kafka did not work from a welter of emotions but instead focused on the amassed material that his emotions brought out – hence the unparalleled, provocative plethora of references and links between the visual and linguistic elements in his texts. Everything seems to correspond to everything.

– Reiner Stach, Kafka: The Decisive Years (tr. Frisch)

Time lost

I loved watching my husband and my son walking together to the Temple, and I loved waiting behind to pray before setting out to the Temple alone, not speaking, looking at no one. I loved some of the prayers and the words read from the book aloud to us. I knew them and they came to mean soft comfort to me as I set out to walk home having listened to them. What was strange then was that in those few hours before sundown a sort of quiet battle went on within me between the after-sound of the prayers, the peace of the day, the dull noiseless ease of things, and something dark and disturbed, the sense that each week which passed was time lost that could not be recovered and a sense of something else I could not name that had lurked between the words of the book as though in waiting like hunters, or trappers, or a hand that was ready to wield the scythe at harvest time. The idea that time was moving, the idea that so much of the world remained mysterious, unsettled me. But I accepted it as an inevitable aspect of a day spent looking inward. I was glad nonetheless when the shadows melted into darkness at sundown and we could talk again and I could work in the kitchen and think once more of the others and of the world outside.

– Colm Toibin, The Testament of Mary