Erik (eriktrips) wrote,

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the American Subject revisited

the Subject of Fear

I forget how frightened people are. I wonder if they are as frightened as they appear in Bowling for Columbine, Charlton Heston with his guns loaded against the specter of "Bad Guys" of whom he admits he has encountered precisely zero in real life. I wonder if fear is what sells and why.

I live in the city. I live in a neighborhood where, according to a local paper which seems to be gunning to become the New York Post of the West, a wave of gang-related violence has resulted in four deaths in the last six months. Now whether this qualifies as a wave or just life (and death) as usual in the city, I am unsure. I have to say though that I'm not particularly frightened by this news. There may be one hundred reasons for this.

But, to be radically postmodern for a minute, fear would seem to me to be something like the psychological equivalent of an immune system of the self, a system which keeps death and the other under as much violent control as possible. My question would be what would happen if this immune system were dismantled or what would happen if the physical immune system didn't lead one to conclude that s/he is psycho- and physiologically separate from and beset by everything that is not inside.

Because s/he is beset by everything that is not inside. But there may be no inside and only the state of being beset. And this might be something like death already to the extent that, traumatically instituted, the self cannot close in on itself and protect itself. By definition. And this might lead to something like a thought that fear for the integrity of the individual is always already in vain and fear for the impossible.

The question then would be what then. Because on the one hand if death is already upon us then there may be no reason to outlaw murder. The breath of the cold abyss and all that. On the other hand, if the self is impossible to protect, murder might become untenable. Murder insofar as it is an allergic response to the other would become, even, impossible.

This is all a semantic dream perhaps, but if the same and the other are il/logically inseperable then the violent territorializing drive of the subject is already undertaking an impossible undertaking. Which might be why the violence goes on forever or at least as long as the drive is in operation precisely because it can't cease, the fear can't be assuaged, security from the outside can't be won.

I can't decide if this is a very optimistic or pessimistic view. But what Levinas suggests, for instance, to me, for instance, is that the blind spot, the traumatic wound, whereby we come into contact with the other might need to be illuminated, which of course is impossible, but its trace might need to be marked with the mark that always does violence to it but in such a way that the violence stops with just that very first, most circumspect of marks.

The question might be what compells us to this circumspection. For that I have no ready answer other than the already paradoxical one of well we are forced into this circumspection precisely because we cannot complete the circuit. But if we cannot complete the circuit there may be nothing stopping us, really, from attempting to do so over and over and failing each time until perhaps we fail better but most likely until we kill everything that gets in "our" way.

This is the point at which I have to figure out Blood Meridian. Because there may be no mystery to death, it may be that death is what we live every day and it may be that death is in the end inconsequential insofar as it is the obliteration of all consequence, but I suspect there is a way in which even death turns back on itself in paradoxical fashion to reveal, without revealing, itself to be a death which, as Silko puts it through Josiah in Ceremony, is something like an animal non-resistance to the wind, something not like ecstatic union which pulls all that is into god's empire, but something like an infinite dispersal which disintegrates empire and makes it and its violence, ultimately (or rather, infinitely), impossible.

I guess this would be an-archy.

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