Tuesday, October 04, 2005

further genre

New Continental Philosophy blog posits a simple distinction:
Whereas most Anglophone philosophers take their point of departure from the liberal-communitarian debate or the perennial questions in political philosophy, Continental philosophers tend to focus their attention on understanding the conditions that prepare the way for the emergence of authoritarian regimes and attempt to articulate a political philosophy that can address these conditions. One obvious reason for this disparity is that that many Continental philosophers experienced the emergence of totalitarian and fascist regimes in a way that Anglophone philosophers did not...I bet that if more Anglophone philosophers read more Continental political philosophy, they'd be more worried about the threats of authoritarianism to mass democracies.

Less interestingly, the author wonders about
a strong moral anti-theory current in contemporary Continental philosophy that stems from the anti-humanism in much of the tradition that could be a place for some comparative work between Anglophone and Continental philosophy.

Against Theory, After Theory, PC Wars, Theory's Empire....dear Reader, what can it all possibly mean? Surely we can't possibly wait until next decade when Theory's Apocalipsia is published to find out! The antitheory argument is in truth all about the proper redemption of Morality, you see. That is all we need, a gutteral 'return to the religious' shouted from every turret, nuance be damned, and the symptomatic status of proliferating new-age freaks be relegated to irrelevant "context," which as we all know be the obnoxious domain of those uninterested in reading. Figured roughly, I'd say that somewhere in the ballpark between two and four anthologies a decade should be enough to ensure that Derrida remains largely unread for at least the next 70 years, if we are to survive that long. In the meantime, let's by all means continue to ridicule the Ghost Dancers and other relics of a the hipster age, just like that photo of the second woman in "Broken Flowers" which she now finds so embarrassing (albeit for reasons she does not begin to fathom to herself).

As her revoltingly smug husband brings it out, to show and ridicule and thus confirm to himself the very rightness of his steril "pre-fab housing" existence, we are left with a simple question. Without this photo, what would happen to the husband, and to them? Would their worldview collapse? Would it shimmer and dissolve? Would they perhaps suddenly see their sterilized and windswept, eco-dome fabrication for the very nightmare that it is?

This photograph is the object petit a. It is the haunting remnant of a previous life, as well as the exception the relation to which proves the rule of their symbolic order. But the woman trembles and is embarrassed for a specific reason. For in the photo, she is unmistakably alive. Or rather, she sees the captured, frozen image of her previous self – a radiant, smiling, iconographic hippie self, not yet sealed and enshrined against the world.

Of course things are not so simple. And perhaps a genuine diagnosis is by no means a simple condemnation, or for that matter a diagnosis merely. The scene, as a work of art, also describes, and Jarmusch, or rather the film itself (the distinction is important) in fact witholds judgement brilliantly, which is precisely what makes the film great, or literary. The scene itself is indifferent to all this psychoanalytic implication, or rather the film cultivates a distance by framing the scene (distilled to this awkward gesture with the photo (a brutal gesture, a revealing boast, all wrong--enshrining a failure to communicate with pride and will, refusing to hear itself), her shame, his indifference, the scene's even greater indifference) as itself in a sense iconographic. The camera is content to witness an event, a precise moment of failure between people, and then move on to something else, without succombing to the temptations of excessive, destructive commentary, so often these days cutesy or ponderously didactic or both at once --the decorative buffer and sentimental icing and the inevitable watering down and misguided belief in the possibility of conjuring away the essential dread: such narrative as commentary is the devil himself. Not only because it is vain, but as it pretends to forget that the scene itself is a commentary on its own failure. The scene must fail. The good scene knows this. That is the beginning.

But to prolong for a moment this commentary: In a manner, this woman is certainly caged, for to the husband (or so he tells himself) the photo is something known--namely, the idea opposed to which he perpetually defines himself (and at the same time his mark on her--recall that his pathetic and transparent claim to her is currently under threat due to the appearance of this stranger from a former life). But on some level the husband is torn. He brandishes the photograph so often precisely because it represents something (her previous life) which he cannot master.

It's a familiar enough gesture. Millions of viewers will undoubtedly not fail to recognize it as their own, nor that grotesque abstraction of a hippie icon, that which in a sense he both worships and profanes. And so the fetish becomes a sort of altar or victim to be sacrificed, to be continually retreived from the bedroom, repeatedly pulled from the drawer and brought before the guests in order that they may share a collective smirk (this, it would seem, is the husband's very idea of community). And like clockwork she never fails to blush, "Oh please, honey. Do put it away now."

It is a delicious, tragic scene, economic and authentic, whereby through the largely silent and uncomfortable presence of a third person or Simmilian stranger (Murray, natually enough), with whom the camera, and our gaze, identifies, Jarmusch allows two quietly desperate characters, themselves highly emblematic of a certain American culture, to unravel themselves completely and concisely...without of course fully realizing it. Just as we could never fully realize the truth of this scene, no matter how many hundreds of brilliant and accurate pages of commentary be written.


And now for something completely different:
Lego Matt Matt!

Obviously, I tried to make him look as European as possible. I can't believe they don't allow beards, or at least pseudo-beards, however. And so the self-inblogged fun briefly continues; kind thanks to Jodi.


A real toss-up between the woods and Italy, but the woods prevailed. (And yeah, the eyes get to me as well.)

As for politics, from now on this space will only blog about things no less than five months after they happen. For instance, here's an oldy but goodie from The Guardian, all puns intended:
Again last week, during the uprising in Falluja, Bremer became very annoyed with the insurgents, led, he alleged, by Sheikh Moqtada al-Sadr. On Tuesday last week I turned on the television to see Bremer angrily protesting that Sadr "basically tried to take control of the country". In an attempt to apply Bremer's "devastating intellect" to that sentence, I would define "the country" as Iraq, Sadr as a man who lives in that country, and Bremer, a career diplomat who lives in the US, as a man who not only tried but succeeded in taking over Iraq by force of arms without recourse to the people there (or even the United Nations).

What advice can we offer Bremer and his fellow imperialists, who keep denouncing Iraqi resistance to the invasion and occupation of their country for the violence and duplicity that they themselves regularly deploy? The mote and beam story appears twice in the New Testament, and each time the advice is spot on: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote in thy brother's eye."

Imagine if only Bremer had been clever enough to preempt this sort of embarrassment, oh, perhaps by first accusing those who would make such simple points as being themselves hopelessly obsolete, oblivious and hypocritical. Wouldn't that be something to behold! Oh wait.

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