Friday, February 11, 2011
Friday, February 5, 2010
by Massimo Passamani
Yes, I know, we are all against axioms, guarantees, certainties.
But can we really live without sharing our being against—without depending upon this sharing?
The search for identity is not always oriented toward the mass, toward the great crowds of followers. Even the small group can become our safe space. What’s more, the very refusal of every group and of any form of membership can construct its own arrogant, solitary radicality through the play of recognition.
My stubborn solitude is fed by what it opposes; it even—or maybe, above all—feeds on criticisms.
To appear to be against someone or something that seems to assume the features of authority—a charismatic person, a common truth—is not always an act of revolt. Its origins could be, for example, the desire to receive part of the light of that which one challenges by taking the role of challenger. As if saying: I beg you to notice that I have no leaders.
I believe that the reality of not being esteemed (which is to say valued and measured)—even in the form of a certain hostility—by a group has greater significance in the renunciation of revolt than repression. And there is no resigned desistence that does not degenerate into resentment, quick to assemble in new, spiteful herds.
Two or three words, the same ones, repeated in some meeting, and there they are joining the discussion that unfailingly ensues, in hope that other words—two or three—will replace them.
All right, it is as you say, I am going too far. But doesn’t seem to you that this all consolidates the group and calcifies thought?
Starting from myself, what is said to me always seems so imprecise and reassuring, that hearing it continually repeated is frankly too much.
Deepening relations of affinity would have to mean making difference emerge (otherwise, on what do we base affinity?). And yet one doesn’t escape homogeneity (the fact that some anarchist use this word in a positive sense makes my head spin) by refusing conferences, membership cards and other blatantly formal fixations.
The mechanisms—I hesitate to say rhythms, but perhaps they really are rhythms—, the rhythms, then, of participation and compromise stress our lives well beyond measure. Thinking for ourselves, as Lessing expressed it, is never the outcome.
What would the desire to rebuild be if it never leads us to destruction? What would it be if it anchored us to the role of destroyer?
Gottfried Benn said that the one who loves ruins also loves statues. And with regard to statues, Benn, it was understood.
Perhaps it is anxiety about the future that transforms individuals into puppets of a group. A life considering needs a solid basis. Obedience and calculation live under the sign of an eternal tomorrow.
But aren’t ideas—coagulants of language—giving us the awareness of time?
Thought is born only when desire grows pale. Living the moment, the immediacy of existence, completely, does one have no future, does one have no time—does one have no ideas?
If all values collapse (is it possible?), only “because it pleases me, that’s why” remains.
So many acrobatics to discover what children have always known.
The relation of mutuality—in no way a moral good, in no way a duty—is maybe really a relationship between children.
by Alfredo M. Bonanno
Among the various characteristics of the last several years, the failure of global automation in the factories (understood in strict sense) must be pointed out, a failure caused by the failure of the prospects and, if you will, the dreams of mass production.
The meeting between the telematic and traditional fixed production (harsh assembly lines later automated up to a certain point with the introduction of robots) has not developed toward a perfecting of the lines of automation. This is not due to problems of a technical nature, but due to problems of an economic nature and of the market. The threshold of saturation for technologies that can replace manual labor has not been exceeded; on the contrary there are always new possibilities opening in this direction. Rather, the strategies of mass production have been surpassed, and have thus come to have little importance for the economic model of maximum profit.
The flexibility that the telematic guaranteed and has steadily made possible in the phase of the rise of post-industrial transformation at a certain point caused such profound changes in the order of the market, and thus of the demand, as to render the opening that the telematic itself had made possible or rather put within reach useless. Thus, the flexibility and ease of production is moved from the sphere of the factory into the sphere of the market, causing a standstill in the telematic development of automation, and a reflourishing of new prospects for an extremely diversified demand that was unthinkable until a few years ago.
If one reads the shareholders’ reports of some of the great industries, it becomes clear that automation is only sustainable at increasing costs that quickly be come anti-economical. Only the prospect of social disorder of a great intensity could still drive the financially burdensome path of global automation.
For this reason, the reduction of the costs of production is now entrusted not only to the cost of labor, as has occurred in the past several years as a consequence of massive telematic replacement, but also to a rational management of so-called productive redundancy. In short, a ruthless analysis of waste, from whatever point of view, and, first of all, from the perspective of production times. In this way, by a variety of means, productive pressure is exercised once again on the producer in flesh and blood, dismantling the ideology of containment on the basis of which an easing of the conditions of suffering and exploitation that have always been characteristic of wage labor was credited to telematic technology.
The reduction of waste thus becomes the new aim of streamlined production, in its time based on the flexibility of labor already consolidated and the productive potentiality guaranteed by the telematic coupling as its starting point. And this reduction of waste falls entirely on the back of the producer. In fact, the mathematical analysis realized through complex systems already in widespread use in the major industries can easily solve the technical problems of contractors, which is to say, those relative to the combination of raw materials and machinery, in view of maintenance. But the solution to these problems would remain a marginal matter to production as a whole if the use of production time were not also placed under a regime of control.
Thus, the old taylorism comes back into fashion, though now it is filtered through the new psychological and computing technologies. The comprehensive flexibility of large industry is based on a sectoral flexibility of various components, as well as on the flexibility of the small manufacturers that peripherally support the productive unity of command. Work time is thus the basic unity for the new production; its control, without waste but also without stupidly repressive irritations, remains the indispensable connection between the old and new productive models.
These new forms of control have a pervasive nature. In other words, they tend to penetrate into the mentality of the individual producer, to create general psychological conditions so that little by little external control through a timetable of production is replaced by self-control and self-regulation of productive times and rhythms as a function of the choice of objectives, which is still determined by the bodies that manage productive unity. But these decisions might later be submitted to a democratic decision from below, asking the opinion of individuals employed in the various production units with the aim of implanting the process of self-management.
We are speaking of “suitable synchronism”, not realized once and for all, but dealt with time and again, for single productive periods or specific production campaigns and programs, with the aim of creating a convergence of interest of interests between workers and employers, a convergence to be realized not only on the technical terrain of production, but also on the indirect plane of solicitation of some claim to the demand, which is to say, on the plane of the market.
In fact, it is really in the market that two movements within the new productive flexibility are joined together. The old factory looked to itself as the center of the productive world and its structures as the stable element from which to start in order to conquer ever-expanding sections of consumption to satisfy. This would indirectly have to produce a worker-centered ideology, managed through guidance by a party of the sort called proletarian. The decline of this ideological-practical perspective could not be more evident today, not so much because of the collapse of real socialism, and all the direct and indirect consequences that followed from this and continue to grow out of it, but in reality, due to the productive changes which we are discussing. There is thus no longer a distinction between the rigidity of production and the chaotic and unpredictable flexibility of the market. Both these aspects are now brought back under the common denominator of variability and streamlining. The greater ability to penetrate into consumption, whether foreseeing and soliciting it or restraining it, allows the old chaos of the market to be transformed into an acceptable, if not entirely predictable, flexibility. At the same time, the old rigidity of the world of production has change into the new productive speed. These two movements are coming together in a new unifying dimension on which the economic and social domination of tomorrow will be built.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
The meaning of measure. It is an enclosure that is simultaneously a dispute with and management of life, a prison that poses the existence of people equal to zero.
And yet, as Protagoras said, the human being is the measure of all things. His intelligence is the place in which they are linked together. If the human being herself is this measure, this threshold, it means that he has no place and that her home is atopia.
A measure to impose, and the punishment for those who arrogantly go beyond it, only has meaning if it provides a boundary, a homeland, to human life. And this homeland is nothing more than the designation of a space built around the limits in which one tries to constrain that which is particularly unlimited, singularity.
But it is really the place of the limit to create trans-gression, and to justify itself as limit through punishment.
Errare divinum est (To err is divine), said Savinio. Only when we pose the measure of individuals as something that transcends them do crime and punishment have a foundation. “To err” pertains to the gods. If their empire, their measure, falls, the limits created in their image and likeness fall as well. The human being cannot help but go beyond the limits, since he himself is the limit, the boundless threshold. Furthermore, only in this hubris, in this arrogance, is her possibility for affirming herself as individual to be found.
As Holderlin understood with regards to Sophocles’ Oedipus, the human being questions and lives “immeasurably”. Relegating his individuality to the place of law, aberrations will always occur, because ab-errare [“in wandering” as well as “in error” – translator] is where one’s individuality has its place. To the extent that the individual is her own measure, she succeeds in not sacrificing her atopia, in being rooted in the absence of place.
This absence of place is an utter absurdity for philosophy. And this is why its words have always advised moderation, the truth that stands in the middle. But that middle makes the human being into a puppet of god (and of every authority), a result of hubris and power, a mistake that poses a remedy.
The measure is god’s, the state’s, society’s. All attempts to harmonize, to tolerate difference refer to a limit that is always collective. Whether this boundary is the one and indisputable truth or the multiplicity of truths is of little importance. If the truths are constrained to compose a social ensemble of which they end up being a part, there is no space for singularity, but only for different appraisals with respect to the techniques with which to preserve these walls which one could not want to destroy. Each in her own way can only be a slave. The ensemble of society—the meaning of measure—is that which one need not take into account, “except as the object of destruction.”
The uniqueness of each of us cannot be an element of something else because difference is itself the common space. The only place for difference is the absence of place. Individuality must defend its difference and want the difference of others to exist as well. My difference is revealed because that of others exists.
Power, on the contrary, is the foundation of a territory of identity and measurement, a territory from which it is impossible to escape without destroying the community of those who have been made equal to zero (that Michelstaedter called the “wicked clique”) and building the common difference.
I think that affirming one’s singularity is the exact opposite of the defensive armoring of oneself, that prison-like enclosure from which (as the skeptical “reaction” to the religion of the common good and sacrifice would have it) to control the world with the disenchantment of doubt. Difference is not a slit through which to spy on the movements of the other, afraid that she might go too far in making his way and thus could disturb our tranquility. There isn’t any kitchen garden to cultivate as Voltaire believed. Distrust, the fear of the other that makes us move away suddenly when we touch a strange body, is an ivory tower under siege. The immeasurable dimension in which it is possible to live together without domination and abuse, and so also without their double, Harmony, can “settle” in no one place.
Singularity has no homeland because the homeland is power.
The individual in revolt is a “restless place between the night and the light”, between destruction and creation. And more. The light itself is darkness, since Phanes “sits inside, in the sanctuary of the night.” But not even the liquidation of the dialectic that always transforms the negative into the positive, annihilating it, is capable of becoming a certainty. If we were to look for the measure, the one of being against or outside, in the sanctuary of the night, we would end up becoming evangelists of demolition, pensioners of revolt.
In its endless skirmishes, the Logic seems unshakable. And yet its rigid form cannot resist anyone who wants to live without measure.
Once again, more than a project, it is a question of knowing how to live.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Alfredo M. Bonanno
Times of doubt and uncertainty have arrived. New and old fears spur the search for guarantees. In the market where human affairs are managed, new models of comfort are briskly haggled over. Madonnas weep, politicians make promises; everywhere war and misery, savagery and horror are rife, rendering us now unable to even feel outrage, let alone to rebel.
People have been quick to accustom themselves to blood. They scarcely smell the odor of the massacres, and every day something new and more incredible awaits them: Tokyo, Gaza, the changeless Bosnia, Burundi and still more places, remote, distant, and yet nearby. What they ask is to be left out of it. Being informed, even of the smallest household massacres, those of Saturday evening for example, which shape dozens of deaths weekly, with no other purpose than that of knowing in order to forget.
In a world that is revealed to be increasingly weak in real meanings, in motivations that give content to life, in projects worthy of being lived, people give away freedom for specters that are in easy reach, specters that come out from the studios of power. Religion is one of these specters. Not any religion whatsoever, objectified in distant and crusty practices, governed by priests and simulations lacking sense, but a religion that can reach the emptiness of their minds, filling it with the future, that is with hope.
I am quite aware that a religion of this sort does not exist, but there are many people who try hard to exploit the need for it that does exist . Against this need, the rationalist claims made by Cartesian veterans of the victories through which they have conquered, and destroyed, the world are worthless. Their chatter of scientific certainty no longer charms anyone. No one, except for a small group of relentless intellectuals, is willing to believe in the capacity of science to solve all the problems of humanity, to give an answer to all the questions concerning the eternal fear of the unknown.
Now, it seems, even we anarchists allow ourselves to take on this extraordinary laceration, to which we should instead remain strangers, if we want to find a path for action, a path capable of making us understand reality, and thus putting us in a position to transform it. Even we don’t quite know what to do.
On the one hand, we withdraw, horrified, in the face of always delirious and disgusting manifestations of faith in all its forms. Sometimes we have pity for the man that stoops, that suffers under pain, and thus accepts the image of the incredible specter, and hopes, and continues to suffer and hope. But we can have no more than this for him. Immediately afterwards, contempt takes over, and with contempt, refusal, distancing, rejection.
On the other hand, still looking carefully, what do we find? We find an equally contemptible misery, but one that knows how to dress itself well, with the garments of culture and fine speech. This latter misery believes in science and in the world that can be systematized, in the world that is moving toward its highest destinies. But it closes its eyes and covers its ears, waiting for the storm to die down, unconscious and pitiless in the face of the pain and misery of the rest of the world. This universe of specialists and respectable people also disgusts us, in many ways as much as or more than the other, that at least had ignorance and the passionate force of emotion on its side.
But us, what do we do? We don’t beat our chests, nor do we go around with a slide-rule in our pockets. We believe neither in god nor science. Neither miracle workers nor wise men in white coats interest us. But are we then really beyond all this?
I don’t think so. Merely reflecting, we realize that we are still children of our times. But, being anarchists, we are so in a reversed manner. We naively think that it is enough to overturn the errors of others like a glove in order to have the beautiful truth dished out in shovelfuls. It isn’t so.
Therefore, refusing what is of the obscure which exists in the times in which we live, we set our feet on the certainties of a different science, indeed, a science that we must build completely ourselves, from top to bottom, but that like the other one will be based on reason and will. And, at the same time, refusing what there is of the functional and utilitarian in science, we go in search of sensations and emotions, intuitions and desires from which we expect answers for all questions, answers that cannot come to the extent that these stimuli crumble in our excessively rough hands.
Thus, we reel, now in one direction, now in another. We don’t have the ideological certainties of a few decades ago, but the critiques we have developed are still not able to tell us with the least bit of trustworthiness what to do. Thinking that we are in a position to act beyond every value, every foundation, in the moment that we ask ourselves what to do, we don’t know how to give ourselves a sure answer.
In other times, we had less fear of ridicule, we were more obtuse in our stubborn and coherent doing, less worried about matters of style. I fear that we are too much in love with subtleties, with nuances. Continuing along this path, we might even lose the meaning of the whole that has never been lacking, the projectual sense that made us feel rooted in reality, part of something in the course of transformation, not mere monads, brilliant in our own light, but dark to each other.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
The platonic separation between the body and the mind, a separation carried out to the complete advantage of the latter (“the body is the tomb of the mind”), even accompanies the seemingly most radical expressions of thought.
Now, this thesis is supported in numerous philosophy texts, almost all except those that are alien to the rarefied and unwholesome atmosphere of the universities. A reading of Nietzsche and of the authors like Hannah Arendt has found its appropriate scholastic systematization (phenomenological psychology, idea of difference and a way of pigeon-holing). Nonetheless, or actually because of this, it does not seem to me that this problem, the implications of which are many and fascinating, has been considered in depth.
A profound liberation of individuals entails an equally profound transformation of the way of conceiving the body, its expression and its relations.
Due to a battle-trained christian heritage, we are led to believe that domination controls and expropriates a part of the human being without however damaging her inner being (and there is much that could be said about the division between a presumed inner being and external relationships). Of course, capitalist relationships and state impositions adulterate and pollute life, but we think that our perceptions of ourselves and of the world remain unaltered. So even when we imagine a radical break with the existent, we are sure that it is our body as we presently think of it that will act on this.
I think instead that our body has suffered and continues to suffer a terrible mutilation. And this is not only due to the obvious aspects of control and alienation determined by technology. (That bodies have been reduced to reservoirs of spare organs is clearly shown by the triumph of the science of transplants, which is described with an insidious euphemism as a “frontier of medicine”. But to me the reality seems much worse than pharmaceutical speculations and the dictatorship of medicine as a separate and powerful body reveals.) The food we eat, the air we breathe and our daily relations have atrophied our senses. The senselessness of work, forced sociality and the dreadful materiality of chit-chat regiment both mind and body, since no separation is possible between them.
The docile observance of the law, the imprisoning channels into which desires, which such captivity really transforms into sad ghosts of themselves, are enclosed weakens the organism just as much as pollution or forced medication.
“Morality is exhaustion,” said Nietzsche.
To affirm one’s own life, the exuberance that demands to be given, entails a transformation of the senses no less than of ideas and relationships.
I have frequently come to see people as beautiful, even physically, who had seemed almost insignificant to me until a short time earlier. When you are projecting your life and test yourself in possible revolt with someone, you see in your playmates beautiful individuals, and not the sad faces and bodies that extinguish their light in habit and coercion any more. I believe that they really are becoming beautiful (and not that I simply see them as such) in the moment in which they express their desires and live their ideas.
The ethical resoluteness of one who abandons and attacks the power structures is a perception, a moment in which one tastes the beauty of one’s comrades and the misery of obligation and submission. “I rebel, therefore I am” is a phrase from Camus that never ceases to charm me as only a reason for life can do.
In the face of a world that presents ethics as the space of authority and law, I think that there is no ethical dimension except in revolt, in risk, in the dream. The survival in which we are confined is unjust because it brutalizes and uglifies.
Only a different body can realize that further view of the life that opens to desire and mutuality, and only an effort toward beauty and toward the unknown can free our fettered bodies.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Alfredo M. Bonanno
One who writes, perhaps even more than one who speaks, is called to clarify, to bring light. A problem is posed – the problem of something the one who writes should be concerned with since otherwise his respect would be deprived of meaning. This problem is illuminated by the use of words, by a specific use, capable of being organized within the shell of certain rules and in view of a perspective to be attained.
One who reads, perhaps even more than one who listens, does not catch the individual words but their meaning within the sphere of the rules that organize them and the perspective that they affirm they desire to reach.
However weak the meaning of what one writes (or says) might be, the one who reads (or listens) does not carry out the role of passive receiver. The relationship often takes on the appearance of conflict, within which two different universes clash with each other. But this clash is not based on any active intention on the part of the one writing (or speaking), and a passive one on the part of the one hearing (or reading). The two movements are contrary only in appearance. The reader participates in the effort of the writer and the writer in that of the reader. Even if the two movements are separated from each other, they are not so in the fact, which has not been much considered, that the one who writes is always (simultaneously) a reader of the text she is writing, and the one who reads is also himself (simultaneously) the writer of the text that he is reading.
Here two errors are committed. The first is that in which one encounters the writer who thinks that by reading while he writes, he understands what she is writing, and doesn’t realize that often her comprehension is not due to the clarity of the text, but to the reader-writer connection that reaches the highest level in the precise act of organizing words according to a project. The second is that which happens to the reader who, imagining himself in the act of writing the text that he is reading, refuses to accept word choices that are unthinkable to her, and doesn’t realize that often the incomprehensibility of the text that she reads is not so much due to a lack of clarity as to the fact that he would have written it differently.
The thing that seems to escape this binary relationship is the third element, i.e., the topic that is being discussed. The reality examined with words is a barrier that, on the one hand, may help to organize the words in a certain way (accepting some and rejecting others), but, on the other hand, carries out a distorting process with regards to the employment of the accepted words. No word is neutral, but each one, being organized within concepts, contributes to transferring into the reader (and in still different ways, into the listener) a conception of the diffraction of the reality examined (of which one writes or speaks).
Thus, no word is clear or obscure as such; there is no possibility of definitively casting a pool of light on reality, clarifying it once and for all. Once the word is detached from the reality to which it refers and thus from the choice that the writer (or speaker) made on the basis of the suggestions of the reality examined, it no longer means anything. It vanishes, and its possibility for being anything, a means for thought or action, an element for uniting or dividing human beings, vanishes with it. The dictionary is like a warehouse of words. They are lined up there on the shelves, some used continuously, others only rarely, all equally available, but only a few of them able to be coordinated together according to the intentions of the one who chooses and the suggestions of the reality she wants to dress up in words.
It’s just that we can understand words, and thus decide if each of them is “clear” for us, on the condition of being conversant with this operation of dressing up. There are not words on one side, dead objects shut up in dictionaries, and reality on the other side where individual objects exist beside words that are also themselves objects, but all in a haphazard manner, without relationship. Flows of meaning exist, i.e., working procedures in the course of which the elements of reality (that here, for convenience, we can call “objects”) receive meaning through us, putting on linguistic clothes. There is no chair separate from the word that means it, and the different words to which different languages have recourse reconfirm this endeavor as a flow of meaning, proposing philological nuances that through the history of the millennia often cause incredible routes, extraordinary adventures, to emerge.
Dressing reality is thus the primary activity of the human being, the condition for acting and itself an action, the essential form of action, insofar as thought itself is the process of clothing reality (a fact that is not much considered). What could we “do” without the capacity of “reading” reality. We would find ourselves before a dark mass of foreboding and fear. The most important question is not that of the greatest clarity (easiest words, dressed most modestly, linearity in the correspondences), but rather, and maybe contrarily, that of the greatest richness (different words contrasting the commonplaces, dressed in the liveliest colors, uncertainty of correspondence). The word is also enchantment, marvel, joyous invention, fancy, evocation of something other, not the seal of the already seen, the confirmation of one’s certainties.
The aim of speaking and writing is therefore not that of “clarifying”, but of “enriching” reality, of inviting the unexpected, the unpredictable. The one who communicates has no obligation to give us prescriptions for repair, panaceas for our fears, confirmations of our knowledge, but can even feel free to suggest difficult routes, to make uncertainty and danger flare.
And whoever wants to feel safe in his house is free to stop his reading or cover her ears.