“Fidelity should be strictly opposed to zealotry: a zealot’s fanatical attachment to his Cause is nothing but a desperate expression of his uncertainty and doubt, of his lack of trust in the Cause. A subject truly dedicated to his Cause regulates his eternal fidelity by means of incessant betrayals.”
– Z, LatET, n. 9, xiv
Tag Archives: betrayal
the hypermedia is the ultimate ideological state apparatus; all microcosms of power operate on all levels of sensibility, limited only by the code of the technology which produces it.
in hyperreality: criticism immediately becomes a parody of both itself and the object criticized. this could be termed “the negative dialectics of news.”
it is unclear whether “hypercriticism” would be a solution to the parodic effect the hypermedia has on hyperreality; if anything, it seems it would only add a hypocritical irony to the already-tired joke of criticism.
the effects of immersion in the simulation is “Passion-for-the-Real” syndrome; but this is a typically harmless set of symptoms, the only real passion being Passion for the Code.
critical negativity has been positivized by corporate institutions and the state: henceforth, negativity will be posited as the condition for “growth” and “prosperity.” the negative will not remain negative, and will never again be negative enough to counter “positivity.”
the hypermedia takes advantage of the fundamental uncertainty of knowledge (wittgenstein). this, however, misses the point that we can know certain things, and that the things we know are countable (turing); we cannot know everything, nor can we really know how we know (gödel). the very function of criticism has been thrown into deep uncertainty: it no longer concentrates on what it knows for certain, but is mesmerized by the absent center of an origin for knowledge. obsession with origins is parallel to the Passion for the Real: the origin is the objet a of knowledge, it could be anything that sets off the chain reaction of reason. the hypermedia has made sure there there shall be no lack of those.
cynical critique is regressive and seeks not to change the objects of its criticism; the cynical critic is immune to the powers of argument, logic, and reason because, to the cynic, “all is symbolic fiction except the Real of her own position.”
irony is also a defense against valid critique: it reduces all positions, even the one the ironist occupies, to symbolic fiction. this person may be swayed by an argument, but this is more because of rhetorical form than any relation to truth or goodness.
we have entered what can only be called “a hyperreal phase of socratic dialectics:” if you allow them this much sophistry, they will destroy all sophism; when all sophism is destroyed, all arguments become weightless, equally valid, more true than the Truth.
criticism, in order to escape the vicious circuity of simulation and simulacra, must, like bataille’s conception of literature, PLEAD GUILTY.
pleading guilty in earnest is, to put it in religious terms, seriously confessing that criticism has committed the crime of betrayal. it has colluded with corruption in order to safeguard itself in the academy in the role of “public intellectual.”
pleading guilty is the first step toward regaining the “purity of heart” that a true critic needs in order to “will one thing.” the barriers and obstacles to willing one thing will require the critic to wipe away the stains of past betrayal because the barriers and obstacles today are hypermediated, hyperreal, and possess a nearly unlimited potency in the art of distraction.
willing one thing now requires not just a pure heart but also the austerity of disciplined concentration, concentrated discipline.
The successful politician is one who can successfully conceal the stain of the Real, that irreducible seed of desire that animates sociality in general and ambition in particular. Take note: to recover from a sex scandal is a privilege not usually granted to politicians; professional athletes are more likely to receive a pardon for this so-called offence. However, if infidelity is indeed an “offence” – what or whom could it possibly offend? Even outside of political marriages, infidelity is rather par for the course. If love is a site for truth, it is only arrived at by practicing militant commitment to the object of one’s love. Betrayal is as necessary to the political as divorce law is to marriage: both are and will become ever more common and profitable. A successful politician is free to have extra-marital affairs, so long as they are concealed; a very successful politician may fuck an entire nation, and conceal it behind an empire of screens (Ahmadinejad, Berlusconi, Bush, Putin … our future politics?).
However, what I term “the political” is to be opposed to what I term Politics. The term “political” is to be conceived as a public forum for private interests; a space in which a public order of office is used not for the benefit of the public but for a private individual’s personal gain. This “gain” may be directly sexual, as in the case of Steve Ellis, or it may take the form of a more subtle erotic – in either case, the dynamic is the same, if it is merely the political at stake: an asymmetrical and brutish exchange of power, whether it is a Korean woman who is essentially raped or the entire public of a community put at a disadvantage. Let us not kid ourselves about what we are exactly.
It is the political today that prevents the establishment of Politics proper. Politics proper would establish the names of what constitute “the private individual” and subtract those from the names that register as “public interest.” Such an operation would clearly identify the excess elements (i.e. names) which, although a part of the social situation (the social situation becoming politics in the process of subtraction), are not included within it. Anything less than this is merely political. I do not wish to rehearse the brilliance of Zizek on this point, so please just read his books or believe me.
The problem with the political is that it skips the process of determining which names are to be subtracted from the social situation and simply attempts to form policy out of excessive remainders. This is what is meant by Ideological State Apparatus: the generation of New Names, without first establishing the minimal order of those names. “Names,” of course signifying the different, infinite, myriad forms of human negativity and social antagonism. Today, there are relatively few names to choose among in the realm of Politics (e.g. Right / Left, NDP, Liberal, PC, Labour, Tory). For the loss of Politics, we are compensated with an abundance, a genuine excess of names in the consumer cultural field. This is our anti-oedipal complex (Deleuze, Guittari).
All is not lost and the tide will swing the other way because history is undead and it remembers: even without meaning or at its end history is still dialectical. The rage that keeps the vampire’s heart beating beyond the grave is fueled by blood. Politics now will be the Politics of Rage; the first thing to be subtracted from future sociality will be rage: it will be the paper upon which are listed the conditions for the existence of truth in Politics. True, the state may hold a legal monopoly on violence. But it uses this power sparingly, to intimidate rather than eradicate its enemies (for now). Despite its tactics of bullying, the state is not terrific. It may be horrible, but even it is afraid of being terrorized: like a paranoid miser, it jealously guards what no longer brings it joy (can the hoarder of gold really be said to be enjoying his gold?).
Politics is to be considered the practice of militant fidelity to rage, not necessarily violence but violent indignation at the trivial pursuits of politicians doing the political (more or less playing the jealousy game of lies and secrets, howling when they scent a whiff of Truth). Not terror but its simulacrum: to frighten the state into believing the paranoid threats it dreams have become terminally real and watch as it kisses the phantom.
The difference between “Politics” proper (the practice of a militant social procedure to truth) and the “political” (indecision due to indeterminacy over a name, a name’s property, or a name’s relation to the Real it represents) is to be inscribed as the difference between knowing one’s “rights” and asserting them. Politicians, as we know, only play at politics in public forums: I call this “play” “the political.” Politics, as we know, is practiced in secret by politicians in rooms behind curtains. Obscenity and scandal are now normal and assert themselves with complete complicity on part of the public: gone are the days when we could charge our leaders with the crime of betrayal – alas! the ballot box is not a guillotine.
There is no need to assert rights when there is individual knowledge of them; when the units operating within a symbolic order are “informed” as to their proper behaviour toward one another – rights are obvious, without being asserted. Of course, economic power relations turn the “obvious” into the obscure; the signs of economic status are ambiguous (as all signs are) – one is never sure what political procedures the Other followed to attain that status. Politics, in this regard, would mean determining whether or not the procedure the other followed was a lawful one according to the status of one’s knowledge of the situation – that is: whether or not the names used in the description of the procedure are the correct ones, whether the properties of the names are correspondences and not merely connections, and whether or not the representation of the name is the one best suited to represent the Real of the situation.
The exact place where jealousy and the political intersect is in the phrase “possession of rights.” Whatever form these supposed “rights” happen to take: human, animal, women’s, men’s, environmental, auto, consumer, employer, employee, “to pleasure, to pain,” etc – the result is the same: assertions. The desire for rights is irreducible but not irremediable: we can change the way we pursue and “act out” certain of our rights, for example: the freedom of speech is better exercised when circulating language (conversation, laughter, meaning, etc.), rather than bringing it to a halt (the internet, for such a refined technology, is filled with shit).
We are so jealous of the rights of others – especially if they have none, in which case we force them to assume the pose of “liberty” – we are forced to act and seem as free as possible. It seems as if the assertion of “rights” (ours or others) is an imperative or injunction that impels us to perform freedom: the political as a process of excess – politics as a process of subtraction. “Political” in the sense of a dramatic ritual, reduced to its bare elements, and reproduced as a code ad infinitum. “Politics:” actions / gestures to be interpreted, not for their dramatic significance but for their validity pertaining to the current situation (which may or may not be the site of an event for politics).
Paradoxically, as mentioned above, it seems for us to be a perverse desire to “liberate” those who are not free – or who do not want to be free. So-called political, medical, social “intervention” is nothing but this perversity. We want to make the slaves like us: into masters who do not know their own desire – except in the performance of the slave, constantly amused but never satisfied. Or the reverse: we are slaves that desire to see the masters’ in chains’ – to see them perform our fantasy. These examples are examples of the “political” at its worst: when the desire of the Other becomes little more than a game of possessive jealousy, to add to the other what they lack (or vice versa) in order to make them the same as us!
The current trend in our political situation, as far as I have observed, is to possess “difference” – as if difference were a thing that actually existed or an object with a clear definition. It is impossible to tell whether something appears different or whether its difference is singular; the decision to judge something in the name of difference is now the criteria of justice. However, difference itself is split: between being condemned to villainy and being a grace beyond reproach. My government (Canada) seems to be bent on promoting “difference for the sake of difference,” rather than pursuing difference as a possible evental site (which is not limited to politics). Asserting difference, not being different.
When there is no knowledge left – just names: this is where politics can emerge, where difference can be itself, and the social can begin to build a system based upon the basic elements of the situation. When knowledge becomes the prerequisite criteria for political representation – when even the signs of knowledge translate directly into political power: this is trying to own the language of the situation, a process of exclusion that, paradoxically, is ready, willing, and able to include any term as long as it’s new or belong to any trajectory of thought as long as it’s trendy. The state of “just names” means that each term must be evaluated by each: its value determined from localized points of view that both belong to and are included in the situation to be altered by the practice of politics proper.