Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Fewtril #53

With mass education, one must expect that fools will no longer be satisfied with simple truths, and will most likely become fodder for the sophisticated falsehoods of clever men.

Friday, 16 December 2005

Fewtril #52

Many fools believe the surest way to appear clever is by declaring dissatisfaction with compelling explanations, as if they see deeper, and by denying widely attested phenomena, as if they see beyond the myths. It seems that some amongst them have achieved such mastery of this trick that it comes as a natural reaction without conscious pretence.

Fewtril #51

The ideologue prefers ideas to facts – and so might every man, yet not every man is so luxuriant in his dealings with the world nor so indulgent in treating himself to his own preferences, that he would buy at the price of his intelligence a serenity and a stupidity and a security therefrom.

Fewtril #50

Feminist scholarship may yet secure its greatest contribution to human knowledge in attempting to prove that the man in the moon is in fact a bearded lady.

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Stark Megalomania

Whining brats sometimes complain that they never asked to be born, and though this complaint might lack grace, it resounds with truth. That one wasn’t present at one’s conception, signing a letter of consent, or even holding out for a better deal, is a fact as uncontroversial as one is ever likely to meet. It is similarly uncontroversial that one cannot live for as long as one does not agree to die. Acceptance of these things – that one is born without one’s agreement and that one will die whether one likes it or not – marks a basic acceptance of the world about us, and one would hope that everyone accepts these facts without controversy, without fuss, and preferably without penning dreadful plays peopled with cheerless pillocks lamenting them.
But life amongst the squabbling apes of this planet affords us the view that nothing is necessarily without controversy:
My world view . . . is not like that of many people with whom I have either close or distant relationships or acquaintanceships. It begins with a deliberate movement by me to agree to conception, and travels and weaves through the lives and deaths of others near and far, leading ultimately to my own ending which will take place with my full agreement. I do not mean to suggest that I know the time or the how, only that I am sure that life will require my agreement to leave as it did to arrive.
Khyla Russell, “Movements”, Junctures, Vol 4, June 2005.
No doubt some academic defence of these words could be mustered, proclaiming them to be helpfully metaphorical or instructively mystical or deeply wise or some such piffle. As far as I can see, however, these words indicate a detachment from reality and a stark megalomania. Is it pertinent or flippant to mention that the author has a PhD in Anthropology?

Monday, 12 December 2005

Fewtril #49

When many people, citing rational thought as their guide, come to the same non-sequitous conclusion, then one ought to consider that there is in common a philosopher who has done their thinking for them.

Friday, 9 December 2005

The Professor of Absurdity

If it were true that “[t]he belief in truth is part of the elementary forms of religious life . . . [and] is a weakness of understanding, of common-sense” [1], and one believed it to be true, then necessarily one would be weak of understanding and common-sense. This is of course an absurdity, than which in the sophistication of modern life it is hard to find a more salient example. In consideration of the works of Jean Baudrillard, however, from which the quoted words are drawn, such absurdities are neither rare nor hidden.
.....It has been said that Jean Baudrillard is “a symptom, a sign, a charm, and above all, a password into the next universe” [2], which hagiographic hogwash nevertheless leads me rather to the opinion that we should take our chances with the reality of this universe. But Prof. Baudrillard, for whom “[r]eality, in general, is too evident to be true” [3], would like to make it known that he has boldly gone where nobody can go. At least, if it is from the evidence of real life that he believes that “nobody . . . believe[s] in the evidence of real life” [4], then I presume he must be that nobody of whom he speaks and who boldly goes.
.....Such silliness has provoked ridicule of Prof. Baudrillard, and it has obviously caused him some hurt, which he hopes can be soothed by more silliness:
Say: I am real, this is real, the world is real, and nobody laughs. But say: this is a simulacrum, you are only a simulacrum, this war is a simulacrum, and everybody bursts out laughing. With a condescending and yellow laughter, or perhaps a convulsive one, as if it was a childish joke or an obscene invitation. . . . Truth is what should be laughed at. One may dream of a culture where everyone bursts into laughter when someone says: this is true, this is real. [5]
The vehicle by which Baudrillard believes we may travel beyond truth and reality is that which he terms “radical thought”, which “is in no way different from radical usage of language. . . . [and] is therefore alien to any resolution of the world which would take the direction of an objective reality and of its deciphering.” [6] Furthermore,
This thought wants to be illusion, restituting non-veracity to the facts, non-signification to the world, and formulating the reverse hypothesis that there may be nothing rather than something, tracking down this nothingness which runs under the apparent continuation of meaning. [7]
The efforts of many an intellectual to implement this “radical thought” are humble in comparison to those of such a master-absurdling as Prof. Baudrillard, who is in “the next universe”, as it were. It takes a special kind of dedication, for instance, to produce such pretentious drivel as “Photography also questions ‘pure reality.’ It asks questions to the Other. But it does not expect an answer” [8] or “[O]nly in our sleep, our unconscious, and our death are we identical to ourselves.” [9] Nevertheless, our academicians are coming along nicely, and our journalists and politicians have made sterling efforts at “restituting non-veracity to the facts”. This must fill him with hope.
.....It would be wrong to say that reading through the works of Jean Baudrillard is always a chore; for one may find relief in questions that require of the reasonable man only short answers: “Couldn’t we transpose onto social and historical phenomena language games like the anagram, acrostic, spoonerism, rhyme, strophe or stanza and catastrophe?” [10] or “Does architecture still exist beyond its own reality . . . ?”. [11] The short answers are: “No” and “No”. (If you require the long answers, then there is little hope for you.) Moreover, we owe him a debt of thanks for expressing what could stand as the confession of the modern ideologue: “Consequences and effects interest me less than devaluing” [12].
.....Indeed, it is to Jean Baudrillard that we owe one of the clearest formulations yet written of the creed of pseudo-philosophic obfuscation: “The absolute rule of thought is to return the world as we received it: unintelligible. And if it is possible, to return it a little bit more unintelligible.” [13]
[1] Jean Baudrillard, “La Pensee Radicale”, in Collection Morsure, ed., Sens & Tonka, (Paris, 1994); tr., F. Debrix, “Radical Thought”, online at The European Graduate School.
[2] Arthur Kroker & Charles Levin, "Baudrillard's Challenge," The Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, vol 8:1-2 (1984), 5-16. p. 5.
[3] Jean Baudrillard, “La Pensee Radicale”.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Jean Baudrillard, “La Photographie ou l'Ecriture de la Lumiere: Litteralite de l'Image,” in L'Echange Impossible, (Paris: Galilee, 1999), pp. 175-184. Translated by Francois Debrix as “Photography, Or The Writing Of Light”, online at the European Graduate School.
[9] Jean Baudrillard, “La Pensee Radicale”.
[10] Jean Baudrillard, Hystericizing the Millennium. (L'Illusion de la fin: ou La greve des evenements (Paris: Galilee, 1992.)) Excepted and Translated online by Charles Dudas at The European Graduate School.
[11] (“Existiert die Architektur noch jenseits ihrer eigenen Realität . . . ?”) Jean Baudrillard, “Architektur: Wahrheit oder Radikalität?” At The European Graduate School.
[12] (“Mich interessieren weniger die Konsequenzen und Auswirkungen als das Entwertende”), Jean Baudrillard. (Interview) “Demokratie, Menschenrechte, Markt, Liberalismus.” Frankfurter Rundschau, 28th November 2002.
[13] Jean Baudrillard, “La Pensee Radicale

Wednesday, 30 November 2005

White with Loathing

To read and find ugly a sentence such as “Personalised embodied narratives foreground the particularity of the everyday” requires no rare sensibility. No fine eye is needed, furthermore, to see that it bears the markings of a pseudo-philosophic pretence that might hide a banality at best or an absurdity at worst. One might appreciate that to write such stuff and find it worthy of expression, however, requires several years of academic instruction, in which span of time any trace of aesthetic sensibility or mental acuity is exorcised as if it were a foul and irksome ghost. Hence we should not be startled to discover that the author of this squalid phrase is suitably qualified to express it, being that she is a lecturer in the language of which it is a blight.
Anne Brewster, like many a lecturer in English, does not much concern herself with the English language or the literature of the “dead white males” whose works have helped to shape it; for like many of her ilk she is obsessed with race, and in particular with the “project of rewriting whiteness”. Quite what this might entail, I cannot tell, though it seems to involve a desire not to be white, if the following is anything to go by:
If it is patently impossible to divest ourselves of whiteness, I'd suggest, perhaps the best we (as white subjects) can hope for is persistently to interrupt our narrativisation of it.
Anne Brewster, “Writing Whiteness: the Personal TurnAustralian Humanities Review, Issue 35, June 2005.
Plainly, I have arrived on the scene late in the day; for the assumption has already been made that no decent person could possibly be white and of good conscience. Assuming then that “whiteness” is a sin, and that we are not yet able to divest ourselves of it, how are we “to interrupt our narrativisation of it”? Our author has a suggestion:
If, as [Richard] Dyer suggests, the project of refunctioning whiteness necessitates ‘making whiteness strange’ [White, (London: Routledge, 1997. p. 4)], this can be effected through making oneself strange. (Ibid.)
You may be disappointed to learn that “making oneself strange” does not involve standing in corners at parties muttering to oneself about the contents of one’s tool-shed, nor does it recommend keeping black puddings as pets. It involves rather reading “indigenous literature” in order that one may somehow become estranged from oneself towards a new identity less afflicted with “whiteness”:
I have argued elsewhere . . . that the experience of defamiliarisation produced by reading indigenous literature, for example, shifts us into a space of uncertainty because the ‘self’ to which we return is not a fixed site. Defamiliarisation reminds us of the inability of identity to remain identical to itself and of the fact that whiteness itself is a zone of indeterminacy. (Ibid.)
This wish to destroy one’s own kind reminds me somewhat of the tragic Otto Weininger, the philosopher and Viennese Jew, of whom even Hitler was reputedly an admirer; and with statements such as the following, it is not difficult to see why:
To defeat Judaism, the Jew must first understand himself and war against himself. So far, the Jew has reached no further than to make and enjoy jokes against his own peculiarities.
(Otto Weininger, Sex and Character. (London: William Heinemann, 1906.) p. 207.)
Herr Weininger committed suicide at the age of twenty-three. I do not know whether Ms Brewster views suicide as an option, in order that she might finally divest herself of whiteness. I get the feeling, however, that persons such as she would like to be around to shepherd the rest us off first. The last man out shuts the door, as it were.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Fewtril #48

The meaning of the word “potato” has hitherto remained largely unperverted, mostly because there has been little advantage in claiming “potato” to be on one’s side. If however all the schemes of politicos and partisans had depended upon the claim thereto, and all the ingenuity of philosophers had been brought to bear thereupon, so far as such actions have been taken against “truth” and “justice”, we should find a great many and diverse vegetables signified; and with some foreboding we might see the view arise that there is no such thing as a potato.

Monday, 28 November 2005

Fewtril #47

It is a curiosity of almost fathomless wonder that a pseudo-philosopher who professes the ultimate senselessness of words should be able to persuade his followers that this is the last word in sense.

Fewtril #46

An oft-used and potent defence for a downright stupid idea is the evoking of the name of the celebrated thinker who first advocated it.

Friday, 25 November 2005

Fewtril #45

Whenever the will of the people is expressed in a way that is displeasing to our political elite, it is described as a threat to democracy, even though by its very nature it is an expression thereof. A threat to individual liberties, it may be, but then what else can one expect when one has promised the beast the run of the place?

Fewtril #44

A humanist is a creature akin to a human, of whom it makes an object of superstitious worship, but for whom it has little sympathy.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Fewtril #43

If you wish to fathom the ills of modern society, a good place to start is sociology; and once you have learnt from this mistake, you can begin to look at the matter seriously; and once you have looked at the matter seriously, you can then begin to take account of what is due to sociology.

Fewtril #42

Against what is usually said, it is not the Muslim but the Christian who must adapt to the reality of the Western order, in one way at least; namely in that if he wishes the liberal intelligentsia to pay respect and even obeisance to his religion, he should hold the threat of violence over those who do not; for time and again, our self-styled guardians of thought have shown themselves to be swayed less by argument and righteousness than by violence and power; for they are the quintessence of corrupt intellect and craven character.