The storm put its lips to the house
and blows to make a sound.
I sleep restlessly, turn over, with closed
eyes read the book of the storm.
But the child’s eyes grow huge in the dark
and the storm whimpers for the child.
Both love to see the swinging lamp.
Both are halfway toward speech.
Storms have childlike hands and wings.
The caravan bolts off toward Lapland
and the house senses the constellation of nails
holding its walls together.
The night is quiet above our floor
(where all the died-away footsteps
are lying like sunken leaves in a pond)
but outside the night is wild!
A more serious storm is moving over us all.
It puts its lips to our soul
and blows to make a sound. We’re afraid
the storm will blow everything inside us away.
— Not hear it?—yes, I hear it, and have heard it. Long—long—long—many minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard it—yet I dared not—oh, pity me, miserable wretch that I am!—I dared not—I dared not speak! We have put her living in the tomb! Said I not that my senses were acute? I now tell you that I heard her first feeble movements in the hollow coffin. I heard them—many, many days ago—yet I dared not—I dared not speak! — The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (via creeping-dumpling)
Here I am
as a mad dog
licking the salty crust
of old wounds.
In what language
and with what kind of face
will I tell my children
orphaned of a father
to forget everything?
Vicente Nicolau Cutanda. The Vision of Brother Martin. 1884.
—Can’t you imagine that we’re fished for? Walking on the bottom of a great celestial sea, do you remember the man who came down the rope to undo the anchor caught on the tombstone? — The Recognitions by William Gaddis
“Life would be much better if people stayed out of other people’s business. Don’t get into my business unless you’re going to make me smile or you’re going to help me out of trouble. People get jealous of a strong person who is doing the right thing, and they try to break them down. People have called me ‘goody two-shoes’ because I try to do the right thing. They have done things to me. They have taken things away from me. I don’t like the way the system is set up and the way our government works. It’s designed to take things away from people. People who have done the right thing shouldn’t have things taken away from them. That’s what happened to me. I lost my job for no good reason. I lost my house for no good reason. I stayed in my house for eight years asking for help with big signs on my porch. For years, I faithfully changed the signs when they got old and faded. People used to come by and snap pictures. Then they started saying I was crazy. Do I look like a person who is crazy? At the end, no politicians came. News reporters came when the police entered my house. I pulled a wooden stand my mother had given me and pushed it against the door to keep them from entering, but they still got in through the back door. A lot of people know what happened to me.”
“When did you lose your home?”
“Where are you staying now?”
“I stay at shelters, and I’m going to keep banging on people’s doors until they’re ready to fix this big old funky mess and give me what I’m supposed to have.”
“Is anybody doing anything?”
“They’re going to. I know sooner or later they’re going to do it. It’s going to get done. There’s no stopping this. It may take longer than I would like, but it’s going to happen.
And I’m not the only one who’s been wronged. I’m just someone who is speaking out. I believe in telling. When the police beat me up in the house, I went outside and told the cameramen. Even back when I was a little girl and some of my older brothers and sisters did some things to me and made me cry, I told. Some people say, ‘Don’t snitch.’ I don’t believe in that. In fact, when someone says ‘Don’t snitch’ I’m going to tell on purpose because I don’t like it when people try to silence me. I never liked that.”
It’s my favorite blog on the internet. It’s impossible for me to read through it and not cry.
Was the nineteenth-century family really a monogamic and conjugal cell? Perhaps to a certain extent. But it was also a network of pleasures and powers linked together at multiple points and according to transformable relationships. The separation of grown-ups and children, the polarity established between the parents’ bedroom and that of the children (it became routine in the course of the century when working-class housing construction was undertaken), the relative segregation of boys and girls, the strict instructions as to the care of nursing infants (maternal breast-feeding, hygiene), the attention focused on infantile sexuality, the supposed dangers of masturbation, the importance attached to puberty, the methods of surveillance suggested to parents, the exhortations, secrets, and fears, the presence—both valued and feared—of servants: all this made the family, even when brought down to its smallest dimensions, a complicated network, saturated with multiple, fragmentary, and mobile sexualities. To reduce them to the conjugal relationship, and then to project the latter, in the form of a forbidden desire, onto the children, cannot account for this apparatus which, in relation to these sexualities, was less a principle of inhibition than an inciting and multiplying mechanism. Educational or psychiatric institutions, with their large populations, their hierarchies, their spatial arrangements, their surveillance systems, constituted, alongside the family, another way of distributing the interplay of powers and pleasures; but they too delineated areas of extreme sexual saturation, with privileged spaces or rituals such as the classroom, the dormitory, the visit, and the consultation. The forms of a nonconjugal, nonmonogamous sexuality were drawn there and established. — Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 (via michelsfoucault)
Slum Dwellers in Caracas Ask, What Protests? -
While the middle and upper classes have dug in against President Nicolás Maduro’s government, the poor have in large part stayed away.
this was somehow on the front page of the new york times today. it’s actually good save for its complete lack of self-awareness.
On the east side of this capital city, where the rich people tend to live, most children have stayed home from school for more than a week, protest bonfires burn in the streets at night, stores shut early and carnival celebrations have been canceled.
But on the west side, where many of the poor people live under tin roofs, you would hardly know that the country has been stirred by weeks of unrest. Schools operate normally, restaurants serve up arepas, and residents, enjoying the extra days off that President Nicolás Maduro has given the country, prepare to crown their carnival queens.
Both sides of this city, the better off and the poorer, are dealing with many of the same frustrations: one of the world’s worst inflation rates, hours spent in line to buy food and other basic goods in short supply, and rampant violent crime.
But while the poor are often hit especially hard by these troubles, the protests shaking the capital this month have been dominated by the city’s middle- and upper-class residents. They have poured into the streets of their neighborhoods en masse, turning them into barricaded redoubts. Yet in the city’s poorer sections, life has mostly gone on as usual.
For all the upheaval, the disconnect between wealthier and poorer areas could seriously limit the impact of the protest movement, a weakness that some of its leaders seem keenly aware of.
But while conditions are often tough in poor neighborhoods like Hornos de Cal and La Televisora, which cascade down the sides of a steep hill near the center of Caracas, things are far better than they were 15 years ago, before Mr. Chávez was president and before oil prices soared, bringing greater prosperity after years of hard times.
There is improved water and electrical service, and many homes now have telephone lines with broadband Internet provided by the government phone company. And there is a low-cost, government-built cable car that carries residents to and from the city center in minutes, a life-changing transformation from the past, when they had to slog up the hill or often pay taxis to drive them.
That has made many people reluctant to demonstrate against the government, even if they are unhappy with Mr. Maduro.
“Who will protest if every day they can ride the cable car and be glad to have that as a form of transport?” said Ms. Medina, the restaurant worker.
Danaë (1636), oil on canvas, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg | artwork by Rembrandt
My concern is that we feel compelled to dissect and runs tests on the appreciations, longings, and interests of one another not for the admiration we feel towards them, but because we view them with suspicion. At having expressed interest in or appreciation of anything–a painting, a band, a political thought or ideology, a quote from a novel–have you ever been placed under interrogation, directly or indirectly, about said object or idea? Did they ask if you knew every member of the band? Did they ask you about the author’s history with a rare blood disease? Did they ask in what year the association had been founded and under what cirumstances? Did they ask about the secret handshake? Or are we guarding ourselves against the onslaught of faddism? When appropriation without investment or appreciation is rampant, wouldn’t we demand to know more about someone’s intrigues?
Art and philosophy have become less about consideration and admiration and more about an encyclopedic comprehension and encyclopedic comprehensiveness. Much like the dichotomy of producer and consumer swollen under capitalist regimentation, this new era of the internet has stressed the role of the documentarian, a sort of consumer spin-off, that indexes facts–facts, facts, facts and numbers–and stores them like ammunition at best and for nothing at worst. Even ideas and criticism become facts rather than interpretation or anything to be treated with a degree of discretion.
Have you been to a museum lately? How long does anyone linger before one piece? It doesn’t matter anymore, if it ever did, whether you are scrolling through tumblr or whether you are on location at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, because you view the art in almost the same way. Have you seen people interact with the art? It is not even photography anymore, great photographic instruments being for some not all, but an act of capture via cellphones, a tool of amateur pornography. Everything must be documented even though the quality of the picture is crap and there are a million images of this famous painting or this famous sculpture–or this famous photograph!–or this famous vista, available online already. So why bother with the picture? The story of the well-meaning tourists visiting Mexico Sontag’s On Photography come accelerating back to mind. These photographs serve only to confirm that one was there, to document one’s time–I am guilty of this–,to place on the instagram feed, the tumblr blog, the facebook profile, and to gain approval from having saw what one was supposed to see and to have added another plot line to the narrative of your life.
It doesn’t add up to me, because the fact-based craze seems to indicate a desire for precision and exploration, whereas the pornographic documentation reveals a shallowness, a lack of intimacy with the things of admiration or observation. Even a destruction.
Everything should already be known and any lack of prior knowledge is a severe deficiency. Of course the search for knowledge, the practice of erudition, is central to our human lives, but it is always central to our life for we know nothing at any given point, whereas under current sentiment we are expected to know everything. And when we don’t, we must be prepared for ridicule or prepared to GET educated, and by that what is meant is, to GET schooled, not to become educated or enlightened in any real affecting way. In the case of viral phenomenae on the internet which are based on revelation–uncovering history (because we’re all cyberspace sleuths)–you are not confronted with a fact you did not previously know, you are confronted with an ideology, with indignation at how foolish you are for having previously walked the earth unaware of all historical truths. Of course so much truth, so many stories, have already been lost to us. It is almost never about truth and reality and a documentation of what happened. It is about ideology, rhetorical combat, or in the more emotional context, longings.
There are contradictions everywhere. It is supposedly an age where personal opinions are tolerated. And isn’t this true? Oftentimes at least we do tolerate each other. I was listening to Doris Sommer, professor at Harvard, speak one day, and she was discussing the concept of tolerance. When we tolerate each other, she said, what do we do? We wait for the other person to stop speaking.
We are entitled to what we think and what we think we know. No one should tell us we are wrong, it is our duty to tell others they are wrong, because we are armed with facts. If we are armed with facts, then we should not be wrong. In a time when many people in the West and East of the United States, Europe, China, and Japan are deserting the ancient religions, they are, counter to common rhetoric, falling into new ones. The world is quantifiable, argued as if it is built not of atoms, themselves nearing some sort of energy ghostliness, but of objectives, and most of all, facts, a new race of demi-gods–if you worship them you are fallen into good graces. If you do not you descend into the pits of hell. We are surrounded by people who think they have escaped the old religions, people who are “not religious, but spiritual,” who have simply replaced one set of Ten Commandments with another, the Bill of Rights. More intangibles. It is no longer about consideration or admiration or appreciation or true emotional depth, true feeling (the emotional spectrum now a binary between outrage and inane ‘feels’), because to take that plunge is to attempt to pick away at, or to go beyond, so-called facts, to see without google glasses, that is, without information clutter. It is about seeing and feeling and understanding, not about knowing, and this is sacrilege and pagan, it is autonomous rather than pious. It is pretentious to avoid facts, when facts are so easily consumable, because it means that we may gain more from our own consideration of something than from being told something from the compiled information.
Supposedly, personal opinions and feelings and expression have never been so lauded over, and yet when one tries to display passion, or exercise autonomy over facts, or muddle through a Monet in search of a beating heart among the lily pads–one we cannot distinguish from our own,– it is loathed, met with sighs, indignation, indifference, or a performative incomprehension. We proudly express our inability to understand and proudly decree anything short of information and objective frigidness as being nothing but pretense, just as we might shun or stone any heretic who does not follow the True Word of God or we might slay anyone who refrains from our ideology.
So that if I might attend a discussion on race and bring up the argumentation and philosophies of those I’ve read, if I want to talk about Albert Murray or Sojourner Truth or Malcolm X or Frantz Fanton or bell hooks or Stanley Crouch or W.E.B. DuBois or anyone else, then it is not seen so much as the injection of fact into a debate but forms of passion and pretense, stirred by my emotional investment in an issue or an idea, the historical lineage of which has been sought in a way frighteningly dissociated from the way we scroll through social media’s uncontextualized confetti unconcerned with its origin and genealogy, or the way Wikipedia treats time, history, and lineage, where it should seemingly facilitate this multi-linear inheritance of ideas, passions, and knowledge.
Even love is affected by these turn of events. What is heterosexuality anymore? Has there ever been a time in history when homos like me and other non-straight people should envy heterosexuals less? Love and sex are unaffectionate, not vulgar in the sexy sense but vulgar in the sense that they are afraid of themselves. Heterosexuality has lost so much “the sizzle,” as Camille Paglia refers to it at one point. Hook-ups and online dating and dating apps and “banging”–again, I’m fraught with guilt–slice away love and sex from seduction. They don’t simply shy away from, but contract at the thought of the mental depths of these fundamental human experiences exposed by the formerly necessary acts of risk and the depth of a connection rather than an exchange, and idea of feeling and navigating through and into the other, the stranger, which requires acuteness and interpretation of highly subjective gestures, wordplay, changes in physical complexion and other actions and signals. It is what Slavoj Zizek calls “the contractual.”
It is similar to–though not exactly the same as–the painting or the song. The knowledge is skewed. You very well may know from the other person’s online profile that they love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and that they are 5’7’’ and that they go to the gym every tuesday and thursday, and you may facebook stalk them and figure out they went to Roosevelt High School and that they graduated as a National Honor Society student or that they were convicted of a DUI when they were eighteen. But any interpretation of these facts, and therefore, any interpretation of the individual, is foregone and rejected. You don’t really know what turns this person on because you have not figured out how to seduce them (figuerd out what it is that does turn them on), because you have not seduced them, and if you’re like me and you crave romance, if you wait to be seduced or attempt to seduce, you’ll be met with, if not outright rejection, then consternation, hesitation, and confusion.
You are not dialoguing with anyone. And we are not used to dialoguing with anyone anyways. Not here, right now, anyways. Not very much. We are insulated–our blogs, our feeds, the news sites we choose to read, the radio stations we choose to listen to, the lectures we choose to attend–a completely personalized space where anything threatening is not allowed for fear it violate our fundamental, universal, natural or inherent (inherent from whom?) rights. A space that cultivates, as Elias Aboujaoude describes, narcissism and other crude parts of ourselves. You cannot have a dialogue with a soundbite or a “fact.” When we look for love or sex we’re not speaking, we’re negotiating terms of agreement.
We are even more isolated because we have not addressed the invisible world. In fact, we make fewer and fewer things visible everyday in part by dissociating them from the world. This overpersonalization is as a church of a certain denomination we attend. Except we do not attend every Sunday anymore but nearly constantly. And when we are preaching we are often preaching like those people on the street. Maybe you saw them when you were younger. I used to know them in places like Downtown Crossing or Faneuil Hall or any other highly public location, shouting into crowds for hour after hour converting no one, rousing no one (in any way they might hope, anyways), replete with facts and biblical verse and condemnation for anyone who did not already know the words or who would not adopt them immediately, sans education. That wasn’t the point, the point was for you to get “schooled.” To walk away in shock, awe, and harboring more than a little guilt.
And again we are buried under rhetoric, or rather, our rhetoric buries others. We are a globalized society, an interconnected world. Yet still billions remain off the grid, disconnected, certainly effected by this reality but not consuming the same knowledge and not engaging in the same social interaction. And certainly not on a day-to-day basis. This is the creation of a false ‘we’. I’m on a unveristy campus, which gives me some first hand examples of this process.
On a campus there will be a leadership club. They will be The Leaders. There will be an LGBT+ association. They will The Gays. There will be fraternities and sororities. They are creating a power structure, a hierarchy, perhaps a hegemony. No one will say they are the only leaders or the only gays, but they will be the center of gravity. They will speak as The Leaders and The Gays and The Engineers and The South Asian Students and The Drama Students and The Republican Students and the harm is not in the organization–organization has toppled centuries worth of dictators–but that they will inadvertently fall into the trap of thinking that they are the world, the bearer of the things to gospel or the ideology, that everyone else recognizes them with as much legitimacy as they recognize themselves.
Such as any cinematic or literary or athletic hierarchy, they begin to see themselves not so much as the organized community, but as The Community. They are exerting dominance and power and obscuring the underworld. They are priests and bishops and they have the blessing and the word of God. They regard one another, and so are overtaken by further hallucinations of the alter. You will of course understand that you have not”made it” until you’ve made it with them. You have not made the best film until you’ve made the Best Picture. You will not have been one of the greatest baseball players of all time until you have made it onto the wall in Cooperstown, a house of the sanctified. And if we have not reached–out of failure or choice or ignorance or ostracization–to reach these realms, we will remain invisible and our inferiority will be factually calculated and considered.
Even the city will be navigated according to this dogma. It has been this way, in fact, for so long, due to the only very recent ubiquitous proliferation of quick and fast mobility. It has lasted so long because we all live in small worlds. There is no difference between the mental scale of a person who lives in a big city, a suburb, a village, on a farm miles and miles away from the next nearest family, or in the middle of the ocean, even if the topography is varied. The cosmopolis suffers under the weight of balkanization. South Boston or Sudbury or Cummington or Aurora, South Dakota. We go to cities to become better people and then what happens? We are pinpoints on a GPS map cutting our way down avenues and through parks. We are still in a small town, but the thing is that we may avoid the local citizens (our friends, family, co-workers, classmates) by interacting with a zillion other populations every day. And once in a while we will still fall in with one another. And then we are urbanists.
But until that point, or at other points, the city is to be regarded as a set of notions. If on social networking sites and in the museums and now during dating and seduction–we do not linger on one another with the absence of seduc(a)tion, do we?–we are barely observing and then there is not much left to process. If we know that Compton is a dangerous place then we know that as a fact. So we may make the clear, logical deduction that if Compton is a dangerous place, it is dangerous for us. And because there is no reasonable temporal dimension to these crime statistics (decades perhaps: “Compton was so dangerous in the 90s, it is not as dangerous now.”) except for day and night, we assume that Compton is dangerous at any time, and it is especially dangerous at night. Again a fear of darkness: inwardness, contemplation, earthliness, in favor of the light and illumination of fact and divinity and truth.
Or we will make a different claim, that Compton is not as dangerous as we think. Or it as dangerous as we think, but less dangerous for normal citizens as it is for gang members. In any case, we will not know this by visiting the city, walking around, talking to people, and observing and processing it. A good measure of both is good, for what is to stop someone from extrapolating their own day as a trend–today I was perfectly fine, so this place is always fine. Or I was mugged, so this place is dangerous. But this is short-changing the process, for someone should be able to contain the facts and the observations to reach the conclusion. “Compton is dangerous according to general knowledge and statistics, however, walking around today I was unharmed and unthreatened, and this is partly because I know that in the middle of the day I am unlikely to be threatened or attacked , although how likely or unlikely that is I do not know.” Nobody would think exactly like that, or most of us wouldn’t, but that is the process.
Or maybe scrap the whole thing. Maybe talk in terms of “I feel safe when I am in Compton.” “I’ve haven’t felt unsafe in Compton yet.” This might make us uncomfortable. Is it devoid of ideology or not? It’s not real data, it’s not a factoid, it’s not an objective piece of information. It might be pretense–we are perceived to believe we can “set the facts” and “make others believe what we want them to believe.” We are so used to threatening one another with our artilleries of facts, opinions, positions, arguments, data, and other forms of confrontational information that we would place ourselves in the defensive position. This is why we don’t believe in certain kinds of myth–the supernatural, the God of the Christian Bible, Allah, the Hindu Gods, ghosts–things that have been exposed because there are such clear Others who want us to believe in them (the Pope, the Priests, Unlce Tony, the weird neighbor kid) but we believe so vehemently in The Economy, The State, The Fact, The Objective, The Right, and the secularity of all our beliefs (which we are being indoctrinated with through books and internet databases and the anonymous voices of radio and television we have tuned into, leading us to believe we are discovering this information), as Columbus is said to have discovered the America’s, a religious and ideological statement that calcifies into fact until new ideologies topple old ones and the masses riot against it, arguing the negative, obvious, and semantic point of view that Columbus did not discover anything, because the people who lived in the Americas were already there and were self-aware.
But one other thing he did, and I was again surprised when I came to this country: how segregated culture has become, like if you’re an Iranian woman coming from a country that is now just known as Muslim without defining what Muslim means, everybody told me ‘Great, you have a great opportunity to go into women’s studies and teach Islamic literature.’ I said, ‘No you go to women’s studies and teach Islamic literature,’ because the whole idea of literature and thought is about the Other.
It is about a man named Dick Davis who is a British poet teaching at Ohio State University translating Firdawsi and Gurgani. And someone from Iran, a young girl who has never left the Islamic Republic of Iran who reads Nabokov in English in a way that maybe her English peers would not. You know, that is the whole idea of literature; it is about the Other. It is investigation of the stranger, that intimate stranger, within you and without. — (Again quoting from) Azar Nafisi speaking at the LA Public Library