Briefly: when culture, in the midst of its collapse, will be coated with stains, almost a constellation of stains, a veritable deposit of garbage;
when the ideologues will have become too abject to attack property relations, but also too abject to defend them, and the masters they championed, but were not able to serve, will banish them;
when words and concepts, no longer bearing almost any relation to the things, acts and relations they designate, will allow one either to change the latter without changing the former, or to change words while leaving things, acts and relations intact;
when one will need to be prepared to kill in order to get away with one’s life;
when intellectual activity will be so restricted that the very process of exploitation will suffer;
when great figures will no longer be given the time needed to repent;
when treason will have stopped being useful, abjection profitable, or stupidity advisable;
when even the unquenchable blood-thirst of the clergy will no longer suffice and they will have to be cast out;
when there will be nothing left to unmask, because oppression will advance without the mask of democracy, war without the mask of pacifism, and exploitation without the mask of the voluntary consent of the exploited;
when the bloodiest censorship of all thinking will reign supreme, but redundant, all thought having already disappeared;
oh, on that day the proletariat will be able to take charge of a culture reduced to the same state in which it found production: in ruins.
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Knowledge which goes so far as to accept horror in order to know it, reveals the horror of knowledge, its squalor, the discrete complicity which maintains it in a relation with the most insupportable aspects of power. I think of that young prisoner of Auschwitz (he had suffered the worst, led his family to the crematorium, hanged himself; after being saved at the last moment - how can one say that: saved? - he was exempted from contact with dead bodies, but when the SS shot someone, he was obliged to hold the victim's head so that the bullet could be more easily lodged in the neck). When asked how he could bear this, he is supposed to have answered that he "observed the comportment of men before death." I will not believe it. As Lewental, whose notes were found buried near a crematorium wrote to us, "The truth was always more atrocious, more tragic than what will be said about it." Saved at the last minute, the young man of whom I speak was forced to live that last instant again and each time to live it once more, frustrated every time of his own death and made to exchange it every time for the death of all. His response ("I observed the comportment of men...") was not a response; he could not respond. What remains for us to recognize in this account is that when he was faced with an impossible question, he could find no other alibi than the search for knowledge, the so-called dignity of knowledge: that ultimate propriety which we believe will be accorded us by knowledge. And how, in fact, can one accept not to know? We read books on Aushwitz. The wish of all, in the camps the last wish: know what has happened, do not forget, and at the same time never will you know.
The Writing of the Disaster, p.82
Scattering Some Speculations About the Scattering of "Scattered Speculations on the Qustion of Value" in A Critique of Postcolonial Reason
So I have moved into another text, outside of the main text under consideration (detour has been my M.O. as of late). And besides, how can one concentrate on just one text, when so many other texts are woven into it? Interestingly Spivak only informs the reader of just what place Value holds in her theory within the pages of A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: it is a Derridian “lever of intervention” – the lever of transgression and bafflement with which to turn the text.
Hoping then, that this will not appear too off-topic but fold into the on-topic, I want to begin with Spivak’s treatment of an exchange between Deleuze and Foucault as a “site of betrayal”. Their problematic dismissal of representation (to which I must attend to my own re-readings of certain passages in The Order of Things) through a “postrepresentationalist rhetoric” utilizes what Spivak perceives – correctly to some degree – as a “vocabulary [that] hides an essentialist agenda” (A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, 271). So she will then “spend some time with the hegemonic radicals” (248) in order to unpack the problematic in the full knowledge of her precarious position.
Using the form of the conversation to “glimpse the track of ideology” (CPR, 249), Spivak maintains that
“Some of the most radical criticism coming out of the West in the eighties was the result of an interested desire to conserve the Subject of the West, or the West as Subject. The theory of pluralized “subject-effects” often provided a cover for this subject of knowledge.” (CPR, 248)
“Intellectuals and Power” was a conversation that happened in March of ’72 – and Spivak seems to miss the relevance of the time of this exchange (four years after May ’68). She therefore misses the larger textual weave of those statements by Deleuze and Foucault, implicated as they are in the revolutionary desire of oppressed groups – even if - part of the problem – only in France - that began to speak for themselves (even if there was no speech, but the speaking manifested itself in the struggle). Spivak might criticize Deleuze for positing unicity at the level of the worker – as in the workers’ struggle – but she misses the problem of organization that is here implied, that Deleuze does engage with ideology, but will have nothing to do with the value, the desire, that would manifest itself in any “ideology of the proletariat” (organization through leadership vs. self-organization) – thus it is not Deleuze and Foucault, or the fault of this critique of subjectivity that posits an “undivided subject”. They themselves are not necessarily responsible for this, but rather those who have used them in their wake (Spivak’s work must have its own consequences, of course). Spivak seems to be reprimanding them for not deconstructing properly (if at all, since they weren’t “deconstructionists”), for not being careful enough (and incidentally I must indicate that I do not myself feel as though I am being careful enough with Spivak’s text), that they were somehow being irresponsible thoerists.
Yet, it might also appear that Spivak’s reading here is itself somewhat irresponsible - that by way of her accusations, and the positions they imply, she must disregard that “larger textual weave” so as to miss in Deleuze the place of Science (thermodynamics, chaos…) that she grazes with McCluhan and Lyotard, the significance of a theory of the event (Spivak does however elsewhere acknowledge not being well equipped for such exposition), or the play and importance of major/minor distinctions (such as take place in ATP) and the concept of multiplicity (of importance when considering Foucault as well).
But then, there is always the realization that this particular kind of engagement might run directly against the form of analysis Spivak is putting forth as (“simply”) a literary critic, being too eclectic and perhaps actually providing a cover for the unacknowledged subject of knowledge. Do Foucault and Deleuze then, really remain “incapable of dealing with global capitalism”(250)? Or do they truly “ignore the international division of labor”(250)? While duly noting the points Spivak is making here, I must in partial defense of their exchange posit my own answer to these questions as “no”.
So why is it that Foucault and Deleuze might fall victim to the kind of valuing that Spivak is able to avoid? Well, she makes the reader aware of her complicities, of course. Spivak is seduced by cappuccinos, by Commes de Garcon, 100% artist-woven cotton, and a position at Columbia University along with the comforts it provides (that she can’t seem to say enough about - if only to reveal the complicities of the University itself, of course);she is after all, a real New Yorker. These points in her text, as she would say, are salutary.
But then just when dismissed, Deleuze returns, brushed off but still of some use – no different really, from the treatment he receives in “Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value”, as Jon has already pointed to. The Anti-Oedipal gesture, it seems, has done some service toward the questioning of Value after all. The flows of “desiring-production” are recognized as a working out of the possibilities of the theory of value, marking the point where value and desire are nearly synonymous in their “nominalist catachresis”, since
“Just as “value” itself is a misleading word because, strictly speaking, it is catachrestic, so is “desire’ misleading because of its paleonymic burden of an originary phenomenal passion – from philosophical intentionality on the one hand to psychoanalytic definitive lack on the other.” (CPR, 105)
And the question that keeps returning: what kind of value? Aesthetic, subjective, otherwise? There is the “valuing” of individuals within regimes of communication, such as Foucault would point to. There is also Value’s role in canon-formation (the problem of choice, indecision, undecidability). (And if literary critics such as Spivak have faced such difficulties in seeking alternative canon-formations, for artists and art historians or critics, it has been no different. The question most asked today when confronted with major art historical texts or survey exhibitions is “what’s been left out?”, and inevitably there is always something, always an axe to grind, since a politics is always at work.) Nate has already mentioned in comments that it is not worthwhile to consider value as substantial, and this I think makes the invocation of Deleuze even more relevant, since perhaps value can be thought not as something substantially existing in time, but rather through time, as a movement and becoming. In the expanded field, value becomes parasitic, a parasite on use-value as Spivak notes. Adorno already recognized a consequence:
The more inexorably the principle of exchange value destroys use value for human beigns, the more deeply does exchange value disguise itself as the object of enjoyment. (The Culture Industry, 39)
Or yet again, Spivak:
In the broad stroke, the economic is the most abstract and rational instance. It is among the visible aggregative apparatuses whose irreducible constituents are the heterogenous pouvoir/savoir field, where the total or expanded form of value is incessantly coded, affectively, cognitively, and in ways that, by being named, are as much effaced as disclosed. (CPR, 104)
In passages that follow, Spivak warns to keep political avant-gardism at bay when considering affective labor – hence the “apocalyptic tone” invoked toward the end of “Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value” and its shearing of any utopianism. More problematic still are interest and intention, as all decisions have consequences (our complicities) such that our intentions are often those through which the road to a hybridized postmodern postcolonial multiculturalist globalization are paved. She warns as well that in placing ourselves within this textuality we not conflate and confuse “culture” and “power” (the words are comparable, but not the same – as she warns that shifts in the determinations of capital must not be seen as merely the effect of changes in culture). We should also beware of the lurking “epistemic violence” in theory, where the dangers of elitism are not trivial, since often theory can become just another way to differentiate oneself from the underclass. Spivak makes a not to be ignored suggestion that “we must learn to be responsible as we must study to be political” (CPR, 378), and that any “radical art” with a claim to politics must also be responsible if that claim to politics is to truly be implicated in the expanded field of its definition outside of the “simple” politics that merely inheres in aesthetics. (And for what its worth here, the “radical artist” that Spivak attacks in CPR, and so cunningly avoids naming, is Alfredo Jaar.) Every victory is a warning, she says. Caution, vigilance, distance, postponement…Value, class, culture, power…It is here that another warning, this time by Ranciere, comes to mind: “The most deceptive words are evidently the ones most frequently used.”*
I’ll end, then, on the open-ended, with the following from Spivak:
As far as I can understand it, my agenda remains an old-fashioned Marxist one. Marx attempted to make the factory workers rethink themselves as agents of production, not as victims of capitalism. They advanced their labor, the capitalist repaid them only partially. Their claim to the rest was their claim to socialism (tone it down: the welfare state; dress it up: civil society). Today in the old metropolitan countries, the capitalist is the benefactor “creating jobs,” and the worker is systematically deprived of welfare because it is a “free” gift. Suppose we analogized globally. Today in the psot-Soviet world, privatization is the kingpin of economic restructuring for globalization. It means a broadstroke change in the global economic pattern – “a new attempt to impose unification on the world by and through the ‘market.’” It is now more than ever impossible for the new or developing states – the newly decolonizing or the old decolonized nations – to escape the orthodox constraints of a “neo-liberal” world economic system that, in the name of Development, and now, “sustainable development,” removes all barriers between itself and fragile national economies, so that any possibility of social redistribution is severely damaged. In this new transnationality, “the new diaspora,” the new scattering of the seeds of “developing” nations so that they can take root on the developed ground, means: Eurocentric migration, labor export both male and female, border crossings, the seeking of political asylum, and the haunting in-place uprooting of “comfort women” in Asia and Africa. By analogy with the Marxian project above, the hyphenated Americans belonging loosely to the first and the fourth groups might rethink themselves as possible agents of exploitation, not its victims; then the idea that the nation-state that they now call home gives “aid” to the nation-state that they still call culture, in order to consolidate the new unification for international capital, might lead to what I call “transnational literacy”[referring to a command of a diversified historical and geographical information system]. Then our multiculturalism, or our sense of the word “culture,” will name different strategic situations from only our own desire to be the agent of a developed civil society. Which we need not give up; but let us want a different agency, shift the position a bit. I have been consistent in my insistence that the economic be kept visible under erasure [in Scattered Speculations]. What good will it do? Who knows? Marx’s books were not enough and the text of his doing remained caught in the squabbles of preparty formation and the vicissitudes of personal life. You work my agenda out. (CPR, 357-358)
* The Names of History, p. 34; also on that page is the following: “Social designates the nonrelation as a principle. It designates the gap between words and things or, more precisely, the gap between nominations and classifications. The classes that name themselves, and that are named, are never what classes must be, in the scientific sense: sets of individuals to which it is possible to attribute rigorously a finite number of common properties.” Deleuze knew this perfectly well when he made the statements to Foucault that Spivak has such malaise with.
Jean-Luc Nancy, "Cut Throat Sun", translated by Lydie Moudileno
You are called Chicanos. This name shortens your name, Mexicanos, in the language that was once yours but has not remained the language of each one of you. Your name was given back to you, cut. In what language? What language is this word, your name? It is the idiom of a single name as well as your way to cut and shuffle languages: babel without confusion, that you do speak, that your poets do write. You were given back your name, cut, and your language, also cut. (But whom? The others, us, and you too, your other selves within yourselves.) It was a very old name, much older than this Castilian language in which it was first transcribed, copied, and cut; it was an indian name and much older than the name "Indian," by which Mexicans were forcibly baptized before Mexico was called Mexico. Born in the mistake of the Occident thinking it had found the Orient, this name cut off from themselves a land, a history, several territories and several histories, cut off cultures of the sun, suns of culture, of fire, feathers, obsidian, and gold. Iron was cutting into gold. But this iron was itself gold: the gold turning from takin, excrement of the sun, into silver, wealth and power, and it was that gold that severed the sun itself. The Occident brought forht only the Occident, aggravating it, and the same sun just had to set in another ocean. these are your ancestors, all these people, Indians and cutters of Indian. Cut races, mixed bloods.
Cut throut sun: May I return to you, as if it were your emblem, this line by a French poet with so Greek a name, Apollinaire? As if it were your emblem, and almost as your idiom and your music? I don't speak your language, your languages; I only appropriate them through these words of my own language - soleil cou coupe - and I give them back to you. Could it be that the state of language when it no longer belongs to anyone in particular, when it no longer belongs to itself and surrenders itself to all, is poetry?
Your throat: the throat of the rednecks, poor field-workers of Californian, Arizona, and New Mexico (is there a new Mexico?). But you are not the white rednecks. Your red is not overcooked white skin. It is a red gold replacing the white trash, its burns and its cuts. Cut throat: the Mexican sun has been cut from your head, with your head.
Throat slashed red, like a coagulating sun, like a dry and burning source of paint. It was to spurt, later in the thirties, on to the Chicago walls. At the time, you didn't have that identity - that had been yours for centuries, anyway - that chicano cut of identity to which you refer us today, but they were yours, these murals that Pollock or De Kooning would go to see.
This throat has been cut several times. Indian, by a Spanish cut, Spanish, by a yankee cut. Emigrants from the interior of Mexico, migrating through Spanish states like California, Arizona and others, you also became the migrants who cross the border in order to form another frontier, moving in long lines across the fields, penetrating into cities of barrios whose colors contrast so sharply (and the sounds, and the thoughts). Broadway Los Angeles, its buildings ornamented like those in Manhattan, with solemn and businesslike guilloche: how it has become your frontier and your fair and your fever!
Perhaps you barbecue sausages on Sundays in the heights of Griffith Park, and it makes me think of the way Turks barbecue sausages on Sundays in Berlin near the Reichstag. It's almost the same smell.
In order to get there, you had to cross the border, often the law, and the militia, and the police (one arrest every thirteen minutes), and also the Mexican smugglers who sometimes rob you. Sun cut down, one then has to spen the night, to swim across the Rio Grande on one's back with a bundle kept dry on the chest. You were the wetbacks. By this wet mark they recognized that you could be gunned down or exploited. That water is not the water streaming down the sides of the Mayflower, and you do not celebrate Thanksgiving by which America commemorates the gift of America to the Americans, with all its Indians and turkeys. Or, you are in need of water under the sun of that desert you illegally cross, and you are dead, with whitened bones, somewhere around Yuma. Or else, on the freeway that goes North from Tijuana to San Diego, cars, pickups, and Aztec buses have to stop: U.S. officials in their large hats with stiff brims can tell your Chicano faces at a glance. The place is a little above Camp Pendelton, where the Marines are stationed. They have a big board announcing that their camp is dedicated to protecting nature.
Cut throat americans, you are Mexican-Americans. What is this name, American? Another name that has been cut, transplanted, diplaced, stolen. It was not this Italian man called Amerigo, Spain's Piloto Mayor after Columbus had fallen into disgrace, who discovered America, no more than the ones called Americans (U.S. citizens) account for the peoples of the three Americas. You are more American (Native American and proud of it, as is sometimes declared on bumper stickers of old Oldsmobiles that belong to a Zuni, a Hopi, an Apache). More American: but what does American mean?
Language keeps social cohesion, but it keeps it to a limit, to the limit of its own looseness. Lannguage itself is always borderline; it is always at odds with language. But moreover, being loose and invasive, it passes and trespasses the limits; it underlines them and passes them. "American," "Chicano," one can merely understand, too well and not enough, at the same time.
All of this doesn't mean very much. It can only open on the undefined, multiple, radiating, reticulated, and broken track of mestizaje, of metissage, of the cutting, of the uncountable cuttings. Couplings and cuttings: what each "pople" is made of - made of/cut of. Which people can claim it is not? You are Visigoths, Jews, Mandingos, Manchurians, Vikings, Francs, Arabs, as well as people from Aztlan, the legendary land that the Aztecs had already emigrated from, immigrating to central Mexico.
Tell me when you are ready/for the rebirth/the dream of AZTLAN!(Mora)
But the birth of your people is an incessant birth and rebirth, continuing to today - when you come into this world, into this whole world inot which we are all coming. But your rebirth will not mean the return of myth. It will be, and it is already, the foundation of that which has neither pure foundation nor identifiable origin: of that Aztlan that you are coming in from yourselves, cut throat suns. It is a foundation in the cutting. You are, you will be - and who, of us, will be with you? - Like the founders of Los Angeles, the list of whom can be found in the rare-document section of the Berkeley Library: nine Mexican Indians, eight mulattos, two blacks, two Spaniards, one mestizo and one Chinese named Antonio Rodriguez. (Not only is this list a mestizaje of people: it is also a linguistic mestizaje: "mulatto" and "Spaniard" are not of the same register; we mix ideas of "blood" and "nation," and with what has each of these ideas already been mixed?) They founded El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles de Porciuncula; name that was cut down to LA; L.A. that is always your first city, and a city that is itself cut, made of cuttings. Your first city, but not your capital: decapitated capital, throat cut.
What is your foundation? What will it be? It is, will be, more that America's foundation or opening - cleavage, wound, open mouth - to its own absence of foundation. You make a Founding Fathers mestizaje, showing that all foundation is itself unfounded, and it is well founed to be unfounded. You aren't the only ones to do that. Here and elsewhere, and otherwise, it is the black, the Filipinos, the Jamaicans, the Koreans, the Thais, the Syrians, and however many others, who found in this way, who cut the cities, the languages, the marks. You will not melt into another identity; you will not accomplish the American Dream, no more than the dream of Aztlan. You are, on the contrary, actors of and witnesses to, an immense and extraordinary novelty, and yet it is not a dream: it is a different, completely different "identification," a different rift, a different sectioning of America. And it is not enough to take about America only: in Europe, blacks, Arabs, Chinese, Turks, and Vietnamese people also drive us toward our foundation in the absensce of all foundation, toward this cross-current that cuts and covers territories, faces, languages and makes hitories happen. A history is happening to us, yours or ours, inalienable like all histories. No one is its subject, and we cannot pin it down beforehand in order to know it. Yet, we know the flash signals its presence, but we cannot look at it head-on: the brightness from all those cut throat suns.
The brightness of a sun which is no longer the sacrificer but the sacrificed. It is a different brightness. Or, a brightness even more different: neither sacrificer nor sacrifice. The brightness of an existence - without justification, but not unjustified.
You use the word, and you claim to be, La Raza, the race, the people, nuestra gente.
Therefore you want us to hear this word "race" completely differently, for there is nothing of racism that you are unaware of: it also marks your cut. But you do not know to what extent the thought of "race," and its systematic implementation, extermination that is, prevents us from reeducating our perception of the word, despite everything, despite you. (You also come from an extermination that numbers in the tens of thousands of lives. But it had not imposed itself as "though"; it had not brandised a "concept" or an "idea" of race.) And yet what we will hear in your word, as well as besides the word, is that the gente chicana does not propose the purity of a bloodline nor a superiority. It gets its identity from the cut, in the cuttings. It is no less an identity for it, but it is not an identity in terms of blood or essence.
Your identity is obtained through cuts. Through mestizajes, but also through those cuts that irretrievably separate West Hollywood from East L.A., and those, in the heart of L.A., that slice through Santa Monica Boulevard leaving on one side the memories of the big studios, and on the other, the pawn shops where you hock all the watches, boots, and miserable bits and pieces you've had to forsake.
In naming la raza, you are naming a division of labor, class, and role. La raza was not simply born in Aztlan or in the barrios, it was born in the revolts, strikes, and riots, of the Crusada para la justicia and many other movements. It is not simply a class, but made of the cuttings of classes, as of languages and peoples.
La raza hurt,
bent back - sacrificed
to gringoismo - (Omar Salinas)
Gringo, the name you use for the white American (who claims to be white), derived from Griego, the Greek, who was in the past, the typical foreigner. The same foreigner that made you foreigners on your own land, on the land that everybody and nobody owns. Gringoismo: egoismo.
But I have no intention of celebrating the difference in la raza: that would be celebrating its poverty and mere estrangement. I will not glorify the cutting. The cutting, in its two senses - cutting themselves and mixing - is not to be glorified. There are no words, there is no rejoicing or mourning for its dark radiance. But there is your language and your languages, your poems, your paintings, your plays, and your movies. And let us also make sure we don't just for the sake of another dream of integration and assimilation, for the sake of an easy accommodation of our questions and expectations, assign them to the idea of a "transculture" with its multiple and enriching facets. Your difference, your differences, arrive in a world that pretends to be reclaiming differences in general (is there difference "in general"?), but that can always trap those differences into its indifference. It is always possible for the postromantic celebration of the "spirit of the people" to be made to serve the interests of some overall exploitation of all people.
In such a scheme, you and the black, the white trash, and all the rednecks of the earth are alike. Today an unjustifiable, intolerable identity that is forced on us today by the callous monster of technoeconomic necessity and the management or administration of this necessity. How to cut loose from it, what sort of revolution that would not be already outdated? Maybe that of mestizaje....But that would assume that the fate of misery is linked to the fate of identity: yet if they are linked de facto, must it be a single slice that severs one from the other? This unprecedented question concerns all of us.
Our naked existences: Who wants them? How do we want to want them? Naked: interwoven (metissees), ill-woven (mal tissees), but woven (tissees) on into the other. sharing and crossing and bordering.
This unprecedented question concerns all of us. but it does not return to us as the question of "another world" being born. If a world is a totality of presence where each existence is inscribed, it is no longer certain that we have to reproduce, even if this figure or configuration were transformed. "People of the world!": it is doubtful that such a call could still reach us. "People without a world"?
Chicanos, it may also be something you tell us. With you, with all the cuts similar to yours but singularly yours, large, multiple, less "identifiable" if that is possible - it is not merely change that is shaping up for the world. It is something else (how easy it is to say "something else" when a world is stamping and stamping on itself on the edge of what once was the world). It is a way to be on the border of every possible world: on the edge of what all our possibilities gauge as impossible (let's say: man without a world), that is, however, what happens to us, what is offered to us, exactly what we must confront.
Instead of a "world," its order, its ordinance, its presence, something else, another configuration of space, of time, of community, of history.
Something is happening to us, the same way Aztlan was born one day, the way the Americas were born, the way Chicanos were born, and always in the process of arriving. And, the same way, empires waver and indentities split. "America" can no longer have the absolute self-knowledge. It too is throat cut, a civilization falling to pieces, while "Europe" wonders what its own name might mean: a breathless discourse, breath cut short. A whole history is coming upon us: as always, we cannot see it coming. We only see that it cuts but without being able to tell who is cutting and who is being cut. From the depths of the cut, from its depths or tis surface, from its slice, a dark sun blind us: our own event is neither "one" nor "distinctive" (and is it even an event? How should we take that word?). It comes upon us as you do, clandestine, illegal, scattered. The freedom of history which is "ours," always surprises us.
It is no longer a question of what was called the meeting, or the confrontation, "of the Other." You are more other than the others, you are simultaneously the same as we are and cut from yourselves and from us, as we are also cut.
You say: not even the same where it most resembles, where it most assembles - and still the same, all the same, where it is different, where it disassembles the most. Each one encamped in his camp, and everyone displaced.
What if the U.S. was Mexico?
What if 200,000 Anglo-Saxicans
Were to cross the border each month
to work as gardeners, waiters
3rd chair musicians, movie extras
bouncers, babysitters, chauffeurs
syndicated cartoons, feather-weight boxers, fruit-pickers
and anonymous poets?
What if they were called Waspanos
Waspitos, Wasperos or Waspbacks?
What if literature was life, eh?
What if yo were you
& tu fueras I, Mister? (Guillermo Gomez-Pena)
I say: "you say". By what right? By virtue of whose authority? Or in what sign language? I cannot, I must not say "you say." Cut throat speech. But this speech can also cut: It can cut me/from you/from myself/ from the same/ and from the other. It is the cut that ties me and joins me - to what? to something, to someone that you and I don't know.
I cannot set myself free from this unknown, form this variable. everything has yet to be done: everything has yet to be learned, the ways, the art, and the strength needed to make the cut tie together. But I am already at a point where I can no longer detach myself.
It is no longer possible is to do nothing but look at you (and at myself at the same time). There is nothing left in the spectacle any more. It is no longer possible to take part in the representation of a New World, from the standpoint of another world.
There is sun and there is sun. Once there was Verlaine's sun:
Je suid l'Empire a la fin de la decadence,
Pui regarde passer les grands Barbares blancs
En composand des acrostiches indolents
D'un style d'or ou la langueur du soleil danse.
There is the one I am giving back to you, Apollinaires's:
A la fin tu es las de ce monde ancien
Tu en as asses de vivre dan l'antiquite grecque et romaine
Soleil cou coupe
There is also, passing in fron of the sun, other voices close to you, all from far away, from California and elsewhere at the same time:
or growing crystalling
passing in front of the sun
brilliant diffusion speaking in scale
the trivial requiring time to speak of it
direction unvocalized clicks in succession. (Norma Cole)
Still others, farther, closer: the German writer from San Diego:
Als ich den Schalter erreichte, antwortete ich auf die Frage nach meiner Augenfarbe mit den Worten: "Brown, Sir!" Aber vor mir war ein junger Mexikaner an der Reihe, der wie aus einer Marchen aussan. Einem herbeigewunkenen Kollegen gegenuber bezeichnete ihnder Sheriff flusternd als "real cunt."(Reinhard Lettau)
Closer, farther, the Calabrian woman from Strasbourg:
Era nuovo il paese in cui abivata; gli amici non giudivacano le sue debolezze.(Dora Mauro)
We need to relearn everything from "peoples" and "people." We need to relearn everything about identities and cuts, relearn everything about the infinite of the finitudes that are our discrete existence: how they never cease not totalizing themselves, neither in each individual nor in each "people" nor in each "language" nor in "humanity," and how in truth that would be our chance. Our chance for truth. One cannot know that, on cannot seize it like an object of knowledge, or like a philosophical view of the "world." Nonetheless, we have to know, even in an impossible way.
Our science should be the cosmography of a universe of cut-throat suns. Or the anthropology of "l'humanite metissee" ("mestizo humanness," as Ricardo Snachez puts it). But this mestizaje would not be one of races, that would suggest a trope. it would be, in people, peoples, histories, events of existence, the mestizaje of their multiplicities that cannot be assigned to places of pur origins. It would be less a question of mixed identity d'identite metissee than of the mestizaje of identity itself, of any identity.
Singular existences, points of mestizaje, identities are made/cut of singularities (places, moments, languages, passions, skins, accents, laws, prayers, cries, steps, burts). They are in turn the singular events of these compositions and cuts. Like any proper name, Chicano does not appropriate any meaning: it exposes an event, a singular sense. As soon as such a name arises - cut - it exposes all of us to it, to the cut of sense that it is, that it makes, far beyond all signifying. "Chicano" breaks into my identity as a "gringo." It cuts and re-composes it. It makes us all mestizo.
Increasingly, the "mestizos" in South Africa refuse to use this word: metis is only another term of exclusion, imposed on them by a racist legislation. What if it were possible, somewhere else, to change this word into a word that excludes exclusion (not through inclusion and fusion, but through the inscription of cuts)?
The community: as if it were no longer the closure that excludes, but the multiple, cut network from which exclusion only is excluded? Neither the integration of nations nor the disintegration of the masses nor a "milieu" between the two, and always threatened by both: how is this conceivable?
Has there been a world so far? Has there been a History, one single destination for so many singular existences? has there been a singular for so many singularities? Nothing is less certain. But a multitude of arriving and leaving, of mixing and sharing. A multitude of presentations and exhbitions. This multitude gives us day after day, a little more to consider than we know how to consider.
Exposed existences: suspended, fragile, offered, like paintings exposed on walls. Cut throat suns. And we, all of us, you and us, who do not gaze at any spectacle, who do not contemplate any vision. Rather, the walls are holding us and tying us to the exposed fragility.
I can still see the stretched out rows of your people in the fields, bending down over rows of strawberry plants. And the scarlet tram that goes from San Diego to San Ysidro, on the border. And of that border, toward Chula Vista, the wire fence, breached and cut. And the unemployed lying on the sidewalds, in downtown L.A. But I have seen nothing, nothing but cuttings, and the red, and the brown.
Strasbourg, February 1989
Reservation: Isn't it already going too far to talk about mestizaje? As if mestizaje were "some thing," a substance, an object, an identity (an identity!) that could be grasped and "processed."
Mestizaje is always a very long, vast and obscure story. It is such a slow process that no one can see it happening. A single mestizo does not make for mestizaje. It takes generations - and more, an imperceptible drift toward infinity.
When this story is completed, there is no point in retracing it. Ther end result cannot be explained in terms of cause and effect, encounters and influences.
For the end result is as new and as different as if another "raza," another people had been produced out of thin air. The mix gets lost in the act of mixing. The mixing itself is no longer "mixed," it is an other, no more, no less.
As a twentieth-century Frenchman, I am a mestizo of Spanish and Viking, of Celt and Roman, and more importantly: of je-ne-sais-quoi.
So in the end, what we call "mestizaje" is the advent of the other. The other is always arriving, and always arriving from elsewhere. There is no point in waiting for, predicting, nor programming the other.
Everything, everyone - male, female - who alters me, subjects me to mestizaje. This has nothing to do with mixed blood or mixed cultures. Even the process of "mixing" in general, long celebrated by a certain theoretical literary and artistic tradition - even this kind of "mixing" must remain suspect: it should not be turned into a new substance, a new identity.
A mestizo is someone who is on the border, on the very border of meaning. And we are all out there, exposed. As the century ends, our world has becom a tissue, a metissage of ends and fringes of meaning.
At each point, at each border where my humanity is itself exposed, cut throat, suns aflame with meaning.
04.07.06 - Allan Kaprow, an artist who in the 1950s pioneered the form of artistic events known as "happenings," has died at seventy-eight, the Associated Press reports. Kaprow, who taught for years at the University of California, San Diego, passed away at his home in Encinitas; he had been ill for some time and died of natural causes, said friend Tamara Bloomberg. "Contemporary artists are not out to supplant recent modern art with a better kind," Kaprow said in 1966. "They wonder what art might be. Art and life are not simply commingled; the identity of each is uncertain." Born August 23, 1927, in Atlantic City, NJ, Kaprow often referred to himself as an "un-artist." He is survived by his wife, Coryl, their son, Bram, and three children from a previous marriage. - From Artforum's website.
Men fear that coffee gives women powers best reserved to men, damages their fertility, and implants dangerously subversive ideas in them, posing an ultimate danger to the family. Initially, english coffee houses ban women. but after everyone calms down, the devotion of women to coffee helps put it in every home. "Coffee, according to the women of Denmark," wrote Isak Dinsen in 1934, "is to the body what the Word of the Lord is to the sould." Science and technology come to the aid of the domestication of coffee. "Coffee" - the drink - loses her magical power and becomes an industrial hand maiden both producer and product of the industrial processes of the developed world and of the forces of reproduction and maintenance necessary for this system to run. We have now emerged from the mists of myth to the solid narratives of science, locating historical events in the precise times and places that mark its way of telling. Coffee is the second most valuable (legal) commodity in the world economy, second only to that other fuel, petroleum; "the world's annual bean production could make 3,644,000,000 cubic feet [1,112,000,000 cubic meters] of liquid coffee, a volume equal to the Mississipi's outflow for an hour and a half."
Much more disturbing is the information on Coca-Cola provided by Rosler:
At the 1936 Olympics, Hitler decreed tht Coke bear a caffeine warning label. A German competitor stole some kosher Coke bottle caps and used them in his effort to wean customers away from "Jewish American" Coke. In response, the German Coke bottler provided free Cokes at Hitler Youth rallies and displayed huge swastikas at bottling conventions. At present I see before me a photo from 1939 of paarticipants in a Nazi Volk pageant at the opening of the House of German Art (Haus der Deutsches Kunst) in Munich. It shows two participants in their faux-medieval get-ups drinking bottles of Coke in front of a large Coca-Cola sign.
During the Second World War, General Dwight D. Eisenhower sent a telegram requesting ten "Coca-Cola" bottling plants for the troops overseas on June 29, 1943. More than five billion bottles were consumed by military personnel. In many countries, it gave local people their first taste of Coke, paving the way for unprecedented worldwide growth after the war. Eisenhower game Marshal Zhukov a Coke, but Zhukov worried about Stalin's reaction upon learning he was imbibing this symbol of U.S. imperialism. Coke obligingly left out the caramel color, put the drink in a clear bottle with a white cap and a red star, and sent him the first fifty cases of White Coke.
At the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Coca-Cola was there, passing out free six packs. Crowds in Warsaw cheered in 1993 when the first Polish Coca-Cola truck arrived. In South Africa, Coke executives conferred with Nelson Mandela and other political leaders on a smooth transition to black rule; anything else would have led to a decline in sales.
The first tow countries outside the United States to bottle Coca-Cola were Cuba and Panama, in 1906. French bottling began in 1920. In 1927, Coca-Cola began bottling in Belgium - as well as Bermuda, Columbia, Honduras, Italy, Mexico, Haiti and Burma. In that year, Coca-Cola crossed the Atlantic aboard the Graf Zeppelin.
In 1944, the billionth gallon of Coke syrup was made. In 1953, the second billionth, in 1959 the third billionth, in 1963, the fourht billionth, in 1966, the fifth billionth, in 1969, the sixth billionth, in 1971, the seventh billionth. Coke is now bottled in about one hundred and fifty countries in addition to the United States. If all the Coca-Cola ever produced were in 6.5-ounce bottles and placed end to end, they would wrap around the Earth more than 11,863 times. In 1985, Coke was the first soft drink known to be drunk in outer space. If all the regular-size bottles of Coca-Cola ever produced were placed end to end, they would stretch all the way from Mercury, past Venus, Earth, and Mars, to Jupiter.
The Multinational Monitor has named Coca-Cola - "the Atlanta-based junk drink pusher, with its world-wide domination of the industry and relentless marketing" - as among the ten worst corporations of 1998. It quotes then-president, Couglas Ivester: "This year, even as we sell one billion servings of our products daily, the world still consumes forty seven billion servings of other bererages every day. We're just getting started." Alas for Mr. Ivester and the shareholders of Coca-Cola! With over four hundred billion cups consumed every year, coffee is still the world's most popular beverage. (Interestingly, Japan's best-selling noncarbonated beverage is a coffee-flavored drink called Georgia, a Coca-Cola product.)
Coke buys its ways into school and universities, giving money for favorite programs - generally high profile sports like football - in return for a guaranteed sales monopoly. Mike West, in The Progressive, reports that most such exclusivity deals, such as those signed with large state universities like the University of Minnesota, are brokered by a company called CUM Laude. Its vice president commented: "We don't in fact approach a univeristy with any charitable intent. We're a for-profit corporation." Coke describes "our mission" on its Website: "We exist to create value for our share owners on a long-term basis by building a business that enhances the Coca-Cola company's trademarks. This is also our ultimate commitment." (Hey! What about taste, quality, value??? What about us????)
Experiment: raise a few generations on Coke and see if they develop osteoporosis, especially since women, spared the likelihood of early death during childbirth or from illness, are living much longer. It is a question whether Diet Coke (and Pepsi), with the substitution of non-nutritive sugar replacements, is an advance over the sugar-laden version; the artificial sweeteners have themselves been accused of negative health effects.
The Coca-Cola hotline informs you "If all the Coca-Cola ever produed were to erupt from the geyser Old Faithful at its normal rate of 15,000 gallons per hour, there would be enough Coca-Cola to flow continuously for 1577 years, from AD 423 to the year 2000."
Caffeine is that most unromantic alkaloid distillate from the coffee. Coca-Cola may now be the very symbol of American hegemony in the global market-place, but coffee, as we have seen, is closely associated with the history of European intellectual ferment and indeed with the history of the Europeanization of Europe. Coffee is the engine which powers the populace, gooses the brain, makes intellectuals thin like angels or demons - perhaps the shadow double to cocaine, after all. Coffee, drink of civilization, has powered offices and factories of the West since the labor force was persuaded to substitute a stimulant for a depressanet - alcohol - on the job. Coffee, sugar, and milk, the staples of a plebeian life. Cows, the hallmark of settled life since the Neolithic revolution, are naturalized everywhere. But coffee and sugar, and a few other crops, represent the tranformation of the world. Coffee, like sugar, is the transplantation of Arabia to the new colonies. their histories are linked irrevocably, as mentioned above, to the bloody traffic of bodies, to the importation and exploitation of slaves in the "New World," which thenceforth became the primary locale of world coffee production.
Thursday, April 06, 2006 | Filed Under | 0 Comments
"All our writing - for everyone and if it were ever writing of everyone - would be this: the anxious search for what was never written in the present, but in a past to come." - Maurice Blanchot