Category Archives: Politics and American Life

Notes on domination and the logic of psychiatry and similar professions

A fool says in his heart that he has no enemies. If he is a mystic, he believes that what everyone says or does is the act of an angel (a message from God). When most people are like this, the society will have ceased to become a republic. If it is a modern society where a theocracy is impossible, it will be one whose prevailing ethos is a therapeutic and at times exclusionary psychology.

Thus, the political is opposed by the psychological. In the political life of republican societies, having a problem means either that someone is unjust or some situation or institution or other social form is unhappy. In anti-political societies, theocratic or psychological, if you have a problem, it is just about you.

Anger is the political emotion. In republican social life, being angry means holding for true the belief, which will be normally recognized by others as possibly true, that one is affected by an injustice. This is expressed as a claim, and the claim is a claim upon the conscience of the persons to whom it is expressed. If the claim is made with passionate intensity, that is not normally assumed to portend violence, but rather reveals the intensity of the angry person’s care about the matter.

Whether or not it makes sense to believe in a God, republican or political life is only possible if there is no presupposed divine order of things that guarantees the good (justice and happiness). Politics is atheist because it cannot be pious. God has always been a principle of government. The first person who knew the God of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims, had to demand of this God that he be just. This is because justice and the good generally are contingent. God may promise it, as in the covenant, but he cannot guarantee it and so cannot be merely trusted to bring it about. Whether it comes about or not depends on the only beings who have a conscience and also exist. God is not the name of a being and in that sense can have no existence. All he can really do is serve as an object of a faith whose poetry inspires us.

I see no reason at all to think that the Jewish Halakhah (law) is invalidated by this recognition, nor our notions of the holy.
In fact, Judaism played an important role in the development of our notions of time. But these notions depend partly on contingency. All the good and all the evil that can and do happen are the consequence either of the actions and behaviors of human persons, or must be concerned the consequence of chance. This means that not only politics but ethics are subject to historical change. Indeed, an ethics partly is a response to unpredicted events that is not merely appropriate to them but is appropriate to the desire and will of actors. An ethics like a politics must be, as science, art, and love are also, constructive. It certainly cannot be reparative (or therapeutic), which is why the Jewish idea of tikkun olam, which is used often to mean perfecting the world, but literally means healing it, is wrong. There is no salvation, life is not a project of healing, which is a medical metaphor that is necessarily conservative, nor can an ethics or politics be the implementation of a plan. There is morality, but politics exceeds it. Moral codes are applied, implemented, realized, executed. Thinking, which politics and ethics do involve, is constructive, innovative, inventive. If God is a force of creation as well as revelation and redemption, then his concept exceeds him as does his work, which is really ours.

Societies cannot be healed and do not need to be. They should not be thought of as organisms and cannot be healthy or sick, only judgably good or bad, just or unjust, happy or unhappiness. Happiness is not reducible to health because its possibilities are unlimited. The good of a body is normality. Only persons and other animals have health or sickness and can be healed. That society can be healed is related to the idea that it must be defended. It is an immunological idea, and immunity, which is absence of poison or contagion, illness brought on from without, is opposite of community, which is the common, which is constructed, which has no definable boundaries, and which does not even allow of a definite form, as a body must have.

From a political point of view, notions of health are simply irrelevant. It is not a judgment bearing upon the good of a community or the justice of an action to say that the community or person is sick. A person could be sick and this not be in essence his own problem at all. This is because only “I” can define what I need or desire, and so what “my problems” are, and I too and only I can decide what it means to have them. Maybe I think my problems are entirely about and caused by you. That would be a claim that could be falsified, and could only be decided by a judge who is not me or you. If “you” or the state or employees of it can decide what my problems are, what kind of person I am, what I need, then I have no liberty and am subject to a tyranny. “Give me liberty or give me death” does not mean “Give me what you decide I need (and put me to death or allow me to die if you judge that you no longer can, or no longer want to).” A society that has rulers who decide what people need is not only a tyranny with no citizens but a state in which people are infantilized, and not because they have been judged as unworthy of adult citizenship, but merely because (medical or therapeutic, moral yet not legal) judges judge what people “need.” What anyone who is not a child or judge incompetent needs independently of what they will or choose, is a matter of total irrelevance, unless one merely wants to offer them advice. Health and sickness are as irrelevant as normality and abnormality, of which they are the forms proper to the animal body from the point of view of medical science. These terms have no other meaning and are in particular inapplicable to the mind. Were that not true, either persons would be expected by their society’s government to be right not only by the law and in terms of what they do, but right in how and what they think and in how they feel. This means that if “I” am ill affected by something, including something “you” are doing, “you,” if you are a medical authority, can give me an involuntary “treatment” (that is, you do something to me that is designed to modify my behavior or person and that follows some official protocols; medical or otherwise, we can call any such actions “treatments”), because unhappiness or disaffection are not to be tolerated, and those persons who “feel” (that they are) ill affected are effectively punished, and in this way they cannot try to do anything that would in any way (including by speaking) affect anyone else. If I have a power to affect you and you not me, than I dominate you. Indeed, this is also why in such situations if you appear to be (feel) affected and express this affection, you can be punished, because if you are manifestly affected and appear to not like it, that is “violence.” Because the oppressed often use their oppression as a weapon, as Fassbinder once said of women, you can be sure that in many such situations if the power dynamics between powerful and powerless map onto such as female/male or black/white, the victim will be punished and called a perpetrator. The basic problem here is augmented by identity politics but does not stem from it but from the asymmetric nature of power relations. In the United States it is almost uniquely the case (some of the other English speaking nations come close) that relationships of domination are not even recognized as such.

A people could declare that they are sick of the way things are, and it is the way things are and the faction of people who want it that way that need transformation or destruction and replacement, even if they in fact are happy and as healthy as anyone could be.

Wherever there are institutions of governance, there is no politics. Disagreements then that involve both persons in power and those without it are likely to involve official violence, which is never recognized as violence, punishing the disaffected for having something wrong with them as they have behaved improperly. Since disaffection involves disagreement characteristically, and disagreements are political, governmental or managerial situations always involve the implicitly coercive and potentially violent suppression of disagreement as such, which then cannot be spoken. This is what the demand for politeness is about. And the differend here (in Lyotard’s sense: a difference involving claims of injustice that cannot be recognized) also tends to be manifest in a language policing. The institution and its functionaries will have a linguistic code that those hapless persons subject to them are expected to use. It then is very important to the authorities that you use only their vocabulary and never your own. Often the terminology applies to you and names your lack, which is then quantified and used to measure your behavior in its terms; your using this vocabulary signals that you are a compliant, docile subject. You must use their terms and not your own metaphors because the terms available are defined in what is effectively their rule book, which a priori excludes all claims that would be made against these persons or what they are doing. If you use a term of your own that describes an interpretation of your own of what they are doing, they will correct you, saying, “No, it is not A but B,” and you are expect then to indicate agreement or at least not disagreement. They will most likely not tell you why they call it B or what that means; the important thing is just that you show that you respect their professional authority and understand that they tell you what is what and that is how it is. They will actually believe, because this is part of the “code,” that your metaphorical term is an incorrect concept (there are no metaphors in this world, and individuals do not have the liberty to describe what is what: that power is carefully regulated and jealously guarded).

Who controls meaning, controls the state and its people.

This means that in such institutions and in most social life in countries like the United States where most people believe in a middle class managerial ideology that accords with these institutions, as a general rule one may not say anything about anything to anyone. You can speak, but you cannot say anything. Statements are controversial; otherwise they are mere utterances and do not say or state anything because they make no claim. Utterances may be performative ones or order-words; they are often presented as statements: “This is an X” means “I am ordering you to behave in accordance with the demand to treat this as an X.” The difference is that orders cannot be contested in discourse but only obeyed or disobeyed; they are assumed true, yet in fact they are the kind of speech acts that are neither true nor false. Much professional discourse is of this kind.

Professionals usually have discussions among themselves that can involve disagreements, but managerial professionals almost never do and are highly unwilling to be transparent in what they say in terms of what it means, why they say it, and whether it is true, with persons they are charged with managing. Doctors are an extreme of this; good luck trying to ever have a real discussion with a psychiatrist in which you learn anything about how they think and why; they tend to be quite adamant in keeping you in the dark. They want to be sure you know how to comply with what they tell you to do, and will tell you what they think you need to know for that purpose, and nothing else. It is astonishing in fact how opaque many of them, and frequently if not most of the time what they say is not on the level, and may be manipulative (said only to provoke some kind of response).
Claims are of two kinds: political claims, which can be and usually are made highly informally; and those in “debates,” that is, carefully delimited zones where only persons admitted professionally to the practice of official discourse in the field, can exchange opinions about a matter.

The important thing to grasp is that in any truly political situation, one person or group of persons contests the practices and the power of the other persons. You cannot contest another practices or statements without contesting their power. Doing so in institutional contexts can only be met with threats of official punitive violence, and this will most often be legitimated by the person whose actions or statements are being attacked claiming that he or she is, and thus is being assaulted or threatened, or at least disrespected. If your statement is allowed, it will only be because you are not saying what you want to say, except by speaking in their terms. In this way, you unwittingly collaborate in framing what you want to say in their terms. Some people become stupefied or begin to stutter or seem confused when they are habituated to being directed by such professionals and try to think along the lines permitted and available to them, and this is even true when they think they are engaged in some alternative or counter-institutional practice which is at most simply parallel. The shortest route to stupidity and a kind of intestinal blockage of the creative mind is to become too habituated to what official institutions in your society have urged and made available to you as paths of thinking.

In this way, the constitutive injustice of such bureaucracies cannot be recognized. That the good is possible within some bureaucratic organizations is only because the zones of greatest intensity in which purely the procedural regulations and coded speech are involved, these are restricted, so that if it is a university they also have scholars and learning, if it is an art museum they also have artworks, etc. But it is the nature of bureaucratic organization to cause the political as such to be ruled out so that it in fact is impossible. One sign that it is absent there but not in everyday life is the relative absence in the latter of enforceable codes of politeness.

You can be sent to prison for saying “fuck” or appearing hostile to a bureaucrat, and while yesterday they might have just called you vulgar, today they will accuse you of violence. When feminists say that violence is implicit in, or the same as, aggressivity, they are enforcing a form of this. Presumably, they do not like sports, or else think aggression is permitted in them provided one plays by the rules. It is a myth that is part of the ideology of middle-class professionals that there is some of rules, stated or, as is usually the case in America, unstated so that people have to figure them out, and are responsible for doing so, and that all behavior of persons follows such rules. Some people do this in conversation: for instance, “You interrupted me, I wasn’t finished!” which is usually said with great anger, for “You are not following the rules!” There are people like this; I had a roommate like this once, a Black liberal from a very middle class background, and when he wanted to fight and win in words, he would accuse me of violating all kinds of social norms, which of course he knew and I did not, making me crazy in his eyes, and these rules are natural rules of society which fall from the sky as if from the Gods. Middle class people tend to have a police force in their mind, and they like this because they believe that if they live their whole lives by this set of rules, or believe that they do, then they will have good lives as part of the elite.

It’s funny if you pay attention to what middle class professionals and managers call “violence.” First, it is not said of what they will do to you if they want you punished, and those things are often violent in the literal sense that they involve the deliberate infliction of pain or injury on bodies in order to enforce the will of the persons executing the violence and those who commanded it (usually these persons are separate, which is why judges and psychiatrists do not normally have troubled sleep over the violence that they cause to happen). Secondly, it is said mainly of things that are not violent in fact. Your voice is too loud, you touched something or someone in the process of making a point, etc. Thirdly, these symbolic “violences” are usually named in order to legitimate the imminent violence of the authorities themselves. They need to enunciate this judgment in order to make their violence appear in their own eyes at least as necessary to counter yours.

All bureaucratic functionaries and people who think like them are hypocritical. What they accuse of they cannot be guilty of and may well be doing. It would be easy to show any unprejudiced person in most such situations that the essence of the matter is power, obedience, and compliance or insubordination. Most of the things that persons in power over you will be likely to accuse you of are things that not only could only be said by a person exercising domination of a subordinate, but that really amount in the end to nothing more than accusations of insubordination. Most relationships of this kind, between a professional and a non-professional, a functionary and an institutional client, etc., are of this kind and come down to: “I dominate here, you will obey me, or else. And you are not being obedient, and that is a crime.” Then they name the crime and it sounds like it really is one, and they believe it; such is the way of ideology.

The first person to recognize the radically contingent and thus atheistic character of true political life was Machiavelli. And that is why he is the founder of all modern political thought.

Hobbes, on the contrary, is anti-political, and Anglo-American society is Hobbesian because Lockean liberalism is a variant of it. Hobbes’s God is security. A totalizing authoritarian state can offer people security, protection, and the like. It can certainly protect and promote people’s “health,” and it can give them what they need, which can be something they want and ask for, or something the authorities decide to give them whether they like it or not. It cannot offer liberty. If there is a liberty, the state is subject to the people and not the people to it. If you were free, your doctor, for instance, would be working for you. The truth is closer to the other way around. Machiavelli’s God was liberty and she is a peculiar deity indeed.

The idea of a natural or divine or necessary order of things is what traditional political theology is about. In fact, it represents a way of thinking that is an incomplete movement away from paganism. A modern theology would have as ultimate principle only the recognition that what ought to be is not contained in any part of what is.

What all of this for American society is that it is not revolutionary. It probably is now less than ever; certainly it is become less and less so and more and more authoritarian since the early 1970s and the beginning of neoliberalism. The effect that the absence of a democratic character in social life in this country has on relationships in which one person believes himself oppressed (especially if he or she is Black or a woman) is devastating to all concerned. Because what inevitably results, since true equality and the democracy that would come with it, and make possible the only true liberty, is impossible, and people do sense this and that means: The only way “I” can avoid being treated like a slave by “you” is if I am able to treat you as my slave. (In this lies the explanation for the behavior, for example, of many Black men and women who work as security guards, or in professions that in fact amount to little more than that, such as hospital nurses. The authoritarian personality emerges in such situations as principled and angry opposition to “your” insulting or coercive attitude towards “me” (in fact, it might just be rebellious), perhaps because my exercise of domination over you is official, legitimated, I am doing my job, and there is a legislature that is elected and so all is right with the world.)

The United States of America is an anti-democratic country whose people would mostly prefer it to be democratic. Some think it is, others want it to be. It is a country that a limited revolution and whose history beginning at least by the time the Constitution was established renders that revolution and the revolutionary character of the society manifestly incomplete and indeed, we must say today, failed. There are forces that point in the opposite direction. Among them is the desire of many people to be free and to have a society in which people are free. For a merely liberal society that ties freedom to property and to independence from relations of domination cannot transform those relationships and be free as a society. It can only have individuals who are free when solitary or at least not at work or subject to any institutional authority. Neoliberalism is the ideology that says liberty is absence of authority. We can now see perhaps more than even that it only exists within democracy and that individuals are free only if a people are free, and that there is a collective liberty.

We do not need a war against the state, though the state is increasingly at war against many of us its citizens. We need to create a real democracy, which is this nation’s (its people’s) great unrealized desire. Processes of democratization do exist, and they are social movements (“revolutions” are one form thereof, in which theoretically the society, and not merely the state, are radically transformed from within), and what is essential to them is collective processes of thinking.

“No, you’re wrong!” When people can this and it is happy, not just unhappy, then there is democracy, then there is freedom.

The psychological state as the essence of neoliberal fascism

If America has become fascist, it is because it began to move decisively in that direction in the early 1970s. While neoliberalism could only mean promotion of empty notions of personal liberty in tandem with authoritarianism in the service of property, and thus the eclipse of democracy as the political was made personal, the crowning achievement of this reaction was what was announced already in the post-hippie “New Age”: the complete triumph of the psychological over the political.

In the days of punk rock, you could still be angry. In popular culture, like music, it is still not considered abnormal to be if you are black, but they all increasingly are given to understand you don’t want to be caught black while driving, or walking (who told you you could breathe?) In a society that still is a republic, whose culture is still democratic, where it is not taking your life into your hands to say anything to anyone about anything, since criticism is assumed to be assault, then it is understood that those who are angry are annoyed by an injustice. Now it is understand that those who are disaffected are mentally ill, and angry people are criminals or terrorist. Which is why Giorgio Agamben is right to note that the citizen today is considered a terrorist; politics itself is crime, and that is what the police state must suppress at all costs. The police told me when I met with them t hat they were harassing me because of the terrorist threat (which is nonsense, because in that case they would have arrested and tortured me, or threatened to do so unless I told then everything about everyone I know, but they know all that anyway and they also know very well that I am a New Yorker who hates what they only pretend to — for the terrorists in fact are in tacit league with the police state; they get off on each other). The undercover officer who met with me said that they would hospitalize me psychiatrically only if it was “a matter of life and death,” in which case it would be a matter of “elimination.” He wanted to scare me and succeeded. Veery funny. They eventually did lock me up as mad anyway, and then there were more threats, this time from the staff inside, one of whom, the social worker, made a vague threat to have me locked up in a psychiatric hospice on a long-term basis in a far-away location. She batted her eyelashes so I would know she was lying. They typically want you, I discovered, to know what they are doing, but they always say it obliquely so that they have deniability. That is the way of bullies, and bullies in general are ultra-conservative and are doing the work of the bosses. On the unit the head doctor only had one thing really to say to me: “This is a good country. And if you don’t like what I’m doing, you can (that is, I dare you to) sue me.”

The disaffected person is mentally ill, the angry person is a criminal. He is an actual criminal by virtue of the criminal potentiality we ascribe to him in our “scientific” theory. That is: Potentiality itself is evil, the ordinary people that our country’s government is increasingly at war against (many of them, anyway) have a potentiality only for evil. “Mental illness” largely means such a potentiality, and it is thought to be actual in your diseased brain. You are not punished, then, for what you do but what you are.

This bears real similarities to the Third Reich. Which was obsessed with health and sickness and metaphors thereof, it was a state with a pseudo-revolutionary will to create a health and pure national body through an immunological war against foreign pathogens. And the “mentally ill,” like Communists and dissidents, and others, shared the fate of the Jews. Who like them had been transformed into morally inferior biological deviants.

The angry person is annoyed about an injustice. But today that is impossible, because injustice has been legislated out of existence; there is only individual crime. Institutions and states and authorities cannot be unjust (that is, in their essence, in their projects, what they will to do through their “science” of management). Anger simply is the emotion that corresponds to a judgment that there is unjust that one is affected by. Now anger itself is just illness.

Ultimately, the enemies of the people are to be cared for carefully, in part because there is a lot of money in this. They are special, as all of the people are, for life is sacred, which is the hanging judge will say “And may God have mercy on your soul,” as iterating this holiness justifies the crimes of the state. This means that the poor people trapped in the net of a predatory governing agency (now largely privatized, its professionals by far the highest paid of their kind in the world and history), that we “must not be sacrificed.” Sanctity and holiness go with rituals and governing bureaucracies are full of these, they sanctify the executioner, who was never without pity. The holy or special person, says Agamben, “must not be sacrificed, but may be killed with impunity.” And that is why the Shoah was called “holocaust,” which means sacrifice (through annhilation of the victim). Don’t trample on the poor people’s human rights, especially to be preserved now that we have reduced them to animals in cages. They are special, the chosen ones, and life is sacred, there is a God, truly, above our bureaucracy and techniques. But of course, if need be, if “necessity” calls for it, we are at war (our government against its hapless people, or a great many of them) they “may be killed with impunity.”

The concentration camp of the future will be, in our new Nazism, a health care facility. This is progressive because they will care for people, so carefully that after they have taken from you everything that connects you to everything and everyone you are involved with or care about, they will wipe your ass regularly to prove to you that you can’t even do that. And it is progressive because they can run up a bill, which they legally can make you pay!, for your own systematic degradation into pure animal life in the name of caring for you sick mind and body.

Just don’t say it isn’t a good country.

In a fascist society, the disaffected are sick or criminal in their potentiality, and the angry are terrorists. In a republican society with a democratic culture, the disaffected tend to become artists and generalized anger leads to a politics. The political person is angry; he or she is angry about injustice. If you cannot angry, then injustice has been legislated out of existence, and in that case, there may be good government, as that bully doctor so proudly asserted (and I am sure, given the incomes of people in his profession in this country, even at public agencies, that it is a good country for him; and you cannot gainsay them, because these professionals see no evil, they keep themselves out of it, just as a judge has typically no clue of the depth of horror and cruelty that is almost certainly going to be experienced by the one who is victim of his judgment; if people knew and recognized what are the actual consequent res, carried out of course by others (and if they are Black or something, then the victim of their violence is expected to be angry so that they can dismiss him as a racist, for bureaucracies are so cynical that paradoxically they will appeal to every idealism, and these always go together). – There may be good government, in theory (at any rate, there will be government, meaning some professionals will rule other people, who must always want to govern themselves (before being released from a hospital, patients are sometimes asked to testify to their own measures for self-surveilling their “illness,” which could at any moment get out of hand, like becoming involuntarily excited (!)…There may be government (which always wants to be good, and its professionals have a professional ethics and think they are fair, the important is to always trust the authorities, who are in loco parentis, since the people cannot be adults who are to truly be self-governing, that is, democracy,…There will be government but not politics: No contestation, no disagreement, no tolerance for political conflict or even disaffection. Nip disaffection in the bud before it becomes dissent and disobedience: that is their strategy.

The eclipse of interiority? Note on Freud and the century

The massive influence of Freud’s invention of psychoanalysis ought to have led, along with increased literacy, to an increased cultivation of a reflective interiority. But instead it joined with consumer culture in making possible the sexual revolution. (Here as elsewhere art offers a solution, because it is both enjoyment and thought.)

“Never again,” the American Gulag, and its use of torture

Additional thoughts the day after Holocaust Remembrance Day:
It will annoy many people if I make a comparison, and while I think in both these ways American prisons today are in fact worse than the Nazi concentration camps, because obviously in most ways the latter were far more horrible and, of course, deadly, I will just say that if you remember the Holocaust and believe that remembering means saying never again and never again never means never again what happened before but also never again anything that is comparable in any significant way. What I wish to point to is the widespread and typically arbitrary use of solitary confinement in American prisons. It is recognized as a form of torture. It destroys the soul, much as the camps did according to Giorgio Agamben, as discussed in The Witness and the Archive: Remnants of Auschwitz. The men and women responsible for this murderousness are insouciant; American culture has never been one in which people who suffer have any droits de cité; to suffer from poverty or anything else is to be a criminal in the eyes of most Americans. And we treat criminals as damned and worthless, deserving of suffering that we inflict upon with a punitive alibi in a way that is beyond measure and so does not require any measure for measure. Christianity rejected Judaism’s lex talionis on the grounds that it is a mere rationalization for revenge, but what distinguished it was the limitation of punishment; you do not take two eyes for one, and in fact you may only require the payment for one, and payment assumes a measurable and therefore limited quantity, which is one way it is different from revenge. The figure of measurelessness retaliation in the Bible is Lamech, who declares he will kill anyone who bruises him and avenge himself 70 fold. Perhaps when you eliminate measured justice in the name of humanity, Lamechism comes in the back door. But of course American punishment is not only not Jewish but is even less Christian. Unless your idea of Christianity is instituting hell on earth in order to punish everything you think is damned. But in the end religion is probably irrelevant to understanding the prison: authority in American today more and more follows a military logic and the prisoner is treated like an enemy combattant and so neither questions of justice nor of mercy can apply to him. He is the object of a state of exception.
So this is my plea: if you really believe in “never again,” help stop the use of solitary confinement in American prisons. I do not say use: like all torture, it has no legitimate use.

Auto-censorship

Auto-correct features of document production software are an assault on writers, a preemptive attack meant to prevent us from being able easily to say certain things. A curious form of censorship, which seems to work not by prohibiting certain ideas but by allowing simple words and expressions that amount to interations of a dictionary of received ideas that legislates the sayable, as in Godard’s Alphaville, where the “Bible” is a dictionary that has that function: It gives neither definitions nor the usual synonyms, but merely lists those words that one can be permitted to use. So any foreign word and any word not in the limited vocabulary of the program will immediately autocorrect to something essentially stupid. These software features could easily enough be programmed so as to make all authors but the most scrupulous in proofreading appear to say things that are utterly as stupid as the programming team. 

Police and others who want to harass you will mention ideas of yours they have scanned in stupid ways that are much like this. Since their thinking is just a matter of controlling people based on data, they are capable within narrow limits of understanding “information,” but not any complex ideas. So what they say about you will be a joke, except that if they want they can enforce the “truth” of these jokes. Of course,
they don’t grasp ideas except as signs of opposition, which to them is crime.

Nation of thugs, an essay in blaming the victim

A little over a year ago, a roommate threatened me with violence in a discourse plainly analogous to a threat of rape. I eventually was able to get him to leave, but when I told certain professionals of this, both female, one an hispanic hospital social worker fond of batting her eyelashes to show me she knew she was lying, and the other a white woman at a mediation agency, they both reacted with threats that could be activated by them in the event that I could not handle it myself. Did they think I was lying, or were they just relying, perhaps unconsciously, on a macho ideology to the effect that a man must be able to handle anything, and if he cannot, he is to blame.

I did not tell either woman that he was Black. We can imagine what they would have done in that case. In addition to being guilty of being unable to handle by myself a threat of violence, I would be “racist.”

My therapist said it is unfortunate that I am a man and not a woman, as were I woman I would have gotten sympathy. Everyone wants to help women in situations of difficulty, and to tell men in situations of difficult to man up and handle it. If you cannot deal with it, you’re not a real man, and may be suspected of being a criminal yourself, or an “incapable” who is crazy, which is effectively the same thing. Women in difficulties are supposed to be comforted, men are supposed to be challenged.

Which is exactly what this angry Black liberal was saying to me. He didn’t like me and had spent months harassing me to get me to see what a horrible person I am. He could have left but chose to stay for the satisfaction of being able to that and prove himself right in his own eyes and if possible, and through whatever violence, mine. He grabbed me by the arms and said, “Does that bother you?” No, I replied. “Well, how about this?” and he threw me against the wall. Then he said, “Now you what I can do.” Yes, mister, and more than that, I know what depths of evil and horror people in general are capable of. He was letting me know that he was in charge, he was master now, because he had a fantasy that, being white, I was trying to enslave him, and thought that the only way not to be another man’s slave is to make him your own. The deal was that, understanding that he is master and can hurt me, he’s going to fuck me (he was in fact gay), and it all depends on me how it goes. He can fuck me gently, and might prefer that, as long as I am “good” and don’t get angry and fight back. For then, if I do, he will fuck me hard and violently and I won’t like it. He was making a clear threat of some manner of actualized or merely threatened violence, and in a way clearly analogizing rape.

That social worker and that mediator were both activating America’s medieval ideology. According to which, at least for men, might makes right. If you want to prove that you are in the right, you have to use or threaten violence. That is what that man did with me, and he was a liberal, who thought he was in the right, and had a fantastic theory according to which I had wronged him, because, as he said, I said things that (because they were critical) “hurt his feelings.” And black men are so deficient in self-respect, he wanted me to believe, that they can and should extort it from white people, by any means necessary. For we all know that this culture and its leaders have long advocated violence, and it is not part of a politics that aims to change things in the country, but only one that is a respect extortion racket. Of course, he himself criticized me in many ways, unrelentingly, with his withering contemptuous moralism.

When I lived in France, one thing I noticed is that if you stand on a subway platform for one minute in Paris and then at another time in New York, you can see at a glance that the Americans, men and women, white, black, hispanic, and others, all seem to be saying with their body language, “I’m tough, so don’t nobody fuck with me!” This attitude is largely absent in Europe except among a smaller criminal class and the racist and nationalist far right.

The white woman at that mediation agency in Manhattan is pretty nice. She did what so many Americans do, and what this roommate was doing to me big time: Refusing to say what you actually think, refusing to respond to what people say if they are foolish enough to say what they actually think, and engaging in pure manipulation, with everything you say or everything that really matters part of the manipulative game. Game theory has replaced rational discourse.

This is a nation of thugs, and the liberal protect them. Because they have their own agenda and are equally corrupt.

On the utility of obedience as path to contentment

Humanistic psychology and all its avatars is just an ideology of the professional and managerial elite in a business society. The common error is the belief that there is some ethics that will enable you to be successful, and that that is all you need. In Biblical terms, that makes you a Noahide, one who only wants to save himself and perhaps those close to him. And yet “professional ethics” that tells you to care about the (poor) people affected by what you do is of course no answer either. There is no answer. And yet that does not call for despair. What it calls for is recognition that we are participants in something like a history, an open temporal process (it does not follow a line laid down in and by the past) within which we can and must dare to want and work towards what is utopian in the sense that it does not presently exist at all. If in the midst of this you want to successfully manage your own life, you will reduced to one of the available forms of conservatism. The only sensible way to negotiate that is to give it less than your full confidence. All these solutions have the contingency not of imperfect knowledge (which assumes a model of epistemic perfectibility) but of the true that is also false. 

Nothing should be more suspect than contentment, though of course every lack thereof can be punished. People are not supposed to Lack but adjust themselves to a Being that is a plenitude.

Thus, a hospital psychiatrist said to me, “This is a good country. And if you don’t agree with me, you can sue me.” He dared me to sue him because he knew that he is a one percent professional representing state authority and would probably win because the relevant “facts” would be so constituted, and already are, so as to prejudice any court in his favor.

He was also revealing that I was being punished for being disaffected and naming my disaffection through a political judgment that he wished to simply disallow. To him, “this country” is either good or bad in its entirety and essence, but that is absurd, and is a caricature of what I was actually being punished for. I was suspected of anti-American activities and even an anti-American personality. This was made explicit by an admitting psychiatrist who demanded (he said he was “welcoming” this) that I “be American” with him. What could that possibly mean?

I was suspected of being a malcontent and punished for this. I preach the gospel of discontent theorized and politicized.

Any relative contentment worth the name or the price must be a way of seizing a fundamental discontent.

Against Second-Wave Feminism (and What to Expect under Trump): Letter to a Friend

Prologue: To the General Reader
 
“…she was, or claimed to be, violently allegeric to the ordinary laundry detergents that are used on most people’s clothing, the scent or poisonous vapors from which she believed persisted on that clothing essentially indefinitely or at least for as long as a normal person would wear it without subjecting it to the indelible residues of the toxic detergent yet again.
 

A female friend of mine whom I had known since not long after 9/11, whom I encountered again at a place I thought unlikely to, a film theater in Manhattan, told me a story involving the effect of my person as normally attired upon hers that point by point reiterated the above, which is a quotation from a story on my blog about an encounter with a radical feminist in Berkeley many years ago. This friend I had forgotten has long said she is asthmatic, so perhaps her claim is credible, but I did wonder at the uncanniness of hearing this from her for the first time ever. In fact, upon seeing her a second, and third time, in New York at the same theater, some months after our first encounter following my return, she spoke out a series of halting objections to formal and stylistic aspects of my manner of speaking. When we corresponded briefly in following days, she made further complaints about form and style of my communicating.  I was initially put off by the fact that almost immediately after declaring her materialistic phobia we both left the museum, because she showed clear discomfort at the sudden appearance behind her of a policeman, at a moment when I had just said something personal about an experience unrelated to her or her ideology (see below), and the next thing that happened was she started screaming at some man who apparently had pushed against her as she was trying to exit through the revolving door.  I did not see it, and merely watched as she chewed him out and he replied nonchalantly by saying someone had pushed him.  Had she considered this matter better, being like me a long-time New Yorker, she might have realized that in crowded subways and other situations things like that can happen through no one’s fault.  But why, I wondered, the almost immediate conjunction between her claim about laundry detergents poisoning the air she breathes like Communists putting fluoride in our drinking water (as in Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove”) and the iteration of her grand bête noir of hated male aggressively?  What the fuck was up here?  I probably should have treated this as an unwelcome sign that functionally is like provocation if not harassment (very appropriate in the age of Trump, as discussed below).  Her allergy could be real for all I know, but her subsequent objections to all manner of my speaking and writing suggested to me that something here either does not add up or adds up in a decisively inauspicious way.  The story, which I began to recount to her, though she may well have read this also on my blog, of my own encounters upon my return to New York with a certain few people in my previous acquaintance whose behavior was so odd and unaccountable that I could only wonder (it is in most such cases, I think, impossible to know; perhaps as in Popper’s philosophy of science, there are strategies to get information that will seem to disprove such hypotheses, but verification of them may not easily proceed further than uncertain conjuncture, and of course talking about it, as a lawyer warned me, can lead to people knee-jerkingly saying that you are being paranoid.  And they want people to be paranoid as well as afraid, even if the price of this timidity is some anger, which they can also use against you).

I write about this because I think we can expect that in the new age of Trump there will be lots more of this, and anyone who has ever expressed a dissent thought politically in any context could be put on a suspect list (one million Americans have been), and then you might be surprised who and what comes out of the woodwork, what kinds of curveballs people you would least expect this of will throw at you — and obviously you must know how to handle them rightly or you will be made to regret it).  If someone introduces or re-introduces themself to you and they seem to be very cool, you may at any moment find that something is amiss and it looks like they are playing a game.  It could well be that the explanation is not intentional (on the part of an agentive force operating behind the scenes; that is, that the person is a police informant perhaps employed largely to harass, provoke, frustrated, or entrap you; most often social action is effectively coordinated by what Foucault called “strategies without strategists”; and this explanation can be called functional or ideological.  Many Americans do similar things that can only ultimately be explained by wrong beliefs inculcate by institutions like schools and universities, or media and the entertainment industry, and so by their socialization.  The common elements, however, of intentional and coordinated versus unintended, ideologically-driven, and functional actions like this is that you will experience it as puzzling and somehow aversive and on examination it will be very difficult to come up with a plausible explanation for the odd behavior that is favorable to the assumption that the person is a true friend.  America is the land where people make friends easily and can become astonishingly intolerant sooner if not later.  The rule should be that if your friend’s behavior appears to evince only motives that you cannot find on any likely interpretation consonant with your own, then he or she is not a friend.

 
Letter
 
Dear N.,
 
The following remarks may seem pointed; they are not meant to annoy. My flattery and words of more mere kindness and gentleness will come later if you continue to read this email, and I do not consider you under any obligation to do so. This statement is true not without qualification, and that will be made clear below.
 
I always assume even in personal correspondence that reader and writer have distinct jobs. The writer’s responsibility is for what he says. That does not mean that he necessarily must adapt his style or what he says to the normative expectations of the audience. He may choose to anticipate them, but if so can still decide as any artist does whether to merely accommodate them (risking servility and boringness: If the sender’s message only meets the receiver’s expectations, it does not say anything novel and so is not information, not a statement, not even a message. The reader alone and not the writer are responsible for how the reader understands and interprets what he reads, and for the fact that he reads it, or continues to do so. So if you are already annoyed and may reproach me at the end for having said too much or written to you on the wrong topic, than please cut right now your moral losses since the resentment you must already bear towards what you have reluctantly but with morbid curiosity already read renders you guilty already before the God of writers and readers, and friends who are or should be both (you do know I presume of the literary letter? My only condition for it is that writing is used to express thought. Even when it is personal. Few people do this; it is not the general norm, which is to say, the normative expectation of the silent and semi-literate majority. Tant pis pour eux! I hereby pray to this God to absolve your sin now when the accumulated capital of it is still relatively small.
On being offended, I call to mind a teacher of mine in my youth who was something of a mentor and knew me well. One day I called and left a message with his wife. Both were therapists also by profession. I said, “Please tell Aaron that I called. And please also ask him not to call me back at my present home address, because it is my father’s house, and my father does not like him.” She said, “Is that what you wanted to tell me?” This was a statement in the guise of a question, an insult in the guise of the false observation that she was victim of mine. I was shocked and horrified and in subsequent years I have, I admit, sometimes wrongly thought that this is a very womanish thing to say and do, because so many American women are so easily offended, and they take everything personally. It was funny to me because all I could have said was, No, Mrs. Heilman, all I meant is that I would like (and then repeating my statement). I meant what I said. It wasn’t a coded message. Not everything is personal, even if the liberals used feminism in fact along with the therapeutic ideology to make the political only personal so that there is no political. Not every approach to a woman by a man is sexual, not every question is personal, etc. Later I realized that many, perhaps even most, American men are this way too. The only difference being that they may hurt you physically if they decide to or find that they feel insulted. (But on this, did you get my question – I don’t know – about Greek women? Is it there still only men who gather for the pleasure of argument, allow their passions to get heated, etc.? I observed a cafe job interview today with two young American women, the applicant clearly a talented and appropriately self-confident artist, and I realized immediately with some interest and admiration that they were using a style of communication (verbal mannerisms, tone, gesture – she was very expressive, though I thought I noticed numerous discursive strategies of reassurance within what clearly was a very well-cultivated personal style of self-presentation by a young woman artist), and that the conversation would have been very different if ether participant had been an American men – we are equally expressive, or can be, but with different mannerisms – for instance, American men with each other, like Italian men and probably most men unless maybe they are absurdly middle class and protestant, will often sprinkle their talk with profanities, and women even today rarely do. More importantly, men in conversation tend to overtly or subtly challenge either while women tend to reassure each other and share intimate if often fairly anodyne self-revelations. And there’s other differences, it’s fascinating; I kind of wish we could all narrow this gap.
 
As you know, I came to New York partly to escape this (my mentor’s wife and people like her), and I returned to New York from France only to realize that I had failed to escape it, and that was painful and it still hurts.
 
So I don’t know how you will react to this email, but its length is a function of what I wanted to say, including not more nor less, and all of what you might consider anger here is fully sublimated into thoughts about what is true or just, as I think is proper. I take full responsibility here for what I have explicitly said and that alone. Please, if you are going to claim that a set of words such as those in my speech or writing seem to you merely angry or assaultative or violent, as words cannot be unless they are threats, and I will never do anything violent to you (which I of course feel the need to say for only one reason, and that is the context of your militant feminism and things you have said, like you would never share an apartment with another men or even allow one as a guest.
 
That implies I think that you hold the common and horribly wrong second wave feminist view that all men are potential rapists, which is merely a version of the common liberal view, which really dates from Hobbes, that all persons are potentially violent (and so need to be surveilled and controlled by the police and policing of various kinds). The error here is simple: It is true in one sense but not in another, and it is the second sense that is decisive here. We are animals but also have reason, and an adult citizen is normatively self-determining and autonomous through the rational determination of the will (there is no such thing as a non-rational will, although there are of course bad reasons and motives, but as I think Arendt thought, such evil and badness of character come from insufficient clear and rigorous thought).
 
Here it is simple. Any person can commit a murder, in the sense that the kinds of acts that can constitute that crime if effective in realizing a certain consequence, viz., the death of the other, are acts that any embodied intelligent subject such as human persons are “can” perform; in one sense of “can” anyway, the sense that is not equivalent to will or desire (which is not the same as inclination though it can include it; Kant showed it need not and perhaps should not) and is. In another sense, only those persons are “capable of” or rather, “might,” become murderers who tacitly will themselves as such in willing such an action.
 
Thus, it is very well possible that a person who is asked, say by a policing health care worker, “Do you think you might harm someone,” will say, “No, I will not.” And if they reply, “Well, that’s good that you don’t wish to right now, but of course you might — later, perhaps, maybe if you are not “stable” under our care.” And the only proper reply then is, “No, it is not possible that I will do that, not at all, because I know who I am and what I will and will not do, and under condition whatever will I ever do that.” “But you are capable of it? Surely you admit that? I am! See, I have all kinds of criminal tendencies, we all do, and that is why we all must obey our bosses, as I obey mine, and comply with the instructions of those whose job is to take care of us so that we do not do anything we might regret, given that we always might.” “I am sorry for you that you do not know who you are, especially given that persons in your profession regularly do people they have great power over a great deal of harm, and most seem to think nothing of it, precisely because they think that good is obedience to the authorities who claim to represent the law (or the national health or purity or good governance or the nature or necessity of things, or…), and so they do harm to people by obeying their bosses and blame their victims for not obeying when often the sole just act is one of refusal to obey, or comply as your profession prefers to term this.” And of course, that is precisely what one cannot say. They don’t want you to be a morally independent autonomous adult; they may ever find that threatening or pretend to. The welfare state in capitalist societies is always an instrument of infantilization, in ours particularly so. The welfare state is the cold war against the power. The police are always ready, though, to step in if and when they are called for. The position I take on this is Arendt’s position which is based on Kant’s, and it is quite applicable today because of what Trump is the name.  They are skeptics who mistrust everyone, and this is the measure of how Anglophone liberalism (free markets and laissez-faire plus personal liberties and rights that accrue from limitations on the powers of state and corporate or private actors) is still Hobbesian; the liberty ideology based on property right and limits to powers is always a tacit apology for the Leviathan state.  Their skepticism calls for an epistemology of empiricism, and since they doubt your motives (you are a suspected criminal for them qua criminal type, by virtue not of actions or statements but imputed dispositions, imputed just as in the liberal’s “microagressions,” discernible only by the expert interpreter armed with an ideology), you are supposed to adopt the same skeptical and a posteriori standpoint towards yourself.  But with one’s own self and thinking, and desire and will or intention, one can only be Cartesian and Kantian.   
 
(Badiou has a book, “Of what is Sarkozy the name?” Maybe I want to write, “Of what is Trump the name?” He is the name of something that started long ago and was mostly quite firmly in place already when he was elected; his opponent in the general election is equally a partisan (and architect) of it, but with a very different discursive style and with claims to “liberal” ideologies rather than authoritarian and nationalist/populist ones.)
 
My only reason for making this point is that second wave feminism makes exactly the same mistake in the case of sexual violence. It is true that rape can only be performed by a man and a woman would have to either use a prosthetic device, which is certainly rare and would be relatively distancing on subjectively (the actor) though not objectively (the person acted upon), or ring for a man to come who will take care of the insolent suitor, something that as you know I think is done all the time.
 
That is one reason I do not think women are better than men (necessarily); the two genders still tend to differ but this only gives them each different characteristic virtues or vices or forms thereof. The other men who threatened to rape me 35 years ago did not do so because they were men, nor because they were prisoners, nor because they were angry, nor because they thought I was “gay,” but because they were rapists. The necessary and sufficient condition of someone being capable of committing that crime is that they have the will to do so. Otherwise, if all men are naturally disposed to violent crime because they have pricks (or because men are more aggressive and militant), then why would anyone who thinks that want to have any association at all with any man at all?
 
If you are not certain on the matter either on a priori grounds (a theory about all men), then you are in error on a very important
philosophical point that almost certainly renders any continued association between us impossible for me, while if you are doubtful of it on a posteriori grounds that in your thinking have anything to do with me in particular, than you indeed either should give me a suitable explanation to which I have the opportunity to respond in a discussion that shall, ideally, continue until the matter is resolved to mutual satisfaction, or else similarly, or at the very least, I must be extremely careful around you, mainly to be sure I am never alone with you not in public, because women like that will cry wolf. I call these Women-Children; they are as dangerous as men-children. Both are naifs, most are liberals, those who merely appear this way are fool mongers and all of these cannot be friends of mine. You are no child. If I had thought you a confused woman child I would never have spent more than one exchange of repliques with you. You are not like that, but I think you are a second wave feminist, because the third wave and punk feminists that I respect and like are not like that at all. This country has moved beyond it, though it may have needed Hilary’s defeat at the steep price of Trump’s victory to make this a solid declaration now very widely understood.
The thing is, left-liberals motivated by justified outrage at social injustices, experienced, remembered, or imagined, must move beyond the position of mere reaction and towards something more constructional and thoughtful, which requires the intermediate step of a firm prise de conscience that confers a certain confidence even in the midst of the contingency awareness of which can intimidated and make cowards of us all. (Which is what Hamlet meant by “conscience”: forbidding reflections on what might happen if one does what he considers he ought to do; here he wrongly thinks that morality and courage are matters of representational knowledge, when they are matters of critical thought).
It is fine in principle, dear friend, if you have strong opinions about some (in fact) controversial topic like “men” (whatever that means – to you) or your second wave feminism (which I absolutely and passionately despise as you know) but are, as you have been continually, each and every time you mention this gigantic bugbear of yours, absolutely and vehemently (you have shouted me down in an instance on silencing my response to your deliberately vague but angry provocations) refuse to discuss it. NFW! Say something to me and I can respond; you may not as far as I am concerned shout me down; of course, all I can do then is raise my own shouting further, which is stupid, and thus the thing to do is say f.o. and walk off.
 
Please therefore do not again refer in my audition refer to or hint strongly at any complaint based on your (apparently either extremist or militantly liberal (tacitly rightist, I suspect, which is true if you are a second waver, as they are carceral feminists, angry at men in general and suspicious of all) gender politics. (“My identity is so offended and angered at your identity, and the propositional claims I find through my hermeneutic expertise latent in your behavior though unknown to you. So stop being you here now, when I am here now.”)
 
Your saying these things to me is out of place when I have done nor said absolutely nothing to warrant this. And that is certainly the case. You never said otherwise.
 
No friend of mine who spends any time with me will be much appreciated alluding constantly to hatreds that obviously implicate me by virtue of no fact other than my gender (when in fact neither my gender nor yours is really one of the most important facts about either of us, and never appeared to me to be at all; there are circumstances with some persons that can of course change that,
but in philosophical arguments that is normally not what is on one’s mind).
 
The other obnoxious thing you have been doing recently is all of your endless complaints about me in terms of how I present or express myself, in speech or writing. My accent, my rhetoric, my clothing, my writing with more than a few short sentences, the things I say that you believe I should not have (though it apparently is fine if I go in thinking; then I suppose we can dissemble together)… Are you, then, a friend or some kind of virtual one-woman police force? The very idea that there are things people believe and quite firmly but ought not to say.
 
On the other hand, I am very appreciative of the 2-3 very nice and to me interesting suggestions of places and events that you rightly guessed I might like. Thank you! It was as if, and almost uncannily, as if these suggestions were carefully tailored to please me and perhaps even seem like invitations to some renewed or deepened friendship, which in principle I might like, and did have some vague but pleasant thoughts along those lines. This alone made me think you unusually charming these recent occasions of encountering you, as too did our multi-train conversation after that last film we both saw.
 
I think you will have noted already that I am much more of a gentle man in person, but I have an acerbic literary style, I do not shun but enjoy arguments, and my letters (and emails) are more literary than they are “communicative” (these are two purposes exclusive of one another as usually understand). (I comfort myself in the face of accusers of the crime of verbosity that the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, author of an authoritative intellectual history of Marxism, once wrote (and published, but I assume also sent) a 60-page letter to English Marxist historian E.P. Thompson). Every philosopher I know in Europe has rejected the idea of a communicative ethics; writing is in essence expression of thought (or feeling articulated through and as thought, since writing involves concepts and statements), and the letter that is thoughtful rather than a mere sign that the two are still friends, as in most Christmas cards, is a hybrid in this regard but I would say that the addressed character of the personal letter is more like the envelope of the content that is what is said. To give someone what they expected exactly is the same as returning a gift, and this is always an insult.
“Communication” may well follow an almost infinitely denumerable set of social norms that participants must observe or be thought gauche, impolite, or even — why not??? – crazy. “Yes, indeed, I’m a crazy New Yorker,” he said; now how much do I owe you? Here; is this right?”
 
You may not mean it this way, I’m sure you don’t, but much of your recent behavior seems to me like a form of subtle harassment of the
type I think American liberals are pretty good at. I don’t like this or them.
 
To my way of thinking, it seems to me there is something wrong in our encounters. Was I a shmuck with you ever in the past? You
always did what I describe above. This time seeing you recently you were very friendly when not into this but when you were you laid it on especially thick. How many rules are there for proper behavior of friends and fellow citizens in our idea of the republic?
 
As I said, I don’t like hippies; I was into punk. That means not shunning conversation or needing always to be cool. It has nothing to do with gender except when some people say it does. Most college educated Americans are member of the professional class trained to be managers and leaders, and that is why they have police society minds.
 
I am pleased — not or not only flattered personally but also my thinking, which matters to me more than my personal ego, is flattered in the sense of feeling appreciation for a line of thinking or a possible line of thinking. I will have more to say, hopefully in some pieces I can try to publish, about how I think our nation’s ultra-liberalism /neoliberalism / therapeutic spirituality society has led directly into an authoritarian capitalism blatantly quasi-fascist police state, of which Trump is merely the name and a name which is a concept that indicates legitimation of this style, which is also
and perhaps primarily a certain way of using language.
 
I cannot agree that you ought not to explain to me your ideas about “men” or “types of men.” Do or do I not, in your mind, fit within this category?  I am strong enough of spirit or mind not to be intimidated by any female friend’s unrelenting references to some kind of presumably schmuckish behavior no the part of some kinds of men, not to mention by your taking care over time to make it clear that this really is your one great political passion, though it is one of ressentiment. Do you or do you not place me in that category? Might you or might you not? Obviously, if some men might be, then any men will be if he meets the criteria or fits the pattern. Then what is the pattern or criteria? I am not asking for
 
a confessionnal narrative of your past, because that is personal enough that I would only expect any friend to tell me personal things
if he or she is motivated to do so by a level of trust that people only as well acquainted as you and I presently are and presumably shall remain generally do not feel comfortable sharing. No problem. But why not discuss the general ideas or figurations thereof, rough notions of a type given by fictional characters, film or literary analogies, or what have you? Yes, I think that you owe me an explanation, for this and for some other aspects of your recent behavior. You lived in Berkeley as I did, you came of age around the high point of the 60s, decade that I missed, and of adulthood in the 70s, decade that I remember so well. I knew neohippies and punks. I was a punk. We didn’t like the hippies, and I hated Berkeley apart from the Pacific Film Archive and a few brilliant professors. I do not like liberals. I have become more hard core since returning to New York because of almost unbelievable shit that happened to me, and that is one reason I say that Trump is just the name for some set of things that had already happened. I do not like them. As I do know that you do not.
 
I don’t think constantly about gender. Of course there are types of women I do not like. Berkeley has them in spades, or it did. I have written about this, as I think you know. Why, dearest friend, if I lay my cards on the table (and they are because I am a writer and have already said a lot about various aspects of some of these subjects(, will you not, when you have done and said much that does concern me, and that I found myself compelled to question in the first place just out puzzlement and so wonder and curiosity, in part because I insist with myself on questioning or allowing to be questioned my prejudices or predispositions of belief.
 
If you had a body double who was a police informant, it would not matter, because they at the very least are of course tributary to the NSA which reads all our emails at least with computerized algorithms that are as effective at pinpointing dissident ideas and disaffected persons as Google’s are at ranking websites for searches. Why, if I have my cards on the table, would you refuse to show yours in at least the manner appropriate to answering my questions which are highly relevant and certainly to any prospect of our continued friendship in any meaningful way? What are you not saying and why? Or am I supposed to just infer it from he signals and signs?
 
People who communicate in signals and signs are not friends; it can very easily seem like harassment. Often it is manipulation; the Trojan Horse was not a statement but a sign. Signs must be decoded and can easily mislead, and so are often used with the intention to do so. The only possible alibi in most such cases is just that the person is a naif. And therefore a fool. Being a fool in dark times like ours is dangerous. If you doubt this, and I am certain you do not, ask me or read my writings. I don’t expect them to interest anyone. But I find your recent behavior as incomprehensible as you appear to find mine. And I don’t see that mine is. After all, I am, if not generally verbose, and I apologize if I have said too much for your taste, which I can only qualify by pointing out that a reader who is not in bad faith will stop reading when bored or annoyed and not complain after doing so that you forced her or him to read it, because no reader in the history or writing has ever been forced by an author writing from an elsewhere and read in a later time to read what is written, even if addressed to them personally and sent to them as a letter.
 
For one last time, in the years I have known you (since 2003), you have probably referenced or hinted at your profound anger at men of some kind or your angry feminist convictions of some kind without ever making at all clear what any of this is about and what if anything it has to do with me. All I know is that you also each time have adamantly refused discussion by or with me of what you bring up. Incessantly.
 
So, again, dearest and esteemed friend, fellow sometime lover of radical philosophies, who does care about justice and the good,
enough even to be bothered by its palpable lack, as is so evident in at least the last 6 weeks in this country, — che cosa? (Why) is that too much to ask? You could of course answer it in any way you like. I do not like it when people make half-statements to me, or statements that to me make no good sense. I do indeed reiterate my claim about media norms of discourse and things like Twitter, or the sound byte, in reference to common notions about propriety in length or form of discourse in letters.
 
You also strike me as a funny feminist if you have not read all the most important feminist theorists. I grant that most American intellectual types are dilletantes, but I think that an unflattering thing to be too much of. One then risks becoming like Sartre’s “Self-Taught Man,” who wants to know everything because he cares in particular for nothing and so has no itch to scratch and no real curiosity. Sometimes I have thought (because I have observed) that women are much more likely than men to be that way, but as you know I refuse all normative ideas of gender. (Descriptive observations of statistical patterns or prevailing social norms are sociological and not normative notions and so cannot be called sexist, which is a kind of moralist critique of a moralism, here absent. On the descriptive point, I just don’t know, and it doesn’t matter all that much since we all can try to surround ourselves with those whom we like most for whatever reason.
 
You and I are clearly too people who can enjoy each other’s company at least in some respects (I have quite enjoyed yours recently on those 2, or was it 3? seems like it! occasion), and who both have strong needs in terms of what the people close to us must at least avoid doing if not also for what we must positively do. I have a vague sense of yours but it’s difficult to really see clearly because I don’t see the principle that explains your defensive behavior. Defensiveness is fine, without it we would die rapidly from inability to cope with bombardments of excess stimuli (as we know from Freud). And I have mine. We presume, or want to, that those of our friends are rational. They can seem not to be, and then, at least for a person like me, an explanation or interpretation is needed. The former is better because it then becomes an interpretation that is shared or at least recognized by both persons. In my case, I have my own triggers. I think by now you know what at least some of them are, because I have told you, and you have read some of my writings. I have written a lot in the last few years, some of it is on my blogsite, and that is a lot, some pieces are long. I know you have read some of them. And there too you told me not to discuss it, even though you, i am sure, already know exactly what I think.
 
So you are an avoidant liberal, and that is because you are a bit of a Bay Area 1970s neohippie, which could just mean that you have read not enough things that would cause anyone to if not question that at least know why “we” do not like it. It is the avoidant behavior. That is why I asked if you are a trauma survivor. I told you that I am, and I also told you that among my traumatic memories is a sexual assault (which almost killed me; another one happened recently, and it was a race-baiting Black liberal art school graduate New England BASP (Black anglo-protestant) (if I were really pissed off at you, and I am not, all my anger is about more general things and you cannot possibly do anything that would make you object of it in any way except participate in it, and then, in part because I know that you are not my problem, and in greater part for obviously larger reasons that we might simply call moral, all you will ever get from me that will seem in any way unpleasant is a verbal shit storm. You may think this letter is that, and I am sorry if you do, because shit the defining qualities that it is offensive merely and not interesting, meaning nothing is said. The American liberal tendency among so many women of the professional class in particular to do something that thank God I have never seen you do: reduce what someone has said to a mere expression of disaffected emotion and thus material for a therapy or “spirituality” machine of correctional treatment rather than as material for thought. Language properly used is always thought. I reserve the right to do that, on the rare occasions that call for it, and when I do all of my “aggression” is in my use of words. Further, I will not do anything that is other than a mere speech act that you have asked me not to do, although I will certainly not appreciate it (and will then need to and will talk about it, in writing, and probably not to you – at all, anymore) if you then claim that my persistent tap on the shoulder or whatever is some kind of grand scheme (imaginary) sexual assault. If you do that, well, please don’t. I assume not but a good friend of mine whom I am still friends with in fact and is a feminist anthropology professor did something like that with me and I turned pale with a disgust that was simply beyond words. I let her know in a brief message that she was persona non grata in my world because this is stupid and horrible, it smacks of what I have never hesitated to call Nazi feminism. And she is a liberal, thinks she is a leftist, and that’s fine, she is sincere. I later relented and even saw her again. She probably forgot it; she being from a Catholic country probably even forgave me in the interiority of her own conscience. If she brought it up, I would say, no, it is you who were wrong, let’s look at why. She did not; I doubtless will not either since I already told her how I feel and why I think she was dead wrong (and in fact I consider that kind of reaction a blatant threat to invoke state violence against me — she and I are surely equally vulnerable if in different ways). So that’s me. A firestorm of words in your face is the worst thing I have ever done or wanted to do to any woman or man. If you believe otherwise about me, please either tell me and tell me exactly how and why or stop believing that or don’t talk to me or take your own risk of la noia, being annoyed or offended, if you do.
 
If you do not respond to this email and this conversation does not continue – or get started, because this letter is an attempt on my part to begin a conversation we have never had and that I feel almost as if I need – I shall not be at all surprised, just very disappointed.  Because you are better than that. I don’t know anyone as smart as you who would behave that way unless someone whose interests would necessarily be contrary to mine is paying them. That would surprise me, and disappoint me also. I don’t think anything like that is possible in your instance, of course; someone who did that would make fewer mistakes and probably be getting paid well enough to live much more comfortably than I suspect you do.
 
Again, if I offend you here and should not have, please also keep in mind that I write usually in a somewhat piquant and acerbic
style. That is my style. Styles do not have rules! (Kant argued this also). I think the best friends understand even what may seem like an accusation; a foe will exaggerate his pique at this and claim offense to the high heavens with many exclamation points, but then of course, one like me would just see that as more of the same.

Against “mental health” (rev.)

To be ill is to be not well. To be not well is not in the first place to have a disease in the way that a cancer is a disease: a part of the corporeal self has within it what may be considered a foreign body destructive of it. More fundamentally, disease is malaise, malady, malediction. Malaise is being ill at ease, uncomfortable. In French, la maladie, a term dating from the thirteenth century, originally meant to be troubled in soul or mind. Malediction, which also means curse, is to be ill-said. The damned are ill-said by a singular voice whose authoritative pronouncements have necessity and are not just some stranger’s opinion, like that of hostile critics if you are an artist. The modern world invented new forms of damnation… Liberty of the mind is the situation when people’s actions, statements and works can be judged without they themselves being judged. Americans worry far too much about being ill-said as persons. It’s like we are all afraid of rejection and get angry and cry “prejudice” when we think we are.
As it implies a culture that is no longer ad hominem and arts and ethics of impersonality, the Americans don’t really have it in any very reliable way.

What kind of God insists we be untroubled and happy? The Prophets were not untroubled; they faulted kings and people for not being troubled enough, as the world they lived in was troubling.

Strictly speaking, the concept of mental illness implies that everyone has it, and more importantly, should. And so it is meaningless. No human being is ever perfectly undisturbed and at ease. In fact, we are the creatures who are uniquely ill-prepared to live in the world we were born into, and we never really solve this problem, though maybe one reason we all must die is the danger that otherwise we might eventually think we had done so, perfected the world in our instance. In Western culture, as opposed to that of Buddhism, tranquility has never been a dominant virtue. No one should want to be perfectly at ease (the God we are mythically said to be reflections of certainly is not, if we trust the literary texts where he figures most authoritatively). The thing is to be troubled in the right way. Then we could have things like art and science, and not just technology, and politics and not just administration. We could have tragedy. Certainly the formidable and strange (“deinon”) character of humanity in Sophocles’s Antigone does not include not being bothered by anything.

But we understand malaises wrongly. Our therapeutic sciences have made illnesses like cancer their guiding metaphor. Or demon possession and exorcism. Something is wrong with you, and it must be cured or treated so that its expressions are limited or prevented. Our ideas of mental health and illness are immunological. They are securitarian. They are an ideology of war befitting the national security state, that is always at least implicitly at war against its own people, in a war that is fought as if it were bringing peace and happiness to all. They consider illness a dangerous threat or risk to be countered, contained, and managed. Every tyrant claims to love the people, which is supposed to be what makes him a legitimate ruler; and what if he does? Love is not dominating and being dominated, despite what many religious people think.

Along with this goes the eclipse of practices of cultivating “knowledge, insight, and understanding,” the first desideratum in the Jewish daily petitionary prayers. We think everyone can want and have these things. But our principal institutions of management do less than ever, and the truth is they never did much.

Most professionals reduce insight and understanding to knowledge, which does not require thought, though always demanding you speak their language, use their jargon and acknowledge the meanings they give it; for power is always partly the ability to impose a language and thus a manner of thinking on the subjected. Nothing will annoy a bureaucratic professional more than your insistence on using terms of your own that are common in the language of the society through not from their profession or organization. And it will not help that you can explain what you mean. Meaning in bureaucratic contexts is given by definitions, and definitions are legislated, they are law, and so the jargon they insist you use (including describing yourself as possessing the Lack they name; in other words, your must show deference to their understanding of Being and acknowledgement of the justice of their power over you by acknowledging the applicability to you of their statements about you. Like all authoritative statements and texts, they permit interpretive explication and application, but not semantic or epistemic doubt, for having been declared by a licensed authority, they are true beyond question. Everyone knows you cannot argue with the boss. Otherwise they will think you are denying your truth, which is their set of names and descriptions for you. The worst thing you can do is suggest that you do not acknowledge the legitimacy of their authority; every bureaucratic institution that is a part of a totalizing system of domination will label such miscreants with something analogous to the sin of pride, which always means thinking you are outside the Society of the Just, and thus the scope of their power. Always this is the ultimate and one unpardonable sin, that of pride, placing yourself above the law, outside society or the community, beyond the reach of legitimate authority. Rule number one is that everyone is a subjected subject, and you must never deny it. Even I must obey my own bosses, says your boss; we are all slaves of the institutional machine; obedience is the rule here. If you deny it, just who the hell do you think you are? Above the power that is universal? Blasphemy, apostasy, treason, insanity, reversion to the old faith and laws. You are a sinner and must confess your sin; every regime of toleration must be intolerant to those who refuse it; “intolerance of intolerance,” liberals say, imaging themselves Hegelians for whom truths are always negations of untruths just as in the mind of the warrior the good only is war against or suppression of, like St. George slaying the dragon, evil. The solider can be empty of mind like Buddha (ask the Japanese); he lets the enemy supply the matter and he goes work on that.

At root we can see that the semblance of a democracy of understanding of ourselves and others has been abandoned. Maybe in philosophy phenomenology was the last gasp of a subjectivism that insistently valorized personal experience, and asserted that everyone is entitled to their experience. It’s funny to have to put it that way. But the “deep” experiential modern self from Montaigne to Proust by way of Shakespeare, the modern novel, and so much else, seems to have been in eclipse for some time by our audiovisual media culture of immediacy. A cult of the obvious over that of wonder, the former calling for implementation and the latter for thought.

Though it is true that the immediacy of the image does not doom cinema to being advertising or propaganda, for the immediacy of the image can be compelling (to action and affection considered as closed and not the opening of a problematization; what you are feeling then is a truth you must confess if you are one of the ruled and may refer to if you are a ruler; in the West, power and domination are representational) or invocative, as images that evoke wonder in a temporal sequence can also situate that wonder as a kind of thinking, though juxtapositions, the implicit juxtapositions of allusions, or a question of the meaning of the image; cinema just does this in different ways than the novel. A culture of immediacy need not be one of the obvious. The obvious is the evident when its appearance is not needed or redundant. When something is all too obvious, remarking this is a rebuke, for aside from pedantry, why say it? Strong, silent ruling men and women only speak as enforcement (when the statement is revelatory or “true,” pointing something out that must be done or taken account of) or manipulation, when the statement is not true or need not be, perhaps is not part of Wilfrid Sellars’s game of “giving and asking for reasons,” since the point is to use a statement that is not meant to be sincere and revelatory not to evoke a more accurate seeing of a situation, but to provoke, typically in a reactive manner, a useful response; then, as in Foucault’s theory of power, people unwittingly serve the regime even and especially when they are resisting and think themselves opposing it). The evident is the truth that becomes obvious once it is seen, and is something that cannot be doubted and so is, as it were, frozen in time. The paradigm of the evident truth is a correlation of a statement with an image that exhibits what the statement says and thus shows that the statement is true. Curiously, this is a problem that not only has haunted philosophy in the form of the traditional “correspondence theory of truth” (I have written on this elsewhere, in a piece available on my blog), but that can be shown to be beset with inextricable unsolvable paradoxes, because two heterogenous modes of presentation are being said to be the same: only, yet not even, the right image will corroborate the statement. But there is no clear protocol for identifying “correct” images unless it is that they in turn correspond mimetically, as in traditional representational painting, to the “look” of the things and space of the world they depict. The true image is an image of a real image. But in fact all images have a reality effect that lies in their immediate and evident presentation of what the present as they present. It is tempting to say with some Heideggerian phenomenologists that truth is the revelation of the real through the things themselves showing themselves as themselves, as if authorial agency in its divine absoluteness is now removed from author and placed in the thing or work or text, so that it, as in self-management or autonomy, “shows itself,” as if the things in the world qua visible someone possess an agency directed at our experience and understanding. This is an origin imminent in the things rather than transcendent and prior to them; the modern understanding places transcendence temporality not in an irretrievable past but the always imminent possibility of a different yet redemptively familiar future. This is possibility as such, and its object is what various contemporary philosophers have called “the event.” In the end, that only is obvious that is the statement one has no wish to question because it would mean breaking with a habit that calls for the performance of an expected action invoked by the statement. Language is either thinking or order-words. Thinking is not representational; all of contemporary philosophy since Wittgenstein and Heidegger are in agreement on that. Thinking is always a process of producing meaning and truth out of the given, not of appropriation and distribution of products of thought as commodities for use or consumption by subjects supposed to know. Truth is not represented but constructed. Writing was introduced for governmental and merchant record-keeping and then appropriated by the older and universal practice of storytelling. I regret to inform you, sirs, but my poem is stronger than your list of names.

This is why psychoanalysis and psychiatry are ultimately incompatible. Psychoanalysis takes the brain for granted while focusing on language, for your mind is your brain on language. Psychiatry takes language and thought for granted and focuses on the brain, its chemical interventions targeting it directly, so there is nothing for you to understand. But note that when understanding and thought go, so too does learning and change. Neurochemical drugs are used not to cure diseases but to control symptoms. Psychoanalysis, because it works with language, is inescapably literary, and is also inseparable from its literary foundations in tragedy. Its central myth is not of parricide and incest so much as the desire to understand and its inextricability from a tragic moral blindness. But our society, or at least its governing apparatuses of financial, legal, and medical professionals, no longer has a need for tragedy, and so has abandoned the modes of experience proper to both tragedy and the novel. The typical novelistic hero is a bit of an antihero and takes from tragic heroes an irremediable social alienation. The novel has no chorus and it is not the tale we all tell, as with epic, nor a singular set of stories and statements of ethical and moral truth that we study and comment on; it is not “the Book.” It is more like a set of uncertain discourses about our certain stories and our uses of them. If tragedy and comedy set individual against state of things with the implicit promise of reconciliation, the novel will not hear of this. It isn’t even really about individuals so much as the form of life, which it is represents critically through forms of spoken and written discourse.

Ancient theater existed in a relationship to law and medicine. But storytelling had already broken with bureaucracy. Its reach has grown (look at universities) when it needs to be cropped back down to manageable size. And not because art is the true salvation or world of the spirituality we lack and seek. These concepts have little meaning today. And in any case, the novel and cinema constitutively lack the relationship to law and medicine that theater, because its focus is on individual characters revealed through performances requiring unities of person and presence, will always still have. Giving theater always a politics as well as a morality, but the novel and cinema (which share the feature that the texture of a presented world in principle always overwhelms and is primary in relation to the presentation and criticism of characters). Theater’s great question is what is the relationship between ethics and politics in situations of social conflict presented via conflicts between persons. The novel and cinema raise this question in an impersonal way, with consequences for our ethics and politics.

The mental health industry treats all deviance as illness, which it no more wants to cure than it wants to end crime; rather, the strategy is to take no steps to alleviate the causative social conditions but profitably and punitively treat the people who are designated criminal or mad. And ultimately these two categories become indiscernible as medicine takes over from law and medical judgments are made without the participation of the targeted person that he still ostensibly has in courtroom trials, though those are being eliminated too, as now 99% of all persons accused of a crime are railroaded by prosecutors into plea bargains by threatening them with outrageously long sentences if they dare to go to trial and lose, as all but the wealthy usually do.

What all this means is that for years we have moved towards and are now solidly within a governmental regime that is authoritarian. What Trump’s election has done is simply to announce this fact and the intent to wield this despotism openly and blatantly.
The regime of governance (including all that Marxists call “the state”: the legal, medical, corporate, financial, media, entertainment, educational, religious institutions that effectively govern the society through their professionalocracies) is anti-democratic and involves the rule of persons and not of law. Everyone who is incarcerated medically is the target of a generalized state of emergency that can be applied to everyone who can be called abnormal, which is everyone who is noticed, which is everyone.

There is a state machinery that enables functionaries of our government to kidnap anyone and lock him up, for any length of time they please, for any reason or none at all, and then to warehouse them, at their own (enormous) expense, after taking from them everything they have that connects them to their world: friends, the ability to go places and meet people, reading material of one’s choosing, the ability to use your laptop to write, the ability to keep and make contact with people online, the ability to watch the videos or listen to the music of one’s choosing, etc.

Make no mistake: This is done to punish. As Thomas Szasz has pointed out, almost everyone experiences it as punishment. And it can be done to punish one not only for being deviant or disaffected, though they are smart enough to know that dissidence like crime begins with disaffection, but also politically dissident, as was done in the Soviet Union.

Psychiatry vastly overreaches its possible competence, for: If there were a total theory of everything in the sphere of the studies of human persons and collectivities, their habits and discourses, it could not be a neurological and computational science of mind. It would have to pass through the mind’s expressions and forms of self-understanding.

Hegel was doubtless compelled to write a totalizing history of art and its philosophical significance because his idea of dialectic is phenomenological in this sense: An understanding of an other (person, collectivity, artwork or text, social practice, etc.) is an understanding of their subjective world via their articulation of it and its meaning for them. “Spirit” for Hegel is the social practice of understanding Being (the world, one’s self, one’s society, etc.) by understanding how an Other understands it. And this understanding must center around reasons. A good rational explanation of what You or They are doing can only be a good account of your or their account of what they are doing, and these accounts are always rational in explaining certain phenomena in terms of certain principles that appear to justify them. This means that I do you a violence if I think I can explain and give the meaning of what you are saying or doing in a way that ignores the meaning you give it. It would violate a principle of charity. Our legal and medical systems both do this. And that is why medicine cannot understand the mind. At least not without massive reliance upon artists and poets and philosophers and theorists. But their, our, truths are too big for doctors, lawyers, business owners, and managers, and they point in a different direction. It is philosophers and poets who understand the world more than people in any other profession, because their desire is to understand. This is not the same as knowledge, which in itself only really ever serve projects of mastery.

If ideas have meanings at all, they cannot be the property of specialists, nor are they merely given by their being represented in dictionaries of received ideas and terms legislated as authorized in terms of conformity to certain criteria of identification. As in psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. There are no truths that can simply be applied. Even if the epistemological questions (“is this really true?”) are considered satisfied for the time being, the hermeneutic ones never are. If ideas have meanings at all, they open onto inquiries that do not only unfold and elaborate these meanings as applicable to the case or matter at hand, but they also reciprocally placed in question the hypothesis that is the starting point. Unless the ideas are just implementations of a rule book. In that case, those who implement it are functionaries and not scientists.

When a society is dying, its reason is one of the first things to go.

Against “mental health”

To be ill is to be not well. To be not well is not in the first place to have a disease in the way that a cancer is a disease: a part of the corporeal self has within it what may be considered a foreign body destructive of it. More fundamental, disease is malaise, malady, malediction. Malaise is being ill at ease, uncomfortable. In French, la maladie, a term dating from the thirteenth century, originally meant to be troubled in soul or mind. Malediction, which also means curse, is to be ill-said. The damned are ill-said by a singular voice whose authoritative pronouncements have necessity and are not just some stranger’s opinion, even that of hostile critics if you are an artist. The modern world invented new forms of damnation… Liberty of the mind is the situation when people’s actions, statements and works can be judged without they themselves being judged. Americans worry far too much about being ill-said as persons. It’s like we are all afraid of rejection and get angry and cry “prejudice” when we think we are.  As it implies a culture that is no longer ad hominem and arts and ethics of impersonality, the Americans don’t really have it in any very secure way.

Strictly speaking, the concept of mental illness implies that everyone has it, and more importantly, should. And so it is meaningless. No human being is ever perfectly undisturbed and at ease. In Western culture, as opposed to that of Buddhism, tranquility has never been a dominant virtue. No one should want to be perfectly at ease (the God we are mythically said to be reflections of certainly is not, if we trust the literary texts where he figures most authoritatively). The thing is to be troubled in the right way. Then we could have things like art and science, and not just technology, and politics and not just administration. We could have tragedy. Certainly the formidable and strange (“deinon”) character of humanity in Sophocles’s Antigone does not include not being bothered by anything.

But we understand malaises wrongly. Our therapeutic sciences have made illnesses like a cancer their guiding metaphor. Or demon possession and exorcism. Something is wrong with you, and it must be cured or treated so that its expressions are limited or prevented. Our ideas of mental health and illness are immunological. They are securitarian. They consider illness a dangerous threat or risk to be countered, contained, and managed.

Along with this goes the eclipse of practices of cultivating “knowledge, insight, and understanding,” the first desideratum in the Jewish daily petitionary prayers. We think everyone can want and have these things. But our principal institutions of management do less than ever, and the truth is they never did much.

Most professionals reduce insight and understanding to knowledge, which does not require thought, though always demanding you speak their language, use their jargon and acknowledge the meanings they give it; for power is always partly the ability to impose a language and thus a manner of thinking on the subjected. Nothing will annoy a bureaucratic professional more than your insistence on using terms of your own that are common in the language of the society through not from their profession or organization. And it will not help that you can explain what you mean. Meaning in bureaucratic context is given by definitions, and definitions are legislated, they are law, and so the jargon they insist you use (including describing yourself as possessing the Lack they name; in other words, your must show deference to the understanding of Being and acknowledgement of the justice of their power over you by acknowledging the applicability to you of their statements about you. Otherwise they will think you are denying your truth, which is their set of names and descriptions for you. The worst thing you can do is suggest that you do not acknowledge the legitimacy of their authority; even bureaucratic institution that is a part of a totalizing system of domination will label such miscreants with something analogous to the sin of pride, which always means thinking you are outside the Society of the Just, and thus the scope of their power. Always this is the ultimate and one unpardonable sin. Rule number one is everyone is a subjected subject, and you must deny it. Even I must obey my own bosses, says your boss; we are all slaves of the institutional machine; obedience is the rule here. If you deny it, just who the hell do you think you are? Above the power that is universal?

At root we can see that the semblance of a democracy of understanding of ourselves and others has been abandoned. Maybe in philosophy phenomenology was the last gasp of a subjectivism that insistently valorized personal experience, and asserted that everyone is entitled to their experience. It’s funny to have to put it that way. But the “deep” experiential modern self from Montaigne to Proust by way of Shakespeare, the modern novel, and so much else, seems to have been in eclipse for some time by our audiovisual media culture of immediacy. A cult of the obvious over that of wonder, the former calling for implementation and the latter for thought.

Though it is true that the immediacy of the image does not doom film to being advertising or propaganda, for the immediacy of the image can be compelling (to action and affection considered as closed and not the opening of a problematization) or invocative, as images that evoke wonder in a temporal sequence can also situate that wonder as a kind of thinking, though juxtapositions, the implicit juxtapositions of allusions, or a question of the meaning of the image; cinema just does this in different ways than the novel. A culture of immediacy need not be one of the obvious. The obvious is the evident when its appearance is not needed or redundant. When something is all too obvious, remarking this is a rebuke, for aside from pedantry, why say it? The evident is the truth that becomes obvious once it is seen, and is something that cannot be doubted and so is, as it were, frozen in time. The paradigm of the evident truth is a correlation of a statement with an image that exhibits what the statements says and thus shows that the statement is true. Curiously, this is a problem that not only has haunted philosophy in the form of the traditional “correspondence theory of truth,” but that can be shown to be beset with inextricable unsolvable paradoxes, because two heterogenous modes of presentation are being said to be the same: only but not even the right image will corroborate the statement. In the end, that only is obvious that is the statement one has no wish to question because it would mean breaking with a habit that calls for the performance of an expected action invoked by the statement. Language is either thinking or order-words. Writing was introduced for governmental and merchant record-keeping and then appropriated by the older and universal practice of storytelling. I regret to inform you, sirs, but my poem is stronger than your list of names.

This is why psychoanalysis and psychiatry are ultimately incompatible. Psychoanalysis takes the brain for granted while focusing on language, for your mind is your brain on language. Psychiatry takes language and thought for granted and focuses on the brain, its chemical interventions targeting it directly, so there is nothing for you to understand. But note that when understanding and thought go, so too does learning and change. Neurochemical drugs are used not to cure diseases but to control symptoms. Psychoanalysis, because it works with language, is inescapably literary, and is also inseparable from its literary foundations in tragedy. Its central myth is not of parricide and incest so much as the desire to understand and its inextricability from a tragic moral blindness. But our society, or at least its governing apparatuses of financial, legal, and medical professionals, no longer has a need for tragedy, and so has abandoned the modes of experience proper to both tragedy and the novel. The typical novelistic hero is a bit of an antihero and takes from tragic heroes an irremediable social alienation. But the mental health industry treats all deviance as illness, which it no more wants to cure than it wants to end crime; rather, the strategy is to take no steps to alleviate the causative social conditions but profitably and punitively treat the people who are designated criminal or mad. And ultimately these two categories become indiscernible as medicine takes over from law and medical judgments are made without the participation of the targeted person that he still ostensibly has in courtroom trials, though those are being eliminated too, as now 99% of all persons accused of a crime are railroaded by prosecutors into plea bargains by threatening them with outrageously long sentences if they dare to go to trial and lose, which all but the wealthy usually do.

What all this means is that for years we have moved towards and are solidly within a governmental regime that is authoritarian. It is anti-democratic and is rule of persons and not of law. Everyone who is incarcerated medically is the target of a generalized state of emergency that can be applied to everyone who can be called abnormal, which is everyone who is notice, which is everyone.

There is a state machinery that enables functionaries of our government to kidnap and lock up, for any length of time they please, for any reason or none at all, and then to warehouse them, at their own (enormous) expensive, after taking from them everything they have that connects them to their world: friends, the ability to go places and meet people, reading material of one’s choosing, the ability to use your laptop to write, the ability to keep and make contact with people online, the ability to watch the videos or listen to the music of one’s choosing, etc.

Make no mistake: This is done to punish. As Thomas Szasz has pointed out, almost everyone experiences it as punishment. And it can be done to punish one not only for being deviant or disaffected, but also politically dissident, as was done in the Soviet Union.

Psychiatry vastly overreaches its possible competence, for: If there were a total theory of everything in the sphere of the studies of human persons and collectivities, their habits and discourses, it could not be a neurological and computational science of mind. It would have to pass through the mind’s expressions and forms of self-understanding.

Hegel was doubtless compelled to write a totalizing history of art and its philosophical significance because his idea of dialectic is phenomenological in this sense: An understanding of an other (person, collectivity, artwork or text, social practice, etc.) is an understanding of their subjective world. “Spirit” for Hegel is the social practice of understanding Being (the world, one’s self, one’s society, etc.) by understanding how an Other understands it. And this understanding must center around reasons. A good rational explanation of what You or They are doing can only be a good account of your or their account of what they are doing, and these accounts are always rational in explaining certain phenomena in terms of certain principles that appear to justify them. This means that I do you a violence if I think I can explain and give the meaning of what you are saying or doing in a way that ignores the meaning you give it. It would violate a principle of charity. Our legal and medical systems both do this. And that is why medicine cannot understand the mind. At least not without massive reliance upon artists and poets and philosophers and theorists.

If ideas have meanings at all, they cannot be the property of specialists, nor are they merely given by their being represented in dictionaries of received ideas and terms legislated as authorized in terms of conformity to certain criteria of identification. As in psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. There are no truths that can simply be applied. Even if the epistemological questions (is it really true?) are considered satisfied for the time being, the hermeneutic ones never are. If ideas have meanings at all, they open onto inquiries that do not only unfold and elaborate these meanings as applicable to the case or matter at hand, but they also reciprocally place in question the hypothesis that is the starting point. Unless the ideas are just implementations of a rule book. In that case, those who implement it are functionaries and not scientists.

When a society is dying, its reason is one of the first things to go.