Shatter the Hologram

A faithful DP correspondent encouraged us to bend an ear towards a distinctive American writer whose bravely contrarian voice, though widely known abroad, remained marginalized in the US during his lifetime: Joe Bageant.

Among Bageant’s last writings, notes for a series of lectures delivered during 2009 offer a critique of human arrogance resonant with the writings of deep ecologists such as Aldo Leopold and Arne Naess, yet with a feisty polemical edge that also brings Edward Abbey into the mix.

We excerpt a few of the final paragraphs for DP, with images from the studio of Morgan Bulkeley, whose entire body of work represents both a revolt against manufactured reality, and a celebration of our deep connectedness with all living things.

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Imperial Decay

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HEART OF THE REPUBLIC: A POST-MORTEM ANALYSIS

Deep into a remarkable eight-part conversation between Chris Hedges and political philosopher Sheldon Wolin, one exchange in particular caught our ears:

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This past weekend, while visiting St. John’s College in Annapolis, we had occasion to re-read a passage from Thucydides that well expresses how the dynamics of an expansionist empire inevitably corrupt political virtues within the “homeland”. In the so-called Melian Dialogue (which is actually more of an ultimatum), the expansionist Athenians – sailing through year sixteen of the Peloponnesian War – waste ” no flue words” in articulating the reduction of politics to the cynical measurement of outcomes.

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Then comes the chilling endgame for expansionist logic, in which any notion of mutually beneficial neutrality is cast as mischievous, for what message would that convey to subjected populations elsewhere in the empire?

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Returning to Chris Hedges in genuine dialogue with Professor Wolin:

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Divide and conquer enemies abroad (as in Iraq); divide and conquer potential dissent at home (as with Occupy).  While this double-edged sword may achieve desired outcomes for a while, the disappearance of virtue from all political equations eventually exacts a heavy price. Without moral authority, such power becomes increasingly difficult to project.

Brute force requires endless expenditure, with rapidly diminishing returns. Once friendship (and true citizenship) is perceived as intrinsically “mischievous”, everyone becomes a potential enemy of the state, at home or abroad; it is only a matter of time before the state collapses into the resulting abyss of violence and paranoia. As Thucydides notes, regarding the fate of the Melians, having stubbornly asserted their will to autonomy:

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As for the beautiful dream of Athens, the end came within a decade of the Melian slaughter.

HEALTHY TREES AT ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE

HEALTHY TREES AT ST. JOHN’S COLLEGE


The Wisdom of Wabi-Sabi

As an antidote to the gut-wrenching toxicity of American elections and to the delusions of human omnipotence in relation to nature, we have been re-reading Leonard Koren’s essay, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. We excerpt the section on Spiritual Values, with images borrowed from Rosamund Purcell’s unflinching inspection of bibliophagia and other expressions of printed pages in the process of being recycled by other species, Bookworm.

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Art Against Erasure

FACES THAT WILL NOT BE ERASED

A WHEEL OF REMEMBRANCE

On September 26, 2014, a bus full of student teachers from the Raul Isidro Burgos Normal Rural School of Ayotzinapa, while en route to the city of Iguala in the state of Guerrero, came under vicious attack from local police acting on direct orders from the mayor, known for his close ties to the local drug cartel, Guerreros Unidos. Six students were killed, and 43 disappeared.

In one of the endless cruel twists that contort history in the Americas, the students had been on the way to the state capital to petition for funding that would permit a delegation from the school to attend the annual commemoration of the Oct. 2, 1968, Tlatelolco massacre, when government security forces opened fire on student protesters, killing hundreds.

Disappearance represents one of the most extreme forms of violence in the state of exception. Protestors are not just violently suppressed; they are removed from history, transformed into nonentities — erased. In the absence of protest, the wider public then  becomes complicit in a culture of ongoing cleansing, as the dirt of resistance is scrubbed clean from the immaculate narrative of the despotic (or merely criminal) polity.

Yet in this case, the brutal disappearance of the 43 students failed to secure the required silence and intimidation; the mayor and his wife have been forced into hiding, with dozens of local police and other officials arrested as accomplices to murder and other crimes.

Throughout Mexico, many artists have contributed to an online project assuring that the faces of the disappeared are not forgotten. In each gesture of resistance, the caption reads “I (the artist’s name) want to know where (the student’s name) is.”  Below, we relay five of these powerful acts of creative resistance:

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The search for the missing students continues, as does the struggle for justice in southern Mexico.


Power and Violence

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Revolted by the ongoing carnival of death and chaos staged in the name of slaying the devil, we have been meditating upon Hannah Arendt’s ever-lucid analysis of the relationship between power and violence:

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Along a similar pathway of thought, we urge consideration of a recent op-ed by Brad Evans, the founder of the exemplary histories of violence project.

The image below, like the one above, is by Michaël Borremans, whose astonishing work we have only recently discovered, on recommendation from a Belgian correspondent.

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More from Evans:

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Those who wish to slay the devil need to contemplate the appalling image that resides inside their own mirror.

We look forward to reading Evans’ latest book, Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously, co-authored with Julian Reid. For now, we close with one final image from Borremans, with affirmation for the true, integral power of his art.

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An Old Chaos of the Sun

Upon our return from an invigorating visit to the bravely contrarian St. John’s College in Santa Fe,  we submit for DP consideration an assemblage of convivialities in search of a churning potentiality: Blake’s notice to the Nobodaddy; an excerpt from the fecund theopoetics of Catherine Keller; the last lines from Wallace Stevens’ endlessly revealing Sunday Morning, and two evening landscapes from Georgia O’Keeffe.

 

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Wheels of Birds

Every now and again, a book pushes through the muck of contemporary publishing and takes flight. So it is with The Gorgeous Nothings, a book that liberates the exquisite, intricate and at times unbearably painful envelope-writings of Emily Dickinson from the shadowlands of academic specialists. As lovers of ED since early days, we knew the envelope fragments existed, and we even knew a few lines from them; intuitively, perhaps, we even sensed their importance and autonomy as literary objects, clogged only with music. Yet oh my, how we welcome their precise documentation and decipherment here.

Both editors of this magnificent and essential book – Jen Bervin and Marta Werner – are to be commended for the richly adventurous poetic, visual and literary journey they have prepared for readers. We were particularly taken by the essay contributed by Werner, whose writing perfectly embodies the rare qualities that are present in the strange texts themselves. Werner unfolds her thoughts with the sort of bravely speculative and gracious erudition that we do not often associate with our times; and it is this free, unbound spirit that allows her to unseal the mysterious intimacies of the envelopes, joining them in flight. Below, we excerpt (with permission) her final section, with a focus on the envelope-writing identified in the archive as A 821:

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Electrocuting an Elephant

For those who doubt that any technology used against animals will eventually be used on humans as well, we invite contemplation of the short film made by Thomas Alva Edison:

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Topsy was electrocuted for the crime of rebelling against circus workers, one of whom had tried to feed her a burning cigarette. Edison, of course, had been executing animals using electricity for many years, beginning with a mass electrocution in 1887. Indeed, newspaper reporting on that grim spectacle marked the first documented use of the term “electrocution”.

In 1890, a man named William Kemmler became the first human to “ride the lightning” upon the electric chair. The date was August 6, which would eventually become the same date for Hiroshima Day, as the age of electricity mutated into the age of radiation.

In related research, we also invite contemplation of an extraordinary essay by Lisa Guenther who, among other critical histories, draws our attention to the striking similarity between the photos of trophies at Abu Ghraib and photos of safari corpses. We recommend the entire essay, while borrowing two of the photos she includes therein (captions added by DP):

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ARRANGED MEAT WITH TWO SMILES I

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ARRANGED MEAT WITH TWO SMILES II

Reduction of humans into animals (“like dogs”, etc.) will continue so long as animals are treated as nothing more than meat. As we have long maintained, human rights and animal rights are connected at the deepest levels of ontology. We ignore these connections at our extreme peril.


A Chasm in the Present

As we continue to explore the rich philosophical overtones within the subtle and complex thought of Giorgio Agamben, we came across an interview on the Verso website. We pick up the thread following Agamben’s suggestion that humanity, always a work in process, must measure itself against the past through an archeological scrutiny of religion and law.

The images are from the hand and eye of the tremendously undervalued Eli Levin, an artist once thrown out of art school for his refusal to accept the sovereignty of abstraction. Strangely, he insisted on painting and drawing what he saw.

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Standing Prisoner

STANDING PRISONER

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MAN IN A BOX

MAN IN A BOX

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SUBMISSION

SUBMISSION

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The Paradox of Wonder

While tracking a few Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin references, we stumbled across an excellent essay by philosopher of science Lorraine  Daston.  If philosophy begins in wonder, is the end of inquiry already inscribed within the beginning? Below follow three brief excerpts, with images added by DP:

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NO LONGER DISCOMBOBULATED

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NO SHOCK AND AWE HERE

NO SHOCK AND AWE HERE

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