Friday, September 27, 2013
Yeah, you! Gimme one good reason
For not draggin’ ya down to the
Stationhouse, ya punk.
Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
Ya gotta understand--
It’s just our bringin’ upke
That gets us outta hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses -- natcherly we’re punks.
Gee, Officer Krupke, we’re very upset;
We never had the love that every
Child oughta get.
We ain’t no delinquents,
Deep down inside us there is good!
There is good!
There is good, there is good,
There is untapped good.
Like inside, the worse of us is good.
TIGER (imitating Krupke)
That’s a touchin’ good story.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
At my alighting, I was surrounded with a crowd of people, but those who stood nearest seemed to be of better quality. They beheld me with all the marks and circumstances of wonder; neither indeed was I much in their debt, having never till then seen a race of mortals so singular in their shapes, habits, and countenances. Their heads were all reclined, either to the right, or the left; one of their eyes turned inward, and the other directly up to the zenith. Their outward garments were adorned with the figures of suns, moons, and stars; interwoven with those of fiddles, flutes, harps, trumpets, guitars, harpsichords, and many other instruments of music, unknown to us in Europe.- Jonathan Switft, "Gulliver's Travels"
Friday, September 20, 2013
While I have been writing this essay another European war has broken out. It will either last several years and tear Western civilization to pieces, or it will end inconclusively and prepare the way for yet another war which will do the job once and for all. But war is only ‘peace intensified’. What is quite obviously happening, war or no war, is the break-up of laissez-faire capitalism and of the liberal-Christian culture. Until recently the full implications of this were not foreseen, because it was generally imagined that socialism could preserve and even enlarge the atmosphere of liberalism. It is now beginning to be realized how false this idea was. Almost certainly we are moving into an age of totalitarian dictatorships — an age in which freedom of thought will be at first a deadly sin and later on a meaningless abstraction. The autonomous individual is going to be stamped out of existence. But this means that literature, in the form in which we know it, must suffer at least a temporary death. The literature of liberalism is coming to an end and the literature of totalitarianism has not yet appeared and is barely imaginable. As for the writer, he is sitting on a melting iceberg; he is merely an anachronism, a hangover from the bourgeois age, as surely doomed as the hippopotamus. Miller seems to me a man out of the common because he saw and proclaimed this fact a long while before most of his contemporaries — at a time, indeed, when many of them were actually burbling about a renaissance of literature. Wyndham Lewis had said years earlier that the major history of the English language was finished, but he was basing this on different and rather trivial reasons. But from now onwards the all-important fact for the creative writers going to be that this is not a writer's world. That does not mean that he cannot help to bring the new society into being, but he can take no part in the process as a writer. For as a writer he is a liberal, and what is happening is the destruction of liberalism. It seems likely, therefore, that in the remaining years of free speech any novel worth reading will follow more or less along the lines that Miller has followed — I do not mean in technique or subject matter, but in implied outlook. The passive attitude will come back, and it will be more consciously passive than before. Progress and reaction have both turned out to be swindles. Seemingly there is nothing left but quietism — robbing reality of its terrors by simply submitting to it. Get inside the whale — or rather, admit you are inside the whale (for you are, of course). Give yourself over to the worid-process, stop fighting against it or pretending that you control it; simply accept it, endure it, record it. That seems to be the formula, that any sensitive novelist is now likely to adopt. A novel on more positive, ‘constructive’ lines, and not emotionally spurious, is at present very difficult to imagine.- George Orwell, "Inside the Whale" (1940)
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Yesterday at midnight and a bit I went downAgalma is an ancient Greek term for a pleasing gift presented to the gods as a votive offering. The agalma was intended to woo the gods, to dazzle them with its wondrous features and so gain favour for its bearer. The agalma, therefore, was endowed with magical powers beyond its apparent superficial value. Over time, the term ‘agalma’ has come to mean an iconic image, something beautiful – an object to be treasured. This is the context in which Jacques Lacan used the term ‘agalma’.
In the small square where I met you
Some statue which saw me it remembered me
And it didn’t deny to hear my pain
And I spoke to it for you and for me
And its eyes filled with tears and all the time they were crying
I told to it for your behaviour and for your other
For your unforgivable big mistakes
And then, my God, I burst into tears
That the dawn found me like a rag
With the statue in the road we walked together
It wiped my eyes and we changed road
Lacan introduced the term in his Seminar VIII (1960-1961), writing on Socrates' Symposium. The agalma is defined by love; it is the inestimable object of desire which ignites our desire. Relating this to the analytic setting, Lacan proposed that the ‘agalma’ is the treasure which we seek in analysis, the unconscious truth we wish to know.
In psychoanalysis, the analyst seeks to establish a transference with the subject. Within this transference, a discourse develops, a discourse between the client as speaking subject and the analyst as the Other. The transference relationship is what defines the agalma. It is the agalma, the inestimable object of desire, that becomes the agent of the transference relationship. The promise of this beloved object supports the client through the analysis. Seeking to discover this treasure, the client avows his or her desire, as manifested in the discourse.
Monday, September 16, 2013
But there is something rather curious in being Whitman in the nineteen-thirties. It is not certain that if Whitman himself were alive at the moment he would write anything in the least degree resembling Leaves of Grass. For what he is saying, after all, is ‘I accept’, and there is a radical difference between acceptance now and acceptance then. Whitman was writing in a time of unexampled prosperity, but more than that, he was writing in a country where freedom was something more than a word. The democracy, equality, and comradeship that he is always talking about arc not remote ideals, but something that existed in front of his eyes. In mid-nineteenth-century America men felt themselves free and equal, were free and equal, so far as that is possible outside-a society of pure communism. There was poverty and there were even class distinctions, but except for the Negroes there was no permanently submerged class. Everyone had inside him, like a kind of core, the, knowledge that he could earn a decent living, and earn it without bootlicking. When you read about Mark Twain's Mississippi raftsmen and pilots, or Bret Harte's Western gold-miners, they seem more remote than the cannibals of the Stone Age. The reason is simply that they are free human beings. But it is the same even with the peaceful domesticated America of the Eastern states, the America of the Little Women, Helen's Babies, and Riding Down from Bangor. Life has a buoyant, carefree quality that you can feel as you read, like a physical sensation in your belly. It is this that Whitman is celebrating, though actually he does it very badly, because he is one of those writers who tell you what you ought to feel instead of making you feel it. Luckilly for his beliefs, perhaps, he died too early to see the deterioration in American life that came with the rise of large-scale industry and the exploiting of cheap immigrant labour.- George Orwell, "Inside the Whale"
Millers outlook is deeply akin to that of Whitman, and nearly everyone who has read him has remarked on this. Tropic of Cancer ends with an especially Whitmanesque passage, in which, after the lecheries, the swindles, the fights, the drinking bouts, and the imbecilities, he simply sits down and watches the Seine flowing past, in a sort of mystical acceptance of thing-as-it-is. Only, what is he accepting? In the first place, not America, but the ancient bone-heap of Europe, where every grain of soil has passed through innumerable human bodies. Secondly, not an epoch of expansion and liberty, but an epoch of fear, tyranny, and regimentation. To say ‘I accept’ in an age like our own is to say that you accept concentration camps, rubber truncheons. Hitler, Stalin, bombs, aeroplanes, tinned food, machine guns, putsches, purges, slogans, Bedaux belts, gas masks, submarines, spies, provocateurs, press censorship, secret prisons, aspirins, Hollywood films, and political murders. Not only those things, of course, but, those things among-others. And on the whole this is Henry Miller's attitude. Not quite always, because at moments he shows signs of a fairly ordinary kind of literary nostalgia. There is a long passage in the earlier part of Black Spring, in praise of the Middle Ages, which as prose must be one of the most remarkable pieces of writing in recent years, but which displays an attitude not very different from that of Chesterton. In Max and the White Phagocytes there is an attack on modern American civilization (breakfast cereals, cellophane, etc.) from the usual angle of the literary man who hates industrialism. But in general the attitude is ‘Let's swallow it whole’. And hence the seeming preocupation with indecency and with the dirty-handkerchief side of life. It is only seeming, for the truth is that ordinary everyday life consists far more largely of horrors than writers of fiction usually care to admit. Whitman himself ‘accepted’ a great deal that his contemporaries found unmentionable. For he is not only writing of the prairie, he also wanders through the city and notes the shattered skull of the suicide, the ‘grey sick faces of onanists’, etc.,etc. But unquestionably our own age, at any rate in Western Europe, is less healthy and less hopeful than the age in which Whitman was writing. Unlike Whitman, we live in a shrinking world. The ‘democratic vistas’ have ended in barbed wire. There is less feeling of creation and growth, less and less emphasis on the cradle, endlessly rocking, more and more emphasis on the teapot, endlessly stewing. To accept civilization as it is practically means accepting decay. It has ceased to be a strenuous attitude and become a passive attitude — even ‘decadent’, if that word means anything.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Muses of Pieria who give glory through song, come hither, tell of Zeus your father and chant his praise. Through him mortal men are famed or un-famed, sung or unsung alike, as great Zeus wills. For easily he makes strong, and easily he brings the strong man low; easily he humbles the proud and raises the obscure, and easily he straightens the crooked and blasts the proud, -- Zeus who thunders aloft and has his dwelling most high.- Hesiod, "Works and Days"
Attend thou with eye and ear, and make judgements straight with righteousness. And I, Perses, would tell of true things.
So, after all, there was not one kind of Strife alone, but all over the earth there are two. As for the one, a man would praise her when he came to understand her; but the other is blameworthy: and they are wholly different in nature. For one fosters evil war and battle, being cruel: her no man loves; but perforce, through the will of the deathless gods, men pay harsh Strife her honour due. But the other is the elder daughter of dark Night, and the son of Cronos who sits above and dwells in the aether, set her in the roots of the earth: and she is far kinder to men. She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with is neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men. And potter is angry with potter, and craftsman with craftsman, and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel.