Endless calculations

It is an accepted, if debated, truism that terrorism is the answer of oppressed people, meeting endless illegal violence with illegal violence. Notice the ‘endless’? Acts of sudden death counter the perception of endless oppression by moving the counter from ‘what has been tolerated’ to ‘the intolerable’ and answering endless acts with nothingness and erasure. In case of pitched war (good old days of battlefields), acteurs erase each other, as expected. In the ideological spectrum of disorder into which terror falls, the impact is the element of the unexpected, and acteurs erase someone else entirely.

Terror is outward directed violence; self-immolation is violence directed inward. Both are part of a spectrum of responses to oppression and traumatic disruption. Not all acts on that spectrum are tactics of ‘resistance.’ Both can be claimed as a political gesture by actors. Both harness spectacle, and use the law of unpredictability. They are also still on the edge of the incalculable in expected responses, for the usually accepted ideology is not to cause irreversible harm to self or unrelated others. Death, that ‘horror’ is still a sin in most religions (of faith or materiality). No one expects you to kill yourself in pursuit of your ends; to them, to end yourself leads nowhere, so the calculation of gain or loss that precedes self-annihilation is outside the normally charted territory of probabilities of expected responses to pressure. And, because this is ‘off the charts,’ acts of self-annihilation as well as their acteurs are seen as cowardly for their refusal to continue to fight along the same lines as their baffled opponents who stand waving the red flag when the others have left the field.

In cases of terror randomness, difficulty of prediction of target and timing, and the fact that the affected persons are not related directly to the acteurs contrive to take the events ‘off the charts’ of calculable responses. However, the steady rise in calculated acts of terror against similar targets in the last decade has brought terrorism into the narrow spectrum of global public consciousness (and therefore the narrow spectrum of expected political topics in all nation-states).

The fulcrum of both types of acts of annihilation is the sense of responsibility and the nature of the social/public/civil contract that binds each person in human community, whether they believe in it or not. By harming ‘brethren’ one harms the target. The element of spectacle ensures that many bear witness to the disruption of order, and the public’s sense of self-protection and imaginative horror (what if it was me?!) put pressure on the target–the one most visible and therefore obliged to act–in both offense and defense.

We see, and serve both terrorist and target by witnessing and bringing our responsive horror into the public space. Something has threatened the edges of our ordered world, and we think if we bring it to light it might be dealt with. But acts of spectacular rupture are dealt with only by enlarging the spectrum of responses to them, as much as by enlarging the observers’ capacity to tolerate the new types of acts and acteurs. Quite an immunization process, these exposures. For the public, reeling with horror, quite quickly finds one narrative or another to contain and explain the range of previously unthinkable acts.

The whole is an interesting perversion of the idea that ‘there but for fortune, go you or I,’ each act the fine split between ‘you’ and ‘I.’


Tricks

All outcomes are trickster justice, all histories trickster narratives. Choice interfaces the dual and ambivalent components of ‘what is’ and ‘what will be.’

Choice itself is both volition and consent. To foreclose on one set of possibilities is to set another unseen few in motion; to control for the other later on is to choose to ignore yet others. And so on into multitudes of choices and sieves.

The serious figure of the clown presides over the momentary revelations of chance. To insist on its absence is to ask for the obliteration of ambivalence, and thus to foreclose the possibility of proportionate justice by long division. For the loss of chance is the loss of unreason, and that makes bewilderment out of history.

Dualities must not be understood as contrasting things, unintegrated, oppositional, even if it is considered ‘modern’ (not ‘primitive’) and enlightened to regard human persons and behavior as arranged around principles rather than the ‘concrete ambivalence’ that constructs most of our material reality.

Neither should dualities in their material examples be considered ‘point and counterpoint’ in an intellectual chorus. For that would not question the order of the small world in which the duality manifests, only argue about its order of things. And in their fixing of the problem (abstract morality and moral exceptionalisms) they would leave out all the world of ambiguity, thus confirming other-worldly power and this-worldly reason.

There is no order, no one Reason, nor even a given moral code. “All antinomies are bound into the ritual cycle” of choice. Choice interfaces the dual and ambivalent components of ‘what is’ and ‘what will be.’ All outcomes are trickster justice, all histories trickster narratives.

–Ref: Paul Radin. The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology.


Changing the World

When we say we wish to change the world we merely mean that we want to fix it in a form of our own making. For the world is always changing, and we enthrone shadows in the end.

All our battles of work and love come to mean the preservation of what we wish the world to be. We suspend it between this or that heaven or hell and try to chastise it into being.

When it is not to our liking, we punish it, or ourselves. We die when we punish what we love in the name of something else we would love. Utopias (nowheres) are by their definition the projections of our desires.


Scripts

Ask me for the shape of things and I shall pick you up a pebble. Let the wind answer for me. This bit of hair, this dust of skin. After the communiqués, I shall take courage and be wrong.

Ask after the old and the new and I will find you some soil, my sandbox to play in, some knitting, there will be no albums. Money, photographs, leaves, they all fall slowly. I cherished them once. And I will tell you of the span of ten fingers, all dreams and air, and the desperate need for record-keeping.


Rope

You said, “No more walls.”

What did you see after you threw yourself against the ropes? Launched yourself from them? Did you find anything? Did they crawl over your wrists, the ropes? Tie you in knots, your knees bent climbing them? Did you meet that other body you raged against?

Were you subdued before you hung from them?

Did you find it, what you were looking for all the time you were using the perimeter of the ring, the stage, the self, the world?

Did you look up?


Change

You, Man, go on, tear up the script. I want to see the edges of that paper tear the light when you do it. Sharp edges. Make splinters when you scour wood. And raw, inflamed, cold skin. Scrape it out.

 
And you, Woman, cold as fury, you shall be ice shards in the wood fence. The bits that will pierce him when he reaches for the gate. Unable to burn, you will disappear and leave naught but the thought that if this is winter there must have been another season, too.


Doors

‘Tis a terrible thing, isn’t it, to know that one is utterly responsible for every act, every instant, of this long and strange life…

How does one map the golden dust between the weight of this cross on one’s shoulders and the serenity of freedom? The smiles on all those sculptures say that freedom confers serenity. Others say justice is serene, or should be, and take solace in human formulations of transcendent law.

Crouching at the foot of all things tall–altars, crosses, saints, gods, statues– where do I put aside this bundle of grief? It seems out of place in thy philosophy. I cannot enter, my liege.


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