Tuesday, July 21, 2009

VANTAGE POINT


Vincent’s last instalment in the series of 6, Power of Thought, this time around, was good. It was good today, and I’m not saying this because 1) as announced previously, I’ve lost my brain because it’s summer, nor 2) because I couldn’t resist Rune Lykkeberg’s dimples and his beaming demeanour, nor finally 3) because I’ve speculated the whole time what the big "V" on Vincent’s chest was doing trying to eat the small "w" on the opposite half of his breast, yet all part of the corporation, Vince-Inc, strategically placed on his buffed up arm. Yes indeed, now that I think some more, the whole thing was good, not only because of what was said, but also, and perhaps rather more so, because I was looking for answers as to why this 6-pack was special, something Vincent said at the outset. None were given, which made me think, this summer day, that the reason why there was a new run is due simply to the fact that I was thought of, and that I should not get bored on my vacation. Well then, thanks are in order, to begin with, for such parallels, however imaginary, between thinking and motives.

The talk today was about truth and how it relates to democracy. While it became clear to me quite early on that Rune is not a Marxist – which almost made me shout at him: ‘get your act together, especially as you obviously are both smart and witty!’ (but, well, as I suggested, it’s hard to shout at a dimpled face) – I liked him for some of the other things he said. That, for instance, when it comes to truth, one cannot merely rely on logical definitions or explanations. As he put it, if truth is to hold, as it were, as a concept, then it must follow some functional, not logical rules. This led to a discussion of values vis-à-vis progressive politics and the inherent paradox that marks the relation between progress and tradition. As he further contended by illustrating, it has now become a tradition for the right wing Danish party, Dansk Folkeparti, to insist on preserving what has now also become a tradition, namely women’s right to go topless on the beach – which initially was the result of progressive thinking. Indeed.

Yet, according to Rune, precisely when one talks of values, one loses sight of what is progressive. Thus collective learning always operates with three variables: money, the state, and talk. Ideally, through talk, the other two should be negotiated for the benefit of all. Vincent thought this was interesting, as he also thought of several other things, but when it comes to how power can be negotiated, verbally or otherwise, neither made the obvious remark that power can be abused, in any setting, and by anyone. So, while nothing is wrong with democracy as such – Rune was more sceptical – we can, in fact find solutions to the process of replacing an old system with a new one – for instance, by verbally denouncing oppressive thinking, or by snatching the power from those who hold it without legitimation through other means. When Rune went, ‘well, obviously there is a problem if we get rid of authority figures, such as old patriarchs, because that means that we get rid of power, and we need power because it helps us hold someone responsible when something goes wrong,' I rather couldn’t help thinking of a number of feminists, queers, blacks, freaks and other marginals who wouldn’t mind taking charge, being in charge, and swapping positions. But somehow, they never get asked. If anything, they are still the ones who get laid off, put into prisons, or bashed, on the grounds that the state requires it.

So, while governments today place emphasis on individual agency, interestingly enough, at the level of the individual taking responsibility for ruining the lives of other individuals through some concrete, yet imbecilic action, we are met with cowardice – ‘I didn’t do it, the state, or the economy did it,’ we often hear the wimps saying – and talks of selection – ‘we put people in jails because we have to protect the good subjects from the bad ones,’ we often hear the righteous saying. And so it goes. Here, Vincent, perhaps to provoke rather than endorse, referred to Plato’s hatred of democracy and horror at the idea that philosophers should take political charge, but this opened question left at least this viewer wondering to what extent going with the strongest argument, which a logician does, is compatible with democratic thinking. More can be said about the aporias of democracy, truth, and the tyranny of neo-fascism disguised as common-sense, but as befitted with my own tradition, let’s end this post with terrorizing Vincent some more with some deconstructive talk, as a way of being grateful, again, for keeping us busy thinking.

In his book Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, my favourite friend, Jacques Derrida, asks this question: "can one and/or must one speak democratically of democracy?" (71) only to conclude that it is not possible, for as he further contends, to do so, "it would be necessary, through some circular performativity and through the political violence of some enforcing rhetoric, some force of law, to impose a meaning on the word democratic and thus produce a consensus that one pretends, by fiction, to be established and accepted—or at the very least possible and necessary: on the horizon" (73).

We like horizons. They always come.

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