July 20, 2005

Hearts full of Napalm

Apologies for the gap in transmission. I have moved back down to South London and haven't yet got the broadband connection up and running. (Typing this in an internet cafe in Lewisham).

New posts soon on Ghost Box and The Cure, but in the meantime, check out Simon on the bombers as the 'world's forgotten boys'. The connections Simon made between the bombers' class profile and that of many punks/ ravers/ pop writers had also occurred to me. Simon suggests that 'the precariousness of that class position--and the volatile, poorly digested combination of a bit of higher education with a lot of autodidact learning--breeds a certain kind of believer kind of mindset, a psychology of quest and mission.' Scorsese and Schrader's Taxi Driver remains the pre-eminent cinematic exploration of that 'psychology of quest and mission', although one interesting difference between the ur-punk Travis and the London bombers is isolation. Travis was defined by his inability to connect with others - what Travis craves is the sense of belonging he had in Nam but which is nowhere to be found in seventies' New York's world of transition and impermanenence - whereas the London four were a team, a squad.

But the apocalyptic rhetoric Travis employs, his descriptions of New York as a venal inferno, find obvious echoes in the Islamist castigation of Babylonic modernity. (In this respect, it is interesting to remember that Tim McVeigh's bombings was originally attributed to Islamists: the 'grievances' of dislocated white survivalists and those of Islamists against America are so similar, so cosmically all-embracing: they motivate an urge for a 'cleansing destruction' that has no object beyond the Sodom and Gomorrah annihilation of what is perceived to be an irredeemable corruption.)

What are we conclude from the connection that Simon points to? On one level, the Terrorists are another symptom of Badiou's 'passion for the Real': representations, slogans are no longer enough. There has to be an Act, a direct intervention. So Terror can be seen - from the point of view of power, certainly, but perhaps not only from that perspective - as a 'failed sublimation'. The rage and self-loathing that were sublimated into something like punk have in the case of these young men short-circuited and made direct contact with the Real. Terror, particularly self-annihilating Terror, seems to resolve certain conflicts in masculinity. It seems reasonable to posit a drive in young men towards self-annihilation (needless to say, rock provides ample evidence of this; indeed, it could be argued that the whole of rock is a 'trace' of this impulse). Terror seems to give the male drive towards self-destruction an ethical dimension, transforming idiotic self-destruction into heroic self-sacrifice.

Also: check out Gutterbreakz FM which this month includes a section from londonunderlondon.

Posted by mark at July 20, 2005 02:59 PM | TrackBack