I had always generally considered retro sci-fi utopias as rather charming, earnest, genuinely communal ascents of our more childlike hopes for the future (well they certainly seemed that way compared to the puritanical purges of the Jehova's Witness 'New System' utopia I had been brought up to believe in my real childhood), but a visit to the recent 'Sweatshop' debate at the Serpentine Gallery on 'science fiction, retro-futures and second-hand utopias' attended by Kodwo Eshun and John Timberlake, among others, yielded a rather darker side of the picture to say the least.
One of the few strands of thought that linked a rather fragmentary debate was also the coldest and most cynical. Picking up from notions of utopia as a fear of inability to project a desire and utopia as paraniod exclusion of everything outside its foundation desire, ie nazism as utopia, the discussion on retro-utopias continued to combine elements of both these strands to build a pretty damning case.
The starting point of the debate was current exhibiting artist Glenn Brown, especialy his re-interpritations of epic sci-fi airbrush illustrator Chris Foss's sublime visions of intergalactic cities and spacestations. Foss's rise to eminence was in some ways not only an indication of a nostalgic yearning within the traditional popular sceince fiction imagination, as a new wave of writers and thinkers came to the fore, but of much greater anxieties.
As the realisation that the moon landing was a plateau not a starting point was taking the sheen off NASA's realword vison of space exploration, and the popularity of 2001 and Solaris highlighted anxieties entering the public consiousness, young upcoming illustrator Foss got his first big break with a series of covers for reissued 1940's and 50 pulp sci-fi by the likes of EE Doc Smith (writing that was sneered at by the new wave of writers).
This combination of Foss's huge gleaming victorian steamtrain like spacecraft covers and male white middleclass technocrat fantasies, yearned back to an imagined future untainted by contradictions, femenism, black power (which Kodwo poined out was a utopia itself) and the agony of the Vietnam war, and was hugely popular at the time, resulting in huge sales.
Perhaps most surprising is that this retrogressive escapist tendancy within sci-fi can be traced back through the earlist and most seminal works, Kodwo singling out the, already outdated at the time of writing, notion of the smoking-jacketed scientist showcasing his discoveries to the mayor and other assembled local bigwigs in his study from H.G.Wells 'Timemachine' for special attention.
At this rate I can imagine a certain popular tv drama being based on a turn of the century sci-fi utopia where crime in small towns has been reduced to single incidents of Rhubarb theft due to a new generation of streamlined motorvehicles that allow the police to respond to incidents in a 'heartbeat', yeuch!!!
...very soon.. but other commitments, much more urgent, mean that I don't have a great deal of time in front of a computer atm....
In the meantime, though, everyone should check a string of otm posts from the newly released, newly hyperlucid Reza over at Hyperstition. Brilliant stuff...
I am not 'messing with yaw mahnd'.
You are messing with mine by implanting your smug, swaggering supermarket soul into it.
You are not a thirtysomething year old black woman who has had some experience of life.
You are a fifteen yr old spoilt rotten white kid who really should be upstairs doing her homework.
Away with you.
Reza is out of jail in Iran.
In other news:
Another Catholic replies, this time to Infinite Thought's exoriation of the Oirish ethnofascist wing of the child abuse blood cult.
He signs himself 'Agnostic Humanist'. Let's face it, is there any worse position than that - you might as well call yourself 'Last Man - Man without a Chest', pathologically uncommitted late capitalist consumer-sucker.
In any case, the Agnostic Humanist is clearly anything but. The weirdness of lapsed Catholics - or cultural Catholics as I prefer to call them - is that they always make this odd rhetorical move: 'I am not a Catholic any more, but I am now going to argue exactly as if I was one.... Because that is rational and objective, and anyone who attacks Catholicism must be a deranged bigot.'
When of course Catholicism just is deranged bigotry. Insofar as it is Catholic of course. Astonishingly, Catholicism does retain some traces of Christianity. But these are the vestigial, not fully concealed, ethical calls of Christ, not the superstitious pagan doctrine and certainly not the history of the Catholic church.
Given that the 'agnostic' Catholics would surely disavow
the Spanish Inquisition
the burning of most of Mayan culture in an afternoon by Bishop Landa
the propagation of idiotic images of women
the expropriation of wealth from the poor
institutionalized child abuse
in other words, the entire history of the Catholic church, what is left to give 'dignified respect' to? Only a stubborn tribal mind virus that insists that is good to belong to a certain ethnic group.
Fascism in other words.
So anti-Catholicism is no different to anti-fascism. And let me repeat, the Nazis only managed a decade, the Catholic church has managed 2 millennia of Satanic anti-Christian dissimulation and atrocity propagation.
One of the interesting thing about Zizek's essay on the The Passion of the Christ is that it reveals that even the Pope is not a Catholic any more. Even the Pope feels it is politically unpropitious to avow any commitment to the RCC's official belief system.
What remains is not enlightened tolerance so much as postmodern fascism, the Wittgensteinian authoritarian mystagoguery of incommensurable language games and 'forms of life' whose rational underpinning - or lack of it - cannot be interrogated. 'Respect' for these mumbo jumbled idiot ethnicities amounts to a confederacy of fascism - you be a fascist, we'll be fascists, and let's not bother each other, OK?
But obviously they know not what they do, and we must have compassion for the carrier-victims of this dangerous abuse virus.
Me on The Passion of the Christ over at Hyperstition.
I've been superslack on this, but -- believe me, I'm in a stress hell here --- college disintegrating, family disintegrating, flat disintegrating --- the new discussion forum set up by Matt Woebot, with me as co-administrator, is here.
I will get involved soon, honest.. half term coming up....
As Matt says, Dissensus will be moderated, so behave yrselves... remember, I'm a Stalinist, the High Court Judge said so, so it must be true.... lol
Nina has linked to dis in the comments box below, but in case anyone missed it... you godda see this one:
'No sex please, we're asexual
Tim Radford, science editor
Thursday October 14, 2004
Some like it hot, and some like it not. A growing number of people are prepared to admit they are just not that into sex, according to today's issue of New Scientist.
Asexuality is not to be confused with chastity, impotence, even good old-fashioned reticence. Monks and nuns take chastity vows, but they choose to repress or sublimate their desires. Politicians condemn sexual obsession, but that does not mean they never indulge. The success of the impotence drug Viagra suggests that for many men, they would if they could. The young American women who launched the "silver ring thing" chose virginity except within marriage. But they left no doubt they had something in mind for Mr Right.
But a new and increasingly vocal class are "glad to be A", according to the magazine. For various reasons - low libido, squeamishness, a sense of distance - many declare they have no desire for sex. One suggestion is that no-no sexuality could be as frequent as homosexuality. Although there are famous cases of lack of enthusiasm for sex - the Victorian art critic John Ruskin failed to consummate his marriage once he discovered his bride had pubic hair - those not gagging for it have tended to keep silent.
But internet forums such as Aven (Asexual Visibility and Education Network) at .asexuality.org are encouraging the naysayers to speak up for their lack of passion. It is not that they have no sex drive, some of them report. They may experience arousal, but they simply do not feel the urge to have sex.
Brian, an asexual navy veteran from Virginia, USA, told the magazine: "The place where we draw the line is the desire to interact sexually with other people." High school student Pete said "I get the feelings ... but my body never made the mental connection to what I should do about it."
Social stress can lower libido and reduce interest in sex -in humans, primates and sheep - said Keith Kendrick, of the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. "That can make an individual not only infertile but totally uninterested in sex."
Whatever the explanation, absence of desire appears to be a reality for thousands. As the T-shirts in the Aven online store say: "Asexuality: it's not just for amoebas any more."
Or, as Avril Lavigne sings, don't tell me what to do, don't tell me what to say, I'm better off alone any way....
Thank Uttunul that I'd just read John Gray's Straw Dogs and Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern, or else the first episode of Jonathan Miller's A Brief History of Disbelief might have sent me into one of my patented k-poplexies.
Miller has always struck me as an insufferably smug Oxbridge jack-of-all-trades (ah, direct a play before dinner, then a spot of neurology, I think), reminding me of Scott Fitzgerald's elegant put down, 'there's none so limited as a well-rounded man'. And so it proved last night, as Miller interviewed some no-mark philosopher (the word 'belief' covers a wide range of things that we take to be the case, apparently; jeez, you can see why universities pay for these academic philosophers can't you, where would we be without them?) and paraded, once again, the professionally bigoted anti-Darwinian teleologist Richard Dawkins (Sadie Plant's dissing of whom remains super-sharp: Dawkins happily says that all life is about gene-replication, but equally happily seems to exempt himself and the punting on the river, cucumber sandwich commonsense Trad Academic world from the implications of this).
By contrast with the rabidly prosletisyng Dawkins ('burn, believer!') Miller tried to appear reasonable and well-balanced, not at all a fanatical atheist. But the sight of him in some NY wine bar with likemind stupid American smugonaut educated idiots, mocking religious believers like the public schoolboy he always will be, sniggering behind the back of the housemaster, was sickening.
Miller and his chums seemed to be under the illusion that the only available version of God is the theistic deity rejected by Spinoza three centuries ago.
Note, please, that all of the card-carrying disbelievers were white. Which is no surprise, since as Gray argues, the perception that religious belief is on the decline and that there will be an inevitable 'progress' to secumenical humanism is a conviction confined to the European White Master Class. And as Gray assiduously demonstrates, it is a conviction that has its origins in the bizarre and unscientific cult of Positivism, itself a degraded form of Christianity.
As Miller admitted, atheism is essentially negative - defined by what it rejects, not what it upholds. Why, then, should we become disbelievers? Offering up the tired conflation of religion with megaviolence is hardly a positive reason for disbelief, since most of the greatest massacres and genocides of the twentieth century were undertaken in the name of the secumenical humanism that Miller advocates. No: the real reccommendation for atheism must be the lives that the likes of 'cultured Europeans' like Miller lead. Theatre... Radio 4... marital infidelity.... neurotic interiority passed off as the human condition....the basic bourgeois credo that it is impermissible for anything to be greater than MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.......
You know you're facing raw bio-power when you witness something like the scapegoating of Billy Connolly last week.
Connolly had dared to interrupt the latest disgustingly hypocritical self-righteous, self-pitying British indulgathon by introducing some irreverence into the discussion of the Bigley affair (who doesn't know that Bigley was a reckless mercenary and had a mail order bride? O, the Big Other, of course).
You don't have to be Col Kurtz to smell the cynical hypocrisy of the political project that has guided the faux moralistic-sensationalistic coverage of the Bigley death - the concealment of the systemic under the personal (i.e. Blairism, i.e. the cultural logic of current Kapitalism).
Why should we care more about Bigley than anyone else who died last week? What of the pedestrians mowed down by idiot American forces ('hey dude') in Fallujah? What of those seeking to escape a tyranny that they were born into (i.e. that they didn't choose to enter in order to make £) who are turned away from Britain as a result of class traitor Davros Blunkett's Daily Mail fascist anti-asylum seeker legislation? And what, apart from racism, justifies the description of 'these people' as 'savages'? How is killing someone yourself, face to face, more 'cowardly' or 'brutal' than dropping bombs on them from a great height?
It's difficult to determine exactly what Connolly said - but the ensuing outrage establishes once and for all that the great taboo of our time is not sex but death.
Sex is boring, indeed, foisted upon us at all angles and at all times. Rebecca Loos 'pleasuring' a pig on Channel 5; atrociously unfunny sitcoms like Carrie and Barry and that unfeasibly shit Friday night C4 series whose name escapes me, whose reliance upon explicit sexual reference show that sex in such comedies is now as drearily inevitable as the litany of cosy social embarrasments in such staid seventies shows as Terry and June used to be. Where once the comedy, such as it was, turned upon burning the roast beef when the boss was due for a dinner party, now it depends upon gratuitous smut which is offered up with that sniggering adolescent duplicity typical of sexualists: i.e. sex is both ordinary, everyday, nothing special yet at the same time charged with a frission of naughty transgression.
Sex is obligatory, ubiquitous. It solicits discourse, endlessly. Death is still unspeakable, something that demands silence, reverence, respect. We cannot speak ill of the dead (unless they are an intellectual of course --- that can be ridiculed and condemned; about time that too clever by half fuck died donchathink?). In this connection, it's worth remembering Zizek's remark that one should only speak ill of the dead, since they have lived their life and only now can it be judged.
Indeed Zizek - alongside Baudrillard and Foucault - has been tireless in his insistence that the Dead have a crucial role to play in the current bio-political regime.
'The sanctity of Life' - the idea that organic life is a special gift that should be preserved at almost any cost - is the vitalist principle that rules our cities of the undead. The fact of life, not the quality of life is --- we are assured in so many subtle and not so subtle ways --- the crucial thing. As soon as we are persuaded that we are lucky to be alive, the thought of complaining about quality of life becomes churlish, ungrateful. As soon as we think that the only important thing is staying alive, we will mortify ourselves, become intensively dead, measure out our lives in health food spoons.
Many of Poe's most powerful stories were about the freezing intensive death that can be the only result of a fastidious fear of organic death: 'The Premature Burial', about a cataleptic man whose terror of death is so great that he ends up walling himself up in his own anti-death security prison; and 'The Masque of the Red Death', whose jaded revellers waste their lives in an empty hedonistic denial of death that is of course ultimately futile.
You can't escape death by protecting the organism. Deleuze, whose work is always compromised by a disastrous weakness for vitalism, is absolutely right when he says that only organisms can die. But the alternative to organic life-death is not some aeonically persisting Life ('life doesn't die, only organisms do'); it is the desolated unlife of the cosmos, the body of uttunul, or the Spinozist God.
The God of classical theism, the personal, transcendent God, is a vitalist God. The roots of this conception of God lie in the philosophy of Aristotle. Aristotle famously distinguishes between four different types of cause: material, formal, efficient and final. Of these, final cause is the most significant for Aristotle, who based his philosophy and ethics around the idea that everything in the universe had been designed to fulfil a specific purpose. This investment in final cause, or teleology presupposes a well-ordered universe whose ultimate purposes have already been set - or pre-recorded, as Burroughs has it.
Aristotle's philosophy was taken up in the Middle Ages by Thomas Aquinas who provided the theoeretical underpinning for modern Roman Catholic ethics. Aquinas said that God had laid down a final cause, a purpose, for everything in the world, and that things were good insofar as they fulfilled that purpose and bad insofar as they failed to. The notorious Catholic condemnation of homosexuality arises from the conviction that sex organs have one purpose and one purpose only: the reproduction of the species. The consequences of holding this belief actually go much further than a rejection of 'deviant' sexual activity of course, since it also rules out, for instance, women after the menopause having sex.
Aquinas' view is in every sense Pro-creative: it is our duty to stay alive and to reproduce more like ourselves. Thus Catholicism is a major propagator of what John Gray calls 'human plague', the destructive and self-destructive spread of 'homo-rapiens' who are voraciously consuming the limited resources of their biodrome. Here, we are confronting the bio-logic of Human Security in person: sex-pleasure as a means, not of escaping death, but of reproducing it.
Out beyond the pleasure principle, outside the reproducer meat-circuit, are the anti-Creationists: the Gnostics, Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Lovecraft, Lacan, Ligotti, those for whom organic life is a stain upon Zero, an excresence. Burroughs, too, can be counted among the anti-Creatonists, in his insistenct that what is presented to us as the world is pre-recorded by malevolent control agencies in a 'Reality Studio'.
Naturally, you don't get off the pleasure-death ferris wheel, the Garden of Earthly Delights, by dying.... There is no worse fate than dying as an organism... The way out lies in annulling the organs, in getting out of the organism, in making contact with the pitiless indifference of the flatlined unliving body of uttunul.
As the intense crushing pressure of the start of term recedes (by all accounts, the worst ever at the college --- DON'T EVEN START me on how Toneee education education education Blair is systematically turning all educational institutions in this country into annexes of his Stalinist propaganda regime*) --- I'm delighted to be able to catch up with what's happening on the blogs. Naturally, I wholly approve of the new direction Gutterbreakz has gone in. As Matt rightly pointed out, the mp3 blog can be a lazy and dis-spiriting format, with sound and text actually delibidinizing one another. Nick, however, uses mp3's not as a substitute for discursive consistency but as illustrations of his clearly identifiable aesthetic.
Predictably of course I'm most enthusiastic about Nick's post on the cover art for the Dr Who Target paperbacks of the seventies. Like Nick, any encounters with the pre-Pertwee Who mythos I had as a child took place not --- in those days before VCRs ---onscreen but, virtually, in my head, with the books as primitive but hyper-effective simstim machines.
And the mp3 extract of Malcolm Clarke's Sea Devils soundtrack is a stunning reminder of how gone the BBC Radiophonic Workshop were. Nick is right to draw the parallel with Throbbing Gristle (listening to TG back to back with Delia Derbyshire recently the same thing occurred to me) --- but you really have to hear the atonal electrodelia of Clarke's soundtrack to believe it. ---- btw The Sea Devils, like their terrestrial counterparts, the Silurians, were essentially an appropriation of Lovecraft's mythos (cf The Shadow over Innsmouth especially) --- If you watch that adventure now, you're struck by the way in which the coldubbed electronic swarmsonix dominate, so that the images and dialogue seem like backgrounds to the soundeliriam rather than the other way around.
This post written while listening to the BBC's excellent CD reconstruction of the Web of Fear.
*Except of course, for all its evils, Stalin's regime actually DID something, whereas for the antiproductive Kommisars of Derealising Blairite Kapital, reality is a distraction from the next PR powerpoint presentation.
Speaking of Critchley, and as if to prove Simon's 'second thoughts' right --- 'think maybe all academics should make records to flesh out their theories and research findings. (Actually, on second thoughts, maybe that's not such a bright idea after all)' --- did anyone else follow the Anonymous Entity that seems to be known as Nina's link to Simon Critchley's errr recordings?
Like IT, I'm left speechless. Pity Critchley wasn't.
Savagely hilarious stuff from Infinite Thought's nameless correspondent on Derrida's death and its inevitable (well, everything's always-already happened, so it's all inevitable innit?) exploitation by hackademic careerist drearocrats like Critchley and Bennington. There are many problems with Derrida's work (none of them identified by the BBC's almost defiantly ignorant piece natch), but it's clear that no-one deserves 'friends' like Critchley and Bennington, or any of the other professional disseminators of French-fried fuzz-out academo-babble who have reduced his theory to a Representational Mind Virus lifestyle option. (The hackademic machine is now happily turning out Deleuze wallpaper by the yard of course).
It's odd, because I was only chatting to Sean Crumbling Loaf yesterday on msn about how blogging vindicated Derrida's attack on phonocentrism and the metaphysics of presence. The default assumption is that it is only in face-to-face interatction that one encounters the truth of a person. In fact, the opposite is the case. Everday life is almost solely composed of a series of ritualized masquerades (cf Goffman). It's a blizzard of nonconscious signaling noise that typically invites mutual misunderstanding and sends people scurrying back to the dubious protection of their oed-I-pod burrows.
Blogging however has the capacity to anticipatively decode subjectivized misunderstandings and pre-empt those that might otherwise occur. Hence the on the uh face of it surprising ease with which bloggaz get on when they meet outside k-space. So many of the hexes, blocks and defensive strategies that wall us into our protective Self-imposed prisons have already been disabled. That's not because writing is an expression of interiority. On the contary, writing as Foucault says, allows you to escape your face, your identity, your past. Everyday discourse traps you in them.
One other note on the Derrida death thing: the BBC's idiotic dismissal is obviously beyond-belief embarrassing, but it's worth thinking for a minute about the idea that Derrida propagated 'absurd doctrines'. Surely the academic discipline propagating the most 'absurd doctrines' is the one that is also one of the most respected amongst non-academics: Economics. What could be more absurd than the still dominant Rational Agent Theory, the idea that people are 'basically rational' and make choices that are in their own interests?
Amazingly managed to get online on the new machine --- despite the best efforts of $ Bill and the AOE ----
have now downloaded msn messenger --- am available for chat on that at email@example.com...
See my write up on Ultravox's 'Artificial Life', Grace Jones' 'Private Life' and Visage's 'Pleasure Boys Dance Mix' - and download the tracks - here, at Stylus' new mp3 blog.
Thanks to the lovely Todd Burns for asking me to do this. It really is wonderful to be given the opportunity to propagate one's enthusiasms.
"Knowledge of Maya writing did not long survive the Spanish Conquest, owing to the diligence of church and government officials who rooted out any manifestations of this visible symbol of "paganism." Diego de Landa, in a passage that ironically accompanies his invaluable eye witness description of Maya writing, described his own role in its suppression: "We found a large number of these books in these characters and, as they contained nothing in which there was not to be seen superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which they [the Mayans] regretted to an amazing degree and which caused them great affliction."
Robert Sharer, The Ancient Maya, p. 513
'Here is Bishop Landa burning the sacred books. To give you an idea as to what is happening, imagine our civilization invaded by louts from outer space...
"Get some bulldozers in here. Clear out all this crap..." The formulae of all the natural sciences, books, paintings, the lot, swept into a vast pile and burned. And that's it. No one ever heard of it...
Three codices survived the vandalism of Bishop Landa and these three burned around the edges. No way to know if we have here the sonnets of Shakespeare, the Mona Lisa, or the remnants of a Sears Roebuck catalogue after the old out-house burned down in a brush fire. A whole civilization went up in smoke. ...
When the Spaniards arrived, they found the Mayan aristocrats lolling in hammocks. Well, time to show them what is what. Five captured workers, bound and stripped, are castrated on a stump, the bleeding, sobbing, screaming bodies thrown into a pile...
"And now get this through your gook nuts. We want to see a pile of gold that big and we want to see it pronto. The White God has spoken."'
Burroughs The Job, 198
But at least they made 'aesthetically superior' things out of that gold, folks, so don't sweat it...
I have a new computer. And, since it's running MicroShit Windows (ok, ok, but it's better than my aged mac, and very cheap) and is therefore user hostile, I've not yet been able to get the internet connection up and running. So if you've emailed me in the past couple of days on my ntl account, I apologize, I won't have been able to read it. If you can be bothered, re-send to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pick it up at work --- though with any luck I should be online within the next couple of days. But since this is dependent on those two super-reliable entities, Dollar Bill Gates and ntl, I'm not going to hold my breath.
Burroughs: 'I am assigned to engage the services of Dr. Benway for Islam, Inc.
Dr. Benway had been called in as advisor to the Freeland Republic, a place given over to free love and continual bathing. The citizens are well adjusted, co-operative, honest, tolerant and above all clean. But the invoking of Benway indicates all is not well behind that hygienic facade: Benway is a manipulator and coordinator of symbol systems, an expert on all phases of interrogation, brainwashing, and control. I have not seen Benway since his precipitate departure from Annexia, where his assignment had been T.D. -- Total Demoralization. Benway's first act was to abolish concentration camps, mass arrest, and, except under certain limited and special circumstances, the use of torture.
"I deplore brutality," he said. "It's not efficient. On the other hand, prolonged mistreatment, short of physical violence, gives rise, when skillfully applied, to anxiety and a feeling of special guilt. A few rules or rather guiding principles are to be borne in mind. The subject must not realize that the mistreatment is a deliberate attack of an anti-human enemy on his personal identity. He must be made to feel that he deserves any treatment he receives because there is something (never specified) horribly wrong with him. The naked need of the control addicts must be decently covered by an arbitrary and intricate bureaucracy so that the subject cannot contact his enemy direct."
Obviously my sexual abuse episode was completey trivial.
Certainly compared to what most women go through. Most of my female friends have either been raped or sexually assaulted. This is not aberrant. It is the norm of sexuality.
When gliberal 'feminists' trot out that familiar platitude 'rape is not about sex, it's about power', what do they think sex is about? A blissed-out communion of desubjectified bodies? It is not that body to body contact couldn't be about that, but it is very far from being the default option. For heterosexual men, sex, even when it is casual, even when they are disgusted by or indifferent to the woman they are fucking, is never trivial since (1) it involves us giving free reign to the evil death-pleasure virus within us (which is always a draining experience, almost total takeover of yr body by idiot monkeymatic reproducer machinery and (2) the dominant biopolitical regime insists that sex is the truth of what we are.
That was the worst aspect of the Doctor's abuse of me. Far worse than his using my body to feed his fantasies (which, after all, is kinda flattering ---- as my mother joked when the abuse scandal was revealed, 'I'm offended that he didn't try and use me!' ahhh, the mordant humour of the working class ;-) ), was his insinsent implantation of the idea that all MY problems were sexual, that the truth of me was sex (or failure to have it, which constituted - already in the mind of a young heterosexual male - a total, humiliating exclusion from the ranks of the human. You really don't feel real.
Foucault: 'It is through sex ... that each individual has to pass in order to have access to his own intelligibility (seeing that it is both the hidden aspect and the generative aspect of meaning), to the whole of his body (since it is a real and threatened part of it, while symbolically constituting the whole), to his identity (since it joins the force of a drive to the singularity of a history). Through a reversal that doubtless had its surreptitious beginnings long ago - it was already making itself felt at the time of the Christian pastoral of the flesh - we have arrived at the point where we expect our intelligibility to come from what was for many centuries thought of as madness; the plenitude of our body from what was long considered its stigma and likened to a wound; our identity from what was perceived as an obscure and nameless urge. Hence the importance we ascribe to it, the reverential fear with which we surround it, the care we take to know it. Hence the fact that over centuries it has become more important than our soul, more important than our life; and so it is that all the world's enigmas appear frivolous to us compared to this secret, minuscule in each of us, but of a density that makes it more serious than any other. The Faustian pact, whose temptation has been instilled in us by the deployment of sexuality, is now as follows: to exchange life in its entirety for sex itself, for the truth and the sovereignty of sex. Sex is worth dying for. It is in this (strictly historical) sense that sex is indeed imbued with the death instinct. When a long while ago, the West discovered love, it bestowed on it a value high enough to make death acceptable; nowadays it is sex that claims this ambivalence, the highest of all. And while the deployment of sexuality permits the techniques of power to invest life, the fictitious point of sex, itself marked by that deployment, exerts enough charm over everyone for them to accept hearing the grumble of death within it.
By creating the imaginary element that is "sex," the deployment of sexuality established one of its most essential internal operating principles: the desire for sex - the desire to have it, to have acccess to it, to discover it, to liberate it, to articulate in it discourse, to formulate it in truth. It constituted "sex" itself as something desirable. And it is this desirability of sex that attaches each one of us to the injunction to know it, to reveal its law and its power; it is this desirability that makes us think we are affirming the rights of our sex against all power, when in fact we are fastened to the deployement of sexuality that has lifted up from deep within us a sort of mirage in which we see ourselves reflected - the dark shimmer of sex.
"It is sex," said Kate in The Plumed Serpent. "How wonderful sex can be, when men keep it powerful and sacred, and it fills the world! like sunshine through and through one."
(editor's note: sound of gagging from k-punk - Lawrence really is possibly the worst and most pernicious writer ever....)
So we must not refer a history of sexuality to the agency of sex; but rather show how "sex" is historically subordinate to sexuality. We must not place sex on the side of reality, and sexuality of that of confused ideas and illusions; sexuality is a very real historical formation; it is what gave rise to the notion of sex, as a speculative element necessary to its operation. We must not think that by saying yes to sex, one says no to power: on the contrary, one tracks along the course laid down by the general deployment of sexuality. (ed's note 2: k-punk italtics) It is the agency of sex that we must break away from, if we aim - through a tactical reversal of the various mechanisms of sexuality - counter the grips of power with the claims of bodies, pleasures and knowledges, in their multiplicity and their possibility of resistance. The rallying point for the counter-attack against the deployment of sexuality ought not to be sex, but bodies and pleasures.
(ed's note 3: obv k-punk has problems with 'pleasures' - see for instance here)
"There has been so much action in the past," said D.H. Lawrence, "especially sexual action, wearying repetition over and over, without a corresponding thought, a corresponding realization. Now our business is to realize sex. Today the full conscious realization of sex is even more important than the act itself."
Perhaps one day people will wonder at this. They will not be able to understand how a civilization so intent on developing enormous instruments of production and destruction found the time and infinite patience to inquire so anxiously concerning the actual state of sex; people will smile perhaps when they recall that here are men - meaning ourselves - who believe that therein resided a truth every bit as precious as the one they had already demanded from the earth, the stars, and the pure forms of their thought; people will be surprised at the eagerness with which we went about pretending to rouse from its slumber a sexuality which everything - our discourses, our customs, our institutions, our regulations, our knowledges - was busy producing in the light of day to noisy accompaniment.'
(History of Sexuality, Part 1, 155-158)
Sound of rousing cheers from k-punk towers.
This is surely one of the most unsettling, most subversive, passages in the whole of theory - because it says what was previously Unthinkable, precisely because the sex discourse acted/ acts as the Unthought transcendental precondition for all our experiences as sexualised subjects ---
No hiding place from Foucault's cold rationalist anayltic-disecting instruments.
The genius of Foucault (as I said in converstation with Sean Crumbling Loaf and Infinite Thought the other night) is that he reveals the arbitrariness of our fixations, the randomness of our valuations of what is Important.