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Superconversations Day 69: Bradley Kaye responds to Naeem Mohaiemen, "Traitors, a mutable lexicon"


Scene from the movie Fahrenheit 451

#The Death of the Author and State Repression

“They Don’t Have to Burn the Books They Just Remove Them” – Rage Against the Machine

In the United States freedom of speech protects the most horrifying books on how to assassinate people, how to build bombs and put them in the mail, how to manufacture guns, how to be a white supremacist survivalist living in the woodlands of Idaho, such that our alleged freedom is so perverted by the death-drive that we fight for the most destructive aspects of the darker sides of what I call ‘idiotic freedoms’ the freedoms to kill ourselves and kill others. Then, books that are amazing stories of true originality and inspiration that are actually creative like Catcher in the Rye, and Ulysses, and even Harry Potter, are burned and banned and censored from schools so as to protect children from the evils of witchcraft. We forget in this country that authors around the world are dying for their art every day, gunned down the state censors.

For instance, Frederico Garcia Lorca was killed by Franco’s Fascists in Spain for simply writing symbolic images that were too erotic, and then there were authors who did not have to go through the suffering associated with being discovered and having fame when they were alive like Fernando Pessoa whose work The Book of Disquiet was discovered in a clothing wardrobe in his Lisbon home in notebooks after he died; or, James Agee whose brilliant work Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was his photojournalism journey through the poorest county in the South; he took photos of what liberals at cocktail parties would call ‘Rednecks’ or those who lived in what Marx referred to as ‘the Idiocy of Rural Life,’ and told a story, by simply interviewing these men and women who worked the earth with dirt stained faces and gave them the dignity of talking, gave a voice to the farmers with bruises on their backs from the progress of modernity leaving them in the dust. And he wrote this and then wrote A Death in the Family; and then died only to have his second book win the Pulitzer posthumously, one of the more tragic stories in literature.

Or, William Gaddis who wrote the Recognitions, a work of masterful postmodern writing, who earned $35 a month on for almost two decades until all these peasant graduate students who told their dissertation advisors to fuck off and wrote reviews in journals about Gaddis, and kept his life going literally by positing his greatness out of sheer comradery of being a student lumpenproletariat with the poor creative class of authors outside the mainstream. Gaddis almost committed suicide over and over, and then he wrote JR, and out of like “Fuck we missed his greatness twenty years ago!” he won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award; and then published another book, and out of guilt they gave him another Pulitzer. He is the only person to ever win the Pulitzer twice; and he almost starved to death after his first book totally flopped economically. Then there is Stirner much like Marx who was a big scholarly figure in his field, who published a magnificent book The Ego and Its Own that rippled through Nietzsche and the worst parts of Ayn Rand. We forget that egoism started with radical anarchist politics in Stirner: he quit teaching when this was published to make a living off of writing. A few years later it became obvious that much like everyone else who makes a living writing this was a mistake, so he wanted to get back into teaching to support the unprofitability of writing; but no one would have him because he was an anarchist who was blacklisted. He starved and died when a rat bit his foot and it became infected. Anarchist writers do not get the best healthcare when they freelance and go rogue.

Then, there is this really sad story of Ferdinand Toennies. Most sociology departments in Europe, and Europe is much more hip to entertaining the idea that sociology is an actual viable career choice, most departments acknowledge that the founding figures in social theory are Durkheim, Weber, Comte, Marx, and Toennies. Every introductory social theory class has gessellschaft gemeinschaft – organic and mechanical communities drilled into the students brain which is from Community and Civil Society. Strangely enough, due to the perpetual idiocy of academia to simply buck up and accept new ideas, the masterful book that everyone now accepts as canonical was published when Toennies was in his late twenties and early thirties. However, he struggled, and did not find a teaching post until he was almost sixty five years old! I have no clue how he survived and did not just starve to death. And then, by that time, he was living in Germany at the time of the rise of Nazism. The Nazis did not take kindly to his theses, they stormed into his house, burned his entire library, all his manuscripts, and stripped him of his teaching post. So, he dies penniless and broke, back where he started.

And these are just a few of the allegedly privileged white men who still get studied in academia from time to time, Africana, Latino, Pre-Colonial, Post-Colonial, authors in smaller countries that do not speak English, or French, or European languages have it much worse. Which I guess is the point of the petition in this article: the scholarly presumption is that Bangladeshi writers are dead and there has to be a declaration signed that says, “No, wait we are still alive!” and then, in doing this, it was an open admission of treason against the state and they were censored and probably murdered anyway. Writers and scholars in the US have it bad. But cheer up, it gets worse for those outside the comforts of America where the worst thing that can happen is you write books like me that no one reads that make no money, at least you’re allowed to live a life because no one bothers to read books when there are so many video games to play and movies to watch.

One after another there is the revulsion towards enlightenment on behalf of the sponsored state repression that censors, ignores, kills, starves, denigrates, pushes aside, marginalizes - the death of the author is not discursive at all. It is literal and a matter of political economy, authors are starved to death, or censored, or killed, and when you admit you are alive, if you do not fit with mainstream ideological constructions of what sells or what the state needs literature to be; you die anyway, this even happens at academic presses too, worst thing a scholar can be is original and free thinking…unless you cite a source and scour the archive for dead white males to back up your conclusions, or someone who resembles your kin then you can get tenure. The line in 2666 – when you are up for tenure and someone asks “Name an author of immense importance that you have written about?” and you name someone who is unknown, the answer is ‘Well, I have not heard of them, they must not be important!’ but then if you name someone who is famous and canonical the answer is, “Well everyone knows about that author, that is old hat!” and on goes the immense suffering of young scholars trying to make a name for themselves on the academic scene; it is insane, you always want to bring some destitute author in from the margins, but not too far from the margins, and this is why academics pass petitions to discuss the death of Bangladeshi authors before they actually die because, unfortunately, in the eyes of the Western Academy, these authors never existed, and if they did, it is to build CV’s on critical theory that mesh with themes that censor boards declare are appropriate to present in front of students in the West, usually as some exotic semester long tourist attraction a stay at home study abroad program with plenty of drinks in the safety of the US where we just starve out great authors - it is incredibly sad.

Follow this link for a google page with the images from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men listed); these are dust bowl left behinds…

Being, Becoming, Ressentiment:
“Timelessness”: one thinks of universality but also the thesis that time is connected to ontology and the being of beings. When one is thrown into an activity, then one forgets about time, active-being of beings represses time. And so one only has an awareness of time when one is bored, still, and sitting in contemplation - then one becomes acutely aware of time, the scarcity of time, and the oncoming onset of being-towards-death creeps in. When one sits thinks and contemplates one has dread - almost as a reflex of being bored, because one is reminded of the facticity of death, a very big vacuum in boredom. One has to fill up time with activities to avoid this emergence of time into the fore-structure of being, that is, time creeps back into the forefront of the mind when there is literally nothing to do, nothing going on, and since the Western onto-theo-logical tradition has horrifying metaphysics of being and time this is a major cause of dread and anxiety. Death is the un-thinkable dimension to life: we escape the facticity of our deaths into the universality of our alleged immortality to avoid the dread of nothing, the dread of the nothingness of being – the reality that there might be nothing more than this is horrifying to the Western Onto-Theo-Logical tradition, escape this world into the next; into space, it is bad faith to think that there is more than simply what is, and it is greedy to want more.

There is the world that is the case and nothing more.

What causes this dread? It seems as though it is the inability to create a vacuum of time.

Emancipatory resoluteness as death approaches once death becomes apparent as an ontic reality, in close proximity to the living breathing being of Dasein; there is a resoluteness that becomes present at hand.

Is this the worst of all possible worlds? Phenomenology in my opinion conclusively shows that ‘possible worlds’ are an epistemological impossibility, one quick glance at Being and Time and you see, all that we can ever know as beings, is the being in the world - this world, possible worlds and the rest of this implausible metaphysics is fun to think about, but empirically lacking in any factual evidence. Especially when one admits that truth is garnered from intuitions and a-priori/posteriori sources in actual existing matter that is directly accessible to the sense-perception. How can there be a thought of the existence of possible worlds unless the possible becomes actual? How does this extend to the unconscious realm where latent desires are dormant until they become manifest, these affects are possible until they become actual.

So many discursive impediments to human happiness – the basic urges we have that are repressed, turned inwards into negativity and resentment, guilt, shame. Even in the appearances of alleged free-floating atomized egoism there is social production at work in the comfortable ideologies expressed in the latent consciousness of the egoist – it appears to be second nature all of the crystallized habits of the means of social reproduction. The means of production and consumption are bound up in the common sense of the inhabitants of capitalism in the midst of the statements, axioms, and clichés of idle chatter that clearly speaks out the hidden kernel of truth latent in the psyche of capitalist ontologies. Even in most object oriented ontology there is a matter of directly approaching objects in their immediate visibility as phenomenon there is very little research in the realm of the a-perception of objects as distant commodities being prepared for consumption. In other words there is very little about the elision of production in the immense focusing of attention on the immediacy of pleasurable gratification in consumption. Exploitation of labor and the cruelty of production are always hidden behind the enjoyment and satisfaction of consumption.

Bradley Kaye is an adjunct philosophy professor at Villa Maria College of Buffalo and the author of two books: Critical Madness Theory, and The Boundless Open Sea.