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A note on the love of democracy

In rhapsody on August 2, 2009 at 12:54 pm

What does it mean to love democracy? I was born in 1988, two years after the end of a dictatorship. I have no direct experience of the criminal regime, and I am forever confused about what it means to love democracy. I have a feeling that, for young people like me, it is easy to celebrate freedom because democracy is certainly part of the spirit of the times. But there is no reason to condemn what is easy in this case. The main cause of my perturbation is: what does it mean to love democracy, if one did not experience dictatorship? How can I love an orange, if let’s say all my life this is the only fruit known to me? Perhaps the possibility of loving a variable (X) rests on a structure of difference between (X) and any other member of class (Y) to which (X) belongs. In that case, this love for freedom is at the mercy of the structure of the sign. Inevitably, this invokes the notion of the structure of the sign as difference, which has already been anticipated by St. Augustine in De Magistro (see Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language by Umberto Eco). We will refer to an early essay entitled “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” by J.D. because the meaning of our subject matter — the possibility of loving democracy this late in time — is informed by the same concepts. There are a lot of answers in the social sciences; for instance, psychology may explain that even though the person did not live during Martial Law, he can imagine dictatorship by magnifying his experiences of suppressive parental authority. But the discipline we’re turning to right now appeals directly to the conditions of being — nothing can be more broad. How can one love democracy at all, if he did not experience dictatorship? Maybe there is something that opens up its possibility: a “structure” — of what? The jargon is confusing because it is structure, pure and simple. To be a “structure of” a given connotes being a constituent of a more encompassing structure. We denote this structure which no greater structure can encompass as the structurality of the structure. This opens up and closes off the possibility of love. The organizing principle of the structure is the center — in what sense? We mean center in every sense of the word. We substitute the center for any presence: God, substance, man, essence, et al. Then it is the center that determines the free play within the structure. I have a feeling that this love of democracy is made possible by the substitution of this center as democracy. At any point in the locus of time and space, the cognate concepts of “democracy”, “freedom” and “independence” are just substitutes for center, and at any given moment, this center may incarnate into any of its avatars: truth, God, substance, essence… This love of freedom can never result from an internal dialectic — this love is never fully mine, since the order of center is “only to itself that an appeal against it can be brought, only in itself that a protest against it can be made” (J.D.). Where does this love take root? From the object’s own terrain. Nevertheless, we love, but this love can by no means be wholly ours, because the center (as freedom or democracy) can only be questioned on its own terms. For love to be possible, the object must be capable of being questioned on terms other than its own. The Zen Buddhist koan says, only when our head is plunged in the water can we learn to love air — but our problem is the possibility of loving air even without finding our heads plunged in the water. Perhaps what we’re really saying is that we are always already in love.

Aporias on “25 Random Things About Me”

In rhapsody on June 3, 2009 at 4:54 pm

1. This list is an occasion for jouissance!

2. Its deployment signifies a break, a middle term in the polarity of self and the ‘they’ (neither conformity nor mutiny, but misprision, careful misreading, legitimate abuse), or what Lacan refers to as an ecstatic opening to the Other in this list’s economy of revelation, disclosure, confession (“about me”).

3. Such bliss is accompanied by an ejaculation of aporias, undecidables, paradoxes that inhere in this text’s structure of indeterminacy.

4. I am referring, first of all, to this list’s apparent logic of disorder — “random things”.

5. But to list anything at all is already an enterprise of ordering.

6. Empirically, formally, arithmetically, there is progression, enumeration, a spatial and more-than-spatial linearity of items, terms, fragments from the life-text of the subject.

7. Or do we speak of the absence of design?

8. But the task of delimiting utterances already inscribes itself, in an always-already manner, as telos.

9. Thus chance, randomness, arbitrariness differ and are deferred (differant): the list bears the trace of any other list which it is not.

10. This trace is the absent presence of, as it were, ‘non-random’ lists, “My 5 Favorite Things to Do”, or “5 Things I don’t leave the house without”.

11. Whatever this contingent category (‘non-random’ or discriminate list) may be, it inscribes itself violently, but silently and in a paradoxically pacified manner, as a binary opposite to “25 Random Things About Me”.

12. May we not then construe discriminate choices as the supplement to indiscriminate choices?

13. It is therefore in the position of a bastard, a parasite, a barnacle, imposing its essentiality to the identity of this list while effaced and repressed by it.

14. The supplementarity of the other “speaks, yet says nothing” (Shakespeare in ‘Romeo and Juliet’).

15. It threatens the natural relationship between the terms, between natures.

16. That which purports to be a random list is always already inextricable to a list of discriminate choices.

17. The list does not only limit itself but also limits its resources, its supply of items.

18. It lists before it is listed.

19. The list was already there before it came to be. It has no definite origin.

20. By virtue of its linguistic parameters, epistemic constraints, circumferences within which only certain terms can be written, the list shapes its own mold, gives birth to its own father.

21. The limiting action of the list precludes the idea of any randomness in it.

22. This invitation to regulate discourse with arbitrariness seems self-contradictory, because to regulate is to bring order, to subject to a procedure or decree, to standardize — and possibly, to tyrannize.

23. What do chance and chaos look like? What will we see when we meet them face to face in all their purity?

24. The signifier stands before me and the concept. It conceals while purporting to reveal. It reveals while purporting to conceal.

25. This list is an exercise at auto-eroticism, a technique of producing rapture, no more.


In rhapsody, workshop on June 3, 2009 at 4:31 pm

I prefer flat prairies.
I prefer to intuit the planet’s rotation from the six chambers of a gun.
I prefer the silver sweat of cinnabar.
I prefer to see a flask of mercury break.
I prefer cutting an arc in space with a coin tied to my finger.
I prefer to count in parsecs.
I prefer the helix of blown embers to a bonfire’s anatomy.
I prefer the index to the thing itself.
I prefer alkali tracks to asphalt roads.
I prefer mortal heliotropes to magnetic artifacts.
I prefer a halo of gnats to painted angels.
I prefer innominate senses.
I prefer vicarious experiences to visceral ones.
I prefer Euclidean points on a pasteboard heaven.
I prefer shadows cast by clouds on a sun-baked playa.
I prefer the gaze of a dead fish and seeing that it is my own
when my soul assumes the other side of a chess board.
I prefer paradox to ambiguity.
I prefer the skyline.
I prefer to fetch a crane from a dark shaft with just rope and pulley,
and to be mesmerized by the sudden glint of materials from the deep.
I prefer discovering that corners with scant light brighten by mere ocular ability.
I prefer ex cathedra pronouncements on the life of termites
to ethical equivocations on the life of humans.
I prefer big turbines on the beach to the windmills in Cervantes.
I prefer soliciting the name of a thing.
I prefer a two-handled drill that casts chips and smoke out of the cement.
I prefer the shattered edge of a glass bottle to a ready knife.
I prefer imagining that the dead keep secret lives in their marble metropolis.
I prefer looking at rain streaks as puppet strings
to insisting we can avoid being wet.
I prefer my handwriting’s serendipitous hieroglyphics.
I prefer the marginalia of borrowed books.
I prefer the calling of cocks from far away.

(This text is inspired by a word game I played with Arkaye and Petra, my co-fellows in the 48th National Writers Workshop. We brainstormed our favorite words for two hours on the road from Lake Balanan to Dumaguete City last May 6, 2009.)

Variations on a theme by Wislawa Szymborska


In rhapsody on June 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm

I remember it was through Federico Garcia Lorca’s theory and play of the duende—my first reading material in college—that I encountered a certain integration of sensibility that we find in John Donne, far from the malaise of dissociation of thought and feeling that T.S. Eliot attribute to John Milton and whelps. Studying here in the university where Horace’s utile et dulce was more pronounced as a lived structure than an articulation, I felt an amorous dialectic of pleasure and logos took place in my soul. It was in the Hegelian sublation of the binaries LIA/COM, accounting/literature and finance/art that made this enterprise of knowing sublate or aufgehoben into an erotics of learning, culminating into a final reading of De La Salle as texte du jouissance, to borrow Roland Barthes’ terminology on the pleasurable unreadability of the modern novel. I am filled with the bliss of interpretation that Susan Sontag sings in her metacriticism, with the gayness that Friedrich Nietzsche desired of science, with the Renaissance delight expressed by the fictional William of Baskerville, in the author-ity of Umberto Eco, whose postmodern obligation it was to make truth laugh. Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree of commerce and communication greets me with aporia, for this is a point of undecidability and impasse to which the literal, non-metonymic sense of philo sophia gives rise in a regime of utility and industrial expediency. But the seductions of indeterminacy are upon me! What cautions me from abducting, in the manner of Charles Sanders Peirce, a particular teleology of the self from Lyotard’s grand recit of corporate destiny is ars scientia. The bibliophilic conceit of Jorge Borges contaminates Michel Foucault’s aesthetics of existence in positing the university as a text, the world as a book, life as literature. And with the ecstasy of deferral and divagation in Jacques Derrida and Julia Kristeva, I play in this diegesis of meanings, as an other-among-others according to Paul Ricoeur, uncovering permutations and possible alignments of Ferdinand de Saussure’s axes of significations. This economy of the plurality of signs has the attribute of Jean Baudrillard’s implosion. With that, I caution myself that this attempt at a misprision of Ecriture must in the end be marked as mere autoeroticism, no more. A discourse characterized by the supplementarity of Rousseauist masturbation. A systematic Freudian repression of my body politic. There is danger in drowning Hannah Arendt’s vita activa in plenitude. But what at-oneness with Heidegger’s Being, what Aristotelian catharsis, what Whitmanian rapture and rhapsody sing my body electric in this peripeteia of life! Et in Arcadia glossolalia.

Related posts:
Aporias on 25 Random Things
Note on “Smart” People