I turned on the music to help me sleep and it subverted me, splitting me into parts. Violins I think it was mostly but it seemed to be a system of tonal strands that sliced me like a kitchen instrument for eggs. Me like a hard-boiled-soft egg not feeling pain. Liberated into fragments. Why would I pull myself together when I can be this.
Why would you trap me in one body. But why would you trap my parts and make bodies out of them. I am my actions. My actions are me. More than anything we’re inclined to call ourselves by what we do. A reason for silence. But in silence what moves.
. . . while the social media user is still subjectified qua individual, the algorithmic governance of social media breaks down each user’s profile on the basis of discrete actions she performs vis-à-vis other users. These dividual electronic transactions, as Gilles Deleuze famously termed them, are the basic unit of informational capital, which recombines the data we leave behind in a potentially infinite variety of data sets.
– Marco Desiriis(1)
What do names and designations actually convey? History, placing, a set of associations, a function. In his essay on “The Politics of Condividuality,” quoted above, Marco Deseriis refers to a linguistically impoverished website, 4chan, whose signature is anonymity. Every post is from “Anonymous.” “Anonymous is a transindividual condividual that operates as an entity in itself, combining dividual & pre-dividual aspects of many individuals. If names aren’t given, then there is a new formation.”(2)In this new formation, you communicate in a thematic thread and unite with others in this aspect of yourself. Face, name, history and behavioral credentials are absent. Freedom to be a statistic, freedom to slice and slide, be molecular. The question is, how individual can we ever be?
. . . when a young man recognizes that he is ‘in love,’ he may well feel that he has come to a place where others have come before him, a place with laws of its own that existed before he met them, in which certain things, not unknown from literature and tradition, are now to be done and suffered.
– C. S. Lewis(3)
Emer was said to have “the six gifts—the gift of beauty, the gift of voice, the gift of sweet speech, the gift of needle-work, the gift of wisdom, the gift of chastity.” Replace needle-work and chastity with a professional degree and sexual candour, and reincarnate the desirable Emer in the twenty-first century.
What is the account of thee, oh maiden?’ said Cuchulaind. ‘Not hard to tell, truly,’ said the maiden, ‘Tara of the women, the whitest of maidens, the [...] of chastity, a prohibition which is not taken, a watchman who sees no one. A modest woman is a worm, a scaldcrow [...] a rush which none come near. The daughter of a king, a flame of honour, a road that cannot be entered [...] I have champions that follow me to guard me from whoever will take me against their pleasure, without their and Forgall's knowledge of my act.’
. . .
The women of Ulster loved Cuchulaind greatly for his quickness at the feats, for the nimbleness of his leap, for the excellency of his wisdom; for the sweetness of his speech, for the beauty of his face, for the loveliness of his look.
– The Wooing of Emer / Tochmarc Emire, Kuno Meyer transl.(4)
The best representation of individual fact, it seems to me, is dividual works of literature. Theodor Adorno wrote that the “paradox specific to the lyric work, a subjectivity that turns into objectivity, is tied to the priority of linguistic form in the lyric . . .”(5) The poet becomes universal, thus recognisably individual, by working intensely with the inherently social medium of language. Adorno goes on to claim that the artist is effectively possessed by a socially imbued resistive force:
Adrienne Rich also speaks of “forces.” In “Twenty-one Love Poems,” XVII, they are the forces of patriarchy:
. . . resistance to social pressure is not something absolutely individual; the artistic forces in that resistance, which operate in and through the individual and his spontaneity, are objective forces that impel a constricted and constricting social condition to transcend itself and become worthy of human beings; forces, that is, that are part of the constitution of the whole and not at all merely forces of a rigid individuality blindly opposing society.”(6)
While Dylan Thomas claimed a poet’s individuality, his characters, by his own admission, are all “pasteboard.”(8) They are types or qualities, whether in his play, Under Milkwood, in his stories, or in the poems. In The Map of Love, the boy and girl are “weathers,” propelled by an omniscient mapmaker.(9)
and these are the forces they had ranged against us,
and these are the forces we had ranged within us,
within us and against us, against us and within us.(7)
Are we reduced to theme or elevated to theme? Perhaps it depends on the usage. If I’m simply the website “hit” exploited by advertisers, it’s obvious reduction. If I’m the quality of kindness, wit, inspiration or courage, it may be elevation—as long as contrary themes are not discovered, in which case I may be struck out of the scenario and denounced as an inadequate “individual.”
Adorno opposes lyric poetry to the domination of humans by commodities.(10) In “Education after Auschwitz,” he says that people who fetishize technology are unable to love.(11) While I respect the substance of the statement, I’m not sure that techies aren’t perfectly capable of a behaviour just as desirable as the libidinal that is truly tolerant and lasting. The traditional protocol of love has always demanded the self to be of a certain standard. ‘You’ are highlighted. Like religion, love focuses on the individual as the seat of so-called redemption. You are the responsible one. You must submit to the collective notion of correct behaviour or You are defective. Such excessive focus on the individual is just as constraining as division into themes or functions, although it feels warmer.
A particular polarity comes to mind. In his book, Sexuality in Islam, Abdelwahab Bouhdiba says that “One function of sexuality resides in its ability to unite individuals to the community . . . In the strict sense there is no solitary practice of the sexual life.”(12) Whereas Félix Guattari asserts that capitalism, in recreating and assimilating the individual for the purpose of commoditisation, engenders a prescribed set of desires. Real desire, he says, is all-embracing, involved with everything, transsexual: we must move beyond the “individual,” transcend our sedentary selves and our normal social identities to travel the boundaryless territory of the body, “in order to live in the flux of desires that lies beyond sexuality . . .”(13)
Emerge from sleep and slide into something less comfortable.
(NEXT BLOG: FEBRUARY 2019)
(1) Marco Deseriis. “The Politics of Condividuality.” Transversal Journal: Technecologies, March 2018.
(3) The Allegory of Love. Oxford University Press, 1959, 130.
(4) Leabhar na hUidre. Translated by Kuno Meyer. Celt Project.
(5) Notes to Literature, Volume I. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. Transl. Shierry Weber Nicholsen. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991, 43.
(6) Ibid. P. 43.
(7) The Dream of a Common Language. New York/London: W. W. Norton & Co., 1978.
(8) Letter to Trevor Hughes, Feb 1933. The Collected Letters. Ed. Paul Ferris. London: Paladin, 1987, 13.
(9) The Map of Love. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1939.
(10) Op. cit. 39/40.
(11) “Education after Auschwitz.”
(12) Sexuality in Islam. Translated by Alan Sheridan. London: Saqi, 2012, 96.
(13) Chaosophy: Texts and Interviews 1972-1977. Semiotext(e), 2009, 210.