Archive for November, 2019

Lógicas del sentido

| November 25th, 2019

    Por cuestiones de fuerza mayor, me encontré revisando cuadernos de mis cursadas de Letras, hace más de 10 años atrás. Entre las muchas cosas que encontré, me tope con esta página de notas personales, que me puso muy contento el haber releido:

    ¿Hay chances de armar una gramática formal ad-hoc, en tiempo real, por discurso?

    Sería más bien una tecnología del discurso, como producto grágico/material de una serie de procesos analíticos.

    Analizar sintácticamente con múltiples modelos y generar graduaciones relacionales entre planos autónomos de análisis; cada modelo, un plano.
    Este resultado sería estructural siempre, y único en cada discurso.
    Permitiría abarcar la variabilidad del lenguaje.

    Hay, por ejemplo, condiciones funcionales, jerarquías estructurales, efectos posibles, prototipicidades, leyes de-facto, etc; todos esos son elementos de la unidad mínima del significado.

    La unidad es compleja; relacional, multidimensional, funcional, y contingente.
    Esta unidad sería objeto condicional de diferentes procesos.

    No quiero buscar normalidad; necesito trabajar lo posible.

    Ojo al efecto de ver “así algo”; se entiende “algo así” aún antes de leerlo. Se reconocen formas grupales.

    Adecuación de la gramática al sujeto, y no al revés.
    La unidad no se ubica: se construye. No es un investigador, sino un constructor de efectos. La condición es el efecto.

    Desde Rage and Time, de Peter Sloterdijk.


    Who could deny that, as usual, the alarmists are almost right? The inhabitants of affluent nations sleepwalk mostly within illusions of apolitical pacifism. They spend their days in gold-plated unhappiness. At the same time, their molesters, their virtual hangmen, immerse themselves at the margins of happiness zones in the manuals of explosive chemistry. These manuals have been checked out of the public libraries of the host country. Once one has listened to the alarm for some time, one feels like one is viewing the opening credits of a disturbing documentary where the naive and its opposite are put into a perfidiously astonishing sequence by directors who know how to create effects: new fathers open up cans of food for their children; working mothers put a pizza in the preheated oven; daughters swarm into the city in order to make use of their awakening femininity; pretty salesgirls step outside during a short break to smoke a cigarette while returning the gaze of those passing by. In the suburbs, petrified foreign students put on belts filled with explosives.

    The montage of such scenes follows logics that can easily be understood. Many authors who see their vocation as educating the public in matters of politics (among them neoconservative editorial writers, political antiromantics, wrathful exegetes of the reality principle, converted Catholics, and disgusted critics of consumerism) want to reintroduce into a population of overly relaxed citizens the basic concepts of the real. For this purpose they quote the most recent examples of bloody terror. They show how hatred enters standard civil contexts. They do not tire of claiming that under the well-kept facades, amok has already for a long time been running. They constantly have to scream: this is not a drill! Because for quite some time the public has become used to the routine translation of real violence into mere images, into entertaining and terrifying, pleading and informative images. The public experiences the development of opposition as a tasteless regression into a dialect extinct for many years.

    But how is it possible to seriously present rage and its effects, its proclamations and explosions as news? What needed to be intentionally forgotten before the desire could emerge to stare at those who effectively practice revenge against their alleged or real enemies as if they were visitors from distant galaxies? How was it at all possible, after the disappearance of the West-East divide in 1991, for us to come to believe that we had been thrown into a universe in which individuals and collectives could let go of their capacity to have revengeful feelings? Is it not the case that resentment is what is distributed the most around the world, even more so than bon sens?


    One understands this eccentric dynamic right away: to the victims of injustice and defeat, consolation through forgetting often appears unreachable. If it appears unreachable, it also appears unwanted, even unacceptable. This means that the fury of resentment begins at the moment the person who is hurt decides to let herself fall into humiliation as if it were the product of choice. To exaggerate pain in order to make it bearable, to transcend one’s depressed suffering, to “sport with his misery” (quoting Thomas Mann’s sensitive and humorous coinage about the primal father Jacob) to extend the feeling of suffered injustice to the size of a mountain in order to be able to stand on its peak full of bitter triumph: these escalating and twisting movements are as old as injustice, itself seemingly as old as the world. Isn’t “world” the name for the place in which human beings necessarily accumulate unhappy memories of injuries, insults, humiliations, and all kinds of episodes for which one wants revenge? Are not all civilizations, either openly or in secret, always archives of collective trauma? Considerations like these allow us to draw the conclusion that measures taken to extinguish or contain smoldering memories of suffering have to belong to the pragmatic rules of every civilization. How would it be possible for citizens to go to bed peacefully if they had not called a couvre-feu for their internal fires?

    Because cultures always also have to provide systems for healing wounds, it is plausible to develop concepts that span the entire spectrum of wounds, visible and invisible. This has been done by modern trauma sciences, which started from the insight that for moral facts it is also useful to apply physiological analogies, if only within certain limits. To use a familiar example, in the case of open bodily wounds, blood comes into contact with air, and as a result of biochemical reactions the process of blood clotting starts. Through it, an admirable process of somatic self-healing comes about, a process that belongs to the animal heritage of the human body. In the case of moral injuries we could say that the soul comes into contact with the cruelty of other agents. In such cases subtle mechanisms for the mental healing of wounds are also available: spontaneous protest, the demand to bring the perpetrator immediately to justice, or, if this is not possible, the intention to take matters into one’s own hands when the time comes. There is also the retreat into oneself, resignation, the reinterpretation of the crime scene, the rejection of the truth of what happened, and, in the end, when only a drastic psychic treatment seems to work, the internalization of the violation as a subconsciously deserved penalty even to the point of the masochistic worship of the aggressor. In addition to this medicine chest for the injured self, Buddhism, Stoicism, and Christianity developed moral exercises to enable the injured psyche to transcend the circle of injuries and revenge as such. As long as history is an endless pendulum of hit and retaliation, wisdom is required to bring the pendulum to a halt.

    It is not only common wisdom and religion that have adopted the moral healing of wounds. Civil society also provides symbolic therapies intended to support the psychic and social reactions to the injuries of individuals and collectives. Since ancient times, conducting trials in front of courts has made certain that the victims of violence and injustice can expect reparation in front of a gathered people. Through such procedures is practiced the always precarious transformation of the desire for revenge into justice. However, just as a festering wound can become both a chronic and general malady, psychic and moral wounds also may not heal, which creates its own corrupt temporality, the infinity of an unanswered complaint. This implies the trial without satisfactory sentence and calls forth the feeling in the prosecutor that the injustice inflicted upon him is rather increased through the trial. What is to be done when the juridical procedure is experienced as an aberration? Can the matter be settled through the sarcastic remark that the world will one day go down because of its official administration — a statement perpetually reinvented as often as citizens experience the indolence of administrative bodies? Isn’t it more plausible to assume that rage itself engages in payback? Isn’t it more plausible to assume that rage, as a selfproclaimed executor, goes so far as to knock on the door of the offended?

    The evidente for this possibility exists in countless exemplary case studies, some more recent and some older. The search for justice has always brought about a second, wild form of the judiciary in which the injured person attempts to be both judge and warden at once. What is noteworthy about these documents, given our present perspective, is that only with the beginning of modernity was the romanticism of self-administered justice invented. Whoever speaks of modern times without acknowledging to what extent it is shaped by a cult of excessive rage suffers from an illusion. This is, even to the present day, the blind spot of cultural history — as if the myth of the “process of civilization” did not aim only to make invisible the release of vulgar manners under conditions of modernity but also to inflate revenge phantasms. While the global dimension of Western civilization aims at the neutralization of heroism, the marginalization of military virtue, and the pedagogical enhancement of peaceful social affects, the mass culture of the age of enlightenment reveals a dramatic recess in which the veneration of vengeful virtues, if we may so call them, reaches new, bizarre extremes.

    Whatever criteria one has in mind when searching the libraries of the Old World, one will come across a large amount of references to the elementary force of rage and the campaigns of vengeful fury. There are traces of a more or less serious game with the romantic fire of rage, though this will become a dominant motive only with the eighteenth century’s emerging culture of civil society. Since then, one great revenger hunts another, accompanied by the sympathy of the audience of the modern imaginary. From the noble robber Karl Moor to the angry veteran John Rambo; Edmond Dantes, the mysterious Count of Monte Christo to Harmonica, the hero of “Once Upon a Time in the West”, who has committed his life to a private nemesis; Judah ben Hur, who exacted revenge against the spirit of imperial Rome with his victory in an ominous chariot race, to the Bride, alias Black Mamba, the protagonist of Kill Bill, who works through her death list. The time of those who live for the “great scene” has come.


    Moreover, rage satisfies the popular interest in acts of which the perpetrator can legitimately be proud: such stories focus on the avengers, who by directly paying back for their humiliation release a part of the discontent with judicial civilization. They provide satisfying proof that the modern person does not always have to travel the windy road of resentment and the steep steps of the judiciary process in order to articulate thymotic emotions. In the case of injuries leading to chronic illness, rage is still the best therapy. This feeling constitutes the reason for the pleasure taken in base things.