Means Without End: A Paroxysm of Praxis

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. Nietzsche

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Ability to Look

To be published in the journal disCLOSURE: A Journal of Social Theory, April 2008


I think of myself as Coetzee’s tired magistrate
who is burdened by a historical palimpsest
of Empire.
If you recall, he would frequently sit
And try to identify with old stories and habits of peoples whose land he now administers.
He would look, and extrapolate,
but there was no object.
The magistrate was an Eichmann who desired
without reciprocity.
The magistrate would say,

"The new men of Empire are the ones who believe in fresh starts,
new chapters, clean pages;
I struggle with the old story, hoping that before it is finished
it will reveal to me
why it was that I thought it worth the trouble."

But just like in Sartre’s fable of the voyeur,
the key-hole gazer is merely the object
an implicit being
without the Other looking back.
That is the ability to look.


Demott wrote about his own colonization.
About the hard man who invaded his head,
and a cultivation of a desire, to see a world
mired in violence and lost hopes.
This hard man in his head
is a spectator of pornography,
of bombs raining upon the already-dead,
and nightly news casts of escalating numbers
and progress.
Demott is also an old man of Empire,
a spectator, who can never be seen.
An object.
He is his acts,
“His consciousness sticks to his acts”
and it will never be known whether he is watching.
Demott can never be shamed.
That is the ability to look.


I often wonder about the victims of Empire.
About how they scream into the camera,
about dead families, lost children, and gods who look
I used to think that aspect of their struggle was futile,
but now I think
Their attempt is to create a social tie
To coalesce desires across mediums.
But that is the bitter irony.
The spectator
positioned far outside their circuits of desire
has no reality at all.


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