Saturday, August 20, 2016

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro: Brazilian Perspectivism?!

Totonac carving
c. 1500, Jalapa, Mexico
Image taken from Julian Bell's
Mirror of the World
Montage A/Z 
(for more see here)

"Man schweigt, man behandelt mich in Deutschland mit einer düstern Vorsicht: ich habe seit Jahren von einer unbedingten Redefreiheit Gebrauch gemacht, zu der Niemand heute, am wenigsten im 'Reich', die Hand frei genug hat. Mein Paradies ist 'unter dem Schatten meines Schwertes'... Im Grunde hatte ich eine Maxime Stendhal's prakticirt: er räth an, seinen Eintritt in die Gesellschaft mit einem Duell zu machen. Und wie ich mir meinen Gegner gewählt hatte! den ersten deutschen Freigeist!"

"... mais le passage de chaque tranche verticale de temps présent à la suivante s'effectue de façon discontinue, par une sorte de saut qualitatif et non par une progression chronométrique linéaire et continue..."
Francis Bayer, De Schönberg à Cage
"Le mouvement simple est une banalité. Eliminer l'élément temporel. Hier et aujourd'hui come simmultanéité. La polyphonie dans la musique répondit dans une certaine mesure à ce besoin... La peinture polyphonique est supérieure à la musique en ce sens que l'élément temporel y est plutôt une donnée spatiale. Ne définissons pas le donné présent comme tel, définissons dans le passé et dans le futur; précisons largement, dans une perspective multilatérale. Définir isolément le présent, c'est le tuer... alternance simultanée... il faudrait alors passer [du rouge au vert, du vert au rouge] par saut..."
Paul Klee (traduction par Pierre-Henri Gonthier)
"Revenir, l'être de ce qui devient."
Gilles Deleuze
"... ce oui-là ne s'efface plus... Le temps n'apparaît que depuis cette singulière anachronie..."
J. Derrida (L'Ouia), Joyce gramophone
"... eu tenho agora minha infância mais do que enquanto ela decorria... Joana também podia pensar e sentir em vários caminhos diversos, simultaneamente."
Clarice Lispector

It is said that Lévi-Strauss considered the work of Viveiros de Castro as highly innovative. In Castro’s From the Enemy’s Point of View we read sentences like this: “The invariant of the Tupi-Guarani cosmological structure is the metaphysical encompassment of the domain of the social by the macrodomain of the extrasocial [nature and supernature]. The interior of the socius and its values are subordinated to exteriority” (86-87). They challenge traditional sociological and anthropological views, which tend to understand ceremonies and rites as merely reflecting stable structures internal to a given society.
But on the whole how far does Viveiros de Castro's so called perspectivism go?
His conception of exteriority seems frustrating when compared to, for instance, Blanchot’s. This is a problem that goes beyond sociology and anthropology, and might have passed somewhat unnoticed even to Lévi-Strauss. 
Is it legitimate to conceive of a radical exteriority while maintaining concepts such as presence, pure negativity, and a conception of time which is, in the end, linear?*** 
In key moments of his argumentation, Viveiros de Castro does appeal to concepts such as, on the one hand, “full presence” (210), “presence and plenitude,” and, on the other, “pure negativity,” even if he insists that what is important is the “middle term” between them (252). It is true that he characterizes becoming as “neither identity nor contradiction,” and calls it “an ontological restlessness” (270). But the fact that he doesn’t subordinate “the future to the past” (as Florestan Fernandes does) (278) means very little. In the end, he does something worse: he subordinates future and past to the vortex of the present, to the “temporal cycle of vengeance.” The latter is for him “an absolute present” (291), in which one is “effectively present” (292, original emphasis), and whose aim is the “future” ahead (306).
To put it bluntly, this is time conceived linearly and chronologically, as an arrow. In Deleuze, for instance (and differently), we would have Aion besides Chronos, and they both make up a kind of primordial chaos (Logique du sens, p. 13-14, 77-78). This chaos is made of residues, corporeal and incorporeal. Displayed against this scenario, the Araweté’s notion of specter (ta’o we) (which suffers a “double corruption” transforming itself into a “dead opossum” after the corruption of the cadaver) seems rather something “corporeal” — Artaud’s corps-passoire — than the incorporeal of ancient Stoicism as suggested by Castro (From the Enemy’s Point of View 205-206). The latter is similar only to Araweté’s notion of celestial soul. But Castro says that when the celestial soul is finally cannibalized and scalded by the gods in the sky, “mourning” comes “to an end” (214). Then where are the residues? Without residues, what would be the meaning of the living as “middle term”? 
If my reading is fair, Castro’s “anthropological perspectivism” turns out to be flawed. What he calls “affirmation” (294) cannot be equated to Nietzsche’s. Castro’s conception is much more Hegelian (or rather romantic) than Nietzschean or truly post-structural. 
There is, however, another Brazilian intellectual who confronted similar problems more effectively: Haroldo de Campos — he understood the thought of authors such as Derrida much more thoroughly. In books such as O Sequestro do Barroco na Formação da Literatura Brasileira, Haroldo truly challenged the basis of Brazilian traditional conceptions of culture, which have always depended on a linear conception of time and history (as elsewhere in the Occident). In anthropology, Aracy Lopes da Silva is also worth mentioning. In the end of her book Nomes e Amigos: da prática Xavante à uma reflexão sobre Jê (1986), she engaged with concepts such as "difference" and "alterity" in a quite singular way. One of her main references was Pierre Clastres' conception of "primitive war" (fundamental also to Deleuze and Guattari's "Traité de Nomadologie" in Mille Plateaux). Her ideas, however, were not fully developped.
***Questions such as this emerge many times in the work of Derrida. I will quote just one passage which I have not referred elsewhere: "C'est cette evenementialité-là qu'il faut penser mais c'est elle qui résiste le mieux à ce que on appelle le concept... on ne la pensera pas tant qu'on se fiera... à une temporalité historique faite de l'enchaînement successif de présents identiques à eux-mêmes et d'eux-mêmes contemporains" (Spectres de Marx). 

*****See also:
- Liste des figures du chaos primordial: la cartographie;
- Écriture/Violence;
- Xingu and Rio +20;
- Jaguanhém;
And also:
- A Strategy for Writing: Contracting Contemplation in Budapeste and Leite Derramado;
- Luso-Brazilian Encounters of the Sixteenth-Century;
Ontological Excess & Metonymy;
- The Indians Who Came From Ophyr;
- Cannibalism and Women Gift in Early-Modern Period, Brazil;
- Santísima Trinidad del Parana;
- Misiones (Argentina);  

Friday, August 19, 2016

Facebookers, Pokemongoers & Francophonie

(Aleppo Media Center Image's Boy in the Ambulance)
(Alexandr Sokurov's La Francophonie, 2016)
Basilique Saint-Remi, Reims, picture by A/Z
(for more pictures, see heres);
"The Seven Commandments of Fake News" 
(Adam B. Ellick, Adam Westbrook and Jonah M. Kessel, The New York Times);
Paul Virilio;

"Mas um campo de concentração não é diferente."
Gerald Thomas, Entre Duas Fileiras
"Suddenly, you find yourself thinking about ozone depletion, chiggers, and dead babies."
James St. James
"... il aurait vu dans l'électricité de nos machines à écrire à la fois une exténuation de l'électricité vivante et une violence retournée contre elle..."
Jacques Derrida, Artaud le Moma
"... à l'inverse de l'ère industrielle des fabriques et des usines analysée par le marxisme, on n'exploite plus, on expulse et on extermine de plus en plus fréquemment..."
Paul Virilio
"Signalons enfin que, de retour des camps de concentration, Primo Levi passait des heures devant l'écran de son ordinateur sans écrire, ou encore au chevet de sa mère et qu'il attendait, la nuit, la libération du sommeil, en répétant devant ses proches, juste avant de se jeter dans la cage de son escalier pour se donner la mort: 'C'est pire qu'à Auschwitz.'"
Paul Virilio
"While the American Revolution had produced a republic, and a founding constitutional document, strong and flexible enough to survive until our own times, the French Revolution of 1789 had soon collapsed into terror and then Bonapartism. What explained these very different trajectories? Arendt's essential line of argument was that, in France, 'political' questions to do with freedom receded from the public stage to the degree that they were overtaken by utopian 'social' demands to end poverty.  In the process, the very meaning of 'freedom' had been turned on its head..." 
Peter Baehr
"Negotiations between Hitler and the British and French Prime Ministers, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, resulted in the infamous Munich Agreement (September 1938), which allowed the annexation of Sudetenland to Germany. The Allies did not respond either to Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939 or to Mussolini's invasion of Albania on 7 April... The partition of Poland had been prepared in August, when the German and Soviet Foreign Ministers, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov, signed a non-aggression pact... Stalin's opportunistic collaboration [with Hitler] was underlined in the Red Army's simultaneous attack on Finland. The Soviet invasion of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia followed in June 1940. This coincided with the crushing force of German Blitzkrieg in the west. In April [it] swept through Denmark and invaded Norway, where they met their first serious resistance. In May they pushed through the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg; they entered France on 10 May... On 14 June, Paris."
Matthew Gale

"Es ist nicht unmöglich, daß ihre Mutter, meine Urgroßmutter, unter dem Namen 'Muthgen' im Tagebuch des jungen Goethe vorkommt. Sie verheirathete sich zum zweiten Mal mit dem Superintendenten Nietzsche in Eilenburg; an dem Tage des großen Kriegsjahres 1813, wo Napoleon mit seinem Generalstab in Eilenburg einzog, am 10. Oktober, hatte sie ihre Niederkunft. Sie war, als Sächsin, eine große Verehrerin Napoleon's; es könnte sein, das ich's auch noch bin."
- Nietzsche, Ecce Homo
"Avec ce qu'un Michelet (par exemple) dit de la patrie, de la nation et de la France, l'universalisme allégué ne peut s'accorder qu'à la condition d'une logique exemplariste dans laquelle nous avons reconnu la stratégie profonde de tous les nationalismes, patriotismes ou ethnocentrismes."
"France, affranchissement, fraternité."
"J'entends ce mot français au sens de la chasse, là où acharner revient à disposer un leurre de chair. Ce livre s'acharne lui-même auprès de la chose nommée France."
"... la fraternité n'est universelle que pour être d'abord française..." (demi-ironique)
- Jacques Derrida, Politiques de l'amitié (1994);

And also:

Below you find a series of articles on (1) Glenn Greenwald's decision to close Snowden's archive & what seems to be (2) a very controversial figure behind The Intercept: Pierre Omidyar. I'm not in a position to endorse or discredit the information provided in these articles, because I've not the necessary know-how to evaluate them. I'm listing them here in an attempt to expose the level of sheer insanity attained by contemporary misinformation and "cultural" wars, in which ordinary people (me included) are treated as nothing but easy prey for big corporation interests and unscrupulous egotistic predators & social climbers alike. In what matters Glenn Greewald, what I can say is that I never really understood what looks like the totally indiscriminate support he's given to the Worker's Party here in Brazil, in the middle of the many corruption scandals and ecological disasters (such as the Mariana mining collapse). He could certainly have better contributed to raise the level of the political debate instead of simply helping strengthening the mad ideological polarization that led straight to the 2018's election of a Bolsonaro. To boot, disguised behind what only sounds like an emancipation fuelling discourse, he has also assumed what could be called actually a patronizing attitude towards the Brazilian people, as if the country's most recent history was shaped by nothing but manipulations of the "time-honored" media The Intercept's destine is supposedly to overthrow:
About Omidyar, the following article says: 
"As Yasha Levine, the author of Surveillance Valley: The Military History of the Internet, told MintPress: 'This kind of multi-level approach — combining a journalism startup on the front-end with a behavior profiling risk management system on the back-end — is very much inline with Omidyar’s vision for how to use technology to manage society — and make money in the process. Central to most of his investments is the use of user profiling and behavioral tracking to manage and run all areas of modern life: journalism, transportation, banking and finance, and government administration. To him it’s not just about running a single service, but integrating things together to give technocrats, business executives and government officials a God’s-eye view of the world — to manage and control society more efficiently.'"
"Omidyar’s enthusiasm for American empire appears motivated as much by his own bottom line as it is by ideological zeal. Having earned his fortune through eBay and Paypal, the billionaire is seeking to rope the cash-dependent global poor into a system of profitable electronic transfers through an initiative called “Better Than Cash Alliance.” According to Omidyar Partners, “The organization focuses on shifting away from cash payments in order to improve the livelihoods of those in low-income areas who lack access to more efficient digital payments.” His partners in this faux humanitarian alliance include noted altruists like Mastercard and Visa Inc., as well as USAID."
- Pierre Omidyar's Influence Empire: How One of America's Premier Data Monarchs is Funding a Global Information War and Shaping the Media Landscape (Alexander Rubinstein & Max Blumenthal, MintPress, 02/18/2019);

Postscript on the demonic & the newfangled: 

There is something Carl Jung called "shadow," and also something Johann W. von Goethe called "the demonic." Unfortunately or not, idealists are very rarely successful. But some of them (perhaps of a very special subclass) will be able to accomplish one or another stunning thing. When this happens, not only they but everyone around will have to face what is still more unexpected: their own very personal, idiosyncratic shortcomings, of which they (and their followers) are usually completely unaware. So goes the boring old tale of the human condition & contradiction. It's paramount to good literature, and not necessarily a cliché. It doesn't say people don't deserve what is stunning. Only that they are not automatically up to the challenge lying always a few little steps further than they imagine. What do hackers and political activists nowadays read (not even Animal Farm)? How do they read? What movies do they see, and how do they see them? It is interesting to note that in earlier generations (I mean the 70s, the 80s), supposedly less engagé, cutting-edge inventive people were at least more wary & less prone to idolatry. It wouldn't be fair to say they didn't accomplish anything. Would anyone in sane mind trust these people for a revolution?! It would certainly end  up even worse than the Russian of 1917.

"Appelbaum says that he has stopped drinking and begun therapy. “I have obviously seriously hurt people’s feelings unintentionally and I deeply regret this,” he said. He hopes to focus on his doctoral work on cryptography in the Netherlands, claiming he can’t return to America because he could be investigated over his work with WikiLeaks and Der Spiegel about classified US surveillance."
"Violet Blue claims that it was Assange and Snowden who helped to elevate Appelbaum to a position of power, whether or not they knew about his behaviour. “We need look no further for proof that hero worship and the cult of belief is pure poison,” she writes. “This didn’t happen because we’re broken as a hacker culture, or because we’re hackers and thus too undeveloped to comprehend empathy.”"
Power, secrecy and cypherpunks: how Jacob Appelbaum ripped Tor apart (Anna Catherin Loll, The Guardian 10/11/2016)

***What should have been the ultimate piece on Glenn Greenwald (& still much more on Assange): 
"What’s astonishing about their ascent to heroism is the breadth of their support. The embrace of the antiwar left and the libertarian right was to be expected. But effusions of praise for the leakers can also be found throughout the liberal establishment... Contrary to [Snowden's] claims, he seems to have become an anti-secrecy activist only after the White House was won by a liberal Democrat who, in most ways, represented everything that a right-wing Ron Paul admirer would have detested... In several cases over a five-year span, Greenwald represented Matthew Hale, the head of the Illinois-based white-supremacist World Church of the Creator, which attracted a small core of violently inclined adherents... Greenwald’s other clients included the neo-Nazi National Alliance, who were implicated in an especially horrible crime. Two white supremacists on Long Island had picked up a pair of unsuspecting Mexican day laborers, lured them into an abandoned warehouse, and then clubbed them with a crowbar and stabbed them repeatedly. The day laborers managed to escape, and when they recovered from their injuries, they sued the National Alliance and other hate groups, alleging that they had inspired the attackers. Greenwald described the suit as a dangerous attempt to suppress free speech by making holders of “unconventional” views liable for the actions of others... most of [Greenwald's] writings, his critique of America abroad was congenial both to the isolationist paleo-Right and to post–New Left anti-imperialists... Along those lines, Greenwald found common ground with the upper echelons of right-wing free-market libertarianism... When bloggers confronted Greenwald about his associations with libertarians, the darling of the netroots and MSNBC left angrily batted the claims away as distortions. He need not have reacted so forcefully. Accused of working for Cato, for example, he might simply have said that he believed in addressing any organization that wanted to hear from him and left it at that. Instead, Greenwald attacked his critics as “McCarthyite” purveyors of “falsehoods, fabrications, and lies”... In 2010, Greenwald began attacking the Obama administration from the left on a variety of domestic issues, attacking Wall Street corruption, opposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and decrying inequality. Yet even as he insisted on his left liberalism, he remained a steadfast promoter of Ron Paul—“far and away the most anti-war, anti-Surveillance-State, anti-crony-capitalism, and anti-drug-war presidential candidate in either party.” (After Paul’s son, then senatorial candidate Rand Paul, questioned the Civil Rights Act, Greenwald agreed with criticism that the remark was “wacky,” but insisted that the real “crazies” in American politics were mainstream Democrats and Republicans.)... During his political pilgrimage, Greenwald became consumed: For him, the national security apparatus is not just an important issue; it is the great burning issue of our time... In the wake of the WikiLeaks frenzy, Assange often tried to clarify where he stood politically. His simultaneous embrace of leftist icons such as Noam Chomsky and right-wing libertarians seemed to indicate that he was open to ideas from either end of the political spectrum, so long as they were directed against authoritarianism. Finally, in 2013, Assange proclaimed, “The only hope as far as electoral politics presently ... is the libertarian section of the Republican Party”... Yet even that declaration was misleading. In practice, Assange has a history of working closely with forces far more radical than the Republican Liberty Caucus. Late in 2012, Assange announced the formation of the WikiLeaks Party in Australia. It had been expected that WikiLeaks would ultimately throw its support to the Green Party—especially after the party’s National Council voted in favor of such a move. Instead, WikiLeaks aligned with a collection of far-right parties. One was the nativist Australia First, whose most prominent figure was a former neo-Nazi previously convicted of coordinating a shotgun attack on the home of an Australian representative of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. Members of the WikiLeaks Party blamed the flap on an “administrative error”; mass resignations from the party’s leadership followed. Those who quit cited a lack of transparency in the party’s operations, and some pointed to remarks Assange had made blasting a Green Party proposal to reform Australia’s harsh treatment of asylum seekers... Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange have largely set the terms in the debate over transparency and privacy in America. But the value of some of their revelations does not mean that they deserve the prestige and influence that has been accorded to them," "Would You Feel Differently About Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange If You Knew What They Really Thought" (Sean Wilentz, The New Republic, 19/01/2014);

***Ultimate piece on Snowden and his ring (written by a woman):
"[In five years since Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance], we’ve learned much more about how Big Tech was not only sharing data with the NSA but collecting vast troves of information about us for its own purposes. And we’ve started to see the strategic ends to which Big Data can be put. In that sense, we’re only beginning to comprehend the full significance of Snowden’s disclosures... This is not to say that we know more today about Snowden’s motivations or aims than we did in 2013. The question of whether or not Snowden was a Russian asset all along has been raised and debated... [NSA's PRISM, whose documents were leaked by Snowden and disclosed by Glenn Greenwald and Barton Gellman] secured cooperation between the Internet companies and the NSA at the point when an individual suspected of involvement in terrorism had been targeted and the NSA wished to retrieve that suspect’s messages from the companies’ servers. Many Americans will still feel that this program constituted an unwarranted breach of privacy, but what PRISM does not do is vindicate the idea of a “deep state” operating entirely independently of the rule of law. Although this might seem like a fine distinction to some, it is an extremely significant one. But the narrative of deep-state lawlessness was too appealing... Assange’s allies, Milne included, have made clear that their allegiance doesn’t lie with liberal democracies and their values. They have taken sides with authoritarianism in their fight against the hypocrisy of liberal democracies... Assange, a former libertarian, has called Russia under Putin “a bulwark against Western imperialism”... For his part, Greenwald has repeatedly, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, decried as Russophobia the findings that Putin ordered interference in the 2016 US presidential election—even appearing on Fox News to do so. The very term “Russophobia” obfuscates the distinction between Vladimir Putin’s regime and Russia; the two clearly can’t be identified with one another... The distinction between left and right, he argues, will increasingly be replaced by the opposition between people who are pro-establishment and anti-establishment. But being anti-establishment is not a politics. It defends no clear set of values or principles. And it permits prevarication about the essential choice between criticizing and helping to reform liberal democracy from within or assisting in its demise. It encourages its partisans to take sides with a smaller, authoritarian state in order to check the power of the one whose establishment it opposes... In their book Red Web: The Kremlin’s War on the Internet, the Russian investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan recounted the experiences of human rights activists who were summoned via an email purportedly from Snowden himself, to a meeting with him at Moscow airport when he surfaced there with Sarah Harrison, to find they were joining the heads of various pro-Kremlin “human rights” groups, Vladimir Lukin, the Putin-appointed Human Rights Commissioner of Russia, and the lawyers Anatoly Kucherena and Henri Reznik. It was clear to the independent activists that Kucherena had organized the meeting... So whether we trust [Snowden] matters. It matters whether we view him as a bad actor, or as a well-intentioned whistleblower who has shown bad judgment, or as someone who has allowed himself to become an unwitting pawn of the Russians... In a 2016 lecture by video-link at Fusion’s Real Future Fair, Snowden discouraged his audience from pursuing the legal and political remedies that liberal democracies offer... If there’s one thing Greenwald, Assange, and their followers got right, it’s that the United States became a tremendous economic and military power over the last seven decades. When it blunders in its foreign or domestic policy, the US has the capacity to do swift and unparalleled damage. The question then is whether this awesome power is better wielded by a liberal-democratic state in an arguably hypocritical way but with some restraint, or by an authoritarian one in a nakedly avowed way and with no restraint. In the five years since Snowden’s revelations, we have seen changes, particularly the election of Donald Trump with his undisguised admiration for strongmen, that compel us to imagine a possible authoritarian future for the United States," "Edward Snowden Reconsidered" (Tamsin Shaw, The New York Review of Books, 09/13/2018);