The Violence of Blankness

There is a surprisingly subtle distinction I want to make — we feel very uncomfortable making such distinctions since they may not have any real significance — but this one feels both significant and surprisingly refined: the distinction between the expert and the sacred. These are two different ways of being excluded from something. In the former case, we aspire to be someone we are not yet, while in the latter case, we are suddenly reminded of what we are doing. Thus, we are talking about two forms of being self-conscious: in the former case, we are met with our own inadequacy, in the latter case, with our own hypocrisy. In one case we go up, in the other, we go down.

.. in the last post I proclaimed the universality of violence, which is something I still stand behind — and here, we are really drawing a distinction between two forms of violence, what feels like an overly refined distinction. Violence, to me, is basically something that is intended to put a stop to something, something that’s intended to be useless. So this may be a kind of silly definition at first, but, for example, “red herrings” would be a form of violence — to do something simply to confuse someone or lead them astray. Last night, I posted on Facebook — I like posting on Facebook — “Only recently have I realized that everyone who’s not like me is (semi-consciously) trying to harm me — and I have become a happier and more well adjusted individual as a result.”

— I don’t want to totally water down what this word violence suggests — I confess I am not all that violent a person, I mean physically, much to my embarrassment. The happiness of recognizing a world of violence is a combination of not caring, of the idea of “taking care of my own kind”, and maybe even a kind of brotherhood, a universal peace of violence, a brotherhood of violence. So maybe I am watering it down too much. Violence is a kind of intentional disruption, it is basically doing something to purposely lead the other astray. It is messing someone up, it’s doing something that may be historically interesting but which is utterly useless to the person. It’s doing something to the other person, an action that is well defined precisely by the fact that it can’t be defined precisely to them.

More and more I am becoming convinced of the importance of this distinction — because there is a difference, I feel, between merely confusing someone and doing something, well, more definite … we will get to this. At the heart of these claims about “violence” is the conviction that humans cannot help one another, or that there is a gloriously simple model of human behavior — people engage with each other only via violence, like a blank wall to another person, and anything beyond that is, well, being played, being a victim, like anthropologists by tribesmen. But the difference here seems precisely to be the difference between a blank wall and a mesmerizing wall, between a wall that mesmerizes with richness or mesmerizes with blankness. The former seems somehow more “truthful”, more primitive, more active — and at least there is the feeling that they are “our kind”. The former seems more powerful, more historically radical — as we said, we are talking here about taking care of “our own kind”. (I have in my notes, that perhaps the very concern for historical significance has been a red herring for us, since we are really concerned, not with any abstract measure of significance, but with writing our history.)

TBC: The violence of blankness, con’t


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