Kurtz and Theories of History

History *is* power, I mean, the writing of history and not in the sense of events of the past — I guess we can use the word, historiography. This is sort of like the claim that “knowledge is power”, or that how on perceives the world influences how one approaches it. I actually have a variation of the formula in my notes: “Humanism can only be defeated by a *stronger* (ie, more convincing) historical theory.” This is actually quite interesting, since it seems to suggest that truth or rigor — “more convincing” — is itself a kind of power — rejecting the notion that lying, deception, brainwashing, etc. are the origins of power, such as, eg, Marx’s “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

There is a kind of paradox that even I had forgotten (I must of at least once have been aware of it) regarding the word “crime” and my analysis of the relationship between history and crime in the last entry. There are two paradoxes, or rather two variation of the same paradox:

(1) Consider the (Benjaminian) quote, (something to the effect of) “at the origin of every great fortune is a great crime.” Now, passing over the liberal understanding for now and considering the conservative one: that all accomplishments somehow involve exploiting the established system — but is it *really* a crime? Isn’t it rather, at least most of the time, at least in the cases that the quote is referring to, more of a kind of accepted cheating, so that no one is being cheated at all?

(2) My definition of crime was independent of “law” (“The purpose of law is actually to legalize certain forms of crime”, I said) because crime, unlike law, is not based on culture (sort of like Kant’s distinction between the ‘a priori’ and the ‘a posteri’) but rather derived from the existence of criminal intent, which I casually defined as “lying, stealing, cheating”. But with the considerations above, is it really lying? Isn’t this lying based on some model of history, and therefore, some accepted kind of lying that fools nobody? The whole understanding of Apocalypto, remember, is not so much exploitation but rather *tolerated* or *humanized* crime, crime that ceases to be a crime!

But — returning to the question of what we can call for now ‘historiography’ — this principle of history and power feels very radical and very simple. … By the way, I have Benjamin’s ‘Thesis on the Philosophy of History’ in the back of my mind here, and particularly that line — “and historical materialism can win all of history, but only if it enlists the aide of theology, which is wizened and must be kept out of sight.” Well, the whole essay seems to be about a kind of empty, phyrric, “intellectual’s” victory — *unless* we keep in mind that ‘historiography’ isn’t merely the debate over who is right or wrong about the past but rather the very understanding of the present moment in the course of history, is ‘power as such’ — and this is indeed what he is proposing. This is such a radical point that it seems applicable even to animals and to the prelinguistic — that they are influenced via a model of history.

For the case of Heart of Darkenss there is the temptation to view Kurtz as simply bringing a kind of “shock and awe” to the natives … sort of like one of the tropes of the Twlight Zone (and maybe this is too obscure a reference?) where the person able to produce fire from a lighter is revered as a god — but what if, in contrast, Kurtz’s power derived from a recasting of history — not, in other words, from promises of power, fear, etc., but rather from a kind of expository knowledge?

Well, let be more precise here. Whenever we move away from ‘humanism’ we move towards a more internal sort of conflict, and history as a projection of that conflict. (And in this case, I suppose, we head towards ‘peace’, as if ‘internalization’ led to peace, but actually not really — since there is then the distinction between those who understand the tension and those who don’t.) And I recently realized the error of dwelling on ‘the psychotic’, since the psychotic is basically linked to that (non)criminality we discussed above — the psychotic is only one side of this conflict. And this is why most of the white people really just ‘mind their own business’.

I actually have in mind light and darkness, which are insights into the sign, allegories of readings. I suppose light can be associated with the white people? Well, not getting too far ahead of ourselves, it is actually associated with an *illumination*, a lighting, the movement towards light — but not in the sense of the illumination of the world or some object, but rather, as the *negation of darkness*, which is now seen as a ‘symptom’. That is, though these terms refer to some object, they actually refer to *each other* — and just to be explicit about our overall argument: I want to claim that Kurtz is someone able to comprehend this motion or this orbit, somehow. He is *both*, somehow, his words somehow evoke the truth about history and about the world.

This movement from light to darkness, and vice versa, is the engine of the world, the orbit of history. And yet light and darkness are not all that different — they are all but indistinguishable, actually, since they seem to bring our critical oversights in the other.

TBC

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