Sunday, November 13, 2005

[I wrote the following two notes this early a.m., before Jane posted this response to yesterday's post, and then -- intending to add some non-riot-related items later, per my usual practice over the last few days -- went on to other pressing work. You will have to take my word that I am presenting them without later refinement, except for grammatical corrections and the addition of two appropriate links. Some fresher, admittedly piqued, comments follow.]

c) This will sound as though I've been tutted backchannel, but no -- I just want to see if I can explain what I meant about "adolescent boys." This term wasn't meant to paste another obfuscating label (cf. "nascent Islamists," "hip-hop copycats") over the rioters, but to suggest something like the following: Lefebvre, paraphrasing Marx, writes that "History generally proceeds by its bad side." OK. Need that mean we must not only accept but be literally thrilled by the fact that it quite often proceeds by its macho side as well -- at the level of both entrenched and "insurgent" modes of maintaining/displaying/taking power? And -- would the response that to voice any such worry is already reactionary be, in part, (i) attractive or not as much according to one's temperament as anything else and (ii) a kind of expression of a Mailerish anti-"momism," according to which which it's deeply unfortunate that putatively "feminine" influences [consider the quotations from girls in that Australian piece I linked to last time] serve to r/depress more adventuresome -- and in that, more genuine and genuinely valuable -- impulses? [On Engels' view of the family, or am I mistaken, the answer is, "Yes, and correctly so." Althusser's?]

This is not to deny that the fact that this set of thoughts occurs to me in particular may have something to do with the fact that I could hardly be described as an adventurer.

d) Perhaps multiple enviscerations of David Brooks are not strictly necessary, but I nonetheless appreciate Jody Rosen's entry into the fray. First, and least, for demonstrating that an anachronist need not be a feeb; but mostly for the sharp-eyed guesswork about just where Brooks dug up his translations of French hip-hop lyrics: well-played. And convincing, given that I too found Bitter Ministry via the "Barbarians at the Gates" piece that Jody mentions (but I didn't link to it, and still won't, because it's ass), and then did a little more looking into the group. A little, not a lot; and I frankly admit that I know very little about French hip-hop, circa either '92 or '05 -- I merely pointed out there to an object for further, potentially useful inquiry. I don't mean to sound defensive, but to add to the pile-on: I did a little more work and used a little more judgment than Brooks, even though I'm not the one being paid a salary by the paper of record to produce minimally cogent arguments based on something other than a 1/2 hour of link-hitting.

[That was around 9 a.m.. Here is what I have to add: Jane, I'm sure you're right that what I mean is not limited to what I wish to mean. And yes: both/and, not either/or; the psychosocial level of explanation (let's call it) coexists and interacts with the political one. Did I say enough for you to assume that I would think otherwise? But there is also an issue concerning our differing rhetorical modes -- which is, we will both I hope agree, trivial compared to a shared (though I know you cannot believe me) hope for real change. You mistakenly read this blog as though all or even most of what I post is written from a position of utter conviction and near-certainty, comparable to your own, about the accuracy of my analyses; or in this case, my fragmentary and I suppose to that extent ill-advised promissory notes. I feel that I have been pretty damn consistent in not presenting myself or my thoughts as either authoritative or beyond reproach; I am not a pundit, and I am not uncompromised. If you wish to believe that the deepest motivation for my writing as I do is (like, perhaps, Brooks' or Ng's) to weasel out of the incontrovertible, to grasp at any straw that allows me to take an event for anything but "exactly what it is" -- and, in so doing, to relieve and absolve others of my ilk -- that is your prerogative. Even so, the notion that even the initial framing of an expression of doubt* that the analysis you advocate exhausts what is to be said merits playing the Ace of Trumps ("standard-issue counter-revolutionary liberalism, bourgeois consciousness") is not one that strikes me as dialogically helpful. Though perhaps that was not your aim; and perhaps you aren't even being critical, but merely reminding me of the facts.

*The reader might have noticed the up-front admission what I had to say was inchoate (and is only slightly less so now); and the not-very-vivid "a part of me" language, a figure often used to indicate a degree of personal and/or intellectual conflict on the part of the writer.

Lastly, I am not much taken with the idea that a concern with the injury and possible death of don't-call-them-innocents = "a promise not to hurt you." (Omitted: catalog of non-fear-based and non-self-protective behaviors with respect to where I've lived, what I do when I travel, and when I've declined to call the police, which merely read as self-serving.) Perhaps all these very minor bona fides, which I in no way owe anyone and offer with some distaste, are more than slightly irrelevant: first, because the appearance that I have books and records that I take myself to own, until I don't, much less a car to forget to lock, is only an phantasm projected against the great featureless wall of the State's coercive power; and second, because I don't have a plan worked out for what I'll do when I'm doused with flammable liquid, especially if I actually think there's a fighting chance that my martyrdom will, in the long run, lead to, say, the Sixth Republic. (I know that will sound to many like a reductio; I don't quite mean it that way, which will in turn sound crazy, perhaps, to everyone but Jane.) Even so, snide remarks equating, at a quite general level, this sort of merely ethical concern for others with bad faith and self-protective fear are, well, as weak as any pseudo-argument I've committed; and perhaps mark another element of your overarching world-view that I have not as yet found a compelling reason to accept. Even here, however, I do not say that these ethical concerns are off-limits for criticism; I object -- as you have been known to do with respect to other views -- to their reduction to psychological motivation (though I have done something similar above in making reference to temperament).

I do hope that you and other readers, if such any longer exist, will accept that it is not a live option for me not to post, in my customary provisional manner, on certain topics, or to make use of certain texts, primarily on the basis of another writer's relationship to them, which we can assume is not the illusory one of ownership. On the other hand, since what is at stake for the principal parties to this little set-to is largely symbolic as things stand, I will try not to continue it here, in the interest of not trivializing more concrete concerns.]

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