Saturday, 5 September 2009

Katharine Hepburn's Smile

For some reasons, I chose (or I should better say "my mind" chose) to have a little breakdown after my dinner with J. It was not too serious a breakdown (although it worried J. a lot).

When I wrote "for some reasons," I had in fact rather concrete reasons in mind (my mind never rests, does it?):

1. I had an overloaded week as the semester began on Monday, and I overtaxed myself physically and mentally (which was not unexpected at the beginning of any semester);

2. I had a wonderful night watching La Bohème on HD under the late-summer sky right outside the Met, and my mind probably told the rest of my body that it was time to unload my negative energies;

3. I had a margarita, which further sent signals to my brain that it was time to relax, and in order to relax, my mind decided to let all the repressed negativities back to the conscious level;

4. The food was not so great, I had to admit, and one of my credit cards was declined, thrown in front of me by a rather "unsmiling" cashier.

I can analyze this to no end, and all I want to do at this moment is to apologize to J. for my putting an unpleasant coda to a lovely evening.

What saved me out of my death drive (as Freud would put it), was a still frame of a close-up of Katharine Hepburn on a window display (not the one shown here, for that moment of revelation can never be replicated, although it does stay in me in a perpetual way; but, having said that, the picture I chose to put here is probably the way I would see myself as Hepburn, if I were to put myself in drag and be her) while I was walking down 52nd Street. Again, I don't believe that I would need to explain why and how I was ready to "live" again as I saw her smile--I believe that any fan of hers would understand it.

Let us bask in her smile, and throw any analysis to the trash bin.

Henceforth, here is the lesson of today: I guess that some people see the Virgin on their pancakes or bathroom doors, and I saw Katharine Hepburn inside a department store window.

Friday, 28 August 2009

From Occult to Mimesis

In Doctor Faustus (1947), Thomas Mann (1875-1955) suggests that perhaps music is not meant to be heard, but to be contemplated. What he has in mind is a musician's pleasure of beholding a score, on which there lies a matrix of mathematical signs that can be translated into a sweeping sensation, a cosmic time capsule in which one escapes the chronometric predictability of our factive universe--a possibility that has yet to be realised.

I had a distaste (or perhaps put psychologically, phobia) for writing orchestral music until recently. I must confess that there is something magical to see the score unfold like a fabric that is woven out of many organic layers that have gone through the process of imperfections, anticipations, and reconfigurations. The greatest joy for me, as always, is to contemplate the various ways contrapuntal relationships fall into a certain harmonic structure. Whenever it happens, it always means that there is a mathematical principle that somehow remains constant in every inversion, retrograde, permutation, and transposition. I am not a serialist, and perhaps because of that, the moment I found myself moving into a realm in which that certain principle is found, I am always moved by this somewhat occult quality of the art of composition.

Because of this occult quality, Mann wrote in his novel, through the voice of the "thing," that Mediaeval and Renaissance theologians had the most perverse idea of mobilising it to serve "God." Nevertheless, "perversion," in this sense, is best understood not as a form of deviation; rather, it is the site at which seemingly conflicting ideas are revealed to us as the core of the truth: What Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) calls the Paradox that makes up every philosophical question, or in fact, every possibility that makes definite the form of being. In the case of music, the very Paradox is, precisely, the meeting point between what we perceive as rationality and irrationality; the vacation of this very tension is possibly where the "God" of Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) dwells.

About a month ago, I read a comment on my friend's article. In the comment, the reader rather hastily defines music as an organisation of time. For me, a composer does not organise time, she/he creates time, not the mundane and predictable chronos, but a time-image in which chronos is put into play, so that one may contemplate one's relationship with it. Put within the framework of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), in music, one becomes conscious of one's Profound Boredom, i.e. one's awareness of one's being in time. If we push it further with Giorgio Agamben's analysis in The Open (L'aperto, 2002), this moment of a human being's entering into consciousness of her/his relationship with time does not mark her/his difference from animal; rather, such moment opens up the paradoxical relationship between her/his state of boredom into which she/he is completely absorbed, and her/his consciousness of it that seems to stand "outside" this state of absorption, thus breaking down the distinction between human and animal.

Music, in the human imagination, is often associated with the end of time (the eskhaton). If music were to be an organisation of time, such association would certainly be inconsistent with the cessation of temporal perception (although in theory, such cessation is incapable of being sensed, thus we, by definition, will never know when time ceases). The only theological and philosophical explanation, in this light, is the idea that music creates a new "time," by which we no longer sense time the way we do. In this sense, we simply enjoy the pleasure of "being with" gods and animals as one.

In the end (or chronologically, in the "beginning"), perhaps Plato has not thought far enough, that music is, after all, about mimesis; it is an imitation of something that our eyes alone have yet learned to imitate.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Simon Rattle's Beethoven

I must confess that I am very satisfied by Simon Rattle's 2003 recording of the complete Beethoven's symphonies. I find his interpretations have addressed some of the interpretative impasses from the past. Besides, the precision in time and dynamics of the orchestra literally produced harmonic phasing. Till now, I have not listened to a recording that has combined such mathematical precision with elegance and, frankly, cultural familiarity.

Some online users-commentators complained about the lack of warmth in these recordings, largely based on two counts: (1) Rattle's interpretation emulates the texture and techniques of the orchestra of Beethoven's time, with less vibratos, a thinner touch in the contact between the players and their instruments, a more subtle brass section, and a stronger emphasis on the woodwind; (2) the recording enhances these features by creating the impression of a more three-dimensional space; this is done by the engineers' strategically planting the microphones not necessarily close to every orchestral section, but at a distance that can convey the spatiality of the stage.

I was not a great supporter of playing music with the aim of emulating the performing style of its historical period. The idea of performing Renaissance and Baroque pieces, for example, with period instruments, was still not a popular practice when I studied at music school in the early 1990s. I once told a salesperson at the Virgin Megastore on Sunset that I did not care for period performances of Bach (and I still admire Glenn Gould, who, ironically, treats the piano as a giant harpsichord). Almost two decades later, however, we do know better, and we have better performers who understand how to control these instruments, as opposed to those performers in the early 90s who simply allowed the instruments to control them.

Having the performers controlling their instruments, however, brought about a different set of issues. For example, even though these instruments are not tuned according to equal temperament, their fingering inevitably conforms to our perception of tuning, thus instead of replicating a period performance, many of these recordings have made it easier for us to swallow what could have been considered as "out of tune" or "disorganised" modes of performance. Moreover, recording engineers, with the development of 125-bit technology (one that finally surpasses the faithfulness of analogue sound), have learned how to take advantage of the new dynamic and frequency ranges to create a more three-dimensional and stereophonic impression of space. The result is an emerging new aesthetics in recording spatiality, sectional balance, and timbre. As a consequence, orchestral sections are balanced not according to the way a 17th- or 18-th century Baron von XXX would have perceived the music in his private chamber, but how we expect it to sound in an acoustically well-tuned space. This new aesthetics is definitely not one that embraces warmth, but mathematical precision.

Rattle's performance is certainly driven by our new knowledge on period performances, the more controlled techniques of these performers, and together with new recording techniques (frankly, not so much technology, for, after all, our CD's still play back these recordings with good-old 16-bit decoding, the same that we used to listen to "Beat It" in the 80s). The most important thing, however, is a subtle change in our expectation that accompanies this epistemological and technical shift: we now expect recordings and performances to be cleaner, more precise, and more faithful to our historical knowledge (again, not necessarily historical "truth").

More important, however, is an ontological shift in our musical perception. The recordings of Karajan and Berstein, considered retrospectively, represent the grand finale of the trajectory of European Classicism and Romanticism, with their emphasis on unity, integrity, and expressivity. The recording technique of the time emphasises not spatiality, but perceptual unity. Engineers usually used the front-and-back or the side-by-side technique of two-channel microphone placement in order to capture a unified sonic image of the orchestra, and maintain a balanced "phantom centre" for the ears (i.e. one gets the impression that the sound is more or less coming from the centre). Up until the early 21st century, most self-proclaimed digital recordings were still made on analogue tapes with Dolby SR noise reduction. As a result, the timbre conforms to the performance with the engineers' intention to achieve warmth and perceptual oneness.

We are now, however, on the other side of the ontological scale. With our Web 2.0 informational and perceptual landscape, and more subtle philosophical shifts in our ways of perceiving the world (both intellectually and vernacularly, e.g. in photography, cinema, academia, literature, journalism, etc.), we are no longer used to that kind of integral monolithic perception. Rather, we are constantly aware of our relationships in space, and the multiplicity of our sensorial stimulants, and most important, the mobility of both our bodies and these stimulants. In this sense, Rattle's recordings can be understood as a response to, and a symptom of, our new mode of perception and ontological sense of being.

Listening to the mid string section of the orchestra swelling to the foreground in a way that a Karajan or Bernstein recording could have never done (an instantiation of our mobile ears), I must say that I can no longer be satisfied by being bound to an imaginary chair and listen to an essentially mono recording under the disguise of stereophonic sound.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

California Dream

My ontological principle in my iTune is, unfortunately, very conventional: alphabetical order. As a result, after a whole day of listening to Béla Bartók, I am now humming to the tunes of the Beach Boys while having a Heineken. Meanwhile, as Stella (Thelma Ritter) says in
Rear Window (1954), the summer thunderstorm in New York does nothing besides making the heat wet.

The Beach Boys always bring me to the PCH, with the ocean on my left, and an anticipation of an afternoon on "my" beach (no secret here, the private part of Point Dume Beach to be exact). I first listened to the Beach Boys with my mother, who usually played for me hours of American hit songs from the 1950s and 60s, though I did not start enjoying their songs until having read about Murakami Haruki's favourite character Watanabe (in his earlier novels), who always did his chores with the Beach Boys in the background. No one can possibly deny the power of their songs to summon the ideal image of Southern California, but a rather peculiar chicken-and-egg issue surfaces: Did the Beach Boys idealise Southern California?

Murakami's representation of the Beach Boys' California (often being compared with Wong Kar-wai's use of the song "California Dreamin'" in Chungking Express [1994]) is often considered as an example of how American idealisation of "itself" (or a piece of "itself"), once exported to a different cultural context, became a synecdoche of the version of freedom, beauty, youthfulness, and para-modernity (notice that the Beach Boys stand precisely at the threshold between the modern and the pre-modern) that the "nation" itself wishes to represent to the "outside world." The problem with this argument, besides the simplicity of its theory of a dominant power overdetermining the semiotic structure of its imagined other, lies in its presumed dichotomy between "America" and the "outside world," as though the US has never belonged to it (a takeoff on Haun Saussy's idea of "China" and the "World" here). Is the ideal image of Southern California so much bound by "national boundaries?"

Contextulised within its historical setting, the music of the Beach Boys can be considered as the last attempt of the LA music industry (in 1961) to offer clean, homey, and wholesome entertainment for the young generation. The idea of listening to these young men expressing their sexual desire under the blessing of their "parents" renewed the already broken connection between the older and the newer generations in American families in the 1950s in popular music and cinema (Elvis Presley, Rebel without a Cause, On the Waterfront, etc.). The Beach Boys tried to portray a Southern California as a home that was desirable to live, precisely in a decade in which neighbourhoods were torn down and freeways were constructed for the purpose of building a futuristic model city. This whole picture, if we study it more carefully, is one gigantic paradox, for not only that family relationship was seriously in question by 1961 in urban California, the state itself was considered as the epitome of such systemic collapse. The intended conservative agenda of Capitol Records was therefore quickly turned inside out, and the Beach Boys were also seen by Americans and non-Americans alike as the representatives of the carefree, discrete, new generation who celebrated sexual freedom and individualistic lifestyle in "liberal" California.

In this sense, it was not that California was indeed "free" (from the perspective of pre-Civil-War international law, maybe, but that would be a different discussion), nor did the Beach Boys idealise California; rather, a "California," detached from its geographical boundary, became an imagined free agent that acted as a cohesive force between conflicting notions of an ideal life: familial harmony versus individual freedom, celebration of sexuality versus cleanliness and health, nonconformism versus observation of social boundaries. The curious thing about all these contesting notions, however, is the imaginer's oblivion to political troubles. In other words, with the Beach Boys, the social body is tactfully detached from the political body, and are thus allowed to mediate these conflicting notions "outside" the political boundaries, in a world "outside" our physical world.

No one can possibly resist the very ideal of being carried away by a surf, against the sunset off a golden beach. Despite my abstract analysis here, those beautiful beaches indeed exist.

Sunday, 27 July 2008


Ah yes, I have been hiding again.

The preparation for my article has been a pure mental fight. Olga was kind enough to offer me her reading of the film, but it took me all this time to nail down my thesis, and be able to tailor my structure accordingly. When I was doing my A-levels and when I was an undergraduate, writing an essay was a relatively easy task. I never had trouble finding a thesis, and I always poured my heart into whatever topic I chose to discuss, rather than picking topics about which I was passionate beforehand. Perhaps now, writing an article is a professional task, something that I need to be careful with every gambit I take. I do find it hard to complete anything without going through multiple drafts and failures.

The good news is that Dance, Dance, Dance now only needs a coda. How? I don't know. In a way, every night, I look forward to opening my Finale and composing, for that is probably the only soothing activity with creative surprises and excitement (writing the article is creative, but it invites frustration more often than excitement).

Françoise Sagan's Toxique arrived this afternoon--a surprise, since I didn't expect it to be in my mailbox so early. It is probably the most beautiful book I have ever purchased. It looks like a notebook hand-drawn by Sagan, with typewritten text and amazing artwork in ink. Sagan had a car accident in 1957, and according to the introduction of the book, in order to alleviate her pain, she was injected morphine three times a day. By the end of the treatment, she was completely addicted to the drug and required detoxication.

In a way, Toxique testifies that confessional writing is one way to rationalise the body's pain and suffering during the course of drug-deprivation. The book completely echoes Jean Cocteau's Opium. However, in this case, instead of an obsessive-compulsive cling onto the human penis as multiple protrusions from the body of the user, Sagan caresses her body, especially her vagina with the deep strokes of her charcoal. In one of the pages, Sagan's naked body lies across the page, with her nipples erect and her vagina wet and exposed. She wrote, 'Lundi, j'ai passé Hier 13 Heures sans Ampoule.' In another one, across two pages, we see her lower body only, with the edge of the left page framing her vagina. She wrote:
If it weren't for this even more terrible threat to my legs, I'd be at the end of my rope. 'Just one more short one.' Goya will be disgusted to see me drinking mineral water. It's for my own good, I know, to take this cure whose purpose is to disgust me with alcohol. But iced white wine when the weather is hot and red wine when it's cold …?
Later on, Sagan, shows her torso and her lower body; but this time, her posture conceals her private. She wrote, 'Je crois que je ne suis plus Amoureuse de Personne.' For Cocteau, opium makes a woman amoureuse; it 'masculinises' women by turning them into sexual agents (of course, it is a male assumption that women are not supposed to be sexual agents). But then, the loss of sexual impetus does signify the beginning of withdrawal, a female body's declaration of her own independence from the mode of sexual crave induced by the drug. In fact, Sagan's body deteriorates, flattens, and eventually turns itself into a skull by the end of the book. The further she departs from morphine, the harder it is for her to enter love.

To a certain extent, opiate forever changes the sexual structure of a human being, and there is no turning-around from that. Weening oneself from the drug is to force the body to re-invent itself, to give birth again to a body that relies on deliberate oblivion to opium. Nevertheless, oblivion presumes the very existence of the drug and the physical memory of it. The consciousness the being arrests under its spell, has eternally entered the DNA of this body.

After all, is Bonjour tristesse a story about a girl weening herself from the intoxication of her youth, and her premature matricide is a perhaps way to perform the killing of the father that her body is too exhausted to carry out (the father, in turn, is part of the drug). And in this sense, does À bout de souffle operate in the exact same way; only this time, Belmondo, who has been intoxicated by all things made in USA, is part of the opiate-induced dream?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

On the Street

I was waiting for Brian in front of the restaurant Republic while a red school-bag landed on the curb of the pavement. A pile of notes and a calculator fell out, and were scattered around it. A rather nerdy African-American boy screamed at a tall broad-shouldered street-smart Asian kid. Standing in front of the restaurant, I could hardly hear what they said to each other. A twenty-something African-American man pointed at the school-bag and asked the 'nerd' to pick it up. The 'nerd' picked it up, only to throw it again onto the pavement in utter anger.

These boys were all skateboarders. They hung out in the part of Union Square in front of Heartland and Republic probably everyday. I remember when I was at the 'nerd's' age, the kind of satisfaction I would get from drawing the attention from all the people on the street by picking up something that belonged to me, only for the purpose of throwing it away--a renunciation of property (how socialist!), and most important, the part of the self that makes an intellectual intellectual. The ultimate desire he had was in fact the unconditional camaraderie from the tall kid, who probably skated better than the 'nerd' did, and occupied a more essential position in the clique to which he yet belonged.

Sure enough, the 'nerd' stole the bag of the tall boy and threatened to throw it onto the curb, like the way his bag was treated. In return, the tall boy picked up his skateboard and threatened to throw it into the trash bin, and in the end, he did. The boys then laughed at each other--no psychoanalysis was needed.

Amid the crowd, a 20-year-old version of Thomas crossed the street and marched towards the subway station. A 20-year-old version of Thomas? When have I begun to think of my friend's image when I first met him as a shadow of my past dreams?

Saturday, 19 July 2008


After receiving the news about the acceptance of my article in the journal, I sabotaged its pleasure by a week's worth of recoiling from the public. Why did I sabotage it? In 1916, Freud wrote about a clinical 'surprise' he called Versagung (frustration). For Freud, the general principle of psychoanalysis as a curing procedure is to ask patients to give up some of the pleasures, i.e. pleasures that are symptomatic of the traumatic memory (for him, the traumatic memory necessarily goes back to the primal scene). By surrendering these pleasures, the patients would be able to rationalise their traumas, which would generate a higher form of pleasure than those the mind invented in order to cover up their traumatic memories. It surprised Freud that there were patients who refused to surrender (in Žižk's words, they surrendered the surrender), and considered the psychoanalytical process of uncovering their traumatic memories too traumatic to bear. These patients often imagined protectors (for Lacan, the Other of the Other) to protect them from being exposed to these traumatic memories.

One type of such patients sabotaged their successes by escaping into guilt. Freud observed that in such cases, pleasure is completely censored by a one-sided 'ethical' debate proposed by the ego. The 'ethical' stance that the ego takes, for Freud, is the parricidal and incestuous ban he propounded in Totem and Taboo. If I follow Freud wholeheartedly, my own sabotaging of my pleasure did stem from my parricidal fear for 'taking over' the idea and teaching of my professor on the one hand, and perhaps in its mise en abîme, my own parricidal fear that initiated this blog a couple of weeks ago on the other.

Žižek obviously wouldn't allow me to stop there. The ego is the Law of the Father, which is instantiated by the father who is already dead, articulated in the symbolic order as the phallic father. Versagung is therefore, first and foremost, a result of the objet petit a blocking the enjoyment of the subject, a piece of the real (the truth that the father is already been murdered by the son), the symptom of the patricide itself. For Žižek, therefore, by surrendering the surrender, the subject completely enjoys the symptom, and externalises her/himself as the real. As a result, the subject fully realises that the father is already dead, only that he shouldn't let the father himself knows. The real, being 'outside' subjectivity (but it is precisely from this 'being-outside' that subjectivity is formed and split), is lawless. In this sense, Versagung represents to Žižek a mode of resistance, by which the Law of the Father is suspended not for the constitution of subjectivity, but an eternal escape into this state of lawlessness as an end itself.

Now, I'm back again facing the public, and I have spent an afternoon re-arranging all my furniture for therapeutic purpose. Perhaps all of these effort to 'cure' myself from Versagung is symptomatic of my inability to surrender the surrender, a fear for the spoiled spot on the screen that is the return of the repressed.

Monday, 7 July 2008

To Sleep So As to Dream: On Louise Bourgeois

In one of her Cells, Louise Bourgeois sets up a 19th century, or early 20th century 'room' demarcated by a wall of used and broken doors. In this 'room', we see a bed, on which there lie some sheets and blankets with red words embroidered on them. I can't remember exactly what these words are, but they roughly say something like 'let me sleep so I can make my dreams.' Beneath the bed, there are more blankets like this. Next to the bed, there is a side table, on which there are pieces of glassware that remind me, perhaps because of my current research on drugs, opium paraphernalia.

The room perhaps has nothing to do with opium or drug use, but the installation strikes me as a plea for the right to sleep and to dream from someone who is suffering from an intense physical or emotional turmoil.

But do we have a right to sleep? As animal lives, we need to sleep, and it is not so much a question of right that our biological bodies would inevitably fall asleep. Nevertheless, as political lives, this need to sleep is peculiarly translated into a 'right', something that as individuals, we would need to negotiate with the rest of the community. In fact, sleep deprivation is often regarded as a disciplinary tool at school, in torture, in fraternity rushes, as though the surrendering of sleep as a right were a test of loyalty, a contract one makes with the political community by sacrificing the biological functions of one's animal life.

As a means to suppress pain, either emotional or physical, opiate use in the 19th century and early 20th century challenged a political community, whose 'consciousness' of its political life was made ever more palpable by the formation of the medical profession and the power it vested in itself, precisely because it asserted this individual right to sleep, and the transgression of humanity by an animal need over which the polity has essentially no power to intervene unless it translates it into a 'right'. In this sense, opiate use is much more intimately related to one's right to 'die', and the increasingly ambiguous definition of medical death based on what the community sees fits regarding to its control over animal lives.

In this sense, art, by asserting the animalistic poesis, the constant resistance against the translation of the artist's 'will' into a communal 'right', is fundamentally anti-social. The moment art enters the public space, its poesis disintegrates into aesthetics. By 'fencing' a patch of this shared world with a wall of doors, Bourgeois has perhaps attempted to protect this poetic space from the contamination of aesthetics. However, a wall of doors always has the potential to be dismantled, and between doors, there are always gaps through which one can escape into the artist's private space. This 'right' to sleep and to dream can be disintegrated and returned to the animal 'self' if we cease to be spectators, and when we are willing to climb onto her bed in order to dream our dreams.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

A Moment of New York

I'm beginning to sober up from my overdose of white wine and margarita. I ended up not going to the party hosted by Dominic--John and I were too drunk to do that.

We saw the fireworks on the rooftop of John's building. We couldn't see much, as the building is closer to the Hudson than to the East River. Nevertheless, it was quite beautiful to see the citiscape that featured the New Yorker sign, watch trains from New Jersey entering the Penn station, and couples appreciating the fireworks that show their heads behind the golden top of the New York Life building. Sometimes, a hidden explosion happened secretly behind the skyscrapers, and its flare spilled out a sheet of red or silver across the sky. You have to love New York at a moment like this.

Now, I'm hearing the wailing from the trains entering the Penn station in the middle of the night, and the sounds of vehicles sliding across the wet 'pavement.' I'm here, in this world, pacifying myself from the dolorous interludes of life.

Friday, 4 July 2008

What 'America' Can Truly Stand For

The telltale sign of a cat is her/his hair, something that I have recently discovered every morning in the washbasin of my bathroom.

I basked in joy as I went to New Haven with John today. There was something beautiful and satisfying about riding the train with him, reading my book while he dozed off, introducing him to my hairdresser Holly (one of the coolest human beings I've ever met), and appearing with him together in front of my colleagues. Perhaps it's a sign of age, that I too fancy the pride and bliss of the togetherness and sharing of two beings in the world, the caring and ever-renewal of life that his presence in my little private temporality, a certain comfort in existence out of a certain suspension of what the existentialists would conceive as a state of solitude--a 'taking-care' of the time-outside. I loved every moment of it, as we walked through the reading rooms of the SML and discovered the little squirrel staring at us with its curious eyes--life becomes a transgression of time.

There is indeed a sense of peacefulness in me on this year's Independence Day. The first time I celebrated it with my friends was the summer I spent in NYU. The year after 9/11, Debbie invited me to the rooftop of a hotel around Gramercy Park (or was it the Gramercy Park Hotel itself?) to watch the fireworks. When the homilou sang the 'Star Spangled Banner,' I felt absolutely painful. It has always been painful for a person who was abandoned by Britain by birth, then by China by law, and reinstated as a British citizen only as an act of pity the moment I left that country; but the 4th July of that year reminded me how a nation (any nation) is inevitably built upon the violence that human beings have always inflicted upon each other. In a way, the celebration that year, and for many years to come, was built upon the victims of 9/11, the numerous violated bodies and souls in the War Against Terrorism, and the exclusion of an increasing number of people outside the 'American' law (its constitutional law, and its social ethical values) as animal lives. The immediate reaction of many Americans and those who love this country (and in a way, including myself) that year, was fundamentally at odds with what has always been classically defined as 'American' values. That night, the national anthem instantiated the aporia of what 'America' stands for, an aporia that many 'Americans' have spent centuries to 'make sense of,' to reconcile, and to re-configure in the hope that democracy and freedom would cease to be merely exchange values in the execution of life in a polity, but a state of exception worthy of standing outside the world as the world-to-be not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.

What 'America' can be proud of are not freedom and democracy, values that every regime in the world, from the classical period until today, has offered numerous models and versions for their citizens as an imaginary system of biopolitical control. What the Independence Day stands for is the implicit and explicit acknowledgment, for the first time in modern history, that the constitution of a community is, and should be based on, the formation of such ethical values as freedom and democracy under negotiations that are meaningful to the beings who share their world as they imagine. It is the 'inventiveness' of this process of negotiation that offers the possibilities (not always actualities) for people in this political community to constantly rewrite and redefine these ethical values. Stalin and Mao had precisely missed the very point that Marx, Engel and Lenin proposed: if one were to invent an alternative sense of 'history,' one needs to rethink what it means to dismantle the conceptual percept of a system, or a 'principle' of being. By establishing a 'system' or by identifying a 'principle,' a political community begins to sanction a law, a way of being, that excludes other possibilities, i.e. negotiative processes that make up the very material relations that define 'history.'

The fundamental assumption in Bush's War Against Terrorism is the elimination of alternative 'American values.' This terror is precisely the fear that democracy itself would rewrite what his administration has identified as the 'real.' This 'War' is not one between 'America' and the Arabic world the Bush administration has adamantly defined and imaged as a world 'outside', but a frenzied demarcation of the interiority/exteriority of the American polis, a way to close up the juridico-political 'openness' 'America' has always prided itself, a conscious erasure of what 'America' represents, and how its 'founding fathers' have constituted it as a political community that has supposed to question the 'inside/outside' model of how the law is constituted. It has precisely engaged the 'American' people into the very ideological foundation that underlined the inexcusable violence that was imposed upon the victims of 9/11: the animalisation of the human world. To fight against some human beings who have turned themselves into animals in order to execute lives as animals by turning the entire nation into animals has simply perpetuated the human impasse that the law is always founded upon a state of animalisation, and the true spirit of the American Revolution is that such state of animalisation might seem inevitable, but it doesn't need to be, as long as a meaningful sociopolitical negotiation continues to exist. The task after 9/11 is not to perpetuate the fight for a new nomos; rather, it is time for us to rethink what the conceptual percept of the nomos has done to us, its purposesiveness in our sense of history, and how a new material condition (including the distribution of natural resources) can come to terms with our consciousness with the actual violence we face by engaging all beings in the world in the process of negotiation. It is not a reiteration of the centuries-old demarcation between the inside-ousidenesses of the Euro-West versus the 'Orient', but the disintegration of the purposiveness of animalisation in the constitution of this inside-outside relationship, the deep-structured demon that is the core of our terror, a 'pure' globalisation which is not merely a reconstruction of competing empires.