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.

No comments: