Monday, May 2, 2011

Death of Bin Laden

 In some ways this was a non-event--its very unreality is what makes it so disturbing, and so potentially dangerous.  Powerfully emotive symbolic events with very little to ground them , satisfy the crudest, collectively shared unconscious fantasies. The chanting crowds at the White House... primal jouissance. What it will come to stand for is an impossibly difficult question--but the least credible meaning, is that it demonstrates American commitment to democratic process, or will in any way contribute to other than xenophobic joy at defeat of an imaginary OTHER, and whet the lust for more of the same... the very unreality demands repetition lest the dreamers wake up and see what they have wrought.

I fear that Osama bin Laden has won twice. The first time in what he unleashed by the destruction of the World Trade Center. The second time in this banal, bloody movie ending that has so many so enthralled.... blinking in the dark and believing their deepest wish has come to pass.

Chris Hedges made some thoughtful remarks on this at a Truthdig fundraiser last night.


  1. In reading this morning in de Beauvoir's Conversations with Jean-Paul Sartre about cinema and contingency, their words seem to extend your thought.

    deB: And how did you reach the first of your important ideas--which has always remained in one shape or another--the idea of contingency?

    JPS: Well, I find the first allusion to it in the Suppositories Midy notebook.

    deB: Tell me about this notebook.

    JPS: I found it in the metro. It was completely blank. That was in khagne. It was my first philosophical notebook and I took it so to put down all the things I thought. It was a notebook put out by Midy laboratories and given to a doctor--and pages were in alphabetical order. So that if I had a thought that began with A, I put it down. But what was curious was the beginning of the thought about contingency. I began thinking about it because of a film. I saw films in which there was no contingency and then when I left the cinema there I found contingency. It was therefore the films' necessity that made me feel that there was no necessity in the street when I went out. People moved about, they were ordinary...

    deB: But how did that comparison take on the importance it had for you? Why did this fact of contingency affect you so that you wanted to make it...I remember when we first met you told me you wanted to make it something that would be like fatum for the Greeks. You wanted it to be one of the essential dimensions of the world.

    JPS: Yes, because I thought it was neglected. I still think so, by the way. If you push Marxist thought right through to the end, for example, you find a neccessary world; there's no contingency. There are various forms of determinism and dialectic, but not contingent facts.

    deB: Did contingency affect you emotionally?

    JPS: Yes. I think the reason that I discovered through my films and going out into the street was that I was made to discover it.

    deB: And what did you write about contingency in the Suppositories Midy?

    JPS: That contingency existed, as could be seen by the contrast between the cinema, where there was no contingency, and the exit into the street, where on the contrary there was nothing but contingency.

  2. We've seen it before, haven't we--this movie? The Navy Seals, the stealth helicopters,the room by room armed intrusion and at last, the fatal shot. Next scene (and yes--there it was on the news this morning... coming soon to a theater near you! ... the visit with the President, the Seals in the White House.

    Again, the crowds in Times Square and in front of the White House... what are they cheering? In a movie, you know what it is... not the triumph of good over evil--that only serves the real purpose: to offer release from the superficial social prohibition against violence. What's happening in the theater is relief, release... the cathartic jouissance of violence, being able to take pleasure in it without guilt. Exactly what we saw in those cheering faces--make the bad guy evil enough it will serve as cover for the deeper pleasure, the thrill of seeing someone's face blown off ... in the theater of imagination, of course (the withholding of the photos very much a part of the script... lest the physical reality threaten to disturb the dream).

    Obama is a truly religious man... like the priest-kings of the Aztecs, holding the still beating heart of the sacrificial victim/enemy in hand--worshiper of the True God of American, the Moloch of Patriotism demanding it's human sacrifice. Thank you, Mr. President...for returning us once again to our roots.

  3. Frances MadesonMay 6, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    Sartre would not be able to make his last statement so confidently now. This ceding of contingency to a scripted necessity of Power is another violence--domestication violence.

  4. Sartre left the theater and stood thinking about it in common daylight. America is the theater. No Exit