Sunday, October 23, 2005

Society of Spectacles

If history never sleeps then are you the demon of the wakefulness to which we are forever imprisoned? Is forever a bullet or a bracket or a brace? By not telling do you consign us to uncertainty or to abjection? – "WB," speaking in Shadowtime, Charles Bernstein (2004)

In her Stupidity (2003), Avital Ronell ropes Joan of Arc – for Schiller, "a figure of transcendental stupidity, she is open to mystical ecstasy and the higher calling of historical foundation" – in for an interrogation of idiocy. This idiocy hints at an underlying radical property, a unique and inexchangeable calling that is open to, but in reality simply ignorant of, futurity and consequences.

One wonders if this Dummheit is a species of inauthenticity. Is a man – or a Joan – without qualities only a few doors down from the das Mans? Opening oneself to experience – and putting the Nietzschean "telephone to the beyond" on hold – might reveal the mediocrity (but wanton destructiveness) assigned to any understudy (and that is what they are) to Madame History.

Some difficult, wakeful nights I see that insomniac Angelus Novus as horrifically, panoramically taking in the work of other, less graceful Joans, of those who – in this administration, for example – bill themselves as "history’s actors," while the rest of us are abject fools for thought and inspection, gazing on through our lorgnettes:

"…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." – "Without a Doubt," Ron Suskind, The New York Times, Sunday 17 October 2004

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