Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Schizoanalysis, Tropicalia, and Situationists.

This whole Tropicalia/Neo-Romantic thing has something in common with the idea of Schizo-analysis put forward by Deleuze and Guattari in their books Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, I haven't read the latter....

Anyways, the connection is that Schizophrenia, in their estimation, is a reflection of capitalism's tendency to offer either total stimulation or no stimulation, to mix the repressive with the enabling. In consumer capitalist society the media throws everything at you which it possibly can, yet life itself is something which we walk through alienated from. Contrast the spectacle of television with the poverty of the suburban life if you want to know what I mean by this.

Schizophrenia, where, according to the authors, the subject starts to believe in all of the stimulation as if it was reality, in fact choosing to believe in this self created reality instead of the alienated and cruel reality which surrounds him or her, is a reasonable response to such a situation.

While clearly a mental illness maybe the schizophrenic response to capitalism points the way out for everyone else, without the danger of really losing it.

The schizophrenic is wrong because in the end the images and ideas which he deals with en masse aren't linked to reality, although they may be taken from reality. They start out with real facts, but, nonetheless, the interpretations given the facts meld a personal story line which on exmaination doesn't hold up to the outside world, although it might have intense personal meaning, and even meaning in an internally consistant way, to the person generating it and, in the latter case, to the world.

The schizophrenic knows that there has to be meaning out there, yet can't make that meaning work in a....meaningful....way.

Nevertheless, the thread of real objective meaning is out there behind the appearances and half understood concepts that the schizophrenic deals with, and it can be found and followed, leading to a reinvigoration of life through materials supplied by life itself rather than through our own imaginings of what life should be like.

A perfect example of this can be found in any major bookstore, any chain bookstore: you have a situation which fits the reality of plenty and poverty in relation to capitalist culture perfectly.....thousands of books, yet what do they really mean? They're just commodities which are marketed to be sold, intellectual books meant to be bought by people wanting to be intellectuals rather than the real thing..whether they're actually read or not is beside the point, and whether they're actually understood if they're read is even further a non-consideration. The buying is the point.

Yet, despite the commodification of all of it, the great literature is still there, the philosophy is still there, and it can be deciphered and appreciated on its own terms despite the presentation which it's given....and can supply that thread to a greater meaning which I spoke about.

Beyond the ideas contained in the bookstore as interesting grist for our schizophrenic culture, which superficially appreciates things and throws them away only to thirst for something new, they exist as ideas which break the flow of capitalist culture while still providing the meaning which is so sought after.

The way out of the feast or famine situation is a veritable feast, but one which is real and sustainable, which exists below the surface of the consumerist smorgasbord and which persists no matter how much meaning is trivialized in the market place.

If this seems familiar at all it may be because this sort of actual meaning-finding parallels what Caetano Veloso recounts in his book "Tropical Truth" about his Tropicalismo or Tropicalia movement, undertaken with the initiative first off of fellow musician Gilberto Gil, which sought to transform Brasillian culture by reinvigorating it with ideas taken from abroad yet interpreted within a Brasillian context and, what's more a Brasillian context which wasn't a sort of romanticized populism but was instead reflective of real Brasillian social reality, which didn't in fact obey the normal leftist ideas of populism and even conventional ideas of the working class.

The spectre of nationalism, connected strongly with populism, is sort of the crowning achievement of bourgeois society, where beyond it you get decay, such as generates schizophrenic capitalism...and why? Because it leaves people with nothing left. It's an end point. An empty nationalism which forthwith reflects the empty suburbia and empty middle class cities and drawing rooms of its inhabitants.

Tropicalia meant to subvert all that, not by extending the bourgeois idea of nationalism to the people in a type of sham populism but instead by going below the surface of bourgeois life to the actual life of the people, and bringing the fruits of foreign intellectual culture directly to them without the intermediary of the middle class.

Situationism is like a negative gestural afterimage compared to this.

What Situationism does, in it's call for a re-enchantment of daily life, is suppose that that re-enchantment can come from within the individual and that it doesn't have to come from life itself, which is a fallacy...as much of a fallacy as the true schizophrenic who thinks he can just make everything up as he goes along and be fine.

Reality can't just be recreated on our whims; to reconnect with reality you must reconnect with the source of enchantment and let that source come into your life and transform it, not have it flow from you out to the world. And finding the ideal in the world, as the early Marx said he was trying to do, is always the hardest part.

The Situationists are voluntarists in that they believe that individual initiative and action alone can redeem the world; the strategy that I'm talking about here is quite the opposite: we believe that the meaning is already out there but that it just has to be found and redeemed and brought back into life.

The Situationist fail to recognize that below the surface of the meaningless bourgeois world which they confront lies a real world full of meaning, which you don't have to hop freight trains or live out of garbage cans to explore but instead just have to penetrate beneath the spectacle of consumer society to what all of it was about before the consumption transformed it into commodities.

And to reiterate a previous post, isn't that what all of this retro-nostalgia is about anyways? About searching out a world where a lamp is a lamp and can be nice and interesting without having to be a product?

Where fashion meant something, even if it was meant naively?

Relate that principle to many other forms of social life and you have a revolutionary idea...apply it to intellectual life and you have an idea which goes the opposite direction: that sort of retro-thing is backward looking, of course, even if it points to something more meaningful, that which is sought out in intellectual life according to the quest for true understanding is forward looking in the extreme, avante-garde beyond anything which is currently out there.

The synthesis of the two would be extremely valuable.

And why not?

It's our brain, why not use it?

If you want to tease out the socio-economic consequences of this picture a simple society which, nonetheless, is extremely affluent, very much equal, and which offers everyone an extremely high level of education and the opportunity to express and pursue their interests in their own way in their spare time....with that possibly being the purpose of life, which, due to the high level of productivity and the division of labor, isn't hampered by the sort of all consuming work load which currently strangles people's minds.

Combine that with a nice environment and you've got yourself quite a nice experience of life.

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