My Key Take-aways from the Zizek-Peterson Debate

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  • Peterson is, of course, a conservative. That we do not need to verify over and over again, but something worth noting. But is he a conservative in the worst sense? At the most, he isn’t quite a fascist, but sure harbors ideas which can possibly help forward authoritarian agenda.
  • Reasonable leftists watched this to enjoy. I got in at the last hour or so, and I enjoyed listening to both.
  • Both present clear challenge not to each other, but to the whole liberal-capitalist world. Both challenge the notion of forced-diversity and political correctness but only differ on the other end of the thread. Peterson favors, of course, a kind of restoration of authoritarian, pre-Kaynesian capitalism.
  • I know my Zizek, I think, so I don’t seem to get more surprised at all with him. Peterson is admittedly, an interesting character. What interests me the most how he poses more similarity with a lot of sides of all the political spectrum. He harbors values which, I wouldn’t say essential but, are useful to leftists: mostly with his disdain of the postmodern anti-narrativism which trapped us all in this forced-diversity and political correctness. Only this useful character of his is in the service of the restoration of capitalism.
  • The debate seem to try to resolve behind it how the two camps would address the post-2008, post-Brexit, pro-Jack Ma, pro-Elon Musk, crisis-driven neoliberal world that we’re in right now. They’re not really talking to each other. They’re talking to their respective audiences.
  • Zizek’s last note poses very serious challenges to urban leftists. The first challenge is to “not oblige one’s self to be politically correct.” The second, is to “not be afraid to think.” The first poses a total overhaul of the “gains” of the postmodern turn of the left. The second relates to the first one in a very demanding way. Zizek noted of the dangers of political correctness which comes with quick reductions, symptomatic of lazy thinking.
  • Relating to the last bullet point, what happens with this quick reductions and lazy thinking is a lack in dialectical process in thought. None of the both resolves anything, and never even get to the point closer to self-conscious thinking. It is in this sense that Peterson got it right how it becomes symptomatic of the left to pose for moral high-grounding just because of a sense of high-duty, as supplemented by Zizek as a product of new age thinking, which also has become a part of the postmodern turn.
  • It is in this New Age thinking that Zizek cornered Peterson, and where Zizek also exposed the weakness of the politically-correct left. Political correctness assumes that all conflicts has been resolved already, that giving out the correct pronoun resolves the power-relations surrounding all sources of political issues of identity. Zizek exposes this link between new age and fascism through citing the life and military command Heinrich Himmler, who carries with him a copy of the Bhagavad Gita in war. In this sense, the new ageism of political correctness and intersectionality only repeats the new ageism of the SS in their command to atrocity only happening as a consequence of universe resolving everything but in the present context, not in a sense of a grand accident, but the pseudo-participatory / pseudo-democratic stance of guilt-tripping people into being politically correct.
  • It is in this sense that the call of the Neoreactionaries for intelligence comes of importance. I think the extreme intensification of contradictions placed to us by the multiple crises of neoliberalism and global capitalism has given us the answer to the question “for whom” more clearer than before. The most essential moral question has been answered already and was being reiterated whenever we have a chance. The call for thinking, the call for intelligence, requires a review of method. The current age, I think, is not asking “for whom”, but is now asking “how.”
  • Addendum: I think if we — the urban left from the Philippines — are to move forward with these, in developing a culture of intelligence in the service of the working class and all the underprivileged sectors in the country, we need a total overhaul of how we do things: from our half-serious (rather, post-ironic), almost ritualistic, attitude towards the parliamentary to the way we self-criticize. And it must start, I think, by redefining–and quite possibly revising/updating our notion of liberalism stemming from Mao’s classic text, for us to be more effective in combatting it.
  • Addendum 2: “Seriousness” isn’t revolutionary.
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Chris Fujiwara on Film Criticism and Programming

plus some commentary

 

chris fujiwara

Chris Fujiwara and his presentation

Yesterday, March 21, 2018, I was able to catch up with Chris Fujiwara’s lecture (albeit, very late on his lecture) on Film Criticism and Programming at the University of the Philippines’ Film Center. The lecture was part of the on-going Working Title workshops organized by Japan Foundation in Manila for young film programmers from East and Southeast Asia.

Fujiwara was talking about the task of the critic as an analyst, which for him, was never really about “producing knowledge” but of imparting pleasure and presenting assessment of the work. I wasn’t able to catch how he built up leading to this, but his summary provided a good entry point to his whole thought on the matter.

If a critic do not produce knowledge, what does he produce? Fujiwara notes of these three things: pleasure, distance, and community.

From what I get from his discussion, a critic and programmer produces pleasure by providing different ways of looking at things. A film may mean one thing, but by writing what the critic thinks of the film, the critic, one way or another, provides different avenues to which the film can be differently appreciated. For the programmer, is this organization of a film or number of films to a kind of framing – a framing which can be thematic, operational, etc.

These for Fujiwara, again, do not amount to a kind of production of knowledge. Fujiwara added how “pleasure” can also be derived from encounters with the uncomfortable (which, may be the case of programmers curating experimental or unconventional works) and pain (in the case of the film critic, can be the displeasures one can encounter from watching certain films, which can be turned into an avenue to its appreciation.) Fujiwara evokes what Lacan, and those who come after him, noted of the jouissance as the enjoyment which comes from non-pleasurable encounters, such as pain. Validating, of course, the perverse nature of Cinema, as per Zizek.

The most important thing, I think, that Fujiwara has noted is that the critic and the programmer necessarily produces distance. Over at the quick Q&A, he further expounded his point on how global capitalism and neoliberalism necessitates blurring of lines between cinematic realities and reality-as-such. This blurring of lines, for Fujiwara, results to a non-coherent understanding of cinematic plasticity and mediation. He refers to this process as the “disintermediation” of cinema. The critic, for him, should necessarily bring this mediated reality forward. This brings his discussion back to the critic as an analyst, which, to my understanding, necessarily highlights the effectivity/non-effectivity of the mediation – film criticism as an analysis of cinematic quality, first and foremost. This is mostly a good response to the kind of contemporary audience which needs a constant reminder that they are watching a movie.

The first two points build up to Fujiwara’s last point. But how does one produce a community, really? At first look, criticism and programming to produce a community seem to be a grand (delusional) vision of its tasks. But then again, conscious efforts for film curating most especially, seem to go to that direction of a community being “produced.” But is this community single-handedly produced by the programmer and the critic? Fujiwara never pointed such a thing. However, his discussion lead to how desires and pleasures derived from multitudes looking at a single movie can possibly give this sense of community.

What Fujiwara left out from his discussion is a synthesis of these three items the critic and programmer produce. Fujiwara does not seem keen to suggest anything outside of these three, although these seem to suggest an organizational function for the critic and the programmer. It can easily be thought for the film programmer, but for the film critic? I guess, for the film critic, this synthesis – the film critic as an organizer – can be derived from his 2nd suggestion that the film critic produces distance.

I’m going for a stretch here to extract a different reading of “production of distance” as the organization of space. This space includes highlighting what’s between cinema and reality. But answering to Fujiwara’s concern over blurring of realities in the neoliberal, global capitalist realm, this also necessitates a qualification of cinema to its own current historical realities. The task of the critic and the programmer to lead social organization need to address the conditions which produce cinematic realities and how does it become ubiquitous – referring to Fujiwara’s concern over the blurring between the cinematic and reality – in the same way that digitization of things is becoming ubiquitous.

Producing a community, as the aspiration Fujiwara lead his discussion of the tasks of the critic and the programmer, necessitates the organization of desire. If any, the spatial organization provided by the production of distance should also lead to the differentiation and synthesis of the desire with those of the organizer. This, I’m guessing, was already addressed by the first thing that the critic and the programmer produce: pleasure.

As it stands, this discussion probably made things even grander than it’s supposed to be, but I guess, this is one way where an act organization needs to go. Flatness, as already defined by Fredric Jameson, is already one of the qualities necessitated by global capitalism to sustain itself. And imagining a community to be organized against flatness, to the point of seeming delusions of grandeurs, might be just what we need. But being self-conscious about its ramifications, or even just about its own qualities, do not place organization in being delusional. If anything, this, I think, is the only task that one must do.

Fascism as performance art

The following are the notes I’ve prepared for SIKAD’s activity, Usapang Komyu, which focused on Art and Fascism. All of the citations came from Hito Steyerl’s “Let’s Talk About Fascism,” which is to say, none of these are “original,” so to say, but a processing of local experiences of Fascist tendencies with Steyerl’s observation with contemporary Europe Far-Right uprisings.

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Fascism feeds on the perceived ineffectivity of politics, most especially of democratic representational politics. “Where representation collapses or spins off into precipitous loops and feedbacks, fascism seemingly offers easy answers. It is the panic button for blocking off annoying remnants of reality.” (178)

Fascism is a politics of comfort. It does not try to resolve contradictions and also do not try to make way to resolve diverse needs of diverse groups towards real economic equality. Instead, it “tries to replace equality by uniformity.” (179). The condition of San Roque is a derivative of fascism: the state does not and will never acknowledge such diversity of life and struggle, and would rather prefer gentrification and privatization of spaces. The flattening of the city. To have the same malls and commercial centers as the other district within the same city. All calls for more efficient government policies on housing are being ignored, in exchange of corporate taxes from places which the majority who will never really need to access.

Contemporary form of fascism is the government hijacking itself to justify authoritarian control, in the guise of “emergency” and “necessity.” Our local strongman play dumb and weak to justify more military, extramilitary and paramilitary interventions. Our local government and other national office officials deliberately wasting public money on useless projects such as film festivals, art fairs and VIP parties here and abroad to highlight the excesses of libertarianism and liberalism, then act as if it is against to it. The president acting against corruption while making high ranking government officials richer from unexplained bonuses and fat cheques while job orders and part timers barely live off their monthly wage. All to generate a populist outrage, while making you feel powerless.

Government’s derivative fascism in the form of performance art.

Economically, Fascism do not stray far from neoliberal economics. It would explain the existence of Salvador Panelo as adviser. In the same manner as the original Fascists of Italy, contemporary derivatives of fascism is comfortable with private profit and are giving more incentives to big business. Neoliberalism – with its incentives for individual pursuit of profit – has benefited a lot with the governments’ implementation of price deregulation and privatization of a lot of industries. This goes as far as the Marcoses, which the succeeding administrations from the Older Aquino to the relatively Younger Aquino continued, that instead of founding national economies, instead of more effective economic policies to support nationalization of basic industries, they opted for total privatization of industries. Market liberation at the expense of Import-dependence and export-orientedness and more imperialist-backed militarized support for foreign businesses. Which justifies below-living standard minimum wage, land grabbing and wide spread povertization of the population.

As a performance art, the Government’s derivative fascism’s form is indiscriminate violence against the poor. From actual killings to forced eviction. The state’s “monopoly of violence” itself has a neoliberal property: the violators are either employed uniformed men sidelining as mercenaries, or freelance killers, or members of “security companies or outsourced gangs.” While criticisms of such killings pervades mainstream media, such feedback feeds positively into government action: chaos abound, and therefore, the need for more aggressive intervention. More militarization. We are in crisis. Fascists thrive on crisis, the same as neoliberalism.

While the acts of “ineffectivity” might seem performative, the implications are real. Real people are being displaced, killed. Real lives being dismissed. Real rights being disregarded. All for the benefit of myths. A myth that all of these will be resolved by a single strong authority. The 3-6 months myth that we are promised to. The nationalist myth, while air strikes and systematized murder are being given to national minorities. Myth of going back to pre-filipino language through the promotion of baybayin while Filipino subjects are being removed from college curriculums. The myth of a national identity outside of actual struggle for nationalist independence.

Like all performance art, it is comforting only to the few of whom the “performers” are performing to. The objects of the performance, being displaced, destroyed, thrown around, being shot at. And like all performance art, it capitalizes on the interesting. Like how interesting it might be for urban planners to displace more community settlements for further corporate developments.

In the light of these, we are inviting all the artists first, to explore the nature of these derivatives of fascism. To have a dialogue with communities which are dealing with these violence on a daily basis. This is less of a condemnation of art but a provocation for artists: in the light of fascism, what is the role of artists? I know, we are all looking for autonomy. But in these kind of condition, is autonomy thinkable? In the same vain as the effectiveness of fascism as performance art, detached from any form of real community involvement, what does it make of our artwork if it is also detached from the community?

Fragmented notes on Materialism, Ethics and Anti-Capitalist Praxis as a result of a Friday-night conversation over beer which I never really drank

For Mike Esteves, Vic Teaño and Adrian Mendizabal

 

In his Theses on Feuerbach, Marx differentiated what he sees as the “old” Materialism and his then “new” Materialism. The old Materialism, Marx defined as inattentive of “human sensual activities.” Terry Eagleton would later thread into Marx’ categorizations as materialisms which coexists with different projects. A scientists’ basic task is to be at least a materialist. Empiricism pervaded scientific thought earlier in the Enlightenment which made materialist thought rigid. The same can still be seen with scientific-reductionism of Richard Dawkins. But this speaks to us one requirement of materialism, that is, to acknowledge the realities of science, if not as scientists, as sentient beings. But, as the implications of this introduction show, we can’t talk of Materialism now without even looking at the ghost of Marx and Engels.

Materialism is not without its drawbacks. One thinking in a materialist way knows that it is an uncomfortable thought. Materialism makes one realize human “frailty and finitude.” (Eagleton, Materialism, 6) Eagleton noted that this acknowledgement do (or should) not foster nihilism, but realism. Much as this should have been a comforting notion, the greatest drawback of materialist thought came from its dialectical opposition with the (non-)narrative of pervading neoliberal thought which is perpetuated with new age (i.e. neoconservative) essentialism. Realism, in this age, bears with it a negative affect which eventually leads to a certain kind of nihilism. Materialism contrasts Herbert Marcuse’s diagnosis of a society without opposition. A society which is “comfortable, smooth, [and] reasonable,” (Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, 3) formerly pervading American industrial society, is now replicated even in the third world through UN’s globalization powered by Netflix.

I’d like to believe that the main positive sense of materialism came from its acknowledgement of the existence of materials themselves. Empiricism acknowledges reality as such, and nothing more. Going over the danger of humanist essentialism, materialism, as I’d like to believe, sees materials as ingredients for construction or as pieces to destroy. Much of the modernist practices of art sees the world this way: an art’s essence, if not shit, is something that is constructed and is always in negotiation. The same thing goes with every essence, if one is to look into essence in a materialist sense.

Construction is physical. The construction site adds value to the location where the establishment is constructed. So is essence as a construct. The materialist response to essence and essentialisms, I think, is not an impulsive renouncement of it, but through a critical inquiry of its construction site: not purely of the location of construction, but also of what is being constructed. Criticism meant to be a test of strength of materials. Its mechanics necessarily thread into the specifics of the materials whether they could stand the strain, to clear the cloud of essentialism and expose the level of plasticity of the construct.

Destruction is physical too. But what’s interesting with materialism is that, it destroys because it needs to construct. Material mechanics of essentialisms, once strength and plasticity are acknowledged, may construct material thought through the very destruction (or deconstruction) of essentialism: the fact that essentialism can be deconstructed and sourced to a certain location, means that the essence is material and plastic.

In literature, for example, its criticism tests the words as materials, which for Edel Garcellano either define or betray its location. (Intertext, 108) Once the material is identified, it’s only a matter of mechanics to see whether it supports or can positively destroy its location. The strength of a material, I think, is more defined in a society like ours, where contradictions abound on extreme levels. On a recent writing, I noted of an overdetermination of contradictions which defines our daily realities. Although, a materialist acknowledgement of contradictions never really gets confused of overdeterminations. Rather, these stacks of layers are considered as materials which define itself the contemporary so-called identity. In this sense, materialist thought necessarily partakes, or rather itself a partisan stance, to clear the cloud globalist neoliberal essentialism spread over the intellectual atmosphere of the third world.

As mentioned earlier, materialism actively supports constructions and do not just differentiate, say, the forest for the trees: it also acknowledges how trees or forests are cut to build either a toy car, a scrabble tire, the President’s chair, or fences around a still feudal-owned land. Materialism completes its thought through construction. It takes a commitment to construction of materialist concepts or destruction of essentialism before one can be acknowledged as a materialist.

This commitment to construction/destruction, I think, should only be the only ethical barometer of anyone thinking in a materialist sense. But its ethics, of course, is no more important the act of construction itself.

The common mistake of those who claim that they think materially, is that, when ethical questions arises, they responded with moralism. I recently responded to a thread by a “collective” over at Facebook to address an ethical question. [See Ibong Adorno’s Page] The problem by which its responders address is a fault of material mechanics: the materials being tested are not of equal calibration. There is a concern over an ethical practice of writing and its problem of political economy in award-giving bodies. Which, I think, can only be solved if writing itself is abstracted into the level of political economy: on how under capitalism, for example, writing itself cannot exist apart from being a commodity, and how the practice of commoditization itself — the cyclical extortion of human labor by Capital — is the main ethical concern, that the award giving bodies themselves are merely symptoms.

Capital makes victims and accomplices from one’s body. It coexists inside a so-called being. Under capitalism, one’s production, in the case that I’m addressing (and I apologize if this came late) is art or film, is already caught within this webmess of contradictions. Complicity with Capital do not begin and end with production, it’s there before you even participate. I agree, definitely, that self-reflexivity and acknowledgement of these realities and reflecting them into your produce, or art-piece, or film do not make it more ethical.

But to leave all these contradictions aside, for the sake of “craftsmanship”, so to say, is even more unethical. Recent developments in global capitalism assures more effective extortion of labor value from the participation of creatives and campaigns of diversity (whether in style or identity). The model of attention economy is more important now than ever. Media-streaming conglomerates expropriate even moments at-rest of laborers, to make it value-producing, with the ubiquity of binge-watching. Unethical, because, “craftsmanship” alone do not materially construct nor destroy. Craftsmanship itself is the name of a fetishized continuation of new-age essentialism in art. (Say, Mike’s criticism of John Torres’ oppressive practice of enforced meaning in both Ang Ninanais and Mapang-Akit, if looked at materially, is no different than an indie filmmaker’s participation with Star Cinema and leaving it for a pursuit of “artistic autonomy” — they are as unethical as they are both products of a bourgeois artists’ privilege.) It is on the same vein where deviantart, tumblr, instagram or facebook extorts artworks as contributed contents from possibly underpaid or unpaid freelancers waiting for their next client to make them a prototype of their new company’s logo. It is in this sense that Mao critiqued “art-for-art’s sake” tendencies of bourgeois artists: aside from its apparent uselessness as materials, they extort labor-time.

Dialectically, I do not really consider creating political art alone as potent. It’s probably the same as neoliberal craftsmanship, with heightened opportunism. It is only from commitment also for materialist construction and destruction which I see the fulness of a truly ethical production. Not in a form of “playing around” the rules of neoliberal capital, but in a construction site outside it or on the site after the current locations has been destroyed. Criticism and (art and film) production themselves are not ethical if not done so as a continuation and extension of the materialist construction and destruction of and for new realities and thought. Criticism and production’s progressive potential do not come from themselves — whether in form or content — but with one’s participation with the said construction and destruction. Whether criticism and art be useful once materialist construction and destruction has been done is of another issue.

On Binge-watching

serials

I just finished Kokkoku (photo above) by watching it as it is released. I talked to a friend and told him that I do think that the experience I had watching the series is worth it on the weekly set up than it is on binge-watching. It’s not that I don’t have an option on watching all at once, one can always wait. It’s merely out of habit. This habit isn’t even on the occasion of “being first.” It’s just the way I consume anime: I can’t manage to find a time to binge-watch, so I find time for it every week. 25 minutes of watching time a week for a certain material do not hurt my daily activities. If anything, it enables me to engage with the material critically.

For the longest time, I always felt that there is something wrong with binge-watching. Like movie marathon, it reduces the experience of watching into a recreational activity. Like all art, as I’d like to consider tv-materials, anime is medium-specific. Industrial models work in such a way that they were configured for a reason: maybe for digestability, maybe for the thrill of anticipation, but bottomline, TV always rely on an imagined audience and an imagined audience reaction. Let’s do this or that so the audience will look forward for next week’s episode. Binge-watching a material meant to be a weekly serial does away with all those other experiences and reduces everything into mere consumption, like I said earlier, a mere recreational activity.

The dynamics between watching a serial ‘as it is released’ and binge-watching are on different poles. If you faithfully follow a serial as it is released, you squeeze in a schedule per week, you plan it to your weekly activities. More disciplined, or rather, demanding. It is almost as demanding as work itself. While what you look for if you are to binge-watch is a free day, a free time. At most cases, you collect a lot of audiovisual materials (say, soft copies of films and series copied from friends) hoping that one day, you’ll find time to see those. And when the day comes, you can’t even decide which one to see, by the end you just either see a whole season of a serial on that free day, or browse through the files and do not decide on watching any.

I don’t think it’s an issue of qualitative vs quantitative attitude on watching. You can even see that from the examples above, it’s either watching something — one episode a week — or not watching anything at all. Maybe your younger friends have more time so you can see them posting what they watch every single time. But it does not guarantee any substantial “viewing experience.” It’s the same difference, I think, between fordism and post-fordism — between assembly line 8-5 work, to outsourced 24/7 labor market. The definition of “free-time” on the earlier is more defined, while is more floating on the latter.

This lack of substance in viewing experience can be observed the kind of reactions younger “film reviewers” have to films they are paid to review for their respective websites. This phenomenon is something I have observed from my students as well, their reactions upon the films I asked them to watch are mere reactions. They are shocked, angry, or whatever feelings they had. Not that I think this is even new, but in the light of more recent tendencies enabled by new technologies, I am inclined to think otherwise that the kinds of reactions that they have are reflections of these tendencies.

It is not also that I am not guilty of this, but I seem to have better control of my reactions nowadays. The downside of this is the lessening of prolificity. Then again, I’m not being paid to write any reviews, so I focus my energies from time to time towards criticism and theorization than writing reviews. (Thankfully, the Vcinema gig isn’t a gig and our editor over there is more than open for me to write a short theory-piece instead of a review on the films they ask me to write about.)

Again, I’m not raising an issue over qualitative and quantitative attitudes. But more on attitude on consumption in general and the symptoms of the times which are being reflected on most film reviews and reactions by audiences online. If there are any existing scholars out there on audience studies, I think this is one of the more pressing issues.

Marginal Notes on Cinema and Nation

As our Film 240 class wrapped-up earlier, I’m still trying to come into terms of how should I approach the topic of both Cinema and Nation. Prof. Deocampo said to me that the way I wanted to approach my topic, which is Cinema under the Aquino Administration, is something most students (if I heard him right) may not be excited about. He’s referring to the idea I’m proposing that the Nation is constructed. Continue reading “Marginal Notes on Cinema and Nation”

Notes on Godzilla Resurgence and Love & Peace

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Godzilla Resurgence (left); Love & Peace (right)

Two sides of the same sentiment, but of different political position. Both has something to do with United States’ Nuclear Terror attack back in 1945. Both uses the Kaiju as a metaphor to the Nuclear bomb.

First, Hideaki Anno’s and Shinji Higuchi’s Godzilla Resurgence (2016) as outright rightist, friendly to imperialist US but with critical distance. (Wrote a 600+ word review on this, will probably appear somewhere soon, if not, I’ll just post it here.)

Second, Sion Sono’s Love and Peace, mostly anti-government critique of the use of languages of development, love and peace to censor the nuclear threat and history. Such a way that its critique also goes to neo-liberal politics and literature.

What they both may have missed is that, they both aligned with the government’s and Japanese mainstream historian’s effort to censor Japan’s war crimes from the Sino-Japanese war (Nanjing Massacre) to the World War II (Comfort Women issue), in exchange of their victim stance due to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

My guess, since I only have the privilege of guessing and not actually witnessing, is that their text books must have soften the narration of the nuclear attack perpetrated to them by the end of World War II, hence the production of literature such as these two not to forget that the attacks were an atrocity; terrorism.

I don’t know if Sono’s trying to address all the Japanese war issues one by one (both the nuclear attacks and the Japanese war crimes), whenever I think about the Comfort Women issue, images from the last part of Tag (2015) appears in my mind. This might be a possible reading, but might be negated otherwise, I can re-watch the film to validate, if I find the time.