Wednesday, 7 October 2009


[contemporary Chernobyl]

Oh no, not mine: it's just due to the publication of Dominic Fox's book Cold World, which I had the, excusez le mot, *pleasure* of reading earlier in pdf. It's a great book, where the author examines the *positive* potential of so called dysphoria, as opposed to euphoria, calling it "militant" in every case when the dysphoria and displeasure (or dejection) is an *active* state practised by the subject. or, as Alex Williams claims, "[T]he Left is trapped in a sort of depression, in a dysphoric state itself. Here “militant dysphoria” means the dysphoria of the militant. The hope arises that it is through a radicalisation of this very negative state that a future emancipatory politics might be born. A radicalisation in what sense though?" Good question and follow the rest on Splintering Bone Ashes blog on the right from this post.

I'm not going to outline the book now, the right time will come when I will have more time, but here just to sum up an event that took place just few days ago in London at Goldsmith's, where a panel discussion with few persentations by very interesting thinkers grouped around Zer0 Books took place.

I'm quoting a piece by Nina Power she posted on her blog Infinite Thought, where she refers to, among other things, von Trier's "Antichrist" (which I personally, had to admit that, rejected as pretentious soft-slasher kitsch), Herzog and Shulamith Firestone, famous feminist and her reflection on woman's body. lots of links to other speeches at her blog.
here it goes:

[Herzog on 'Fitzcarraldo'] Of course we are challenging nature itself, and it hits back, it just hits back, that’s all. And that’s what’s grandiose about it and we have to accept that it’s much stronger than we are. Kinski always says it’s full of erotic elements. I don’t see it so much as erotic, I see it more full of obscenity … And nature here is vile and base. I wouldn’t see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and growing and just rotting away. Of course there is a lot of misery, but it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain …. Taking a close look at what’s around us, there is some sort of a harmony. There is the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder …. There is no harmony in the universe. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real harmony as we have conceived it. (see this post on Conjunctural a while back, with useful comments from Ben)

A dysphoric relation to nature may see itself fascinated and reflected in a world of killing and eating but our age is characterised by a dyphoric relation to forms of nature in general much closer to home: human nature, particularly bodily nature. Think of eating disorders, self-harm, particularly prevalent in young women, where any concern for health gets subsumed into a desire for thinness, beauty or desirability. In this sense, then, there exists a common, generalised form of dysphoria in the west, a turning away from 'health', either mental or physical, towards a lessening (if not a worsening) of the world, to exist in a smaller way, to take up less space. To be dysphoric in the shape of body dysmorphia is, particularly though certainly not only for women, to be on board with the idea that our inner nature is to be punished. Just to give you a strange example of these priorities, yesterday I was walking past a pharmacy and saw a sign advertising a cervical cancer vaccine for £379 and beneath it, Botox for just £50: the vaccine that one might hope would be distributed for free by the state is more than seven times more expensive than having a barely-legal poison injected into your face.

the paradoxes and seeming dualisms of health/disease, positive/negative penetrate us at least since Romanticism and were probably most famously put by one of the most "entrenched" and powerful Modernists, Thomas Mann, who was a late heir of a long philosophical tradition, culminating in his last great novel , Dr. Faustus. I hope to muse on that more later.

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