February 2, 2010

Opposition and Listening


A frenzy of dissatisfaction: in which one feels any attempts at improvement will only lead to further disappointment, yet the dissatisfaction is so intense that one must, nonetheless, continuously strive towards new frontiers. The self-aware hungry ghost.

The self-aware hungry ghost. But the hungry ghost is something within ourselves that can and must be overcome. While this self-awareness, for some reason, has nothing to do with change or wanting to change. It is self-awareness in service of everything remaining, more or less, the same.

This dissatisfaction has nothing to do with wanting to change and yet everything within it screams out that things must, that the situation cannot go on. Like a Chinese finger trap, the more it struggles towards change, the more fixed and rigid the trap becomes. The greater the knowledge that what one must actually do is relax, let go, let some things take their natural course, the more fierce and violent come the surges of futile resistance. Spitting in the face of your torturer when you are exhausted, chained down, and he has all the tools.

The entire model of opposition needs to be re-thought. Yes, fascism must be opposed and fought against in all instances. (The fascism of capital, the fascism within ourselves, the crypto-fascism of everyday life.) But perhaps it must be fought against using a model somehow other than opposition.

Opposition always leads to one of two things: to being absorbed or being destroyed. It is true that when ones ideas are absorbed one does – in some sense – alter the status quo. However, if the original model was less about attacking and more about something else, I am once again thinking along the lines of symbiotic relationships found in nature, than perhaps a greater degree of change might be possible, one that does not create the insidious distortions beneficial to power that absorption so often entails.

Fierce opposition always leads to something akin to a cycle of revenge: positions on both sides harden, become further ingrained, more rigid, the longer the antagonism continues to escalate. Both sides become less likely to soften, shift or change.

And yet the more I think about such questions, the more unclear I become as to what this other model might look or feel like. Might it be a model based on listening?

Listening to the enemy? Not dialogue, not some naïve belief in the power of communication. Simple listening as the first step before any move. But what if, as you are listening, all you hear are lies? What if, as you are listening, you receive three bullets in the back of the head (when one bullet would have been utterly sufficient.) How to transition from a state in which listening is dangerous and foolish towards a state in which it is, once again, constructive? Listening for the insecurity behind power. Thinking if there are other ways, less violent ways, to make it feel secure. And once again, as I write, I feel naïve.

Where is power in capital? In the things it makes us do? In the things it allows us to do (to ourselves, to others)? In the things it makes possible: the organization, hierarchy and destruction? The overwhelming imbalances of power that simply could not exist without it.

It seems misguided to attempt to make ‘power feel secure’, but if power is little more than a savage over-compensation for the most violent forms of insecurity, then perhaps there is no other way. But why do I think power is like that? Is it little more than projection. Or is it only because I don’t believe in evil. (No, Hitler wasn’t evil, he was just really, really, really insecure.)

Evolution doesn’t explain everything, no key can unlock every door. Capital is not omnipotent, cannot absorb every single resistance.

Where is the power in capital? In the fact that nothing seems possible without it, without a bit of dosh, that even the homeless panhandle, and must feel they have no choice, that it seems nearly impossible to imagine our world organized in some other way? Capital is not omnipotent, but neither does it have to be in order to maintain a fairly consistent and spectacular control.

Now I am writing in Toronto, the city that instilled in me a deep, but cautious, antipathy towards business, sports and post-modernism.

Nature is not based on competition, it is organized through and around ecosystems. In some sense we could make an analogy between ecosystems and listening.



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