Perhaps because I am easily fatigued and often fatuous, I like the word indefatigable, its too-many syllables beaded along a quick, trochaic string. I also like Juliana Spahr’s new book, The Transformation, an indefatigable memoir-of-sorts, although the term memoir fits this work about as well as it does A la recherche du temps perdu.
Despite or maybe because of its contraindication here, and following some of the discussion on Josh's blog about aesthetics and ethics, I’m reminded of Badiou’s own notion (in Ethics: an Essay on the Understanding of Evil) of a non-normative ethics (and hence, a kind of anti-ethics in his definition)—that is, an ethics not based upon norms or protocols but one where, in the aftermath of a significant “event,” certain resistant forms of relating stabilize and come into being, certain individual and collective subjects to which anyone can claim allegiance. Ethics, in this formulation, involves remaining faithful to these subjects in a positive, affirmative manner. The only thing that is un-ethical in such a situation is either, on the one hand, losing faith when it is still possible to continue under the aegis of the event or, on the other hand, trying to force such inter-relationships through norms and protocols rather than through voluntaristic allegiance.
In Spahr’s book, there are, broadly, three such events: the advent of her love relationship with two other people (and the triangle’s “indefatigable” self-affirmation in the face of others’ bafflement); the U.S. colonization of Hawaii, and the resistance that it requires or makes possible; and the attacks of 9/11 which, as we know, reshuffle existing political formulations and require for the left a deep reconsideration of its political strategies.
The triangular relationship, which is the center of the book, and carries over from the second situation to the third, forms a kind of model for this ethics, I think. A form of ambivalence—a both-meaning—that precisely doesn’t mean lacking conviction or lacking the will to act. If it is an ethics, it is not one that sets down norms, rules or procedures but rather that seeks to find ways that one might persevere within a particular situation. In this it’s a powerful and moving model of the kinds of open-ended vigilance and fortitude that the present state of the disaster requires.
Speaking of which, if you haven’t read already, do look at this disturbing summary of the conclusions drawn from The Nation’s extensive interviews with current and former Iraq War soldiers. That the American occupation involves the continuous, ubiquitous killing, maiming and humiliating of millions of Iraqis will no doubt not surprise most of my readers, but it’s probably some of the best evidence of the extent and progressive worsening of these atrocities. A good thing to point to if you’re in conversation with someone who wants to claim that such events are rare—that is, someone who only reads mainstream new sources.
Needless to say, another reason we shouldn’t need for an immediate withdrawal and not the absurd troop-reduction-and-extensive-bombing plan we would likely get with Colonels Clinton and Obama (both of whom just signed off on an attack on