Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Geology of Repression, Part I

I want to resume our discussion of how it would be possible to speak responsibly of desiring of one’s own repression.

It has been asserted in a very covert and unexamined way at the Enlightenment Underground that the process of “desiring one’s own repression” is at the heart of the worst manifestations of politics and political economy, but is it? Can we know that it is? We haven’t ever really been very specific about what we even mean by this little phrase – and I think it is time that we start taking some steps to be specific.

I take the “desiring of one’s own repression” to mean that one is engaged in processes of production which do not further one’s own flourishing, but rather inhibit it.

Immediately, though, there are problems.

How does one know what is or is not one’s own flourishing? I might consider driving at 100 mph to get to work as quickly as possible to be in furtherance of my own flourishing, and the laws which say that I can’t do that legally, and will be punished if I’m caught, to be inhibitions of that flourishing. Stepping back a moment, though, and I’ll have reasons to reconsider: I doubt that I’ll consider driving at 100 mph to be for my own flourishing if I’m in an accident doing that, or if I cause someone else to have an accident…. Upon which, they might very well consider as the furtherance of their own flourishing to punch me in the face.

So, I have to modify this little formula to take into consideration physical and social realities of a myriad nature that act upon what I want or think or do in any real situation. I have to acknowledge – to think and to reflect - that my desire to speed may provide momentary gratification but at some great risk to my health and well-being; that I live in a society with other members who have every bit as much right to the furtherance of their own flourishing as I do, and that I cannot wantonly inhibit their flourishing without potential for damaging reactions.

Here, I can pause for a moment and note that in our taking up of this little bromide, “ desiring one’s own repression,” we are hiding from ourselves very basic and elementary considerations of political thinking… it is as if we are using the phrase to beg off of the most rudimentary political and ethical questions.

Maybe ‘repression’ is the restraint and limitation placed on oneself which is in excess of any reasonable demand of restraint and limitation placed on oneself by nature and society.

Yes, maybe. But this sort of definition contains so much wiggling around room that it is by and large worthless. Is there any way to determine where the demands and restraints placed upon me by nature and society become excessive?

I think that democratic societies deal with that issue all of the time and are constantly deciding whether or not this or that imposed requirement is too much and needs to be altered. The excessive restraints and limitations imposed by nature also seem to be lifted and made less onerous by the progress of technology – so there does seem to be some real sense in which these demands are seen as severe and are modified in a direction which provides relief.

If it is the case that natural or social restraints and limitations in excess of what could be seen as necessary or desirable are palliated by changing of laws and mores or by technological advances of various kinds, and these sorts of changes occur often enough – and in the case of technological advance, almost too rapidly - why give central importance to the idea that what’s going wrong is “desiring of one’s own repression”?

I want to get back to lobsters, bats, Gillie-boy, and strata, but I want to pick up some of the old strands which motivated Enlightenment Underground to begin in the first place, become more clear about why, and then actually advance… even if, albeit, rather weirdly.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dear Yusef,

I have been mulling over a reaction to your extremely relevant question about "desiring of one's own repression".

I'm not there yet, but let me throw out the whole concept (yes! - that WORD) of Autopoiesis, as originally introduced by Chilean biologists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana in 1973:

"An autopoietic machine is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network."

"[…] the space defined by an autopoietic system is self-contained and cannot be described by using dimensions that define another space. When we refer to our interactions with a concrete autopoietic system, however, we project this system on the space of our manipulations and make a description of this projection."

A good example is the eye.

Its purpose, like most organs, is to SHUT OUT the outside world. It is a "survival machine" that is only interested in maintaining and protecting itself.

So, when the external environment is too much of a burden, it creeps into itself, refusing to accept any more stimulation and encroachment. It closes (its eye) as a true "autopoietic machine" in order to ensure its survival.

In other words: Isn't it possible that we "desire our own repression" as a (Nietzschean) life-affirming protection to remain STRONG and VITALISTIC?

I would appreciate your comments on this (slightly?) weird digression. I value your thinking.

PS: Would you PLEASE read the latest inspiring post on Repeating the Enlightenment at:

Orla Schantz

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Yusef Asabiyah said...

Hi Orla,

What I want to do is to tell a several-part story which narrates this progression:

1)Western philosophy in the long duration in which an idea of repression couldn't be formulated;

2)Emergence of the idea of repression, and a little bit about how and why the idea got put together;

3)Burying and folding of the idea of repression shortly thereafter into strata,( the concept of strata ?) wherein the mechanics of the strata are real and relevant and replace the more nebulous and subjectivizing notions collectively known under the heading of repression.

There's a lot of ground here, and as I typically tend to wend and wander and sometimes schizophrenically lose track of my topic altogether, I expect that this may be an area where it will be particularly hard for me to keep it together.

Thanks for the opportunity to converse with you.


1:12 PM  

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