In the middle of writing about narrative and historical imagination for thesis. First chapter, heavily theoretical, and I’m just plodding on. Every now and then, while trying to catch and solidify an idea, I’d pause, stare into space, the entire project just alien and befuddling. Beyond my flailing comprehension. On one hand haven’t done theory in years (happily) and on the other the undertaking is so conceptual and opaque my quarantined brain struggles to keep up. Would pendulum between this is so academic and useless! and doesn’t all this go w/o saying? Of course we imagine ourselves in historical terms and it structures how we narrate our reality. Of course historical reality lends itself to and generates certain ways of narrating it. And?
But: recurring daldal on the value of imaginative work in Arundhati Roy’s online teach-in w/ Haymarket Books a few days back, based loosely on that Financial Times essay. If the pandemic is a portal between worlds, emerging out of it requires imagining the new one to replace an irreparable status quo. Our public health infrastructure, our cities and mobility, food security and land tenure, even popular struggles when existing militarism had nicely dovetailed into milirarist pandemic response.
Harrowing case in point the incident when police shot a supposed quarantine violator who turned out to be a discharged army man suffering from PTSD (not a Marawi veteran as previously reported but did see battle vs NPA cadres in Bicol, another layer of irony). Didn’t watch the videos of course. Couldn’t. The same day circulated another clip, the wunderkind Pasig mayor talking about something important in a Zoom press conference and the screen suddenly blinking to another person’s screen, the background of w/c set to a stock photo of a naked Caucasian man pretending to operate a desktop. Cue side-by-sides of the mayor and surprised Pikachu. From rah-rah vitriol at the transparent injustice of things to what the fuck hahahah. How is the human brain supposed to apprehend, much less process, this?
And yet we do? Or think we do? Oscillation, it has to be said, is routine on social media and have talked elsewhere how its very arrangement and surely complex algorithms conjure a simultaneous variety but also flattening of historical reality. All of media of course mediate our experience of the world, but there is something fundamentally sullying to the imagination about modernity in this guise, and not just in the facile way of things “moving too fast,” although to be sure the capacity for deluge and speed and repetition is another built-in feature. Reminded of Jean-Louis Comolli’s distinction between cinematic technology and the so-called cinema machine, the ‘dispositif’ that implicates cinema’s motivations and desires etc or in short cultural / imaginary relevance. Pause for staring into Foucauldian space.
Didn’t he also argue that cinema is symptomatic of society’s constant preoccupation w/ representing itself (society is a Leo?) and curious now about something similar at work as regards social media, a ‘dispositif’ that can unite the frenetic speed and saturation on the surface w/ the similarly blinding (get it?) frenzy beneath. But is modernity even conducive to such straightforward correspondences and transparencies in light of its distortions, concealments, systematic mystifications (e.g., people rallying behind a sardines company for being ‘political,’ a report on trolling getting swarmed by trolls, RuPaul fracking while championing the welfare of bees, etc.).
A few weeks back someone asked if I could take part in one of them ‘virtual’ events that wonderful people have been organizing as a sort of compromise for all the cancelled events. I sent my regrets, on account of a frayed mental state thanks to Duterte. I truly am sorry, but there was also something strangely gratifying about the chance to concretize, or bring to surface (visibilize?), an otherwise invisible matter. The value of imaginary work then. The speculative. Here’s Bidart: ‘Why do something unless it corresponds to the shape and language of one’s inner life?’