S.C. Hickman on The Immortal Subject Beyond the Life Death Drives

“The creature called human can cease being a passive non-being and become an active being only insofar as it produces love against the negative power of the already existing capitalist law. As we all know, the laws’ negative impositions give birth to the vicious cycle of the life and death drives, which is in turn exploited in the way of more money.”
– Cengiz Erdem

Living outside ourselves we are guided not by the Real but by the inner compulsions of a drive toward the last flowering of the negative force we call Death; but, death, is not itself creative, it is only the truth-event of life as it changes place with the symbolic order of Life in its dark mode of entropy: a god of no thing and nothingness. Cengiz Erdem in his new essay tells us that with “the domination of nihilist global capitalism all over the world social life has become a masquerade.” I’m reminded of Bruno Schulz for whom the “substance of … reality is in a state of incessant fermentation, of germination, of potential life. There are no dead, solid or restricted objects. Everything is diffused beyond its own boundaries, enduring in a particular form only for a moment, to quit it at the first opportunity.”[1] He saw this world, its customs and manners as being guided by a certain kind of principle, what he termed “panmasqueradium”. Schulz says this of it:

Reality adopts certain forms for appearance’s sake alone, only as a joke, for a game. One person is a person, and another a cockroach, but such forms do not reach the essence; they are merely roles, assumed only for a moment, like an outer skin that, a moment later, is cast off. A certain radical monism of substance is evinced here, in which individial objects are only masks. The life of this substance depends on its using up a vast number of masks. This meandering of forms is its life essence. There emanates from that substance, therefore, the aura of a kind of pan-irony. A backstage, behind-the-scenes atmosphere is ever present, in which the actors, having taken off their costumes, now crease up with laughter at the pathos of their roles. The very fact of individual existence implies irony, leg-pulling, and a clownish poking-out of the tongue.”

Erdem on the other hand would not situate his philosophy within a “radical monism” as Schulz does, instead he is closer to those latter day prophets of the nihil, Nietzsche and Zizek, both Transcendental Materialists in which people drink Diet-Coke as a means toward drinking “nothing in the guise of something”; or, as Nietzsche stated it: “let us grasp this—a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a rebellion against the most fundamental presuppositions of life; but it is and remains a will!… And, to say again at the end what I said at the beginning: man would much rather will nothingness than not will…”.

Erdem speaking of the banality of consciousness tells us that when we think of death “this thought never takes place in terms of the death of the self. It is always through the death of the other that the subject thinks of death. It is always a “they” who die. Death is conceived as a symbolic incident. The reason of that reductive attitude towards death is the will to preserve the banality of ordinary reality and sustain the conditions for the possibility of an illusory sense of oneness with the world. All this, of course, is done to keep the Real of the external world at bay.” He says we are now closed off in a transglobal symbolic order in which none of us can “stand the thought of the outside”, none of us can “conceive the absence of an external world within” ourselves. “The fear of death is so strong that with the force of its negativity it totally negates death in life, erases the slash in life/death, and vainly erects statues to attain immortality.”

The work of work is to keep us distracted, to keep us entertained in a void, to keep us “busy for the sake of the business of not thinking death.” Objects are situated between us and that final termination point which is our death. As Erdem tells us what “we witness in this time is life turned into a project aiming at erasing the silence necessary for thought; and not only erasing but also replacing it with an unceasing noise causing nausea.” In an eloquent if disquieting passage Erdem continues, saying:

“The infinite, then, is within finitude, so in order to think the infinite we have to think the finite, that is, the thought of death. Although the thought of death has a high price which the subject pays by a loss of mental and physical health, it is nevertheless useful in opening up the way to limit experiences. The death drive devastates the predominant conceptualisations of the “good” of civilized progress and the “bad” of barbaric regress. The subject of the death drive situates itself as the traitor on the opposite pole of belief and faith in immortality. In the place of statues representing immortality, it erects nothing. That way it confronts the promised land of total security and harmony with a world governed by the anxiety of the feeling of being surrounded by nothingness. In this world there remains no ground beneath the symbolic order. Death is in the midst of life; it is life that surrounds death.”

In the midst of this new world a new type of being arises, one that senses its newness, that spits in the face of the old symbolic order, that wanders freely amid the rubble and detritus of our present civilization like a god new born: this is the posthuman other in our midst, a stranger in a strange land, that has found in this dark presage of a new genesis a new order beyond all symbolic imaginaries; yet, still in touch with the oldest elements of its own dark heritage, this new type of being is reconciled only to the living and dead that have given it birth, willing it from the ‘will of the depths’ within its own encrusted self – an identity that is a non-identity, an object manifesting itself as pure non-relation, that relates as it is and wills. No longer driven by those impersonal forces of Life Death Drives, and neither their master nor their slave, it has turned the corner of being and rocked the foundations of both the polarization of Being and Void by being that creature that lives out the truth-event of Life and Death as the unique marker of an immortality within the abyss.

Erdem tells us it is high time for us to break free of this prison of the global symbolic order, to escape our finitude, to enter into a new imaginative struggle against “this vicious cycle of Capitalism and its governor, liberal-democracy, based on unjust representations, in order to create, produce or present the realm of love beyond the rotary motion of drives.” He imagines our voyage beyond, but not an immaterial beyond of angelic presences nor of false heavens within which we can all magically live ever-happily after in a paradise of unreasoning poetic distance; no, instead, he envisions a scenarion in which “immortality is not something to be attained, rather, it is a virtual potential or an actual capacity within every mortal being, awaiting to be realised. The realisation of the immortality within us, or the realisation of the infinite potential that life contains, depends on our proper use of our powers of imagination. Let us imagine ourselves as immortal beings then, which we already are, but cannot enact because of the finitude imposed upon us by the already existing symbolic order.”

Then he asks: Would we need to get out of this order to become immortal? And, he answers with a Yes and No, saying: “Yes, because the within which we said infinity resides is a within which is exterior only from the point of view of the already existing order. No, because only from within the already existing order can we present an outside of this order, “an outside” in Deleuze’s words apropos of Foucault and Blanchot, “which is closer than any interiority and further away than any exteriority.”

Erdem turns to Badiou who in his Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil where he iterated his critical stance toward human rights advocates who would reduce being human to “being a mortal animal”; and, although, he agreed that, yes, we are mortal animals he also affirmed against the deprecatory tone of human rights advocates “the immortal subject, or rather, the subject who is capable of realising his/her immortality.” Erdem meditating on Badiou’s distinction against Heidegger’s equation of being in the world and being toward death affirms that “consciousness of human finitude merely serves to justify a life driven by death.” He goes on to propose:

“I therefore propose a consciousness of infinitude rather than of finitude for a sustenance of the conditions of possibility for an ethical life and for an ethical death. For when you think about it, if we were immortal, that is, if our lives were eternal, we wouldn’t be so destructive of the environment, not so harsh on nature and one another, because no one would want to live in such a hell eternally. Since it is obvious that as humans we have been turning the world into a hell in the name of progress for a while now, and since death has been the end from which we have come to think we have been striving to escape in this progressive process, it is obvious that a forgetting of death, or rather, a remembering to forget our mortality would make us fear an eternal life in hell, rather than a finite life in an illusory heaven.”

In a more pointed attack on the premises of global capitalism and its use of the governing force of “exploitation of life and death drives, that it is based on our fear of death and consciousness of finitude, it becomes clearer why a subtraction of death from life not only shakes, but also annihilates the foundations of capitalism.” He goes on to tells us that his critical mode of judgment as employed throughout the article has been a movement toward a new field in which “the conditions are created for the possibility of a decision beyond the Law of Militarist Capitalism and the Welfare State driven by and driving the exploitation of mortality on a massive scale.”

He has been exploring an imaginary: the idea of an immortal subject, of one who is after Deleuze and Derrida, non-identical. Erdem now tells us that for him ” a transcendental ground is necessary only to the extent that it enables the subject to shake the foundation of its own mode of being and opens a field for immanent critique to take place. In other words, the untimely indifference of immortality is required in order to actively engage in an exposition of the exploitation of mortality in this time.” After Nietzsche he affirms that certain illusions are needed, and yet the beliefs in civilized progress and barbaric regress are to be dropped in any new critique, instead what is needed is the recognition that “a third possibility of developmental process is emerging in the form of a becoming-reconciled which is based on the recognition of the otherness of the other as it is, that is, prior to the additions and the subtractions imposed upon the self and the other, nature and culture, life and death. For a non-normative and progressive work it is necessary for the participants to become capable of making distinctions between their natures and cultures, their cliniques and critiques. It is a matter of realizing that theory and practice are always already reconciled and yet the only way to actualise this reconciliation passes through carrying it out and across by introducing a split between the subject of statement (the enunciated) and the subject of enunciation.”

Between those two enunciations we are situated like wavering angels in an immortal battle between the Life Death Drives that enforce their own laws like guardians of an unforgettable memory of a new genesis beyond the human. Like all journeys this one is unfinished and the most we can hope for in the long run is perhaps that “we should indeed know that absolute reconciliation is impossible and yet still strive to reconcile ourselves as much as we can to all the living and the dead.”

Read the complete essay at: The Immortal Subject beyond the Life Death Drives

1. Letter to S.I. Witkiewicz

via Dark Chemistry

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