Is Everyman an Island?

brightonpier

Islands are either from before or after humankind.[1] ~ Gilles Deleuze

 William Golding’s Lord of The Flies is an allegory of the death-drive inherent in human nature. It is a reversal of Ballantyne’s The Coral Island. In direct opposition to The Coral Island in which three young men establish the British culture on an island after their ship sinks in the Pacific Ocean, in Lord of The Flies we have children who become deranged and lose control of their aggressive impulses on a deserted island. In the absence of an external authority they become more and more violent. Golding is implying that humankind is violent by nature and the absence of symbolic order initiates a regressive process governed by the unconscious drives leading to violence and destruction.

People prefer security and certainty to truth, they want an unshakable, stable order in which they can feel secure. They want object relations that sustain the conditions of impossibility for dispersal and death. Their will is a will not to truth but to security of the womb. And yet this striving for security itself brings calamities on the subject. For being in pursuit of the past is a product of will to nothingness and will to nothingness is nothing but the desire for death disguised as desire for the mother’s womb. Science attempts to construct the relationship between the subject and its objects in such a way as to serve the ideology, which subjects the individual to certain rules and regulations in the way of manufacturing an illusory sense of security. This is the definition of ideology in a nutshell. For Socrates, as Nietzsche points out in The Birth of Tragedy, one has to be judged before the courts of Logos, become namable, become an object of knowledge, to be able to become nice and good.

How can the good principle win over the bad principle? To answer this question I turn back to Lord of The Flies and Deleuze’s definition of an island as it appears in Desert Islands. An island is the proper place for horror fiction. An island is detached from the external world; it is surrounded by water and is closed in on itself. On an island the subject is alone and this alonenness in the absence of a symbolic order brings the subject closer to its primordial form which is the state of being governed by the death-drive. On an island everything starts anew and progresses in time. A generic singularity is like an island to be sown with the seeds of new forms of life. The concept of island has for a long time been an object standing in for either the dark side or the brighter side of civilization. In Thomas More’s Utopia for instance, we see a better world contrasted with the dark world of the dominant symbolic order in More’s day. Likewise, in Aldous Huxley’s Island we see all the social problems of humanity solved on an Island called Pala. In Pala, family structure, habits of consumption-production, relation to body, healthy living, etc. all take a new form. In Brave New World Huxley had portrayed an exact opposite situation in which a knowledge based on the principles of totalitarianism was the regime governing life, love, and truth.

panopticon1

The island in Lord of The Flies becomes the stage on which the children regress to a primitive state and all their aggressive impulses come to the fore as a result of the absence of certain governing principles imposed on them. Golding’s attitude can easily be considered conservative, or even as advocating the goodness of totalitarianism. His pessimism is divided within itself. It is his intellect that is pessimistic, as for his will it’s highly optimistic. With the pessimism of his intellect he controls his will and keeps optimism at bay. When the intellect is pessimistic it strives to make things better and if the will is ill then this striving to make things better turns into a will to nothingness. Although the intellect seems to be the uniting force, the life-drive, represented by Eros, reverse is the case, for it is will that is the uniting force and the intellect is the splitting force. Intellect splits objects surrounding the subject in the way of attaining an indivisible remainder. Atomization of thought stops when one reaches that indivisible remainder, which is the unsymbolizable traumatic kernel, the real of one’s desire, which is the death-drive. It is only through entry into the symbolic order that the death-drive turns into the life-drive. In this context, we can say that the life-drive belongs to the depressive position and the death-drive belongs to the paranoid-schizoid position. On a deserted island the subject regresses to paranoid-schizoid position and in its detachment becomes aggressive towards the objects surrounding it. Since there is no object at which the subject can direct its aggressiveness the subject turns against itself. On an island there is no object at which the subject can project his bad objects. The bad objects explode like shit and poison the subject which increases the rapidity of deterioration and regress to a state before birth, which is the same state as that of after death. It is on an island that the conflict between the life drive and the death drive emerges on the surface in the form of conflict-events. These conflict-events give birth to symptoms. In the process of turning these symptoms into objects of knowledge the psychoanalyst, philosopher, artist, or scientist, all translate it into acceptable forms, that is, they give forms to affects, percepts, and concepts in the way of making the subject get rid of this fundamental antagonism. All life is conflict and on a deserted island this conflict and the suffering it causes are magnified by inordinate measures. An island is a microscopic setting for the exposition of the other within, the evil, the tyrant, the fascist in everyone of us, to which, according to Nietzsche, not only the intellect but also the will submit.

streetanatomy

Perhaps Nietzsche’s most important contribution to philosophy is not only the distinction he makes between knowledge and truth, but also the asymmetrical relationship he establishes between will and intellect, a reversal of Schopenhauer’s symmetrical model in which the will is portrayed as the exact opposite of intellect. When Nietzsche says “man would much rather will nothingness than not will,” what he wants to say is that man would prefer to want to contain nothingness, that is, introject the emptiness opened by the death of God, rather than prefer not to have anything, which would mean projecting everything in him onto the object cause of desire, hence disqualifying it as bad-object. This also means that the subject ceases to be a subject, but becomes an object of the life-drive. Life-drive, with its unificatory and binding force, constitutes not the subject but the absence of the subject. By imposing a unity on the infinity of the subject as death-drive, Eros subjectivizes the subject in process and turns it into a static entity, an object of desire. It is from then onwards that the subject is shaped as an object of desire under the rule of the symbolic order. To escape from the condition of being caught up in this system which the subject reproduces even when he thinks he is negating it consists in surviving the conflict between the life-drive and the death-drive, in other words, passing across the gap separating knowledge and truth, and fill a space in time as a symbolically self-identical subject, while the Real subject is oppressed and strives to signify the gap inherent in the symbolic order. It is only through splitting the given unities and continuities that the Real subject can manifest itself. This Real can only manifest itself in the form of absences, gaps, splits, which are themselves the openings to the Real of the subject as the death-drive.

It is not only the vicious cycle of the life death drives, but also the ambiguity of the relationship between the life drive and the death drive that is being produced, manipulated and exploited by the global network of militarist-capitalism today. Through a manipulation of the healthy conflict, the relationship between the life and death drives is turned into an unhealthy antagonism. Undecidability, absence of foundational truth procedures, loss of principles, and declarations of the end of history are all manifestations of a discursive disease which is very rapidly contaminating the relationship between humans and their own health. In a world where a normal person must have a therapist, where having a therapist is a sign of normalcy, there can be no other choice but to shake the foundations of the illusions on which the health of many generations to come depends.

the spirits

In Julio Cortazar’s short story Axolot, for instance, we read the main character realizing that the type of fish called Axolot stand still in water with no movement at all, a kind of motionless flight. With this realization the character commits himself to becoming like those fish himself. At the end of the story he sees everyone outside of himself as an Axolot fish. He has become an axolot himself. He has gone beyond the finitude of his existence. He becomes altogether immobile, merely an observer, watching people, life, opportunities, and time pass by. Eventually he becomes imperceptible. Here and now everything is continually changing towards becoming-imperceptible. Time turns something into nothing. Everything is in time only for a short period of time. Then everything disappears in a neutral and full light.

To have dismantled one’s self in order finally to be alone and meet the true double at the other end of the line. A clandestine passenger on a motionless voyage. To become like everybody else; but this, precisely, is a becoming only for one who knows how to be nobody, to no longer be anybody. To paint oneself gray on gray.[2]

Carrying out an intervention in the course of events, introducing a split into the continuity of things requires learning how not to be produced by the image factory which captures desire in a certain order of signification mechanism so as to turn the subject into a copy of the products of the image factory, or into the object of the other’s interpretation  and identification processes. To become capable at least to subvert the codes of the capitalist axiomatics which produces desire as the desire of nothingness and death, this subject should come to a realization that he/she is already caught up in the projection-introjection mechanism. So the subject has to learn to use the projection-introjection mechanism in such a way as to sustain the conditions for the impossibility of wickedness in the form of exclusive and illusory constructions of the Real. Surviving the absence of a transcendental signified in a “time out of joint” requires learning to love the object of desire for what it is rather than for what it resembles. This is to love and live without projective identification, without paranoid reactions to the other, without possessing the other, or without confining the other within the boundaries of the self. One has to cease to be somebody and learn to become nobody so as to create a difference in and for itself and affirm this difference by affirming the difference of that which is not I.

That which is not and that which is give birth to one another, and their coming into being takes place at the same time. This process is one of the ways in which truth manifests itself, perhaps it is itself the truth of the truth in-itself. The truth and the real are not the same thing; something can be real and/but not true and inversely. Silence, for instance, is golden but it has no truth. Silence is real but it doesn’t manifest a truth, neither does it produce one. That said, not all speech is true but there are speeches that are…

This is it for the time being, the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind with a twist, as that which is nothing to me, behind the image of which there is a she who will live longer than he. It is it, the I within my I which is not I. It speaks of something in me more than me and tells me the stories of life after death, a new life before which death itself is murdered.

I can feel your pain

Reference Matter

1. Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Michael Taormina (New York: Semiotext(e), 2004), 9

2. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (University of Minnesota Press: Minnesota, 1988), 197

8 thoughts on “Is Everyman an Island?

  1. Pingback: Expulsion of the Negative and Affirmation of Life are Mutually Exclusive (via senselogic) + The Pre-Socratics: A Case Study (via An Excavation of Ideas) | SenseLogic

  2. As always you hit the mark! Reading this I kept waiting for J.G. Ballard’s ‘Concrete Island’ or Muriel Spark’s ‘Robinson’ or a multitude of other islands of the subjectal to show up.

    Julio Cortazor a fav…. When you said: “He has gone beyond the finitude of his existence. He becomes altogether immobile, merely an observer, watching people, life, opportunities, and time pass by. Eventually he becomes imperceptible. Here and now everything is continually changing towards becoming-imperceptible. Time turns something into nothing. Everything is in time only for a short period of time. Then everything disappears in a neutral and full light.” I kept thinking of Zizek’s:

    “The basic temporal paradox of the fantasy consists precisely in this ‘nonsensical’ temporal short-circuit whereby the subject qua pure gaze so to speak precedes itself and witnesses its own origin” : this is that reduction to nothingness, the subtraction that reduces us out of the equation either to the point of inception (birth) or finality (death) where we see the One become two… and, yet, there never was a One! The incongruence of this paradox is the moment we discover the failure of the Real as the gap or black hole that allows us who are nothing and no-one to fill the Void between the voids beyond the death drive.

  3. Thanks again Craig, your comments are really valuable for me, but I’m a bit too shy apparently, perhaps to the point of being rather a-social, but definitely not anti-social… So I’m following you silently, quietly appreciating your work which is like a touch of fresh breath on the academic body… I left dealing with Ballard and Spark to you, although not so intentionally of course, for that which is not and that which is give birth to one another, and their coming into being takes place at the same time… This process is one of the ways in which truth manifests itself, perhaps it is itself the truth of the truth in-itself. The truth and the real are not the same thing; something can be real and/but not true and inversely… Silence, for instance, is golden but it has no truth… Silence is real but it doesn’t manifest a truth, neither does it produce one… That said, not all speech is true but there are speeches that are. This is it for the time being, the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind with a twist, as that which is nothing to me, behind the image of which there is a she who will live longer than he… It is it, the I within my I which is not I… It speaks of something in me more than me and tells me the stories of life after death, a new life before which death itself is murdered…

  4. Pingback: Artaud, Deleuze and The Will to Nothingness | Senselogi©

  5. Pingback: Lord of the Fleas | Dadicus Grinch

  6. Coming to this again a year later …with a pair of new eyes evidently, as I now read things I haven’t before. To be read in the interrogative. You write beautifully, and not just because truthfully. Thank you seems such a meagre thing to say, and yet…

  7. Pingback: Lord of the Fleas | Dadicus Grinch

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s