Friday, March 14, 2008

It's not Chicken

A thread on Marxmail reminded me Freud’s definition of myths as "distorted vestiges of the wishful fantasies of whole nations, the secular dreams of youthful humanity". Like Marx criticizes the German idealist for not grasping the "connection of German philosophy with German reality", Freud criticizes previous approaches to dream interpretation for not recognizing dream as a psychic activity and not comprehending its relation with material physical life.

A hilarious thing occurred today when I suddenly entered the next room where my brother and his friend were watching TV. At the moment of my entrance, glancing at me with an expression of uneasiness my brother said: "Let's switch the channel, he could make comment!" Presumably they were watching a political debate ridden with myths of Turkish nationalism about the recent incursion to Northern Iraq. And I felt myself like commercials disturbing the enjoyment to participate the ideological sleep:

"Sleep is a condition in which I wish to have nothing to do with the external world, and have withdrawn my interest from it. I put myself to sleep by withdrawing myself from the external world and by holding off its stimuli. I also go to sleep when I am fatigued by the external world. Thus, by going to sleep, I say to the external world, "Leave me in peace, for I wish to sleep." Conversely, the child says, "I won't go to bed yet, I am not tired, I want to have some more fun." The biological intention of sleep thus seems to be recuperation; its psychological character, the suspension of interest in the external world. Our relation to the world into which we came so unwillingly, seems to include the fact that we cannot endure it without interruption." (Freud, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis)

I was the objective external stimuli that incites the dream, "the guardian of sleep". Then I quickly left the room.

Lately, I assumed that I am going mad since I've begun to detect a continuous ideological message in the regular language of mainstream Turkish media. It is extremely annoying to the extent that it is unbearable for me to watch TV or read newspapers except sports news. I was undergoing an ideological abuse looking for an excuse to state that "The sun is not yellow it's chicken". But I realized that my madness is not because I do perceive a thing that doesn't exist. I am accurately detecting the occurrences of the coarse ideological massages. But I am not capable to internalize it, or recognize it as a routine expression of everyday language, or receive the message in its original form, or entrench the massage in my perception without turning it inside out. When I run across the ideological message, I typically point out the sun and cry out: "Here! It is yellow and it is not chicken". Therefore I am mad.

We can combine Freud’ two definitions: Myths are the disguised fulfillments of the social wishes that serve individual to preserve his or her sanity by participating in social insanity. I can't conserve my sanity as long as I am not capable to participate:

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
What if I've come here accidentally?
Comrade Renegade Eye wrote:

“If the masses wake up, you'll have a different outlook.

At least when you go into a dream state, you do it armed with probably more insight than you desire.”


Hello Ren,

I don’t think masses are in a state of continuous ideological sleep. The paradoxical absurdity in Alice’s situation is she is unaware of the actuality that she is dreaming. But other characters of the Wonderland are conscious that they are the ingredients of a dream. Actually, Cheshire Cat says Alice: “If you are not mad, why are you dreaming about me?

Marx elucidates his thoughts on mythology at the end of the first chapter of Grundrisse:

“From another side: is Achilles possible with powder and lead? Or the Iliad with the printing press, not to mention the printing machine? Do not the song and the saga and the muse necessarily come to an end with the printer’s bar, hence do not the necessary conditions of epic poetry vanish?”

There is a significant similarity in both Freud’s and Marx’s approaches to Mythology. They both regard it as wishful fantasies that rise above the infantile stage of development of societies.

We are aspiring after a world, a higher stage in the development of society, in which humankind are able to endure the external life without interruption.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t manage to sleep nowadays (literally). It is not for that I’ve overcome the alienation from external life, but the stimuli of external life are so powerful that it doesn’t allow me to sleep. This the perfect condition of a revolution.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Images of Women

While I was thinking on the question of women, suddenly a strange idea came to my mind. I decided to match some images of contemporary women with Baudrillard's last three phases of the image:

1) "It masks and perverts a basic reality" (a poster designed by Turkish Army to celebrate International Women's Day):

While I was in preparation class for high school, we were studying English for 25 hours a week. I was eleven and it was the most fascinating experience that I had ever had. As my imagination was pulsated with fantasies prepossessed by Jules Verne, Gulliver, Ivanhoe, etc I remember that I was spending some of my time by burying my head into a worn-out atlas and daydreaming about the exotic people that speak with mysterious words. There came an English lady teaching us a new, unthinkable words with stories. We were reading Longman Target English books and every word that we learned was associated with an anecdote about Adams family. “Lilly is a gossip, Molly is a gossip too” was a legendary maxim of that fictional and imaginary revolution etched in my mind. Unfortunately, we had spent the subsequent six years by studying the freakin’ English grammar. Of course we read some samples from English literature but everything about the English language turned into perfunctory wanderings of the arrested development of this revolution. Then I had lost all my interest and passed the examinations by cheating in all the possible techniques that you can imagine. As the English courses were not innovative enough to stimulate my imagination, I invested my creativity for the novelty in the art of cheating.

The image above is the poster designed by Turkish Army to celebrate International Women's Day. At the left side there is a quote form Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the chief of Kemalist revolution: “Our women ought to be much more enlightened, much more productive, much more knowledgeable then men”. This poster is signifying the utopic juggle of semi-capitalist Turkish Army (Turkish Army possesses one of the biggest holding companies in Turkey, OYAK, mostly associated with French capital) as a counter demonstration against the recent disgraceful quarrel on headscarf. There is a herd of five petit-bourgeois women here, representing a military officer, a doctor, a lawyer and presumably a bank manager and a girl who seems like an accountant. As you may noticed, there is no place for underpaid working-class women, unpaid farm women, typically headscarfed scrubwomen, usually uneducated baby sitter women who look after the kids of those petit-bourgeois women, girls that subjected by honor-killings, women yoked with prostitution who ruin the “blessed” marriages of those women in the image, illiterate Kurdish women and girls deprived of access even to the rubbish Turkish wisdom awashed with nationalist agitation, and numerous class of women despised and oppressed that I forgot to enumerate. The deplorable conditions of the Turkish women who were not represented in the image are the symptom of Turkish bourgeois.

After the War of Independence, and ensuring some formal political rights for women by the goodwill of Kemalist Enlightenment, subsequently Kemalist revolution recalled its authentic roots composed of merchandise capitalists, local landlords, insignificant number of industrial capitalists and mandatory assistance of foreign capital. This is where the development of condition of Turkish women has been arrested. The question of Turkish women has been reduced to a robotic discursive illusion abstracted from the factual disgrace towards working-class women. It is now functioning as competiton of novelity in the kitschart of cheating. As Baudrillard said, the image above “is an evil appearance: of the order of malefice”. Meanwhile, in fact, I am seduced by the image of sterile petit-bourgeois women. It made me itching to write a novel like Marquis de Sade.

2) "It masks the absence of a basic reality":

When I defined the image of veiled Iranian women as “It masks the absence of a basic reality.” there are two mysterious (at least for me) Lacanian ideas in my mind: The curtain is the idol of absence. and the reality is the lack of intersubjectivity. Therefore, I don’t consider veil and the Sharia dress codes as tools to make women invisible or hide them from the public gaze. For instance, the reality of capitalist exploitation is the lack of intersubjectivity between capitalist and labourer that manifests itself as the twofold meaning of surplus value. And the reality of the oppression of Muslim women is the lack of consensus on the classification of women’s role in the society, originates from the ideological exertion to subjugate the secular world to the spirituality of Islam. But, after 1500 years, this perverted “REALITY” has no factual foundation in secular-material world. Thus, instead of being an instrument of the concealment of a basic reality, the Shaira dress code functions as a mask to conceal the absence of the reality. Because, there is no scientific and convincing evidence to justify the antiquated gaze that perceives woman “as the source of ‘corruption’ and ‘chaos’.” Then, the only choice for Muslim rulers is to exhibit the veiled women body as the idol of deception and seduction which does not fit the reality.

3) It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum:

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Council of Ex-Muslims

I wrote the letter below to salute Ms. Namazie's “Council of Ex-Muslims:
Dear Maryam,

To begin, I would like to congratulate you on your courageous endeavor to establish an organization that will hopefully fill the absence of virtual fraternity of Islam with secular solidarity. If the “Council of Ex-Muslims” will give hope someone, it is primarily as a result of the organizational power that overcomes the limitations of individual struggles.

In his "Philosophy of History” Hegel properly defines the distinctive feature of Islam: “The worship of the One is the only final aim of Mahometanism, and subjectivity has this worship for the sole occupation of its activity, combined with the design to subjugate secular existence to the One.” This is where the stubborn resistance of Islam outbreaks as a misleading symptom in the body of bourgeois modernism: The spiritual vapor that claims dominance on behalf of its supreme universality in the material world now finds itself squashed in the universal engine that melts all that is solid in the air. Unfortunately, this engine is not capable to vaporize the absolute vapor. What renders Islam and its universal spirituality political, as related with the power struggle for decision making on this-worldly affairs is exactly this incompetence of liberal world order. Just like the protagonist of Terry Gilliam’s magnificent movie “Brazil”, who suddenly finds himself as an enemy of the state on the course of his quest to find the girl of his dreams in the depths of bureaucracy, Islam has detected its imaginary political expression in the midst of liberal capitalism where the politics is relentlessly being vaporized.

This is the reason why I previously proposed Atheism within the shortcomings of neo-liberal order as a genuine solution to retard the rise of the fundamentalist enthusiasm among working-class Muslims. Demands for a more strict practice of secularism is like my bizarre habit that I carry out when I have to get up early and have little time to sleep: I always set up my environment and sleeping position as uncomfortable as possible to discourage the enjoyment of sleeping. But as the verification of Lacanian interpretation of the act of awakening, I always end up inventing the most horrifying nightmares to repress the disturbance of the external effects and enable myself to sleep for a little more.

Therefore, rigorously secularist projects are doomed to seduce the fundamentalism in the consciousness of working class Muslims. Secularism is the archenemy of the religion that hunts for the total domination of its spirituality (which knows no social bond other than the worship to God) over material world. I find it very remarkable how intellectuals often miss the connotation of the Islamic concept of “jihad”: It is not simply warfare against infidels but at the same time the struggle to expand the spiritual battlefield on which believers and infidels will exchange blows till the Judgment Day. Even the concept of sin is not exempt from the will of God: “If Allah so willed, He could make you all one people: But He leaves straying whom He pleases, and He guides whom He pleases” (16:93). Its symptomatic intolerance is more vindictive towards everything that ridicules its spiritual universality: especially towards bourgeois modernism which has compelled man “to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

I think secularism is a "passage to the act” for the fundamentalism of Islam. It resolves the anxiety among working class Muslims and provokes courage for act of militant Islamism. For instance, prohibition of religious symbols from public sphere invites Muslims to attach themselves with closed circuit of fundamentalist communities.

On the other hand, in an incredibly ironical fashion Atheism is almost complementary with Islam: Atheism as an inverted spirituality due to its intact form that is still mediated with the absence of God is the perfect adversary of Islam. (No regrets! I frequently rant and rave about my indomitable Atheism as a reflective political stance). Spiritual battlefield is only maintainable with the existence of identically devout foes eager to clash their ideas. Maybe, in this vein, we might persuade some of the Muslims of working class oppressed both by Muslim leaders and bourgeois modernism:

“Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV,
And you think you're so clever and classless and free,
But you're still fucking peasents as far as I can see,
A working class hero is something to be”

I think genuine remedy of religious fanaticism and the ground for an authentic and unmediated solidarity is socialism: the real political emancipation which has the capacity to dispel the battleground of abstract ideas… I hope you would not take offense to my well-intentioned criticism. My criticism also comprises my affirmation. I always have doubts about agreements without contradictions.