23 February 2009

Waves Of Peculiarity

An essay I just wrote, titled 'Waves Of Peculiarity' is now up on Phoresia.

Go and read it and then read, The Garden Of Peculiarity by Jesus Sepulveda.

Chapter 24

In 1987, J.A. Lagos Nilsson published in Buenos Aires the anarchist manifesto "Contracultura y provocaciĆ³n" (Counterculture and Provocation), in opposition to the hackneyed terms culture and civilization, terms which were utilized by the dictatorships of Argentina and Chile to justify themselves and rationalize their genocidal practices. For Lagos Nilsson, the cultural world is a model, a pattern, a frame, or a reference: it is what standardizes. In this way, standardizing culture and civilization are a product of the expansion of instrumental reason, which is manifested psychologically as the projection of the ego over nature. Alienation produces the estrangement of the subject from the world, causing the subject to become strange to the external world and to him or herself. This is the sickness that is transmitted in the pipeline of ideology. In this whirlwind, only art and poetry liberate and de-alienate. This liberating action is rooted in the counterculture, which is nothing more than a form of a meaningful provocation. For obvious reasons, the counterculture negates the official culture and advocates for the right of peculiarity. Clearly then, counterculture does not make pacts or coexist with power, although the latter tries to co-opt the former. If it achieves co-option, counterculture becomes nothing more than a fetish of consumption, or a museum piece that power hangs on the lapel of its jacket like a military medal.

Power perpetuates itself through the practice of repression and the sickness of alienation. If it is true that alienation is a practice of the symbolic, it still is not necessarily an expression of symbolic culture. The distinction between the symbolic and symbolic culture permits one to distinguish between representation and the reifying substitution of reality, and the aesthetic manifestation of being. Confusing civilization with culture means mixing two equidistant manifestations. Civilization is the projection of instrumental reason. Its most sublime expression is embedded in the cities, which, legitimized as second nature, organize the process of ideological and social training in modern subliminal concentration camps. Culture, instead, when it emanates from the subject, is a form of being, or a counterculture. Culture regulates itself through the interaction of being. In civilization, on the other hand, whose game board of interaction is the market, true self-regulating mechanisms do not exist, since its base of support is utility, profit and usury. Civilization is, therefore, one-dimensional.
In contrast, culture is multiple, peculiar and multifaceted. What orients the forms of cultural manifestation is being. Doing relates to manipulation and production. And while this can be a creative act, it is profoundly tied to instrumental functionality. Being and creation interweave the thread of culture. Truly, we all have culture, that is, a way of being. And if it is true that culture mediates our experience, then our being is cultural.
The struggles of the indigenous communities in Latin America are nothing less than the battle for the defense of their culture against the penetration of the civilizing machine and standardizing culture. The culture of a community is the aesthetic manifestation of its communitarian being. This is symbolic culture.
Neanderthal men and women, who disappeared approximately thirty thousand years ago, created polished rock figurines and constructed flutes from bear bones which were capable of playing as many as three musical notes: do, re, mi. They also had a form of communication and spiritual and artistic activities. Symbolic culture does not necessarily drive down a civilizing highway with no exit. The Maya, for example, abandoned their cities without any explanation. It is likely that they had understood in some moment, that their civilization was not sustainable, although there is no concrete proof of that. It is also possible that they had a clear understanding that the technology that they would develop would be so drastic that they would not be able to return to the earth what they had taken from it. This cosmology of retribution still forms a part of the symbolic culture of the Maya, whose understanding of nature easily surpasses the modern western cosmologies.
In contrast with the Mayan culture, western civilization and its replicas have provoked nothing but the accelerated destruction of nature. When Marcuse proposes that history negates nature, he refers to civilizing culture and standardization and not human culture as the expression of being. The manifestation of being is aesthetic and cultural. This manifestation turns radical when it becomes the peculiar expression of being. For this reason, to negate a person's way of being is to colonize him or her. This practice reproduces the expansive impulse of civilization, which is nothing more than the destruction of nature and human beings. Civilization, therefore, colonizes and domesticates culture, reducing it to a standard category of the official culture. To not recognize that every creature on the planet has a manner of being, every cat, bird, plant, flower, ourselves is to negate the peculiarity of nature. To negate culture is to standardize. Human beings have different ways of being. Everyone sees, feels and appreciates the world culturally. Every culture is peculiar. Constellations of peculiarities are cultural forms that turn into the idiosyncrasies of subjects.
The genocides and ecocides of the North and South American continents have moved in one main direction: to negate indigenous culture. Culture, indeed, is counter to civilization. They are not synonymous, but distinct territories.

Civilization implies standardization; culture, peculiarity.

-Jesus Sepulveda