Pro-Agonism/Anti-Agonism in American Politics & the Age of Social Networking  *

* an excerpt from a longer text which, among a number of similarly analogous texts in terms of their contexts, collectively query the definitions of 21st century art —- digital &/or otherwise



For Agonism, conflict and diversity are crucial but every bit reflexive when a division between an “us” and a “them” is established; in agonism, the novelty of such dynamic is not necessarily defined by who wins between oppositions - but for the purpose of constructing an “us” and a “them”, one or the other has to be the “adversary”



In terms of politics, this is arguably what democracy constitutes; but in American politics, where a two-party system is in place —- despite quixotic claims that other parties coexist with the Donkey and the Elephant in the room —- who opposes who when both parties “disagree” - yet ultimately meet in the middle?




In this Digital Age, where social networking not only defines but is a staple of our global culture, Twitter and Facebook’s brand of agonism is embedded within their attempts to place binaries —- in providing opportunities for responding to or retweeting your tweets, responding to or pressing the “like” button on your status updates, etc; to an extent, these acts, by default, induce agonism —- but who/what is the adversary in each instance —- the person or persons who neither responds to or retweets your tweets, who neither responds to nor likes your status updates?




When one abstains from participating any of the aforementioned, does an ironic, dialectical brand of agonism ensue?




If a person or persons do indeed abstain from doing any of the above - then can one argue that agonism ends right then and there —- since there is an absence of dialogue, agreements and disagreements stall —- and via the crux of Warren Sack’s definition of agonism - an explicit language is not being used?   




Conversely, when agonism does exist in such instance - can silence, filibusters, blank statements, unrelated, tangential commentary, &/or various modes of equitable silence - be a component of agonism?




If so, can they be considered as weapons of the “third camp” - via Warren’s definition - whose purpose is to purge the dichotomy between the adversaries and consequently remove them “… off the battlefield”?


Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones But Names Will Never Hurt Me

i know you are but what am i?

Yikes!  My post was not properly pasted…… 

Here we go.


As autonomous, self-organized yet un-self-reliant organisms we are born into a world where the identification of self is physically and also mentally challenging.  We rely upon a mother-ship of milk and love.  When the mother-ship sails we easily find solace in the waves she has carried us through within her womb.  We are bound umbilically to her.  We are not an anchor nor are we a sail.  We are considered little ‘miracles’.  We are flawless.  The world is our oyster.  But what is the world?  A place full of other ‘flawless miracles’ and their experiences.  What is a flaw but an act of self-identification(s) that have been given meaning through known experience.  We seek agency through self-identification of our ‘precious flawless miracle’ stage.  This agency comes in many forms….(i’m not finished with this post)


Deriving Truth from Fiction (Heller)

Cathy Caruth explores the “fundamental enigma concerning the psyche’s relation to reality” in her 1995 essay, Traumatic Awakenings. She cites traumatic events as a mechanism that triggers the following paradox: “The most direct seeing of a violent event may occur as an absolute inability to know it.”

Here, to know is to “understand,” as distinct from knowing “facts” for how the event occurred, or even the order in which the facts happened. As humans, we interpret things to have meaning, which is the ultimate truth. Accordingly, “understanding” is closer to the human discernment of “truth.”

Indeed, I hope to demonstrate in this essay that such insights are often derived from untruths. For it is the quest for meaning that we get closer to truths, and these are largely driven when underlying assumptions turn out to be false. To wit, it is this very exploration that causes the Caruth to consider two pivotal observations that would not have otherwise been possible had underlying assumptions been factually true.

To grapple with this question of meaning and understanding, Caruth explores “the problem of seeing and knowing as it appears in a dream told by Freud—the dream of a father who has lost his child—and in the reinterpretation of this dream by Jacques Lacan.” Caruth begins by properly addressing the core of the analysis – the father’s sense of identity:

“Freud’s notion of traumatic repetition … is not about the father sleeping in the face of external death, but about the way his identity is bound up in the death that he survives. It becomes the foundation of his very identity as a father. The shock of traumatic sight reveals the heart of subjectivity … as an ethical relation to the real.”

This conclusion reveals a true insight on the human condition: Subjectivity, ethics, and the relation to the real. In my mind, this is ironically derived not from “truths,” but from falsehoods: dreams don’t actually work in the manner that Freud assumed they did at the time of this writing.

I begin with Freud’s own analysis – and Lacan’s reinterpretation – the meaning of dreams. It should be noted that the excerpt is derived from Freud’s book, “The Interpretation of Dreams,” which he had revised eight times. It is in this third edition that Caruth quotes Freud’s remarks about the father’s motivations for choosing to remain asleep when (in the dream) he’s aware of his child’s death, “why dream rather than wake up?”

The fundamental error that Freud was unaware of at the time is that there is no one-to-one correlation between time experienced in a dream and that of consciousness. This is a truism he later recognized and wrote about several times—the first beginning in 1907 when he added a note to his book 1901 book, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.” It was here that Freud first recognized, “the subconscious is completely atemporal,” and then later wrote “the processes of the unconscious system are timeless; i.e., they are not ordered temporally, are not altered by the passage of time; they have no reference to time at all.”

In fact, dreams take place in mere instances of time. It is only when we awaken and reassemble the neurological synapses in a manner that allows us to recall and make chronological sense of the random sensations do we believe we had a dream that followed a traditional story-like narrative. (Malik, Hipolito). Freud’s assumption, therefore, that the father could have chosen to wake up upon the realization that his child was dying is a falsehood. The entire dream manifested in the father’s head in an instant, including the conclusion, which might well have caused him to wake up. But it was the reassembly of the details that made it appear to take place in chronological order that gave the illusion that time had passed—that he could have woken up.

Although the psychoanalysis was based on false truths about how the brain works, the conclusions Freud draws are strikingly potent, some more so than others. Being the scientist that he is, errors are eventually realized, leading to Freud’s many revisions of his books and his practice.

Consistent with my thesis, Caruth is also unaware of the factual errors that undermine the basis for her conclusions, yet they are similarly accurate nonetheless. Citing the deaths of Freud’s and Lacan’s children, Caruth concludes, “The passing on of the child’s words does not simply refer to a reality that can be grasped in these words’ representation, but transmits the ethical imperative of an awakening that has yet to occur.”

It is the perpetual seeking of truth that allows one to recognize and acknowledge errors, to revise, and to achieve the next tier of knowledge on a never-ending path towards truth: The most traumatic of all realities.


Traumatic Awakenings (Catalina)

“The notion of trauma has confronted us not only with a simple pathology, but also with a fundamental enigma concerning the psyche’s relation to reality. In its general definition, trauma is described as the response to an unexpected or overwhelming violent event or events that are no fully grasped as they occur, but return later in repeated flashbacks, nightmares and other repetitive phenomena” (Caruth 89).

Trauma is from the Greek τραῦμα = “a wound”, compare verb τιτρώσκω (stem τρω-) = “I injure”. In medicine is a serious and body-altering physical injury, such as the removal of a limb, while psychological trauma is an emotional or psychological injury, usually resulting from an extremely stressful or life-threatening situation.

It reminds me that every reaction that we have responds to a physiological route in our bodies. Sometimes they are a result of experiences that we have had in our life or patterns transmitted by our ancestors like a genealogical tree. Then a physiological route is created like pattern in the nervous system and maybe stored as DNA and then transmitted generation by generation. That is means that every human being has all the human history in their cells; one collective and common history, and one personal. Thus, if DNA is the best archive or database that exist since the beginning of the times, can you imagine all the collective traumas we have as humanity after all these wars and repression?. Are we repeating patterns generation by generation, and are we able to change the history and how it could be?

Trauma generates pain, pain generates paths physiological that western medicine resolved with chemical medicaments or medicines and then people create addictions for these drugs that help them to forget the pain. Hector Lavoe and Edith Piaff were wonderful musicians that remind me a really sad stories of life full of traumas, emotional pain, and drug addictions to support the pain in their life.  Perhaps, were they repeating painful experiences, one after another like patterns along their life?

Otherwise, a trauma can be so strong that people can lose their mind out of this reality and maybe live in alternate realities. Is not that madness? Maybe madness appears when someone is not able to support an emotional pain.

To visualize Caruth paper and her reflections about Freud dreams and traumas, some films like The others and Open your Eyes by Alejandro Amenábar could well represent cases of people in emotional pain that are in this reality and parallel realities like a lost traveler in the time. 


Freudian slips, stand-ups, and punishment (Jacob)

“The title of Austin’s manual, How to Do Things With Words, suggests that there is a perlocutionary kind of doing, a domain of things done, and then an instrumental field of “words,” indeed, that there is also a deliberation that precedes that doing, and that the words will be distinct from the things that they do.” -198


I think this is the common conception of words, because we think of language as something we use, something deployed, perhaps more specifically because to a certain extent we all choose our words with various degrees of care given the situation. The more care we take, the more I think we are willing to take responsibility for our choice of them, and the actions they provoke or enact. Thus, a promise is not given lightly, nor a spoken vow. However, a “slip of the tongue” when ordering from Taco Bell, when the mispoken word results in unintended meaning, usually gets swept under the rug with the humorous label of “Freudian slip”.


I don’t want to get into the Caruth, but there is an interesting dynamic to examine that in popular conception of Freud, saying something is a Freudian slip ensures that the mistake doesn’t get taken seriously, is not allowed to enact anything. The sayer is freed from charge because the utterance is taken to be at an unruly subconscious level, something not of conscious intent. Or an honest mistake. However, some racially or sexually charged words in certain situations can’t be diffused so easily.


Concerning Derrida’s approach to speech as a formulation and convention, an act of citation, and then Butler’s quote of: “What this might mean, then, is that precisely the iterability by which a performative enacts its injury establishes a permanent difficulty in locating accountability for that injury in a singular subject and its act.” (Butler 206) it brought to mind the public fallout of Michael Richards the stand-up comedian (Kramer in Seinfeld) when he had his racist outburst during his stand-up. In his public apology he said that he wasn’t entirely sure what place that outburst came from, as he has African American friends and the club he was in was one that was racially diverse. But he did acknowledge that he had deep-rooted racial issues that needed to be addressed.


To me this is fascinating in the contexts of the readings on many levels, because his act was one of racist speech, words which had undeniable power to hurt (through the implied crowd of people shadowing their utterance, also calling to mind Derrida’s formulation and societal convention). These words also came from a place not public or not even conscious, but still formulated. And finally, that he was held responsible for his utterances. That while society in some part was implicated, the responsibility and shame of his act fell back square on his lap, and rehabilitation was required. While it may serve as yet another example of sublimated racial tensions in society, he as an enactor of those prejudices and tensions must be punished in the public’s eye, so that in turn the sublimated racial bias can be combated. Having been brought to the surface, it must be extirpated.