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ENGA11H3 (100)


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University of Toronto Scarborough
Garry Leonard

ALL FIVE OF THESE POINTS, PLUS NEW ONES, WILL CONTINUE TO BE OPERATIVE IN EVERY WORK WE READ, AND IN THE MOVIE WE VIEW (VERTIGO) 1. waiting is an awareness of being brought on by an absence of doing. Formerly, we believed “essence” or “the soul” preceded existence and it was the purpose of “existence “ to discover the worth of the soul. The events of Hiroshima/Nagasaki and the holocaust obliterated this notion of an essential goodness and “essence” was then seen as a retrospective myth of origin set up to bestow a fictional coherency on the otherwise debilitating randomness of experience. Science and technology are the twin myths of origin in our time, and, like all myths of origin, they exert a constant influence on current reality and plans for the future by appearing to be something that sets up a path into the future. In reality, we mortgage our future to the myth of origin and keep assuming a continued loyalty to the myth is the only way to solve current problems. Technology is not about gadgets, it is a way of thinking that can only view surroundings as a resource to be utilized or destroyed. Humanity itself becomes just another resource, to be broken down and processed, as the holocaust makes unbearably clear. The assumption essence precedes existence once offered a moral, ethical and psychological foundation for existence; what we might call "An Age of Faith". The reversal of this--existence precedes essence-- exposes "essence" as a myth of origin we formulate to rationalize our existence. As myth, it recedes from conscious consideration and henceforth our actions appear somehow "inevitable" when, in fact, they are undertaken to protect our myth of origin from being exposed. . This makes us vulnerable to various manipulations since anyone who can convince us of what our "essence" is, will be able to direct our behavior and tell us what is "right" and "wrong". This means the "Top down" behavioral system based on morals is replaced by an inter-relational ethics where we behave as we would wish other people to behave. but this is more "voluntary" than a moral system with its assumption of certain punishment, eventually (judgment day) if we flout the oral laws. The events of World War II made it clear this voluntary system was quite fragile and horrors could be perpetuated on other people who were judged less than human. that there is no guaranteed essence from which existence precedes(formerly understood as the "soul" eternally residing in the temporal body); we are thrown into existence by entering a world of meanings already present before we arrive and from that we formulate myths about our essence. so we need to be careful how these myths and beliefs form, and what they "mean" as they will determine how we organize our existence. So less interest in WHAT things mean and more on HOW they mean. We need to challenge the quality of our belief systems--what do they permit us to do? what do they prevent? as Wallace Stevens says, "it is the belief and not the God that matters". Historically, all this comes about after the horror of the holocaust and the atomic bomb where "science" is revealed as being only apparently objective, but smuggled inside that knowledge is desire--love and hatred--and it re-emerges at the point where the scientific theory is converted into application. Note that all of the above is a further development of the loss of transcendental certitude--the assumption that someone one, somewhere, has a moral incorruptible knowledge of right and wrong however much life might appear unclear to us "down here" in this earthly existence. The "waiting" for Godot is a kind of panicky wish for the return of transcendental certitude (the arrival or return of Godot) but the play makes it clear such salvation is unlikely, and we are stuck with how to proceed, but with no idea how: let's go. we can't. why not? we're waiting for godot. oh. 2: power is an effect of relationship and of privileged positions made to appear “natural” by discourse that establishes what is “common sense” and thereby forecloses alternatives to the “reality” that is in fact only one possible version of what is “real”. All reality is in dialogue with fantasy. All fantasy is in dialogue with reality. Discourse establishes what is “real” and what is “imaginary” but there is nothing inherent in this. Because power is a position and not an essence it is very unstable and those in power become corrupt, paranoid and delusional if they mistake the benefits of their position for their essential worth. 3. The word is not the world. language works as a system of deferral. Words only mean something in relation to other words—meaning is mutually constitutive. Language operates by binaries. We know what “hot” is because we know what “cold “ is. If we don’t know what one is, we have no way of understanding the other. Power and privilege use binaries to make their position appear “natural”. Thus “white” is superior to “black”. The desire for lighter skin demonstrates the acceptance of this binary even though it has no reality. Every binary contains an implicit hierarchy while posing as neutral, so “black/white” contains the implicit hierarchy that white is “better” than black. . As a result, eliminating racism is inconceivable. It is built into the patio of language itself. Vague promises to eliminate racism can be detrimental if they make us less vigilant about our primary defense against it: rejecting its effects and refusing to internalize them. Because the hierarchy is a fantasy, we do not have to incorporate it. If we do, our actions will cease to have agency. Agency is taking action in a way that is sustainable. Action without agency cannot sustain whatever gains it achieves. The powerful position of being “white” seems doubley so because “white “ actions accumulate (like capitalism itself) gains are exponential rather than appearing and disappearing in the same moment. 4. Roughly speaking, we can identify five myths of modernity: Perfection, Efficiency, Progress, Satisfaction and Innovation (Or PEPSI). All operate as systems of deferral promising a goal that is always receding further away, as we sacrifice ourselves in the pursuit of it. These myths privilege "doing"
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