Monday, February 19, 2007

Love and Ambiguity

"Intolerance of ambiguity is the mark of an authoritarian personality."
---Theodor Adorno

"The greater the ambiguity, the greater the pleasure."
---Milan Kundera

I'm finding governments to be terribly intolerant of ambiguity these days. Just today I was listening to a news broadcast referring to the insistance, by the extraordinarily insane Condoleeza Rice, that Palestinians (and only Palestinians) renounce violence as a prerequisite to peace (or, ostensibly, even modest attempts at human rights guarantees under international law).

Is the US Secretary of State totally out of her fucking gourd or what? How's that for unambiguous? You have to put down your weapons, but the Israelis don't. And we don't. Just you.

As it happens, Israel and the US insist that Iran unambiguously cease its nuclear power program. US Presidential hopeful and all-around rightwing-asshole-in-a-powersuit Hillary Clinton has unambiguously stressed to her sugardaddies at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that the US will continue to stand with the criminal Israeli government against the people of Palestine. And at her second talk delivered to AIPAC in as many months, Clinton told those assembled: "in dealing with [Iran] option can be taken off the table." That's Washington-bullshit for "Yes, I would assert my humanity by dropping atomic bombs on people who live in Iran."

Now Israel, of course, has maintained a policy of ambiguity about its hundreds of nuclear warheads since the 1980's. Israel's is the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, other than Dick Cheney's in Iraq.

(Incidentally, here are some talking points by Phyllis Bennis on the Iranian non-issue.)

So this past weekend I went to a noise-music event organized by some people I know in The Hague. As one of the organizers said to me, it was a "package deal", meaning some of the acts he wanted to present were touring with some acts he was less interested in. Most of the music was loud and unfriendly. Difficult, but not thought-provoking. Thoroughly "more-underground-than-thou" and I felt like I was in a scene from a David Lynch film most of the night.

One of the acts involved two costumed men standing behind a table with some electronic music gear on it. Draped over the table was an American flag. One of the performers was dressed up like a "terrorist" (as any typical Hollywood movie-goer would be expected to recognize). The other was dressed up as a US soldier, but with a "scary clown" mask. The music -- poorly constructed feedback and noise -- was also supposed to be "scary". You can sense the subtlety of the group's political critique, right? The performers jumped around a little bit, got in the faces of the audience, and at one point kicked a few beer bottles at those of us standing in the front.

I said to someone, a reader of this very weblog: "these fascist Americans aren't making any friends". I was kidding. At the same moment someone else said "I hate this socialist bullshit." That was funny. At one point an audience member tried half-heartedly to light the flag on fire.

The performers eventually exited the space in a feigned fury, the "terrorist" strangling himself with the American flag. They left all their gear on and loud noise fuming out of strained speakers. Everyone just watched and waited. I hesitated for about ten seconds and then walked to the table and shut off the power. I got some applause for that, and shouted "USA! Number ONE!" I wonder if anybody got it. I wonder if anybody didn't. I left things ambiguous.

I go and see a lot of music and art and lately I find myself asking "where is the love?" (On constant rotation in my cd-player at the moment are discs by Philip Jeck, some of the warmest, most hauntingly nostalgic and beautiful stuff I've heard in a long time. The love is definitely there.)

Not to be mistaken myself, at my solo concert at STEIM earlier this month I mentioned something I had heard in this video of a speech by architect-designer William McDonough. In the video McDonough looks at his audience and asks "How do we love all of the children of all of species for all time?" He presents it as a design question, as a problem for his discipline. I did the same before I began playing.

Well. It's a monumental question. Maybe the question. For any of us. Check out the video to get the proper context.

You know, I don't think the powersuit assholes are working on this question. I don't think the Presidents of this or that or any country are working on this question. Are you? As the planet heats up impossibly and the powersuits prepare more warfare, "security", and economic dominance, at least one thing we need to be unambiguous about is love.


JOS said...

great topic and very true...where do you come up with these? (rhetorical question)

JOS said...

great topic and very true...where do you come up with these? (rhetorical question)

michael the tubthumper said...

great stuff again.

sk said...

No great ambiguity discernable here...