Posted by: Sk | February 14, 2009

1 Can international right become a political positioning?

Yesterday I went to sleep as if I had a whole lot of questions still roaming around and all of a sudden I understood something, without this having the usual effect of causing some kind of affective and effective disorder in my marvelled mind. This strange understanding came like a necessary something I must have been waiting for like in an almost absurd theatre play, as you could wait for Godot, for example, without though hoping there would ever be an answer anymore.Thus my memory went back to 1979. I was about 14 and had lost quite a lot of time reading Hesse and Nietzsche and had spent many hours making research in my mother’s Espasa Calpe Encyclopaedia concerning the succession of philosophical currents, when one day, probably one Saturday while on the way to the cinema, or strolling around for shopping in the quarter of Goya, in Madrid, I stopped as usual to have a look at the many, very many books sold by an ambulant book seller, which did usually not interest me at all, as full of hindu reminding interpretations which escaped my normally quite broad spectre of interests. Some hare krishna were jumping around in their yellow safran tuniques and my mother spent 5 minutes to explain that these were sects, and frequently quite dangerous, exposure she accompanied with whole lots of terrifying examples.One book though draw my attention: a translation of Descartes ‘Traité de la méthode’ with some picture of the French philosopher gloomingly looking from the past into an uncertain future, and as I had picked the name in one of my eternal researches, I convinced my mother to exchange the cinema or any other material good for this acquisition. Very proudly I went away with my Descartes under the arm and decided to plunge immediately into its study.It’s the only book that has some kind of historical piece attached to it: perhaps the day after, when the book was so new that its misterious aura attached to sides and envelop was making of it still an almost mystical object (which was usual, although the aura used to disappear whenever my critical eye had already found so many mistakes in the contents that it became just another ‘could have been a proper answer and though failed’ unit piled with all the others on a never ending mountain) we went to the Castillo de la Mota, at some distance of Madrid, a strong powerful medieval castle where my mother had spent the time of the then ‘female national service’, some kind of substitution of military orders by lessons of cooking and knitting and reading in Franco’s time.

From left to right: my brother Arne, my mother, my brother Jorge (in front), the director (behind), my sister Ana (in front), myself (behind), my sister Karen in el Castillo de la Mota

The director, a woman from Barcelona, was still keeping the thick stones even if times had changed and my mother had decided to pay her a visit. Even if I knew that there would certainly be little time or occasion to read, I took my Descartes with me, and I remember that in my still quite childish mind, my Descartes made of me a grown up someone with many wide responsibilities and even the right to talk, from time to time. My mother even made the comment to the director, thing that made me feel extremely proud, and when the time came to take a picture, I was just a little sad that I couldn’t show my book frontpage. But I kept the picture, which forever would keep the mark of being the picture of the Descartes book, as if something extraordinary and marvellous was attached to the whole situation whose deeper meaning I had problems to grasp.

Castillo de la Mota, Valladolid, Spain (picture Garcilaga)

The fascination of my book disappeared little after. While opening the pages of my peculiar acquisition I didn’t have to go much further in order to be struck by a horrible evidence: the ‘cogito ergo sum’ comprehended a logical mistake. And although I went through the process of ‘knowing’ seen from his perspective with some distant interest, the uneasiness caused by the evidence of the false premisses annihilated de facto any other attachment to his thought. I decided I had to solve the question.Why can’t you say: cogito ergo sum = truth? I read Hume a little after, and even Kant, much later. But why was that wrong? Finally I solved the question the following way: the verb to be was a priori attachable to all sorts of essences and attributes. Why should the I be only if thinking? The I was because it was (redundance in identity); which is to say that the I had identity in itself, and the fact of thinking did not give to it any further being what so ever. I thought the sentence even dangerous: so many people there are who don’t ‘think’ factually, ill people or other people, and they should not be?When I had solved my question convincingly enough for myself, I put many barriers and defenses in order to avoid that consequences of this thought may not invade my rational being, and made up many jokes and ironies making fun on such an obtuse idea, to the point that when Bernard Henry Levi transformed the sentence into ‘you’re not but in the light of the public (meaning the mass media)’, I just thought ‘if ever there is anyone to listen to you’ with deepest irony, and I’m sure that my heavy distrust in such an obvious futility crossed the wide rooms of the ‘Deux Magots’ that day when he was sitting sipping his coffee at about 3 meters distances flirting with some young girl he must have been trying to convince of becoming famous, too, and became some kind of heavy esthetical remark on the lack of adequation of white shirts to our contemporary world.

Bernard-Henry Levipicture:

Deux Magots, Saint Germain de Prés, Paris 6thPage picture:

To say that my strange way of thinking, somewhat frozen of pure abstraction, generated by the very fact of wanting to maintain itself in some kind of lake where evidences had to be born against all influence, an obvious hostility marked with irony towards anything pretending to more. At that time I didn’t laugh very much, because I had the idea that I had to be very serious, but it is a fact that much later, when I was not that much obliged anymore to keep myself inside of the patterns of some image, I started to laugh with the obvious absurds born from those encounters.Yesterday, finally, a glimpse of a deeper insight made me finally understand how horribly bad I had been all through my existence, but I didn’t feel even the slightest hint of a repent. Ah, I thought, this poor Descartes can’t say. To say that he feels that the outer pressure is so strong that he hasn’t the place to say his identity properly (”Je m’avance masqué” is another of his oblique truths.) Thus he shifts the being from the outer maintainance of the self to thought, where among gray cells and phosphor lights, he can still maintain a proper identity without being aggressed by the world.Réné DescartesBut then, what is my peculiar way of building up thought, that does take so blind distances from these subjective positionings and affirmations of self in categorical sentences? I saw all of a sudden that I was thinking in essences and logical consequences probably from the very day I started thinking and that truth was suspended from a general identity left in notion by the very fact of grasping an essence. To say: you have a tree as a concept and you need a certain time in order to grasp its nature. When you arrive to grasp it, it leaves some kind of mark, we call understanding. If you take this perception of understanding as absolute referential ordering thought, word, reality, you pass from many obscure places always to that where the intuition of understanding is leading you, collecting on your path whole tons of pieces of information that have finally to be ordered through essences and categories, logical consequences and determined finalities into a comprehensive whole.

My misunderstanding of the world, or finally perhaps the misunderstanding of the world towards my blocks of thought arose, I remarked finally, from the fact that for me, absolutely and without the glimpse of a doubt, some functions of society had to be necessarily suspended of that rational faculty, such as administration and right, journalism and education, medecine and science. There are no politics, in my why of thinking, in these fields of action of human activity, there are no point of views, there are no subjective interpretations.Consequently I maintained international right as basis of international relationships, but not as laws subjected to interests and points of view, but as a body of thought hold and maintained by some people able to understand those subtle differentiations of mind. Of course I did not say those were necessarily better, as the better is almost already political, I just insisted on the fact that not all could see things that way, and that it was quite good like that.As international right was put into highest danger by Helsinki’s Act in 1975, where the not binding nature of the same made in a quite perverted way of international law a ‘not binding’ something, too, while the obvious intentionality of making of human rights (even if the treaty was not signed by all countries) a parameter ruling on international relationships through the subjective apprehension of some, I backed during the never ending yougoslavian wars the only one who still believed in international right as such, to say, Milosevic. That he was handled with as if a dictator, didn’t surprise me very much: myself was considered as such potentialy through the same premisses. In 1990 the very fact of maintaining the validity of international right was considered ‘of dictatorship’ in France, as if the fact of insisiting on the auto determination of nations and the consequences of war if conditions broken could be at the origin of a universal factual imposition of right.Perhaps the yougoslavian wars will be in the future a privileged object of study for those who’d like to analyze how far legal monstruosities as the Helsinki Act may have horrid consequences in time and on nations wholes. It’s true, in any case, that the effects of the Final Act were stopped in the almost ridiculous crash of thousands of planes against the evidences of borders put by law. But you can’t by asking yourself what kind of stubborn blindness throws people whole against establishments that are finally nothing but the warrant of peace.What is then politics, you may ask yourself, and what remains of it if, quite ideallistically, it’s true, you take away from it administration and justice, education and public opinion? I think precisely that the construction of ideal concepts or the idealization of subjective apprehensions have made of politics an irrational boxing without a defined ring, where power is determined by strength and imposition, invading in absurd ways all fields of human activity, commercial, financial, of education, administration, etc.Perhaps it is easier to understand what I mean if I brush my own concept of an ideal functioning of society. To my understanding fields of human activity are defined per se. Journalism is subjected to objectivity, education to understanding, administration to regulation, etc. If they loose their essence, there is none of them. Law, in this perspective, is a regulation of order. To say that you have a problem arising and you have to find a general solution. You need criteria to determine where and what the problem is (crime) and means to prove it (police) and  a punishment if established there is one (judicial body). None of those activities are as such political, nor should they be excuse for the exercise of arbitrary power, as it were the case if you suspend a judgement from statements like: “She has aristocratical origins” (probable cause of deviation in judgement in the Fressange case).

So what? If politics are supposed to be ‘republican’ does it make of some one who has aristocratical origins some one less French, less citizen, rightless? If the one in question infringes law, should he be punished the same than others. That should be correct as premiss. But if he doesn’t, why should he be deprived of right for something he is not responsible for as such? There is an obvious violation of human rights.Seen like that, politics are nothing, to my understanding, but the change of logical poles in the general structuring of a nation. For me, the right is conservative, that is to say, maintaining, and of need when there is trouble, inner or outer, so that the nation stabilizes itself around something ‘given’. The left is innovative, meaning, evolutive, and possible only when the nation is in peace, so that it is possible to consider changes that may be evaluated inside of a stable given frame.In no case I may think that the constant aggression and distruction of ‘what there is’ can be defined as progress, nor evolution, nor even considered liberal, nor that the stubborn insistance on things that are proved as being at the origin of trouble, disorder, crashes, unhappyness, are healthily transmitting main acquisitions of a nation in its historical perspective.If I did, and I have such an idealistic contemplation on social and human realities, it’s an evidence that most of people don’t consider things that way, and that the very fact of maintaining right as such, and international right, among many other, is obviously considered as a political positioning, which is to say, a way of thinking which, if more generally spread, makes positions shake, influences change, fortunes shift to other interests, and many etc. that are generally considered as marks of power and thus deriving of politics.Were it thus, I can’t but to agree to a certain extent with Descartes.

To keep my abstract positioning puts me outside of a world moved by other ways of thinking. To make of the same a subjective statement inside of the context as given makes of it a factual influence, which may be of interest even in the attempt of keeping general balances that may lead to the restoration of more rational organizations. Consequently, if it is political, it aggresses French and German interests, thanks to … Descartes, and can be justified in this that without pretending to impose itself it maintains the right of each to decide what he wants, he chooses, he likes, fundamental rights whose violation are always at the origin of gravest disasters.Thus, it is clearest that it is of need to make the difference between the expression of a point of view which may imply criticism or even sharpest attacks and any kind of revolutionary movement which aims only at distruction and which, to my understanding, should always be fought against with the given intelligence. To see things differently can never be forbidden. If this ways of seeing gains territory and spreads itself it obliges to make changes in the strict consideration of the will of the people. Because, isn’t it, France? you can’t impose the will of the people on the people as result of the interest of a few…Were it like that, I may, with Descartes and very politically, maintain that international right accords the territory won in a war of defense to the one who has won the war. For me, there are no occupied territories in the Middle East and any attempt of supporting aggressions against the established State as such can be considered as aggressions against the soveraignity of a nation. Of course, you may not recognize international right. If in that case I maintain you don’t exist as a nation, which right will you invoke in order to make me change my statements?

To say. Perhaps that day I had already the intuition of exactly that. That the walls of the Castillo de la Mota were heavy enough to represent international right even if, or precisely because, I had Descartes in my hands … that day.


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