Are you [Checkpoint] Charlie?

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[Thinking/Work in Progress]

The history of Fortress Europe; A checkpoint.

The checkpoint functions not only to control the flow of migrants, illicit goods, and insurgents/terrorists, but also to divide continuous lands and to reproduce politically and legally encoded distinctions between “us” and “them”. Thus performing sovereignty, the checkpoint appears to be symptomatic of fears of catastrophe, whether economic, political, or social, in various national and global context. [Karim Mattar and David Fieni, “The Global Checkpoint: ‘Rights’ of Passage, Performances of Sovereignty”]

Checkpoint Charlie By Nancy Wong (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On this basis, no wonder Israel considers itself part of Europe; it shares with it the fascination with a mobile checkpoint that at once constitutes its borders and gives the (false) appearance that whatever is inside this border is free to roam, homogeneous:

The discontinuous lines of fences, ditches, concrete walls and high-tech sensors–referred to by the Israeli government as the “seam-line obstacle,” by the general Israeli public as the “separation fence,” and by those Israelis and Palestinians opposing it as the Wall or sometimes as the “Apartheid Wall”–are only the most visible mediatized barriers built in a frenzy of fortification construction that has pockmarked the entire West Bank since the beginning of the Oslo Process in 1993, with the aim of separating Palestinians from Israelis at every opportunity.

When one checkpoint is removed, another checkpoint is being fortified as a strategy of expanding the homogeneous territory of the state. The endless plight of refugees trying to get beyond the checkpoints, most of the times not even reaching it, is a continuation of the statist logic of zoning, bordering, and enforcing embargoes; a logic whose limits are easily strained and shown to be meek and weak by Khaled Jarrar:

In 2007 and 2009, Khaled Jarrar, an artist from Jenin, installed At The Checkpoint, a project consisting of photographs ofeveryday life in Palestine arrayed on the fences of the Huwarra and Qalandia checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. Making explicit references to “Checkpoint Charlie”, Jarrar drew a contrast between checkpoints that have become defunct or repurposed as tourist sites and those, like the ones in occupied terrotires and border-zones, that remains actively militarized, surveillant tunrstiles of human triage.

The rituals of being checked at the border; of not having permission to cross the line; and of risking subjection to interrogation, harassment, and incarceration were taken up in a subsequent work called Live and Work in Palestine… Using the logo of the Palestinian sunbird, Jarrar fashioned a “State of Palestine” passport seal (in English, Arabic and Hebrew). He proceeded to invite people at the Ramallah Central Bus Station to have their passports stamped… The project’s riskiness was enhanced in September 2011 in the weeks leading up to the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations when a number of travelers who opted for the stamp (among them ten Israeli citizens) were detained at Israel’s airports. [Emily Apter Against World Literature]

Sovereignty is immanently and momentarily blighted: if the checkpoint had enforced the border of a state, then a stateless checkpoint undermines this authority to write the law and draw the line.

Žižek with a “State of Palestine” stamp.

The Refugee

In 1943, Hannah Ardent writes an essay called “We Refugees” “in order to propose this condition as the paradigm of a new historical consciousness” (Agamben “We Refugees” 114). The refugee arises as the (a)political person that undermines the very treatises and legal-political categories that the world of nations is built upon, the rights of man: “the refugee is the sole category in which it is possible today to perceive the forms and limits of a political community to come… to reconstruct our political philosophy beginning with this unique figure” (Agamben 114). The refugee then “throws into crisis the original fiction of sovereignty” (Agamben “We Refugees” 117). The refugee lurks in a liminal position, between object and subject—the refugee is the abject whose existence is a threat to the foundations of the nation-state. Exactly for this reason, however, the refugee is the only person who can hold the banner of political hope, of a democracy-to-come. As a Syrian refugee by the name of Sami Hallisso says,

We can’t wait till the war is over; we have to start from now to build a society that lives in dignity and independence. There’s an opportunity for something to be that is not the regime and not Daesh,” says Hallisso, using the Arabic shorthand for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). “We don’t see ourselves as only an emergency response. We will return. (Malek)

The refugee emerges from the liminal space as the figure to which recent Arab tragedy points towards, the political figure for alternative political realities, puncturing and undermining standing understandings of sovereignty. The refugee does not wait, but lives, and in doing so, lives differently.

And for all that, to be “Charlie”, even fleetingly, is to give credence to a paranoid criminal sovereignty…

One Over One Thousand

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“To reach, not the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I. We are no longer ourselves. Each will know his own. We have been aided, inspired, multiplied.” Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

Nayla had just paid the first rent of her first apartment. She experienced the ultimate liberty money can grant people, a much needed sense of alienation and isolation. And with that isolation, she thought she can build a new self for herself, without any boundaries to limit her, no shackles to stop her. She immediately started decorating the small kitchenette, if only in her head. She imagined the embroidered curtain that will cover the only source of natural light in the room, the balcony door. She imagined the yellow couch in the centre and in front of it the ageometrical table covered with simple white table cloth. The desk would be facing the couch, and finally, the mattress would be placed upstairs, in the little open attic reserved for a bed. But why the need for a bed? A mattress would do.

And a mattress did just fine, for the first week.

The curtain had been installed just the way she imagined it. The yellow couch, the desk. She even had plants outside, flowers blossoming. The whole spring theme, a coming-back-to-life in full bloom. But a call can disrupt everything. A tone in a voice, a misplaced word can move mountains.

She contemplated that hallowed word; she blended it with every other thought that went through her head so that the whole spectrum of her consciousness was hued with the stain of that word. The kitchenette which for a week had been her place of her own personal liberty reminded her of the all-encompassing and eclipsing structure of a virulent reality.

She realized that whatever centre you create for yourself to dance around will eventually be a tangential point in a larger circle with a larger radius. The coming-back-to-life which she was prizing was only a further stage of an endless cycle of which she was being aware now. In hindsight, everything is narrow, even the broadly unjustified moments.

…And sometimes at night, corpse-like on the mattress she’d smell her absent hair and absent breath. She’d hear her scream in dreams. Unintelligible but sharp, and for the second week, that was all that mattered: a scream in the middle of the night, a rogue smell; or muscle memory reaching out to touch…

Inevitably, Nayla needed a grave, a dump, a shithole in which she could vomit without reserve.

Necessarily, Nayla needed a snakepit to shed her old skin completely, to let go of the performative act of the past and sneak her way to and through a new act of unreserved life, without the inhibitions of utility and pragmatism. She needed to slither into the labyrinth of  an infinite collapse and annihilation; to be her own sun is what it means to be free, completely unreserved, holding the power of life and death in the same being; impossible made flesh. She needed to crawl like a spider without form towards the impossible.

But refusing to be vulnerable to change, she drowned in the deep waters of her own restrictions as a block, a complete form, measured, controlled, explained, exhausted; silently, her own ocean remained calm, no wave to harass the sands of time, for waves have no memory, they merely pass and wash over. They are a product, a reaction to the ebb and flow of the deep pulsation of becoming.

She had no fists to shake in front of the gates. She had no light to emanate. She was no sun.

At the end of the second week, she slept on the mattress and never fully awoke. Just another lifeless rhizome in a bigger mechanical system, not longing to live nor die, she monotonously sustains the subsistence of one plateau among thousands of others.

“The self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities” Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

The Last Locus of the Real

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Prepare for corporate Valentine’s Day you whiny maggots.
Prepare for a day of mourning and black clothing. Valentine’s Day. Love commercialized and sold. Love unfelt yet diluting mediums of exchange. Every valentine, more alienation of man from his Self, from the other, from nature, and from love

Valentine’s Day, the multi-million dollar spendfest; the productive business. Gift Shops: readymade “love letters”; readymade “love” gifts: heart-shaped pillows, heart-shaped boxes, love cards, dildos, a pack of condoms and massage oil, heart-shaped everything, chocolate; the consumer conformist way of late capitalism.

Valentine’s Day, the day of mourning. Black clothes: a moment in time belonging to the past to which they cling to so very tightly, afraid it’ll slip away, leaving them without glory, without a fight, without a story.

Valentine’s Day: No Love. No Glory.

Do you sit on the hood of a car and map the stars and make out in Dbayyeh? Or is that too cheap for you? Are you too chic for it? Would you prefer the white teddy bear, the love sonnet, the red rose, the scented candle, the seductive, eye-popping underwear, the book, the notebook with first-draft of previous love letters; the archive of your SMS messages; a painting; a stereo; a TV; a couch; a baby?

Do you sit at home, trying to figure out a way for your Self and for you community, your society, at least only your own social circle to be better? Do you think of improvement? Of how the other side thinks and acts so you can try to understand where they come from? Or do you just hope that there will be a million people filling the streets, gaining a quantitative majority which amounts to nothing in effect? Do you feel patriotic? Do you feel worthy of living, breathing, of saying that you helped? In what? Did you hold someone between your arms as you shouted in harmony vulgar phrases and dead mottos? Did you remove a brick, a stone, a wall that was burying someone alive beneath the ground? Did you stay up all night, worrying that your effort is not enough? Did you do anything to make your life a tinge better?

Food for thought: for every deliberate death, there are a thousand indeliberate births. You can kill yourself without thinking twice.

You will meet on Valentine’s day in Martyr’s Square (or as you call it: Freedom Square [Sa7at al 7orriya]), you will cry and you will shout, not to express your freedom, but to make your enslavement official. Your faith is your oppressor; your oppressor will lead you to violence.

Love? It has died. Martyrdom? It is not real. Jihad is false, and crusades are false. No one is a martyr and the martyr does not live through you when you chant his name, hurt yourself in his name, or die in his name. Jesus is not in you and nor is any other fucking dead person. And is that love?

The “thoughtful” gift precedes the emotion and the idea. The idea of Valentine’s Day precedes the emotion of love. Do you feel pressured to be with someone? Feel it. Submit it to it blindly, ignorantly. Walk on like the one of many sheep you are; your shepherd is money; your shepherd is consumerism.

The idea of dying precedes the act of martyrdom. The idea of glory precedes the glorious act. Dreams dictate reality. The language of death cults dictate our lives. Left; Right. Heaven; Hell; Lake of Fire; Bottomless Pit; Clouds of Cigarette Smoke. Huh?

The map precedes the territory. The signified precedes the signifier.

Be weird because that is what they expect of you. Kill, be killed, and kill yourself because that is what they expect of you. That is what they sell you: false death, false love; falsity.  We live in a world where we will surely and most definitely feel fucked up, screwed over, fake like an actor, stiff like a hard impotent dick curving downwards in grief, if we open our eyes to the only truth that exists: there is no locus for the real, for authenticity, for originality. Instead, everything is dead, and death is the only reminder of that faded, unseen truth that has sunk beneath the horizon to never come up again. AIDS, Cancer, you name it. Everything is a design made especially for this age of death. Love? Martrydom? Go hide behind your broken cross and dim crescent on Valentine’s Day. Show your love and loyalty. Go spend money you worthless mindless stupid dick-smoking fucks. You will die for a flag (green, white, red, yellow, any colour you like), for a cross, for a crescent, for a six-pointed or five-pointed star, for a red cedar, for a hammer and a sickle, but you do not know that no conscious, evolved being has ever died for a flag. People die for freedom, it is that which you do not have; it is that which you think you have; it is that which you will never have because you are stupid ignorant fucks.

I’ll be waiting for the fucking thumbs of your mind to grow so that you can grasp the concept of freedom.  

Go fuck yourself in that one-day feast of love and mourning you call Valentine’s Day.

What Did Not Happen.

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Perhaps this story can be said to be similar to a dream. Yes. I think it is similar. But in what way? Let me tell you my opinion on dreams first, just to have a ground basis to work on.

Dreams should be personal, as is my story which I only know how to read, so I ask you to think of a dream. Any majestic dream, but I guess we can all say that a dream should be as distant from reality as possible, unless you want it to be a nightmare.

How long did your dream last?

A night you might say; a night they all might say; I say it lasted for only a moment of vision, a moment of clarity, but because it’s a moment of vision and clarity, it has stretched itself beyond time and hovered for the length of your sleep over your conscious thoughts; a moment of eternity which will eternally recur before our lidless third eye: the artistic reproduction of your imagination. You only awake to blindly plunge and drown in a blurry consciousness again. What is a moment but a gateway facing two streams: the stream of infinite past and infinite future. Eternity’s component is a moment. A moment is not a fleeting ‘now’. In a moment everything recurs, everything matters, all is alike. And yet it is part of eternity: negligible, light, nothing matters, still all is alike.

So how is my story similar?

It has stretched itself beyond time and is always hovering above my conscious thoughts. Moments hover.  It is a bright light that follows your vision when you look at something very luminescent. This radiance glows from every image of a boy smiling, a girl laughing, a mother crying, a father patting his son, a couple holding hands, two people eating together in a sushi bar: joy. The radiance glows from the void that exists between me and all the people around me. Our difference is sourced in the same schism between nothing and everything; nothingness haunts me.

But still it is different from a dream. I told you a dream should be as distant from reality as it can be; my story is real and true. My story is a nightmare.

I can tell you what happened in detailed description, but I do not want to draw that picture again for someone who will never see it as it should be seen. This story is written on my skin: This Boy’s Life, but I am the only one who can read this story, or better yet, I am the only one who understands it.

Let me tell you what didn’t happen because the border of nothingness is everything.

I was eighteen years old. I did not get my driving license. I did not feel legal. I did not feel threatened by responsibility. I did not feel response-able towards my life.

I was seventeen years old. I did not sit for a SAT exam. I did not apply to a university. I did not plan ahead. I did not think of a future. I did not feel the present. I did not cherish the past.

I was sixteen years old. I did not feel the thrill of being punished for staying up on a school night. I did not feel the thrill of smoking, drinking and getting high.

I was fifteen years old. I did not have my first kiss from a girl I liked. I did not try-out for the football team. I did not ennoble any passion with any form of attempt.

I was fourteen years old. I did not watch and share porn videos with a friend or a brother. I did not learn how to play the guitar. I did not spend hours talking nonsense and gossiping on the phone.

I was thirteen years old. I did not go to the arcades with my pals. I did not blush when I talked to girls. I did not feign sickness in order to skip school.

I was twelve years old. I did not laugh or blow out candles on my birthday. I did not share intimate stories about puberty with same-age cousins or boys.

I was eleven years old. I did not play video games or sports or ride bikes. I did not look in front of me or to the sky when I walked.

I was ten years old. I did not celebrate my graduation from primary school. I did not even realize it exists. I did not perceive myself as Infant Joy when I saw a baby picture of me.

I was nine years old. I did not see any family member watch me play the xylophone at the elementary school music concert. I did not see anyone. I did not participate in the concert.

I was eight years old. I did not play with kids in recess on monkey bars. I did not have a lunchbox full of sandwiches and juice and sweets. I did not get in trouble for having bad handwriting.

I was seven years old. I did not buy comic books or Goosebumps books from the Scholastic book fair. I did not play with action figures or remote-controlled cars.

I was six years old. I did not get the chance to wet my pants in front of the whole classroom in utter humiliation. I did not swim with or without inflatable armbands.

I was five years old. I did not have an imaginary friend to play with. I did not hope for anyone. I did not get affected when I watched This Boy’s Life. I did not flinch or shed a tear when Robert De Niro beat the hell out of Leonardo DiCaprio 

I was four years old. I did not squeeze myself between my father and mother at night. I did not enter my house holding a sibling’s hand. I did not return smilingly. I did not leave miserably. I did not return. I climbed higher upon a mountain with a heavy burden on my back. The more I climbed the more I stared down into a deeper abyss. But then the burden fell off and I was light again. I experienced a moment belonging to eternity. A moment: you live it for the first time again and again and again, perpetually.

Can you begin to see clearly what DID happen in all my enduring years?

I am nineteen. I am lost. I am alienated. I am estranged. I am separate. I am experienced. I am aware. Black is all around me and maybe this is what it is like to be free.

The radiance hits my eyes and I see my mother, my father, my brother, my sister: silent, unobserving, victims and fugitives greeting me with a thunderous silence. The burden is put on my back again and its heaviness crushes me. The silence calls my suffering meaningless.

I am still the crying Infant Sorrow trying to find an explanation for what has happened; trying to find meaning for the etched marks on his skin.