Embracing the Other

With globalization, the world became flat. It was a relentless attack on the otherness of the other in our world. It brought about dissolution of the borders and distinctions across the globe. But with the depletion of otherness and coming of sameness, violence did not disappear. The flattening of the world and the erasing of otherness was itself violence. Violence acquired a new form. Han says that violence took the form of positivity. In his book, Topology of Violence, he says that violence is not merely an excess of negativity. It is also an excess of positivity. The society of achievement manifests accumulation of the positive which manifests in overproduction, overcommunication, overachievement, hyperactivity and hyperattention. The violence of positivity is even more dangerous than that of negativity because it is neither visible nor evident. It evades our immunological defence because of its positivity. Han identifies infection, invasion and infiltration as the characteristics of the violence of negativity and asserts that violence of positivity uses infarction. The achievement-subject does not experience any repression from any external sovereign entity or person external to itself. But in reality, he/she is living an unfreedom that masks as freedom. He/ She is not the obedient-subject of disciplinary societies but is chained to a discipline of achievement that is internalized and operated through what Foucault might call self-policing. Besides, the achievement-subject or the subject of the selfie society is not aware of these inner chains but embraces his/ her unfreedoms as achievements or paths to them. The achievement-subject has overcome the pressures from outside (repression) but submits to pressures from inside (depression).

We have thankfully moved from a society of sovereignty via disciplinary society to a society of achievement (selfie society). The sovereign society practised violence on the body and was a society of blood. If the sovereign society practised decapitation, disciplinary societies practised deformation (form then anew, reformation) to discipline its citizens, while achievement societies practice violence on the psyche and thus lead to depression. A society of achievement is a society of psyche. The theatre of brutality has only shifted from the exterior to the interiority. Violence has left the public sphere and has entered the personal sphere. The sovereign societies communicated through the power of visible violence, and the disciplinary societies communicated their power through prisons, cells and other walled structures. This means violence left the public portals of communications of power and entered sub-cutaneous, sub-communicative, capillary spaces of the psyche. Achievement societies withdrew into the furthest depths of the psyche. In achievement societies, the frontal topology of the violence of sovereign societies became viral. The confrontation became contamination. This is why violence is naturalized and cannot be discerned as violence to the achievement-subjects. This is why the achievement-subject is not a subject but transformed into a project.

Society of achievement is a society of self-exploitation. The achievement-subject exploits itself until he/ she is completely burnout. It auto-iconizes itself as well as develops auto-aggressive tendencies that lead to self-destruction and suicide. Paradoxically, the project seems to become a projectile, one that the achievement-subject aims at himself/ herself. His/ her subjection to a project is fueled by inordinate self-love that we call narcissism. It causes self-injury and erases the line between the self and the other. Such an erasure means nothing new or other ever enters the self. The other is devoured to the point that one can only see the other in the self. When one cannot see the other in the self, the other than is dammed, condemned and expelled as worthy of being disposable. We can trace this in several forms of nationalisms or ethnocentrisms around us. The narcissistic self is not hungry for new and other experiences. Experience is always an experience of the other. It challenges the self to be open to being transformed by the other. Achievement-subject is hungry for finding one’s reflection or expression in the self. Thus, the experience extends one into the other and into the world. It enables one to know one’s boundaries. Globalization has not just broken the boundaries between nations, it has broken the boundaries between the self and other and blinded the self to see only itself in everything. When we lose a point of reference to the other, no stable conception of the self can be formed. Unfortunately, the achievement-subject becomes a narcissistic self. This is why the achievement-subject has the challenge to embrace the other in order become truly itself.

We have the challenge to restore the lost dimension of the other in order to face the ills of an achievement society/ selfie society. We need otherness and its inherent resistance (negativity). The ambivalence of the other is therapeutic and is the urgent need of the other otherwise we are in danger of eliminating ourselves through what I call the violence of consensus trying to chase our own shadow. A good balance of both positivity and negativity is required for a society to bloom humanly. Maybe the practice of idiotism of Socrates may save us. Maybe we need a Nietzschean event from outside that defies all calculation. Maybe the global pandemic was that event. But we have failed to recognize it. Maybe we need to cultivate the art of living as taught by Foucault. The art of living will require us to de-psychologize ourselves and open ourselves to an unnamed or unwritten future. This future is not known. It cannot be anticipated. It is the other. The coming of the other is not welcomed in a society of achievement. Therefore, we have the fundamental challenge to embrace these other temporalties that refuse to be reduced to the sameness of achievement society. This openness will translate into openness to the existential other of our self and we will make life liveable. Achievement society has brought out the liveliness of life but has not made life liveable. We have the challenge to make life livable for all.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao