Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Monday, March 7, 2016

An Open Letter to Whoever

I can't win. I'll acknowledge that up front. If I'd tried to say something different, I would've been savaged for that too. What's funny is, I had written my talk quite deliberately and consciously with a view to this “I can't win” fact. So I'm not going to address the finer points of your incisive critique.

Although I will say, I haven't actually studied the field you accuse me of appropriating without citation. Funnily enough I'm just about to start and the first book I ever got in that field just arrived yesterday (paging Sting, "synchronic-ity, synchronic-ity..."). All that stuff really did come out of my own head. I'm so happy to find out that others have been thinking the same way. It makes me feel less lonely, which is an occupational hazard.

And I will say that, if you actually read my stuff, you'd find so much was explicitly and directly talking about what you care about, which I care about too.

You say I should quit for some more deserving scholar to take my place. You need to know that for every one of me, there's 1000 scholars indifferent or hostile to your view who would kill for my job. So how do you think that's going to work out?

You are so welcome to fight me in front of everyone, to my face. Please do it! But it won't be possible to do online, especially not now that I'm only just getting used to a social medium that most everyone else knows how to handle.

I remember being you when I was 24. I remember how incredible it felt to savage older scholars, thinking I was striking a blow for socialism, whereas through repeated practice, I was in fact becoming a neoliberal war-of-all-against-all solidarity-negating employee-in-training. I was quite brilliant at it. I'd read their piece the night before, identify a vulnerable sentence (every piece has one), and go for it. I was the James Bond of theory. I saw grown men reduced to tears. I'll do it to you if you want, except I gave it up for Lent. In 1995.

Not a single one of those people--all megastar type scholars visiting this amazing seminar on the body at NYU--have ever gotten in touch with me. I wonder why, to the extent that I don't.

In my experience, academia is a World War 1 kind of a domain, and I do my best to avoid all that trench warfare. Which is why I'm never going to reply to your comment directly, ever. I practice nonaggression. Guilt and shame are nothing to do with pleasure and sexuality, they drastically impede the fact that we should be demanding more pleasure.

You're not speaking up for what you think you are speaking up for. You are retweeting Puritan rubbernecking of evil.

Now I look back on it, I had so much more in common with every scholar with whom I found fault than with some guy who's about to decorate the Arctic with oil pipes. It's the narcissism of small differences. We're much more comfortable attacking people close to us, which is too bad really, when you think about the Koch Brothers and Donald Trump.

It's called solidarity, which is why I'm writing a book for Verso.

This is turning into a scary trend, you know. 20-something scholars armed with social media beating up on the older people intellectually and politically closest to them. I guess you're never too young for the Oedipus complex. Have you been reading enough Deleuze and Guattari? Thank goodness I didn't have Facebook when I was 24.

I blame neoliberalism, I really do. Everyone has been set against everyone else. Just read Bifo's new book, which talks about how France Telecom turned into Orange. It's quite amazing, the suicides that resulted from the competition, the mass suicides.

And what you don't realize is, and perhaps can't realize is, I'm tim morton, little tim, the guy who works this persona called Tim Morton's arms and legs. When you attack this cartoon, feeling all brave, a real person gets incredibly hurt, a person who suffers from major depression and needs all kinds of prosthetic devices to remain alive. Which would be awesome for frogs and first peoples, because I think I have something to share that could help.

But I can't help right now, because I'm curled up in a ball trying not to die.


Unknown said...

I drop into your blog now and again for a head here's my thoughts ......It's harder to build a relationship through the object of theory than attempt to discard the objects of theory. I've been playing with an idea of all objects as relationships, dysfunctional, nonexistent, pathological or creative and life-sustaining. New ideas so often come through the intellectual discourse of supportive group relationships. If the relationship is not acknowledged, then I suspect the object becomes inert, half functioning.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D. E.M. said...

You mustn't let it all the way in. You mustn't believe that the one negative outweighs all the positive (though I read somewhere it's an evolutionary adaptation/response -- the negative, threatening thing must stand out because of the information they (ostensibly) carry -- like It's a Tiger, growling, so mark that. Except in this case, it's just an Asshole, so no need to mark that. Even if the molecular, adrenaline response is the same).

So, you mustn't let it all the way in, past all your friends' & beloved ones' estimations, past them to a core deeper , where no one should be allowed in -- not especially with their cruelty.

Julie said...

I have been reading your blog almost daily and watched your subscendence talk 3 times and have been recommending it to friends. I love the ideas you are talking about and the way you talk about them. It's rich and inspiring. Screw the little insecure jackasses.

Kaat said...

I enjoy your blog and your books (man, that last bit on page 51 of Hyperobjects!) and you have to know that you helped me love philosophical thinking like I never, ever did for a decade in grad school. Even at 24. So, against mr. or ms. Whoever, I put my own admiration and plea for more-more-more, and I hope it counts.

HenryVorn said...

You could end up being this generations Marshall McLuhan. You're just getting started.

sophie said...

Hey Tim
Sophie Jerram here in New Zealand. Just popped by to see how you were getting on. Sorry to hear you're being savaged but it must mean you're still being marvellously inflammatory. Keep up the courageous thinking. And remember you can always channel that sea slug we saw on the beach that day. Just for a day.

Gregorsamssaa said...

"If you don't have enemies, you don't have character." Paul Newman

Keep up the excellent thought provoking work Tim!

Gregorsamssaa said...

"If you don't have enemies, you don't have character." - Paul Newman

Keep up the great thought provoking work Tim! Don't let 'em grind you down.