Time and Trauma

And I think of that “Groundhog Day” movie with Bill Murray in which he repeats the same day, again and again, with only minor changes. If you’ve seen the movie, Murray finally breaks out of what appears to be an infinite loop only when he changes his ways, his approach to life, his mentality. He becomes a better person and even gets the girl.

When is the USA going to break out of its infinite loop of war? Only when we change our culture, our mentality.

A “war on terror” is a forever war, an infinite loop, in which the same place names and similar actions crop up again and again. Names like Mosul and Helmand province. Actions like reprisals and war crimes and the deaths of innocents, because that is the face of war.

~W.J. Astore, Happy 4th of July! And a Global War on Something

* * *

The impression we form is that it is not that linear time perception or experience that has been corrupted by trauma; it is that time “itself” has been traumatized — so that we come to comprehend “history” not as a random sequence of events, but as a series of traumatic clusters. This broken time, this sense of history as a malign repetition, is “experienced” as seizure and breakdown; I have placed “experienced” in inverted commas here because the kind of voiding interruption of subjectivity seems to obliterate the very conditions that allows experience to happen.

It is as if the combination of adolescent erotic energy with an inorganic artefact … produces a trigger for a repeating of the ancient legend. It is not clear that “repeating” is the right word here, though. It might be better to say that the myth has been re-instantiated, with the myth being understood as a kind of structure that can be implemented whenever the conditions are right. But the myth doesn’t repeat so much as it abducts individuals out of linear time and into its “own” time, in which each iteration of the myth is in some sense always the first time.

…the mythic is part of the virtual infrastructure which makes human life as such possible. It is not the case that first of all there are human beings, and the mythic arrives afterwards, as a kind of cultural carapace added to a biological core. Humans are from the start — or from before the start, before the birth of the individual — enmeshed in mythic structures.

~Mark Fisher, Eerie ThanatosThe Weird and the Eerie (pp. 96-97)

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Time and Trauma

  1. There’s the article on Sam Harris dot com where he was defending himself from Reza Aslan’s accusations of Harris being a “genocidal maniac,” and Harris insists that because of Al Quaeda’s belief system, because they hate America and wish to kill Americans, that it is “logical and ethical” for America to pre-emptively kill them. Of course, America is already killing people in those places, so they are sure to hate America, and so Harris’ logic is a rationale for genocide, because a pogrom against a people that can never end is one of the best definitions of genocide. Groundhog day for Islam.

    • The neo-imperialistic state terrorism makes no sense based on any reasons given by government officials.

      The war on terror began because Al Qaeda attacked the US. But most of those terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, one of our main allies, and the leader of the terrorists was part of Saudi royalty. Did we attack Saudi Arabia or make demands of them? No. What did Bush do? While Americans were grounded from flying, Bush allowed the Saudi royal family in the US to fly back home.

      Al Qaeda formed into ISIS. One of the criticisms against ISIS is that they beheaded and terrorized innocent people. But Saudi Arabia regularly beheads and terrorizes more people than ISIS could ever dream of accomplishing, and they’ve been using cluster bombs sold by the US to kill innocent civilians which is a war crime. What does the US do? Well, keep on selling them cluster bombs. Still, for all the evil that Saudi Arabia commits, it doesn’t even compare to US actions. In response to a few thousand innocent people killed on 9/11, the US has since killed a few million innocent people while attacking multiple countries, taking out governments, occupying territory, and destabilizing entire regions.

      The Bush cronies had been planning on taking out Saddam Hussein in Iraq even before 9/11 happened. But the terrorist attack gave them a pretext to make up a lie to invade. It never made any sense. Iraq was a secular government that kept militant religious groups in check. Taking out the Iraqi government simply opened the door for religious fanatics and terrorists to gain power, as was entirely predictable.

      It never had anything to do with a supposed war on terrorism. Ever since the beginning of the Cold War, the US has actively been promoting religious terrorism and oppression in the Middle East in the struggle for power against the Godless commies. The logic was that religious terrorists and theocrats were less dangerous than Godless commies. We destroyed numerous secular democracies in the Middle East in order to protect ‘freedom’. The Iranian theocracy is one of the many proud creations of the US government, back when we deposed a democratically-elected leader of a secular government. Now the US fear-mongers about this Iranian theocracy becoming a nuclear power. Maybe they should have thought about that when they turned that country into a theocracy.

      When the war on terror began, Syria joined the fight in attacking ISIS. But this put the US in an odd position, since the US has been terrorizing Syria since the early 1950s. The US decided it still considered Syria the greatest threat or rather the greatest opportunity because of oil profits. So, the US allied with ISIS, our terrorist enemy and the entire reason for the war on terrorism, in order to continue our terrorism against Syria. WTF! IT makes no fucking sense, other than the US being an authoritarian bully doing anything it wants because no one can stop the US military.

      The US is a global empire, plain and simple. It does what empires have always done. The only difference is that the US is the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful empire the world has ever seen. The consequences of US actions are so much greater. Then US leaders pretend to be shocked by the blowback, which they use to justify further state terrorism against the powerless. Of course, that isn’t how the propaganda typically portrays it in the corporatist media.

    • Saudi Arabia is an ally of both the US and the UK. And these two latter countries have been key players in the war on terror, with Saudi Arabia being one of only two major allies in the Middle East. Yet Saudi Arabia is well known for funding religious extremists who are associated with terrorism, not to mention well known for their own religious extremism in the form of theocratic state terrorism condoned and supported by the US and UK.

      How is anyone surprised that Western countries committing horrific evil around the world would eventually suffer the consequences of their own authoritarian actions, that their state terrorism would lead to non-state terrorism including non-state terrorism promoted by their state terrorist allies? I can’t imagine that UK and US leadership are so stupid as to not understand simple cause and effect. But I sometimes wonder about the psychological and moral retardation of the American people in continuing to vote neocon war-mongers into power of both main parties.

      http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-40496778

      “The Henry Jackson Society said there was a “clear and growing link” between Islamist organisations in receipt of overseas funds, hate preachers and Jihadist groups promoting violence.
      “The foreign affairs think tank called for a public inquiry into the role of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.”

  2. according to Pinker (and I don’t know whose work he cites), that’s really how we experience time all the time anyway, as a series of events, we really don’t have an internal metronome.

    .

    the second paragraph evokes both the children’s culture thing and also the Pesher Technique, in that the idea of the pesher was to interpret current events through scripture, meaning, as this person says, the myth is supposed to be playing at all times. This aspect of the pesher technique (the technique, not the website) suggests that the scripture really doesn’t refer to any particular event or any particular Jacob or Enoch or anyone else, any given enemy or oppressor, Babylon or Rome, that viewing the OT as the Hebrews’ history needn’t be literal, that the Jacob of the book wasn’t necessarily the original Jacob either. It’s supposed to be an eternal history in an eternal now, something like that.

    .

    and the third paragraph, that’s my latest thing, the myth and the mimic meme, your parasitic social meme . . . damn. I love this fellow’s mind already, so sorry to learn of him only now. He seems to put the culture-before-the-man thing in better perspective than some of your other excerpts. I’m afraid it all correlates, doesn’t it, smart, depressed, dead. Still, no shame in it, I consider my mind a mutation or something. If you’re different – like smart or something – that’s not your fault, no reason we should suffer and also have the guilt for our own suffering too, screw that. We should always consider that every suicide made a great run, literally to the very end, and maybe also that they mostly held in here that long for us, for the rest of us who might not understand or approve, for those of us for whom their presence seemed to bring a net positive feeling even if it didn’t for them.

    • Nice comment!

      “according to Pinker (and I don’t know whose work he cites), that’s really how we experience time all the time anyway, as a series of events, we really don’t have an internal metronome.”

      If you can recall the exact passage, I’d love to read it. But if not, that is fine. I get the general idea.

      “the second paragraph evokes both the children’s culture thing and also the Pesher Technique, in that the idea of the pesher was to interpret current events through scripture, meaning, as this person says, the myth is supposed to be playing at all times.”

      That reminds me of a few things.

      The most obvious is the neo-Platonic thought that influenced the Alexandrian Jews who then influenced the early Christians. The Alexandrians Jews believed that much of the Old Testament shouldn’t be interpreted literally. For example, the flood wasn’t something that happened in the historical past but was a spiritual reality of the present, in that we are all in some sense drowning in a divine flood.

      As you say, it is “an eternal history in an eternal now.”

      Philip K. Dick had a similar view and at one point he came to believe that the present world and first century Rome were enmeshed into a single reality, but it was partly just his crazy way of making a spiritual/philosophical point. Mark Fisher, in his last book which I’m reading right now, does discuss PKD a bit.

      “and the third paragraph, that’s my latest thing, the myth and the mimic meme, your parasitic social meme . . . damn.”

      We share that interest. It has been stuck on my mind lately. Even though a post like this doesn’t bring it up, it’s there in the background. Mark Fisher does touch upon that view of things, but he comes at it from a different angle.

      “I love this fellow’s mind already, so sorry to learn of him only now.”

      I wish I had appreciated his writing more while he was alive. I only read the book on capitalist realism. It was enjoyable and insightful, but I didn’t fully get the sense of the depth of his insight. His last book is much more philosophical and simultaneously gets more at the human level.

      “He seems to put the culture-before-the-man thing in better perspective than some of your other excerpts.”

      It is an extremely difficult thing to communicate well. I’m always looking for those who have a talent for clarifying what it means, in such a way that others can more easily understand. It is so important and yet so hard to explain why it’s important.

      We are speaking about realities that are so intimately apart of our lives that we don’t normally see them. If anything, there is great resistance to seeing them because it cuts too close to the personal level.

      “I’m afraid it all correlates, doesn’t it, smart, depressed, dead.”

      I suppose so. That thought has occurred to me. In my dark sense of humor, I can even find it morbidly amusing. I have a very dark sense of humor, in case you didn’t know. Laughing at myself and at the world is one of my survival mechanisms. Smart, depressed, dead. Rinse and repeat. Society carries on.

      “We should always consider that every suicide made a great run, literally to the very end, and maybe also that they mostly held in here that long for us, for the rest of us who might not understand or approve, for those of us for whom their presence seemed to bring a net positive feeling even if it didn’t for them.”

      I agree.

      There was a movie about WWI. A couple of professional runners end up in the war, one as a message and the other on the front lines. The guy on the front lines is doomed and knows he is doomed. They keep sending waves of soldiers out of the trenches and they keep getting mowed down. When it’s his turn, he decides to run as fast as he can to get further than anyone else before being killed. He made a great run.

      If running or writing is all you can do before coming to your final end, well you might as well do your best at it and see how far you can go with it. If enough people make a great run, maybe slowly it will make a difference. Or maybe not. But at least you did what was in you to do.

  3. The obsessive-compulsive repetitions of the traumatized seems directly related to Stockholm syndrome, in relation to the social order. We are all trapped within the beast. All the info we get comes to us filtered. It’s a scary place to find oneself.

    How does one fight the empire, the Nazis, or whatever from within when you can’t even imagine what is outside of it or maybe that anything else could ever exist? The reality tunnel we find ourselves in is hermetically sealed or at least that is how it can feel.

    We are told stories by those in power. And we repeat these stories, not just in our words but in our actions. We constantly re-enact these stories, making them more real and more entrenched with each telling. We do so because these stories comfort us. No one can live without some story to live by and the stories we learned while we were young are the only stories we know.

    It’s endlessly more of the same. Yet each time it feels new. Meanwhile, it all gets worse and worse, the story moving toward its inevitable conclusion.

  4. We are talking about a lot of repetition. President (and former General) Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex in 1961, more than a half century ago. He was talking about something that had already been developing for a while at that point.

    Several decades earlier in 1935, General Smedley Butler made a similar warning about the US military being used for neo-imperial aspirations in serving the interests of big biz. He was speaking from his experience of fighting in these wars of neo-imperialist corporatism since the 1890s.

    There was a growing neo-imperialism in the 19th century, even while the founding generation was still alive. There was a constant theft of land from the Native Americans, a war of aggression against Canada in the hope of gaining more territory, and a land grab of Mexican territory. This was as the federal government was growing more powerful and big money interests were increasingly gaining control.

    We can go even further back. The main reason the American Revolution was fought was because of the corporatist collusion between big gov and big biz. Colonists were being expected to pay to fund the military empire that was protecting big biz interests. This led the American founders to be highly suspicious of both corporatism and standing armies.

    It’s not just about wars and the military. Or any other specific thing, such as corporatism. It’s the entire social order as it closes down the public mind and the radical imagination. Anything that might challenge the social order gets shut down, either entirely eliminated or simply silenced. All alternatives disappear from public discussion or even awareness. Election after election, no matter which party wins, it is always the same and always getting worse.

    • Sorry about that. WP put them into spam. And I don’t check spam regularly because, well, it’s mostly full of spam. It’s rare that normal comments get thrown in there, but it happens every so often.

      Thanks for sharing that link. That is exactly the kind of thing that is worth considering. It reminds me of the mouse research where genetically identical mice in environmentally identical conditions led to diverse behavioral results. That is basically the same as the research you linked:

      “In contrast to the current research paradigm, which focuses on genes and/or environmental drivers, our findings suggest that individuality might be an inevitable and potentially unpredictable outcome of development.”

      Here is what this seems to imply. We don’t as of yet understand (much less are able to identify, isolate, and control) all of the genetic, epigenetic, environmental, etc factors that causally affect individual development. Not only that but we don’t understand the complex interaction of those factors, known and unknown.

      To put it simply, our ignorance is much more vast than our knowledge. We don’t even have enough knowledge to know what we don’t know. But we are beginning to realize that we need to rethink what we thought we knew.

  5. I’m not sure how this fits, but it’s another interesting quote about time and history:

    “In order to grasp the essence of the historical process, or rather its lack of essence, we must acknowledge that all posthistorical truths are truths of error because they attribute a proper nature to what possesses nothing of the kind, a substance to what cannot have one. The theory of a double truth permits us to discern the place history occupies in the scale of unrealities, paradise of sleepwalkers, galloping obnubilation. The truth is, history does not quite lack essence, since it is the essence of deception, key to all that blinds us, all that helps us live in time.”

    —E. M. Cioran, Drawn and Quartered

    https://socialecologies.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/times-error/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s