There is this tower, a sovereign figure, shining under the hot summer sun. There are also hundreds of creatures. We call them “Archimedeans”. They live on the top of the tower which they call the “Archimedean point”. They are all brought up by this institution of intelligence. They are uniformed and equipped with a method, an old device to move things around. They believe the tower enables them to achieve absolute sense of “display” of the pursuit of suspicion, coercion and knowledge. If you once get to the top of the tower, you can see, when you look down, some creatures which the Archimedeans call the Clowns, living a funny life, moving their limbs in ridiculous patterns. Unfortunately, everybody does not have the privilege to experience the visual thrills of the world of the Clowns. If you wish to get yourself high on it then you should first be qualified in one thing: you cannot indulge in involving yourself in the stupidity practiced by all Clowns in their world of existence. You need to gaze down to them, put them in your interpretive framework, so that you have the feeling of seeing like an Archimedes (with or without the lever). So in this manner, the Archimedeans know the Clowns. They have piles of “knowledge” about what counts to be a clown. To be an Archimedean is a fashion sans involvement (that is being uninvolved in the world of Clowns, in the meanings of what they see of themselves in the mirror).
The Clowns beneath and the Archimedeans above are related particularly in the way the latter understands the former. The Archimedeans think they are benevolent to the Clowns. They think they are the agents of change, the saviour of the Clowns. They pledge to make good “policies” for the Clowns to live a non-clownish life that is to transform them from being Clown to being intelligence-men. So, they have interpreted what “their” Clowns do, feel, live and die, especially the “worries” of the Clowns.
There is one example (and there are many, as a matter of fact). When the Clowns mourn for loss, (say of anything including “history” and in many forms of which what is called “free political life” being a serious one, as the Clowns feel), they are said to be insane, mad in lousy, nasty cacophony of egalitarian “revolutionary” jargons. This is why the Clowns are said to be pathological and, therefore, “melancholic” (a term for which Sigmund Freud was notoriously famous in western philosophy). To make it more politically correct for the Archimedeans, the Clowns have to be convinced that if something is lost, they should continue to live on without it. This is more akin to recovering the self, finally, to the reality without the object which is lost). But the Archimedeans strongly doubt if the Clowns have the rigour of being a “self”, at all!
The politics of the Clowns in this story should be a work of mourning at best, the Archimedeans would recommend. The Clowns cannot be melancholic, for if they are, they will not believe that they have lost what they had and will be crazy thinking that they will lose what they have not actually lost. But they are melancholic. Hence the suggestion, the Clowns are to be put under treatment (in the form of discipline and punishment), which also implies bringing in pleasures of wealth and status. So, the Clowns are made to believe in detachment from the original which they love most and cannot afford to lose. In other words, it is to make them detached from their attachment, which the Clowns utterly refuse. The point is that the Clowns can mourn but they cannot slip into melancholia, the critical stage where the politics of the Clowns are nothing but pathological. To save the clowns from slipping into being pathological, they sermonise, “Continue to live on. Do not try to lose what you have got.” It is as simple as that, which sounds like the military style of command, “Is that clear?”
What is happening, however, is different at least from the way Archimedeans read the Clowns. The Clowns do not mourn for the lost objects (which in fact are many). They continue to identify themselves with the loss and they actually mourn for things that they do not lose. This in a way is a typical symptom of a melancholic, or perhaps, a melancholic strategy, also. They also believe that the lost object can be regained. They also know that something is lost but refuse to believe that they have lost it, so they try to regain it but through mourning. This is not being pathological. It is rather a job of putting together two things: being melancholic and being called “clown”. So, we have the melancholic Clowns (not exactly in the same way of describing the oxymoron of “boiling ice”!). Being a melancholic clown, therefore, is a complicated job. The Archimedeans will not dare to try for sure. This is something that is happening in the politics of the Clowns today, as you know.
The melancholic Clowns rise to speak on the topic of their anxious choice: all is not well and nothing is going to be alright if things are left in the way they are now. The Archimedeans take no time to intervene and say that it is imaginary for the Clowns to talk even like that and continue even to go further saying that their audience is non-existent. What the Clowns do is merely a ranting to the un-listening passersby, the “goers” who never move but are crazy about moving and progression. They advise the Clowns to negotiate with law and live orderly. But there is a fact also. The Clowns sleep in the silence that their insecure walls build; outside is ruled by the stochastic barrels singing the anthem(s) of the nation (in whatever forms it might be, who cares). The men behind barrels have got the balls to make it right through the chest of the Clowns. As a character of western genre once said, only two things go right through the heart: gold and bullet. It is the latter this time, however, and this will be so, for a long time to come in the land of the Clowns. There is certainly not going to be a knocking on the heaven’s door in this land as long as Clowns remain as Clowns and so will the specter of Bob Dylan think. So the Archimedeans say that the Clowns should stop behaving funny in many manners and patterns, in ways that is everything for them.
They say there is a way for them to stop being ridiculous: to stop being Clown by talking intelligently in sensible syllables and sounds. The Archimedeans point out: it is “dialogue” (which is actually a “dialect” unknown to the Clowns as their language is to move the limbs). Maybe the clowns have learnt the new language of late. But the effect is obvious for all dialogues, that the Archimedeans propose, have the fate of the “Socratic irony” (an endless critique of critique with no “truths” discovered, nay, invented for God’s own sake, or for the sake of Socrates even).
The Clowns talk about impossibility. But they aren’t impossible in any ways, the Archimedeans believe, because, the Clowns may be reformed. This is the sense they have when they advise the Clowns to be protean believers and not incorrigible at all. The Archimedeans know the language of the Clowns but they are not allowed to speak in their own language, their movement of limbs is vulgar like raising the middle finger. Thought without moving the limbs, they would say, is a thought with “intelligence which is sensible” to all.
But isn’t it Jacques Ranciere who talked about “distribution of the sensible”? You have to do, think and speak in order to disturb the dominant share of what is sensible. Your words and actions can also be sensible if you break the dominant definition of “what is sensible”. Following Ranciere, politics is about distribution of the sensible, disturbing the dominant sensible itself. He would support the Clowns arguing that their speech is misrecognised and understood as only groans, or cries expressing suffering, hunger, or anger. And the Archimedeans will be ready to fight with Ranciere for he makes a sense in a different language though.
They continue to scoff at the Clowns for living in a preposterous world of nonsense which, they say, is what they believe and actually do. This is precisely the ways of being idiotic, going by this definition. Yet, there are many more like Clowns around. The Clowns also know that they all are their own self-replications, in their own feat of being idiotic and therefore, being Clown. Remember, melancholia reasserts in many forms all the time in the land of the Clowns. At the same time, the Archimedeans have learnt too much of the Clowns and are intimately involved with the Clowns’ affair. What will the Clowns lose, then? Nothing but “Clown”, which they are not right from the beginning.
This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, May 8, 2011