When Future Futures

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Ten Verily Elfin Meditations

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Such is the hegemonic understanding (vulgar and what not) of temporality, the one that stretches from Aristotle to Heidegger and beyond:

past as the eternal source and origin of the very everything, past as the universal form of everything, instance of the most basic human knowledge:

whatever we do not know about an entity, we all agree this much:

whatever it is that we have ob-jected there, it has its source somewhere in the past:

the mightier the source, the more distant into the past it is:

the mightiest past source will have produced everything, from its first effect till its last effect way into the future:

thus future is nothing but a succession of effects, passivity itself:

living things such as us are, therefore, interfaces:

each of us live in the present, in the now, in the point, just at the border between what just passed and what is just about to come about:

the source has itself pro-duced through presence into the/a (un-/determinate article, transcendent/immanent does not matter) future:

the very origin is God.

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The question of how to write I, then. ————————————————————- “The Stranger, clothed in his new ———————————————————————————————————————– thoughts, acquires still more ———————————————————————————————————————– partisans in the way of silence.” ———————————————————————————————————————– (Anabasis, Saint-John Perse.)

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1

This time I will situate this question between two certain senses of the title given here, “Future futures.” First, the sense—and this will interrogate Heideggerian verbalizations of nouns—that future is something that “futures,” meaning that future itself is what gives more future, that future somehow is what gives itself

—and present

—and past.

παρελθόν παρουσιάζω μέλλον, meaning: the past presents the future. Old Greek, and still hegemonic.

Its giving itself, and thereby its giving us our lives, is given to us in the fact that there are innumerous presents and pasts; it can only further its giving-of-future if and only if it precisely unavoidably must produce so called present and so called past; time has to make space for itself, and so it produces what is called present and past. Hyperthesis: the very originicity of the quidditas is what-is-still-to-come.

Heidegger wrote, for instance, that the world worlds (die Welt weltet), time times (die Zeit zeitet), language speaks (die Sprache spricht), or that the nothing nothings (das Nichts nichtet). But he would never write that the future futures (die Zukunft zukunftet).

(Here, right here, when I wrote this yesterday, my computerized pen immediately protested, and marked my interfacialized digits with red (wrong lexica) and green (wrong syntax). My computer will mark my words, and simply do so till I take notice of it; still, luckily, I have the choice to either

a) ignore the suggestion (push the button ‘ignore’), but this possibility of ignoring, which is built into the machine, is repeatedly restricted to ignoring only once, or

b) I can incorporate into the machine of my writing what it indefinitely repeatedly surfaced, but so only to make of me a part of that machine, and certainly that machine a part of me. We see here a constellation vastly different from that of the singular pen and pencil. The machine machines and this means that the pen has to spit out, from me, and from the “machine,” or the “personal computer.”)

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2

As for the second sense of the perhaps bizarre syntagma ‘future futures,’ bifurcating from the first sense but still strangely affirming and intensifying the first sense, namely, the sense that in our future, or in the future, there will be plural futures, I have written that in the future there will have to be futures in the plural: not the future, however, nor a future either—akin to Deleuze’s “a life” perhaps—but futures, period…no, not period, but period without period, and without without without, as Derrida wrote somewheres.

Sema (meaning) and semen (sperm) entertains a not fortuitously relation, however remote they could turn out etymologically speaking. A Deleuzian manifold or plural will not do, as will not, of course, Ricæur’s; Deleuze and Guattari’s plural immanence is already semi-transcendentalism. And thus of the same. Only dissemination will do, to explode the all too common horizon of ulterior meaning. (Job’s test comes close, though, as he refuses all three theologians nil, dull and pathetic attempts at “explaining” Job’s misery.)

This now would transpose supernumerary being to supernumerary future; supernumerary being can only be if there are supernumerary futures. Of course, future is always supernumerary, what is superfluous, extra, what always already is outside any present or presentist calculus, bursting into the calculus machine, always imploding that machine’s built-in possibilities, always already making any presencing machine the very locus of dysfunction. So there is a certain future that will always already implode any being, any life given, any given, any axiomatics.

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3

I wrote ‘always already,’ in the same line as that of future futuring: future as a causality and as irradically and irreducibly disseminative. It is perhaps not as difficult or scandalous to let the figure of ‘always’ flee the sway of the past, the radical, the arborescent, and the arche, as it is with regard to the figure of ‘already.’ Rome capitalized upon the ‘always’: “Right as diverse pathes leden the folk the righte wey to Rome.” The itinerary is still thus: Sanskrit itar, meaning ‘other,’ offering itself to the Roman iter, denoting ‘road, route, travel, journey.’ Rome had it conceived that it was all things’ Omphalos. Past is, indeed, the very paradigm of narcissism.

‘Radicalists’—seekers and discoverers of roots, be the preferred ones regular radicles, arborescents, or wild, schizophrenic rhizomes—will have to inscribe this fleeing of the past qua παράδειγμα as a scandal. Radicalists inscribe ‘already’ as always, forever, denoting ‘before, or by this time, or the time mentioned.’ And they will point to the fact that the term is composed of ‘all’ and ‘ready.’ In all ways, imaginable and unimaginable relative this or that human being, there it is, that which is all ready, also imaginable and unimaginable relative this or that empirical and contingent human being. Always already: one of the favorite figures of the radix.

‘Radical,’ thus not in the thickened melancholic, nostalgic sense as a certain politics bequeathed to “radical” measures claimed to enable a fundamental alteration of the very course of things. ‘Radical,’ the adjective in its purest possible technical sense: derived from Greek ρίζα, Latin radic: ‘root.’ In our epoch of thought the radix and all its systematic connotations and conceptions is ubiquitous.

Even the rhizome connects according to those ‘always already’s’—it just incorporates and supersedes the radicle’s ways of the ‘always already.’ But, for there is certainly a qualification involved here: would we not need to question the common self-assuredness of all those radicalists that all write their I’s as if cloned?

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Some questions: what if future is what is always already—thus making ‘is’ crossed over, principally undecidable, sous rature? And what if what present is, what it appears like, is not to be pragmatically and morally judged upon by recourse to rules of application of past principles? What if such radicalist interpretations of the principles of the always already will be bound to institute an obstruction to the future, namely, according to mystical conceptions of what always already is, conceptions that seems to say that what makes existence, and future, is a past making sure that it is reproduced?

I do contend that today the injunction to a future that futures and hold disseminative futures, is more palpable than ever, and that this injunction takes a conspicuous political turn. Capitalism—namely what apparently relates its machine of investment and risk to the future and so by that gesture discards any present and past needs and desires—is, however, de jure and de facto blocking our relation to future, and futurity, that is. And blocking more efficient than any other known political machine. But in so doing it also reveals the possibility and necessity of futuricity more certain and clear than ever. This efficiency in obstructing futurity is perhaps what precisely gave it its globalization.

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Always a tergo, then, from behind, it has been always thought that what constitutes the force of existence, existants, is in the past, all ways and all ready, behind us, pushing our backs, pushing us toward the future, a future that is only, and always only, the application, or modified duplication, of that same root. As a journey plainly heading towards its telos, Eschaton.

Our conception of causality: is it not fundamentally founded upon a trope of an a tergo? There are, of course, conceptualizations suggesting ‘reversible time.’ Nonetheless, it is critical to ask for their motivation and actual import. Are, then, not these re-current notions in modern physics rather a gesture so as to expand the hold of past upon present and future? The billiard ball that gets hit by another ball: is it all past powers that act? How could it be? How could we be sure? Should we not rather try and allow ourselves, for once, for the sake of argument, be disturbed by the possibility that there is a certain futuricity that at all allows what we call causality?

Does the effect not, at least, also come from the future? This must be thought without its Aristotelian heritage, the heritage that says that there is a teleological and formal cause, as well, besides of the material and efficient. We must leave it there, unfortunately. But again, the ball that got hit, not to speak of the ball that hits: are these not events from the future?

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For decades (if one brackets Spinoza’s truly, for that time, immensely avant-garde natura naturans appearing in his posthumous Ethics) one has tried not few variations of conceptions of, e.g., causal temporality. One has also varied the political ontology of time. Common for politics, science, and philosophy is the stronghold of presence, the great living, pulsating Presence.

“Presence is worthy and mighty in its own right,” such goes the battle-cry. One has dreamed of a presence with its own autonomy. (One must, here, remember that irrespective of a certain ontological presencism from Aristotle onwards to (even) Heidegger and beyond, in terms of constituent powers it has always been a Primum Movens in some variation or other; presence is just that: what is for or before human or otherwise senses.)

Presence is nonetheless still hopelessly entangled in the paradeigma of the past: a present presence whose imminence is right away doomed to become past, irrelevance, non-work, inefficiency. Any present is in the imminence of being produced as past, what is left, what is no more, what can never be found anymore, because it is irreducibly lost, left, given up, what doesn’t work anymore. What always will and will have to work, however, is what always already still is-to-come; we can be sure of this. It is, in this little meditation, not the case that a radical past is what pushes us and everything else forward, with sensing organisms experiencing the swift and always schizoid border between past and future; rather, that we are pulled and offered into what always remains to come.

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Not to wonder, this is no offer of grace handed down to you, as if you always might choose whether you will grant or not; inescapable, uncircumventable, it is there whether you like it or not, know it or not, wants it or not. If you should choose to die by your own hand at free will and initiative, to put an end to this your life, you would always already have chosen to receive a future which at all will allow you to kill your self. All things there are, are of and due to futuricity.

In this context we need to question why it is capitalism that wins out, this political system that obstructs futuricity more than ever before. What is this will to capitalism? Why does our will seem to be anachronistic as regards the time of futuricity, whose principal act, or so it seems, is to provide an indeterminate offering? Why do we partake as agents building an uncanny auto-immune anachronicity into futuricity? Making futuricity seemingly coming to halt.

It is necessary to take into account Derrida’s entire oeuvre relative his notion of  general iterability. The Roman iter; the Hebrew itar: roads, incisions in nature, travel books, etc., systematically structured around and gravitating towards a pre-given, “pro-grammed,” centre, will, at Derrida’s hand be swirled, purloined, into the repetition-with-difference. Iteration is repetition-with-difference. The law of general iterability thus maintains that all things discernable—and only an incisive breaching constitute a discernable thing whatever it is, textual or extra-textual—are, for its very possibility of phenomenalizing, for its very possibility of being constituted as appearing for a sense as such, as present in a presence, double-bound to hold its so-called ‘identity’ only under the more general law of repetition-with-difference. The Roman Iter was a short parenthesis was nothing but yet another attempt at denegating this law.

The possibility of iterating is what makes the mark, for instance the mark of this very mark, right here, or there, or this very sound, here, or there. This possibility is not reducible to the mark itself; its structure involves a certain futurity of the mark. This may very well apply not only to linguistic marks, but to all kinds of marks—which Derrida suggests more than one time. The structure of iterability is something offered from future; where it not for this abyssal resource there would be no mark, and certainly no language. The mark in itself, this on, for instance, harbors none of these forces. The billiard ball hitting the other ball may involve general iterability no less than this word hitting this word. A billiard ball also complies with its general iterability, no less than the word ‘ball.’ In this sense there is nothing outside of the text—if I may say so, even knowing that this was not what Derrida meant to say, even knowing how much controversy that little sentence made around the world. And even if Derrida may be said, which I don’t think, to interpret notions like general iterability and trace in terms of past workings, more in terms of radicalism than in terms of irradicalism and futurity, then I think still we should reinterpret his own interpretations—make of them ‘performative interpretations’—as is another motif of his. This is what could constitute an affirmative reading and writing of Derrida: an affirmation that is af-formative, that is to say, and affirmation that has no form. Form is what only dreams of radicalism can make. And the irresistible urge to split things into forms and stoff is, as we know, the very motor of metaphysics. Iterability and trace is afformativity, we could say.

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In “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Benjamin will make this interpretation of Klee’s “Angelus Novus”: the angel’s face is turned toward the past, and where we will see a chain of events, the angel “sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet.” Benjamin continues: “The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.” This is Benjamin’s Angel of History.

Giorgio Agamben will interpret this as a particularly felicitous image to describe what happens when we lose our link with our past and are therefore no longer able to find ourselves in history, when—and I quote—“suspended in the void between old an new, past and future, man is projected into time as into something alien that incessantly eludes him and still drags him forward, but without allowing him to find his ground in it.” So much is Agamben’s thought berooted that he closes his thought by saying that “According to the principle by which it is only in the burning house that the fundamental architectural problem becomes visible for the first time, art, at the furthest point of its destiny, makes visible its original project.”

This principle of the burning house needs be rethought. It seems to make good sense. But Agamben wants this to tell something more, something other. The original project, what was thrown out, projected to us to be our dwelling place, our house—it is urgent to see this, again, to have it visible. There is a pro-jectile, a throwing before, that seemingly is directed, somehow, toward us, precisely us, and any of us—present, or to come, or those even that will be the most distant of the ones to come—we the subjectiles: the burning house is the house of us all. Is not this archeological principle a call for power? And a power that again is rooted? Is not the mightiest power the one that enables itself and that is enabled to ground itself the deepest? The deeper the distance from past to present, the more potential for a growing power—or so radicalism thinks: it thinks this distancing, and it thinks this powering and growing. And it throws us before it. Rhizomism thinks in horizontals, not only in horizontals though; it is still the thinking of the root. I am saying this because I am not convinced that rhizomatic thought is capable of being the other of the root that it says itself to be. It even may be the case that a flat thought, a horizontal thought, and precisely for the reason of its being said to be a machine of ‘and…and…and,’ is actually what only boosts radicalism. When the distancing condition of power is thought strong enough, what would not be more abiding than making this radicalist power expand horizontally, in what is celebrated today as the genuine requisition for any true revolution, namely the present and the now? At least not so when it comes to radicalism as at least I would like to articulate it—at least for the time being.

One must, upon this basis, re-think the strange couple that mares our world: Marx’ invocation of the always already of capital, plus the global threat of Sharia exploding in our faces. The couple is perhaps not that odd, after all?

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9

If future futures, and if there are only supernumerary futures in the future—if there is to be future, and this is an acute question today, and Derrida even says that there must be a possibility of no future for there to be a future, just as the promise to be a promise must be able to not be a promise, a broken promise—if so, then, we can see the possibility of total destruction both as promising a futurity, still, and very materially, this promising issuing from our construction of those bombs, and as instantiating a planetary symbol for our failure to face the gift of this future that futures and does so supernumerary: if this is so, we may understand Derrida’s question concerning pure desire, the nothing of the name, as desire of death (Lacan’s Ethics), as total atomic war, when he asks: “Who can swear that our unconscious is not expecting this? dreaming of it? desiring it?” (“No Apocalypse, Not Now, ‘Seven missiles, Seven Missions’ “) And Weber writes that this is an explosive desire “whose interpretations decide on the mere possibility of the future.” She continues: “If the “massive destruction” that our century has witnessed “seems to us to be an inexplicable accident, a resurgence of savagery,” quoting from Lacan’s Ethics, we should remind ourselves, with Benjamin’s Illuminations, that the “astonishment that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless, it is the knowledge that the view of history that gives rise to it is untenable.”

There it is, again, the question of the progressivist metaphysics—”toward a better future” is its formula. We may here think of that Big Bang that drives, propels everything forward whether they will or not, or that God that in the past created Man and his Descents, or that political cause that everybody is on the verge to be, precisely, eradicated, under the pressure of capitalist desires, etc., and we saw the sad picture depicted by Benjamin in his interpretation of Klee’s “Angelus Novus.” We don’t have our past in our backs anymore. And so we can neither see, nor eat, nor act. We are without ground as we no longer have the means of transmission between past and future, and so our desires are inclined toward pursuing in the real what is foreclosured (not repressed) in the symbolical, namely the desire of nothing. This is what is said. Maybe one should use Benjamin’s performative interpretation of Klee, and his formulations on progressivism against himself, or Agamben?—and Weber?, which says that Derrida is about remembrance, a remembrance that may help prevent the total catastrophe. And we could have mentioned many other great, contemporaneous, writers that share their vital stocks in this respect, in this nostalgic fire of something lost. “We must ground ourselves in the present, or there is no reality nor revolution!,” it is clamored, in choir.

The only right knowledge of history is to let it go. There is no other tenable view of history. So it is not the case, as Benjamin seems to say, at least in Agamben and Weber’s voices, that a wrong conception of history is responsible for modern atrocities. What is wrong is the belief that history is of worth at all, to present needs, to the future, to the organizing of politics and economy. We should perhaps risk saying that history is irrelevant? We call for a Manifest of Irradicalism.

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So if future futures, if there is only supernumerary futures, if there is an undecidable futurity, if this is so, then nothing should discourage us from knowing that what we capitalism necessarily will have to become history, too. This is not something that awaits our faith or belief; it will come irrespective of our dreams and fears. If not, that is, it is in the power to what we call ‘man’ to install anachronicity into futurity.
Ask what is untenable. Is it not being rooted in past or present, that is to say, in actuality? Being rooted in actuality is only another way of saying that one keeps ones tracks with the past. Or, is it to be unable to see that the gift of life comes, always already, from supernumerary futures?

We have to ask, with Derrida, what it is to eat well. He writes his “Eating Well” with Jean-Luc Nancy as interlocutor, a little nice essay. Whatever we do, we always eat, takes, injects things in, in the real or symbolically; all life do. So how does one eat future well? That is a question that I would like to be addressed, since future is what gives itself to eating, to be eaten, and since we cannot but eat, and since eating is something we shares. Its obverse is the thinking—we may perhaps name it ‘radicalist’—that rather than eating afresh, sharing and well, fills their mouths with excrements, and in this respect is carnivorous, virile, and anthropophagous—universal values for those in power nowadays. For such thought future is always the same, the same shit, the same good-tasting shit, but in the end so auto-anthropophagous that it no longer has any taste—as we know happens in regular food production, where animals are fed with their own shit, remnants of slaughtered siblings, industrial slam, etc. No more style or content—but this is not the man without content that Agamben writes about. I am not without content because I am uprooted from what is claimed to be my past, my shared past with you, that past that so to speak roots us together, or, because I am a futurist, or something like that. I cannot ever learn how to write I, if I am not enabled and able to eat future fresh, what is to be done well if there is to be any future, what is in each case what is given to me, to us, to all the I’s that are shattered around the planet. Paraphrasing Nancy’s “Shattered Love” we may say “Shattered Shitting,” I think this as our imperative of our own time, the time that threatens with real anachronicity by the fact of the mass destruction arsenals, but also by the sneaking fact that we pollute and destroy, irreversibly, everything from climate, to soil, air, and water, to genes. Therefore I end these little meditations quoting Blanchot’s L’amitié: “And when we ask the question: ‘Who has been the subject of this experience?’ this question is perhaps already an answer, if, for the one who introduced it, it was affirmed through him in this interrogative form, substituting for the closed and unique ‘I’ the openness of a ‘Who?’ without answer. Not that this means that he simply had to ask himself: ‘What is this me that I am?’ but much more radically he had to seize hold of himself and not let go, no longer as an ‘I?’ but as a ‘Who?,’ the unknown and sliding being of an indefinite ‘Who?’ ” Derrida comments that this is why the determination of the singular “Who?” remains forever problematic, and that it should remain so, since the obligation to protect the other’s otherness is not merely a theoretical imperative. So in this way I would love to learn how to write, and eat, the I that I am, the I that am me, as an indeterminate who, and yes, not as in the abstention of an emptiness, as if this imperative were something that I needed to abstain from, refrain from filling and re-filling, but rather as an openness without answer, an openness even no longer traced by the question, and therefore no longer by the answer and the non-answer. The otherness of the other, in the other or in the other of me, or of the me of the other of the other, etc., is ir-radical: not without roots, because we have this history of the root, not simply negation or denegation, not a simple opposition, neither formal or empty nor determinate, but leaving the roots of oppositions and the oppositions of roots.

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