Larval Ethics

To Begin With:
“Is it possible to form a community of strangers without identity and to still really have a community?”
-Levi Bryant
A Series of Further Questions of Mine:
The logic of identification – grouping individuals inside a boundary: if a community is named, does the naming inevitably produce another? Is the identification of the many under one name a antagonistic move? Or can the delicately crafted negotiation of inclusion/exclusion prevent such measures of paranoia and aggression?
If the blame for violence comes from the other group, would sympathies sway to the side of the non-aggressor? Or must both communities share the blame for structuring the relationship in such a way as to bring about this confrontation? Is there even such a thing as an ’aggressor community’ and a ’victim community’?
Regarding the Occupy Movement:
Can there be a name to identify with, whose transcendence never goes beyond the actions and immanent spatial “being there”, so that the attachment to the identity doesn’t generate violence?
Should violence be avoided or should the conflict be deemed “inevitable” and take the strategy towards clearly presenting the other as the violent aggressor?
How can strangers with diverse views get along together without dissolving in the face of external attack and misrepresentation without a title?
And Now:
Levi Bryant has been kicking ass in his blog Larval Subjects lately. Thinking ethics with realism and materialism in mind has the difficult task of avoiding the reification of particular social norms and describing ethical relationships physically. The overriding concern as I take it is to preserve an ethics towards others that includes strangers and the environment as opposed to just familiar faces and abstract symbols of attachment. Such a code that allows for an ethical commitment through symbolic allegiance often maintains one’s comfortable place and closes off the surprise of the coming of the other. This encounter with the stranger occurs at boundaries that separate them from me or my local territory from another’s – thinking spatially that is. So the ethical decision becomes one of letting the other cross into my comfort zone or abandoning my comfort zone for the strangeness of another’s. The ethical decision always made in the indefinite present must be undecided at the arrival of the strange thing that intrudes upon the casual movement of my routine affairs.
Bryant writes:
“A distinction implies boundary between inside and outside. The problem is that a boundary belongs to neither the inside nor the outside. Boundaries belong to both insides and outsides. This entails that boundaries are undecidable for any system. The real world consequence of this is that every system that attempts to form an identity (a self, a transcendence, an essence, etc) encounters an undecidable boundary between inside and outside that renders identity fraught from within.”
There is a lot of Derrida whisperings here that I am willing to acknowledge and appreciate. The question of ethical relationships becomes obscured when the task goes beyond deconstruction and on to a *mobilization* of something Deleuze & Guatarri might call a war machine (which may or may not have violent warfare as its object). Movement building that seeks a construction as its object: can this be done ethically by sticking merely to a proximal closeness of physical encounters and/or an abstract symbol with which one can identify? Would a movement be forced into a violent hegemony with a transcendent rationality of ’us vs. them’ by identifying with a name and claiming a territory for itself? Does the anxiety created by forming a solid identity doom them all to an aggressive hostility to the other?
I’m bombarding you (reader) with questions because I don’t really have an answer. But I think these are the right questions and I’ll go on speculating about them.
Ultimately I think, continuing in a Derridean manner, that these questions are unanswerable at the textual level, they must be worked out in the moment – the moment that forever eludes the writer and reader. It is in these tenuous moments that the flickering of attitudes, allegiances, and beliefs must play out. The outcomes that a carefully planned theory can never actualize completely but tries to prepare us for and teach us to think about is the scene of ethics. Coming up against the borders of who we are, who is included, what is the goal, how can ‘x’ be accommodated, etc. are matters of tactics and strategy when the growth and survival of a thing is at stake among hostiles. We all unquestionably bring our theoretical commitments along with us into the strategic/tactical discussion. But the decisions to go this way or the other, the collective movement forging along all the while, is not the direct result of the positions delineated in these discussions and often go completely off the expected course. The chaotic uncertainty of the occurrence frequently makes the best laid plans fail. Bringing up strategy and tactics highlights the difficulties of making ethical decisions when placed in the context of a survival game, complete with hostile strangers (enemies) and tentative alliances.
What alters ethical dilemmas into matters of strategy and tactics or what obscures the welcoming of the stranger is often a community with a shared understanding that differs drastically from another’s. One’s finger can be firmly pointed at the symbols conforming people into blind faith when they get in the way of mutual agreements. At this point whether or not subscribing to the name is a net benefit at all. The commitment to an abstraction can make matters worse, as Nationalism and Fascism have terrifyingly demonstrated. To organize and link people up into a single force carries risks. But if we are to forgo this option, preexisting forces without remorse will walk all over us and continue to reinforce a path towards oblivion. Perhaps there is a way to ethically forge a collective from disparate places and work on a better world without dogmatic labeling. I honestly don’t know. Would collectives be enough to halt a seemingly uninterruptible system backed by guns, jets, drones, and spyware?
Whatever the case, I think we should let tactics blend into our ethics.
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