Sep 6, 2018

Gentle Manifest | To live is to be haunted

For most of its adult life, this blog has experimented with forms* of critical investigation of Rilindje (R), mostly because, after almost three decades of what was deemed a ‘transitional’** period in Albania —rightly or wrongly so, but certainly one of fast-paced transformation without much of the democratic progress it was first thought to be — R promised to fix both, democratic failure and cultural progress, under a unified vision for the future of the country; something along the sentiment «Albania, the ‘beautiful’: unleashing beauty to tame the beast.»
What did R thought of as ‘beauty’ and what did it thought of as ‘beast’?
It promised to develop a ‘western’ democracy, or at the very least to design a place attractive enough to seem renewed. In short, a seemingly new life.
For whom, though? 
Freedom was always implied. During this time, no one spoke of (the lack of) it publicly — in general or specifically about the ‘beauty’ (e.g. urgency) of having rights — the right to free speech, to affordable housing, to outstanding education, to public space and amenities, to fair laws, to uncensored artistic expression (i.e. not that of the ‘artist-in-chief’), and to so many other necessities — mental, individual or communal autonomy. 
Why would anyone? 
The country was not being invaded. It remained ‘at peace’.
Unity did not mean a single or total vision — at first. It just meant ‘beautifully, at piece’ — only later it was understood (maybe, still, not yet) that just was by design, a designation for the unjust(ified).

Hence, through experimental critiques — in the form of graspings 1 and scrypts 2 —  the blog has been trying, at the very least, to understand the forms of freedom implied by the name Rilindje and those deployed by it — how its politico-aesthetic act of (re)designing Rebirth (as a fix-it-all dogma) was already shaping perceptions and practices of freedom. 
How and what was (it) needed the most, though? 
The questions central to the blog’s quest had (and continue to have) everything to do with Rebirth as the design dogma and practice of R. 
What did it considered valuable and of value? 
What did it kill? 
What did it presume dead? 
What had died that it was giving some of it enough life and privilege to come back on again? 
What kind of a new life was it now breathing? 

At the beginning, without knowing much about R’s motivation (its scrypt), nor fully grasping how it would translate in a lived experience (deeds), the blog was quietly rooting for a truer birth, for a much needed awakening that c(w)ould’ve changed previous forms of governing so deeply rooted in both corruption and totalitarianism — one that c(w)ould’ve totally revamped its (public and private) institutions; one that c(w)ould’ve delivered and cheered on all the different forms of possible (and those not yet imagined) freedoms; one that c(w)ould’ve really made a difference within the country, and in the eyes of those outside forces whom R was so eager to impress (i.e. EU). But, what the blog and many others got instead was largely cosmetic, a rebirth in name only, a facelift to hide the long and deep-seated depression from persistently insignificant and precarious changes — that truly capitalist existence of going on a shopping spree one can’t afford to subdue (suppress) their blues — the feeling of being (care)free, in debt. 
Even though, at times, the blog goes hard on ‘but what does R mean’ and ‘can we figure out what R means by what R does’, it has always thought of R as an (missed) opportunity for Repair. Henceforth, the better approach and questions to ask, may be to confront, challenge and renegotiate R’s Realm, its unity of/and vision, its narrative of beauty, from one of Rebirth to one of a much needed Repair.  

Demanding repair every time R alludes to rebirth is a position of resistance. Redefining R’s beauty within its own narrative of it, is a position of beauty.   
R’s roaming caravan keeps redrawing the line between life and beyond-life, that self-induced pseudo-rebirth that makes existence precarious, at least in this blog’s eyes. As the blog itself ponders on its own existence, it’s starting to look closely at the existence of those it was brought up with (about ~ 7yrs ago, though R’s origin can be traced to at least a decade earlier), and that occupies itself with now. 

Maybe it was the time in which R came on — a time out of joint, of ‘transition’ from dead(ly) living to living dead(ly) or vice versa — that gave R probable cause to walk this line and play it with such precariousness all the way to becoming dead-ly. 
Maybe R was birthed by this realm of back and forths, in order to render it more legible, to legitimize it, thus to repeat it, in order to ensure its own existence. 
No matter what though, the illusory life that R reverberates through rebirth has disillusionized many, this blog included. Its insistence on such rebirth, and ultimately its own renewal, only reaffirms R’s hubris and disregard for the inherent spectrality of the process its name implies and warns of — it remains aloof to the specter that now lingers heavier than ever. 

The spatial is indeed a duration. Thus, the longer this blog lives, the more it entertains the thought of existing solely as a hauntological form of resistance.

“Our problem … is not so much that we are seduced by our memories of long ago, but that we cannot produce new memories.” 3

Citing Derrida’s book “Specters of Marx”, Mark Fisher adds: “Derrida’s title, needless to say, was a play on all of the ghostly imagery in Marx—most notably, of course, the opening line of the Communist Manifesto: “A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism”. Part of the point was: if communism has always been spectral, what does it mean to say that it is now dead? Derrida’s other major reference-plex is Hamlet, especially the line, “The time is out of joint”. Here we are back with dyschronia or temporal disjuncture as the principal characteristic of hauntology.” 4

If specter is what’s inherited from the past (i.e. Communism) as well as from the future that preceded R’s (i.e. the ‘transition’ period), then would it make sense to speculate that the specter of Democracy is also haunting R? Could R’s (neoliberal) Rebirth be approached (analyzed) as a simultaneous haunt of unrealized past and future, both C and D?

Benjamin insisted that “We must wake up from the world of our parents” (V, 1048). 
“But what can be demanded of a new generation, if its parents never dream at all?” replies Susan Buck-Morss. 5

Hence, it might not be too far fetched to speculate that R’s intolerance or repression of old haunts may have animated, enlightened new or renewed apparitions. “When the present has given up on the future, we must listen for the relics of the future in the unactivated potentials of the past.” 6 Has R given up on the past/future its name suggests? 

How would it have been different, if named Repair?

If Rebirth is not more than just a repetition of old ways that won’t die; a coming back of what’s been repressed for so long, the question might be(come): If it won’t die, how does it age? When R promised a new life, a better one, only to then reduce it to an aesthetic unity, a forced top-down style of Idio(t)syncrasy as the only ‘legitimate’ (beautiful) form of a progressive nation, it wasn’t without precedent  (the socialist realism of our time?). We already know how it will age — renewed by rebirth, maybe?

To investigate Rebirth’s possible forms of freedom — those implied vs. deployed — from an uncanny POV, that of the return of the repressed— through defamiliarization and estrangement — is a position of resistance.

[The blog would also argue that absolute freedom resists form, but absolute freedom is improbable — what is possible, at least for the sake of the argument here, is the fact that any and all forms that deny freedom can be subverted from within the regimes of form to reveal their limits in ways that offer new means to undo them. (D&G) This is the position resistance takes. It is the one within from a place of without.]

What if unity of vision was not just ‘renewed beauty’ but a form of freedom whose beauty was ur(a)gency, a form of ‘renewed ur(a)gency‘ perhaps, whose just(ly) design — its stimuli — was the ur(a)gency of rights, the beauty of rights, the designation of/for ‘repair is rights’.  
What if unity+vision was a vision unified through difference; a unity that had the capacity and will to provide new forms of governing, where new doesn’t mean more elaborately designed ways of continuing old policies and practices of corruption, but new as in letting them die, not rebirthing them with a faceless facelift. 
How does a facelift age? 
How does it differentiate from repair?  
An actual birthing of democracy though, whose sole vision is to allow it to exist, to grow, to live independently of who brought it to life. 
I say birth because it can be easily argued that we’ve been democratic as much as we’ve been communist — we’ve not been communist nor democratic. 
I say birth because we’re in the midst of ‘celebrating’ the year of Skanderbeg, the year of his death — a symbolic rebirth of (his) democracy — a ‘celebration’ of his unity of vision or R’s? — without once questioning the uncanny resemblance of these ‘celebrations’ to the specter his death brought forth.

The blog never thought it would talk about S so much this year, but all the institutional ‘celebrations’ got to it(‘s nerves), so here we are, haunted by the ghost and spirit of a unity and vision, a freedom that has been dead for half a millennia. A freedom that is now spectral.

Hauntology as “a political gesture” then — as “a sign that the dead will not be silenced” 7, might be another way for this blog to realize itself, to not try to force the genie back in the bottle, but to let R’s “architecture realize itself in its own death” 8 — or at least in what R wishes from the genie (or jinn, defined as a “being concealed from the senses”), although making a deal with the ‘devil’ can’t be that easy. 
If R’s realization, its freedom and repression of haunts, depends on the “collective dreams of escape” implied by its name — Rebirth; the blog approaches R’s existence as a “collective grief” instead — a resistance that insists on Repair as “collective works of mourning”. 9

We continue to live in a time out-of-joint, thus it might not be such a bad idea to view (R’s) existence through the lens of hauntology “as a crucial-cultural and political-alternative both to linear history and to postmodernism’s permanent revival,” because what the blog mourns “most keeningly … is the very possibility of loss (the loss of freedom amongst others).10

To live is to be haunted — R by its name, the implications of the name Rebirth (haunts) and the design of its new life. One hants the life and the other redesigns the haunt. One might say the blog is haunted too, by the fragmented ways it sees and thinks, as well as by the stuttering of its writing. Embracing, that to live, is indeed to be haunted, might be the first step toward existential freedom, the leap away from mental repression.


*I use the word form to mean both (a) regime and (its) limits.

**The italized words in single quotations are, in definition, perception, and use, at least in my opinion, still debatable. There have been many arguments, from people smarter than me, refuting the validity of what thdescribe; the word ‘transition’ for example.

  1. Charles H. Kahn, The Art and Thought of Heraclitus, paraphrases H’s CXXIV fragment: “Graspings, that is to say groups holding together, apprehensions bringing things together: these are wholes and not wholes; they characterize a system which is convergent, divergent, structured by cooperation and by conflict; this system is consonant, dissonant, held together by harmony and discord alike; from all its components a unity emerges, and from this unity all things emerge.”
  2. Jennifer Bloomer, Architecture and (the) Text: The (S)crypts of Joyce and Piranese; “In its ambiguous emblematicity of “crypt,” and its ambiguous position between picture and writing, the hieroglyph suggests a writing that is other than transparent, writing that is illegible in the conventional sense, a writing in which repressions surface. This “writing” might be termed (s)crypt. It is the writing of Joyce and the writing (etching) of Piranesi, which give themselves up to other readings.”
  3. Mark Fisher, The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology
  4. ibid.
  5. Susan Buck-Morrs, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West
  6. Mark Fisher, The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology
  7. ibid.
  8. Aaron Betsky, Violated Perfection: Architecture and the Fragmentation of the Modern
  9. Mark Fisher, The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology
  10. ibid.

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