This, is not an essay.
It’s a pipe.
That’s a joke.
The question is: How is objectivity determined? The corollary question is: What is the truth of the narrative? What is the nature of the narrative’s structure?
We say, these are words. The words form a sentence. This is true. But in addition to that truth it is also true that the words are an idea and a set of ideas that in their turn exist only in relation to other ideas. We choose to say these words are singular and together form an idea. Singular words plural ideas. Singular idea but plural because of endless unavoidable connections and associations.
Barthes is wrong to say it is only the endless set of associations. The associations are there and we can chose to open that door or keep it closed. But even if it is closed it exists. So when we say: This is not an essay we are making a reference to Magritte. Or Duchamp. If we say Duchamp we mean Europe in the early part of the 20th century. We mean Paris. We mean Duchamp and Picasso. Picasso means Cubism. Except when he means Synthetic Cubism or Olga in a bad mood.
Let’s ask a question: When is Picasso not Spain?
Except when he is Paris.
Or something ancient.
But you can not have any one of those without the others.
Thus, Hume and Bundle theory. Or a Buddhist asking what is the Buddha if not the tree or the road? And in the case of Hume consider that you have a man in the middle of the 18th century, two hundred and fifty years before Foucault, who says there is no such thing as a singular object and the personality is fluid, not fixed in either time or space.
This is complicated.
Get used to it. Things are complicated.
When someone tells us this or that is the beginning and this or that is the end and then tells us that these are the things that are or are not part of the narrative they are only offering one narrative choice among many. This upsets some people. They will say no there are only the things that matter because we have decided what those things are.
Here is an example: On the 18th of June, 1815, the forces of Napoleon the first, emperor of France, were defeated. This is the battle of Waterloo.
Or: The Battle of Waterloo ended in a defeat for the forces of the reaction in 1822 when Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in Italy.
The responses are of course predictable. They will say this is cheap semantics and a dangerous ploy to undermine the authority of objective reality. Facts are facts.
We propose the following: The narrative is not fixed. To say it is fixed is authoritarian and dangerous. We say the meaning of an event is not to be fixed and since it is not fixed we can find tendrils moving out from the event in question. We say the Romanticism of The Revolution does not end on the 18th of June. We say ideas which are people (because ideas can never exist without people) have no fixedity. Chou En Lai is asked in the early 1970s what he thinks are the effects of The French Revolution(s) of 1789. He says: It’s too soon to tell.
The French, under Bounaparte, were defeated at Waterloo. That is a fact. It is irrefutable. It is also conditional. This is a paradox. It’s hard to understand. Get used to it. Life is hard to understand.
The fascists and the atavistic tribalists have returned. Not that they ever went away but they have returned. Since they have returned other forces can return as well. Ideas lie dormant in the soil of the soul and then there is a hard rain and the soil sprouts ideas. Next thing you know someone is setting up a guillotine on the square.
The past aint even hardly past.
The facts and the truth seldom have anything to do with each other.
If I had a hammer.
A hammer is a singular object.
If you had a hammer you would search for a nail.
If you had a box of nails you would search for a hammer.
Baudrillard says: The invention of the train is also the invention of the train accident.
But no one goes around discussing the invention of the accident.
Hemingway is eating sardines and drinking a rum St. James.
Later there will be a shotgun.
But before that and after the rum and the sardines there are many other things.
Say Hemingway. And the singular is instantly a web of associations.
In Oak Park, said Hemingway, the minds are narrow and the lawns are wide.
Say Oak Park. Think about the running of the bulls and Duff Twysden. Or Zelda. Or a box of handgrenades given as a gift to Picasso.
There is an inherent paradox at work in this. The idea of the singular dominant narrative has its uses but it is also not entirely accurate.
Notice we do not say it is false. It is not entirely accurate.
Consider the following: George Sand and Chopin attend a performance of Beethoven’s 5th. On the way home Sand says: Freddy, you know the critics say the opening of the symphony represents fate knocking on the door.
Chopin coughs into one of his lavender silk gloves. Then he says: Yes my little croissant, that’s possible but then again for all we know he may have just had an upset stomach that day.
So, where does a thing begin?
Let’s try an experiment.
Think: Bruce Springsteen.
He is a singular entity.
But the moment we say “Bruce Springsteen” we are aware of a vast series of associations.
The post industrial wasteland.
Who is telling the story? How is the story told? What is left in and what is left out?
Can we examine the ways in which the narrative is constructed?
This is Foucault. This is Derrida. This is questioning the relationship between things; between power and identity.
This is not what it seems. It seems to be what it is.
What prevents us from discussing the ways in which the narrative is constructed?
Answer: A fear of the imagination and a lack of practice in imagining things and no sense of how things are connected by association or a recognition of that but controlled by a fear of it.
This is not an essay.
This is Postmodernism.
And Jordan Peterson is not right.
For an example of the reactionary response to Foucault, in the manner of Jordan Peterson and other cultural ayatholas, see the following essay:
Consider this line:
“A great deal might be said about this effort to welcome sadomasochism as a bracing new “life-style” option. Above all, perhaps, it demonstrates the kind of spiritual and intellectual wreckage that can result, even now— and even for the most educated minds— from the afterwash of the radicalism of the 1960s. Make no mistake: behind Professor de Courtivron’s anodyne commendation of a “nonjudgmental” approach to human sexuality and Miller’s dream of “corporeal experimentation” that proceeds “without shame or fear” stands the vision of polymorphous emancipation that helped turn the 1960s into the moral and political debacle it was.”
That’s right – it’s Foucault’s getting off on bondage sex that demonstrates what turned the 1960s into a moral and political debacle. Not Kissinger, Nixon, My Lai, Operation Condor, J.Edgar Hoover or Chairman Mao’s hymns to the Tractor Factories. But, a French intellectual getting his rocks off with a leather harness.
This type of hysteria is funny until you realise the writer is deadly serious and is determined to make sure everyone is doing it missionary style with the lights off while listening to the speeches of Dwight Eisenhower. Once you realize this goon is serious and you get over your case of the jitters and shakes you realize it’s time to figure out where the hell you can hide.