Blank air. Blank space. Blank wall.
Some of you sitting in this audience now identify with us. Some of you are shocked that we exist at all. Maybe there are even a few guilty here who seek repentance, without confession of course, or who are seething to know how far we will go in our narrating the stories of our misadventures.
Binswanger wrote, “If you want to know the future of a society, study its criminals.” If you want to know the secrets of a society, study the victims of its crimes. Blank air. Blank space. Blank wall, wall.
The higher, most difficult, more radical, defiant ethos for a time of trauma, terror, torment, goes something like this:
In this world in which the monstrous is encouraged to become ordinary, an ethic of the unpleasant emerges—emerges as a form of rebellion, when those who will speak of the unspeakable and resist the intolerable take a stand and dare to suffer, aware of the undeserved suffering of others, because of otherness, over that which we, individually and collectively, did not do.
This ethic may be the same as attempting to scale a vertical mountain of razored glass, or to climb a place of skulls and carrion tidbits, bone shards, or even of being crucified because others are hanging on the cross of oppression and dying from the cruelty of the inhuman. But who would dare? Who would dare to do this, to take up this lacerating burden of noble suffering? Noble, in an era of mobocracy and corporate gangsterism! This suffering upon which the humanness of our humanity hangs: writhing, bleeding, dreaming an impractical, scarcely possible, dream.
The alterity—the alternative chosen by indifference or enforcement of injustice—is betrayal. Betrayal is multidimensional. It reaches as high as the stars and beyond, as wide as the horizons, as deep as the psychotic fantasies of hell: Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Darfur, Iraq. It bleeds through and implants complex stains of self-repeating viruses of destruction and death.
Weigh it and measure. Betrayal, or this radical attempt, through resistance and rebellion, at solidarity emerging out of pain. Out of an ethic of the unpleasant countering the undeserved, relentlessly in pursuit of a democratizing response. A campaigning conflict of refining and responsible compassion, carried on until individual beatitudes flourish and replace the private and public politics of cruelty, vulgarity, neglect, deception, betrayal.
Blank air. Blank space. I would say, blank wall. Prison walls. Patterns. Patterns of madness. Patterns of denial. Patterns of betrayal.
by James Carney