sings Carole King: Yes, in times of war there are but consensual models of anthropology: friend or foe. War is a great disambiguator. In times of relative not war our worldview is built on Carl Schmitt’s distinction of der wirklichiche feind and der absolute feind; the real enemy and the absolute enemy, and these two do not necessarily coincide. The absolute enemy he defines as die Eigene Frage als Gestalt; the quiet disturbance – unheimlich- of seeing your messy thoughts arise before you, come alive as real situations, people even. Our daily life is a continuous struggle to identify the two correctly, so not as to get caught unaware, fighting an enemy that may be real but not essential to our notions of victory, of control.
“The way of anthropology’s epistemological bind turns on a denial of the key axiom of dualist ontology, namely that difference has to be similarity what representation is to the world. For if one refuses to attribute difference to culture and similarity to nature, the circular coercion of dualism is rendered limp. In the scheme advanced here, therefore, the presumption of natural unity and cultural difference – epitomised in the anthropos – is no longer tenable ( cf Argyrou 2002). If we are to take others seriously, instead of reducing their articulations to mere ‘ cultural perspectives’ or ‘beliefs’ (i.e. worldviews), we can conceive them as enunciations of different ‘worlds’ or ‘natures’ without having to concede that this is just shorthand for ‘worldviews’.” (Thinking Through Things, p.10)
So in the very moment that we gain the opportunity to make sense, we lose the opportunity to integrate it fully into our own ways of seeing. To let it stand, on its own, for a while. Seizing and scheming towards this opportunity to make sense, to have fully analyzed and grasped a situation – such as the recent individual agency in open source content-networks-sofware and hardware – http://www.bricolabs.net – will not lead to major organizational, political, and design breakthroughs, if we are not able to accomodate or be accomodated by an autonomous trajectory that is plotting its course since the history of time. This seems to me the biggest concrete challenge; to fully grasp the trajectory from thing as gathering places for spaces and discussion, to ‘matters of concern‘:
“A heuristic use of the term ‘thing’ has also been adopted by Bruno Latour, who, after Heidegger, has worked to transform the semantic emphasis of ‘things’ from ‘matters of concern’ (2004a). Drawing on older etymologies in which ‘thing’ denoted a gathering place, a space for discussion and negotiation, Latour has rehabilitated this sense of the term as a way out of the twin culs-de-sac of constructivism and objectivity.”
to the story as no longer metaphor, no longer as if or ‘as’ something else, no, he story is the thing now, it is the protocol.
Take this story,
The komuso, a wandering priest, plays a central part in the history of Japanese Shakuhachi music. From behind their wicker visors these basket-hatted men have “viewed the flow of Japanese life from the seventeenth century to the present”, as Charles P. Malm writes. (Malm, W. P. Japanese Music and Musical instruments Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland Vamont, Tokyo Japan, 1959, pp. 153-154.) The ranks of the komuso were filled with ronin: masterless samurai. In Kyoto a group of komuso called themselves the Fukeshu. The Buddhist shogun government, which had smashed all Christian inspired opposition after the battle of Shimabara, was very suspicious of any form of organisation that contained these samurai whose allegiance was doubtful. The Fukeshu secretly purchased a building that belonged to one of the larger Buddhist temples. By faking a number of papers claiming their historical origins as coming from China via a priest named Chosan, the Fukeshu tried to secure their position. They also produced a copy of a license from the first Edo Shogun, Ieyasu, giving them the exclusive right to solicit alms by means of shakuhachi playing. When a samurai became ronin he could no longer wear his double sword. So these wandering priests redesigned the shakuhachi. The flute became a formidable club as well as a musical instrument. The Fukeshu asked for official recognition of their temple. The government demanded the official document. The Fukeshu claimed it was lost. The shogun granted their request on the condition that they act as spies for the government. The Fukeshu accepted. The Fukeshu played soft melodies and overheard intimate conversations. If we read these steps backwards there always seems to be one more mask, eine maske mehr. The final layer is nonexistent, the essence never material, the object ever empty.
I have been fascinated by this story ever since I found it more then ten years ago. It seemed to me that this surely came closest to the genesis of things, of ways of performing, of articulating oneself as oneself through the means available, and not create in itself any other paradigm but to draw boundaries through things and protocol – things as protocol. Shedding skin. Closest to the Fukeshu in recent history is Temujin, Genghis Khan who created the largest empire in the world with a handful of dedicated men. As a study in radical democracy Temujin’s notions and praxis of local local autonomies, a radical break with hierarchy, freedom of expression and religion, no looting but organized distribution, knowledge transfer across various expertise and regions, inter and transdisciplinary innovation, freedom of tax for teachers and inventors, and radical kinship relations, managed to create a clear division between protocols of dealing with the wirkliche feind (war and local autonomy after defeat) und absolute feind: a loss of oneness with the world, far more important than any real enemy that might cause hurt or harm. The combination of a radically subjective absolute enemy transcending any temporary allegiances that Temujin constantly forged, formed and abandoned, with the creation of radically new bonding through adopting people from different and enemy tribes into his own family, is vital to the kind of leadership in bricolabs where projects can only be judged by temporary circumstances and thus leadership becomes synonomous with attitude.
Reviving the will to believe in the skills and experience of the operator is fundamental to the process of change. The will to be empty vessels: no content, no structure, no place nor movement, articulating our relationships through our will to believe each other, in each other – for a while. Articulating our worries and fears in and through the things that carry connotations: infra-structures. As for our building, we build the traces that the doing makes tangible and visible for you, for a while. If you can see the traces, that is. To see, be and perform all three: marching, walking and the steps in between.
I bind, I bind.
Hey let’s bind. Make things happen.
Simple as one two three.