Piece of WestFAILia Essay
Gregory Ulmer and Jack Stenner
When people imagine the future it always seems to include flying cars. What will the future have been if it were predicted by some oracle in a vision not of a car but a certain iconic Bus, not flying but Suspended, in suspense, hung up? Philosophers play with the French phrase en souffrance, articulating suffering with pending, applied to Anxiety upsurging near the Hole known euphemistically as the Unconscious. Then comes Fantasy against Hole, in order to carry on living. That is how thought and understanding are transported today, beyond concepts or linguistic abstractions of critique, into a visceral dimension of Mobile Passion (prescient motto). The first concept was "Justice," invented by Plato in his dialogue, the Republic, when he asked, "What is Justice itself, apart from any particular instance?" He borrowed the ordinary name "shape" (eidos), and promoted it to name the logical practice of "definition" of properties identifying the essence of Justice. That was the Idea of literacy.
Today in electracy (the digital apparatus) Idea mutates from abstraction to scenario. We begin with the shape (eidos) of a VW Transporter, universally recognized, from its beginning as "a holiday home on wheels," through hippie counter-culture and Joseph Beuys's performances, to contemporary #Vanlife monetized as micro-influencer on Instagram (like). To put the Bus en souffrance activates its shape as figure--the Greek word metaphor meaning literally bus. The Bus is put under erasure, reduced to phenomenon (suspended), in order to provoke us as oracle. The iconic Bus already projects significance, associated with the good life against alienation in modern post-industrial flattening of all experience. This promise of happiness is en souffrance, meaning what? Examine the vision. The Westfalia model evokes the historical Peace of Westphalia (1648), the Peace of Exhaustion, ending the impasse of wars started by the Reformation, establishing the principles and rules of nation-state sovereignty governing the politics of modernity up to our own time, now dissipating in the turbulence of globalization. We are undergoing a crisis of sovereignty that is not only geopolitical but personal, in conditions of borders vanishing, every Maginot Line overflown, collapsing metaphysical dimensions. Definition is lost. The Idea of Justice gives way to Just a Bus.
Sovereignty: the oracle supplies a guide-word. Sovereignty names a certain modality of being, a relationship of persons with their object of desire, the Philosopher says, indicating circumspectly. Here is the scene of a coming sovereignty, the new geopolitics emerging from an experience of immediate pleasure. Visceral intelligence alone is transportable globally. Humanity deserves Justice, but there is no sovereign responsible to provide it. Piece of WestFAILia shows a pathemic way, thymic, a politics of attraction-repulsion, without transcendentals, idealizations, ideologies, floating signifiers of empty concepts (freedom, justice, goodness, temperance, fortitude). A Fantasy of van life counters Anxiety of disaster. Philosophers denigrate as "animalization" the turn away from traditional identities of nation, class, gender and the rest, not recognizing the future of new values in a visceral apparatus, a production of valuation itself, valency apart from utility, calculation, career. Here is the potentiality of electracy: the fantasy of happiness, projected through lightening feedback loops of digital platforms, attracts a global community into singularity (Marx).