Saturday, April 18, 2009
What would the idealized speech-as-text I have posited look like? It would be foolish to privilege a certain kind (or manner) of digital text stylistically or formally; the development of individual (and individualized) discursive styles seems inevitable. I would, however, opine that circumstances necessitate a certain thematic angle for digital text; if we want to establish, from the outset, the socio-political viability of digital text as a manifestation of digital consciousness. What needs enumerating is what lessons (if any) we have learned from the debacles of our era. It may be naively optimistic to posit this moment as the possible inauguration of a new intellectual era (as manifested in a new textual praxis); but that we would all actively desire the inauguration of a new era (of any kind) is (I would hope) past questioning. What have the past ten years taught us about America? Parenthetically, I will continue to use the first person plural, in the hopes that what I say is already both widely thought and widely felt. If it is not, the onus of responsibility for a misled or misleading discourse falls on me. I believe that we have all probed the signifier “America” and seen something new. What we have seen amounts to this: there is, as in the nineteenth century, a Civil War taking place in America, and its manifestation is dead bodies— but not ours. To unpack this thoroughly would take volumes (digital and print); in the interests of compression, it may be efficacious to state the absolute and irrevocable incommensurability of “The Red and the Blue.” Very few who read this will not consider themselves “resolutely Blue”; those who espouse the ideologies of the Red are (largely) anathematized as (subaltern) Others. Yet “America” means them and us; it is as if Israel and Palestine were nominally (and thus ineluctably) co-joined. So if we say “America,” and call ourselves “Americans,” what do we mean?
Let us examine “America” as a textual sign (whether it be manifested in the context of speech acts, print or digital text.) Because it co-joins The Red and the Blue, the iterated “America” forces us to acknowledge (and manifest in the acknowledgement) the Other that we (rightly, I believe, pun intended) anathematize. If we affix it as a designation to ourselves, in a manner of self-fashioning, we also connect ourselves, inescapably, to the Other that we anathematize. If “America” thus stands as a doubly bifurcated linguistic sign (first in its status as a representation, secondly in representing as entity constituted by two incommensurate parts) then, insofar as representations are capable of precision, its utility as a precise signifier is nil. To call something (a subject, or an object of thought) “American” is thus roughly equivalent to dubbing something “European”; it tells us something, but not much. A newly constituted “America” would take for granted the double bifurcation that now inheres in “America” as a textual sign. No sign is entirely solid, but some signs are more solid than others. “America,” as it exists today (and has for the last forty years) is as fluid and “between” as speech-as-text. A middle “America,” as representative of a state or mode of consciousness, needs not only to be re-constituted, it needs to be created (almost) ex nihilo. Fluidity is a compensatory quality of extremity and precariousness; what is the step beyond double-bifurcation? What is the America around “America”? I hesitate to privilege the Internet as the obligatory locale of the creation of a new “America,” because it needn’t be. But, without privileging this discourse unduly, I will say that new contexts often necessitate new significations. The Internet is not the only place, but it is as good a place as any. Digital consciousness, in its velocity and fluidity, mirrors qualities of what has been essentialized as “American”; this is what America has been in its youth. Age and wisdom, born of strife, can make it less a fetish and more a vehicle.