(Donald Trump & Walter Benjamin) The Destructive Character

trumpshutdownraises

Walter Benjamin

THE DESTRUCTIVE CHARACTER

It could happen to someone looking back over his life that he realized that almost all the deeper obligations he had endured in its course originated in people who everyone agreed had the traits of a “destructive character.” He would stumble on this fact one day, perhaps by chance, and the heavier the shock dealt to him, the better his chances of representing the destructive character.

The destructive character knows only one watchword: make room. And only one activity: clearing away. His need for fresh air and open space is stronger than any hatred.

The destructive character is young and cheerful. For destroying rejuvenate, because it clears away the traces of our own age; it cheers, because everything cleared away means to the destroyer a complete reduction, indeed a rooting out, out of his own condition. Really, only the insight into how radically the world is simplified when tested for its worthiness for destruction leads to such an Apollonian image of the destroyer. This is the great bond embracing and unifying all that exists. It is a sight that affords the destructive character a spectacle of deepest harmony.

The destructive character is always blithely at work. It is Nature that dictates his tempo, indirectly at least, for he must forestall her. Otherwise she will take over the destruction herself.

The destructive character sees no image hovering before him. He has few needs, and the least of them is to know what will replace what has been destroyed. First of all, for a moment at least, empty space – the place where thing stood or the victim lived. Someone is sure to be found who needs this space without occupying it.

The destructive character does his work; the only work he avoids is creative. Just as the creator seeks solitude, the destroyer must be constantly surrounded by people, witnesses to his efficacy.

The destructive character is a signal. Just a trigonometric sign is exposed on all sides to the wind, so he is exposed to idle talk. To protect him from it is pointless.

The destructive character has no interest in being understood. Attempts in this direction he regards as superficial. Being misunderstood cannot harm him. On the contrary, he provokes it, just as oracles, those destructive institutions of the state, provoked it. The most petty bourgeois of all phenomena, gossip, comes about only because people do not wish to be misunderstood. The destructive character tolerates misunderstanding; he does not promote gossip.

The destructive character is the enemy of the étui-man. The étui-man looks for comfort, and the case is its quintessence. The inside of the case is the velvet-lined trace that he has imprinted on the world. The destructive character obliterates even the traces of destruction.

The destructive character stands in the front line of traditionalists. Some people pass things down to posterity, by making them untouchable and thus conserving them; others pass on situations, by making them practicable and thus liquidating them. The latter are called the destructive.

The destructive character has the consciousness of historical man, whose deepest emotion is an insuperable mistrust of the course of things and a readiness at all times to recognize that everything can go wrong. Therefore, the destructive character is reliability itself.

The destructive character sees nothing permanent. But for this very reason he sees ways everywhere. Where others encounter walls or mountains, there, too, he sees a way. But because he sees a way everywhere, he has to clear things from it everywhere. Not always by brute force; sometimes by the most refined. Because he sees ways everywhere, he always stands at a crossroads. No moment can know what the next will bring. What exists he reduces to rubble – not for the sake of rubble, but for that of the way leading through it.

The destructive character lives from the feeling not that life is worthing living, but that suicide is not worth the trouble.

* Text published originally in the Frankfurter Zeitung at 20th November 1931.

[[I found the translation here at Punkto. I swapped out an areal photo of bombed out Berlin, Unter den Linden, 1945 for this one of Trump]]

 

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(One State) Trump-Israel Apartheid Annexation Map

Image(h/t (Yariv Oppenheimer, at Twitter) This is it and it comes to this.  Without the secure envelope of the Green Line that “separates” sovereign Israel from the occupied West Bank, now currently held under military law, the map Israel will look like this if, under the Trump so-called Peace Plan, Israel finally and formally annexes (de jure) all the West Bank settlements. Without the Green Line and the fig leaf of democracy to hide behind, formally extending Israeli sovereign civil authority to all Jewish settlements would color in all the space currently defined as “Area C” under the moribund Oslo Accords, submerging Israel into the West Bank and the West Bank into Israel, leaving isolated pockets of green representing West Bank-Palestinian bantustans. No longer a Jewish territorial state and no longer a democracy, at that point, the only possible, just, and practical way forward is one vote per person in one country, bi-national, between the river and the sea.

 

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(Caught In the Middle of the Middle East) Martin Luther King Jr. & Israel & The Six-Day War (Martin Kramer)

Image result for martin luther king street sign israel

I can’t speak for the volume as a whole, but this piece here by Martin Kramer about Martin Luther King Jr., Israel, and the Middle East circa 1967 judiciously cuts straight down the middle against those who would claim King for either Israel or “the Arabs.” Kramer’s argues that King, against the Vietnam War, found himself in the uncomfortable middle just before and right after the Six Day War. King made every effort to avoid this vortex, knowing that there was no way he could emerge “unscathed.” The subheadings that organize the essay are “The Six Day War,” “The Visit That Wasn’t,” “The Quote” (“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!”), and, finally, “The Balancing Act.”

The conclusion:

King’s careful maneuvering before, during, and after the Six-Day War demonstrated a much deeper understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict than critics credit him with possessing. Te two Palestinian-Americans who sought to dismiss the Cambridge quote suggested that the conflict “was probably not a subject he was well-versed on,” and that his public statements in praise of Israel “surely do not sound like the words of someone familiar with both sides of the story.”38 Not so. King had been to the Arab world, had a full grasp of the positions of the sides, and was wary of the possible pitfalls of favoring one over the other. He struck a delicate balance, speaking out or staying silent after careful assessments made in consultation with advisers who had their ears to the ground—Levison and Wachtel (both non-Zionists) in the Jewish community, and Andrew Young, whom King dispatched to the Middle East as his emissary” (p.264).

[PS: In response to a friend and colleague at FB, I made this comment about Kramer and the article. As I’m looking at it, the article was more than aboveboard. King was neither anti-Israel nor anti-Arab. He was pro-Israel and anti-war. I am not reading Kramer “demanding” by way of a historical retrospect what we today would consider a hard “pro-Israel” stance from King. I don’t see a conservative or rightwing Zionist polemic here on Kramer’s part. Neither sympathetic nor unsympathetic, Kramer’s analysis takes into account the ambivalence and complexity of King’s position in the middle against either side that would seek to corral King into their corner. Even if that was not, in fact, Kramer’s own personal and political POV, that was my own independent takeaway from the article, which I’m finding useful as such.]

[The bibliographical source is Martin Kramer, “In the Words of Martin Luther King,” in Martin Kramer, The War on Error: Israel, Islam, and the Middle East (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2016), 253-67.]

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(Rome Pieces) On the Wall & De-Material (Richard Tuttle)

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About these images, one could create a spiritual allegory about the appearance of the presence of a god in the world. The Rome Pieces by Ricard Tuttle are discrete little things. The humble mark made of graphite lines and cut and pasted paper disappears into the wall. I’m posting two sets of digital photos here. The first gives each image its own due and focus. In the second image, I stepped back to try to capture a point where the mark begins to appear on the surface of the wall into which it is blended. Archived here, this catalogue essay by Marcia Tucker says so much about so little. If all of our work and all our thinking could be so subtle.

About Tuttle and the Rome Pieces, Tucker writes,

Tuttle’s own attitudes are refreshingly anomalous in an era when art means business. For him, an essential level of his work is that of “investigation.” He is often surprised by the changes that take place in a piece upon completion or when an old work is installed in a new location. He is reluctant to make comparative judgments about the quality of his own work, because he finds that each piece is “self-sufficient,” having its own necessity for being. One key to the peculiar look of the work is that Tuttle has always tried “to make something that looks like itself,” that is, to avoid anthropomorphic or naturalistic references. He also avoids polemic in his work, refusing to use the work to deal with art issues per se. That one is led to discuss the work as though it had a mind of its own is a result of Tuttle’s desire to make work that looks “ecstatic, as though the artist had never been there.” Tuttle comments that “if the artist does a piece of real work and we see it, it’s as though we ourselves are doing it.” This exchange between viewer and work has been noted by others: “If we really attain the art object perceptually.” says Norberg-Schulz, “we may get a strange experience of participating.” This directness accounts in part for the “my kid could have done it” response to Tuttle’s work, a response so marked even from the aesthetically sophisticated viewer as to make the childlike aspect of Tuttle’s work one of substantial importance and worth considering. This quality is compounded by the casual, wobbly, tentative look of the lines and forms he uses, and the simplicity and directness of their execution. The instantaneous look of the work, as if each piece had appeared all at once, makes it anomalous to a public which equates the value of the materials used, the amount of time spent in the execution of the piece, and the manual skill of the artist with the value of the art itself.

In this sense, Tuttle’s work is anti-materialistic, transcendental in both intent and affect. According to him, “the work rests at the unconscious level. Bringing it to the conscious level is like resisting its own will.” The sense of quietude that the exhibition elicited in many observers is at the core of the work. It is an interior, almost meditative state in which the boundaries between work and viewer, inside and outside, can be obliterated.

[….]

The Rome Pieces, also done in 1975, are equally refined in visual terms, that is they are small and difficult to see because they are composed of paper pasted to the wall, with pencil lines intersecting or underlining them. However the Rome Pieces are more cerebral and analytical, more rigorously diagrammatic in feeling than the lyrical and chromatic Houston Works. They continue Tuttle’s concerns with the interplay of substance and shadow. Of the three works in the Whitney show, the 16th and Nth Rome Pieces (first and second installations, respectively ) have graphite lines drawn on the wall in relation to the pasted paper in such a way as to make the mark and the extraordinarily delicate shadow cast by the thin edge of paper ambiguously interchangeable. In the 16th Rome Piece, a tiny triangle of pasted white paper has a graphite line drawn just along the lower edge of the triangle. In the Nth Rome Piece, two vertical, rectangular pieces of white paper are pasted at their outer edges; where they meet in the center a graphite line is drawn but it is barely visible, if at all, through the slight opening where the pieces of paper are not attached. The 3rd Rome Piece (first installation) differs in that the pencil lines are drawn along four sides of a five-sided paper figure, and when two of them are continued to twice their length, they cross and form an X, suggesting the reiteration of that paper shape on their opposite side. Through precisely measured lines, the ghost of an image is made to appear in the mind’s eye; logic dictates the incomplete poetry of the piece. Whereas the graphite line here suggests the substantive aspect of the piece (i.e., the paper), the substance that does not exist on the other side of the work becomes a ghost image or shadow because it is only implied

Several questions concerning the nature of Turtle’s art, outside its formal aspects, remain to be answered, and these are questions not of what and how, but of why. The most important aspect of Tuttle’s work appears to center on its affective nature, that is, on why work of such apparent simplicity, modesty and casualness is able to create such a strong response. This is not to say that the response to Tuttle’s work is always the same but, if the reactions to the Whitney exhibition are typical, they are never ones of indifference. It seems that the response generally centers on the issue of how the work could do so much with so little. The tiny 10th Rope Piece (second installation), for instance, prompted one observer to remark on its astonishing poignancy and prompted another to steal it. One critic admires Tuttle’s ability to “control an enormous expanse of space with the slightest amount of physicalitv.”  Another complains that “the spectator soon becomes so sensitized to the lilliputian scale and teeny-weeny subtleties of Tuttle’s work that he begins to scrutinize ordinary hairline cracks in the wall.”” It is clear that Tuttle’s work, in order to be seen at all, focuses the viewer’s attention in a particular way, forcing a concentration that alters ones vision not only of the pieces, but of everything around them as well, even to the extent of compelling one to pay attention to the very act of paying attention.

–From Marcia Tucker, “Richard Tuttle (1975)” in Out of Bounds: The Collected Work of Marcia Tucker

 

 

 

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(Trains) Holocaust & American Life (Steven Miller)

On moral depravity, this from Newsweek here: The Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hatewatch” section published its latest series of emails Tuesday which were leaked by an ex-Breitbart editor. The emails reveal Miller pitching white nationalist and vigilantly anti-immigrant ideas to the right-wing publication while he was a rising GOP aide to then-Senator Jeff Sessions and later a top Trump campaign policy adviser on immigration. Miller’s latest leaked messages show he shared an article from far-right website WorldNetDaily with Phyllis Schlafly, who suggested the idea of shipping immigrants out of the U.S. on trains as a scare tactic and expressed fears that migrants might “replace existing demographics.

Image result for Phyllis Schlafly

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Jewish Thought At The 2019 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award

Jewish books

At a time when so many of us worry about the future of reading, the future of books, and the future of university scholarship and the humanities, this type of community recognition is a ray of light. You can see all the categories, winners and finalists of the 2019 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award here.

It is especially gratifying to see the place of Jewish thought and philosophy in this writers’ eco-system. For the purpose of this post, I’m highlighting those finalists writing, more or less loosely, under the rubric of Jewish thought. I’m noting in particular Paul Nahme, who published his book on Hermann Cohen at the series in New Jewish Philosophy and Thought at Indiana University Press (where he is joining, among all the brilliant writer-scholars at the series, award winners Mara Benjamin and Samuel Brody.)

In no particular order they are:

Rashi’s Com­men­tary on the Torah: Can­on­iza­tion and Resis­tance in the Recep­tion of a Jew­ish Classic
Eric Lawee
Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press

The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Solomon Mai­mon: The Com­plete Translation
Yitzhak Y. Melamed, Abra­ham Socher, eds.; Paul Reit­ter, trans.
Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Her­mann Cohen and the Cri­sis of Liberalism
Paul E. Nahme
Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Dis­si­dent Rab­bi: The Life of Jacob Sas­portas 
Yaa­cob Dweck
Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Sarah Schenir­er and the Bais Yaakov Move­ment 
Nao­mi Seidman
The Littman Library of Jew­ish Civilization

The Noto­ri­ous Ben Hecht: Icon­o­clas­tic Writer and Zion­ist Mil­i­tant 
Julien Gorbach
Pur­due Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Vasi­ly Gross­man and the Sovi­et Cen­tu­ry 
Alexan­dra Popoff
Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press

The Foun­da­tions of Amer­i­can Jew­ish Liberalism
Ken­neth D. Wald
Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Pres

Amer­i­can Jew­Bu: Jews, Bud­dhists, and Reli­gious Change
Emi­ly Sigalow
Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Colo­nial­ism and the Jews 
Ethan B. Katz
Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press

 

 

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(Birthday) JPP is 8 Years Old (I Hate You All)

jpp anniversary

No, not at all. just joking, but, yes, actually, JPP is 8 years.  This past year was depressing, in the real world, here at the blog. Too much Trump, too much anti-Semitism. I’m on leave this spring. A big book project is turning into two. I want to go-see and write-post more about art. I think I’ll take a walk, outside, into an urban forest, to reflect some. As always, thank you for your kindness and critical push back.

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