Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Robinson Crusoe In Beverly Hills


(from Models & The Unconscious)

- If you're right, when we look behind the everyday life of buying and selling we will see battles between masters and servants. Even in our times of scientific, efficient management of society.
- Yes.
- Alright. Show me. Here at Starbucks.
- In the corner, the bald or shaven head guy. From Iran, Muslim. About 40, been in L.A. most of his life. Has been writing a book about himself, in English, the last four years. 1,000 pages now.
- How's the book?
- Drivel. Written in a primitive English stumbling from word to word with every choice of  tense, article, number wrong. And his thinking...
- What about his thinking?
- It's absent. He's looking at us now, looking at him. What's happening?
- What do you mean?
- Do you see any expression on his face? No. Expression is a social act, a communication. He's not communicating with us. So what's he doing?
- I don't know. Tell me.
- Calculating. Determining if he should take the position of  master or slave in relation to what he sees.
- Us looking at him?
- Yes. This book I'm reading, Moll Flanders: Defoe's early 18th century story of a desperate woman's adventure with one man after another. With each attempt she tries to establish a position of greater wealth, fight what she describes as a power struggle between men and women. Power is gained from taking the position of master, through deception, pretending to have money to get money from men who want to get the money they think she has.
- That is what you think the writer in the corner looking at us is doing? Thinking, who are we, why are we looking at him, can he get money out of us?
- More or less. I know what he is not doing. He is not expressing a sense there should be a beginning of a relation between us, as strangers. Not even expressing anger at being stared at, or fear at our possible hostile intentions.
- Which by the way you talk about him you really have.
- Like in Moll Flanders' adventures, nothing personal, no liking or aversion, enters into his calculation until the master/servant relation is established. If it is established.
- And it is not. Not yet. That, you think, is the reason for the blank face.
- Yes.
- Couldn't the calculation be about personal interests? How can you know?
- Because personal interests are personal. They involve the body. Bodies respond. Liking someone or disliking someone drives us to move towards or move away. Doing nothing, going nowhere, goes against personal interest, results in tension, confusion, visible tension and confusion. Calculation of strategy, if it is about individual, not class relations, would take into account the particular situation of personally sitting, as here now, in that corner, looking over at two guys looking at him personally. Doing nothing would be a communication. Is he communicating with us?
- I don't know. No. I don't think so.
- Pursuing her calculation of social power Moll Flanders falls into the most outrageously undesirable personal relations. Secretly engaged to and loving one brother, she is forced for economic advantage to marry the other, younger brother who soon dies. She marries again into what looks like economic power by pretending to be wealthy, but her husband turns out to be her very own brother. She gets into intense personal relations, but the wrong ones. Not from not knowing what she wants but by circumstances of poverty forcing her to improve her economic position. Defoe wrote Moll Flanders in 1722, right at the beginning of these times of putting efficient economic relations ahead of everything else, something then new and astonishing, not yet made unconscious in ritual. A few years before he'd completed Robinson Crusoe, another book concentrating on economics, but this time, the practical work of life done on a desert island by a man alone.
- And you see yourself as Robinson Crusoe?
- Surrounded by all these blank faced dumbed-down Moll Flanders?
- Might as well be on a desert island.

continued at Starbucks Blank Face