goto Appendx main menu Negative Affirmation :
Kevin L. Fuller
text | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | notes
 

    "Now, anyone who has ever been compelled to think about it—anyone, for example, who has ever been in love—knows that the face that one can never see is one's own face. One's lover, or one's brother, or one's enemy, sees the face you wear, and this face can elicit the most extraordinary reactions. We do the things we do and feel what we feel essentially because we must—we are responsible for our actions, but we rarely understand them. It goes without saying, I believe, that if we understand ourselves better, we would damage ourselves less. But the barrier between oneself and one's knowledge of oneself is high indeed. There are so many things one would rather not know! We become social creatures because we cannot live any other way. But in order to become social, there are a great many other things that we must not become, and we are frightened, all of us, of those forces within us that perpetually menace our precarious security. Yet the forces are there: we cannot will them away. All we can do is learn to live with them. And we cannot learn to learn this unless we are willing to tell the truth about ourselves, and the truth about us is always at variance with what we wish to be. The human effort is to bring these two realities into a relationship resembling reconciliation. The human beings whom we respect the most, after all—and sometimes fear the most—are those who are most deeply involved in this delicate and strenuous effort, for they have the unshakable authority that comes only from having looked on and endured and survived the worst. That nation is healthiest which has the least necessity to ostracize or victimize these people—whom, as I say, we honor, once they are gone, because somewhere in our hearts we know that we cannot live without them."1
Thus, fiction forms the substance of expression. Fiction is, after all, the primary component of existence, a technology enabling one to grapple with complex referential systems of meaning ranging within natural, supernatural, and synthetic encryptions. To constitute systems of meaning that happen to correlate with varying conceptions of "reality," we too encrypt. Here we manifest stable systems of signification and closed regimes signs; we constitute architectures of typological entrenchment and coded operations of historical development, keeping a world of chaos at arm's length. Such codings and developments provide a semblance of order and significance to the "human element" rendering ranges and striations of humanity. Within these strata we find region, class, gender, and status, which by no means can be unified into a single consistent, homogeneous mass. Thus synthetic codes (presuppositions) and encryptions emerge, forming norms and deviations within systems of meaning while preventing illicit access into and control of such systems. Appendx 1 page break 47 | 48 

Within this region, sense is deterritorialized to the exterior, sustaining an ecclesiastic infliction of discipline, thought, and order. And here we can decipher another mode, an inverse mode, in which language (as a force of affect 2) informs, constitutes, and molds the sense; the sense recedes into dormancy, awaiting an external infliction from the canonical, the typological, the historical, etc.; sense emerges as an appendix to the force of this external organ, thus mobilizing language to capture sense within the confines of its mobility; sense is actively neutralized within a process that apprehends, where language, as an organ of the sense, is inverted and reduced to a mere instrumental trace of the sense, a mere utterance. 

And one cannot deny the density of language; as it constitutes the sense, its mass and gravity warp the architecture of our conceptions, forming ahistorical subtext and simultaneous event planes. The mere presence of a linguistic element manifests subjectivity and the perpetual motion of a dynamic couple: language forming the sense of the subject, the subject forming the language of sense. Such an impossible mechanism forms hypersubjectivities in which subjectivity intensifies, again forming itself through language, and where language intensifies and forms through subjectivity. And within this intensification, we find language as complex and vexing as the natural, supernatural, and synthetic systems it was thought to render. 

Yet to maintain some sense of order, language in its various states sustains impossible coding and overcoding to form conveyable systems of knowledge and meaning; within the confines of materialism, legitimacy is granted to that which is tangibly available to linguistic (or scientific) observation.3 These elements of code are entrenched within science, typology, history, and theology, and they dig deeper within the academy. While embedding they gain sentience and tend to petrify: paradoxically these elements are simultaneous entities, at once static and dynamic, both expansively massive and infinitely dense, while forming the context and subtext of subjectivity. And still we regard language as an internal mechanism, as an organ of an internal sense, enabling one to define and behold physical reality. 

However, language does have an unspeakable content, metalanguage, subtext, hypertext, gestures of passion, of thought, of a look, feel, or vibe, which manifests infinite complication to the spoken word. Here, traversing from perception to oration, or between something felt and said, one encounters constellations of difference in navigating discrete modes of thought, autonomous dimensions of physical reality, and arduous paths of perception. Additionally, while en route to and in departure from the verbal articulation of one individual, there are similar constellations of difference in the subsequent perception/articulation of another.Appendx 1 page break 48 | 49 

Still, consider the infinite possibilities in communicating with that which exceeds physical reality. Assessing variable modes of tangibility requires tolerance and perspective far beyond the singular. Although other civilizations and "native cultures have been far more fluent than the West in communicating with experiences that defy understanding in terms of physical reality. . .the Western world may have reached a dead end of sorts." 4 

So to elude this death, we affirm the negative: We embrace politics of identity that manifest ranges and striations of placement; we entomb cultural and institutional entrenchments as tropes of departure; we erect envelopes of expression to leash entropy while forming an expression of obedience. And "if language always seems to presuppose itself, if we cannot assign it a nonlinguistic point of departure, it is because language does not operate between something seen (or felt) and something said, but always goes from saying to saying. We believe that narrative consists not in communicating what one has seen but in transmitting what one has heard, what someone else said to you. Hearsay. It does not even suffice to invoke a vision distorted by passion. The 'first' language, or rather the first determination of language, is not the trope of metaphor but indirect discourse." 5 

Indeed, indirect discourse functions as the fundamental leitmotif throughout the present text. Yet it is also a primary component of negative affirmation, not so much for its affect as for the cloak of affirmation. Such operations have become institutional and clinical to gain sentience and an external mobility. Thus as we actualize negative affirmation, we invest in past and current tropes of architectural discourse (discursive architectures) as provincial points of departure; and we find curious conceptions such as the "melting pot" within a context that has always been about, and founded on, special interest. 

Further, a postulated history of special interest would be no different from current hazards of presumed history. These tyrannies of mutation envelop with seamless mobility, utilizing an array of metalanguage and subtext in appealing to a body politic. Hollywood knows, as does the mass media. Both know all too well how to sell, as well as what sells. For instance, white male fantasies are big hits. Consider the Vietnam War stories that show white males with uncommon bravery, single-handedly subduing the enemy while the black troops bunch together in sheer terror (as if the reason they stuck together was not for the fact that their own white comrades might shoot them down). White female fantasies are also big hits. Look at the proliferation of young fashion models affirming a 

Hollywood didn't keep firing writers from the 'X' project because the scripts were wrong.  They kept firing writers because the story was wrong.  Because we're not just talking prejudice or politics.  We're talking losing money.  Consider: Malcolm got off drugs.  Not just the illegal ones, all the drugs: tobacco, alcohol, white women.  So, if the movie doesn't make money in the theaters, what are you going to do?  You can't sell it to TV, because who'd sponsor it? RJR Nabisco?  The Miller Brewing Cmpany?  Maybe Maxwell House, Malcolm did drink a lot of coffee.  But not Ford, or GM, or Chrysler.  Because Malcolm kicked the habit of thinking white women were beautiful just because they were white, he kicked the image.  Which meant he rejected the fundamental icon of American advertising- the Caucasian T & A used to sell the tobacco and the alcohol and the new car (how old was Malcolm's Oldsmobile?) and almost everything else.  Malcolm did not become a Communist, but he ceased to be an uncritical consumer.  Malcolm even kicked Hollywood.  Once he sat for hours watching gangster movies.  Then he turned into a bookworm. Want to hold that up as a model for the 'Underclass'?"7 size-four image of beauty. One might wonder if a size-four Oprah Winfrey would constitute more of a threat than otherwise. Although,Appendx 1 page break 49 | 50 there are some limits since "Uncle Remus, proclaiming, 'Dis sho' am good' on Uncle Remus Brand Syrup label, is a lot less threatening than, say, Nat Turner's Own Hunting Knives."6 And further still, consider David Bradley's experience with Warner Brothers in the making of a potential screenplay about Malcolm X: 

Such politics of identity range within the context of political conventions where a selection of individuals profess a return to "family values" and the "days of Ozzie and Harriet," with the mighty patriarch in his place, the wormen and children in theirs, and not a black face in town, and to Disney's Jungle Book, for instance,featuring orangutans with black bebop voices singing, "I wanna be just like you/I wanna walk like you/Talk like you." And somewhere along the line, we find ourselves immersed in critiques of authenticity, or a conceit of authenticity. Some of these critiques are predicated on the notion that some black rap artist are not as black as they profess. Still more ironic, in the context of a Hollywood movie these same individuals sustain a similar portrayal of blackness. As such we find the question, and presumed problem, of the authentic to be typological and historical; and we also discover the fake, relative to some mode of historicized grounding in creation of an original, to be authentic. Appendx 1 page break 50 | 51 

Make no mistake, Hollywood, the mass media, and other icons of America are in the business of casting identity. There's big money in the origin, nature, and definitive characteristics of an original, if it sells. So appeals are made, identities are cast, roles are played, and the American dream emerges. We see our founding fathers, the Constitution, and noble settlers giving thanks with the Indians (original, authentic Americans in a relative sense); with no mention of genocide, America (the United States, really) becomes a bastion of truth and justice to all who subscribe. And within the confines of a Hollywood movie, who commands more respect: the man in white who says what he means, and means what he says, or the man in black? And at this point, one could even hazard paying more respect to Adolf Hitler than to Uncle Sam, since you know what he's about. 

Thus negative affirmation is a power move, an articulation of paranoia, in fiction appearing as a progression while in actuality forming typological entrenchment. As such, we find a discursive mobility predicated on appropriations that transform, mechanisms that entrench, and technologies that stratify, as affirmative points of departure into the negative. We once found the stable, white, middle-class family embodied as a national hero, the noble patriarch armed with umbrella and briefcase to do battle with the wretched, communist, Russian bear. So too we now find that "the renegade ape has been drafted as national hero, because all he's hawking are sneakers, not white destruction. If he's out to topple any government, it's not America's—in the Nike ads, Barkley fights our nation's favorite new monster, Japan, and it's Japanese buildings that are falling, Japanese people who are scattering in fear." 8next page

text | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | notes
appendx inc.©1997