"At birth, I felt the desire to correct the human tendency to feel fragile and imperfect. I’ve therefore sanctified my life to this sole endeavor. Logic hasn’t aided my efforts. Logic must resist the same imperfection: it’s also human. Logic decrees that you should pour water over a fire to extinguish it. I’ve rehearsed the extinguishing of fires by carrying a flask inside a purse.
I haven’t been successful.
From this failure, what I do have is the consolation of having rehearsed a personal procedure, and one that isn’t necessarily beholden to the logic of men who, if they know how to put out a fire, don’t know, in return, how to be happy. I’ve wanted to be happy. It was necessary to follow another path.
I didn’t discuss the problem with anyone. The notion of happiness no longer seems to be in fashion. But I’ve asked myself: do I have a soul? Yes. And, what is it? An imperceptible silhouette of my traveling self—external, seamless, vaporous, etcetera? These are the forms that come from human logic. The spirit detaches from matter, if it isn’t matter itself, it doesn’t have a life or color, shape, or anything. The logic of man is the logic of the children of Macedonia, who are born philosophers, same as the children of Manaus (Brazil)."
From Emilio Lascano Tegui"s " On Elegance While Sleeping":
"Have I already mentioned that I had a myopic relative who worked as an eye doctor and who fished with a tall reed, looking through opera glasses? His near-sightedness imposed a necessary punctiliousness to his movements and even intentions. As a result, he was meticulous in all things. I inherited his enormous delight in neatness. Seeing is already a pleasure, of course, but clarity makes it a pleasure twice over. Would that I could use microscope lenses as my spectacles. Winter always enticed me to the windows of my room, to watch the sad lives of the townspeople blanketed in snow, and so, in the months beforehand, I always made certain to prepare my observatory: I cleaned the windowpanes with such care that they seemed almost nonexistent in their translucency. Flies, still unaware of the invention of glass, tried to come in from the street, dying from the impact. I’ve watched them dying, in piles, writhing around uselessly, deliciously, trying in vain to prolong their existence. But winter slaughtered them nonetheless in the ambush of my clear glass. And I, behind this glass, watched them die."
Could you talk about the structure of Crack Wars. Partly it's about addictions, Madame Bovary, Heidegger's work. There are divisions in it and I'm interested in the non-linear aspects of its structure.
I could track down some register and show its cohesiveness. My purpose was not to show much complicity with the metaphysics of continuity. In fact, I wanted to move with a disruptive flow chracteristic of the types of experience which we can still have which are discontinuous, rhythmed according to different moments and impulses, urges. I was trying to play precisely with the question of speeding and slowing down, and the relation of artificial injections to the way we can think about temporality. So the book is on different types of drugs, too: there's the more psychedelic moments, there's the narcotized moments where it slows down into a heroin experience, and there's the speed freak moments. Different articulations. There's different angles and approaches (or reproaches) to the problem. Since it's also trying to argue for the relationship of drugs to technology, I do try to sequence it according to this discontinuous flow, in the sense that the electronic media "makes sense" only by discontinuous flows. So it would be an instance of non-technological resistance to try to produce an uninterrupted linear argumentation. It's really timed and segmented according to the types of technologies that I link with drugs.
It would have been very odd to present something so discontinuous in a continuous, even in an archaic and traditional way. I thought that the object of inquiry posited some laws about how the book had to be written. According to different types of experience of reading that were simulated. In the beginning, there are "hits." So, in a sense, I try to addict the reader. I try to control the dosage. One of my arguments, which I hope the material aspect of the book performs, is that we're also addicted to reading. If culture implies some notion of addictive investment, then what do we hold against the addict? Anything can function as drug--music, TV, love. When does the law step in, and according to what discourse? How do we distinguish between good and bad addictions?
You coined this word: Narcossism. Can you elaborate on this concept?
I wanted to suggest that narcissism has been recircuited through a relation to drugs. Narcossism is supposed to indicate the way that our relation to ourselves has now been structured, mediated, that is, by some form of addiction and urge. Which is to say, that to get off any drug, or anything which has been invested as an ideal object -- something that you want to incorporate as part of you -- precipitates a major narcissistic crisis. Basically I wanted to suggest that we need to study the way the self is pumped up or depleted by a chemical prosthesis.
It seems that addictions are the sine qua non of human ontology. It would be interesting to hear you describe a subject without addictions.
Since I link it to the death drive and beyond the pleasure principle, the Freudian readings of pleasure that are never pure, they aren't necessarily on the side of wholesomeness and health. I try to say how that's a myth and a mystification: the virginal pure body that would be non-addicted, absolutely outside of addiction. That's why I include bodybuilding, vitamins, technology. I think that the structure of addiction is fundamental. That isn't to say that it can't be negotiated, managed, or somehow brought into a rapport of its own liberating possibility. I want to suggest that there are no drug free zones. Now, it could be that there are good and bad addictions. I don't see how one can write, or be an artist, or think without some installation of the addictive structure.
Do you think that pleasure leads one towards the death instinct? Or are there two types of pleasure?
The double nature of pleasure is something that I wanted to trace out. For pleasure to be what it is, it has to exceed a limit of what is altogether wholesome and healthy. Our idioms reflect this: when we like something we tend to say we were "blown away" or "It killed me," and other deadly utterances. To the extent that pleasure is something that one seeks, it also has to make us confront the limits of our being. Otherwise it's something like contentedness, which can be shown to be in fact an abandonment of pleasure. In our Constitution, we're invited to pursue "happiness" not "pleasure."
I'm interested in a certain kind of honesty about thinking what constitutes pleasure or human desire. That includes our nuclear desire. We must wish to get blown away. If we practiced Nietzschean indecency.... Nietzsche said you have to be rigorously indecent, and really think about those desires. Once desire is on the line, there's going to be destruction and a turning around of values. What I called in Crack Wars "a destructive jouissance."
AS: Much of the present social disillusionment in eastern central Europe, and Lithuania in particular, has been caused by the large-scale privatization policies introduced immediately after 1990, which were only partially successful and, in many cases, socially unjust. As we know, privatization was strongly backed by the western powers and international organizations such as the IMF and World Bank. Indeed, the first two decades of post-communism coincided with the world-wide reign of neoliberalism both in international politics and the economy, even though there had been cautious voices against total privatization (such as John Kenneth Galbraith or communitarian thinker Amitai Etzioni). These days, when neoliberalism seems to be losing its ground, can any lessons be extracted for eastern Europe?
DC: I agree that the prescriptions of the so-called "Washington Consensus" of the 1990s, in other words the rigid application of neoliberal free market economic policies, have turned out to be foolish. They brought the Great Recession of 2008 that still persists, and adherence to such ideas is probably responsible for much of the misery in southern Europe. It isn't that capitalism can be said not to work, but that free markets cannot by themselves function or hope to support a reasonably fair society without government support. Karl Marx may have been wrong about many things, but he understood the contradictions of capitalism and its propensity to create huge inequalities and periodic crises. What made his predictions fail is that the leading capitalist societies eventually adopted institutions to mitigate these problems. Too many experts, particularly Americans, gave poor advice in the 1990s, not only to eastern central Europe, but to other countries as well, including their own, the United States. We are paying for this now. On the other hand, eastern central Europe is still better off than it was before 1989, even though some sectors of the population are doing poorly. Considering how much of a disaster late communist economies really were, reforms could have turned out to be much worse. I hope that the failure of neoliberalism teaches everyone the right lesson. Capitalism works, but not its most unregulated form. We would do well to go back to the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and abandon once and for all the "Chicago School" economics of Milton Friedman and his even more extreme followers.
AS: You have argued that economic backwardness in eastern Europe has its own peculiar historical roots. Could you summarize these? What are the prospects of eastern Europe overcoming its eternal fate of being "semi-peripheral" to the modern world? More generally, do you subscribe to the world systems theorists' classification of the world into categories of centre, periphery and semi-periphery and forecast different degrees of economic success for these regions?
DC: No, these categories only made sense in the past when a few western powers dominated the world economy and controlled vast empires. The question as to why the region was behind western Europe is the wrong one. Instead, we need to ask what made a small part of the West different. Once the West began to grow economically and to industrialize, the parts of eastern Europe that interacted most with the advanced parts of Europe did not go backward. They became, instead, the most advanced parts of eastern Europe. So the whole theory of peripheralization is wrong. Even today, it is Poland, the Baltic countries, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary and Slovenia that are better off than the Balkans, which were shielded for a longer time from western trade and influence. I understand that intellectuals in eastern and central Europe love feeling sorry for themselves, but on a world scale, these societies are not doing so badly. There is no question that they were more backward in the nineteenth century, and that the twentieth century treated them badly; but World War I, World War II and decades of communist rule have caused more harm than any kind of peripheral or semi-peripheral status. I can understand why Marxists hold on to this notion that it is participation in the world economy that has caused backwardness, but the evidence simply doesn't point to that except for some obviously politically exploited colonial areas in the past.