An Implosion, into (0,0)
On account of the fact Molly took a record-breaking time to pen this entry, Molly seeks the kind reader's pardon and self-restraint if he happens to be dissatisfied with the quality of this entry. In the long process of writing this entry, Molly encountered new "news" articles and blog entries that seem to uncannily reflect different segments/fragments of this entry (or rather the way it was conceived). This has been uncanny partly because it finally dawned upon Molly that this entry is necessarily or inevitably, even if also lamentably, fragmented. Fragments that could have been wholes in themselves if not for residual threads that cling together. Yet, it is also thanks to such unforeseen articles that the production tranformed the conception enough to give rise to a product that is significantly different and hopefully better.
This entry is a Christmas present to the reader who reads it early enough. However, this also makes it essential for the author to confess that she is unable to transcend, even if she had been able to somewhat transgress, the limits of her time and space. The belated reader who shares a similar predicament would perhaps empathize with this.
Those who are interested in the modes of address might find it imperative to scrutinize the introduction (whether this refers to the section so named or the section that inaugurates a piece of work). With no intention to be offensive, I am of the opinion that it is crucial, in fact, to scrutinize introductions for the modes of attempted enunciation. Yet, perhaps the mode of redress is the matter that is of real interest. Without presumptuously attempting to offer resolutions to any conflicts of interests, I will try my best not to make anything obligatory for the reader though even this determines the act of reading to be an unavoidable pre-condition.
To keep things short, and perhaps as an analogy, this piece is almost about post-traumatic stress. What hinders this article from having such a theme is that the article cannot be about post-traumatic stress because the trauma continues. Perhaps this article has affinities with what Helene Cixous calls stigmata, though I could only talk about a scar that precedes the wounding and a continuous wounding that almost leaves a scar but fails to because of the wounding has yet to end. Perhaps this is akin to one asking how it is possible to reminisce without a clear temporal break. A question of the impossible; a question of the definite.
Collective Nostalgia, Mandatory and Inevitable
As things do work backwards at times, let us revisit the previous entry which, it seems, concerns the impossibility of personal nostalgia, an attempt at sentimentality thwarted by the calculated (and perhaps calculative) moves of an invisible Mathematician, the powerful Mathematician who arrogantly coordinates the ever-shifting axes of our existence. A solitary coordinate is epistemologically impossible. A coordinate can only exist relative to imaginary bearings. Or it could even be the imaginary anchor to which other coordinates relate. Hence, we have the notion of mandatory collectivity—mandatory not exactly in the sense that it is enforceable but rather in the sense that it is inevitable or has been rendered so. Inevitability, one might say, is the ultimate Power because it transcends power insofar as power primarily exists as a set of relations. With inevitability, such relations become obsolete.
The impossibility of personal nostalgia is, thus, only a symptom of a larger schema of inevitabilities or necessities, of Power. Think of the things that are made necessary in your life. Housing? Think of the necessities in the life that has been made yours. Conscription? Think of the draft: the previous entry was labeled a draft (in lieu something yet to be fully determined); yet the draft could also be a mandatory conscription (a pre-determined or even over-determining necessity). In this retrospective light, the previous entry was drafted in two ways.
Think also of the ways you have become a necessity-commodity. What is your irreversible existence necessary for (rather than what is necessary for your existence)?
The other face of impossibility is inevitability and the Power that underlies it. The impossibility of personal nostalgia is congruent to the inevitability of collectivized nostalgia. The operation of collective nostalgia includes the explicit and spectacular, such as in the events surrounding every August 9, to the more subtle or insidious. We could, for instance, look back (as mentioned earlier, sometimes things do work backwards) to a time of (supposedly) better economic times. We could be looking back to a generation that is forcibly constructed as rugged than we now are. We could even be looking back to a time when there were more opposition politicians standing for elections even as we assume the stance of looking forward to the next General Elections. Insofar as nostalgia is desire, it is doomed to be a form of misrecognition. Perhaps this is why nostalgia could tell us paradoxically that we are now better off than we used to be and that we used to be better off than we now are: when we look into the mirror of the past, it seems complete; when we believe ourselves to be the image we see, we think we are complete too.
Collective Nostalgia, Personal Hysteria
I have no intention to valorize the personal or to denigrate the collective. Instead, the question is one the impossibility or the inevitability of each comes into being.
Mass hysteria, which the collective might seem to potentially manifest, is not allowed coexist with collective nostalgia. Any impulse toward such a direction is vigorously tamed. The National Kidney Foundation (ex-management) had not been all that faultless and has incurred the wrath of many, but people will and should continue to donate. Or so it has been said. Note the ever-critical conjunction that joins one clause to another so that the original clause is tamed—a face placed in conjuction with a double dose of Botox. An expressionless expression. Elsewhere, one sees the clinical "treatment" of issue. A hysteria that is almost institutionally incited, institutionally comprehended, structured and completed; in other words, there is no hysteria except for the simulacrum of hysteria that could well, in fact, be therapy. Implosion? Channel NewsAsia quotes a psychiatrist, notably not a cultural theorist, Dr. Wang:
"I think, eventually, people will be able to move on. People will forget and in the longer run, the only permanency I see is that it's a lesson learnt and I hope it's a good lesson learnt, and people will have faith and confidence restored." ("Charity sector seen to emerge stronger from lessons learnt from NKF saga”)(2,0)
In order to make collective nostalgia de rigueur, the personal charge must be repressed. This repression, together with the containment of mass hysteria, forms the roots of personal hysteria. Yet, even personal hysteria has to be directed inwards rather than expressed outwards. It needs to be contained via a super Superego. A peaceful protest including the three letters, NKF (placed in this particular order) needs to be quelled because it is considered abusive. Making racist remarks is considered seditious. Suicide is forbidden. Depression must be combated, if you remember the countless advertisements kindly advising the depressed to seek help. Of course, one fails to forget (even memory can be deployed to serve the Superego function) that "Where's the money?" is defamatory.
Do you think you could see the inexpressible hysteria, the unspoken and unspeakable angst?
The person can falter, but not the institution or the institutionalized. The death penalty must remain mysterious: a mysterious alleged sacking/not sacking of the hangman casts a mysterious mist over the hanging of Nguyen. Who hanged Nguyen? (Or did Darshan Singh have an alibi?) Who is going to hang the rest of the future hanged? The NKF's fall from grace can be attributed to one person or a few people, but it is institutions that come to the rescue. Or so the story unfolds in the media(ted) saga.
Yet the same time, there is a compulsion to deny that the death penalty is shrouded in secrecy; we are transparent. The NKF saga is a tell-all; it is no longer only a scandal but it is a scandal that is used to narrate a parable of honesty and transparency on the part of more important institutions. The narrative is not one that is read to a mass audience, but one that a mass audience is taught to narrate to itself, to circulate amongst its members.
The coordinate narrates the stories that were never its own—the stories that are formulated by the invisible Mathematician. The Mathematician's invisibility seems to be the epitome of disinterest, but his invisibility is a mask. Perhaps you, too, are a mask. Perhaps you are an avatar—an avatar amidst millions of other different avatars, each being an avatar of the Mathematician himself nevertheless.
The Mathematician has a formula even for generating the random. You could be indefinable or undefined, yet it is he who labels you as such. You could be complex, but he is able to round you up nevertheless.
The distinction between the personal and the collective matters no more. Each person testifies to the constructed collective.
Perhaps you persist, wondering as you narrate the pre-formulated tales, if you have the space for a subplot about your position as the Mathematician's avatar. Yet, you could only turn your libidinal subplot inwards, ending up with masturbatory outlet right in front of the gaze of the voyeuristic Mathematician.
Sometimes you think you have forgotten the authentic. But the real history of amnesia would apologetically reveal that there is unfortunately no true forgetting. Instead, there are only distorted remembrances. This is also the future of amnesia. There is no forgotten authentic to which one could turn or return. You face once one invisible Mathematician after another. The only recourse is perhaps to the back of the multitude of falsehoods.
If you have a frustration, it fails to be located. Perhaps this is because it is situated outside the dimensions of the Mathematician's graph. The Mathematician's violence is not reflected in his graph until perhaps someone vandalizes it although it is itself a continuous process of vandalism. The wounding continues.
The story of the Merlion narrates a collective root. The Merlion is throned as the signifier of a past that is relevant today when it is in fact one of the signifiers of the present construction of the past. As the Merlion spews water out of its mouth, the Mathematician has one narrate his version of the past. It is a reproducible site of memory.
Yet, as the Merlion regurgitates water continuously, it is gagged by its regurgitation. It is unable to tell the traumatic tale of its creation.
The shared violence that continues to be inflicted is about as authentic as it gets for the falsely collectivized. Impossibility: if only one could see the face of the Merlion as it turns away, perhaps one would catch an instance when the Merlion spews tears, for once voluntarily.
Read Xenoboy regarding the mandatory.