Friendship: XG in “Alienist 5”

As each term or concept is passed around from group to group, rising to the surface of public discourse by virtue of this promiscuity, we watch with horror as each word tumbles into meaninglessness, where one group’s gospel is another’s shameful misuse. This is a situation we are used to seeing, of course, in various different contexts, but to see it as a central trap from which contemporary politics cannot seem to wrest itself is depressing to many. Indeed, defining contemporaneity in itself as the temporally progressive shoreline of a universalised thinking, we find ourselves in a moment of traumatic untimeliness through which discourses and the concepts that fuel them become fatally entwined in a mutually destructive death-spiral, both seemingly incapable of affecting the other to the degree that we have long been told is necessary, each diluting the structural analyses of the other in the popular imagination. Consensus becomes both weapon and shield for all sides who proclaim possession of the majority’s support whilst ultimately finding it impotent as various positions go to war with one another over minor differences of opinion. We watch helplessly as Overton Windows overlap, creating a disorientating and kaleidoscopic politics.

So, what is to be done? How do we deal with words — with concepts — when their innate lack of consensual meaning is abused with such regularity? How do we stand by the words and concepts we deploy in our conversations, resisting their cooption, whilst retaining their potential for the production of the new? How do we remain true to our broader identifications with the left or the right when both umbrellas are so full of holes?

I have a new essay in the 5th edition of Alienist Magazine on the topic of “Resistance and Experiment”.

This essay was a tough one to write — physically and intellectually — much of it was penned during a fever — so many thanks to the editors with their patience and also for publishing the whole thing. (It’s quite long — I blame fever-reading the brief for ignoring the words “short-ish statement”. Note to self: Don’t say yes to things when your brain is mush — although I am particularly proud of how this came out.)

It’s a product of a renewal of my Blanchot obsession, attempting to make sense of the philosophical conception of “friendship” as found in his work but also the work of Deleuze and Guattari, Bataille and Nietzsche; and it’s an attempt to make their collective conception of the term less alien to our contemporary politics.

I will undoubtedly expand on this on the blog later. It’s a knotted topic and one which I hope is read as challenging thought on all sides of politics rather than being read as an alignment with one side or another (although there is a palpable communist bias.)

Unfortunately, this issue contains explicitly transphobic content which I do not stand beside at all. I did not know who I’d be sharing the issue with prior to publishing but that’s not to say I regret submitting this text. In fact, I think this is the only text I would have been comfortable submitting even if I had known before hand. This concept of “friendship” is not one that I think anyone is very good at embodying in the present — whether on the left or the right; myself included — but whilst the left’s problems are largely self-evident, this issue does well to demonstrate the ways in which the right fails to do this as well.

Friendship, in this sense, is something I’m rethinking with a new vigour at the moment, trying to make sense of how it might be beneficial to our present moment.

You can find the issue on Alienist‘s website here and download the PDF here. (I’m at the back, pages 161–173.)

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