Saturday, 9 August 2008

Perhaps it is because Cara and I began the day with Chess and green tea, or perhaps because we decided to spend the afternoon visiting today’s marches, or even perhaps it is because – for the first time – we watched the unquestionably immaculate Dr. Strangelove last night. For some reason, today is one of engagement.

Thoughts about South Ossetia collude with undercurrents of my novel and occupational investigation into identity. It is said widely today in British newspapers that, with South Ossetia, Russia attempts to make opinion into a fact, namely the opinion that granting small regions independence (such as Kosovo) sets a precarious example. With the recent excursions into Georgian territory and today’s apparent control of Tskhinvali, Russia seems certain to make it so.

Reading Badiou this morning gave rise to several parallels of thought. Badiou mentions frequently that violence rises as an intermediary at the moment of extreme communication, a dialectic shoe-horned into the world of the non-dialectic. It seems this is true; spoken sources at the Guardian claim tensions simply refuse to de-escalate, with officials on both sides fanning the flames. Both sides are ready.

Violence in these instances often seems to be legitimised by a creative act. Badiou’s chapters, extrapolated and twisted for my own purpose, seem to state that following the death in the last century of religion, the world moves towards a godless humanity but only through the creation of a new man. Could it be that this new man is represented – at the beginning of this century – in the burgeoning rise of rediscovered identities and the reclamation of suppressed languages, cultures and peoples?

It seems, within the trend of modern struggles for nationalistic independence (and again I write here without statistical or even anecdotal evidence, just a scant grasp of political pattern), that there are signals once more of the end of ideologies. True religiosity has been cast out in favour for political direction (at both ends of the compass) and the movements of supernations (of a cold-war standard) are unconvincing. China, Russia, the Islamic ‘East’ and America are not as focused as news-medias would have them seem.

So the end of ideologies (or rather identities based on ideologies) has happened, and is replaced by a creation of peoples based on histories. This, in turn is accomplished through a recreation of the past, a production of frameworks for understanding of the inevitability of political shifts. We find ourselves in the real moment of commencement, says Badiou.

As a personal aside on the collapse of supernations: it would seem that hegemony is on the increase, but the opposite is in fact true. Fragmentation, as has happened in art, music and ideas, is a dual movement towards dissolution and apparent heterogeneity. An analogue television screen full of static presents an entire picture of heterogeneous effect, but comprises of uncountable, changing instances. It appears that (although perhaps South Ossetia is an early, false indicator) nation states are an archaism. The violence in evidence today in Tskhinvali and beyond shows an unconcern with the past, treating it as a disposable, rewriteable history. Does Russia seek to rewrite, to turn what was previously an opinion (regarding Kosovo) into a fact, into a story that is told and told to be true? I ask only the question.

Identity is the key here. Badiou claims that Hegelian wars are over. They are no longer constitutive moments in the self-consciousness of a people, or the binding and recognition of a direction or movement. Badiou claims the last century held only wars to end wars, last wars, good violence to end bad. So what of this century? Is this century the century in which wars are fought for unheard histories? The fighting we see today are not fought for the definition of peoples, these definitions already exist. These are wars that reclaim a heritage, that rewrite a history and animate not just a future but a past.

Undercurrents, then, of these thoughts and others within my current writings. Identity is the key, and novels have consistently dealt with this topic (which holds more relevance with every breaking news story) with more insight than any other artform. No time to write properly today, awaiting editing returns and with music to make. Just efforts to make all of the above relevant and engage with it both politically but also within my work, professional and literary. As I seek to do this, my work in much the same way as Badiou’s century, seeks to move away from absolutism into possibility.

Looking up, I see that Berlin now begins to cloud over, foreshadowing today’s protest parades. In the kitchen fresh food is being prepared ahead of a potential soaked trip across the city with cameras and dictaphones to document yet another story. Squat and colony communities come together today next to the river in a march against repression and particularly this year against the commercialisation and gentrification of the banks of the Spree. There is a vocal public movement here against this, and for the retention of the public and cultural spaces that have organically settled in these areas.

Newcastle did not seem to have this debate about its riverbank, for various interesting reasons, nor does there seem to be much questioning of what the ‘regeneration’ of an entire quarter of Newcastle’s city centre will do for the people of those areas. Whether the transformation in this city of the river’s banks (from no-man’s land, to culturally autonomous space, to business proposition) is an inevitability, remains to be seen.