South remembers: Sour South by Chus Martínez
by Chus Martínez
By convention, the bottom half of a map is South
While talking about what to talk about he started telling me a story. There is a general assumption that people from the Basque country are quite reserved, of a taciturn character. However, one of his best friends as a teenager was completely mute. They would go in groups to the seaside to sit and drink some beer and to chat, and he was always silent. They would also play ‘pelota’, a traditional Basque game, for hours without him saying a word. Nobody seemed to mind it. Among friends they called him ‘Finisterre’, to refer to his condition of being there and being, at the same time, remote. My friend was very close to Finisterre.
One day, without any preamble, Finisterre said that he wanted to talk to him. The request made my friend uneasy; what was there to talk about after all those years of silence? Could he have missed something, even if they spent their days together? Finisterre met him at the door of the polytechnic school, where my friend used to practice Judo till late. They walked home together. After a few minutes Finisterre said, “I am not from here”. My friend failed to understand. “Where are you from? San Sebastian? Bilbao? The Basque Country?” How big is the “here”? my friend thought. Also, why is this fact important? “No. Not this here. I mean, I am not from here at all. I am from elsewhere.”
There are many ways of imagining elsewhere.
At the point of unbearable frustration, violence may explode to enact a revenge for the destructive impact of progress. Hope assumes the guise of a violent enforcement of justice in an effort to render calamity meaningful. To act is to remember. To remember the accumulated injustices, to state that the wrongs are registered, to collectively hope for a correction. Both those who do or did the ‘wrong’ and those who dare to confront it are structured by the logic of ‘intervention’. This is a force that transcends the ‘here’ and will, ultimately, explode, manifesting itself in the form of a critical interpretation of the catastrophe that stresses the ‘split’ between here and there, insiders and outsiders, us and them. This is a force that hopes for a divine intervention that somehow will put an end to the nameless and faceless suffering of millions. The logic of an elsewhere, embodied in a ‘First World’ in eternal antagonism with the ‘Third World’, develops its dramaturgy thorough a language of sacrifice, in opposition to those who spend their days in the praise of stupid daily pleasures and those who can afford a satisfying life full of material and cultural wealth. In contrast, thoseprotesting and engaging in the struggle up to a point of almost selfdestruction, sometimes are hoping for the coming of a liberated territory outside this all-pervasive and suffocating oppression. In both cases, the here is turned into a refugee camp run by its inhabitants where life is thriving because of acts of authentic solidarity.
The question of avoiding binary logic, as well as liberating ourselves and others from the master-signifier, cannot be the concern of philosophy. It is impossible to force ourselves to understand what it means to think differently about agency or to refuse, in principle, any form of transcendentalism. It is not reason that can help us here, but art. It is through ‘panic’ that we are forced to act, to think, to live these days, and it seems logical that we should then use panic as the substance for a different way of thinking about agency, effect, matter, relations, labor, economy, knowledge and experience. It is a way of thinking that cannot make any sense, or any sense as we are used to representing ‘sense’ in our minds. In reading Fernando Arrabal and Alejandro Jodorowski’s notions about panic, one understands the optical accuracy of panic as a method for agency: “I refuse to imagine reality without phantasms, the monstrosities, the distortions (of the baroque).” Panic is a radically upsetting situation; therefore it is one that invites us to be centered in the grotesque, allowing for the interconnection of various patterns of coherence. Panic is an impetus, a force, a movement, but it cannot be mistaken for agency; it is a feeling that proliferates through fantasies, not one we can reach by consensus.
Panic is both inimitable and hermetic, and able to proliferate and link the human, not only with itself but also with its various others, from inert matter to monsters, animals and plants. Imagining panic as a substance not just to train ourselves in a different logic, but also in the interwoven complexity of several logics at work simultaneously, is a stunning tour de force. The hyperbolic character of panic plays a fundamental role: to shutter the innocence of activist minds, but also to act as a counterbalance to the self-styled ‘First World’. To think through panic is to radically trust the illusions of theatricality and pretense in order to rejoice in and also overcome the imminent cataclysm. The art of panic is the art of being simultaneously trapped while having already escaped.