There was an odd sensation – is that what it was, a sensation – when everyone in the theater began to stand before the film had started. There actually were very few of us waiting to see Burton’s cockamamie Alice which made it all the more odd and curious. A beautiful commercial/homage to the King of Thailand - who is the only King Thailand has ever known in more than sixty years of ”modern” times - dramatically played. It was more moving than anything the Republicans artfully produced from Reagan to Bush. You almost felt a soul pervade the room as the human characteristics of Thai esteem - images of gentleness, compassion, intellect, adventure – struck cords in your own person. What was most surprising was all the intellectual and emotional defense mechanisms against media manipulation that have helped organize me as an American subject, the kinds of disavowal that distance me automatically from powerful ideological effects whether they be the inundations of product advertisements or political spin-heads on tv, paid me little defense. The sense of the King, the sensation of the King of Thailand (a country I was coming to love), swept through me. One understood that “glue” of a King, as some theorists like to say “the body of a King”. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, nor entirely a transportive one, but as the financial, military and affective teeth of two sides in the Thai conflict begin to be shown – and it may get bloody – there is something to learn from Kingship. We do decry these authoritarian, imaginary modes of identification, large scale projections of health into the air, atmosphere or photograph, modes by which we are “enslaved”. But these are also modes of congruence, excelerators of agreements whose power to hold the disperate should not be simple-mindedly dismissed. It seems that indeed they should be criticized, dismantled, laid bare, but as well, what they are doing must appreciated as well. It is I think a question of history and aesthetics, and more even of aesthetics. There are many Kings.
As a Spinozist I for some time thought that the war against imaginary relations was univocal and persistent, each and every imaginary relation as it was encountered in the world is better to be de-composed. This was I think a fundamental misunderstanding of the imaginary in Spinoza. The biggest realization is that Spinoza operates from a thorough-going skepticism and humility, a sense of the ironic absurd, one in which even mathematics is imaginary. Imaginary relations are real, embodied powerful things, doing real conatus-driven things in the world. There is no such thing as an inherently bad (or worse evil) imaginary relation. It took me a long time of reading Spinoza to realize this. I hope there is not going to be much theory on this blog, but it will I guess poke through. Most of the time I encounter those that want to go about destroying pernicious imaginary relations in the world I sense that we are dealing with one more very complex, not quite compassionate, highly affective, imaginary relation again. Battles of imagination.
That I encountered this as prelude to Burton’s own privatization of Alice is just one more bit of illuminating irony. Alice who ends as the self-empowered female CEO who starts the Opium wars. Is that what she has become?…hilarious, and digestive.