Mitochondrial Vertigo

April 17, 2010

Threat of Half-Coup: The Spectre of Thai Factionism

Filed under: Thailand — Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu @ 11:16 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thailand mulls a ‘half coup’ by Shawn W Crispin at Asia times is an interesting in depth article on the possibility that the Thai army is splitting along Red and Yellow lines. Much of it requires the piecing together of shards of evidence found in the half-light left in the clash of last week, making it speculative and projective. Were there military Red Shirt operatives carrying out deadly hits upon the Thai army? It seems that much of Thai politics works in this way, the floating sensation that behind soft words or grand claims, or festive gatherings, there is a brute force with great financial backing that could be quite bloody.

Al Jazeera English has a related report.

What is difficult is the way the subterfuge trades upon itself. The threat of it operates with greater persistance and effect than acts alone (a few rifles fired, a few grenades tossed), yet as the image of possible civil war wedges itself within the political imagination “the few” are able to exercise power through the reference to the spectre, and ever real forces may threaten to fill the gap within the imagination itself, filling the imaginary space with hard power.  Each side using the spectre for themselves. Politics as poker game.

As Red Shirts have entrenched themselves within the narrower confines of the commercial district, literally choking commerce with farmers, almost provoking the possibility of a more bloody confrontation, one is never sure what cards each hand is holding.

April 16, 2010

Standing for the King

Filed under: Thailand — Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu @ 4:48 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

April 15, 2010

Death and the Maiden

Filed under: polanski — Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu @ 4:24 pm
Tags: , , , ,

We watched Polanski’s Death and the Maiden a few days ago. I had seen it before some years back but I thought my wife would enjoy it. She has a committed interest in prison reform, and images of female recovery and power speak to her. Plus Polanski is a touchstone. Rosemary’s Baby has been a favorite of her’s and our recent viewing if the excellent documentary on Polanksi’s trail on Netflix was a source of a lot of discussion. Last night, before dropping off into sleep, she said that the film kept coming back to her. I suspect that she understood it better than I – as it always seemed quite flawed to me, worth it but flawed. She said that she felt Polanski in that film, the small quiet man whose perversity lays beneath the surface, the boy who lost his mother in the Holocaust. He haunts the film. For me the film is the logical apex of Repulsion, the hard world justification of Deneuve and Farrow’s crazy. Ben Kingsley is a wonderful, underated actor (a hard thing to say because his reputation is that of the underated actor). His last monlogue of torture, human.

The Thai Clash Between Red Shirts and Government

Filed under: Thailand — Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu @ 12:31 am
Tags: , , , ,

Here I repost the three videos that ended my last blog. I was particularly moved by the surreal quality of silence, lunar lighting and eruption. As some know I just returned from Thailand, perhaps 10 days before these clashes between demonstrators and government. While in the outskirts of Bangkok we saw the terrific parades of Red Shirts, combining a festive joy with something a bit ominous. Thailand seems like that, a place where anything can happen. It could be nothing, or it could be something.

One thing I learned from being there was that the political situation is far too complex to be summarily taken under a few principles. The West, maybe the academic West, at times would like to embrace the Red Shirts as some kind of REAL democracy against bureaucratic urban cronyism, military shadow rule, or antiquated Royalism, yet billionaire Thaksin the Red Shirt de facto leader was corrupt beyond expectation. There are no easy lines here, no place on which to get firm ideological footing.

The Thai situation seems to speak at large about the resistance of politics (and revolutions of many kinds) to abstract categorization. Much as Spinoza claimed that mathematics itself was Imaginary, it is only by wiping away real and powerful differences, the long, deep heritage of affects and memory, and sweeping groups into “classes”, that we are able to make a political calculation – and inhuman calculation, which then itself tries to seize ethical authority for itself, the moral choice.

What the film shows is the ambiguity of a gunshot. The Red Shirts – largely farmers from the country-side – had come to protest and demonstrate, clogging the city of Bangkok until their economic clot brought real political change, a change in government. They are dancing in the street, having been there for weeks, poised amid soldiers who also are from the Northeast, Issan, much like themselves. There is only stillness and dancing. It is both tense and peaceful. A shot rings out, an affect traveling across all the bodies. Each side claims it was the other, the insistence of secretly clothed parties carrying out armed attack. Who is moving whom?

The thing that touches you is the humanity that can be lost when we appeal to Ideas to save the humanity that is lost when we appeal to Ideas.

Create a free website or blog at