We live in an epoch of odd reversals: that is, we live in an epoch of war, but there have not been as many pacifists as other times in history; we live in an epoch of “excellence”, but there has not been so much reproduction of the same; we live in an epoch of unbound expressionism and commotion, but only with the caveat that all the lines of sensation are contained within the prism of “my security”. Finally, we live in an epoch of “movements” (from the Tea Party to the Yellow Vests), however, everyone is more or less unmoved. The extensiveness of the movement of all things guards an originary “unmoved mover”.
In a 1953 essay “Il tempo della malafede”, Nicola Chiaromonte diagnosed our epoch not as one of disbelief, but rather as one of bad faith. According Chiaromonte: “Nihilism permeated not only intellectual groups but all of European society. This means that men began to feel that no believe was strong enough to withstand the pressure of faits accomplis. It is a very small step from this mood of doubt and distress to the grim conclusion that believes do not matter at all, and that in politics as in art, in art as in personal behavior, the only thing that counts is the will to act. With or without conviction he who acts is right. This is step point at which bad faith beings to set in and a preestablished ideology takes the place a freely formed conviction. The ersatz replaces the genuine.”
The destruction of the genuine or the conditions of the pursuit of our “truths” is what maximizes the regime of compensatory actions. And this is where we are today in the world. Back in the heyday of the Cold War, Chiaromonte had a solution to find an “exit route”. He writes at the end of his essay where he outlines the ingredients that we might consider: “A return to reality after mind and soul have been beclouded can only take place through disillusion and despair. Yet this suffering will remain sterile and the recovery of reason impossible unless a true conversion takes place. Conversion to what? First of all, to the immediacy of nature and experience, to contact with things one by one, and their primal disorder…”
The question for us (and for the species) is whether such a conversion can take place given the “unmoved” tone of the epoch. It seems obvious that this conversion can no longer happen at the level of language, ideas, rhetoric, justification, narratives, and even less political fides. The conversion is, each and every time, an opening of experience in which the things (not all Things, and most definitely not “every-thing”) attunes itself in a different way. Of course, most of the reactive and aggressive outbursts today are ways to block this process of “immediacy” in favor of the “security” of the unmoved position.
This is why the meeting of Wendy Rhoades and Rebecca Cantu in a recreational construction site is so moving (Billions, Season 4, episode 12). But it is moving not because it elicits some sort of aesthetic impulse on the viewers, but because of what Rebecca says to Wendy: “It is not a metaphor…it is going to feel absurd for a minute. I need you to fight that off and own the fact that you’re moving the earth”.
This is the sort of ecstatic movement that is needed today against the unmoved avowals of bad faith. Only this movement can open the “genuine”.
*Image: Wendy Rhoades and Rebecca Cantu at the construction site in upstate New York. Billions, Season 4, episode 12, 2019.