39 Baudrillard (4)
There is no desiring; the only desiring exists in desiring to be the destiny of another, and for him to become an event that surpasses every subjectivity, that checkmates every possible subjectivity; to be that which displaces the subject himself into a definitively objective passion, in that it displaces the subject from his own and all other goals, from his presence, and from every responsibility towards himself and all others.
Once again, what a sentence! The language of philosophy—subject-object relation, objectivity, subjectivity—the language of literature—destiny, to want to play out an event, to put someone in checkmate—the language of psychology—desire, passion, presence—and of ethics—surpassing, goals, responsibility towards oneself and others—mixed with one another seemingly arbitrarily, and brought into a strange logical relationship.
“Abandon all hope,” says Dante in his Divine Comedy, at the entrance to the underworld, and so will it likewise be with us, as we attempt to understand this sentence, this overloading of sense, confusion, hypotaxis, and perplexity.
Baudrillard’s sentence truly leads us into the underworld. That this is situated in the lower half of the body I don’t dare to claim. For even the hormonal controls over our desires and loves transpire by means of our reason, of the mind, of the disinterested evaluation of advantage and disadvantage, do they not? At the least, this task, biologically speaking, is undertaken by the brain. Even when we are unable precisely to locate the control centers for our loves, desires, and seductions.
In the tried and tested manner (?), I shall dissect this quote as if it were a Latin sentence construction. Who knows? Perhaps something will remain of the sense, some reference or direction for how we should chart our life’s course in this desert of thinking, loving, seducing, and desiring.
The sentence begins with a provocatively glaring contradiction. Up until now we have heard so much about the dominance of things—how they seduce us, that they have us at their mercy through our desire, that this desiring can even assume compulsive dimensions: dimensions of dependency and even of madness. And yet now it states concisely: there is no desiring, period. Finale, end of the show.
However, an exception is made: to wish to be come the destiny of another. This form of seduction (as object), this form of desiring (as subject) remains allowed to us. Influence, to wish to sieze power over another, to become his destiny—this, we are permitted to desire. Some might even say, we should want this. Nietzsche’ Will to Power reveals itself now in interpersonal relationships. I want to be bigger, stronger, more beautiful than you, and thereby hold dominion over you. Like a slave, you should live in service to me; I am your destiny. And I am your fortuity, an event.
Such a word, out of the entertainment industry! The power-laden exploitation of desire for one’s own, perhaps even opaque goals; that is, even in the sense of objectification, should represent an event in the life of one’s counterpart: an event that television, media, the world of computers must constantly offer us without interruption or face bankruptcy. An event—in human relations, where it has perhaps less to do with earnings and income, one hopes—that will have grave consequences. For with such an even, which now represents desiring, every “subjectivity” will be “surpassed.”
What does that mean?
Subjectivity still means, at the least, a wish for self-determination, for freedom, for speaking one’s mind. Yet now these goals are superseded, in that the subject is placed “into a definitively objective passion,” which displaces the subject from his path—we have even identified it as the tracing of a path in the desert—because he is made, perhaps without even being aware of it, into an object.
Object and passion thus come into play. The sole desiring that is apparently good and meaningful for us is passion. Yet whither does it lead?
Baudrillard names three negative goals: desiring with passion, or passionate desiring, leads us to forget 1) our goals, 2) our presence, and 3) even our responsibility towards ourselves and others.
We arrive thereby quite close to the raw obscenity of objects, as we have come to know them again and again. An obscenity, I remind once more, that once more before its end, before dying away, ecstatically shines in the emptiness, in the appearance, the simulation, and then finally vanishes as if imploding—the dark fate of objects and their transiency.
Yet so far gone, so obscene, standing under the spell of desiring, thus under the banner of love and lust (let us call it), the subject is not. Indeed, passion is at play, which still confuses and complicates everything—after all, who is already, immediately, and without further ado prepared for the sexual act under the sole dictates of desire? Who feels secure enough in himself to touch an unknown other solely under the sway of his own body, to ask this other’s name and despite all passions nevertheless elect rather to wait and see? A man perhaps less. A woman perhaps more likely, I think. Hence the caution, shyness, indeed pusillanimity and “chasteness” of many women, entirely in the sense of their nature (by which I do not wish to presume a masculine sexual behavior as going against nature, if one is a defenseless “victim” of a seduction—indeed: must be).
But perhaps it was in fact the woman, with her temptations, who has led the man under this spell of desiring, if it was she who awoke this desiring through seduction, with all the tricks available to her, so that ultimately “objective passion” is at play: thus a domination of the object with all the risks and incalculabilities about which I wrote in the previous entry, or in the text “On the Sovereignty of Things.”
For on those other occasions was it not the case, that only objects—also called reification—can seduce? Consequently seduction would be an objectification and the desire of a man for this “event,” which might be represented by the sexual act within the quotidian boredom of a questionable life, this desire would be a degeneracy without meaning or purpose? Toward a dubious finale of implosion, vanishing, and offense?
Yet who has fallen for whom?
According to Baudrillard, the desiring subject has fallen for the object of seduction: it is in his hand and it has its purpose (“I have abandoned my purpose”), it has lost its responsibility and even—most surprising of all—its presence, i.e. its physical presence.
The purpose that we were ready to pursue with such vigor and energy is now rendered weak and inoperative.
Responsibility—who would, under the conditions of a fierce desire (to set this word once more on one’s lips), responsibly consider his steps, when longing, beauty, and pleasure stand ready at the end of the path? One is even prepared to question one’s own existence; one need not be physically present to desire: one can introduce a simulation, a fake, the lies and hide-and-seek games under the banner of this omnipotent and all-dominating desire that, to repeat myself, need not always be a living human being (as objectification), but rather just as much might be a thing.
Whither have we arrived? Are we still actually as we wanted to be, as we have imagined our image, our appearance, at the end of this masquerade of costumes, disrobing, touching and bodily contact? In the situation of a seduction, the seduced thus disappears. He ceases to exist, he is no more. So far, so good.This, we have already heard again and again in the meantime, and sufficiently. Eventually, it’s enough.
Yet whom should we desire, when the object of our craving no longer exists at all? Should we flee from ourselves (I speak here mostly from the perspective of a man) in the lonely masturbation techniques of the secluded guest house in the backyard, in the consumerist, venal lust just around the corner, in the world of cybersex?
Seemingly has desire—reciprocally to it also seduction—become a large problem, which does not submit to easy solutions, under the dominion and the spell of an omnipotent object.
Yet how can this problem with the seducing subject, which after Baudrillard’s hypothesis ultimately becomes—indeed, mustbecome—an omnipotent, malignantly proliferating, obscene object, be resolved?
Translated by N.Andrew Walsh