Teleography and Tendencies: Part 1 Ukraine (S. Mohan)

 

Abstract:

If we should learn anything at all from here, it is that the era of the partition and possession of the world and people by competing powerful nations should come to an end. If today marks the end of the Anglo-American world order tomorrow may open the era of China, India and Russia, which may not be in the interests of even the people within their borders. Instead, with all the resources we should perceive the evident tendencies in the world for a democracy of the world which should not be imagined as a government of the world following the model of the nation state. For this possibility, and our necessity, we should not accept the conventions of negotiations between empires and nations, but this moment should be seized as the Khairos for a new a-nationalism or non-nationalism through which a democracy of the world may emerge.

1

“Terrified Iraqi children protect themselves from the cold after they’re taken outside their house during a pre-dawn raid in a suburb of Baquba on November 16, 2003.” Image credit: www.theatlantic.com

The name of a thing is entirely external to its nature – Marx, Capital

 

The cauldron of wars and the great suffering of people tumbling out of it with unequal access to safety makes us ask the question again—what is the meaning of this world? What is it that we call ‘history’? What is it that justifies the inequality of men who suffer the same everywhere? Can Russia impose its will upon the lives of Ukrainian people? Can America decide the fate of the people of Iraq? These questions can be opened again only through the difficulties of philosophy. We should begin through Sartre who said that “An army may annihilate an enemy army and entirely occupy the defeated country. But […] Even defeated groups in the practical field can manipulate this field itself, and endow it with a real polyvalence which deprives the object of any univocal, uncontested signification”. (1)

 

 We should also understand the components and tendencies which were at work to make the invasion of Ukraine possible, even if this is a labour one ought to assume to have been performed in advance. Of all the many wars and invasions, including the quiet ones, since the end of the Cold War, the invasion of Ukraine is the one which has come to be the war of attrition upon the line which divides what we thoughtlessly secured over the years as the ‘left’ and the ‘right’. In other words, the binary bilateral division of politics is being obliterated. The emergence of this line from the ideal phantasm into the actual is now creating a thick terrain, which will come to be a necessary component of all the calculus we will make in the teleography of our futures. Roberto Esposito called this moment a “return of history” for the very reason—yes, reasons must be given—that the teleograph is now unrecognisable.

 

Often when we say that a certain event is “historical” we mean that in its taking place we sense the essential. The essential is the conjoinment of the possibilities and the impossibilities of some X according to the invested telos. The statement of the kind “it is historical” designates the crossing over of the impossible into the possible, which still falls within the essential. We can call teleograph the system which constitutes a set of ends as its invariants, receives a series of homologies, constitutes functional isolations, and restricts the polynomia of its elements. Teleograph determines what appears to be the essential and the in-essential. In other words, a teleograph (2) is a gathering of reasons in which ends are invested in such a way that we strive to conserve these ends as invariants, while acknowledging silently that there is no conatus. Everything tends to be what they are not which is the very sense of a tendency, or  what Althusser had once called a tendential law. Teleography wanders outside the categories of the possible, impossible, actual, real and true. It is with a teleograph that we gain our sense of history, reap disasters, and obtain the phantasm of chance and destiny in politics. History is that which comes to manifest in the umbra, penumbra and antumbra of the teleograph. Teleography adumbrates history. (3)

 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is nefarious, not in the sense of being a violation of divine intention, but rather of being opposed to the ends we have come to secure for ourselves, or of being a phase transition that we refuse to accept. It is the first full scale invasion of a country since the illegal invasion of Iraq and the genocide of its people by America and England. Russia’s actions rest on the Anglo-American actions as a convention which violated jus ad bellum and jus in bello. It is the first event since the Second World War, since America dropped nuclear weapons upon Japanese cities and civilians without legal consequences, that a country is openly threatening the world with megadeaths. It is exactly here that the complications begin: That is, which invasion of the past three decades—mostly led by America and planned on an old British imperial map, of the Borgesian kind—had been divine? How is it that we are still able to live with Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

 

Novelty and Amnesia

Lets not forget, that this phase of invasion of Ukraine and the threat of nuclear war is constituted by institutionalised forgetting, often enforced by nation (4) states. That is, we experience all kinds of novelties—political, philosophical, pop music, cultural, religious—through active forgetting. That is, the only novelty is forgetting. And, now we should recall that George Bush, the convicted war criminal nowadays paraded around as the sweet uncle (5) who is a painter in his spare time, claimed that he killed over a million people in Iraq and then several tens of thousands in Afghanistan for his god, who whispered his ‘fas’, his intentions to him. Bush said, “God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.” (6)

 

Lest we forget … The bombing of what was Yugoslavia by NATO without the permission of the UN, the destruction of the region often called ‘the middle east’ and the mass murders of its people, the devastation through capitalistic greed in Africa (not just by America or by what is gathered by the dangerous term ‘the west’, but India and China among others), the mass murders of the people of South America through sanctions, the silent mass murder in Somalia being waged by America (7) are only a few events which remain unaccounted as per law. As we know, America, which often used the International Criminal Court (ICC) conveniently (as it did with the UN during the cold war) had imposed sanctions on ICC itself very recently, where at least George Bush and Tony Blair should have been tried at the earliest. America now posits itself outside the law in order to escape that law—the outlaw state. It does not take too long for the actuality of an outlaw state to become a template for others.

2

Ziggurat of Ur, Iraq, 21st century BCE; Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

The persistence of these memories, despite the imperative to forget, is one of the reasons ‘the Anglo-Saxon’ alliance is losing the propaganda war on non-militarised media on this occasion. But it is also due to the epoch called ‘post-truth’ constructed by the militarised American media and in general English media. If we can recall, the invasions and wars of the past decades had been initiated and then sustained by a kind of  ‘post-pre-truth’. Preceding the bombing of Iraq in 1991 the American government presented a fictional testimony given by a girl of fictional atrocities committed by Iraqi soldiers; the testimony was organised by the American public relations firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies. (8) Preceding the invasion of Iraq, America presented Rafid al-Janabi, code named “curveball”, as the final reason for the invasion. Curveball’s statements of the existence of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ were taken as evidence by America, while knowing well that they were false. Mr. Curveball himself would later express surprise at how his words fared for millions of people in Iraq. Then, came the epochs of leaks which revealed the reality of these invasions from 2011, after which it should be a bad joke if people trusted the militarised media in America, or elsewhere.

 

‘The West’

It is undeniable that there is racism—of many kinds—in the treatments of refugees from Africa, Afghanistan and the countries to the south of France—Iraq, Iran, Syria, or in general the former Ottoman territories—inside what is called ‘Europe’. “What is called Europe”, because the meaning of these words will have to be questioned and then their effects will have to be reckoned with in order to come through these cascading evils. As already being noted, there is a remarkable difference between the hostility shown towards refugees from Afghanistan and the former Ottoman territories, compared to the fast tracking of amenities for refugees from Ukraine. The sickeningly discriminatory treatment of refugees of different skin colours fleeing from Ukraine in itself shows the meanings invested in the terms ‘Europe’ and ‘the west’. However, these discriminations by militia, little officers of the borders, and the police are nothing compared to what prompts them: The journalists and politicians who say almost explicitly that Ukrainians are only those who ‘look like us’, and they make of the borders a racialised sieve.

 

At the same time, the hyperbole which is the norm today to construct the dialectics of propaganda, hides the struggles within EU to let the refugees from the former Ottoman territories settle down. There are individuals and organisations dedicated to it within EU. The dialectic of propaganda serves to bring attention either to the far right or to the instances of extreme discrimination alone, whereas the homologies of the conditions under which refugees are received—including the stunted cultural education in the regions of EU—are unable to raise their powers because the struggles of those who care are never in discussions.

 

We can come to the end of the epoche, or the bracketing, of the refugee only when we come to the correct understanding of the relation between refugee and what is called human. This word “refugee” comes from the Latin “fugio”, meaning “to flee” or “to depart”; it is the being which has the “to depart” in it as the active power. The human on the other hand is assumed to possess a certain homeliness through concept of the citizen today. If we look into our ‘histories’ the only common trait we possess is the constant departures—from Africa to Syria (Levante, the region where “it arises”), and from Syria to the flows of the Internet. That is, we are never at home, never homely. Instead, the human animal is that which is kinetic, levitating from the soil, fleeing from all confinements. In the kinetic animal or the fleeing being we have made the difference between the ‘refused’ of a nation state and the ‘own being’ of a nation state. Until this division is overcome we will continue to suffer crises of the kind we have been attending to.

3

Syria, 2015; Image credit: Photo By BARAA AL-HALABI/AFP

 

Now, these appeals to a ‘people like us’ is not new. Lest we forget … During the widely opposed and illegal NATO intervention in former Yugoslavia English journalists often used the following phrase to justify the intervention—“they are a people like us”. What is this “us” which excludes most men? How is it possible to say “a people like us” only decades after the war which ended national socialism? Then, what was the lesson of the Second World War?

 

But then there is a difference between the 1990s and today. As opposed to satellites and cables, the internet has come to be the primary medium inside which the militarised media finds itself in a struggle to remain respectable. It has also ensured that the sufferings of the victims of the kind of command “go and end the tyranny” often heard across the world, and the images of these evils, are at least equally present before a younger generation who are not “a people like us”, irrespective of territories and skin colour. Among those who are refusing to play “a people like us” there is another malice; the reactionary little ethnocentrisms, such as the new obligations on women to serve their ethno-politic by sacrificing their freedoms. That is, the Schmittian model(political theory for ἰδιώτης) of friends and enemies implemented on the bodies of women.

 

But what is this ‘west’ which is, as some openly assert, composed of a ‘people like us’ who can be recognised from a distance? Is it the alliance of “white people” who have the right to recognise and de-recognise others as “people like us”? Is it a navigational parameter set as “the west of” something? As we know, this term was earlier used to denote the difference between the Ottoman Empire—on which an uncanny silence is often maintained—and what fell to its west. For this reason in the early 20th century, most of the present day EU member countries such as Romania, Albania and Greece were “eastern”, or the oriental. As we know these lines were never stable as territorial expansions and losses perpetually scratched at the “oriental-occidental difference”, as Dwivedi calls it.

 

Today the ‘west’ has no east as a counter part. Occasionally we do hear of China and Japan as the east, even in American discourse! These confused uses add to the militaristic investment in the term ‘the west’. What we call ‘the west’ is now complicated much more by the two world wars, the Cold War, and the newer forms of racialisation which began with the very end of the Second World War. America, which did not possess a teleograph of world politics relied on the British map of gluttony and then continued its investments of conflicts according to this old map. Looking through that old map, it is possible to see many of the conflicts of the past five centuries in the region today called ‘Europe’ and ‘Asia’ (the racialisation of the category “Asian” is not the same in America and England), including the colonial wars, as the attempts to overcome the influence of the Ottoman Empire.

4

Ruins of the Palace of Ebla empire, Syria, 3500 BCE, Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

It is in the interest of those who seek peace to study the old maps and teleographies concerning the almost hidden, but the most influential of all imperial systems in known history; its economic and cultural influence, and territorial control spanned from Ukraine to India, and it controlled world trade for the longest time. What was partitioned and settled through the process of the two world wars was mostly the former territories of the Ottoman Empire. The partitioning of the world as war loot entered a new epoch with the negotiations between America, England, and Russian or Soviet Empire before the end of the Second World War. It began with the Cairo conference (9) of 1943 and concluded somewhat with the Paris peace agreements of 1947.

 

The partitioned and accumulated zones of the Ottoman Empire can be termed the buried east, which is still being mutilated through the invasions of ‘the Middle East’, America playing ‘the great game’ of Britain in Afghanistan, and now through Russian aggression in the former territories of the Ottomans including Crimea and Ukraine. All this does not imply that we settle into a new idyllic a priori (10) of the Ottoman world. Rather, we should understand that from a great distance, over a vast ocean, when America intervened on the world it relied on a teleograph to which it had little relation. The American performance in world wide theatres of wars was akin to surgeries with chainsaws and cluster bombs. In other words, the world was received in the model of a cargo cult by America and then phantoms were fought in their wars across the world which killed millions of people, so far. Putin, in a statement referred to the persistence of this problem with its misplaced teleograph as ‘Anglo-American’ world order.

 

‘Europe’

Here, the region that has come to be ‘Europe; in the recent past—from philosophical parables which excluded most of today’s EU to the creation of EU itself—has had a very different relationship with the Ottomans and with the various forms of Russia. These relations and the continuing currents of culture are not equal across the countries of EU. Germany has had a troublesome and long history with both Ukraine and Russia, and currently it requires economic co-operation with Russia to exist. Russian literature contributed to philosophical transformations in Germany, and German philosophy created revolution in Russia. France continues the Ottoman café culture and eat the crescent bread (croissant) in the mornings. In ‘Europe’ Arabic is still considered one of the required languages to understand Theophrastus. Paris is the city where the Akhmatova loved Modigliani. The teleograph of what is called ‘west’ differs considerably from that of ‘Europe’.

 

It is in this context that the American policing of ‘Europe’ following the Second World War should be seen, when some states became more like the Khanates of the USA, the creation of NATO, and post Cold War creations of conflicts in imitation of the crusades. American foreign policy more or less followed two theoretical currents from ‘Europe’ which had fallen in neglect in ‘Europe’. A bad Hégélianism (the only good Hegel remains that of Jean-Luc Nancy) guided America through the proper names of, at least, Kojève, Leo Strauss, Kissinger, and Albright. On the other hand, theoretical elements which constituted the Nazi state were recommissioned in America, including Schmitt, and ‘geopolitics’ (Rudolf Kjellén) which appeared from out of the racialised and instrumentalised Darwinism. These foul theories were interpreted through the old teleograph of ‘east’ and ‘west’ by America (11) calamitously. It is possible that for American foreign policy ‘the west’ means the global nation of the racist category of ‘white’.

 

However, it is impossible to read the intentions behind events such as wars and invasions. They are, for short hand, overdetermined. Although, it is precisely the consistent tactic of the militarised English language media which ‘psychologises’ everyone it opposes—Chomsky, Saddam Hussein, Beauvoir,  Derrida, Putin, Arendt—to the point where they can say ‘you too are a little man like me’. Without accessing intentions we can still observe the consequences. The invasions and bombings of the former Ottoman territories caused the death and suffering of millions of people and created a relentless flow of refugees. America is far away, both historically and geographically. Therefore, they must find safety in European Union. On the one hand there is inequality in the treatment of these refugees, and on the other hand the racialised politics of hatred had been helped by Americans. Steve Bannon (12) and Trump, during his presidency, promoted the far right within EU. It would have us wonder about the consequences, had it been the leaders of any other state from outside of the EU intervening in the same manner. But we should continue to assume that the Republican Party and Trump are not part of the intentions of the American state. Now, if we entertain the thought that the Trumpist party is a component of the American state, we may have to reckon with the possibility of a co-ordination between Russia and America.

 

The relations between Russia, America and England are also complex and comic. The Russian state has considerable investments in the politics and business of England, including in the makings of Brexit and Boris Johnson. (13) The Democratic Party in America has been accusing Trump of receiving considerable support from Russia. Thus, the so called ‘left’ of the American kind who are distributed across the world, are foolish to express glee at the challenge to American capitalistic imperialism posed by Putin. In fact, among the three and a half powers of the present order of the world—America, China, and Russia, and the half that is EU—the little left had been silent about the aggressions of Russia and China, due in part to the theoretical propaganda of a counter racialisation of politics. For example, the racist oppression of the majority lower caste people (90%) of India by the minority upper caste (less than 10%) through the hoax of ‘Hinduism’ is well known, but the so called left enables this apartheid through a cunning silence. In America, the so called left and the right had been in agreement on most of the actions of Trump and of Putin. At the same time the ‘left’ in India and elsewhere are mostly silent on Chinese territorial expansionism and Russian aggression, which are against the very democratic principles, upholding which the ‘left’ very correctly opposed American invasions and regime change operations aided in part by Russian media.

5

Refugees from Ukraine in Belgium; Image credit: politico.eu

 

The logic of Putin’s propaganda victory derives from something more. Russian media is able to determine the thickness of the line between the left and right into a suicidal act in politics in America and among the American styled left across the world. Russian propaganda has imparted the lesson that the only remaining act in politics is the destruction of all political possibilities. What is called the “liberal” and the so called “left”, especially in America, were coming to be weaker in terms of power, but not in terms of demographics. It became evident through the “occupy” movement. Later in the electoral theatre of 2016-2017 it was established; the popularity of Bernie Sanders was not sufficient for him to gain the nomination from the Democratic Party because the “liberals” and “the lefts”, while being the majority, were weaker in terms of money and power. The perspectives and aspirations of a majority (who became a minority in terms of power) could not be voiced in the older media consolidations. Instead, Russian propaganda began to amplify these other voices of discontent while also determining them into an instrument of control and chaos. That is, the criticalisation of democracy caused democratic conversations to be hijacked by nefarious propaganda for the further erosion of democratic institutions.

 

Those who romanticise Russia from the so called left and right should know that it had been for the longest time an imperial design of a minority, including during its imperial incarnation of Soviet Union. Indeed, Russia of today is still an empire which has invisibilised the majority of its inhabitants. That is, ‘imperialism’ is not exhausted by America but Russia, China and India are in distinct ways imperial formations. However, the European Union still retains the possibility to be something else.

 

Given these complications where intentions should not be read, and given that the EU and ‘the west’ do not share the same telos (for it is not in their interest), it will be in the interest of everyone—which means the world—to find a peaceful negotiated end to this conflict.

 

Teleography

This situation awakens us to the more than crisis of the world again, soon after the pandemic. What it forces us to reckon with are three distinct but related tendencies:

  1. The dissolution of the racialised militarised concept of “the west” in philosophy and the “oriental occidental difference”. The concept behind Europe in the European Union asks itself to observe this tendency. Those who are the victims of the term ‘the west’ are both those whose lives and hopes have been subject to debellatio, and those who live in the shifting territories of ‘the west’ accumulating responsibilities for evils of a magnitude with which we do not yet know to reckon.

  2. The evidence of the untenability of nation states, which always tend towards expansionism and parasitism, in a world which cannot resolve its great concerns and evils—nuclear war, climate, energy, poverty, uninhabitable habitus of technological confinement of man—while ensuring the survival of the now accelerating de-democratisation of the nation state model. What we find as militarised religiosity, across religions, is not a sign of any return to religion, but the indication that national models have become catastrophic. Lest we forget, there is no recourse possible to the idyllic a priori of religious life. All religions are militarised instruments, including the ‘peaceful’ religion of Buddhism from the times of the emperor Asoka to the cooperation of the Buddhist monks in the genocide of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

  3. The tendencies emerging through the communities which were made possible through the internet and increased movement of people across the world who are the umbra of a democracy of the world.

 

If we should learn anything at all from here, it is that the era of the partition and possession of the world and people by competing powerful nations should come to an end. If today marks the end of the Anglo-American world order tomorrow may open the era of China, India and Russia, which may not be in the interests of even the people within their borders. Instead, with all the resources we should perceive the evident tendencies in the world for a democracy of the world which should not be imagined as a government of the world following the model of the nation state. For this possibility, and our necessity, we should not accept the conventions of negotiations between empires and nations, but this moment should be seized as the Khairos for a new a-nationalism or non-nationalism through which a democracy of the world may emerge.

This article was first published  in Philosophy World Democracy on 22 March 2022, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/articles-1/teleography-and-tendencies-part-1-ukraine

Notes

1. Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason, Volume One, Verso, 2004, London, p. 665. In this complex text of Sartre, the terms “field”, “polyvalence” and “univocal” are to be understood properly.

2. More on teleograph in part 2 of this text.

3. These terms and concepts are themselves adumbrated by the Arabic “Hmarr”.

4. There is no such thing as a non-racialised nation.

5. George W. Bush, Tony Blair found guilty of war crimes, https://nationalpost.com/news/george-w-bush-tony-blair-found-guilty-of-war-crimes-in-malaysia

6. George Bush: ‘God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq’, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/oct/07/iraq.usa

7.  “Somalia: Zero accountability as civilian deaths mount from US air strikes”, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/04/somalia-zero-accountability-as-civilian-deaths-mount-from-us-air-strikes/ The targeting of Somalia began when Bill Clinton bombed it in order to distract the world from the Lewinsky scandal. See “Clinton’s airstrike motives questioned Many wonder if attack was meant to distract from Lewinsky matter”, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1998-08-23-1998235021-story.html

8.  “The Disinformation Campaign”, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2001/oct/04/socialsciences.highereducation

9. Although Russia was not participate in it the interests of the Russian empire were represented.

10. This has been discussed in Mohan, “The Obscure Experience”, Coronavirus, Psychoanalysis, and Philosophy: Conversations on Pandemics, Politics, and Society, Edited by Fernando Castrillón, Thomas Marchevsky, Routledge, London, 2021.

11. The historical and geographical autonomy of America from the “oriental-occidental difference” held the possibility for another world, which it has now thoroughly exhausted in its present form.

12. The Man Who Wants to Unmake the West, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/trump-steve-bannon-destroy-eu-european-union-214889/

13. Boris Johnson under pressure to sack Tory fundraiser over Russia links, https://www.ft.com/content/2ccd61c2-0c4d-48ec-bcda-03ad0bb6f85c

—-

26-03-2022

Shaj Mohan is a philosopher based in the subcontinent. His research publications are in the areas of metaphysics, philosophy of technology, reason, politics and truthness. Mohan is the co-author with Divya Dwivedi of Gandhi and Philosophy: On Theological Anti-Politics (Bloomsbury, 2019).

Published by I.S.A.P. - ISSN 2284-1059
Scientific Journal in the List 11 by the ANVUR (Italian Agency for Evaluation of the University System and Research)