TWELVE READINGS OF CHRISTMAS 3

I'd like to say that reading this essay by Jia Tolentino about navigating online offense made me think of the below, but the connection was just chance. I was looking for some quote about cities and I found an echo.

This line in Tolentino's essay jumped out and fell into a Café Bustelo can and made a lot of noise:

And so, there is an unspoken, horrible idea that contemporary political activity starts and perhaps ends with building a really good politicized identity—a process that, again, relies on disapproval, disaffiliation, offense. 

Your narrative, your beliefs, your words in the world, the phrases that ally you with others — all of these depend on the value they are accorded by others. This idea existed before the internet — ppl were always terrible whew — but now the balance sheet is updated instantly. The social delay pedal is torqued to such a wickedly small interval that we can barely tell the difference between signal and return. Here is how Michel de Certeau put it thirty-five years ago:

The credibility of a discourse is what first makes believers act in accord with it. It produces practitioners. To make people believe is to make them act. But by a curious circularity, the ability to make people act — to write and to machine bodies — is precisely what makes people believe. Because the law is already applied with and on bodies, “incarnated” in physical practices, it can accredit itself and make people believe that it speaks in the name of the “real.” It makes itself believable by saying: “This text has been dictated for you by Reality itself.” People believe what they assume to be real, but this “reality” is assigned to a discourse by a belief that gives it a body inscribed by the law. The law requires an accumulation of corporeal capital in advance in order to make itself believed and practiced. It is thus inscribed because of what has already been inscribed: the witnesses, martyrs, or examples that make it credible to others. It imposes itself in this way on the subject of the law: “The ancients practiced it,” or “Others have believed it and done it,” or “You yourself already bear my signature on your body.”

In other words, normative discourse “operates” only if it has already become a story, a text articulated on something real and speaking in its name, i.e., a law made into a story and historicized (une loi historiée et historicisée), recounted by bodies. Its being made into a story is the presupposition of its producing further stories and thereby making itself believed. And the tool ensures precisely the passage from discourse to the story through the interventions that incarnate the law by making bodies conform to it and thus make it appear to be recited by reality itself. From initiation ceremonies to tortures, every social orthodoxy makes use of instruments to give itself the form of a story and to produce the credibility attached to a discourse articulated by bodies.

   — Michel de Certeau, from "The Practice of Everyday Life," 1980.

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