Leaky Empire

Belgian waffles are popular in China, but here in Jiangxi they are usually made with rice flour. So these waffles are only “Belgian” in their visible appearance, but not in their substance or taste. This disjunction is an allegory of modern times, when appearances are spilling and getting displaced from their substances. For instance, consider how China itself is a supposedly 5000-year-old country which was created in 1911. Layers of material get decoupled and spill out of joint, so there is a series of cascading displacements which reaches ever greater magnitudes. This is the infinite riddle of symbolic excess, that golden apple that Eris hurled up onto Mt. Olympus. When history is seen like this, then leftism appears as a kind of Sunday School that emphasizes the deadly sins of greed and vanity, and since its currency is morality it ignores the deeper processes of destabilization. The sensational drama of sin identifies capitalism with exploitation, and the question of whether there is something more essential never arises. It seems only secularism can abolish this moral drama. By our initiation into material modernity advances beyond good and evil, then we discover a physics of displacement which constitutes the underlying process. One can only be dumbfounded by the immutability of this process, as well as its ambivalence, in that it is both deadly and miraculous. The poverty of the homeless may be terrible, but it is also undeniably a nest of majesty, and modernity is an initiation into the practice of stepping from the abject to the majestic. Empty blocks of luxury apartments may once have riled our Celtic blood, but then eventually the plastic rubble of antiquity becomes an anointing grove-balm. This terrible movement of creation is one of excarnation or excription, where the interior self-reference is endlessly driven outside of itself. Here in China, the practitioners of advanced modernity are tracking the leaking of this empire, as it proceeds under the pressures of ancestral modernity. This tracking practice links to various global topics such as real estate, currencies, credit instruments, education, entertainment, transportation, and tourism. This process of excription, where China is continually driven outside, tends to be a sneaky process, because it threatens to ruin the domestic markets. The entire domestic market could be considered a huge bait-and-switch trap, in that it’s a distraction arranged to facilitate the escape of the elites. Most notorious here are the “loose officials” who gradually excribe themselves by taking on foreign media, spouses, education… and drifting towards a final move abroad, which is a sort of mirage of ultimate ethnic betrayal that hovers eternally on the horizon. They arrange a domestic market of Belgian waffles made with rice flour, in order that they may eat waffles in Belgium. The leftist inclination is to construe this as a moral story about outrageous injustice which must be stopped. But this moralizing gets tiring, and seems rather futile. The drama that we call capitalism is only a superficial reflection of a deeper material process of displacement, where populations are subjected to an exogenous pressure for escape. The critical sensations are not deadly sins, but rather an anonymous suffocation, or strangulation, or a double-bind that forces the violation of an incest taboo, so that something foreign is desperately needed. So the term “capitalism” refers to something much stranger than the Sunday school drama of leftism wants to consider, and perhaps this is what Rilke complained about when he wrote obscurely in the Notebooks of Malte Brigge: “…now it was growing from within me like a tumor, like a second head… and it was part of me, though it surely could not be mine because it was so big… the blood was loth to pass it… its margin cast a shadow on my remaining eye.” This is an ancestral pressure which drives the Chinese into a pageantry of alter-Sinification, to sacrifice their ethnicity for success, and the most notoriously leaky areas in this respect are along the southern coast of Guangdong and Fujian. A trans-ethnic intercourse is performed spectacularly by Cantonese stars like Jackie Chan. His latest film Kung-Fu Yoga is set in India and Dubai, and he plays a history professor investigating jewelry theft. This is monstrous allegory, where the action hero is an intellectual who investigates jewelry theft. Open Sesame? Hong Kong jewelers are a conspicuous aspect of the Chinese city. There is an unusual practice of selling diamonds for Thanksgiving (sic), as though that were a normal practice abroad, which is a form of theft faster than Jackie Chan. But “theft” is one of those humanistic moral terms that we use in the Sunday school dramas of heroism, with their tests of sin and suffering. An adult sermon should discuss realistic problems, like how the ancestors secretly threaten to force the blood from our veins if we don’t continually change places.

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