Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Subjects and Objects and Rings, Oh My!

So, since we're, ::gasp::, done with IJ (reading, that is), I'm going to talk a little bit about subjectivity/objectivity as I feel this concept draws together so many of the concepts of the book (I found the seminar before last very enlightening). We're also going to connect this to our earlier talk(s) about the breaking of annularity (harmful or unsustainable or precarious cycles/rings).

Let's go back to our concepts of freedom. We had two, basically. The Americans had a concept of "I play by my own rules"/"Nobody tells ME what to do"/"I'm the boss of my own body"... the Canadians (slash Europeans) had a concept wherein you were only able to choose amongst restricting influences to (dis)obey -- i.e. choose your temple. The reader may remember that I felt this American view was subjective (i.e. I only care about myself) whereas the Canadian view was objective (as the Canadians are choosing from outside factors). The two sides seem incredibly intractable. The AFR (& co.), in fact, choose as basically their sole goal the elimination of those subjective b******s. Marathe and Steeply have a whole long debate about the merits of freedom.

I believe this conflict characterizes much of IJ. The result of the meeting of the two opposed sides is, unfortunately, usually destruction (except to those cool few who are able to walk the line between both). This is the reason why the Entertainment is destructive, why the Concavity/vexity is so dangerous, and why the Incandezas are so messed up.

Let me bring the concept of annularity up an abstract knotch. Certain cycles effectively shield people from having to accept "the other side." e.g. Addicts use their drugs to ignore problems with the outside world, the EH teachings can remove people from their emotions to too great a degree (more on that & Gately a bit later). We can think, then, of a circle that encloses an "inside"/(subjective) and "outside"/(objective). When this circle/cycle is broken, however, the two sides are forced to meet far too quickly for a peaceful resolution.

Let's look at the triumphs and failures of both subjectivity and objectivity in terms of people.


Mario (or equivalently Lyle), in my view, is the champion of objectivity. He's clearly pretty objective -- he can't even feel himself getting burned. Really, he's just sort of an impression of everybody else (e.g. the scene where Hal says that Mario accepts the lies that everyone tells him). For all that, however, he is the only one who understands people like Clipperton and Loach and is the only person who seems to be able to do anything constructive with these people. There's an innocence and beauty about Mario that is hard to overlook. If he seems weird, it's because, well, we expect people to be a little selfish, but Mario is not at all.

Avril is the failure of objectivity. Seriously, lady, stop worrying about how what you say will affect everyone else and just be yourself. Your kids would have turned out a lot less messed up if you had.


After some thought, I put down first-half-of-the-book Hal down as the poster-child for subjectivity. This isn't perfect as we know what happens to Hal from pg. 1 (OK, like pg. 10, which is, to be fair, the same as pg. 1 for a 100 page, regular, book.), but here goes. Hal has the whole thing where he can't even really conceive of a world outside of himself. He's pretty subjective. For all that, he achieves fantastically high levels of performance in tennis, academia, ... And he isn't, generally, a major asshole to anyone. Way to go.

Lenz is pretty clearly a failure of subjectivity. 'nuff said. Or Orin. Take your pick.

Some conflicts and implosions...

Most of the addicts' troubles (especially Hal's) represent the breakdown of subjectivity. Every addict has the story where they realize that their drug is destroying everything else in their life. They are then forced to face objective reality. I feel this point is especially hit home at the end where Fax (pretty degenerately subjective/addicted) has his eyes stitched open (ew), and is thus forced to literally "see" the consequences of his addiction. Gately, also, catches a glimpse of his own face which has a similar effect. In the end, Gately wakes up cold and utterly alone, probably at the beginning of his Road to Recovery, after seeing his own face in a sort of mirror. He's basically forced to see that his addiction has destroyed everything he might care about (thus the empty beach) and that he will have to build everything back up coldly and horribly alone.

The US also seems to have similar problems (it's why we're worried about the Entertainment, why the cellphone image thing is so weird, why the media is so weird, why Canada hates us...).

Yet, somehow, EH doesn't seem to be exactly the way to go, either. Someone (sorry, can't remember who) once commented that both Marathe & Steeply (objectivity and subjectivity if I ever saw 'em) are both painted to be ridiculous. The wheelchair assassin and the transvestite SS agent? Heh. (Are the AFR in wheelchairs because they reject the importance of the self? What does that say about Steeply being a girl?) Gately, in fact, seems to be the one facing the problems of objectivity at the end. Like, seriously, he goes into this whole EH program and gets REALLY into it and starts believing in the whole objectivity/belief in a higher power thing. What does he get? He gets screwed over in terms of wages in his job, he gets nearly killed for Lenz (who DEFINITELY does not deserve that sacrifice), and is unable to accept pain relievers because he can't relapse. Seriously, man, a LITTLE selfishness can be justified. Poor Donnie G (Job is a pretty accurate description, Gately has been forsaken by his God/Higher Power). :( It's not even clear that he's going to be able to get the girl.

Canada (plus AFR, Marathe) have similar problems. Specifically, Canada is a pushover for US waste-dumping ambitions. Also, the AFR's basic plan is to kill a bunch of the USA and provoke the US into a practical genocide against (the newly seceded) Quebec. Oh, great, that'll make everyone happy. Marathe's story mirrors this: while Marathe tries to give himself over to an ideal, he, basically, gets depressed. He realizes that his fight for an ideal is impossible without some consideration for himself.

Heck, Pat M can't even keep her kid from doing drugs...

So, we see how that conflict pops up in USA vs. Canada/AFR. It also seems that the Incandeza's problems are due to this divide: Mario and Avril are objective people whereas Hal and Orin are subjective people (we'll get to Himself in a second). Talking is, thus, very, very hard. EH vs ETA is a similar conflict. ETA's physical superiority (in altitude) probably reflects the prevailing view in the US of A...

JOI seems pretty objective (isolated as a kid, can't communicate), but the essence of his work is the breaking of annularity and thus the divide between subjectivity and objectivity (Blood Sister:OTS's closing scene shows BS, on her own, breaking out of her bad habits once and for all [sort of a weird mix of giving up her subjective, streetwise ways for objectivity, but doing it on her own. She accepts neither the chaotic subjectivity of the street nor the rigid objectivity of the convent]. In Wave Bye Bye to the Bureaucrat, the Bureaucrat finally accepts that he can quit his job [Bureaucrat is clearly a "public"/objective official, but he gives up his job for some subjective peace of mind]. In Medusa vs. Odalisk, we see the "monsters" of both cultures: the beauty of subjectivity [only seeing what you want to see] of Quebec's Odalisk and the hideousness of objectivity [seeing what you don't want to see] of our Medusa. The audience is caught as the two ideas fight. etc.).

This brings us to IJ 5/6 / The Entertainment. Here's what we know: JVD waves hi to an old friend and the two try to meet each other, but they simply end up walking around in revolving doors. Finally, we see (as babies), Joelle apologizing to us (presumably for our death given the whole mothers were our killers thing).

I don't have a good sense of the meaning of this, but I feel that the revolving door connects back to good ol' annularity and that "our" death in the cartridge is representative of the destructive nature of the meeting of the objectivity/subjectivity from the breaking of this cycle. This sort of puts one of Steeply's counters to Marathe's arguments into context: the Entertainment kills both Americans and Canadians alike. It's a challenge that's common to both nations.

This, in fact, is a conflict that JOI was attempting to resolve in his own life (he wanted to reach out and communicate, i.e. become more objective), but, finally, failed to do so. His experiment with AA (complete objectivity) failed, as in, symbolically, BS:OTS. In the end, he kills himself because he cannot reconcile his addiction (subjective force) with his vow not to drink (objective force). Are we doomed to this conflict between the two until we die? Is death the result of the breaking of annularity?

Odds and Ends:

* At the end, Hal is immobilized because of a breakdown of his subjectivity (like Ken Erdedy in the very beginning). Similarly, Gately is immobilized by outside forces.

* The AFR are portrayed as the most heartless of murderers. I suppose at the end Bobby C is pretty bad, but the AFR is incredibly cold about it all. Which is very fitting...

* The tables are pretty much literally turned on Orin in the end. What connection does his fear of roaches have to his personality (he can't control them? They represent his views of other people? They somehow connect to the Moms?). Why exactly does he say "Do it to her!"? Is this his mom? Maybe Joelle?


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