The negative, risk, and responsibility

Jack Frost on actvism

Jackqueline Frost, The Antidote (Compline), 81 pp.—The spelling of the author’s name is “right,” that is, editorially, [sic], a disavowal of an intervention into the current norms governing given names. And the given is, in this articulation of a participant in the Oakland/San Francisco commune, a pre- Nonsite Collective, post-Occupy coalition of activists, compulsion and responsibility. Frost evades neither the philosophical (e.g., Kant, Hegel, Althusser, Derrida) nor the political (Marx, Agamben, etc.) problems posed by the border between acquired habit (“And lo, a gamine in her exilic clothe is wedged into a labor.”) and ethical praxis founded on “a structure of trust, something like sudden love.” Consequently, genre is also under erasure here (are these philosophical aphorisms a la Pascal and Nietzsche, prose poems or desire-as-writing per Blanchot?). As that phrase ‘sudden love” suggests, Frost explores without apology the intersections between religious conversion and political “choice.” Thus, in order to “deserve this antidote,” one reads, one studies. The preparation for “antididonia. That which is given against..” recalls Augustine’s Confessions; it is not by chance that his pre-Christian life functions as a matrix for his Christian conversion. So too here, and if the Hegelian overtones strike one as pre-, rather than post-, Marxist (“A testament to being made for something…”), Frost is simply trying to accept the “moment” of praxis prior to any teleology, especially given that “Occidented, utopia has ghost and full boon, will salivate.”  This means acting with incomplete knowledge, the enabling condition for responsibility: “You must believe me as we ride ahead before the evidence.” It also means accepting the risk of functioning as representatives, of deploying representational tactics at the micro-(“we”) and macro- (history) cosmic levels.  And if no “idee fixe,” no “History,” is “sucker free,” one throws the dice. The Antidote, as the given against (and perhaps, per Derrida, as what is given time and so, given death…) emerges from, if you will, the Diaspora of revolutionary thought after the French Revolution (hence the “Commune” as the ancestor of the “collective”), the dispersion of the possibility of, to say nothing of the conditions for, representing per se: “That which refuses figuration, has the allosagora: the non-site of assembly. Place holding as technique. Balks at the deliverance of meaning as it would any other witch-hunt.” And in case the significance of “deliverance” is not clear, Frost follows these statements with this declaration: “And in good faith I cannot be clearer.” This is followed by a bit of Benjaminian Gnosticism: “Because the messianic has passed us for now, we are apostolic.” Nonetheless, it would be unfair to leave readers with the impression that Frost is incapable of squaring up to the political landscape sans religious mysticism. Taking up again the problem of the Occupy Movements’ seemingly lack of specific and/or collectivist goals, Frost articulates perfectly the problem of ‘space’ as fundamental to territory, to “equality,” and so forth: “”By impasse, I mean property. By symmetry, I mean property.” And if that isn’t clear, perhaps this is clearer: “The violence of a place (what is a/ place?) is distributed like money.”