Saturday, October 24, 2009

If a lion could talk . . .

This is how eco-horror enters the dialogue, by asserting that the exclusion of the green world from democratic politics destroys the claims of every democracy to universality. Asserting meanings which, in their non-human origins, appear as horrifying, they assert the broken nature of any claim to universality derived from an exclusion. While the Deep Ecology movement's use of direct action is alluring, in the same way that contemporary Hollywood is deeply tied up with narratives of revenge, revenge too has the feeling of a politics which has no part for dialogue, and to that extent is no politics at all. In later writings, Wittgenstein argued 'If a lion could talk, we would not understand him' (Wittgenstein 1968: II, xi, p. 223). The world not only speaks but roars in our ears, in a tempest of storms, collapsing glaciers, forest fires, mudslides . . . and yet we do not understand. Wittgenstein's point concerned the incommensurable nature of different modes of language. That this is integral to public life is clear from the example of politicians unwilling to engage in debate, and devoted instead to persuasion, to communicating a policy, to raising awareness: effectively to solipsism. While linguistic philosophy might hold this as a permanent and universal condition, political philosophy cannot. It must undertake to find ways to bring the human and the lion into dialogue.

From a chapter submitted to ECO-TRAUMA CINEMA: Technology, Nature, and the End of the World ed Neil Narine

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