Review: Alain Badiou’s Our Wound Is Not So Recent (2015)

In it15095149371s unreserved frankness, this seminar-turned-book is a breath of fresh air for anyone who feels disenchanted by the seemingly ‘senseless’ bloodshed that has recently punctuated the global narrative, perpetrated by those who have apparently gone rogue with religion. Unlike many other commentaries that play the blame game with late capitalism and festering inequality, Badiou’s analysis offers a more methodical investigation into what’s really transpiring at a systemic level. To make sense of the ‘senseless’—against our first intuitions that such attacks are irrational—is precisely what he sets out to do in this short monograph on the underlying cause(s) of last year’s Paris shootings, and the rise of the terrorist enterprise. ‘We can’t leave anything in the register of the unthinkable’, he says.

Despite the unmistakably continental posture that Badiou adopts in his prose, he remains incisively analytical in his systematic dissection of the global capitalist problem. His argument is distinctly structuralist in nature, as he explores the ordering of the contemporary world around and against capitalism and its cognates. True to his French learning, Badiou also makes occasional but striking allusions to psychoanalytic theory where appropriate, in so doing contextualising the contemporary problem within a broader system of desire.

Yet perhaps the most redemptive feature of his seminar is the humanising outlook he offers towards the end, where he tells of the need to understand and know the societal other that the capitalist machine has inevitably created and marginalised. This is, I think, the powerful message that his argument ultimately endeavours to convey to his (presumably middle class) readers—at once both jolting them into an acute consciousness of this sprawling, monolithic problem of (post)modernity, as well as charting a hopeful recourse that involves a fundamental paradigm shift at the level of the individual.

What Would The Humanist Say?

Marco Rubio: Women with Zika should not be allowed abortions

This is patriarchy at the pinnacle of ignorance—masquerading as a noble yet terrifyingly misguided moral principle that ‘everyone should be entitled to life’. It is nothing more than an egoistic, gendered dictatorship that Rubio is pushing for.

On the other side of the world Pakistani men are slaughtering their daughters and wives because ‘honour’—the local dialect for hegemonic control and possession of women—is deemed the be-all and end-all of a woman’s existence. They are to men nothing but fetishised products of virtue as defined by heteronormative dictates, born only to serve the appetites of male privilege.

That analogues of such barbarianism (and I make no apologies for ignoring irrelevant cultural idiosyncrasies) has been openly and politically endorsed in a country steeped in ideologies of liberty and individualism is almost infuriating. It seems that the narrative of gender oppression knows no bounds of time and space; it is a disgraceful universal human condition.

An innocuous comment on Facebook also appears to have revealed a twisted and thinly veiled hypocrisy:

Rubio is pro-birth, not pro-life.

It made me realise that this man is a misguided moral utilitarian whose ethical motivation is neither the psychological nor spiritual well-being of others, but some abstract and unbending decree far removed from humanity—and that, to him, is the greatest ‘good’. Never mind if those women bear malformed children who curse them for ‘giving life’ and delivering them physically damned into the careless arms of this world. Never mind if the bodies of these women are state-owned property, and that we continue to delude ourselves into believing that we have made progressive strides in gender equality. Never mind if the families of these children have to bear the economic burden of grappling with physiological complications, some of which may be chronic and life-long. No—only the prescribed collective conscience matters.

I’m not sure if he is religious or some follower of an absolutist pro-life New Age deity—I can’t be bothered to check. But this is why secular principles founded on concerted and pragmatic reasoning—grounded in the here, now, and human—are indispensable to sound governance and the good life. Not on the promise of alleged eternal reward, or the fires of eternal damnation. Not on your own beliefs in those promises. This is why humanism is so very important in a world awash in the empty rhetoric of an unfathomable divine future.