by Arran James
There is an undeniable need for health. Biophysical survival depends on being healthy, and you can forget any autonomy without it. Basic needs give way to expansive desires and both collide in the expanded notion of need located in Marx. For instance, in the Grundrisse
Not only do the objective conditions change in the act of reproduction, e.g. the village becomes a town, the wilderness a cleared field etc., but the producers change, too, in that they bring out new qualities in themselves, develop themselves in production, transform themselves, develop new powers and ideas, new modes of intercourse, new needs and new language.
Madness is such a need, or rather the expression of such a need. This is David Cooper’s argument in The Language of Madness, which attempts to trace and, to some not entirely successful extent, to perform in its style. The vertiginous looping of language in dialectical spirals, the shifting of meanings, their reduplications and cascading self-erasures, the way words trip and jar, and above all in the comic mode of demanding simplicity in the most obtuse (mocker?) of the Marxist-Hegelian language of the time. In a sense he performs the very evaporation of the capacity for sense making that marks so much of the psychoses, the sublime objects of psychiatry. The chain of signification has these chains tightened and compressed to the point that they become an indistinguishable mess, while these chains are loosened. Hegelian language bleeds into an unnamed Buddhism, while the term “the third world” becomes interiorised into Western territories and the territorial regions that we pretend to ourselves happen much deeper than this: our “selves”.
But the chain of signification takes in asignifying particles as well as nonsemiological significations. Madness liberates expression. Madness makes a mockery of language not because language is bad, corrupt, an evil technology, but because speech has a battery that batters the unsayable. What is unsayable? Whatever cannot be said. So Wittgenstein’s mysticism is a conservatism that madness breaks from and ruptures. The chain goes lunatic, the body goes everywhere. What we can’t speak is exactly what the mad tries to say. And what is it we can’t speak if it isn’t the truth? Or, better still, the truth is precisely what is easiest not to hear, not to rouse action, and so may as well not be said. Or at least not in the neurotic’s speech.
In a training session on aggression- I am bored, we all just want to play with the break away techniques- and I remember a girl I slept with, we used the sessions as flirtation and as foreplay; psychiatry isn’t always about killing the libido. We were reminded about the need to read bodies, as if bodies were texts waiting to be read, as if they were ink on a page, rather than the very living vehicle, the weird machines of existential hallucination, that can’t not be read, that aren’t read because they don’t communicate at the banal level of rationality and structure, but beneath it, in the endocrinological and the spatial, coupled no doubt to cultural rules of display (a secondary coding). Proxemics, the lifeless lifefull thing in front of me was saying, is the study of the body in space. Language. Communication. Almost entirely corporeal. I am yawning when she says this- and through it the boredom communicates without me about itself. She is saying this because to teach the language of the body without words would require something more than a corporate training session can offer, because capitalism remains wedded to the semiological, because measures must be made, equivalences drawn and accounted for.
I remember the intensive care nurse turned “bipolar”. Months on end at arms length observations. no shoes laces. Rapid tranquilisation (the enforced pharmacarceration of the body inside itself via the chemical attack on its ability to move, to regulate itself, to communicate, to remain awake- some people are trapped forever within stylised postures, waxy muscle rigidity: a perfect prison swallowed, injected, plugged into at the tip of a syringe). Two nurses if he wants out for a smoke. no more than 5 minutes, no intense conversations, no maudlin remembering of a once intact life, because what? Yes, an massive weight of despair sometimes…but who gets hospitalised for that? A lot of people, but who gets months on end of involuntary incarceration? Instead it is mania- first encoded by the proto-engineers of the ancient world who still had the sense of naturalism about them. He rhymes and puns, rhymes and puns, makes loose associations, lets it all just fuck around in the space of reasons that has stopped giving itself incessantly serious reasons to speak, which revels in the absurdity of just about everything. Sure: you can’t get on well at the shops or the workplace. Did anyone consider that as a condemnation of the shop and the workplace? Because he speaks an intolerable speech he is locked a hospital, a ward, a room, a structural arrangement he can’t escape: call it the circuit that runs brain-body-self-brain-repeat. And again: language is private property, you’re madness is disrespect for that property, the state’s property…reasons property? Proper tea is theft, cleft, a movement to the left that disembarks the intonations and throws itself overboard. Didn’t nietzsche or someone who looked and sounded just like him once write- why do we still write?- that to be understood one must write in blood. Well even speech can bleed. Be made to bleed. It is a tortured speech, but is it torturing?
For Cooper the self is a trap to be escaped. The individual is always the bourgeois individual and thus is always necessarily a castrated neurotic. nevertheless the neurotic has glimpses, insights, attempts. Madness is a kind of psychic politics of exodus, a “founding leave taking”, a line of flight, a racing out of oneself to the zero-point expanse where the nothingness of the ego or self-consciousness are experienced as the dizzy hallucinations they are. At this point they vanish. The need for autonomy, even if hallucinatory, is the root cause of the kind of madness that Cooper targets, the same kind of madness that Foucault saw pleasantly roaming the streets, and which Deleuze and Guattari give the name of schizo, the madness that the psychedelic movement yearned for, and which is perhaps still with us in recuperated form today in the corporate cultural appropriation of yoga, of meditation, of all that Eastern and Shamanic stuff that good white rationalists despise.
And from the need builds the strategy. It can be more or less conscious. Which is to say one can be aware of the breaks in information processing, the excesses of the same, of the attempt to uncouple and recouple, to mutate the psychosomatic infrastructure in its fullest sense. And who is being a Romantic here? Madness isn’t all fun and games. Pain and suffering. Sure, and that comes as the cost of your flesh (at least for now; but I suspect suffering is also capable of revising itself). But pain and suffering aren’t illness or disease, even if you play about a bit and introduce the hyphen like the 12 steppers do. Okay, my name is Arran and I’m an addict. But my addiction seems to be my own existence and existence as such. Despite the grim gnosis that cuts through every diagnosis (cutting a cutting) I go on, and am capable of happiness…but mostly of that self-same constriction called self. Give me the tools to cut it and reshape it. The psychedelic movement expressed the libidinous need for this too: to reappropriate the means of machinic subjectivation. But that was child’s play compared to the possibilities inaugerated by the neuromodulations to come. DIY neuroscience and grime music. Pain and suffering are the result of the abortive attempts at autonomy and/or the blessed treatment of the diagnosable aberrations from conditioned semiotic and behavioural patterns. Reason is recombinatory but it is intolerable to psychiatry that it recombine in ways judged outside the bandwidth of our shared delusional frameworks. So no one is forgetting suffering, in fact its our biggest gripe.
But on the other hand: this other side of madness has been lost. Stunted within the biotechnological techniques of the psychoengineers who want standardised and Taylorised subjectivities. Stunted within the confines of health. To speak of mental health is to speak already in the language inherited from the agencies that enforce this reality and close off all utopic possibilities. no one has no future more than the psychiatrised. Madness is a dual-use technology: one the one hand it kills and makes killable, on the other it liberates. There where the danger grows…………………but that’s a bit weighty and a bit fraught with drama. Mental health isn’t like physical health. Don’t pretend it is. I would prefer to talk about madness as a creative destruction, an autonomisation of the fabric of what we still parse as the mind.
Groups conjoined in shared hallucinations. Stimulating one another’s brains directly. Rewiring the organic plane while reconstructing the ruined world about it. A rushing sense of chaotic rhythms phasing in and out of synchronisation. I dreamed I was a madman, or am I madman dreaming I am sane? First eliminate the “I” then eliminate the distinction. The question isn’t sick or well, insane or sane, rational or irrational. The question is: which madness? While I write this I’m sloping off the edge of not enough sleep and the pressing sense that I must sleep. It is too hot in this room and the glaring light makes everything look unimportant. A clock can be heard ticking in the kitchen. Fascists are on the march in bootstraps and in cardigans and they have well manicured beards. Gaza is burning. There is a history and many reasons. In this room they don’t penetrate. But not from a lack of empathy but from the dissolving of the agent of care into the semisolid state of exhaustion. What does rationalism no about any of this? The rationalist never dissolve, only augment. Madness might be reason weaponised against the world. A revision too far, or a revision just far enough. I’ve got to sleep. Tomorrow I am not the madman but the one who stands with patent lie of the cure.
To change the objective conditions…but infrastructures don’t stop at the skin.