Monday, June 20, 2005

Note on Privacy and Publicity

An intriguing and disturbing aspect of photography, imaging generally, is its continuous historical present tense. The act of photographing is to slice reality and freeze it as it was. Then, to examine the image is to examine something that will never again be as it was. That object is now dead, having lost its life to something else in the present. To look at a photo album of 100 years ago is to see people living who are long since dead, every one of them, their lives lived and finished. They, at the time of the act of photography, had no idea of the details of their futures, which we can know if we have the physical remnants to search, bones, hair, letters, journals, other photographs. Continuous death by nano-second is almost visible to the naked eye in photographs. Every photograph is a sign of mortality and of death itself, of a life that is no longer.The image of the living requires us to accept the demise of the photographic subject. There is at this time enough objective evidence for us to believe certainly in the existence of the person at some time in the past. Technology is changing that certainty recently, but we can be fairly certain, today, that a photograph of a person 100 years ago is of a real person from that time. That person is certainly dead now, and died the instant the photograph was taken, becoming the next instant other than s/he was then.

Soren Kierkegaard writes a fideism, a belief in the irrational on the basis of irrationality, in his case, the 'belief' coming from faith in irrationality itself. To give an example, Tertullian responded to the Romans' disbelief about the resurrection of the flesh by saying: "I believe it because it is absurd." And so Kierkegaard believes in the right fate of the "Hero" on the basis of belief's absurdity. He writes in Fear and Trembling: " Even though the result may give joy to the whole world, it cannot help the hero, for he would get to know the result only when the whole thing was over, and it was not by this he became a hero, but he was such for the fact that he began." (Chapter 3: Problem One: Is there such a thing as a Teleological Suspension of the Ethical? Translated by Walter Lowrie. Published by Princeton University Press, 1941. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.)

We, not knowing our own futures, are in a position of having to give over that privilege to those who will come after us, they who can know more about us than we can guess. We are forced into the same position that Tertullian and Kierkergaard understood clearly: That we believe because it is absurd. All that constitutes existence is absurd, and we continue not knowing but acting regardless on the basis of faith, some more rationally than others under the circumstances. Even if, Like Hume, we are profoundly skeptical, not believing, for example, that a cue ball will move across the billiard-table when struck, still we act on the faith that at least we exist in a world with others. We live, and we act thusly, on the basis of faith. Photography shakes that faith in the common sense of our reality as living creatures. When we can examine our own images as lives halted in the act of photography and see ourselves as therefore dead then, then we can also see ourselves as dead later, and so on with all of the future, those unphotographed as-yet but determined to death. The whole project makes a mess of our concept of time and the Human experience of personal life. Personal existence also becomes, because of photography, an act of publicity. Our privacy is destroyed once we are caught publicly and separated from our own lives, shown in images of our personal death. Everyone, even those unborn, are dead, if not just yet. And yet we go on, not knowing what others know perfectly well. We go on by faith with what others know by evidence.

Photography destroys the concept of the cyclical mode of time in Human life, making it a linear mode; and it also gives one evidence of the detachability of oneself from oneself, of the concreteness of ones individuality. The average man cannot look at the image of himself before him as he was without making the logical leap that he is no more that which he was, and that therefore he is different again and never to return to what he was. And as he can examine critically as what he was, so can others, he being alienated from himself, singled out, and preserved for examination in the future, a natural passivity that leads to objectivity, to logic, and to a lack of faith-in-itself as sufficient for personal conduct. Man, in the act of photography, loses not only his privacy from the world at large, but also his privacy from himself. Man, in possession of a photograph of himself, can examine his own dead image and see himself objectively as dead. That shows a linearity of existence in life, regardless of thoughts on hereafter immortality.

Photography allows us to have a critical objectivity of ourselves in relation to ourselves. We have no claim therefrom to deny our moral agency, negating ideas and ideological precepts based on relativism.

In coming, if irregular, posts on this topic, we'll look at photography, not as a thing-in-itself but as a mirror in which we might see our own ontological face, and in which we'll also see the visions of the dhimmi intellectuals who've distorted reality for the masses to such an extent that our very societies, the whole of the West, is under siege by fascism that we cannot see to defend ourselves from-- unless we see clearly the underlying picture. We'll look at the writings on photography by Barthes, Foucault, and Sontag to see just how badly warped is the view of modern reality thanks to the fascist Left in our time, and how it's got us into the state of dhimmitude we take as plus-positive in the publically culturally and morally relative world.

This brief notice sets down our basic premise that there is a universal, if unknown, moral certainty, and that unlike the children of Sawney Beane, we are morally culpable regardless of our choices based on nothing but faith, logic-based as it might be. It is our position that morality is certain and individual, and that we cannot rely on tribal tradition or Islamic laws or relativism to conclude our choices. The time of pretending-- in bad faith --that we are simply following orders or the Sunna or politically correct social behaviour or tribal dictates or communal folkways is not good enough for us. By looking at photographs we see that we are already dead, and that we go on choosing by the nano-second to choose again, as individuals. There are no valid reasons for denying our own will.

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