You don't even need to leave your room... stay seated at your desk and listen. You don't even need to listen, just wait. You don't even need to wait, just go quiet -- and the world will reveal itself, ready to be unmasked; it has no other choice. It will writhe in ecstasy before your feet.

Franz Kafka


This one is worth a passage:

    ...If two parties are engaged in a relatively equal contest of violence - say, generals commanding opposing armies - they have good reason to try to get inside each other's heads. It is only when one side has an overwhelming advantage in their capacity to cause physical harm that they no longer need to do so. But this has very profound effects, because it means that the most characteristic effect of violence, its ability to obviate the need for "interpretive labor," becomes most salient when the violence itself is least visible - in fact, where acts of spectacular physical violence are least likely to occur. These are of course precisely what I have just defined as situations of structural violence, systematic inequalities ultimately backed up by the threat of force. For this reason, situations of structural violence invariably produce extreme lopsided structures of imaginative identification.

    These effects are often most visible when the structures of inequality take the most deeply internalized forms. Gender is again a classic case in point. For example, in American situation comedies of the 1950s, there was a constant staple: jokes about the impossibility of understanding women. The jokes (told, of course, by men) always represented women's logic as fundamentally alien and incomprehensible "You have to love them," the message always seemed to run, "but who can really understand how these creatures think?" One never had the impression that the women in question had any trouble understanding men. The reason is obvious. Women had no choice but to understand men. In America, the fifties were the heyday of a certain ideal of the one-income patriarchal family, and among the more affluent, the ideal was often achieved. Women with no access to their own income or resources obviously had no choice but to spend a great deal of time and energy understanding what their menfolk thought was going on.

    This kind of rhetoric about the mysteries of womankind appears to be a perennial feature of such patriarchal arrangements. It is usually paired with a sense that, though illogical and inexplicable, women still have access to mysterious, almost mystical wisdom ("women's intuition") unavailable to men. And of course something like this happens in any relation of extreme inequality: peasants, for example, are always represented as being both oafishly simple, but somehow, also, mysteriously wise. Generations of women novelists - Virginia Woolf comes most immediately to mind (To the LIghthouse) - have documented the other side of such arrangements: the constant efforts women end up having to expend in managing, maintaining and adjusting the egos of oblivious and self-important men, involving the continual work of imaginative identification, or interpretive labor. This work carries over on every level. Women everywhere are always expected to continually imagine what one situation or another would look like from a male point of view. Men are almost never expected to do the same for women. So deeply internalized is this pattern of behavior that many men react to any suggestion that they might do otherwise as if it were itself an act of violence. A popular exercise among high school creative writing teachers in America, for example, is to ask students to imagine they have been transformed, for a day, into someone of the opposite sex, and describe what that day might be like. The results, apparently, are uncannily uniform. The girls all write long and detailed essays that clearly show they have spent a great deal of time thinking about the subject. Usually, a good proportion of the boys refuse to write the essay entirely. Those who do make it clear they have not the slightest conception what being a teenage girl might be like, and are outraged at the suggestion that they should have to think about it.

- David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy

posted by galen: 28 days ago