Practicing Etiquette, Issue I.IV
Robert Hayes Kee,
Department of Polite Aesthetic Praxis
Dear readers, I am excited to return to you after a placid moment at Lake Silvaplana. My moments by the lake, shared only with Scriabin, were a salubrious balm. I trust that you have been well in my absence and that this time has been a productive one for your esthetic praxis. The turn of spring into summer bodes well for us and for the possibility of extending, slightly further, our knowledge of what a body can do.
My cohabitants and I host frequently in our home. Often, the guests of my cohabitants will produce an excessive din in the hours of my slumber. When can I censure these guests’ behavior? Am I to tolerate these disturbances with a false smile?
Reader, you no doubt remember that Odysseus and his men (then numbering twelve) consumed the entire stock of comestibles in Polyphemus’ cave on the island of the Cyclopes. They did not conceive that a house could willfully outlaw itself to Zeus Xenios, and they were exercising their prerogative to prandial reviviscence. We are not members of the golden age of the Hellenes, but look upon your own hosting similarly. A wide and tolerant accommodation of guests is the most basic and necessary human praxis. Any human in one’s home is a guest, and must be correctly hosted. Admetus did not except himself during the mourning of Alcestis, hosting the oaf Heracles no less, and neither should you.
This must be the preambular statement. Odysseus and his company were weary travelers, a protected class under the aegis of Zeus Xenios; they set an upper limit in this register. From here, we may look down more closely at the proper reaction to your circumstance and seek a properly redressive praxis. This formulation could seem to ignore the role of guests in the pact of theoxenia; I do not. If we move from the ninth to the twenty-second book, we will recall that Odysseus is allowed to slaughter the suitors in Ithica for their violation of their duties as guests. After a suitable display of the bow and the rings, you may also exercise any needed shortening of your registry.
A tragedy befell members of my family several years ago. Since the occurrence, former associates of the family have offered regulated outpourings of seemingly dignified grief. These outpourings defy good taste and do little but assuage their own fears of violent absurdity. This cortége of mourners make no use of their grief in their praxis, and I do not believe that this is possible. I have become very frustrated with the regularity and hollowness of their words. How should one respond to the latticework of rhetorical semen spilt upon the graves of my family?
Care for other humans is required for societal living. It exceeds even the bounds of etiquette as a compulsion in our life’s praxis. That does not mean that this is practiced well in all quarters, but that if nothing else, its signs and signifiers cannot be avoided. They are replicated and traded as tokens of involvement and in society’s worst practitioners, issued like receipts. The weakest social fabric is one composed of these insincere signs of care. Your society appears to be of this kind.
We can do with the past exactly what we wish. It is available to all, and this is its limitation. One must become a social actor to present and maintain a view of history. Your associates have formed a bloc that has chosen to use it to create a ritual of self-satisfaction. They have, through the initial event, been exposed to the full extent of the power of violence exerted without justification or discernable sense. This is a terrifying sublime, much more than can be handled by average humans.
Since this terror does not involve itself in their praxis, it recurs as a demented holiday. With it, they can delight in the widening gap between themselves and this tear in the fabric of the colonic walls of their worldview. Such humans will cover this gap with world-denial and a peppermint schnapps bottle of baseless metaphor. While bound by desire for the world behind, these humans will find another world’s will in these events. The fear generated by the thought of that will originating in this world, and without reason, cannot be surmounted. They will not be able to advance because, for them, there can be no meaningless suffering. To find reason in unreason will be there eternal task.
To live with such an event and reaffirm ones desire to live in this world is the highest formula of affirmation that can ever be attained. Masses can crowd around the base of a mountain, but not its peak. A steady climb away from this base camp, ever-searching for its reason, is the only path forward. Do not saddle yourself with correspondence like a camel; you have passed this transformation.
Can I politely aggress the audience during a performance? How can one react as a viewer to aggression that seems impolite?
One who attempts to set limits on esthetic praxis is doing the work of philistines. Macroeconomic flows will set limits upon the esthetic praxis of all artist-workers; to impose additional regulations is never a required task. The answer to your question, as stated is a simple yes. The boundaries of aggressive action are quite unclear and cannot be defined usefully.
If I suppose your question to be, ‘How can a performance interaction be governed by etiquette?’ we can use this question to foreground the two issues concerning you without a preoccupation upon limits. The initial act is to locate a performance as an esthetic action among many others occurring in the course of one’s social praxis. Here we can avoid creating a gap between poles of art and life. We have progressed past this framework, filled this gap, and operate outside this split of the midcentury. That is the first order of business.
Our second concern is to resolve the seeming paradox of polite aggression. Clearly, limits upon actions cannot be made. Actions that endanger the comforts of a performer’s interlocutors are completely valid as such. Performance is a mode of address allowing a suspension of any and all social regulations. Aggression becomes impolite when it breaks the flow between the interlocutors of a performance and does not account for other parties’ responses. Assumption of a role of the guide of all flows in an environment is not a metaphysically tenable task. Avoid this graceless hubris. The Dadaist with a revolver is aware they may be shot by it. You must be also.
Do I need to tell someone that god is dead if they are somehow unaware?
It is a strange reoccurrence that some humans have not realized the death of god. I have always assumed that my reading public takes this occurrence as a given collective touchstone, one that we have all walked over on our way to the tightrope across the abyss.
However, many humans amongst our society do not treat this information as given. I generally assume that these humans also exprobriate Hera as the cause of the Trojan War; they are simply not capable historians. It cannot be expected that all humans can handle the challenge creative archiving and historicizing. It is a process of looking forwards and backwards that surpasses the complexity to be a perspicacious presumption. Further following a corrective impulse is to betray one’s own creative praxis. Mass alerts of this nature are better left to mailpersons.
I cohabitate with a few other humans. We have few shared tasks related to domestic maintenance. One cohabitant has been neglecting their obligations. I tire of doing additional mundane tasks. How can I resolve this situation and inspire my interlocutor to abide by their commitments?
Through etiquette we develop our praxis in concord with others, and the structure of etiquette is built upon setting and managing expectations. Nietzsche states that promising is the ‘true problem of humans.’ We of course recall that promising is opposed to forgetting. The present is grounded in forgetting; seeing is an act of editing and deleting. This non-dialectical conflict grounds responsibility as we know it, and from responsibility we gain conscience. We must overcome the longest era; the era of memory created in blood. I cannot advise a reminder of duty using this method. Nor does the turn of shame into guilt offer a way out.
Individual action can only happen at the level of a creditor–debtor relation. It is the mark of wealth to sustain loss with fortitude. You wish to maintain and strengthen your praxis; you do not wish to supererogate tending to the grounds of your cohabitant’s. This is understandable; however do not promote guilt as a means of regulation. This will lead to acetic ideals, and proximity to such caput mortuum can weaken your own praxis. A deep shaming of the first order of community is called for. Research what structures can be created from your cohabitant’s possessions. Perform this formation as taxation.
Does correct hosting require a certain degree of domestic edulcoration?
A leading figure in lively creative praxis advised against cleaning full stop. He asserts that there is a plateau of disorder one can reach, and that afterwards, one is liberated from a host of mundane duties. He was famous for his living condition and showed it like an étalage. He rarely entertained in the home.
I do not subscribe to this view, dear readers. If one wishes to host in one’s home one cannot use it as a prop, but as a functional space dedicated to elaborating ones’ praxis. Even a great thinker mocks the cleaner of dust as one ‘dispelling the injurious phantoms that cleanliness and logic abhor.’ We, dear readers, must dispel these phantoms and break the link between cleanliness and bourgeoisie manners. To ground the present we must forget. To extend our praxis fully into all its possibilities, we must realize that this puerile notion praising mess and destruction is limiting and cozy to an outmoded division of labor.
Cleaning in and of itself does not promote a Kantian ontological regime. Kant personally was known for his regimented life praxis. This is common knowledge. We do not need to support this praxis or resurrect the tired trio of esthetics to value usable space. In this critique of the idealists, that they subordinate space to time and undervalue space, the aforementioned great thinker denies concrete time as an invalidation of the primacy of concrete space, yet does not believe that cleaning space is anything more than an unwanted social convention, one that denies our fleshy duality of glory and filth. I, in no way, desire to ignore muck and its entanglements. Nor do we wish to form a weak dialectic promoting their simple union. We wish to develop a praxis capable of accounting for the multiplicities inherent in the heterodox union of time and space. In the interest of these multiplicities, I advise you to prepare and maintain a clean space of most open to these possibilities.
A neighbor is of a religious profession that prohibits contemporary medical care. Is it correct to decide against his beliefs should I be empowered to do so in the circumstance?
Cowardly thinkers advise that one is allowed free choice with one’s own body, but that one’s dependents should not be subject to his1 extraordinary system of medical-ethical governance. This sort of compromise is meant to avoid dealing with the complexities of this situation and instead to wash over the complex with the dull soap suds of ‘tolerance.’ To do this is a violence to the future. As we have addressed before, polite society can unfortunately not hold the company of all humans. Many actively desire retrograde praxis. Cowards recognize this retrograde presence and seek to dismiss it with a quip like, ‘De gustibus non est disputandum.’ Do not allow this dismissal in your presence, reader. To ground one’s ethics in taste and to then view taste as neutral ground, a space free of objectification and opposed to judgment, is to commit a crime against one’s esthetic praxis and its livelihood.
With your specific instance, I must concur with the judgement of the coward, but not for their reasons. They assert that this is a matter of choice, a right held by an autonomous human in a juridical system whose legalities protect these aforementioned rights. This assertion can only seem reasonable to the most asthenic and vacuous thinker. This mode of constructing human interactions must be opposed. The thought that rights and enfrancisement can be governed by a political body is a patent absurdity. Do not allow the correctness of your actions and praxis to be viewed through this prism. What must be opposed is the continued life of humans perpetuating the oppressive system of ethics outlined in your question. You should not seek help for this human, so that we may, more quickly, rid ourselves, as polite humans, of this detritus of the brutish past.
Please submit your own etiquette queries to Robert in whichever way seems most polite. It is very likely that your submission will be included in a future installment.
1. I rarely use a gender specified pronouns in this mode of address, but the issues of this question only arise in patriarchal family structures. This question is meant to address a breed of cowardice present in the thought of self-described moderates. To ignore social circumstance and adopt an abstract mask of generalism is to address the abstraction. I have no desire to address abstraction of this manner. It is an inferior, obscuring abstraction. This sort of human will frequently speak with this method to avoid the challenges of history. Do not allow such evasions in your interlocutors, readers. If your interlocutor cannot muster thought that addresses the specificity of history, this interlocutor must be banished from your society.