Monday, 12 December 2011


From the very first time
I never forgot the instructions:
gently crack open the egg
with the back of a spoon, then
as evenly as possible
– "nice and regular", he said
cut the (stupidly named) round
of toast, or bread (that Daddy
always jokes that he
'puts on the table'
even though we can all see
that Mummy does),
into three,
"like soldiers in formation",
which you then
– (after saying Grace, the boring wait
while Mummy thanks
neither herself nor Daddy
"for what we are about to receive") –
dunk into the egg, making sure not to spill
the sticky goo
on the tablecloth.

At the same time the next week
(and the one after that,
and the one after that),
we marched into the kitchen,
at six on the dot,
took turns to kiss Daddy,
sat down in the proper places,
then quietly ate, just us,
waiting for Daddy's usual questions,
all of us happy,
a family,
doing something familiar,
where you know where you are...
And look! we're all here:
Daddy, Mummy, Matthew, me and Paul,
around the table,
quietly dipping our soldiers,
taking care not to spill our crumbs
on the tablecloth.

Ar first I didn't really like eggs much
but they said I had to finish them
and they were good for me
(like cough medicine)
and that if I ate them up
I'd grow up big and strong,
like Daddy,
who sometimes eats six or seven.
But even though it was good for me
to eat stuff that I didn't like,
I used to have secret wishes
(that I didn't even tell Paul),
wondering what it would be like
to have pizza one week for tea,
just for a change
but that would probably ruin everything.
Things just wouldn't be the same... when the toast gets burnt,
or when Mummy doesn't slice the bread right,
or when "these are fucking Paki eggs",
or when everything starts too late
(she must know by now that he's got to be
in the King's Head
by seven),
or when a stranger drops in
just as we're ready to eat
and sits in MY seat,
gabbling on and on and on and
not finishing everything on her plate and
spilling crumbs everywhere;
but worst of all,
nobody remembers to ask us
whether we got gold stars
or just silver
for our homework,
or how football went,
or anything,
which meant that none of us
got extra pocket money,
which meant that Paul
(who doesn't like football
but got full marks in the spelling test)
wouldn't be getting extra pocket money
for the fourth week running,
because Daddy doesn't have much money
on Sundays,
which means that instead of being happy
and proud
when we get him up on Sundays
to tell him about school and things
he says "well done"
but in a cracked voice that wants us
not to tell him about school and things,
a different voice
than Saturdays
when we're having our eggs
with soldiers
for tea.

So as she garbles on and on
I ask if I can leave the table
and go and watch TV
or play army with Paul,
but they say it's rude
to talk with your mouth full
so I chew and chew and say
"Can I leave now?"
"Not until you've finished".
"But I'm not hungry..."
"Well, I haven't finished yet
and nor has our guest. It's rude
to leave before everyone's finished".

And he slapped down his hand
as heavy as a Bible falling from the sky,
which made some of his tea
splash on to the tablecloth,
which was all OK because finally
Gabbler stopped talking
and then got up from MY seat
(before Daddy had finished his eggs!
Before she had finished her eggs)
and said "look at the time"
and that she had to be going somewhere
and then left in a bit of a hurry.

It all went quiet again.
I moved back to my seat and
carried on eating
the rest of my eggs
waiting for Daddy to say something,
but he just got up from the table
(without finishing his last two eggs)
then grabbed his coat
and left the house
in a bit of a hurry
before I could chew my soldier
and tell him...

...well, it didn't matter any more.

Friday, 2 December 2011


Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

The text immediately below is the first version of the abstract for my PhD thesis. My supervisor, Dr Adam Sharman, ever wise and infinitely patient, was quick to point out that I needed to write something sober and straightforward, as per the convention. His words were: “It’s not often I caution you against doing something, but I really wouldn’t advise this abstract. It’s far too indulgent and anecdotal, and clever. Gives the wrong impression and will put people off reading it once it’s lodged in a library. The how you came about it is for a conversation; it needs to be scholarly, descriptive of the thesis’s contents, and shorter (no more than one side of A4).

I was happy to oblige, but it didnt tell the story so well...


The emergence of the present text – its first discernible, manifest (co-)cause – was, as is the case with everything else, an encounter: a Master’s Degree candidate, splashing about – floundering – in Postmodernist Theory primers (texts that seemed to suggest that language caused everything, a pantextualism that one could not get outside or beyond…), one day stumbled across the passage from Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus (or a paraphrase thereof) that has been used as this work’s epigraph.* Desiring-repression, you say… Why is it that people rally to causes that are not in their objective interests, and invest with the last drops of their passion a system that crushes them – like royalty, say? (They cannot simply be deceived into acting this way, for Christ’s sake.) Further: what are the factors that group people together? How do you form an Us, and how does the Us relate to a Them, or its Thems? Politics. Desire.

A passional connection and a genesis, but an aperçu not yet fully formed. With this embryonic thought in mind, off I wandered, over the smooth space of the seas in search of an ‘object’; not yet so much of an Ahab pursuing his specific whale as a Columbus looking for the East Indies. Then a protean figure appeared – a fascist colonel, a prophet apparently leading his people to the socialist Promised Land – about whom neither historians nor Peronistas ‘themselves’ could agree. An uneasy, murky Us and Them. Are you the Judean People’s Front?

What follows, then, is not the Colón-izing attempt to provide a definitive answer to the enigmas of Perón and peronismo – it would take a whole network of texts to paint in the lines of enquiry excluded here: its virtual inter-textual rhizome – so much as a selective tracking through a forest of material, an attempt to search in the right places, and in the right ways, so as to aid the understanding of historical causal processes. Not to look for different objects, then, but to look differently at the same objects. A meta-historiography, if that’s not too immodest a claim to make…

Does history have a pattern, a logic? If not, is it, in its freewheeling ‘irrationality,’ its chance and indeterminacy, nevertheless intelligible, susceptible to analysis? The famous Japanese butterfly… If desire is the motor of history, locked in a permanent tango with a power that captures it, seemingly (or else switches roles, occasionally leading the dance), then why and how is it made to coincide with the diktats…no, the needs of the group or the social formation? (Gordon Gekko’s American Dream swirling over London Fields’ Lord Sugar, Ian Beale and Keith Talent: singing from the same hymn sheet, maybe, but not at all following a belief implanted from on high; rather, embodying an identical mode of desire: self-interest as the common good. Zeros and Heroes. Zeros and Ones. No need to persuade them – Them – of anything any longer…)

Where do words fit into all this? What is the relation of signs (“peronista”) to material bodies? Can you capture your own imagination?

[February 2011]

* Here is that epigraph:
Even the most repressive and the most deadly forms of social reproduction are produced by desire within the organization that is the consequence of such production under various conditions that we must analyze. That is why the fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly, and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered: “Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?” How can people possibly reach the point of shouting “More taxes! Less bread!”? As Reich remarks, the astonishing thing is not that some people steal or that others occasionally go out on strike, but rather that all those who are starving do not steal as a regular practice, and all those who are exploited are not continually out on strike: after centuries of exploitation, why do people still tolerate being humiliated and enslaved, to such a point, indeed, they actually want humiliation not only for others but for themselves? Reich is at his profoundest as a thinker when he refuses to accept ignorance or illusion on the part of the masses as an explanation of fascism, and demands an explanation that will take their desires into account, an explanation formulated in terms of desire: no, the masses were not innocent dupes; at a certain point, under a certain set of conditions, they wanted fascism, and it is this perversion of the desire of the masses that needs to be accounted for.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Anti-Oedipus