Wednesday, 26 March 2008

excretera. explained

This is just shit, really.

Blogging, I mean. Me blogging, to be more specific. Well, most things, actually, seem to me to be shit. But right now I'm talking about blogging. Don't get me wrong: I think blogging is a wonderful thing and I'm really enjoying reading lots of very smart people's very intelligent ideas, and lots of very funny people's very humorous posts, and lots of people with a gift for writing being endlessly entertaining. And I want in on the action.

But when I ask myself why I want a blog, I don't have an easy answer. No academic ideas I need to get off my chest (I can do that here), no particular agenda to promote, no specific cause I want to advance. I just want to write, and I want to say, publicly, a lot of things about a lot of different subjects.

Which leads me back to shit. Because when I ask myself why I want to write a blog, that's what I see. For those of you with a clear sense of purpose and direction, blogging, I'm guessing, is a convenient and efficient way to broadcast important ideas cheaply to an infinite audience. For me, however, despite my misgivings and my ummings and gosh-shuckings, it can only really be regarded as desperate self-promotion; an act of narcissism. But such a diagnosis is SO 1985. So I'm thinking that this is more of an act of anal aggression: the psychopathology of the twenty-first century!

So when I say 'shit' I don't mean that flippantly in the slightest. I regard shit as occupying a place of central importance in our culture, in our mental space. But I don't mean the actual stuff, shit -- please do not send me your pictures -- but shit as a metaphor, shit as a function, shit as imbued with psychological meaning.

I'm not explaining this very well. It all comes down to the concept of anality. (It's great fun, in academia, when people ask you what you're research is, to reply in all earnestness, 'Right now, I'm really into anal aggression.') I'll let some more intelligent people speak for me:

For its faeces are the infant’s first gift, a part of his body which he will give up only on persuasion by someone he loves, to whom indeed, he will make a spontaneous gift of it as a token of affection; for, as a rule, infants do not dirty strangers. [...] Defaecation affords the first occasion on which the child must decide between a narcissistic and an object-loving attitude. He either parts obediently with his faeces, ‘sacrifices’ them to his love, or else retains them for purposes of auto-erotic satisfaction and later as a means of asserting his own will. If he makes the latter choice we are in the presence of defiance (obstinacy) which, accordingly, springs from a narcissistic clinging to anal erotism.

That's Freud, on the idea of anal-eroticism. So it seems that now I'm ready to move out of stage of auto-erotic narcissism and share my poos, my spontaneous gifts, with you all, rather than just hoarding them for my own self-indulgent satisfaction. But there's another, more compelling side to anality. Here's another psychoanalyst, Melanie Klein:

These excrements and bad parts of the self are meant not only to injure but also to control and to take possession of the object.

So poo can be the first gift to those we love most, or a deadly weapon that we wield to attack our greatest of enemies. (For both Freud and Klein, incidentally, these are one and the same: the mother. I'm not going to be so narrow in my range of objects of love and hate. I hope.) And it's Klein's concept of anal aggression that I think is a more compelling narrative for explaining these tendencies in our culture, for people's need to project something of themselves into strange, foreign object/people, to put something from inside themselves (their ideas, there opinions, their theses/faeces) into the world, into someone else's insides, in order to control and manipulate -- ultimately, to render that Big Scary Other less strange and foreign.

More specific examples will doubtlessly follow.


  1. Shit happens, comrade. You might be interested in this seminar series (now down the pan, I think), called "Shit and civilization". I thought it looked brilliant.

  2. How fantastic! Thank you, Comrade Blackmore -- they sound like my sort of people!

    Your language is great, too. Not just the 'down the pan' play (very clever, yes yes), but also the 'Shit Happens'. I should make a study of phrases that use the term shit. See my forthcoming published works... some time.

  3. this is the best blog on poo i have ever read. you da' shit, man! (that probably doesn't work with my british accent, does it?)

    by the way, I have the same freud finger puppet on my fridge!

  4. Mmmm. Highly illumination. You, Mr Szollosy have just highlighted (spotlight-like) EXACTLY what my shit be all about. And I'm clearly excreting on a more Kleinian than Freudian level, ain't I?


  5. Or maybe even illuminating.

    Nouns. Adjectives. Whateverrr.

    (Should have looked at my shit before I made a gift of it to you. In computerspeak: pressing enter.)

  6. DEFINITELY more Kleinian, Prozacville. But that's the best kind!

    Pressing enter really is the sitting on the toilet of the computer world. Everything else is just preparation.

    Keep up the brilliant work.