On Crary’s 24/7

While revisiting the Crary fragment (pp18-19) last night, I was briefly struck by the impression that despite the pessimism in the author’s judgment of the probable incurability of insomnia in the global capitalist conjuncture, his suggestion of the body’s resilient awareness of its complicity in the ongoing globalist processes of expropriation bears a certain optimism. That what is foreclosed to the self-serving psyche of the consumer-citizen could nonetheless be registered by the body through its refusal of the balm of sleep – a refusal so strong that it survives the opiates and subsists in the day’s lethargy – supposes a community-bound ontology that operates to limit violence. Further implied in this diagnosis is the true antidote to the affliction: the conscious recognition of this corporeal guilt and the likewise conscious withdrawal of one’s consent to the global capitalist machinery through action.

There might linger, nonetheless, a doubt as to whether the body is indeed as attached to community as the critique suggests. If the narcissism of the consumer-citizen allows him/her to avert his/her gaze from the contemporaneous sufferings of the impoverished other and to saturate himself/herself with the pleasures afforded by more immediate communities (family; friends), would the body be so agonised by the pain of the distant other as to alter its habitual patterns? Or is Crary interested not so much in furnishing a biological explanation grounded in what the natural sciences consider to be facts as in crafting another narrative that appropriates the figure of the body as a means of reclaiming our responsibility for the other? Does the critique then occur in a space of ‘pure’ fiction that only mobilises ‘fact’ as a rhetorical device for its appeal to its intended addressees? What is its ‘truth’?


3 thoughts on “On Crary’s 24/7

  1. au54 says:

    Crary’s provocative designing of his own truth with the help of manipulating facts which could be but do not have to be necessary objective, in relation with the issue of responsibility, indeed includes many challenging questions.

    I completely agree with Naomi in terms of the recipient’s responsibility. Talking about scholars and their readers, certain level of knowledge and ability of critical thinking is expected and required. Actually, in any case of writer, playing of “hide and seek” based on how wary and bright is the reader, seems to me as very fresh and specific kind of art. Moreover, as Sarah has mentioned, that is also where the freedom of expression is met.

    But the example of media resonates in my mind in quite different way. In recent times, when many forms of information come to us from huge amount of resources through the internet, TV or newspapers, it becomes still more and more difficult to know the truth. Of course, in ideal world, every reader, listener or user of the social network, would draw the information from various resources and compare them, but in reality, that is at least very naïve. And after American presidential election or UK “Brexit” referendum, we can see how easy is to manipulate mass with false information which could be though very easily verifiable. In this point, where we are forced to distinguish very cautiously between reliable information and hoax, between freedom of speech and dangerous manipulation, I have to ask if the emphasis on responsibility should not be more significant.

  2. ncjn2 says:

    It has been an interesting experience looking back at the Crary piece over a week later, with both of your commentaries in the back of my mind. First of all, as Ben points out, this fragment raises the question as to what the author is really trying to argue. It appears to create a paradox: he wants to argue that the cause of insomnia is not so much biological as it is social, yet he seems to use arguments (partially) founded in biology to make that point. Your comment that Crary is using ‘fact’ as a rhetorical device speaks to me most. It’s almost as if he wants to illustrate that he has, indeed, looked at the biological side of the argument, but wants to go beyond it.

    This is where the responsibility comes into play. I was intrigued, Sarah, by your connection of this responsibility of the ‘other’ that (according to Crary’s analysis) is a major cause of insomnia, and the responsibility of authors, scholars and film makers to use their ‘power’ in a responsible manner. You raise a valid concern that we, as recipients, also have a responsibility to question authority’s claims. If we accept any information that is put on a silver platter for us without hesitation, is it really the portrayer of that information that carries the responsibility? After all, they have the freedom to express ‘their’ truths as they deem fit; it is their right. If we absorb that as ‘our’ truth without questioning it, then maybe that’s on us.

  3. ss2152 says:

    The questions you raised about the relation between fiction, fact and ‘truth’ seem very important to me. As everybody has their own perspective on the world, truth has many faces. It can be very subjective. Assuming that Crary believes in what he wrote in this ‘24/7’ fragment, this is ‘his’ truth and the attempt to communicate it, even if it may seem like fiction to the reader. On the other hand, scientific facts can be manipulated or taken out of context so that their ‘true’ meaning is distorted. Thus, the distinction between fiction and fact (regarding truth) is not as clear as one would think.

    The balance of a multifaceted truth is compromised when power is used to create a monopoly of information. The more powerful actor can then impose ‘their’ truth on the less powerful one. For example, a state that controls the media gradually aligns the citizens’ truths with its version of the truth. You could link this issue to the responsibility of the scholar (or writer, or filmmaker): Are they also in a position of power that allows them to impose ‘their’ truth on others? People may respectfully look up to their professors, to scholars with academic titles, or to their favourite author or filmmaker, and believe their ‘truths’ more readily. However, the plurality and diversity of scholars/writers/filmmakers should prevent an institutional imbalance of power. Besides, one must not forget the responsibility of the recipient of information: It is crucial to reflect on and challenge the ‘truths’ we absorb, and to remain critical. Only in that way we can aspire to be the master of our own truth.

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