[NetBehaviour] Ground zero (second, close to final, version)

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Thu Jan 25 03:36:15 CET 2007

Ground zero (second, close to final, version)

Zero is ground down; the ground has no depth; the ground is flattened;
ground is always already charnel-hus; ground is always killing-field;
ground is replete, fecund, historic; history is flattened; ground is
characterized by the _trail_; the trail crosses the ground; the ground is
obdurate, inert, among and within the trail. The ground trails the trail;
the trail trails the ground.

Ground is space, now this is space, now this is time, this was time;
ground is, this is time now, this is space there.

Ground zero is the ground of the wild, the trail of the wild, its call or
calling, kill or culling. Ground zero is the table-tabulation of the
ground, part-objects of plants, animals, organic debris; ground is always
already debris. The ground does not suffer: the suffering of the ground is
our suffering: the ground is contaminated with our suffering.

Our suffering is the suffering of the ground - which is not the suffering
of the ground - which does not suffer - our suffering is the table-
tabulation, the unknown, unaccounted, unaccountable, unaccounted-for basis
of data, the blurring of data: all this construct of the human upon
absolutely nothing.

It is here that the wild parts the Wild, that the Wild decomposes - not on
the technological, on the subsequent extinctions, on the devolving of
extinctions - but on ground zero, on table-tabulations - from the begin-
ning an established fact.

>From here the strategy is the move to the tabled, the move which is a
history of the process of tabling: the recognition, not of the Wild, but
of its loss inherent within the Wild. Which isn't to say a foregone
conclusion, but a technology gone wild, infected, infecting.

Now what remains: ground zero already charnel-hus, slaughtered animals,
what shall one do now? The question parallels standard 'what is to be
done?' - to which there is no answer. Ground zero - not the Ground Zero of
9/11 - but the ground zero of the trail, the trace - must be absolutely
understood and understood absolutely: that the Wild has always been
sundered to the extent that human languaging and culture have operated
through the _trajectory of the hand-ax_ - from stone through reification
to ax, from ax through exchange to ax. The trajectory refers to the
_skittering_ of the trail across ground zero. The skittering is scythe and
dominion, the distinction that makes a distinction: live and dead, hunter
and prey, herd and cull, grain and territory.

Once there is travel, tool, reification, ground zero is both relinquish-
ment and harboring. The violence of writing is here within table-
tabulation, the sintering of ground zero, the remeasurement of trail, the
contestation of trail and table.

Why is any of this a matter of concern? Because the Wild continues to be
romanticized, farmed-out, mystified; the sublime itself is the Wild placed
beyond reach, the distance of a troubling absolute. I believe one must
begin otherwise - with Holocaust, with disappearance. This needs more than
text or voice, more than lip service. It's useless to pretend that the
issue is "management" or "wildlife corridor" or "dark matter" or "natural
selection" or even "selection" given the fold-catastrophic (re: Thom)
nature of extinction. The horror inheres to flattening, to trail. It is
not an addition, not techne, not technology. As population increases, it
is simply coming into greater view. The issue is a fundamental geopolit-
ical one. The only solutions may well be enclaves, data-bases, DNA banks,
regions within hunting or poaching are punishable by death. This is far
too little too late. It is the best chance there is. It does not address
the future collapse of culture world-wide as pollution and climate rampage
- these will happen. It does address the the end of things (end of the
Wild, end of megafauna, end of variety, end of coastal culture), and that
is all we can hope for.


It is not a question of apocalypse; it has always been a question of
apocalypse; humans have read the trails, walked and traced them, from the
beginning, from the beginning of organism. Every organism has culture. The
question becomes "how are we with apocalypse"; "how are we among the
apocalyptic." For this condition, this state-of-affairs, this desire,
looms closer, as if the apocalyptic announced itself.

I read far too often that humans have cried apocalyptic far too often - but
for a moment, put yourself in the position of a polar bear, or black
rhino, or bonobo: Consider these, as well, crying apocalyptic, until the
last of the them disappears.

It is not, again, "what is to be done," but "what is the doing." And it is
insufficient to abjure the doing, as in the notion there can be no lyric
poetry, perhaps no poetry, after the Holocaust, that other holocaust that
continues in yet other forms. This bypasses, not only doing, but thinking
that may yet reveal another dawn in the midst of dusk. One might say in
return, all dawns are ruptured. The day is ruptured by the night. What
remains, what is never ruptured: ground zero - one might say the substance
of ground zero, but here there is no divisibility; one fails and falters
with the other.


Ground zero is the ground of debris, spew, emission - the ground that
erases traces, derails trails. It is never so simple as inscription, but a
confluence of inscriptions, spatio-temporal strata, cross-purposeless. The
fossil record is the miniscule surface of the world appearing as depth.
But there is enough present to indicate that today something is wrong,
incoherent - an environment that changes faster than adaptation, fit only
for generalists - species, themselves, that might be in trouble later on.

The artificial (zoo, museum, housing development) requires energy and
continuous maintenance. It is a strange attractor of finance; without
money, the budget of organism falls apart. It is susceptible to world
politics, to a world with rapidly decreasing resources. The Wild must be
seen against this background. The Wild and its species have disappeared -
which means the cultures of these species have disappeared - which means,
further, that we are dealing with organisms divested of spatial and
temporal history. There are no neighborhoods, no learned behaviors, that
are not contaminated by humans - both within the artificial, and in the
remnant parks and "wildernesses" on a planet experience an information
implosion, population explosion.

Think of the artificial as organism banking, and continuous maintenance as
the lineage of organisms translated to the lineage of human beings, in the
future perhaps other technologies. The point is this: these lineages are
disrupted as well, are broken - and a single break results in permanent
loss. Kill the zoo, kill the species. Develop a plot of land harboring an
irreplaceable biome, and the biome is gone forever. It's a no-win situation
- environmentalists hold out with man/woman-years, and the biome seems
safe - but one victory of development, and everything is lost. This is an
example of the "fragility of good things" in catastrophe theory - if
everything goes right, good things happen - but there are many more -
astronomically many more - things that can "go wrong" - and any of them
permanently eliminate the catastrophic peak of "goodness." In this sense
"goodness" might be defined as _any_ desired state-of-affairs; there's no
ethos implied.

A "world of generalists" will never be the end of the story, as generalist
species compete with one another, construct new strategies, fill new
ecological niches. Competition continues on a planet of rapidly depleting
resources. There _is_ an end in sight, as variety ultimately decreases

Culture suffers as well. Projects disappear as coastlines are inundated,
fresh water and fossil fuels are at a premium, and replacement fuels
create vast changes in biomes themselves. Gasoline replacement comes at a
price - again, of ecological niches, cultures, even an acceptable air
quality level. Couple this with population pressure (we're not yet at the
9-10 billion peak expected), and one has a world in which criminal
activity is necessary for survival. Poaching will be long gone - there
will be nothing left to poach (I think of the denuded hills around Ciudad
Juarez already as an example). What we still consider, ever more tenu-
ously, the "safe" internet, will exist locally at best, most probably used
for gang/terror networking. The simplicity and spread of nuclear arms only
adds to the mess.

Here is the ground zero of debris, detritus, effluvia: when there is no
return to and from the Wild, when the "natural" becomes a literally mean-
ingless term, when histories are absorbed and annihilated.

It is at this point that one must start, politically, ecologically, phen-
omenologically, if there is any hope - not of transformation - but of
functional enclaving. The world has become a mobius-strip Auschwitz,
encompassing everything - where we are inmates and guards, where there is
no outside. The image itself - the reality of this metaphor - is still
only on the horizon, but the reality of its referent is upon us.


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