It struck me that we conceive of cultural difference, or difference in general, primarily in aesthetic terms: we use this drum and this beat, they use that drum and that beat, we use these lines and colors, they use those lines and colors, etc. As is the plague of all aesthetics, it can be superficial. These differences are real, and do have real meanings and implications, but to be talked about and conceived in terms of the aesthetic makes them susceptible to the all-encompassing whims of the market. It may feel like all things are equal, but they’re just dispensed into discrete market niches.
To talk of difference-as-aesthetics de-fangs difference itself. At this point you could talk of the ethical and Levinas-ian obligation to the face of the Other, but it seems even Levinas sidesteps the question of horror. What if alterity isn’t just something new, what if it’s something terrifying?
Even when considering Levinas, the face of the Other is thought of in terms of appearance: a black face, a Jewish face, an Hispanic face, etc. What happens when you consider mental states? Isn’t it harder to come to terms with the schizophrenic face? The psychopathic face? The clinically depressed face? Are we not horrified and disturbed by these faces?
In Nick Land’s essay “Circuitries” he remarks that schizophrenics are POWs from the future, that what we’re dealing with is not necessarily a personal defect, but a new mode of consciousness/cognition that the present sociopolitical order can’t adequately deal with. The reaction is horror, unknowing. We sedate the schizophrenic with potent psychoactive drugs, warehouse her in the mental hospital. Capitalism has no use for the schizophrenic, because she cannot produce or effectively reproduce.
To truly meet and reconcile difference is no longer a matter of appearance (aesthetics) , but of radical interiority. Perhaps true resistance occurs when we can think of mental illness unshackled from the burdens of efficiency/productivity, even the nuclear family, “normativity”.