“The very idea of living without being hated is detestable.” – Boogiepop Returns
So I’ve been reading the Boogiepop light novels as of late and it’s got me thinking about self-hatred, narcissism and radical alterity. There was a time I wanted to be a counsellor, because I thought being exceedingly depressed was a good foundation for connecting with others. I don’t think I could do that now, simply because it disgusts me too much.
As anyone who has read my blog will know, I truly hate the Enlightenment’s autonomous sovereign rational Self and have done everything in my power to destroy it through an ethico-politico-aesthetic position that revels in the sublime uncanny encounter with the Other (see Finitude and Death, Disassembling Bodies or Differend Deferred). Rather than self-destructive, I see this as self-regenerative, in the sense that it embraces collective being and collective change—a sort of Being-with-Others—spontaneous coming together of ephemeral trajectories. This position is drastically undermined by self-hatred, depression and social anxiety, which distances the Self further and further from social being (Kill Yourself is always a fun read).
I’ve come to see self-hatred as a sort of inverted narcissism. Both are fixated on the Self as the centre of everyone’s attention, but in the case of self-hatred, these imaginary relations generate shame rather than worth. The subject hates themself, and therefore desires to negate themself, but until that time, is fixated on asserting themself (as nothing). Any act from the Other that suggests contrariwise is dismissed as platitude or misunderstanding. In doing so, the subject colonises the position of the Other and asserts themself as the centre of all knowledge. All interactions with the Other become a proxy towards asserting their self-same message of worthlessness. The Other becomes a voiceless projection instrumentalised towards the stabilisation of a state that cannot see or voice anything other than itself.
What has been negated then, is not the Self, but the Other. The Other disappears beneath an obscene multiplication of the Self, and all efforts by the Other to ease, recover or transform the Self are subsumed into a dead assemblage—a paranoid melancholic masturbatory fantasy.
Whether intentional or not, this is highly manipulative. It betrays an intense distrust of the Other (I deserve your hate), at odds with the subject’s desire for unconditional acceptance (why won’t you love me?). Nothing will ever be enough, for the Other will always be suspected as false, when in truth, it is the subject who turns everyone false, to affirm their self-hatred.
Trapped in this solipsistic dream, the subject circles a haunt of their own making, grinding every (potentially) healthy relationship to dust. The subject cannot imagine a world where the Other exists alongside them, for every Other is totalised into an antagonistic relation, and thus, must be fled from or conquered. The Self is elevated to Godhood, for every act of the Other becomes an enactment unto the suffering of the subject (as if they were the motive for all of the Other’s actions).
What is this but the mirror-stage masquerading as a paranoid-depressive? A desire for total control (read: total autonomy and sovereignty) frustrated by the world’s absolute indifference to such a thing? And rather than come to terms with this absurdity, the subject internalises the lost object of desire (which was never there to begin with) as a loss of oneself (an essential failing of the subject).
But every subject must fail to come to terms with existence. Mastery was the dream of the Enlightenment, a classed spectacle accessible only to the privileged few, that nonetheless filtered down to disfigure the rest (the narcissism of the upper crust transfigured into the self-derision of the masses—individualism in both cases). While I do not dispute that we have far less control than we could have (trapped within an exploitative, alienating neoliberal nightmare), this self-hatred is a vapid self-fulfilling prophecy that concentrates all our attention and energy away from the sources of our issues. We’re left flailing symptomatically in manifest paranoia and paralysis. We never reach the Other, for we have already constructed their entirety before any meeting. We have already killed them.
And here I return to the Boogiepop quote. To allow the Other their alterity is how we escape the total cage of paranoia. To allow their hatred, their uncanny infinity, towards not merely oneself, but everything and anything, is to shatter the totality of the Self, and the narcissism of desiring (only) love. Fuck love. Fuck a world where everyone knows precisely what the Other feels (always accepting, always comforting, always oriented towards the subject’s pleasure). Fuck the comfort of perfect correspondence. That world would be death—still, flat, boring death. An unchanging landscape of pointless interactions, for to already know the Other, in all their alterity, would be to strip them completely of their subjectivity, and reinstate the vanity of the Self. It would be the death of the situation, the event, the moment, time and becoming, dialectical exchange.
Only through an encounter with radical alterity do we enter into ethical participation. To allow hatred is to be open enough to engage with it, to question it, and to have one’s own Selfhood questioned. Only then do we come into social existence.