Saturday, 24 December 2011

Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz

Episode 4 

Heal me if you can.
Whether youre god or satan.
An angel or a man, heal me!
You’ll accept healing from anyone?
Heal me!
Maybe my price is high and terrible.
Heal me!
I’m Satan.
Heal me!
And if I am satan how will you settle with me?
You don’t want to heal me. 
No-one wants to help me. 
Neither god nor satan, no angel, no man.
What about yourself?
What about me?
You don’t want to help yourself.
Who can help you if you dont want to help yourself?
No, no, 
no, no, no,
no, no...
No, no
No, no!
God and Satan, the angels and men: they all want to help you; but you dont want it ... God, because he loves you; Satan to possess you later; the angels and men, because they are God and Satans helpers. But you dont want it.
No, no! God and Satan want to help me? Nobody wants to help me! No!

A dialogue between the landlord playing Satan and Biberkopf playing Job. It is significant that Biberkopf continues to become involved, like Bunyan's Christian, in a series of therapeutic or educative encounters.

And yet, that which the Landlord identifies as 'something else' in Biberkopf, which is causing his malaise, continues to act upon and disrupt the redemptive effect of these encounters. Multiple exits open up before him... he is presented with opportunity after opportunity to leave himself behind. If only he could take the exit, if only he could hold on to the opportunity, but they pass like money through his fingers.

The addict’s autobiography, upon reaching middle age, is only ever developed one-sidedly. In order that his narrative arrives at his present circumstance, the addict portrays himself as victim of a direct and immediate causal relationship with his unfortunate conditions. By his own account, as his conditions were so he now must be: the injured childhood, the failed marriages, the lack of opportunity, the depressions, the lost children, is  help that never came...  all this results in how he is now. Poor him. And, if only.

A person habituated to a lie will say anything to defend it, because the lie is inseparable from him. He will say that his parents are dead; that he has cancer; that his child has been killed in a car accident; that he has good qualifications; that he did not receive the letter; that he tried to leave a message; that he was 'there' when so and so happened; that he wants to stop the drugs; that he wasn't there when so and so happened; that he won't drink again; that he didn't sell your possessions. 
If the alcoholic's style of sobriety drives him to drink, then that style must contain error or pathology; and intoxication must provide someat least subjectivecorrection of this error. In other words, compared with his sobriety, which is in some way 'wrong', his intoxication must be in some way 'right.'
Gregory Bateson, Cybernetics of Self: Towards a Theory of Alcoholism
We are shown, in Biberkopf’s predicament, the pathology inherent to subjectivity as an addictive form. Change is not, and can never be, the subject’s project – it seeks in its relation to its environment only a return to itself, it seeks to modify conditions only to ensure its own cyclical stability. The addict's resolutions resembles the subject's projects of world-making... both are bound into, and express only one moment of, the the cycle of addiction; both resolution and world-making inevitably collapse back into the mechanistic determinations which they do not have the capacity to overcome. 

The subject is defined by its dependence on (adaptation to) the tension (and small pay-offs) of a static relation....  the reward pathways, and the sensitivities that they generate; the habituation to a particular form of sobriety which emerges from dependency on a particular pattern of derangement; the reduction of the world to a tightly defined set of signs and interpretations of signs; the shrunken horizons of named comforts on the one side, and recognisable, controllable, privations on the other.  

However, the external critique of addiction is not sufficient to develop a 'cure'... but remains a mere outcome of the addictive mechanism.  The critique's simplistic formulations  are evidence of this: that wellbeing might be a product of ill-health, that peace could be a vision derived from experience of conflict, that stability should be an aim of chaos. How easy it would be to effect a cure for all of society's ills if it were merely a matter of extracting positive lessons from unhappy experiences. 

Contrariwise, glimpses of a different way of doing things are only ever delusional constructs of addiction. Alternatives are only ever representations derived from an addictive environment which has already coded their very unrealisability as feasible propositions so as to secure the addictive relation in a cycle of necessity. The more obvious and commonsensical the proposed solution, the more false it must be.