The Joy of Translation.

Ariella Atzmon©



In every one⤙s life there are moments when the need for translation is
inevitable. Translation has to do with the complexities of
understanding[1], interpretation and mainly with explaining ourselves to
ourselves and to others. In this paper I shall limit the discussion to â¤"text
⤙ translations, where one undertakes the role of being his (her) own

>From the various nuances given to the word â¤"translation⤙ I choose to
concentrate on the aspect of translation as a challenge for increasing the
extent of addressees exposed to a written text. Although the word text
refers to everything articulated by any specific language, (such as a film,
a folklore story or an item in the news), I shall deal with translated
written materials only.

The act of self-translating can be seen as a vital urge for being heard and
understood. It is a manifestation of the essential human desire for
recognition[2]. The subtleties of translation weave together intricacies of
interpretation, hermeneutics and semiology. As such, translation detects the
most enigmatic problem where self-referential messages are addressed between
(at least) two systems of linguistic signs. If translation is an endless
journey within the maze of language, where diverse signifiers are striving
to tackle an elusive signified, then self-translation is an even tougher

In her inspiring book â¤"Lost in Translation⤙[3] Eva Hoffman describes
â¤"translation⤙ as a project of â¤explaining my self to myselfâ¤|back to the
beginning, and from the beginning onward.â¤* The moment the signified seems to
be captured, it turns into another signifier. But despite all that, the act
of translation should not be seen as an agony, but rather as a gratifying
activity of the human scene. The journey of translation is not an affliction
but a creative transfiguration of becoming. The translation of my own
writing into another language is where pleasure and pain are ecstatically
intermingled. If Jouissance occurs when pleasure and pain are twisted, then
the character of jouissance is revealed with joy, as my own (translated)
written text becomes a source of pleasure.

This text deals with the issue of writers in self-imposed exile, those who
choose to translate (or shift) their writing to a host language. I shall not
venture beyond this subject to deal with theoretical attitudes to literary
translations. But between the view that regards the translator as a
competent mediator who attempts to match two signifiers to arrive at an
equivalent signified, and the theory of the translator as an inventor of
signifieds in a move, I shall opt for the second stance. This is predicated
on the view that literary translation is not merely a mediation between
cultures represented in texts, but rather an hermeneutic act of â¤"thinking
the between⤙. In line with this view, the translator is a hermeneutic
messenger between cultures rather than a passive agent between source and
target texts. Choosing a word is an intentional act that produces the
content. Thus, the translator of his own written text is privileged to
modify his own translated messages. Just as Hermes, as the Gods⤙ messenger
interpreted any message according to its addressees, so the translator is
allowed to play the part of Hermes. Hence, revision of the
signifier/signified interrelation, while crisscrossing the boundaries of two
languages, is fully justified.

In keeping with the Heideggerian idea of â¤"Language as the home of Being⤙,
language defines what the human subject is able to know about the world and
about himself. As human beings we are shaped by language. That⤙s what
Wittgenstein means by a â¤"Language Game.⤙. According to Wittgenstein â¤an
interpretation is something that is given in signs,â¤* so that no
interpretation can be understood without a rider. Our native sign systems
keep the rider in control. The rider navigates our images and â¤"free
associations.⤙ The rider controls our native tongue so that the crosscutting
between cultures becomes restricted by principle.[4]

Contrary to science where signs operate as signals, in a narrative the sign
expands beyond itself, it means more than it says. Right from the beginning
our capability to interact with others and to exchange ideas depends on an
acquired linguistic competence. Hence, the more we are acquainted with our
mother tongue the more we are able to carnivalize language subversively. The
reality of being exiled or displaced from a primary bonding confronts people
with the inability to juggle metaphors adroitly. It is where the sense of
estrangement, of being muted, intermingles with loss of identity and
nostalgia. In Kojeve articulation â¤it is only by being â¤"recognized⤙ by
another, by many others, or - in the extreme â¤" by all others, that a human
being is really human, for himself, as well as for othersâ¤| For only in this
case can one reveal a reality in speechâ¤|â¤*[5] The nightmare of not being
heard and understood, is a fundamental threat to the self as â¤"the discourse
of the other⤙ (Lacan). Being displaced from a native tongue is a dreadful
threat to one⤙s human existentiality. In Eva Hoffman words: it is that the
signifier has become severed from the signified. The words I learn now do
not stand for things in the same unquestioned way they did in my native
tongue. Hence, the worst is the loss of an inner language, the lack of
interior images, where the path to assimilate the external world is blurred.
But the metaphor of â¤"getting lost⤙ in translation might be misleading. Being
the translator of my own writings is a route for turning the necessity for
translation into a virtue, turning the torture of moving between languages
into a gratifying enterprise. The cure of writing emerges when from the
strong comes the forth sweetness, where the power of imagination takes over
the tendency for representation.

The more we internalize the idea that all interpretations are a kind of a
game, shaped by the meanings in use, the more the gateway to other languages
is widened. The flexibility of translation is dependent upon feeling at home
with our native language. Feeling at home in a language is bound to the
basic condition of human existence, namely: recognition. Lack of recognition
means despair. The radical disjoining between word and thing â¤is a
desiccating alchemy.â¤* It is the loss of a living connection. Therefore, the
topic of â¤"being my own translator⤙ takes us beyond language into the realms
of nostalgia, loss of identity, rootlessness, floating and being unseen.

Although each of these topics needs further elaboration, I shall concentrate
upon those aspects of translation where translation operates as a talking
cure. When the writer⤙s urge to be heard and understood by an audience in a
new location manifests nonstop frenzied attempts to transform distant
meanings into the articulation of genuine inner expressions; it becomes an
endless endeavor to bridge the word that lies on the tip of the tongue with
a deferred foreign meaning. This heuristic progression is where panic,
stress and desire become entwined into a joyful scene. At the moment the
intangible insight flickers into view there is joyful relief. As if the
writer reaches his own Eden, where words are shaped in new collages, created
as a patchwork quilt by overlapping different realities, one upon the other.
In a mysterious indefinable way, the seeds of these vigorous, insightful
expressions infiltrate the host language. Signs are transfigured into
hybridized meanings. Thus languages evolve in an evolutionary process of
change. The profound contribution of exiled writers to their host language
has always been greater than acknowledged. Assuming that the center is
defined by its margins, it is marginality that re-constructs its canonic

Evolution and change are carried out by a tendency for preservation
(Epigenesis) and mutation (leaping, inconsistent skipping). Preservation
functions to duplicate what is in existence, that which â¤"remembers itself.⤙
Preservation and repetition are nailed in a contract of shared meaning that
can be seen as constructive negations, a driving force for new mutation. The
mutation is created not via the replacement of something with something else
but rather via overcoming the given for what does not yet exist[6]. Writers
and poets are creative generators of linguistic mutations. The minutes of
silence trigger a plunge into the abyss of the inexpressible, namely - the
kingdom of the aesthetic act, the origins of new mutations.

The concept of the Double Bind[7] may assist in understanding the
paradoxical dynamic oscillation between consonance governed by repetition
and dissonance created by unpredictable singularity[8]. Human beings are
doomed to be trapped in the paradoxical oscillation between preservation and
mutation. The DB is an essential condition of human beings. The more we
encounter this paradoxical state the more human we are, thereby approaching
the Heideggerian notion of â¤"Being in the world.â¤* Poets and writers are
mostly immersed in an immanent yearning for an authentic voice while
submitting to the communal, public linguistic diktat. The inescapable DB
oscillation that constructs realities through the invention of words
elevates human being to the heights of the sublime. Exiled writers⤙ fiction
transforms particular primordial experiences, located in time and space,
into allegories and abstract symbols of deconstructed existence.[9]

For the exiled writer transplanted into a new language, the burden of the DB
is doubled. And so, the self-translator/writer constructs a new reality by
deconstructing both source and target language, celebrating slang,
archaisms, and jargon. Thus, the DB swings from singularity towards
generalization and abstractness, all the while getting closer and closer to
its peak. The exiled writer is blessed by the phantasy of starting to dream
in a foreign language. Some things get lost in the passage between the
source and the targeted language and this lack of precision takes the writer
into the realm of the inexpressibleâ¤|. the space where new metaphors are
generated in pursuit of the inner voice. It is in translation that the DB
oscillation is revealed in its full intensive sway, when one⤙s own writing
becomes subversive, not because of the rule, but in spite the rule.

Our generation has produced more refugees, migrants and displaced people
than ever before. A huge mass of people is confronted with a loss of
identity. Attaining a hybrid identity is a shocking experience. Only very
few are able to transform â¤"the thinking between⤙ into a constructive
process. Edward Said describes this floating in the abyss between languages
as a crossing of boundaries (Said)[10], where life in a new language means
telling my stories of the past in an estranged foreign language. There is no
chance of help coming from the new surroundings. In Eva Hoffman⤙s words:
â¤you have to invent yourself every day by your own meansâ¤|. Nobody knows your
past so you have to convince people who you are, and you want them to
believe youâ¤|.. and this is a re-build of an identity, it is a re-imaging the
self every new dayâ¤|.â¤*

However even working between cultures and languages the exiled writer can
not escape the need for negotiation despite the awareness of cultural
incommensurability. To clarify this point I shall use Homi Bhabha⤙s concept
of hybridization[11], whereby two cultures retain their distinct
characteristics and yet form something new. Bahbha introduces the role of
anxiety; where anxiety can be perceived as a sign of danger, but it can also
indicate that something new is emerging. It is another hint from the
psychoanalytic aspect of viewing translation as gratifying joy rather than

Being bi-cultural does not mean to feel at home in two cultures. Quite the
contrary, it means not to feel at home in the two cultures. It is drifting
from particular experiences in the past to wishes and hopes located in the
future, and the timeless vocabulary of temporality. When alterity is
crystallized in the form of the host language⤙s generalized meanings it
implies the feeling of rootlessness, where rootlessness alludes to the joy
of being released from the oppressive, gravitational force that likens human
beings to trees. It is the nationalist, biblical metaphor of viewing human
beings as rooted plants that sends so many of us to search for their roots.
Gayaatri Chakravorty Spivak says: â¤If there⤙s one thing I totally distrust,
in fact more than distrust, despise and have contempt for, it is people
looking for roots.â¤*[12] The joy of translation emerges when one imagines
oneself as a singing bird (Hanoch Levin). Self-translation can be seen as an
enchanting glide, crossing boundaries in a ceaseless game between metaphors
and metonymies. The translator gets engaged in the navigation process
through two aspects of language, namely: selection from the code that
corresponds to metaphors[13], and combination, where a word is used in a
specific context to stand for the whole. The interweaving of the axis of
metaphorical selection with the axis of the metonymical combination is in
itself a work of art, where the pleasure of self-translation is amplified.

Another aspect of the DB, related to the complication of bridging between
languages refers to the fundamental categories of continuity and
discontinuity. Discontinuity corresponds to the digital coding which is
atomic and discrete[14]. Continuity refers to the analogue coding, which is
compact and indefinable.[15]. Languages are digital systems of symbolic
signs, where the gaps are significant as the organizing syntax of those
systems. The combination of the discrete digits is a whole-termed analog.
The analog is always extended beyond the sum of the single parts as it
includes the editing code. There is always an excess of meaning created
despite the rigid syntactic rules.

Oscillation between the analogue perception and its privatized, digitalized
articulation is a DB issue. We swing to and fro between the inexpressible
analogue perception of dreams and phantasies, and the necessity to
communicate by contractual digital signs. It is much more difficult to
describe a pain than to feature the boiling point of water. If we imagine
metaphorically the signifiers which are available for expression as flashes
of light appearing in our consciousness, and the gaps as areas of darkness,
then each particular set of combination and selection gives an illusory
sense of a continuously enlightened screen namely, reality. Actually, each
discourse lights up and leaves behind dark spaces. Thus, every language is
distinguished by the wealth of certain words, and the poverty or shortage of
others. The implications are that what is left dim are those parts of
experience which are repressed, censored or forgotten. These darkened spaces
confront us with the inexpressible. Writers and poets are those who dive
into the dark recesses of language, illuminating those hidden gray zones by
means of metaphorical substitutions and allegorical devices. These are forms
of human transaction for the sake of self-expression. The art of translation
has to mind two systems of gaps. Thus it is the DB in its extremity.
Translation entails the logic of difference while being punctuated by the
imperatives of equivalence and sameness.

All writing is imposed by silence, the listening to our inner voice.
â¤"Minding the gaps⤙ of language means awareness of the twilight zone, which
cannot be expressed within linguistic signs[16]. It is the moment we are
seeking, the proper selection-combination on the metaphor-metonymy axis to
produce an eloquent speech act.

The act of self-translation is the work of art where the writer is projected
beyond the void of thinking â¤"the between⤙ within the boundaries of his
native language, into the abyss of a foreign un-promised land. But the pain
of translation might reward those who are courageous enough to face the
glare of language with the gift of Dasein.[17]

I shall conclude by pointing to writers in self-imposed exile, who shift
their writings into a more widely spoken language (such as English, German
or French), in protest against their own people. These writers refuse to
share their ideas with the majority of people in their homeland. It is not
simply being exiled, but the shift to another language which is essentially
part of the protest. This is a way to turn regressive drives of anger and
frustration into constructive creativity. When exile stops being conceived
as a dead end of nostalgia and regression, the shift to another language
brings about a newly identity in becoming. For the exiled writer there is
nothing like a â¤"promised land⤙, the only clear issue is the promise of

For the exiled writer who chooses to translate his (her) writings into a
foreign language, it is not merely leaving a homeland and the familiarity of
one⤙s native tongue. Rather it is a declaration of rejection and
condemnation, an act of disapproval. This desertion of a homeland does not
ensure a welcome in the new location. In self-translation, the DB is
revealed. In order to get closer to the articulation of concrete, private
time-located experiences, the writer has to single out meanings from another
common language. This is what Heidegger describes as a striving for
temporality. It is when the personal is elevated beyond chronology and
locations. This art of exiled self-translation faces the ultimate barrier of
using a host language to speak out against the political, cultural or
ideological state of affairs in the homeland.

I shall end this paper with the odyssey of Hebrew as both target and source
language, wandering from the Diaspora to Palestine and then back to Exile.
I shall refer to the question of whether Hebrew is a Jewish or an Israeli

The renaissance of Hebrew from a formerly holy language into a lively,
spoken tongue was an enchanting process accompanied by the frenzied
invention of neologisms. Oddly enough, as a fluent spoken language, Hebrew
has lost its primary multiversity[18] and become a poor vernacular loaded
with slang and saturated with vulgar jargons. The pioneer writers of the
19th century, who translated themselves from European languages into Hebrew,
had to deal with a rich but archaic language that was definitely Jewish. The
act of translation was a fascinating enterprise of originality and
creativity accomplished by inventive minds that carried in their cultural
baggage the plenitude of the languages they were born into Zionism
proclaimed Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and hijacked
Hebrew, making it into the Israeli national language. Thus Hebrew became
the hallmark of
the Israeli collective identity, it turned into a symbol of unification
replacing the ancient Jewish religious tradition. The perception of Hebrew
as an
Israeli language creates some ethical problems for an anti-Zionist
writer. Now we trace the route of Jewish writers⤙ rootlessness, but this
time it is from
Palestine back to Exile. So Israeli Jewish anti-Zionist writers who desert
the Hebrew language do so in protest against the atrocities of Zionism.

We learn from history that there is a reciprocal, mutual relationship
nationalism and imperialism. Being a self-imposed exiled writer, leaving
behind national identity can be seen as a declaration against nationalism,
imperialism, racism or colonialism. Since Zionism is labeled all four,
anti-Zionist writers have no choice but to prefer exile. The Zionist
polemic which refers to Israel as a Jewish state accepted by the majority of
the Israeli population, should be exposed to the world as a racist,
nationalistic and colonialist attitude. The only way to do this is in a
widely spoken foreign language. The above leads to the suggestion that
literature and poetry are preferable to academic or journalistic disputes.
Abandoning political, polemic rituals by employing literature and poetry
written in foreign languages is a way to open the eyes and ears of the broad
and engaged public to an awareness of the open wounds of our era.














[1] Steiner G. (1975)., After Babel, (Oxford University Press)

[2] 44 Kojeve, A. (1993). Introduction to the Reading of Hegel. (London:
Cornell Univ. Press

[3] Eva Hoffman, (1991), Lost in Translation: Life in a new Language,

[4] The rider predetermines the kind of relationships and the type of
communication we are bound to. In the context of communication, the
information imported by a particular linguistic sign is dependent not upon
the degree of information it carries, but on what is rejected as noise.

[5] Kojeve, p.9

[6] Kojeve, PP.206-220

[7] The D.B. is a linchpin of Hegelian dialectical logic applying to two
logical operators of exclusion and implication. While the subject is
condemned to oscillate permanently between an â¤"either⤙ and an â¤"or⤙. G.
Bateson⤙s theory of the â¤"Double Bind⤙ appears as the inability to
transcend either logically, or existentially, the paradoxical injunction the
subject receives from his familial and social environment. See: Anthony
Wilden, System and Structure, ( Tavistock publications, 1984), p.3.

[8] In Hegel⤙s words the DB can be referred to the irreconcilable dilemma of
self-conscious subjectivity, reflecting upon its own subjectivity while
being caught up in the dialectic of intersubjectivity.

[9] Ramdin Ron., (1977) Homelessness and the Novel, The Cardiff Lecture
((Random House: UK) p.26

[10] Said E., (1988) Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature. In Said⤙s
view the word boundary signifies something different than the word border.

[11] Homi Bhabha., (1983), â¤"Difference, Discrimination and the Discourse of
Colonialism⤙ in Francis Barker et al (eds) The Politics of Theory
(Colchester University Press)

[12] Gayatry Charakravorty Spivak, The post colonial critic: Interview,
Strategies, Dialogues, ed, Sarah Harasym (London: Routledge 1990) p.93

[13] where cultural images stand for another cultural image

[14] Wilden A., (1987) The rules are No Games, (London: Routladge&Kegan
Paul) p.222

[15] We arbitrarily break continuous analog perceptions such as time and
space into digital symbols in order to describe the moment of change In the
digital system, the fragments are distinguished one from the other in
distinct gaps such as between the line and dot in Morse code.

[16] The â¤"sublime⤙ points to what Kant defines â¤as beyond any
qualification or comparisonâ¤* Immanuel Kant., The Critique of Judgment.,
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986) p.94/25

[17] The heideggerian Dasein which means Being in the world.

[18] Leibnitz referred to Hebrew, Greek and Latin as primary languages.









Facing Democracy: A Long Journey into a Nightmare.





Ariella Atzmon



The Hebrew University of








































Copyright © Ariella Atzmon, â¤*2003

All Rights Reserved





Dr. Ariella Atzmon

P.O.Box 18215

Jerusalem 91181

Tel: 00972 2 5817135











Facing Democracy: A Long Journey into a Nightmare.

Ariella Atzmon©



â¤You can not hear God speaking to others; you can only hear Him
when he speaks to youâ¤*



The relevance of this Wittgenstein remark (Zettlel sec:717), hints at the
rhetorical language of propaganda employed by contemporary democracy and its
links to illusions of sovereignty and freedom of choice.

Even though we are accustomed to praise democracy, to suggest that
everything that happens in the course of democracy is right, and whatever is
related to other regimes entirely evil, we all agree that propaganda plays a
major part in each and every regime.

The distinctiveness of western propaganda is founded upon the fact that both
liberalism and the scientific revolution came into the world arm-in-arm. The
main characterization of western propaganda is a latent commitment to
support pervasive statements by well-established, evidential proof.
Actually, all those I-philosophies (from Descartes to Husserl) that stress
that human rational ability can facilitate a close correspondence between
the realm of abstract meanings and the realm of reality as perceived by the
senses, have supported and protected liberal democracy ever since.

Taking the Heideggerian stance regarding the human subject as being shaped
by language rather than by his mind and his personal experience, undermines
the human self-image as an individual empowered with the capability of
rational free choice. Since the concept of individuality is the cornerstone
of liberal democracy, Heideggerian philosophy endangers the whole texture of
the western rhetorical machine. Heidegger⤙s view of language as the â¤"home of
being⤙ affords us an innovative gaze into the route taken by propaganda for
trapping peoples⤙ minds in the webs of the hegemonic discourse.

The language of propaganda reflects a fierce clandestine battle over
meanings waged by all ranges of socio-political and cultural thought. Highly
politically charged words such as â¤"democracy⤙ or â¤"terror⤙ are continuously
changing their meanings. Hence, by getting lost in the ocean of echolalia,
we become deaf to the kaleidoscopic nature of the meanings given to words.
Words become materialized through the media in the form of narrated events
and thus people are blunted to the trickeries of the text/context game. In
other words, their competence for gestalt switching is mislaid.

Liberal democracy, launched with the vast belief in human rationality,
critical reasoning and the freedom of choice, ends here and now with the
conviction that it is an inherent machine, maintained by professional
experts, supposed to convey us through the obstacles of life. As long they
provide us with evidential reports, what is left for us to do, is to
extrapolate and jump to the right conclusion

I would argue that the more citizens are dependant upon professionals
supposedly supplying digested information as a foundation for the â¤"personal⤙
process of decision making, the more they lack a sense of
self-responsibility for their own fate. Enlightened western citizens put
their lives in the hands of medical doctors despite the fact that they lack
an understanding of the kind of treatment they are getting. In the same
negligent manner people relate to their bodies, they are led by the nose to
fight nebulous enemies, and are asked to sacrifice their lives in
unnecessary wars. Faith in clusters of data presented by professional
experts leads to civic irresponsibility and alienation. I would say that
despite the song of praise to â¤"democracy⤙ we are withdrawing to the
pre-democratic era!

Liberal democracy is epitomized by a principal malady - a constantly growing
tension caused by individuals⤙ attempts to extend their freedom of action
within the limits of the social order imperatives. Liberal democracy
protects itself by establishing a consensual environment where citizens are
totally dependent on the professionals⤙ analytical reports. Therefore, the
more people are tied to the apron strings of the pundits⤙ expertise, the
more they fail to interpret political, social, and economic revisions by
themselves. The gloomy conclusion is that liberal democracy has failed to
keep the promise of emancipation. The narrative of emancipation from
ignorance and servitude through knowledge and egalitarianism turns into a
reckless commitment, to keep in harmony with the democratic rule as an aim
in itself.

I would argue that cynical politicians manage to achieve their goals because
the â¤"new believers have lost the capacity to criticize governmental
decisions according to a coherent system of ideas. To put it bluntly, I
would say that the majority of the population in the free democratic state
is incompetent when it comes to developing a proper deductive inference.
Apparently, this is the reason for holding most of the press conferences
before and during the war against Iraq around the disclosure of evidential
findings, air maps, and the pitiful farce of exhibiting discoveries of
missiles and remains of chemical or biological material. Even the inspectors
⤙ failure to prove, did not stop the political leaders from repeatedly
pushing on in an endless attempt to trace those hidden treasures for mass

Those millions of people taking to the streets to demonstrate against the
war felt defeated when G.W. Bush declared the end of the war. The question
is whether the protests were against the actual operation of attacking Iraq,
or were morality and ethics the matters at stake? If we assume that the
reason for the huge mass marches all over western metropolises demonstrated
disapproval of the arrogant crushing of ethical values, then we should ask:
how did it happen that all those masses disappeared from the streets[1]?

It may be asserted that we are triggered to react to the concrete, actual
events while remaining oblivious to the process of the keyword formation.
Following Heidegger I would contend that the maladies of democracy stem from
obliviousness to the abuse of language. In the essay â¤The Way to Languageâ¤*
Heidegger asserts that human beings are not in a position to commandeer
language but simply respond to it[2]. Responding blindly to rhetorical
devices manifests peoples⤙ ignorance of being â¤"spoken⤙ rather than
autonomous speaking subjects.

By taking Heidegger⤙s path, we may say that poststructuralism inverts the
traditional Marxist model about base and superstructure so that what we used
to think of as superstructure, namely culture, language and political
institutions, actually takes precedence over what we used to think of as
basic. Contrary to the Marxist view that culture and language, including
its coordinates, are reflected by the economic system, it is stressed that
language authorizes reality. Using the notion of â¤"superstructural-ism⤙ for
the â¤"poststructuralist⤙ overview (Herland (1987), language is seen as the
basic ground for marketing and pricing. We shall reveal that the invisible
battle on the signification of the linguistic sign determines, at the end of
the day, the exchange value of the oil barrel. The semantic notion imposed
on a verbal sign triggers the power relations in economics and politics. The
meaning we impose on a word is the departure point from which rhetorical
dribbling gains its momentum.

â¤"Terrorist words⤙ according to Roland Barthes are not words such as â¤"fascism
⤙, â¤"dictatorship⤙ or â¤"despotism,⤙ that trigger instant aversion, but rather
.words such as â¤"autonomy⤙ â¤"democracy,⤙ â¤"emancipation⤙ or â¤"liberation,⤙
which are currently enjoying a positive aura. In this way their
elusive-subversive character is veiled. Those words which by their appealing
connotation pre-determine peoples⤙ attitude to distributed messages, are in
fact the main tool for blurring our awareness to the subversive power of

As we have seen in the two gulf wars, imposing a positive or negative
connotation on a word predestines the value of consumer goods. It specifies
who is going to trade in these goods and who is excluded from the game. The
connotation given to the word â¤"terror⤙ entails embargos, which are followed
almost simultaneously with a reward to the â¤"liberators⤙ in the form of
contracts and access to the best of the third worlds⤙ natural resources. The
connotation given to the word terror makes my argument clear. Taking account
of the complicated, tricky relationship between words and facts calls into
question some moral, ethical and legal aspects of the meaning of terror and
its vicissitudes.

The word â¤"terror,⤙ which means the use of fear to intimidate people,
especially for political reasons, was coined by the ruling Jacobins,
dominated by Robespierre (1793-1794). in order to overthrow the old regime
in the name of â¤"Fraternite and Liberte⤙ for all people. The Jacobins
enforced the age of terror, ruthlessly by executing anyone considered a
threat to their regime. The word terrorist was originally applied to those
who advocated violence in pursuit of democracy and equality. They titled
themselves as terrorists without any pejorative connotation[3].

Do some current western leaders, who openly declare their attempts to
democratize people in other parts of the globe by means of violence and
aggression, consider themselves terrorists as well? The meaning of the word
â¤"terror⤙ has been changed to and fro during the years. It has altered
ambiguously from the coercive act of putting people in terror in order to
achieve political aims, to the notion of counter-terror, where those who are
terrorized try to rebel against their oppressors in a violent struggle.
Thus, a rigorous analysis of the terminology of terror and counter-terror,
is needed. â¤"Liberation terrorism,⤙ for instance, should be defined as
peoples⤙ acts of resistance directed against those who violate basic human
rights (visibly or invisibly), in order to maintain beliefs, traditions and
lifestyles in their homeland. A people⤙s violent struggle to achieve freedom
and power in its homeland can be viewed as counter-terror. This should be
seen as legitimate resistance, and morally justified in terms of violation
of the law.

To facilitate the argument about the substantial role of language in
disguise, I shall refer to some expressions which have become so rampant
that people have stopped being aware of the cynical, rhetorical game that
these expressions signify. Before, during and after the last gulf war the
expressions â¤"war against terror⤙ and the â¤"axis of evil⤙ were our daily
bread. Such statements should raise a philosophical query regarding the
correspondence between a theoretical term and its observable attributes. For
example, how can the old enigmatic word â¤"evil,⤙ as an object of an idea, be
depicted as a concrete axis, laid between two points in the frame of a two
dimensional map?

Hence, The word â¤"terror⤙ reflects a bitter struggle waged over the canonic
meaning given to a word in the political lexicon. The obscure meaning
bestowed on the word terror determines the political struggle over economic
power. The word â¤"terror⤙ which is extremely politically charged, acquires
its meaning in accord with the contemporary hegemony of power. The meaning
under the Bush administration is kidnapped twice. First it obscures the
distinctions between terror, counter-terror and liberation terrorism, and
then it enables the demonization of Palestinian resistance, including it in
the â¤"axis of evil.⤙

Reading Kant after Heidegger, triggers some insights into the moral and
legal aspects of ethical judgment. It is the role of writers and
philosophers because of their linguistic sensitivity, to raise public
awareness to the polyphony of meanings in propaganda maneuvering. In seeking
the legitimization of its rule, the liberal paradigm, turned to the legal
system as the main source of stabilization. The fact that any society is
comprised of a variety of interests and communal ethoses, necessitates the
foundation of a social apparatus that will be accepted by all. Hence,
secular ideology established the civic legal system as an all-inclusive
means for the resolution of conflicts.

In the course of liberalism, rhetoric turned from being engaged in politics
as related to ethics, into exercising an acrobatic, instrumental pursuit of
how to contain politics in accordance with the law, and vice versa.
According to this utilitarian approach ethics are pushed into being
interpreted in calculative terms for the assessment of harm caused and wrong
done to the â¤"other.⤙ By this argument I contend that liberal democracy,
supported by representational rhetoric, put up a barrier between morality
and ethics on the one side of the division, and legality on the other.

In praising of democracy, the way that determines that whatever is related
to terror is entirely evil, leads to the rhetorical, prevailing language of
propaganda reflecting a distortion of some other words as well. An example
is the notion of the word â¤"innocence⤙ as linked to ethics vs. legality. We
acknowledge that Israeli â¤"democratic⤙ children who are killed (murdered) by
martyrs are considered by official Israeli spokesmen as more innocent than
Palestinian children killed or murdered by Israeli helicopters, bulldozers
or by mere bombardment (always by mistake!).

It is suggested that citizens of the democratic free world should start
becoming more engaged in ideas and less in searching for proof, more in
analyzing terms such as weapons of mass destruction than in searching for
their location. If we are more attentive to what is meant by terms such as
â¤"weapons of mass destruction,⤙ as related to the terminology of terror,
counter-terror, resistance, liberation terrorism, we shall find that the
weapons of mass destruction are easily pinpointed. We may discover them
located in some very well known sites on the western front of the middle

In the glorification of philosophy, we are reminded of Kant⤙s saying that
there is relief in the act of philosophizing â¤even though one is not a
philosopher.â¤* It is a kind of agitation of the mind that means to undertake
the role of an insomniac night watchman, a vigilant sentinel who defends
himself against the torpor of doctrines by the practice of criticism

Ethics just as Aesthetics have no rules for justification. There is no
simple viable rout for a moral or ethical proof. Even if there are rules for
what should be described as moral consideration, they are inaccessible by
their ethical nature. Since legality belongs to a calculative culture, it
needs proofs, supported by factual evidence. Legality has to do with the
complications of statutes and regulation of the law. But there are no proofs
for morality. Liberal democracy⤙s obsession with legal assessments and
evidential proof in order to validate statements ends with a disregard of
the ethical judgment. Contrary to the doctrines of legality, ethical
judgment can not be learned at school by imitating the scientific method.
The ethical judgment reflect the eternal war between the rule and the case,
the doctrine and the exceptional, where the case must be found for the rule,
or the rule for the case, and that is something that cannot be learned,
neither cannot it be taught. The ethical judgment must be exercised, â¤for
more we judge the better we judgeâ¤*

In the name of Lyotard I will say that to be confronted with the exceptional
case that necessitates the ethical judgment, is a kind of spasm, a salutary
insomniac illness because it shakes us out of doctrinal torpor. If
â¤Doctrines weave a spell that prefigures death, then insomnia prevents us
from the very rest of forgetfulness.â¤* In the Kantian sense, the ethical and
the aesthetic experience is not an experience, but the effect of experience
which is not empirical. We may conclude that to bring democracy forward by
recommending that the ordinary citizen play the role of an insomniac night
watchman means to stop being trapped by the rhetoric of the referent.
Butâ¤|to stop being persuaded by proofs, involves misery, agitation, and

Spurning the proofs provided by â¤"smoking guns⤙ in favor of insomnia is the
turning point at which we start becoming restless, insomniac night
atchmen - who stay alert to the vicious abuse of language. Just at the
moment when our illusion concerning freedom of choice conditioned upon
findings and proofs collapses, contemporary forms of liberal democracy will
give way, in favor of insomnia. The gloomy conclusion is that liberal
democracy by its nature keeps us in a permanent dream, providing us with
endless observable referents. This is why positivism, phenomenology and
constructivism are the leading philosophies in liberal democracies. These
philosophies were invented to prevent us from being insomniacs. While
totalitarian regimes invented prisons and guillotines for agitated, restless
people, democracies discovered more ingenious means for narcoticizing its

Hence, if after all this we choose to escape the rhetorical disguise and
take the hermeneutical path regarding meanings, are we ready for that long
journey into the night?






[1] People are demonstrating in the name of political lobies

[2] Heidegger⤙s writings thematize the topic of language in a unique manner.
Other great thinkers like as Wittgenstein, Carnap, Russel and Austin also
stressed the same subject of language.

[3] L.M.Palmer (2002) Philosopy and Terrorism, apaper submitted to the IMISE
Conference (Univ of Delaware, USA)











â¤"BLACK BOXES' â¤" the overt manifestation of the covert



Dr. Ariella Atzmon



The Hebrew University of Jerusalem July

















Copyright © Ariella Atzmon, â¤*2003

All Rights Reserved





Dr. Ariella Atzmon

P.O.Box 18215

Jerusalem 91181

Tel: 00972 2 5817135







â¤"BLACK BOXES' â¤" the overt manifestation of the covert

Dr. Ariella Atzmon ©



â¤One can own a mirror; does one then own the reflection that can be seen in

Zettel: 670





The relevance of this Wittgenstein remark (Zettel sec:717), hints at the
rhetorical language of propaganda used in the course of contemporary
democracy and its links to false images of science implanted in the public
consciousness in the course of contemporary science education.

With reference to recent political events following the September 11th
disaster, let me examine the use and abuse of the â¤"Black Box⤙ terminology.
The expression â¤"Black Box⤙ crops-up whenever it is necessary to elucidate an
enigmatic event by transforming the covert into an overt clear-cut
exposition. As related to the airplane crash in Queens NY on the 12th of
November 2001, the report of that event might reveal a device for the
subversion of people⤙s minds. We should ask: how is it possible that the
people of NY were so easily convinced in just two hours, that the event was
an accident and not another terrorist attack? The fact is that the moment
the announcement on finding the 'magic' Black Box (claimed to consist of
ultra- digital information technology) was made, all the news channels
suddenly replaced this news item with reports of the invasion of Kabul by US

What is meant by a Black Box? Does it signify the urge to decipher
something in order to achieve transparency, or does it specify an opaque
entity, its content doomed to remain unknown?

The maneuvering of the notions imposed on the 'Black Box' metaphor,
originates in philosophical behaviorism representing a locked, opaque
object - impenetrable to any snooping, inquisitive investigation. All the
in-put/out-put (stimuli/response) conditioning that triggered the
sophistication of Nazi propaganda brain-washing is grounded in this
behaviorist notion of Black Boxes.

The â¤"Black Box⤙ terminology entered the philosophic vocabulary in relation
to the Carnap Skinner debate around the status of theoretical terms[1]. The
behaviorist argument asserts that since theoretical terms links initial
input observable entities with output factual data, it is possible to skip
the theoretical framework, as represented by a â¤"Black Box.⤙ Hence, reality
is supervised as an efficient summation of evidential reports, as long as it
meets the requirement for predictions and explanations. This view enables to
keep up with a descriptive methodology, releasing the reporter from
referring to the contextual meanings in use.

Thus, cynically, the same â¤"Black Box⤙ nowadays simultaneously portrays an
opaque entity beside a transparent key for unveiling information. This
covert/overt ambiguity provides a rhetorical mechanism for the disclosure of
something that might be lost and is aimed at enhancing peoples⤙ trust that
things are firmly under control.

Rhetoric in the course of Liberal democracy manifests a
positivist-behaviorist approach that complies with the truth theory of
correspondence, i.e. associating a name to a thing. It links a term to sense
data in order to ratify meanings by using a rule of correspondence.

An alternative mode for validation of statements is to distance ourselves
from observable attributes, interpreting a term by coherence criteria -
where a meaning is understood in the terminology of relationship and

Education can be seen as a key for implanting the correspondence theory of
truth as all-inclusive. Most recent educational programs are lacking a
serious engagement with an abstract theoretical terminology. Contemporary
education is a bizarre blend of two rival philosophical movements namely;
positivism and phenomenological constructivism. The efforts invested in
instructing students to construct reality in terms of their own experience
are blurred between Husserelian phenomenology and Positivist- behaviorism.
While the first stresses genuine expression alongside the experiencing of
pure phenomena, the second view advocates rigorous methodological conduct
for the articulation of descriptive reports. The uncontrolled zealous
devotion to the experiencing of solid factual data reveals the educationist⤙
s ignorance. Educational programs can be seen as a â¤"Hailing process⤙ where
the student is told â¤follow me, I am about to teach you how to construct
your own reality.â¤*

Confidence in factual data is rooted in the Lockian Ideational Theory of
Meaning referring to language as representation. Representational thinking
treats reality as if it were a picture "placed before" the subject.
Fallacious images of scientific thought describe language as a 'vocabulary
of things.⤙ According to this view, communication is enabled since words
signify ideas in a perceptible way. Consequently language is essentially a
tool for the interaction between human minds. Hence, our thoughts are
viewed as an amplification of sequential ideas that associate a vocal sound,
giving it the same meaning. The link between our minds and the objects
which are perceived by our senses, is mediated by the process of name

The ideal of sharing a similar interpretation of the same linguistic sign
concurs with techno-scientific language. This language authorizes the use of
linguistic signs as clear-cut signals, narrowing the multiplicity of
expressive utterances, making way for the most determined communicative
descriptions or reports. The techno-scientific language gains its power due
to education systems governed by scientism[2]. Education, that operates as a
selective membrane for the meaning in use protects the social order by
signalizing the linguistic sign.

The Freudian-Lacanian idea that what has not acquired meaning can never be
known reveals a vicious circle, where the rhetorical game signalizes
meanings. The scientific cover-up allocated to findings, grasped as clusters
of factual data formulating a suitable basis for rational reasoning, is
connected to the citizen⤙s self-image in democratic, liberal society.
Consequently the rhetorical representation of signalized, scientific
language becomes part of an ideological illusion of freedom of choice.
Thus, the liberal promise of emancipation is related to human beings as
individuals whose rational abilities grant them the ability to judge, choose
and plan their life-style competently in the framework of democratic life.
Planting positive attitudes in favor of a system where given data serve as
the basis for legal, moral and ethical judgments raises individual illusion
regarding freedom of choice. In the western, liberal democratic milieus it
is agreed that calculative thought, based upon well-established punctuated
evidence, is preferential upon personal impressive verbalization. The weight
bestowed in advance on digital descriptions considered to be legitimized
reports is based on an arbitrary linguistic contract. Hence, the more the
scientific façade of a statement is enhanced, the more its authorization is
recognized. A hegemonic approach to language as correspondence (i.e.;
representation) defines MEANINGS in terms of what should be included or
excluded under a specific term. The political conclusion is that the promise
of modernity for self-realization, including some postmodernist hopes for
emancipation, are mediated by an a-priori tendency to signalize the sign.

The prestigious status of scientific thought, spurred an obsessive drive in
the philosophy of science to demarcate between the scientific and the
non-scientific (Popper). The necessity for demarcation preserves the
criteria for what is considered valid and what should be thrown-out as
meaningless. â¤"Credible⤙ information amasses its authority via science images
that proliferate in liberal societies, namely: referring science exclusively
to organized factual knowledge. The compulsive occupation with the problem
of demarcation reflects a struggle for control over the legitimization of
specific modes of information. Popular acceptance of the positivist images
of science is reflected in the media, in the courts, in achievement
assessments, in I.Q. testometry and so on.

Science is self-maintained via narrow definitions of rationality which
relate judgments to a link between a concept and its experiential
attributes. But in order to examine whether something can be considered
â¤"rational,⤙ one must utilize the concept of rationality invented by the
selfsame designers of the same widespread science images. This may be
compared to a situation where the police investigate itself. I would say
that the same approach that plants the illusion of free choice,
simultaneously blocks the possibility for emancipation.

My argument can be clarified by the illustration of a final pre-election TV.
confrontation between the main rival candidates. That style of interview
with the trickery rhetorical sound bites in a ping-pong game, dictates a
race where the opponents⤙ statements are restricted to no more than ten
seconds at the most. The question is: â¤how is the process of rhetoric
designed, so that what a politician is unable to say on TV in a sound bite
of three minutes, he will never get a second chance to speak about at large?

One may describe pre-second world war rhetoric as a deductive Euclidean
inference relying upon axiomatic assumptions, keeping within the bounds of
coherence. In contrast to those styles, postwar western rhetoric presents us
with a sort of T.V. â¤espressoâ¤* style, defined by Arthur Koestler as â¤"short,⤙
â¤"instant⤙ and â¤"concentrated.⤙ The politician, with the aid of P.R.
companies, will succeed as long as he blends, briefly in one gulp, the
proper ingredients in the right dose, so that he may be simultaneously
convincing, pleasant, and sufficiently vague to cover as many people as
possible under the same umbrella. So, information is not just what is coming
out of the T.V. screen, but those corresponding algorithmic modes of
reasoning which pave the way to how we listen to the news.

By choosing a substantial word (such as evil, or terror) and charging it
with a univocal meaning, optimal obscurity is achieved

Identification of the indicators of a successful rhetorical blend presents
to us the subtle role of education that disappears from view precisely
because of its importance. It is education that fixates the false images of
science, which support the rules for how science should be presented to the

By using Lyotard⤙s terminology of the â¤"Differend⤙ I argue that the victims
of science images are unable to make a claim against scientism, because
there is a latent web of rules which imposes shared agreement about â¤"what
science means.⤙ I propose that not only is education itself safeguarded
within the patterns of scientism, but also that education fortifies
scientism, establishing a self-maintaining system by the dissemination of
its power.

The distinctiveness of western propaganda is founded upon the fact that both
liberalism and the scientific revolution came into the world arm-in-arm. The
main characterization of western propaganda is that latent commitment to
support pervasive statements by well-established, evidential proof.
Actually, all those I-philosophies (from Descartes to Husserl) that stress
that human rational ability can facilitate a close correspondence between
the realm of abstract meanings and the realm of reality as perceived by the
senses, have supported and protected liberal democracy ever since.

Taking the Heideggerian stance regarding the human subject as being shaped
by language rather than by his mind and his personal experience, undermines
the human self-image as an individual empowered with the capability of
rational free choice. Since the concept of individuality is the cornerstone
of liberal democracy, Heideggerian philosophy endangers the whole texture of
the western rhetorical machine. Heidegger⤙s view of language as the â¤"home of
being⤙ affords us an innovative gaze into the route taken by propaganda for
trapping peoples⤙ minds in the webs of the hegemonic discourse.

In the name of â¤scientific neutralityâ¤*, scientism confuses science with
technology, and thereby the definitions for â¤rationality,â¤* and â¤objectivityâ¤*
are narrowed. This is how liberal democracy becomes entangled with scientism
by virtue of the praise given to human, calculative, sovereign reasoning.
But this reasoning illusion is manipulated by the behaviorist approach that
treats the human mind as a Black Box, conditioned by the stimuli/response
procedure. In other words, in this way kidnapped meanings, which correspond
with overt, evidential reports, replace scary covert warning alerts. I
assert that this subversive manipulation of human minds is an unethical act.
It is another version of brain washing in the framework of liberal
democracy, which even more intensifies the gap between calculative reasoning
and ethical judgment.

Lyotard titled â¤"the Differend⤙ as â¤the case of conflict between two parties
that cannot be equitably resolved for lack of a rule of judgment applicable
to both arguments.â¤* The â¤" Differend⤙ illustrates precisely the logic of the
dominance of discourses that are relied upon, and at the same time support
experiential evidence. As such, it marks a point of incommensurability.
Scientism is typical of genres which attempt to increase harmonious
consonance by ignoring alternative discourses that confront us with an
absence of rules for a clear-cut judgment. The legal system, in the course
of liberal democracies, relates to harm assessments and evidential proof in
order to validate statements. But, there is no simple viable route for moral
or ethical proof. Even if there are rules for what should be described as
judgment, they are inaccessible because of their ethical nature. When the
issue at stake is justice, legality, which has to do with the complications
of statutes, belongs to a calculative culture, so it needs proofs, supported
by factual evidence, but for moral judgment there are no simple proofs.

In the course of the liberal paradigm, the variety of interests and
traditions necessitates a state apparatus accepted by all. Secular
liberalism established the civil legal system as an all-embracing means for
stabilization, the resolution of conflicts and the legitimization of its
rule. Thus, in liberal regimes, rhetoric turned from being concerned with
how politics is supposed to cope with ethics, into trickery, an instrumental
maneuver attempting to find the means by which to adjust the law to
politics. According to the utilitarian approach, ethics became a calculative
apparatus for the assessment of harm caused by the â¤"evil other.⤙ Liberal
democracy put a barrier between morality and ethics on the one side and
legality on the other. Even the notion of the word innocence as related to
terror(ized) victims is weighed in accordance with the ideological
affiliation of the victims. In reference to Israeli spokesmen, democratic
civilian victims are innocent compared with Palestinian kids (always killed
by mistake).

Liberal democracy⤙s obsession with evidential proof in pursuit of the
validation of statements ends with disregard for ethical judgment. Contrary
to the doctrines of legality, the ethical judgment cannot be learned,
neither cannot it be taught. The ethical judgment must be exercised, â¤for
more we judge the better we judgeâ¤* However escape from the rhetoric of the
referent involves misery, agitation, and insomnia. (Lyotard). To endorse the
proofs provided by â¤"smoking guns⤙ in favor of insomnia becomes the turning
point where people start to behave like restless night watchmen, who stay
alert to the vicious abuse of language.

There is relief in the act of philosophizing â¤even though one is not a
philosopher. The populist current view referring to reality as a â¤"vocabulary
of things,⤙ i.e.: representation, prevents an encounter with the sublime.
The â¤"Black Box⤙ propaganda style blocks the ability to contemplate vague
positions that entail doubts and uncertainties. Thus, the citizens of
liberal democratic countries are left defenseless as an easy prey in the
hands of a subversive- persuasive rhetoric.

Faith in clusters of data presented by â¤"Black Boxes⤙ expertise leads to
civic irresponsibility and alienation. I would say that despite the song of
praise to â¤"democracy⤙ we are likely to find ourselves withdrawing to the
pre-democratic era!






[1] The behaviorist argument which was pointed out by B. F. Skinner in
Science and Human Behavior (1953), was elaborated by Carl Hempel as the
Theoretician⤙s Dilemma.⤙



[2] By â¤"scientism⤙ I mean an excessive belief in the power of scientific
knowledge and techniques, as well as a belief in the applicability of the
methods of the physical sciences to other fields, especially human behavior
and the social sciences.