The lights raise upon the scene of "Primary Trauma."
How, then, do we understand responsibility? What will responsibility look like, or how do we view responsibility through this new ethical sensibility? Since we have limited our own accountability, as well as that of others, where does our responsibility lie? How are we responsible and where do we locate the limits of responsibility and accountability?
I want to suggest that the very meaning of responsibility must be rethought on the basis of this limitation; it cannot be tied to the conceit of a self fully transparent to itself.
To take responsibility for oneself is to confess the limits of one's self-understanding. (83)
And this confession, or open acknowledgment of our limited self-knowing also acknowledges these limits as a human condition, not merely the condition for the subject.
When I speak as an "I," I know that I know that I do not know what I am doing when I speak this way - I find that my very formation implicates the other in me, that my own foreignness to myself is, paradoxically, the source of my ethical connection with others. (84)
We are foreign to ourselves ...
Does this strangeness to ourselves, which as you say, implicates the other in me - that which precedes me, that which I cannot know or narrate, yet must acknowledge - lead me to suffer from my own strangeness in any way? Does my strangeness cause me anxiety, which then makes me anxious about the other's otherness? If I cannot fully know this self, but only know its limits, know that it has limits, and acknowledge them, do I not suffer from this not-knowing? Is my own strangeness not the source of an infinite anxiety that can never be satisfied? And I will never know what this anxiety is, for it is the effect - or perhaps not an effect at all, but an inescapable condition of my being - of a strangeness that I will never, can never know. Not just that I will not know it fully, but I will not know it, period. My anxiety is a passion without an object. Except this strangeness that is not an object at all.
If I am wounded, I find that the wound testifies to the fact that I am impressionable - that I am vulnerably given over to the other in spite of myself: I do not will it, I cannot predict it. It is hopelessly uncontrollable.
I cannot think the question of responsibility alone, in isolation from the other. If I do, I have removed myself from the mode of address in which the problem of responsibility first emerges.
An anxiety over one's own strangeness, then, may be an anxiety over being implicated in this mode of address that forces one - against their will (prior to their will(ingness)) - into a relationship with another; a relation of responsibility.
The impression of the other penetrates me - a penetration I do not will, and cannot control. So, I cannot be accountable for another or their actions, but I am responsible to them.
I am overwhelmed.
Yes. Being addressed is traumatic. One can be addressed in a harmful way. The primary experience of trauma cannot be interpreted or understood. This is precisely our unknowingess.
The trauma of address. This is why we suffer from strangeness.
Another word comes our way,
An address that suddenly, strangely slaughters,
even as one lives on, strangely,
as this slaughtered being, speaking away.
But what does this mean?
I don't trust metaphors.
Franz Biberkopf walks across the scene to deliver a brief monologue in response to the gruesome metaphor.
Supply at the slaughter-house: Hogs 11,543, Beef 2016, Calves 920, Mutton 14,450. A blow, bang down they go.
Hogs, oxen, calves - they are slaughtered. There is no reason why we should concern ourselves with them. Where are we? We?
The big steer has a broad forehead. With sticks and thrusts it is driven up to the butcher. In order to make it stand still, he gives it a slight blow on the hind leg with the flat part of the hatchet. One of the drivers seizes it from below around the neck. The animal stands for a moment, then yields, with a curious ease, as if it agreed and was willing, after having seen everything and understood that this is its fate, and that it cannot do anything against it. Perhaps it thinks the gesture of the driver is a caress, it looks so friendly.*
End of Scene I.