Speed-of-light

On ‘Moving Too Fast,’ or Decolonial Speed

This might be a familiar scene: you and a friend are going over the minutiae of a new relationship, the fleetingly spectacular resonances of your being-together, the emerging of a collective sensibility in the interstices between tangled selves, a tangling that leaves you in an emotional wreckage, as it were. It is as if you’ve known him [1] for much longer: the oddities that map his body into your own private elsewhere, the geography of unknowing you’ve willfully wrenched yourself into, clinging to a something whose potentiality is paradoxically both too much and not enough. Perhaps he takes your breath away, converting it into an almost-alien thing your body has to re-adjust itself to. He’s your momentary pause from the ordinary, an ordinary whose background noises are the sinister hummings of settler colonialism, a cacophony of structural attritions that force you to pick up the pieces, again and again. He is a lapse in time whose expressivity is marked by the teleological pull of an otherwise. You’ve attached yourself to an object that magnetizes an assemblage of disparate matterings and affects, ones that carry the prospect of a different temporality, of unabated continuity. On the other hand, you’re also precariously tending to a relationality that threatens to collapse into itself, to obliterate everything – a ‘we,’ a mode of being in the world, a future. Perhaps you’re ‘moving too fast.’

To be told you’re ‘moving too fast’ often has the effect of slowing you down, of stopping you in your tracks. This sort of speech act does its work quickly, chipping away at a relationship that’s trying to make a break for it right out of the gate, that attenuates the regular in its many emotive excesses. In short: one that muddies the rubric for being with properly romantic others. It could be a number of things: having sex too soon, saying ‘I love you’ too soon, spending too much time together too soon. Too soon. How does this ‘too soon’ become a discursive blockage, an ethical interdiction of sorts that stills time, that undoes materialities in the middle of things, that jettisons some intimacies to the space of risk and irrationality? You might be cautioned to gradually detach, to go on with your life, to slow down, to take your time. Go slow.

But butterflies are trying to tell us things. I suspect that this kind of logic – what I want to cheekily call ‘slow love’ – is tethered to a fundamentally racialized capitalist work ethic, one that assumes 1) the ongoingness of the loving subjects and 2) that investing more time and capital into a relationship will yield a more valuable product: a strong romantic bond. But some of us don’t have time to waste. I am suggesting that there is a radicality to loving fast in the battlefield of settler states, that it can be a form of worlding through which new pockets of consensual ethical intersubjectivity emerge. We know that the settler state is bloodthirsty: it hunts, maims, and, with a perverse legality, kills native people. It consigns us to a waning sociality such that we are continuously pushed closer and closer to death – this might manifest itself as obesity, as substance abuse, as mental illness, as incarceration etc. Settler colonialism is war, and native people are enemy forces that don’t have the option of forfeiting. This is a war that the settler state refuses to lose. It’ll apologize to us for wrongs wronged, launching itself into a present putatively bereft of guilt or grievous harm, but one that is nonetheless marked by death, by the aggressive extraction of resources from the land, by what Audra Simpson calls the “normalized crisis” of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. [2] Indigeneity is thus emptied of its symbolic weight vis-à-vis the genocidal teloses of containment, of assimilation, of dying out. Settler colonialism is an epistemic rupturing of everything, a steady bombardment whose intensity is felt unevenly across differently subjected native bodies. In a word: ours is a present that can only bear some of us, not all of us. Resistance doesn’t always feel like resistance, it sometimes feels lonely, it sometimes feels like bleeding out. [3]

Sara Ahmed writes: “Love is crucial to how individuals become aligned with collectives through their identification with an ideal, an alignment that relies on the existence of others who have failed that ideal.” [4] Where Ahmed is concerned with the transference of love from an object to a collective and its coterminous instantiation as an ideal (i.e, white supremacy, nationalism, multiculturalism), I am interested in the substance of ‘love’ as an ideal itself, how some bodies and not others fully enflesh love as such, how indigeneity – rendered through the biopolitical categories of ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘Indian’ – becomes love’s necessary aberration, its antithesis, its failure. Indigeneity is meant to self-destruct, not to love or be loved. What kinds of worlds, then, are possible if we were to move fast, if we were to fall hard?

In sum: I want forms of love in which lifes quickly fold into each other – sometimes lopsidedly – but nonetheless gestating a something that could help us endure, together. And, even in the event of separation, we might know how to love, better, next time. Instead of waiting for something to happen, what if we experimented with others, testing out more capacious intimacies that don’t condense into a trained public sensorium we might call the social. If decolonization, according to Eve Tuck and K Wayne Yang’s reading of Fanon, is “an unclean break from a colonial condition,” [5] perhaps we need more complex and messier forms of love, ones that can, in their otherworldliness, sustain native peoples’ attachments to themselves. Love might be our last hope.
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[1] This post is thought from my position as a monogamous (i.e., I cannot speak to experiences of polyamory), queer native person.
[2] Audra Simpson, “Reconciliation and its Discontents,” (presentation at World of Matter: Extractive Ecologies and Unceded Terrains, Montreal, Quebec, February 19-20, 2015).
[3] Phraseology from Lauren Berlant, “Public Feelings Salon with Lauren Berlant,” Vimeo video, 1:33:06, posted by BCRW Videos, April 25, 2011, https://vimeo.com/22854077.
[4] Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotions, (New York: Routledge, 2004): 124.
[5] Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization is not a Metaphor,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1, no. 1 (2012): 20, http://decolonization.org/index.php/des/article/view/18630/15554.

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One comment

  1. sunesiss · October 17, 2015

    I love your writing style. It takes you totally unawares and then you start to fall quickly without even knowing.

    Liked by 1 person

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