On occasions, in the proceedings of my more or less regularized episodes of midnight madness, post-dissociation, post- mania, I scroll through forums to alleviate the solitude that engrosses the Mad experience. A post about fragmentation caught my attention, it was on the necessity of fragmentation.
In the past several months, fragmentation and the post-modern experience has been a consistent theme in our video class. I was always perplexed with this idea of fragmentation. The trouble/blessing of fragmentation is multi-nodal. On one node, fragmentation involves the systemic disbanding of the self – particularly the racialized, gendered and colonized subject- by a mechanic macro political-economic order which unbashfully disassembles and retrofits our bodies and ideational faculties for the reproduction of our own enslavement. It is operational to the reifying forces of capitalism and statecraft. On another node, fragmentation signifies the dissolution of the myth of universality, the colonial methodologies of positivism and with that the decomposition of the limitingly divisive Cartesian self. At the node of the Mad experience, fragmentation is both a vexation and a mode of survival.
With that, I have been asking myself how I as a Mad person – a person living with a more lucid and coherent experience of periodic disassociation, temporal collapses , conflation of real and ‘pure’ imagination ( this is false because hallucinations come from a material place and are reflective of actual environments, conventions etc…) make sense of fragmentation? These are the experiences that govern my life and consciousness as I oscillate between different states of lucidity. Indeed, the normalization of discontinuous time is the condition for all under the hyper-mediated, hyper saturated, and hyper fragmentary life. This is the condition of everyday life. Resultantly, deconstructing and re-narrativizing his/herstory has become a project of many people in order to navigate the contemporary experience while simultaneously carving the path to navigate. My inability to focus stems from the same place when I begin something and quickly wander off to another node before completing the previous. I suppose what I would like to suggest is that this condition of distractedness and fragmentation is not necessarily a pathology, it is not something inherently defective, just as Madness is not a weakness. It is a different way of navigation.
Perhaps given the pretext of fragmentation as a norm – that is anyhow not consistent in its operation in that while these contradictory times are mediated through 10 second sound bites and infinite fleeting images, these very particular ways of fragmentation, like post-enlightenment methods, divide and compartmentalize in order to string together the grand narratives that keep living people docile and submissive – it is possible for us to re-conceptualize a different approach to fragmentation that allows us to move more fluidly and freely. ( I use us interchangeably to describe both Mad identifying peoples and non-mad identifying peoples)
I would like to stress that there is a difference between the common experience of fragmentation and post-modernity (I’m hesitant to use this word because there is no clear temporal historical break between modern and post-modern, but lacking a better one at the moment, it will have to do at the expense of being anachronistic.) and the experience of Mad peoples. Fragmentation of time and memory, is actually debilitating. Disassociation and disembodiment are visceral. Alienation and isolation is experienced at a level beyond the devastating alienation that typifies our societies. Self-harm, confusion and hallucinations are real. And of course stigma and discrimination. This is the real experience of everyday life, of navigating a very fragmentary reality and figuring out ways to piece things together to organize Reality. Ontology is experienced fluidly and subjectivity is experienced in multiples, time is bodily , these are possibilities I’ve learned from navigating fragmentation. The conflict occurs when bodily time in madness conflates with the demands of capitalist time. That is not to reduce the argument for the importance of flux and multitude to a ‘ i experienced it, therefore it is real’ status. These notions of ontology , subjectivity and rad difference hold their own ground and their own political rigour that are possible through the navigation of multiple planes of immanence (I don’t know how to describe the difference in words, as both experiences are realities and both the common experience and the mad experience are linked by ‘Reality’. I suppose the two experiences occur at different registers. ) While there are common roots , the two experience can not be regarded as one. The experience of Madness, because of its socio-economic stigmas should not be trivialized as something experienced by all. However, I do think it is possible to say that the two experiences are along the same continuum, both shaped by our environments and changing perceptual and cognitive modalities. Although Madness has existed before capitalism, the state and all their good deeds, there is undoubtedly an intensification of perceptual and affective dissonance in the contemporary experience that is perhaps further heightened through institutionalization and psychiatric industrialization.
How does fragmentation relate to survival? It allows for an escape from totalization and domination, it gives you the possibility of multiple paths, the ability to transform your circumstances. It means heterogeneity is okay At a more pragmatic level, it means dropping other psychological experiences, realities, subjectivit(ies) ,traumas and rhythms to navigate what we ought to piece together to survive – to perform normality. Of course, fragmented experiences of not self-contained and what bleeds into consciousness and gets re- membered into the self(community) informs the knowledge of the struggles and oppressions we ought to resist. Like aphorisms, it leaves enough space for text be convivial and affirmative of life, celebration, movement and transformation. Fragmentation does not necessarily relinquish history, it does not mean removal from the real. Rather it gives subjects the power of navigation, the agency in cartographizing the contingent real(ities) – collective as well as singular. It is a different way of going about history by bringing contingency and memory together at intersecting planes. For Mad folks, every experience of madness instructs us in how to make sense of ‘The World’ . Reflecting upon how we experience what we experience and why we do so, in both Mad and non-Mad states is critical to learning self-actualization and self-(re)presentation – which are necessary for mental-emotional stability as well as political agency. Much of the time, it is a failed venture. However, occasionally, analyzing our own madness does teach us a thing or two about survival and the postmodern condition.