Author Topic: On Preferring Not To  (Read 1421 times)

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Kaspar Hauser

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On Preferring Not To
« on: October 13, 2017, 12:58:42 am »
Do you want to analyze this attitude of Bartleby, the Scrivener?

What is the significance of "preferring not to"?

We could look at this from more than one angle, one being the implications of having this attitude in the workplace, and another angle from the angle of reproduction and the will to live in general.

Some excerpts from an article from Spring 2001, Preferring not to:The Paradox of Passive Resistance in Herman Melville’s “Bartleby”:

Quote from: Jane Desmarais
“Bartleby, the Scrivener” (1853) is a story of passive resistance. And as the narrator is forced to admit, “Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance.” Refusing to kow-tow to the demands of his employer, and working to his own individual rule, Bartleby represents a challenge to capitalist, corporatist ideologies.


From Bartleby the Scrivener “I prefer not to” A consideration:

Quote from: Ivor Griffiths
Bartleby, by uttering the words “I would prefer not to” effectively, as Cindy Weinstein states, “goes on strike without ever asserting that he has done so”.

There is an element of irony given the narrator’s profession, which of course deals in rules, protects capitalism, and defends the principal of ownership. As the story progresses the narrator actually comes to believe that Bartleby may have a point and that “all the justice and all the reason is on the other side” (Melville H., 1853). He even begins to view the conditions in which the scriveners work as being oppressive, detailing other men’s wealth in writing and copying endless documents to protect the principle of ownership in the political superstructure of capitalism; which is of course epitomised in Wall Street itself. The phrase “I would prefer not to” also suggests a mooted rebellion against capitalism, and many Transcendentalists were opposed to Capitalism on philosophical grounds.

The entire system of property owning, and the principle of ownership itself, is dependent upon accurate and reliable record keeping. Bartleby in “preferring not to” check his work and thus safeguard the reliability of the information that they are recording is highly significant. The narrator eventually abandons Bartleby by moving away from him.

An excerpt from Exploring the Most Enigmatic Line in American Literature:

Quote
Now that “I prefer not to” is one of the most mysterious and enigmatic sentences in American literature because just what it means to say, is not "I won’t do it, try to make me do it," but I “prefer not to.”  Really, that’s a sentence that really does ask questions about coercion in the work environment and how important it is, how much we cherish that code of manners and courtesies that create a pretense between employers and their employees, create the fiction between employers and employees that the employees have any choice in the matter.

Can you imagine if your boss said "Would you mind getting me coffee?" The discourse of our work world has evolved in such a way that it’s impossible anymore to say, “I’d prefer not to.” 

The story of Bartleby is of course a terrible one.  Our narrator not only offers Bartleby the option of coming home to his own home. Because he cannot get rid of Bartleby he moves out of his own office. But Bartleby won’t leave then either and the next people who rent the office have Bartleby hanging around on the stairs.  Bartleby is eventually sent to the tombs in New York, where imprisoned, he dies. 

Melville’s not kind to his readers.  He doesn’t feel the obligation to pamper us, in fact, probably because by the time Melville wrote Bartleby, the Scrivener, he was almost as poor as Bartleby.  And he wasn’t sure he had any readers anymore anyway, and so he just spoke the truth. 

What Melville says to us, reminds us of, is that our systems produce persons so damaged that although we may put them out of our minds, evict them from our offices, they are still there.

From Herman Melville's Bartleby and the steely strength of mild rebellion:

Quote from: Stuart Kelly
The story of a 19th-century office worker who manages to refuse the rules of his society without ever saying no is a story of metaphysical defiance.

Most of literature’s glorious proponents of defiance – I am thinking of Melville’s own Captain Ahab, but also Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, or Steerpike in Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy – are defying the person in power, not the structure of power. Satan still wants there to be a universal monarchy, it’s just he wants to be its monarch.

Bartleby is different. His is a more powerful defiance; he is a figure who negates all the conventional, social, political and theological norms. He is absolutely outside the influence of what Jacques Lacan called the “Big Other”, that inner/outer voice that makes us gravitate towards a force that sanctions us. Bartleby is the politest form of rejecting all the reasons for which we have politeness.

JG Ballard once wrote of a future Adolf Hitler emerging from the “timeless wastes” of “modern shopping malls”. Melville, I think, offers a more dangerously hopeful idea: that revolutionary resistance comes from a man in a conventional suit mildly stating there are things he would rather not do. It is, for Bartleby, the route to a kind of martyrdom.

falling off the edge of the world


From Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, by Nikil Saval

Quote
‘Bartleby’ is a story of the only kind of resistance a clerk could offer: passive resistance.

Note:  I have to thank Maughan, who initially posted the excepts from von Hartman's Philosophy of the Unconscious.  I had never read Bartleby until he mentioned "I would prefer not to."

Now I find that this short story captures a fundamental tenet of our unspoken creed.
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

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raul

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Re: On Preferring Not To
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2017, 06:49:43 am »
Hentrich,
First let us thank Mr.Maughan and you for this much interesting comment. You see, this indirectly reminds me of my uncle. After finishing his military service, he went to work for Hoechst, the powerful German pharmaceutical company. He started there and retired there. He worked there for 33 years.

Hoechst settled here because the Stroessner regime allowed no strikes, no problems at all A very good office worker. The thing is that Hoechst was part of the Siemens, the company who was involved in providing the chemicals for the concentration camps. And also Hoechst, as I remember, had their own inmantes who worked to death. After war, Siemens the trust was split into different companies in order to avoid the attention of the authorities, Hoechst was one of them. But now what remains of Hoechst is Sanofi, the pharmaceutical giant. My dutiful uncle could get his salary because of all the moneys that Hoechst took from the German authorities during the war and then invested them in Paraguay.

This comment also reminds me of my father, who as an efficient accountant, applied all his knowledge and experience for other men´s wealth. And now all those wealthy people forgot him completely.

Take care and drive safely.

Kaspar Hauser

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Re: On Preferring Not To
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2017, 09:59:16 am »
Thanks for the commentary, Raul.  When I was amped to study math and computer science formally, I have to say that, I really did appreciate the grant from the government at the time.  I mean, I appreciated finally being able to attend community college and then the state university.   

The thing is, when it was all over, I realized that I did not want to work in any office, and that I would probably never have a job that suited me as well as being maintenance worker / janitor / groundskeeper for the park.  I liked to work outside and usually away from other people.  It's a real quandary.  I still like to study books intensely and work through exercises, but the thought of reporting to an office seems to be a Kafkaesque nightmare.

I never wanted to apply knowledge for other men´s wealth, not even my own.

I think it is unfortunate that universities have become what they are today, and if I were born in the Middle Ages, I think I would have no choice but to join a monestary so as to have the opportunity to spend my life studying.   Whether or not I believed in all the hocus pocus would be irrelevant. 

This world sometimes forces us to be full of shiit for our daily bread.
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

~ Tabak und Kaffee Süchtigen ~

raul

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Re: On Preferring Not To
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2017, 02:30:34 pm »
Hentrich,
"This world sometimes forces us to be full of shiit for our daily bread."
Yes,that´s true. The problem is that we never learn and we still bring babies who will be full of **** for the daily bread in the future.

"The thought of reporting to an office seems to be a Kafkaesque nightmare."
You see,Hentrich, we are in a militarized world so although we may be civilians, reporting to an office is part of a military routine. We obey orders.
Sergeant Hentrich and Private Holden, you two, Dismissed!

If you were born in the Middle Ages, maybe you would wear a helmet,ride a horse and fight Saladdin in the Crusades, then come back and join the monks in meditation and solitude.

Holden

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On Preferring Not To
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2017, 10:04:14 am »
Today my boss threatened me,while his stooges were tittering at my predicament, with a domestic enquiry.Here's a Catch-22 situation for you: you are being given impossible deadlines-if you don't meet them- you are on trial, if you made mistakes while trying to meet then-well, you are on trial just the same.

Normally, such a situation would have made me terribly afraid,but it is surprising that I took it very calmly-something in me wants to see how bad can it get. If there is an enquiry,then the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Does it make me feel afraid? No.Really.
You wrote about my wish to starve myself. Well, at present my BMI is 19.7( I think one is officially in the danger zone below 18.5),but you want to know what is really helping me to  get closer to my vision? Horror Fiction.Its funny that you wrote that yesterday ,for I was thinking about it yesterday too. Let me describe the background a bit.

I have succeeded in really,really restricting my appetite quite well.However, as some of my posts would testify,regulating the libido is a different and far more difficult ball game  altogether.
Well, tell you what-I just might have stumbled upon the cure. Horror Fiction. I have found that whenever I am reading horror fiction-my libido almost disappears. So, I had this vision yesterday: I am laying alone in a quite room.There are horror books strewn everywhere in the room & I am holding one in my hand too.
But as I am terribly weak physically I am being able to read it only with a great amount of difficulty.
In the end,the books slips off my hands & at the same point in time I close my eyes for good.

Do you remember-it is mentioned in the biography,the one which the two of us have read-by Cartwright,that at his death ,his library contained more than 100 books dealing with the paranormal.

Maybe it is a clue-maybe those books helped him to embrace death. Maybe they would help , first to extinguish the libido for good and then to sweep away the residual husk of a body.
What a splendid vision!
 
Please understand,horror is the true reality for me. It is bringing me closer to the point where I do not want to be around anymore,however, if I do go away it would not be in a violent manner but by starvation.
I do want to leave for real, you know. Much as I admire Schopenhauer and Cioran I do not want to live as long as they did.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2017, 10:09:46 am by Holden »
La Tristesse Durera Toujours                                  (The Sadness Lasts Forever ...)
-van Gogh.

Holden

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Death of Mr.HP Lovecraft
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2017, 10:20:38 am »
Lovecraft lived frugally, subsisting on an inheritance that was nearly depleted by the time of his last years. He sometimes went without food to be able to pay the cost of mailing letters.Eventually, he was forced to move to meagre lodgings with his surviving aunt. He was also deeply affected by the suicide of his correspondent Robert E. Howard. Lovecraft died in the way a true starving artist should (essentially starving to death for his art).

A coincidence? I think not.
La Tristesse Durera Toujours                                  (The Sadness Lasts Forever ...)
-van Gogh.

Kaspar Hauser

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Re: On Preferring Not To
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2017, 10:34:14 am »
So, in essence, what you are saying is that "you prefer not to" live.

If you prefer not to live, then, it goes without saying that you prefer not to care what your boss thinks of you.

Of course, speaking for myself, I am obsessed with food.  As a matter of fact, although countless mathematicians throughout the ages have certainly died from malnutrition, I think that, if you want to even tinker around with studying math, you will forfeit this vision of voluntary starvation.

The brain is an organ, as you know; and while the entire universe is but a representation in that brain, the brain-as-bodily-organ is a mere appendage of the body-as-thing-in-itself.

"You" - the "I" which thinks and feels - will hardly be able to concentrate or focus without keeping that "mere appendage" we call the brain healthy by feeding the body nutritious food.

As you have said before, what one man can offer another is very little.  This is not only because of limited resources or enlightened self-interest, but because each individual is wired differently.  Not only that, but one has one's hands full keeping one's own head and life together.

I am not as enthusiastic as you are about your vision of extinguishing the libido for good and then to sweep away the residual husk of a body.

The residual husk of a body will be swept away soon enough whether you wish it to or not.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not questioning your logic.  I see how this vision of yours may be older than mankind.  Perhaps you have stumbled upon some knowledge older than the aborigines (as Lovecraft might say), a knowledge predating our species, predating life on earth. 

In other words, you just may have the bull by the horns.

In the meantime, I suppose I prefer to eat some more eggs from the chicken factory, have a few more shots strong black coffee, puff tobacco smoke through the living corpse, and work through mathematics exercises from "school books."

I can't help but encourage you to feed your body/brain nutritious food.

Needless to say, your Vision is quite morbid, to say the least.   ;)
« Last Edit: October 16, 2017, 12:40:44 am by Non Serviam »
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

~ Tabak und Kaffee Süchtigen ~

Kaspar Hauser

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Re: On Preferring Not To
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2020, 08:39:10 am »
"Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" is a short story by the American writer Herman Melville, first serialized anonymously in two parts in the November and December 1853 issues of Putnam's Magazine, and reprinted with minor textual alterations in his The Piazza Tales in 1856. In the story, a Wall Street lawyer hires a new clerk who, after an initial bout of hard work, refuses to make copies or do any other task required of him, with the words "I would prefer not to."

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Hence, the great refusal ... and the ever-present possibility of starving to death rather than acquiesce to systemic stupidity.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2020, 08:44:40 am by Sticks and Stones »
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

~ Tabak und Kaffee Süchtigen ~

Kaspar Hauser

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Re: On Preferring Not To
« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2020, 02:47:04 pm »
Definition of mooted

moot
1
a. Subject to debate; arguable or unsettled

b. Of no practical importance; irrelevant

2. Law
a. Not presenting an open legal question, as a result of the occurrence of some event definitively resolving the issue, or the absence of a genuine case or controversy.

b. Of no legal significance; hypothetical.

as for "a mooted rebellion" :

 moot·ed
1.
a. To bring up (a subject) for discussion or debate. See Synonyms at broach
b. To discuss or debate: "The notion of eliminating the corporate income tax has been mooted in tax circles for years" (Francis X. Clines).
2. To render (a subject or issue) irrelevant: "The F.C.C.'s ability to regulate the broadcast media rested on the finite nature of the spectrum, and that has been mooted by the infinity of cable" (William Safire).

Does a mooted rebellion against systemic stupidity imply that all resistance is futile, that is, that the momentum behind the tide of the raw consequences of institutionalized stupidity is so powerful that our rebellion against it is simply irrelevant?   I prefer not to ... exist? Who would miss us besides those who depend on us? I prefer not to ... prepare a meal to eat?  I prefer not to ... wake up, get out of bed, throw water on my head? 

I prefer not to vote, for starters.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2020, 02:56:35 pm by Sticks and Stones »
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

~ Tabak und Kaffee Süchtigen ~

Kaspar Hauser

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Re: On Preferring Not To
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2020, 01:46:29 am »
a subjectivist rebellion in this age of oppressive objectivism
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

~ Tabak und Kaffee Süchtigen ~