On Unprecedence

On Unprecedence


What has been will be again,

What has been done will be done again

There is nothing new under the sun.

            Ecclesiastes 1:9


Now is a time for bible verses. Panic always gives birth to a Biblical tradition. My father called and said, “People better read revelations.” Revelations were being made everywhere. The entire world began to spin in accordance to different axes and differentials. For the first time in a long time it felt like we truly had no idea about where we might be headed. We in the 21st Century struggle with Armageddon as a concept. Every Armageddon has already occurred. Every evil has already occurred. Every plague has already begun. The 21st Century suffers from its futurism. We are always already modern or modernizing. We are always already giving birth to the future and to give birth to the future is to give birth to progress. We are always already progressing into the future. And by, “We,” I mean, the “We” who “I” may never be yet only aspire to, and in that fruitless aspiration, devour myself, those who love and look like me, and the dreams, nightmares and despairs of ancestors too stuck in shadows to be named. This, “We” that I hope to disavow, in the 21st Century, understands progress to be as inevitable as time itself. That is until the unprecedented occurs. Unprecedence reeks with a negative presence. The never-before-ness reveals that much of the machinations of the world are, in fact, machinations. Unprecedence reveals the paradigm’s motion: unprecedence reveals how the repetition of the paradigm is a reflection of a pattern of relation, consumption and implementation of the political-mythological onto-ethico-epistemological operations of the world’s current terms of order.


From the outset, we must resist the tendency to suture unprecedence firmly to the negative signifier. The assumption that destabilization equals negativity is one that we cannot accept. Furthermore, any idea that simplifies the unprecedented within the terms of a positive or purposeful revolution unsees the violence, the murder, and the death associated with the flood unprecedented events dispenses upon a population. While the former is a posture that lends itself to the figure of the Conspiracy theorist, the latter is a posture of the Ideologue. Both in their fixation on the negative presence of destabilization resolve the unprecedented into epistemologically reconcilable frameworks. The Conspiracy theorist makes the unprecedented the always-meant-to-occur Future intentioned by a shadow Conspirator. Dressed in politico-gnostic garb, the secret knowledge of these theorist intend to speak fear in the hearts of the innocent. Contrary to what the conspiracy theorist would have you believe, they are actually far more afraid of the great conspiracy that comes from being alive than they insist. The conspiracy theorist is eternally attached to the idea that everything happens for a reason, and that every conspiracy is attached to an intentionality. The real conspiracy is that much of why millions die is not always attached to any reason or intention whatsoever. Or even worse, the real conspiracy is that there is no conspiracy at all and things are operating as they should and will and do. Death, disease, chaos and disaster are consistent with the ways of the world. Destabilization is the only stabilization there is and ever was. A conspiracy theorist is forever running away from both meaningless horror and horror that is not concealed but open, free, honest, and clear – having nothing to hide at all.

The Ideologue, on the other hand, is occasionally confused with the optimist for their ability to find the “bright-side” of the mayhem almost immediately. Even as people die, the Ideologue attaches a glory to the destabilization. There is always a space of redemption in the mouth of the living for all those who will never be redeemed. The Ideologue struggles with the abysmal chaos that unprecedence truly produces. Unprecedence never leaves it presence unscathed. Its destabilization is a devouring that often affects those who already positioned on the destabilized planes of worldliness far more than any person in power or control. If the unprecedented event is truly unprecedented, its magnitude would shake the foundations of space, time, knowledge, being, feeling and sharing. From within the range of its plenitude, persons of various vulnerabilities will fall, will hit the dust, like heads of Kings in ancient revolutions. Yet, still, I speak for myself, and the intensities which figure my own bodily schema when I state: there are no amount of Black bones – either in revolution or pandemic – that will justify the means in a meaningless world. The ontodicy that Black life presents the Maxim of Life is without parallel in “normal” as well as “urgent” times. Thus, we cannot gather enough skulls to amend a scar that knows no cure.


The eternal recurrence of unprecedence says nothing of the qualitatively unprecedented nature of every reoccurring unprecendence. It is the quality of having qualities unlike any other quality that makes an unprecedented thing unprecedented. And because we live in a world arranged around the objectives of Epistemology, the emergence of the unprecedented threatens to destabilize the sense of order that grounds the axiological sense of Thought that currently possesses those who have access to being considered a “We.” What this does not mean is that those of us outside of the collective “We” will not suffer from these emergent ruptures in epistemic solidities. But what it mainly serves to underline is the fact that the unprecedented initiates a series of destabilizing factors. History – as both the passage and transmission of collective memory written in text, theory, story, memory, flesh, biology, fantasy and notion – is one of the most parasitic things we possess. History traps not only the imagination from envisioning possible alternative futures, but it also holds the consideration of unprecedented presents – that linger in the abyss beyond good and evil – eternally at bay. The possibility of analogizing the present with the conditions of the past is predicated on the insistence that there is no such thing as new. We are forever haunted by this specter and the world remains the same through this cathexis. For if the present moment is truly unprecedented then all of the ecclesiastes of the past become synthetic material for the production of an unforeseen horizon. To be in a spacetime of unprecedence is to be-with-in-a-space-time of an unforeseen horizon.


The revelation lies in considering one’s place within this unforeseen horizon, which comes with the warning, that the time before this time was a time of heroes and men who were like gods. Perhaps, the time has come that we find ourselves a different relationship to safety, to being saved, and having salvation itself.

This is the holiest we ever were. Our gods were in the holding cells. We awakened our gods and we left them there, because we never needed gods again. We did not have wicked gods so they understood… They stood when we entered, happy to see us.

Dionne Brand, An Ars Poetica from the Blue Clerk

At the risk of sounding extreme, I want to suggest that: Every day is new. Every being is without precedence. Every moment under the sun is unforeseen and the new exist constantly with and alongside a series of patterns and repetition. Panic always give birth to a Biblical tradition. Let this unprecendence give birth to a different constellation of wisdoms.

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