A footnote on the milieu workshop at apass, Brussels, conceived and hosted by Peter Stamer and Pierre Rubio




[1] A story in which someone enters a bar, walks straight up to the counter, sits down on a wooden stool, looks at the bartender, asks him for a drink, takes a sip once the drink’s placed in front of him, lets his eyes travel, having the impression that he is the only one who observes, orders a second drink by signalling the bartender with two fingers rising, decides to slow down with drinking, notices a guy who takes the stool to the left of him, observes, being the only one who is observing he thinks, the way the guy drinks, thinks that this man appears him to be a professional man which means that he is self-assured about the way he sits, about the way he places his elbow on the counter, about the fashion in which he holds the tumbler and shakes it, tilts it to let the alcohol run down the inside of the glass which means that the self-assured man knows what he is doing and is not afraid showing it, when this professional guy looks over to this someone sitting at the counter to his right, miserable and alone, and suceeds to, with the very same look, look through this someone who now starts to feel like being stared at by icy blue eyes, not capable of resisting the urge to look away so he looks away and loses the challenge which makes the other guy to the left feel superior, very much so, which provokes the guy on the left, already under the influence, to put two of his fingers in the glass of the guy on the right who doesn’t dare to say anything, doesn’t dare to react which is being read as chickening out by the fingering one, but the guy on the right whose whisky has been touched knows that nobody is watching and that he is not up for a fight and that the bartender ignores that hostile gesture of the professional man and that he most probably is going to lose the fight if he reacts to the provocation so that he decides to get up and wants to head somewhere else which is being read as accepting the challenge by the professional man who gets up, too, mumbling a few words and comes closer to the other’s face to scare the chicken shit out of him who now doesn’t want to chicken out, who doesn’t have the chance to chicken out, who doesn’t chicken out, not wanting to be a chicken, and, already on his feet, being confronted with this tall man, rushes his head forward in such a way that his forehead hits the bridge of the nose of the professional man who, surprised by the unexpected move, goes down, half because of the blow, half because of the surprise which has also astonished the so far chickening out man who doesn’t chicken out anymore who feels happy that he hasn’t had a third glass, a fact which grants him the upper hand in this probable, no, becoming fight to which the professional man decides to contribute by getting back on his feet, to clench his fist and to land a straight blow in the centre of the other’s face, when two men sitting at a table watching two men being engaged in a bar fight that nobody has seen coming since nobody has been observing, nor the two of them who are sitting at the table and by chance discussing the ethical protocol of collaboration who, exactly when the forehead of the chicken guy cracks open the nose of the professional man, they interrupt their talk and take notice of a rupture of things, a breach of bar protocol, an illegitimate behaviour pattern of cave men long thought being eradicated which renders the first one at the table speechlees while watching the man on the right stool retaliating the smack on his face which makes the first one at the table get up from his chair, not exactly knowing what to do, how to interfere, happy that the bartender notices what’s going on who, being afraid about his furniture being wrecked or being afraid about the health of others or being afraid about not being afraid, without further ado steps in between to stop the fight which impresses the first guy at the table, being shook by the event and its aftermaths, since the first man at the table feels the irony of what them, two so called middle aged men, have been talking about right at that moment the content of which has had something to do with something like the necessity of being capable of agreeing to disagree when it comes to any form of collaboration, something like a need for mutuality, the attempt to understand each other right before the fists of the two men at the counter have interrupted their philosophical talk, and I sitting on my own at a table next to the two men, having raised my head due to contemplating on some thoughts about this book I have been reading in which Prince Myshkin, the hero, is constantly being treated like an idiot in regards to his unconditional behaviour towards any social or intellectual pattern which makes him not only forgive any wrongdoings but also enables him to take the blame full heartedly since he cannot help it which turns their ethics, being more or less understood as morals, upside down, and being taken out of my admiration of Dostoevsky’s skillfulness to portrait characters by the way they talk, their speech acts and not by describing them, by the first guy at the table who has been shocked by the violent rupture and therefore yells out what has woken me up from my day dreaming and makes me pay attention to both men who resume their speech after a state of paralysis and who, without noticing me listening, develop a thought in which the first man explains that the etymological roots of the term offense can be derived from ob-fendere meaning strike against an insult which itself can be derived from in-sultare or saltare in Latin, a meaning which could also be read as an invitation to dance with one another, on which the other man who has been scribbling something the whole time interjects that in this case here, saltare is being interpreted in the meaning of fighting back rather than an invitation which stops the communication in one sudden move, which here has been executed by a simple head bang because one of the fighters has felt this territory to be trespassed where there is no trespassing, and yet, says the first man, the power of offense is handed over to the one who commits or better produces the offense which means that he is granted the power by the one who claims being offended rather than not giving the other the power, a simple gesture of resisting, which makes me lean back and rethink Prince Myshkin’s moves not as being idiotic but as not accepting the rules of pride and honour as something worth fighting for but as something being idiotic in order to mask one’s lack of empathy since what else should ‚disgrace’ or ‚lose one’s face’ or ‚accept being offended’ mean than accepting a power, a force, a ruling system outside of myself, and even by disagreeing with it, I accept its being in power, and if me, if I can abstain from being ruled by these rules, I actually can call myself an idiot which is actually derived not from Latin, but from Greek meaning ‚private citizen’, a man who doesn’t share the same set of laws with the polis and yet has full citizenship granted, being part without accepting to have a part, when, before I can finish my thought, the bartender who for sure is not sharing my new born attitude on idiots as private citizens, exercises his right to free his bar from both fighting cocks, the professional man and the man formerly thought of himself being a chicken, by dragging both of them out of the bar with a little help from his friends to hold up his private property, to cleanse his territory from both rule breakers and to maintain rules of civility while the two men at the neighbouring table continue their conversation by discussing the notion of difference as being precarious, very precarious, instable, since accepting difference seems to be the basis of civility but we often don’t know if civility is based upon tolerance or just indifference towards the other, if we fully embrace the other for his and not instead of his difference which once such a civility of togetherness is accepted eradicates offense as a source of conflict since being offended actually interprets the other’s difference as a threat, wanting the other to become the same like me or, in other words, adds the second man, wanting the other to become the same indifferent and call this tolerance or equality, and, says the first man at the table, by that confuse equality with equivalence where difference is negated as a source of otherness which is actually not equi-valence but rather the opposite, while the other, and here the other dialogue partner of this discussion is meant, while the other man wants to point out that equality is the premise of difference without superimposing a notion of equivalence which actually would lead to indifference towards the other, and once the premise is at work it’s in need of being actualized by and through collaboration which is the aim of togetherness and not the other way round since collaboration doesn’t produce togetherness-in-sameness, but togetherness-in-difference which asks of course for a certain logic of bonding that keeps different people together who are not indifferent to each other, what in this case wouldn’t be called togetherness but disconnectedness so that collaboration becomes the infinite, impossible, potential task of some ever unfinishable togetherness, and this is a thought I haven’t been able to really follow, one because the evening crowd has been coming in and the place has become really noisy, two because those talking two guys have been so enthused by their own thinking process that they have paced up their speed of talking which has made it hard to follow every word, three because I am not so familiar with their way of thinking, their train of thoughts but what I understand from what they have said or what it makes me think of or what I associate with their line of discourse is that if the fighting cocks at the bar wouldn’t have fought with each other they would have proved their difference without having to show it during their fight in order to prove to both of them that they are not the same and that they are bothered by it, so, this is what I dedcuct from the discussion, sitting together in silence doesn’t mean togetherness but rather difference of being whereas fights or arguments or any conflict actually makes people who think that they are different and have to fight for it together become the same, partners in crime, turns togetherness into sameness, which means that the only way to prove one’s difference if this has to be proven at all is to do nothing, which is a problematic notion, since nothing is not being the same as withoutness, for withoutness always relates to something which is not there whereas nothing is the absolute absence of anything so that the one needs being without the other in order to be different, but this withoutness means being without, with-out, this with meaning with without, bound to a without but not to nothing which could mean that being different needs a without but cannot exist free from anything, cannot exist in nothing, which leads to a paradox that if the one is different with-without the other, togetherness of two different people functions the same way meaning that being without the other is the premise for togetherness, it’s the unrealized potential of togetherness, the only difference to being with someone lies in the fact that this togetherness is actualized by the presence, the physical presence, the incorporation of presence of the other at this very moment but it is definitely already there without the actual presence of the other which implies that now, I am being together, if I like it or not, with the two guys talking at the table, the professional man, the chicken man, the bartender, with the crowd rushing in and squeezing me at my table, spilling wine over my book that I was so eager to finish reading, with the boys and girls looking for a one night stand or for a relationship or to soothe their grief or to looking for anything at all, just being empty and drown their emptiness in a glass of wine and another one and another one, that I am, if I like it or not, being part of something I don’t know even know how to pronounce it other than togetherness, that I am ready to insult everyone which in the end means to dance with them, their thoughts, their glasses, their bodies, their emotions and affects, with the cold-bloodedness of the two fighting cocks who, as I can see now, have managed to get back in the bar again, hiding behind two tall men who are just entering the premise, without having the bartender noticing it who so clearly has ordered them not to come back ever but apparently they haven’t wanted to comply with the order, chatting with each other as if nothing has happened before, smiling, patting on their backs as if they are buddies, a bit instable on their feet, somehow shaky due to the alcohol that is still being pumped through their bodies, approaching the table of the two talking guys who now have beheld both of them, the first one being surprised by this approach, curiously looking up to the professional man whose gestures are still very decisive and self-assured when he asks them to buy them a drink at the counter since they won’t get any due to this little, harmless, insignificant incident from a couple of minutes before as the chicken man says with a wry smile, and flips a 20 Euro bill on the table, between the glasses which contain stale beer, between the moist beer mats on which the second guy has been scribbling letters during their conversation, no, rather drawing them with some meticulous care as if he wants to be distracted from listening too attentively to the other’s lenghty discourse on the ethics of collaboration and rather strives to turn his mind to another activity, an automatic one which is supposed to open some other strings of thoughts whilst listening in order to interject once in a while a question, a quote, an annotation, a name to ask the other for precision who is now rendered silent, with his mouth open, by the impudent request of the professional man to buy them a drink with this bill on the table part of which hides the scribbling of the other man’s notes who takes his glass, knocks the stale liquid down, looks into the eyes of his compadre, gets up, silently, without a word, takes his jacket that is hung over the back of his chair, pushing the chair back so that he can get up, seeing that his interlocutor follows him, and both leave the premise, without looking into the eyes of the two men, neither hastily nor slowly, leaving the 20 Euro bill on the table untouched between the moist beer mats on top of one there is an empty beer glass, on the other one a half-full one which was the one of the mostly talking man who didn’t have time to drink because he was talking a lot about the ethics of collaboration, and this glass is now taken up by the professional man who brings it to his lips to drink from it, but not finishing the beer, instead offering it to his new friend, the before chickening out man who gratefully takes it and drinks the residual liquid, empties the glass but instead putting it back on the table, keeping it in his hand, taking the 20 Euro bill, looking at the professional man and they go away from the table, steering to some other place as a couple of girls spot the empty table to sit down at the table which alarms me, so I bend forward, quickly, before the girls can grab the chairs and conquer their new territory, reach out for the beer mat on which the mostly listening man has scribbled, feel the moist texture between my finger tips and pull it towards me, holding it close to my eyes since the bartender has dimmed the light to make the inflowing crowd feel at home and spend more on their drinks, and I can make out six letters put next to each other with every letter being ornamented and embellished, embedded in a landscape of lines so that the word blends in a maze of orthogonals and diagonals, a chart of abstract points and dots, holding the mat a bit more away from my eyes, turning it towards a bulb the light of which helps me to reveal that the letters actually compose a word the not so talkative guy drew during the last hour of their talk about collaboration, and the word spells something like –