Otherwise Concerned

All of us are subject to our capitalisms and our democracies, our legalities and our governmentalities, our educations and our medications, our communications and our entertainments, our scientisms and our technocracies, our humanisms and our humanitarianisms, but we do not all endure this subjection in the same way.  Those who are even able to recognize it variously endorse, exploit, resist, or capitulate, but none of these responses are acceptable.  They only reinforce our subjection in any case.  The only acceptable response, though it is always tenuous and unguaranteed, is otherly concern.

To be otherwise concerned in this sense is to refuse to be primarily concerned with the structures of subjection themselves, neither in resistance nor in acquiescence, but to show oneself to be concerned precisely with those things that the structures of subjection do not recognize.  This act of concern may sometimes appear to be oppositional and sometimes to be affirmative, but it is never primarily either of these things.  It is an act whose appearance in relation to the structures of subjection is only ever a provisional appearance, an appearance that is only the remainder of its true concern, which is with something other and something otherwise.

This is not to say that the act of otherly concern does not recognize the structures of subjection.  It does certainly see these things, and its response is always a response to them.  It sees them, and it gives them their due.  It renders to them what was theirs already.  It does so, however, as if it is concerned, not with them, but only with something beyond them, only with something that they can not recognize, something that might be called justice or ethics or hospitality.

Otherly concern, therefore, is never provisional, but it always appears this way.  It is neither strategic nor tactical, though it may appear as either or both.  It may vote, for example, or it may refrain from voting, but in neither case will it put faith in this activity.  Its faith will always be in something other, something to which this activity can only hope to gesture.  It will never have faith in the conditional choice of a political system or a party or a candidate, but only in the unconditional something other that these things fail always to recognize.

This otherly concern is, therefore, the only acceptable response to the things that subject us, because it responds, not in ways that the structures of our subjection might recuperate, but in ways that continually call to what is essentially beyond recuperation.  This kind of response opens itself to the possibility of responding to the uniqueness of its subjection, to the unsubstitutability of this subjection, but in such a way that it cannot be reduced to the response that it makes to these things.

All this comes at the cost, however, of being beyond any guarantee.  There will never be any guarantee of the other with which I am concerned, or of the concern that I have with the other, or of the activity that comes from my concern.  Indeed, unless the other itself intervenes, it is always guaranteed that my concern and my activity will be faulty and insufficient.  More practically, it will always remain possible, even likely, that the structures of my subjection will not recognize the otherly concern that I am showing. Though my concern will be elsewhere, I will always remain physically imperilled by the things to which I am subject.

The hope that otherly concern offers, then, is only the most tenuous hope.  It is the hope that my concern for the other will somehow be justified by the other itself, though this possibility remains radically unguaranteed.  It is the hope that, as I am concerned with the other that is justice and ethics and hospitality and love, this other will in fact come, quite apart from anything that my concern might deserve, but merely because it condescends to come.  It is a hope that is barely a hope. It is hope that finds its place only among faith and love.  It is a hope that, in my mouth, says only and continually, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come.”


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