Knowing Is Knowledge II
Bethlehem Shoals: On the table from an earlier phone call: the significance of the "knowledge is power" tat. Is this a chain of inferences, or is one a critique of the other? If it’s a critique, that raises the question of why you'd get "knowledge is power" on your arm just to tear it down. I don't have a crossed-out swastika on my shoulder; it's implicit already.
Silverbird5000: This whole line of thought presumes that the version of knowledge is power that Amare is addressing is the Foucauldian one.
BS: Right, that he thinks power is bad, or at least problematic
SB5K: This is true....but he doesn't want to give up on knowledge entirely.
BS: Or could it be that he doesn't entirely want to give up on power? As you pointed out, it's most strange that an NBA player would expand on the knowledge side, not the power side. Maybe this is all about him getting more powerful.
SB5K: Right, but then why say "knowing is knowledge"?? Why not, "power is powerful" or something like that?
BS: Unless the point is to critique the “knowledge is power” critique of knowledge.
SB5K: But to critique Foucault “from the right”, as it were, is to come full circle back to the Enlightenment tradition. It isn't about power, it's about saving knowledge from power.
BS: But that assumes that "knowledge is power" comes first and is answered with “no, knowing is knowledge.” What if you reversed the order?
SB5K: Interesting. Say more.
BS: If the statement were "knowing is knowledge,” and someone goes "actually, knowledge is power"
SB5K: Here we have to abandon the negative reading of knowledge is power, i.e. Foucault's version.
BS: Not necessarily. It’s a cautionary tale: Be careful of knowing, it might turn into knowledge.
SB5K: Maybe, but then we have to figure out why Amare go TWO tattoos in order to warn people about...the dangers of knowing? Like, is that something he's really that concerned about? Does "knowledge" means something different in tattoo1 than in tattoo 2. It goes through a transformation.
BS: Yes! Knowledge is good when it's just well-intentioned knowing. But watch out, because there's a fine line between that and power. Actually, that has a lot to do with D'Antoni's coaching style, the way it's both authoritative and somewhat anti-proscriptive. Or the Suns offense: structured without being scripted.
SB5K: This gets into what I wanted to say about Nash. I mean, if there's anyone in the league who people think of as knowledge is power (in the positive, useful sense, not the negative Foucault), it’s Nash, right? They say, “this guy has so much knowledge, he doesn't even need power [Amare].”
BS: Could it be that he’s learned from Nash, like “really, knowing shit helps. It brings knowledge, and that’s the real power, as opposed to what I thought in 2005.” That fits in with the rebirth narrative, Black Jesus, etc.
SB5K: Or it could be more critical. Like, people say Nash's knowledge is power, in the positive sense of power, whereas Amare is suggesting the negative sense. Nash does dictate the offense; he imposes his will through his knowledge. This would all make so much more sense if the second part were just “Power is Power,” or something like that. That way, we could understand it as Amare saying: "Okay, sure, Nash's Knowledge bring him Power. But Power brings Power too. I am Power."
BS: Wait, then why does Amare need knowledge at all?
SB5K: Because he doesn't want people thinking his power is just mere force. I see it as, "knowledge is power, when it is used for the sake of power, in the service of power. When it is used for knowing, it isn't power. it's just knowledge.
BS: So knowledge is used for things?
SB5K: Of course.
BS: If you apply your knowledge to knowing, it's a waste.
SB5K: Exactly. It's just knowing for knowing's sake, as in "student of the game."
BS: But why the "is"s?
SB5K: "Is" doesn't mean identity, necessarily. It can just mean "a property of", or " 'is' in this context, at this time, for these ends". i.e. the ends of power.
BS: It could be a lot less malicious. One side is him, the other is Nash. Both use knowledge, but while Nash uses it to think through the game, he uses it toward power. It redeems him as more than just a physical specimen by allying his power with knowledge and shows how he and Nash are in fact in perfect harmony. Which actually makes a lot more sense, since he and Nash are a team, a tandem.
BS: I think that Amare sublimates knowledge and Nash elevates it but both have the same starting point.
SB5K: Amare isn't just the weapon of Nash's brain; his knowledge is also important to the process.
BS: We should probably think about how it reads on his arms: "On the inside of his left bicep, it says, 'Knowing is knowledge.' On the inside of the right one, it says, 'Knowledge is power.' 'They always say what you don't know won't hurt you,' Stoudemire said to explain his new ink. 'I think what you don't know will kill you.'"
SB5K: Oh my god. How did we not begin with this?
BS: I don't know. Does it explain anything?
SB5K: It's almost like he's saying "Knowledge is Power, insofar as what you don't know could kill you..."
BS: Maybe he's talking about the whole system. If you (he) don't know all this, it could destroy you. Spiritually.
SB5K: So is the knowledge itself what's deadly? Or the absence?
BS: The absence is deadly. Hold on, what the fuck is with hurt/kill? Why does that distinction necessitate two tattoos?
SB5K: I don't know. But I like the idea that Knowledge (i.e. someone else's knowledge, which you lack) is Power insofar as it can destroy you. Which kind of returns us to Foucault, in that Power is always the power held by authority, which also controls knowledge. And "knowing is knowledge" the solution? That might actually work.
BS: So knowing the knowledge is the solution to not being destroyed?
SB5K: Well, here, knowledge really does have to mean two things. First: there's the negative/oppressive knowledge, defined by it's power to kill those who lack it. Then, there's the "knowing" form of knowledge, which is....what...resistance? The key here is that "knowledge" is no longer some kind of objective truth or enlightened state, but purely a political phenomenon, which gains its "power" through the actual power of those who have it—the power to kill you. Actually, I’m still not quite sure what knowing is.
BS: This is totally Heidegger. Knowing is like Being; knowledge is essentialism. You don't gain knowledge, you live it. You know anew with each passing moment, like a sparrow on drugs.
SB5K: So if this is the correct way to go about knowing/being, is there also a correct way of being Powerful as well?
BS: I don’t think so. Which is weird, since Amare is powerful. In many ways.
SB5K: What if we read "Knowledge is Power" twice? First, there's the bad kind of knowledge is power, where knowledge kills and power oppresses.
BS: (This is so beyond Talmudic it's not even funny.)
SB5K: Then we go to knowing, in which knowledge is pure again. And then “Knowledge Is Power” means something totally new, unburdened by critique.
BS: That seems like a very roundabout way of arriving at the two most obvious interpretations at the same time. It's a way to uplift and it's a Foucauldian critique. "Knowing Is Knowledge” launders the statement so both can exist.
SB5K: YES! Power, too.
BS: How the fuck are we supposed to know to read it twice?
SB5K: Why not?
BS: Both forms of power?
SB5K: Power to kill, and power as freedom. Black power.
BS: Colonial vs. post-colonial power.
SB5K: Yes, but in reverse order. And mediated through "knowing."
SB5K: Also, knowledge is in there twice, right? Knowledge is power, then knowing is knowledge. So it only makes sense that Power should be in their twice as well: one version as negative, the other as purified. If that means reading one tattoo twice, so be it. The coherence of interpretation demands it!
BS: Then knowledge would be in there three times.
SB5K: Oh yeah. Shit.
BS: What if the “knowing” statement is "dirtied" by the power one?
SB5K: So you need a double-knowledge buffer zone. God, I can’t believe I just said that.
BS: I don't know what that means.
SB5K: Me neither. I think this has to end.
BS: Okay. Good talking to you.