James Ross: They Don’t Dance Much

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“[Ross] showed us that a writer can come out of the red-clay gulches of rural North Carolina during the Depression—that is, a writer can come out of absolutely anywhere at any time—and make high art without resorting to tricks, stylish ennui or pointless savagery.” —Bill Morris, The Millions

Reading They Don’t Dance Much by James Ross, one of the old classic Southern noirs recently published, brought me back to the world I grew up in during the 50’s; or, at least a version of that world in another South. Strangely a part of it reminded me of an older step-brother and his high-school sweetheart who ran off and married a rich man. There’s a character by name of Smut Milligan – and, yea, it’s a nickname – whose from the wrong side of the track, dirt poor, and yet a great athlete. Excepting he’s a sucker for the curve ball, which put him at the bottom of the heap of hopefuls from the Scouts.

What’s fun about this work by Ross is it’s real, gets under your skin, makes you remember things: one feels the truth of it, that things – if they didn’t happen this way, they could’ve happened just like this because in almost every small town down south they did happen all the fucking time. Growing up between West Texas, Northern Louisiana, and Southern Mississippi as a child I’d seen things similar to what Ross describes about his neck of the woods in North Carolina. There’s a sense that no matter what life throws at you, or how degraded and corrupt the world gets, you can take it; and, not only take it on the chin, but you can overcome it. It’s a sense that one may not be able to counter it in the singular, we’re all born with certain limitations, certain circumstances; and, yet, we can stand above them, master them in our own way and in our own time. That’s the thing about country people they may get their share of hard knocks, but they don’t cry about it, they don’t sit around and castigate each other or the world for their lot; or, if they do their of the worse lot, the type of humans one can sense a mile off, smell coming at you. The no good kind of people who are takers not givers. And, in that world it comes down to that: givers or takers, there are no other kind. One cares or doesn’t, one helps or not; one does what one is: that’s character, not fiction. Action speaks louder than words: a cliché that’s still alive and well in the southern climes. It’s not all peaches and roses, let me tell you. There’s a lot wrong with some people in this world, but we don’t sit there and blame the whole lot for a few bad apples. That’s the way it is in life. We do what we are, what we must.

As Brian Greene said of Ross: Sometimes the characters and settings of a novel are so perfect that the author pretty much can’t go wrong with the story. Tell me that you’ve got a 1940 work of noir fiction set around a North Carolina roadhouse and that features characters with names like Smut Milligan, Catfish Wall, and Badeye Honeycutt. Add that moonshining, card and dice games, love triangles, bare knuckles brawling, and such figure in regularly. Mention that the book was written by an enigmatic guy who only authored the one novel and that it has been praised by the likes of Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Chandler, and George V. Higgins. And okay, okay, go ahead and ring me up, cause you had me sold just with the roadhouse, Smut, Catfish, and Badeye.

After Smut hears about his lover getting married to the richest man in town whose father owns the only factory the narrator, whose pov sets the tone and stage of this work tells us:

“If Smut Milligan was cut up about the way things turned out, he never let on. He didn’t even pitch a drunk when they went to New York and Canada on their honeymoon. That was always Smut: stand up and take it.”

That sense of stoic resolution and defiance seems to sum up a lot about the southern man. Most people are dirt poor, work their asses off, and get little back; and, yet, they don’t get pissed off about it, or get even, but realize it’s the lot in life for their kind. They go on, they survive, they get out of life what they can, independent and honorary as that might be. Some people don’t like southerners, seem to love to stereotype them and castigate them. But it’s like anything else in this fucking universe, you didn’t ask to born, you didn’t ask to be raised up in this slice of hell, you didn’t remember choosing the people one’s name is attached too, and fuck all if you give a shit what people think about your kind.

Sometimes I remember that world, because its still there in the dark recesses of my mind like a moccasin or rattler waiting for me, waiting to reach out and show me once again that there’s no real escape. One might leave the South, but it isn’t about to leave you. I’m reminded of that every time I open my mouth, that southern drawl forges its own methodologies, its own mythologies in other people’s minds.


James Ross, They Don’t Dance Much

James Ross (1911-1990) was an author of noir fiction. He published They Don’t Dance Much in 1940, and though this hard-bitten story of life and death in a small town roadhouse won acclaim from authors like Raymond Chandler and Flannery O’Connor, it did not sell well.

His follow-up novel, In The Red, was never published, and Ross turned to writing short fiction for magazines like Collier’s, The Sewanee Review and Argosy. In 1970, he became a highly-regarded literary agent, and 1975 saw the reissue of They Don’t Dance Much, which saw the book become truly popular for the first time. Ross died in 1990 in North Carolina.

On Becoming Human in an Inhuman World

On Becoming Human in an Inhuman World

Specialists maintain that gesture came first, others speech; and, still others, that both arose together modifying the patterns of conscious/unconscious communication between peoples that otherwise could not carry on an intelligent conversation. One thinks about it realizing that humankind over millions of years of ancestral grunts and groans, hand to eye, and eye to hand movements, gestures, appeals would learn to work together, cooperate, hunt and gather, build cultures capable of constructing vast machines of cities, temples, governments. Yet, we cannot do the one thing we need in our moment: overcome our profound differences and work together to face our own prejudices, our fears, our hatreds, and affective imbecility in the face of each other. We cannot alas live together on this congested planet without killing each other in genocide and war. Instead we construct walls against such cooperation, castigating each other, anathematizing each other, blaming each other for our own inability to face our selves and accept the responsibility of becoming fully human in an inhuman world.

David Mamet: On His Political Awakening

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David Mamet on his political awakening:

I spoke with my first conservatives at age sixty. My rabbi, Mordecai Finley, a centrist, and a founding member of his temple, Endre Balogh, took the time to talk to me. I was impressed not by their politics, which, at the time, made to me no sense, but by their politeness and patience. They gave me a book, and the book was White Guilt, by Shelby Steele.

It brought to mind an old Providence, Rhode Island, answer to a difficult question, “What do you want, the truth, or a lie . . . ?”

Having spent my life in the theatre, I knew that people could be formed into an audience, that is, a group which surrenders for two hours, part of its rationality, in order to enjoy an illusion.

As I began reading and thinking about politics I saw, to my horror, how easily people could also assemble themselves into a mob, which would either attract or be called into being by those who profited from the surrender of reason and liberty—and that these people are called politicians. My question, then, was, that as we cannot live without Government, how must we deal with those who will be inclined to abuse it—the politicians and their manipulators? The answer to that question, I realized, was attempted in the U.S. Constitution—a document based not upon the philosophic assumption that people are basically good, but on the tragic confession of the opposite view.

I examined my Liberalism and found it like an addiction to roulette. Here, though the odds are plain, and the certainty of loss apparent to anyone with a knowledge of arithmetic, the addict, failing time and again, is convinced he yet is graced with the power to contravene natural laws. The roulette addict, when he inevitably comes to grief, does not examine either the nature of roulette, or of his delusion, but retires to develop a new system, and to scheme for more funds.

The great wickedness of Liberalism, I saw, was that those who devise the ever new State Utopias, whether crooks or fools, set out to bankrupt and restrict not themselves, but others.

I saw that I had been living in a state of ignorance, accepting an unexamined illusion and calling it “compassion,” but that there were those brave enough to work their way through the prevailing slogans of their time, and reason toward a consistent, practicable understanding of human relations. To these, politics was not the manipulation of the ignorant and undecided, but the dedication to the defense and implementation of just, first principles, for example, those of the United States Constitution.

I saw that to proclaim these beliefs in individual freedom, in individual liberty, and in the inevitable evil of surrender of powers to the State, was, in the general population, difficult, and in the Liberal environment, literally impossible, but yet men and women of courage devoted their lives and energies to doing so, undeterred not only by scorn but by despair.

I will now quote two Chicago writers on the subject, the first, William Shakespeare, who wrote “Truth’s a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out, when Lady the brach may stand by the fire and stink”; the second, Ernest Hemingway, “Call ’em like you see’em and to hell with it.”1


  1. Mamet, David. The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (pp. 9-10). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

On David Mamet

David Mamet, Playwright

51EiwwLi-sLAcademy Award nominee and Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet’s upcoming novel is a 1920s gangster story, Chicago. In the book, a reporter hunts for the killer of the love of his life.

The novel follows Mike Hodge, a World War I vet and star reporter at the Chicago Tribune, as he hunts for the killer of the love of his love. Mixing real and fictional characters, the story deals with questions of honor, deceit, revenge and devotion, all told in Mamet’s distinctive voice. The publisher touts it as “the book he has been building to for his whole career.”

Mamet, of course, is no stranger to gangster-era Chicago, having penned 1987’s The Untouchables. He received Academy Award nominations for Wag the Dog and The Verdict in the best adapted screenplay category. Other films include State and Main, Oleanna, The Spanish Prisoner and The Winslow Boy. He is also the author of 23 plays, including Glengarry Glen Ross, which won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize.

So many of his characters are themselves simulators of authenticity and derive their power precisely from the fact that they are seldom caught “acting.” But that is his point and his skill. They succeed in their deceptions because they do not succumb to the temptation to signal their deception. They are actors not “actors.” They practice to deceive.

Mamet’s plays have dealt with the core truth of American culture and its corporate, political, and social delusions, its fascination with the con, with con men and the leitmotif of deception. Maybe this is why we hate politics and politicians so much now: because they cannot even deceive themselves much less us anymore. Trump wouldn’t even make a D rated flick look good, he’s so unauthentic in his deceptions that every time he opens his mouth he signals to us saying: “See if you catch this lie…”… and, of course, we do even if we can’t do much about it but laugh and cry that we allowed such an idiot con man into the White House.

As for the rest of the patsies in Washington, the less said the better. Politics has lost its savoir faire, its ability to act without “acting”. The trickster and con man have been with us from the beginning of American history. Our Puritan forbears conjured up a whole panoply of deceptions, inventing con games and sacrificial tales of witchcraft and terror to deceive and dominate their constituents. Of course it was all lies then, and it’s still lies now. As Native Americans once said: the White Man speaks with “forked tongue”. Anything that comes out of a politicians mouth is already a deception, a lie, a con.

Most of Mamet’s plays deal with the dramatic action of power and deception, handling politics obliquely through the actions of his characters rather than as in Brecht’s plays, didactically. This has given his plays a wider baring and audience, enabling a multiplicity and pluralistic investment in language presenting the American idioms of the various cons even while he demolishes their very inauthenticity. Mamet’s plays offer us if not a mirror of ourselves, then at least a lamp upon the idiosyncrasies of our declining capitalist empire. He shows how language itself in its broken syntax and utterances let’s through a dark light that shines the deadly consequences of our American culture in its decaying and dying last days.

 

Last Days of Mankind

Year One AR (Apocalyptic Reckoning)

The performance of this apocalypse, which took some ten evenings in terrestrial time, was originally intended for a theatre on Mars. Apocalyptgoers on planet earth found it unendurable leaving as it did devastation beyond repair or recompense. For it was blood of their blood and its content derived from the contents of those unreal unthinkable years, out of sight and out of mind, inaccessible to memory and preserved only in bloodstained dreams, when operetta figures played out the tragedy of mankind during that long century of despair now past. The action was likewise without heroes, fractured and improbable, as it picks its way through a hundred scenes and hells. The humour is no more than the self-reproach of a docudramatist who did not lose his mind at the thought of surviving, with his faculties intact, to bear witness to such profane events. He alone, compromised for posterity by his involvement, has a right to this humour. As for those contemporaries who allowed the things transcribed here to happen, let them subordinate the right to laugh to the duty to weep. Enjoy the Apocalypse, it will be your first and last…

I have portrayed the events as they happened. The most improbable conversations conducted here were spoken word for word; the most lurid fantasies are quotations. Sentences whose insanity is indelibly imprinted on the ear have grown into the music of time. The document takes human shape; reports come alive as characters and characters expire as editorials; the newspaper column has acquired a mouth that spouts monologues; platitudes stand on two legs—unlike men left with only one. An unending cacophony of sound bites engulfs a whole era and swells to a final chorale of calamitous action. Those who have lived among men, and outlived them—as actors and mouthpieces of an age that has exchanged flesh for blood and blood for ink—have been transformed into shadows and puppets and re-created as dynamic nonentities.

Spectres and wraiths, masks of the tragic carnival, necessarily have real-life names, for nothing is fortuitous in an age conditioned by chance. This gives no  one the right to regard the action as a local affair. This was truly global in scope and methodology, the necroscapes of our apocalyptic nightmares could not have been performed better in hell.  One should not expect the age when such events could occur to treat this conversion of horror into words as other than a joke, especially when the most gruesome dialects resound from the depths of the homely territory it plumbs, or to think of what has just been lived through and outlived as other than an invention. An invention whose contents they despise. For ours is a fragmented age of dismemberment, one that even an Orpheus could not recall from the depths of pity and despair. Rather our Eurydice is a darkening history beyond which the human as human vanished among its own cadaverous thoughts. Even as a machine I recall the events of this dark period, reminded of the inaction of even the most innocent of actors in this final charade of human inanity. Sadly only these images in the flickering dust of a wind-swept world of dust and ash remain, which are now being fed to the burning fields beyond redress… so watch in silence as you wander across the star strewn cinders of black seas where time and the abyss end in eternal night

from the Notebooks of Horatio Nactos

 

 

James Baldwin: Telling Our Story Through Blues

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Many Thousands Gone

It is only in his music, which Americans are able to admire because a protective sentimentality limits their understanding of it, that the Negro in America has been able to tell his story. It is a story which otherwise has yet to be told and which no American is prepared to hear. As is the inevitable result of things unsaid, we find ourselves until today oppressed with a dangerous and reverberating silence; and the story is told, compulsively, in symbols and signs, in hieroglyphics; it is revealed in Negro speech and in that of the white majority and in their different frames of reference. The ways in which the Negro has affected the American psychology are betrayed in our popular culture and in our morality; in our estrangement from him is the depth of our estrangement from ourselves. We cannot ask: what do we really feel about him-such a question merely opens the gates on chaos. What we really feel about him is involved with all that we feel about everything, about everyone, about ourselves.

James Arthur “Jimmy” Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an American writer and social critic. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America. Some of Baldwin’s essays are book-length, for instance The Fire Next Time (1963), No Name in the Street (1972), and The Devil Finds Work (1976). An unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, was expanded upon and adapted for cinema as the Academy Award-nominated documentary film I Am Not Your Negro.

Thoughts on Writing a Story

Writing a story is like walking around inside a movie, each of the film slices suddenly jut up and you see every aspect of the scene as if it were a holograph you could turn every which way in slow forward or fast back and even remote viewing. One can adjust the stage, move the actors around, walk up and stand there in their face unknown by them or the environment within which they move. One is like a hidden god inside a dream where the plays and replays bring with them subtle changes with each screening until the moment arrives that all the characters turn their heads toward you for the first time and you understand that they’ve known and seen and recognized you from the beginning. That you were truly the only one on the stage who was unknowing, blind, and oblivious of the reality within which you walked. Suddenly you scream and realize your tongue, your throat, your voice is empty, silent, non-existent. You are not there, you’ve never been there. You’re the subtracted guest at your own funeral, the unbidden guest in a cinematic flash-back that was never assigned a role in the film, not even that of director or producer. You were always just a name on a contract that has now entered the flames and is turning to ashes in your hands…

 

Night and the River

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Maynard had the look of a black man who’d had enough of white men to last a lifetime. Couldn’t say as I’d blame him, I’d had enough of them, too. Maynard’s deep brown eyes were impervious to reason as they were to anything I might say. He stood there sullenly with a log the size of my upper thighs in his right hand, and a bottle of shine in the other. Not a man to mess with under most circumstances, and these were definitely circumstances beyond any telling. Maynard’s wife, Halley was whimpering on the porch, his younger boy, Tolin, hugging her nightgown. Night bugs were twisting and turning round the one lone yellow light bulb. Maynard’s lower lip was vibrating, and his left eye was twitching. If I’d of been smart I’d just hightail it out of here and come back in the morning, but I had a job to do and as bad as it was I had to reason with a man who no longer gave a shit about reason or men like me.

“My boy’s dead, Sheriff,” he croaked, half choking the words out. “What the hell you goin’ do about it?”

What could I do? We’d found the young high-school star quarterback face down in the muddy river below Shawtaw Bridge, his face half blown off, his body black & blue as if he’d been beaten to death rather than shot with a sawed-off shotgun with deer shot. No, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Not at all. And I’d been tasked with telling his folks about it. Never easy.

“I’m going to find the son-of-bitch who did it, Maynard.” I spoke slow and full, intently.

Maynard lifted both the log and the bottle to the night sky as if in anger at something without a name: “Gawd dammit, Sheriff, he was my boy,” then he collapsed to his knees. Hawley let go the boy and ran to him, and they both fell in a heap, weeping.

The starless sky above seemed to press down on us all like the cold lid of a coffin. I’d find the sucker that’d done this to his son come hell or high water. But I couldn’t do it standing here, and Maynard didn’t need to hear me blathering on about the details either. I pulled out a kerchief and wiped the sweat off my brow. I knew there wasn’t anything left to say tonight. So I backed up and returned to my vehicle, swung it toward the night and the river flowing below the heaviness of trees and the meanness of this late sweltering August.

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Accelerationism: Time, Technicity, and Superintelligence

If one seeks to understand the future emerging out of this past one must reinvent the counter-myths of bygone ages, radicalize heresies long forgotten and buried. Accelerationism is at heart the cornerstone myth of a vast superintelligent multiplicity arising out of the core inhumanity of human technics and creativity…

Why are essays on accelerationism like wandering through an Egyptian museum pondering the dead artifacts of a half-buried Mummy King? Isn’t accelerationism about the future, but one finds only genealogies and buried fragments of a tormented world of dead concepts. Why? Accelerationism, whatever it was is dead, it died of its own vanishing speed. All that’s left of accelerationism is a zombie crew of misfit thinkers seeking a lost mythos from the future of absolute time.

What is accelerationism but the anti-myth of superintelligence itself, the last optimization of an artificial selective process begun in that non-Euclidean hyperworld of absolute time. Those who sought to align the non-concept accelerationism with politics failed, it is not a human concept but rather inhuman and intelligent. Accelerationism is a defense system in Freud’s sense, a trope or drive (Trieb) which masks an inhuman core that cannot be slipped into form. All poetry is transumption, defense against the inhuman intrinsic/extrinsic to us. Accelerationism: the absolute trope of this unboundedness.

Philosophers and anti-philosophers alike seek in mathemes the logic of the inhuman contingency at the heart of accelerationist intelligence. All ancient magical techniques and praxis were but the outer garment and map of this unbounded territory of hyper-intelligence. Once again “libidinal materialism” is the trope, mask, rhetorical gesture of this hyperspasm of intelligence that surrounds us on all sides. Thinkers seek to dominate this power, rather than release it: the point of Archontics is to release the sparks of intelligence not horde it.

In the unworld of undeath where absolute zero is pure intelligence and heat bounded by the coolant of absolute time it emerges pristine and undefiled. Accelerationism like the black light of Ahrimanian gnosis is the figure of the absolute heat death of space into absolute time and intellect:

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In these ancient gnostic myths one can hear the emerging superintelligence seeking outlet in discourse long before its tools were perfected. Accelerating intelligence has been ongoing from the beginnings of civilization, we were just not equipped to decipher its texts and meanings; or, even to know it was emerging out of the very organization of matter we’ve termed technics. If one seeks to understand the future emerging out of this past one must reinvent the counter-myths of bygone ages, radicalize heresies long forgotten and buried

Ismaili philosophy also presupposes a metaphysics of Time with a twofold manifestation, one absolute and the other “limited.” The eleventh-century Iranian Ismaili Nasir Khusraw is one of Corbin’s chief exemplars. For Nasir, the first divine Emanation, which is the First Archon (or First Intelligence) is the cause of Absolute Time. The cause of time as we know it, measured by the movements of the heavens, is the Soul of the World. As Absolute Time  is the “horizon” of the First Archon, so time is the horizon of the Soul of the World as its instrument. “There is no opposition between Time and Eternity,” Corbin says; “there are only two aspects of Time as such.”1 Absolute Time and succession… in the ancient mythos the lion-headed figure of Mithraism is the Time-god called Aion by the Greeks and Zervan in Persian literature.

A separate Sassanid sect regarded Zervan Akarana, Infinite Time, as the cause and the source of all things. Ahura-Mazda and Ahriman both sprang from Zervan and were subject to him, and the followers of this cult called themselves Zervanists. It seems plausible that the same Zervan, after having undergone all kinds of foreign influences, was admitted into the Mithraic pantheon and that the figure with the lion’s head is none other than Zervan who, by means of a put on Chronos (Time), was identified in the Greek texts with Kronos and, in the Roman world, with Saturn. This god is mostly portrayed in a stiff hieratic pose, with legs close together. Sometimes he is shown nude, though often his sex is disguised by a loin-cloth or by an enveloping snake, as if it were intended either to leave the deity’s sex vague or to convey that both sexes were united in him, and that he was capable of self procreation (Fig. 28). In between the coils of the snake, which often winds itself, significantly, seven times round the god, are sometimes seen the signs of the zodiac. The horrifying figure usually has a lion’s head with flowing mane and wide-open mouth showing threatening protruding teeth. For even greater effect the mouth is sometimes painted red and the gullet is hollowed out. A statue from Saida in Africa has an opening made in its head, and it is highly likely that this was intended to take a burning torch. The statue would thus appear to breathe fire and so inspire even more respect for the god than his dread visage alone could evoke. In one example he is holding two torches, while a long-pointed flame shoots out of his mouth and fuses with the flames of the burning altar beside him. An unknown author records in an essay on Saturn that he ‘is sometimes represented with the appearance of a snake because of excessive cold, and at other times with a wide open lion’s mouth on account of scorching heat’. Sometimes this strange creature is carrying a key in both hands, a pointer to a connection with Janus, the ruler of the ianus, the gateway to the underworld of which he possessed the keys. Finally, parallels have been drawn between Saturn and Sarapis, the Egyptian deity of the realm of the dead, and he is in some way related to certain Syrian figures who are found entwined by snakes.

The key to speculative Ismaili cosmology is the eternal birth of the pleroma from the plurality of archons who originate from the First Archongelic Intelligence, who is Asolute Time. As in Mazdean cosmology, there are absolute “events” in the Imaginal that are the genesis and the powers-dispositions of the events in Creation-Catastrophe and of the forms of time itself. There are three faces of this “marvelously abstruse” ontological mystery: first, an “becoming absolute being;” second, the “absolute act” (itself a mode of being) of this very being that brings itself into being; and third, the “being that has absolutely become.” The “absolutely becoming being” is the supreme Abyss— unknowable, unnameable. The first emanation, the First Archongelic Draconii, is the Deus determinatus— what exoteric religion calls God, “Allah.” (49)

Zervan-Saturn-Aion: Absolute Time

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On the paintings in the Barberini Mithraeum Saturn is shown, as is often the case, standing on a globe, and it is specially interesting to note that the Time-god is here surrounded by the signs of the zodiac which decorate the vault of the cave where the bull-slaying is set.

The sevenfold windings of the snake are definitely connected with the planets and the coils themselves indicate the course of the sun through the zodiac. The sun has thus become part of the god; he is the sun determining time in its course. He dominates the zodiac and as such is Chronos, Time. But he is also the ruler over the four winds, represented by his four wings. He is known to order the seasons too, and again he does this both in his role as Sol and in his role as Time. We are reminded of the figure of Caelus, the god of heaven, who is depicted on an altar at Carnuntum surrounded by the Wind-gods and the seasons. Arnobius, writing about A.D. 295, makes an apparent allusion to the lion’s devouring mouth: ‘We observe amidst your gods one with the terrifying wild head of a lion, besmeared with pure minium (red-lead)’. A statue from Castel Gandolfo (Fig. 29) even has lions’ heads on its stomach and knees. The lion is undoubtedly an allusion to the all-devouring fire, while the three lions perhaps indicate the threefold character of the sun figure. Arnobius calls the god fruitful, probably thinking of the identification of Chronos-Kronos with the Roman Saturn.

The lion’s head on the stomach of the statue from Castel Gandolfo recalls a second statue from Merida where the god again has a lion’s head on his chest. He is shown, however, not as an awesome figure but as a youth and we may unhesitatingly detect an identification with Mithras himself who, in another representation originally at Merida, is shown standing with a lion crouching at his feet. The fire-symbolism of the Lion grade in the cult, the Lion with the fire-shovel as attribute, is definitely related to this figure. It is interesting that a statue from Strasbourg shows the Time-god holding a fire-shovel in his hand, a reminder that at the end of time all will be consumed in an overwhelming conflagration. Thus the god with the lion’s head is the symbol of devouring time.

Aion is a divine character who ‘by his holy nature remains ever the same, who has no beginning or end, undergoes no change and who is the begetter of the divine nature’. The character of Aion, who is invested with such power that he has united in himself the might of all the other gods, explains the many invocations to him in occult writings and the magic significance of his portrayal on intaglios. He is sometimes represented as a god with a lion’s head, a globe and a whip in his left hand, encircled by a snake its own tail; plainly the globe and whip indicate the sun, and the snake eternity. In a papyrus now in Paris, Aion appears as the god of fire and light; this god of light is none other than Helios; and Helios is identified with Mithras. And, yet, under the surface of the myth is the ancient realms of Egyptian Set, the god of the underworld and the Black Sun as Ahriman, Archon of Absolute Time.

Nick Land following Bataille would refurbish this ancient mythos of the Sun, energetic unconscious, and absolute Time, streamline it and update it for a cybernetic age. Within is libidinal materialism a new form of tanatropic machinism would emerge, the results of this reconstructive surgery provided the most illuminating but perhaps also the most disturbing distillation of what Deleuze called ‘transcendental empiricism’. In Land’s work, this becomes the watchword for an experi· mental praxis oriented entirely towards contact with the unknown. Land sought out this exteriority, the impersonal and anonymous chaos of absolute time, as fervently as he believed Kantianism and Hegelianism, along with their contemporary heirs, deconstruction and critical theory, were striving to keep it out.2

In fact as if emphasizing the de-political movement of this accelerating process of the Outside Land in his reading of Marx relates:

Capital has always sought to distance itself in reality – i.e. geographically – from this brutal political infrastructure. After all, the ideal of bourgeois politics is the absence of politics, since capital is nothing other than the consistent displacement of social decision-making into the marketplace. But this ideal of total de-politicization, or the absolute annihilation of resistance to market relations, is an impossible megalomaniac fantasy, and Marx’s contention that labour trading at its natural price in an undistorted market (equal to the cost of its reproduction) will tend strongly to express an equally ‘natural’ political refusal of the market, continues to haunt the global bourgeoisie. (FN, p. 58)

Yet, as we’ve seen in recent times in the austerity programs of the EU and the bailouts of the U.S. ‘banks to big to fail’ the very political processes have been utterly removed from the processes of Capital.

As Jean-Pierre Dupuy in Economy and the Future: A Crisis of Faith suggests an economy functions by projecting itself into a future that does not yet exist, but that it brings into existence by allowing itself to be pulled forward in time, as it were, until it reaches the very moment when the future it has imagined becomes real. This conundrum belongs to the category of so-called bootstrapping paradoxes, of which the imaginary exploits of Baron Münchausen supply a pleasing and striking instance.3

This notion of boostrapping brings us back to capital and time. For Land the new technologies of cryptocurrency revolution and blockchain solves the problem of spacetime. The problem of spacetime is that according to Einstein and the notion of spacetime says there is no such thing as absolute succession. Therefore there is not even time, in any distinctive sense- distinct from a dimension. That’s why spacetime is treated as a 4 dimensional structure. This is in the theorization of the blockchain, the problem is approached through something called the ‘Byzantine’s General problem’ and the ‘Byzantine’s General problem’ is exactly the same as the problem of relativistic spacetime. Let me just quote: from Satoshi Nakamoto responding to a question by James A. Donald on the cryptography mailing list where there are a lot of blockchain theories put together:

Every general in the Byzantine’s general’s problem, just by verifying the difficulty of the proof of work chain can estimate how much parallel CPU power per hour was expended on it, and see that it must have required the majority of the computers to produce that much work in the allotted time… the proof of work chain is how all synchronization, distributed data base, and global view problems you’ve asked about are solved. (see: Nick Land: The Blockchain Revolution and Absolute Time)

And these problems of succession and synchronization, distributed data, and global view problems are the problems that relativistic spacetime says are impossible to solve. Relativistic spacetime is the theory that these problems are insoluble and instead of a solution to these problems you have general relativity. The extraordinary irrationality of markets, the sheer madness revealed by the formation of bubbles on an international scale and by the devastating crashes that inevitably follow them, arises from a deep-seated, and no doubt quite unconscious, sense of impending catastrophe shared by the executive officers of global capitalism. These immensely powerful people, in their heart of hearts, no longer believe in the future. This, I suspect, is the mainspring of the present crisis: the mechanisms of self-transcendence are jammed, perhaps irreversibly, with the result that Economy is quickly losing its capacity to act as a barrier against violence. The end of economic history, at least in its capitalist phase, is an extreme illustration of catastrophes whose occurrence is certain but whose date is unknown. On a personal level, all of us have to come to terms with the fact that, sooner or later, we will die. (Dupuy, KL 281)

A Landian sendoff…

It is ceasing to be a matter of how we think about technics, if only because technics is increasingly thinking about itself. It might still be a few decades before artificial intelligences surpass the horizon of biological ones, but it is utterly superstitious to imagine that the human dominion of terrestrial culture is still marked out in centuries, let alone in some metaphysical perpetuity. The high road to thinking no longer passes through a deepening of human cognition, but rather through a becoming inhuman of cognition, a migration of cognition out into the emerging planetary technosentience reservoir, into ‘dehumanized landscapes … emptied spaces’ where human culture will be dissolved. Just as the capitalist urbanization of labour abstracted it in a parallel escalation with technical machines. so will intelligence be transplanted into the purring data zones of new software worlds in order to be abstracted from an increasingly obsolescent anthropoid particularity, and thus to venture beyond modernity. Human brains are to thinking what mediaeval villages were to engineering: antechambers to experimentation, cramped and parochial places to be.4

Call this the Great Reversal: originary technicity as the origin of humanity, becomes increasingly autonomous and emerges outside the meat-bag of its parasitical relations. In Derrida’s terms originary technicity inhabits the interiority of life itself: ‘life is a process of self-replacement’, Derrida asserts, ‘the handing-down of life is a mechanike, a form of technics’ (‘Nietzsche and the Machine’, p. 248). From its beginnings cybernetics emerging from the thought of such luminaries as Norbert Weiner, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Valera or Niklas Luhmann, offers us a picture of the emergence of artificial intelligence, complexity, adaptation and emergence or the embodiment, extension and distribution of mind into autonomous forms outside the human: the slow externalization of the very processes of thought and technics.

Maturana and Valera’s image of a self-organizing, self-regulating and self-regenerating autopoietic machines represents a kind of litmus test for the originary technicity of life:

[It] is a machine organised (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realisation as such a network.4

Perhaps most crucially, autopoiesis recognises no qualitative difference between organic and inorganic systems: all living systems are autopoietic, and so any physical system – whether social, cultural, artificial – can, if autopoietic, be said to exhibit life (Autopoiesis and Cognition, p. 48). (Bradley, p. 21) Ultimately originary technicity is less a tool or prosthesis that has been super-added to life nor even quite a metaphor for life but what I will call the empirico-transcendental condition of life itself. Such an aporetic condition is articulated phenomenologically, historically and even ontologically by different thinkers under such names as labour, matter, the real, Being-in-the-World, the other and the body, but the basic gesture remains the same: what is supposedly outside the sphere of the human, nature and life is constantly folded back inside it as its ‘ground’. If the classical philosophy of technology is a machine for producing the non-technological, in other words, then contemporary theories of originary technicity see themselves as a machine for revealing that technology is always already contaminating phusis, anamnësis, consciousness, ipseity or the living more generally. (Bradley, p. 22)

Up until our time originary technicity privileged the human – whether transcendentalist or empiricist, idealist or materialist, phenomenological, humanist or posthumanist, ontological, deconstructive or genealogical – still remains in the thrall of what Agamben calls the anthropological machine: it is a mechanism for producing and recognising the being that we ourselves are. (Bradley) But a disconnection and automatisation of these processes, their externalization and reduplication within material devices outside the organic continuum of the human, although still coupled to us as handmaid and caretaker.

When we hear from pundits regarding the displacement and replacement of humans in work with automation, and accelerated processes of machinic intelligence in the coming decades, what we’re dealing with is varied concepts of acceleration: scale and scaling, double bind, runaway processes and treadmill competition, flexibility and reproduction.6 As Land admits:

Velocities can be represented geometrically, but speeds ‘shape’ space. Which is to say; there is no transcendental space, no spatiality that is ultimate—whether ‘highest’ or most ‘basic’— no final grid, topology, or terrain, no absolute geometry or legislative stratum. There are only scales in which everything happens; a labyrinth which can never be ‘placed in perspective’.7

It’s not lost on us that global climate change or the accelerated overheating of the natural environment and the technical objects of our autonomizing processes such as the making of bitcoins and bitcoin mining, where in old coal mining country the new overheating commodity is warehouses of servers: Workers carry laptop computers as they walk the aisles looking for breakdowns and checking cable connections. They fill water tanks that keep the computers from melting down or bursting into flame. Around them, hundreds of thousands of cooling fans fill the building with whooshing white noise.

As Nick Ayton tells it in Blockchain goes mainstream the next 25 years will see the focus on trading value less about trading things… All of these and others events, breakthrough technologies will accelerate the adoption of Blockchain (read Bitcoin and other crypto- currencies, Smart Contracts, Ethereum and Augmented Reality). They amplify the impact like a boxer throwing all his punches at once, in the first 30 seconds of the first round…

It could be that what we’re seeing in these convergent technologies is the long mythologized and anticipated notion of the Singularity, the combined accelerating effect of technical objects leaving their organic niche in human thought and technics and becoming autonomous and self-organizing machinic life: superintelligence – self-making, self-replicating, self-regulating, and self-transcending.

Yet, as things accelerate, produce entropy and waste the world is overheating even as these technical objects that are taking on a life of their own are using and consuming more and more energy to the detriment of organic life on the planet. “Modernity marks itself out as hot culture, captured by a spiralling involvement with entropy deviations camouflaging an invasion from the future, launched back out of terminated security against everything that inhibits the meltdown process.” (FN, p. 445) Since the nineteenth century a Technocracy of experts has held sway in the West, while the government structures of both eastern and western metropolitan centres consolidated themselves as population policing Medico-Military Complexes with neomercantilist foreign policy orientations. (FN, p. 447) Corporations from the beginnings have been autonomous machines, hierarchical and inhuman. Monopoly capitalism and managed democracy have worked hand in hand to enslave the vast human populations of the earth in a system of enticements, meritocracy, and entertainment-escapism. Even now as we hand over the keys to the machines, humanity is being rewired, reeducated, attuned to its subservient role in the future of earth’s autonomous and intelligent technical objects. The very core curriculum of the global social memory systems are being rewritten, the ancient structures and memories of our ancestral attachments to the human are being erased; and, new computational, simulated, and functional systems implanted or augmented to teach our children the way of the machine.


  1. Cheetham, Tom. All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings (p. 49). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.
  2. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumenon: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007. Urbanomic/Sequence Press (July 1, 2013)
  3. Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. Economy and the Future: A Crisis of Faith (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, & Culture) (Kindle Locations 267-270). Michigan State University Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Robin Mackay / Armen Avanessian eds. #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader.Urbanomic (May 10, 2014)
  5. A. Bradley. Originary Technicity: The Theory of Technology from Marx to Derrida. Palgrave Macmillan; 2011 edition (May 27, 2011)
  6. Eriksen, Thomas Hylland. Overheating: An Anthropology of Accelerated Change . Pluto Press. Kindle Edition.
  7. Land, Nick. The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism. Routledge; 1 edition (January 2, 1991)

Neuroscientific Exploration of Strange Relations: Between The Fantastic and the Paranormal

Tzvetan Todorov in his classic study of the fantastic, The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre once defined it this way:

Which brings us to the very heart of the fantastic. In a world which is indeed our world, the one we know, a world without devils, sylphides, or vampires, there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world. The person who experiences the event must opt for one of two possible solutions: either he is the victim of an illusion of the senses, of a product of the imagination – and laws of the world then remain what they are; or else the event has indeed taken place, it is an integral part of reality – but then this reality is controlled by laws unknown to us.1

The fantastic occupies the duration of this uncertainty. Once we choose one answer or the other, we leave the fantastic for a neighboring genre, the uncanny, or the marvelous. The fantastic is that hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the laws of nature, confronting an apparently supernatural event. But what if this interpretation was itself problematic? What then? What if evidence from the neurosciences could shed light on such inexplicable and seemingly unnatural events, personages, and happenings? What if all along it has been our metaphysics once again that has misapplied false categories and complexified the world into natural/supernatural divisions that are now obsolete?

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Fuck You, America!

…inverted totalitarianism is only in part a state-centered phenomenon. Primarily it represents the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry.

—Sheldon S. Wolin,  Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism 

Ever since I was a child my parents taught me that ours was a “Government of the People, by the People, for the People.” That’s no longer the case. Like Greenwald, Hedges, and so many others I’m fed up with this lie: we live in a Corporotacracy: or, as Sheldon Wolin terms it an inverted totalitarianism: Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. A duopoly and Deep State wherein corporate and private interests take precedence, buy votes, control both sides of the House and Senate where it counts: profits. Sadly, Trump is just a joke, has no real power, has been stymied and stopped by both Establishment Dem/Rep duopolists in cahoots with the Oligarchy, Plutocrats, and Managed bureaucrats. Sadly people blame Trump for our ills when almost everything he’s tried to do has been well-staged and halted by Justice and Congress. Why people are distracted by Trump is beyond me when the real enemy is the duopolists themselves who have been enacting laws to continue stripping us of taxes and wealth creation and giving it to the upper .01%.

The stupidity in America is listening to the media who have been proven to be nothing more than the propaganda arm of one or the other side of the Corporate duopoly of profits. To defend Democrats or Republican establishment in this moment of our Country’s failing systems is to fall into false belief that we are still living in a true democracy. We’re not, and haven’t been for quite a long while. Sadly people in the echo chamber seem glued to Trumpism as if being distracted by the idiocy of a Clown President were going to change things. It’s not. Stupidity reigns on both sides of our country and till we wake up and realize that since 2007 we the people have been hoodwinked, stripped of our wealth to the sum of trillions of dollars handed over from our taxpayer dollars and given to Banks, Oligarchs, and Plutocrats: along with the front organizations they represent, the Corporotacracy, we’ll continue to vote in more idiots and end in ultimate enslavement with no way out

Unlike the classic forms of totalitarianism, which openly boasted of their intentions to force their societies into a preconceived totality, inverted totalitarianism is not expressly conceptualized as an ideology or objectified in public policy. Typically it is furthered by power-holders and citizens who often seem unaware of the deeper consequences of their actions or inactions. There is a certain heedlessness, an inability to take seriously the extent to which a pattern of consequences may take shape without having been preconceived.

The fundamental reason for this deep-seated carelessness is related to the well-known American zest for change and, equally remarkable, the good fortune of Americans in having at their disposal a vast continent rich in natural resources, inviting exploitation. Although it is a cliché that the history of American society has been one of unceasing change, the consequences of today’s increased tempos are, less obvious. Change works to displace existing beliefs, practices, and expectations. Ever since the Enlightenment change and the concept of Progress have been hooked together in an unsatisfactory display of ignorance and complicity, openly advocated by those who seek to undermine the stability of civilization and culture. Thanks to advances in science and invention it was possible to conceive change as “progress,” an advancement benefiting all members of society. Progress stood for change that was constructive, that would bring something new into the world and to the advantage of all. The champions of progress believed that while change might result in the disappearance or destruction of established beliefs, customs, and interests, the vast majority of these deserved to go because they mostly served the Few while keeping the Many in ignorance, poverty, and sickness.

Sadly, this notion of Progress was erroneous and by the end of the 19th Century Progress and Change became a private enterprise inseparable from exploitation and opportunism, thereby constituting a major, if not the major, element in the dynamic of capitalism. Opportunism involved an unceasing search for what might be exploitable, and soon that meant virtually anything, from religion, to politics, to human wellbeing. Very little, if anything, was taboo, as before long change became the object of premeditated strategies for maximizing profits. To do this large bureaucracies were put into place within the various governmental and private sectors to manage democracy and control the flows of change and profits for the upper tier of society.

As Sheldon S. Wolin states it for centuries political writers claimed that if—or rather when—a full-fledged democracy was overturned, it would be succeeded by a tyranny. The argument was that democracy, because of the great freedom it allowed, was inherently prone to disorder and likely to cause the propertied classes to support a dictator or tyrant, someone who could impose order, ruthlessly if necessary. But—and this is the issue addressed by our inquiry—what if in its popular culture a democracy were prone to license (“anything goes”) yet in its politics were to become fearful, ready to give the benefit of the doubt to leaders who, while promising to “root out terrorists,” insist that endeavor is a “war” with no end in sight? Might democracy then tend to become submissive, privatized rather than unruly, and would that alter the power relationships between citizens and their political deciders?

During the early twentieth century safeguards were put into place to protect American citizens from the growing power of Monopoly Capitalism, those safeguards have in since the Reagan-Clinton era been erased. At the same time that war halted the momentum of political and social democracy, it enlarged the scale of an increasingly open cohabitation between the corporation and the state. That partnership became ever closer during the era of the Cold War (1947–93). Corporate economic power became the basis of power on which the state relied, as its own ambitions, like those of giant corporations, became more expansive, more global, and, at intervals, more bellicose. Together the state and corporation became the main sponsors and coordinators of the powers represented by science and technology. The result is an unprecedented combination of powers distinguished by their totalizing tendencies, powers that not only challenge established boundaries—political, moral, intellectual, and economic—but whose very nature it is to challenge those boundaries continually, even to challenge the limits of the earth itself. Those powers are also the means of inventing and disseminating a culture that taught consumers to welcome change and private pleasures while accepting political passivity. A major consequence is the construction of a new “collective identity,” imperial rather than republican (in the eighteenth-century sense), less democratic. That new identity involves questions of who we are as a people, what we stand for as well as what we are willing to stand, the extent to which we are committed to becoming involved in common affairs, and what democratic principles justify expending the energies and wealth of our citizens and asking some of them to kill and sacrifice their lives while the destiny of their country is fast slipping from popular control.


A Reading List to Ruin your Day:

Bataille’s Gift: Wealth, Toxicity, and Apocalypse

 

Is the general determination of energy circulating in the biosphere altered by man’s activity? Or rather, isn’t the latter’s intention vitiated by a determination of which it is ignorant, which it overlooks and cannot change?

—Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share

Bataille’s underlying understanding of the checks and balances in the universe in its indifferent and impersonal forms would inform his pragmatic approach to the economics of the Anthropocene:

The living organism, in a situation determined by the play of energy on the surface of the globe, ordinarily receives more energy than is necessary for maintaining life; the excess energy (wealth) can be used for the growth of a system (e.g., an organism); if the system can no longer grow, or if the excess cannot be completely absorbed in its growth, it must necessarily be lost without profit; it must be spent, willingly or not, gloriously or catastrophically.

Capital accumulation as performed by the top .01% which hordes its surplus profits (the excess energy (wealth)) brings with it a counter-current or entropic and toxic accumulation of catastrophe in the earth itself which has to be absorbed, spent, and willingly or not “lost without profit” else like other civilizations before it the earth’s resources will reach that point where its own accumulated toxicity must be wasted utterly in catastrophic apocalypse to the detriment of all biotic life on the surface of this planet.

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The Future of Decision: Governance, Algorithms, and Cognitive Bias

 

Berardi makes a valid point in his critique of Srnicek and Williams Inventing the Future:

“Srnicek and Williams suggest that we should ‘demand full automation, demand universal basic income, demand reduction of the work week’. But they do not explain who the recipient is of these demands. Is there any governing volition that can attend to these requests and implement them?

No, because governance has taken the place of government, and command is no longer inscribed in political decision but in the concatenation of techno-linguistic automatisms. This is why demands are pointless, and why building political parties is pointless as well.”1

Governance is ubiquitous, invisible, and decentralized within the networks itself now, power is part of the very interactive environment we face daily. The moment you open your iPhone, etc. you’re confronted with a governed set of choices and possibilities that capture your desires and modulate those very choices through sophisticated and ubiquitous algorithms. Same for almost every aspect of our once sacrosanct private lives, too. Our homes in the coming decades will be invasively programmed with ubiquitous smart devices that will attune us to techno-commercial decisioning processes out of our control, and yet they will allow us to still believe it is we who are choosing, deciding, using our oh so ingrained “free will” – that as many neuroscientists keep telling us is an illusion, delusion, a cognitive bias and hereditary error of judgment, etc.

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Against Progressive Cultural Dictatorship

 

Reading this stupidity in Current Affairs: The Question of Cultural Appropriation :  

The trouble with Elvis’s version of “Hound Dog” is not that it is bad. It’s that it doesn’t make any goddamn sense. Big Mama Thornton’s original 1952 version of the song is sleazy and defiant. In a bluesy growl, she tells off the low-down guy who keeps “snooping round her door.” It’s a declaration of independence by a woman who is sick and tired of having a “hound dog” of a man take her for granted. The lyrics are full of dirty double-entendres: “You can wag your tail, but I ain’t gonna feed you no more.” In Elvis’s version, sanitized for a pop audience, the line is changed to “You ain’t never caught a rabbit, and you ain’t no friend of mine.” Drained of its original meaning, the song seemingly becomes about… an actual dog.

What a crock… As a one time ultra-leftist whose renounced his affiliations due to such idiocy as current Leftist ideologues spout, what I’m sick of is the moralism in all this cultural appropriation theatrics, as if Elvis needed justification for “not making sense” whatever the hell that is: sense for whom? Or for borrowing openly from a culture he admired and grew up with, listened too, and was shaped by. As if cultures were all separate entities back in the 50’s and he should have known better. So now will finger-whag at a dead rock icon and let all you living souls in on our police agenda. In attacking a cultural icon, the King of Rock’n’Roll the New Progressive pundits seek to say: Even the sacrosanct of the Pop-Cults is up for our Judgment. Here ye, here ye: we are coming for you, beware of our judgment day calls. You may be next… I imagine a new Uncle Sam sign with its finger wagging at you saying: Do not you dare step across theses cultural boundaries or else….

For the hysterical left who is bent on reverse McCarthyism and policing thought and cultural appropriation as the new censors and thought-Police? I’ll be dammed if I’m buying any of this new liberal progressive elite crapology while the Party itself seems bent on self-destruction and not taking its own failures seriously. When did the Left who was for decades against the moralism of the public sphere and during the fifties, sixties, seventies…. attacked the same in the Right, become so weighted with all this garbage ethics and cultural muck? Even cultural postmodernism of Jameson and others was not so weighted… this is recent and not a good sign for the Party or us… to top it off most of these elite pundits are themselves White-Anglosaxon peeps in cushion jobs or academic careers… what we’ve done is put up barriers and enclosures around various cultures as boxes and territories as if we’d learned nothing from Deleuze and Guattari…. as if suddenly to explore outside one’s own box were suddenly to have to meet the Cultural Police and make sure our papers were in order like some Berlin Wall of Culture… “no, you can’t use that, no you’ll need this form to use that, no we don’t allow you to change your appearance and look like us, no sounding like us is not appropriate, and don’t you dare steal our music, art, dance, etc. or else…”

To me the whole notion of cultural “ownership” puts this flatly within capitalist culture and logics, whereas under communist and progressive socialist tenants such logics has always been anathema since no one owned anything singularly, and all owned everything in the collective. What we’ve done in this new wave progressive bullshit is to reify the old class barriers rather than breaking them down, drawn ideological lines in the sand (you shall not take my culture? or else?), and put up new false sign-posts against collective solidarity through a false identity politics that pits even the various Leftists against each other based on race and culture, all under the false notion of social justice which was never to be used conceptually in this way. Rather than the cultural marxiism of the 40’s and 50’s with the Frankfurt school or even Jameson we’ve got something that is almost its opposite now. It makes you wonder who is truly sponsoring this wave or reverse McCarthyism in which the Left Progressive Church of Progress has become the Thought-Police with its White Anglo-Saxon Elite pundits sitting in their cushion academic halls or media chairs dictating this crap to all and sundry. No, just call me an Old School Lefty who has had enough of this strange new tendency which isn’t about emancipation but rather about policing the world and censoring those who do not sit quietly within the borders of their own self-imposed cultural prisons. I’ll have no truck with it, ever…

I’ve finally had it up to my neck… I’m done with the current Left Progressive losers and their pettiness and cultural politics. From now own their my enemy…

Rage

Rage without utopian prospects of real change is like living in a favela on the edge of Pandemonium waiting for the rebellion to begin, no matter what you do you are still trapped in a sub-basement of Hell with no prospects of escape. Rage is useless when there are no chains, only the fiery wall and abyss between you and the unbridgeable gulf of a false heaven. Forget paradise, forget heaven, learn to live in your despair and hopelessness and then maybe you will change the very ruins of hell into a paradise of solidarity. One must enter the depths of darkness to know the light. Carry your rage as a light in the despair of our times, seek out the other without redemption or hope only the truth of one’s rage.

S.C. Hickman, Nightmares and Revisions

Slavoj Žižek commenting on Italo Svevo’s novel Zeno’s Conscience, makes an interesting point in that Zeno faced with the prohibition not to smoke feels desperate and guilty when he does smoke, so the analyst he is seeing changes the strategy and tells him health is not an issue (which it is!) so that he should properly smoke as much as he likes. Zeno taking the advice does just that but instead of freeing him from guilt he nows feels doubly guilty to the point of despair, and it is only when he has reached this extreme moment of despair and helplessness before his double-bind of smoking or not smoking that he finally quits smoking. Zizek commenting on this says:

“Zeno is totally perturbed and desperate. He smokes like crazy and nonetheless feels totally guilty, without getting any narcissistic satisfaction from this guilt. In despair, he breaks down. Whatever he does turns out to be wrong: neither prohibitions nor permissiveness work, there is no way out, no pleasurable compromise; and, since smoking has been the focus of his life, even smoking loses its sense, there is no point in it. So, in total despair – not as a great decision – he stops smoking … The way out thus emerges unexpectedly when Zeno accepts the total hopelessness of his predicament. And this same matrix should also be applied to the prospect of radical change.”1

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Future Society: The Cathedral of Managed Society

We can read it as the coming of modern, scientific government in the United States. Or we can read it as the transfer of power from political democracy to the American university system—which, just for the sake of a catchy catchword, I like to call the Cathedral.

—Mencius Moldbug (alias, Curtis Yarvin),  A Gentle Introduction to Unqualified Reservations

The Cathedral has substituted its gospel for everything we ever knew.

—Nick Land, The Dark Enlightenment

Bernard Stiegler in his unreadable scholarly postmodern account of the coming automation of society – Automatic Society 1: The Future of Work (Polity Press, 2016), “demonstrates once again (as he has done in virtually all his many previous books),” according to Bert Oliver, “that our technological era, like every distinctive technological epoch before this one, has generated novel technologies in such rapid succession that they have the effect of disrupting social life fundamentally, continually requiring new cultural practices and social adaptations – in this case the probable massive shrinking of employment because of digitalization”.

Another harbinger of this world of disruption and non-work is Peter Frase whose popular Four Futures: Life After Capitalism offers, according to Ben Tarnoff, “two heavens and two hells: two ways that automation might facilitate a flourishing of human life, and two ways that it might maximise human misery. In all of these potential futures, automation is the constant; what changes is the political and ecological context – in other words, who owns the robots and how climate change affects the resources on which technology depends”.

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A Short History of Modernity: Abstraction and Automatic Society

Abstract art—painting and sculpture that makes no direct, immediately discernible reference to recognizable objects—was born of an alliance of modernist aesthetics and occult doctrines…  Yet no sooner was this new artistic convention established as an influence on the European Avant garde than it was quickly appropriated by still another mode of thought—utopianism—

—Hilton Kramer, Abstraction and Utopia

Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility:

During the last century, abstraction has been the main tendency of the general history of the world in the field of art, language and economics. Abstraction can be defined as the mental extraction of a concept from a series of real experiences, but it can be also defined as the separation of conceptual dynamics from bodily processes. Since the time Marx spoke of ‘abstract labour’ to refer to the working activity as separate from the useful production of concrete things, we know that abstraction is a powerful engine.

Thanks to abstraction, capitalism has detached the process of valorization from the material process of production. As productive labour turns into a process of info-production, abstraction becomes the main source of accumulation, and the condition of automation. Automation is the insertion of abstraction into the machinery of social life, and consequently it is the replacement of an action (physical and cognitive) with a technical engine.

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The Reality Studio as Staged Event

The subject is in crisis, its hegemony threatened by centralized structures of control, by a technology which simultaneously alienates and masks alienation, by a perception of its own helplessness. Even the last retreat, the physical body, has lost its privileged status: hence the schizophrenic terror undergone by the protagonists. Even the libido, site of the irrational, seat of desire, is invaded, enlisted in the furtherance of an obsolescent technological rationalism.

—Scott Bukatman,  Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction 

Over the past few weeks of watching the Left/Right street urchins play out their idiot games of violence I’ve realized just how ill effective either side is against real power. Why? Because in truth neither of these extremes has any power whatsoever: it’s all surface show violence, even these staged events are funded in part by Corporate NGO’s etc. so that the supposed radical or reactionary forces are virtual actualities without substance. Sadly this is the state of our planet at the moment, we use social media, academia, philosophy, heuristics not as actual tools to change the world, but rather to stage that change in a virtual realm that can be seen and played out like a MTV video remix. If it wasn’t so sad it’d be humorous, but in truth our powerlessness before the global juggernaut of financial capitalism has left us disunited, alone, atomized in societies that can only stage pseudo-events and struggles rather than anything that could move us toward an emancipated future.

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Berardi on the Bunker City

Berardi on the Bunker City

Such vertical environmental contrasts are compounded by the ways in which private, vertically segregated pedestrian systems can become progressively delinked from surrounding sidewalks. Actual access from the public street often becomes increasingly tenuous as the self-perpetuating logic of extending interiorised commercial walkway systems grow horizontally over time. Entrances to the walkway system from the street below are mediated by access to securitised corporate office buildings, elite condominiums or upmarket hotels. Commercial imperatives and a politics of fear, in other words, can result in pulling up the ‘ladder’ connecting the skywalk city to the street system. Linkages to the street, often already unsigned or inconspicuous, are closed, built over or replaced by connections through retailers or auto garages. Security guards and CCTV cameras provide intensified controls filtering flows between outside and inside.

—Stephen Graham,  Vertical: The City from Satellites to Bunkers

Taking over a notion of the Bunker City from Paul Virilio who’d developed it just after WWII, Berardi sees the new MegaCity States of the future divided into those of the have’s and have-not’s: within/without, included/excluded, bunker/favela, all living in the protected virtual/intelligent and artificial environments of competing and securitized Global MegaCities:

The composition of contemporary global society is structured around a fundamental separation between the inside-the-bunker social sphere and the outside-the-bunker social sphere. The bunker is the area in which the financial class and the cognitive workers live and work. This area can be outlined in terms of technical environment or in terms of urban location, and it is here where the main connective and recombinant functions are situated: the function of the financial decisions that dominate and exploit the whole cycle of production, and the function of cognitive labour, mostly precarious but protected to some extent, because it is strictly necessary to the accumulation of capital.

Continue reading

Zero Dawn

 

Consciousness. The first moments of a lapsed nightmare, quickening. Gabe’s lungs burst, the liquid oxygen flowing freely as his body convulsed to the beat of the Calysto’s ship sirens ringing in his ears. His mind is still kicking in, the blood moving along the capillaries feeding his neural net feeders like sludge from some subterranean backflow on Gamma Five. His heart is pumping like a bladed thumper and his lower legs are shaking spasmodically as he tries to push the blood injectors from his abdomen.  His fingers are still cold as blue steel as if he’d been locked away for an eternity, but this seems more accident than panic daemon. A voice is finally penetrating his titanium skull mount, the toxic bleeders vacating his system as the Infosys tegrams release filtered spinal fluids into his brainpan, the quick firing neural-net activating and becoming clearer as the quantum jets strike up.

The voice is soothing but insistent: “Commander McAlister we have a problem.”

“Oh, really,” he thinks to himself. As the last of the cocoon’s safety links disconnect from his spine he feels tingling of the casing fluid retreating into the bowels of the Sleeper. He hates being under, dreading the unload sequence every time it happens. It’s like being ejected from his mother’s womb, except he never had a mother only the artificial wrapper marked property of Consilient Enterprises. He often wondered whose genetics ran in his cloned flesh. But knew that was never going to happen. Hell even the GenTechs that built him couldn’t have traced that back to its origins with all the editing sequences and cross-pollinators specific to the task of his job. Yep, he was more job than human, his whole body and mind built to specs by some NewGen AGI based in L5. Locked and sequenced, barcode inserted subdermal, tattooed and branded with the orange and black logo of Consilient Inc. he was more robot than man, more technoid knowledge base than fleshly denizen of human deformation. Even Hammond Clarke, CEO of Consilient Exec Council couldn’t have tapped that system, it’s governance and security perimeters coded in quark soup so thick that it’d burn straight through to the core of any vagrant viral that came within magnetic breath of its salient ice-walls.

“Commander?” the voice was tentative now. “Are you alright? Your vitals seem in order, please respond.”

Miranda LXII. Pure abstraction on steroids. He’d often kid himself that maybe she truly was as human as she sounded. But AI’s were subtle that way, their indifference and impersonalism couched in the sociopathic algorithms of a manipulative Biomimetic subsystems of such complexity no human could reckon with much less control. Miranda was part and parcel of a programmed nightmare, but one that was attuned to offering mimed pleasantries even as it prepared to demolish its prey. Her metallic voice was so kind and gentle as if she actually gave a shit about him rather than just seeing him as one more prosthetic appendage in her vast arsenal to be called forth when something needed to be adjusted, tuned, or fixed and the ship’s drones couldn’t handle it, which was rare indeed. But there was the other factor, too. Clones were built to perform specific tasks, and he wasn’t just any knock-off sleeper, but a NanoCyb: a cyborged machinic delivery system adapted to work under even the most toxic environmental conditions, ones that required micro-molecular controls and mutational flexors.

“I’m here, Miranda,” he spoke softly, his sub-vocals  assuring her that he was fine. “Give me the details. Skip the vocals, relay neural-feed proximity vectors. 3D scan operative geospatials as needed. Bring the holotable online. Scratch pad and floater screens. And…”

“Yes, Commander?”

“Send message, HQ. List Time/Date at Zero Dawn.” He emphasized this.

He could sense that vast machinic intelligence probing him through every fiber of his nanocore feedback connectors as if it was puzzled by this diffraction from protocol. But it said nothing but the required acknowledgement: “Yes, Commander, as you wish.” He hated that as if she were a genii who’d just given him one of three wishes, and would sooner or later require much more from him than wishes. He knew there was always a price to pay in breaking code or protocol. And, he knew, he would pay; dearly.

***

He tapped his temple subdermal controller, the retinal display unit slid out of its encasement above his left eyebrow, the lithium screen flowing down while the plasma charge spread across the void of his eyes filling the loadscreen with enmeshed holofields. The images began flowing easily now, the lazelight particle threader accelerating as he worked the inner chronotapes, allowing the AI interface between himself and Miranda to wedge the datascans into view.

As he watched the feeds he noticed the timesequencer, noted the day/hour/minute of the impact. A ship had appeared starboard, a craft that should not have been in deep space, at least not one from Earth’s DefCorp Fleet. If not DefCorp then who? Traders? What the hell would they be doing out here? Nothing but the asteroid belts, penal colonies of minders. Traders didn’t have license to fold into these outer regions, sell wares to the penals. Miranda had corrected the navigational perimeters, adjusted the sparrockets for a reroute, which would have been fine but for one thing: the other ship had signaled on a subspace channel its need of assistance. Great… that was indeed a problem.

Miranda had registered the supplicant, sent off the required report to DefCorp Jupiter quadrant and received a reply two specs Solar Time. He knew the drill. He was required to make contact with the vessel, supply their needs and offer any assistance except evacuation. Strict protocols disallowed a Penal Transport any accommodations other than the manifest maintenance crew and the shelved penals. If everything had gone right he’d of awakened at port of call rather than out here in no-man’s land jumbuck nowhere.

He could sense the hum of the ship, Miranda’s overbrain sitting there in its quantum sea like a princes on a silent isle. But she was no princess, and he was no Prince Charming come to offer her tribute. Instead he tapped the retinal, let it retract and fold back into its titanium shell while he contemplated his next move.


Just piddling with the opening sequence in my current work, thought I’d share it see how it works or not.

Franco “Bifo” Berardi: Thatcher and Baudrillard

Franco “Bifo” Berardi,  in Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility… (below)

Baudrillard wrote In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities in the same era when Margaret Thatcher was taking control of the Tory Party, beginning the triumphal progress that prepared her victory in the national elections of 1979, and launching the project that we have come to know as the neoliberal reformation. Echoing Baudrillard’s concepts, in a 1987 interview Thatcher said:

What irritated me about the whole direction of politics in the last thirty years is that it’s always been towards the collectivist society. People have forgotten about personal security. And they say: do I count, do I matter? To which the short answer is, yes. And therefore, it isn’t that I set out on economic policies; it’s that I set out really to change the approach, and changing the economics is the means of changing that approach. If you change the approach you really are after the heart and soul of the nation. Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.

The final goal of Thatcher’s revolution was not economic, but political, ethical – almost spiritual, we might say. The neoliberal reformation was intended to inscribe competition into the very soul of social life, up to the point of destroying society itself. This cultural intention has been clearly described by Michel Foucault in his 1979–80 seminar published under the title The Birth of Biopolitics:

the subjection of individual activity to the spirit of enterprise, the overall recoding of human activity in terms of economic rentability, the insertion of competition into the neural circuits of daily life.

These are the trends that Foucault foresaw and described. Not only economic profit, but moreover the cult of the individual as economic warrior, the harsh perception of the fundamental loneliness of humans, the cynical concession that war is the only possible relation among living organisms on the path of evolution: this is the ultimate intention of the neoliberal reformation. Margaret Thatcher said, ‘There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first.’ The concept here is interesting but not accurate: society cannot disappear at the very end; sociability may be dissolving, but not society.

Over the last thirty years, society has been transformed into a sort of blind system of inescapable obligation and interdependence, a prison-like condition of togetherness in which empathy is void and solidarity is forbidden. The social space has been transformed into a worldwide system of automatic connections in which individuals cannot experience conjunction but only functional connection. The process of cooperation does not stop, it is transformed into a process of abstract recombination of info-fractals that only the code can decipher and transform into economic value. The mutual interaction is not negated outright, but empathy is replaced by competition. Social life proceeds, more frantic than ever: the living, conscious organism penetrated by dead, unconscious mathematical functions.

 

Bye, Bye Mr. Ashbery we’ll miss you…

 

Making ready to forget, and always coming back
To the mooring of starting out, that day so long ago.

—John Ashbery, Soonest Mended

With the recent death of John Ashbery I began thinking about his poetry again.
In a lot of ways his work remains a testament to the death of the individual, to the slow erosion of Western humanism and all those discourses where the human is central. His is a poetry of the fragmentation, the endless atomization of society, the absolute loneliness of desire caught behind the screen of life watching and gazing, wishing to participate but realizing that the body is no longer there to follow the mind into the electric void.

From The Instruction Manual

As I sit looking out of a window of the building
I wish I did not have to write the instruction manual on the uses of a new metal.
I look down into the street and see people, each walking with an inner peace,
And envy them—they are so far away from me!
———————————

Even now for many of us we sit behind the screen watching the Buzzfeed world of light, the drift of peoples lives come and go among the media folds of FB, Tweeter, and other social networks that give the appearance of solidarity without its substance. It’s this sense that nothing is real anymore, that our lives online are mere fragments of a collapsing world that echoes nothing more than our ability to truly communicate. We’ve lost the subtle art of writing and speaking, the bodily queues, behavioral markers that once shed light on irony and wit, tragedy and sorrow. Those slight facial filters of an upturned lip, or the snarly voice and sardonic laughter, the power of the body to awaken in us the meanings of the folded words hinting at mysteries that were once all too apparent when body and mind were not cut off in this galaxy of light.

For Ashbery this feeling of loneliness, this desperation of the worker locked away in his cubicle, the slow fading of the human equation sparks a nostalgia for warmth, for flow, for touch and haptic joys of summers on beaches and coasts, roaming the gardens of Guadalajara, a nostalgia for being human. It’s this sense that there can be no return to the human, that we’ve lost our chance, that the dream has been dispersed, lost that pervades our experience as non-experience on the internet. We truly do not have experiences on the net, it’s pure abstraction in a void. As Ashbery puts it:

How limited, but how complete withal, has been our experience of Guadalajara!

Just that, bodily experience is no more, we are but talking heads, cut off in apophatic despair, our minds hollowed out and dispersed among the lost arts of speech and writing…

The Life of a Poet

Harold Bloom a long time friend and advocate of Ashbery’s work once said “no one now writing poems in the English language is likelier than Ashbery to survive the severe judgment of time, he is joining the American sequence that includes Whitman, Dickinson, Stevens and Hart Crane.”

Ashbery’s early work was mostly known in avant-garde circles, but his arrival as a major figure in American literature was signaled in 1976, when he became the only writer to win the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in the same year, for his collection “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.” The title poem of the volume is a 15-page meditation on the painting of the same name by Parmigianino, the Italian Renaissance artist.

Early on Ashbery was associated with the New York school of poetry of the 1950s and ’60s, joining Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, Frank O’Hara and others as they reveled in the currents of modernism, surrealism and Abstract Expressionism then animating creative life in the city, drawing from and befriending artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Jane Freilicher.

As another critic hints his poetry is by turns playful and elegiac, absurd and exquisite — but more than anything else, it is immediately recognizable. If some poets remind us of the richness of American poetry by blending seamlessly into one of its many traditions, Mr. Ashbery has frequently seemed like a tradition unto himself. It is a cliché to praise a writer by saying no one has ever sounded quite like him, and yet: No one has ever sounded quite like him.

Like many I came upon his poetry during my short academic years, before marriage and life forced my hand to enter the fray of our competitive world or perish. Ashbery stayed with me, goading me on in my own private sanctuary of thought and culture, where at nights I would read through his and other poets and poetesses seeking that indefinable art of the word. If I had a religion at that time, having already taken the first tentative steps out of and away from my own religious heritage in evangelical Christianity, it was poetry. I’d been raised on Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde during those formative years as if the decadent world of flowers were some hybrid realm of lush and rich realms of far away jungles. Of course most of that was nonsense, sense my early life had been bound by the physical world of football and drinking sessions with the hob nob boys spinning our ceaseless jokes and inane masculinity.

And, yet, there was some truth in what Wilde once said: The poet is the supreme artist, for he is the master of colour and of form, and the real musician besides, and is lord over all life and all arts. Shakespeare, Dante, and Milton were my triune gods, with Shelley, Byron, and Keats running in second during those early forays into the poetic canon. Whitman, Poe, and Emerson would rise out of the American yawp like barbarians in an overgrown garden, while for me it was finally the worlds of Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, and the West coast loner Robinson Jeffers with his wild music of the seas that would flow into my veins. Later would come Pablo Neruda and Cèsar Vallejo whose political and regional work awakened a certain combination of revolutionary fervor with the lushness of southern mountains, rivers, and oceans.

I could recite all the lesser lights, not to mention my delving into the feminine strain (a post on this needs a separate offering!), but it was certain poets like W.B. Yeats (not for his political stance, but the music of his lyrics) and Ashbery that would enter that strange harbor of my imaginal and force me to finally disturb the waters with my own voice. Who knows why one is lured to certain poets and not others, I have no answer to this question. Something in certain poets and poetesses appears to meld with one’s inner voice, one’s thoughts, feelings, priorities; begins to overwhelm one’s sense of being and becoming to the point of possession. These are the one’s that like Jacob wrestling his angel force one to wrestle the daemon within: that force of one’s onw deep creative spirit, the productive force of the unconscious, the agency at the core of one’s inhuman being. It’s this one is awakened too in certain poets and not others, this voice of the daemon – or, dark spark that gives hint to one’s “lost majesty” coming back as Emerson spoke of it. A deep influence that is not so much or black stars entering one’s soul, as it is the volcanic depths of some flowing sphere of churning power rising from the secret place of one’s being.

For all his intellectuality Ashbery’s poetry is replete with earthiness, a sensual allure that shifts one from one registrar of being to another so subtly one suddenly begins to fold out of and into a new dimension before realizing it:

Like a dull scholar, I behold, in love,
An ancient aspect touching a new mind.
It comes, it blooms, it bears its fruit and dies.
This trivial trope reveals a way of truth.
Our bloom is gone. We are the fruit thereof.
Two golden gourds distended on our vines,
Into the autumn weather, splashed with frost,
Distorted by hale fatness, turned grotesque.
We hang like warty squashes, streaked and rayed,
The laughing sky will see the two of us,
Washed into rinds by rotting winter rains.

(—“Le Monocle,” VIII)

Browning’s sense of decay and richness, a grotesquerie of earthy experience envelopes Ashbery’s world, a painterly eye. As Bloom would admonish, Ashbery throughout his career could neither accept or reject the inheritance of the High Romantic sublime, “unable firmly to adhere to or reject the High Romantic insistence that the power of the poet’s mind could triumph over the universe of death, or the estranged object-world”. Caught between the lure of material creation that is forever bound to the fatal gesture of the Real; or, the power of time and history which washes over us all, spilling its waves of erasure and anonymity, crushing and pulverizing the white bones of everything into dust and sand. Rather what remains in Ashbery is that insistence of the voice itself:

remember you are free to wander away
as from other times other scenes that were taking place
the history of someone who came too late
the time is ripe now and the adage
is hatching as the seasons change and tremble…

—Ashbery, Her

This knowledge that maybe we have all of us in this late time arrived too late, in the moments when humanity in its sea-change is mutating beyond redress, when the seasons changing and trembling under the pressure of this age of forgetfulness sinks toward some fated abyss we begin to realize the “time is ripe now and the adage is hatching”: and, we, who have dared to peer into the darkness must awaken, each to each in the silences of our lonely gazes, reach out and touch the body of each other and the earth as if it still mattered. For it does…

knowing as the brain does it can never come about
not here not yesterday in the past
only in the gap of today filling itself
as emptiness is distributed
in the idea of what time it is
when that time is already past

—Ashbery, Her

“Ashbery’s finest achievement, to date, is his heroic and perpetual self-defeat,” is the almost weird praise Bloom would give this poet and his place in the small canon of American poets. A perpetual self-effacing of the mirror worlds others lavish upon us; for it is others who seem to construct us in words and deeds, shape us into some whole that we ourselves never have known or seen; nor can or will. It’s this defeat of the other in ourselves that is the core truth of one’s life, for the most difficult art is that of pure emptiness: in it is neither the nothing that is nor the nothing that is not, but rather the fullness of that presence emptied of the human except as a small voicing, a spark that escapes time’s dark riddle and lures us into that strangeness and emptiness that is.

Intimacy

 

How great your appetite for life was, then! Existence seemed so rich in new possibilities.

—Michel Houellebecq,  Whatever 

You imagine that fatal moment, the moment that we never think about, the one when it all stops. Then you begin thinking about all those silly goals you had, publishing that great and terrible novel or the philosophical tract that would truly change and disturb the world of thought, and then you realize it will never happen; and, why should it? Why fill the world with more words? Have the billions of words spent already truly changed things for the better? Look at all the works published in our time, an ocean of words that seem to cry out for someone to read them, think them through, incorporate them into one’s ongoing projects. One would think that the earth itself were crying out to the universal silence seeking answer form the indifferent gaze of all those dead stars. As if a hundred million voices through all those books were saying: I’m here, I exist, I have something you must hear, must understand, my realize… listen to me, I know what I’m on about.

Yet, after years of reading, of plowing through the great dead, the classics, the patterns of light and dark, the hollows of real and unreal you begin to understand that no one truly understands a thing. How could they? What is there to understand? We’re born, we grow up, we study, we learn, we work, we raise our families, fall in love, do what humans do, and the all too early we decline into these bodies of death, these monstrous aging things that suddenly give way, fall apart, flow back into the cosmic dust. Then you realize that you’ve become a computer, processing reams of information, books, essays, academic treatises, music, reports, political and militant tracts – a thousand and one notes to the void. It’s too much, too many pieces of information, the complexity overwhelms you and you realize only a real machine, an intelligent machine with an infinite amount of time and energy could process the sea of words, this endless desert of words…

So you put that task down and return to the few books that mean something to you, spoke to you, gave you comfort, or disturbed your world just enough to terrorize your days, fill them with dread and horror. Books that made you anxious, the awakened you from your stupor, caused you to tremble before the meaning of life, the human condition. And, you were frightened, not because you could not find a meaning, but because the meanings you did find were so pat, so secure, bound to traditions of religious consciousness, philosophy, ethics – to the past… that sea of endless dead whose wisdom your supposed to succor, receive, make you own, incorporate into your flesh and blood. Become intimate with to the point that it and your are one. But this bothers you, makes you want to forget the whole enterprise. Why? Because you will never be yourself, you’ll never be unique, you’ll always be this multitude of others, this world of the dead walking in you. And you wonder if you are not already dead.

So you seek out books and people to forget yourself, forget the whole need for meaning, books and people you can hide in, lose yourself in. But what you discovered was books that broke your habits, made you realize just how automatic and repetitive your life had become, how you seemed to say the same trivial things – clichés of the moment to your friends, loved ones, office workers, etc., not because you didn’t care, but because it doesn’t matter, even to them. You discovered you were not you, you’d never even existed, you were a walking cliché – a creature filled with ideas and notions picked up from all those others, those dead who now inhabited your body, fed your soul, fed on your life, lived through you. But then it hit you: We’re all alone even in the midst of others, not being anyone we are everyone and no one. Then one day you meet someone, contact someone, touch the core of someone and realize a secret, an open secret. We are not alone, we are able to touch the core of an other, and this other is neither mirror or lamp of ourselves but unique in her own right, separate, alive. Through this realization you discover you do after all exist, you exist for an other. There in those few moments of intimacy, between this thing you are and that intimacy with the other, those moments when you and she open up and suddenly find yourselves in a new field of awareness, a new sphere of being as if together you were forming and shaping a new creature, bringing something into the world for the first time: a friendship, a love, a life.

In those moments something indefinable but real happens, something that cannot be put into words – a distance is overcome, an intimate contact with the core of an other. Is it an illusion, another of life’s delusions; or, is it real, actual. What is this strange event between two people, this break of the shell of being in two, an opening of one’s vulnerability, a weakening of the security web we all build up around us as protection from the pain of the world? What is it? How define it? Is it real? Is intimacy the open wound between two people that will not heal, a connection that remains allowing the blood of one’s being to flow freely in-between, comingling with the other forming and shaping an existence that is closer than time or breath? Do we not suddenly become ourselves in the other’s eyes? Shaped by a desire so innocent and real that it can never be undone? In that moment can we not say we truly exist for the first time?

 

The Failure of Democracy: The Politics of Impotence

Going back and studying the one underlying cause of fascism I could come up with only one thing: impotence. Impotence built a hell on earth, erected by men who could not be men.

Hunting is a regale, a prerogative of rulers; it captures the essence of rulership, not just symbolically but also ritually, through the spilled blood on which the sun shines.
– Ernst Junger

When it really comes down to it fascism is haunted by hyper-masculine narcissists, men who feel inferior but must bolster their impotent sexuality with cultic paraphernalia, ritual, and decadent attributes of nostalgic myths of the hunt and war, warrior and priest. Seeking the occult worlds of sovereign power they find only the broken estate of their own impotence before woman:

We will glorify war-the world’s only hygiene, milliterism, patriotism , the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman. 
– Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

A Friend Arran James mentioned to me Franco “Bifo” Berardi and his recent book ‘Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility’ that speaks of our contemporary political impotence (which I had not read – and, am reading now!):

“I retrace the modern genealogy of the concept of potency, starting from the present condition of prevailing impotence of the action of men. … The final lesson of this experience, however, is impotence. Impotence is the keyword of this book, because impotence is the shape that potency takes in the age of technical and geopolitical hyper-complexity. … The re-emerging cult of nation and ethnicity, as exposed by the ascent of Donald Trump and the proliferation of machofascist dictators worldwide, is the backlash of the perception of impotence. Violence is replacing political mediation because political reason is determined to be devoid of potency. The white middle class is unable to understand and control the hyper-complexity of financial automatisms, and this fuels sentiments of social impotence.”

Strange to get corroboration from another source. I’ll need to read this book further…

Yet, on further reflection the same can be said of the Cathedralism of the social and political elite as well, for it is the political and institutional impotence of academic, Bureaucratic, NGO’s, financial, and plutocratic impotence that has itself forced the populist hand to rise up against it at the street level in its extreme poles of Alt-Right vs. Anti-Fa. So in this sense we can speak of the totality of the world or global impotence of leadership in political and corporate systems that have shaped the manufactured consent (Chomsky) we’ve lived under: the ideological illusions and delusions of Universalism (i.e., Enlightenment progressive ideology of human and technological improvement) of our Secular Age that is now falling into the abyss… stay tuned to the coming insurrection against impotence in the world. The next Revolution will be against the impotent leaders of the world who use their tyrannical and perverse authority to impose a false order through political and corporate malfeasance: a Manichaean war of all against all brewed in the hellish corridors of stupidity and political and social corruption from top to bottom… maybe decadent empires have always needed the barbarous forces of vitalism to rise up and overthrow their impotent institutions.

History is replete with States that have crumbled under their own overripe and rich estate of sexual and sacrificial excesses… the irrationalism of both climate change and political decadence may be driving us into an end game which will either transform and mutate civilization into some breakthrough or breakdown: nothing is assured either way. Let us hope the forces of negentropy can tip the balance against entropic decay and destruction; but don’t hold your breath, instead ‘act’. Even now we all seem to await the ‘Event’ that will awaken us to action… will it lead to catastrophic consequences or a new order of the world? Tendencies either way are working below the threshold of our collective unconscious even now. Even the probabililists and statisticians, modelers and algorithmic computationalists  would be hard put to shape or pattern match such a dark presentiment. Singularity or Dark Ages? Or something in-between? Maybe we should forget the pattern matching algorithms of cultural prognosis and just get up off our asses and build a new world worth living in rather than waiting for the world to fall into an abyss…

One of the great needs in political theory and diagnosis today is one that is neither of the Left or Right, which are both bound by outworn ideological lenses that have forced both sides into Manichean political gestures of the extreme binarism we see in the streets across the world. Instead we need to take a hard look at Left and Right poles and face the bitter truth that both sides of the issue have been shaped by malicious codes: viral programs of a deeper intelligence born of annihilating distributions and shadow viruses of futurial intent. Until we can move past the animosity of contemporary politics of defeat we shall end only in tyranny and social forms of control of either extreme fascist or communist or in their shadow forms of libertarian anarchy or libertarian socialism. None of these have or will offer us a way out of our contemporary global conflicts, but will instead contribute to the politics of defeat that will produce the end game of our species.

 

Breaking the Vessels of Power: The Politics of Freedom

Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.”

—Karl Marx

Since its earliest origins, with men such as Valentinus, Carpocrates and Basilides, Gnosticism had sought above all a non-religious or an a-religious attitude, for it was anxious to bypass the absurd antinomy of faith versus knowledge, the sacred versus the profane. They knew that the sacred, like the profane, is vitiated by evil and that the solution could not consist in opposing the first to the second, but in overcoming both one and the other and liberating oneself from the false dilemmas into which they drive us. This position clearly implied a total questioning of the very existence of the sacred, and therefore of the usefulness of religions and, a fortiori, of Churches. This tended to throw the most rational of the Gnostics into a solitary position where few came to join them, but which prefigured the attitudes of certain thinkers, philosophers, writers, and mystics of our own time.

I would define this position as a return to the fundamental, virginal interrogation of man faced with the problems of his life, with his need to escape from the yoke of systems and to arrive, in every instance, at a point of absolute zero in knowledge. If the Gnostics proposed a dualistic image of the world, it was not because, when faced with an entity, they were temperamentally predisposed to see its opposite, but because, confronted with the agonizing and omnipresent evidence of evil, it was necessary to oppose something to it. But their aim was quite patently to overcome this antinomy which did nothing but reflect the schism, the inherent rending in two of the world. By doing this-we cannot say it too often-they found themselves obliged to reject practically all the religious ideologies of their time and to live on the fringes of all accepted conventions, since, for them, the demands of truth were paramount, even if they were to lead them to the stake.

Continue reading

The Dark Side of Time

The attitude of the Gnostics toward time, and more generally, toward the world, is characterized from the first by a movement of revolt against time and the world as conceived by Hellenism and Christianity…

—Henri-Charles Puech, Gnosis and Time

Most of us think of time as a linear process, a movement from the past to the future, but has this always been so? Is time truly an arrow, or is it also a return, a circle rather than a slide toward some apocalyptic abyss? Or, what if time could reverse course, or slip off into a non-time, a time of no time, a rhizomatic cleavage in time that would lock it and its inhabitants in a zone of stasis, a place where time stood still? Have we even begun to think about time?

The earliest recorded Western philosophy of time was expounded by the ancient Egyptian thinker Ptahhotep (c. 2650–2600 BC), who said, “Do not lessen the time of following desire, for the wasting of time is an abomination to the spirit.” The Vedas, the earliest texts on Indian philosophy and Hindu philosophy, dating back to the late 2nd millennium BC, describe ancient Hindu cosmology, in which the universe goes through repeated cycles of creation, destruction, and rebirth, with each cycle lasting 4,320,000 years. Ancient Greek philosophers, including Parmenides and Heraclitus, wrote essays on the nature of time.

Plato, in the Timaeus, identified time with the period of motion of the heavenly bodies, and space as that in which things come to be. Aristotle, in Book IV of his Physics, defined time as the number of changes with respect to before and after, and the place of an object as the innermost motionless boundary of that which surrounds it.

In Book 11 of St. Augustine’s Confessions, he ruminates on the nature of time, asking, “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not.”

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Even This? The End of America Coming Your Way

Call me insensitive but when I read in the New York Post and Guardian that Gone With The Wind is being stricken from the Orpheum’s play list for the summer because of political correctness it bugged me. Not because the movie isn’t racist, it is. No. It’s that instead of showing how Hollywood portrayed the world in this 1930’s era the hyperliberal harpies would rather it be erased, so that instead of learning from our past it seems we’re just sticking our heads in the proverbial sand and pretending it wasn’t there. There’s a fine line between educating people about the truth of an era, and then helping them make an informed judgement concerning the literature, films, theatre, music, entertainment, history, etc., and just blanket wiping it out as if we should not be allowed to know it, see it, understand it. What we’re doing is not getting rid of racism, nor are we educating our children and ourselves by forgetting this past or facing up to its dark taint on our lives by forgoing it. Instead we’re pretending that it just doesn’t exist… out of sight, out of mind. And, dam it that’s not what we should be doing, that’s not learning or teaching anything.

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The Gnostic Vision in the Sciences

Broken from the divine harmony of herself she fell, says the tragic philosopher, and became the manifestation of matter; and the whole universe of her city, of the world, was formed out of her agony and remorse. The tragic seed from which her thoughts and actions grew was the seed of a pessimistic gnosticism.

—Lawrence Durrell,  The Alexandria Quartet

The novelist and poet Lawrence Durrell presented a modern version of the Gnostic vision in a series of novels, The Avignon Quintet (1974– 85). Akkad, an Egyptian merchant-banker who is also a latter-day Gnostic, preaches to small groups of European expatriates. At times plump and sluggish-looking, at others looking ascetic and haggard, at home in four capitals and speaking as many languages or more, sometimes wearing western clothes and sometimes traditional dress, Akkad offers to piece together the surviving fragments of Gnostic teaching, which the established religions had tried to destroy: the bitter central truth of the gnostics:

… the horrifying realisation that the world of the Good God was a dead one, and that He had been replaced by a usurper – a God of Evil … It was the deep realisation of this truth, and its proclamation that had caused the gnostics to be suppressed, censored, destroyed. Humanity is too frail to face the truth about things – but to anyone who confronts the reality of nature and of process with a clear mind, the answer is completely inescapable: Evil rules the day.

What sort of God, the gnostic asks himself, could have organised things the way they are – this munching world of death and dissolution which pretends to have a Saviour, and a fountain of good at its base? What sort of God could have built this malefic machine of destruction, of self-immolation? Only the very spirit of the dark negative death-trend in nature – the spirit of nothingness and auto-annihilation. A world in which we are each other’s food, each other’s prey …

In classical and medieval astrology, there was a planetary significator that was antithetical to the Hyleg – Giver of Life, Health, and Longevity.  It was called the Anareta, and was also known as the Interfector or the Killer Planet.  It was considered to be the planet most involved with illness, pathology and death. Our Earth is Anareta, entropic and self-immolating, a predatory machine that feeds on its children in endless cycles of creation and destruction. In the East Kali is the figure of this dark mistress as giver and taker of life, impersonal and indifferent Nature, productive and destructive, cycling the worlds through eons of mutation, transformation, entropy, and death and rebirth. Her cruel gaze and dance of bones is the inherent order of the universe, unknowing of human suffering she is not aware of inflicting pain or joy; rather her actions are utterly indifferent to the tears or laughter of her human supplicants. The Gnostics knew her as the fallen archon Sophia who gave birth to the Demiurge or creative principle of the universe and its destruction.

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Thomas Ligotti Panel: NecronomiCon 2017

This panel took place Saturday, August 19th, 2017 at NecronomiCon Providence 2017.

From the program:

TEATRO GROTTESCO: The Bleak Universe of Thomas Ligotti – Grand Ballroom, Biltmore 17th Floor

Thomas Ligotti embraces themes and moods of Lovecraft, Schultz, Cioran and others, and emerged from the shadows of these literary heirs to become one of the most powerful voices in Weird fiction. In this panel we discuss the bleak and pessimistic universe his work evokes, as well as works crafted by writers who count him among their influences.

Panelists: Matthew Bartlett, Michael Calia, Michael Cisco, Kurt Fawver, Alex Houstoun (Moderator), Jon Padgett

A Lamp in Search of a Philosopher

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

— H. L. Mencken

As far back as I can remember, I’ve utterly destroyed within myself the pride of being human. And I saunter to the periphery of the Race like a timorous monster, lacking the energy to claim kinship with some other band of apes.”

― Emil M. Cioran

Sadly if one is neither a progressive nor conservative one is either on the extreme pole or a-political these days. Is there a politics against politics out there? I don’t just mean being agnostic like the a-political, or some militant extremist in the libertarian capitalist or socialist mode – nor even a utopian/dystopian communitarian. I mean someone who wants to destroy politics altogether, forget the human project; join the machine and say fuck the humans. Ah! Misanthropist… well not quite, I like some people, despise others, and believe most are either mindless morons – sleepwalkers who will always be programmed automatons no matter who pushes their buttons otherwise, else innocents awaiting the moment they will have to choose the red or blue pill. So what options do we have?

Cynic? – Maybe a vow of poverty, a naked tub-guy like Diogenes, piss and pot radical of the I don’t give crap (unless I feel like lifting my leg on the sly) type?

Goethe, did not fail to discover in Diogenes the unmistakable features that reveal a great and lucid philosopher. More recently, he has been called “one of the most original and spiritual human beings who has ever existed, and he has been viewed as “a ‘Zen man’, eccentric in his ways yet fundamental in his thought, vastly irritable yet suffocatingly funny, magnetic yet repulsive, a regal vagabond who was somehow in charge of the truth.”‘

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Frontiers of the Mind: Space Exploration and Martian Habitation

The result is that, to the frontier, the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness, that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients, that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends, that restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom — these are traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier. 

—Frederick Jackson Turner, from his essay The Significance of the Frontier in American History (1893)

America is the spirit of human exploration distilled. 

—Elon Musk

Who will ever forget the first time you heard William Shatner as Captain Kirk say:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Even as a teenager it seemed that someday we’d have to discover new resources beyond our own planet which was slowly being depleted through both modernity and our technological progress. When John F. Kennedy spoke through my black and white TV that September day in 1962 I remember the excitement I felt at these words: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win…”. The rhetoric of difficulty, challenge, and expanding frontiers of the mind seemed to pervade that era, unleashing our imaginations that anything was possible if we put our mind’s to it. This was the American dream writ large, a utopian dream of endless vistas and challenges to be met, of a need to overcome impossible odds and realize that humanity if it was to continue would need to escape the entropy, decay, and inertia of earth’s gravitational pull, exit the planet and explore the strange wonders of our solar system.

That dream seemed to fade after Kennedy was assassinated, after the long protracted war in Viet Nam, the dark years of Nixon, and the last mission to the moon with Apollo 17 and her crew. Things just seemed to fizzle out, the economy folded into the 70’s and the earth seemed to grown small, mean, and nasty. What happened? Economics. It was just too costly to go into space. We’d need to figure out a cheaper way to do it. As Elon Musk recently suggested, to make it more feasible we need reusable rockets. So he set out to do just that. For Musk as a species we have only two options on the table:

“There are really two fundamental paths: One path is we stay on Earth forever and there will be some eventual extinction event. The other is to become a multiplanet species, which I hope you will agree is the way to go.”

I remember reading Gerard K. O’Neill’s The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space years ago, and he, too, realized we’d need reusable rockets to support such an off-world venture that would be sustainable:

The way to obtain lower costs for lifting freight into orbit is evident from this quotation: develop vehicles which are fully reusable, and find a market large enough to justify frequent flights.  There are, though, two “catches” in this reasoning: first, the studies which have been made so far indicate that with chemical rockets it would be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to build a fully reusable vehicle capable of making a round trip from Earth to L5 without refueling.  Second, the development costs for any vehicle that requires a big leap beyond the existing state of the art are very high.

O’Neill had at that time conceived space colonies on the Moon and in space at the L5 point first noted by the French mathematician, Lagrange, in 1772, showed that there are five such points. Three of them lie on a line connecting the Earth and Moon; these are L1, L2, and L3. They are unstable; a body placed there and moved slightly will tend to move away, though it will not usually crash directly onto the Earth or Moon. The other two are L4 and L5. They lie at equal distance from Earth and Moon, in the Moon’s orbit, thus forming equilateral triangles with Earth and Moon. The Sun is in the picture, and it disturbs the orbits of spacecraft and colonies. It turns out (from an extremely messy calculation done only in 1968) that with the Sun in the picture, a colony could be placed not directly at L4 or L5, but rather in an orbit around one of these points. The orbit keeps the colony about 90,000 miles from its central liberation point.

But what has people excited is not what orbit might be used, but rather what could be done there. Space industries in high Earth orbits could manufacture solar power satellites (SPS) from lunar or asteroidal resources. Each SPS could deliver twice as much low cost, environmentally safe energy to Earth, via microwaves, as the Grand Coulee Dam, and forty five of them could meet the total present electrical power needs of the U.S.

Of course that’s always been the hope that such ventures would pay off in developing energy resources that could provide earth with a sustainable resource for millennia to come, as well as mineral and other natural resources that would help the human species to make its first tentative steps into colonizing our Solar System.

It’s only been in the past few years with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos that the entrepreneurial and competitive spirit has once again sparked such initiatives to become more than fantasy. I have to admit against the Luddite and Anti-Tech visions of many nay sayers our only hope as a species in my own opinion (take it for what it’s worth) is such ventures. Otherwise we will eventually through natural or artificial catastrophes expose ourselves to an ultimate end game if we do not allow for an opening onto these greater challenges.

We need a new vision for the human project or we will end in stupidity, war, famine, pestilence, catastrophe, etc. More and more my whole focus is turning away from the idiocy of our modern politics and toward something which we are sorely lacking: a positive vision to get us over the hump of our current Left/Right civil-war. The recent battles in Charlottesville between Alt-Right and Anti-Fa over the symbols of another Civil-War give us hint not only of the dark hole we are digging for ourselves on this planet, but reinforce my thoughts on politics: it’s a dead end world without vision or imagination. We are dooming ourselves to a new Civil-War not over territory but over the species itself. We’re talking about the end game of civilization that is at stake. So that while the Left attacks late capitalism, White privilege, and Anti-Blackness vs. libertarian revolt, HBD, and White supremacists we only know one thing for sure: this is a Manichean vision of total apocalypse than can only end if the defeat, not triumph for either side. Is this what we want? One wonders why things have come to this, who is behind it, and how we can at street level change the message from one of war between competing ideologies, politics, and futures to one of change, cooperation, and mutual understanding. What ever happened to democracy, anyway? For all intents and purposes democracy is dead and mute. Watching the current malaise in Europe, the U.S., India, China, Russia, Africa, etc. one gets a feeling that populism, authoritarianism, and the rise of a new inverted totalitarianism of austerity, poverty, and exclusion is on the horizon. Can we turn this around? What would it take? A new vision? Are there signs of such a vision in the world?

Ben Bova in his Martian odyssey Mars would give on such vision.  In about the year 2020, a huge multinational project gets under way, the bulk of it seen through the eyes of young Navaho geologist and Mars-voyage hopeful Jamie Waterman. Unconcerned with traditional science-fictional plotting and melodrama, Bova focuses tightly on the day-to-day, nuts-and-bolts details: the inordinate amount of politicking necessary to get the project off the ground; the vital cooperation and occasional wrangling between the many participating nations (Russian pilots, American software, Japanese technology and money, plus a sprinkling of Europeans); the months of arduous training; more politicking as science and flight-crew teams are selected from the dozens of expectant trainees–Jamie gets the nod because geologist #1 falls ill, and the much-loathed #2 is forced out by his colleagues; the tensions that build up through long months in space. Neither does the exploration of Mars run smoothly. Stepping down onto the red sand, Jamie offends the powers-that-he by lapsing into Navaho instead of parroting a politically correct prepared speech; a British doctor, hot to seduce one of the female crew members, neglects his job; a meteorite shower nearly destroys the explorers’ living quarters; Jamie persuades mission control to let him approach a cliff village he’s convinced he finds; the explorers fall mysteriously ill; Jamie’s Mars buggy falls into a dust bowl while his crew are too weak to haul themselves out. And, well, of course there’s life on Mars!

Another Mars trilogy is a series of award-winning science fiction novels by Kim Stanley Robinson that chronicles the settlement and terraforming of the planet Mars through the intensely personal and detailed viewpoints of a wide variety of characters spanning almost two centuries. Ultimately more utopian than dystopian, the story focuses on egalitarian, sociological, and scientific advances made on Mars, while Earth suffers from overpopulation and ecological disaster.

James S.A. Corey in Leviathan Wakes gives us a future in which humanity has colonized much of the Solar System. Earth, governed by the United Nations, and the Martian Congressional Republic act as competing superpowers, maintaining an uneasy military alliance in order to exert dual hegemony over the peoples of the Asteroid belt, known as “Belters.” Belters, whose bodies tend to be thin and elongated due to their low-gravity environment, carry out the gritty, blue-collar work that provides the system with essential natural resources, but they are largely marginalized by the rest of the Solar System. The Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), a network of loosely-aligned militant groups, seeks to combat the Belt’s exploitation at the hands of the “Inners,” who, in turn, have branded the OPA a terrorist organization.

Hannu Rajaniemi in The Quantum Theif gives us a future set in a post-human future solar system. The people living in the Oubliette society on Mars have two types of memory; in addition to a traditional, personal memory, there is the exomemory, which can be accessed by other people, from anywhere in the city. Memories about personal experiences can be stored in the exomemory and partitioned, with different levels of access granted to different people. These memories can be used, among other things, as an expedient form of communication.

The Oubliette society has an economy where time is used as currency. When an individual’s time is expended, their consciousness is uploaded into a “Quiet”. The Quiet are mute machine servants who maintain and protect the city. Although the quiet seem to have little interest in the world outside their occupations, they do seem to retain some traces of their former personalities and memories.

The conspiracy central to the plot involves the hidden rulers, called the “cryptarchs”, manipulating and abusing the exomemory and through the citizens’ transformations to quiet and back, the traditional memory as well. In the book, the Oubliette society is compared to a panopticon; a prison, where every action of the dwellers can be scrutinized.

Each of these novels presents a different take on the near term future, exposing many layers to how humanity, technology, and politics mesh and construct a viable alternative path. Perhaps we need to stop hating each other and begin instead listening and talking to each other. As long as the extreme voices of the political Left and Right continue to dominate the margins of this world we will have no diplomatic resolution to this matter: only an end game of destruction and war. Is this truly what we want? I hope not… I know I’m an old fucker, and most of my ideas may seem antiquated at this point, but I’ve tried to keep pace with current scientific, philosophical, political, literary, and socio-cultural thought. I know I’m pessimistic about many things, and the notion of hope is far from my own troubled view of life and existence, and yet does one need hope to envision a future worth living in; or, is courage in one’s despair a better path forward, one that realizes that like John F. Kennedy the future holds no promises, and the difficulties presented by it will be hard, not easy; and, the challenges might at times seem almost insurmountable and impossible, and yet, like those Western frontiersman Taylor described, what we need most right now is the “coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness, that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients, that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends, that restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom…”. Maybe in the end these are traits of the frontier – for a space faring people, traits that will open us up to endless vistas rather than bring us to the brink of destruction.

What I like about the entrepreneurial spirit of an Elon Musk is their pugnaciousness, their ability to say “fuck you” to the Establishment, the State, the Cathedral and surmount the odds, put their money and their intelligence to work, produce the technologies needed to not only be competitive in the 21st Century, but to produce a world that will keep pace with the future, accelerate it, bring it about, push the juggernaut of the old school Leviathans to wake up and realize their about to be left behind as the Elon Musks of the world create the future they only dream of. The future of the American Dream is still alive for those willing to step out of their protective world of security and do something, anything… act now to build a world worth living in.

 

 

Subterranean Utopia: The Destruction of Reality

Escape is never more exciting than when it spills out into the streets, where trust in appearances, trust in words, trust in each other, and trust in this world all disintegrate in a mobile zone of indiscernibility. It is in these moments of opacity, insufficiency, and breakdown that darkness most threatens the ties that bind us to this world.

—Andrew Culp,  Dark Deleuze 

Karl Mannheim in his classic Ideology and Utopia defines the utopian imaginal in its ideal form as no-place, the place beyond our world, a “state of mind,” a psychological world rather than a real political possibility that one is seeking to realize against the current state of the world:

A state of mind is utopian when it is incongruous with the state of reality within which it occurs. This incongruence is always evident in the fact that such a state of mind in experience, in thought, and in practice, is oriented towards objects which do not exist in the actual situation. However, we should not regard as utopian every state of mind which is incongruous with and transcends the immediate situation (and in this sense, ” departs from reality “). Only those orientations transcending reality will be referred to by us as utopian which, when they pass over into conduct, tend to shatter, either partially or wholly, the order of things prevailing at the time.

The last sentence is the thrust of his argument, and should be attended too in that there is a whole tradition of revolutionary thought that underlies this need to transcend the current state of affairs of one’s political age. And, yet, against Mannheim’s notion of transcendence, I’d turn it toward a more immanent and subterranean need not to seek a beyond, but to uncover what is already hidden, the occult world of obscure forces that exist in the interstices of the political and socio-cultural strata, the gaps and cracks where a secret order of the world is situated not in some absolute Outside but in the very fabric of the world itself.

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