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: