Daily Thought: Zero Person Reality

Because Graham Harman’s work is usually mangled by his enemies to the point of derision I’ve often wondered why he strikes such a bitter note in many current thinkers on speculative realism. One aspect that many confuse with Harman’s stance is vitalism and panpsychism which he spends quite a bit of time refuting or at least showing that his stance is like but not like those who buy into such a naïve system. I was rereading an essay he has in David Skirbina’s collection where Graham Harman emphasizes this difference:

“…any ontology in which things are reducible to a listing of attributes, I hold that the being of things is never commensurate with descriptions of any sort. Objects, in a broad sense including trees, protons, animals, cinder blocks, nations, humans, and fictional characters, are never exhausted by any possible manifestation. Hence, objects must be granted a zero-person reality that can only be translated into descriptive terms of the first- or third-person kind. Here we have yet another variant of the forgotten occasionalist problem, since human consciousness is stripped of its purported ability to exhaust apples and stars with third-person descriptions, and even of its purported ability to drink its own self dry by means of direct first-person awareness.” (Mind that Abides, p. 269).

This notion of zero-person reality seems very useful to me. Most battles over the notion of consciousness usually come down to description, one that will either reduce discussions down to naturalizing the mind; or, others in moving into a complete break, a dualist transcending of nature/consciousness. Harman seems to move beyond either reducing the one to the other, or in transcending and cutting them permanently. How? By this notion of objects becoming in their relations part of a third object, situated on the interior of this other. So that instead of the occasionalist answer in which God is the third object that brings the two into relation, Harman instead secularizes it by the invention of a new medium: the third object which is neither God or part of either the natural or idealist perspective of first or third person descriptive processes, but rather a neutral medium at zero point intensity. Such a notion is liberating in that it moves beyond the problem of first or third person description and representation, and therefore moves out of the dilemma of consciousness altogether. Of course it opens up another can or worms, but that can be dealt with and Harman in his essay works through that. Still quite interesting.

Daily Thought

At times I’ve envisioned a epic of the Earth herself, a work much in the same vein as the Indic Ocean of Story, or the Arabian Nights tales translated by Burton or Lane, or even of that monstrous etym smasher Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce…. a work that would go along on some future voyage to Mars, be read by thousands unknown future citizens of that red planet in remembrance of our homeworld, a world that might at that time lie under ash or nuclear waste or oceanic encompassment or any number of man made or natural disasters apocalyptic or not… a tale that would bring to remembrance the evolution of the cosmos, earth, and the life of insect, animal, and human; the life of our planet as told by the Earth herself not as some romantic tale but rather speculative and real, a tale of the hidden life of things in their own words, saying what cannot be said in human terms but rather in the language of the earth.

As I’ve been unpacking the literature both religious and secular of the past out of my libraries of late, books I haven’t seen for years, I began putting the epics of various nations the prime being of the ten volume Mahabharata, Ramayana, Rig Veda, the various epics of Greece, Rome, Medieval and Chivalric, the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Romantic, Decadent, up to many of the prose epics of our modernity Proust and Joyce, etc.; the Middle-Eastern Sufi and Arabian Nights tales; the mythologies of Africa, South America; the Norse and Germanic and Icelandic Sagas, etc. …

Just these alone one could spend years wandering and rewandering through their wisdom and lore and magic and spiritual depths and breadths… So many people now, young people seem so caught up in the desperation of a vanity politics, of the curse of our decadent moment of slippage into chaos and transitional stupidity, a secular world full of social, political, and philosophical speculation that seems to forget all the worlds literature and spiritual heritage as if it were naught, a thing of the past to be forgotten, wiped out, disinherited. Why? So what if humanism failed? Does that mean that literature and the inheritance of earth failed too? Humanism was but a blip on the screen of the past, while the world’s literature went under no banner, and cannot be reduced to one. So why have we let it? Why have we disowned our own past and covered it over with layer after layer of political revenge? As if the dead must pay for a thousand generations for the blood and pain of all those dishonored by the inhuman ones?

Daily Thought


After reading a comment by a die hard physicalist… my response:

I almost laughed out loud when you said “As a materialist my advice would be to answer that question sticking to physics.” The problem with such an outdated physicalist materialist perspective is that modern quantum physics is the most abstract and concrete of sciences: it’s use of diagrams, models, simulations to invent hypothetical entities based of pure theoretic mathemes (top-down), which are then used to test “possibles” (i.e., the hypothetical Higg’s boson was an abstract theoretic matheme until it was indirectly observed through interactions with observables, etc.). The point is that old school materialism of which physicalism was a mainstay no longer exists in any viable fashion except in the die hard mind’s of intentional philosophers. The sciences could care less whether what their dealing with is reduced to mental or physical, what they are concerned with is the discernment of truth using their heuristic equations which if proven support more and more a wild universe that is far beyond our puny human mind’s to comprehend or believe. And, yet, we can use this thing that has no name: these forces we indirectly engage to solve problems for which there is no known solution only more questions. It’s like the old chicken or egg problem: which comes first – Mind or Matter? Or is Mind and Matter the human reduction and masks for something we have as yet no knowledge, and like my friend R. Scott Bakker’s been saying repeatedly on his blog Three Pound Brain that we are enclosed in ‘medial or heuristic neglect” and surmise only our own echoes rather than the data that lies outside our brains filters? All our knowledge is but the fabrications of an earth-bound creature prone to error, illusion, and delusion whose cognitive biases and distortions lead us in a circle of ignorance, doubt, and inconclusive evidence both about ourselves and the natural and/or artificial environments within which we all live and have our being.

I think reality is far stranger than any of us would want to admit, and that we are impinging day by day on the unknown in indirect ways that our ancestors would’ve thought of as magic; and, yet, it’s only the magic of math and language, a black box within which we all presume to know and realize after all that what we know is but a minute crack in the wall of our shadowed cave. And as we dig deeper into that black hole at the bottom of quantum theory we begin to see and know indirectly the marvelous that changes us moment by moment, and determines every aspect of our being and becoming lives in this Multiverse. Even the sciences are based on a sense of wonder. We should remember that, too.

American Atrocity: The Stylization of Violence

I think the twentieth century reaches just about its highest expression on the highway. Everything is there, the speed and violence of our age, its love of stylization, fashion, the organizational side of things – what I call the elaborately signalled landscape.

—J.G Ballard, Extreme Metaphors 

Is there not something suspicious, indeed symptomatic, about this focus on subjective violence-that violence which is enacted by social agents, evil individuals, disciplined repressive apparatuses, fanatical crowds? Doesn’t it desperately try to distract our attention from the true locus of trouble, by obliterating from view other forms of violence and thus actively participating in them?

—Slavoj Zizek, Violence 

Of late I’ve been rereading William T. Vollman’s Rising Up and Rising Down – Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means, a work he spent thirteen years writing and which when first published came out in seven volumes. I’m reading the one volume edition which in itself is still quite lengthy at 705 pages. My studies this year seem to have shifted several times, and have now turned toward this dark part of the human compass: violence. Thinking on the recent strangeness and bewildering madness of the massacres in Las Vegas where Stephen Craig Paddock from the Mandalay Hotel apparently motiveless at this time (?) murdered 58 people enjoying a country rock outdoor festival.

I remember reading Berardi’s book last year in which he argued that our world had become not only virtualized, but that many people live their lives as if they were inside a live-action MMO playing out the avatar heroics of some never-ending game in which they are both victim and savior. Not only that but that many men have over time become desensitized to the point that all empathy and fellow feeling has vanished. We’ve become a full blown sociopathic society whose only passion is violence and mayhem. This depersonalization and fragmentation of subject and work and play produces Berardi will tell us new forms of violence and rage. The psychopathology of mass murder in our time becomes a form of this whole inversion of the fragmentation and depersonalization of self and life, which leads to each moment as a simulated virtual game in which we are all immersed in the virtual unified field of fantasy realm in which the programs that run the coded reality scenarios also infects and acts impersonally on us as if we were all zombies, robots, and puppets controlled by the vectors of impossible nightmares.

Nike’s motto: Just do it! he tells us becomes for many of these suffering young men the inner truth of that cycle of depression, catatonia and psychotic acting out that can culminate into spectacular murderous suicide. (KL 710)

Just do it: violence, explosion, suicide. Killing and being killed are linked in this kind of acting out, although the murderer may, exceptionally, survive. When running amok, the borders between one’s body and the surrounding universe are blurred, and so is the limit between killing and being killed. Panic, in fact, is the simultaneous perception of the totality of possible stimulations, the simultaneous experience of everything, of every past, every future. In this state of mental alteration the distinction between the self and the universe collapses. (KL 711)

The point he is making is that in our age of digital connection the psychotic framework of hyper-stimulation and constant mobilization of nervous energy is pushing people, especially suggestible young people, socially marginalized and precarious, to a different kind of acting out: an explosive demonstration of energy, a violent mobilization of the body, which culminates in the aggressive, murderous explosion of the self.(KL 715)

In many ways America is a fantasyland of violence where people live so close to the threat of horror, death, and mayhem that they’ve even stylized it in their daily lives of entertainment through stadium and televised Football, Wide World of Wrestling, Car racing, survival TV, Paint Ball, and hundreds of other lesser games of violence both real and virtual. J.G. Ballard commenting on this culture of violence and entertainment once surmised,

A car crash harnesses elements of eroticism, aggression, desire, speed, drama, kinesthetic factors, the stylizing of motion, consumer goods, status – all these in one event. I myself see the car crash as a tremendous sexual event really, a liberation of human and machine libido (if there is such a thing). That’s why the death in a crash of a famous person is a unique event – whether it’s Jayne Mansfield or James Dean – it takes place within this most potent of all consumer durables. Aircraft crashes don’t carry any of these elements whatever – they’re totally tragic and totally meaningless.2

This recent event falls into that latter category of tragic and meaningless: this sense of helplessness in both the authorities, media, and populace at large that such an act of violent terror could have no motive other than total rage and despair, self-hatred to the point that it turns outward (as Freud suggested ages ago) toward all those others who become both scapegoat and sacrifice to the self-immolating madness of the sado-masochistic death drive of a lunatic. Instead of the Ballardian erotics of sublime and sensual annihilation in the epitome of capitalist consumer lifestyle, Paddock and his ilk are more like the grotesque and thanatropic outriders of a nightmare world of hate and self-annihilating bitterness and drunken torpor, a rage at the light rather than its iconic glamour. Paddock with his breaking of the contract with life entered the space of unreason, allowed the forces of entropy to take him down that path of nullity where his only freedom was a self-lacerating rage against everything he wasn’t.

We’ve all known for a long while that good news does not sell, that bad news is the order of the day and our news outlets, our games of entertainment, our reading material, our cinemas and televisions are replete with the dark inhumanity of man and nature, violence, dread, and terror. Why? We all know violence is bad, and yet in our perverse  heart of heart’s we’re also excited by violence, and if we are attracted to it, it may be for good reasons. Even as we deny it we secretly are infatuated by violence. A perversity of human nature? The important thing is that violence is a show. All of us have made the world in which we live – we’re not forced to watch the newsreels on television, we don’t have to look at the pictures in illustrated magazines. War, if it is a show, is a show at which we are the paying audience, let’s remember that. As Ballard admonishes us “All I’m saying is that one ought to be honest about one’s responses. People didn’t in fact feel the kind of automatic revulsion to the Biafra war that they were told they should feel. They were stirred, excited, involved. It may be that one needs a certain sort of salt in one’s emotional diet.” (EM, KL 735-739)

Although our central nervous systems have been handed to us on a plate by millions of years of evolution, have been trained to respond to violence at the level of fingertip and nerve ending, in fact now our only experience of violence is in the head, in terms of our imagination, the last place where we were designed to deal with violence. We have absolutely no biological training to deal with violence in imaginative terms. And our whole inherited expertise for dealing with violence, our central nervous systems, our musculature, our senses, our ability to run fast or to react quickly, our reflexes, all that inherited expertise is never used. We sit passively in cinemas watching movies like The Wild Bunch where violence is just a style. (EM, KL 849)

Here we are all dressed up in our finery playing the role of ultra-modern citizens of a progressive technological civilization, telling ourselves that we are peace loving people who wouldn’t hurt a fly. All lies, for under the veneer of glitz we are still those wild inhuman animals of the savannahs that roamed the wild lands of Africa, Asia, and Europe thousands of years ago. Our emotional and passional selves are still bound by the habits of hundreds of thousands of years of animal life, habitual ways of violence, fear, and despair in a natural environment in which we more times that we’d like to believe were the hunted rather than the hunter, victims of predatory creatures much more efficient at killing that we have ever been until our technological age.

Even that heretic of the Left, the Lacanian-Hegel, Slavoj Zizek reminds us that subjective violence is just the most visible portion of a triumvirate that also includes two objective kinds of violence. First, there is a “symbolic” violence embodied in language and its forms, what Heidegger would call “our house of being.”  This violence is not only at work in the obvious-and extensively studied-cases of incitement and of the relations of social domination reproduced in our habitual speech forms: there is a more fundamental form of violence still that pertains to language as such, to its imposition of a certain universe of meaning. Second, there is what Zizek calls “systemic” violence, or the often catastrophic consequences of the smooth functioning of our economic and political systems.3

Another aspect is that there is something inherently mystifying in a direct confrontation with violent acts like the Las Vegas massacre: the overpowering horror of such violent acts and empathy with the victims inexorably function as a lure which prevents us from thinking. A dispassionate conceptual development of the typology of violence must by definition ignore its traumatic impact. Yet there is a sense in which a cold analysis of violence somehow reproduces and participates in its horror. (Violence, pp. 3-4) It’s this sense of voyeurism, the strange relation we have with news as both in-formed awareness and entertainment, spectacle and sport that underlies American unthinking acceptance of violence as part of our society. We’ve included violence as entertainment in our imaginary lives in sex, economics, and everyday life. Violence has become so ubiquitous and invisible that when it raises its ugly head and binds us to its monstrous acts we are not just shocked but infatuated by the madness and insanity of it in our lives.

Zizek relates that the Lacanian difference between reality and the Real is simply that “reality” is the social reality of the actual people involved in interaction and in the productive processes, while the Real is the inexorable “abstract,” spectral logic of capital that determines what goes on in social reality. One can experience this gap in a palpable way when one visits a country where life is obviously in shambles. We see a lot of ecological decay and human misery. (Violence, p. 13) In other words the actual events of the Las Vegan massacre with the now past truth of all those real victims who suffered the shock of madness, the fear and terror, the pain and suffering of loved one’s murdered and wounded is the underlying reality of the event. While all the abstract commentary, news broadcasts, media frenzy and speculation on this reality is the cold dark abstraction of an impersonal machinic capitalism displacing the reality for the Real, wiping and erasing the event itself with a spectral logic of hyperreflection and overlays of imposed narratives and fictions, fantasy news that will replace the actual event with the prefabricated and staged show of media spectacle.

As Hannah Arendt once suggested of the purges and atrocities of Hitler and Stalin: these figures were not personifications of sublime Byronesque demonic evil: the gap between their intimate experience and the horror of their acts was immense. The experience that we have of our lives from within, the story we tell ourselves about ourselves in order to account for what we are doing, is fundamentally a lie – the truth lies outside, in what we do. (Z, p. 47) Moment by moment the facts of this tragic event are lured into the vast media machine, rescripted according to political and ideological formats, dramatized with staged commentary and docudrama tales from experts, eyewitnesses, families of survivors, tales of heroism, of tears and funerals, symbols of despair and hope. All the while the repetitions of the perpetrator and his monstrous act are scripted to show his sordid life in all its strange and bewildering array of violence, drunkenness, and cowardly cynicism, along with the continued narrative of the missing ‘motive’, the underlying thread of terror, plan, conspiracy…

Pat Pittman in the Encyclopedia of Murder was struck by the notion that mass murder and even sex crimes and serial killers in large part are a modern problem rather than something ancient. As Pittman reflected “sex crime was not, as I had always supposed, as old as history, but was a fairly recent phenomenon”.4 It was true that soldiers had always committed rape in wartime, and that sadists like Tiberius, Ivan the Terrible, Vlad the Impaler and Gilles de Rais certainly qualify as sex criminals; but in our modern sense of the word – that is, a man who commits rape because his sexual desires tend to run out of control – sex murder makes its first unambiguous appearance in the late nineteenth century. The Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 and the murders of the French “disemboweller” Joseph Vacher in the 1890s are among the first recorded examples. Some of the most famous sex crimes of the century occurred after the First World War: these included the murders of the “Düsseldorf Vampire” Peter Kürten, of America’s “Gorilla Murderer” Earle Nelson, of the child killer Albert Fish, and the extraordinary crimes of the Hungarian Sylvestre Matushka, who experienced orgasm as he blew up trains. (SK, KL 97-104)

Crimes like these were regarded as the solitary aberrations of madmen, and scarcely came to the attention of the general public. The crimes of an American mass murderer named Herman Webster Mudgett, alias Henry Howard Holmes, should be noted as an exception. Holmes began as a confidence trickster, and in the late 1880s he built himself a large house in a Chicago suburb that would become known as ‘Murder Castle’. When Holmes was arrested in 1894 for involvement in a swindle, police soon came to suspect that he was responsible for the murder of an associate named Pitezel, and three of Pitezel’s children. Further investigation revealed that Holmes had murdered a number of ex-mistresses, as well as women who had declined to become his mistress. Moreover, as Holmes himself confessed, killing had finally become an addiction which, he believed, had turned him into a monster. The total number of his murders is believed to be twenty-seven, and they qualify him as America’s first serial killer. He was hanged in 1896. (SK, KL 185-193)

FBI analysts define a serial killer as a murderer who is involved in three or more separate events, with an emotional cooling-off period between each homicide.  This cooling-off period is the main trait which distinguishes the serial killer from all other multiple murderers. Other identifiable differences may be found in their choice of victim. Serial killers tend to preselect a type of victim to murder, whereas classic mass murderers and spree killers will both murder whichever human targets happen to present themselves. Similarly the serial killer controls the successive stages of each murder he commits (to a larger or lesser degree, depending whether he is an organised or disorganised offender); while neither the classic mass murderer nor the spree killer is likely to have an opportunity to do so once the law enforcement agency concerned closes in on him. (SK, KL 1839)

We know that the Las Vegas killer was planning other events and venues for a continued foray in mass murder, so must conclude that although he didn’t have an opportunity to continue that he would have if he’d of survived. We also know that many classic mass murderers also seem not to want to live, once their own compulsive urge to kill has abated. Some, like Marc Lepine, then shoot themselves. Others – Charles Whitman, for example – carry on killing until the law enforcement agency concerned is left with no recourse but to kill them; offender behavior which some regard not as defiance of authority, but as an oblique form of suicide. (SK, KL 1852)

We know the Las Vegas killer committed suicide but left no note. As Colin Wilson explains:

Perhaps the most basic characteristic of the serial killer is one that he shares with most other criminals: a tendency to an irrational self-pity that can produce an explosion of violence. (SK 4996)

Another aspect is that Paddock like Ted Bundy, was an extremely heavy drinker. Alcohol had the same effect on Paddock and Bundy that drugs had on the Manson clan, creating a sense of unreality, a kind of moral vacuum without inhibitions. In this vacuum, murder meant very little. (SK, KL 4993)

Another factor is fame and recognition. As the “Monster of the Andes” Daniel Camargo Barbosa (During 1986, he raped and murdered seventy-two women and girls in the area of the port of Guayaquil.) once told an investigator when asked why he killed all those people, said:

‘When one has been the victim of traumatic experiences in childhood, one grows up with the mental conditions for committing these acts’… (SK, KL 5172)

All self-confessions aside, all analysis or commentary or reflection, philosophy, sociology, criminology, etc. – and, strangely the FBI and all other agencies have failed to discover a motive or reason behind the Las Vegas killings as of yet – we may never know why Paddock committed this atrocity. I’m sure we will see books on this shortly coming up with every type of motive, reason, conspiracy, or strange twist to a sordid tale; along with memorials to the victims and the heroes who helped during this event. All part of a slow recovery from the hidden truth that we are all capable of such hideous violence given the right circumstances, even if we deny that such actions are possible for such law abiding and upright moral creatures as ourselves. Once you strip us of all that façade of moral cant we are like such madmen nothing more than animals and monsters full of sado-masochistic drives toward suicide or murder, and that it is the imposition of all those cultural encrustations over this dark power of natural murderousness.

Rene Girard once spoke of the collapse of societies at the hands of violence:

When the religious framework of a society starts to totter, it is not exclusively or immediately the physical security of the society that is threatened; rather, the whole cultural foundation of the society is put in jeopardy. The institutions lose their vitality; the protective façade of the society gives way; social values are rapidly eroded, and the whole cultural structure seems on the verge of collapse.5

We know that Paddock was irreligious, maybe even atheistic, so that if anything it was the slow decay of our progressive Secular Age into decadence and decline rather than the religious worldview at stake in his thinking. The very cornerstone of democracy, Law and Justice and Freedom have in our own time begun to fragment and decay as the secular institutions of American democracy no longer offer the poor or middle-class a world worth living in, and our leaders have become unable to lead and provide us with a viable political and economic future on a planet that many believe is reaching both its limits in resources and natural capacity for a human civilization that has shown nothing but a propensity to violence against all past notions of the sacred. Our very denial of the sacred may in itself be the cause of the triggering effects of random acts of monstrous violence in the homeland, even as State violence is perpetrated in the incarceration of poor and black at home and the wars against all other nations for the remaining resources.

Maybe in the end the recent influx of mass murders in the homeland by young and old alike are wake up calls to the citizens that our world cannot go on as usual, that we are ourselves blind to our own violent ways and are producing in our daily lives the very things that are triggering the extreme revolt of madmen against us. In his novel The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s main character relates:

Rich dreams now which he was loathe to wake from. Things no longer known in the world. The cold drove him forth to mend the fire. Memory of her crossing the lawn toward the house in the early morning in a thin rose gown that clung to her breasts. He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins. As in a party game. Say the word and pass it on. So be sparing. What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not.6

It’s this sense of remembering and forgetting, of the mind’s dark tendency to alter the past in the mind, thereby altering reality or even annihilating it that brings us to that marked moment of acknowledgement that “each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins.” Reality is this movement between knowing and not-knowing, the oscillating rhythm of a brain caught in its own meshes, bound to a natural cycle of violence and memory for which it has neither reasons nor a definable answer – only more questions without end.


  1. Berardi, Franco “Bifo” (2015-02-03). Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide (Futures) (Kindle Locations 607-608). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
  2. Ballard, J.G; Sellars, Simon; O’Hara, Dan. Extreme Metaphors (Kindle Locations 708-712). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  3. Zizek, Slavoj. Violence (BIG IDEAS//small books) (pp. 1-2). Picador. Kindle Edition.
  4. Colin Wilson; Donald Seaman. The Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence (Kindle Locations 97-104). Random House. Kindle Edition.
  5. Girard, Rene. Violence and the Sacred. (Page 49). W.W.Norton & Company (January 1, 1979)
  6. Cormac McCarthy. The Road (Kindle Locations 1233-1236). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The Traveller: John Twelve Hawks

Book Review: The Traveller: Book One of the Fourth Realm Trilogy by John Twelve Hawks

A few years back I picked up John Twelve Hawks Fourth Realm Trilogy and thXJRHTFFPmisconstrued its overall theme and put it down (for whatever reason?). Not having connection to my library (being packed up in the move) I found a copy of his first book in a friend’s home and borrowed it for a little light fare at night. I wish now I’d of read this work years ago, for Hawks’ – whether that is his real or appellate name – is a good story teller and the work as a foray into urban fantasy works.

Hawks is able to weave a tale around a world in which most of what we take for granted is not as it seems – and, yet, he doesn’t just copy the usual paranoid conspiracy crowd, but rather transforms his critical apparatus to shape a narrative around a world in which Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon has become ubiquitous due to our electronic age.
It’s a tale in which there is a secret history of the world in which humans (as in most conspiracy thought) are pawns, sleepers divided into subnormals or drones (criminal elements, poor, excluded, etc.) and normals or citizens (the basic consumer world of late capitalism). Along with this are three groups of hidden agents and their enemies that play our a dramatic history of freedom and fate over the lives of all others on the planet.

The first group is the Travelers: humans who have been gifted with the ability (much like Shamans, Mystics, Sufi, Hindu, Shivaite, or any number of magical, occult, new age astral thought…) to concentrate their psychic energy (astral body) into light and through trance travel into other realms, other worlds. There seems to be four barriers of based on the elements that must be overcome for the traveler to enter into actual other worlds: air, fire, water, earth. Each with certain obstacles to overcome, etc. The Traveler can apparently take a talisman with them (as in the novel the twin brothers who become enemies have Japanese katana’s as Talisman’s).

The second group are Harlequin’s who have since at least the rise of the Knight’s Templar’s protected the Travelers. The Harlequin’s much like the Japanese ninja’s are adept in various martial arts and magical techniques, gymnastics, strategies, and multivalent in weapons, secrecy, anonymity.
The third group is the Pathfinder’s who are those that have the ability to awaken the Traveler’s through 99 special techniques that have been collected in a special book past on from master to pupil.

What was interesting in the first book is Hawk’s ability to make not only the character driven story of interest, but his ability to drive it forward and create an intriguing cast of characters that are not just the typical pasteboard stand in’s but actual full fledged creatures one can empathize with. Very few writers of thrillers have that ability. Most novels are boring and predictable and the characters never become real on the page. Another aspect is that Hawks though didactic in intent doesn’t beat you over the head with polemical statements, but instead allows the story to unfold the message in natural terms and at appropriate times.

The story itself is based around a young woman, Maya, and her struggle with and against the legacy of being a Harlequin. Raised up by her father, Thorn, a man who spent his life in the service of protecting Travelers was recently crippled in an incident involving an ambush set up by a secret group named the Brethren who have for centuries sought out both Traveler and Harlequin and Pathfinder alike with one goal: to murder them and instigate a world wide order of control over the unknowing sleepers: citizens and drones.

For Maya the struggle began as a young girl in her teens during a specific trial in which her father leads her into an ambush with a group of Brethren forcing her to fight or die. She has been trained by him in all the deadly arts of combat and perception and makes quick work of her assailants, but in so doing is disgusted by what she’s become and abandons both her father and the life of the Harlequin for years. Barely keeping in touch with her father she’s led a life of a citizen as best she could during the intervening years until she is summoned to meet with him in Prague.

She comes to Prague and rejects Thorn’s proposal that she take up her rightful place in the Harlequin world, go to America and defend two brothers who have recently emerged from the underground and find and protect them before the Brethren do. But even as she leaves the building returning to her hotel she discovers that things are amiss, something is not right and returns to her father’s hideout to find him and his new student have been murdered. Not only that murdered by that he has been killed by a genetic monstrosity unleashed by the Brethren and their emissary Nathan Boone, head of security using “splicers” or hyena’s that have been genetically altered to feel no pain, and to have one goal – hunger for flesh and blood.

Needless to say this awakens in Maya a deep seated hatred of the Brethren to the point that all she wants now is revenge on those who did this to her father…  the rest of the story you will want to read to find out more.

The story is fast paced and has some interesting plot twists and turns, a thriller that will keep you turning the pages as well as in depth characters who make the world feasible. All in all I found the book a delight and instructive, a fable about our prison planet and the corporatocracy of global capitalism and the Deep State of rogue organizations, power, and money that unhinged criminal cartels seem to pervade our failing democracies as we enter a period of authoritarian rule and strong media fictions that cover our world in stagecraft rather real news. A world where those in power work against democracy and shape a vision of world order in which the few rather than the many have the power and control and seek total dominion over every aspect of our existence. A Total Surveillance Society based on human security, lies, and deceit.

Once you accept our inherent ability to say no, you begin to see history in a different way. History isn’t a chronicle of the lives of kings, or their modern equivalents. It’s the story of a continual war between the people and institutions that have power and that core group in each new generation that decides, “I don’t accept your right to that power, your authority.” And this isn’t just a political and social rebellion. The conflict includes those people who challenge the status quo in science, technology, literature, and art.1

As Eric Jensen said a few years back the voices tell you that those in power have your best interests at heart. The micro-chips (RFID’s, etc.) are to reduce theft, the cameras to increase security, and the MRIs, well, if you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid of? A world where everything you own is chipped: mobile phones, refrigerators, sports shoes, etc. all the consumer goods surrounding you connected to ubiquitous receivers at the local market, the airport, the downtown total surveillance network, etc. A world completely constructed as they say to protect you and your children. A world that will soon track every aspect of your daily life from waking to sleep, scanning your clothes which will have these dust mite chips embedded, and the medical info chip you hang round your neck or wrist. In a generation your children will grow up knowing no other way, knowing nothing of a world without chips and scans and surveillance.

Even the thoughts in you head may come not from some unconscious process but rather from a machinic system. As Jense says: “Another article, written not so long ago, began with the unforgettable first line: “Those voices in your head may be real.” It went on to say that scientists have been able to develop the rapacity to project a beam of sound so focused that only one person can hear it. It can be transmitted from hundreds of yards away. The military is of course extremely interested in this technology. Microwaves can also be used to transmit sound. Pulses can be beamed into your head, such that you might think that you’re hearing them, or even thinking them. These pulses could be shaped into words, into thoughts. 2

Jeremy Benthem once proposed the infamous Panopticon which was never built, but the notion of a total surveillance society began with his blueprint. In it he foresaw a way of infusing the whole of society with such a mind over mind apparatus for “punishing the incorrigible, guarding the insane, reforming the “vicious, confining the suspected, employing the idle, maintaining the helpless, curing the sick, instructing the willing in any branch of industry, or training the rising race in the path of education: in a Word, whether it be applied to the purposes of perpetual prisons in the room of death, or prisons for confinement before trial, or penitentiary-houses. or houses of correction, or work-houses. or manufactories, or mad-houses, or hospitals, or schools. ” (Jensen, p. 9)

The point here is to make the whole planet into an open prison in which the inmates would be jailor and jailed one and all. Just the notion that you cannot hide, that you have no privacy, that your life 24/7 is under the scrutiny of machines, AI’s that can monitor, track, modulate, and filter every piece of data and information about you and your actions, your desires, wants, needs. All this would allow the prisoner to mind his own life without the need for any other external agent other than his own fear of the System. “Hence,” as Michel Foucault wrote, “the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility I hat assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should he caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers. To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so. In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should he visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at anyone moment; but he must he sure that he may always he so. In order to make the presence or absence of the inspector unverifiable, so that the prisoners, in their cells, cannot even see a shadow, Bentham envisaged not only venetian blinds on the windows of the central observation hall, but, on the inside, partitions that intersected the hall at right angles and, in order to pass from one quarter to the other, not doors but zig-zag openings; for the slightest noise, a gleam of light, a brightness in a half-opened door would betray the presence of the guardian. The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.”3

Yet, unlike the literal Panopticon proposed by Benthem the new ubiquitous and invisible Panopticon is a Tower of Electronic surveillance hidden in every object of our capitalist society with all its smart devices from toaster ovens to automobiles, ticket stations to ATM’s. And someday the corporations will engage their employees to embedded such health chips with one’s life history into a small under the skin adaptor that can be read by any and all machines connected to the Surveillance State. Of course we scoff at such things now, saying our civil liberties will always be protected, yada yada ya…. but will it? Will a generation of two down the pipe remember such things? Will they due to terror, war, insecurity, etc. be willing to sacrifice privacy for protection? Will they?

What John Twelve Hawk’s does well in his fable of our modern surveillance society is to underpin the corruption of the Deep State, this rogue world of secrecy, surveillance, black ops, the collusion of corporate and government as its seek total command and control of the populace, along with the exclusion and extrication of any thought-freedom and powers of mind that could awaken people from their sleep in capital, luxury, and erotic wish fulfillment. Even the point of keeping democracy on the edge of oblivion, the charade of politics and stupid leaders, the monetary crisis, the wars, the terror, the all-pervading sense of fear and apathy, all this destruction of the modern world is part of the plan to keep us locked into a need for protection, security, and enslavement to the System.

  1. Twelve Hawks, John. Against Authority: Freedom and the Rise of the Surveillance States (Kindle Locations 186-189). 22 West 26th Street Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Jensen, Eric. Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control. Chelsea Green Publishing; First Edition edition (September 15, 2004)
  3. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Vintage; 2nd edition (April 18, 2012)

I’m back… update!



Finally got moved into our new home in Wyoming. Was out of touch for a few weeks until we could get satellite installed for new connection. That being said, I will probably be publishing less over the next few months while working on the interior of our house. So new articles will come, but sparsely until the work on our home is completed. I’m doing most of the finish carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and other sundry aspects like sheet rocking, mudding, painting, cabinets, installing showers, kitchen, etc. So not a lot of time left over for writing. :()

Sometimes a writer…

When I began it I had no plan at all. I wasn’t even writing a book. … I said to myself, Now I can write. Now I can make myself a vase like that which the old Roman kept at his bedside and wore the rim slowly away with kissing it. So I, who had never had a sister and was fated to lose my daughter in infancy, set out to make myself a beautiful and tragic little girl.

—William Faulkner, On Writing The Sound and The Fury

Sometimes a writer has to stop listening to the world’s sorrow and begin listening to that dark place in the soul where time and memory and desire all seem to mix together like triune lover’s in some strange perversity of sex and flesh and thought giving birth to that substance of enlivening life that begins to speak with the voice of human suffering that is the inner life of the world. Only then can a writer begin to write something that is alive and full of that sparking power of mind that stays us against the sorrows of the world and of ourselves.

When we look back upon the ancient Greeks we see a world full of suffering, a tragic world of men pitted against each other and the natural elements. Humans facing doom in the only way they can: with dignity and pride. Not the false pride of those who would lord it over others, dominate them through rank and subterfuge, but rather through that natural power of flesh and mind, the body’s fierce vitality and the mind’s cunning intellect. Wit, grace, and style: the triune keepers of natural aristocracy. The power of intellect to cut through the subtle barriers of false power, cast down the dullard’s slow thought and bring us that charmed glow of knowledge balanced by the speed of a rapier mind, sharp and quick. Grace not of the dandy but of the relaxed but knowing mind that can carry flesh and thought as if it were both a delicate artifact and a deadly force. And the style that holds other minds rapt in fascination and dread, hinting at that charmed power that can seduce even as it slays.

Such men not only endured, but prevailed. The writer’s task is the regeneration and restoration of this tragic world view, to enliven his thought with the heroic power of mind and body. To shed the false pretenses of our petty culture and inhabit that space of reasons wherein the strength and courage to bare witness to the suffering of men and the world, of women and children and beast of the field. Such is the task we face in our time to renew the earth with the courage and fortitude of heroic insouciance – that indifference and impersonalism of the magnanimous being who is not threatened by the pettiness of small minds, nor the slights of vindictive and criminal thoughts. A being who can bare witness to those who have been overlooked: the poor, the destitute, and excluded. Give them hope where there is only despair; not the false hope of faith and other worldly promises, but of this world – a hope that gathers courage and raises the dead from their long sleep in time. No fictional resurrection or redemption, but the veritable enlivening of their minds and bodies with the ability to believe once again in the future, a future where all can exist in a world worth living in. Not some Utopian nowhere, but a real future full of strife and war against the spirit of resentment and unchecked pride. It’s time for humans to believe in humanity once again. For far too long we’ve listened to the troubadours of anti-humanist discord and human obsolescence. It’s time to step out into the Sun and claim our rightful inheritance, awaken the powers of our own inner being and invent the possibility of life, again. 

The Rise of Realism


The Rise of Realism

Every Sunday I dip into ongoing works. I read on a rotational basis rather than gulping everything in one log sitting. I’ve always found that if one reads a little at a time, then sits down and cogitates and works over the passages this way and that, turning them toward other thinkers, writers, etc., then applying them to one’s own conceptual framework and even debating this vs. that from one’s own angle then from the angle of the Other one eventually comes to a truce. What does this mean? One makes it one’s own either accepting or rejecting it, and in doing that one makes it a memory – mimetically applying it by light or shadow in one’s thought.

Today was reading some passages in Manuel DeLanda and Graham Harman’s book where they both agree that many process thinkers and others have a difficult time with an Object based philosophy always accusing them of reducing things to inanimate objective fact, facticity, etc., when in fact both see things and events within a temporal historical scaling that applies various speeds and rhythms to the life of objects: seeing an object as both cause and effect, but at different timescales – some cosmological.

As DeLanda asks Harman,

A process (or mechanism) would in turn be a series of events, though not necessarily a linear series. I have heard remarks that in your ontology events are not acknowledged, but I have the feeling that this is just a terminological quirk. I think that your concept of object encompasses both things and events, both considered to be objective. Is that correct?1

Harman will answer, saying,

It is merely a terminological issue indeed. Why do people have such a hard time seeing this? Events for me are encompassed under the term “object,” which I’ve retained simply to express my debt to the old Viennese discussion of objects (in Brentano and his students, including Husserl). Many people assume that “object” must refer only to inanimate physical solids that last for a very long time. But to return to my earlier point, some Deleuze-inspired authors like to speak in terms of a single matter-energy, with objects merely forming transiently as swirls out of that energy. An example would be Jane Bennett (2012), whose ideas I like very much despite this pretty big disagreement.

In a final passage DeLanda sees a similarity,

I myself have expressed a similar idea. In A Thousand Years (1997) I do assert that organisms are transitory coagulations in the flows of energy and matter coursing through ecosystems, and, more generally, I deal in that book with flows (of lava, biomass, memes, norms) treating objects as temporary structures appearing and disappearing within this fluid reality. This makes sense to me, but only as long as we keep in mind that a mind-independent reality possesses a variety of significant time scales. Across very long time scales (i.e., much longer than a human lifetime) many objects disappear from view and you would only be able to “see” flows, that is, becomings. At shorter time scales, many of these becomings can be grasped as semi-permanent beings. To use a different formulation: we just distinguished things from events, but over a long enough time scale many things can be treated as events: at the level of geological time scales, in which a significant event such as the clash between two tectonic plates may take millions of years, an entire human life becomes a bleep on the radar screen – that is, an almost instantaneous event. [my italics]

This blurring at timescales of objects and events at differing rhythms, speeds, scale seems to lead to a sense of memory rather than either thing or event. Sometimes I think of objects as congealed memories and Time is the keeper of these memories, almost like fragments of a ongoing ghost story in which the philosopher or scientist slowly unbinds the memory (physical or mimetic trace) of thing or event across its timeframe or lifetime. I mean when a physicist speaks of looking at events out there across the voids of space they always speak of looking back in time at events that happened billions of light-years in the past. Some of the light of galaxies we see from Hubble existed at timescales of 13 to 15 billions of years ago and yet we see their traces here, now. It’s these congealed memories of the past that we can unfold from the light-beams of distant events that in themselves are as well physical objects, so that both object and event are part of a vast cosmological recording marked on light. Maybe in the end we need new terms for this combination of light, object, time, memory, event; a meta-concept that would be inclusive of all these concepts.

If Speculative Realism has a future then it will need – like the earlier naïve realism of the nineteenth century, its shadow reflection in art and literature. Literature itself or at least novels began in a revolt against the Medieval romances in the fruition of such end products as Cervantes Don Quixote, which was itself a work that pushed the old romances to parody and farce, and yet through the debates and colloquies between Don Quixote and his faithful servant Sancho Panza we see this rise of realism out of the world of romance fiction. In this way the latest versions of SR are themselves to be seen against a backdrop of this whole history of the rise of realism out of renaissance thought along with the culture of Enlightenment and the sciences.

Too many times I see people castigate humanistic learning for being too anthropomorphic, etc., and yet they miss the other wider framework within which this cultural project was carried on: the multiplicity of views onto history, literature, philosophy, science(s), art, and aesthetics. Some dismiss such worlds as if the great learning of say an E.R. Curtius (European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages), Eric Auerbach (Mimesis), Gilbert Highet (The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature), Robert Burton (The Anatomy of Melancholy), or any number of learned works from other or specialists disciplines no longer have a place in current or contemporary thought. And, yet, without these past works we’d be mongrels and barbarians in a world of stupidity and unreason, shifting this way and that in our private silos of data without any aesthetic sense of its overall design on our lives and minds.

As Fredrich Jameson recently put it,

I have observed a curious development which always seems to set in when we attempt to hold the phenomenon of realism firmly in our mind’s eye. It is as though the object of our meditation began to wobble, and the attention to it to slip insensibly away from it in two opposite directions, so that at length we find we are thinking, not about realism, but about its emergence; not about the thing itself, but about its dissolution.2

I have to admit this is my conundrum: there are so many facets to the various emerging realisms, and yet Harman and DeLanda seem to hold two of the most important threads in it. Both seek unlike naïve realism an indirect path to realism rather than the direct empirical or idealist transcendental; both seek a non-human as compared to human-centric approach; and, both seek to expose the temporal scales and dimensions of the real which form the thing-event. So in many ways one needs to define what it isn’t in literature: let’s say the anti-realist and irrealist traditions of the last few decades: those of the irreal such as John Barth, Italo Calvino, Jorge-Luis Borges, and many others would be the opposition in literature. Next one has to define the base conceptuality.

For Harman it starts with the withdrawn ‘real’ object as compared to the sensual or appearance we have through our empirical sense-baring senses – and, yet, it’s not Kantian inner turn either… it is dualistic, but not based on some centered transcendental Subject Idealist or Materialist (Badiou, Zizek). Kant and his inheritors would divide the world into appearance (phenomenon) and noumenal (unknown, impossible, outside). While the materialists either non-dialectical or dialectical would seek the appearance in appearance, but would agree that there is nothing behind the mask of appearance – appearance was all. The only difference being that non-dialectical materialists, the scientific and empirical traditions would hold to the known and physicalist, and in our time the more immaterialist materialisms of quantum theoretic. While the dialectical materialists would bring in history, time, memory, event in oscillation between appearance/event.  

SR is not part of the Analytical realisms nor the various moral realisms nor the Neo-Rationalists and deontological, etc. As for who fits this I haven’t really begun to place any current writers into this category… but in many ways for me it would start with film noir and the noir tradition in sub-genre which has always dealt with that withdrawn and indirect under the surface tensions of thing-events. Harman has written of H.P. Lovecraft and Dante in regards to his own OOO. I’m sure DeLanda if pressed would have literary purveyors who would fit into his variation of SR. 

So then to know what SR is one almost needs to decide on that wavering in-between the emergence and dissolution of the naïve realism against which it pits itself. This post was not meant to go this far, and I want. I’ll save such thoughts for a future post(s).

  1. DeLanda, Manuel; Harman, Graham. The Rise of Realism (Kindle Locations 1126-1129). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
  2. Jameson, Fredric. The Antinomies Of Realism (p. 1). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.