Hard is it in the world, great whoredom, an axe age, a sword age, shields will be cloven, a wind age, a wolf age, ere the world sinks.
—Song of the Volüspa
Rereading various versions of the ancient Edda’s of the Norse cultures, both the poetic and the later prose works, one gets the same sense of chaos and apocalyptic cultures as ours. A sense that something has gone horribly wrong on this planet, that we are in the midst of a great whoredom: an age of false leaders, of rapine pillage of the rich upon the poor, and the daemonic unleashing of violence and madness, mayhem and dread in the lives of ordinary citizens. Even the media which once seemed to have some unifying message about our world is in disrepute. Yes, one has to agree with the oracle of that ancient world: our world’s shields, our defenses, are cloven; ours is a “wind age, a wolf age”.
If Capitalism is central to this dilemma, and capitalism is a mode of production, then what is it producing? A Void? Yes and no. In an age when the production of play money or a deficit economy in which as here in the U.S.A. the only thing being produced is an impossibility we seem to have entered the era of bankruptcy across the planet. Our government prints millions of dollars daily that has nothing to back it up but a literal void. Economists speak of us being in debt by eighteen trillion or so, but in fact one should add about a hundred trillion in undeclared debt that is the total wealth of America.
So what does any of this mean for the average citizen? One notices that the major retailers who have sold goods and services to the U.S. citizenry as mainstays sense the first industrial era unto its second revolution are for the most part all going under. We’ve seen of late Sears, Target, Dairy Queen, and thousands of other various types of businesses vanishing. Even now when one enters some of the supposed global giants such as Wal Mart the offerings in their stores have become depleted, generic, and skim. Commodities don’t matter in such an economy. Oh, sure one still has to clothe one’s family, build a home, ride in a car, etc. One travels, explores, lives one’s nothing life of normalcy as if everything will go on and on and on… but will it?
Where I live in Wyoming is on the edge of a vast volcanic time-bomb where – so they say, every sixty-five thousand years or so massive explosions producing not just one but a series of volcanoes that become a super-volcano happen like clockwork. And we are due… But such threats as this one more or less just pass over, try to forget and think through one’s narcissistic fantasy that no this cannot happen to me, I’m the exception. It’ll happen to those who will come later, much later… those others will suffer this horrendous affair, it can’t happen to me. It’s like the original soldier syndrome of the survivors of the various apocalypses of WWI, WWII, Korean, Viet Nam, Iraq 1, Iraq 2, Afghanistan, and all the other newer conflicts that seem to accumulate under the surface of our blind culture. We all love to pretend that such things happen to others as in the Syrian refugee crisis. We love to tell ourselves that it’s not my problem, I didn’t start this, I’m just one person what can I do to stop such atrocities? Who am I to stop my government from entering into conflicts? Hell I can’t even stop my government from robbing me blind and handing over my tax dollars to the rich sumbags on Wall Street. How am I supposed to change things?
Our political parties are a sham, fronts for various moneyed interests on both sides of the isle, neither Democrat or Republican parties give a shit one way or the other about the poor and down cast. Oh, sure, they both play a good blame game, blaming each other for the sad state of affairs and then they proceed to continue under the table passing laws to continue spending our money on war, corruption, and bullshit.
And, the Media, what a laugh… as if there were a difference between fake news and ideological spin? Everything is fake now. Why pretend otherwise? Even we are fakes, one and all. We do nothing at all, we try to do one thing: survive, continue, live out our little lives striving to exist in a fantasy of a dead middle-class existence ( I speak of the supposed silent majority of which, yes, I am one.). I sit here and type my little beef in this WordPress blog as if it mean anything, anything at all. Does it assuage my own guilt for having done so little in my own life to change things for the better? No. It’s a little too late for that. I’m as guilty of all this bullshit as you and you and that guy or girl over there, we’re all guilty of having turned a blind eye to the accumulating atrocity of this world system for far too long now. So where does that get us? Nowhere. Not even absolution. We’ll all get what we’ve asked for in the end, and it want be a pie-in-the-sky utopia, either. No, folks, we’re in-between times now, and everything is downhill from here.
I’ve noticed of late that Hollywood seems to be paying for its own sins, a sort of sex-pop apocalypse for all those male bastards who used their dominative power-over women for so long. That seems to be the new trend in the media, to attack singular rot-gut sex fiends to keep our minds off other more major issues like the economy idiot… But that is only half of it. Most Americans seem more enamored of lala land and fantasy comic opera like Thor: Ragnarok which raked in hundreds of millions, while the bleak outlook science fiction of Blade Runner or Suburbicon barely got out the door. So, yeah, most Americans don’t want to think about the bleak truth of their lives, they’d rather hide out in fantasy worlds of Marvel or DC comics where virtual gods seem in the offing to save our sorry asses from fake monstrosities rather than the truth of Banks and Wall Street piracy and theft.
Of late Zizek’s been maddeningly writing more and more of his endless books. In one of his recent he reminds of the dark vision of Mao who once spoke of nuclear annihilation this way:
Mao was wrong when he deployed his Olympian vision reducing human experience to a tiny unimportant detail: “The United States cannot annihilate the Chinese nation with its small stack of atom bombs. Even if the US atom bombs were so powerful that, when dropped on China, they would make a hole right through the earth, or even blow it up, that would hardly mean anything to the universe as a whole, though it might be a major event for the solar system.”1
For Zizek this blind indifference to the fate of humanity by Mao implies the notion of God pairing his fingernails in the back ground completely indifferent to the fate of planet earth: a post-Kantian God of the Transcendental Subject sitting there outside the holocaust of existence, a fictional god and fantasy of the exception – the one observer who will be left to see the utter destruction, etc.) As Zizek says, we should instead do something else:
In contrast to such a stance of cosmic indifference, we should act as if the entire universe was created as a background for the struggle of emancipation, in exactly the same way as, for Kant, God created the world in order to serve as the battleground for the ethical struggle of humanity—it is as if the fate of the entire universe is decided in our singular (and, from the global cosmic standpoint, marginal and insignificant) struggle.
But is this any better? What Zizek does here is reverse the issue, Christianizes it: this secular form of redemption by struggle, as if the universe were a dramatic system constructed to allow God to wage a fake war of Good vs. Evil in which humanity becomes the major actor – the old Adam and Eve ousted from the Garden only to be saved in the end through an impossible struggle till the One Man returns to save the day, even Jesus Christ (another comic superman?). The only difference in Zizek’s scenario is that Christ is left out of the secular redemption drama, and instead its the old class society the proletariat who becomes its own savior through ousting the bad old evil, Capitalism.
I’ve often wondered about this grand narrative of the Fall and Redemption of mankind that has in the past two hundred years become a part of the Marxian worldview, a sort of secularized version of that mythos – a guiding narrative and ethos. Marx himself bought into that old metaphysics of lack, as if humans were essentially flawed, as if they lacked something, that there was a void within that needed to be filled, something missing in our nature that needed redemption. But does it? Haven’t we used this old tale as a crutch for so long to explain and explain away our laziness, our inability to stand free, to be autonomous agents in a universe that has no comic saviors, no superheroes that are going to suddenly appear at the last moment like deus ex machinas to save the day? Are we alone or not?
If to be a pessimist is to be a realist, to look around at the universe seeking to overcome all those seemingly insurmountable biases that keep us tied up in illusion, delusion, and fantasy then, yes, I’m a pessimist. Knowing that we are blind, that our brain through eons of evolutionary struggle in a hostile environment has built up a set of useful tools to help us to survive and propagate our species but nothing else is to begin to know just how much else has been neglected. Most of outer and inner reality is a blank to us: we are victims of our own hereditary success. Consciousness of which we think too highly of is itself our major flaw, a part of our problem now rather than the answer to our needs. The Romantic heritage thought we needed to expand this consciousness, grow it larger with more data, more information, etc. which they thought would help us save ourselves. Once again that Fall and Redemption myth…
But no, consciousness isn’t really the answer, but the biggest problem we face as we enter the age of machinic intelligence and robotics. We seem bent on making clones of ourselves, mimicking our bodies and minds and projecting them into machines as if the old dreams of the Kabbalists of transmigration could be effected not between generations of flesh and blood humans but through some as yet unforeseen process of transference of our essence into the machine. The machine has now become the Savior who will redeem humankind from its earthly woes, etc. Another salvation myth…
Why do we want to live forever? Immortality? Could you imagine the coming boredom? Oh sure let us live in immortal machines and take our off-world voyages to the next stars through lightyears of travel. One could probably read through the complete library of Congress on one’s way to some distant star, or at least have the datafeeds of this global mind churning away in its hivemind world of infinite dreams. Machinic utopia? Is this our future? Or just another fantasy scenario of human aspiration to be elsewhere?
In the end we’re still here, and the accumulated problems of our planetary culture are not going away no matter how many fantasies we conjure up. We’re still living on a planet that seems about to take a dive into a literal Fall into the void of annihilation. And, this time, there will be no saviors comic book or otherwise to save our sorry asses unless we save ourselves from stupidity. Zizek looks for redemption among the multitudes in the Valley of Decision and the Great Event: “We thus need to subtly change the formula of the big revolutionary Event as the moment of final Judgment when, as Benjamin put it, even the past of the failed revolutionary attempts will be redeemed, the moment first clearly formulated in Joel 3:14: “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.”
For me there is no revolutionary event in the offing, no redeemer arising out of the multitudes, no grand dramatic event of decisions in the valley of dry bones, only death and the speech of the dead speaking as the dead speak of false nostalgias and dreams of false messiahs; for in the Valley of Bones there is no redemption, only utter annihilation and the desecration of all human hopes and aspirations. Don’t expect history to redeem you, don’t expect the force of the impossible to forgive you, don’t expect the end to be quick or even peaceful. War, war alone seems our inevitable lot, victims not so much of our leader’s inaction as of our own inability to take leadership ourselves of our selves.
- Žižek, Slavoj. Incontinence of the Void (Kindle Locations 2840-2843). MIT Press. Kindle Edition.