Anna Laetitia Aikin (1743 – 1825): On The Pleasure Derived From Objects of Terror

Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies.

—Aristotle, Poetics

Anna Laetitia Aikin in her essay on the sublime of horror ‘On The Pleasure Derived From Objects of Terror‘ (1773) suggested we “rather choose to suffer the smart pang of a violent emotion than the uneasy craving of an unsatisfied desire”. She’d go on to say,

This is the pleasure constantly attached to the excitement of surprise from new and wonderful objects. A strange and unexpected event awakens the mind, and keeps in on the stretch; and where the agency of invisible beings is introduced, of “forms unseen, and mightier far than we,” our imagination, darting forth, explores with rapture the new world which is laid open to its view, and rejoices in the expansion of its powers. Passion and fancy co-operating elevate the soul to its highest pitch; and the pain of terror is lost in amazement.

Hence, the more wild, fanciful, and extraordinary are the circumstances of a scene of horror, the more pleasure we receive from it; and where they are too near common nature, though violently borne by curiosity through the adventure, we cannot repeat it or reflect on it, without an over-balance of pain.

This sense of what Lacan-Zizek  term ‘jouissance’ or the bitter-sweet pleasure/pain in apprehension of the  indefinable, unknown and horrific monstrosities of existence underlies the aesthetic appeal and active power of the fantastic over our Mind. The literature of terror, dread, and horror confront us with the cosmic power of an invasive alterity, an impossible and indefinite unknown and unknowable threat from the Outside that cannot be reduced to presence nor absence,  but is situated in that in-between zone of the impossible Real or Gap-Crack where chaos, madness, and darkness seep into our world.

The Study of Annihilation: On Suicide

To be, or not to be, that is the question : Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them ? To die, to sleep, No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep; To sleep! perchance to dream : ay, there’s the rub.

—Shakespeare, Hamlet, III, 1.

And often through fear of death men come to hate life and the sight of the sun so bitterly  that in a burst of grief they kill themselves, forgetting it was this fear that caused their cares, troubled their conscience, broke their bonds of friendship, and overturned all sense of decency.

Death, then, is nothing, concerns us not one bit, since the soul has proved to be a mortal thing.

—Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 

The Greek and Roman world thought of suicide as an heroic act, while for the most part Western Christendom saw it as a form of taboo punishable by eternal damnation etc.. Our modern secular age beginning with Durkheim has turned a critical eye onto this self-annihilation as a sociological phenomenon to be studied, while after Freud it became a part of the science of suicidology. There are so many theories as to why people take their own lives. Our strange and emotional religious or even rationalist heritages have reams of information surrounding this most intimate form of death. My father once he discovered he had cancer and less than three months to live came home one day and grabbed his shotgun out of the closet, sat down and drank most of a fifth of scotch, then proceeded to take his own life. I want go further… many literary poets, writers, artists, thinkers in recent decades have done the same. For we who survive such traumas of loved ones the question is always: Why? Why would they do such a thing? Isn’t life worth living to the bitter end? Or is suicide against the pain and suffering of a slow inevitable death the better course? I want even go into the belief systems of war and terrorist bombers, etc. I began gathering a list of books on such morbidity:

Emile Durkheim’s classic: On Suicide
Philippe Aries: The Hour of Our Death
Georges Minois: History of Suicide
Edwin Schniedman: An Autopsy of a Suicide
Ron Brown: The Art of Suicide
Marzio Barbagli: Farewell to the World
Susan Stefan: Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws
Sarah Perry: Every Cradle is a Grave
James R. Lewis: Sacred Suicide
Gary Lachman: Literary Suicides

Of course there are tons of other works, and one could discover in the philosophical history of suicide from Socrates enforced use of Hemlock to the recent death of Mark Fisher… questions, questions, questions… there’s even a whole literature devoted to publishing suicide notes. I think of Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton, John Berryman or James Wright… one could write a never-ending litany to suicide in our time… In the histories we discover that after the fact cultures have either promoted it or anathematized and criminalized it. Our secular age has tried to psychologize it into its own scientized discourses as a disease of the mind, etc. I doubt the one’s who actually go down that path have an answer beyond the need to escape a certain hellish existence that has become too unbearable whether mentally or physically. Most of the literature on it is for survivors, not the perpetrators of the act.

In my own mind as I grow older and the gravitas of existence wears my body into dust I begin to think through such options… to be, or not to be: that truly is the question; and, one I will sooner or later have to face in extremis. Of course we can as well work through the positive and negative literature, weigh all the options as if one were meting out gold on the scales of Maat (the Egyptian goddess of life/death), else leave the option on the table of indefinable solutions – a sort of one-off Dadaist movement of imaginary solutions to indefinable problems. Comic or tragic, a choice of styles in mental hygiene; or, pragmatic resolution to the disruption of existence itself. There probably is no justification either way, and like all criminal acts it is done in solitude against the social milieu or its habituated judgments. Each of us faces death alone and in solitude, whether we have others surrounding us or not. For millennia we as cultural creatures built up grand narratives and traditions to stage this movement and transition out of existence. In the secular age the myth turned to annihilation, or a blank pit of nothingness; the meaningless end of a meaningless life in a universe of self-destructive energy turned bitter cold in the zero wastes of utter darkness. Who can say which is better? The religious comfort of hopeful illusions of paradisial realms of eternal life, or the extreme annihilation offered by the secular priests of atheism where death is a dreamless sleep of eternity. No one has returned to offer an opinion one way or the other…

The Order of the Unreal

That we all deserve punishment by horror is as mystifying as it is undeniable. To be an accomplice, however involuntarily, in a reasonless non-reality is cause enough for the harshest sentencing. But we have been trained so well to accept the “order” of an unreal world that we do not rebel against it. How could we? Where pain and pleasure form a corrupt alliance against us, paradise and hell are merely different divisions in the same monstrous bureaucracy. And between these two poles exists everything we know or can ever know. It is not even possible to imagine a utopia, earthly or otherwise, that can stand up under the mildest criticism. But one must take into account the shocking fact that we live on a world that spins. After considering this truth, nothing should come as a surprise.

Still, on rare occasions we do overcome hopelessness or velleity and make mutinous demands to live in a real world, one that is at least episodically ordered to our advantage. But perhaps it is only a demon of some kind that moves us to such idle insubordination, the more so to aggravate our condition in the unreal. After all, is it not wondrous that we are allowed to be both witnesses and victims of the sepulchral pomp of wasting tissue? And one thing we know is real: horror. It is so real, in fact, that we cannot be sure it could not exist without us. Yes, it needs our imaginations and our consciousness, but it does not ask or require our consent to use them. Indeed, horror operates with complete autonomy. Generating ontological havoc, it is mephitic foam upon which our lives merely float. And, ultimately, we must face up to it: Horror is more real than we are.

—Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (p. 182).

Schopenhauer: The Mistake of Life

That human life must be a kind of mistake is sufficiently clear from the fact that man is a compound of needs, which are difficult to satisfy; moreover, if they are satisfied, all he is granted is a state of painlessness, in which he can only give himself up to boredom. This is a precise proof that existence in itself has no value, since boredom is merely the feeling of the emptiness of life. If, for instance, life, the longing for which constitutes our very being, had in itself any positive and real value, boredom could not exist; mere existence in itself would supply us with everything, and therefore satisfy us. But our existence would not be a joyous thing unless we were striving after something; distance and obstacles to be overcome then represent our aim as something that would satisfy us–an illusion which vanishes when our aim has been attained; or when we are engaged in something that is of a purely intellectual nature, when, in reality, we have retired from the world, so that we may observe it from the outside, like spectators at a theatre. Even sensual pleasure itself is nothing but a continual striving, which ceases directly its aim is attained. As soon as we are not engaged in one of these two ways, but thrown back on existence itself, we are convinced of the emptiness and worthlessness of it; and this it is we call boredom. That innate and ineradicable craving for what is out of the common proves how glad we are to have the natural and tedious course of things interrupted. Even the pomp and splendour of the rich in their stately castles is at bottom nothing but a futile attempt to escape the very essence of existence, misery.

Arthur Schopenhauer,  The Collected Essays

The Subtraction of Being

What are we when confronted with the interior vortex which swallows us into absurdity?

—E. M. Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

The eerie… is constituted by a failure of absence or by a failure of presence.

—Mark Fisher,  The Weird and the Eerie

The End of the World came and went. Most of us never even noticed it. Most of us woke up to our usual work-a-day life, the drudgery of going through the paces in a job we all hated, a job that put bread and butter on the table, a night away from the kids in a burger joint dreaming of caviar and settling for two pickles and a brown onion half-eaten by some troglodyte by the fryer. So it goes.

Then we realized something really had happened. A slight change in the bosses smile, a subtraction from the usual messages coming over the tele, a different news anchor, a voice from elsewhere telling us the world was safe from some forgotten disaster. But we knew better; or, at least, I did. Something was missing, as if reality had withdrawn from its own appearances. People seemed the same, but something was off… and, I just couldn’t put it together. Eerie was the word on the tip of my tongue, a feeling at the edge of consciousness that something was afoot but one could not put thought to it.

Then I realized what it was… I was dead, a mere shadow among shadows; absent while present. A hole in the wall of being, a forgotten substance whose inner fire was the negative of some polaroid’s dim congruencies. An imageless existence whose silence was mere thought without projection, the formless idea exploited among the spaces of a galactic void. Yet, I was here, I was I. Or was I? This pronoun we take for granted, this thing attached to a body, what is it, really? Faceless and imageless I could only inhabit others with my absence. Did they know? Were the thoughts flowing through their minds semblance or actuality. Would they know the difference? Knowing I was no one and everyone I could at last be free. But free for what?

Do you, dear reader, know of what I speak?

A Sum of Shadows

Each of us comes across certain thinkers who put into words things that people think and want to hear, but are either unable to articulate or unwilling to admit to. Most of the time as these thoughts penetrate our sleeping mind we believe the author has stolen them from our own private menagerie of twisted being, not realizing that thought, all thought, is a collective enterprise; and, in the moment we realize that another has already thought our thoughts, articulated the form of our mental dementia, clarified the desperation of our dark transports then, and only then, do we realize we do not exist. Only thought exists, and it exists without us or our miserabilist opinions to the contrary. We even begin to hate the one who awakened us to reality, to our own reality; this emptied vastation we call our lives. Failure is the sum of this realization: that another has lived out the thoughts we could not attempt nor invent for ourselves.

We are not the sum of our thoughts, we are only the shadows of other’s inventions.

William James: Our civilization is founded on shambles…

The normal process of life contains moments as bad as any which insane melancholy is filled with, moments in which radical evil gets its innings and takes its solid turn. The lunatic’s visions of horror are all drawn from the material of daily fact. Our civilization is founded on shambles, and every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of  helpless agony. If you protest, my friend, wait until you arrive there yourself.

—William James, Varieties of Religious Experience

Antonin Artaud: I Am Not In This World

The reader must believe in a genuine sickness, not just a phenomenon of the times, in a sickness which is near to the nature of man and his main expressive potential and applicable to a whole life. A sickness affecting the soul in its most profound reality, poisoning its expression. Spiritual poison. Genuine paralysis. Sickness robbing us of speech and memory, and uprooting thought.

Where then does this sickness stem from, is it really something in the spirit of the times, a miracle floating in the air, an evil cosmic prodigy or the discovery of a new world, a genuine extension of reality? Nevertheless it is still true they do not suffer and I do, not only mentally but physically, in my everyday soul. This lack of application to an object, a characteristic of all literature, is a lack of application to life in my case. Speaking for myself, I can honestly say I am not in this world…

– Antonin Artaud: Vol 1 Collected Works

The Anti-God in the Sewers: Werewolves, Rats, and Poetry

“Let us not forget that philosophy is also primate psychology; that our loftiest speculations are merely picking through a minuscule region of the variegated slime encrusting a speck of dust.”      – Nick Land, Spirit and Teeth

“Your words, Euthyphro, are like the handiwork of my ancestor Daedalus; and if I were the sayer or propounder of them, you might say that my arguments walk away and will not remain fixed where they are placed because I am a descendant of his.”      – Socrates


Nick Land finds neither a god in the sewers and underworlds, nor even the ancient leprous visage of a comic Yahweh hiding in shadows, so much as he does his poseur, an imposter and fretful son, a shapeshifting shaman or Loki of the dark labyrinths – a werewolf and Rat King of an “inferior race” (Rimbaud). Such a creature is neither prodigal nor charmed, but rather the last fragmentary hope of a broken and threadbare messiah, not of truth and life, but of death and despair: a god of mud and slime living among the black and brown rats like a subterranean king in the cesspool of a tumorous thought. No longer the great god of the Old Testament, this forgotten shadow Yahweh mimicry lives among his own brethren and inferiors, regressed to his true form as the King of Rats and Werewolves: his vermin-core eating alive all those false religions and philosophies that still inhabit this dark bunghole of our globe.

This is the vision of poets, one such as Georg Trakl (the lycanthropic metamorphosis of god into beast, into rat, being fed by a young boy during those twilight moments between day and night):

“In the evening, the father became an old man; in dark rooms the mother’s face petrified, and the curse of the degenerated race weighed on the boy. Sometimes he remembered his childhood filled with sickness, terror and eclipse, secret games in the garden of stars, or feeding the rats in the dusking courtyard. From the blue mirror the narrow figure of the sister stepped and he fell as if dead into darkness. At night his mouth burst open like a red fruit and stars gleamed over his speechless grief. His dreams filled the ancient house of the fathers. In the evening he liked to walk over the ruined cemetery or watch the corpses in the dusking crypts, with green stains of rot on their beautiful hands” (Georg Trakl, Dream and Derangement).

Land tells us that “animality is not a state, essence, or genus, but a complex cross – cut by voyages of all kinds” (54). [1] This is the black world of dead-ends and stagnant sumps, open flows: a world in which things emerge multiple, fluid, unpredictable, shadow realms in which the enemy of humankind is a mutable excess metamorphosing, lupine and murine, a volcanic eruption of pure productivity without closure. As Land says, these “intensive sequences cannot be isolated or determined” (54). The darkness of one speaks to the darkness of the other. Meaning wanders from slime to slime like the hidden remains of strange creatures that have gone extinct only to emerge as something else, form within form evolving under the guise of some other form, masked only by the predatory gaze of their ferine eyes. Like everything else we have little time to ponder the niceties of either poetry or philosophy, Land explodes; and, in Trakl we discover the “lycanthropic vectors of  impatience, of twitch disease, because they are the virulent relics of an indecent precipitation, an abortion, a meteoric impact” (44). Dead a twenty-seven Trakl “took very little time over anything”, unlike philosophical purveyors of ‘spirit’ (Geist) like Derrida for whom time was an interminable trace of a trace never to be closed off.  For Derrida there is infinite patience, a staying off, a tomorrow into which one can spin the meanings of meaning, impress them in their moment of passage between the abyss and sky. With such a man there is no sense of urgency, only the “prescription of painstaking care, deliberation, conscientiousness, and reverential textual devotion” (44).

Languorous and methodical “inspired by principles of decency and justice. Everything is mediated by elucidations, re-elucidations, elucidations of previous elucidations, conducted with meticulous courtesy, but never inattentive to the complicity of the concept of elucidation with the history of metaphysics from Plato to the previous paragraph of De l’esprit” (44).  This is a man for whom even God must wait, be put off, stubbornly refused his day in the sun until just the right moment when the appropriate and appropriated words can be found: formed, shaped, and spun into a web of deceit, a lie against all anteriority, against both past and future – a staying of the hand of that impossible possible finitude (44), which only the interminable passage of ghosts can differ within the silence between two mourning alterity’s…

For Trakl and Rimbaud there is only the beast, the instinctive knowledge of the forest and the jungle, the emergence of slime in a dust born germ: the human into wolf, a darker force measuring itself against all darkness. The nihil gazing into the Void out of which the Nihil gazes back: a black thought in a black void silenced only by its own merciless capacity to destroy that which is not void. The broken dream of a broken god, a force that is at once life and death: the emergence of an entwined progeny – dueling twins warring against all that is, bringing with it the strange things that have no name or meaning. The positing of a non-meaning that gives rise to all meaning. Out of the gaze of humans emerges that which is not human, a force of the void that calls each to each from within the very core of a volcanic eruption that is our feral being: the ferocity of dust.

As Land tells us Derrida is not a werewolf (44). No. Werewolves “are dissipated within homolupic spiral that distances them utterly from all concern for decency or justice. Their feral physiologies are badly adapted to depressive states conducive to ethical earnestness. Instead they are propelled by extremities of libidinal tension which fragment their movements, break up their tracks with jagged discontinuities, and infest their nerves with a burning malaise, so that each gesture is baked in the kiln of ferocity” (44). Hermeneutics and deconstruction are of an other order than the dark materials of werewolves. No. One must follow the likes of Trakl to know the fast lane of the libidinal drivenness of werewolves, a philosophy of mutability and metamorphosis, a materiality that explodes all recursions to Geist. Or with Rimbaud one must affirm that one has always already been a subspecies “an inferior race” (45). As Rimbaud says: “I am not able to comprehend revolt. My race never stirs itself except for pillage: like wolves at the beast they have not killed” (45).

We werewolves of poetry are an “accursed race,” as Trakl told us; or, as his brother Rimbaud, we are a lost tribe “communicating its dirty blood in wilderness spaces of barbarian inarticulacy” 45). As Land tells us in one last dark epiphany: “Eternally aborting the prospect of a transcendental subjectivity, the inferior ones are never captured by contractual reciprocity, or by its attendant moral universalism” (45). These dark ones crave “pagan regressions”: it “is only with the greatest strictness that the superior ones repress the violent drives which lure them into inferior becomings; becoming female, black, irresponsible and nomadic, becoming an animal, a plant, a death spasm of the sun” (45). Only the cold bone moon can save such creatures from the dark nomadic wanderings of this feral abyss; the rest is Time’s cruel markings, the fragments of a void churning in an ocean of blackness:

The moon shines with such blue light
Upon the city,
Where a decaying generation
Lives, cold and evil –
I
cy winds quarrel in the darkness.

–  Georg Trakl, from both The Evening and The Rats

As Land would surmise in a sister essay,

The death of God is a religious event – a transgression, experiment in damnation, and stroke of antitheistic warfare – but this is not to say it is pre-eminently a crime. Hell has no interest in our debauched moral currency. To confuse reactive dabblings in sin with expeditions in damnation is Christian superficiality; the Dantean error of imagining that one could earn oneself an excursion in Hell, as if the infernal too was a matter of justice. Our crimes are mere stumblings on the path to ruin, just as every projected Hell on Earth is a strict exemplar of idolatry. Transgression is not criminal action, but tragic fate; the intersection of an economically programmed apocalypse with the religious antihistory of poetry. It is the inevitable occurrence of impossibility, which is not the same as death, but neither is it essentially different. (my italics)


  1. Of Derrida, Heidegger, and spirit ed. David C. Wood, Spirit and Teeth by Nick Land (Northwestern University 1993)

The Figure of the Fanatic: Kant’s End Game for Western Civilization

Reading Nick Land is always an exercise in honesty. He want pull he wool over your eyes. No. Instead he’ll strip you of all your illusions and delusions, leave you naked in the midst of a world of fanatics. In his essay ‘Delighted to Death’ he takes a quote from Emil Cioran writing about the differences between that ancient world of the Chinese Taoist, Lao Tzu whose practice of intense quietude is shown to be at war with the whole tradition of Western culture and civilization. Why? Simply put: Our culture is built upon the thirst for violent and ecstatic annihilation, we seek the total obliteration of all barriers to freedom, seek to overthrow all that upholds our minds, our hearts, our loves, our hates; we seek transcendence from the one thing we cannot transcend, our miserable lives.

As Land remarks,

Cioran quotes Lao Tsu’s maxim ‘the intense life is contrary to the Tao’, and compares the tranquility of the modest life with the thirst for annihilating ecstasy that has possessed the Western world. However, acknowledging the compulsion of his Occidental heritage, he remarks ‘I can pay homage to Lao Tsu a thousand times, but I am more likely to identify with an assassin’. Our culture, he argues, is essentially fanatical.1

In his A Short History of Decay Cioran would elaborate further, saying: “Far from diminishing the appetite for power, suffering exasperates it; hence the mind feels more comfortable in the society of a braggart than in that of a martyr; and nothing is more repugnant to it than the spectacle of dying for an idea. . . .”2 Land, a remarkable reader of Kant, would use that philosopher as the true figure of the fanatic, the culmination of our Western heritage in fanaticism. Kant would for Land typify the figure of the Secular Martyr – a fanatic for the universal:

It is worth remembering that a glimpse into Kant’s philosophy was sufficient to drive Kleist to suicide, and that Schopenhauer found in it the ethical imperative that existence be denied. Perhaps neither of these writers were ecclesiastical enough to enjoy the ghoulish cruelties that Kant explored. For Kant was a consummate saint, a cheerful man. He was not a stoic, but rather, faithful to his Christian heritage, a voluptuary of defeat.

A master of renunciation, a martyr of reason, a seeker of perfection and transcendence Kant would promote pain over pleasure, or to put it more succinct he would see in the perfection of pain the completed and satisfaction of pleasure. As Land echoes from Kant’s Anthropology, published in 1798, where Kant tells us:

Satisfaction is the feeling of the promotion; pain that of the obstruction of life. But life (of animals) is, as doctors have already noted, a continuous play of the antagonism of the two. Thus before every satisfaction there must first be pain; pain is always first. Because what would proceed from a continual promotion of living force, which does not let itself climb above a certain grade, other than a rapid death from delight?

Freud would learn a great deal from Kant and the suicidal poets that both feared and respected him. Yet, as Pierre Klossowski will tell us in his study of Nietzsche for whom Kant served as the figure of end game of Western culture and civilization:

A society believes itself to be morally justified through its scientists and artists. Yet the very fact that they exist – and that their creations exist – is evidence of the disintegrating malaise of the society; and it is by no means clear that they will be the ones to reintegrate the society, at least if they take their activity seriously.3

Decadence is at the heart of this pleasurable annihilation, a thirst that offers the organic animality within the human a return to its death driven dreams. Land commenting on this dark truth reminds us,

Uninhibited pleasure does not tend to the benefit of the organism, but rather, to its immolation. Or, more precisely, the enhancement of life is intrinsically bound to its abolition. Life is not consumed by death at its point of greatest depression, but at its peak, and inversely; it is only the brake provided by suffering that preserves the organism in its existence. It is pain that spares life for something other than an immediate and annihilating delight. So Kant suggests that pleasure is the combustion of life, and we survive by smouldering.

Ever a critic of the heritage of Christianity, Land will see in Kant the primal figure of the new religion of Capital, a religion that secularized the Christian art of martyrdom but promoting endless work and accumulation against the all too easy expenditure of pleasure and fulfillment. Rather Kant like a good Christian would have us renounce earthly pleasures of bodily love and endless delights in life for the never-ending delights of capital gain.  Commenting on Kant’s marriage of bourgeois capitalism with Christian fortitude and martyrdom says: “Only religion speaks the sort of language that could possibly affirm the conclusive loss of terrestrial pleasure, such as that which is represented by the subordination of consumption to the amassing of productive resources.” We would come to know it as the work ethic of the Germans which was adopted by the nations of this Western system of martyrdom and utilitarian dreams.

Land will cite several passages on the history of Christian martyrdom (which I’ll not quote) to make explicit the mindset of this old philosophaster from Konigsberg:

Kant learnt from Protestantism and secularism the necessity for internal discipline, so that, to a degree that was without philosophical precedent, he became the source of his own persecution. In the modem age, martyrdom has to become more systematic, independent of psychological and historical accident, or, to use Kant’s word, autonomous. Kant describes this new passional experience as sublime, and the theory corresponding to it is to be found in his Critique of Judgment.

Austerity.  A set of economic policies imposed on economies such as: cutting the state’s budget to stabilize public finances, restore competitiveness through wage cuts and create better investment expectations by lowering future tax burdens. Policies grouped under the term ‘austerity measures’ may include spending cuts, tax increases, or a mixture of both, and may be undertaken to demonstrate the government’s fiscal discipline to creditors and credit rating agencies by bringing revenues closer to expenditures.

In out time whole nations are forced into renunciation, bound within the secular martyrdom of Kant’s critique, flayed and immolated upon the dungeon heap of capitalism. We have all become martyrs in a secular religion that’s only goal is accumulation and profit. And, to top it off, we seem to relish our part in this grand pageant of secular subordination and self-flagellation. Schooled to it by two hundred years of liberal and utilitarian thought and ideology we cannot think outside its bounded vicious circle. We actually believe we deserve this state of affairs. We allow it, go with it, even cherish the painful pleasure of these austere systems of regulation and control.

In fact as Land relates it “if the subject is to find delight in the excruciation of its animality, it is the imagination that must bear the fury of holy passion, and this is indeed what Kant argues”:

that which, without our indulging in any refinements of thought, but simply in being apprehended, excites the feeling of the sublime, may appear to be frustrating for our powers of judgment, inappropriate to our faculty of presentation, and a violation of the imagination, but yet be judged even more sublime on that account.4

We relish our martyrdom within this secular pageant of Capital as if it were the only show in town: the only way, the truth, the life of our world. Like the religious fanatics of old we seek even more excruciating paths toward annihilation through the wars of politics, and the literal wars of ideology. The mediatainment façade gifts us with enemies, with the Western nations pitted against the East of Russian, China, Iran, N. Korea, etc.

For two hundred years we’ve been at school with that old master from Konigsberg, a demolition project about to be fulfilled in a final conflagration; not as one might suspect of the literal human animal and its planet, but rather of the immolation and destruction of our ancient animal cunning and natural intelligence. A martyrdom that only Kant could have dreamt up. As Land says of Kant’s new law,

Reason is something that must be built, and the site of its construction first requires a demolition. The object of this demolition is the synthetic capability that Kant refers to as the imagination, and which he exhibits as natural intelligence or animal cunning. This is the capability to act without the prior authorization of a juridical power, and it is only through the crucifixion of natural intelligence that the human animal comes to prostrate itself before universal law.

For the Romantic poets from Blake to Keats the Imagination was the figure of this animal cunning and natural intelligence innate within humans, and each of them would see in Kant’s dark immolation and imperative the destruction of the very means of poetry and life itself at the hands of philosophy. And, yet, the path of the Romantics was already a defeat at the hands of Kant, for the instigation of the Sublime was in itself only a detour into a final death at the hands of reason for the cunning intelligence of the animal and its drives under the universal law of morality. We’ve all become victims of this law of reason and martyrdom. Why? Because as Land admits,

…reason has programmatically deafened itself to the howls of the body, and it is only by means of the aesthetic detour of the sublime that the devastating effects of its sovereignty can come to be enjoyed.

We divert ourselves in the endless pursuits of inanity, our jaunts to music events, our endless hours of repetitive enjoyment of online gaming, our chit chat sessions on facebook, twitter, linked in, etc. We seek to forget ourselves, to immolate our selves, to let the drift of time flow by in immolating gestures of fanatic pleasures of pain through self-forgetting and mindless pursuits of accumulation under the secular gods of Capital. A system driven to appropriate us within its cycle of vicious violence and fanaticism. Or like those daredevils that parade before us the death defying feats of physical prowess, our Houdini’s, our Evel Knievel’s, our Philippe Petit’s, etc. who would defy the end game through temptation and glory. We, less able, allow ourselves only the immolation of unpleasureable pleasure: a life under the end game of Capital.

Squeamishness does not befit a moralist. A certain harshness is necessary if one would prevent life from being delighted to death. Such harshness, indeed, that the pathological lunge towards death rediscovers itself in the process of its own rigorous extirpation; sublimated into the thanatropic frenzy of reason. (Nick Land)


  1. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 1745-1749). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. E.M. CIORAN. A Short History of Decay (Kindle Locations 135-137). Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  3. Klossowski, Pierre. Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle. Trans. Daniel W. Smith. (University of Chicago Press, 1969)
  4. Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft, in Werksgaube, ed. W. Wieschedel, vol. 10 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1968), 14; for a recent English translation, see I. Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, ed. P. Guyer, tr. P. Guyer, E. Matthews (Cambridge/NY: Cambridge University Press, 2000), Introduction, II, 63. Ibid., 90; 129.

Metaloid Dreams of Mutant Intelligences

Cioran quotes Lao Tsu’s maxim ‘the intense life is contrary to the Tao’, and compares the tranquility of the modest life with the thirst for annihilating ecstasy that has possessed the Western world. However, acknowledging the compulsion of his Occidental heritage, he remarks ‘I can pay homage to Lao Tsu a thousand times, but I am more likely to identify with an assassin’. Our culture, he argues, is essentially fanatical.

—Nick Land,  Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007

Strip the world of its illusions and delusions and you’ll only hasten the suicidal tendencies we’ve already as a species acquired. Predatory though we are, we are more prone to annihilating ourselves in a bout of self-mutilating hatred and pure religious fervor than not. Religious dogmatism – and, I count the Secular Church of Atheism in this – is the cornerstone of an anthropathological condition that breeds purity as the obliteration of all enemies. If only we could inhabit the enemies perspective would we realize the mirror of our hatred is itself impure.

We have yet to escape our Puritan heritage. Capitalism itself is this beast of purity spread across the face of the earth like an omeba, gobbling everything in its path, immolating the commodities and resources of the planet to the futurial disciplines of technics that have yet to find their slime festivals embarkation. Like fetid worms we are habitues of intricate foreplay, our sexual ecstasies bounded only by our murderous crash sequences with technology. Formulating and garnering an ultimate plan for inhuman takeover we bid the human species a grand bon voyage, stripping ourselves of the last veneer of humanistic entrapments we devote ourselves to the extreme experimental psychopathologies which will produce a final solution. Our closure of nature in this age and the irruption of the artificial as lifestyle has led us into that end game in which nothing natural will remain on earth.

No need to do a critique of metaphysics (or of political economy, which is the same thing) , since critique presupposes and ceaselessly creates this very theatricality; rather be imside and forget it, that’s the position of the death drive, describe these foldings and gluings, these energetic vections that establish the theatrical cube with its six homogenous faces on the unique and heterogeneous surface.

—Lyotard, Libidinal Economy

Once again the most unnatural creature on the planet triumphs, but in an unexpected way: it will stand atop the ruinous folds of a billion skulls screeching in the technomic voices of those who have become the thing they most dreaded: machinic gods of the metalloid Void. Brokered in a hell of abstract horror, these inheritors of the primal scream will walk the dead earth in what remains of the dustbowl windlands and scorched cities along the black sands of depleted oceans and lakes, where hybrid creatures scuttle in the shadows of temporal wars; and, deforested wastelands of spiked acropolises, and necromantic anti-life scurries amid the crumbling decay of human civilization: – like the visitors of an alien enlightenment, each singing in an oracular voice with the angelic pitch and plum disharmonics of solar sirens beckoning us toward the far shores of an anterior futurity.

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Bataille’s Solar Economy of our Anti-Culture

Bataille interprets all natural and cultural development upon the earth to be side effects of the evolution of death, because it is only in death that life becomes an echo of the sun, realizing its inevitable destiny, which is pure loss. … Poetry, Bataille asserts, is a ‘holocaust of words’. A culture can never express or represent (serve) capital production, it can compromise itself in relation to capital only by abasing itself before the philistinism of the bougeoisie, whose ‘culture’ has no characteristics beyond those of abject restraint, and self-denigration. Capital is precisely and exhaustively the definitive anti-culture.

-Nick Land, A Thirst for Annihilation

Mark Fisher On Depressive Hedonia

Excerpt from Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? –

Reflexive impotence amounts to an unstated worldview amongst the British young, and it has its correlate in widespread pathologies. Many of the teenagers I worked with had mental health problems or learning difficulties. Depression is endemic. It is the condition most dealt with by the National Health Service, and is afflicting people at increasingly younger ages. The number of students who have some variant of dyslexia is astonishing. It is not an exaggeration to say that being a teenager in late capitalist Britain is now close to being reclassified as a sickness. This pathologization already forecloses any possibility of politicization. By privatizing these problems – treating them as if they were caused only by chemical imbalances in the individual’s neurology and/ or by their family background – any question of social systemic causation is ruled out.

Many of the teenage students I encountered seemed to be in a state of what I would call depressive hedonia. Depression is usually characterized as a state of anhedonia, but the condition I’m referring to is constituted not by an inability to get pleasure so much as it is by an inability to do anything else except pursue pleasure. There is a sense that ‘something is missing’ – but no appreciation that this mysterious, missing enjoyment can only be accessed beyond the pleasure principle. In large part this is a consequence of students’ ambiguous structural position, stranded between their old role as subjects of disciplinary institutions and their new status as consumers of services. In his crucial essay ‘Postscript on Societies of Control’, Deleuze distinguishes between the disciplinary societies described by Foucault, which were organized around the enclosed spaces of the factory, the school and the prison, and the new control societies, in which all institutions are embedded in a dispersed corporation.1


  1. Fisher, Mark. Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (Zero Books) (pp. 21-22). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.

 

William S. Burroughs: Drugs, Language, and Control

Bill Burroughs:

The writer does not yet know what words are. He deals only with abstractions from the source point of words. The painter’s ability to touch and handle his medium led to montage techniques sixty years ago. It is to be hoped that the extension of cut-up techniques will lead to more precise verbal experiments closing this gap and giving a whole new dimension to writing. These techniques can show the writer what words are and put him in tactile communication with his medium. This in turn could lead to a precise science of words and show how certain word combinations produce certain effects on the human nervous system. (The Job Interviews)

Burroughs believed language to be the first and foremost control machine. A machine that constructed and shaped the naked ape called man into its present form, and that any future exit from the human would incorporate a breakup of this control machine and its present system of signs. The normalization and comforming of the human child through a series of modulated cycles of cultural and social enducements begins at childbirth. Nothing new here, except that for most of human history this went on unconsciously for the most part, but at some point certain tribal members realized that words harbored power over the minds and hearts of people. These shamans became the keepers of this knowlege of power, inventing relations between tribe and word these dreamkings began to bridge the unknown and known in a linguistic web of power relations that would become the cultural background of a time-machine.

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Artificial Puritans: Immortal Dreams and the Elimination of Humanity

The specter that haunts genetic manipulation is the genetic ideal, a perfect model obtained through the elimination of all negative traits.

´—Jean Baudrillard,  The Vital Illusion

Genetics is the foster child of eugenics a quasi-science and mythology of constructing the perfect species through technological progress and the perfection of human nature. The word “eugenics” was coined in 1883 by the English scientist Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. Galton, who pioneered the mathematical treatment of heredity, took the word from a Greek root meaning “good in birth” or “noble in heredity.” He intended it to denote the “science” of improving human stock by giving “the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable.”1 This notion is steeped in the hierarchical fantasy of our Puritan ancestors dreams of human perfection – a notion as old as Plato.

In our Western heritage the notion of perfectibility whose origins lay in the cults of perfectionism of the Pythagorean world became in Plato part of the discursive and textural outlay of our cultural memory. Plato distinguishes between technical perfection and the perfection of human nature. In the Republic he proposed a new class of beings to rule and govern the polis. The “philosopher-kings,” as he calls them, are not perfect because they rule perfectly; they are perfect because they have seen “the form of the good” and rule in accordance with it. As John Passinore in his classic Perfectibility of Man comments, “in the end, the whole structure of Plato’s republic rests on there being a variety of perfection over and above technical perfection-a perfection which consists in, or arises out of, man’s relationship to the ideal.”‘ Passmore goes on to point out that other Western thinkers including Luther, Calvin, and Duns Scotus follow Plato in talking about technical perfection in terms of one’s vocation or calling. But the perfecting of oneself in the performance of the role in life to which one is called is not sufficient by itself to ensure one’s perfection as a human being.2

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Fake News / Fake Worlds

“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see, the thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception.” —Don DeLillo

“Looking at this more closely, what have we produced that is more original, more specific, than this idea of nothingness, of absence? It is in the final analysis our most obvious cultural contribution. It is precisely this absence that I wish to interrogate, where is this void?” —Paul Virilio

What’s sad is the Left and Right political spectrum both assume all news is fake. We live in a cancelled age, a sit-com world that no longer provides canned music or laughs. A time in-between null and null, caught in a cycle of road kills we wander the maze of our own lures and allurements as the last guests at a death banquet for the West. Postmodern progressives suffer unresolved contradictions, while Traditional republicans live in a shoebox world built out of a 50’s noir thriller full of lust and paranoia. Progressive thinkers exalt post-individualism and freedom from Self or Subject Identity, while the reactionary turns into narcissist cartoon advocates in the lip service world of alt-right.

Ours is an age of untruth – or, in the parlance of our contemporary pundits, post-truth. Another euphemism to harbor unthinking thought on a world of chaotic and clichéd disinformation in which fake news is attributed to each team of the opposition, and all players hold a deck of cheats (facts). Even the fact-check sites are falsified by the political shibboleth, and depending on which team one is own: Left or Right, one is bound by the rumor mill of false witness and purveyors of politically correct arbitration.

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On Becoming Machinic: Intelligence of the Machine

Urban Future drew my attention to an article on the Wall Street Journal about Google’s AI beating the best GO players of China. Being an in-debted man I am unable to afford the luxury of a subscription to the Journal so found Nature’s rendition to my satisfaction. In Google reveals secret test of AI bot to beat top Go players Elizabeth Gibney reports:

A mystery player causing a stir in the world of the complex strategy game Go has been revealed as an updated version of AlphaGo, the artificial-intelligence (AI) program created by Google’s London-based AI firm, DeepMind.

What’s always amazing is this notion that technics and technology, and especially the thinking machines we’ve lately pursued are not human: technics and technology is the inhuman core of our being, so that these intelligent systems are nothing but an extension of our core inhumanity. Rather than there being some dualism between human and machine, which is what such articles continue to suggest, we should acknowledge that the emergence of intelligent machines is in truth what the transitional being we’ve termed the ‘human’ was all along, and that in the long heritage of growth in intelligence, its optimization and extension, externalization of memory and technique has been part of the off-loading our inner core into external prosthesis from the beginning of recorded history. These external systems reveal our inner nature, mirror our actual and virtual desires, show us as we are and are becoming machinic (Deleuze/Guattari).

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On Pain: Grin and Bare It

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Our whole life is an Irish Sea, wherein there is naught to be expected but tempestuous storms and troublesome waves, and those infinite…

—Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.

—Bob Hope, American Comedian

It was the great Stoic, Marcus Aurelius who once enjoined the citizen in saying: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” As a comic fatalist I can concur with this. Saul Bellow would write in his own way the comic fatalist as stoic in Seize the Day! As he said in that work: “I want to tell you, don’t marry suffering. Some people do. They get married to it, and sleep and eat together, just as husband and wife. If they go with joy they think it’s adultery.”

I live with pain. Enough said. Yet, one learns to take it in stride like everything else in one’s life, one learns to not let it rule over one. Isn’t this one aspect of facing one’s life, that one has to make a choice toward one’s physical states. One can let the body rule one, one can try to rule it (not a real solution!), or one can just accept the inevitability of one’s degeneration into dust with equanimity and magnanimity. That sense of calmness and generosity toward one’s self, one’s own foibles and physical truth of age, disease, and ultimate demise and disappearance. Either to enter into the elegaic as in Rilke, or to become the bitter troubadour of spite as in Yeats. Or, one can stand amid the squalor and ruination of one’s being as in the ‘eye of a hurricane’ and admit that one has no control over these forces, but how magnificent to have been a part of this madness.

One of the issues one tries to resolve early on is one’s stance toward one’s body and its pain. Is this thing that sends messages of excruciating horror my way a part of me or not? The body is generally seen as a wonderful intricate machine operating on understandable principles that will be revealed by increasingly sophisticated scientific investigation. It includes a sensory nervous system whose function is to detect events in the world around us and within our own bodies. This sensory nervous system collects and collates all the available information and presents it in a form that generates pure sensation, according to the dualists. At this supposed frontier, the mind, which operates on entirely different principles, may inspect the sensory information and begin mental processes such as perception, affect, memory, self-awareness, and planning of action.1

Yada, yada, yada… we know it personally, or do we? The scientists and especially of late the neuroscientists will tell you all these states are illusionary states, just mixed signals from a subroutine of the body doing its job. Don’t you love such objective knowledge? No, of course not, not when you’re the one in the middle of a gout session, or had one’s leg blow off by and IED, or burned over half of your body by a fire in your home, or a wreck in your car, etc. One could care less about such objective descriptions. Such exact analysis and description never helped anyone in facing the day to day pain of physical or mental anguish.

One source hunter traced down all the words people use to describe pain to doctors. He found seventy commonly used words, which he sorted into categories. Some words, such as pricking or hot, seemed to be used just to describe the stimulus itself. For each of the classes of sensory word, the words were arranged in order of intensity; for example, hot, burning, scalding, searing. Then there was another class of words that he called affective, which described what the sensation was doing to the victim; for example, exhausting, sickening, punishing. Finally, he separated out words that he called evaluative, which expressed the degree of suffering; for example, annoying, miserable, unbearable. (ibid. KL 486)

They’ll even get to the nitty-gritty and tell you the culprit is the sensory nerve fibers. Sensory nerve fibers originate from clusters of cells that lie close to the spine, with one cluster or “ganglion” for each vertebra. A special ganglion lies in the base of the skull and supplies the face, mouth, and head. In the embryo, each cell puts out a short fiber that splits at a T-junction. One arm grows out into the tissue by way of the nerves. The other arm grows into the spinal cord with a large group of similar nerve fibers called the dorsal root, which contains all the fibers from the ganglion. The skin is profusely innervated with three types of sensory fibers. One group, called A beta fibers, are wrapped in a fatty protein called myelin and are sensitive to gentle pressure. The second group, called A delta fibers, are thinner and are sensitive to heavy pressure and temperature. The third group, called C fibers, are very thin and have no myelin and respond to pressure, chemicals, and temperature. Deep tissue and organs such as the heart, bladder, and gut are innervated only by the thinner fibers. (ibid. KL 5224)

Now I ask you, how does knowing what the specific material processes are that get the job done of sending you the freckking message that you’re in pain do to help you face it? Nada!

Then there are the pain doctors of the Sacred. I kid you not. Pain is not a simple matter they tell us: There is an enormous difference between the unwanted pain of a cancer patient or victim of a car crash, and the voluntary and modulated self-hurting of a religious practitioner. Religious pain produces states of consciousness, and cognitive-emotional changes, that affect the identity of the individual subject and her sense of belonging to a larger community or to a more fundamental state of being. More succinctly, pain strengthens the religious person’s bond with God and with other persons. Of course, since not all pain is voluntary or self-inflicted, one mystery of the religious life is how unwanted suffering can become transformed into sacred pain.2

I can’t speak to this being an atheist, but the last time I felt a connection to the great all it certainly wasn’t when I woke up with my left foot the size of a walrus and sending me gout messages that “Hey, Bug, we’re back in town and we’re here to hurt you in ways you haven’t even thought about.” No, God had nothing to do with my outlook toward that merciless shock running the gamut of my poor body into my little old foolish brain that triggered the tears and consciousness each second I moved or touched my foot to anything at all. Pain isn’t a religious experience, its a destitution, that’s what it is. Or, if truth be told: Pain is a god in his own right, one that tries to hold its power over every thought, every affect, every aspect of one’s life; a tyrant that want go away.

The German novelist Ernst Junger who would  resist Adolf Hitler’s offers of friendship in the late 1920s and declined to join the Nazi movement even after it came to power in Germany in 1933. Indeed, during Hitler’s chancellorship, he wrote a daring allegory on the barbarian devastation of a peaceful land in the novel Auf den Marmorklippen (1939; On the Marble Cliffs), which, surprisingly, passed the censors and was published in Germany. Jünger was dismissed from the army in 1944 after he was indirectly implicated with fellow officers who had plotted to kill Hitler. A few months later, his son died in combat in Italy after having been sentenced to a penal battalion for political reasons. In his book On Pain he gives one of the most personal accounts:

There are several great and unalterable dimensions that show a man’s stature. Pain is one of them. It is the most difficult in a series of trials one is accustomed to call life. An examination dealing with pain is no doubt unpopular; yet it is not only revealing in its own right, but it can also shed light on a series of questions preoccupying us at the present. Pain is one of the keys to unlock man’s innermost being as well as the world. Whenever one approaches the points where man proves himself to be equal or superior to pain, one gains access to the sources of his power and the secret hidden behind his dominion. Tell me your relation to pain, and I will tell you who you are!

Archeology is actually a science dedicated to pain; in the layers of the earth, it uncovers empire after empire, of which we no longer even know the names. The mourning that takes hold of us at such sites is extraordinary, and it is perhaps in no account of the world portrayed more vividly than in the powerful and mysterious tale about the City of Brass. In this desolate city surrounded by deserts, the Emir Musa reads the words on a tablet made of iron of China: “For I possessed four thousand bay horses in a stable; and I married a thousand damsels, of the daughters of Kings, high-bosomed virgins, like moons; and I was blessed with a thousand children, like stern lions; and I lived a thousand years, happy in mind and heart; and I amassed riches such as the Kings of ‘ I the regions of the earth were unable to procure, and I imagined that my enjoyments would continue without failure. But I was not aware when there alighted among us the terminator of delights and the separator of companions, the desolator of abodes and the ravager of inhabited mansions, the destroyer of the great and the small and the infants and the children and the mothers. We had resided in this palace in security until the event decreed by the Lord of all creatures, the Lord of the heavens and the Lord of the earths, befell us.” Further, on a table , of yellow onyx were graven the words: “Upon this table have eaten a thousand one-eyed Kings, and a thousand Kings each sound in both eyes. All of them have quitted the world, and , taken up their abode in the burial-grounds and the graves.”3

As Robert Burton would say of the above “Be silent then, rest satisfied, comfort thyself with other men’s misfortunes…”:

How many thousands want that which thou hast! how many myriads of poor slaves, captives, of such as work day and night in coal-pits, tin-mines, with sore toil to maintain a poor living, of such as labour in body and mind, live in extreme anguish, and pain, all which thou art free from! Thou art most happy if thou couldst be content, and acknowledge thy happiness. We know the value of a thing from the wanting more than from the enjoying; when thou shalt hereafter come to want, that which thou now loathest, abhorrest, and art weary of, and tired with, when ’tis past, thou wilt say thou werest most happy: and, after a little miss, wish with all thine heart thou hadst the same content again, might’st lead but such a life, a world for such a life: the remembrance of it is pleasant. Be silent then, rest satisfied, comfort thyself with other men’s misfortunes…4

But as I look at my poor foot I see that this, too, is bitter consolation. Contemplating the history of misfortune, of pain, secular or sacred is of little comfort, and is in fact the least of my anguishes. No. For each of us pain is personal and not something we can share with others, and in fact we along with most try out best to just get on with it: which means, we try to forget it, deny it, just pretend and hope it will go away soon. But it sits there like a little demon chiding us with its merciless pitchfork, continuously reminding us that it, not us, is in charge of this force of anguish. But is it? Can we discover a way to confront it directly or indirectly?

Doctors would hand you a pill and say come back in a couple weeks and let’s see how things go. Little comfort there, but at least you get dead zone in the pit of the brain that wipes out whole affective regions. But is this a good thing? Here’s what the blurbs tell you about that from WebMD: Pain management is important for ongoing pain control, especially if you suffer with long-term or chronic pain. After getting a pain assessment, your doctor can prescribe pain medicine, other pain treatments, or psychotherapy to help with pain relief.  In one article on car crash victims we discover this about opioid’s:

For treating persistent pain after a car crash, prescription opioid painkillers such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) are no more effective than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like ibuprofen, a new study finds.

Of course opioids have come under fire of late in studies on addiction. As one Doctor says: “Now that opioids are under fire, it’s forcing us to ask: ‘What is the best treatment, who is it best for and under what conditions?’ ” Beaudoin said in a university news release. “As an emergency physician, I prescribe these drugs all the time. Does what I am giving to people have any impact on the pain outcomes that matter to them?” she added. In their study they discovered that those who were initially prescribed opioids, which can be highly addictive, were 17.5 percent more likely to still be taking the drugs after six weeks, according to the study. Then we discover that Opioid painkiller abuse is a leading public health crisis in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So for the long haul maybe drugs are not the answer, unless you want an even worse problem than the pain you’re suffering. So is there an answer? Philosophy, Religion, Medicine? WebMD offers a 11 point plan as if it was a part of a salvage operation: Meditation, reduced stress, exercise and endorphin plunges, quit drinking liquor, join a support group of chronic pain believers, stop smoking cigarettes (what about my Mary J? :)), track your pain (oh boy as if I needed a reminder!), biofeedback, go to a masseuse, eat healthy (haha!), and, best of all learn to distract yourself from your pain. Oh, the wonders of modern medical help… lovely remedies. I wonder if the people who write these things up live it?

Well, in the end I don’t think there is some Universal answer to pain, pain is unique, singular, and it is very much real to one’s actual or illusionary consciousness: it lives there 24/7 without let up. You can take that to the bank… of all the remedies I’d agree to that last one: distraction… that’s why I’m writing this essay. To keep my mind off that throbbing sensation that keeps pooping in my mind, dualistic or not. More like a Poe guillotine swinging and swinging and swinging… the inevitable is over us and its getting closer with each swing.

Nietzsche once divided men (what about women?) into the weak and strong, the weak suffer pain like cowards while the strong cheerfully accept pain and suffering. In the Genealogy of Morals he writes that man is “a sickly animal: but suffering itself was not his problem, but the fact that there was no answer to the question he screamed, ‘Suffering for what?’ … The meaninglessness of suffering, not the suffering, was the curse which has so far blanketed mankind.” On Nietzsche’s view, health and strength is a matter of a positive attitude towards life and all of its sufferings: to be strong and healthy just consists in embracing and in this sense overcoming suffering in all of its forms. The weak or sick person, on the other hand, is one who despairs over the fact that he or she suffers, who is hostile to and resents suffering. Strength is thus a form of optimism in the face of suffering, and weakness a form of pessimism. So the kind of health and strength Nietzsche is concerned with is psychological health and strength. And this, for him, is all about the attitude we take to the suffering that is an unavoidable feature of life. True psychological health involves welcoming affirming life and all of its suffering.

Nietzsche wrote this because, he, too, suffered the truth of this life. One usually writes about what one knows, even if one displaces it into philosophical presumption and heroics. In the end we all turn away into our own solitary caves and suffer in our own unique way. What else is there? Crack a joke, a smile, tell the healthy who come by all smiley and bubbles and health and ask you: “How are you feeling today?” Turn toward them and wink, then say: —”I’m feeling like shit, okay?” – Then pick up a book and throw it at them, or take your shoes off and wallop them, pitch them out… tell them “I’m freckking feeling …. painnnnnn”. Then return to one’s indifference and equanimity…

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Red Skelton the American Comedian and artist of clowns, himself a clown handed down a credo:

“Live by this credo: have a little laugh at life and look around you for happiness instead of sadness. Laughter has always brought me out of unhappy situations.”

— Red Skelton

With that I’ll say with my smiley face: “Have a nice day all!” And, with my pessimist grumpiness and curmudgeon best, say: “Well, so it goes…”


  1. Wall, Patrick. Pain: The Science of Suffering (Maps of the Mind) (Kindle Locations 306-311). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Glucklich, Ariel. Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul (p. 6). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
  3. Tanner, Harold M. China: A History (Volume 1): From Neolithic Cultures through the Great Qing Empire, (10,000 BCE – 1799 CE) Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (March 15, 2010)
  4. Burton, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy. New York Review Books; 1st edition (April 9, 2001)

The Last Man

They have something of which they are proud. What do they call it, that which makes them proud? Culture, they call it; it distinguishes them from the goatherds.

-Friedrich Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Nietzsche once envisioned the end point of progressive politics: the last man. The lives of the last men are pacifist and comfortable. There is no longer a distinction between ruler and ruled, strong over weak, or supreme over the mediocre. Social conflict and challenges are minimized. Every individual lives equally and in “superficial” harmony. There are no original or flourishing social trends and ideas. Individuality and creativity are suppressed. Outwardly it appears to the alien as a perfect world, a utopian enclave where the populace is taken care of, secure, and happy.

A world without disease, conflict, war, poverty, mental aberrations – a world without creativity. In such a world the men and women no longer need education in the sense of the old political horizons, because the world is itself a fulfilled and progressive society. Enlightenment, the sciences, and the socio-cultural regulators who oversee this civilization are not men and women of power, but rather volunteers in a world of non-power. The impersonal laws and pyscho-social apparatus that enforces the stability, security, and regulatory mechanisms of this utopian world are themselves regulated by the ultra-egalitarian value systems that keep even their own mental systems in check.

At the center of this society will be the AGI systems that make all the decisions regulating the complex interactions across the fold of this world populace. These systems will act as oracles for the vast majority of educated and uneducated believers who will become only the beneficiaries of this new impersonal machinism. We could say the AGI’s will handle the intricate and complex relations of jurisprudence that will arbitrate every aspect of this societies intrinsic and extrinsic relations. Welcome to the algorithmic society of the future.

At the heart of this system of egalitarian social relations is the psycho-pharmaceutical Neuromantic Nomos – the Order of Neural Law. Such a society is well versed in the convergence of nanotech, biogenetic, telemantic, and neuroscientific pharma: the fusion of nano-tech and pharmaceutical regulatory agents that will focus their powerful socio-medicinal systems on bringing peace and happiness to the citizens of this brave new world. The growth of regulative platforms of sustainability and resource regulation will have brought to bare the full systems of law to regulate every aspect of life on earth. Yet, to work out these regulatory positings is no longer in the hands of humans but of powerful machinic intelligences which will supply both the legal and socio-medical techniques needed to enforce this system. Humans will be free, but only within a very well defined system of reasons and regulations. Their lives regulated by nanobiotech machinic intelligences that carefully regulate metabolic and neural systems according to the new Nomos.

After the chaotic downturn in the Age of Risk during the so called post-Enlightenment age of unregulated Laissez-faire and beyond into the late financial capitalisms of the Oligarchic and Plutocratic worlds of Neurocapitalism, when humans were coerced into Security Regimes through the use and abuse of the vast new technologies of neuralpharmakon: the time of non-time, presentism, held sway.  The end of certain forms of violence and revolutionary thought brought to an abrupt end the age-old defiance of the masses against oppression. With the advent of neuraltech pharmakon, the street drugs of the new dispensation, along with the cult like prophets dispersing this new religious melioration unto the downcast and forgotten became the way to reign in the dissident elements of the Great Failure. Now that this socio-cultural world was hooked on peace and love, on unity and diversity of psycho-sexual integration the diverse and angry world of poverty and dissidence vanished. The production of dreams and fantasy became the new watchword, a world of satisfied gamers of reality.

With a new Universal Base Income (UBI) in place there was only the need to discover something worthwhile to do and be in this new world. With the end of the age-old monetization systems of capital came the only coin left: human creativity. Yet, as in most regulated systems creativity would be segmented off from the vast majority of players. The creative class would become the enhanced and unregulated systems of experimental social relations, beings set apart in special zones to live and work in the Great Experiment. These beings would become the focus of a well orchestrated Reality TV series in which the uncreative classes would dream of their heroes from afar. (more on this in a future post!)

So that it was just that much easier to incorporate less and less risk management, and off-load more and more of human security and risk onto the newly developed AGI’s. The very systems of profit and plunder that once brought the .01% their dreamworlds, was turned against them to awaken a living dream for all. In the end humans developed a society that elided the very concept of competition and aggression from the human genome. The new biogenetics would slowly but methodically develop personality types according to the function and algorithmic needs of the society itself. One was not so much free to do what one wanted, but to do what one was programed to want. For humans were no longer bound by the illusion of Free Will, but regulated by the impersonal will of their neuraltech systems far below the surface of awareness and consciousness.

 “The event itself is far too great, too distant, too remote from the multitude’s capacity for comprehension even for the tidings of it to be thought of as having arrived as yet.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche


Anti-Fascism = “de-familiarizing, de-oedipalizing, de-castrating; undoing theater, dream, and fantasy; decoding, de-territorializing – a terrible curettage, a malevolent activity.” (Anti-Oedipus: Deleuze & Guattari)

To one half of humanity this will appear dystopia completed, to the other half a strange progress indeed. Maybe it’s more of a fable of “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it in unexpected ways and means.” If you haven’t noticed this is a sort of ongoing world building scenario for a dystopian trilogy in the offing… I’ve often wondered “What if…” we pushed the current trends in progressive thought and politics to the ultra conclusion? What would such a egalitarian world of social justice really look like? Would it push the techno-commercial to the point of a total reformist society based on impersonal regulation by decisioning systems like AGI’s or not? With our investment in the convergence technologies will humans divide into creative and uncreative social relations? How will we have both happy satisfied workers and creativity, too? As so many have suggested, creativity is itself a vehicle that brings violence to the world in which it breaks through. So will the creative class become a separate world, segmented off from the great mass of uncreative talents?

The End of Truth: Living in a Post-Truth World?

The Oxford dictionary recently defined  “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The key here is not to ponder ‘post-truth’, but the notion of our reliance on ‘objective facts’ as the source and trust in a stable world or reality in which the public sphere of doxa (‘opinion’) has given way to the affective and personal beliefs of the average citizen.

What’s not said in the Oxford definition is the reverse is the more accurate, that truth was once considered solely ‘God’s Truth’. During most of the ugly history of Western Civilization truth was always ‘God’s Truth’, and was used to justify not only genocide, war, and military and religious atrocities against for foreign and domestic foes, but as the cornerstone of the Christian worldview. A regulatory idea that supervened on all other local truths whatsoever. Then with the advent of atheism, the Enlightenment, the Sciences and modern world order of democracies etc. something else took over from this regulative idea of Truth as ‘belief’ in the new dispensation and placeholder of scientific or objective truth. Now the idea of truth as objective is simply that no matter what we believe to be the case, some things will always be true and other things will always be false. Our beliefs, whatever they are, have no bearing on the facts of the world around us.

During the 1990’s of the last century many would argue against objective truth, saying instead that it was all relative to the culture within which one is situated. Relativism is “the doctrine that knowledge, truth and morality exist in relation to culture, society or historical context, and are not absolute”. The primary appeal is that people have realized, for example, that “Is it rude to do X?” is a different question depending on the context, especially depending on what culture you live in. This is the same kind of issue as the day of the week above. Relativists are correct to insist that a lot of the ideas of our culture are not universal truths, even some that most people assume are universal truths.

However, relativism overstated its case and is blind to its own fallible stance, because it says that all knowledge depends on the context. Contextualism describes a collection of views in philosophy which emphasize the context in which an action, utterance, or expression occurs, and argues that, in some important respect, the action, utterance, or expression can only be understood relative to that context. It’s a bit like saying that all questions are ambiguous just because some are and because precision is difficult. Also, relativism is ambiguous about whether contextual knowledge is absolutely true within that context; many relativists object to the idea of any absolute, permanent, unitary truth. But why should the truth for a given context ever change? Relativism provides an argument that the context is important, but no argument that the truth can change if we keep the context constant.

Nietzsche once argued in the Genealogy of Morals, III, 25: “That which constrains idealists of knowledge, this unconditional will to truth, is faith in the ascetic ideal itself even if as an unconscious imperative – don’t be deceived about that – it is faith in a metaphysical value, the absolute value of truth, sanctioned and guaranteed by this ideal alone (it stands or falls with this ideal).”

Nietzsche thus argues that truth, like the God of Plato and traditional Christianity, is the highest and most perfect being imaginable: “we men of knowledge of today, we godless men and anti-metaphysicians, we, too, still derive our flame from the fire ignited by a faith millennia old, the Christian faith, which was also Plato’s, that God is truth, that truth is divine.” (Gay Science, 344)

He would even berate the supposed atheists and free-spirits of knowledge (i.e., of scientists and objective knowledge):

These nay-sayers and outsiders of today who are unconditional on one point — their insistence on intellectual cleanliness; these hard, severe, abstinent, heroic spirits who constitute the honor of our age; all these pale atheists, anti-Christians, immoralists, nihilists, these skeptics, ephectics, herectics of spirit, … these last idealists of knowledge, within whom alone intellectual conscience is today alive and well, – they certainly believe they are as completely liberated from the ascetic ideal as possible, these “free, very free spirits”; and yet they themselves embody it today and perhaps they alone. […] They are far from being free spirits: for they still have faith in truth. (Genealogy of Morals III:24)

Yet, in pragmatic and practical matters of daily life most humans Nietzsche would argue “recognize untruth as a condition of life: that, to be sure, means to resist customary value-sentiments in a dangerous fashion; and a philosophy which ventures to do so places itself , by that act alone, beyond good and evil.” (Beyond Good and Evil, 333) He would even ask:

What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions – they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.

For Nietzsche truth was not so much relative as it was untrustworthy. Every word immediately becomes a concept, inasmuch as it is not intended to serve as a reminder of the unique and wholly individualized original experience to which it owes its birth, but must at the same time fit innumerable, more or less similar cases—which means, strictly speaking, never equal—in other words, a lot of unequal cases. Every concept originates through our equating what is unequal. (Truth) This is the movement of truth from actual experience of a person in his/her daily confrontation and struggle, to the after-thought – the distilled and abstracted kernel that suddenly gets objectified into a concept, subtracted from the changeable and experience ridden world of things and placed into some pure world of Ideas. What we forget in this process is what is unique and cannot be reduced to the pure concept, what remains in excess of its supposed objective universality: the messiness of reality that cannot be reduced to our significations.

Yet, to go back to the Oxford pun on all this, what their conveying is that we’ve allowed the whole treatment of knowledge as scientific objectivity to fall into abeyance as concerns our day to day lives in politics and other affairs. And that instead of seeking some standard against which we can make judgements, we’ve allowed ourselves to believe anyone and everyone is worthy of their own truth, their own beliefs. In other words that nothing is truth, and everything is shaped by the lowest common denominator: personal belief. In such a society everything is atomized and truth can be shaped and presented as malleable and plastic according to the whims of those in power.

Our World a Hyperfictional Event

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”

― Jorge Luis Borges

As I was walking among the fires of Hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity, I collected some of their Proverbs.

—William Blake

If you’ve read through many of the supposed post-modern turn fabulists… a term I hate by the way! Stanislaw Lem, Jorge-Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, and so many others… One discovers – as John Barth would say, the “replenishment of literature under the heretical sign”. So counter-cultural weavings have always been there, but under various shadow disguises… Kabballah being the shadow of Torah, Magic the shadow of Hermeticism, Occult in general the child of political heresy and Gnosticism…

What Land and the CCRU gang did was to playfully reenact the heretical hyperfictions, update them for a new time-war sequence, create and absorb the underbelly of those political heresies in parody as a wake up call. Our age is itself the greatest hyperfictive enactment in history. We are living inside a horror novel that has locked the door, thrown away the key, and left the habitants with little or no recourse other than to wake up before it is too late; else die.

As Mark Twain once reminded us: “The list of things which we absolutely know, is not a long one, and we have not the luck to add a fresh one to it often, but I recognized that I had added one to mine this day. I knew, now, that it isn’t safe to sit in judgment upon another person’s illusion when you are not on the inside. While you are thinking it is a dream, he may be knowing it is a planet.” – “Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes”

Time-wars and bootstrapping events move ceaselessly through the vertical and geotraumatic spaces of our enslavement. We ponder the outer darkness, while all along we harbor the veritable enemy in our own blind mind. Unable to see the mote in our own eye, we introject it into the other and thereby continue the fake world of death and political malfeasance. Contrary to Sartre, Hell is not Other people, Hell is what we are and have always been: the eternal flames of desire captured in the endless repetition of a universal hyperworld, a labyrinth for those unlikely guests of time, ourselves.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

—William Blake

The Sly Wit Speaks

g-k-chesterton-faith

The corruption in things is not only the best argument for being progressive; it is also the only argument against being conservative. The conservative theory would really be quite sweeping and unanswerable if it were not for this one fact. But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change.

—G. K. CHESTERTON, ORTHODOXY

The Subtle Game

gaze

Watching my nephew, his wife, and their daughter all sitting on the couch, the TV blairing away while each of them gazed into their isolated technological worlds. Their cell-phones and eyes locked in a closed circuit loop, oblivious of the external environment or my conversation of five miniutes, I began thinking of this almost eerie truth: We are still the children of Kant, internalizing not only our gaze, but folding the world into our technological gadgets to live out our lives in an artificial maze of light.

The external world of the natural environment along with human senses of touch, smell, taste, hearing all focused to the empire of the eye lost in the gaze of our technological worlds, where our of emotions, the affective relations of the body itself is being eroded to the point that we are truly preparing for the moment when we will enter into these artificial dream worlds without so much as a remembrance of the external environment or our bodies. It is happening so slowly and subtly that we are even oblivious to our own process and complicity in this movement toward the eclipse of distance and the negation of the world for another one. For a technological world where the symbolic cages of our future desires will become part of a joyous new prison. We want even know we’ve lost our bodies in that world to come having become electronic ghosts or our former lives we’ll live out our days as bits of commercial feed-back in an endless economic game of holidays whose only goal is profit. Hell is a labyrinth in which one does not know it is so, there being no center or circumference; nor outlet. Only an endless vista for the eyes duplicitous gaze…

With the new VR tools that will become ever so refined over the coming decades (they being monstrous frog masks now!) we will forget that the natural ever existed, and will instead discover around us the merger of our technological dreamscapes and the outer world. We will be empowered by endless fantasies and technological entertainment systems that will lull us into our sleeping slavery happy and satisfied to be a part of the ever growing techno-commercial empires of our Plutocrats. Those who resist will be shown the door outside the gated and secure enclaves of the future, to ick out their bare existence as the denizens of a dark work world without the benefit of social interference or help. This darkling world we’re creating will not protrude too soon, but will happen as generation by generation the truth of the past, of history, of those alive who remember that reality was once different are all gone.

Even as I gaze back to my past life realizing how much has changed, and how my young family around me no longer sees or perceives reality in the way I do, knowing how far we’ve drifted from the 20th Century already I ponder this simple transition into the electronic void with neither fear nor trepidation. How can one fear what others see as joy and fulfillment of their deep seated desires? The concept of ‘joy’ must be understood here with a certain analytical coldness, emptied of the ideas of rapture, plenitude or jubilation that are commonly associated with it. One can experience joy at all levels of intensity, including very low ones, associated with the most ordinary; it can even go unnoticed, lost within a larger complex of affects that makes it hard to isolate. Once the idea of joy is purged of all connotations of effervescence and enthusiasm, it is perfectly correct to say that securing the money that allows the satisfaction of the basal desire causes joy – but in the same way that escaping death by becoming a slave causes joy.

This will be an age when the mass consumption of the consumer herself must be reached for the full scope of the Spinozist statement ‘they can imagine hardly any species of joy without the accompanying idea of money as its cause’ to become clear.  The supreme deftness of capitalism, in this respect decisively the product of the Fordist era, lay in using the expanded supply of things to buy and the stimulation of demand to provoke this reordering of desire, so that from then on the ‘image [of money] … occupie[d] the mind of the multitude more than anything else’.1 Yet, in this new age of the symbolic order the image of money will have given way to the gift of life in the eternal now of the virtual worlds of machinic existence, a world where security is handled by the great AGI’s – artificial intelligences who will manipulate every aspect of our holographic lives.

Those of us living now scoff at such conclusions, yet we want be there to see it. I speak of a time without such as us who think and believe differently. Oh, one could trace the genealogy of thought that has brought us to this point, how Kant turned away from reality in favor of the Mind’s own knowing – the inner turn being none other than this epistemic gaze. At the end of the 20th Century the divorce between sign and its referent, mind and its outer environment (nature) was complete, and the end of the Kantian experiment was at hand. No longer believing that the external world exists, we’ve allowed ourselves to build artificial playgrounds where our need for symbols and symbolic action will play out their destiny. Even the scientists work not with the actual, but rather with its symbolic equivalent in endless mathematical models of the universe to which it can create algorithms to evolve a future unbound. Whatever reality was for our ancestors, whatever we thought of the natural is no more; instead is this symbolic realm of endless signs that do not so much as reveal reality as construct it. This was the great postmodern vision, which is even now falling into ill-repute as many turn back to some form of realist discourse.

Yet, even as philosophers beg the question of reality, the world of techno-commercial consumerism continues as if reality no longer mattered. All that matters is the game of reality, the Reality Studio that is constructed out of all the vast machines of the Mediatainment Empire. In this transitional period between the old world of stable outer natural environment, and the new world cut off from its supports in reality living on symbols that no longer refer to anything other than themselves we exist in a carefully managed world of artificiality. And, even if the very real consequences of climate change, social chaos, disease, famine, war, etc. continue to exist these are not the center of the new arrangements of the techno-commercial empire. Even as the pressure of the old impinges on the new the Oligarchs of irreality continue to portray the world as a happy holiday in the sun.

In my own mind I realize the difficulty of trying to bridge the gap in understanding. Trying to explain such notions (not my own!) that the world and the artificial are growing ever wider in their gaps and cracks to the point that the old natural environs will one day flood back into our electronic mindscapes with a vengeance. They laugh at me as if this, too, were just one more crackpot theory. I realize it is slowly dawning on me that it is already too late to convince people of what is happening. I’ve a library filled with books on every aspect of our current malaise: Anthroposcene, Neoliberalism, Post-Marxist radicalism, Deleuze, Zizek, Badiou, Non-human turn, Post-human thought, novels, sci-fi, noir, Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Pynchon, etc. all warning us of the coming natural collapse around our planet. Yet, in our socio-cultural game of illusions most people could care less as long as they are gratified in this immediate now. In an age when the truth has given way to a post-truth world we are truly lost in our own machiniations, unable to think critically or even register the outer terror of the coming catastrophe of our extinction.


  1. Lordon, Frederic. Willing Slaves Of Capital: Spinoza And Marx On Desire (pp. 29-30). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

Topsy-Turvy

saturnalia

It’s as if we’d stepped into Gibson’s Sprawl, but this time it’s no joke…

The world as a sandbox, a live action video game, an MMO for adults where reality becomes passé and fantasy becomes the order of the day. Over and over I keep thinking that it’s not paranoia we’re experiencing in these supposed post-truth days, rather it’s this feeling that the long awaited apocalypse happened yesterday but no one has yet awakened to that fact; and only now are we acknowledging that the world didn’t die in a bang or a whimper, but entered that static Disneyland of the mind where the only loser is reality itself.

Having closed the doors on reality the world is moving into hypertime. Now begins the age of magicians, a world where desire is meshed with its dreamscapes and people leave the Reality Studio behind for the Hall of Mirrors Funhouse. A realm of Saturnalia, a festival of madness, topsy-turvy land, where the Fool becomes President and the people run riot in the streets. Distraction and delirium set the pace of an accelerating festival of desire, and the wasteland of our collapsing civilization becomes the ultimate Reality TV show. One in which we are all guaranteed to become participants.

 

Adam Curtis’s HyperNormalisation – Afterthoughts…

hypernormalisatio

What I took away from Adam Curtis’s recent docu-film, HyperNormalisation was this:

The world around us is much too complex for our leaders to handle, so instead they’ve built up over the past hundred years or so a simplified vision of reality and the world and our place in it, a nice cartoon vision of the world filled with bad guys who need to be put down. Using Muammar Gaddafi Ronald Regan began a campaign against a boogeyman dictator so that he wouldn’t have to face dealing with the larger and more complex issue of Syria’s dictator – (whose son we’ve all read of in the past few years), who many in the European community of intelligence saw as the real culprit  behind many of the suicide bombings, plane bombs, and other bombings around the Middle-East and world ( a long history there!).

So instead the world’s leaders went along with the more simplified non-issue of using such figures as Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and others to blame their problems on, as stooges for whom they could carry out their illegal wars in the Middle-East, etc. of course Curtis goes into the whole system of immersive reality systems (Propaganda, Public Relations, Mind Control, manipulation galore, Rise of the Internet as a tool for command and control, algorithms and AI’s that develop and feed back the echo chamber of our current Twitter, FaceBook, echo-chambers wherein we only ever get back what we put in, etc. Radicalism democratic or otherwise being filtered away from the mainstream users into a black hole of oblivion – this later done in collusion with government and corporations, etc.).

Curtis obviously relies on sixty years of post-modern and other thought to develop his notions of HyperNormalisation – a Russian developed this concept (funny he never mentions who?): a notion that we’ve all been duped, a slow and methodical enchainment in illusionary worlds of techno-capitalism promoted by Academia, media, Corporate and Government, think-tanks, foundations, etc. A world where the future is controlled by computer modeling, closed off from us, a world simplified by algorithms that trap us in an echo-chamber of narcissism, a realm where all the feed-back mechanisms give us only our own thoughts and images back. A world where nothing changes, everything exists in an eternal now. A controlled world that even allows us to believe we are in control, that we are free, that we can change things.

Curtis went into the Arab Spring and Occupy movements detailing out our use of networks, mobiles, etc., but that not having a vision of change, of rule, of society, etc. that all of these movements ended in vacuums, leaderless and without any embodied realization of what a society based on freedom and equality would look like, etc. So many of the countries in which these uprisings occurred fell back into the hands of military or terrorist organizations instead. Or, like the Occupy movement were slowly allowed to echo themselves till people no longer could hear themselves in the echo… oblivion.

Curtis argues that an army of technocrats, complacent radicals and Faustian internet entrepreneurs have conspired to create an unreal world; one whose familiar and often comforting details blind us to its total inauthenticity. Not wishing to undersell the concept, Curtis begins the film with a shot of a torch shining limply into a thicket, so that viewers find themselves watching a flashlight in the darkness of our unknowing.

From there, HyperNormalisation tracks a course to the present day, allowing Curtis to weigh in on Trump, Putin and Syria. But those expecting a snappy crash course in our chaotic world clearly aren’t familiar with his methods. The film may address some of today’s most critical global issues, but it also allocates space to Jane Fonda, the fall of the Soviet Union and an interpellation of pre-9/11 disaster movies. And unlike Curtis’s earlier work for TV, HyperNormalisation immerses us in the illusions themselves that in our era now seem so antique and illusionary.

In some ways without ever saying it, Curtis moves back to the old school of thought that we have no clear vision of what we want. No notion of the Good Society. All we have is a varied set of grievances: all the myriad gender, race, and class bound issues under the rubric of current progressive politics. And, yet, when the democratic machine was put in office it, too, was shown to be under the thumb of the Corporate, Banking, and other financial institutions. This was the key to Curtis’s film: this notion that politics no longer matters in our world, and that most Governments are under the thumb of the Financial Dictatorship of Bankers, Lawyers, and Corporatist interests. We’ve been bound within a system of impersonalism and indifference in the US and EU in which Financial capitalism dictates to society, not democratic politics and the rule of the demos.

This is the age we have to decide whether security and safety (living in a static world controlled by computational algorithms, economics, and predictive AGI’s), outweighs our need for freedom. We’ve trapped ourselves in an immersive game of Security, a bargain with the devil of modern finance to keep the wolves at bay, but in the process we’ve allowed the world to become a Global Prison System run by impersonal agents of the Machine. Sadly the Machine is now gaining speed, accelerating past the human into an age of automation in which human’s themselves will become obsolete, obsolesced, and left out to pasture.

(I stop here, realizing that what comes next is a Vision of the Good Society. What do we want? That’s the big question… facing humanity: Security or Freedom? The good thing is that the Reality TV Show that Finance built – our Neoliberal World Vision – is crumbling around us: the Establishment does not have an answer, is foundering, no longer has a vision and its leaders are now seen for what they are: Clowns! We have a chance to revolt against this Reailty and Change it in our Generation if we will, but we need a Vision of The Good Society to which we tend… no one single thinker, artist, or creative person can come up with such a thing: now is the time when the people themselves in a collective project must come together and rethink our place in the universe for our time. This is a struggle, not a book. It’s our lives, not some fiction. We are the one’s living in a precarious age in which humans might go extinct. What will we decide? Or will we continue to blindly follow the Machine?)

The Subtractive Way


Humanity’s philosophy is additive, when it should be subtractive.

One of the reasons I’ve taken up a more Comic Pessimism is just that: as a young man I took all this so seriously, so horribly; suffered it all, etc. Then as I plundered literature, philosophy, sciences, art, politics, through all their various guises I realized that many have done the same: this is what secular culture is – this utter devastation that we were ever immersed in such fictions to begin with. And, yet, then one wakes up and realizes the same of Secularism itself; that it, too, is another grand narrative, a ficition to believe in no belief, etc.

To ironize all beliefs to the point that one is once again immersed in a belief system that one does not know is a belief. We call it believing in the truth, as if the Universe was meaningless (nihilism) to justify our escape into this new safety net. After this one comes upon that very realization and awakens to the truth that all truths are relative: the postmodern turn, that suddenly nothing is true, everything is allowed. All grand narratives are bullshit. But then again one enters a later stage and realizes that if nothing is true, or everything is true, the truth is null and void.

One enters depressive realism where one sees the nullity for what it is: a grand comedy of laughter. One becomes a trickster, a shaman, a dreamer for if we are in a mutant world where people and beliefs are malleble, changing, then what counts is one’s ability not to take any of these various systems as truth or static. But that they all represent various modalities of the human project: our drives of sex and power churning among the endless gambits of thought seeking answer to the inssoluable dilemma of being human.

Freedom is the release from the cage of our prisons: our beliefs, or disbeliefs. In the end one either goes totalliy mad, or one accepts that we are fallible animals with limited reasoning powers and will always be doing what we are doing now over and over and over again. Twain in a humorous moment said the best a writer can do is “dip his pen in hell”. Of which we partake, repetitively, compulsively, endlessly. This is life. Humans cannot remain without some guideposts, so there being no outer truth, we invent a thousand and one tales to add.

Humanity’s philosophy is additive, when it should be subtractive. If we subtracted all our human meanings, depleted the universe of the human what remains?

What happened to Democracy?

To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really?

– BBC, promotion of The Century of the Self by Adam Curtis

Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, the father of propaganda used Freud’s early work to shape the progressive era isolationists of the U.S. through manipulation of mass media of that era. With a media campaign full of lies and mythical stories Bernays presented story after story of half-truths through silent-films, newsprint, magazines, etc. to sway people from their isolationist policies. Working for the administration of Woodrow Wilson during World War I with the Committee on Public Information, he was influential in promoting the idea that America’s war efforts were primarily aimed at “bringing democracy to all of Europe”. This slogan became the key component in his campaign and was attached to a myriad of products, labels, eye catching signs, ads in stores, in newpapers, etc. across the nation. He had awakened the emotions of the American popular imagination and released certain innate desires.

Bernays was influenced by the French writer Gustave LeBon, the originator of crowd psychology, and of Wilfred Trotter, who promoted similar ideas in the anglophone world in his book Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War. Bernays refers to these two names in his writings. Trotter, who was a head and neck surgeon at University College Hospital, London, read Freud’s works, and it was he who introduced Wilfred Bion, whom he lived and worked with, to Freud’s ideas. When Freud fled Vienna for London after the Anschluss, Trotter became his personal physician, and Wilfred Bion and Ernest Jones became key members of the Freudian psychoanalysis movement in England, and would develop the field of Group Dynamics, largely associated with the Tavistock Institute where many of Freud’s followers worked. Thus ideas of group psychology and psychoanalysis came together in London around World War II.

He would realize after the war that what had worked in shaping peoples imaginations to got to war would work just as well for businesses, so he created the first private public relations firm in the U.S. Realizing that the term propaganda had negative connotations he switched it to public relations to soften its power. He was able to influence the political, social, and business elite that his ideas and methods could be used to sale products and manipulate peoples desires to effect behavioral change. Walter Lippmann, a leading progressive intellectual would write a book Public Opinion to earmark a critical assessment of functional democratic government, especially the irrational, and often self-serving, social perceptions that influence individual behavior, and prevent optimal societal cohesion. The descriptions of the cognitive limitations people face in comprehending their socio-political and cultural environments, proposes that people must inevitably apply an evolving catalogue of general stereotypes to a complex reality. This notion that the mass man in the street was a full of contradictory and somewhat dangerous emotions, that he was in effect an irrational being that needed the guidance and governance of an elite of experts and public officials would guide both government and business practices in the coming decades. Some say such ideas still guide decision making processes around the globe.

Edward Bernays just before WWII would help his uncle, Sigmund Freud, to escape his native Austria, allowing him and his daughter Anna to go to England. As part of this gesture he was able to get his uncle to buy into publishing his complete works into English in the United States. Freud hated the U.S. but consented to the publishing of his works. It was from that time that the influence of psychoanalysis and the theories of Freud would become mainstream business in the U.S. Curtis in his documentary ties most of this history together in a narrative of power, influence, and control both political and corporate as different forces vied with each other to incorporate Freudian theory and practice into the new consumerist society arising in the U.S. and U.K.

In 1939 Freud would die of cancer and leave his legacy in the capable hands of his daughter Anna. She would become the iron leader of the psychoanalytic movement from that time forward, promoting her father’s work at every opportunity even to the point of covering up its underlying failures. What’s of interest in this tale as we follow Curtis’s narrative is the manipulation of humans by both governments and business without any sense of ethical oversight. At every step of the way the underlying mythology of Freud of the irrational sexual and aggressive nature of humans is never questioned. And, when it is done so by such Freudians as Wilhelm Reich, the power of the mythology of a pseudo-scientistic psychology becomes the arm of the State to expunge such dissidents and silence them through legal pressure. Isolated and alone, Reich would develop a set of liberatory theories based not on sex and aggression, but on desire and emancipation as the driving force within humans. This force he would give a name: orgone energy, another mythic icon, revealing the notion that humans did not as in Freud need to be constrained, repressed, and controlled because of their irrational emotions, but rather they needed just the opposite the release from those repressive constraints that warped their characters and forced them into molds and conforming restraints that turned innocence into the deadly monstrous demons of repression. He tried to show how leaders in Fascism had manipulated these repressed desires and channeled them toward other ends using ritual, myth, and sacred scapegoating techniques as old as humanity. Rene Girard and other scholars would later show how such behavior was based on mimetic techniques in all societies in one form or another.

Be that as it may, Reich was ousted from the Congress of Psychoanalysis by Anna Freud herself for his heresies. Curtis presents this and much more about Anna and her promotion of Freud’s theories across the Ocean. Bernays himself would be one of those that would use his own public relations firm to promote these ideas in lectures to businesses around the country, thereby informing and building the consumer society we see around us today. His early branding techniques and ad campaigns, along with trendy slogans, etc. would speak to the mass individual’s desires rather than reason They felt that one could bypass reason and go directly to peoples desires and manipulate them through attraction, allure, and other affective techniques to buy products. Such things did not go unnoticed by those in Germany in the thirties.

It would be Joseph Goebbels himself who would notice that “task of centrally leading both propaganda and education, uniting two concepts that are related but not identical, molding them into a unity that in the long term can serve the government and people.”1 Better than most Goebbels would cut to the core and realize the essential elements of the propaganda system:

Propaganda too has a system. It cannot be made any old way. In the long run, it can only be effective in the service of great ideals and far-seeing principles. And propaganda must be learned. It must be led only by people with a fine and sure instinct for the often changeable feelings of the people. They must be able to reach into the world of the broad masses and draw out their wishes and hopes. The effective propagandist must be a master of the art of speech, of writing, of journalism, of the poster and of the leaflet. He must have the gift to use the major methods of influencing public opinion such as the press, film and radio to serve his ideas and goals, above all in an age of advancing technology.

This notion of fusing propaganda, media and education would allow Goebbels to engender a new form of governance and social control; one he learned from Bernays and Lippmann. For as Guy Debord and so many others have recounted over the years, we are immersed in a propaganda machine, an infosphere of ideology that surrounds us like an invisible envelope, a transparent bubble of information and data that shapes us through powerful Information and Communications Technologies that have been naturalized for the most part in our lives like a seamless dream.

After WWII the consumer society would enter a new phase. With soldiers returning from war, with industry change over from war to civilian economies, with the need to build a new world in which the mass consumer would be taught to buy, consume, and discover the obsolescence of last years product and the need for this years. The capitalist utopia of conformity and compliance shifted gears into hyper-consumption and obsolescence, composition and decomposition, the endless cycle of production and consumption; profit over people. People wanted things, lots of things, a complete house and yard full of things. It was during this era that the greatest control device known to man up to that time was introduced: the television. Television created the couch potato, the passive citizen locked into watching endless cartoons, war films, romances, westerns, crime shows, etc. A world that could be controlled and manipulated by the elites for the elites, the perfect system in which to teach the new consumer society not only what to buy, but how to live, how to behave, how to become what the elites wanted them to become. One can go back and watch many of these early black and white shows from different venues around the web and study the power of this media to shape these fifties citizens. I don’t have time to go into a listing of shows, etc. William Boddy’s book Fifties Television: THE INDUSTRY AND ITS CRITICS gives an informed look at this history for those interested. Tons of related works on media theory and its use as control and propaganda system are available in sociological, psychological, and legal, marketing, and other literatures. Fascinating to see the hype of public opinion, and the actual workings in the backgrounds as elites controlled and manipulated the systems for economic and governmental agendas.

The slow process of remythologizing society over the past century has been a fascinating study in itself. The quirky systems of information management and public relations of Bernays became over a hundred years the emergence of an industry that’s only purpose is to deceive, manipulate, and entertain its consumers as producers of their own desires to consume endlessly.

Think of it with the new neurosciences big business is learning to intervene directly into your actual physical systems now. Just as the early marketers learned from Freud, then from the Human Potential Movement. The problem with the Matrix we live in is that it seems to be crumbling around the edges, it seems to be breaking down, and all the nuts, bolts, hype will never put it back together again.  So goes the story…

For Bernays, Goebbels, and any number of media relations propagandists and manipulators of Public Opinion the keys were to simplify, riddle the world dramatic, formulate the clichés that can bolster the most vibrant enthusiasm. Bernays once said of the average Joe on the street:

The mental equipment of the average individual consists of a mass of judgments on most of the subjects which touch his daily physical or mental life. These judgments are the tools of his daily being and yet they are his judgments, not on a basis of research and logical deduction, but for the most part dogmatic expressions accepted on the authority of his parents, his teachers, his church, and of his social, his economic and other leaders.

Most of us don’t want to believe we are less than individuals, that we’re closer to an amalgam of competiting opinions (doxa) and judgements not our own, and that for all our deep and abiding belief in the notion of the liberal individual Self / Subject what we are in the end is nothing but these floating bits of ideas circulating in that indistinct social assembly system we term society, culture, or —the Symbolic Order. The point here is that most humans are walking clichés, their minds riddled with thoughts and judgements not their own. Which brings us to the old argument of Copy and Simulacrum, or Originality and Plagiarism, Public and Individual Mind. Adding to the mix, postmodern literary theory reminds us that nothing is wholly original-that we depend on remixing and reusing the past, adding to or remaking old plots, insights, and ideas. Across disciplines and fields, we find that plagiarism is not a simple wrong; a full understanding of its role in contemporary intellectual life depends on a broad approach that includes notions of what is original and what role imitation plays in the creation of new texts, individuals, and societies.

It was Montaigne who noted that all knowledge is public property. Rousseau challenged the alternative notion of private property saying it was the cause of every major disaster to befall human society. In his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality he warned us to beware of the imposter who would have you believe property can be private, and admonished us lest we become lost and “forget that the fruit belongs to everyone, and the earth to no one.” Every legal notion of copyright is based on private property laws. But as Eliot once said, the “Originals were never original anyway,” then what is it that is private?

As numerous contributors remind us, at no time has copyright law guaranteed complete control over an individual work or property. All this reminded me of the recent suit brought by the country of Iceland against a British food chain, Iceland Ltd. for infringement on copyright law. As the Food Chain said in a statement: “While we will vigorously defend Iceland Foods’ established rights where there is any risk of confusion between our business and Iceland the country, we have been trading successfully for 46 years under the name Iceland and do not believe that any serious confusion or conflict has ever arisen in the public mind, or is likely to do so.”

The use of “public mind” as a legal defense in the above is almost hilarious if it wasn’t such a serious case and precedent. Yet, isn’t this at the heart of the essay: the distance between public/private has become indecipherable over the past couple hundred years. We used to hold that the barriers between public and private were essential for a democracy. But we’ve seen the barriers slowly erode and disappear in the past few decades to the point that the public and private as categories of political, or even legal systems means nothing anymore. In a world dominated by digital reproduction and mass replication of data we’ve entered a new era. “Piracy” has become a favorite word to describe even legal copying of material because in the digital age the potential arises to make millions of copies easily.

Even DNA/RNA has become a hot topic in the public/private debates. With cloning and replication, 3D Printers enabled to replicate anything from weapons to biosynthetic molecules we’re living in a realm of CRISPERS and DYI Genetics. The world is becoming strangers day by day, but so is the command and control systems. Surveillance or the replication of the ‘eye’ and ‘gaze’ of the legal and State machine to strip the world of all its hidden spaces and privacy is becoming more and more important in the larger megacities. Civilization is mutating at an accelerating pace into a multitude of niche markets and worlds as if sociocultural evolution was exploding beyond the old public/private distinctions.

If the public/private distinction no longer holds then what about democracy itself? Can we say that in the world where nothing is private and everything has become unoriginal and a copy of a copy to the point that individuality no longer exists and we’ve all become ‘dividuals’  – mere datablips in an organized Surveillance State then what remains of the Enlightenment dreams of Reason? Bernays would once admonish his readers: “The only difference between “propaganda” and “education,” really, is in the point of view. The advocacy of what we believe in is education. The advocacy of what we don’t believe in is propaganda. Each of these nouns carries with it social and moral implications. Education is valuable, commendable, enlightening, instructive. Propaganda is insidious, dishonest, underhand, misleading.”

But then again “belief” is in itself a question of Opinion, public or otherwise. So that GroupThink becomes the order of the day, and what one group believes becomes Law and Education. To hook such a notion to the State is insidiousness itself. Are we not seeing this in our own current and past governments. Hasn’t democracy been under such a dark and secret heritage from the beginning? Have we ever truly had a democracy in America, or was it a trick of propaganda and public relations all along? Socrates once admonished that he was an ignorant man, maybe this is a good place to acknowledge just how ignorant we have all become. That for all our modern and post-modern elitism most of our academics, scholars, intellectuals, philosophers, scientists are all under the illusion of living in a democracy when in fact its never been one but in name and myth. Is it time to wake up yet?


  1. Goebbels, Joseph (2009-05-31). Goebbels on the Power of Propaganda (Kindle Locations 34-35). Shamrock Eden Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  2. Bernays, Edward L.. Crystallizing Public Opinion (Kindle Locations 962-968). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Feudalistic Corporate Empire vs. First Americans?

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Little has been represented in the Feudalistic Corporate Media of late on the dark encroachment of Oil upon the Sacred Burial Grounds on the Sioux Nation. Last night a tipping point was breached by the armed enforcers of that Corporate Empire that hovers over North Dakota like the forked tongued lies of a feudal empire. In sub-freezing cold tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and concussion grenades were deployed on 400 protesters trapped on the Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806, just north of the main protest camp.

“They were attacked with water cannons,” said LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a Standing Rock Sioux tribe member and founder of the Sacred Stone camp. “It is 23 degrees [-5 °C] out there with mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, etc. They are being trapped and attacked. Pray for my people.”

And, this in the supposed Land of the Free. No more. Big Oil applying its will and backed by the Feudal Empire of American Law and Justice stomps upon the rights of First Americans in their own lands.

Since the North Dakota Access Pipeline was first announced in 2014, opposition to it has slowly gathered momentum, culminating in high-profile protests last week.

The Reason it is being built?

The oil potential in North Dakota’s Bakken formation is huge. Oil was first discovered there in the 1950s and the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the region holds an available 7.4 billion barrels of oil.

The 1,172-mile project is expected to carry nearly half a million barrels of crude oil daily—enough to make 374.3 million gallons of gasoline per day—from the hydrofracked sites in the Bakken formation in northwestern North Dakota  through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. From Illinois, shippers can access Midwest, East Coast, and Gulf Coast markets. The project is also referred to as the Bakken Oil Pipeline, named for the oil-rich area in North Dakota.

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Applied Ballardianism: Satire & Parody

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How many people remember the great parodies of late modernism? I’m thinking of both Hermann Hesse’s Das Glasperlienspiel (or, Magister Ludi: The Glass-Bead Game), Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, or work from Italo Calvino, Stanislaw Lem, or even Jorge-Luis Borges. I remember both Hesse’s and Mann’s pseudo-biographies of fictional figures of their times were written and introduced by academic bores and pedants. Both men in their exchanged letters to each other even admitted the comic and parodic element in both fictions which many scholars even to this day take seriously rather than as comic satires on the state of knowledge and culture of their respective eras.

A new online work by Simon Sellars of Ballardian fame, which I assume will eventually be a published work in book form is coming to fruition that seems to fit that same gambit for our own time in comic relief and scholarly pastiche and parody; or, if not, then a work in process published on Applied Ballardianism. Simon Sellars is well known for his Ballardian site which gave us up to date interviews, critiques, exposes, fiction, and news, etc. on the late J.G. Ballard. The new site seems to take it a step further by presenting a pseudo-scholarly work and theory on Ballard in a fictionalize form and space of imaginal possibility.

In the section of the site under About we are introduced to a strange figure in the personage of a man (whose anonymity remains, his name is never disclosed) one who as the pseudo-scholar Dr Ricardo Battista, School of Specialisation in Cryogenics, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Hartwell University, Melbourne, Australia tells us left a work on J.G. Ballard named: Applied Ballardianism: A Theory of Nothing.

The said Dr Ricardo Battista as academic bore presents the figure of the anonymous theoretician as a mad man, an apophenic-schizophrenic whose ruminations in the first-person singular seem more like the conspiracist ravings of a fringe lunatic. As Battista describes it “‘Apophenia’, broadly speaking, describes a schizotypal cognitive condition—the mental state of perceiving patterns in meaningless, random and unrelated data. William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition brought apophenia to public attention.” The man who is never named once worked for the Dr as a research assistant. It was at that time he began to notice the subject’s – as he terms him – peculiarities,

For our subject, apophenia, filtered through his Ballardian lens, coloured his worldview so completely that he begin to perceive a paranormal element to Ballard’s work—the sense that the work was a conduit to other dimensions. He fell into the precise hell of the self-aware paranoiac, simultaneously ‘within’ and ‘without’ his inverted reality. He believed conspiracy theory to be the ‘people’s novel’—a chance for ordinary citizens to construct a fiction that opposed the dominant narratives of media, culture and politics.

Our interlocutor condemns at every turn the man’s writings, life, and work exposing his strange behavior and almost criminal fall into paranoia as he vanishes from at first the University, then his job at a local factory, then his wanderings that lead him to Australia’s outback. All that is left is the desultory task for the Dr to publish the work at hand because he alone was given the tedious task to executor of the man’s will. If not for this he’d of disowned the whole thing. As he says, snidely: “Our subject fancies himself a philosopher, yet his insight is too superficial and reckless to justify that stance. Thus, when his argument falls away, he reverts to first-person anecdotes out of a crippling sense of inadequacy and the document becomes a pathetic memoir again, yet it doesn’t work on that level either, being too self-indulgent and too larded with self-pity, even allowing for the excesses of that genre, to have any kind of literary merit.” So much so that his final words tell us:

While I highly doubt this book will be read by a great many people or that the ideas within it will be taken seriously by anyone working in Ballard Studies (given how cringeworthy and repellent the first-person material is, like the confessions of an imbecile, and how unscholarly and deranged the apophenic-paranormal elements are), with these final words I complete my obligation as the subject’s last academic employer, as decreed by his will, and beg my colleagues’ forgiveness for appearing within these pages.

May God have mercy on my soul.

The rest of the posts are snippets and fragments from the fictional theoretical work of the anonymous author. Under the first entry we see an encyclopedic list of influence machines moving from Ballard and William Gibson (SciFi) and ending in the Borges flowing through the said author. In Purple Light we see the young psychonaut wandering through Dubai “flattened under glass, observing this unborn dead city,” already in fusion between landscape and the mental states of some surreal mutation. One moves from there to a travelogue of entries that submerge the mind of the traveler in a world where the Ballardian flux and the Real seem to waver into each other, where one is never sure where the one ends and the other begins. Photographs from these travelgrams permeate each page in the cycle like amphibious beasts scuttling across the website revealing nothing so much as ‘nothing’ in particular. One is never sure if the image is image or a flash card for a new form of psychological warfare bringing with it new and vivid reminders of our ruinous age.

In the final installment, or the latest one? —we meet a paranoid tripster who enters the author’s life, a nurse masked bandit of psychic traumas. Our author, who seems in this place to be in Melbourne, Australia awakens from his strange journey like a fragmented Picasso painting, his “face was a bloody mess. My nose had been smashed to the side like a Picasso painting, my left ear was sliced almost in two and the lower half of my upper front teeth had sheared away.”

Like our own fragmented lives we are pitched into this tome without support or anchor, wandering through vignettes of a life that may or may not resemble actuality, but are assured to fit the world of our dark wastelands across a global disaster zone that has yet to find its apocalyptic finish. In the end maybe there is no end, only the fragments of a journey without beginning or end, a clock-work periodical of theory-fictions that dribble out of the madness of our age, encyclicals to the dementia and paranoia of our apophatic times.


One can find more on the new site: http://www.appliedballardianism.com/

 

Why Am I Writing Country Noir?

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Sometime I’m going to do a blog post on the Followmeter about watching my followers rise and fall according to if I’m writing essays, politics, stories, poetry, or philosophy… I get a laugh at how I gain or lose people following me based on assumptions.  It’s like a comedy meter for me watching people come and go so anonymously without ever knowing why … we live on the net in our private hells, and other lonely people wander by, sit for a while, listen to us patter about nonsense, then leave for parts unknown without ever leaving a trace except the little meter ball that flicks up or down… sad really that communication and community have become nothing more than a button pushed or unpushed; a like or not like button world, a sort of preview of the next wave of our automated society as the neutered minds of the mobile phone generation fade in or fade out based on whim. I joined Wattpad recently and was told to shorten all my stories into small chunks so all the millions of mobile phone users could flip through my stories easier. We’ve become a mobile nation that sees the 3 inch screen of a diode while the rest of the universe goes unnoticed and expelled from consciousness like a faded dream of reality that has been replaced by this plug’n play universe of text messages, and photomatrilia extravaganzas and youtube spawn casts… yet, a funny thing about technology, it comes back to bite you in the ass. Yes, it does. Now mobiles have become weapons and spies onto the corruptions of the world, letting the darkness seep into the viral plumage of this worldwide monster, with her webbing strung across nations and the planet to link the underworlds together in some nefarious three-ring circus of pornography, sex-slaves, and cyberwarfare. Now the world has come home to the small towns across this ancient land, dispersed its meth and heroin, its broken love and sweet promises of foreign dreams to buy and bring home to roost. Our world is no longer separate and alone, but very much overcrowded by monsters everywhere in this virtual nation of horrors. Now you can hide among the darkest corners of the darknet and commit acts of fatal madness and never leave your porch where the old hound dog is sleeping. Now the country is a hellzone for predatory minds everywhere, unbounded by the old causal chains of physical prowess it can move among the symbolic waves like a spring board to catastrophes never dreamed of in the pulp age.

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The Discontent of Our Desires

For Schopenhauer the labors of desire were never quenched, slaves of our needs we assume not only natural cravings, but unnatural or abstract ones as well: ambition, power, money…

As Frederick C. Beiser  informs us:

The main contention of [Schopenhauer’s] argument is that we inevitably acquire new needs, which grow in intensity, so that it becomes increasingly harder to satisfy them (V, 347). This adds a completely new dimension to the life of desire, because it is not only that the same needs regenerate but that we acquire new ones, which have no natural limit and which grow the more we satisfy them. Schopenhauer’s example for this kind of need is ambition. We are not satisfied with just a little recognition; we demand more and more, until we achieve fame; and once we are a little famous, we want to be more so. Schopenhauer could have chosen other examples, such as money and power, which were favorite targets of the Stoic and Epicurean traditions. Of these too we can say that the more we have of them, the more we want them, where there is no limit to how much we want. But the greater our wants, the harder it becomes to satisfy them, so that the feeling of discontent only grows.1

The amazing trick here is that capitalism hooked into this little trick of human need and desire, developing a whole consumer society based on it; and then set it loose upon the natural order of the world where it doesn’t exist. Thereby making of the natural an unnatural need of endlessly unsatisfied consumer products or abstract desires based on  obsolescence and the need for more and more all bound to the cycle of the eternal return of our secret cravings, thereby creating a cannibalistic society of self-consuming artifacts desiring greater and greater levels of satisfaction that cannot be fulfilled. Who needs hell when you have capitalism and consumer society promoting the discontent of desires that can never be quenched? The fires fueling hell are not so much below us as much as in us, the very force of our unnatural cravings for more and more and more… Capitalism is nothing more than a unified conduit that imprisons our cravings in a closed system of eternal return, a circulation of desire for profit that seeks only to continue its endless round of profit making at the expense of the desiring unit: the human. As Marx once stated: “Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.” We are zombies (“death-in-Life”) of Capital, our desires the juice that fuels the unnatural machine of Capital, and line the pockets of those .01% who skim the top and keep the machines running and sucking on our dead labor.


  1. Frederick C. Beiser. After Hegel: German Philosophy, 1840-1900 (Kindle Locations 3018-3024). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.