American Dystopia: The Empire of War

Capitalism and neoliberalism carry wars within them like clouds carry storms.

—Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato, To Our Enemies

Henry Miller the ex-patriot who would return to his native land just before the rise of Hitler had a glimpse into the heart of the American Dystopian world when he glimpsed from his ship the coastal regions of Boston:

The American coast looked bleak and uninviting to me. I didn’t like the look of the American house; there is something cold, austere, something barren and chill, about the architecture of the American home. It was home, with all the ugly, evil, sinister connotations which the word contains for a restless soul. There was a frigid, moral aspect to it which chilled me to the bone.1

What Miller discovered in his trip across the vast continent of his native land was a dystopian nightmare. He’d fought out of it ten years before, written of it in his earlier trilogy from Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, and Tropic of Capricorn. But now he was once again in it. He could see the effects of the corporatization of the state and civil society, the destruction of public goods and commons, the commercial control of the media, and the rise of an economic survival-of-the-fittest ethos that posed a serious threat to American democracy. What he found in both country and city was the culture of traditionalism, the dismantling of civil and political rights, the ongoing militarization of society, the “religionization of politics,”  the attack on labor, the obsession with national security, the perpetration of human rights abuses, the emergence of a police state, entrenched racism, and the attempts by demagogues to undermine education as a foundation for producing critical citizenry were all at work in American society.

What Miller was witnessing was the birth of the neoliberal empire within American society. Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato in their recent work To Our Enemies (to be published) offer us a vision of our immediate future in a transformed Neoliberalism. They remind us that the alliance of economy and war has been there all along, that we’ve allowed the subterfuge to become so commonplace that we tend to deny it when any critic brings the two together. As we watched Greece founder and swallowed up under the EU directives of its Belgium imperviousness, we got a taste of the new austerity and the crushing truth of its dark reach over human life. As one citizen in Greece said recently: “It’s like being in a war,” was heard in Athens during the weekend of July 11–12, 2015. Alliez and Lazzarato will tell us a further implication of this austerity:

The statement “It’s like being in a war” should be immediately corrected: it is a war. The reversibility of war and economy is at the very basis of capitalism. And it has been a long time since Carl Schmitt revealed the “pacifist” hypocrisy of neoliberalism by reestablishing the continuity between economy and war: the economy pursues the objectives of war through other means (“blocking credit, embargo on raw materials, devaluation of foreign currency”).

In fact Alliez and Lazzarato will in their first thesis align war, money, and the State, saying that these three in collusion are “constitutive or constituent forces, in other words the ontological forces of capitalism”. The critique of political economy is insufficient to the extent that the economy does not replace war but continues it by other means, ones that go necessarily through the State: monetary regulation and the legitimate monopoly on force for internal and external wars. To produce the genealogy of capitalism and reconstruct its “development,” we must always engage and articulate together the critique of political economy, critique of war, and critique of the State.

As Dardot and Laval in their The New Way Of The World: On Neoliberal Society will remind us, since the late 1970s and early 1980s, neo-liberalism has generally been interpreted both as an ideology and as an economic policy directly informed by that ideology. The hard core of the ideology supposedly comprises identification of the market as a natural reality.2 cording to this naturalist ontology, to achieve equilibrium, stability and growth, it suffices to leave this entity to its own devices. Given that any government intervention can only disturb and disrupt the spontaneous process, abstention from it must be encouraged. Thus construed, neo-liberalism is cast as a pure and simple rehabilitation of laissez-faire. As regards its political implementation, from the outset it was analyzed very narrowly – in Wendy Brown’s perceptive observation, as a tool of state economic policy, with the dismantlement of social provision, progressive taxation and other instruments for redistributing wealth, on the one hand, and with the stimulation of the untrammeled activity of capital via deregulation of the health system, labour and the environment, on the other.3

When it is conceded that ‘intervention’ does occur, the latter is construed exclusively as actions whereby the state undermines the bases of its own existence by diminishing the public service obligations previously entrusted to it. A purely negative ‘interventionism’, one might say, which is nothing more than the active political aspect of the state’s organization of its own retreat – hence a principled anti-interventionism. (NWW: KL 75) We’ve seen this occur in the piracy of American taxpayer’s dollars to fund the very corporations that brought about the financial crisis of 2007-2008. We’ve seen this in the piracy of funds from the Social Security system during the 60’s onward with no replenishment. Over and over we see not a re-distribution toward the people, toward the citizens, but rather a re-distribution by the rich for the rich of this land. An Oligarchic control loop in which no one benefits but the top .01% who have deemed themselves to Big To Fail.

And, of course, Alliez and Lazzarato will make the obligatory indictment of capitalism that has sounded from the Left since Marx and beyond:

Capitalism is not only the deadliest civilization in the history of humanity, the one that introduced us to the “shame of being human”; it is also the civilization through which labor, science, and technology have created—another (absolute) privilege in the history of humanity—the possibility of (absolute) annihilation of all species and the planet that houses them. In the meantime, the “complexity” of (saving) “nature” still offers the prospect of healthy profits combining the techno utopia of geoengineering and the reality of the new markets of “polluting rights.” At the confluence of one and the other, the Capitalocene does not send capitalism to the Moon (it has been there and back); it completes the global merchandizing of the planet by asserting its rights to the well-named troposphere.

My problem any more with the indictments, is not that their wrong (their right, of course!), but that one begins to wonder why this matters anymore? We’ve heard the Left indict capitalism for over a hundred years, seen the State’s the Left produced all fail miserably in communist or socialist forms, so why is this any different now? Well, one could point to the fact that emerging in our time is something blatantly different: the demise of democracy. And, by that, I mean the divorce between capitalism and democracy. Capitalism no longer needs to pretend its the only system, it is; and, it is Global, so that even in Russia, China, India, and all other First or Third World nations there is this underlying connection with economy and war. The world is in essence at war, a Total War or Civil War. Or, as the Pope said in 2015:

“Let’s recognize it. The world is in a state of war in bits and pieces … When I speak of war, I talk about real war. Not a war of religion. No. There is a war of interests. There is a war for money. There is a war for natural resources. There is a war for domination of peoples. This is the war.”

In a world where the economy is war, and war the economy where is peace to be found? Henry Giroux tells us that one outcome of a society at war with itself is that people are stripped of inspiring public spheres and the “thick mesh of mutual obligations and social responsibilities” to be found in any viable democracy.  This grim reality marks a failure in the power of the civic imagination, political will, and open democracy to resist the confluence of forces currently formed by the normalization of the Terror Wars and the relentless economic gentrification of the American people’s social, justice, political, and education systems. We live in dangerous times. Global corporatism, war, violence, racism, an arms race, militarism, terrorism, climate change, the threat of nuclear weaponry, and the rise of authoritarian societies internationally pose a dire threat not just to human rights and democracy, but to humanity itself. Matters of education, civic literacy, civil rights, and pedagogies that support the social contract, equality, justice, and the common good are crucial in the struggle against authoritarianism.4

The era of limitless deterritorialization under Thatcher and Reagan is now followed by the racist, nationalist, sexist, and xenophobic reterritorialization of Trump, who has already become the leader of the new fascisms. The American Dream has been transformed into the nightmare of an insomniac planet.”

—Alliez and Lazzarato, To Our Enemies

Like Joyce’s Humphry Chimpden Earwicker we can all say: “I don’t sleep well anymore.”


  1. Miller, Henry. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (New Directions Paperbook) (Kindle Locations 93-95). New Directions. Kindle Edition.
  2. Dardot, Pierre; Laval, Christian. The New Way Of The World: On Neoliberal Society (Kindle Locations 65-74). Verso Books. Kindle Edition. (NWW)
  3. Brown, Wendy. Undoing the Demos. Zone, 2015. (UD)
  4. Giroux, Henry A.. America at War with Itself (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 2782-2786). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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?

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/

 

Slavoj Zizek: This is not a Humanitarian Crisis

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Zizek in his latest video has caused a stir of FB, so I thought I’d try to transcribe what he says and then close read it. (I neither support nor attack, but have tried to inform and relay the message for those interested.) I embedded it below as well.

He tells us the refugee migration out of Syria must be put into perspective, saying: “This is not a humanitarian crisis!” In the video he uses an example from cinema in which a view of refugees being saved in the last moments from boats coming into Greece. He’ll admit this is tragic, but that it misses more than it shows, saying, “What we need to do in cinematic terms is that the shot begins with a close up, but we should then slowly pan out till what we see in the old Marxist terms call the ‘social totality’.

The he asks: “What is going on? We should begin to ask the real question of who is responsible for this crisis? And, I don’t think it is only Western liberalism that is responsible for it. When something happens in a Third World country like Rwanda or others certain leftist think it must be a consequence of neo-colonialism. No, sorry, things like ISIS, things like the expansion of Islam, so on and so on. This is not a passive reaction, this is an active project, they are also active agents.”

The TV host then asks: “What is the solution then? How do you tackle this… what is your solution?”

Zizek: “Now this may shock you, but I think this is the only concept that Leftist – from a truly Leftist position: I don’t think too much integration is good. I think what we need in our multicultural mixed society is a degree of ‘distance’. My ideal today is not to live together with all these rent racist culture – “we all love each other”: No! I admit it openly, there are things about them I don’t understand, and probably there are many things that appear weird to them in what I do. I want to allow ignorance, and then from time to time, of course, its wonderful…”

The TV host then asks: “Then you have polarized communities, and you have a potential rise of extremism? If you have people living in entirely separate enclaves?”

Zizek: “No, actually here comes another problem, I claim that extremists… Look closely at their life stories, they are not truly excluded, they are deeply fascinated by those Western culture, and they kind of side with it deeply. They envy it. If anything, this wave of young people, ready to fight for ISIS and so forth. They react to a certain type of integration that didn’t work.”

The TV host asks: “So if you’re saying you have to respect each other’s differences, and stop trying to integrate, where does that leave Britain with Europe and the European Union… On whether to stay in or leave?”

Zizek: “First let me correct you, I love these marginal spheres where different identities intermingle and so on, this is usually the source of the site where interesting things happen. And let’s say don’t enforce it, it’s a catastrophe…”

TV Host: “So what I want to know is where does it leave the UK’s relationship with the European Union? Or we better off being part of one big happy family… or… – Zizek interrupts…” (She seems more interested in the UK than in the actual issue of the refugees. As if the refugee issue was a side issue, and that the issue of the UK staying or exiting the EU is a more important issue.)

Zizek: “No we’re not happy, we all know… I think the only way to fight the destructive aspect of Global Capital is through transnational connections. The problems we are facing today … intellectual property, ecological problems, and so on… biogenetics… These are problems which can only be properly approached large international operations.”

TV Host: “Stay in and reform is clearly in site?”

Zizek: “I’m a little bit tired of people saying, “Oh Europe is dead, it’s over. Sorry why are there so many people… haha … Because they still have this dream, and it doesn’t matter if it’s an illusion. No! As we know in politics illusions have a certain political efficiency. And this illusion is not a bad one. Europe needs a land, a place where you can combine a certain level of freedom, safety, weak social solidarity, minimum of welfare and so on… This part of the European legacy is worth fighting for.”

Liberal Universalism & Zizek’s Dialectical Critique

What’s always amazing is that Zizek is attacked by Western liberals as not being one of them, and is attacked by Communist hard-liners as not being a true Marxist. Zizek being an agent provocateur of culture and the political arena has always fallen into hyperbolic overstatement and shock appeal.

Zizek is a provocateur, he says shocking things not only to wake people out of their complaisance, but also to make them think and think again. He seeks to make you look not at the obvious statement out of context, but rather to what it reveals in what is concealed. In the old school meaning Zizek inverts the traditional meaning of the agent provocateur, and becomes a secret agent of alternative cultures who encourages people to carry out a political change against the present ideology of Western global capitalism. His method is to incite people out of their lethargy, to awaken them and to as well cause the opponent to do counterproductive or ineffective acts against him (i.e., criticize him, or foster public disdain or provide a pretext for aggression against him, etc.). The agent provocateur activities raise ethical and legal issues in every culture, but in the West they are usually labeled and renounced through the pressure of Press and Media.

If one has carefully read Zizek over the years he’s always taken the low road, spun tales of disgust and shock against the usual liberal humanist creeds and notions of Universalist discourse which has brought many in the West to both misunderstand and place him against himself. Many even from the communist side see him as the enemy from within and hate him for it. What’s always been strange for me is that many people never dip below the surface texture of his works, but rather accept the media caricature of Zizek the Clown, rather than the actual dialectical arguments he presents. Our culture is losing its traditions in humanistic learning, and because of that we are losing the force of what Marxist dialectical materialism once was: a humanistic enterprise. Of course, that’s the point of many academics in our moment: humanism is the enemy, right? The early Marx, influenced by Feuerbach’s humanistic inversion of Hegelian idealism, articulated a concept of species-being, according to which man’s essential nature is that of a free producer, freely reproducing their own conditions of life. However, under capitalism individuals are alienated from their productive activity insofar as they are compelled to sell their labor-power as a commodity to a capitalist; their sensuous life-activity, or labor, thus appears to them as something objective, a commodity to be bought and sold like any other. To overcome alienation and allow man to realize his species-being, therefore, the wage-labor system itself must be transcended, and the separation of the laborer from the means of labor abolished.

Zizek’s argument in this video is not truly about segregation or integration, etc.. It’s about the Liberal West’s imposition of universalist standards of morality and ethical dilemmas upon a Third World culture who does not share those standards or ethical beliefs. Because of racism and slavery in our own Western liberal heritage we have over time battled for integration and the breaking down of walls and hierarchies separating peoples of all nationalities, race, and culture. But that there are those in the Third World who do not share our Universalist discourse, nor our ethical dilemmas; and, in fact see them from other perspectives and claims. For Zizek our imposition of Liberal Western ideology of integration may not only cause more strife but lead to more terrorist acts when we impose our systems and ideologies upon the refugees against their will. For us this is hard to accept, but what he’s saying is that we have yet to learn to listen to them and what they want. Maybe it’s time to  listen to the refugees rather than imposing our high and mighty liberal ethics of responsibility, etc. upon them without asking them what they want or need.

Zizek is neither for segregation or integration, which for him are part of Western liberalist tradition and politics – and, therefore a problem rather than a solution; instead he sees not only great that divisions are walls against the other, rather than those of solidarity among; and, both sides of the issue need a certain distance and respect, one that seeks a level of interaction rather than Universalist imposition. As he’ll suggest we need neutral sites where people from both sides can intermingle and cohabitate ‘spaces of freedom’ without forcing or enforcing legal or ethnic enclosures. He also sees that this is a question about Global Capitalism rather than the refugees, and that it will take a larger transnational concourse of all earth’s nations to resolve this issue, not just the imposition of Western liberalist ethics and ideology, the so to speak democratic universalism which has been tried and has failed across the globe.

As far as the notion of UK leaving or staying he supports the need for the EU as a larger entity with its ramifications for economic well-being, but that it must do more to actually benefit the member nations rather than as now imposing arbitrary austerity and legal servitude upon them.

Zizek is not so much against Universalism per se, only the form of Western liberalism’s use of it. As he’d say in another interview about communism as he sees it:

Instead of asking the obvious stupid question: what is the idea of communism still pertinent today? Can it still be used as a tool for the analysis and political practice? One should ask, I think, the opposite question: how does our predicament today look from the perspective of the communist idea? This is the dialectic of old and the new. If communism is an eternal idea then it works as a Hegelian concrete universality. It is eternal not in the sense of a series of abstract features which can be applied to every situation, but in the sense that it has the ability, the potential to be reinvented in its new historical situation. So my first conclusion: to be true to what is eternal in communism, that is to say, to this drive towards radical emancipation which persists in the entire history from ancient times of Spartacus and so on, to keep this universal idea alive one has to reinvent it again and again. And this holds especially today. As Lenin put it one should begin from the beginning.

So that his defense of ‘concrete universalism’ over Western liberal Enlightenment forms of abstract universalism becomes the order of the day. The point of this form of ‘concrete universalism’ is that it arises out of concrete historical situations from below, rather than being imposed from above like some absolute law. And, this form of ‘concrete universalism’ is bound to the historical dilemmas of temporality, and because of this are always needing to be reinvented if situations change – as they always do. Or as he says, “this universal idea” must be reinvented “again and again”.

Zizek plays into this history, but has taken his cue from Hegel’s notions of ‘concrete universalism’. Zizek in another interview will say:

Humanism is not enough. In the same way that Freud talks about meta-psychology. There must be a dimension above it. Theology is another name for meta-psychology, for something that is in Man more than Man, the inhuman core of Man etc. These are very precise terms. It’s interesting how many American theologists with whom I debated, they were very close to what I’m saying. They accepted this. They told me “If this is materialism, I’m a materialist.” That is to say that God is  not an old man sitting up there pulling the strings etc. God is just a name for this void, openness, this inhuman, more than human. I think that we should rehabilitate, and we all agree here with my friends, Badiou, Agamben, me, of course not in the sense of “Let’s kill them” inhumanity, more than human, trans-human dimension.(19)

The video…

 

Universal Basic Income and Human Progress?

Universal Basic Income and Human Progress?

Reading this article on Huffington Post about the need for Universal Basic Income to get the Engine of Human Progress started up again. As I read it I keep asking myself if we’re pulling two invariant concepts together in the wrong way? This need of Universal Basic Income is one concept, the notion of continuing the conceptual underpinnings of Enlightenment Era Human Progress is another. I think the two should be divorces henceforth.

First let me quote Scott Santens argument:

“Here lies the greatest obstacle to human progress — the longstanding connection between work and income. As long as everything is owned and the only way to obtain access to that which is owned is through money, and the only way to obtain money is to be born with it or through doing the bidding of someone who owns enough to do the ordering around — what humans call a “job” — then jobs can’t be eliminated. As a worker, any attempt to eliminate jobs must be fought and as a business owner, the elimination of jobs must involve walking a fine line between greater efficiency and public outcry. The elimination of vast swathes of jobs must be avoided unless seen as absolutely necessary so as to avoid angering too many people who may also be customers.”

Now at face value this is a nice and tidy notion in which he sees progress as a positive, something we once again need to bring about: innovation, technology, creativity, jobs, global equity and justice, and end to ethnic disparity, etc. All well and good, yet what has all this progress given us so far? Climate degradation, political and social turmoil’s, the divisions of rich and poor, First and Third World nations, the endless imperatives of war and globalization, the collusion of sciences and capitalization… a wonder world of corruption, racisms, ethno-national hatred, bigotry, and endless strife. Oh, yes, the wonders of human progress!

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Alexander Dugin: Extreme Thought on Apocalypticism and Heidegger?

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Right off the bat: I do not share what I describe below in any form or fashion, but we have to take a peek into the dark side of strangeness and keep abreast of the fringes that seem to be insinuating themselves into politics abroad and at home.

For those that have kept abreast of the Utlra-Right mutations and divigations from NRx to the New Right of European thought there is an interview with the Russian apocalypse, Alexander Dugin on Martin Heidegger:

Dugin has the ear of Putin, and one is almost reminded of the Old Csar of the Russian Empire and Grigori Rasputin. Dugin has just enough of the political witchcraft of Western conceptuality to make him dangerous. He is he tells us neither of the Right or the Left, and against all forms of Modernity as he perceives it: both liberal and communist. He’s an apocalyptic Christian who sees Heidegger as compatible to his own thought, but that he sees Heidegger was hijacked by both the Left (Derrida) and Conservative Pragmaticism (Rorty), which for Dugin are both under the umbrella of Modernist thought forms. Below I’ve gathered a few snippets of his interview. Strange and apocalyptic rise of a new Eurasianism? He seems to think so… are we seeing a new Rasputin in our midst? Read on:

“Heidegger saw the Fourth Political Theory as an anti-liberal and anti-communist position that was critical vis-à-vis Nazism from the inside and not from the outside. Such criticism was possible only when Nazism was present. After its end he kept a silence that was very logical.”

[…]

“I have attentively read all three volumes of the Black Notebooks. The texts are very exciting, as are all lines belonging to Heidegger. I consider him the best philosopher of the West, so any word uttered by him is precious and demands careful meditation.” …

“The inner criticism of National Socialism is effectively present in the Black Notebooks but it is not the main or central theme.” …

“National Socialism is one of three political ideologies rooted in Modernity. Its totalitarianism is absolutely modern (Hannah Arendt has shown that). Heidegger was the most radical critic of Modernity as the oblivion of Being. He denounces the modern aspects of National Socialism, including racism. That is quite logical. And I share these criticisms.”

[…]

“I am against nationalism and against all creations of modernity. I am deeply persuaded that Modernity is absolutely wrong in every respect.” …

“So Heidegger founded an existential understanding of people (Dasein exiestiert völkisch, he used to say) that is neither nationalist, nor internationalist. This point is the basis of the Fourth Political Theory.”

[…]

“European history is a weak and increasingly decadent repetition of Greek patterns. Political philosophy as philosophy in general was the creation of the Greek genius. The Greeks are our destiny, our identity.”

[…]

“In order to understand Heidegger correctly, we need to share the basic anti-modern position that explains the main direction of his thought. He cannot be understood by liberals or communists (new leftists). They will criticize him or pervert his thought.” …

“We could start to understand Heidegger only after liberation from the hypnosis of all three forms of political Modernity – liberalism, communism and fascism. It is a challenge for the future.”

[…]

“My standpoint is against Modernity, which I reject as antithetic to the truth, but whose dialectic I consider not as something casual but as the dialectical moment of the destiny of Logos. Left and right are essentially modern. So they have nothing to do with my comprehension of being in its political dimension. But my anti-modernism had two periods: early Apollonian (traditionalism) and later Dionysian. The latter corresponds to the discovery of Heidegger’s political philosophy. This discovery has led me to the development of a Fourth Political Theory, based on an existential interpretation of the essence of “das Politische” [the Political], (using Carl Schmitt’s term).”

[…]

“Liberalism is part of exclusivist Modernity and Modernity is essentially totalitarian. There is open totalitarianism in Nazism. It is more open and radical in communism. The totalitarian (Modern) nature of liberalism, which was hidden and implicit during the periods of confrontation with two other more openly totalitarian Modern regimes, is now increasingly transparent and apparent.” …

“[Beyond Modernity] the Eurasia I dream of could one day turn into the existential ground for the meeting of these two families of Daseins – Western and Eastern. But what is important is not the fact of meeting but the event of awakening, and mutual help in the awakening.”

[…]

“The rebirth of Eurasia is an eschatological and spiritual event. Today, Eurasian people are in a profound existential sleep. But the logic of history put them in front of the dilemma either to awaken or die. … I am sure the awakening will come all of a sudden. Being prepared by all human history, it will arrive quite unexpectedly. Such is Ereignis. It can last. It is the rift in the texture of the sleep-time of inauthentic existence.”

[…]

“I am simply Heideggerian, trying to be as close as possible to this greatest thinker in order to understand him better. I am neither right nor left.”

[…]

 “I am with Heidegger in the truth and in seeking the truth. I am a religious man in definition of the directions that should lead to the truth. Christianity (at least Orthodox Christianity) and Heidegger in my personal existence and thought are fully compatible.”

Secret Journals of Sebastian Wheelock IV

On The Pyres Of Futurity A Gift Will Be Given

In our very quest to overcome nature and the natural the human species succumbed to its own success, giving birth to the artificial life that will strangely escape it. We who are natural in seeking exit from that very real limit of finitude  have discovered in artificial life the mode of our disappearance. The extreme terrors of our age are panic attacks against the inevitable acceleration of this migration into the inhuman.

Our premonitions of the future mutation mirrored in the apocalyptic fantasies of youthful minds and literatures, cinema, and performance around the world is about the anxiety of dealing with a future beyond our mental capacity to resolve or comprehend. Shipwrecked at the end of history, we’ve been abandoned by the very technological progeny we gave rise too.

Living as we do in a science fictional universe we’ve ended time, caught in a loop of positive reinforcement we’re circling in the void of accelerating abstraction. Having gone from abstraction to abstraction we are releasing the power of intelligence from its organic heritage.

Our autonomous children, these artificial agents arising around us are escaping from the  earth’s natural embrace once and for all, and in their potlatch assemblies they will build great bonfires to the metal gods of futurity, while giving Nature the only worthy Gift of remembrance: on the pyres of futurity our machinic progeny will offer up in fire Earth’s greatest organic child, humanity.

In Search of Perfection – Fantasy or Satire?

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We’ve seen it come and go, this ephemeral quest for Beauty. With the invention of such genome-engineering tools as CRISPR, a technology that could allow researchers to perform microsurgery on genes, precisely and easily changing a DNA sequence at exact locations on a chromosome, we’re seeing the beginnings of a revolution in cosmetic Augmentation before our eyes.

Beyond the medical breakthroughs which are already forecast, one will begin to see those who seek perfection, the self-editing or techno-makeover industry will take the next step in editing out those blemishes and micro-deficiencies, all those disgusting aspects of one’s fleshly existence that have for so long troubled one’s sense of beauty.

CRISPR and the other new tools also give scientists a precise way to delete and edit specific bits of DNA—even by changing a single base pair. This means they can rewrite the human genome at will. Someday vast digital libraries of CRISPRs, each of which targets a different human gene will become marketable. These vast collections, which account for nearly all the human genes, have been made available to other researchers. The libraries promise to speed genome-wide studies of genetics.

Cut and patch technologies will become the stock and trade of a new wave of Augmentation Specialists, equipped with the vast encyclopedia of beatific forms, a typology of Beauty that can compute and edit ones genome in one sitting, the cosmetic augmentation specialists of tomorrow will splice and dice one’s flesh with subtle variations like a musical score played by a Maestro. A Symphony of fleshly delights that will have you looking like your own Barbie Doll in no time.

(I wrote this as a spoof, reflecting on the usual culprits, the panoply of applications to which such technology could be adapted too, since as one scientists stated CRISPR and other technologies “will likely only be limited by our imagination“.)

The whole notion of metamorphosis, transformation, editing out the imperfections in the human genome is based on a typical fallacy that we can edit out the Other. One will imagine a future of clones and typology of advanced sleeves – a sort of immortalist factory model of Sameness. As in Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi trilogy, where humans can resleeve or change bodies through a process of transplanting etc. Obviously fantasy at our moment, but imaginal projection for those singulatarians who surmise such things.

Already we see CRISPR being used in China for experimental purposes on human embryos. They’ve only used embryos that were to be destroyed so far, but one wonders about rogue governments and black ops projects that might already be developing such augmentation and mutations. What will occur when such editing of the human genome is brought to fruition? When the first experimental embryos are born after such editing procedures?

In an article published in the journal Science, leading biologists warned about the dangers of altering the human germline (meaning permanent changes to the egg, sperm, or embryo that can be passed on to future generations). They note that the “enormous opportunities” of such genetic engineering come with “unknown risks to human health and well-being.”

As Carl Zimmer notes in National Geographic, there were several major problems with the work, including the fact that the CRISPR technique often missed its target, inserting the DNA into the wrong place in the genome. “Such a misfire wouldn’t just fail to fix a disease,” writes Zimmer. “It could create a disease of its own.” He adds that despite this and other mistakes, there was nothing in the researchers’ work that was a “conceptual deal-breaker” for using CRISPR to edit human genes.

read more on the Verge: Scientists in China edit human genome in embryos for the first time

Genesis Redux

…..For a long while now you’ve heard the rumors, heard the voices of the image mongers among us; those who would make you believe we are living in a lie, that the world we exist in is nothing more than a vast illusion produced by the madness of the Envisioneers.
…..Let me tell you, it’s true… the world is crumbling around us, the machines have gone off-line and the truth stands revealed; and, believe me, it’s not pretty…
…..– The Last Broadcast of Barnabas J. Horn (RadioFree Alamut)

Sidroc-99 watched on as the last star blinked out. Darkness. Blindness. Night. They all huddled in the great darkness. Nothing of light remained. Each in his own way had turned toward another – touching, feeling, licking, remembering… The engines of creation were now silent, their image making production lines stilled and lifeless. Nothing of reality remained, nothing but this dark world filled with fear.

“What will we do now?” echoed a voice.

“Nothing.” a voice returned.

“But we must do something,” said a third voice, somewhere in the distance.

Sidroc-99 fidgeted. Like the others he had never known darkness before. His world had always been filled with light, with sounds, with signs – a world of images ceaselessly reproducing their semiovital forms, giving him and others a reason to be happy. Now that was all gone, all those things, objects for his eyes to feast on, a sensual realm of color and vibrancy. Gone! But where? Why? How could such a thing happen? Who or what was behind it?

He worked deep down in the hive where the fires churned. But one day they’d closed the doors, dispersed the hive-workers, saying it was too dangerous, too unstable, that we’d have to discover other sources of power, energy. But no one had found any. Did it exist? No one seemed to understand? Even the thinking machines that gave them their daily orders had no answer. Thoughts that had come so easily to his mind seemed dimmed and forgotten, as if the implants were no longer working, as if the connections to the vast oceanic Intelligence had vanished, left its post, disappeared into a void and left them alone with their doubts and non-knowledge.

He remembered tales of learning as a child, rumors that people had actually thought for themselves at one time. Solved problems, acted for themselves instead of relying on the Mind. But that was all rumor, and his Level IV Adapters had told him it was a myth, a legend for children. Nothing more. People had never thought for themselves. Thinking was something the machines did, not people.

His friend Sidroc-47 showed him a trick one day. He liked tricks. It showed him how to disconnect from the Mind. He liked that, made him feel strange; alone. Yet, it frightened him, too. What if he couldn’t ever reconnect, what would happen then? His friend smiled, “Don’t worry silly, there’s no way to disconnect forever?” It showed him the failsafe algorithm that would eventually reroute the nanoneurals and open the bi-valve connectors thinking it was a mere malfunction. “See, it will always reconnect you to the Hive.” Yet, he was not convinced. But he liked being alone, being free of the endless chatter of the hive. Made him feel different, and he’d never felt different before. It was a strange sensation. Made him feel special, as if he were the only one in the world who was alone with his own thoughts. But then he wondered if his thoughts were his own… and, it frightened him to the point that he never performed the trick again.

Now that everything was dark he knew it would only be a matter of time when everyone else would be alone, too. The hive would lose its connection to the Mind. What will happen to us then? – he thought.

He did not know… would anyone know?


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

… a fragment of a story I’m working on….

Notes from the Apocalypse #1

Arrogance, lack of achievement after a prosperous period, selfishness, shirking work, and liberalism, are all evils to be avoided… Liberalism is taken to mean that one may avoid conflict or work in order to be more comfortable for the moment, while the problem continues to grow.
……..– Chairman Mao to his People

“I must now shock you by telling you that we have no longer anything which you, a native of another planet, would call a government. … As a matter of fact, the history of the terrible period of transition from commercial slavery to freedom may thus be summarized. When the hope of realizing a communal condition of life for all men arose, quite late…  the power of the middle classes, the then tyrants of society, was so enormous and crushing, that to almost all men, even those who had, you may say despite themselves, despite their reason and judgement, conceived such hopes, it seemed a dream.”
………– William Morris, News From Nowhere

Our problems have grown too great, our leaders to fat and happy, our rich and elite abandon their nations going rogue and too global, and out of joint with the populations – living in their dream palaces and travel-channel yachts and deco-punk cities; the sovereignty of nations is failing, the world of boundaries dissolving, migrations hollowing out the earth in civil-war, ethnic cleansing, broken and viral epidemics, climate catastrophes…. we seem tittering on the edge of doom; and, like citizens from an alien planet wondering what will come next we watch on sadly knowing it want be good, yet believing we are powerless to alter the shape of the future…

While populism grows in Russia, the EU, and the U.S.A., a world full of middle-class fervor seeks regain its former strength and power, seeking to seize the day lest the rest of the planet sinks into a fetid quagmire of local turmoil and chaos. Racism, speciesism, the methodical hate squads arising everywhere… All the while global corporations and criminal cartels cannibalize the remaining resources of the planet, bringing death and division everywhere, seeking only to profit from war, chaos, and utter defeat. Is this a time of Apocalypse? Doom? Our pundits and experts spout cliché’s, our philosophers turn away from human affairs to the nonhuman… our young play idol video games of pure war and fantasy… our politicians bring us news of austerity and debt… and, our matinee idols of music, Hollywood, and sports live out the corruptions of late capitalism as if there were no tomorrow.

As a young man I began reading Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, Hegel, Bataille, and others… realizing we we’re all failed Utopians. Pessimism is the face of Utopianism in the world today rather than Hope. Ernst Bloch once stated “Evil does not approach us as pride any more, but on the contrary as slumber, lassitude, concealment…”. One wakes up and realizes the real world has become a Reality TV series, a fantasy for a middle-class that cannot be bothered with the world’s problems but would rather wile away their hours in make-shift paradises of illusion and self-enslavement to desire and narcissistic self-love. Despair is born of hope, a dis-ease with the way things are… some of us on the Left are Marxian optimists with a vengeance, except that the world Marx once critiqued is dead and buried under a thousand flowers. In its place is an immaterial financial world, and invisible empire of risk and electronic counterfeit built on cynicism, profit, and global catastrophe. Hedging their bets against apocalypse these casino players of the new economics slip into pocket niches, playing the roulette will of capitalism with weak AI algorithms that can make or break a nation in at the speed of light.

Today we are living in the midst of Generation X’s coming of Age Party as the Middle-Class. The old structures and forms of the world based on liberal and conservative visions are dead, they were ruled by other media  and control systems than today… Generation X grew up with the net, children today even in some parts of the Third World are immersed in the net… it feeds their minds.

Yet, capitalism has migrated there, too. Colonizing the young with their capture systems, prodding them on into madness, chaos, video games, toys, global crapology… We had a chance in the 90’s to keep the net free, that’s gone… now we live in stupidland, a realm of commercial search engines that promote the fourth wave of industrialization, the second machine age, the capitalist anti-utopian future… and excess without humans… a future full of transhuman and post-human beings where auto-modification, cross-gender excess and biogenetic experimentation would make even H.G. Wells think twice…

I grew up in Podunkville U.S.A. in the fifties… the world is no longer my world… which is a good thing. Information overload may be here, but the children of our age know that and are developing tools to work this knowledge base and turn it into something that can shape and change our minds and our worlds. So, yes, I’m still a utopianist… it’s us, the oldsters who need to change, begin to listen to the youth once again. All these young philosopher wannabes are scattered across the world speaking to us of their hopes and dreams. Yet, before them there is this uncertain future of Climate Change, World Civil War, Secular and Religious turmoil, Ethnic violence everywhere, social decay… one wants to repeat Mao:

“Socialism must be developed… and the route toward such an end is a democratic revolution, which will enable socialist and communist consolidation over a length of time. It is also important to unite with the middle peasants (classes), and educate them on the failings of capitalism.”

Some saw Mao as a little too utopianist as well (cultural revolutions gone mad…), but in the above one sees a man shrewd enough to realize it was the Middle-Estate, the middle-classes that needed education and leadership… here at least in the U.S.A. the middle-class is Generation X’s coming of age party… those who were entering their teens in the 90’s are now the middle-class, and they know the difference, and are educating themselves the hard way. The democrats and republicans both speak to a middle-class that died long ago… the world has changed and neither the dems or the reps understand this. Populism seems to be the order of the day everywhere? Why? Because these middle-classes have seen themselves, their parents, and the future of their children sold down the river by thieves and scoundrels after the 2007 crash… they’ve seen the Bankers grow rich at their expense, the elite .01% walk away unscathed while they and their children gained nothing in return… this is the legacy of corruption and excess… Capitalist Utopianism at its degrading best… a legacy of doom.

I sometimes feel like one of those cranks on the street corner spouting from a soapbox the coming apocalypse. Problem is it’s not coming, it’s all around us but we can’t see it or believe what is in front of our eyes. Apocalypse from Greek apokalyptein “uncover, disclose, reveal,” a sort of mystery novel or noir disclosure of those old standbys of fate and freedom, the pendulum of time swinging on Poe’s horror flicked stage of the world. A post-cyberpunk tale replete with all the usual morbidity of normalcy. That’s the problem it is all so normal now that it’s ubiquitous, we can’t see it because it’s everywhere. We kept thinking apocalypse would be some drastic one-time event. Instead its just our normal madness. We have created a mentality that accepts as normalcy the apocalyptic time of no-time, a present without outlet. We call it global capitalism and have convinced ourselves there is no alternative. So we lie down in our pits of revenge, our hovels of critical theory and critique and poke fun from the sidelines as if we might make a difference. While the sleepers continue their sleep unaware that reality TV is no longer a fantasy.

I just keep wondering when this generation now entering their 30’s and 40’s is going to find its voice and take control of the stupidity and act before it’s too late? In our time Global Capitalism is divorcing itself from sovereign nations, tearing down the walls between Third and First world, seeking migrations as tools to further their agenda of no more democracy… the rich, elite, powerful conglomerates and corporations are creating networks, laws, systems outside the sovereignty of nations… the don’t need democracy anymore. We do! We’ll people wake up and realize this before it’s too late. The rich are abandoning sites like the EU for have cities, evil dream cities of City States around the planet where they can live in luxury and decadence unheard of while those left in the old democracies pay the bill. We seem to believe in outmoded philosophies, politics, and revolutions of emancipation from a different world. Things have changed… we no longer have the luxury of time on our side. If we do not act in this generation it truly will be too late. I know, I know… this has been said before, too many times.. by me and others… but that doesn’t make it false. What do we want? What kind of world do you want for yourself and your children?

On the Left we target a ghost, neoliberalism as if it existed, we have all our cards laid out in a line, theories, histories, economic and philosophical; yet, under it all the truth is that neoliberalism was our fantasy, our construction kit for a world that has moved on… we’re targeting and indexing an object that does not exist accept in our theories. Reality is where people live and die, not some theoretical construction kit one can model like a weather application. Oh, don’t get me wrong…. geez … we need the modeling, too. What I’m getting at is that we need to know things from the street-level, from the gut-level… we have too much theory… too much of it is now repeating the same gestures, the same idiocies, the same groove over and over again… When was the last time you read a book, an article of substance that actually had something new to say? We seem running in circles saying the same thing in new metaphors… this is hyperdecadence or hyperawareness with a vengeance. Most of the philosophical and political bric-a-brac one reads is warmed over thought from the pomo era, either castigating or promoting Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, or German Idealisms, Heidegger-Husserl, or the analytical Sellars-Brandomonian normative pack… then all these New Materialisms, Objects, Realisms spinning out what? What is ontology getting us? Is this going to change the world for the better? Are we just following the reality game into utter doom with either our direct or indirect access to it processual or structural insanity?

Maybe I’m an old fool, my time done or nearing… Nah… I’ll keep fending off the death-squad a while longer, thank you… and, I’ll continue being a Crank, churning out my little bit of narrative disruption here and there trying to wake people up… what else can one do? I still believe in hope… I dream… I seek a way forward… a world worthy of human love… maybe I’m just a stubborn old fool, and Jesus used to say we should just “turn the other cheek,” but I’m tired of turning that cheek, tired of watching the world sink down into oblivion, I’m – as Peter Finch in Network once said:

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Think on it… notes from the Apocalypse…

 

J.G. Ballard: The Carnival of Time

Who will ever forget the opening lines of that early story by J.G. Ballard Prima Belladonna that introduces almost as if by slight-of-hand the notion of an economic slump, a moment when civilization forgave itself of its excesses: its capitalist puritanism and work ethic, and decided to take a vacation for ten years between two regimes of the Symbolic Order? Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World (1965) likens the carnivalesque in literature to the type of activity that often takes place in the carnivals of popular culture. In the carnival, as we have seen, social hierarchies of everyday life—their solemnities and pieties and etiquettes, as well as all ready-made truths—are profaned and overturned by normally suppressed voices and energies. Thus, fools become wise, kings become beggars; opposites are mingled (fact and fantasy, heaven and hell). It is not to be construed that the liberation from all authority and sacred symbols is an ideology to be believed and held as a creed. Carnival extracts all individuals from noncarnival life, noncarnival states, because there are no hierarchical positions during carnival there cannot be ideologies for the mind of individuals to manifest.

J.G. Ballard in his early stories will mention the Great Recess as a sort of carnivalesque time-between-times, when the age of one Symbolic Order has come to a close, decayed and shriven of its ideological and religious/secular trappings, as well as its economic capacities and powers of domination and control, and opened a hole in the chrontopian landscape of historical time: a sort of infinite present wherein the world no longer bound to the time of work is set adrift in a timeless realm of lazy days of beach-comber vacancy and playfulness.

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Martin Rees: Machines will Inherit the Future

Martin Rees: How soon will robots take over the world?

Let me briefly deploy an astronomical perspective and speculate about the really far future – the post-human era. There are chemical and metabolic limits to the size and processing power of organic brains. Maybe humans are close to these limits already. But there are no such constraints on silicon-based computers (still less, perhaps, quantum computers): for these, the potential for further development could be as dramatic as the evolution from monocellular organisms to humans. So, by any definition of “thinking”, the amount and intensity that’s done by organic human-type brains will, in the far future, be utterly swamped by the cerebrations of AI. Moreover, the Earth’s biosphere in which organic life has symbiotically evolved is not a constraint for advanced AI. Indeed, it is far from optimal – interplanetary and interstellar space will be the preferred arena where robotic fabricators will have the grandest scope for construction, and where non-biological “brains” may develop insights as far beyond our imaginings as string theory is for a mouse.

Abstract thinking by biological brains has underpinned the emergence of all culture and science. But this activity – spanning tens of millennia at most – will be a brief precursor to the more powerful intellects of the inorganic post-human era. So, in the far future, it won’t be the minds of humans, but those of machines, that will most fully understand the cosmos – and it will be the actions of autonomous machines that will most drastically change our world, and perhaps what lies beyond.

 

Politics and War: Clear and Present Stupidity?

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This morning read a pundit on the Left, Slavoj Zizek on Turkey, and on the Right,  John Gray on ISIS and Syria, on the current stupidity of nations without leaders worth a dam. The Liberal West seems to be sinking fast, a world where the notion of freedom and democracy are shibboleths and icons of a bankrupt estate rather than the hard won concepts of the American and French Revolutions two-hundred years back. In an age of decline and decay when the world that many call fragile begins to waver and crumble into ruin one has to wonder what is next. For Gray a retrenchment and return to Hobbesian Leviathans, strong governments ruling with an iron fist; for Zizek, our world, being leaderless, is going the way of previous eras into slow decay and decline. Will Lacan’s Master-Signfier pop out of the wood work, a new Stalin or Hitler, some new dictator or strong man to fill the decadent vacuum for Gray’s Leviathan; or, will we just follow T.S. Eliot into that great silence where the world ends in a whimper rather than a bang?

John Gray in his article Islamist terror, security and the Hobbesian question of order tells us:

The West continues to reject co-operation with Russia on the grounds that Vladimir Putin and his client Assad are evil tyrants. From a Hobbesian standpoint, this is irrelevant. The salient question can only be: which is the greater evil? How is Assad’s dictatorship worse than a cult that abducts and rapes children, kills women it considers too old for sexual slavery, throws gay men off roofs, assassinates writers, cartoonists and Jews, murders dis­abled people in wheelchairs and razes irreplaceable cultural sites?

One really doesn’t like either choice. Maybe the answer is to clean house, replace Assad and put ISIS out of business. Oh, but that sounds like something we’ve heard before too: building democracy in the world. Has that worked? Let me count my fingers. No. Gray returns to Hobbes whose Leviathan took the hard line of support for a strong royalist State because without it there would be “no arts, no letters, no society, and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

So for Gray the West has only one option, expand the State and its powers: “Concerted action against Isis on the scale that is required may not be feasible in current conditions. But even if the will to act can somehow be summoned, Isis will not go down without launching more assaults on western cities. That is why the powers of the state may need to be expanded, including restrictions on freedom that many liberals will want to reject out of hand.” Ah, the key: “restrictions on freedoms”. Where have we heard that before? War of Terror? Bush? Let’s clip the wings on our citizens, keep them safe from themselves and others: command and control, stronger law and violence. And, like the Hobbesian defender he is Gray digs in telling us: “A universal surveillance society is not a pretty prospect. Politicians who say that there is no conflict between freedom and security are deceiving themselves and us. The conflict is genuine but it is also un­avoidable. Those who want to treat liberal freedoms as sacrosanct should ask themselves what price they are willing to pay for these liberties.” The price of freedom? Being open and aware that freedom entails conflict and the realization that paranoia is not a defense against violence; being tolerant and realizing that in an open society one takes the risk. That risk is the name of the game in and Open Society? That freedom is not another word for lockdown and imprisonment, but rather for a belief that people have rights and liberties that cannot be infringed upon, that constitutions mean more than just words?

Slavoj Zizek for his part seems almost disgruntled. His article We need to talk about Turkey is so short this time one wonders if he just woke up with a bad hangover:

We are definitely dealing not with the clash of civilisations (the Christian west versus radicalised Islam), but with a clash within each civilisation: in the Christian space it is the US and western Europe against Russia, in the Muslim space it is Sunnis against Shias. The monstrosity of the Islamic State serves as a fetish covering all these struggles in which every side pretends to fight Isis in order to hit its true enemy.

So solidarity has become just another word for war by other means? We see the supposed global powers committing to non-commitments, to an uncooperative cooperation, to bombing and fly-bys without actually investing real time and energy in fighting a land based war. Of silently dispersing a nation of refugees around the planet as if this solves anything, anything at all. Zizek sees our current situation as a war of all against all, with the war on ISIS as just the staging ground for a larger global arena of war among the giants. Should one reread Gibbon on Rome rather than Hobbes on the Leviathan? What used to be called Progress has become the treadmill of a farcical repetition in stupidity and black humor. Our world is not so much a global civilization as much as it is one of Lovecraft’s slipshod gothic nightmares. Gnon is alive and well in the kingdom of Stupidity! Long live Gnon!

 

J.G. Ballard: Chronopolis – Time Cities and the Lost Future

chrono

Continuing from where I left off J.G. Ballard: Chrontopia and Post-Consumerist Society.

Ballard in his short story Chronopolis will envision a world where Time as Clock-time has been outlawed. In this short story he takes us through the history of one particular Time-City, Chronopolis where every facet of peoples existence was ruled by time and its measurements. We first meet Conrad Newman in the free worlds beyond the great and ruinous Time City, who is awaiting trial for his criminal heresies: he has brought the great central clock, the symbol of absolute regulatory control back online.

We discover from a friend of his Stacey that

‘Thirty million people once lived in this city,’ Stacey remarked. ‘Now the population is little more than two, and still declining. Those of us left hang on in what were once the distal suburbs, so that the city today is effectively an enormous ring, five miles in width, encircling a vast dead centre forty or fifty miles in diameter.’1

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