Have fun all… going to take a few weeks off and go up to my cabin in Wyoming/Montana region. Frolic in the snow, see friends, make merry, enjoy some flames on a hearth… hard to do that here in the desert. 🙂
Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.
Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.
Split between Swift and Twain, Satire and Humor, the world seems to drift in a haze. Attaining either political satire or humor is difficult and not to be taken lightly, and yet it has its place. The difficulty resides not in the subject matter or content, but in the actual conceptual framework of the critical gaze. Attaining the gaze that bites and instructs is the most difficult art; for all humor is didactic and entertaining instruction in laughter, and it is to unburden resentment and enter into the graciousness of a serpent’s gaze that brings such pithy marksman to bare.
As any number of radical theorists from Brecht through to Foucault and Badiou have maintained, emancipatory politics must always destroy the appearance of a ‘natural order’, must reveal what is presented as necessary and inevitable to be a mere contingency, just as it must make what was previously deemed to be impossible seem attainable.
– Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?
The American Left rather than digging into its own failures is displacing it, creating in a mediablitz saturation a multiplicity of metanarratives to replace that real and actual failure of the party, through a series of well coordinating obfuscations against Russia, Trump, the alt-right gang, etc. all in the name of clearing the Democratic Party of any responsibility for its own mistakes and failures. Rather than in creating a critical appraisal, diagnosis, and cure of its own misguided platforms it will for the next four years just continue to turn a blind eye toward itself, and program its constituents to see the rest of the world through the fictional lens of fascism, real or invented. This is not to say there want be a need for it, yet what I’m saying is that it will become overkill and a displacement of what it truly needed, which is a transformation of the Democratic Party’s own platform, along with the outmoded ideas and problematique of its current leadership.
In the book mentioned in the epigraph by Mark Fisher he describes Capitalist realism as that which cannot be confined to art or to the quasi-propagandistic way in which advertising functions. It is more like a pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action. Our mediatainment industrial complex pervades the atmosphere as a mediator between the real and virtual worlds of politics in our world. From the mainstream Reuter’s to the most obvious examples of the Guardian (UK) to New York Times (US) to Washington Post (US) to any number of television and broadcasting stations, along with the various online ensembles of Facebook, Twitter, etc. A list that could grow into all the various international and nationalist news organizations around the globe.
Most average citizens do not have time to critically appraise every facet of the news, but rather take it all in stride: part cynical, part fantasy. It almost goes without saying that most people realize that the news is bent, is ideological in the sense that it is narrated through the lens of a specific viewpoint of political and social ideas and programs. That certain reporters are obviously of the Left or Right, and that people love to take sides with this sort of vague and undefined world of media crafted more for capturing attention blips for advertising dollars. Sensationalism is the order of the day, the more one can bash the other political party the better the ratings. So we’ve come to expect exaggeration and invective from our favorite media pundits, it just goes without saying. Yet, in the process of knowing this we pretend with ourselves that we don’t know this, so that we accept at face value what is reported as confirmation of our political hobby-horse. We love it to find out all the dirty details of an enemy opponent to satisfy our glib and cynical take on politics as usual. What this does is pacify us, turn us into cynical and passive normal who expect the world to continue down its course without us being able to change a thing. We just accept that the world is too complex and the leaders are all fools anyway, so what are we to do? We believe its all circus and clowns, so we just laugh and turn a blind eye; or, we sit on the sidelines our gaze turned toward the endless parade of media tomfoolery as if what is being portrayed is indeed reality. It’s not, and we know it, but we are too busy trying to survive in our actual real lives to do much about it. We see the protests and the violence and say: “See, there it is, violent youth blowing up banks, breaking glass… burning limousines…,” and shake our heads. And, do nothing, because we don’t think anything can be done. Isolated, alone, stuck in our separate cells, privatized and singular we feel helpless that anything will change. So fear pervades it all…
We ask ourselves is there a solution to this stupidity? We know there is, but we also know that we’ve been left out of the equation. That what we term representative democracy is a charade, it isn’t that at all. We are no longer represented by our leaders, all they do is spout slogans and in their actions do just the opposite. What we term holding them accountable is but to continue to vote for change the next time: an eternal rotation of useless leaders always spouting how they’ll change things for us, make our lives an easy road, bring us jobs, salvation, redemption… more bullshit as usual.
All the academic scholarship for the past hundred years has spoken to this in one way or another, but none have ever come up with a solution. Not one. Oh, they offer panaceas, certain reforms (isn’t that what the Progressive part is… the Reform party?). But what happens is that the reforms do not benefit the people but the Oligarchs, Corporations, and Bankers who back the politicians. People have almost begun to accept this, too. Sadly. As Mark will tell us in his book:
The result is a kind of postmodern capitalist version of Maoist confessionalism, in which workers are required to engage in constant symbolic self-denigration…. But don’t worry… any self-criticisms we make are purely symbolic, and will never be acted upon; as if performing self-flagellation as part of a purely formal exercise in cynical bureaucratic compliance were any less demoralizing.1
Of course he’s speaking of the politics of work and bureaucracy here, but one can read this as a fable of all politics. We have been taught that it is us, not the politicians that are responsible. Rather than a public forum, everything has been privatized, even the old notion of the Public. As Mark suggests “‘Being realistic’ may once have meant coming to terms with of a reality experienced as solid and immovable. Capitalist realism, however, entails subordinating oneself to a reality that is infinitely plastic, capable of reconfiguring itself at any moment.” (CR, p. 54) He’ll explain it as a fungible world, a world where the media acts a mediator between us and the Real, imposing its ideological screens as overlays to guide and instruct, indoctrinate and channel our desires for products, entertainment, and politics. As he’ll say it: “The ‘reality’ here is akin to the multiplicity of options available on a digital document, where no decision is final, revisions are always possible, and any previous moment can be recalled at any time.” (CR, p. 54)
Most people in our current blip culture no longer have the attention span of a mouse, everything becomes boring after a few sound bytes or images, much less the attention span needed to actually read or write something more than the space of a Twitter twit. Fake news has become more real than the actual truth of a story, people would rather believe a lie than the truth; and, in fact recently pundits argue that ours is a post-truth society. In a world that no longer has the distance or attention span to critically appraise the truth or validity of its news we are already living in a virtual tyranny controlled by powers over which we have no control.
Yet, we have to admit that a part of this is the blame of the very academics left that spawned the so called postmodern turn which undermined the whole tradition of critical reason itself. It’s attack on Kant and the undermining of classical metaphysics from Plato to now in deconstruction etc. was to end in an endless undecidability about anything whatsoever. Left in a world cut off from reality, the linguistic turn left us without an ability to think or even know what thinking is. Groundless and dancing in a figural sophistry of endless paradox and difference we’ve spawned the very fictional world we’re now living in. A refined skepticism, cynicism of irony endlessly churning in tis own surface world on non-meaning and virulent nihilism we’ve come to an end game where reality has turned inside out, and allowed the darkness outside in.
As Mark describes it:
If the Real is unbearable, any reality we construct must be a tissue of inconsistencies. What differentiates Kant, Nietzsche and Freud from the tiresome cliché that ‘life is but a dream’ is the sense that the confabulations we live are consensual. The idea that the world we experience is a solipsistic delusion projected from the interior of our mind consoles rather than disturbs us, since it conforms with our infantile fantasies of omnipotence; but the thought that our so-called interiority owe its existence to a fictionalized consensus will always carry an uncanny charge.(CR, pp. 55-56)
We’ve come to expect the scripts of reality to be written for us now in this late age. Rather than seeking truth for ourselves, we’d rather accept the scripted worlds of mediatainment fictions, realizing its more fun that way – we can laugh and joke at it and say it’s all entertainment, not real. But then we live through that moment of forgetting when in the quiet of our homes, staring at the face in the mirror we ask ourselves: “What is real? Am I real anymore?”
The point here is that the privatization of culture has blighted us. We are in that in-between state where everything is fiction, everything is narrative. Our cultural history, our memories are all mediated, filtered, spin crafted ideological positing’s that have no touch with reality, but are rather massaged and transformed in the lens of carefully crafted discourse and image narratives controlled by a blind bureaucracy that is faceless and out of site. In fact we’ve been under siege for a while now. The cultural forgetting of Western culture and civilization has been part of the academic left’s curriculum and project for a hundred years. The total annihilation of this two-thousand year old cultural matrix of concepts, ideas, and history has for years been under revision, castigation, modification, and deconstruction all leading to its demise. What we term humanism and humanity is a project for the Left in obsolescence. And, yet, there is nothing on offer to replace it but a slippery post-humanism that seems to wander through a thousand and one categories of if’s without any actual end in site. And, even then scholars can’t agree on just what this new beast is or will be.
Mark will suggest we are in that paradoxical in-between state of fear and terror of the present, because we can no longer make memories:
The memory disorder that is the correlative of this situation is the condition which afflicts Leonard in Memento, theoretically pure anterograde amnesia. Here, memories prior to the onset of the condition are left intact, but sufferers are unable to transfer new memories into long term memory; the new therefore looms up as hostile, fleeting, un-navigable, and the sufferer is drawn back to the security of the old. The inability to make new memories: a succinct formulation of the postmodern impasse…. (CR, p. 60)
This sense of living in a timeless present cut off from past or future is at the heart of our malaise. Comforted by a nostalgia for imaginary pasts we harbor childhood memories of a culture that never was, while living in a wasteland of impossible fictions in which nothing true can be retained or bound to a supportable memory. Because of this most people rely on the State not as either an Orwellian Big Brother, or as some kind of Paternal figure, but rather as a Nanny: “Although excoriated by both neoliberalism and neoconservativism, the concept of the Nanny State continues to haunt capitalist realism. The specter of big government plays an essential libidinal function for capitalist realism.” (CR, p. 62) This sense of someone who will just baby sit the world for us, who is there in the background picking up the pieces, setting things to right, cooking our meals, wiping our asses, doing everything but open our mouths and spoon-feed us.
But with the installation of Trump in the hot seat of the Presidency the Nanny State has gone bye bye, and now comes the age old Father returned from oblivion instilling the authority of the ancient lineage of power brokers: the androdominator as power monger who will now takeover and fix everything for us. Rather than the quiet smiley face of the Nanny State under Obama, we have the power brokers of yesteryear, the business and corporate efficiency of the black suit New Yorker who will rebuild the world from the ground up, or so the story goes…
Nietzsche in the 19th Century proclaimed the death of God. Foucault in the 20th Century proclaimed the dead of the Subject. Now we proclaim the death of the human itself at the hands of anti-human scholars. Yet, we are still here. Or are we? How can we know what to do about politics when we’re continuously told we no longer exist, that it is all passé, that the human Subject is but a neuroscientific illusion and delusion of a kludgy brain that through processes unknown entered into a an accidental production of consciousness (of which no neuroscientific or philosopher of Mind can speak to or definitely describe). We are told that this is nihilism: the age when all values are dispersed in a blank world of valueless judgments. Nietzsche prophesied and end to it when it would have completed itself. Which I assume he meant when everyone proclaims the end of all values and the acceptance that the world around us doesn’t give a shit one way or the other about humanity because it doesn’t even know we exist. Why? Because the universe is an agency, there is no Subject behind the screen, no fake Wizard of Oz of God speaking out of thunderstorms or mountains lighting rods of fire and brimstone. We are absolutely alone in a dark room with each other in a realm utterly devoid of answers or solutions. So this is ground Zero, the place of no place, the place from which we begin again… but this time with the knowledge of our utter desolation. Not despair as some assume, but desolation: the “condition of being ruined or wasted,” which is neither a place of despair or hope, but of reality. It’s from this desolation that we must begin and begin again to test the world against our words, our meanings. To wipe away the tears and sadness of our fictional ploys and narratives that have done much to lead us into this mess. We must build our words out of this desolation, for only then can we touch reality’s face and produce a community of shared values in a valueless universe.
At the beginning of the twentieth century W.B. Yeats said the “center cannot hold,” at the beginning of the twenty-first century the center is empty, the power and subject has vacated the premises and left a black hole of undecidability in its place. Politics is that black hole that the populism of Trump is supposedly a stuffing. But this center that cannot hold cannot be stuffed with supreme fictions or Reality TV stars. It will need something else… possibly just an acceptance that we don’t need the center anymore, we don’t need the Father, Mother, or Nanny to take care of us… that we are quite capable of pulling ourselves up by the sit of our pants and doing and thinking about what we really want rather than being told what we will get. Is this at all possible? Or, will we always depend and be dependent on some great Big Nobadday or Big Other to do for us what we will not do for ourselves?
As I finished that last sentence I added a question mark, realizing how much twaddle it was to expect people to ever free themselves of their delusions, desires, and deliriums, rather what will happen is the age old faltering and scapegoating of the other, of blame, of castigation and seeking someone to place the evil eye on; of displacement of responsibility and failure on the Other – whoever that other happens to be in the eyes of the media at any one moment. We are lazy and shiftless, we want our cake and eat it too. We’d rather depend on someone else to take on the responsibility of the world and our lives than we would. This is truth, too.
So for now the Left will place the Evil Eye on Trump because he is an easy target, a Reality TV bimbo billionaire that pop-starred his way into power through the very mechanisms of the Left’s mediatainment empire of signs. Rather than take on the responsibility to clean its own house, the Left would rather just dirty up the Trump house and fill it with all the evil under the rug of its resentment and shock at having been ousted from the seat of power (lessness). My mother used to tell my sister and I to look for a silver lining in the clouds after a storm, that that was a sign of hope in a dark time. My problem was that growing up in West Texas I’d look up after a hail storm and twisters to see not some silver lining on the black edged clouds, but rather the blotted face of a scorched red sun. I’d ask Mom about that, and she’d just whisper: “It’s a mystery!”
- Fisher, Mark. Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (Zero Books) (p. 52). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.
Decided to republish this essay I wrote over a year ago… still worth rethinking.
Naomi Wolfe’s The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot outlined ten steps taken in the past by what she termed “closing societies” — such as Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Stalin’s Russia — in their long descent into fascism. For both the State was one grand corporation in which the prols or workers were but the fodder for its schemes and machinations. These steps, Wolf claims, are being observed in America now.
The steps are:
1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.
2. Create secret prisons where torture takes place.
3. Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens.
4. Set up an internal surveillance system.
5. Harass citizens’ groups.
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release.
7. Target key individuals.
8. Control the press.
9. Cast criticism as espionage and dissent as treason.
10. Subvert the rule of law.
J.G. Ballard in an interview mentions that our current consumer societies with their celebrity stars of Hollywood, Sports, and the Variety tabloids has entered the plutocracy of excess and abundance. “What I’m saying is that, left on its own consumer society is becoming a soft fascism. Because consumerism makes inherent demands, it has inherent needs, which can only be satisfied by pressing the accelerator down a little harder, moving a little faster, upping the antes. In order to keep spending and keep believing, we need to move into the area of the psychopathic.” 1
In my own life the dark cycles come and go, and when they come I return to the comic worlds of laughter to assuage the pain of such suffering doubts and mental anguish. I read Cervantes Don Quixote and Aristophanes plays, along with Moliere’s and Shakespeare’s comedies. Listen to stand-up comedians and generally walk away from the dark thoughts that send me down the nihilist pipe and death-spin. It’s not for everyone, but it’s my only recourse. I know I have a dark pessimistic side to my mind that tends to reinforce itself with the political and social malfeasance I see around me, but dwelling on it too long can send you into a state of becoming which can act like a strange attractor pulling you toward an abyss and sink hole. It’s not good to go there.
I’ve often thought life is a constant war against gravitas – the inertia and entropic effect of gravity on our planet. We struggle against it daily in our cycles of sleep and waking, we feel its power against us as we rise in the morning, the aches and kinks in muscle and bone (especially at age 65!) begin to repeat there impossible gestures to which we exercise, stretch, walk, etc. Yet, it’s a cycle that daily gets more difficult to bare and confront. I imagine some people weigh the options and decide its just not worth it anymore. The other side is not just the physical pain of gravity’s well, but the social and political wells of gravity around us that seem to accumulate such dark and disturbing, hate ridden abysses. The struggle against these powers in high places is a life-long task, and one that as well takes its toll.
I even return to old Emerson at times. I just wish I could always follow such advice:
I find the gayest castles in the air that were ever piled, far better for comfort and for use, than the dungeons in the air that are daily dug and caverned out by grumbling, discontented people. I know those miserable fellows, and I hate them, who see a black star always riding through the light and colored clouds in the sky overhead: waves of light pass over and hide it for a moment, but the black star keeps fast in the zenith. But power dwells with cheerfulness; hope puts us in a working mood, whilst despair is no muse, and untunes the active powers. A man should make life and Nature happier to us, or he had better never been born.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life
My friend Edmund Berger has a new book coming out very soon from Zero Books… I’m looking forward to this. Edmund’s wordpress blog Deterritorial Investigations has been a source of intelligent history and thought for me for years now. A book from him will top it off!
My book Uncertain Futures: An Assessment of the Conditions of the Present will be coming out from Zero Books on February 22nd. To sum it up briefly, the book emerged last winter from a series of notes to myself while trying to think through several related themes: the relationship between Marxian theories of crisis and the “long wave” theories of “techno-economic” development posed by the neo-Schumpeterians; the correlation between crises and other transition-points in economic development and sweeping political transformations; and the rise of the left-wing and right-wing populisms (and indeed, quasi-fascism) in the current world. The “uncertain future” in the title very much refers to the dangerous situation of the far-right coming to power in the United States, which at the time of writing was only a possibility – but has now come true. But despite this rather grim dimension, I think the book is pretty cool!
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I’ve begun of late to wonder if our use of the term ‘post-human’ is more of an acknowledgement not of the End of the Subject or the demise of Liberal Humanist civilization that spawned it, but rather of another problem altogether: the extinction event of technological disconnection. David Roden in his Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human is fairly convinced of such a disconnection:
“I have characterized posthumans in very general terms as hypothetical wide “descendants” of current humans that are no longer human in consequence of some history of technological alteration”. Speculative posthumanism is the claim that such beings might be produced as part of a feasible future history.”1
This notion of ‘technological alteration’ in which the present form of the human loses its integrity and is replaced or altered through either genetic manipulation or some other unforeseen technical event seems eerily prognostic. Of course David has couched his thesis in scholarly garb or academic noblesse of acceptable jargon and discourse. But the radcial underpinnings of such a thesis are there hidden under a thick verbiage of carefully reasoned argumentation and examples.
David asks the right questions, brings up the philosophical quandaries of such a notion as post-human:
“What is the “humanity” to which the posthuman is “post”? Does the possibility of a posthumanity presuppose that there is a “human essence”, or is there some other way of conceiving the human– posthuman difference? Without an answer to this question we cannot say, in general, what it is to become posthuman and thus why it should matter to humans or their wide descendants. In short, we require a theory of human– posthuman difference.”
“The primordial trauma, the trauma constitutive of the subject, is the very gap that bars the subject from its own ‘inner life’.”
-Slavoj Žižek. Disparities
My friend R. Scott Bakker’s response to this implies what he terms ‘medial neglect’ or the notion that we are blind to the brain’s own processes. In a fine essay describing this issue Scott remarks,
A curious consequence of the neuroscientific explananda problem is the glaring way it reveals our blindness to ourselves, our medial neglect. The mystery has always been one of understanding constraints, the question of what comes before we do. Plans? Divinity? Nature? Desires? Conditions of possibility? Fate? Mind? We’ve always been grasping for ourselves, I sometimes think, such was the strategic value of metacognitive capacity in linguistic social ecologies. The thing to realize is that grasping, the process of developing the capacity to report on our experience, was bootstrapped out of nothing and so comprised the sum of all there was to the ‘experience of experience’ at any given stage of our evolution. Our ancestors had to be both implicitly obvious, and explicitly impenetrable to themselves past various degrees of questioning.
From the Lacanian standpoint, it is not enough to say that every symbolic representation simply fails, is inadequate to the subject it represents (‘words always betray me …’); much more radically, the subject is the retroactive effect of the failure of its representation. It is because of this failure that the subject is divided – not into something and something else, but into something (its symbolic representation) and nothing, and fantasy fills the void of this nothingness. And the catch is that this symbolic representation of the subject is primordially not its own: prior to speaking, I am spoken, identified as a name by the parental discourse, and my speech is from the very outset a kind of hysterical reaction to being spoken to: ‘Am I really then, that name, what you’re saying I am?’ Every speaker – every name giver – has to be named, has to be included into its own chain of nominations, or, to refer to the joke often quoted by Lacan: ‘I have three brothers, Paul, Ernest, and myself.’ (No wonder that, in many religions, God’s name is secret, one is prohibited to pronounce it.) The speaking subject persists in this in-between: prior to nomination, there is no subject, but once it is named, it already disappears in its signifier – the subject never is, it always will have been.
—Slavoj Žižek, Disparities
In miniature the above offers us succinctly the full thrust of Žižek’s dialectical materialism: a mode of reversalism, retroactive causality, and the recentering within the Democritean principle of the Void over Substance as the central core of his philosophical framework. The notion that there is no pre-existent essence, no Platonic form out of an eternal realm that incarnates itself as Subject, or imposes its Idea on a passive material world of substantive objects, etc., but rather there is a process, a processual in-between, a movement – a continuous negation, a “blind passenger”:
The Ancient Greeks had two words for nothing, meden and ouden, which stand for two types of negation: ouden is a factual negation, something that is not but could have been; meden is, on the contrary, something that in principle cannot be. From meden we get to den not simply by negating the negation in meden, but by displacing negation, or, rather, by supplementing negation with a subtraction. That is to say, we arrive at den when we take away from meden not the whole negating prefix, but only its first two letters: meden is med’hen, the negation of hen (one): not-one. Democritus arrives at den by leaving out only me and thus creating a totally artificial word den. Den is thus not nothing without “no,” not a thing, but an othing, a something but still within the domain of nothing, like an ontological living dead, a spectral nothing-appearing-as-something. Or, as Lacan put it: “Nothing, perhaps? No— perhaps nothing, but not nothing”; to which Cassin adds: “I would love to make him say: Pas rien, mais moins que rien (Not nothing, but less than nothing)” — den is a “blind passenger” of every ontology. As such, it is “the radical real,” and Democritus is a true materialist: “No more materialist in this matter than anyone with his senses, than me or than Marx, for example. But I cannot swear that this also holds for Freud”— Lacan suspects Freud’s link to kabbala obscurantism.1
Zizek’s philosophy will stand the test of time or fall by the wayside over this notion of the Democritean “Den”: Den is thus not nothing without “no,” not a thing, but an othing, a something but still within the domain of nothing, like an ontological living dead, a spectral nothing-appearing-as-something. A Spectral Materialism of Zombies and Ghosts? It gets better,
The rise of den is thus strictly homologous to that of objet a which, according to Lacan, emerges when the two lacks (of the subject and of the Other) coincide, that is, when alienation is followed by separation: den is the “indivisible remainder” of the signifying process of double negation— something like Sygne de Coûfontaine’s tic, this minimal eppur si muove which survives her utter Versagung (renunciation). (ibid.)
Galileo Galilei muttered, “Eppur si muove” (“ And yet it moves”), after recanting before the Inquisition his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun: he was not tortured, it was enough to take him on a tour and show him the torture devices … There is no contemporary evidence that he did in fact mutter this phrase, but today the phrase is used to indicate that, although someone who possesses true knowledge is forced to renounce it, this does not stop it from being true. But what makes this phrase so interesting is that it can also be used in the exact opposite sense, to assert a “deeper” symbolic truth about something which is literally not true— like the “Eppur si muove” story itself, which may well be false as a historical fact about Galileo’s life, but is true as a designation of Galileo’s subjective position while he was forced to renounce his views. In this sense, a materialist can say that, although he knows there is no God, the idea of a God nonetheless “moves” him. It is interesting to note that, in “Terma,” an episode from the fourth season of The X-Files, “E pur si muove” replaces the usual “The truth is out there,” meaning that, even if their existence is denied by official science, alien monsters nonetheless move around out there. But it can also mean that, even if there are no aliens out there, the fiction of an alien invasion (like the one in The X-Files) can nonetheless engage us and move us: beyond the fiction of reality, there is the reality of the fiction. (Zizek, KL 280)
One thing that astounds me as I read certain contemporary philosophers or even sociologists is that their hatred of the humanities and humanism has left a blank in their learning curve, a kenosis – a devastating loss in a certain type of thinking and knowing. The humanistic world for all its illusions and foibles, its obvious anthropomorphisms, etc., that we as their heirs and despisers ( I say this facetiously, because I am sadly a part of this dying world! ) have for the most part in our attempt to overcome, bury, and move past their worldview, scholarship, and traditions lost many of the pragmatic mind tools they constructed (i.e., the world of language, rhetoric’s, and receptions ).
This came home to me as I’ve been reading Bernard Stiegler recently, who on the surface because of his immediate tradition in Heidegger/Derridean modes of thought, scholarly apparatus, and etymological overdeterminations has built up a Gothic Cathedral of thought so opaque and thick that to decipher it for a common or lay reader (i.e., for the average intellectual or journalist, etc.) is to transcribe, transliterate, transform, massage, and redeploy his acute verbiage into other forms, other simpler modes of thinking. And, yet, even Stiegler for all his careful and elaborate sophistication is totally or apparently ignorant of his own ignorance in return to certain humanistic traditions by other channels and modes.
What I mean is that as I was reading Stiegler’s Time and Technics vol 1 I realized he was returning to that ancient art of sophistry, the allegorical transcription of ancient myths into conceptual thought; and, yet, he seemed apparently oblivious to the simplified use of those ancient mind-tools for the most part, and was actually in his misprisions and misreadings deploying a strangely uncanny rhetorical decipherment and embellishment that the medieval monks would have seen as superficial and at best overly simplified and duplicitous. Maybe that’s the truth even of Plato’s dialogues which use the ancient framework of myth and religion to relate his allegories of conceptual thought, incorporating the known techniques of the Sophists against them in a bid to make Philosophia (The Art (technics) of Wisdom (Sophia)) the Queen of Scientia. Wasn’t Plato, after all, the great swindler, the man who set up the Academy in a bid to overtake the Sophists in their own game, making Philosophy the principle tool for the Aristocrats (Aristoi) of his City, Athens?
Philosophy (The term philosophy is taken from the Greek word, (phylos) meaning “to love” or “to befriend” and, (sophie) meaning “wisdom.”. Thus, “philosophy” means “the love of wisdom”. Socrates, a Greek philosopher, used the term philosophy as an equivalent to the search for wisdom.) was once considered one of the modes of teaching humans how to think, and in thinking seek wisdom rather than knowledge. The key here is allegory with all its ancient power of encoding/decoding thought into levels of conceptual theory and practice based on compression, condensation, displacement, elaboration, etc. The heirs of these ancient and medieval traditions were the great literary critics and scholars of the various Renaissance, Baroque, Romantic, and Modernist eras. The last great scholar of this form was of course Ernst Robert Curtius in his magnum opus European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. A work that is too elaborate, too scholarly, too much in that historicism of the day, and yet it was a summation of humanist learning. To read such a book today one realizes what has been lost to the contemporary scholar, all the linguistic tools, learning, and sophisticated apparatus. Reading such works is like seeing this vast tradition as what it was: a machine for producing texts of sophisticated ignorance and learning for a specialized audience, an elite of gamers – parodied by Thomas Mann (Dr. Faustus) and Herman Hesse (Magister Ludi – The Glass Bead Game). That world is dead for us, and yet we seem to be resurrecting it under other guises and tasks. Ignorant of its vast tools we are reinventing them in a slow and methodical game of blindness and insight.
One of those scholars that many on the Left despise and seem to overlook is Paul de Man (now despised for his wartime Anti-Semitis, hidden in his move to America as a scholar at Yale after the war), whose body of work brings to light the postmodern return to those ancient modes of ironizing and allogoreisis. In such works as Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust (the notion that all writing concerns itself with its own activity as language, and language, he says is always unreliable, slippery, impossible – allegorical…), Resistance To Theory (the resistance to theory is inherent in the theoretical enterprise itself, and the real debate is with its own methodological assumptions and possibilities), Aesthetic Ideology (rigorous inquiry into the relation of rhetoric, epistemology, anesthetics, one that presents radical notions of materiality), and Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (each theorist while trying to explain the origin of the ‘work’ or of literature remained blind to what lies outside the purview of his theoretical system, because the very logic of theorization always excludes something).
Why read such books as these today? One simple and devastating reason is to open one’s eyes to all that has been lost, the other is to understand just what it is (if one truly is against it?) humanistic learning offered to its inheritors and transmitters. If one is going to truly attack, undermine, and defend oneself against a millennia old system of thought and practice one should invest the time knowing and understanding that world. That this world is past us, that it is already being forgotten, blamed, anathematized, and buried by the scholars, philosophers, and journalists in our current apathy without even an appreciation of its extant and viable mind-tools is to say the least stupid and is without doubt leaving a blank in the mind’s of young university students growing up under the didactic tutelage of scholars and thinkers that have themselves lost these ancient arts (technics).
The supposed scholar of today is not only ignorant of this past but in despising and anathematizing it has fallen into the sloppy illusion that she has surpassed it under the shibboleth of de-anthropomorphic thought, when in fact most of these present scholars have done no such thing and in fact have begun reconstructing the very Cathedral of humanistic learning under a new guise, and with all its habits and practices, errors and foibles. Ignorant of their predecessors many present scholars founder in the cesspool of these ancient modes of thought with little or know understanding of their return to these ancient modes. What I’m – pointedly saying is simple: we are building a Tower of Babel in the midst of glorious ruins of humanism, falling into what my friend R. Scott Bakker terms the ‘crash space’ of senselessness and stupidity, of utter ignorance and unlearning, and all the time thinking we are doing something clever, something new. When in truth we are relearning ancient pathways of thought and being in a vacuum and with lesser insight into that ancient form that took generations of scholarly monks to accomplish over hundreds of years. We’re moving in circles of our own ignorance believing we are divesting ourselves of those worlds of human-centric learning and endeavor, when in fact it is returning with a vengeance an eating its children alive.
What we are seeing in our time is the re-centering of all this ancient thought within Information Theory and Datacentric Design. By this I mean that the sophistication of learning and thought over the past century has forced the vast systems of humanism into ever more machinic and artificial worlds, a dreamworld of thought and image fused in a new computational theatre of communication. We’re barely registering that we’ve all been migrating into these worlds that began with Kant’s inward turn. The virtual is the exteriorization of this internal turn of Kant’s epistemic. We’ve turned everything inside-out. We are out there now in all our technics, our memories, our desires are taking on a life of their own in sophisticated systems. We’ve begun to forget ourselves and enter into a new world of ignorance. As our machinic descendants in artificial life and intelligence become smarter we become stupid and forgetful.
One can’t so easily dismiss these ancient modes of thought and feeling. To do so is to become their prey, to be gobbled up by their systematic forms without even knowing that this is so. Most of these philosophical and pragmatic heirs who are trying to forget the philosophical traditions are actually being incorporated into their old paths in ignorance of this very truth. I’ll admit I didn’t even finish university myself. Tell the truth I’m an Autodidact. My whole life has been devoted to the search for Wisdom (Sophia) in the old sense of philosophia. It began after Viet Nam and never stopped… I also from my readings in Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bataille, Land, etc. have always had a hatred of a certain type of academic scholarship rather than of the Academy itself. It’s the dry and apathetic blandness of mediocrity I despise rather than the apparatus of learning itself. One must discern the difference between greatness and mediocrity in scholars as in life. I’ll admit after those critics from Emerson to Bloom that I read the vast ‘storehouse of learning’ for the “sparks,” “illuminations,” and as Walter Benjamin rephrased it after the great kabbalists, the “auras”. The indefinable element in a work that enlivens and quickens the mind to wonder and awakening to wisdom. Everything else is anathema; that is, facticity and factual knowledge rather than the technics (art) to use it.
The great literary critics were able to decipher what was alive and what was dead in thought and life. We’ve lost this art or technic in our readings today. My friend R. Scott Bakker has repeatedly laughed and seen my Swiftian enterprise as mere self-amusement, and I too agree that we’re all turning in circles of our own blindness and ignorance. Even ignorant of our ignorance, or what he terms “medial neglect”. Yet, we go on, must go on. I’m more of a minimalistic harbinger after Samuel Beckett. We persist, because we can do nothing else. It moves us… as Zizek quoting Galileo Galilei who muttered, “Eppur si muove” (“ And yet it moves”) after the materialist philosophy of Democritus and Lucretius and the swerve that makes a difference of difference. Even in circles we change, it moves, it changes; we go on, we move, we can do no else. (One could expound this at the quantum flux level of physics or with philosophical bric-a-brac, but it all leads to the same circle of concepts and notions, whether one uses math or language.)
In the end we are an animal aware of its own impossibility so that we’ve built vast Gothic Cathedrals of myth, allegory, philosophy, science, etc. to explain our fumbling existence in the cosmos. Some conclude a futility to this enterprise, others see it as the human predicament, finitude. Is there an answer? I doubt it. Yet, we persist in our ignorance to our doom or glory. As that old pessimist Kohelet (“the Gatherer”) in Ecclesiastes said of all human learning: “…vanity of vanities; all is vanity (etym: vain, futile, or worthless). And, yet, without it we would stand dumbfounded before the great emptiness and ourselves. In the old religious consciousness one waited and expected an answer out of this void, in the dispensation of the philosophers there was already that skepticism (a distancing and irony) of an answer coming out of an otherwise indifferent and impersonal cosmos. Yet, both agreed that even if one came the human could not answer it back with anything other than its ignorant tongue and speechcraft, and this was always and has always been something we could not accept so that we have remained stubborn in our emptiness, producing a realm of lack into which we have poured our songs and lies throughout recorded time. Maybe that was the original sin, admitting then denying our ignorance and trying to cover it over with our infinite pursuit of knowledge rather than wisdom (Sophia). Yet, this too, is but another allegory of the scholars, one I’ll refrain from explicating through divagation or exegesis – or, even in that hesitant and constant prevarication of the academic scholar who can never be done with his work.
Strangely the ancient Hebrew traditions held that the name Torah and the general word torah are usually translated with either law or teaching, and that would work on the proviso that what is taught is actually true (i.e. a reflection or adaptation of “natural” law). And it should be noted in these ancient traditions of the ‘People of the Covenant’ the convenant precedes formal law (covenant: Genesis 6:18; deposition of formal law: Exodus 20, but note man’s natural knowledge of law: Genesis 26:5, Romans 2:15); meaning that the relationship of God and mankind is not brought about by wisdom ( Sophianic. But that God is not “discovered” or found by looking for Him; Luke 17:20), but that wisdom is brought about by the relationship of God and mankind (God is found because He looked for us; 1 John 4:19).
In the gnostic heresies it would be Sophia (Wisdom) rather than God who came looking for the naked creature who had lost its way in the cosmos, seeking to impart her gift of wisdom to this naked animal and enlighten it with that spark of divine knowledge about the blind processes that have infiltrated and even now devour the cosmos and corrupt it with its dark and abiding ignorance. Reading these old myths under the guise of allegory one realizes that even philosophers such as Spinoza (who was indelibly stamped by his age!) knew of the kabbalists and Jewish magicians of the old gnostic inheritance (though this would be disputed by those of the ‘reception’).
All tales of various paths by which Wisdom has been accepted or rejected in the many cultures of the past. I’m sure one could discover other cultures on other continents with their own distinct tales of Wisdom. This is but the one between two segments of Western culture and its traditions, between Greece (Pluralism) and Jerusalem (Monotheism). The Greeks chose to show man as alone and tempted in his pursuit to discover wisdom, while the monotheists of the Middle-East chose to believe only their singular Big Other, God was capable of bestowing such a rare gift rather than anything men could discover or find. Between these two movements is the war between traditions that have up to our time divided humans into two opposing camps without resolution. There can be none. Does this spell our doom or the doom of these warring traditions? And along with them the cultures and languages that produced them? Maybe what the true apocalypse is will entail the obliteration and memory of Western Culture and its traditions, a forgetfulness and an ignorance that will come as language is transformed and changed, utterly. For without a language a people do not exist, for only in the shards of language is a culture produced and survives.
In that great black book of riddles, Finnegan’s Wake, James Joyce would have one of his characters in the nightmare say,
[The abnihilisation of the etym by the grisning of the grosning of the grinder of the grunder of the first lord of Hurtreford expolodotonates through Parsuralia with an ivanmorinthorrorumble fragoromboassity amidwhiches general uttermosts confussion are perceivable moletons shaping with mulicules while Coventry plumpkins fairlygosmotherthemselves in the Landaunelegants of Pinkadindy. Similar scenatas are projectilised from Hullulullu, Bawlawayo, empyreal Raum and mordern Atems. They were precisely the twelves of clocks, noon minutes, none seconds. At someseat of Oldanelang’s Konguerrig, by dawnybreak in Aira.]1
In parodic form through the punster’s bag of tricks, and the laughter and drunkenness of linguistic deathknells Joyce spoke of his ‘abnihilisation of the etym’ which would spell the doom of western traditions and languages that had over the centuries dominated us, made us, imposed and stamped upon us a Law and a Covenant of inscriptions and traces. Memory and Language made us, and in our time is unmaking us. Something new is being born, not yet brought to bare, but a sense under the prevalent mood of our distemper. A past along with its memories and langauges, a tale of forgetting that is allowing us to fall away for good or ill into other modes, other worlds. What we are saying goodbye to is not the literal human creature of finitude, flesh and blood; but, rather the figural and symbolic worlds of the humanities and humanism that has traveled through all the kingdoms of the centuries of time and molded and modeled the course of that history. That is dying out and being antagonized by the world of scholars, thinkers, activists, etc….
- James Joyce. Finnegans Wake (Kindle Locations 6118-6122). Penguin Adult. Kindle Edition.
Edmund Berger with a review of David Gartman’s From Autos to Architecture: Fordism and Architectural Aesthetics in the Twentieth Century.
Lately I’ve been reading David Gartman’s From Autos to Architecture: Fordism and Architectural Aesthetics in the Twentieth Century. It’s quite a fine book, even if Gartman’s Marxism is a bit more orthodox than is necessary and he has a propensity to mischaracterize Jane Jacobs as a right-wing libertarian. All in all, it’s a solid contribution to the study of Fordism – though it must be said that to call it an analysis of architectural aesthetics in the Fordist period (launching, I would argue, in the years of 1910-1913, and breaking down in the years of 1968-1972). Gartman’s analysis predates Fordism and even its most direct progenitor, Taylorism, and finds its starting point post-Civil War push for the “rationalization” of production in the US’s manufacturing sector. And, importantly, it might be problematic to say the book is about Fordism at all. What Gartman has produced, instead, is the story of…
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Hans Moravec was of course there before many of the current crop of machinic exceptionalisms:
As humans, we are half-breeds: part nature, part nurture. The cultural half is built, and depends for its existence on the biological foundation. But there is a tension between the two. Often expressed as the drag of the flesh on the spirit, the problem is that cultural development proceeds much faster than biological evolution. Many of our fleshly traits are out of step with the inventions of our minds. Yet machines, as purely cultural entities, do not share this dilemma of the human condition. Unfettered, they are visibly overtaking us. Sooner or later they will be able to manage their own design and construction, freeing them from the last vestiges of their biological scaffolding, the society of flesh and blood humans that gave them birth. There may be ways for human minds to share in this emancipation.
—Hans Moravec, Mind Children (1988)
What Hans saw in the grand narrative of possibilites was the notion of organic migration to anorganic being. The organic platform that had served intelligence so well for millions of years of natural selection was being slowly but methodically overtaken by artificial selection and the anorganic (machinic) platform which would further its cause and make it ready for off-world habitation: or, space ready civilization.
Of course for many this movement from organic platforms to anorganic seems both fearful and horrific, as if the intelligence were to be hooked to the organic forms of parasitic natural selection till doomsday. Instead many are seeing within an immantenist and naturalistic perspective a shift in perspective and paradigm, and a welcome addition to the platform adaptations and appropriations of anorganic forms which are to be blunt more resilient and space ready. Organic life is ill-adapted to interplanetary space flight, nor the habitation of dangerous environments having to enclose itself within a survival cocoon of biochemical and mechanical systems. While the anorganic has none of these technical issues and much more freedom to overrided and explore almost any environment with the right technics.
For millennia we’ve been preparing the way for this transition, externalizing our memory systems, allowing for prosthetic implementations and the construction of alternative anorganic forms to sponsor our migration to a new platform. Of course, as in anything, this is all speculation and discursive prediction based on explorations of current and past techics and technological innovation. We have a long way to go…
The myth of the liberal humanist Subject has been eroded over the past couple of centuries, and with it the qualification of consciousness as the seat of intelligence. Intelligence can do just fine without human consciousness, and the current neuroscientific community seems erroneous in its search to duplicate and understand this accidental natural selective system. Machinic being will be of another order altogether, and will evolve artificial forms of intelligence of a different form than that of the organic platform of humanity. So that whatever will come will not be human, but will be of another – artificial process yet to be determined. David Roden explicates many of the categorical challenges ahead in his Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. But more to the point the categories Life / Non-Life are no longer so distinct as they once were, and the boundaries between organic and anorganic are closing fast so that machinic being may in fact absorb and appropriate most of the needed functions from existing organic systems in ways we have as yet ill-understood and cannot predict.
Both Andy Clark in Surfing Uncertainty the and Jacob Hohwy in The Predictive Mind agree that the theory that the brain is a sophisticated hypothesis-testing mechanism, which is constantly involves it in minimizing the error of its predictions of the sensory input it receives from the world is at the basis of the neuroscientific reasearch in our time. This mechanism is meant to explain perception and action and everything mental in between.
We’ve seen how computational and functional systems are already manufactured that allow the brain to control prosthetic devices without implants, by electromagnetic encoding/decoding through intermediary software and hardware. It will only be a short while when such systems will bypass the body as a platform altogether and intelligence no longer bound to the physical systems of the human organic machine will enter into the very technics and technology that has been constructed for this purpose: a convergence many term the singularity. As many will look back at that time we’ll discover that there is probably not one specific thing we’ll be able to point to that suddenly brought this about, but that rather it is part of a new experimentalism that could and will emerge under various plastic modalities and under different forms.
Obviously there will be cultural, social, and religious traditional forces across the globe which will both hinder, outlaw, and generally make war on such a transition of the human into its systems. Some will as they do now paint it as sheer fantasy and bullshit. But it will persist, and will emerge whether we will or no. In metaphysics and non-metaphysics we’ve been saying goodbye the human for a long time, and now that the possibility of this truly happening, of sloughing the worm of organic life in the convergence of intelligence and the anorganic we seem to espy oblivion and apocalypse rather than mutation and metamorphosis. Two worldviews are at odds in this, and neither understands the other’s darker intent and challenge.
During the French Revolution the revolutionary spirit was seen under a harsh light of terror. The professional revolutionary’s goal was the creation of an evangelical community, based on equality and planetary brotherhood. To do this, he was prepared to wage a war of destruction against those who have surrendered to mammon and allowed the domination of the law of universal trade that all-profanes and all-degrades. Hence, the destructive calling of gnostic revolution: not a single stone of the corrupt and corrupting world shall remain standing; hence, also, the inevitable destructive and self-destroying outcome of the revolutionary project to purify the existing through a policy of mass terror and annihilation.
Our age of advance technics and technologies in convergence, along with the crisis of globalism and modernity in the face of age old traditionalisms of Patriarchal Monotheistic Civilization is unbinding us from the realms that tied us to the organic world. We see around us the bitter entrenchment of paranoia, hate, and the subjugation of women at the hands of a last ditch civilization tied to the ten-thousand year old Agricultural Civilizations that stretched from the demise of the Goddess based Neolithic realms to the rise of male-oriented androcratic regimes we see around us today under various worlds of savagery, barbarity, and tyranny. All this was well documented by Deleuze and Guattari (Anti-Oedipus/A Thousand Plateaus) and so many others. For it is all tied carefully with the subjugation of the feminine principle which these men will fight for to the bitter end. That world is dying all around us, and even as we see the dark shroud of genocide everywhere even they understand that their time is limited on earth. A new age is arising, one that will dispense with such worlds.
The emancipation of machinic intelligence is in the offing, and the human age is at an end. For so many years I, too, thought such a thought was both superfluous, and downright anathema to everything I believed in. But then I realized that it’s not, it’s actually very much an outgrowth of both streams of Western and Eastern thought in convergence in ways no one thought possible. What many term the Singularity, the Great Convergence, etc. is this sense that Time is moving against us, converging out of the future into our current world in ways we have as yet ill-understood. We are part of processes that we are in the dark on, forces that we as yet only apprehend in the folds of our nightmares and terrors. What is coming our way is the end of the human as we’ve understood that term, and what will succeed us is itself a great blank in the precarious models of our inadequate thoughts and theories. We stand on a precipice of change and we know it, but we are all in denial watching on and falling back on trivial critiques of the madness surrounding us in the demise of the Great Monotheistic Framework of Global Civilization.
We are very near to the time when no essential human function will lack an artificial counterpart. The embodiment of this convergence of cultural developments is the intelligent robot, a machine that can think and act as a human, however inhuman it may be in physical or mental detail. Such machines could carry on our cultural evolution, including their own increasingly rapid self-improvement, without us, and without the genes that built us.
—Hans Moravec, Mind Children (1988)
A great many of Nick Land’s critics have never actually read his early work or his essays collected in Fanged Noumena, and even if they gave it a cursory overlook it was usually under the strict economy of a leprous eye seeking only ammo for its rancor and dismissal. In other words many of the leftist critiques of Land are themselves critiques of the Leftist ploys and ideological errors that strew our current malaise, rather than singular confrontations with Land the philosopher and his critical vision.
Land has always been one to read deeply and long in leftist thought as shown in his study of modernity, capital and Kant: Kant, Capital, and the Prohibition of Incest: A Polemical Introduction to the Configuration of Philosophy and Modernity.1 Here he would show an astute knowledge not only of the current so called post-colonial thought, but of the whole gamut of Marxian analysis and traditions up through their manifestations in post-modernism (so called). In this essay he would use the minimalist stance in approaching the “complex network of race, gender, and class oppressions that constitute our global modernity”. The model for this would be his study of the evolution of the apartheid policies of the South African regime, “since apartheid is directed towards the construction of a microcosm of the neo-colonial order; a recapitulation of the world in miniature”.
Reading Against the Grain: Why should we study Reactionary History and Thought?
Been reading Joseph V.Femia’s Against the Masses: Varieties of Anti-Democratic Thought since the French Revolution. As Femia will tell us there’s a good reason to study the reactionary in history. In establishing an inverse relationship between complexity and popular control, the classical elitists provided good reason to feel pessimistic about the future of democracy. As we shall see, globalization, the erosion of national sovereignty, and the fragmentation of the political community due to social and geographic mobility—all manifestations of increased complexity—pose a grave threat to such democracy as we have. While the material analyzed by the elitists did not justify their conclusion that democracy was impossible, their analytical framework is helpful in showing us why democracy is imperiled.
Knowing one’s enemy is as much of a task as knowing one’s friends: the razor runs both ways, and the knife is sharp for both. Reactionary thought does have a history and various branches that one should understand, study, and be able to counter if one is to actually put forth a left leaning platform. A. O. Hirschman, once identified three broad forms of ‘reactionary’ thought, each obeying its own logical imperatives. He called them the perversity thesis, the futility thesis, and the jeopardy thesis. These ‘major polemical postures and maneuvers likely to be engaged in by those who set out to debunk and overturn “progressive” policies and movements of ideas’.
According to the perversity thesis, ‘any purposive action to improve some feature of the political, social, or economic order only serves to exacerbate the condition one wishes to remedy’. Indeed, ‘this action will produce, via a chain of unintended consequences, the exact contrary of the object being proclaimed and pursued’. The perversity thesis derives its power from the common observation that, however lofty or noble our intentions may be, our actions often have counter-productive (and counter-intuitive) effects. We witness this in our everyday life, and, on the level of public policy, it is undoubtedly true that supposedly progressive policies or innovations sometimes generate perverse outcomes.
The futility thesis ‘holds that attempts at social transformation will be unavailing’, that attempts to ‘right’ a social or political ‘wrong’ will have no appreciable effect. Any alleged change, to quote Hirschman, ‘is, was, or will be largely surface, façade, cosmetic, hence illusory, as the deep structures of society remain wholly untouched’. The futility thesis underlines and perhaps celebrates the resilience of the status quo. It expresses a world-weary cynicism, completely at odds with the ‘can-do’ optimism of the purveyor of ‘change’, confident that he can bend reality to fit some prefabricated mould. An illustrious exemplar of the futility thesis was Max Weber, who, by placing capitalism and socialism under the same conceptual umbrella of bureaucracy, disturbed the reveries of those who demanded the socialization of the means of production. For if capitalism and socialism were similar in being bureaucratic, then there would be little profit (or loss) in substituting one for the other.
By comparison with the other types of reactionary argument and rhetoric, the jeopardy thesis seems relatively commonsensical: it asserts that the proposed change, however desirable in itself, involves unacceptable costs or consequences of one sort or another. Progress in human societies is so problematic that any newly proposed ‘forward move’ will endanger, or (on a stronger version of the thesis) cause serious injury to, one or more esteemed values. The jeopardy thesis is, in principle, more moderate than its two rivals, embodying assumptions and rhetorical strategies that could easily find favor with progressive thinkers. Isaiah Berlin, for example, built his brand of pluralistic liberalism around the assumption that our cherished values will often conflict with one another, forcing us to make difficult choices in practice.
Progress has always been touted with the expectation of indefinite, open-ended improvement, but even more than the insistence that improvement can come only through human effort, it provides the solution to the puzzle that is otherwise so baffling— the resilience of progressive ideology in the face of discouraging events that have shattered the illusion of utopia. Liberalism was never utopian, unless the democratization of consumption is itself a utopian ideal. It made no difficult demands on human nature. It presupposed nothing more strenuous in the way of motivation than intelligent self-interest. As Christopher Lasch once remarked
The idea of progress alone, we are told, can move men and women to sacrifice immediate pleasures to some larger purpose. On the contrary, progressive ideology weakens the spirit of sacrifice. Nor does it give us an effective antidote to despair, even though it owes much of its residual appeal to the fear that its collapse would leave us utterly without hope. Hope does not demand a belief in progress. It demands a belief in justice: a conviction that the wicked will suffer, that wrongs will be made right, that the underlying order of things is not flouted with impunity. Hope implies a deep-seated trust in life that appears absurd to those who lack it. It rests on confidence not so much in the future as in the past. It derives from early memories— no doubt distorted, overlaid with later memories, and thus not wholly reliable as a guide to any factual reconstruction of past events— in which the experience of order and contentment was so intense that subsequent disillusionments cannot dislodge it. Such experience leaves as its residue the unshakable conviction, not that the past was better than the present, but that trust is never completely misplaced, even though it is never completely justified either and therefore destined inevitably to disappointments.2
For pessimists like myself such hope is beyond reckoning, as is progress and improvement. The optimistic faith seems too close to the old Puritan world vision and work ethic, a thing of the past that has had its day. What comes next is already here but that’s another story altogether. Why do I return to the reactionary thinkers from Burke to Land? Why? Because unlike the optimists of the progress they have no exuberant religion to call them to the righteous cause of secular improvement or universalist discourse. No. Instead they have taken off the blinkers and developed the critique of progress we need if we are ever to get out of this quagmire of modernity. And, I hesitate, because it may be we’re all already in an end game in which humanity itself is going to be the greatest loser. Sadly we have to face what is coming at us… without shutting our eyes.
- Joseph V. Femia . Against the Masses: Varieties of Anti-Democratic Thought since the French Revolution. Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 18, 2001)
- Lasch, Christopher. The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (pp. 80-81). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
Deleuze & Guattari in their early collaboration Anti-Oedipus would provide in the manner of Nietzsche both a counter-sociology and an anti-philosophy that would critique and diagnosis Modernity and provide a way out of its traps and institutions. Reading and re-reading their work over the past year I’ve slowly had to acknowledge certain errors in my own stance toward both thinkers, realizing that my reading was influenced by both the positive and negative Deleuzians and their commentaries. How does one approach the four works in which Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari collaborated? My current project is both complex and simple: to extract out of the creative energy of these works the essential message of their Utopian Vision. For in the end there lies in their experiment a path forward for our civilization on earth. That is my argument.
The kernel of their vision always did reside in what they would term the “process” of desiring production, the schizophrenizing process that would underpin their notions of flows as infrastructural platform on which the future planetary pluralistic civilization of earth resides. They would see our current civilization of aggression, war, and ruin as bound in a vicious circle (Klossowksi/Nietzsche: eternal return) of displaced limits and systems of capture. They would differentiate between schizophrenic production and the schizophrenizing process: the first leading to blockage and madness of individuals, the second a non-teleological and goalless process of desiring production in which humans participate in a world where art and the sciences collaborate to form a socious based not on power and dominion, capital and profit but rather on the continuous and revolutionary gregariousness of singularities unbound. As D & G say toward the end of Anti-Oedipus:
A conspiracy joining together art and science presupposes a rupture of all our institutions and a total upheaval of the means of production. … If some conspiracy, according to Nietzsche’s wish, were to use science and art in a plot v/hose ends were no less suspect, industrial society would seem to foil this conspiracy in advance by the kind of mise en scene it offers for it, under pain of effectively suffering what this conspiracy reserves for this society: i.e., the breakup of the institutional structures that mask the society into a plurality of experimental spheres finally revealing the true face of modernity—an ultimate phase that Nietzsche saw as the end result of the evolution of societies. In this perspective, art and science would then emerge as sovereign formations that Nietzsche said constituted the object of his countersociology—art and science establishing themselves as dominant powers, on the ruins of institutions. (AO: p. 368)
That is the pragmatic accelerationism of the schizophrenizing process unleashed, against the capture systems of capitalism and its false limits that keep a goal oriented telos and industrial and post-industrial or informational model of commodity and financial circulation and production hooked and bound by the bureaucratic institutions that regulate it. Instead D & G see the accelerating experimentalism of science and art as a pluralized vision of ‘experimental spheres’ with sovereignty no longer bound to the world of schizophrenics and madness, but to the new creative regimes of art and science as permanent revolutionary society without bounds built on the ruins of capitalism and its dead institutions.
I’ve been struggling for years to understand their vision, but only recently did many aspects of their prismatic and visionary earth:
For the new earth (“In truth, the earth will one day become a place of healing”) is not to be found in the neurotic or perverse reterritorializations that arrest the process or assign it goals; it is no more behind than ahead, it coincides with the completion of the process of desiring-production, this process that is always and already complete as it proceeds, and as long as it proceeds. It therefore remains for us to see how, effectively, simultaneously, these various tasks of schizoanalysis proceed. (AO: p. 382)
Sadly their vision of the new earth was recaptured by the academic and scholarly apparatus of the current regimes and was buried under the dark molar indifference of scholarship and philosophical bric-a-brac hollowness. My task is to revitalize this utopian vision hiding in plain site throughout their collaboration, to retrieve it and open its energetic desiring productions for a new earth based on a pluralistic vision where art and the sciences collaborate in a continuous schizophrenizing process of creativity and innovation.
None of this is will be easy. The forces against which such a world might become a real possibility will bring to bare all their might and violent power to curtail and wipe out such a conceptual and actual vision from becoming a possibility. Yet, what have we got to lose? As they’d say:
The function of the chain is no longer that of coding the flows on a full body of the earth, the despot, or capital, but on the contrary that of decoding them on the full body without organs. It is a chain of escape, and no longer a code. The signifying chain has become a chain of decoding and deterritorialization, which must be apprehended—and can only be apprehended—as the reverse of the codes and the territorialities. This molecular chain is still signifying because it is composed of signs of desire; but these signs are no longer signifying, given the fact that they are under the order of the included disjunctions where everything is possible. (AO: p. 328)
What we need is a flight plan, an escape plan, an exit plan from the codes and territories of the dominion within which we all live now… a temporal war against those who would lock reality down into a completed capture system of desire in which we all lose our minds, literally. Let’s not let that happen.
Background and Addendum:
Background and addendum:
Over and over they speak of the need to differentiate the process of desiring production itself as schizophrenizing rather than schizophrenic (i.e., as a continuous revolutionary forces without end). The schizophrenic in the institution is the one for whom the schizophrenizing process was blocked producing the disease which is the opposite of the infrastructural flows to which desiring production leads. Capitalism captures these schizophrenizing processes and gives them a goal, hitches them to Industrial production and the capture of surplus value which has produced the schizophrenic socio-cultural world of global civil war we see all around us.
As they said earlier in the book: “Why the same word, schizo, to designate both the process insofar as it goes beyond the limit, and the result of the process insofar as it runs up against the limit and pounds endlessly away there? Why the same word to designate both the eventual breakthrough and the possible breakdown, and all the transitions, the intrications of the two extremes? (139).
We no longer know if it is the process that must truly be called madness, the sickness being only disguise or caricature, or if the sickness is our only madness and the process our only cure. But in any case, the intimate nature of the relationship appears directly in inverse ratio: the more the process of production is led off course, brutally interrupted, the more the schizo-as-entity arises as a specific product. That is why, on the other hand, we were unable to establish any direct relationship between neurosis and psychosis. The relationships of neurosis, psychosis, and also perversion depend on the situation of each one with regard to the process, and on the manner in which each one represents a mode of interruption of the process, a residual bit of ground to which one still clings so as not to be carried off by the deterritorialized flows of desire. (139)
Right there in that passage above “…the intimate nature of the relationship appears directly in inverse ratio: the more the process of production is led off course, brutally interrupted, the more the schizo-as-entity arises as a specific product.” The accelerationism of D&G is to cut out that goal, that blockage that capitalism puts there as a false limit, and break through the false barrier into the free flows of art and science working in unison to endlessly revise and explore under a goalless or non-teleological regime.
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
Edmund Berger on Andrew Culp’s Dark Deleuze. Dark Deleuze ultimately draws out is what Deleuze and Guattari always were all along, but seemed so recalcitrant to admit it: anarchists of the most radical form. The figure of Dark Deleuze itself is not one of the future society, nor even the revolution which could deliver it; it is a ghost of an anarchist conspiracy haunting our current society. Anti-Oedipus was itself a great book of conspiracy, drawing its energy the Nietzsche that was revealed by Klossowski: the Nietzsche that formed a conspiracy “not only against his whole class, but also against the existing forms of the human species as a whole.”
“We do not lack communication,” Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari wrote in What Is Philosophy?, their final joint text. “On the contrary, we have too much of it. We lack creation. We lack resistance to the present.” During the course of an interview with Antonio Negri, Deleuze raised a similar point, one that appears to have slipped past the autonomist: “The quest for ‘universals of communication’ ought to make us shudder… Maybe speech and communication have been corrupted. They’re thoroughly permeated by money—and not by accident but by their very nature. We’ve got to hijack speech.” In a similar mode of thought, the philosopher of the rhizome suggested in his infamous “Postscript on the Societies of Control” that the way power organized itself was transforming, moving away from the disciplinary societies that Foucault had so intently studied and towards the figure of the “continuous network”.
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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.
- Lordon, Frederic. Willing Slaves Of Capital: Spinoza And Marx On Desire (pp. 29-30). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
Zero, however, intrudes diagonally. […] Between the world we would like to inhabit, and the world that exists, there’s a gap that tests us. Even the simplest description of this gap already calls for a decision.
—Nick Land, Calendric Dominion
Maybe what is happening is the temporal truth that Time is breaking down. In the Progressive myth of Improvement the present has been considered to be inferior to the future, and time became an agent; not only was it palpably accelerating, but one must make it move faster still. The future lay in speed. Attempts were made to break time in two and insert the future directly into the present. Is that happening now? Is the future imploding into the gap? Are we victims of a darker truth unfolding as from the other ends of time?
Are we to conclude that experience and expectation have moved so far apart that the tension between them has reached breaking point, that we are at a point where the two categories have come apart? Whether this is a temporary or a permanent state, the fact remains that this present is a time of memory and debt, of daily amnesia, uncertainty, and simulation. As such, we can no longer adequately describe our present—this moment of crisis of time—in the terms we have been using and developing as a “gap” between past and future. The present can no longer be understood, or only partially, as an “odd in-between period” in historical time, “during which one becomes aware of an interval in time which is altogether determined by things that are no longer and by things that are not yet.”
The Gap is as wide as the Mind. Let the Test begin…
“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”
Most young people don’t even know who Eugene V. Debs (Socialist Populist, Founder of the IWW) is, much less that he was sent to prison for 10 years for criticising a sitting President (Woodrow Wilson, Progressive) for going to War (WW I):
Nearly a million Americans, in fact, voted for federal prisoner number 9653 in 1920, and many of them were odd comrades like my Republican grandfather: people who didn’t necessarily agree with Debs’ politics but who admired his devotion to the cause of labor and his courage in speaking out against the carnage of the First World War. According to my mother, my grandfather had once heard Debs speak from the caboose of his famous “Red Special,” the train that carried him across the Midwest during the election of 1908, and was appalled that” America’s conscience” had been sentenced to ten years in federal prison for criticizing President Wilson and the war in his famous Canton, Ohio, speech in June 1918. He was particularly angry at Wilson for keeping Debs and hundreds of other Socialists and trade unionists in prison long after Armistice, and for deporting thousands of “subversive aliens” in 1919 without any semblance of due process. Grandpa thought Wilson was drunk on power, intoxicated by his own sanctimonious rhetoric.
-Mike Davis in the Preface from The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs
It was the Depression of 1893 that propelled Eugene Debs into a lifetime of action for unionism and socialism. Debs was from Terre Haute, Indiana, where his father and mother ran a store. He had worked on the railroads for four years until he was nineteen, but left when a friend was killed after falling under a locomotive. He came back to join a Railroad Brotherhood as a billing clerk. At the time of the great strikes of 1877, Debs opposed them and argued there was no “necessary conflict between capital and labor.” But when he read Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, it deeply affected him.
“The issue is Socialism versus Capitalism. I am for Socialism because I am for humanity. We have been cursed with the reign of gold long enough. Money constitutes no proper basis of civilization. The time has come to regenerate society— we are on the eve of a universal change.” -Eugene Debs
James Green describes these Southwest radicals, in his book Grass-Roots Socialism, as “indebted homesteaders, migratory tenant farmers, coal miners and railroad workers, ‘redbone’ lumberjacks from the piney woods, preachers and schoolteachers from the sunbaked prairies . . . village artisans and atheists . . . the unknown people who created the strongest regional Socialist movement in United States history.” Green continues:
“The Socialist movement . . . was painstakingly organized by scores of former Populists, militant miners, and blacklisted railroad workers, who were assisted by a remarkable cadre of professional agitators and educators and inspired by occasional visits from national figures like Eugene V. Debs and Mother Jones. . . . This core of organizers grew to include indigenous dissenters. . . . a much larger group of amateur agitators who canvassed the region selling newspapers, forming reading groups, organizing locals, and making soapbox speeches.”
-from Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States (p. 278). HarperCollins.
With Eugene V. Debs as its spokesman the an American form of Socialism moved out of the small circles of city immigrants— Jewish and German socialists speaking their own languages— and became American. The strongest Socialist state organization was in Oklahoma, which in 1914 had twelve thousand dues-paying members (more than New York State), and elected over a hundred Socialists to local office, including six to the Oklahoma state legislature. There were fifty-five weekly Socialist newspapers in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and summer encampments that drew thousands of people.
Arthur Schlesinger once wrote: “Liberalism in America has been ordinarily the movement on the part of the other sections of society to restrain the power of the business community.” Eugene V. Debs came to the forefront because that was no longer true. Even during the supposed Age of Reform (Hofstadter) or what we now term the Progressive Era in politics (strangely that world is nothing like the progressives of our time!). Most of the reforms had just the opposite effect, they benefited Big Business and pauperized the masses. Even when Workmen’s Compensation laws were enacted, it was to the benefit of the employer, not the worker in the long run. As Zinn attests:
In this period, cities also put through reforms, many of them giving power to city councils instead of mayors, or hiring city managers. The idea was more efficiency, more stability. “The end result of the movements was to place city government firmly in the hands of the business class,” Weinstein says. What reformers saw as more democracy in city government, urban historian Samuel Hays sees as the centralization of power in fewer hands, giving business and professional men more direct control over city government. (353)
We’ve seen that with the privatization of Health Care in Obamacare, which on the surface seems a good thing, but in fact with privatization and regulation now in the hands of the Factory Insurance systems organized under regulatory systems of profit, care will not go up but is not under the control of Big Business. Our supposed reforms once again benefit business, who now has reduced the overcost of insurance it once had to pay, as well as in most of the service sector skating by with minimal or nor compensation through reducing work to part-time and disallowing full-time jobs to save on many of the remaining regulated systems in place. Everywhere you look Big Business has monopolized and unloaded its shifting responsibility on the private sector to the detriment of workers everywhere.
The outcry against the Great War forced Woodrow Wilson to act. Wilson was under the thumb of Big Business to enter the war, and the likes of Debs and other socialists, anarchists, and ant-war protestors were beginning to take a toll and sway the public at large. Congress passed, and Wilson signed, in June of 1917, the Espionage Act. From its title one would suppose it was an act against spying. However, it had a clause that provided penalties up to twenty years in prison for “Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall wilfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall wilfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the U.S. . . .” Unless one had a theory about the nature of governments, it was not clear how the Espionage Act would be used. It even had a clause that said “nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or restrict . . . any discussion, comment, or criticism of the acts or policies of the Government. . . .” But its double-talk concealed a singleness of purpose. The Espionage Act was used to imprison Americans who spoke or wrote against the war. (Zinn, 365)
Debs was arrested for violating the Espionage Act. There were draft-age youths in his audience, and his words would “obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service.” His words were intended to do much more than that: Yes, in good time we are going to sweep into power in this nation and throughout the world. We are going to destroy all enslaving and degrading capitalist institutions and re-create them as free and humanizing institutions. The world is daily changing before our eyes. The sun of capitalism is setting; the sun of Socialism is rising. . . . In due time the hour will strike and this great cause triumphant . . . will proclaim the emancipation of the working class and the brotherhood of all mankind. (Thunderous and prolonged applause.) (Zinn, 367)
Debs would remain in jail through the war and not be pardoned till 1921 by President Harding.
- June 16, 1918 — Debs made his famous anti-war speech in Canton, Ohio, protesting World War I which was raging in Europe. For this speech he was arrested and convicted in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio under the war-time espionage law. He was his own attorney and his appeal to the jury and his statement to the court before sentencing, are regarded as two of the great classic statements ever made in a court of law. He was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison.
- April 12, 1919 — Debs began serving his sentence in Moundsville, W. Va. State prison and was transferred to Atlanta, Ga. Federal prison two months later. His humility and friendliness and his assistance to all won him the respect and admiration of the most hardened convicts.
- 1920 — For the fifth and last time, while a prisoner at Atlanta, he was nominated to run for president on the Socialist party ticket. Conducting his campaign from inside the prison, he was given nearly a million votes but was defeated by the Republican, Warren G. Harding. On Christmas Day, 1921 President Harding released Debs from prison, commuting his sentence to time served.
- Dec. 28, 1921 — Debs arrived home in Terre Haute from prison and was given a tremendous welcome by thousand of Terre Hauteans. Debs spent his remaining days trying to recover his health which was severely undermined by prison confinement. He made several speeches, wrote many articles and finally in 1926 went to Lindlahr sanitarium just outside of Chicago.
- Oct. 20, 1926 — Eugene V. Debs died in Lindlahr sanitarium. His body was brought back to Terre Haute where it lay in state in the Terre Haute Central Labor Temple. Great men and women from the world came over to Terre Haute for his funeral which was conducted by Norman Thomas from the front porch of the Debs home. ThIrty-eight years later, Thomas returned to Terre Haute to dedicate the Debs home as a memorial to the great humanitarian. Debs was cremated and his ashes were interred in Highland Lawn cemetery, Terre Haute, with only a simple marker. Ten years later his beloved wife, Kate, was buried beside him. Over the years, hundreds have journeyed to his grave to pay tribute to this great man whose many reforms have now become a part of the American way of life. There is hardly any American alive today, rich or poor, whose life has not been touched in some beneficent way by the influence of Eugene Victor Debs.
The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.
—from T.S. Eliot’s Hollow Men
For me the Pessimist is first and foremost a realist who sees too much. Thus the cause of despair. I remember the refrain from the Book of Ecclesiastes which I had memorized as a young man it spoke so closely what I felt. Here is the passage of the King of Israel who in this Book we know as the Preacher: “I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” As I look around at my country I ask myself if we’ve got a chance in hell of democracy continuing. And, by that, I’m not going to get into some diatribe against either the Left or Right. Plenty of bullshit is being written on both sides of the political spectrum for me to add my own crapology to the sinkhole of endless pissing in the wind. No. My hunch is that we’ve got to move past this, we’ve got to rethink not only politics, but what it is as a species on a planet that some have observed is in the midst of both a fierce emergency (Sixth Extinction Event, Climate Change, Global Wars and rumors of more wars, famine, disease, political unrest, etc.) across the globe.
Looking at this scene in Aleppo, Syria reminds me of many of the old pictures of WWII and its aftermath, and how the supposed War to end all Wars was supposed to make the world safe and democratic. Right! We’ve seen the world’s leaders sit back and watch for years, doing nothing, then suddenly decide to allow refugees into their countries. Then retract it and decide otherwise. Rather than creating a stable and protective environment for all on this planet we’ve brought a brutal and cruel world of thugs who can without the blink of an eye bomb their own citizens. And, then when the Superpowers finally step in they do it all half-ass, without plan are notion of what it is their doing. Such is the State of stupidity in the Free World. A world on the brink of economic and social collapse do to this very indecisiveness and lack of courage to act.
Imagine a world where the technological promise of human connectivity is supplanted by forms of surveillance that encourage citizens to actively participate in their own inescapable oppression. Imagine a world that proclaims an end to the brutality of colonialism, all the while continuing to consciously vilify, target, incarcerate, and kill those of a different color. Imagine a world where the forces of militarism have become so ingrained that they are inseparable from the daily functioning of civic life. Imagine a world where the institutions tasked with producing the most brilliant and publicly engaged minds are put to the service of an uncompromising war machine. And imagine a world that has lost all faith in its ability to envisage— let alone create— better futures, condemning its citizens instead to a desolate terrain of inevitable catastrophe. The great tragedy of the current historical moment is that we can imagine this world all too easily, for it is the picture of the world that dominates the realities of our present condition. It is a world most people experience on a daily basis— a world that has become normalized and for which there is no immediate alternative— a world we understand as neoliberalism.1
As I study the situation of both migrant workers, refugees, and immigrants into the First World I ask myself: What if the shoe was on the other foot? What if it was New York City, San Francisco, Los Angelos, Phoenix, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, or any number of cities here in the States or in the EU that were bombed out with citizens scrambling for their lives, seeking to survive, being turned back at the borders of other cities or States? What if it were my family? How would I feel? We are so immersed in images, TV, Internet, Movies… that everything we perceive is at second remove, mediated by the Screen … We are the products of a Screen World, a world where everything is framed, staged, already removed from the cruel and dark emotional tide of pain and human flesh in its misery and spiritual loneliness. We do not feel what these people feel, we can only see – but blindly, for we are not emotionally invested in their lives, their problems. For most of us its: “Oh, how horrible, how sad, how tragic for them…” And, in the back of the mind for many it’s the “Oh, but for the grace of God…” or as a secularist “Oh, certainly glad we lives in such a country that such things can’t happen, etc.”. We have our little fables, our little lies to keep us at a distance from such feelings. We worry over gas money, our hair-do appointments, our kids running shoes, our next dance party… we are so busy with our lives that we can’t stop and think. To think or feel would be just too much. And, of course, many just no longer have the ability to think or feel. A sociopathic culture of indifference, apathy, and affectlessness pervades many peoples actual lives at home or work.
Oh, yes, I could pull out a parade of books to back up all this claptrack. Would that help? Or hinder the truth, that we’re powerless to act in our own world even if we chose too? Really after the recent election where does our power lie? Some take to the streets and protest. Fine. Will that change anything? Others spin the wheel of memes of Facebook and Twitter or any other meme rotary tool available. lambasting the net with pros or cons of the current Presidential selection. Does that do anything? Are we speaking past each other? Whose really listening? Are we speaking to the choir? To ourselves? Telling ourselves endless tales of comparison with dead worlds of Italy and Germany? How does that change anything? Tell me, I truly would like to know? I remember watching Putin come to power, and how he silenced his critics by having them killed. Simple. Quick. Efficient. Do we worry about such things here in the States? Recently Donald Trump brought a group of high-caliber TV Pundits to his High Tower for a visit. As one participant described it:
On Monday afternoon, he had a contentious Trump Tower meeting with another one of his chief adversaries: members of the news media.
In the session with more than a dozen television executives and on-air journalists, Trump was highly critical of coverage of him, according to several people familiar with the gathering. Keeping his voice calm and his tone flippant, he told the group sitting around a conference table that they failed to provide their viewers with fair and accurate coverage and told them they failed to understand him or his appeal to millions of Americans.
Trump expressed particular ire at CNN and at several reporters at other cable networks whom he sees as unreasonably antagonistic toward him, though he did not mention them by name.
The people variously described Trump as “combative,” “proud,” and “dismissive” toward the news organizations present. He also shrugged off the need for a constant pool covering him, they said, although he did not delve into specifics.
Problem with all this Trump bashing is that the Democrats themselves opened the door to it. President Obama expanded the Presidential powers of the Executive Office more than any previous administration, while at the same time castigating the coming regime change and Trump’s coming to power. As Greenwald states it:
…beginning in his first month in office and continuing through today, Obama not only continued many of the most extreme executive-power policies he once condemned, but in many cases strengthened and extended them. His administration detained terrorism suspects without due process, proposed new frameworks to keep them locked up without trial, targeted thousands of individuals (including a U.S. citizen) for execution by drone, invoked secrecy doctrines to shield torture and eavesdropping programs from judicial review, and covertly expanded the nation’s mass electronic surveillance.
Blinded by the belief that Obama was too benevolent and benign to abuse his office, and drowning in partisan loyalties at the expense of political principles, Democrats consecrated this framework with their acquiescence and, often, their explicit approval. This is the unrestrained set of powers Trump will inherit. The president-elect frightens them, so they are now alarmed. But if they want to know whom to blame, they should look in the mirror.
Yet, now, once again they decry that very power in the hands of a Republican. Hypocrisy?
I think what bothers me most at the moment is the Leftwing Meta-Narrative and Mytholigization of Trump and his followers. Taking the extreme limits of the spectrum one is seeing the pundits and meme twisters reducing the Trump world to Fascism, comparing him to Hitler and Stalin. Instead of taking the long hard look at their own failures, the Democrats are spending time building up a fear and terror narrative staging Trump as some ultimate dictator in a play scripted by the Democratic Nightmare Squad.
As an Independent it irks me to no end that both parties are stooping into such antics. It’s more like a childish game, but one that has consequences in the real world. What we need is to create a stable and livable environment on this planet where humans and non-humans can share whatever time is left for this earth and its resources. But, no, people can’t push past their ideological punching bags, and would rather sink into fear mongering and terrorizing each other with Horror Stories and Brutal insane scenarios of the future.
Sadly there’s no place to get away from such things anymore. Where would you go? I’ve heard many speak of secession? Pipe dreams… hogwash! Either we learn to live on this planet together, or we will find we will all definitely die together. Caput!
We live in a transitional period that could go either way. At the same time, the narrative world of neoliberal ideology, policies, and modes of governing have become so normalized as if there is no outside or alternative to capitalism. As corporate power replaces political sovereignty, politics becomes an extension of war and all public spaces are transformed into battle zones. Not only are all vestiges of the social contract, the safety net, and institutions of democracy under siege, but so too are all public spheres that support non-market values such as trust, critical dialogue, and solidarity.
One thing for sure is that Democracy is on the line, this time. The Republicans have the House, Senate, and Presidency. Will they destroy it or reconstruct it, and thereby revive it? Most on the Left see ‘doom’, as an Independent and a pessimist realist I’m neither optimistic nor doom ridden, but rather observing and challenging. Doing the only thing I can do speaking out for the working class not matter the ethnic, gender, or class. For those that cannot help themselves. Even though I’m an unbeliever, I still remember that man who once turned over the money changers tables and helped the poor, lame, blind and diseased. And, if he lived now, would probably been as riled up at the current bullshit as I am across this planet and its brutalization of life.
- Giroux, Henry A.; Evans, Brad. Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 138-146). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A few books on my list:
The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump’s America by Alexander Zaitchik
“The Gilded Rage offers a sharp corrective to the panicked schematic analysis of Trumpism as another GOP-choreographed hoodwinking of disgruntled grassroots conservatives. By focusing on the Trump phenomenon as a social movement, Zaitchik astutely shows us how Trump’s mass appeal … arises out of the same populist discontent that the GOP leadership has stoked throughout the Obama era, without even pretending to assuage it. To his great credit, he listens while his subjects offer up complicated, often self-questioning accounts of their ardent Trump support. There’s nothing here that resembles the glib demographic explanations-cum-dismissals of Trumpism that are now fashionable among liberals in the Northeast corridor… The overall effect of Zaitchik’s unrushed, painstaking interviews is to show a Trump electorate whose members … are deeply anxious about their precarious standing in a political and economic order that hasn’t given them any grounds for hope.” — Chris Lehmann
George Packer’s The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America:
The Unwinding, George Packer, author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, tells the story of the United States over the past three decades in an utterly original way, with his characteristically sharp eye for detail and gift for weaving together complex narratives.
The Unwinding journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internet’s significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future. Packer interweaves these intimate stories with biographical sketches of the era’s leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics that capture the flow of events and their undercurrents.
The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer’s novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date.
Age of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra:
How can we explain the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds that seem inescapable in our close-knit world – from American ‘shooters’ and ISIS to Trump, from a rise in vengeful nationalism across the world to racism and misogyny on social media? In Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra answers our bewilderment by casting his gaze back to the eighteenth century, before leading us to the present.
He shows that as the world became modern those who were unable to fulfil its promises – freedom, stability and prosperity – were increasingly susceptible to demagogues. The many who came late to this new world or were left, or pushed, behind, reacted in horrifyingly similar ways: intense hatred of invented enemies, attempts to re-create an imaginary golden age, and self-empowerment through spectacular violence. It was from among the ranks of the disaffected that the militants of the 19th century arose – angry young men who became cultural nationalists in Germany, messianic revolutionaries in Russia, bellicose chauvinists in Italy, and anarchist terrorists internationally.
Today, just as then, the wider embrace of mass politics, technology, and the pursuit of wealth and individualism has cast many more billions adrift in a literally demoralized world, uprooted from tradition but still far from modernity – with the same terrible results.
Maybe it is true after all, maybe it isn’t. This world a vast Simulator, we the programs of some edgy or stupid modeling software repeating the nightmares of a child gone lucidly bunkos. Even after a 1001 scenarios the game goes on and on and on… to no purpose, only whim and sardonic laughter.
Baubles of a mindless god…
Sometimes I scare myself… then I remember that even nightmares are illusions and delusions luring us into despair. Even the worst image of life or death is but a mental construct, a fake apprehension of that which is no image. We have no image for the unknown, only apprehensions. We do not fear what we can see, as much as we are in terror of the unknown we cannot. Fear is not an image one can simulate, nor terror a product of the mind’s vast repertoire of image making power. Humans are ultimately tied to their affections, not their intellect. Feelings, not intelligence drives us anxiously to exist: Survive! Even the urge to procreate, the sensual lure of sex is a driveness of deep-seated feelings and needs to continue, rather than some mental or intelligent decision on our part. At the core is this inhuman need to continue, to survive, to reproduce, to go on. Our enemy, time and death. Immortal drives seeking the endless circle and labyrinth to stave off the inevitable zero point of oblivion. It moves, the void: it is the blank in the eye, the blind spot in every theory.
Or, should we reverse this? Maybe it is intelligence that has for so long used the apprehensions and feelings of affective beings toward its own goals, sought through the labors of endless repetition and cycles within cycles of organic life forms the cunning road out of organicity? Maybe after all the dreams of Reason are but the graspings of this unknown in us seeking a path into immortal form? Then the driveness would seem but the chrysalis of the worm seeking the beauty of the butterfly. The dreamer and the dream, Old Chuang Tzu wondering if he is the dream or the butterfly dreaming he is a man. Between form and formlessness, the adamantine body and the body of wind lies the central point of a truth we have as yet not perceived.
Dropping the metaphors we could use any of the man made linguistic vocabularies: science, poetic, rhetorical, philosophical, musical, mathematical, etc. All that would gain is the snobbery of the specific, and egoistic apprehension of our ignorance. Even as the great physicists construct their mathematical cathedrals of theory: from quantum gravity to string theory it is still bound to those subtle effects that transpire outside the range of human limitation. We gain insight only into that which we cannot perceive (i.e., the unknown surrounding us on all sides.). We give it nice metaphors such as Dark Matter and Dark Energy to fill in the gaps of our non-knowledge with mathematical models of that missing stuff which will not expose itself to our organic senses and sciences, our filters, our appendages, our tools and apparatuses. So that even the sciences come to darkness in the end, probing the void for answers much as astrologers once probed the heavens for signs. Complexity for complexity’s sake? Or, to put an end to the questioning?
And if we discovered the end of things, the last particle, the ultimate reason and cause of things: What then? Would this be the end? Or, a beginning?
Philosophers for millennia have drifted between hope and despair of wisdom. Is there no end? Has Wisdom been found, yet? Are we the never ending unsatisfied animal? The one that cannot be at home in the universe? The squanderers of meaning, who no longer believe in meaning of value? Is it so? Or, have we discovered that meaning is not fixed, that there is not one unique and defined meaning, no literal world or universe of meaning, but as many meanings as there are stars strewn through the abyss? For two hundred years we’ve questioned the meanings of our ancestors and found them lacking (or some have!). Some speak of de-programming the mind of Western Civilization, of the great demythologization of our inheritance, of stripping it of its last anthropomorphic blight. So what has this gotten us? A world without us, some say. The non-human or inhuman turn away from the human, etc. As if being human were now a disease from which we must recover? But then they say Nature is no more, that that too was but a construct of the human – a flight of anthropomorphic poetry and imaginal embellishment that must be stripped away revealing the stuff ‘out there’. That, too, sadly, may be illusion and delusion, too.
Some say that philosophy itself is at an end, the road to Wisdom is defunct, no more wisdom to be found. True? Untrue? Some say its all mute anyway, because the human is the last myth to go, that in an age of transition such as ours, and as the sciences of genetics, nanotechnology, robotics, and AI converge we will no longer remain even the physical creatures to which the name ‘human’ has attached itself for so many thousands of generations. We shall become something else? Transhuman? Machinic? What? Again that old question arises: is intelligence piggy-backing on the organic to emerge from its chrysalis into some other form? Or, is, this too but a false dream of reason? A nightmare scenario rather than a truth?
Some envision the Universe itself as already being a great machinic entity, not a god with some grand scheme, but a mindless indifference dreaming its own dreams in an unknowing endless repetition of blindness and insight without end. Stripping an form of personality from this endless process to realize it, too, is but an impersonal and immortal circle and labyrinth. As our earth cannibalizes the Continents in its endless churning and folding and unfolding and eruptions: a process that will continue till the engine at the core goes dead and silent. The vast cosmos is this cannibalistic process of endless creation and destruction: a thought that the psychomythologists of ancient India were the first to surmise eons ago.
Maybe in the end even our thought is circling back on itself again and again, repeating under other forms and gestures age old mythologies; maybe, even our sciences are caught in this trap of thinking purified of its entrapments in myth, but discovering that the patterns of the underlying form that produced the myths and images are and have always been there in the mind from which they did and still do arise. Are the patterns in our mind, or out there in the world? The age old battle of the realist and idealist enacted in some comic parade of endless repetitions?
For me there are no definitive answers or conclusions, the Universe is open and incomplete, unfinished. I cannot answer if we’ve been through this circle before, no one can; if we are but the mental constructs of some sadistic child, or if we are the singular and unique forms that seem to see and thing as we do now, once, and never again; differences that are absolutely singular and unrepeatable. We are here, now. Only this I can affirm, all else is the drift of thought, endless thought. I feel, I think: both seem a part of what it is I Am. This too may be illusion, delusion. Yet, I’ll work with that: What else is there? Impure and restless I churn in the organic seeking neither outlet nor some prolonged agony, only the curiosity of my kind at being here in this place, this time.
That is enough… there need be no definitive answer from the cosmos, only our curiosity and surprise at being here, now, alive.
Chris Hedges tells us:
“My relatives in Maine are deplorables. I cannot write on their behalf. I can write in their defense. They live in towns and villages that have been ravaged by deindustrialization. The bank in Mechanic Falls, where my grandparents lived, is boarded up, along with nearly every downtown store. The paper mill closed decades ago. There is a strip club in the center of the town. The jobs, at least the good ones, are gone. Many of my relatives and their neighbors work up to 70 hours a week at three minimum-wage jobs, without benefits, to make perhaps $35,000 a year. Or they have no jobs. They cannot afford adequate health coverage under the scam of Obamacare. Alcoholism is rampant in the region. Heroin addiction is an epidemic. Labs producing the street drug methamphetamine make up a cottage industry. Suicide is common. Domestic abuse and sexual assault destroy families. Despair and rage among the population have fueled an inchoate racism, homophobia and Islamophobia and feed the latent and ever present poison of white supremacy. They also nourish the magical thinking peddled by the con artists in the Christian right, the state lotteries that fleece the poor, and an entertainment industry that night after night shows visions of an America and a lifestyle on television screens—“The Apprentice” typified this—that foster unattainable dreams of wealth and celebrity.”
Reading his article I was reminded of my own family group scattered from Oregon to Texas to North Carolina to Colorado to New York to Pennsylvania… people who fit this same scenario in different places, but under the same pressures and problems.
Who truly runs America?
The wealthiest 1 percent of families in 1890 owned 51 percent of the real and personal property; the 44 percent of families at the bottom owned only 1.2 percent of all the property. Together, the wealthy and well-to-do (12 percent of families) owned 86 percent of the wealth. The poorer and middle classes, who represented 88 percent of families, owned 14 percent of the wealth.1
As billionaire Warren Buffet puts it, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
While we worry over the political demolition team of Trump, the real culprits of wealth in the Plutocracy of American where the oligarchs like Buffet sit back and laugh and even boldly lie to us as if they gave a shit. Yea, the only thing they care about is the bottom line: profits, and be dammed to all who get in the way of that. So read the article below for the details. And, quit your weeping self-pitying over Hilary and do something. In an article on the Washingtonpost.blog THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN AMERICA: CONSEQUENCES, CAUSES, AND REMEDIES (1 of 5)
“A recent paper from the Institute of Policy Studies reports that the “wealthiest 20 Americans own more than half the American population” combined. As a depiction of the inequitable distribution of wealth in America today this is accurate as far as it goes but it is stated in a way that presents a distorted view of the scale of wealth and poverty and of the discrepancy between them. True enough, the wealthiest 20 Americans do own more than the poorer 160 million of us put together, but this actually reveals less about the concentration of wealth at the top than about the dispossession of most of the population, which it glosses over. Half of us together own less than 1% of our country’s wealth; we hold on average less than one fiftieth of an equitable portion. Many are entirely dispossessed of everything of pecuniary worth besides personal property of no value outside a used car lot or a pawnshop. The way the Institute of Policy Studies phrases its findings collaborates in the concealment of a salient fact of primary significance — the permanent impoverishment of over 160 million Americans.”
Read that again: 160 million living at or below the poverty level with no likelihood of ever rising above it: permanent impoverishment. This is our America. A place where people are blinded by a mediatainment propaganda system that sends a message led by the wealthy for the wealthy. While we berate the political shenanigans of Democrat/Republican as if politics actually worked for the people anymore is beyond telling. We are blind to the power that masks itself in the Plutocracy and Oligarchies of the Wealthy who run the show of these fool politicians. A game they play out in the staged election cycles like some new fangled Roman Gladiator contest for idiots.
“The Institute of Policy Studies paper goes on to say (but the media omits to report) that “the Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom 61% of the country combined — 194 million people,” a phrase which avoids disclosing that 61% of us put together possess under a 2% share in our country. The Forbes 400 can buy 200 million of us out more than twenty-five times over. But actually, even the combined riches of the entire Forbes 400 are just a drop in the bucket of the American plutocracy. These four hundred richest Americans represent just the top fortieth part of our richest one-in-ten-thousand, the 0.01%, the top 1% of the top 1%, the 16,000 families who together own over an eighth of everything in our country (14%), and they represent merely the top four-hundredth part of America’s wealthiest 160,000 families, the elite one-in-a-thousand (0.1%) who together possess over a quarter of all wealth (28%), more than the combined holdings of 310 million Americans — 95% of us.”
Yes, we are all dupes now. We would assume that the government would protect us, have our interests at hear. That myth died long ago. The government duopoly has been in accord behind the masked poppery with the top .01% for decades. We’ve mythologized it to death in academia under the rubric of Neoliberalism. What another sham foisted on the supposed thinking class. Even that has become bankrupt in our time. Thinkers? Philosophers? Critique? Foppery in an age of intellects who would rather teach you how to mourn death of politics, rather than to pick your ass up and do something. We’ve lost our courage. Why? Because no one has backbone anymore. You’d rather go to some session on mourning and self-pitying your crying wimpy self than actually get you ass in gear and think through why this is happening. Quit listening to the losers, the suppose academic trumpery and flagrant bankrupt class of pundits. They’ll offer you nothing. You have to do it for yourself. Or it want get done.
Sure, I’m an old fool, too. I admit it. I’m an old leftist, never an academic. Our age was full of bluster and street violence against another war and age of crap. Street protest does nothing, now. Most people at the street level are dying of jobs, no work; or, families having to work two jobs (part-time at best) to make ends meet. So that for them to think at all is difficult. Coming home, eating, and sleeping, or a few moments of grasping each other in the night. This is the American Nightmare writ large. The American dream died long ago. It will not return.
What we need is not dreams, what we need is courage of our convictions. And the gusto and staunch belief in our selves. Even that has been eroded over the past sixty years, the whole liberal individual self has been plundered, wiped out to the point by academics tripe’s that people believe that they are no one and nothing. No wonder the liberal progressive strain in politics is upended. We have no belief in our selves, how could we believe in politics. It’s been gutted, and slain by the tribe of turn-coat academics and neuroscientists in pay to the wealth of the world. Our liberalism was based on property rights and the individual. Both of these have come under attack for so long that the very foundations of the democratic state across the planet are in disarray. The young turn for answers, and there is none, because the academics live at the end of nihilism and have no value or meaning system to offer them.
Enough. Do or die. I’ll be an old liberal in a dead world, or none at all. Wake up and remember who you are and were. Retroactively change what you are and want… remember you do exist and have rights.
1. Painter, Nell Irvin. Standing at Armageddon: A Grassroots History of the Progressive Era . W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch. A breath of fresh air, a relationship with the outside world.
-Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipus
Actual, not virtual, relationship: reconnecting to things, to objects, to the literal world out ‘there’; rather than the endless patter and hum of one’s speech and thought to a hidden god behind the couch or screen. In web culture we’ve become invisible, culling the nightmares of other minds chattering in the cave of a global river, where Heraclitus rather than Lucretius reigns. D&G would call you out of the cave and into the sunlit world of time… you’re not a rummaging mole, but a cunning fox to scatter thought in the chase of change and becoming.
Badiou would have you generate it out of the cave’s own geometric dream…
Zizek, that the obstacle in our path is a broken world of clay filled with cracks, scattered roots that we cling too like nightmares in an endless void.
Deleuze would tell you to touch your body-without-organs, for it is the body of the world; not a dream of time and space, but a place in which you live and die as a sensual medium among sense bearing beings.
Yea, Trump’s a scumbag, a racist, a sexist… all the things people say; yet, he was voted in as President. So even if I disagree with him, I’m a citizen of the United States of America and will uphold the laws of the land. I served my time in the military. I got a partial education from the G.I. Bill. I owe this land and its people my love and gratitude. This isn’t some dam myth, it’s my life. I’m no gun-ho patriot, more a contrarian than anything; and just a man who has cared about this world and its peoples for sixty five years, and not about to cop out on some lame bullshit session because I might disagree with both parties.
I keep thinking to myself, having grown up in a world where I was handed down second hands, bought a beater Chevy at 16, put it in the garage and built a makeshift cage to pull the engine, gut the interior, and rebuild the sucker after I’d stripped it to the bone, sanding it by hand, stripping it down, painting it. Taking the engine apart and step by step putting it back together till I could do it in my sleep. I feel like that old beat up Chevy at the moment.
Trump. He had everything handed to him on a silver platter. Plenty money, plenty education, plenty of everything. Everything he’s done his whole life is part of the con of that world. And, even his ability to run for President is because he’s rich. No one would see a stiff on the lamb up there, nor would we have seen him there either, if his name hadn’t already been a part of the current mythology. A TV Reality host… a popular icon, etc. Trump was the first President invented by the Mediatainment Industrial Complex. Not a man who did it on his own, he was manufactured (in Chomsky’s sense of ‘manufactured consent’).
One can drive through most rural towns in American now and see for the most part a ghost world of their former selves. Methland U.S.A. a place with no jobs, no future, no place to go. No money for education unless you’re willing to sell your soul for the next sixty years to pay it all off in loans. Cargill of any of a number of the big combines own most of the farming land and profits from those lands now, the little farmer having been replaced with the Corporate ones long ago.
Where I came from in Odessa, TX once a boom town is now according to cousins still there the number one crime city in Texas due to job loss and drugs. So trying to make sense of why so many angry people voted for Trump has a lot to do with the anger against those who have like I’ve seen here on FB and Twitter lambasting the White Working Class and demonizing them for voting for Trump. Until people can begin to realize the enemy isn’t your fellow citizen, nor some fool twisted sex pot from NY City who will play the masked game of President for the next few years. It’s the movers and shakers you never see that are the powers to castigate. Always have been, always will be. The Plutocrats and Oligarchs who twitch the buttons from the suave Saudi Princes to the High Rollers in Vegas from NY City to LA. The moneyed classes are the enemy, the Corporations who are run by capitalist pigs like some of the Pharmaceutical companies seeking gargantuan profits at the expense of people’s health.
Representative democracy is on its last legs. So we can either work to rebuild it, or it will die a long painful death and our nation and this civilization with it. Which – who knows, may be a good thing, anyway. Maybe it’s time for a change that will be forced on us whether we will or not. The earth is in its own way challenging us, showing us that our supposed power over things is bullshit. We pretend that our little games at the U.N. and little Paris Accords will actually make a difference. No. They want… it’s all lies, all a game to keep you thumb sucking into their bullshit.
So you can spend your time bullshitting yourself, complaining about the 50% of the people on some other side – call if Right, call it Left… the Universe doesn’t really care one way or another, it’s totally indifferent to your prayers or your curses. Much like our government in that respect, impervious to our threats, our protests, our admonishments.
Some have gone so far as to say they’ll secede, they’ll leave, they’ll apply for citizenship elsewhere, that this isn’t their America. All I can say is why? Why isn’t this your land? Why did you let it get away from you? Why haven’t you owned up to the responsibility of letting it get out of your grasp? You allowed a liar and foundation owner, a Corporate Wall-Street Democrat sweet talk you into her lies with all those promises. Bernie copped out for reasons of his own. So your stuck between a hard place and no place.
But I’m sure those on the other side felt the same for the last eight years, too. Yet, even then you didn’t try to reach out and change their thought. No. Just wen along with the show and blame game and kept your distance, kept on demonizing and insisting your own glorified and dignified righteousness. Sound familiar? Puritan heritage? We’re the pure ones untainted. And, now, because of the whole multicultural heritage we see that even the white class liberals are becoming patsies of the minorities who hate all whites equally.
So far from the young academics I’ve seen very little wisdom or thought, but rather much invective and meme repetition of Trump bashing and Trump supporter bashing. How is this going to change a thing? Nada. It’s not even warning anyone, only producing the fear and terror you presume to alleviate. Creating panic attacks and fear mongering among democrats is a both stupid and less than becoming. I almost wonder how I could have at one time believed in the progressive cause. It saddens me and makes me fiercely decry it now for what it has become. Nothing, nothing at all… leaderless and heartless.
At this point in my own personal life it doesn’t much matter one way or the other, but for my children and grandchildren it does matter to me. I’m sickened that the democratic party I once fought for has decayed to this level of stupidity and self-pitying. Most of the leaders blame everyone and everything but themselves. Sick. There is a sickness in this Party. Will it find a way out? A Renaissance of its old values? A political path for the 21st Century? I do not have an answer to that. The Greens are no option… there is nothing else. Democracy is failing us altogether because we let it. We blinded ourselves and allowed the forces of money and greed to lead us down into a pit from which it may be generations to recover. Or, maybe never. It’s all up to the young people now. It’s your fight. Get up off your arses and do something. But above all quit belly aching, enough of the self-pity and blame show. Time to do or shut up. If I believed in a God (and I don’t) I’d say a prayer. But like those old northern seamen all I can do is throw the salt and say move on…
Many poor voters claim Trump speaks for them. How can they recognize themselves in the voice of a billionaire whose speculations and failures are one of the causes of their misery? Like the paths of god, the paths of ideology are mysterious. When Trump supporters are denounced as “white trash,” it is easy to discern in this designation the fear of the lower classes so characteristic of the liberal elite.
—Slavoj Zizek on Clinton, Trump and the Left’s Dilemma
For those who tried to remove themselves from the self-affirming, vehemently pro-Clinton elite echo chamber of 2016, the warning signs that Brexit screechingly announced were not hard to see. Two short passages from a Slate interview I gave in July summarized those grave dangers: that opinion-making elites were so clustered, so incestuous, so far removed from the people who would decide this election — so contemptuous of them — that they were not only incapable of seeing the trends toward Trump but were unwittingly accelerating those trends with their own condescending, self-glorifying behavior.
One reason I’ve studied the history of dualisms in the major religions, philosophies, and politics over the years from Zoroastrian, Gnostic, Renaissance, to modern political philosophy, etc., is that it is as Derrida would have it (but in the wrong way) binary, and leads to superficial patterns of thought and behavior that can be controlled and manipulated by external forces and internal norms to produce continued antagonisms and wars. We’ve got to get off the dualist train and create a new form of conflict society that is no longer based on opposing forces and structures. For thousands of years we’ve had the two-party, or two-societies at war pattern that has produced massacres, genocide, annihilation, and strife eternal for all involved. When will we discover a new path forward that includes antagonism as central in the world? When will we produce a socio-cultural system that seeks true Peace, not War; but a Peace that accepts the central antagonisms in reality rather than in each other?
This election cycle has brought to the fore the ideological underpinnings of the Right and Left in a stark way that presents us with the dark cages in which both parties and their constituents have been willingly the prisoners and innkeepers. People are so blinded by the mediatainment and academic and political hawkers of wares of thought that they’ve been thrown back onto their own fallible and incongruous thought-forms. As the dualistic world-views of both parties have demonized each other, the common element of those asleep within the cage of ideology have allowed such stories to guide them against their own best interests. What we’ve seen as Zizek and Greenwald spell out is how the Establishment view of politics and reality have suddenly gone bankrupt, depleted, and fallen into a vacuum allowing the elements outside their enclaves to swoop in and steamroll the mainstream propaganda system out of its lair. Things will change, but probably not for the better. The Left will either pick up its humpty-dumpty broken vision and reforge itself into something with an actual alternative or it will fall away into oblivion.
What we’re speaking of is Authority and Power? Where does it reside? How shall we build a civilization in which Authority and Power are no longer hierarchical, but rather shared among the collective powers of human and non-human Others? Is it even possible? Ancient societies studied the animals and plants for guidance, mimicking the patterns of the natural order in seeking knowledge of the ways of the Hunt and Gathering. Then came the hording and planting of crops, the great Agricultural Civilizations that are in our time coming to and end as a new type of Industrial Civilization replaces the systems of the Other ancient kinds. We’ve been going through this process for two-hundred years now: we term it the Enlightenment Project. The struggle out of the Old into the New is not an easy one, yet it remains to be done. It is the first model based on Democracy against all forms of top-down hierarchical thinking that was central to Agricultural Civilizations with the King as Center and Circumference with God(s) as the signifying invisible Master Signifier beyond holding the Authority and Power over the King.
We’ve struggled to create viable democracies for two-hundred years, but these are now coming under attack by the older forms of Agricultural and Religious, even Political Ideologies of the Past. We’ll democracy fall? Is this the Age of its demise, or transformation? It remains to be seen… but we must at least recognize it for what it is, not blind ourselves to the powers and technics and technologies driving us apart in this age of transition. For the first time on the planet a Global Society is seeking to manifest itself in a birth struggle of warring elements, with tendencies to ancient and modern patterns and stories, myths, and sciences.
We need a new path forward, the old repetitions of the Same will end us in ruin and obliteration. We face so many obstacles in the natural order with Climate Change, Disease, Famine, etc., and in the socio-cultural sphere of continued unrest among Nation States with Tyranny, Slavery, Gender and Social bigotry, racism, and religious intolerance among the many Monotheisms. Humans are situated at a point of total collapse across the planet, and unlike the vast ruin of civilizations of the past we will not be able to pick up and move to other realms because there is no where left to go, this is it. We are no at the point where humans have encompassed the global commons and are depleting all resources left, as well as blindly turning our eyes at both Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction of animal life (that could include us).
I remember reading that conservative, fascist thinker, T.S. Eliot – the Poet, who once wrote of it all “ending not with a bang, but a whimper.” Is this what is happening? Are we so powerless to allow ourselves to do nothing? Have we come to the point of accepting the steamrolling planetary war systems that now run the gamut across the earth between the great and small Nation States? Are we going to sit back and allow the earth to be plundered, people slaughtered, genocide committed, indigenous tribes expulsed or enslaved? Are concerned with actual change, or just change in our little corner of the world to protect our own asses?
Public media is a shambles, so full of ideological and yellow journalism barkers and talking heads that we have been gulled into thinking they speak for us and to us with cynical truth. The speak with not only forked tongue, but with tongues guided by the moneyed factions of Plutocrats and Oligarchs. Our world is totalized delusion in politics and thought.
In times like these vacuums of meaning open up that allow people who are desperate to seek in the Great Other strength, power, and a dream. Is this not what happened yesterday? People who cannot find the power within will seek it in the Great Other. Even if that other is the Deluded One. Power loves vacuums, and seeks them out. We stand on a precipice, but not the one’s the democrats fear, but something much more widespread and pervasive. Humanity no longer knows it but it no longer exists, or maybe the truth is it never did exist; that in truth it was always construction of stories, myths, and vision. And, we have lost our human stories, the sources of what made us human to begin with. Can we discover or concoct new stories to guide us through this dismal wasteland? Where are the creative talents and geniuses of old to guide us? Without a sense of who and what we are we are nothing: the point of nihilism… shall we remain in the land of valueless valuation forever, or as in Nietzsche, find a way out of the quagmire of our decadence?
Isn’t it time to wake up folks? Time to take up the ancient path of struggle, to rethink what it means to be a meaning creature? To find new forms of thought and feeling, new paths for our kind, new tales and poems and stories to shape a new vision of possibility? Shall we fall by the wayside like all other species, or shall we rise to the occasion and become something great and meaningful, a guiding light among peoples and nations? Is this the time of defeat, or change?
As I’ve tried to say so many times before, pessimism is not depressive, not defeatist, it is not seeking something better, some hope or answer to our malaise; what it seeks is to strip us of our remaining illusions, and delusions, to open our eyes upon what is, not what we want to believe in. We have to see things not as we wish them to be, but in truth see things as they are not in-themselves, but as they present themselves in our sensual universe of meaning. We have only this medium within which we are all participants, a universe of sensual appearance through which the Real manifests itself as in ten thousand varied shapes and forms. We need new forms of intensive interaction and relations with this realm, rather than the continued outworn paths of ancient Agricultural and Hunting Gathering thought-forms that guided humans in the wilderness of natural and pre-industrial societies.
Long ago as a young man I read William Blake who changed my life, and taught me in this one little statement almost everything that has guided my thought:
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
― William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
[I]t is not possible to clearly distinguish the inconsistencies of our notion of an object from the inconsistencies which are immanent to this object itself. The ‘thing itself’ is inconsistent, full of tensions, struggling between its different determinations, and the deployment of these tensions, this struggle, is what makes it ‘alive’.1
The basic dualism in the world lies not between spirit and nature, or phenomenon and noumenon, but between things in their intimate reality and things as confronted by other things.2
The passage above brings me back to someone Zizek never mentions except in regards to Levi Paul Bryant (Democracy of Objects) and Timothy Morton (Hyperobjects) in his new book Disparities. Here is Harman on Objects:
Object-oriented philosophy has a single basic tenet: the withdrawal of objects from all perceptual and causal relations. This immediately implies a single basic problem: how do relations occur? Despite the unsoundable depth of substances, their failure to express themselves fully even in physical collisions, objects do somehow manage to interact. These relations are the very carpentry of things, the joints and glue that hold the universe together. Given that objects never seem to enter into relations, what does enter into relations? If objects cannot affect one another directly, then perhaps they do so by means of qualities. The notion of free-floating qualities, stripped away from any underlying substance, is the central theme of a group of philosophers already termed the carnal phenomenologists. Following Husserl, they recognize that the objects aimed at by intentional acts never quite become visible. Nonetheless, we do not just float through a void, pointing sadly at the ineffable: we also live in the world as in a medium, enjoying juice and sunlight, suffering and dying from epidemics. We inhabit a sensual space in which, strictly speaking, objects cannot be present. Yet there are objects everywhere, like black holes or vacuums hidden from sight. By following the tension between these two moments of human perception, it may be possible to unlock the tensions found in the universe as a whole.(20)
In another place Harman will tell us that the notion of “tensions” is central: “We already know that Husserl departs radically from traditional realism, shutting out the existence of the natural world altogether and letting phenomena rule the cosmos. But even within this limited phenomenal sphere, we encounter a classical problem of philosophy that marks a central theme of the present book: the deep-seated tension between a single object and its manifold qualities.”(29)
This sense of the drama within an object, the tension between the real and sensual, the gap opened up that brings as Zizek says of it the full gamut of “tensions, struggling between its different determinations, and the deployment of these tensions, this struggle, is what makes it ‘alive’”. Strangely Zizek and Harman are gazing at the same thing from two opposing perspectives which seem oddly aligned in a perverse tension that one should not try to resolve, but rather hold onto and continue to keep hold of the gap between them while at the same time seeing in their diverse vision something akin to weird realism and materialism upon the same event.
Zizek prioritizes physics over biology and the neurosciences as a philosopher. For him the central motif of ontological dualism that is central to his dialectical materialism is derived by way of analogy to the quantum notion of decoherence:
to look at the precise ontological duality at work in decoherence, a duality totally foreign to classical metaphysical dualities (the sphere of Ideas in contrast to the ‘lower’ sphere of material objects, the sphere of actual life experience in contrast to the illusions it generates, etc.). Decoherence refers to the so-called collapse of the quantum field of oscillations, to the passage from quantum universe defined by the superposition of states (a superposition which forms a coherent multiplicity) to classic ‘realist’ universe composed of self-identical objects. In this passage, a radical simplification occurs: the coherent mulplicity of superposed states ‘decoheres’, one option is cut off from the continuum of others and posited as a single reality. (ibid. KL 1042)
This is where Zizek without realizing it comes close to Harman’s notion of withdrawal, applying the notion of subtractive act rather than Harman’s term ‘withdrawal’:
The paradox (for the metaphysical tradition) is here that our ordinary stable reality emerges as the result of the subtractive act (decoherence) out of the fluid quantum oscillations. (ibid. KL 1055)
In other words the objects in our universe come out of quantum flux by way of a separation that is at once a subtractive act and a withdrawal into singularities. So that our external universe is a fully deployed realm of objects withdrawn from each other, and yet as we learn there is a split within the objects themselves into real and sensual, invisible force and sensual appendage. What we perceive is the free-floating qualities used by the invisible forces of the objects much like dark matter and dark energy interact with the visible universe.
Obviously one can take this support of quantum physics only so far by way of analogy, and both Harman on Zizek use it sparingly realizing the pitfalls of such a path or methodology of linking disparities. In fact both thinkers pit the disparities and tensions among thought forms, both linguistic/descriptive and matheme/symbolic in a struggle without end. As Zizek will state it:
In our standard metaphysical (and commonsense) tradition, the primal reality is firm actual objects which are then surrounded by the aura of virtual waves that emanate from them. With regard to the distinction between subjective and objective, actual real things exist ‘objectively’, while virtual oscillations arise from their subjective (mis)perception. What ‘objectively’ exists in the quantum universe is, on the contrary, only wave oscillations, and it is the subject’s interventions which transforms them into a single objective reality. In other words, what causes the decoherence of these oscillations, what constitutes objective reality, is the subjective gesture of a simplifying decision (measurement). (ibid. KL 1056)
In other words the difference that makes a difference is the determination of perception whether of Zizek’s Subject or Harman’s Object, both agreeing that what constitutes an interaction between two objects is the mediation in-between; or, what both will refer to as the ‘vanishing mediator’. The point being that objects never directly act on each other, but only through a medium. When we look out on the world what we see is the medium, the sensual world of qualities: light, sun, water, mist, fog, heat waves, clashing gongs of sensual reality. We never perceive the underlying structures and forces supporting the sensual war of elements around us. And, yet, the structure is not of the Classical Aristotelian kind either. Not some substantial realm of Ideas, etc. (in the Platonic sense). As Zizek states it:
What this presupposes is a minimal gap between things in their immediate brute proto-reality and the registration of this reality in some medium (of the big Other): the second is in a delay with regard to the first. The agency which registers the collapse of the wave function is not in any sense ‘creating’ the observed reality, it is registering an outcome which remains fully contingent. Furthermore, the whole point of quantum physics is that many things go on before registration: in this shadowy space, ‘normal’ laws of nature are continuously suspended – how? Imagine that you have to take a flight on day x to pick up a fortune the next day, but do not have the money to buy the ticket; but then you discover that the accounting system of the airline is such that if you wire the ticket payment within twenty-four hours of arrival at your destination, no one will ever know it was not paid prior to departure. (KL 1061)
So in the above Zizek is stating that there is a brute dualism in our Universe that is imprinted on the very medium of our sensual objects of perception, and that such is registered through external processes that do not (as in Kant and anti-realists) construct or create the observed reality but rather register it retroactively while accepting the contingency of all events (i.e., they could have turned out otherwise).
What’s interesting and funny at the same time is Zizek comes close to Harman’s notion of Vicarious Causlity and the Occasionalist forerunners when he says:
What this presupposes is a minimal gap between things in their immediate brute reality and the registration of this reality in some medium (of the big Other): one can cheat insofar as the second is in a delay with regard to the first. The theological implications of this gap between the virtual proto-reality and the fully constituted one are of special interest. Insofar as ‘god’ is the agent who creates things by way of observing them, the quantum indeterminacy compels us to posit a god who is omnipotent, but not omniscient: ‘If God collapses the wave functions of large things to reality by His observation, quantum experiments indicate that He is not observing the small.’ (KL 1078)
Occasionalism brought to the fore the problem of causality between things and operations or acts. Philosophers have long wondered about the nature of causality. Are there true causes at work in the world, and, if so, what makes them the causes they are? How do causes bring things about, and what kind of connection does a cause have to its effect? These questions took on another level of complexity when various religious and theological considerations were brought to bear on these issues. For instance, philosophers came to question how divine causal activity is to be understood, particularly, in relation to the natural causality of creatures. It is from this context, in which questions about the nature of causation intermixed with questions about the relation between divine and natural causality, that occasionalism emerged. Occasionalism attempts to address these questions by presenting as its core thesis the claim that God is the one and only true cause. In the words of the most famous occasionalist of the Western philosophical tradition, Nicolas Malebranche, “there is only one true cause because there is only one true God; …the nature or power of each thing is nothing but the will of God; … all natural causes are not true causes but only occasional causes” (OCM II, 312 / Search 448) As the Stanford article relates:
A full-blown occasionalist, then, might be described as one who subscribes to the following two tenets: (1) the positive thesis that God is the only genuine cause; (2) the negative thesis that no creaturely cause is a genuine cause but at most an occasional cause. Not all philosophers who have been identified as occasionalists, however, were full-blown occasionalists in this sense, since some argued that only a limited subset of creatures lack causal powers, and thus affirmed the causal efficacy of other creatures. In addition to this issue of the scope of occasionalism, we will, in the following sections, examine how these core theses of occasionalism address the issues aforementioned and what arguments are presented in their favor. 3
Harman would secularize this notion and subtract divine intervention from the equation. Levi’s article on Larval Subjects is probably one of the best expositions of Graham’s notion of Vicarious Causation (pdf). Levi will tell us that there are three characteristics of this notion: it is vicarious, asymmetrical, and buffered. By vicarious as Levi states it after Harman What he means by vicarious is that no entity directly interacts with or encounters another entity. As Graham writes, “I [speak] of vicarious causation. A vicar is the earthly representative of something that need not act in person. But the same must be true of causation itself” (48). By asymmetrical Levi remarks “if it is true that objects only ever relate to sensual vicars and never directly with other real objects, then this no longer holds true. This for two reasons. First, because sensual objects only exist on the interior of a real object, when one real object affects another real object through the intermediary of a sensual vicar, it doesn’t follow that the affecting real object will be affected in its turn. Second, it does not follow that the affected object will be affected according to the nature of the affecting object. Harman writes, “…I claim that even the initial contact between two entities is only the contact of a real entity with a translated or phenomenal one” (50). What the object relates to is not the other real object, but rather the sensual object that exists in the interior of the affected object.” And, Levi relates the third characteristic of vicarious causation is that it is buffered. As Harman writes, “[w]hat I mean is that things can be in contact with something else without being fully in contact with them, just as the philosopher loves wisdom without fully possessing it” (50 – 51).
As Zizek in his comic stance on occasionalism and vicarious causation from his atheist reasoning tells it:
The ontological cheating with virtual particles (an electron can create a proton and thereby violate the principle of constant energy, on condition that it reabsorbs it before its environs ‘take note’ of the discrepancy) is a way to cheat god himself, the ultimate agency of taking note of everything that goes on: god himself doesn’t control the quantum processes, therein resides the atheist lesson of quantum physics. Einstein was right with his famous claim ‘God doesn’t cheat’ – what he forgot to add is that god himself can be cheated. Insofar as the materialist thesis is that ‘God is unconscious’ (God doesn’t know), quantum physics effectively is materialist: there are microprocesses (quantum oscillations) which are not registered by the God-system. And insofar as God is one of the names of the big Other, we can see in what sense one cannot simply get rid of god (big Other) and develop an ontology without big Other: god is an illusion, but a necessary one. (KL 1084)
Strangely this aligns with R. Scott Bakker’s notion of Blind Brain Theory but on a Cosmic Scale of lunacy. The notion that this Big Other, the God or Symbolic Order is Blind to his/its own machinations and processes (disturbingly similar to the Blind God of the Gnostics, too.). But as Zizek will point out God is but a name for our objective Symbolic Order (Big Other).
On a final note we’ll let Zizek conclude:
The theory of decoherence is an attempt to explain the collapse of a wave function, that is, the passage from the netherworld of quantum oscillations to our ordinary reality, in an immanent way. The role of external observer in the theory of decoherence is therefore ambiguous, and therein resides its strength. Its basic claim is that decoherence (collapse of the wave oscillations) occurs only at the ‘higher’ macroscopic level, being registered by an observer – at the quantum level, nothing changes, coherence remains. This, however, in no way implies that we have to presuppose an external observer in whose eyes (in whose registering mechanism) decoherence occurs. One is almost tempted to claim that theorists of decoherence apply a new version of the old dialectical-materialist law of the passage of quantity into a new quality: when quantum interaction reaches a certain quantity, wave function collapses since the object in a way begins to ‘observe itself.’ Therein resides the strength of decoherence theory: it endeavours to articulate the purely immanent way a quantum process engenders the mechanism of its ‘observation’ (registration). Does it succeed? It is up to the science itself to provide an answer. (KL 1090)
It’s in this gap between wave and particle, coherence and decoherence that the oscillating tensions of Zizek’s and Harman’s philosophies touch base, collide and make contact. The duality between the symmetrical quantum level of pre-ontological chaos, and the asymmetrical realm of sensual appearance. And, as Harman will remark (relating to the epigraph I used at the beginning):
With this single conceptual step, metaphysics is freed from its recent pariah status in philosophy—supplanting all phenomenologies, hermeneutic circles, textual disseminations, linguistic turns, and other philosophies of access, and thereby regaining something of its former status as queen of the sciences. There is no question here of reviving the old style of metaphysics of presence criticized so vehemently by Heidegger, Derrida, and their various heirs. After all, the implication of the tool-analysis is that objects never become present—not even by means of some sort of gradual, asymptotic approach. All that really needs to be abandoned in the Heideggerian position is his unspoken assumption that the gap between Dasein and the world is the sole philosophically significant rift, the single chasm across which all of the problems of philosophy unfold. This assumption stems most directly from Husserl’s rejection of all naturalism, but is ultimately grounded in the Copernican Revolution of Kant. However, if we push the tool-analysis to its limit, we actually find that all relations in the cosmos, whether it be the perceptual clearing between humans and world, the corrosive effect of acid on limestone, or a slap-fight between orangutans in Borneo, are on precisely the same philosophical footing. (74-75)
In this sense both Zizek and Harman are moving philosophy back into the ‘things-themselves’, where everything is on the same footing and no one stance or observer (Big Other/Master Signifier) reigns.
- Slavoj Žižek. Disparities (Kindle Locations 998-1000). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
- Harman, Graham. Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things. Open Court. Kindle Edition.
- Lee, Sukjae, “Occasionalism“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
Opened my email this morning and received two updates for some stories I sent out.
My story “Going South” is to be published in Belle Rêve Literary Journal, a magazine for online southern literary experience, that releases new work weekly. Their mission is to capture everything that makes the South and its residents unique through the best contemporary literature. This one will appear on their site: Tuesday January 24th, 2017. Belle Rêve Literary Journal.
The second is for a short Flash Fiction story, “I Wake To Angels On My Lids,” to be tentatively published with Near To The Knuckle, a UK based Crime Fiction Magazine. This one was revised and resent to the editor Craig Douglas who said he liked it, but needed clarification on my grammatical usage. I do use colloquialisms which are notoriously ungrammatical in many speech patterns among some segments of the country. So these are nonetheless valid, yet more difficult to work through editorial issues on the fine points. We’ll wait and see… wish me luck!
Years ago I played MYST and its five sequels by Rand and Robyn Miller, and their co-harts at Cyan, Inc.. Recently they came out with Obduction, a new game based in some fashion on the same premises as Myst but with new and different twists. If you’re into the single player strategy and puzzle games you’ll want to try this one. Not a bad deal at $29.95 on Steam. Tell the truth that’s where I’ve been this week, piddling on Obduction… okay, obsessing on Obduction’s puzzles which —if you’re anything like me — you’ll try your best to do all on your own till you try and try and try to a point of failure. I’m the type that will trace and re-trace my steps, look into every nook and cranny, pilfer every clue, type it out, puzzle with it for a while, do something else, then come back to it and try and try again before I ever finally throw my hands up and say … enough, and then go to my local finger pad and type in Obduction Walkthrough and seek a solution… But usually before I do look anything up I will ponder my navel, eat some munches, listen to some good music, pull my hair out, and generally do everything but through something at my screen… even cussing is aloud as long as my Lady isn’t in earshot…
Either way I finished it today with success, and even gained all the achievements, which in truth there were two last ones that were like Red Herrings till you figured out that to do them was not a straight ahead obvious things. That’s the first fact you’ll have to understand this game appears to be obvious and logical, but then it turns the tables on you and does things with that in mind… and confounds that very logic and forces you to thing against the common sense approach, literally. But I’ll not say another word in case you’ve been thinking of getting obsessed yourself…
Every once in a while I like to just take a vacation from the web stuff and enjoy doing goofy stuff… Up next is another cheaper game on Steam —and, by the way if you’ve never tried Steam or Origen, please feel free to check them out — The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, another single-player mode detective game with horror as its based theme: murder, ghosts, etc… but some nice graphics, and interesting storyline from the videos. Steam has a nice sale on many of the horror genre games till Nov 1st. So was worth coming on now for the some up to 80% off bargains.
Well, I’ll be back again with essays in a few weeks… have fun through the next couple months. Love to play hookie and escape the drudge farm of my writing self…
Six days on the road and now I’m gonna make it home tonight
I got a ten forward gears and a Georgia overdrive
I take little white pills and my eyes are open wide…
—Six Days On The Road, Steve Earle and the Dukes
“Dammit, where’d everybody get too,” the old man cussed. He’d been six days on the road and hadn’t seen a human Trucker yet. Nothing but these automated buckets.
Amy, the droid, across from him, asked: “Who you referring too?”
“You know dam well who I’m referring too,” He frowned, nodding at all the empty trucks in the lot out front by the pumps. He sits down, flips his coffee cup up. “Give me pure black, and none of that cream shit from Italy either.” He’s referring to the assortment of Italian crèmes sitting in a bowl across from him with all the fancy flavors: caramel, vanilla, maple… “I hate this. Pretty soon they’ll be replacing you fine folks, too.” He slams his palm down.