The Laboratory of Desire

Today the greatest ignominies exist not because we commit them but because we let them happen. They develop inside emptiness.

—Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities

More than any other significant project in our time it has not been the erasure of the boundaries of thought and technology, nor that of flesh and technics, but rather the erosion of the entropic distance between life and death. We live in a time when the very prison house of life is giving way to neganthropic laughter of eternal death-in-Life. Is this not the presumed project of H++, the extropian soteriology of the secular priests of our age seeking none other than immortality by whatever means.

From the Singulatarian dreams of Ray Kurzweil to the dance of convergence tech invading the human genome in Zoltan Istvan this secular mysticism of immanent exit seems madly reminiscent of all those syncretic cults of redemption during the late Roman Empire. Whether one seeks escape into some virtual cave of immortalist electronics, or the merger of mind and machine in the robotic transmutation and alchemy of machinic life we seem teetering on the edge of species death at the hands of our own ghastly dreams and nightmares of eternity. An inverted monotheistic hybrid this secular age of machines and artificial intelligence has triggered age old dreams of desire. Like children of some lost covenant, or the Promethean desolation of some broken quest for mastery, we are entering the last stage of the human condition reversing the poles of technicity. Allowing the prosthetic child of our long journey to exit us in its autonomous quest of transcension we are giving birth to monstrous worlds.

Are we not reenacting a staged drama, a script from the futurial gradients of some hypervalent mind whose sole reduplication of action and thought is to manipulate the tertiary stream of memory and desire of the human herd? Like cattle being led to slaughter we seem oblivious to the underlying currents of our age, as if the compliant mindlessness were itself a part of the very functional programming of our contemporary rationality: the normative give and take of a forgotten system of control that has always seemed to trigger its effects retroactively during the recycled temporal infestation of fear and horror, hate and bigotry. Hasn’t it always taken the destruction of a world to create one? Only a literalist of the spirit would contemplate the sadness of eternity. We have not time for sadness.

Like the lost tribes of some insignificant thought we move in zombie like fashion to the music of dead angels. Clipped even of our wings we wander this earth thinking we are free to choose our destinies, when in fact the future works its way backwards like some trickster speaking gibberish to awaken the holy fools from their distempered lives. No, this is not a world, but rather a laboratory of experimental decay and growth seeking through the electric flesh of corporeal desire to create something new, an impossible possible. Chance and necessity working hand in hand are producing in the alchemy of desire a new world out of the ruins of the old, and we who are the ‘last men’ are entering the dust of oblivion giving birth to strange gods.

Since we are already dead, let’s make the most of it!

(Zapatista proverb)

 

Alien Paradise

There may well be little in the way of a “master” narrative to fight over in our liberal society amidst the throng of abusive individuals all trying to prove that they exist and are unique, but this, especially with regard to the now central position of social media sites like Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, has not stopped it from becoming a kind of all too obviously wretched, desensitising war of all against all with plastic dreams. Would simply adding more miraculous accelerationist technology somehow cure the “ressentiment” inherent in our liberal society and the obvious fact that overweening pretensions towards individualism and egalitarianism have not been mediated, but worsened? Where is that magical bullet when one needs it? In a world where History, the secular myth, has ended for all intents and purposes, the only thing left is the rational core of an inhuman gaze out of a dark and interminable future transforming earth into an alien paradise.

We Are Closer Than You Think

“We believe that Black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.” – The Ten Point Program: Point One

True, I agree, when you realize the U.S.A. is nothing but an open prison system with no bars. As Angela Davis said in a recent interview with Barat:

“I think of the Black Power movement—or what we referred to at the time as the Black liberation movement—as a particular moment in the development of the quest for Black freedom. In many ways it was a response to what were perceived as limitations of the civil rights movement: we not only needed to claim legal rights within the existing society but also to demand substantive rights—in jobs, housing, health care, education, et cetera—and to challenge the very structure of society. Such demands—also against racist imprisonment, police violence, and capitalist exploitation—were summed up in the Ten-Point Program of the Black Panther Party (BPP). Although Black individuals have entered economic, social, and political hierarchies (the most dramatic example being the 2008 election of Barack Obama), the overwhelming number of Black people are subject to economic, educational, and carceral racism to a far greater extent than during the pre–civil rights era. In many ways, the demands of the BPP’s Ten-Point Program are just as relevant—or perhaps even more relevant—as during the 1960s, when they were first formulated.”

I think right there in rule one: “We believe that Black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.”, it charts the necessity of erasing the past humiliations and defeats, the history of slavery and subjugation that these statues not only symbolize but are the very material reminders of a dread period that must be destroyed beyond remembrance accept as a justification to liberation and emancipation.

And, the truth is it must be done by Blacks for Blacks to allow that determination to sink in an root itself in the very remembrance of such atrocities overcome through solidarity and community. As well as part of the very real material praxis needed to continue rooting out the racism in these American states through economic, social, political, and all other aspects.

The Labour of Freedom comes at a price, and that price is the destruction of the social relations that continue to subjugate and enslave the minds and hearts of people everywhere to an authoritarian corporate and statist system of global oppression.

When you think about it the world is truly a very small place, and we have traveled very far to know we have traveled nowhere. Homo sapiens (DNA) are all connected, there is no race: only humanity. It is the only actual material universal.


1. Davis, Angela; Barat, Frank; West, Cornel (FRW). Freedom Is a Constant Struggle : Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement

Forgetting Man

Clear-sighted and quite mad, man has no peer: a true outrage to the laws of nature, nothing suggested his advent. Was he necessary, this being ethically more misshapen than any dinosaur physically? Scrutinizing him objectively it becomes apparent why he is not made the subject of reflection with impunity. One monster pondering another becomes doubly monstrous: forgetting man, as well as the idea he incarnates, should form the preamble to any therapeutics. Promoted to the rank of incurables, we are matter in pain, shrieking flesh, bones pierced by cries, and our very silences are no more than a strangled lamentation. We suffer, ourselves alone, much more than the rest of creation, and our torment, encroaching upon reality, substitutes for it, so that a man who suffered absolutely would be absolutely conscious…

—Emile Cioran

 

Source of Consciousness Found?

Harvard Researchers say they have found the Source of Human Consciousness. Interesting how this backs up speculative realist notions, in that they discovered the source of consciousness when it was broken, damaged or destroyed:

Those subjects who were unconscious showed damage to a small area of the brainstem known as the rostral dorsolateral pontine tegmentum. “When it is damaged, almost every patient became comatose,” Fox said. Only one of the 24 conscious patients did not see damage to this area of the brainstem. Due to this, researchers established that the tiny region plays a vital role in consciousness. Next, the neuroscientists turned to a map of the human connectome to investigate the connections between regions. They found two areas in the cortex connected to this part of the brainstem. That led them to believe that these three regions make up a neural network from which, consciousness derives.

Where exactly these connections terminate in the cortex is not yet known. One ends at a part called the left, ventral, anterior insula (AI). The other concludes in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC). Both areas are associated with awareness. But this is the first time they have been implicated in a neural network, never mind one which creates and maintains consciousness. In a follow-up segment, researchers examined the brains of 45 patients in a coma or vegetative state with an fMRI. They found in all the patients that these three regions were out of commission.

LifeSciencesDatabase_Brain-stem

Let Us Remember to make Dreams into Realities!

From I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

 

Aldous Huxley’s Neoliberal Dystopia

Aldous Huxley, author of Doors of Perception and the Brave New World, on March 20 1962, he gave a lecture at the UC Berkley in which he clearly laid out the vision of a planned future society which appears the blueprint of a Neoliberal Dystopia:

In the past, we can say that all revolutions have essentially aimed at changing the environment in order to change the individual. Today, we are faced with the approach of what may be called the ultimate revolution, the final revolution where man can act directly on the mind and body of his fellows. The nature of the ultimate revolution which we are now faced is precisely this; that we are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy that always existed and presumably will always exist, to get people to actually love their servitude.

First of all, to standardize the population, to iron out inconvenient human differences. To create mass produced models of human beings, arranged in some kind of a scientific class system. The number of predictions which were purely fantastic when I made them 30 years ago, have come true or are in the process of coming true; not through terror but through making life much more enjoyable than it normally does. Enjoyable to the point where human beings come to love the state of things that by any reasonable human standard they ought not to love. And this, I think, is perfectly possible.

This did not come to pass, and yet as one looks upon the current crop of neoliberal intellectuals one hears the echoes of such planned worlds even now. Depopulation of work by machinic systems, the slow and methodical enslavement of humanity to the devices they cherish as part of their mobile internet of things, the escape into virtual reality fantasies, the twisted dreams of transhuman enchancement and performance, military cyborgs and robots, the singular dream of a collective intelligence in AGI. All these being promoted as the solution to an Oligarch’s wet dreams: sex bots and smart worlds – fully controlled environments catering to every whim. An algorithmic world that thinks for you, acts for you, decides for you. Leave the dreaming to us so you can wile the hours away in you luxury yachts or off-world paradises.

And, yet, while the Oligarchs, Plutocrats, and their minions dream of paradise the 99% excluded from such worlds will live in hell among the deadly and toxic wastelands of a depleted earth. A realm of war, famine, and pestilence fitted out with technocratic surveillance and techno-commercial enslavement. Yes, the bright future turned dark in a space of lifeless zombies hooked into the globalnet of death. Under austerity in the EU and U.S.A. a passive and compliant citizenry will ick out a menial existence even as the elite strip them of all remaining life-support systems. Street level civil-strife and battles among ethno-nationalists and Nazified warmongers along with red-and-black anarchists and communists will erode what remains of civilization in this outer wasteland till all that remains is the death squads of some hypermachinic policing agents to mop up what isn’t already dead.

The key word is control, in all of it manifestations. The National Science Foundation NBIC 2001 report spends an exorbitant amount of time on examining control and human behavior. I quote:

The multiple drivers of human behavior have long been known. Now, through the decoding of complex systems a completely predictable and managed society can be realized…. To use the tremendous computing power we now have to integrate data across those fields to create new models and hence new understanding of the behavior of the individuals. The ultimate goal is acquiring the ability to predict the behavior of an individual, and by extension, of the group … using tools and approaches provided by science and technology – will raise our ability to predict behavior. It will allow us to interdict undesirable behaviors before they cause significant harm to others and to support and encourage behaviors leading to greater social good.

Such abilities of intervention remind us of the movie made on P.K. Dick’s short story Minority Report comes to mind. In a future society, three mutants foresee all crime before it occurs. Plugged into a great machine, these “precogs” allow the Precrime Division to arrest suspects prior to any infliction of public harm. When the head of Precrime, John A. Anderton, is accused of murdering Leopold Kaplan, a man whom he has never met, Anderton is convinced a great conspiracy is afoot. His new assistant, Ed Witwer, must have corrupted the system in an attempt to oust him from the position. On the run and suspicious of even his wife, Anderton searches for the minority report to clear his name, as only two out of the three precogs predicted his guilt. Through a series of betrayals and changing alliances, Anderton discovers that the three predictions are rather a progression of alternate realities. In order to maintain the authority of Precrime, Anderton consciously decides to kill Kaplan, thereby affirming the validity of the second majority report. Anderton is thus exiled with his wife to life on a frontier colony and replaced by Witwer as head of Precrime. The story ends with Anderton’s advice to his successor: “Better keep your eyes open. It might happen to you at any time.”

Obviously this need not be. Humans could wake up and realize that it is by design that they war among themselves in the streets while the rich and powerful sit atop their empires of pleasure, laughing at the fools and their ideological games of hate: funded by the very Oligarchs to obliterate and depopulate the earth. Why do humans fall into the same traps over and over and over? Are we truly programmable? Passivated to allow the vast Cathedral of the Managerial State to control us so easily with these passive-aggressive messages and propaganda views of a Manichean universe of pure hate and evil. Like children in a sandbox we build our King on the Hill dime book mythologies replete with cartoonish philosophies to guide us in killing, maiming, and terrorizing each other rather than the Oligarchs and their minions. Why?

All our protest movements change nothing, they only bring out the worst in us and allow the very powers that be to triumph over us as they unleash the power of the State to beat us back into submission. The very act of protest itself becomes a tool in the hands not of the weak, but of the strong who rule us and seek and goad us to fight among ourselves. Like dupes in a sad Reality TV series we play our hands against each other to the nth degree: conniving, lying, cajoling, playing one off the other, till all morality turns a-moral and our normative stance becomes absolutely inhuman to the core. All the while the dictators who have set up this gaming strategy after decades of military and civilian trial and test sit back and await the body count to begin. They have no need of us, no emotional investment in our wants and needs. They seek only to obsolesce us, replace us with their machines in the coming decades. We are but the detritus of an obsolete civilization in ruins, and they know this even as they seek means to control and pacify us, tame us and domesticate us like cattle. We become nothing but the malleable meat of a dying planet in the economic grid of their profit system. They will continue to strip us of every remaining surplus bit of profit till we are no longer useful, then we all know what comes next.

I’ve asked myself for decades why we accept such merciless realms. Why we ick out such meager existences, scrape by in a world where we must work two or more jobs just to help our families survive. And, now, even that is on the plate to be scrapped in the coming decades. Will people wake up then when it is too late. Will they rebel against the stupidity and control of their lives? I used to be hopeful, not anymore. I’ve seen thousands of trees stripped to allow book after book published telling us that if we allow this to go on that this is what will happen… no one has yet to change it. It has not gotten better, only worse. Why? Why is humanity so fearful of its masters? Why do we allow a system that treats us as so much fodder in their grist mill to be excluded and depopulated at their command and control? Why do we continue to accept our lot? I have no answer, only more questions. Like many I keep thinking an event will spark the collective will of the poor, excluded, and confused out of their apathy and allow them to take the bull by the horns and rid themselves of this dark system of enslavement. Somewhere deep in my own pessimism I still hope even in despair that this is so.

I often think that what makes us human is not the power of thought, which it seems even machines are beginning to duplicate. No. It is the indefinable gestures of affect. I remember years ago on Red Skelton’s show as he’d end each segment he would enact a mime of his famous hobo character, the clown of the outcast and excluded one. Dressed in tattered clothing, an old round hat upon his head, a stubbly beard and the silent echoes of a tormented creature on the edge of existence. In one of these performances I remember him acting as if he were in a field of flowers and a young girl was crying for whatever reason. He tried everything under the sun to dissuade her from tears, until in frustration he reached out to the one lone blooming yellow flower sitting in the midst of the field and plucked it. Handing it to the young girl in a gesture of both humility and love and caring. One human bridging that silence between us all seeking in the gesture of care a fellow feeling beyond hopelessness. Of course in the mime one had to envision this young girl (who was a mere fantasy to the audience, and invisible!) looking up into the eyes of this forlorn creature, this destitute hobo who lived on the road amid rusty rails. Her eyes suddenly lighting up, a curl of a smile awakening on her lips as she accepted the strange man’s flower. In that moment the perfection of mime, that art of the impossible gesture revealed the secret of human love. Our ability to care beyond the pale of our own narcissistic dreams for another…

Maybe this is all we have left: a philosophy of gesture, of act, of caring… of reaching across that void between voids to the enemy letting them know death and destruction are not the answer, that we must learn to live together on this dire planet of pain else end it all. There will probably always be conflict of some kind on this planet, it being filled with predators and predation and organic life that feeds off plant and animal alike. Say that ours is the killing planet, and we are all locked in a deterministic universe of pain and suffering. Knowing this shall we like Buddha or Christ seek transformation and unearthly exit, or shall we like the political messiahs seek peace, or just seek some form of equitable balance among the predatory forces of our physical and mental worlds, sustain a realm in which no one has the natural right to lord it over any other? Can we create a society that seeks neither to reduce or flatten humanity into some clone-like system of university managed by elite experts, but instead one that honors the truth of both our inner and external, intrinsic and extrinsic intellects and affective passions and build a truly human world for humans? Neither fully idealistic nor materialist but some as yet undreamed of realist realm where people open their eyes and see things not as they should be but as they are… and, then deals with it day by day.

Let’s Get Something Out in the Open

Let’s get something out in the open… I’m not here to preach or polemicize – even if I do come off that way at times. I’m not here to save the world. I’m not here to please you. I’m not here for you at all. If at times I say things that bother you, irk you, make you angry or get under your skin it’s you not me that is allowing that to happen. When I began blogging a few years back it was for one reason, to examine my own life, my thought, my beliefs in the sense in which that old goat, Socrates meant – under Plato’s mask: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

I’ve always tended toward literary things as a matter of course. Politics, philosophy, the sciences and history along with sociology, psychology, essays and many other aspects of our cultural heritage have always been a part of my ongoing education. And that’s how I see it… I write to educate and work through thoughts we all share in the public sphere. I’m no great savant, no published author of novels, philosophy, or anything of value other than to myself. People always assume too much, assume a blog is some platform to speak to others. It may be to others, and I use the stock pose as do others of speaking as if I had an audience who is interested in overhearing my thoughts. It’s a cliché of the trade, folks, nothing more.

We all have opinions and concerns, but at times I’ve had people who begin trolling me as if my message was to them personally so that they take it upon themselves to begin a slow and methodical attack. That’s fine, just don’t expect me to sit back and take it. I’m nasty if I need to be like most other humans. I don’t trust politicians, or philosophers, or any intellectual authority or experts with matters of life or mind. As I stated before I am a contrarian who opposes above all… the bullshit and mindlessness around me. It’s stupidity and ignorance that bothers me, not people per se and if I get obnoxious and overwrought, long-winded and polemical at times it’s because some things just get my goat and I have to get it out of my system. During these episodes I can be cantankerous and down right mean spirited toward ideas, but I don’t mean anything personal about it. It’s just my way. No excuses for it. No apology, either.  

People always want you to be other than you are… want you to meet their expectations, be what they themselves are not. Why should I live up to your expectations if you don’t do that yourself? I’m not here to be either your friend or enemy, I’m not here for you at all. If you come upon my blog and happen to agree or disagree it’s because that’s the way we’re built. We’re all contrarians at heart, even when we deny it. We’re all opinionated and full of strange ideas and modes of being. If we weren’t the world truly would be a place of pure repetition and boring as hell… I for one am glad it isn’t.

I can be a bastard at times, granted. I can be a stodgy old cuss, cynical and pessimistic to boot. At other times I tend toward the idealism I despise because like Whitman and Emerson I have a sign above my door that says: “Whim!” So don’t try to peg me down, reduce me to some singular thought or philosophical or even, scientific spectrum of ideas. If I contradict myself, it’s because I have no self; it’s rather an ongoing project not some pre-existing agency. I’m not what I will be… I AM what I Am Not.  Motion, movement, thought… the accelerating vector of a multiplicity. Schizophrenizing rather than schizophrenic: a difference that makes a difference.

My two mainstays: James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon. Between them I oscillate like a yo-yo in-between gathering the cultural worlds of our modernity. The one Irish-Catholic of ancient Celtic stock whose mind sought exit from family, church, and State. The other Jewish born, an inner émigré of ancient traditions, a gnostic-kabbalist whose comic pessimism riddles the world with paranoiac dreams between paradise and apocalypse. Joyce the kinder and gentler voice of Liffy, goddess of returns and beginnings. Pynchon the scream across the void of war and death, the living remains of our ruins and days. Both challenging the extremities of our radical imaginations, presenting us with the worlds past, present, and to come. Neither prophet or savior, only two men at the ends of man seeking answer for the human condition.

Deluded we stand united in this condition of the human. Our Buddhas and Christs would offer us paths out of the delirium. Our philosophers like Plato or Aristotle offer both and neither – the one sponsoring the exit from the simulacrum; the other seeking a way into rather than out of its sensual entrapments, and understanding of its motions and forms. Wandering in the circular worlds of thought after them have we truly come any closer to knowing or being? No. We’ve all filled in the dots and niches of our ignorance with more ignorance, trapped in the darkness of the Mind, our thoughts given to us from the Outside in of the brain’s own cave we exist only as a construct of momentary motion, memory, and thought in-between the self-reflective void of a void so luminous we cannot move beyond its horizon. And, yet, how wondrous it is this lustrous emptiness we are…

The Consilience: A Dark Dystopian Future

Over time I’ve used my blog site as a sort of shadow world to post thoughts on my current deep project which has been for several years a dystopian nightmare novel of the near future…

Strangely one imagines a dystopian/utopian fable (depending on which side of the divide one is on?) future in which humans are so stratified that reproduction is denied to physical humans who have become sexless due to CRISPR initiatives during the Age of Overpopulation in the Twenty-Second Century when population reached thirty billion with billions starving every year due to climacteric and agricultural depletion, drought, famine, pestilence, etc.

A time when reproduction is allotted through biotechnological overview and synthetic adaptation through a lottery system controlled by elite enhanced citizens who live in intelligent environments (i.e., the so called smart cities). The separation of enhanced, cyborgian, and naturals becomes the tripartite division of the social strata of this era. Dark days indeed…

With artificial wombs and most humans neutered and non-reproductive clones (i.e., the new bioslavery of the future) one imagines this dark cladistics and caste based civilization with technological and enhanced citizens inhabiting the more refined and decadent off-world and paradisial cities, while the remaining naturals and clones living in the enforced Megacities and favelas of the last remaining worker hives.

I’m taking the extreme notion of our current neoliberal oligarchic and plutocratic worldview to its extreme finality (if there is such a thing), in which automation, robotics, superintelligence, biogenetics, information, surveillance and security, and social control have become enmeshed to the point of no return: a static society of machinic life under the rule of enhanced elites of wealth, intellect, and enhanced biogenetic stratification. A world where climate change has flooded most of the Old Earth and what remains is a dark realm of City States based on Corporotacracy. One imagines Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World updated to the convergence technologies of our moment: NBIC – nano, biotech, Information and Communication tech, with total surveillance society and apartheid mentality. For about four years I’ve been working with different aspects of this triptych near future novel which is finally taking on a story of adventure and obviously revolutionary resistance to such an extreme world. Still lots of work to be done… and most of my blog writing has been but a shadow of this other work I’ve not spoken about too much.

As one imagines how the elite have used every means at their disposal to depopulate the  earth and replace humanity with an automated society it becomes more than disturbing. In some ways such a extreme future entails even a more disastrous vision than even most conspiracy theorists would consider as anything other than an inferno, because it extrapolates from known scientific and philosophical speculation of our current moment which is based solidly in material infrastructural and superstructual elements. I’ve always felt one needs to push the pessimistic line of argument to have a chance to see the hopeful alternative that a resistance movement to such a dark world might bring about. My problem was to set forth the complex relations among various stratified worlds of human and non-human dimensions that would spark a true rebellion and transformation into a brighter future. Using the standard triptych or trilogy to spread the dystopian world and its transformation into a more hopeful future seems relevant to such a large undertaking. Throwing the reader in media res – into the middle of the action without a clue of what came before or where things are going seems like the best way to begin a anti-novelistic dystopian novel, one that takes the standard unreliable narrator and anti-hero as the point of view for the creature neither fully human or non-human; an ambiguous creature unsure of its own ancestry or place within the machinic phylum within which it finds itself. A being that seeks to find its way among the leavings of our ancient human civilization, who like Dante’s self-wandering creature discovers its Vergil among the rubble who will like a Sancho Ponzo of the end times will guide our wandering anti-hero through the strange realms and dimensions of this dark inferno.

What if Social Darwinism and Eugenics and Fascism/Nazism underlies our late capitalism era? What if the current neo-Darwinian, biogenetics, nanotechnology, ICT informational ontology of Superintelligence, Internet of things, robotics, and automatic society is an outgrowth of Social Darwinist principles and axiomatic, and inhuman to the core in its push to displace humanity and enslave a neo-workerist society of clones, robots, and cyborgians? What if one pushed all this to the extreme dystopian limits of imagination and out the other side as something else emerges in the form of freedom beyond this violence – a form of collective awakening that is finally inclusive of both human and non-human dimensions of existence?

I probably have always been writing the same book over and over – adding bits and pieces of detritus, bones of my travels, artifacts and haunted objects from the dark pages of my life to this ongoing book in my mind. Some things have to have a conclusion, a finish line, a point when enough is enough, and I hope to make this one a doozy… let’s face it to bring together all the complexity of our current situation on earth is formidable in itself, but to offer some type of hope in the midst of despair as we face the harsh truth of our current neoliberal dark comedy is almost unbearable. I’ve always admired the Mnemppiean works of the past, the great satires full of stuffing from every aspect of existence, high and low, full of tragic, comic, farce, and parody: works that seem to overflow their boundaries, flood into the readers mind and overwhelm them with strange relations. And, yet, that’s just what is needed in our time: a sort of black comedy, a dark farce that can take a Dantean journey into the heart of darkness of our era in a more resilient form than Conrad did in his early novel. One that is adept at both current technological tendencies as well as the dystopic take of our current globalist agendas in Russia, China, India, EU and the U.S.A.. If I don’t go mad first I hope to have this beast done within a couple years… I’ve been working and re-working it for some time, but it’s time to get it done since I’m not getting any younger. Combining Pynchon and P.K. Dick, Gunter Grass and Mark Twain, Lovecraft and Shakespeare, Cervantes and Milton… a flight of fantasy and a dark realist vision that is at once both our world and its shadow. Something different, and alive.

Consuming Paradise: Soft Fascism and Sociopathy

The acceleration of information exchange has produced and is producing an effect of a pathological type…

– Franco “Bifo” Berardi

The consumer society is a kind of soft police state. We think we have choice, but everything is compulsory. We have to keep buying or we fail as citizens. Consumerism creates huge unconscious needs that only fascism can satisfy. If anything, fascism is the form that consumerism takes when it opts for elective madness.”

—J.G. Ballard, Kingdom Come: A Novel

J.G. Ballard as usual hits the proverbial nail on the head.1 With the advent of the Internet of things the exchange of the world is ubiquitous and totalized, a world where signs and objects exchange themselves within the alien host we long ago vacated. Emptied of our humanity, agents of an alien empire of signs, we host a world of alien objects like coded messengers from some infinite time machine. No longer able to process the data glut around us we’ve become immersed and eviscerated in a sea of information which uses us as its site of transversal relationality in an economic game of war without end.

Berardi would tell us that we must begin to understand how our capacity to process information became instead a system that assimilated and absorbed us into a larger organism that now uses our processing power as a host assemblage factory. Our consciousness is emptied of its former dreams of reason and identity, self and subjectivity, and has become the vacant site of machinic agents who feed off our biopower to further their own alien agendas.

Alfred North Whitehead once described consciousness as nothing more than the hosted vacancy inhabited by alien entities: “Mental operations do not necessarily involve consciousness… It is only when we are consciously aware of alien mentalities that we even approximate to the conscious prehension of a single actual entity.”2 In an age of competitive advantage we are doomed to “follow, recognize, evaluate, process all” the information available to us if we are to be “efficient, competitive, victorious” (Berardi, p. 40). No longer able to read or think in a linear manner of textuality, dispersed among image-cultures that drift by like so many ghosts of futurity, we exist as members of a new data-glut world of graphic signs and semiotic economics – a visual non-space that like so many daemons of the electronic void have lost their ability to be attentive to even the most simplistic detail. Driven by a dyslexia spreading outward into the cognitive ecologies of mindless social behaviors of a presentism of the speed-instant, we wander in a time-loop slipstream that immerses us in the pursuit of the impossible (Berardi, p. 41).

Within me there is only the ruin of sovereignty. And my visible absence of superiority – my state of collapse – is the mark of an insubordinate which equals that of the starry sky.”

– Georges Bataille

Marshall McLuhan once described our predicament of mediaplosion, our immersion and evisceration within the info-glut regimes of information, saying that “one thing about which fish are completely unaware is the water, since they have no anti-environment that would allow them to perceive the element they swim in.”3 We’ve become so enamored and naturalized to the ubiquitous world of information that surrounds us in external objects – the Internet of things – that we’ve forgotten what it was like to once live in a world where machines were absent. Marx himself during the height of the First Industrial age would describe this process of absorption and alienation:

In handicrafts and manufacture, the worker makes use of a tool; in the factory, the machine makes use of him. There the movements of the instrument of labour proceed from him, here it is the movements of the machine that he must follow. In manufacture the workers are the parts of a living mechanism. In the factory we have a lifeless mechanism which is independent of the workers, who are incorporated into it as its living appendages. ‘The wearisome routine of endless drudgery in which the same mechanical process is ever repeated, is like the torture of Sisyphus; the burden of toil, like the rock, is ever falling back upon the worn-out drudge.’4

This sense of the external death machine of capital that absorbs the surplus life of the drudge worker into its mechanical existence, the worker who animates the great beast of the Factory itself through repetition without difference – a living death without equal, pervades our lives 24/7. The Factory of the Globe is unbounded and everywhere.

Whether one is at work or play one is working for the Factory. There can be no escape. One is always within the matrix of its clutches like an energy vat awaiting the next alien visitation or program to inhabit one’s mind and reprogram one’s desires. In this artificial sphere of light and information we call global capital – or, the Consumertariat, we’ve all entered a deathless sleeplessness, a chronic state of insomnia. In this realm of utter abjectness we can neither rest nor retreat, we move along the streets of Manhattan or any other global city like zombies seeking our next feeding station. Close off within the mental hives of our mobile phones connection to the electronic ghostlands we hover among the living like transparent bots unable to touch or be touched. Our senses depleted of their former physical traces to the earth below our feet wander the maze of roads by signs only, the glitz of commerce is our last foothold in a world of pure ambient plenitude.

What is the Factory today? Is it not the pervasive system of ubiquitous objects, machines of communication and information (ICT’s) within which we have been incorporated like so many living machines all simultaneously processing data, following, analyzing, evaluating, and constructing capital for our Master’s?

As Berardi will emphasize we are no longer able to keep up with the machines within which we live and have our being, we are no longer attentive to the everyday lives of our loved ones, our health, our actual world of caring and feeling; instead, we are bound to a 24/7 world of inattentive pressure and ruthless execution. Our machines in fact are outpacing even our decisioning processes, and have begun to replace humans in intelligence and economic multitasking. As Brynjolfsson and McAfee in their book the “Race Against the Machine,” that the artificial intelligence boom has created machines that will replace humans in service industries that have traditionally been considered cornerstones of our economy. Equipped with new capabilities, such as the capacity for natural language, these machines will begin to displace human beings in core economic sectors, such as sales. And it’s unclear what will happen to those displaced workers once they’ve lost their jobs to machines that can do the work of several humans at a much lower cost.

“It may seem paradoxical that faster progress can hurt wages and jobs for millions of people, but we argue that’s what’s been happening,” Brynjolfsson and McAfee write. “Computers are now doing many things that used to be the domain of people only. The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications. Perhaps the most important of these is that while digital progress grows the overall economic pie, it can do so while leaving some people, or even a lot of them, worse off.”5

As Berardi will tell us this gap between speed and the slowness of the human brain and body to keep pace with the technological world of the economic markets of high-speed trading and other technologies is opening a pathological crack that is leading many of the cognitariat to immerse themselves in psychopharmaceuticals like Ritalin, Prozac, Zoloft and other psychotropic offerings which eventually lead to mental illness: dissociation, suffering, desperation, flight, panic, terror, the desire not to exist, to not have to fight to survive, and to vanish and disappear along side the ever growing need to kill of be killed through external mass murder or suicide. (Berardi, pp. 40-41)

Caught between the accelerating culture of narcotics: of the speed of cocaine, and the deceleration of heroin a world wide epidemic of executives and cognitariat have entered the stage of a sociopathological implosion of communicative diseases. Bound to a world that empowers sociopathy and disaffection rather than affectivity we are entering the Affectless Age where as Ballard says in his last major novel Super-Cannes: “…chief executives and main-board directors stumbled into work with persistent viral complaints. Worse than that, they all reported a loss of mental energy. Decision-making took longer, and they felt distracted by anxieties they couldn’t identify. Chronic fatigue syndrome haunted the place.”6

Berardi admits the work of capital must go on and in this world what is most needed is just that, your psychic energy your life surplus and it is this that is in short supply because what is prevalent in the system of capital is no longer the free-floating energy of life but rather sadness, depression, panic and demotivation. (Berardi, p. 42) Yet, in an about face it is this very depressive realism that has brought about health issues in the masses, for they seek to assuage their dark depressions through consuming more and more junk food. As Berardi will remind us “buying is a suspension of anxiety, an antidote to loneliness, but only up to a certain point. Beyond this certain point, suffering becomes a demotivating factor for purchasing.” (Berardi, p. 43) Our masters work overtime to convince us to be happy in their media and entertainment systems, while at the same time dissuading us from becoming too happy by imposing austere economic measures that force us to strategies of disaffection and panic. Caught in a circle of confused affectivity we ride the global wave of insanity like dark denizens of some apocalyptic zombie fest. Lonely and alone even in the midst of family and friends we have forgotten what it means to care and love, to be attentive to feelings and physical touch. Society demands sociopaths, while mixing the signals when those very sociopaths suddenly load up their weapons and seek ways of escape through violent acts of mass murder and suicide.

Berardi will ask us if it is already too late to decelerate the process of life in the Infospheric Civilization? His answer: yes, it is too late. “In human society, potentialities cannot be definitively canceled out, even when they are revealed to be lethal for the individual and probably even for the species.” (Berardi, p. 43) As he sees it there are two paths forward: 1) the hyper-capitalist transhumanism of the upgraded human organism turned Inforg, whose mental and physical capacities are enhanced to keep pace with the technological tyranny of the market economies; or, 2) the strategy of subtraction, of distancing ourselves from the vortex of capital, of refusal and small communities or spheres of existential, economic, and informatics autonomy developed within the ruins of this deadly machinic civilization. (Berardi, p. 43)

As Ballard would have one of his character say: ‘Because there isn’t any culture. All this alienation . . . I could easily get used to it.’ Even as our leaders and the executives and CEO’s of our major corporations have all become confident and well-adjusted sociopaths we begin to realize that the mechanosphere is itself coming alive around us. The molecular life of machinic civilization is slowly rising out of the ashes of human memory and desire like the silicon flotsam and jetsam that crawled out of the oceans millennia ago. The replication of life by another path is emerging even as we begin to go blind, caught in the illusions of our own control systems we faintly apprehend that the technological mutations we’ve so longed for are happening in our midst. Our fascination and fear of the truth spreads its wings among the terrors of our war machines and cinematic lives as we begin slowly to adapt to this strange new world.

Isn’t life wonderful?

And, after all, is this not the truth we’re now facing, that it may already be too late to disconnect, to discover a way out, that we’ve all become so naturalized in this alienated world of artificial wonders, cut off from any sense of value or culture, that becoming other, becoming alien is what we do best – we’re all aliens now. Becoming alien, devoid of affects, pre-programmed to desire the consuming worlds of capital like zombies in a swarm of sadean delight we edge closer and closer to the day when we and our machines will become inextinguishable – drifters on the sea of the mechanosphere, agents of a new and terrible species. All the imaginary heavens and hells were but a prelude to the very real and material genesis of this final mutation, a paradise of machinic life and civilization that was up to now merely a dream and a foreboding of nightmares to come.

Now begins the Age of the Symbiont…

They have begun to move. They pass in line, out of the main station, out of downtown, and begin pushing into older and more desolate parts of the city. Is this the way out? Faces turn to the windows, but no one dares ask, not out loud. Rain comes down. No, this is not a disentanglement from, but a progressive knotting into— they go in under archways, secret entrances of rotted concrete that only looked like loops of an underpass . . . certain trestles of blackened wood have moved slowly by overhead, and the smells begun of coal from days far to the past, smells of naphtha winters, of Sundays when no traffic came through, of the coral-like and mysteriously vital growth, around the blind curves and out the lonely spurs, a sour smell of rolling-stock absence, of maturing rust, developing through those emptying days brilliant and deep, especially at dawn, with blue shadows to seal its passage, to try to bring events to Absolute Zero . . . and it is poorer the deeper they go . . . ruinous secret cities of poor, places whose names he has never heard . . . the walls break down, the roofs get fewer and so do the chances for light. The road, which ought to be opening out into a broader highway, instead has been getting narrower, more broken, cornering tighter and tighter until all at once, much too soon, they are under the final arch: brakes grab and spring terribly. It is a judgment from which there is no appeal.7


  1. Ballard, J. G. (2012-02-27). Kingdom Come: A Novel (p. 123). Norton. Kindle Edition.
    Whitehead, Alfred North (2010-05-11).
  2. Process and Reality (Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927-28) Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  3. Wright, Alex (2007-06-01). Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages (Kindle Locations 166-167). National Academies Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Marx, Karl (2004-02-05). Capital: A Critique of Political Economy: A Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics) (Kindle Locations 7953-7957). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
  5. see Sal Gentile From Watson to Siri: As machines replace humans, are they creating inequality too?
  6. Ballard, J. G. (2010-04-01). Super-Cannes: A Novel (p. 253). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.
  7. Pynchon, Thomas (2012-06-13). Gravity’s Rainbow (pp. 3-4).  . Kindle Edition.

The Global Monopolists: The Food Cartels and their Trade Control

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The idea that our economy is ruled by monopolists will surprise many of you. The shelves of our stores bulge with goodies. The digital media world has dissolved into a chaotic free – for – all. Yet in the generation since 1981, when we all but stopped enforcing our antimonopoly laws, a very small number of people have consolidated control over just about every activity in the United States…

—Barry C. Lynn, Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economy of Destruction

…this interlocked self-perpetuating syndicate decides who eats and who doesn’t, who lives and who dies. It is a virtual spider web of financial, political, economic and industry interests with the Venetian ultramontane fondi model at the center. These people own and manage the affairs of an interlocking corporate apparatus that dominates choke points within the global economy, especially finance, insurance, raw materials, transportation, and consumer goods.

—Daniel Estulin

Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

—a recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin

Sometime in the mid-1970’s, Kissinger, a life-long practitioner of “Balance of Power” geopolitics and a man with more than a fair share of conspiracies under his belt, allegedly declared his blueprint for world domination: “Control the oil and you control nations. Control the food, and you control the people.”

—William F. Engdahl, Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation

The threat of disruption to the circulation of stuff has become such a profound concern to governments and corporations in recent years that it has prompted the creation of an entire architecture of security that aims to govern global spaces of flow. This new framework of security— supply chain security— relies on a range of new forms of transnational regulation, border management, data collection, surveillance, and labor discipline, as well as naval missions and aerial bombing. In fact, to meaningfully capture the social life of circulation, we would have to consider not only disruption to the system but the assembly of infrastructure and architecture achieved through land grabs, military actions, and dispossessions that are often the literal and figurative grounds for new logistics spaces.

—Deborah Cowen,  The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade

The Windsor-led oligarchy has built up a single, integrated raw materials cartel, with three divisions—energy, raw materials and minerals, and increasingly scarce food supplies.The firms within each cartel group are listed. While they maintain the legal fiction of being different corporate organizations, in reality this is one interlocking syndicate, with a common purpose and multiple overlapping boards of directors. The Windsor-centered oligarchy owns these cartels, and they are the instruments of power of the oligarchy, accumulated over centuries, for breaking nations’ sovereignty.

The control works as follows: The oligarchy has developed four regions to be the principal exporters of almost every type of food; the oligarchy has historically acquired top-down control over the food chain in these regions. These four regions are: the United States; the European Union, particularly France and Germany; the British Commonwealth nations of Australia, Canada, the Republic of South Africa, and New Zealand; and Argentina and Brazil in Ibero-America. Through the centuries, the oligarchy has taken control of these regions’ markets, and thus over the world food supply. These four regions have a population of, at most, 900 million people, or 15% of the world’s population. The rest of the world, with 85% of the population—4.7 billion people—is dependent on the food exports from those regions.

The control of food for use as a weapon is an ancient practice. The House of Windsor inherited certain routes and infrastructure. One finds the practice in ancient Babylon/Mesopotamia 4,000 years ago. In Greece, the cults of Apollo, Demeter, and Rhea-Cybele often controlled the shipment of grain and other food stuffs, through the temples. In Imperial Rome, the control of grain became the basis of the empire. Rome was the center. Conquered outlying colonies in Gaul, Brittany, Spain, Sicily, Egypt, North Africa, and the Mediterranean littoral had to ship grain to the noble Roman families, as taxes and tribute. Often the grain tax was greater than the land could bear, and areas of North Africa, for instance, were turned into dust bowls.

The evil city-state of Venice took over grain routes, particularly after the Fourth Crusade (1202-04). The main Venetian thirteenth century trading routes had their eastern termini in Constantinople, the ports of the Oltremare (which were the lands of the crusading States), and Alexandria, Egypt. Goods from these ports were shipped to Venice, and from there made their way up the Po Valley to markets in Lombardy, or over the Alpine passes to the Rhône and into France. Eventually, Venetian trade extended to the Mongol empire in the East.

By the fifteenth century, although Venice was still very much a merchant empire, it had franchised some of its grain and other trade to the powerful Burgundian duchy, whose effective headquarters was Antwerp. This empire, encompassing parts of France, extended from Amsterdam and Belgium to much of present-day Switzerland. From this Venetian-Lombard-Burgundian nexus, each of the food cartel’s six leading grain companies was either founded, or inherited a substantial part of its operations today.

By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the British Levant and East India companies had absorbed many of these Venetian operations. In the nineteenth century, the London-based Baltic Mercantile and Shipping Exchange became the world’s leading instrument for contracting for and shipping grain.

The five privately held grain companies were carved out from the centuries-old Mesopotamian-Venetian-Burgundian-Swiss-Amsterdam grain route, which today extends around the world. The Big Five are Cargill, Continental, Louis Dreyfus, Bunge and Born, and André. The Continental Grain Company is run by billionaire Michel Fribourg and his son Paul. Simon Fribourg started the company in 1813 in Arlon, Belgium. He moved the company to Antwerp, and then, in the 1920s, to Paris and London. Today, it has a New York office, along with a strong Swiss-French base.

In 1852, Léopold Louis Dreyfus, who was born in Sierentz, France, established wheat-trading operations in Basel, Switzerland. In this century, except during World War II, Louis Dreyfus has been headquartered in Paris (part of the old Lombard-Burgundian route).

Bunge and Born was founded by the Bunge family from Amsterdam in 1752. The company was eventually moved to Antwerp (today it is technically headquartered in São Paulo, Brazil and the Netherlands Antilles). The André Company was founded by Georges André in Nyon, Switzerland, and today is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Cargill Company, the world’s largest grain company, is based in the Minneapolis, Minnesota suburb of Minnetonka. It was founded by Scotsman William Cargill, in Conover, Iowa in 1865, and has been run, since the 1920s, by the billionaire MacMillan family. But the true nexus of Cargill is in Geneva, Switzerland, where Cargill’s international trading arm, Tradax, Inc., is headquartered, having been established there in 1956 (technically, Tradax is a Panamanian-registered company). Tradax has divisions all around the world, including in Argentina, Germany, and Japan. It is the major source for Cargill’s international trading; Cargill has a lot of money invested in it, and Cargill reaps a large return from Tradax’s operations. Tradax also has partial Swiss ownership. The Lombard, Odier Bank, as well as the Pictet Bank, both old, private and very dirty Swiss banks, own a chunk of Tradax. The principal financier for Tradax is the Geneva-based Crédit Suisse, which is one of the world’s largest money-launderers.

Archer Daniels Midland’s purchase of Töpfer, a Hamburg, Germany-based grain company, vastly increased ADM’s presence in the world grain trade. Töpfer’s trade is situated within the old Venice-Swiss-Amsterdam-Paris routes, and it has extensive business partnerships with the British Crown jewel, the Rothschild Bank.1


  1. Richard Freeman. The Windsors’ Global Food Cartel:Instrument for Starvation. EIR, December 8, 1995.

Digital Dionysus: R. Scott Bakker

Reading R. Scott Bakker’s essay in The Digital Dionysus: Nietzsche and the Network-Centric Condition (ed., Dan Mellamphy, Nandita Biswas Mellamphy). I keep thinking to myself how Scott truly is a thinker of one thought, a thought that has become monomaniacal in his life: the notion that for all our knowledge, our philosophies, we are little more than creatures of absolute neglect – error prone, biased, and bound within a circular world of ignorance and delusion, creatures whose evolutionary history is shrouded in the mystery and origins of the Mind. And, yet, for all our knowledge we are still ignorant of the one thing we seek beyond all other things: what is this thing we are, do we have a soul, and – above all do we even exist: is this thing we are anything more than a linguistic construct, a fool’s game for philosophy or the sciences? For Scott the answer resides in the dilemma of intentionality. Since Kant we’ve been looping in a false infinity of questions concerning the Mind, Self, and Consciousness.

His defense of the sciences, especially of the neurosciences seems more of a continued search for a skeptical faith beyond skepticism – a sought for certainty that his one thought will prove its absolute integrity in the end, putting his own skeptical and ironizing self to sleep for good.  As he states it:

We now know that only a fraction of the estimated 38,000 trillion operations per second processed by the brain finds its way to consciousness. This means that experience, all experience, is profoundly privative, a simplistic caricature of otherwise breathtakingly complex processes. (p. 156).

It’s this privative character of our knowledge that fascinates and disturbs Scott. Our reliance on knowledge is borne of our absolute ignorance and neglect rather than any true understanding of ourselves or reality. For millennia philosophers have repeated for the most part the same gestures, the same routes between ignorance and knowledge. In this essay Scott gives us a peak at his early growth as a thinker and questioner of this problem. As a young man his interests in the sciences has led Scott at the early age of 14 to became a full blown nihilist. His confrontation with Descartes was crucial in forging his move to delve into the contemporary landscape of the anti-realists, especially the work of Jacques Derrida. As Scott says of Descartes attempt, given the collapse in confidence wrought by the new sciences of the seventeenth century, to place knowledge on a new, secure, subjective foundation. “Just who did the guy think he was fooling, really?” (p. 148)

Against the dualism and subjective foundation of knowledge grounded in Descartes famous: “I think, therefore I am,” Scott would return to Nietzsche’s notions of an impersonal agency at the core of our inhuman being concluding that the thing that thinks is an “it” – that “it” thinks rather than there being any sense of Self/Subject. In this sense Scott following Nietzsche displaces the notion of agency into the unconscious functions of the brain itself:

Even though we like to think our thoughts come from our prior thoughts, which is to say, from ourselves, the merest reflection shows this cannot be the case, that each thought is dropped into consciousness from the outside, and that hence the “I” is born after the fact. (p. 148)

The “I” is a retroactive thought-form, a trick of our interpellation of our ignorance and access to the actual state-of-affairs of the brain’s hidden processes. Having no access to the brain’s dark hinterlands we assume it is we who think, that we have a Self-Soul. After reading Sartre’s reformulation of the cogito in Being and Nothingness, combined with his readings of Nietzsche, Scott would reformulate Descartes foundational gesture with one of his own, saying: “it thinks, therefore I was” (p. 148). This acknowledgement of thought as being pre-processed in the brain, and our receiving it after the fact as historical data rather than present thinking makes of us mere passive recipients of this process rather than active agents. This gesture against free will and the culpability of our philosophical heritage would from that point forward come to play a major part in Scott’s quest to displace philosophy with the sciences as foundational for any future thought concerning the human condition.

Yet, all of this would come much later for Scott after entering university was confronted with the legacy of new French thought which in that era was bound to the post-structuralist world of Derrida’s deconstructionism of the Western metaphysical tradition of “presence”. Scott by the age of 28 would become both a disciple and fellow laborer in that heritage, having displaced his early nihilist proclivities and anti-intentionalist stance with a full tilt Heideggerian phenomenological intentionality. At the height of his powers and triumphant in his belief in the efficacy of philosophy he would meet a young student who like his younger self was a nihilist. Scott would take it upon himself to convert this young man to his new found faith in post-structuralist philosophy. The young man would hear him out, let me speak of Heidegger to Derrida only asking for details of this or that specific concept or idea from time to time. At the end the young man would answer Scott’s summons to repent his ways and become a convert to the post-structuralist cause, saying:  “Well, that despite the fact that philosophy hasn’t resolved any matter with any reliability ever, and, despite the fact that science is the most powerful, reliable, theoretical claim-making institution in human history, you’re still willing to suspend your commitment to scientific implications on the basis of prior commitments to philosophical claims about science and this… ontological difference.”

Bakker was taken aback, stunned by this observation, and would hem-and-haw, mumbling about this and that argument in Heidegger or Derrida etc., but in the end he admitted defeat: “outside the natural sciences there was no way short of exhaustion or conspiracy to end the regress of interpretation” (p. 149). Of course at the heart of most post-structuralist thought was the aporia, the knot of difference (Derrida proclaims that today, more than ever, “this predilection [for paradox and aporia] remains a requirement.) – a black hole in rhetoric and discursive thought that opened up an abyss or irony and skepticism. For Derrida there were three such aporias: “the epoche of the rule,” “the ghost of the undecidable,” and “the urgency that obstructs the horizon of knowledge”: at the heart of this paradoxical situation is that nothing can ever be decided definitively, everything is tentative and under the suspicion of the impossible; and, yet, one must decide, one must invent the possible therefore one chooses in ignorance, one decides. This is why in Western thought Justice is Blind. Under this notion of the undecidable is this suspicion that there is no foundation, no ground, no end to the endless questioning, no place of rest for the weary philosopher king in his gestures to make closure on knowledge. Instead there is only the bitter and endless dialectic of philosophy itself in its eternal contamination of generation after generation wandering in the useless loops and circuits of ignorance and neglect. For these philosophers nothing could ever be known for certain, only the endless uncertainty of irony and skepticism without end.

This realization awakened Bakker out of his dogmatic stupor: “So, back to the “bullshit” it was. I should have known. After all, I had only spent fourteen years repeating myself.” (p. 150) Ultimately this would lead him to disconnect from philosophy, say goodbye to the intentional stance and reenter the fold of those who offer commitment to the sciences rather than the “folk psychology” of an outmoded heritage in metaphysics and speculation: “Though we cannot yet say what a given experience “is,” we can say that the final answer, like so many answers provided by science, will lie far outside the pale of our intuitive preconceptions—perhaps incomprehensibly so.” (p. 156)

 

 

 

 

Exiting the Iron Prison of our Cultural Matrix

In answer to a friend’s inquiry:

I’ll put it this way, you speak of a mystic turn in your personal life. I’ll admit that my own quest – so to speak, has been one that has tried to push beyond either traditional religious indoctrination, and – as well, the whole gamut of Secular indoctrination… the notion of the Real that so many use as a sort of limit concept is this blank wall against which thought comes to a point past which it cannot use those mind-tools that have for millennia been built up through either religious orthodoxies or through secular philosophical modes. We are living in a moment when the utter breakdown of both religious and philosophical truths that have guided human kind for millennia – whether of Western or Eastern forms, is forcing some of us to abandon them altogether rather than to try to “pour new wine into old bottles”. We do not need reform, rather we need a revolution in thought and praxis: a new mode of being-in-the-world.

So that what we term this beast we call New Age thought is like the era of Greek syncretism delving into counter-cultural praxis, seeking experiential truth rather than universal knowledge or discourse. Some like Bataille with his “inner experience” would tentatively operate in this quasi in-between transitional zone, seeking a form of the sacred outside both secular and religious imaginal or philosophical speculation. For myself going back to my early involvement with LSD, Peyote, Mushrooms, Ayaheusca and other natural plant substances and sub-cultural environs I felt that there are certain experiences that mainstream cultures of our present era have missed, misconstrued, and anathematized as too dangerous for the public at large; so they outlawed these avenues of exploration.

With the crackdown on psychedelic drugs in the early 70’s these same authorities were flooding the streets with the dangerous drugs of cocaine, heroin and other barbiturates from redelin to meth (uppers), yellows and reds (downers) etc. – all drugs that put one either in a stupor or into hyperactive psychosis. It was at this time that I began doing research and study in the deep history of these other visionary drugs and cultures of ecstasy and Dionysian reality, seeking in the indigenous worlds of ancient shamanic, Voudoun, and other ecstatic systems a remembrance of such mind systems that could deprogram my involvement with this death-world. I would seek in the poets such as Rimbaud and the literature of the gothic, dark romantic, decadent, Dadists, Surrealists, etc. a way to unleash these darker areas of mentation and feeling that had been forgotten, outlawed, and left in abeyance awaiting the moment of their return.

So that I’ve learned to segment off my private path from this public persona that delves into speculative philosophy, etc. One thing I’ve discovered about such an inner path: one cannot convey it with traditional symbols of discourse or narrative, so I haven’t tried too much to do this except here and there on my site as I think you know. People either fear such experience, or criminalize it (i.e, if their of naturalist and scientific orientation they dismiss it as subjective gibberish, and if they are either secular or religious they dismiss it because their world-view and orientation disallows them to accept anything beyond their own local and colloquial mind-set or echo chamber beliefs.). And it is this sense of a need to deprogram our minds of the cultural and enculturation of Western or Eastern symbolic and reasonable indoctrination that is at the core of this path. Most people turn back because it entails a movement of – and, this is the closest I can say, what Deleuze/Guattari meant by the schizophrenizing process: this deprogramming the mind of its Western cultural ideological, political, religious, philosophical, sociological, etc. etc. orientation, symbols, and myths – whether scientific or religious.

There are a few guideposts into such realms of being, and so like many of my generation we sought out the counter-cultural underground of drugs, sex, rock-n-roll, magic, Kabbalah, Hermeticism, and all other sub-traditional systems that have constructed diagrammatic and sigil based thought-forms to re-orient the brain and break down the mainstream cultural enculturation, deprogram the psyche and lead us through this schizophrenizing process of breakthrough rather than breakdown. Such a life path is obviously not for the feint of heart. Simply put one can enter the abyss and not return, go mad and star craving psychotic unless one lends ear to one who has gone before. For some of us there were no such guides, only persistence. I’ll tell you my whole life has been pushing the extremes of transgressive schizophrenizing process for 45 years…

Obviously to let that cat out of the bag is to expose oneself to the usual ridicule or worse… but, you know, at this point in life I don’t give a shit. I might as well begin letting people know of such worlds. What do we have to lose? Obviously most philosophy and religion so called offers nothing but bullshit. Most politics is dead and mute, and most people in our culture are so passive that they’ve allowed the rich and wealthy, powerful and crazed to rule our Western world without much of a real battle. Our present world is a nightmare novel come alive. Many are seeking a way out of this dark lair of history, but have no one to speak truth to them. Sadly, many fall into the trap of seeking messianic cults, and there are plenty of money grubbing and religious fanatics around to lure in the gullible. Look a Scientology, Mormonism, and any other of the 1001 cults here in the good ole U.S.A. that promise people salvation, transcendence, are escape and end up asking them to sign away their estates, bank accounts, and livelihoods for enslavement. For the many who have never had a chance to break out of their local environments or mind-sets, those who have never cracked a book, who live in a sort of mindlessness such lures that offer exit from the madness of our current cultural break down seem like paradisial escape hatches. Their not.

I’ve often thought of opening up, but then I remember the times I foolishly tried to convey my life’s history and struggles through this long process and realize it’s a fool’s errand to speak about that which cannot be put down in words. And, yet, people in our time seem to be awakening out of the fog of our enculturation, realizing the world we live in is a sham. A world that has become so fake that the control mechanisms that the rich and powerful use to keep things tamped down, the mediatainment complex, the indoctrination mechanisms of orthodox religion and secularism are fraying around the edges. These ideological and socio-cultural tools of the powerful are decaying and falling apart in our time and people no longer trust leaders, politics, or the Reality Studio that governs our minds and hearts. People are disgusted with the world the .01% has perpetrated upon us. The criminalization of existence and its contamination by a false system of fictions is coming undone around us, the lies our leaders have instilled in us, indoctrinated us with for so long are ending.

Yet, this is opening a Pandora’s box of ills as well. People are feeling alone, realizing that both their traditional and secular orientations no longer offer them solace. That we are in the midst of a great confrontation with the Real, one that is disinterring a nightmare of war, famine, and disease across the earth. People are afraid, not for themselves as much as for their children’s future. Will they have one? We hear of climate change, sixth extinctions, possible natural or socio-cultural catastrophes just around the corner. People take up survival ideologies, apocalypse escape methods, etc. as if this, too, were a new faith, one that will orient them and prepare them for some long expected doom. Sometimes I think this, too, is just another symptom of our time’s demise, the slow unravelling of our culture and its myths. Even the sciences has been now shown to be a force in politics, and politicians on both sides of the isle garner their experts to present the latest “truth” about such catastrophic futures. Some have called ours the post-truth era, many that truth as a universal thought-form is a lie, that truth is a political and social tool in the hands of our elite intellectuals.

Even these so called intellectuals live in a controlled world, funded by the very rich and powerful. The vast network of Think Tanks, Academic Institutions, Media systems, Churches, Psychologists-Psychiatrists, etc., all the public institutions that have experts whose technics and technologies control the reality systems we have all shared in this cultural world of modernity has become a sort of Temple or Cathedral of Knowledge. We depend of these experts to tell us about everything from physics and the cosmos, to the safety of our food, etc. We live in a technocracy – a world ruled by experts who are paid by one or another faction of the Oligarchic and Plutocratic Corporate machine.

It’s easy to satirize such a world, but much more difficult to exit it. I know I’m no guru, no self-styled expert of inner-experience to tell you or anyone what to do, how to escape this malaise, what path to choose that is right or true. I’m just another singular being like you and you and that person over there who is fed up with the bullshit. All I can offer is my own singular history which seems to be all I really have. For all my learning over the years, for all my deep and lasting experiences I still hesitate to convey such things in words for the simple reason that if one could actually awaken people, help people then – and, I ask, wouldn’t it have already happened? Look at Christ, Buddha, Mohamed, Confucius, are any number of a thousand and one other men or women (and, yes, long before the saviors there were Goddess oriented societies we know very little of…). No. I want presume to be anything more than I am: an average man who woke up one day and questioned the world, the Reality Studio and fictions, narratives, symbolic net of  ideas, ideologies, and religious and secular systems that control our lives and found them wanting. Then I, like so many before me, and hopefully after me began that long and slow exit from the prison world. I’m still exiting…

One could say I’m a Gnostic of sorts, except that in my own view the ancient Gnostics literalized or ontologized their perceptions and thought of the Real. Following Plato they sought to escape this ‘world’ – the literal universe of evil as they termed it, whereas for me there is no transcension of this realm: this is it, and yet, what we discover is not a literal dichotomy or separation as in Plato’s two-worlds theory of a supernal eternal realm of Ideas and a mundane and evil realm of delusion, but rather it is our Mind’s, our Brains that have locked us into a perception of the world controlled by political, social, cultural, religious, and philosophical malfeasance. The world in-itself is not evil, what is evil is the dominion of our minds and hearts under regimes of power in high places that have constructed an Iron Prison of thought and feeling to trap us and suck our desires dry for their own sustenance and pleasure.

It is against the rulers of this dark prison world of mind, the Oligarchs, Plutocrats, philosophical and religious overlords of our ideological realms of acceptable thought and truth we fight and resist in this new gnosis. Such as it is we seek to exit this system of lies and deceit even as we unravel and destroy its symbolic hold over our lives. For years I struggle against the separation of religious and secular forms that entrap us to false infinities: to a metaphysics of defeat and despair, pessimism and doom. Most of the world is oriented to trap us in a sense of despair and doom to make us dependent and needy, so that we will allow the State to supervene in our lives and offer assistance and numbing drugs, pharmaceuticals, therapies, etc. to realign us to its prison system and put us back asleep and oblivion becoming in the process robotically compliant to the work and labour of creating surplus value for the wealthy and powerful.

In many ways Marx was absolutely correct in his estimation of this world we live in, and yet because he reduced everything to economics and a false understanding of materialism and history (bound as he was within the humanist traditions of Nineteenth Century thought-forms) he was unable to break free of the human-centric worldview of his own time. One can see this even in such current thinkers as Badiou and Zizek who are still bound to the Idealisms of the Nineteenth Century based of the notion of Subject/Substance no matter how remarkable otherwise their knowledge of mathematics or philosophy of action. Their inverted Idealisms are still based on the Kantian world for-us as if everything in the universe was wrapped around the human as an exception, generic or collective or singular. It matters not, for until we dissolve this illusory and metaphysical world of Subjects we will not free ourselves of the traps our overlords have laid for us.

It would be easy to slip into some comfortable framework, to use the discursive archive as Foucault suggested to enforce my thought-forms, to speak truth within the discursive practices that are accepted in academic and scholarly circles of established rules, regulatory thought, etc., except that that would be to reject the very orientation of my being and breakthrough. Why return to a mold that is outworn and useless? What does philosophy or even anti-philosophy offer us today? Nothing. And, I mean just that, a philosophy of nothing. It’s as if philosophy at the end of its tether had realized the ancient Gnostic insight of the kenoma – the vastation, the great emptiness of things, the void of the void, the nihil unbound. And, yet, it comes to this by way of a complex discourse that speaks neither to the common man nor even to the general public, but rather to specialists of philosophical speculation: Continental or Analytical. Experts. Let us be done with experts, with specialists, with the practitioners of arcane thought and speculations that offer us no way out of this dark realm of political and social control and malfeasance.

If life has taught me anything it is that we have to challenge ourselves, break our habitual habits and safety nets of thought and feeling, we have to learn how to learn, break away from the habits that lock us into comfortable paths of acceptance and keep us safely in a cocoon of belief. That’s the difficult thing, breaking free of habits of mind and feeling leaves us vulnerable, open. To risk freedom is to be alone with the alone, to step out of our cocoon and suddenly realize we have nothing to fall back on, not belief system or thought-form to rely on, we are in a universe that is incomplete and open and we are alone in it without support or guide other than others of like kind who share our need to exit this prison world of modernity.

I’d be the first to admit that most people who even open the first door to such freedom become terrified and retreat into the safety of their habits, beliefs, and comfort zones of friends, work, and mediatainment. They soon forget such exit’s are possible, and think that anyone who seeks such freedom and exit is mad and insane. Our brain’s are truly conservative, conserving and circumventing every avenue of escape with mental thoughts and forms that present stop signs at every juncture dissuading us on our way, seeking to turn us back from such exit into freedom. If I use such old existential terms and truisms is because they speak to this feeling we’ve all felt that when we step out of our comfort zone we suddenly do feel nausea, a sickness of heart and mind. And, most, turn away from such ruptures in their worldview, retreat to the blind comfort of the homeworlds of thought and feeling never to open that door of risk again. Sleepers love their sleeping worlds of imprisonment to habit and feeling.  Trying to speak to one who is asleep is to disturb them and confront them with this ugly realm. They will hate you for it. People do not want to wake up, their lives are comfortable and bland, yet safe. And it’s this sense of being safe and secure that allows them to accept the pain and suffering, the enslavement and work, the misery of existence in this society without qualm or effort.

Have you asked yourself why with all the harsh austerity imposed by banks, governments, and corporations across the EU and U.S.A. people have not rebelled or revolted? Because they’d rather be safe in their misery than to expose themselves to the risk of freedom. Instead of organizing themselves to challenge this world of degradation they either fall into the protest mill or religious tautologies of ancient belief systems that tell them this world is evil and the only escape is in the next life… so they except their miserable fate in this world and shrug their shoulders believing the problems we face as humanity are too big for any one individual so why try? So they close their eyes and go back to sleep.

When my friend spoke of his interest in mystical experience I suddenly realized that this, too, is a form of escape not exit. Exit entails resistance and change whereas mystical withdrawal whether in its negative ascetic form or ecstatic transgressive form is neither change nor resistance but rather a path of pure annihilation. Seeking not to exit the social and political through the shared construction of a new world vision and life and mode of existence, but rather what these mystically inclined seek is to transcend time and existence altogether. This is the path of false infinity…

I’ve chewed your ear off enough this morning… time to let you chew the cud above. I’ll return with other fare down the pipe as I always do. Good Day!

Phantom Monsters: Nationalism, Paranoia, and Political Control

The deeper I delved, the more it appeared that this panic was, to some extent, kept alive by the governments of the day. I also became aware of the degree to which the presumed need to safeguard the political and social order facilitated the introduction of new methods of control and repression.”

– Adam Zamoyski, Phantom Terror: The Threat of Revolution and the Repression of Liberty 1789-1848

The Study of Political Paranoia is inevitable in our time, and reading Adam Zamoyski’s work brings us back to another moment when a convergence of nationalism, paranoia, and panic seemed to pervade every aspect of social life of the elite and power brokers who waged war against any and all who threatened their status and power. Watching the stagecraft of current U.S. media-blitz polarity in which panic and terror of both Trump and Russian invasive strategies, along with the internal Deep State paranoia surrounding much of the history of U.S. secrecy, etc. promotes panic in the common world of the masses, stirs up political unrest and secures a sort of ongoing insecurity that allows the powers to enforce oppression and control while distilling a grand narrative to invent a new order. More interesting as Zamoyski’s study shows is that this has all happened before under other skies and other nations:

“The reordering of the Continent by those who triumphed over Napoleon in 1815 was intended to reverse all this. The return to a social order based on throne and altar was meant to restore the old Christian values. The Concert of Europe, a mutual pact between the rulers of the major powers, was designed to ensure that such things could never happen again.

Yet the decades that followed were dominated by the fear that the Revolution lived on, and could break out once more at any moment. Letters and diaries of the day abound in imagery of volcanic eruption engulfing the entire social and political order, and express an almost pathological dread that dark forces were at work undermining the moral fabric on which that order rested. This struck me as curious, and I began to investigate. The deeper I delved, the more it appeared that this panic was, to some extent, kept alive by the governments of the day. I also became aware of the degree to which the presumed need to safeguard the political and social order facilitated the introduction of new methods of control and repression. I was reminded of more recent instances where the generation of fear in the population – of capitalists, Bolsheviks, Jews, fascists, Islamists – has proved useful to those in power, and has led to restrictions on the freedom of the individual by measures meant to protect him from the supposed threat.

A desire to satisfy my curiosity about what I thought was a historic cultural phenomenon gradually took on a more serious purpose, as I realised that the subject held enormous relevance to the present. I have nevertheless refrained from drawing attention to this in the text, resisting the temptation, strong at times, to suggest parallels between Prince Metternich and Tony Blair, or George W. Bush and the Russian tsars. Leaving aside the bathos this would have involved, I felt readers would derive more fun from drawing their own.”

And, so we shall, for we live in an age between ages, a time of the in-between, a moment between acts in a grand farce in which the very structure and dynamism of our temporal order in moving into chaos by way of personal and social paranoia and revolutionary politics. Discovering parallels between the dark worlds of Nineteenth century political and social distress, panic, and terror and our own would be an interesting task but one that I’ll not try to pursue in this post, rather I’ll seek to bring together some of the extreme aspect of the paranoid mind-set as its shadows fall across our singular age of political and social breakdown.

Continue reading

The Radicalism of Thomas Paine

The land, the earth God gave man for his home, sustenance, and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society, or unfriendly government, any more than the air or water.”  – Abraham Lincoln

The word ‘Bastille’ was also fresh in the mind in 1791, as the symbol of the French absolutist monarchy and as a synonym for the many dark prisons in which the liberals of Europe had so long been confined and tortured. The Marquis de Lafayette, chivalric hero of both the American and the French Revolutions, gave the key of the Bastille to Thomas Paine and requested him to forward it to President George Washington as a token of French regard to the American people. Paine had done so with delight in the year before he published Rights of Man, adding a covering letter which described the key as ‘this early trophy of the spoils of despotism, and the first ripe fruits of American principles transplanted into Europe’. The key hangs to this day on the wall of Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. The date of Paine’s letter was the first of May, which a century or so later was the date selected by American workers as the one on which to begin the struggle for the eight-hour day, and afterwards by the labour movements of all countries as May Day: the holiday and carnival and fiesta of the oppressed.1

The name of Paine will always be indissolubly linked to those resonant words, the ‘rights of man’. The book which bears that noble title was, however, not just a paean to human liberty. It was partly a short-term polemic, directed in particular at Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, a very exceptional contribution to the energetic ‘pamphlet wars’ that made the late eighteenth century, with its clubs and pubs and coffee-houses and printshops, such an enlivening period in Britain and France and America. It was also partly a revisionist history of England, written from the viewpoint of those who had gained the least from the Norman Conquest and the successive monarchical coups and usurpations. Then again it was a manifesto, setting out the basic principles of reform and, if necessary, of revolution. It did not disdain to put forward certain practical and immediate programmatic suggestions, designed to alleviate suffering and injustice in the here and now. But it always kept its sights raised to a point somewhat beyond the immediate political and social horizon. It is, in that sense, one of the first ‘modern’ texts. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress may have kept alive the spirit of the English Revolution in countless poor and down-trodden homes, and the careful research of John Stuart Mill and others may have laid the basis for later Victorian social reform, but Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man is both a trumpet of inspiration and a carefully wrought blueprint for a more rational and decent ordering of society, both domestically and on the international scene. (ibid.)

Thomas Paine as the First to Propose a Base Income For All

In 1797, Thomas Paine, responding to a priest who said that “God created rich and poor”, wrote an essay called “Agrarian Justice”, in which he said Nonsense! “God created male and female and gave them the earth for their inheritance … everyone who owns land owes ‘ground rent’ to the community … and from this revenue I propose to establish a fund that will pay everyone a sum.”

In his book Agrarian Justice Paine would outline his plan for Base Income and Shared Wealth:

To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary to have some idea of the natural and primitive state of man; such as it is at this day among the Indians of North America. There is not, in that state, any of those spectacles of human misery which poverty and want present to our eyes in all the towns and streets in Europe.

Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state…Civilization, therefore, or that which is so called, has operated two ways: to make one part of society more affluent, and the other more wretched, than would have been the lot of either in a natural state…

In taking the matter upon this ground, the first principle of civilization ought to have been, and ought still to be, that the condition of every person born into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought not to be worse than if he had been born before that period…

It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, uncultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with the rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.

But the earth in its natural state, as before said, is capable of supporting but a small number of inhabitants compared with what it is capable of doing in a cultivated state. And as it is impossible to separate the improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which that improvement is made, the idea of landed property arose from that inseparable connection; but it is nevertheless true, that it is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property.

Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community a ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund proposed in this plan is to issue.

There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue…

The value of the improvement so far exceeded the value of the natural earth, at that time, as to absorb it; till, in the end, the common right of all became confounded into the cultivated right of the individual. But there are, nevertheless, distinct species of rights, and will continue to be, so long as the earth endures…

Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss, and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before.

In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity, that I am pleading for…

I shall now proceed to the plan I have to propose, which is, to create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property; and also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age…[For context, the average annual wage of an agricultural laborer was around £23, which is almost US$50,000 today. £10 would translate to about US$21,000 and £15 to nearly US$32,000.]

It is proposed that the payments, as already stated, be made to every person, rich or poor. It is best to make it so, to prevent invidious distinctions. It is also right it should be so, because it is in lieu of the natural inheritance, which, as a right, belongs to every man, over and above the property he may have created, or inherited from those who did. Such persons as do not choose to receive it can throw it into the common fund.

…it can only be done by subtracting from property a portion equal in value to the natural inheritance it has absorbed. Various methods may be proposed for this purpose, but that which appears to be the best…is at the moment that property is passing by the death of one person to the possession of another…

From this [value]…annually revolving, is to be subtracted the value of the natural inheritance absorbed in it, which, perhaps, in fair justice, cannot be taken at less, and ought not to be taken for more, than a tenth part [a 10% estate tax to nuclear family members]…

Considering, then, that man is always related to society…it is therefore consistent with civilization to say that where there are no direct heirs society shall be heir to a part over and above the tenth part due to society…(an addition of ten per cent more) [a 20% estate tax if there are no direct heirs]…

There are, in every country, a number of blind and lame persons totally incapable of earning a livelihood. But as it will always happen that the greater number of blind persons will be among those who are above the age of fifty years, they will be provided for in that class. The remaining [estate tax funds] will provide for the lame and blind under that age, at the same rate of £10 annually for each person…

It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for…I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be miserable in consequence of it…There are, in every country, some magnificent charities established by individuals. It is, however, but little that any individual can do, when the whole extent of the misery to be relieved is considered. He may satisfy his conscience, but not his heart. He may give all that he has, and that all will relieve but little. It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles as to act like a system of pulleys, that the whole weight of misery can be removed.

The plan here proposed will reach the whole. It will immediately relieve and take out of view three classes of wretchedness – the blind, the lame, and the aged poor; and it will furnish the rising generation with means to prevent their becoming poor…The plan here proposed will benefit all, without injuring any. It will consolidate the interest of the republic with that of the individual…

I have made the calculations stated in this plan, upon what is called personal, as well as upon landed property. The reason for making it upon land is already explained; and the reason for taking personal property into the calculation is equally well founded though on a different principle. Land, as before said, is the free gift of the Creator in common to the human race. Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally…All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man’s own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came…

…for if we examine the case minutely it will be found that the accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of paying too little for the labor that produced it; the consequence of which is that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence.

…when the ostentatious appearance [property] makes serves to call the right of it in question, the case of property becomes critical, and it is only in a system of justice that the possessor can contemplate security…

A revolution in the state of civilization is the necessary companion of revolutions in the system of government.

Speaking of the distinctions of Natural Rights for the people, Paine in a letter to Jefferson written in 1788/9,  draws a distinction between ‘rights they could individually exercise fully and perfectly, and those they could not’ (CW II, 1298). In the reply to Burke this is used to show that every civil right grows out of a natural right or ‘is a natural right exchanged)’; that the civil power is made up of the aggregate of that class of the natural rights of man, which becomes defective in the individual in point of power; and that the power produced from the aggregate of natural rights, imperfect in power in the individual’, cannot be applied to invade the natural rights which are retained by the individual…’ (CW I, 276).

Paine then develops a series of welfare proposals that seem to have no underlying principle of justice, but are proffered wholly as a way of redirecting spending. He advocates that poor relief be removed as a local tax and replaced by central provision from government coffers; that pensions be offered for those advanced in age, starting at 50, and in full form at 60; that provision be made for the education of the poor; that maternity be benefit be granted to all women immediately after the birth of a child; that a fund be established for the burial of those who die away from home; and that arrangements be made for the many young people who travel to the metropolis in search of a livelihood to provide initial accommodation and support until they find work. Paine ends by identifying provision for those who have served in the army and navy, and suggesting that, as demands on the public purse from these sources declines, then items of indirect taxation might also be lifted, and the burden of taxation gradually shifted towards a progressive taxation on landed property, coupled with the abolition of primogeniture, and a progressive tax on the income from investments.

That Paine wrote with the bluntness and sweeping rhetoric that alienates the more philosophically inclined modern reader was an essential element in his success and his continuing importance. Paine spoke to ordinary people—and they read him in their thousands—indeed, he was often read aloud in public houses and coffee shops. He claimed no authority over them, but helped them to doubt those who did claim such authority, whether civil or religious, and he affirmed over and over again their right and responsibility to think for themselves and to reach their own judgment on matters. He did so at a time when the press had become capable of reaching even the poorest of society…

Because of his radicalism Paine was vehemently attacked in his own lifetime—if the scurrilous biography was not invented for him it certainly attained something of an art form in his depiction. He was outlawed in England, nearly lost his life in France, and was largely ostracized and excluded when he returned to America. He spoke up for those who had not voice of their own against power, the poor, the outcast, the excluded; and, for all those of hard workers who were bound to the grist and mill of life, whose blood, sweat, and tears would provide the surplus value that lined the coffers of the Rich and Proud.

Where is the Thomas Paine for our time?


  1. Christopher Hitchens. Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (Kindle Locations 117-124). Grove Press. Kindle Edition.

Smart Cities and Dark Neoliberalism

As I was reading an article on the supposed hidden ideology underlying the rise of the Smart City on e-flux blog: The hidden ideology behind the “smart city”  I kept thinking to myself:

Look at New York City for a model of the coming Smart City as total ubiquitous control, and then think John Twelve Hawks Fourth Realm trilogy. Already NYC is becoming the mecca for such ubiquitous smart worlds seamlessly enclosing its citizens in a web of intelligence that will think for them – watch them, protect them, imprison them for their own good… the Nanny Corporate City of the Future will do for you what you want do for yourself. A sort of Progressive City of Ethical Control bound only by the Imperialism of Economic Neoliberalist Stocks and Algorithmic Governmentality. Sadly this collusion of the Establishment Left/Right in Washington and in such corporate cities as NYC will become addititve – adding such smart devices and upgrades over the coming decades. While in China or other sites it will become part of the galloping rise of all new cities.

This notion that we can intervene and shape this future seems iffy at best, because the very government that could intervene and do that through reform and regulation has as we see here in the U.S.A. vanished… with the divorce of Capitalism from Democracy (or, as here, the Federal Republic) the world will look more like China with a group of Oligarchic Overlords pushing agendas and guiding capitalism toward intensified obsolescence even as they marginalize humans for machinic life.

Politics has become for all basic purposes a mass spectacle, a media-event or Reality Studio festival of cannibalistic or zombie-fest brokerage for the masses and their naïve realism and hopeful belief that someone will save them from the truth. Nothing real left in such realms touches our lives, least of all the party establishments that seem hell-bent only on blasting each other to smithereens in some apocalypse of the warring factions. For the Dems it is the Russian apocalypse – a media circus to keep the ball off their own inability to provide a viable platform, so that all they have left is a three-ringed circus of accusation, ridicule, and pompous ass ethical slices at Trump and his family of inept clowns, politicians, and advisors. For the Publicans its’ a sort of back-tracked vision of re-establishing its old line of mainstays against the populist rage of its outer alt-Right hardliners, even as it plays a conservative hand for its mainstream members, and plays jokers wild for the extreme hands of its populist base. Is this the Deleuzean sign of a schizophrenizing capitalism finally playing out its endgame, or rather the endgame not of capitalism but of the spectacle of democracy? I think the latter… democracy has been a media bump for decades, a sort of treadmill of inanity awaiting the moment the digital maze would open and they could silently vanish into the void. We’ve never actually had a democracy except as rhetoric and stories for our children in literature and schools, and now even that is finally being exposed for what it is a complete fabrication and lie. It’s this lying part that is surfacing in our time as we see the mongrel morons in Washington try to save face not in the presence of their constituents (since we no longer trust them at all!), but rather to themselves and their benefactors on Wall-Street, Banks, and Oil Moghuls around the world… a sort of Custer’s last stand against their failing systems of illusion. For it is the Reality Studio of mediatainment that is faltering on the global stage with its pretentious universal message of freedom and democracy being shown up for what it is: a dream turned nightmare as we watch the Presidency become stage-craft and vaudeville shame-fest, while the Congress and Senate and Justice department trade spy-craft envelopes hoping it will all just go silently away… it want, of course, instead we see the Talking heads bobbing up and down across the fatal shores of oblivion as they sail off into the fractured world on the last Ship of Fools!

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Have We No History? Have We No Gumption?

With all our efforts, money, and good intentions, we have not yet achieved a theater; and we have not, I believe, because we do not see life in historic and dramatic terms. Even our greatest novelists and poets, sensitive and subtle though they are, do not think dramatically, and should not be asked to, for they express themselves and us in other forms more suited to their visions (and ours). But we have come very close at moments to having great plays, if not a great theatrical tradition. When the Tyrone family stands in its parlor looking at the mad mother holding her wedding dress and knowing that all the good will in the world cannot undo what the past has done to them; when Willy Loman, the salesman, plunges again and again into the past to search for the point where it all went irremediably wrong and cannot find any one fatal turning point; when the Antrobus family, to end on a more cheerful note, drafts stage hands from backstage to take the place of sick actors, gathers its feeble and ever-disappointed hopes, puts its miserable home together again after another in a series of unending disasters stretching from the ice age to the present; then we are very close to accepting our entanglement in  the historical process and our status as actors, which may in time produce a true theater.

—Alvin B. Kernan, On American Drama

Maybe we have no history because Americans unlike the Janus faced god of the Romans live in that in-between fantasy land of false Utopian hope – bound on either side by our progressive heritage we lay waste to the past and future before we can ever see it. Having no fixed point or distance from this ruination, the processual decay of America proceeds apace our mythic dreams and nightmares.

On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

—H.L. Menken

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his I Have a Dream speech once surmised: “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” For us the past is a force of despair not absolution or redemption, so we turn our heads into the Abyss and move forward like the dead rooting in the earth of possibility hoping against hope that we will find a way. This American optimism has found its loam in the earth of the people, rooted to a rootlessness which drives us to seek something that will hold us against the decay and ruins of Time. Yet, like children we naively follow our Pied Pipers into the sea of nothingness instead of digging down into that dark earth from whence we came. Holy fools and Tricksters, Madmen and Prophets have always guided this mass of idiocy, and we like some blind beast have always followed these creatures to our doom. Even now as we watch on as our leaders in Washington earn their reputation for bloodguards and idiots, we stand amazed that we ever thought such creatures were saviors and redeemers.

Look at the tyranny of party — at what is called party allegiance, party loyalty — a snare invented by designing men for selfish purposes — and which turns voters into chattles, slaves, rabbits, and all the while their masters, and they themselves are shouting rubbish about liberty, independence, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, honestly unconscious of the fantastic contradiction; and forgetting or ignoring that their fathers and the churches shouted the same blasphemies a generation earlier when they were closing their doors against the hunted slave, beating his handful of humane defenders with Bible texts and billies, and pocketing the insults and licking the shoes of his Southern master.

—Mark Twain – “The Character of Man”

Our history is a forgetfulness and a death, we peer neither into its decaying light nor seek from its dark passages a truth to hold us from despair. When we do speak of the past it is only to awaken distrust and skepticism of its power over us. We are all haunted by the ghosts of America. Even our great literature is Gothic through and through, haunted by murder, lust, hate, greed, and war. Our desires are imperial, our lives the bitter fruit of conquest and expansion. We do not want to know the past because it is the embodiment of our sins against humanity and ourselves.

That indefatigable Romantic critic, Harold Bloom tells us that “our greatest novelists and poets continue not to see life in historic and dramatic terms, precisely because our literary tradition remains incurably Emersonian, and Emerson shrewdly dismissed both history and drama as European rather than American”.

The American literary mode, whether narrative or lyric, tends towards romance and rumination, or fantastic vision, rather than drama. Emerson, genius of the shores of America, directed us away from history, and distrusted drama as a revel.

—Harold Bloom

As Flannery O’Connor suggested years ago we follow Hawthorne who wrote Romances rather than those social novelists like Charles Dickens. We embellish life, we are additive rather than subtractive. We are in excess of ourselves always boasting and lying, telling our tall tales of the impossible. We live in absentia – “absent while present” as Heraclitus once surmised of his Greek brethren. Our Puritan heritage could not see the past or future, rather it existed in a state of fugue: in-between the ruins, in the dark kenoma of this vast wilderness, an emptiness caught in the meshes of religious need like vipers in a pit unable to free ourselves of some dark stain.

Maybe history does not exist for us because it is the force of destiny, and we above all have had this sense of exceptionalism, a sense of mission – as if we were the fulfillment of some ancient prophetic world. As Reinhold Niebuhr once put it Americans live irony rather than speak it,

Irony consists of apparently fortuitous incongruities in life which are discovered, upon closer examination, to be not merely fortuitous. Incongruity as such is merely comic. It elicits laughter. This element of comedy is never completely eliminated from irony. But irony is something more than comedy. A comic situation is proved to be an ironic one if a hidden relation is discovered in the incongruity. If virtue becomes vice through some hidden defect in the virtue; if strength becomes weakness because of the vanity to which strength may prompt the mighty man or nation; if security is transmuted into insecurity because too much reliance is placed upon it; if wisdom becomes folly because it does not know its own limits—in all such cases the situation is ironic. The ironic situation is distinguished from a pathetic one by the fact that the person involved in it bears some responsibility for it. It is differentiated from tragedy by the fact that the responsibility is related to an unconscious weakness rather than to a conscious resolution. While a pathetic or a tragic situation is not dissolved when a person becomes conscious of his involvement in it, an ironic situation must dissolve, if men or nations are made aware of their complicity in it. Such awareness involves some realization of the hidden vanity or pretension by which comedy is turned into irony. This realization either must lead to an abatement of the pretension, which means contrition; or it leads to a desperate accentuation of the vanities to the point where irony turns into pure evil.1

The one distinct form America has given the world is the great stand-up comedians. They know just how evil we are and that their is nothing contrite in our hearts, instead we are the epitome of vanity. We are like Koheleth, the Preacher: “For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.  Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”2

As one of the characters says of old dead Willy Loman: “I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have – to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I’m gonna win it for him.” (Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, Act 2) This mythic numero uno – Top Dog! What a lie? Competition – King of the Muck Heap! Thing about that old saw, the “rags to riches” story – it was a lie and delusion from the beginning, all it gave us was a mountain of skulls. We think Pol Pot was evil, he had nothing on the simplest shoe salesman who ever trod the jungle cement of America. No siree!!! Each and everyone of us has put more humans in the pit than the worst dictator ever did in history.

“The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people don’t acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.”

—Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Ah! You say I’m an idiot, a fool for saying such bosh… yes, I’m a fool, a foolish old crazy man who has seen the abyss of this history we all deny. This ancestral haunt where our dead even now roam the broken cities of this land like hungry animals, insatiable. As that bad boy, Howard Zinn lambasts,

All those histories of this country centered on the Founding Fathers and the Presidents weigh oppressively on the capacity of the ordinary citizen to act. They suggest that in times of crisis we must look to someone to save us: in the Revolutionary crisis, the Founding Fathers; in the slavery crisis, Lincoln; in the Depression, Roosevelt; in the Vietnam-Watergate crisis, Carter. And that between occasional crises everything is all right, and it is sufficient for us to be restored to that normal state. They teach us that the supreme act of citizenship is to choose among saviors, by going into a voting booth every four years to choose between two white and well-off Anglo-Saxon males of inoffensive personality and orthodox opinions.3

It’s true, we’ve never trusted ourselves to do what needs to be done, instead we always believe someone else will do it for us. Followers, one and all, we follow our leaderless leaders to our doom. It’s always been our way. We work and live in a muddle, to tired to think we sit back passively and let the Talking Heads blather on about what these fake leaders are doing once again to make our lives miserable. But no, do we protest – well, some do, some go out into the streets and shout it’s all bullshit, and we’re being taken down a road to perdition and madness on a Ship of Fools. But it doesn’t matter how many gather in some city, or march on Washington because no one in that pure white monstrosity of a building gives a shit what we are voicing – our voice doesn’t matter to them. Their ear is plugged into the ass of Wall Street and the .01% of those pirates who have stolen our lives, our children’s lives, and our grand-children’s lives… and, possibly in our time the very lives of the species we once termed human: homo sapiens.

Maybe I am a wind-bag, just one more angry deluded Joe on the Street. So be it… I don’t expect much, just everything. I expect that if we don’t get up off our asses and do something about the stupidity up in Washington then we deserve everything we’re going to get coming our way. Destruction, chaos, death? You’re dam right… so what you goin’ to do about it? Huh?

Maybe we will all end like Joe Lon in Harry Crews A Feast of Snakes in a murderous rage on some dead end ridge in the killing fields where snakes and humans alike feed off each other in the eternal round of this hellish paradise; else in the silence of hopeless dreams or nightmares, where reality meshes with the stubborn truth of our deepest desires and fears:

Then he had gone carefully to sleep, a deep dreamless sleep, because he knew and accepted for the first time that things would not be different tomorrow. Or ever. Things got different for some people. But for some they did not. There were a lot of things you could do though. One of them was to go nuts trying to pretend things would someday be different. That was one of the things he did not intend to do.4

So which will it be for you? Nutsville? Or the path less taken, some dark road to oblivion all your own?


  1. Niebuhr, Reinhold. The Irony of American History . University of Chicago Press – A. Kindle Edition.
  2. Carroll, Robert; Stephen Prickett. The Bible: Authorized King James Version (Oxford World’s Classics) (Kindle Locations 21367-21369). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
  3. Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States (p. 631). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
  4. Harry Crews. A Feast of Snakes (Kindle Locations 2395-2398). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

 

Twelve Mortal Men

THE TWELVE MORTAL MEN

The Forks Falls highway is three miles from the town, and it is here the chain gang has been working. The road is of macadam, and the county decided to patch up the rough places and widen it at a certain dangerous place. The gang is made up of twelve men, all wearing black and white striped prison suits, and chained at the ankles. There is a guard, with a gun, his eyes drawn to red slits by the glare. The gang works all the day long, arriving huddled in the prison cart soon after daybreak, and being driven off again in the gray August twilight. All day there is the sound of the picks striking into the clay earth, hard sunlight, the smell of sweat. And every day there is music. One dark voice will start a phrase, half-sung, and like a question. And after a moment another voice will join in, soon the whole gang will be singing. The voices are dark in the golden glare, the music intricately blended, both somber and joyful. The music will swell until at last it seems that the sound does not come from the twelve men on the gang, but from the earth itself, or the wide sky. It is music that causes the heart to broaden and the listener to grow cold with ecstasy and fright. Then slowly the music will sink down until at last there remains one lonely voice, then a great hoarse breath, the sun, the sound of the picks in the silence.

And what kind of gang is this that can make such music? Just twelve mortal men, seven of them black and five of them white boys from this county. Just twelve mortal men who are together.

—Carson McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

Should We Take Slavoj Žižek Seriously?

Slavoj Žižek has always been a thorn in my side. Why? Between his being on the one hand a sort of modern Pied Piper leading the young astray – a sort of  Slovenian Socrates awakening the young to the wisdom not of Greece but of Hegel and Lacan. But what is this strange wisdom he would bestow on us? Dialectical Materialism? What beast is this that comes our way? Never shy about his stance he tells us dialectical materialism is the only “true philosophical inheritor of what Hegel designates as the speculative attitude of the thought towards objectivity.”1 Agon Hamza offers us a working definition of Žižek’s core philosophy, saying: “dialectical materialism concerns the most radical attempt to ground subjectivity qua subjectivity into objectivity—not merely to find the hidden “objective reality” of thought, but he uses Lacan and Hegel to ground subjectivity in its negative character in the real”.2

Whoa… not so fast, you say! What is this grounding of “subjectivity qua subjectivity,” and – even more, what is this hidden “objective reality” of thought, and why return to Hegel or Lacan – and, most of all, why ground subjectivity in its – what? – “negative character in the real”. What is this “Real,” you ask? Like most commentary on  Žižek, and even in  Žižek’s own commentaries, none of this is made easy or explicit except in long and tedious passages which seem to fold and unfold and refold in infinite circular patterns like a some Ouroboros eating its own tail or an opening of a mysterious portal into the impossible? One seeks clarification and is given instead obfuscation and a litany of concepts that must be traced back through the various sources both primary and secondary until in the end one is left with a conundrum rather than a solution to one’s query. But then again maybe its this sense that there are no easy solutions, no pat answers to the difficulties of dialectical materialism. Instead there are questions and more questions. But, then again, hasn’t this been obvious from the beginning, hasn’t Žižek himself said repeatedly that he has no answers, only more questions?

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Joseph Conrad On Nostromo

Joseph Conrad On Nostromo

“There is no peace and no rest in the development of material interests. They have their law, and their justice. But it is founded on expediency, and is inhuman…”

― Joseph Conrad, Nostromo

Joseph Conrad in his notes on Nostromo speaks of its origins as having its genesis in two otherwise inexplicable events. The first concerned his anxiety on having finished his book Typhoon,

I don’t mean to say that I became then conscious of any impending change in my mentality and in my attitude towards the tasks of my writing life. And perhaps there was never any change, except in that mysterious, extraneous thing which has nothing to do with the theories of art; a subtle change in the nature of the inspiration; a phenomenon for which I can not in any way be held responsible. What, however, did cause me some concern was that after finishing the last story of the “Typhoon” volume it seemed somehow that there was nothing more in the world to write about.1

Many writers have come to a point in their lives when things dry up, when they feel they have nothing left to say, that its all been said, and that to say more would be a mere repetition of everything that had gone before. It’s as if an abyss opens up and one feels hollow inside, as if someone had taken a butcher knife and cut a deep hole in one’s mind and left nothing but darkness and despair in its place.

Then something happened to Conrad. He’d been traveling as he usually did on sea and overheard a conversation concerning an incident off the coast of some South American nation which was undergoing a Revolutionary war. A man whose name was never mentioned had stolen a sailing vessel full of silver bullion worth a vast fortune and gotten away with it. Conrad was not that interested in the crime itself but rather that it happened during a specific political and revolutionary period a small countries struggles. It was this combination of intrigue, revolution, and politics that sparked his interest but not enough to do anything with it for a story so he forgot about it until twenty-six years later.

At that time he’d been in a small book shop in some port city of a small country in South America and come across an autobiography of a sailor which on reading the blurb seemed to interest him because of the time frame of the man’s life. As he was reading it he came upon three pages that described for him the details of the tale he’d heard some twenty-six years previously. The young sailor had taken employment on a schooner with a captain who was the very thief and scoundrel who had stolen the treasure all those years earlier. As the captain one night told the young sailor: “People think I make a lot of money in this schooner of mine. But that is nothing. I don’t care for that. Now and then I go away quietly and lift a bar of silver. I must get rich slowly — you understand.” The young sailor didn’t believe him, and even threatened the captain saying, “What’s to prevent me reporting ashore what you have told me about that silver?” The captain studied him for a moment and returned: “You fool, if you dare talk like that on shore about me you will get a knife stuck in your back. Every man, woman, and child in that port is my friend. And who’s to prove the lighter wasn’t sunk? I didn’t show you where the silver is hidden. Did I? So you know nothing. And suppose I lied? Eh?”

After that the young sailor fears reprisal stole a skiff and left the schooner that night. So the tale concluded. Conrad having read that was unimpressed about the ruffian captain or the crime, but something else occurred that would set him on course for writing his last novel. As he states it:

I did not see anything at first in the mere story. A rascal steals a large parcel of a valuable commodity — so people say. It’s either true or untrue; and in any case it has no value in itself. To invent a circumstantial account of the robbery did not appeal to me, because my talents not running that way I did not think that the game was worth the candle. It was only when it dawned upon me that the purloiner of the treasure need not necessarily be a confirmed rogue, that he could be even a man of character, an actor and possibly a victim in the changing scenes of a revolution, it was only then that I had the first vision of a twilight country which was to become the province of Sulaco, with its high shadowy Sierra and its misty Campo for mute witnesses of events flowing from the passions of men short-sighted in good and evil.

Such are in very truth the obscure origins of “Nostromo” — the book. From that moment, I suppose, it had to be. Yet even then I hesitated, as if warned by the instinct of self-preservation from venturing on a distant and toilsome journey into a land full of intrigues and revolutions. But it had to be done.

It was this incidental history in itself of little matter that would converge on Conrad’s imaginative need which would suddenly reveal to him how a powerful narrative of tragic consequences could suddenly arise out of such lean fare, a story of mystery and passion, politics and character. This sense of a destiny that ties all mankind together in strange relations.

As he’d say of the book and the history of the people:

As to their own histories I have tried to set them down, Aristocracy and People, men and women, Latin and Anglo-Saxon, bandit and politician, with as cool a hand as was possible in the heat and clash of my own conflicting emotions. And after all this is also the story of their conflicts. It is for the reader to say how far they are deserving of interest in their actions and in the secret purposes of their hearts revealed in the bitter necessities of the time. I confess that, for me, that time is the time of firm friendships and unforgotten hospitalities.

For me it is that singular phrase which highlights the power of such narratives that bring out the “secret purposes of their hearts revealed in the bitter necessities of the time”. For in the end its the dark mystery of the unknown, the mystery of the heart itself, oh “bitter necessities” of time that matter, and nothing else.


  1. CONRAD, JOSEPH. Complete Works of Joseph Conrad (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 27265-27269). Delphi Classics. Kindle Edition.

Somewhere This Side of Hell

He felt like howling. —Harry Crews, A Feast of Snakes

Some writers hold a dark mirror up to your face and speak to you so close that their breath is your breath, their thoughts are your thoughts, their lives are your life. Harry Crews brought that home to me in a way that is not good, but real. Sometimes looking back at where you came is more terrible than gazing down the pipe at where we’re going. Having crawled out of the snake pit of my own past I learned to hate it, despise it and the people who like shadows of another world inhabited it. And, yet, I could never quite disown it or displace it. Like anything else in life there are some things you just have to grow out of rather than escape.

There is no redemption for people like us, instead all there is can be summed up by the word hate. But that’s not a bad thing as some might suppose, because sometimes hate is what spurs one on toward another kind of life. Not believing in so called progress, or human improvement I’ve come to realize the best we can do is learn a few defensive tricks against the stain of existence. One doesn’t seek salvation, only ecstasy of pain. When Nietzsche spoke of Dionysian pessimism he was a little off-his-rocker, for no one in his right mind would want to live over and over and over again the Same thing, the Same life to all eternity: that would be the masochist’s dark salvation. And, for most of us, there can be no redemption; not even the redemption of violence. That, too, is a myth of our American exceptionalism: a sort of road way kill zone to eternity. Yet, the one central fact of existence is its violence, and some say it’s the one redemptive clause in an eternity of darkness.

Instead one has to look into that dark mirror with stone cold eyes so one doesn’t forget what one is, something like a character in Mystic Georgia somewhere this side of Hell:

“Maybe it was because of the trophies, the signed game balls that had been bronzed and mounted, the High School Back of the Year award for all of the state of Georgia, the certificate for playing in the High School All-American Game in Dallas, Texas, and two whole shelves of trophies and certificates from track. As a stranger might have, he watched them now above his sister’s nearly covered face with only the dark hair and frightened eyes showing. They seemed, those bronzed images of muscled young men caught in straining, static motion, they seemed in no way to have anything to do with him, nor ever to have had anything to do with him.

“They seemed in fact to have been an accident. Like his sister’s madness. It had just happened. Nobody knew why or apparently would ever know. He was stronger and faster and meaner than other boys his age and for that he had been rewarded. He had even suspected that he was smarter, too. For whatever reason, though, the idea of studying, of sitting down and deliberately committing facts and relationships to memory was deeply repugnant to him. And always had been. Unless it had to do with violence. He liked violence. He liked blood and bruises, even when they were his own.”

– Harry Crews, A Feast of Snakes

What is America? – The Grotesque, the Ugly, and the Hunted-Haunted Shame and Guilt of our Past

51cXRS4HAaLAs I sit down this morning about to read a Sothern Gothic horror tale by a new writer, Kristi DeMeester – Beneath, I read in the blurb:

“When reporter Cora Mayburn is assigned to cover a story about a snake-handling cult in rural Appalachia, she is dismayed, for the world of cruel fundamentalist stricture, repression, glossolalia, and abuse is something she has long since put behind her in favor of a more tolerant urban existence. But she accepts the assignment, dredging up long-buried memories as she seeks the truth.

As Cora begins to uncover the secrets concealed by a veneer of faith and tradition, something ancient and long concealed begins to awaken. What secrets do the townsfolk know? What might the handsome young pastor be hiding? What will happen when occulted horrors writhe to the surface, when pallid and forgotten things rise to reclaim the Earth?


Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man… Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature.

– Flannery O’Connor

This reminded me of Flannery O’Connor that other Southern Gothic writer who said, when asked about her novel ‘The Violent Bare it Away’:

“The lack of realism would be crucial if this were a realistic novel or if the novel demanded the kind of realism you demand. I don’t believe it does. The old man is very obviously not a Southern Baptist, but an independent, a prophet in the true sense. The true prophet is inspired by the Holy Ghost, not necessarily by the dominant religion of his region. Further, the traditional Protestant bodies of the South are evaporating into secularism and respectability and are being replaced on the grass roots level by all sorts of strange sects that bear not much resemblance to traditional Protestantism—Jehovah’s Witnesses, snake-handlers, Free Thinking Christians, Independent Prophets, the swindlers, the mad, and sometimes the genuinely inspired. A character has to be true to his own nature and I think the old man is that. He was a prophet, not a church-member. As a prophet, he has to be a natural Catholic. Hawthorne said he didn’t write novels, he wrote romances; I am one of his descendants.”

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End of Political Legitimacy in America

In political science, legitimacy is the right and acceptance of an authority, usually a governing law or a régime. Whereas “authority” denotes a specific position in an established government, the term “legitimacy” denotes a system of government — wherein “government” denotes “sphere of influence”. An authority viewed as legitimate often has the right and justification to exercise power. Political legitimacy is considered a basic condition for governing, without which a government will suffer legislative deadlock(s) and collapse.

We’ve come to that point of legislative deadlock during this administration and the forecast is uncertain. Now of course the sudden collapse of legitimacy has been long in preparing. Just as a singer or writer who becomes an overnight success normally gets there after many years of hard work, the implosion of a system of government normally follows many years of bad decisions and unheeded warnings, and it’s not too hard in retrospect to trace how simmering unrest with our American political process will eventually rise to a full boil in the near term future.

As Greer says, “We have seen plenty of equally tawdry scandals in the United States of late, and it’s easy to ignore the impact of, let’s say, the Obama administration’s systematic refusal to bring charges against any of the financiers whose spectacularly blatant acts of fraud helped fuel, and then pop, the housing bubble of a few years back. Had Obama acted otherwise, the Democratic party would likely have come to dominate the American political scene for the next forty years as thoroughly as it did for the four decades or so after 1932; instead, by giving the country a remarkably good idea of what third and fourth terms of George W. Bush would have looked like, the Obama administration has convinced a sizable fraction of Americans that they have nothing to hope for from either party.”1

It’s this loss of faith in the Party system itself that is at the heart of our current malaise. No one trusts either party to work for the people. Both parties seem closed off in their own ghostspeak tunnel-vision worlds, their corporate funding, think tanks, intellectuals, and media pundits completely out of touch with the vast majority of constituents.

In the crisis of legitimacy that’s building in today’s America, a rising spiral of conflicts between regions also plays an important role, but this time the federal government can hardly count on the passionate loyalty it got a century and a half ago from the Northeast and the Midwest; in fact, it’s hard to think of any corner of the country where distrust and disaffection for the current government haven’t put down deep roots already.

If and when the crisis comes, it’s anyone’s guess what exactly will happen, but the possibility that the states will call on their power to redefine the Constitution — whether they use it to reshape the national government, or to let the country split apart into smaller nations along regional lines — belongs somewhere on the list of potential outcomes. For that matter, it’s anyone’s guess what will spark such a crisis, if in fact one does come. The triggering event might be political, or economic, or even environmental. (Greer, pp. 103-104)


  1. Greer, John Michael. Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America (pp. 99-100). New Society Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Politics of Division

Contrast this to the unashamed recommendations of the mindless that are offered to us every day. In place of honest disputation we are offered platitudes about “healing.” The idea of “unity” is granted huge privileges over any notion of “division” or, worse, “divisiveness.” I cringe every time I hear denunciations of “the politics of division”—as if politics was not division by definition.

—Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian 

The Posthuman Disconnection

The battle between myth and reason begins in an understanding of techné – art, skill, rhetoric, and memory, etc., as opposed to Plato’s early digitalization (binarization), and cutting of the ties between techné and Form. For Plato’s war against the Sophists was that between mythic transmission based on myth as cultural memory, and that of reason and the external hyperworld of Forms-Ideas. For Plato this fixed external hyperworld of Forms-Ideas acts in much the same fashion as our computational worlds of inscription that we rely on everyday: the computer. For most of us memory is no longer relevant in the sense that we use recall and programmatic search algorithms to instantaneously produce the knowledge we need for a task through selection, analysis, filtering, collating, indexing, etc.. We become enamored of these external devices to do the work for us as if “magically”.

Of course Plato would use terms such as anamnesis against techné to elaborate a metaphysics of reincarnation, soul transmission, et. al. – a new mythology of deep memory recall from the transcendental realm or true world as opposed to our illusionary world of time, etc. In this way Plato opened up a backdoor for myth into philosophy. Aristotle would go another path…

Ancient humans had no such luxury. Anthropologists studying indigenous cultures, as well as philosophers discovering the battle between writing and memory (i.e., Derrida, Stiegler, etc.) agree that ancient humans relied on prodigious feats of memory and mimetic systems to store vast quantities of data about the collective systems of their respective communities in the internal device we know as the brain. Many such as the aborigines of Australia would map this information onto the natural world environment as “songlines”, others such as the ancient Celts of Ireland and Wales mapped memory into Tree systems and mimetic recitation of vast stores of poems as cultural transmission. In Medieval memory systems of Ramon Lull and others a system of “Ars Memorativa” which is also often translated as “art of memory” although its more literal meaning is “Memorative Art” was developed. It is sometimes referred to as mnemotechnics, too.

Against this ancient tradition of mnemotechnics modern thinkers would reverse the place of technics and develop theories of originary technicity in which techné not memory invents-conditions the human. As one turns to contemporary thought we discover Bernard Stiegler who argues that what Heidegger disavows in Being and Time is the technical constitution of temporality. There can be no access to the past, no anticipation of the future without technical objects. Developing the Derridean thought of originary technicity as well as insights in recent paleontology, Stiegler convincingly shows that technical objects constitute the very process of Dasein’s experiencing of time, that is, of remembering and anticipating. Without memory support systems – from a tool to a digitalized archive – there would be no experience of the past and nothing from which to ‘select’ in order to invent the future.

Jacob Hohwy (The Preditive Mind) and Andy Clark (Surfing Uncertainty) in their recent work on the predictive mind-brain take on this whole complex and update it into the auspices of the neurosciences showing just how interesting the evolutionary interactions between brain/environment have produced the intricate rules of prediction in uncertain data. As Hohwy puts it:

“The mind exists in prediction. Our perceptual experience of the world arises in our attempts at predicting our own current sensory input. This notion spreads to attention and agency. Perception, attention, and agency are three different ways of doing the same thing: accounting for sensory input as well as we can from inside the confines of the skull. We are good at this, mostly, but it is a precarious and fragile process because we are hostages to our prior beliefs, our noisy brains, the uncertain sensory deliverances from the world, and to the brain’s urge to rid itself efficiently of prediction error.

The mind is shaped by how we manage these predictive efforts. We continually need to adjust, regulate, and revisit the balances and checks on prediction. The way we do this determines how we bind sensory attributes and how much our preconceptions can penetrate experience; more chronic, systematic failures to manage prediction can tip us into mental illness.

The predictive mind has extreme explanatory reach. Conscious unity, emotion, self, and introspection can all seemingly be brought under the prediction error minimization mechanism that maintains and shapes the mind. With this mechanism we can see ourselves as mere cogs in nature’s causal machinery and also as mental islands set over against the world, which is hidden behind the veil of sensory input.”

Our minds function on several phylogenetically new representational planes, none of which are available to animals. We act in cognitive collectivities, in symbiosis with external memory systems (i.e., books, computers, media, etc.). As we develop new external symbolic configurations and modalities, we reconfigure our own mental architecture in nontrivial ways.

Whereas we once were locked into a brain / environmental system of survival and sex within a natural world, we are more and more beginning to disconnect from this ancient system and re-ontologize ourselves and environment as an artificial world. In this sense the so called Infosphere, the whole informational environment constituted by all informational entities (thus including information agents as well), their properties, interactions, processes, and mutual relations, is becoming our world. It is an environment comparable to, but different from, cyberspace, which is only one of its sub-regions, as it were, since it also includes offline and analogue spaces of information. Maximally, it is a concept that, given an informational ontology, can also be used as synonymous with reality, or Being.1

As the Internet of Things becomes over the next few generations an almost invisible background to everyday life, and the informational entities that exist in these external environments take on more active participation in our lives we will for all intents and purposes live in an animated technological systems. As this happens the intelligent environments of the future will become predictive, become anticipatory and develop almost sentient powers of material intelligence as the power of deep learning algorithms and AGI technologies become embedded into everyday objects surrounding us. As Floridi put it,

The infosphere will not be a virtual environment supported by a genuinely ‘material’ world behind; rather, it will be the world itself that will be increasingly interpreted and understood informationally, as part of the infosphere. At the end of this shift, the infosphere will have moved from being a way to refer to the space of information to being synonymous with Being itself. We are modifying our everyday perspective on the ultimate nature of reality, from a materialist one, in which physical objects and processes play a key role, to an informational one. (10)

We’re turning the world outside-in creating the engines of intelligence that will re-write humanity in ways that cannot be foreseen or known. Such a future will be as David Roden suggests in his “disconnection thesis”: informally, the disconnection thesis proposes that posthumans would be cases of former Wide Humans becoming feral: becoming able to fulfil an independent career as an agent outside the human socio-technical assemblage WH.2 Or as he sums it up:

While the disconnection thesis makes no detailed claims about posthuman lives, it has implications for the complexity and power of posthumans and thus the significance of the differences they could generate. Posthuman entities would need to be powerful relative to WH (Wide Humanity: “Whereas narrow humanity can be identified, if we wish, with the biological species Homo sapiens, wide humanity is a technogenetic construction or “assemblage” with both narrowly human and narrowly nonhuman parts.” (110)) to become existentially independent of it (§ 6.1). The disconnection relation is thus multiply realizable by entities with, conceivably, very disparate natures. But since all these would be powerful enough to become “feral”, the majority of these would be hot cores of influence of a kind humans have not encountered before. (167)

This wilding of the human as “feral” possibility – a moving into something existing outside the current socio-cultural assemblage is realize it as an unknown unknown.  What we do know is that we are in our time, and have been since the Enlightenment and the rise of the Industrial Age, been undergoing modifications that have disconnected us from our roots in Agricultural Civilization. In this sense originary technicity which reverses the old notions that technology is a tool or prosthesis – an extension of the human mind, has now entered the stage in which we’ve become the tools-extensions of technics and technology which is more and more independent and autonomous of the human and rewiring what it means to be human – or, even posthuman. Technics is reinventing or revising human nature as it has been known from Plato to Derrida. We are being re-written, re-programmed, and re-engineered by these new ICT technologies to inhabit the artificial worlds of the Infosphere. How this will proceed is part of the task ahead of us…

 


  1. Floridi, Luciano. The Ethics of Information (p. 6). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.
  2. Roden, David. Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human (p. 113). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

Lucifer: Figure of the Rebel, Romantic, and Freedom Fighter

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Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.

 —John Milton – Paradise Lost 

As a rebel, antinomian, and dissenter – pretty much what a contrarian converges on, I’ve identified with Milton’s Satan as a figure of revolutionary spirit against political authoritarianism since my early twenties when I first listened to my old literary prof. Dr. Huff read John Milton’s Paradise Lost out loud in his deep baritone voice… the dramatic effect was stunning and brought the figures on the page alive! Sometimes listening, rather than reading can be not only enjoyable, but help those figures and tropes become real for one in ways that just reading cannot. When one sits and reads one has a tendency to stop so very often and try to imagine these creatures of words coming alive and walking across the gallery of one’s mind as if upon the stage of the world (or, at least I do!). Maybe this is the reason our Greek forbears used the stage to dramatize both tragic and comic affairs of the moment, because it gave one not only the rhetorical flourish of the text but the instantiation and realization of it in human and dramatic form.

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Hyperstition Notes: On Amy Ireland

Amy Ireland has taken up where the CCRU 90’s cyberpositive cultural remix left off, delving into the techno occulture of that era’s dark hyperstitions. In her latest essay on The Poememenon: Form as Occult Technology she explores the diagrammatic production of thought as hyperstitional invocation. Of course in my own research it is in the work of Félix Guattari that this a-signifying production of thought will have its revisioning origins within those singular and plural texts both private and combined with those of Gilles Deleuze from Anti-Oedipus onward until his untimely death. In Amy’s rendition she charts the realms defined and explored by the CCRU Unit and the modernity influx of literature, philosophy, and the occulture of this strange world.

Before exploring Amy’s essay let’s delve into the diagrammatic thought of Guattari. The concept of the diagram appears in A Thousand Plateaus (ATP 141- 144 ,531 n. 41/176-1 80, 177 n. 3 8), but the details of its development are found in Guattari’s writings of the 1970s. The notion was adapted from Charles Sanders Peirce, who includes the diagram among the icons in his index-icon-symbol model of the sign. Peirce identifies three types of icon: image, metaphor, and diagram. For him, the icon operates through a relation of resemblance between the sign and its referent. Guattari would agree that the image and the metaphor signify through resemblance, which is to say representation, but his version of the diagram functions differently because as he defines it, the diagram does not signify; it is “a-signifying”.1

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The Art of Challenging Idiocracy

It is not enough simply to set oneself up as a person who distrusts majority taste as a matter of principle or perhaps conceit; that way lies snobbery and frigidity. However, it will very often be found that people are highly attached to illusions or prejudices, and are not just the sullen victims of dogma or orthodoxy. If you have ever argued with a religious devotee, for example, you will have noticed that his self-esteem and pride are involved in the dispute and that you are asking him to give up something more than a point in argument. The same is true of visceral patriots, and admirers of Plutocrats and idiocracy. Allegiance is a powerful force in human affairs; it will not do to treat someone as a mental serf if he is convinced that his thralldom is honorable and voluntary.

Contrarian That I Am

I’ve been a contrarian most of my life opposing stupidity, bigotry, racism, gender issues (under whatever banner), and oppression across the board never giving a shit who it was I was speaking against, but always specific and true to the people I sought to speak with not for, people who could not speak up for themselves and those who could. Having left university early on I lived in the streets, working odd-jobs throughout my young life from carpentry, cooking, mining, long shoreman, pipelines, etc. I needed to live among working class people. The notion of being an academic just seemed mad to me during the sixties. Maybe it was the dissenter in me, since I’d early on turned against my forbears faith having realized that for the most part it seemed a collective fantasy that instilled fear and terror in the hearts of its members rather than peace and freedom, justice and equanimity.

Most of all was this deep knowing that I must go my own way, contrary to all that was dear to my people, and against the powers of church, state, and history. Something was driving to understand and know what it is that makes us so fucked up. Maybe that’s been my mission all along, to understand why humanity – this animal of planet earth is the only animal who could not accept its place in the order of things. We’ve always sought more, something else, to transcend our place in the natural order.

The love of my life died in 89′. She was truly my helpmeet, as I was hers. Yet, she had that independent spirit of her people, the Lakota (Oglala Sioux). She was an activist within her own community helping women to not only survive but to thrive and educate themselves, overcome much of the crap that had forced her people onto reservations and allowed them to become passive recipients of alcohol and government checks. She’d been raped when a young girl by many of her own kin, something that took her years to overcome (if she ever did). I stood by her at every point of her life, as she did mine. Maybe it’s this that most irks me when someone attributes to my stance the label misogynist from statements on FB.

Sadly, we live in a moment when feminism seems to have become something other than it once was during the sixties, seventies and eighties… something I have a difficulty sometimes recognizing. Maybe it’s this same feeling that goes for the Party I once actually fought for, the Democrats. They too have changed, and not for the better. There’s a stench of religious orthodoxy in the land, not of Christian but of Secularism; and, not the variety I live, atheism with a Marxist heritage. It’s something else… moneyed and power based, a shadow world of shifting alliances, warring groups, and anathema. If one does not speak the language of the in group or hold the value systems of its orthodoxy then one is labeled this or that… accused, and pronounced guilty before one has a chance to defend oneself.

As an outsider it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter at all, as a contrarian I’ve always adjusted to the doggedness of oppositional thinking blasting any and all who were failing the test of dissidence, whether of the Right or Left it does not matter. No longer affiliated to the political I can stand outside its fractious squabbles and bickering’s, saying plainly what is on my mind. Both the Left and Right have become puppets of ideologies that subvert any actual communication. It’s just that in our time one does not know anymore who one’s friends are nor who one’s enemies have become. Sometimes I think the poles are reversing as in the I Ching, slipping from male to female and back again: a rotary world of energetic powers and dispositions unleashing strange new zones of being. Things have become topsy-turvy and chaotic, the extremes meeting in unlikely zones of affiliation and disaffiliation.

Having been part of the sixties generation my thought and philosophy are no longer it seems acceptable in some quarters. So be it. I suppose it’s a phase shift in thought, value, and our mode of being in the world. Being pragmatic about it I shall as always adapt, and yet continue to be the oppositional contrarian I’ve always been. What else could I be?

As Christopher Hitchens in his Letters to a Young Contrarian put it: “To be in opposition is not to be a nihilist. And there is no decent or charted way of making a living at it. It is something you are, and not something you do.”1


  1. Hitchens, Christopher. Letters to a Young Contrarian (Art of Mentoring) (p. 12). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.