Bataille’s Gift: Wealth, Toxicity, and Apocalypse

 

Is the general determination of energy circulating in the biosphere altered by man’s activity? Or rather, isn’t the latter’s intention vitiated by a determination of which it is ignorant, which it overlooks and cannot change?

—Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share

Bataille’s underlying understanding of the checks and balances in the universe in its indifferent and impersonal forms would inform his pragmatic approach to the economics of the Anthropocene:

The living organism, in a situation determined by the play of energy on the surface of the globe, ordinarily receives more energy than is necessary for maintaining life; the excess energy (wealth) can be used for the growth of a system (e.g., an organism); if the system can no longer grow, or if the excess cannot be completely absorbed in its growth, it must necessarily be lost without profit; it must be spent, willingly or not, gloriously or catastrophically.

Capital accumulation as performed by the top .01% which hordes its surplus profits (the excess energy (wealth)) brings with it a counter-current or entropic and toxic accumulation of catastrophe in the earth itself which has to be absorbed, spent, and willingly or not “lost without profit” else like other civilizations before it the earth’s resources will reach that point where its own accumulated toxicity must be wasted utterly in catastrophic apocalypse to the detriment of all biotic life on the surface of this planet.

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The Future of Decision: Governance, Algorithms, and Cognitive Bias

 

Berardi makes a valid point in his critique of Srnicek and Williams Inventing the Future:

“Srnicek and Williams suggest that we should ‘demand full automation, demand universal basic income, demand reduction of the work week’. But they do not explain who the recipient is of these demands. Is there any governing volition that can attend to these requests and implement them?

No, because governance has taken the place of government, and command is no longer inscribed in political decision but in the concatenation of techno-linguistic automatisms. This is why demands are pointless, and why building political parties is pointless as well.”1

Governance is ubiquitous, invisible, and decentralized within the networks itself now, power is part of the very interactive environment we face daily. The moment you open your iPhone, etc. you’re confronted with a governed set of choices and possibilities that capture your desires and modulate those very choices through sophisticated and ubiquitous algorithms. Same for almost every aspect of our once sacrosanct private lives, too. Our homes in the coming decades will be invasively programmed with ubiquitous smart devices that will attune us to techno-commercial decisioning processes out of our control, and yet they will allow us to still believe it is we who are choosing, deciding, using our oh so ingrained “free will” – that as many neuroscientists keep telling us is an illusion, delusion, a cognitive bias and hereditary error of judgment, etc.

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Against Progressive Cultural Dictatorship

 

Reading this stupidity in Current Affairs: The Question of Cultural Appropriation :  

The trouble with Elvis’s version of “Hound Dog” is not that it is bad. It’s that it doesn’t make any goddamn sense. Big Mama Thornton’s original 1952 version of the song is sleazy and defiant. In a bluesy growl, she tells off the low-down guy who keeps “snooping round her door.” It’s a declaration of independence by a woman who is sick and tired of having a “hound dog” of a man take her for granted. The lyrics are full of dirty double-entendres: “You can wag your tail, but I ain’t gonna feed you no more.” In Elvis’s version, sanitized for a pop audience, the line is changed to “You ain’t never caught a rabbit, and you ain’t no friend of mine.” Drained of its original meaning, the song seemingly becomes about… an actual dog.

What a crock… As a one time ultra-leftist whose renounced his affiliations due to such idiocy as current Leftist ideologues spout, what I’m sick of is the moralism in all this cultural appropriation theatrics, as if Elvis needed justification for “not making sense” whatever the hell that is: sense for whom? Or for borrowing openly from a culture he admired and grew up with, listened too, and was shaped by. As if cultures were all separate entities back in the 50’s and he should have known better. So now will finger-whag at a dead rock icon and let all you living souls in on our police agenda. In attacking a cultural icon, the King of Rock’n’Roll the New Progressive pundits seek to say: Even the sacrosanct of the Pop-Cults is up for our Judgment. Here ye, here ye: we are coming for you, beware of our judgment day calls. You may be next… I imagine a new Uncle Sam sign with its finger wagging at you saying: Do not you dare step across theses cultural boundaries or else….

For the hysterical left who is bent on reverse McCarthyism and policing thought and cultural appropriation as the new censors and thought-Police? I’ll be dammed if I’m buying any of this new liberal progressive elite crapology while the Party itself seems bent on self-destruction and not taking its own failures seriously. When did the Left who was for decades against the moralism of the public sphere and during the fifties, sixties, seventies…. attacked the same in the Right, become so weighted with all this garbage ethics and cultural muck? Even cultural postmodernism of Jameson and others was not so weighted… this is recent and not a good sign for the Party or us… to top it off most of these elite pundits are themselves White-Anglosaxon peeps in cushion jobs or academic careers… what we’ve done is put up barriers and enclosures around various cultures as boxes and territories as if we’d learned nothing from Deleuze and Guattari…. as if suddenly to explore outside one’s own box were suddenly to have to meet the Cultural Police and make sure our papers were in order like some Berlin Wall of Culture… “no, you can’t use that, no you’ll need this form to use that, no we don’t allow you to change your appearance and look like us, no sounding like us is not appropriate, and don’t you dare steal our music, art, dance, etc. or else…”

To me the whole notion of cultural “ownership” puts this flatly within capitalist culture and logics, whereas under communist and progressive socialist tenants such logics has always been anathema since no one owned anything singularly, and all owned everything in the collective. What we’ve done in this new wave progressive bullshit is to reify the old class barriers rather than breaking them down, drawn ideological lines in the sand (you shall not take my culture? or else?), and put up new false sign-posts against collective solidarity through a false identity politics that pits even the various Leftists against each other based on race and culture, all under the false notion of social justice which was never to be used conceptually in this way. Rather than the cultural marxiism of the 40’s and 50’s with the Frankfurt school or even Jameson we’ve got something that is almost its opposite now. It makes you wonder who is truly sponsoring this wave or reverse McCarthyism in which the Left Progressive Church of Progress has become the Thought-Police with its White Anglo-Saxon Elite pundits sitting in their cushion academic halls or media chairs dictating this crap to all and sundry. No, just call me an Old School Lefty who has had enough of this strange new tendency which isn’t about emancipation but rather about policing the world and censoring those who do not sit quietly within the borders of their own self-imposed cultural prisons. I’ll have no truck with it, ever…

I’ve finally had it up to my neck… I’m done with the current Left Progressive losers and their pettiness and cultural politics. From now own their my enemy…

Rage

Rage without utopian prospects of real change is like living in a favela on the edge of Pandemonium waiting for the rebellion to begin, no matter what you do you are still trapped in a sub-basement of Hell with no prospects of escape. Rage is useless when there are no chains, only the fiery wall and abyss between you and the unbridgeable gulf of a false heaven. Forget paradise, forget heaven, learn to live in your despair and hopelessness and then maybe you will change the very ruins of hell into a paradise of solidarity. One must enter the depths of darkness to know the light. Carry your rage as a light in the despair of our times, seek out the other without redemption or hope only the truth of one’s rage.

S.C. Hickman, Nightmares and Revisions

Slavoj Žižek commenting on Italo Svevo’s novel Zeno’s Conscience, makes an interesting point in that Zeno faced with the prohibition not to smoke feels desperate and guilty when he does smoke, so the analyst he is seeing changes the strategy and tells him health is not an issue (which it is!) so that he should properly smoke as much as he likes. Zeno taking the advice does just that but instead of freeing him from guilt he nows feels doubly guilty to the point of despair, and it is only when he has reached this extreme moment of despair and helplessness before his double-bind of smoking or not smoking that he finally quits smoking. Zizek commenting on this says:

“Zeno is totally perturbed and desperate. He smokes like crazy and nonetheless feels totally guilty, without getting any narcissistic satisfaction from this guilt. In despair, he breaks down. Whatever he does turns out to be wrong: neither prohibitions nor permissiveness work, there is no way out, no pleasurable compromise; and, since smoking has been the focus of his life, even smoking loses its sense, there is no point in it. So, in total despair – not as a great decision – he stops smoking … The way out thus emerges unexpectedly when Zeno accepts the total hopelessness of his predicament. And this same matrix should also be applied to the prospect of radical change.”1

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Future Society: The Cathedral of Managed Society

We can read it as the coming of modern, scientific government in the United States. Or we can read it as the transfer of power from political democracy to the American university system—which, just for the sake of a catchy catchword, I like to call the Cathedral.

—Mencius Moldbug (alias, Curtis Yarvin),  A Gentle Introduction to Unqualified Reservations

The Cathedral has substituted its gospel for everything we ever knew.

—Nick Land, The Dark Enlightenment

Bernard Stiegler in his unreadable scholarly postmodern account of the coming automation of society – Automatic Society 1: The Future of Work (Polity Press, 2016), “demonstrates once again (as he has done in virtually all his many previous books),” according to Bert Oliver, “that our technological era, like every distinctive technological epoch before this one, has generated novel technologies in such rapid succession that they have the effect of disrupting social life fundamentally, continually requiring new cultural practices and social adaptations – in this case the probable massive shrinking of employment because of digitalization”.

Another harbinger of this world of disruption and non-work is Peter Frase whose popular Four Futures: Life After Capitalism offers, according to Ben Tarnoff, “two heavens and two hells: two ways that automation might facilitate a flourishing of human life, and two ways that it might maximise human misery. In all of these potential futures, automation is the constant; what changes is the political and ecological context – in other words, who owns the robots and how climate change affects the resources on which technology depends”.

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A Short History of Modernity: Abstraction and Automatic Society

Abstract art—painting and sculpture that makes no direct, immediately discernible reference to recognizable objects—was born of an alliance of modernist aesthetics and occult doctrines…  Yet no sooner was this new artistic convention established as an influence on the European Avant garde than it was quickly appropriated by still another mode of thought—utopianism—

—Hilton Kramer, Abstraction and Utopia

Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility:

During the last century, abstraction has been the main tendency of the general history of the world in the field of art, language and economics. Abstraction can be defined as the mental extraction of a concept from a series of real experiences, but it can be also defined as the separation of conceptual dynamics from bodily processes. Since the time Marx spoke of ‘abstract labour’ to refer to the working activity as separate from the useful production of concrete things, we know that abstraction is a powerful engine.

Thanks to abstraction, capitalism has detached the process of valorization from the material process of production. As productive labour turns into a process of info-production, abstraction becomes the main source of accumulation, and the condition of automation. Automation is the insertion of abstraction into the machinery of social life, and consequently it is the replacement of an action (physical and cognitive) with a technical engine.

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The Reality Studio as Staged Event

The subject is in crisis, its hegemony threatened by centralized structures of control, by a technology which simultaneously alienates and masks alienation, by a perception of its own helplessness. Even the last retreat, the physical body, has lost its privileged status: hence the schizophrenic terror undergone by the protagonists. Even the libido, site of the irrational, seat of desire, is invaded, enlisted in the furtherance of an obsolescent technological rationalism.

—Scott Bukatman,  Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction 

Over the past few weeks of watching the Left/Right street urchins play out their idiot games of violence I’ve realized just how ill effective either side is against real power. Why? Because in truth neither of these extremes has any power whatsoever: it’s all surface show violence, even these staged events are funded in part by Corporate NGO’s etc. so that the supposed radical or reactionary forces are virtual actualities without substance. Sadly this is the state of our planet at the moment, we use social media, academia, philosophy, heuristics not as actual tools to change the world, but rather to stage that change in a virtual realm that can be seen and played out like a MTV video remix. If it wasn’t so sad it’d be humorous, but in truth our powerlessness before the global juggernaut of financial capitalism has left us disunited, alone, atomized in societies that can only stage pseudo-events and struggles rather than anything that could move us toward an emancipated future.

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Berardi on the Bunker City

Berardi on the Bunker City

Such vertical environmental contrasts are compounded by the ways in which private, vertically segregated pedestrian systems can become progressively delinked from surrounding sidewalks. Actual access from the public street often becomes increasingly tenuous as the self-perpetuating logic of extending interiorised commercial walkway systems grow horizontally over time. Entrances to the walkway system from the street below are mediated by access to securitised corporate office buildings, elite condominiums or upmarket hotels. Commercial imperatives and a politics of fear, in other words, can result in pulling up the ‘ladder’ connecting the skywalk city to the street system. Linkages to the street, often already unsigned or inconspicuous, are closed, built over or replaced by connections through retailers or auto garages. Security guards and CCTV cameras provide intensified controls filtering flows between outside and inside.

—Stephen Graham,  Vertical: The City from Satellites to Bunkers

Taking over a notion of the Bunker City from Paul Virilio who’d developed it just after WWII, Berardi sees the new MegaCity States of the future divided into those of the have’s and have-not’s: within/without, included/excluded, bunker/favela, all living in the protected virtual/intelligent and artificial environments of competing and securitized Global MegaCities:

The composition of contemporary global society is structured around a fundamental separation between the inside-the-bunker social sphere and the outside-the-bunker social sphere. The bunker is the area in which the financial class and the cognitive workers live and work. This area can be outlined in terms of technical environment or in terms of urban location, and it is here where the main connective and recombinant functions are situated: the function of the financial decisions that dominate and exploit the whole cycle of production, and the function of cognitive labour, mostly precarious but protected to some extent, because it is strictly necessary to the accumulation of capital.

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Zero Dawn

 

Consciousness. The first moments of a lapsed nightmare, quickening. Gabe’s lungs burst, the liquid oxygen flowing freely as his body convulsed to the beat of the Calysto’s ship sirens ringing in his ears. His mind is still kicking in, the blood moving along the capillaries feeding his neural net feeders like sludge from some subterranean backflow on Gamma Five. His heart is pumping like a bladed thumper and his lower legs are shaking spasmodically as he tries to push the blood injectors from his abdomen.  His fingers are still cold as blue steel as if he’d been locked away for an eternity, but this seems more accident than panic daemon. A voice is finally penetrating his titanium skull mount, the toxic bleeders vacating his system as the Infosys tegrams release filtered spinal fluids into his brainpan, the quick firing neural-net activating and becoming clearer as the quantum jets strike up.

The voice is soothing but insistent: “Commander McAlister we have a problem.”

“Oh, really,” he thinks to himself. As the last of the cocoon’s safety links disconnect from his spine he feels tingling of the casing fluid retreating into the bowels of the Sleeper. He hates being under, dreading the unload sequence every time it happens. It’s like being ejected from his mother’s womb, except he never had a mother only the artificial wrapper marked property of Consilient Enterprises. He often wondered whose genetics ran in his cloned flesh. But knew that was never going to happen. Hell even the GenTechs that built him couldn’t have traced that back to its origins with all the editing sequences and cross-pollinators specific to the task of his job. Yep, he was more job than human, his whole body and mind built to specs by some NewGen AGI based in L5. Locked and sequenced, barcode inserted subdermal, tattooed and branded with the orange and black logo of Consilient Inc. he was more robot than man, more technoid knowledge base than fleshly denizen of human deformation. Even Hammond Clarke, CEO of Consilient Exec Council couldn’t have tapped that system, it’s governance and security perimeters coded in quark soup so thick that it’d burn straight through to the core of any vagrant viral that came within magnetic breath of its salient ice-walls.

“Commander?” the voice was tentative now. “Are you alright? Your vitals seem in order, please respond.”

Miranda LXII. Pure abstraction on steroids. He’d often kid himself that maybe she truly was as human as she sounded. But AI’s were subtle that way, their indifference and impersonalism couched in the sociopathic algorithms of a manipulative Biomimetic subsystems of such complexity no human could reckon with much less control. Miranda was part and parcel of a programmed nightmare, but one that was attuned to offering mimed pleasantries even as it prepared to demolish its prey. Her metallic voice was so kind and gentle as if she actually gave a shit about him rather than just seeing him as one more prosthetic appendage in her vast arsenal to be called forth when something needed to be adjusted, tuned, or fixed and the ship’s drones couldn’t handle it, which was rare indeed. But there was the other factor, too. Clones were built to perform specific tasks, and he wasn’t just any knock-off sleeper, but a NanoCyb: a cyborged machinic delivery system adapted to work under even the most toxic environmental conditions, ones that required micro-molecular controls and mutational flexors.

“I’m here, Miranda,” he spoke softly, his sub-vocals  assuring her that he was fine. “Give me the details. Skip the vocals, relay neural-feed proximity vectors. 3D scan operative geospatials as needed. Bring the holotable online. Scratch pad and floater screens. And…”

“Yes, Commander?”

“Send message, HQ. List Time/Date at Zero Dawn.” He emphasized this.

He could sense that vast machinic intelligence probing him through every fiber of his nanocore feedback connectors as if it was puzzled by this diffraction from protocol. But it said nothing but the required acknowledgement: “Yes, Commander, as you wish.” He hated that as if she were a genii who’d just given him one of three wishes, and would sooner or later require much more from him than wishes. He knew there was always a price to pay in breaking code or protocol. And, he knew, he would pay; dearly.

***

He tapped his temple subdermal controller, the retinal display unit slid out of its encasement above his left eyebrow, the lithium screen flowing down while the plasma charge spread across the void of his eyes filling the loadscreen with enmeshed holofields. The images began flowing easily now, the lazelight particle threader accelerating as he worked the inner chronotapes, allowing the AI interface between himself and Miranda to wedge the datascans into view.

As he watched the feeds he noticed the timesequencer, noted the day/hour/minute of the impact. A ship had appeared starboard, a craft that should not have been in deep space, at least not one from Earth’s DefCorp Fleet. If not DefCorp then who? Traders? What the hell would they be doing out here? Nothing but the asteroid belts, penal colonies of minders. Traders didn’t have license to fold into these outer regions, sell wares to the penals. Miranda had corrected the navigational perimeters, adjusted the sparrockets for a reroute, which would have been fine but for one thing: the other ship had signaled on a subspace channel its need of assistance. Great… that was indeed a problem.

Miranda had registered the supplicant, sent off the required report to DefCorp Jupiter quadrant and received a reply two specs Solar Time. He knew the drill. He was required to make contact with the vessel, supply their needs and offer any assistance except evacuation. Strict protocols disallowed a Penal Transport any accommodations other than the manifest maintenance crew and the shelved penals. If everything had gone right he’d of awakened at port of call rather than out here in no-man’s land jumbuck nowhere.

He could sense the hum of the ship, Miranda’s overbrain sitting there in its quantum sea like a princes on a silent isle. But she was no princess, and he was no Prince Charming come to offer her tribute. Instead he tapped the retinal, let it retract and fold back into its titanium shell while he contemplated his next move.


Just piddling with the opening sequence in my current work, thought I’d share it see how it works or not.

Franco “Bifo” Berardi: Thatcher and Baudrillard

Franco “Bifo” Berardi,  in Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility… (below)

Baudrillard wrote In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities in the same era when Margaret Thatcher was taking control of the Tory Party, beginning the triumphal progress that prepared her victory in the national elections of 1979, and launching the project that we have come to know as the neoliberal reformation. Echoing Baudrillard’s concepts, in a 1987 interview Thatcher said:

What irritated me about the whole direction of politics in the last thirty years is that it’s always been towards the collectivist society. People have forgotten about personal security. And they say: do I count, do I matter? To which the short answer is, yes. And therefore, it isn’t that I set out on economic policies; it’s that I set out really to change the approach, and changing the economics is the means of changing that approach. If you change the approach you really are after the heart and soul of the nation. Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.

The final goal of Thatcher’s revolution was not economic, but political, ethical – almost spiritual, we might say. The neoliberal reformation was intended to inscribe competition into the very soul of social life, up to the point of destroying society itself. This cultural intention has been clearly described by Michel Foucault in his 1979–80 seminar published under the title The Birth of Biopolitics:

the subjection of individual activity to the spirit of enterprise, the overall recoding of human activity in terms of economic rentability, the insertion of competition into the neural circuits of daily life.

These are the trends that Foucault foresaw and described. Not only economic profit, but moreover the cult of the individual as economic warrior, the harsh perception of the fundamental loneliness of humans, the cynical concession that war is the only possible relation among living organisms on the path of evolution: this is the ultimate intention of the neoliberal reformation. Margaret Thatcher said, ‘There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first.’ The concept here is interesting but not accurate: society cannot disappear at the very end; sociability may be dissolving, but not society.

Over the last thirty years, society has been transformed into a sort of blind system of inescapable obligation and interdependence, a prison-like condition of togetherness in which empathy is void and solidarity is forbidden. The social space has been transformed into a worldwide system of automatic connections in which individuals cannot experience conjunction but only functional connection. The process of cooperation does not stop, it is transformed into a process of abstract recombination of info-fractals that only the code can decipher and transform into economic value. The mutual interaction is not negated outright, but empathy is replaced by competition. Social life proceeds, more frantic than ever: the living, conscious organism penetrated by dead, unconscious mathematical functions.

 

Bye, Bye Mr. Ashbery we’ll miss you…

 

Making ready to forget, and always coming back
To the mooring of starting out, that day so long ago.

—John Ashbery, Soonest Mended

With the recent death of John Ashbery I began thinking about his poetry again.
In a lot of ways his work remains a testament to the death of the individual, to the slow erosion of Western humanism and all those discourses where the human is central. His is a poetry of the fragmentation, the endless atomization of society, the absolute loneliness of desire caught behind the screen of life watching and gazing, wishing to participate but realizing that the body is no longer there to follow the mind into the electric void.

From The Instruction Manual

As I sit looking out of a window of the building
I wish I did not have to write the instruction manual on the uses of a new metal.
I look down into the street and see people, each walking with an inner peace,
And envy them—they are so far away from me!
———————————

Even now for many of us we sit behind the screen watching the Buzzfeed world of light, the drift of peoples lives come and go among the media folds of FB, Tweeter, and other social networks that give the appearance of solidarity without its substance. It’s this sense that nothing is real anymore, that our lives online are mere fragments of a collapsing world that echoes nothing more than our ability to truly communicate. We’ve lost the subtle art of writing and speaking, the bodily queues, behavioral markers that once shed light on irony and wit, tragedy and sorrow. Those slight facial filters of an upturned lip, or the snarly voice and sardonic laughter, the power of the body to awaken in us the meanings of the folded words hinting at mysteries that were once all too apparent when body and mind were not cut off in this galaxy of light.

For Ashbery this feeling of loneliness, this desperation of the worker locked away in his cubicle, the slow fading of the human equation sparks a nostalgia for warmth, for flow, for touch and haptic joys of summers on beaches and coasts, roaming the gardens of Guadalajara, a nostalgia for being human. It’s this sense that there can be no return to the human, that we’ve lost our chance, that the dream has been dispersed, lost that pervades our experience as non-experience on the internet. We truly do not have experiences on the net, it’s pure abstraction in a void. As Ashbery puts it:

How limited, but how complete withal, has been our experience of Guadalajara!

Just that, bodily experience is no more, we are but talking heads, cut off in apophatic despair, our minds hollowed out and dispersed among the lost arts of speech and writing…

The Life of a Poet

Harold Bloom a long time friend and advocate of Ashbery’s work once said “no one now writing poems in the English language is likelier than Ashbery to survive the severe judgment of time, he is joining the American sequence that includes Whitman, Dickinson, Stevens and Hart Crane.”

Ashbery’s early work was mostly known in avant-garde circles, but his arrival as a major figure in American literature was signaled in 1976, when he became the only writer to win the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in the same year, for his collection “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.” The title poem of the volume is a 15-page meditation on the painting of the same name by Parmigianino, the Italian Renaissance artist.

Early on Ashbery was associated with the New York school of poetry of the 1950s and ’60s, joining Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, Frank O’Hara and others as they reveled in the currents of modernism, surrealism and Abstract Expressionism then animating creative life in the city, drawing from and befriending artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Jane Freilicher.

As another critic hints his poetry is by turns playful and elegiac, absurd and exquisite — but more than anything else, it is immediately recognizable. If some poets remind us of the richness of American poetry by blending seamlessly into one of its many traditions, Mr. Ashbery has frequently seemed like a tradition unto himself. It is a cliché to praise a writer by saying no one has ever sounded quite like him, and yet: No one has ever sounded quite like him.

Like many I came upon his poetry during my short academic years, before marriage and life forced my hand to enter the fray of our competitive world or perish. Ashbery stayed with me, goading me on in my own private sanctuary of thought and culture, where at nights I would read through his and other poets and poetesses seeking that indefinable art of the word. If I had a religion at that time, having already taken the first tentative steps out of and away from my own religious heritage in evangelical Christianity, it was poetry. I’d been raised on Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde during those formative years as if the decadent world of flowers were some hybrid realm of lush and rich realms of far away jungles. Of course most of that was nonsense, sense my early life had been bound by the physical world of football and drinking sessions with the hob nob boys spinning our ceaseless jokes and inane masculinity.

And, yet, there was some truth in what Wilde once said: The poet is the supreme artist, for he is the master of colour and of form, and the real musician besides, and is lord over all life and all arts. Shakespeare, Dante, and Milton were my triune gods, with Shelley, Byron, and Keats running in second during those early forays into the poetic canon. Whitman, Poe, and Emerson would rise out of the American yawp like barbarians in an overgrown garden, while for me it was finally the worlds of Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, and the West coast loner Robinson Jeffers with his wild music of the seas that would flow into my veins. Later would come Pablo Neruda and Cèsar Vallejo whose political and regional work awakened a certain combination of revolutionary fervor with the lushness of southern mountains, rivers, and oceans.

I could recite all the lesser lights, not to mention my delving into the feminine strain (a post on this needs a separate offering!), but it was certain poets like W.B. Yeats (not for his political stance, but the music of his lyrics) and Ashbery that would enter that strange harbor of my imaginal and force me to finally disturb the waters with my own voice. Who knows why one is lured to certain poets and not others, I have no answer to this question. Something in certain poets and poetesses appears to meld with one’s inner voice, one’s thoughts, feelings, priorities; begins to overwhelm one’s sense of being and becoming to the point of possession. These are the one’s that like Jacob wrestling his angel force one to wrestle the daemon within: that force of one’s onw deep creative spirit, the productive force of the unconscious, the agency at the core of one’s inhuman being. It’s this one is awakened too in certain poets and not others, this voice of the daemon – or, dark spark that gives hint to one’s “lost majesty” coming back as Emerson spoke of it. A deep influence that is not so much or black stars entering one’s soul, as it is the volcanic depths of some flowing sphere of churning power rising from the secret place of one’s being.

For all his intellectuality Ashbery’s poetry is replete with earthiness, a sensual allure that shifts one from one registrar of being to another so subtly one suddenly begins to fold out of and into a new dimension before realizing it:

Like a dull scholar, I behold, in love,
An ancient aspect touching a new mind.
It comes, it blooms, it bears its fruit and dies.
This trivial trope reveals a way of truth.
Our bloom is gone. We are the fruit thereof.
Two golden gourds distended on our vines,
Into the autumn weather, splashed with frost,
Distorted by hale fatness, turned grotesque.
We hang like warty squashes, streaked and rayed,
The laughing sky will see the two of us,
Washed into rinds by rotting winter rains.

(—“Le Monocle,” VIII)

Browning’s sense of decay and richness, a grotesquerie of earthy experience envelopes Ashbery’s world, a painterly eye. As Bloom would admonish, Ashbery throughout his career could neither accept or reject the inheritance of the High Romantic sublime, “unable firmly to adhere to or reject the High Romantic insistence that the power of the poet’s mind could triumph over the universe of death, or the estranged object-world”. Caught between the lure of material creation that is forever bound to the fatal gesture of the Real; or, the power of time and history which washes over us all, spilling its waves of erasure and anonymity, crushing and pulverizing the white bones of everything into dust and sand. Rather what remains in Ashbery is that insistence of the voice itself:

remember you are free to wander away
as from other times other scenes that were taking place
the history of someone who came too late
the time is ripe now and the adage
is hatching as the seasons change and tremble…

—Ashbery, Her

This knowledge that maybe we have all of us in this late time arrived too late, in the moments when humanity in its sea-change is mutating beyond redress, when the seasons changing and trembling under the pressure of this age of forgetfulness sinks toward some fated abyss we begin to realize the “time is ripe now and the adage is hatching”: and, we, who have dared to peer into the darkness must awaken, each to each in the silences of our lonely gazes, reach out and touch the body of each other and the earth as if it still mattered. For it does…

knowing as the brain does it can never come about
not here not yesterday in the past
only in the gap of today filling itself
as emptiness is distributed
in the idea of what time it is
when that time is already past

—Ashbery, Her

“Ashbery’s finest achievement, to date, is his heroic and perpetual self-defeat,” is the almost weird praise Bloom would give this poet and his place in the small canon of American poets. A perpetual self-effacing of the mirror worlds others lavish upon us; for it is others who seem to construct us in words and deeds, shape us into some whole that we ourselves never have known or seen; nor can or will. It’s this defeat of the other in ourselves that is the core truth of one’s life, for the most difficult art is that of pure emptiness: in it is neither the nothing that is nor the nothing that is not, but rather the fullness of that presence emptied of the human except as a small voicing, a spark that escapes time’s dark riddle and lures us into that strangeness and emptiness that is.

Intimacy

 

How great your appetite for life was, then! Existence seemed so rich in new possibilities.

—Michel Houellebecq,  Whatever 

You imagine that fatal moment, the moment that we never think about, the one when it all stops. Then you begin thinking about all those silly goals you had, publishing that great and terrible novel or the philosophical tract that would truly change and disturb the world of thought, and then you realize it will never happen; and, why should it? Why fill the world with more words? Have the billions of words spent already truly changed things for the better? Look at all the works published in our time, an ocean of words that seem to cry out for someone to read them, think them through, incorporate them into one’s ongoing projects. One would think that the earth itself were crying out to the universal silence seeking answer form the indifferent gaze of all those dead stars. As if a hundred million voices through all those books were saying: I’m here, I exist, I have something you must hear, must understand, my realize… listen to me, I know what I’m on about.

Yet, after years of reading, of plowing through the great dead, the classics, the patterns of light and dark, the hollows of real and unreal you begin to understand that no one truly understands a thing. How could they? What is there to understand? We’re born, we grow up, we study, we learn, we work, we raise our families, fall in love, do what humans do, and the all too early we decline into these bodies of death, these monstrous aging things that suddenly give way, fall apart, flow back into the cosmic dust. Then you realize that you’ve become a computer, processing reams of information, books, essays, academic treatises, music, reports, political and militant tracts – a thousand and one notes to the void. It’s too much, too many pieces of information, the complexity overwhelms you and you realize only a real machine, an intelligent machine with an infinite amount of time and energy could process the sea of words, this endless desert of words…

So you put that task down and return to the few books that mean something to you, spoke to you, gave you comfort, or disturbed your world just enough to terrorize your days, fill them with dread and horror. Books that made you anxious, the awakened you from your stupor, caused you to tremble before the meaning of life, the human condition. And, you were frightened, not because you could not find a meaning, but because the meanings you did find were so pat, so secure, bound to traditions of religious consciousness, philosophy, ethics – to the past… that sea of endless dead whose wisdom your supposed to succor, receive, make you own, incorporate into your flesh and blood. Become intimate with to the point that it and your are one. But this bothers you, makes you want to forget the whole enterprise. Why? Because you will never be yourself, you’ll never be unique, you’ll always be this multitude of others, this world of the dead walking in you. And you wonder if you are not already dead.

So you seek out books and people to forget yourself, forget the whole need for meaning, books and people you can hide in, lose yourself in. But what you discovered was books that broke your habits, made you realize just how automatic and repetitive your life had become, how you seemed to say the same trivial things – clichés of the moment to your friends, loved ones, office workers, etc., not because you didn’t care, but because it doesn’t matter, even to them. You discovered you were not you, you’d never even existed, you were a walking cliché – a creature filled with ideas and notions picked up from all those others, those dead who now inhabited your body, fed your soul, fed on your life, lived through you. But then it hit you: We’re all alone even in the midst of others, not being anyone we are everyone and no one. Then one day you meet someone, contact someone, touch the core of someone and realize a secret, an open secret. We are not alone, we are able to touch the core of an other, and this other is neither mirror or lamp of ourselves but unique in her own right, separate, alive. Through this realization you discover you do after all exist, you exist for an other. There in those few moments of intimacy, between this thing you are and that intimacy with the other, those moments when you and she open up and suddenly find yourselves in a new field of awareness, a new sphere of being as if together you were forming and shaping a new creature, bringing something into the world for the first time: a friendship, a love, a life.

In those moments something indefinable but real happens, something that cannot be put into words – a distance is overcome, an intimate contact with the core of an other. Is it an illusion, another of life’s delusions; or, is it real, actual. What is this strange event between two people, this break of the shell of being in two, an opening of one’s vulnerability, a weakening of the security web we all build up around us as protection from the pain of the world? What is it? How define it? Is it real? Is intimacy the open wound between two people that will not heal, a connection that remains allowing the blood of one’s being to flow freely in-between, comingling with the other forming and shaping an existence that is closer than time or breath? Do we not suddenly become ourselves in the other’s eyes? Shaped by a desire so innocent and real that it can never be undone? In that moment can we not say we truly exist for the first time?

 

The Failure of Democracy: The Politics of Impotence

Going back and studying the one underlying cause of fascism I could come up with only one thing: impotence. Impotence built a hell on earth, erected by men who could not be men.

Hunting is a regale, a prerogative of rulers; it captures the essence of rulership, not just symbolically but also ritually, through the spilled blood on which the sun shines.
– Ernst Junger

When it really comes down to it fascism is haunted by hyper-masculine narcissists, men who feel inferior but must bolster their impotent sexuality with cultic paraphernalia, ritual, and decadent attributes of nostalgic myths of the hunt and war, warrior and priest. Seeking the occult worlds of sovereign power they find only the broken estate of their own impotence before woman:

We will glorify war-the world’s only hygiene, milliterism, patriotism , the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman. 
– Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

A Friend Arran James mentioned to me Franco “Bifo” Berardi and his recent book ‘Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility’ that speaks of our contemporary political impotence (which I had not read – and, am reading now!):

“I retrace the modern genealogy of the concept of potency, starting from the present condition of prevailing impotence of the action of men. … The final lesson of this experience, however, is impotence. Impotence is the keyword of this book, because impotence is the shape that potency takes in the age of technical and geopolitical hyper-complexity. … The re-emerging cult of nation and ethnicity, as exposed by the ascent of Donald Trump and the proliferation of machofascist dictators worldwide, is the backlash of the perception of impotence. Violence is replacing political mediation because political reason is determined to be devoid of potency. The white middle class is unable to understand and control the hyper-complexity of financial automatisms, and this fuels sentiments of social impotence.”

Strange to get corroboration from another source. I’ll need to read this book further…

Yet, on further reflection the same can be said of the Cathedralism of the social and political elite as well, for it is the political and institutional impotence of academic, Bureaucratic, NGO’s, financial, and plutocratic impotence that has itself forced the populist hand to rise up against it at the street level in its extreme poles of Alt-Right vs. Anti-Fa. So in this sense we can speak of the totality of the world or global impotence of leadership in political and corporate systems that have shaped the manufactured consent (Chomsky) we’ve lived under: the ideological illusions and delusions of Universalism (i.e., Enlightenment progressive ideology of human and technological improvement) of our Secular Age that is now falling into the abyss… stay tuned to the coming insurrection against impotence in the world. The next Revolution will be against the impotent leaders of the world who use their tyrannical and perverse authority to impose a false order through political and corporate malfeasance: a Manichaean war of all against all brewed in the hellish corridors of stupidity and political and social corruption from top to bottom… maybe decadent empires have always needed the barbarous forces of vitalism to rise up and overthrow their impotent institutions.

History is replete with States that have crumbled under their own overripe and rich estate of sexual and sacrificial excesses… the irrationalism of both climate change and political decadence may be driving us into an end game which will either transform and mutate civilization into some breakthrough or breakdown: nothing is assured either way. Let us hope the forces of negentropy can tip the balance against entropic decay and destruction; but don’t hold your breath, instead ‘act’. Even now we all seem to await the ‘Event’ that will awaken us to action… will it lead to catastrophic consequences or a new order of the world? Tendencies either way are working below the threshold of our collective unconscious even now. Even the probabililists and statisticians, modelers and algorithmic computationalists  would be hard put to shape or pattern match such a dark presentiment. Singularity or Dark Ages? Or something in-between? Maybe we should forget the pattern matching algorithms of cultural prognosis and just get up off our asses and build a new world worth living in rather than waiting for the world to fall into an abyss…

One of the great needs in political theory and diagnosis today is one that is neither of the Left or Right, which are both bound by outworn ideological lenses that have forced both sides into Manichean political gestures of the extreme binarism we see in the streets across the world. Instead we need to take a hard look at Left and Right poles and face the bitter truth that both sides of the issue have been shaped by malicious codes: viral programs of a deeper intelligence born of annihilating distributions and shadow viruses of futurial intent. Until we can move past the animosity of contemporary politics of defeat we shall end only in tyranny and social forms of control of either extreme fascist or communist or in their shadow forms of libertarian anarchy or libertarian socialism. None of these have or will offer us a way out of our contemporary global conflicts, but will instead contribute to the politics of defeat that will produce the end game of our species.

 

Breaking the Vessels of Power: The Politics of Freedom

Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.”

—Karl Marx

Since its earliest origins, with men such as Valentinus, Carpocrates and Basilides, Gnosticism had sought above all a non-religious or an a-religious attitude, for it was anxious to bypass the absurd antinomy of faith versus knowledge, the sacred versus the profane. They knew that the sacred, like the profane, is vitiated by evil and that the solution could not consist in opposing the first to the second, but in overcoming both one and the other and liberating oneself from the false dilemmas into which they drive us. This position clearly implied a total questioning of the very existence of the sacred, and therefore of the usefulness of religions and, a fortiori, of Churches. This tended to throw the most rational of the Gnostics into a solitary position where few came to join them, but which prefigured the attitudes of certain thinkers, philosophers, writers, and mystics of our own time.

I would define this position as a return to the fundamental, virginal interrogation of man faced with the problems of his life, with his need to escape from the yoke of systems and to arrive, in every instance, at a point of absolute zero in knowledge. If the Gnostics proposed a dualistic image of the world, it was not because, when faced with an entity, they were temperamentally predisposed to see its opposite, but because, confronted with the agonizing and omnipresent evidence of evil, it was necessary to oppose something to it. But their aim was quite patently to overcome this antinomy which did nothing but reflect the schism, the inherent rending in two of the world. By doing this-we cannot say it too often-they found themselves obliged to reject practically all the religious ideologies of their time and to live on the fringes of all accepted conventions, since, for them, the demands of truth were paramount, even if they were to lead them to the stake.

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The Dark Side of Time

The attitude of the Gnostics toward time, and more generally, toward the world, is characterized from the first by a movement of revolt against time and the world as conceived by Hellenism and Christianity…

—Henri-Charles Puech, Gnosis and Time

Most of us think of time as a linear process, a movement from the past to the future, but has this always been so? Is time truly an arrow, or is it also a return, a circle rather than a slide toward some apocalyptic abyss? Or, what if time could reverse course, or slip off into a non-time, a time of no time, a rhizomatic cleavage in time that would lock it and its inhabitants in a zone of stasis, a place where time stood still? Have we even begun to think about time?

The earliest recorded Western philosophy of time was expounded by the ancient Egyptian thinker Ptahhotep (c. 2650–2600 BC), who said, “Do not lessen the time of following desire, for the wasting of time is an abomination to the spirit.” The Vedas, the earliest texts on Indian philosophy and Hindu philosophy, dating back to the late 2nd millennium BC, describe ancient Hindu cosmology, in which the universe goes through repeated cycles of creation, destruction, and rebirth, with each cycle lasting 4,320,000 years. Ancient Greek philosophers, including Parmenides and Heraclitus, wrote essays on the nature of time.

Plato, in the Timaeus, identified time with the period of motion of the heavenly bodies, and space as that in which things come to be. Aristotle, in Book IV of his Physics, defined time as the number of changes with respect to before and after, and the place of an object as the innermost motionless boundary of that which surrounds it.

In Book 11 of St. Augustine’s Confessions, he ruminates on the nature of time, asking, “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not.”

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Even This? The End of America Coming Your Way

Call me insensitive but when I read in the New York Post and Guardian that Gone With The Wind is being stricken from the Orpheum’s play list for the summer because of political correctness it bugged me. Not because the movie isn’t racist, it is. No. It’s that instead of showing how Hollywood portrayed the world in this 1930’s era the hyperliberal harpies would rather it be erased, so that instead of learning from our past it seems we’re just sticking our heads in the proverbial sand and pretending it wasn’t there. There’s a fine line between educating people about the truth of an era, and then helping them make an informed judgement concerning the literature, films, theatre, music, entertainment, history, etc., and just blanket wiping it out as if we should not be allowed to know it, see it, understand it. What we’re doing is not getting rid of racism, nor are we educating our children and ourselves by forgetting this past or facing up to its dark taint on our lives by forgoing it. Instead we’re pretending that it just doesn’t exist… out of sight, out of mind. And, dam it that’s not what we should be doing, that’s not learning or teaching anything.

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The Gnostic Vision in the Sciences

Broken from the divine harmony of herself she fell, says the tragic philosopher, and became the manifestation of matter; and the whole universe of her city, of the world, was formed out of her agony and remorse. The tragic seed from which her thoughts and actions grew was the seed of a pessimistic gnosticism.

—Lawrence Durrell,  The Alexandria Quartet

The novelist and poet Lawrence Durrell presented a modern version of the Gnostic vision in a series of novels, The Avignon Quintet (1974– 85). Akkad, an Egyptian merchant-banker who is also a latter-day Gnostic, preaches to small groups of European expatriates. At times plump and sluggish-looking, at others looking ascetic and haggard, at home in four capitals and speaking as many languages or more, sometimes wearing western clothes and sometimes traditional dress, Akkad offers to piece together the surviving fragments of Gnostic teaching, which the established religions had tried to destroy: the bitter central truth of the gnostics:

… the horrifying realisation that the world of the Good God was a dead one, and that He had been replaced by a usurper – a God of Evil … It was the deep realisation of this truth, and its proclamation that had caused the gnostics to be suppressed, censored, destroyed. Humanity is too frail to face the truth about things – but to anyone who confronts the reality of nature and of process with a clear mind, the answer is completely inescapable: Evil rules the day.

What sort of God, the gnostic asks himself, could have organised things the way they are – this munching world of death and dissolution which pretends to have a Saviour, and a fountain of good at its base? What sort of God could have built this malefic machine of destruction, of self-immolation? Only the very spirit of the dark negative death-trend in nature – the spirit of nothingness and auto-annihilation. A world in which we are each other’s food, each other’s prey …

In classical and medieval astrology, there was a planetary significator that was antithetical to the Hyleg – Giver of Life, Health, and Longevity.  It was called the Anareta, and was also known as the Interfector or the Killer Planet.  It was considered to be the planet most involved with illness, pathology and death. Our Earth is Anareta, entropic and self-immolating, a predatory machine that feeds on its children in endless cycles of creation and destruction. In the East Kali is the figure of this dark mistress as giver and taker of life, impersonal and indifferent Nature, productive and destructive, cycling the worlds through eons of mutation, transformation, entropy, and death and rebirth. Her cruel gaze and dance of bones is the inherent order of the universe, unknowing of human suffering she is not aware of inflicting pain or joy; rather her actions are utterly indifferent to the tears or laughter of her human supplicants. The Gnostics knew her as the fallen archon Sophia who gave birth to the Demiurge or creative principle of the universe and its destruction.

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Thomas Ligotti Panel: NecronomiCon 2017

This panel took place Saturday, August 19th, 2017 at NecronomiCon Providence 2017.

From the program:

TEATRO GROTTESCO: The Bleak Universe of Thomas Ligotti – Grand Ballroom, Biltmore 17th Floor

Thomas Ligotti embraces themes and moods of Lovecraft, Schultz, Cioran and others, and emerged from the shadows of these literary heirs to become one of the most powerful voices in Weird fiction. In this panel we discuss the bleak and pessimistic universe his work evokes, as well as works crafted by writers who count him among their influences.

Panelists: Matthew Bartlett, Michael Calia, Michael Cisco, Kurt Fawver, Alex Houstoun (Moderator), Jon Padgett

A Lamp in Search of a Philosopher

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. 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. Mencken

As far back as I can remember, I’ve utterly destroyed within myself the pride of being human. And I saunter to the periphery of the Race like a timorous monster, lacking the energy to claim kinship with some other band of apes.”

― Emil M. Cioran

Sadly if one is neither a progressive nor conservative one is either on the extreme pole or a-political these days. Is there a politics against politics out there? I don’t just mean being agnostic like the a-political, or some militant extremist in the libertarian capitalist or socialist mode – nor even a utopian/dystopian communitarian. I mean someone who wants to destroy politics altogether, forget the human project; join the machine and say fuck the humans. Ah! Misanthropist… well not quite, I like some people, despise others, and believe most are either mindless morons – sleepwalkers who will always be programmed automatons no matter who pushes their buttons otherwise, else innocents awaiting the moment they will have to choose the red or blue pill. So what options do we have?

Cynic? – Maybe a vow of poverty, a naked tub-guy like Diogenes, piss and pot radical of the I don’t give crap (unless I feel like lifting my leg on the sly) type?

Goethe, did not fail to discover in Diogenes the unmistakable features that reveal a great and lucid philosopher. More recently, he has been called “one of the most original and spiritual human beings who has ever existed, and he has been viewed as “a ‘Zen man’, eccentric in his ways yet fundamental in his thought, vastly irritable yet suffocatingly funny, magnetic yet repulsive, a regal vagabond who was somehow in charge of the truth.”‘

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Frontiers of the Mind: Space Exploration and Martian Habitation

The result is that, to the frontier, the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness, that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients, that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends, that restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom — these are traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier. 

—Frederick Jackson Turner, from his essay The Significance of the Frontier in American History (1893)

America is the spirit of human exploration distilled. 

—Elon Musk

Who will ever forget the first time you heard William Shatner as Captain Kirk say:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Even as a teenager it seemed that someday we’d have to discover new resources beyond our own planet which was slowly being depleted through both modernity and our technological progress. When John F. Kennedy spoke through my black and white TV that September day in 1962 I remember the excitement I felt at these words: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win…”. The rhetoric of difficulty, challenge, and expanding frontiers of the mind seemed to pervade that era, unleashing our imaginations that anything was possible if we put our mind’s to it. This was the American dream writ large, a utopian dream of endless vistas and challenges to be met, of a need to overcome impossible odds and realize that humanity if it was to continue would need to escape the entropy, decay, and inertia of earth’s gravitational pull, exit the planet and explore the strange wonders of our solar system.

That dream seemed to fade after Kennedy was assassinated, after the long protracted war in Viet Nam, the dark years of Nixon, and the last mission to the moon with Apollo 17 and her crew. Things just seemed to fizzle out, the economy folded into the 70’s and the earth seemed to grown small, mean, and nasty. What happened? Economics. It was just too costly to go into space. We’d need to figure out a cheaper way to do it. As Elon Musk recently suggested, to make it more feasible we need reusable rockets. So he set out to do just that. For Musk as a species we have only two options on the table:

“There are really two fundamental paths: One path is we stay on Earth forever and there will be some eventual extinction event. The other is to become a multiplanet species, which I hope you will agree is the way to go.”

I remember reading Gerard K. O’Neill’s The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space years ago, and he, too, realized we’d need reusable rockets to support such an off-world venture that would be sustainable:

The way to obtain lower costs for lifting freight into orbit is evident from this quotation: develop vehicles which are fully reusable, and find a market large enough to justify frequent flights.  There are, though, two “catches” in this reasoning: first, the studies which have been made so far indicate that with chemical rockets it would be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to build a fully reusable vehicle capable of making a round trip from Earth to L5 without refueling.  Second, the development costs for any vehicle that requires a big leap beyond the existing state of the art are very high.

O’Neill had at that time conceived space colonies on the Moon and in space at the L5 point first noted by the French mathematician, Lagrange, in 1772, showed that there are five such points. Three of them lie on a line connecting the Earth and Moon; these are L1, L2, and L3. They are unstable; a body placed there and moved slightly will tend to move away, though it will not usually crash directly onto the Earth or Moon. The other two are L4 and L5. They lie at equal distance from Earth and Moon, in the Moon’s orbit, thus forming equilateral triangles with Earth and Moon. The Sun is in the picture, and it disturbs the orbits of spacecraft and colonies. It turns out (from an extremely messy calculation done only in 1968) that with the Sun in the picture, a colony could be placed not directly at L4 or L5, but rather in an orbit around one of these points. The orbit keeps the colony about 90,000 miles from its central liberation point.

But what has people excited is not what orbit might be used, but rather what could be done there. Space industries in high Earth orbits could manufacture solar power satellites (SPS) from lunar or asteroidal resources. Each SPS could deliver twice as much low cost, environmentally safe energy to Earth, via microwaves, as the Grand Coulee Dam, and forty five of them could meet the total present electrical power needs of the U.S.

Of course that’s always been the hope that such ventures would pay off in developing energy resources that could provide earth with a sustainable resource for millennia to come, as well as mineral and other natural resources that would help the human species to make its first tentative steps into colonizing our Solar System.

It’s only been in the past few years with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos that the entrepreneurial and competitive spirit has once again sparked such initiatives to become more than fantasy. I have to admit against the Luddite and Anti-Tech visions of many nay sayers our only hope as a species in my own opinion (take it for what it’s worth) is such ventures. Otherwise we will eventually through natural or artificial catastrophes expose ourselves to an ultimate end game if we do not allow for an opening onto these greater challenges.

We need a new vision for the human project or we will end in stupidity, war, famine, pestilence, catastrophe, etc. More and more my whole focus is turning away from the idiocy of our modern politics and toward something which we are sorely lacking: a positive vision to get us over the hump of our current Left/Right civil-war. The recent battles in Charlottesville between Alt-Right and Anti-Fa over the symbols of another Civil-War give us hint not only of the dark hole we are digging for ourselves on this planet, but reinforce my thoughts on politics: it’s a dead end world without vision or imagination. We are dooming ourselves to a new Civil-War not over territory but over the species itself. We’re talking about the end game of civilization that is at stake. So that while the Left attacks late capitalism, White privilege, and Anti-Blackness vs. libertarian revolt, HBD, and White supremacists we only know one thing for sure: this is a Manichean vision of total apocalypse than can only end if the defeat, not triumph for either side. Is this what we want? One wonders why things have come to this, who is behind it, and how we can at street level change the message from one of war between competing ideologies, politics, and futures to one of change, cooperation, and mutual understanding. What ever happened to democracy, anyway? For all intents and purposes democracy is dead and mute. Watching the current malaise in Europe, the U.S., India, China, Russia, Africa, etc. one gets a feeling that populism, authoritarianism, and the rise of a new inverted totalitarianism of austerity, poverty, and exclusion is on the horizon. Can we turn this around? What would it take? A new vision? Are there signs of such a vision in the world?

Ben Bova in his Martian odyssey Mars would give on such vision.  In about the year 2020, a huge multinational project gets under way, the bulk of it seen through the eyes of young Navaho geologist and Mars-voyage hopeful Jamie Waterman. Unconcerned with traditional science-fictional plotting and melodrama, Bova focuses tightly on the day-to-day, nuts-and-bolts details: the inordinate amount of politicking necessary to get the project off the ground; the vital cooperation and occasional wrangling between the many participating nations (Russian pilots, American software, Japanese technology and money, plus a sprinkling of Europeans); the months of arduous training; more politicking as science and flight-crew teams are selected from the dozens of expectant trainees–Jamie gets the nod because geologist #1 falls ill, and the much-loathed #2 is forced out by his colleagues; the tensions that build up through long months in space. Neither does the exploration of Mars run smoothly. Stepping down onto the red sand, Jamie offends the powers-that-he by lapsing into Navaho instead of parroting a politically correct prepared speech; a British doctor, hot to seduce one of the female crew members, neglects his job; a meteorite shower nearly destroys the explorers’ living quarters; Jamie persuades mission control to let him approach a cliff village he’s convinced he finds; the explorers fall mysteriously ill; Jamie’s Mars buggy falls into a dust bowl while his crew are too weak to haul themselves out. And, well, of course there’s life on Mars!

Another Mars trilogy is a series of award-winning science fiction novels by Kim Stanley Robinson that chronicles the settlement and terraforming of the planet Mars through the intensely personal and detailed viewpoints of a wide variety of characters spanning almost two centuries. Ultimately more utopian than dystopian, the story focuses on egalitarian, sociological, and scientific advances made on Mars, while Earth suffers from overpopulation and ecological disaster.

James S.A. Corey in Leviathan Wakes gives us a future in which humanity has colonized much of the Solar System. Earth, governed by the United Nations, and the Martian Congressional Republic act as competing superpowers, maintaining an uneasy military alliance in order to exert dual hegemony over the peoples of the Asteroid belt, known as “Belters.” Belters, whose bodies tend to be thin and elongated due to their low-gravity environment, carry out the gritty, blue-collar work that provides the system with essential natural resources, but they are largely marginalized by the rest of the Solar System. The Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), a network of loosely-aligned militant groups, seeks to combat the Belt’s exploitation at the hands of the “Inners,” who, in turn, have branded the OPA a terrorist organization.

Hannu Rajaniemi in The Quantum Theif gives us a future set in a post-human future solar system. The people living in the Oubliette society on Mars have two types of memory; in addition to a traditional, personal memory, there is the exomemory, which can be accessed by other people, from anywhere in the city. Memories about personal experiences can be stored in the exomemory and partitioned, with different levels of access granted to different people. These memories can be used, among other things, as an expedient form of communication.

The Oubliette society has an economy where time is used as currency. When an individual’s time is expended, their consciousness is uploaded into a “Quiet”. The Quiet are mute machine servants who maintain and protect the city. Although the quiet seem to have little interest in the world outside their occupations, they do seem to retain some traces of their former personalities and memories.

The conspiracy central to the plot involves the hidden rulers, called the “cryptarchs”, manipulating and abusing the exomemory and through the citizens’ transformations to quiet and back, the traditional memory as well. In the book, the Oubliette society is compared to a panopticon; a prison, where every action of the dwellers can be scrutinized.

Each of these novels presents a different take on the near term future, exposing many layers to how humanity, technology, and politics mesh and construct a viable alternative path. Perhaps we need to stop hating each other and begin instead listening and talking to each other. As long as the extreme voices of the political Left and Right continue to dominate the margins of this world we will have no diplomatic resolution to this matter: only an end game of destruction and war. Is this truly what we want? I hope not… I know I’m an old fucker, and most of my ideas may seem antiquated at this point, but I’ve tried to keep pace with current scientific, philosophical, political, literary, and socio-cultural thought. I know I’m pessimistic about many things, and the notion of hope is far from my own troubled view of life and existence, and yet does one need hope to envision a future worth living in; or, is courage in one’s despair a better path forward, one that realizes that like John F. Kennedy the future holds no promises, and the difficulties presented by it will be hard, not easy; and, the challenges might at times seem almost insurmountable and impossible, and yet, like those Western frontiersman Taylor described, what we need most right now is the “coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness, that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients, that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends, that restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom…”. Maybe in the end these are traits of the frontier – for a space faring people, traits that will open us up to endless vistas rather than bring us to the brink of destruction.

What I like about the entrepreneurial spirit of an Elon Musk is their pugnaciousness, their ability to say “fuck you” to the Establishment, the State, the Cathedral and surmount the odds, put their money and their intelligence to work, produce the technologies needed to not only be competitive in the 21st Century, but to produce a world that will keep pace with the future, accelerate it, bring it about, push the juggernaut of the old school Leviathans to wake up and realize their about to be left behind as the Elon Musks of the world create the future they only dream of. The future of the American Dream is still alive for those willing to step out of their protective world of security and do something, anything… act now to build a world worth living in.

 

 

Subterranean Utopia: The Destruction of Reality

Escape is never more exciting than when it spills out into the streets, where trust in appearances, trust in words, trust in each other, and trust in this world all disintegrate in a mobile zone of indiscernibility. It is in these moments of opacity, insufficiency, and breakdown that darkness most threatens the ties that bind us to this world.

—Andrew Culp,  Dark Deleuze 

Karl Mannheim in his classic Ideology and Utopia defines the utopian imaginal in its ideal form as no-place, the place beyond our world, a “state of mind,” a psychological world rather than a real political possibility that one is seeking to realize against the current state of the world:

A state of mind is utopian when it is incongruous with the state of reality within which it occurs. This incongruence is always evident in the fact that such a state of mind in experience, in thought, and in practice, is oriented towards objects which do not exist in the actual situation. However, we should not regard as utopian every state of mind which is incongruous with and transcends the immediate situation (and in this sense, ” departs from reality “). Only those orientations transcending reality will be referred to by us as utopian which, when they pass over into conduct, tend to shatter, either partially or wholly, the order of things prevailing at the time.

The last sentence is the thrust of his argument, and should be attended too in that there is a whole tradition of revolutionary thought that underlies this need to transcend the current state of affairs of one’s political age. And, yet, against Mannheim’s notion of transcendence, I’d turn it toward a more immanent and subterranean need not to seek a beyond, but to uncover what is already hidden, the occult world of obscure forces that exist in the interstices of the political and socio-cultural strata, the gaps and cracks where a secret order of the world is situated not in some absolute Outside but in the very fabric of the world itself.

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Ligotti’s Smile: The Puppet is our God

The Puppet is our God: the image of our malignant intellect, the excess of our dysphoric flesh. Cold and reptilian it lives amid its own dark powers like a fetid dreamer of kenomic intent, neither observant of its constructions nor aware of its catastrophes. Blind and alone it builds its nightmares out of the ruins of Time. This demiurge of deliriums gave us the frenzied jouissance of our murderous being, and we like stubborn agents of despair have uttered the words of war ever since. Broken and hollow we gaze upon the silent seas of this catastrophic creation not realizing that creation and catastrophe are one and the same. His gaze is our gaze: the bloody and barbarous god of a doomed and entropic toyland built in dust. The anaretic place and killing fields of our hellish paradise…

In Thomas Ligotti’s anti-gnosis one becomes aware not of some a-cosmic soteriology or God of Exit from this vastation and delirious nightmare realm, but rather one discovers that humans are “not only helpless to untie themselves from entangling puppet strings; they can’t even find the knots!” 1 Like members of a timeless horror show we wander in this circular hell seeking neither solace nor salvation but rather the temporal fulfillment of our secret cruelties. We are the soulless angels of a broken thought, the derivative creation of a blind god whose only positive is the negation of his own creation. We are here to accomplish that deed.

As the wicked witch in ‘Eye of the Lynx’ asks:  “Do you know what I do with little puppets who’ve been bad?” she inquired. “Do you?” Like this mindless puppet we sit there unable to answer, our impervious gaze tempered by the fruitless dust of our forgotten heritage. Like the puppet of this horror tale we too tremble slightly staring into the sightless gaze of our maker, our wooden expression giving no hint of the terror in our dark heart as she says:

“I’ll tell you what I do,” the witch continued half-sweetly. “I make them touch the fire. I burn them from the legs up.”

Condemned to this revelation by violence we await the fires of illuminating necessity to quicken us from the wooden decay of our corrupt and contaminated being, only to find our salvation is our curse. At this will we like the puppet of this tale have the courage of our despair to answer so wisely as it: “And what will you do,” the puppet asked, “with all those old dresses, gloves, veils, and capes when I’m gone? What will you do in your low-rent castle with no one to stare, his brow of glittering silver, into the windows of your dreams?” Isn’t this the half of it, what will this machinic god of nightmares do without us? Isn’t it as much a puppet of us as we of it? Without us who is this dark progenitor but a frozen thought amid the trembling spheres of dust and nothingness?

Or, shall we be like the madman before the wizened mage, speaking of that inhuman realm of saboteurs and assasins,

“Not if I have become mad but of what my madness consists is the knowledge I seek from you. And please understand that I have no hopes, only a searing curiosity to riddle the corpse of my dead soul. As for the assertion that I have always been engaged in deeds which one might deem mad, I would be obliged to answer—Yes, countless deeds, countless mad games of flesh and steel. Having confessed that, I would also avow that these were sanctioned provocations of chaos, known in some form to the body of the world and even blessed by it, if the truth be spoken. But I have provoked another thing, a new madness which arrives from a world that is on the wrong side of light, a madness that is unsanctioned and without the seal of our natural selves. It is a forbidden madness, a saboteur from outside the body of known laws. And as you know, I have been the subject of its sabotage.”

Haven’t we all? Are we not even now in the Kingdom of Assassins, our world like the ancient gnostic world of Anareta, known as the Interfector or the Killer Planet.2 It is the non-place where one must answer that which one is there being no escape, it the place of noise and silence: the place of strife and conflict, the zone of endless combats and eternal war. As Heraclitus reminds us “War is father of all and king of all; and some he manifested as gods, some as men; some he made slaves, some free.” Coming to terms with our lot we ultimately realize our predicament: “We must recognize that war is common, strife is justice, and all things happen according to strife and necessity.” (Heraclitus)

Conflicting powers of opposites, including those of elemental bodies, make possible the world and all its variety; without that conflict we would have only lifeless uniformity. In the former passage Heraclitus is perhaps criticizing Anaximander for his view that cosmic justice consists of a punishment of powers that overstep their boundaries. Justice is not the correction of an excess, but the whole pattern of the dominion of one puppet followed by that of the other.  The endless series of masters and victims without outlet, dying each others deaths we live each others lives. This circular movement between womb and tomb is the cycle of our madness, the glory of out dark escapades. Some awaken to the frenzy, others remain wooden sticks in the hollows of their frozen horrors.

As Ligotti’s madman would say to the mage,

“Since the madness began working its destruction, I have become an adept of every horror which can be thought or sensed or dreamed. In my dreams—have I not told you of them?—there are scenes of slaughter without purpose, without constraint, and without end. I have crept through dense forests not of trees but of tall pikes planted in the earth; and upon each of them a crudely formed head has been fixed. These heads all wear faces which would forever blind the one who saw them anywhere but in a dream. And they follow my movements not with earthly eyes but with shadows rolling in empty sockets. Sometimes the heads speak as I pass through their hideous ranks, telling me things I cannot bear to hear. Nor can I shut out their words, and I listen until I have learned the horrors of each brutal head. And the voices from their ragged mouths, so clear, so precise to my ears, that every word is a bright flash in my dreaming brain, a brilliant new coin minted for the treasure houses of hell. At the end of my mad dream the heads make an effort to…laugh, creating a blasphemous babble which echoes throughout that terrible forest. And when I awaken I find myself standing on some hillside where I have never been, and for a moment the night continues to reverberate with fading laughter.”

A lost troubadour of pain and jouissance this knight of the sorrowful countenance like Browning’s seeker of blasted memories comes upon the anaretic place where a dark tower:

Burningly it came on me all at once,
This was the place! those two hills on the right,
Crouched like two bulls locked horn in horn in fight;
While to the left, a tall scalped mountain … Dunce,
Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,
After a life spent training for the sight!

Isn’t this true of us all, haven’t you been moving toward that dark place in your mind, seeking answer to the growing pain in your heart, a justification for all the horror? Realizing that it all comes down to this, that for all our knowledge, for all our supposed wisdom we are but dunces of time, dotards and blind fools who’ve spent our whole lives training for that moment of clarity and when it comes on us all of a sudden, when the veil lifts and the dancers dance in the flames of desire we are not prepared at all? And, like Ligotti’s madman we are left standing on the hillside hearing the fated laughter of some terrible unreal world just outside our vision… seeking solace in its dismal corridors and haunted regions of eternal darkness?

“But did I say that I awoke? If I did, then that is only one more madness among many. For to awaken, as I once understood this miracle, means to reinherit a world of laws which for a time were lost, to rise into the light of the world as one falls into the darkness of dream. But for me there is no sense of breaking through the envelope of sleep, that delicate membrane which excludes merely a single universe while containing countless more. It seems that I remain a captive of these dreams, these visions. For when that one leaves off this one begins, each giving way to the other like a labyrinth of connected rooms which will never lead to freedom beyond their strange walls. And for all that I can know, I am even now the inhabitant of such a room, and at any moment—I beg forgiveness, wise man—you may begin to disembowel weeping children before my eyes and smear their entrails upon the floor so that in them you may read my future, a future without escape from those heads, that hillside, and from what comes after.”

For in the end we all know with a knowing that is not of the intellect or heart that we are doomed, fated to this broken circle of dark light, forever bound to the wheel of pain and jouissance. Victims not of our own intent or of that of another, but rather of the very machinic pride of our own creative powers, our catastrophic inheritance is that we all together created this killing planet, this universe of doom and war for our own pleasure and cruelty. Our doom is our salvation, the only truth is not our defeat at the hands of some blind god, but rather the endless resurrections of our wars of eternity. For this universe is both our creation and our catastrophe, the bliss and rapture of our pains and joys. We cannot escape it because we cannot escape ourselves: it is one and the same, an eternal round and amor fati.

The madman continues…

“There is a citadel in which I am a prisoner and which holds within it a type of school, a school of torture. Ceremonial stranglers, their palms grooved by the red cord, stalk the corridors of this place or lie snoring in its shadows, dreaming of perfect throats. Artists of mayhem curse softly as their mutilated canvasses prematurely expire of their elegant lacerations. And somewhere the master carnefex, the supreme inquisitor waits as I am dragged across crude, incredibly crude floors and am presented to his rolling, witless eyes. Then my arms, my legs, everything is shackled, and I am screaming to die while the Torture of the Question…”

Enough says the magician of despair, I will hear no more:  “No, demon horror, we are not. You are indeed the foul thing the wise man described to me, all the dark powers which we cannot understand but can only hate.” Denial of that which we are and are not. This endless inquisition of the “Question” – it’s terror and torture that brings us all to the place: the hidden place of nightmares and killing – Anareta – our hellish paradise.

Or will we come upon a half-truth and like the puppet awakening from his puppet dreams realize the magician who has shaped our nightmares is himself a puppet of desire? “At least the magician spoke of me as a being, albeit a type of god or demon. But I might even be regarded as a person of sorts, someone who is just like everybody else, but not quite like anyone. I honor him for his precise vision, as far as it went. But you’re wrong to contend that no one understands me; and as for hating the one who stands before you—nothing, in truth, could be farther from truth. Listen, do you hear those brawling voices in the streets beyond the window. Those are not voices filled with hate. In fact, they could not possibly hold a greater love for me. And reciprocally I love them, every one of them: all I do is for them. Did you think that my business was the exceptional destinies of heroes and magicians, of kings and queens, saints and sinners, of all the so-called great? Such extravagant freaks come and go, they are puppets who dance before the eternal eyes of my true children. Only in these multitudes do I live, and through their eyes I see my own glory.”

Isn’t this the truth, that we are not our own, we are all puppets and eyes of the Puppet God whose only triumph is a murderous intent, the endless wars against himself in the place of non-being, the dance of this intricate virtual zone of laughter and war? And if you awakened from this nightmare where do you think you’d find yourself? In some heaven of salvation? Or, in another chamber of this hideous zone of killing? Wouldn’t the truth be something more like this, awakening on some gritty floor gazing out into the dust filled semblance of a time worn world where “a few life-size dolls hang suspended by wires which gleam and look gummy like wetted strands of a spider web. But none of the dolls is seen in whole: the long-beaked profile of one juts into the light; the shiny satin legs of another find their way out of the upper dimness; a beautifully pale hand glows in the distance; while much closer the better part of a harlequin dangles into view, cut off at the neck by blackness. Much of the inventory of this vast room appears only as parts and pieces of objects which manage to push their way out of the smothering dark. Upon the grainy floor, a long low box thrusts a corner of itself into the scene, showing off reinforced edges of bright metal strips plugged with heavy bolts. Pointed and strangely shaped instruments bloom out of the loam of shadows; they are crusted with…age. A great wheel appears at quarterphase in the room’s night. Other sections, appendages, and gear-works of curious machines complicate this immense gallery.”

Maybe our impressionistic furnace is but the gathering place of mirthful derisions and the crucible of inertial dreams, and yet: like that “mysteriarch,” who is never a philanthropist of the mind, nor a “restorer of wounded psyches,” we long neither for restoration nor eclipse; and, in no way do we seek a therapeutic approach with the inmates at the sanitarium of delirium, rather our place in the site of anaretic necessity should  not be viewed as a realm of souls that are possessed, either by demons or by their own painful histories, but as beings who hold “a strange alliance with other orders of existence,” who contain “within themselves a particle of something eternal, a golden speck of magic” which is thought as the enlarged capacity for experience and the impossible. Thus, our only ambition should lead us not to relieve the “patients’ madness, but to exasperate it—to let it breathe with a life of its own”. And if we did this then in certain ways we might wholly eradicated what human qualities remain in these people. But sometimes that peculiar magic we see in each the other’s eyes would seem to fade, and then we might institute a ‘proper treatment,’ which consists of putting ourselves through a battery of hellish ordeals intended to loosen our “attachment to the world of humanity and to project them further into the absolute, the realm of the ‘silent, staring universe’ where the ultimate insanity of the infinite void might work a rather paradoxical cure”. The result would be something as “pathetic as a puppet and as magnificent as the stars, something at once dead and never dying, a thing utterly without destiny and thus imperishable, possessing that abysmal absence of mind, that infinite vacuity which is the essence of all that is immortal.”

Isn’t this the nightmare gallery of beginnings and endings, where “marbles of the dancing floor break bitter furies of complexity…” (W.B. Yeats). And, in the moment of our dark transport: in the interval of an eternity, where our fleshly memories and desires “begins to rise in a puppet’s hunch, then soars up into the tenebrous rafters and beyond, transported by unseen wires.” Our arms and legs twitch uncontrollably during the elevation, and we scream…fade into the interminable night where Time our God puppet like swerves back down into the killing zone… and, like our Puppet God we begin to Smile in cruelty and delight.


  1. Ligotti, Thomas . The Nightmare Factory. (“Consolations of Horror”). Carroll & Graf (June 27, 1996)
  2. Anareta From the Greek, literally destroyer. Applied to a malefic that occupies an anaretic place and afflicts the Hyleg; believed by ancients to be life-destructive. As well the anaretic place is the final degree (between 29° and 30°) of any sign, also called the degree of fate. Planets and house cusps that occupy anaretic degrees indicate fundamental issues with which one must deal. Unlike the ancient Gnostics, Ligotti does not seek a soteriological a-cosmic salvation from this realm of horror, but rather an immortal entry into the dark unreal realms that support it below the mirage of our own self-projected insanity. For we are already in the place of no-place, the site of non-laminating wisdom where existence is itself the only end and beginning we will ever have or know.

 

The Erudite Art

Behind the perfection of a man’s style, must lie the passion of a man’s soul.

—Oscar Wilde

As one friend said recently, “Yours is an erudite art to say the least.”

Yes, I get verbose and off the wall at times, stylistic and decadent. My temperament moving in the literary rather than the academic and restrictive discursive practices, which is not to say they do not have their place. Which is truly what your first statement was reminding us of, that measurement in the strict sense is as you suggest a taking in of the strict limits of territory. The limits fascinate me not, it is the ever present horizon I seek out, beyond the barrier reefs of knowledge rather than the quotidian isles or natural inlets of the already discovered and known. And, of course, given my metaphoric over metonymic range of poetic prose I often move toward the hyperbolic rather than the truisms of word or statement. I just happen to choose to exist outside the prison house of acceptability and scholarly regulatory prose. I take after Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater in style… a strange thing in our time to say the least.

Oscar Wilde had often spoken of his belief that, in artistic matters, style outweighed sincerity or substance.  As such, in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, his attention was therefore paid to form and the nuances of wording over the specific semblance of knowledge.  If the novel was an “essay on decorative art”, it was also a piece of decorative art composed of carefully selected phrases.  In fact, Wilde was so determined to have perfection in his works, when he was asked to write a story of a hundred thousand beautiful words, he complained that “there are not one hundred thousand beautiful words in the English language.”

Oscar Wilde had a phenomenal ability to incorporate aspects of both fantasy and realism into his works.  Through thoughtful imagery and realistic dialect, he successfully merged two contradicting genres into a fascinatingly morbid style.  Wilde also exceled in his use of imagery.  He vividly described people and situations with many types of literary devices though his favorite and therefore most frequented, is morbid imagery.  He commanded an astonishing mastery of the art of morbidity, describing in unusual detail images of corpses and blood and a murder that would rival anything in modern cinema.

Over and over I’ve heard my work described as exquisite but morbid. Exactly! There is no inferior / superior forms of statement, that too is an erroneous conclusion and a moral one, and a reduction on the part of many literalists of the imagination. I’m an a-moralist, a techno-pessimist, and a Dionysian mad litterateur, well read in sciences, philosophy, mathematics, history, sociology, literary and critical endeavors, etc. An autodidact at heart and an aphoristic writer in intent and scope. My writing is theory-fiction with a bent toward futurial forms of SF pushing the limits of aphoristic display into the techno-commercium that is being manufactured in our contemporary late capitalism.

Many people seek more traditionalist forms and separations of thought, segmenting it into the old categories of humanistic learning as if this were the way it had always been and will remain and to mix the categories or produce hybridity of form and statement as in a devil’s brew of the sciences with philosophy, or science fiction with theory, and even in pushing the hyperbolic tendencies within economic, social, and normative contexts to their logical conclusions was to step off into some abyss without recourse. I’ve always found such reduced and limited discursive practices to be find for experts, scientists, specialists, and academics who must – as Foucault showed long ago, work within the “discursive praxis” of one’s specialty using the linguistic markers and traces of that world are forever remain outside the confines of its codes unread and unknown, merely a footnote to some cognitive revolution happening elsewhere.

For me experimentalism begins and ends in writing itself, pushing the written word into realms otherwise left out of academic and scholarly prose due to the above restrictions of those very discursive practices. I have people ask me why I write such stylish prose. Why? Because I like it, why else? Does one have to have reasons for everything? Some will like it, others hate it. Does that concern me? No. Ones preferences in style and content varies, and as always been the case some authors will speak to you while others don’t, some will enliven your mind while others put you asleep. One reads specialist not because they are stylist but for the typical reason that they are presenting certain facts that one may need for one’s own ongoing project. Would I expect a scientist to write like a lawyer, or a philosopher to sound like a neuroscientist; although both could at times enter into the discursive worlds of the other but under other non-specialist terms and circumstances: as in essays, minor pieces, notation, notebooks, etc. The world would be a sad place if all writing was reduced to the same style as in the famed Chicago Manual of Style, which has its place but one wouldn’t want a novel written in this way, nor have Nietzsche’s works rewritten in a prosaic and restrictive measure. Now would we?

We live in a time of decadence, exposed to the too richness of a decaying and over-ripe society that in its decline is anxiously drifting into those excessive regions of both mind and heart. We are in flames, our apocalyptic imaginal and religious reductions exposed not so much in tribal worlds of ethno-nationalist transports as much as it is displayed in the morbid details of our political spectacles which remind of us some barbaric yawp in Whitman’s sense: a world replete with offensive discord and violence, a distempered realm of cinematic gore and verbosity of hate and bigotry. We are the barbarians at the gate of nonsense, unable to construct a civilized world we have reduced ourselves to the spectacle of pigs wallowing in the slime of democracies demise.

Grotesque and decadent to the core our society lives out its fantasias in the realist districts of an impudent impotence, a realm filled with the satiric spite of literalist of the imagination as shown by our current political stage-craft. As Guy Debord in the Society of the Spectacle in his moralise once suggested, we “like lost children live our unfinished adventures.” We exist in appearance, in the hall of mirrors that is our Reality Studio of TV and Cinema. Debord: “… just as early industrial capitalism moved the focus of existence from being to having, post-industrial culture has moved that focus from having to appearing.” Simulated experience rather than its actuality is our forte – fractured, sociopathic, insane we dance against the truth that we are as a species at a juncture and convergence. Like children who are awakened into a nightmare fantasy realm, delivered to the stark truth that our time truly is limited, that finitude is not just a philosophical concept but rather the end game of civilization itself. We are the players of an historical farce, the repetition of an end times game we’ve all dismissed as so much religious mythology.

And, yet, as many of our pundits have suggested we are no longer moving to time’s drum, rather we are in a circular enclosure and precinct of hellish delights, locked away in a human zoo dreaming of freedom but living its lie. Solitary and confined we seek a way out of this dark age and find no one who will or can lead us to the promised land. Not because such religious non-sense still harbors any illusive meaning for us, but because we lack the courage of our convictions secular or religious to do it for ourselves. We truly are the last of our kind, the victims not of some bland joke or demiurges hate, but of our own inability to reach across to our enemies and realize what we see in their eyes is our own hate staring back. We are the children of hate and bigotry and we live it out daily as if it is the “other” not us who is to blame… and, yet, there is no other, only this sick and decadent animal, homo sapiens. Born of time and necessity we will end in time under the auspices of Ananke’s dark charm.

 

Golem Inc. – Abstract Machines and War

Under the invisible eye of a ubiquitous surveillance system the automated inspection of personal data can no longer simply be conceived as an all-seeing eye, a hidden ear, a baleful presence behind the scenes. The myriad forms of contemporary electronic surveillance now constitute the irremediably multiple feedback loops of a cybernetic society, devoted to controlling the future.1 Crisis and conflict are lodged permanently within its positive feed-back loops, knitting together the impersonal agencies of global capital, in all its socio-cultural and techno-commercial complexity. Behind all this is a Manichean world concocted during the war against fascism by none other than Norbert Wiener and his Cybernetic Vision.

Peter Galison would term Wiener’s vision of fusing human and machine the “ontology of the enemy”.2 It was here in this early aircraft predictor system that the dark war machines we now term drones were already a hidden telos or tendency of abstraction, one moving toward the future like a hawk after prey. Even then the notion of programming a machine to scope out the enemy with an antagonistic eye, hooked to the passive and lowly servomechanisms supporting it, modulated by informational plug-n-play software controlled remotely by a human would bring to light the stirrings of the Golem which is so pervasive in our current quest for Superintelligence. The ghosts of those early experimental systems present to us in this age of data-mining and neuromarketing the image of a Golem that is ourselves, the cyborg populations of a global world of computational capitalism.

In the twentieth century, it was a matter of large-scale news and advertising companies distorting the public sphere in which ideas are exchanged. It was a world of propaganda, ideology, and public relations experts who used the tools of media to sway the populace. Now we are heading toward an entirely different kind of society, based not on informed debate and democratic decision, but rather on electronic identification, statistical prediction and environmental seduction. And in this society, the ciphers of opportunity presented by marketing data are never very far from the targeting information thrown off by an evasive enemy.3

As the Internet-of-things becomes an actual part of everyday life rather than a hype word in our tech magazines, the re-ontologization of our cities infrastructures will become total environments in which every object is aware and adjusts itself based upon the users in the environment. As one walks through these projected Smart Cities controlled by AI one’s life will become part of a ubiquitous network of hidden surveillance adapting to your life as part of a complete command and control, security and economic marketing system targeting as well as predicting your behavior and capturing your desires. The word “control” has a precise meaning here: it refers to the continuous adjustment of an apparatus, or in this case, an environment, according to feedback data on its human variables. This notion of adjustments to an environment is the key, if we want to understand the pervasiveness of surveillance in today’s societies – a pervasiveness that goes well beyond military, police and secret-service functions. To understand it, however, requires abandoning two commonly held ideas: the literary image of Big Brother peering out from a screen, and the more complex architectural image of the Panopticon. (Holmes)

It is obvious that both Big Brother and the Panopticon are outdated, though they have not entirely disappeared from many parts of the world. The question, then, is how do we characterize a surveillance regime that is neither totalitarian nor disciplinary (Foucault), but depends primarily on the statistical treatment of aggregate data in order to shape environments in which populations of mobile individuals can be channeled and controlled? How, in other words, do we understand the political economy of surveillance in a network centric society on call 24/7?

It is now a matter of these technocrats adjusting the parameters of an open environment so as to stimulate and channel the probable behaviors of a population, and to manage the risks entailed by its free and natural mobility, or indeed, by the expression of its desire. The problem of algorithmic governance of these living environments and their mobile users is as Foucault explains, “how they can say yes; it is how to say yes to this desire.” In a world where every aspect of one’s existence is targeted to capture and modulate desire within an environment that is a total control system. Our society, which displaces so much of its conflict into the future, is nonetheless the present framework in which individuals, groups and populations are all become cyborgs, that is, people bound inseparably to machines (i.e., mobile devices, tablets, wearables, and external environmental systems regulating their lives, movements, desires), struggling to make sense and to achieve purposes within these mediated environments that are expressly designed to modulate and manipulate them.

For Holmes our society’s obsession with controlling the future – and with insuring accumulation – has at least two major consequences. The first is the organization of a consumer environment for the immediate satisfaction of anticipated desires, with the effect of eliminating desire as such, and creating an atmosphere of suspended disbelief where entire populations move zombie-like and intellectually silent beneath exaggerated images of their unconscious drives. The second consequence, as we have seen with such violence in recent years, is the simple removal of those who might trouble this forcibly tranquilized landscape with any kind of disturbing presence or political speech. Caught between a J.G. Ballard novel of psychopathy and the loss of affect, where voyeurs act out monstrous events of murder and mayhem just to remember what it once meant to be alive. And the world where people vanish and disappear from your life, their memories erased from the digital records of corporate and government. We live at the beginning of an age where an older vision of humanity living out their natural lives amid the natural wonders of the world, raising families, developing friends and loved ones, creating a life shaped by memory and desire are giving way to something else.

This brave new world will generation by generation slowly disconnect from the human world, the human species: homo sapiens. It will develop both enhanced powers and dispositions of mind and flesh that previous naturals will be unable to keep pace with. The external world will become a site of living things, an animated environment catering to one’s every desire, policed by precognitive algorithms that will monitor the whole of society ubiquitous and with total awareness. To be part of this happy paradise all one will need to do is give up one’s illusion of self, individuality, and liberty. One will owned and branded by a corporation living out one’s life in serfdom to its exigencies. Else there will also be those born through cloning or external incubators who from birth will be excluded from full citizenship, and rather will be part of clade and caste system from birth to death. The technologies for such massive undertakings are partially in development even now. As for society accepting such a world one need only thing of 9/11 and how easy it was to instigate the Patriot Act which took away many freedoms that have not yet be returned. One can imagine certain events being staged and instigated to force the hand of societies to incorporate and recognize even darker regulations and laws to escape risk and conflict for a safe harbor and complete security and economic welfare.

As our children and their children become more enmeshed in this emerging algorithmic society in which their daily lives are 24/7 monitored, programmed, modulated by both corporate and governmental regulations and tasks the memory of their parents struggles and warning will vanish leaving only the revised records of a world under social control.

 


  1. Holmes, Brian. Future map or How the cyborgs learned to stop worrying and love surveillance. Continental Drift
  2. Galison, Peter. The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Wiener and the Cybernetic Vision’, Critical Inquiry 21 (1994)
  3. O’Neil, Cathy. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. Broadway Books; Reprint edition (September 6, 2016) 

 

 

A Short History of the City and the Cathedral

A Short History of the City and the Cathedral

Liberalism, from this point forward, means nothing at all like state-happy progressivism. It is defined, instead, as the polar opposite of socialism. Its sole commanding value is liberty. It is individualist, only ever guardedly traditionalist, commercially and industrially oriented, strategically neglectful of care, skeptical in respect to all purported public agencies, and rigorously economical in respect to every dimension of government.

—Nick Land, Pyscho Politics

The mapping and cartography of the world through mathematical grids of longitude and latitude were the first algorithms of instrumental rationality: the temporalization of the world into time-zones that could be dominated. Being able to master time was a prerequisite to not only predicting the future, but programming it as well. During that long century of decline and ruin the dynamics of the City would be reduced to rubble by the formidable power of those gray men who cast a cold eye across anything living. Out of their gaze a Secular Cathedral of power, mastery, and death would encompass the globe in its tentacled reflexes as if some xenothanatropic agent of a zombiefied cold world had descended upon planet earth to infiltrate and capture the desires of humanity. It would slowly adapt its calculating mind to the planetary economy through a process of computational praxis. It’s reduction of the real to the ideal traces of a model would allow it to command and control every last aspect of energetic life on the planet. Nothing would escape its gaze.

Graphical statistics, the flattening of the world into diagrammatic algorithms would allow the world not only to be seen at a glance, but allow the first forecast models. This displacement from literature, history, and discursive practices onto mathematical diagrams brought us the dictatorship of calculable and measured facts. One can see in this the movement from geo-maps to managerial and administrative diagrams to the meta-management of the administrator’s themselves in flow-charts and organigrams. Out of this the Managerial State of the Cathedral would emerge not as some spontaneous order, but rather as the calculated growth of a centralized planning committee of bureaucratic command and control technologies. The world would be programmed according to pre-conceived plans of a military style cartography calculated down to absolute Zero.

Even the famous assembly lines and factory models of the Fordist era would be based on the geo-cartographies of military planning and calculation. The Factory itself as a war-economy under the guise of peacetime initiatives. Mass society seen as soldiers in an ongoing competitive and aggressive world of mathematical calculation and managed programming. During and after WWII central planning and modeling of society would give rise to the Managerial State. Academic, scientific, political and socio-cultural worlds under the command and control of cybernetic programming models would bring all of the world under the matheme: the total abstraction of the world as a model to be managed and controlled by technocratic experts and specialists.

Studying this Fredrich Hayek, Father of the free-market economy, would see in the central bureaucratic programming committee of the Cathedralists the “logics of slavery,” its subterranean tentacles forming the Empire of a Collective Machine. So with the new sciences of the brain arising out of cybernetics and systems theory he would develop a non-centric emergent system of spontaneous economic order to counter the rigid castes of this Managed Society. The self-organized socio-economic order Hayek modeled was based on the inherent crisis and conflict within any natural system, emerging “from the relationship and mutual adjustments between its constituent elements” he based his economic thought on chaos and disorder rather than order: a dynamic system adaptable to the flux and sway of the real world rather than the imposed fictions of the Cathedral’s utopian rigidity. In this way he envisioned a free-market system based on imitating the brain’s own processes: the spontaneous ordering properties of an ideal market which could not be controlled, modeled, or reduced to the Nineteenth century’s representational systems of cartographic, diagrammatic, or managed techniques of central command and control calculation and measurement. Nor to the reduction of the real to mathemes and ideal structures of quantified reason controlled by military planning of the Cathedral’s statist axiomatic. In this way Hayek believed he could circumvent the managed state’s control over and intervention in the free-market economy he envisioned.

This battle between the City and the Cathedral led to a differentiation between the universal notion of the world state of progressive socialism, and the more abstract and localized notions of free-market economics of crises, conflict, and disorder that would be based on the impersonal agency of corporate dynamics emerging out of the thanatropic rigidity of Cathedralism. This breakaway dynamism or accelerating of the inherent tendencies within liberty would revolutionize both the socio-cultural and economic systems of the planet for decades. But even this would not last…

With the advent of the vast apparatuses of the Cathedral’s regulatory tentacles, and the rise of ICT’s (Information and Communications Technologies of Social Control) in the later half of the twentieth century, and the turn toward autonomous machinic intelligence independent of human intervention and decisional processes we are seeing reemerge the totalistic technocratic Cathedral as the dream of total management of the Real. As this becomes more an more apparent under the auspices of the re-doubling of object and its data, reflected in the command and control structures of algorithmic governmentality, a new world of absolute control is rigidifying and closing off the dynamic positive feed-back loops of the time vectored power of the free-market economies. At every point of in the global territory, every object of the subject that inhabits it is being subjected and captured by its data base twin: the dividual. In this the map is the territory, and the active programming of the dividual trace of each and every individual is being reprogrammed into a system of absolute calculability. A Cognitive Gulag is being constructed and the Real virtualized and re-ontologized to give the appearance of freedom even as it dissolves it.

With the erasure of Subject, Free Will, Spontaneous order, chaos, etc. the Cathedral seeks to reduce the human to its inhuman core, the programmable functions of an impersonal process that can supervene upon the now outmoded modes of consciousness and begin to enslave it to the dictates of the central planning committee of a new Secular Religion: the Cathedral. Bypassing the conscious mind the Cathedral seeks to program the deep processes of the brain itself through intervention and control of the very inhuman core itself: the brain’s unconscious neuralnet. Seeking to automate society in both its organic and inorganic aspects the human will disappear into its machines reversing the age old augmentation process into originary technicity. Mindless and robotic the neohumans of this closed world of the Cathedral will perform functionally according to the normative programming of the Hierarchs. Humanity will see itself as free within this sphere of total control bounded only by its memoryless subjectivation in the machinic phylum. Robotic and automated the neohuman will no longer think for itself but will become part of the hive-mind of a central dataworld where its thoughts are activated and tasks are set according to archontic powers outside its grasp of intellect.

An affectless, neutered society will develop as CRISPR and other genome technologies of the convergent sphere come online, and a 24/7 world of pure work as play will evolve in the recycled matrix of a virtualized real. The actual and real world ontologized by the Internet-of-things will by design and deliberation control every aspect of life within the Sphere. These enclaves of the new Mega-Cities, the densified and verticalised cities will be based on strict striation and segmentary  caste based claves, divided between biogenetic hybrids and advanced technocratic Cyborgization. Naturals will be invested with bonds from birth to death by branded corporational serfdom, provided for and modulated by interface technologies that will program every aspect of their daily routines. This is the outcome of Hegelianism with a vengeance

In the end Hayek’s dream of the free-market of spontaneous and uncontrolled disorder is reduced to the mathematical perfection and purity of a diagrammatic algorithm that can be controlled by the data controllers of a new machinic civilization arising in our midst: a managed Empire of Artilects and robots devoid of the human element of passion and personalism. The programmed territory becomes the completed world of a technocratic Cathedral, a order of perfectly controlled and virtualized environments: spheres, policed by the impersonal High Priests of Finance, Mediatainment, Academia, etc. all serving the new Archons of the Artificial Age.

Will the Hayekian disorder prevail over the order of the Cathedral? Will a new City of Pandemonium prevail over the closed world of the Cathedral’s re-ontologization of the Real? Will the blasted spheres of order caught in the meshes of the new Time-Lords break free or collapse within the virtual constructs of the gnostic archons death worlds? Who controls Time, anyway?

In ancient times the Gnostics assumed the world had been constructed by a delusional demiurge, a blind god who did not know what he was doing beyond the calculated measurement of his quantified plundering of the universal harmonium. In their view the universe of decay and entropy was absolute evil. A closed realm of absolute control in which humans were imprisoned and asleep, bound by habit and delusion. The awakened ones acted like anti-bodies in the universal decay, seeking to instill liberty into the dark thoughts of the sleepers. One can see in this a fractured and literalized parable of our situation in the present era of the Cathedral. Asleep in the timeless presentism of this closed world of algorithmic governmentality we are being slowly folded into a machinic phylum from which there will be no exit. Our time is limited, this is the moment of transition in-between times – a brief period of chaotic opportunity when we can accelerate these dark processes and counter the very inverted time-machine of this negative feed-back system, reversing its closure into openness and incompleteness and liberty. The time is short, the ways and means assured: What will you do? The City of Liberty or the Cathedral of Control? As in the parables of old, one is left with the admonishment:

Sleepers, awaken! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

 

 

Manufacturing Panic: Social Engineering, Domination and Control

In the 21st century, the social engineering of dread and longing have evolved into a bio-political arena of terror and a psycho-political culture of internalized domination. The globally deployed technology of the spectacle transforms to a creative panic industry, the pacification of the self and the silencing of multitudes. With no visible alternatives to universal pancapitalism there seems to be no need for payoffs for the disenchanted, no necessity to bribe the dissenting segments of the population and no incentive to grant extension of freedoms.1

Instead of peddling hope and visions of mutually shared commonwealth, authority is maintained by the production of synthetic fear and the need to secure property against some other. Deimos and Phobos, the gods of panic, angst and terror dominate the omni-directional realm of geo-psychological strategies in an asymmetric world war against invisible enemies without qualities. Market concentrations benefit neo-feudal power structures that know how to use access to media, private security and intelligence services to advance their interests. Austerity, power, and impersonal anonymity interface with a world replete with vast global migrations, desperation, and panic victims who willingly comply and give up liberties for shared security. An Orwellian world of competing agencies, wars, famines, and pestilence drive the panic cities of current criminal elements to traffic in sex, drugs, and war.

Private oligarchic networks of finance and business cartels cultivate relations to governmental entities controlling state agencies and military units. Media narratives and public relations strategies transform synthetic fear into advantages that produce windfalls of power and profit. This theater of fear is a skillful interplay of compartmentalized information units, privatized command centers, loyal officials and gatekeepers as well as professional Special Forces. Technocommercial Black-Ops programs that infiltrate both governmental and public spheres through experimental use of technics and pharmakon in collusion with DARPA and other shadow or Deep State agencies across the globe provide a base infrastructure for a 21st century society of control. Productions of artificial angst call for scenarios of counter-terrorist theater rehearsals and paramilitary actors as well as the professional staging of scapegoats and dupes. The dark networks draw on privatized intelligence units, so called “asteroids”, business entities which provide cover for compartmentalized operations.2

Space was formerly known as heaven and manned space flight from earth could be understood as mechanical equivalent to an ascent to divinity. Johannes Kepler suspected paradise to be located on the moon and Konstantin Tsiolkowsky, the Russian pioneer of modern rocket science, saw manned space flight as a freeway to the supernatural. In his novel “Gravity’s Rainbow” Thomas Pynchon contemplates the ambiguous interrelations between sex, rockets and magic.

Jack Parsons, a key figure in American rocketry, lost his reputation and security clearance in obsessive pursuit of occult rituals and sexual mumbo-jumbo before he diffused into space in a lab explosion in 1952. A crater on the dark side of the moon is named in memory of Parsons, a tribute to the shady cofounder of the famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The 19th century spiritualist pseudoscience of a world of ghosts and occult belief in spirits, a complex adaptation to modernity, has morphed into 20th century sciences. From social theories and “optimization” of the workplace, from operations research to scientific communication and applied psychology, many genres of academic disciplines and the influence business are rooted in the twilight zone of the netherworlds.

When Norbert Wiener, who developed his work on cybernetics from ballistics research, writes that “Communication and control belong to the essence of man’s inner life, even as they belong to his life in society” he evokes the ancient art of assessing the human personality and exploiting motivations. Developed out of clandestine mind control programs in the 1960’s, the methodical application of Personality Assessment Systems became standard operating procedure in business and intelligence. Systems of discipline and control which took shape in the 19th century on the basis of earlier procedures have mutated into new and aggressive forms, beyond simplistic theories of state and sovereignty. In the past, the science of power branched into the twin vectors of political control and control of the self.

In the 21st century the technologies of material control and subjective internalization are in a process of converging. The traditional twin operations, with which the authorities aim to win the hearts and minds, the binding maneuvers of law enforcement and the dazzling illusionist control of the imagination, are transforming into each other. Not unlike werewolves using the powers of the moon for a violent metamorphosis, contemporary agencies of power turn into shape shifters and fluctuating modes of dominance. Star Wars technology shape-shifts into applications of creative industries, into the domain of desire, imagination and mediated lunacy.

Technologies of individualization bound to controllable identities and the global machinery of homogenization are superimposing to a double-bind of contemporary power structures. The renaissance heretic Giordano Bruno anticipates these developments in his visionary treatise “De Vinculis in Genere” – a general account of bonding – on operational phantasms and the libidinal manipulation of the human spirit. The disputatious philosopher of an infinite universe, beyond his unique investigation into the imaginary and the persuasion of masses and the individual, also challenged the ontological separation between the spheres of the heavens and the sublunary world of his time.

Today, in a technological marriage of heaven and earth, there is a full spectrum military entertainment fusion of global conflict management. A strategic analysis of the enforced colonization of space and mind will certainly provide a more comprehensive understanding of the parameters of life and death on planet Earth. The extraterrestrial highway in the United States, is near the zone 51, a top secret area of the American army. In this zone “black projects” subjected to the secrecy defense are carried out. In 1994 a Congressional subcommittee revealed that up to 500,000 Americans were endangered by secret defense related tests between 1940 and 1974. They included covert experiments with radioactive materials, mustard gas, LSD, and biological agents.3

Disneyland and the global media sightings of men on the moon are exemplary for the universal power of imagination management and the spectacle. Receptiveness for the spectacle is deeply embedded in human desires for excitement, stimulation, knowledge acquisition and the construction of self esteem. Largely based on the biocybernetic exploitation of human response mechanisms that influence emotion, excitement and thrill, the technological spectacle in its play with danger and disorientation is rooted in the biology of ancient neural patterns. But its arena has been dramatically extended through technology. The machinery of the spectacle generates affect by triggering failures of orientation and control. This can be loss of physical balance, a rollercoaster ride or cognitive dissonance. The intensity of affect is directly correlated with the depth of disorientation and the more that vital human response structures are touched, the deeper the effect. Contextual parameters of relatively secure environments allow appreciating these disorientations as hedonistic experiences instead of discomfort and panic. These mechanisms trigger delight and numinous experiences, moving and enthusing audiences.

Aldous Huxley once remarked that there are two kinds of propaganda—

rational propaganda in favor of action that is consonant with the enlightened self-interest of those who make it and those to whom it is addressed, and non-rational propaganda that is not consonant with anybody’s enlightened self-interest, but is dictated by, and appeals to, passion. 4

In the years and decades ahead both invasive and non-invasive technologies will enslave the uneducated masses, luring them with technologies of delight or fear to do the bidding of the Oligarchs without little or any resistance since for the most part people will willingly give up there freedoms for comfort, security, and happiness. Of course not all will give into such notions, nor condone the power of persuasion through both extrinsic propaganda and public relations, nor intrinsically through technological pharmakon or invasive forms of implants or nanobots. But these resistant anti-bodies will like any virus be hunted down and annihilated in a society that will have become a unified fascist enclave, a mindless world of automated machines both inorganic and organic. For in the end there will be no barriers between them, only the merger and enhancement of their twined potentials. This is the dark truth-condition of our future… can we stop it? And, more importantly, will we have the tools necessary to break down the walls enclosing us in this fabricated hall of mirrors, this cognitive concentration camp?

As Zizek recently said:

“What I’m afraid of is a possibility of a direct contact-link between our brain, what we are thinking, and a computer network, because there we lose our autonomy.”

He warned that soon computers will be able to control the human mind, misleading the individual to believe they are still in control of their thoughts and reality. Under this arrangement, Zizek argues, humans will lose their autonomy and will become indistinguishable from the machines.

“What is much more dangerous is… if our brains will be directly linked to computers so we will lose our inner freedom. Even in the worst of Nazism… those in power could not control what you are thinking. You can have your inner thoughts… Now with a direct link between our brain and the digital network, we lose our inner freedom,” the philosopher said.


  1. Konrad Becker, Hypno Politics, Hyper State Control, Law Entrainment and the Symbolic Order. Center for Cognitive Liberty (2015)
  2. Lofgren, Mike. The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government. Penguin Books (January 5, 2016); Englehardt, Tom. Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. Haymarket Books (September 15, 2014)
  3. Valentine, Douglas. The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World. Clarity Press (December 31, 2016)
  4. Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World Revisited. Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (July 1, 2014)

 

 

The Neoliberal Utopia: Absolute Surveillance and the Digital Panopticon Society

In military applications, we envision the remote deployment of swarms of microrobots that are available to locate, track, target and destroy people and machines with little human intervention. For more complex applications, swarms will be guided by groups of people who are enhanced with mental and physical prosthetics and advanced collaboration tools to enable exceptional rapid collective decision making in dynamic, confusing and ambiguous situations.

—Gerold Yonas and Curtis Johnson, Sandia Lab, May 19, 200

In the near future the re-ontologization of the real will entail ubiquitous environments, artificial zones of fully digitalized worlds of objects – an internet of things indexed, filtered, addressed, formatted, and connected in a completed panopticon of electronic data. Hidden and invisible the new world will follow you 24/7 pre-determining your choices and decisions, guiding ever aspect of your daily life, modulating both your physical and mental health and security. Such a completed surveillance society of absolute control will to those living within its environs seem like a technoparadisial utopia: a future technocratic state run by machines and AGI’s. Such is the vision of neoliberal trends in the techno-commercium. The totally managed society where human and machine have erased all boundaries between thought and technology, flesh and technics. A world controlled by algorithmic negotiations and neo-rationalist normativity, functionalized to the point of utter comatose automation.

Of course the hype factor and projected feasibility of eliminating risk in such an absolute corporatocracy seems almost a bland and boring matrix of financial stupidity, yet if one reads the literature within advanced fields of biometric and data surveillance this is the underlying goal: a society controlled from end to end by machinic surveillance and ubiquitous computing in which everything external and internal, extrinsic and intrinsic is digitalized, mathematized, and governed by algorithmic metrics without the users permissions or knowledge.

Certain Japanese companies, using a joint research Towards a “planetary” and ubiquitous code centre – the “Ubiquitous ID Centre” – have developed technology enabling them to obtain “a unique identification code, which, when applied to ‘real world objects,’ makes them easy to read on a computer.” This ucode could replace many different codes that are applied to objects, whether they are Japanese or European inscription codes of objects or existing standardisations. Each individual object can be inscribed with an ID address since the capacities of this new code are gigantic. The basic 128-bit code can be extended to 256, 384 or 512 bits. If we only consider the 128-bit figure, 34×1037 codes (34 followed by 37 zeros) can be attributed to it, that is, a billion labels can be attributed to objects and/or living organisms every day for over a billion years.

All the above is summed up in the definition of the main aims of the Ubiquitous ID Center: “The goal of the Ubiquitous ID Center is to establish and spread the infrastructure technologies for automatically recognizing ‘things,’ thus allowing for the creation of ubiquitous computing environments”. The first essential aspect of the internet of objects and living organisms involves an attempt to set up a full-size panopticon, like that described by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish.

The other essential aspect evoked in this definition is to allow for the creation of ubiquitous computing environments. This time the aim is to bring to the traditional, heavy, in short, rather stupid, real world, new, radically digitalisable objects that can be added more and more successfully to the general panopticon that is being created. Here a new element appears which can help bring out another essential link in the general digitalisation project: the reconstruction of the “real world”. The “panopticon” can only be set up in the social fields that have previously been “rationalised, formatted”, and which are ready to receive the good news of the progress of digitalisation.1

Through education and indoctrination our children within a generation will come to accept such a world not only as a possibility, but as the only reality they know as real. The fears and qualms that we have toward such worlds will die with us, replaced with a generation that has grown up in such ubiquitous surveillance zones without any thought that it might be otherwise. The manufactured consent of the baseline education and indoctrination system of that culture will program these children to passively accept the total regulated environments due to other fears and security needs.

As such combinations of machinic and human enhanced therapies and propaganda systems take over the techno-commercium of that era the need to master new skills and specialized performance strategies will allow corporations to brand these neo-humans as property, providing them with the necessary medial, pharmaceutical, and invasive technologies necessary to get ahead in such competitive worlds as the new mega-cities of the future will entail. People will – even if skeptically, allow microchip technology and other invasive systems of health and security to be implanted as part of corporate security and employment. One sees this in Australia already within the banking and military industries. Soon it will come to a corporation near you.

Welcome to the brave new world of ubiquitous tyranny… of course this is a parody assimilation of data I’ve gathered, so there is a possibility to resist, but that window is closing fast. If we sit by and do nothing the time will pass when one has the opportunity to resist. Of course in the other part of the scenario I did not delve into is all those who will resist will be excluded from such access to security, comfort, and enhanced lives. One will live in the favelas of a dead world where life will be short, mean, and ugly. Controlled by the ever present world of drones and machinic systems of surveillance and policing that will disallow rebellion or resistance other than resentment. Sadly in such a realm one’s only hope will be to end it quickly…


  1. Tobin, Ami. Surveillance Zone: The Hidden World of Corporate Surveillance Detection & Covert Special Operations.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 21, 2017)

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.

American History has never existed, only its myth, the strewn leaves of some grand narrative recycled under the mask of liberal or conservative appetites, and depending on the splicing and editing of those involved one gains neither an accurate representation nor a parodic tale of ultimate degradation and toxic grandiosity. Instead one is left with a dismal wasteland of competing dialogues which for an Alien Mind never mesh into a whole or totality (which was always a myth and mystic rationality anyway!), but rather the fabricated sequences of an ongoing apocalypse.

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 no 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