Nietzsche summarised the modern world by looking for the essence of each century and attributing a philosopher to each one[i]: The 17th century is aristocratic and ruled by Descartes; the 18th is feminine and dominated by Rousseau; and the 19th is animalistic and under the sway of Schopenhauer.
Following the same line of thought we could call the 20th century nihilistic and Nietzschean. The spirit of the 20th century is, above all, one of a paradoxical dominance: individualism rules, but so does the herd, and both are motivated by a dictatorial will. Because of this paradox, the 20th century is Nietzschean but also anti-Nietzschean: the Last Man has an ubiquitous presence whilst the Übermensch is a dangerous illusion that only appears in a form that has been perverted by the Last Man (Nazism). It is adolescent in spirit, greedy and neurotic.
But while the 20th century is Nietzschean, it is also Marxist and Capitalist and it is the century of economy more than anything else, one that is dominated by the god of money.
The 21st Century
This century is yet to have begun for we are still immersed in the nihilist, plutocratic century of Nietzsche. Nevertheless, we can imagine what it needs to be like if we are ever to survive the internecine forces driving our lives at the moment.
If civilisation is to survive the 21st century, it must be a period of responsibility: ecological duties are pending, and these responsibilities are also linked to human rights and justice.
The philosophical will need to generate awareness and the transformation will only come about through the communication of that awareness. In that sense, the 21st century will have to be a new era of enlightenment. Likewise, it will be a time of maturing: the adolescent 20th century needs to become an adult. It will need to be forward looking, even teleological, and imbued with far-reaching teleological purposiveness. Everything must change, and it will be the most revolutionary era since the Neolithic.
The 21st century will see the emergence of a more consistent humanity that will start to identify itself as humanity instead of as a nation, religion, or race. Human nature will start to be perceived as the nature of the species – homo sapiens; homo habilis – rather than the manifestations of activity by the many kinds of social animal or the homo economicus.
[i] See f. Nietszche, THE WILL TO POWER, #95 – The Three Centuries
All human activity and progress has come from our ability to conceptualise reality abstractly and conditionally. The future is not built on dreams, but on the idea of what is possible; of what we could do if …
Nevertheless, despite all the conditional possibilities thrown at us every day in a civilisation driven by publicity campaigns, contemporary society offers little room to let our minds wander into the now dangerous realm of the abstract.
The contemporary human condition is full of the obligations of the here and now: family responsibilities; work obligations; needs to find work; to buy; to pay one’s debts. Obligations that have their own spaces, but which seep into the other spaces, constantly mixing and creating a thick stew of obligations. And it is this casserole of duties that we come to call the System. A thick-stew system that gives us less and less space in which to look for the abstract and conditional.
In the casserole of duties, life is enclosed in the actual. Whenever gaps appear, they are quickly plugged by consumer needs or the indoctrinations of the games used by the System to divert thoughts that may start to wander, fixing them by immersing them in the actuality of the game, so that when the current match finishes the arrival of the next great sporting event is already immanent.
Everything is designed to promote the here-and-now and inhibit the conditional, and, by so doing, foster the real and the factual, extinguishing our thoughts until we are left empty of possibilities and full of the actual.
The modern man and woman is full of the System, and the irony is that our very social complexity in the System alienates us from our humanity.
While we are full of the System, we have no room to progress as humans; no room to discover our vital, creative potential within the future potentials of all imagined conditionals.
Money was created for a very practical purpose: to simplify rituals of exchange and create a tool that can be used to fairly measure all acquisitions.
What began as being a utensil, however, very quickly turned into a monster that seems to hammer at us even before we have any real exchanges to make. Instead of being a tool, it is now an obligation or an addiction. We are possessed by it. No one any longer questions its necessity. Its rule over us is dogmatic; its kingdom is ubiquitous. If God exists it is probably in the form of money. We worship it, have complete faith in it, and hardly ever take its name in vain.
We could say that money is the key factor in creating our feeling of alienation from the world because it is draped like a veil over reality. Between us and the world, therefore, there exists a thin transparent veneer, acting as a kind of barrier, telling us that the only way to get proper access to what we want has to involve the magic of money.
But this alienation is not completely the fault of money: even before the invention of coins, magical veils had already been draped over the world to ensure that certain exchanges brought great profit and power to some at the expense of others. It is always a sobering idea to remind ourselves that the great pyramids were built on an exchange of beer and bread. The first civilisations were erected before the invention of coins, but once it had been created, money became an integral feature of all that civilisation now represents.
Civilisation itself is one enormous paradox: it contains humanity’s greatest idealisation of reality – through art and technology – and seems to be the only vehicle possible through which the spirit of human progress can be driven. However, it is the weapon with which all power-led ideologies are able to wield their control; it is the chopping block of all anti-human segregations, and the vocal piece for all anti-progressive dogmas. In a sense, Civilisation contains the greatest of all possibilities for humanity, while at the same time it produces each of our most frustrating disappointments.
Civilisation today is a vast global market that is consuming resources at such a rate that our unsustainable model of existence threatens to destroy itself. Of course, this means that a new model for civilisation becomes imperative, but can such a revolution take place before the monster that the System has become devours its own tail?
We think the answer lies in a rehabilitation of Civilisation from the addiction it has to money, in order to allow the global empire to feed the humanity it supports rather than the all-consuming demands of the drug that surges through its blood-stream. Of course, this is perhaps the most radical, seemingly impossible solution imaginable: how can we kick the habit of a drug when we are all addicted to it, even the doctors?
Yet, impossible as it seems, until we decide to get clean there will never be any hope for civilisation or humanity. This is the real pessimistic stand-point afflicting humanity today.
In the firstpart of this article (https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/nationalism-patriotism-totem-identities-power/) we argued that both nationalism and patriotism are part of the same anti-human historical process that began with the segregating cults of thetotem: “Throughthe totem, … the individual surrendered his voice in the community and allowedall voices to be concentrated in the singular decrees of the priest-kings.Community, as such, died with the totem that was set up to build it, and a newanti-human history was born that became a process of maintaining classdistinction and privileges for the few at the expense of the manipulation andexploitation of the many.”
Perhaps Marx would say that the class struggle began with this class creation, but, in the beginning, there was probably minimalconflict. Not only class consciousness, but any kind of consciousness was inits embryonic stages, and political struggle needs to be fired by a conscious desirethat transcends the mere physical needs for food, shelter and propagation. Inthe early days when the totem societies began to develop into the firstcivilisations, any vestiges of political consciousness were mitigated by themanipulation, and creation via that manipulation, of the social reality thatenshrouded the priest-kings with the veil of apparent truth.
While the Sumerian tablets mention internal strife and indicate that there must have been some early opposition to the flagrant grabbing of power in the creation of the first civilisation, the real struggle was carried out by those who had established their power already. Early progress has to be measured in the degree of success obtained in the maintenance of the enormous fiction of the totem; that monstrous, empowering lie. If there has been a motor, or a process through history, it has been the maintenance via re-modelling which has allowed the perpetual existence of privileged classes and the freedom for those classes to exploit the other classes of society. This condition has not changed in the last 5,000 years.
Identity is, of course, a process of separation. A separation that is needed in order to maintain the lies of the totem identities of the City-State. The City-State can maintain its identity only while it has enemies to compare itself with. For this reason, during the current process of globalisation which is really a process of centralising power and privileges for the ruling elite, we do not see any diminishing of nationalisms, but rather a strengthening of them.
Once the totem was established, the lies could be formulated to justify all sorts of behaviourin the name of the divine symbol of the new society. But if people questionedthese lies, or the exploitive and repressive measures they were suffering as aconsequence of them, they had to be forced into a submission to the belief. Andso, the high-priests took charge, not only of the temple economy, but also ofthe warriors that could defend it. As such, any opposition to the lie couldeasily be a death sentence and the classes without an army to defend them had to wonder if opposition was not a madness. If opposition is life-threatening, it is probably best to tow the line, even if by doing so life is mademiserable. The exploited labourer is told that his or her life can always beworse – or no life at all. If thinking inspires the dangers and miseries causedby Power’s brutal reprisals, then it is best not to think at all; to go withthe flow and be a good citizen. And its best to teach your children to thinkthe same way. Soon the oppression and exploitation becomes immersed in thegreat fog of normality in which things happen in a certain manner because thatis the way things are.
But from the time of Sumer, the way things are is that the society is organised in a way that will produce an abundance that is enjoyed by the privileged class, while those producing the abundance with their labour are given enough to survive on and little else. In history, we can see a progression and emergence of a middle-class who were encouraged to think they were comfortable and free. But rather than being a process of egalitarianism, it was merely a necessary process carried out to ensure the supply of abundance to the privileged class who were consolidating their fortunes through the sale of consumer goods. In order for the privileged to accumulate the billions they have made it was necessary to have billions of individuals capable of buying the billions of products they were selling. And so, there arose an economic need for what we call the middle-class.
But let us not fool ourselves: the privileged who hold power have not had to succumb to democratic or revolutionary demands on them, but rather technology has allowed them to create new ways of making fortunes by selling new manufactured products. All the rest, in its essence, has not changed since Sumer and Urk.
Aside from Sumer other powers were born in different ways: the Egyptian class-system grew primarily out of a power won militarily for the power of the Hawk-god that absorbed the priestly functions of control after making military conquests. Of course, Egypt took the priest-king idea one-step further and its leaders became Pharaohs, king-gods. That the lie could be taken so far seems ludicrous, but, for the Egyptian it was either believe the lie or die, and then, as in Sumer, after a few generations the king-god system would have been understood as the way things are, because that is how they have always been.
Power and its privileges are the centre of all civilisations, but so is the subsequent retarding of thought. The Greek Commonwealth, and especially the richly artistic and philosophical culture of Athens is so special because it was a blatantexception to this rule. In Greece there were City States, but there were alsothinkers thinking some of the deepest thoughts that have ever been contemplated. To understand how Greece was possible, we have to remindourselves that, before Alexander, it was just a peripheral place, on theoutskirts of the real centres of power that grew in western Asia and Egypt. And,on the periphery, it was more possible that thinkingwould be allowed.
Rather than stimulating and benefiting from the natural creativity and inventiveness ofhuman beings, the privileged classes pulling the strings of power havegenerally wasted the inherent talent of human beings and because of this it could be said that civilisation has been an obstacle in authentic humanprogress.
At a centenary memorial service for the victims of the First World War, Emmanuel Macron warned of the dangers of nationalisms whilst praising the virtues of patriotism. The nuances separating the two terms are important: nationalism is based on cultural and linguistic or even, in the worst-case scenario, racial or ethnic ties, whilst patriotism is nurtured by the values and beliefs of the state. Nationalism is more aggressive to foreign states and foreigners than patriotism is. When nationalisms clash there is always a threat of war, whilst patriotisms use diplomacy in conflicts to find peaceful outcomes to conflicts. Nevertheless, both terms generally represent the same thing. One might be seen as the ‘good cop’ and the other the ‘bad cop’, but both are cops, or, if we look at it from humanity’s point of view, both belong to the same mafias we call Nation States.
Nationalism or patriotism, against the measuring rod of Humanity they are both segregating and oppressive forces. Yet, it’s hard to imagine a world without countries. After all, they have always been here, haven’t they? And the hardest thing to imagine away is that which has been around, seemingly forever.
Certainly they’ve been here, in a simplified form, ever since the first societies gathered around the first totems. Each one with their own symbolic deity. These totem-cultures then gathered together into city states, under the protection of a unifying divine entity that began to take the totemic form of a divine statue. These city-state countries would expand and create larger states and even empires, regimes that needed ever more powerful totems … until they discovered the One, which was the mightiest totem of all, demanding that all must bow to its omnipotent symbols.
But even before reaching the One, the totem went through many metamorphoses: the pyramid shaped ziggurats and the pyramids themselves. In the first city, the Sumerian Uruk, the temples and land were considered properties of the gods. Divine properties which certain families were placed in charge of, as if by divine will. So we see, even at the very beginning of civilization, how religion was used to justify an enhanced privilege over the others.
The first concentration of power was assumed by the priestly caste. Once the people had been indoctrinated into identifying themselves with the totem representative of the gods that were supposed to control and even predetermine their fate through the power of concepts like destiny, it was a simple step to mould them into servants of the totem. Only the priests had access to the gods’ thoughts and motives. It was through the priests and the unsullied, pure character of the High Priestess, that the gods gave their laws to men.
Through the totem, therefore, the individual surrendered his voice in the community and allowed all voices to be concentrated in the singular decrees of the priest-kings. Community, as such, died with the totem that was set up to build it, and a new anti-human history was born that became a process of maintaining class distinction and privileges for the few at the expense of the manipulation and exploitation of the many.
Patriotism might be the good cholesterol that the nation state needs to preserve itself, but the nation state itself is a powerful virus that has put humanity into a coma for millennia. It’s time now, not to be good patriots but to see the virus for what it is, and dismantle the nation state in order to resuscitate what we really are: humanity.
1) 2.5 million years ago – evolution of the first hominids: able to walk upright and make tools.
2) 200,000 years ago – evolution of the homo sapiens: bigger brains and better ability for making tools; social organization and the cultural adaptation to different kinds of environments.
3) 12,000 years ago – due to the impact of climate change and the scarcity of food, some communities evolve from being hunters and collectors to being herdsmen.
4) 6,000 years ago – New techniques of irrigation and drainage, allowing for intensive agriculture based on the use of the plough.
The emergence of the first communities practising husbandry and agriculture was a result of necessity rather than mere wilful choice, and they were responses to needs created by environmental realities (first of all, the Ice Age and later because of desertification in the Middle East and North African regions where the Earth’s warming brought about extensive desertification).
Sedentary society in the early Neolithic era was classless and communal, in which the nuclear family did not exist.[i] As such, it can be affirmed that he first steps toward civilisation were a divergence from a basic form of communism. But why did that divergence from social harmony take place?
The production of an abundance of food that agriculture provided caused a rapid population growth. However, this same population had to be maintained, and agriculture in the Neolithic era was still precarious. Plagues, droughts and other natural disasters had tragic results for many Neolithic communities. Also, populations kept increasing even though arable land was scarce. Over farming created sterile land: exploration was needed to find fertile spots where the community could be replanted, and different social groups began to find themselves with conflicts of interest. “Poverty and property, scarcity and abundance were the primary causes of the first wars.”[ii]
The earliest archaeological indication of violent conflict dates back 7,500 years, and it was in the 6th Millennium BCE that groups emerged that began to identify themselves with a certain area and dominate that area for their own. As such, the year that the mythological Cain killed his brother Able should symbolically be set in the Neolithic era, at around 5,500 BCE.
But for war to occur, there needs to be the kind of complexity in a society that can fashion armies (soldiers and arms for those soldiers). We don’t have any evidence of armies before the creation of civilisations. The earliest pictographs of armies have been dated at 3,500 BCE, from the kingdom of Kish,[iii] at the beginning of the Bronze Age. Historically, in the evolution of western societies, war is a consequence of civilisation.
But civilisation alone is not a reason for the creation of warfare: these first wars were made possible not be mere cultural organisation, but by a mixture of complexity, necessity and manipulation. Needs existed where scarcity was the norm and abundance was something that others had; or where one’s own abundance was threatened by the scarcity suffered by one’s neighbours. We have nothing while they have so much, or we have so much and they want to take it from us. But this condition alone is probably not enough to drive two communities into an armed combat in which, a priori, a large number of individuals will be killed. There has to be powerful psychological motives to ignore the natural possibilities of sharing and/or exchange and sink into the extremism of violence and combat.
War could not happen between communities until the communities themselves had developed an imaginary identity around themselves. The identity of the tribe: the ones who dance a common dance around the same totem.
The tribal identity is a mini-nationalism which used a primitive form of national-history, based on the imaginary stories of the totem myths, in order to define themselves as a group. Without this controlled separation through the creation of identity, it would be impossible to organise a force of warriors designed specifically for the killing of other humans, members of the same species; people who should have been tied to one another through human empathy toward their common species.
Societies created their own identities, and the process of socialisation-through-identities was an anti-humanising process designed to create people who feel different to other people in order to create anti-human humans with the potential for making enormous sacrifices for the community (and the king) in its struggles against other communities. It was the creation of these social identities which lay the foundation for the possibilities of all wars. It was also a preliminary step toward the forming of the class divisions in society that we suffer from today. Our anti-human identities are now the greatest misfortune we suffer today, for they are the progenitors of all our other misfortunes. They are deeply embedded in our System, and their omnipresence and seeming omnipotence makes any ideas of real systemic reform seem futile. Nevertheless, at least we know what needs to be extirpated from the System to make it work for humanity. Rolling back 6,000 years of anti-human history may seem like a daunting task, but it is the only choice we have now if we want to make humanity human again.
[i] Neil Faulkner, DE LOS NEANDERTALES A LOS NEOLIBERALES, p. 27
How much does our quality of life depend on the climate? How much of civilisation is the taming of climate, or the acclimatisation of our ‘civilised’ living areas? Part climatization, part sanitation … that which makes the cities ‘comfortable’ and for the masses to gravitate towards their ‘comfortable’ centres … What makes up the core of our lives is all a consequence of the process of gravitating towards comfort: the organisation of mobility and communication; the provision of security; and the chance to find work and the subsequent salary which will hopefully be generous enough to make life comfortable in the comfort-zone centre. For most people, civilisation = comfort. And real comfort depends on the acquiring of a good climate, or more correctly, the taming of climate through acclimatisation. So, we could declare from this that: civilisation = acclimatisation.
Yet, what price is paid for this climatization and sanitation? We now see only negative effects on climate itself that operate in a vicious circle that is spiralling civilisation into a rapidly spinning vortex that threatens to blow civilisation itself into the exact opposite of what it desires. The deeper our level of acclimatisation is, the greater is its effect on the deterioration of the climate. This deterioration creates more need for acclimatisation which creates more deterioration which makes more need for better acclimatisation … until it all collapses.
in the struggle to be comfortable we make the world more inhospitable, until climate change takes on life-threatening proportions. Present scenarios are uncomfortable and the future promises to be more uncomfortable. Is this what we want? Of course it isn’t, and what is demonstrated by the lack of political or economic will to change this ridiculous cycle, demonstrates a) the levels of denial that societies are able to perpetuate; and b) the vicious cycles’ advantageousness for enterprises, especially the energy industries, that are making vast profits from the spiralling mechanism of climate degradation.
It is hard to fight the power that corporations wield, but that difficulty is augmented thousand-fold by the range of denial that is rife in society. We know what has to be done to preserve the comfortable in a sustainable way. We know what we want, and, to get what we want, we need to vocalise it loudly enough to change the hugely profit-making spiral of destructive-acclimatisation before it’s too late to ever be comfortable ever again.
In his book, Symbolic Exchange and Death, Jean Baudrillard examines the psychological consequences of the civilising process and concludes that while civilisation has pulled us from the primitive condition that revolved around the ideas of GIVING-RETURNING-EXCHANGING, it has sunk us into a much grimmer reality of KILLING-POSSESSING-DEVOURING.[i]
The irony that this observation reveals is that our so-called progression into the civilised beings we are, now must be seen as a bestialising process for humanity. Which means that civilisation is actually the exact opposite of what it pretends to be.
Once Baudrillard’s analysis is accepted civilisation is stripped of its pretentions to be what it says it is. The horrific consequences of civilisation have been seen over and over again throughout history, without diminishing civilisation’s own blind faith in its own existence: from the tremendous brutality of Rome with its perverse emperors; to the slave trading and war hungry empires of the modern era; to the epitome of civilised barbarity in the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin, of Mao and Pol Pot. In fact, humanity has paid an enormous price for the so-called comforts and pleasures that civilisation has brought us.
Perhaps it’s wrong to put all the blame on the civilisation process (and Baudrillard only implies the repression of civilisations without naming them), but the evolution from giving into taking (even by killing); returning into keeping and possessing; and exchanging into devouring, seems to flow with the same gravitational force that constructed the first great cities and their monuments.
In looking at the system’s death-drive instinct, Baudrillard says: “Freud installs the process of repetition at the core of objective determinations, at the very moment when the general system of production passes into pure and simple reproduction.”[ii] For Baudrillard the radical nature of the death-drive is “simply the radical nature of the system itself.”[iii]
[i] Jean Baudrillard, SYMBOLIC EXCHANGE AND DEATH, SAGE, 1993, p. 139)
We have been driving a juggernaut along a road leading directly to a cliff edge. If we continue going straight, we will topple into an abyss. Obviously, we cannot continue the way we are going. To avoid annihilation, we have one of two choices: we can either turn left toward a Utopia, or right into a Dystopia. It seems obvious to us which decision is the best one. And yet … most of those on board started screaming to the driver to turn right … and he has. Why? Why did we choose to go in the direction of a Dystopia before a Utopia?
Part of the problem rests in the common perception that Utopia is an impossible space. That it is no-place and therefore must be dismissed straight away. Dystopia, on the other hand, is an inevitability and therefore linked to reality. If reality and pragmatism tells us that we cannot make the world a better place, then at least we can try and protect ourselves against the evil mess that surrounds us.
In truth, our present reality is limited. But limited only by the labyrinth built around us that we call Civilisation. This maze has always been a way for managing the limitlessness of potentials in order to control them for a central cause: The cause being, the accumulation of Wealth and the protection of the wealthy classes. However, existence in the labyrinth has become precarious. The world around it is being devoured by the Minotaur that we feed at the centre of the labyrinth itself. But soon there will be nothing left for any of us to eat, and storms will come and wash us away. If we don’t get out of here, we are doomed. In order to escape we need a map, and we have to tread carefully. But how can we manage a labyrinth from within?
First, one must get a mental overview of it. It requires an intellectual transcendence through reason and the abstract; through mapping and synthesis: and this is a philosophical process.
Secondly, one has to have an anchoring in order to move confidently and lucidly within the maze. An Ariadne’s thread that will enable the hero to retrace his/her steps. With the anchoring one can creep into the unlimited enclosure and look for a way out into the limitlessness beyond its walls without feeling lost; always in touch with the overview, the mental map which provides the hero with an understanding of the maze.
The maze of our Civilisation is infinitely complex and the way out is too far away for any individual to find it in a single lifetime. In fact, it has required tens of thousands of years of intellectual mapping to get to this point we are at now. But that does not mean that a way out is impossible. There is a parallel between the labyrinth and the Grail myth.
The Grail, which cannot be reached, is the goal. It is the learning made on the journey which makes the Grail. So, in reality the Grail does not exist now, but will exist, created out of our endeavours to reach it. The goal/Grail is only holy and spiritual until we see the physical reasons for finding it. Once the physical purpose of the Grail is believed in, then authentic purpose becomes manifest.
Psychologically, the Big Other is resolved. The Big Other doesn’t exist but will exist, through rational, human endeavour.
But to get there, we have to start believing in the possibility of Utopia. In order to get the perspective needed to map the labyrinth properly and see the potential of Utopian limitlessness, a revolutionary thread is needed that will anchor humanity in partnership with the Universe as a vital element in the Universe itself. Only be flying above the maze into the ever-expanding space outside can we find a way out of our doomed enclosure. The enemy to this anchoring-in-the-absolutely-unlimited, is Wealth, which is the force maintaining the labyrinth that we call Civilisation. Utopia is an antithetical concept for Wealth, which thrives on models of Dystopia. Our Wealth-Civilisation is the enemy of Utopia, maintained by an anti-human historical narrative that it itself has created.
Nevertheless, once the lethal aspects of Dystopia are recognised, the Utopia becomes a necessary driving force; a Utopia which is itself envisaged out of necessity.
Wealth has always been a reactive and cynically pessimistic force, for it essentially raises and protects itself by stimulating and encouraging whilst at the same time destroying or negating the great hopes of humanity. In fact, through its manipulation of all the agents of power, it replaces humanity with fantasies of the national spirit, of religious crusades or jihads, of the glory of Empire, or, in the case of capitalism, with the illusion of individual freedom and the achievements such phantasmagorical freedoms can bring.
All of these fantasies have a common cause – to dehumanise the human and diffuse any common aims through separation and segregation. Wealth is about disconnection, the establishment of differences. The stance of Wealth is of Us against Them; of Master and Slave; of our Gain against their Loss.
The result of the accumulation in Wealth of the Few is an intensifying of the Poverty of the Many. Capitalism has long been successful in creating the mirage of satisfaction through the seeming great progress toward the technological man. But the price paid by Wealth in the mechanisation and digitalisation of society is one of an unveiling of its own trickery. As civilisation falls deeper into an unauthenticity, society becomes more and more scarred by the false, virtual reality imposed on them; a reality lacking in true potentials; where everyone has an opportunity to be successful, whether talented or not, but success depends on it being an elitist concept. Only a small few can be truly successful, even though anyone and everyone has a chance. Life therefore becomes a lottery, and as more players come into the game, the prize swells but the chances of winning it are less and less.
But the mirror of the simulated reality of false potentials that we are facing has formed fissures and cracks. The distortions caused by these cracks allows us to look past the false image in order to discover that everything is mounted on an empty blackboard. Below the fragile surface of the mirror there is … nothing.