Anti-Fanaticism

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The world today needs great ideas. Human society needs inspiration. However, these very needs imply another necessity for extreme caution.

Our anti-human historical process teaches us that great ideas are embraced by Wealth through the apparatus of Civilisation and converts inspiration and creativity into ideology and dogma. For this reason, all good ideas have to be handled with protective gloves, not to protect our hands but in order to safeguard them from our own society’s greed.

We can use terms like Fascism or Stalinism to represent the idea of a total immersion in ideology, but likewise we could talk of Opus Deism or Mormonism, or we can unify all of these dogmas under the umbrella of Fanaticism.

The 21st century has arrived with its own peculiar narratives: the dialectic between Fanaticism and Anti-fanaticism is one of these; but this dialectic is itself swamped by a far more powerful squabble between the fanatics themselves. The seemingly age-old bickering between religious fanatics has made a comeback, in a brutal, violent way, and this is also fostered and favoured by a political ideology fanaticism, which is in truth an economic ideology. This creates a powerful and destructive dynamic that mitigates human progress and creativity whilst inflating Wealth.

Civilisation today is driven by an internecine struggle of alliances and enemies. On the one hand there are the champions of the spirit and on the other the upholders of the material. Both of these fanatical movements promise great rewards for their followers, and both of these streams create currents of wealth creating power that flow through and nurture each other.

Neither option keeps everyone happy, but together they offer a great alternative to each other: if you don’t want to be subject to one side of civilisation’s fanaticisms’ coin, then you can join the other side without needing to denounce civilisation at all. Only the fanatics are trying to escape now.

Of course this seems to be anti-intuitive: isn’t fanaticism a threat to Civilisation? Aren’t the fanatics Barbarians? This is what Civilisation would have us believe: but the real answer is “no” and “no”; Civilisation feeds its fanatics for its own benefit.

As for the Anti-fanatics: all people who are not fanatics are, potentially, anti-fanatics. However, the anti-human historical process has always shown us how easily the mechanisms of Civilisation can be used to turn non-fanatics into absolute “believers” in an historical blink of an eye. As for the anti-fanatical purist, they also have the fanatic in them: the fanaticism of the anti-fanatic. And in this sense the looming scenario is dismally pessimistic: one can only combat fanaticism fanatically. A new paradox emerges, and with each paradox a new challenge to overcome it. How do we overcome Fanaticism without being fanatical?

We imagine pockets of anti-fanatics, swimming lonely and anonymously within the great schools of ideologies; immersed because they have to be, but following the rules without conforming to the fanaticism. We think these anti-fanatics have to exist, because without them the dialectics of society would be self-contained between “spirit” and “material” and between each sections own inner squabbles; and this would have provoked a rapid collapse of civilisation itself.

Or, in other words, civilisation still exists today because of the true anti-fanatic current that flows within it.

The Anti-fanatics are cynics and scientists. They are sceptics and visionaries. They visualise Utopias and deconstruct the Heterotopias that dominate and disfigure our reality. They seem to be a tiny minority, but this may be an illusion created by complexity. Lines seem straight until we magnify them. Closer inspection always reveals an inner chaos, a deeper yearning for a more creative fabric forming existence.

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Globalisation and The Death of Democracy

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One of the aims of globalisation was to separate politics from economics, and yet in practice it has merely reduced the political to a slave-status, servicing the dictatorship of the global marketplace. The Economy, the economic world and its institutions, are not chosen by the people – the polis is for politics. Given free rein, the market will transcend politics, creating its own cultures that are totally at the mercy of Wealth. The creation of global, macro-economics is, therefore, an immaculate fraud against democracy and freedom. The logic of the fraud being that: in order to create a firm and unquestionable dictatorship, the people should firstly be given the illusion of democracy by allowing them to vote for their local and state governments while, at the same time, shackling those same governments to the dictates of the world market place. As such, no matter who the people elect for their governors, it can have no effect on the will of the market. What pushes wealth unto the wealthy is the economy, not the parliaments, and the polis are never asked to vote for any of globalisation’s economic institutions, even though the World Bank and the IMF are the real forces shaping our lives.

Without control of the economy, the life-blood of the State (money) is also pushed out of the realm of political control. The politicians try to put on a brave face, but even the neo-liberal parties are made to look like helpless buffoons before their electorates when the power that really runs the economy (Wealth) decides to get tough and make sure everything is flowing completely in its own favour. Local anger is vented at the local government – the economic regime is too abstract, or too distant. After all, how can it govern us if we didn’t vote for it?

Democracy melts away. There is no democracy at all. We didn’t vote for those who make decisions now. We all live in one huge global dictatorship.

It does not matter what the international financing institutions do or might do, whatever is done is carried out without any democratic mandate. Yet, they can do whatever they like. And though they may assure themselves that they are acting responsibly they are still acting without our blessings, and operating behind our backs.

Our Naked System

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Marxist doctrine argues a need for an emerging working-class self-consciousness capable of comprehending the aggressive nature of the capitalist system in order to liberate itself from it. But reality now demands that we look beyond the confines of any ideologies and their separations—whether class, cultural, linguistic or territorial—in order to become conscious of how the system infects us all, and how it uses the separating forces inherent in all ideologies to perpetuate its own selfish interests.

 

The best way to bring the oppressors down is to reveal the true nature of their nakedness. Like the Emperor parading his new clothes, the system is really quite naked of principles once we allow ourselves to open our eyes to what it tells us is there but in reality is not there at all. And once that nakedness is seen the next brave act would be to confront the emperor with the awkward truth of his real, pathetic condition. We risk stirring the emperor’s rage, but perhaps his shame will be so great that he will abdicate.

 

The world-view of the system, despite its globalising, empirical apparel, cannot tolerate any singular world-view that would be antithetical to its philosophy of dynamism. For this reason it demands separation and seems to move in a constant direction to ensure that borders will remain in some form or other. From the worldview perspective of the ideology/identity system, separations evolve into relativisms that are tolerated because they can maintain the spirit of separation and not alienate ideologies from the global empire in its entirety. But, relativism is also a step on the downward ladder to scepticism and from there to pessimism, which is always a numbing energy that invites a depressive fall into unconsciousness.

 

Of course the system ultimately fails again. It engenders a lethargy rather than a dynamism. But what the system calls crisis is essential to its own metabolism, and with the collapse, and the great misery resulting from that collapse, the system itself, driven by renewed needs and a renewed grasp of reality, will be able to catapult itself back into the dynamism that capitalism demands. A dynamism fuelled by the fantasy of perpetuity: continual growth is impossible within the closed system that is the Earth. And this is the ridiculous nakedness of the system. A farce that is no longer funny anymore, it has become emphatically dangerous.

THE CHEATING GAME

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It is obvious that the triumph of Western liberal democracy[i] and its subsequent process of Globalisation has done very little toward bringing humanity more closely together. Quite the opposite is true: we all seem to be drifting further and further apart. But, if it has failed with humanity, what has two centuries of liberal democracy achieved with the individual? How successful has it been in its attempts to forge a society of strong-selves? If we have failed with the whole, then surely we must have succeeded with the individuals who are the antithesis of the whole?

But again it is obvious that we haven’t? In Nietzsche’s terms, we have achieved neither the Human nor the Superman, just the Last Man. The pathetic Last Man, bumbling through a cheating-game world of relativity and conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories because, whether we accept them or not, they point an accusing finger at the basic fabric of the system, undermining all responsibilities and moralities with scepticism. How can one be morally responsible in a system which is inherently corrupt? The individual, rather than standing strong and finding a good position in the competitive world, finds him or herself immersed in a society of cheats. The system has now become a cheating-game and the strong-self has to be identified in such an environment as a morally irresponsible subject.

One can only be a strong, successful player in the cheating-game by being a good cheat. This of course makes all success seem suspicious. Eventually decisions need to be made in which “honesty” is needed, but… who can we trust anymore? A strong leader is obviously a good liar and a very good cheat. This kind of leader is useful at convincing us that we are happy in a world that in reality offers us very little… Useful that is until we start to understand the truth. And the simple truth is that we are being cheated.

The first great lie is freedom as individuality and its idea of the unfettered individual along with the creation of a passion for strong individuals. Freedom is now a term used to propagate the unfettering of power: freedom to dominate; freedom to manipulate. The second great lie is democracy itself. The lie of free choice. The lie of majority rule. The lie of the individual’s capacity for achievement in the system.

The only way to combat the lie is by establishing positive, human objectives. We must look beyond the individual and the tyranny of egos in order to establish goals that are out of the cheating game. Goals without any other reward except progress towards human fulfilment. Goals that would pull us out of the cheating-game into another game with real rules that we know will really protect us and protect the world we depend on for our survival. All the rest is petty bickering, which is inevitable when you’re playing the cheating-game.

[i] See Francis Fukuyama’s thesis THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Last_Man

Nietzsche and Knowledge

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“Our treasure lies in the beehives of our knowledge. We are perpetually on our way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind,”[i] wrote Nietzsche. Our honey, the sweet fruit of our labour is the knowledge we gather. So perhaps Nietzsche would have been at least sympathetic to the idea that Knowledge is Becoming. Nevertheless, knowledge itself was not enough for Nietzsche and he chose to place absolute accomplishment in “power and freedom”.[ii] Despite his grand pretension of the revaluation of all values, he championed the Status Quo by enslaving knowledge to power, and by associating power with freedom.

We need to be firm with Nietzsche here, because it is precisely this traditional combination, embracing the death of God and the rise of nihilism, under the guise of a promise of creativity, which managed to seduce even the so-called “lefty”, post-structuralist thinkers of the 20th century. Seduced they were, by the seemingly complex psychology that Nietzsche revealed in the anti-humanism of his revolutionary reestablishment of the aristocracy and his great promise of creative freedom to all the Übermenschen.

Like many aristocrats before him Nietzsche went mad and left behind a legacy of madness: the insanity of the 20th century – a nihilistic century of Last Men who believed themselves to be Übermenschen. That was Nietzsche’s most unfortunate legacy. The legacy of placing knowledge under the yolk of power and freedom. As if it were a new thing! As if power had never before known the revelation that its sovereignty lay in its acquisition and ownership of knowledge.

In this way the guillotine had been a pruning instrument, cutting away the old wood so that new thorns could grow in its place. Through the Übermensch the roots of the cancer were revitalised and the Liberal-Democracy was able to find the crown it always lusted after. The French Revolution, the War of Independence, the Fascist and Communist revolutions, all became a manifestation, retrospectively or in foresight, of the Will to Power. The World Economy: the IMF and the World Bank, the United Nations, the USA and the EU, the invention of the Stock Exchange and creation of the Star System in the entertainment industry, of sporting hero millionaires and entrepreneuring inventor billionaires – it is there that we see Nietzsche’s new aristocracy. In the famous 1 percent that possesses such an enormous chunk of the pie of wealth.

But what happened to the real treasure that Nietzsche himself was so familiar with: that honey that lay in the beehive of our knowledge? What ever happened to knowledge itself? Why did Nietzsche forsake it? Why could he not see that the real revaluation would have to be one that placed power and freedom below knowledge itself?

Nietzsche, despite his Human All Too Human, was an Anti-humanist. He was too infected by a misanthropic cynicism to see the Sapiens in humanity, and had to resort to the Übermensch. Instead of a going-forth, bee-like, to gather Sapien-knowledge of the world in the ecological way that bees know best, he proclaimed that the bees should become hornets, take whatever they could find and sting to death any resistance. The Übermensch is the Wasp-man.


[i] Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Preface, I

[ii] Ibid, Second Essay, II

THE INTERNET AS A DEEP ART EXPERIENCE OF LIBERATION

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In an art with depth, the object is not really there. In a sense what is given in this kind of art is a specular image reflected into a third mirror (see our earlier essays on Rodrigo Garcia, Luigi Nono and Zabriskie Point). What this does is add distance to any mimicry, and, at the same time, to any complexity. Deep art should be imagined as a kind of maze which first appears as a box or room, but with invisible doors or walls that can be pushed open if one knows how. These doors lead one into more spaces of different sizes, each one with its own exits unto more seemingly enclosed systems. The richness of the experience lies in the fact that each exit can only be discovered if one can know or can discover the symbolic reference to the next space.

Could the Internet be considered an autarchic experience of deep art? In order to do so, one would need to be willing and capable of losing oneself within it, and likewise be capable of stepping away from it in order to analyse the experience from the advantage of distance. What’s more, for a deep art experience to take place, one must be prepared to pause and linger at times, so hard in the Internet which obsessively pushes any audience on to new topics, inviting, tempting, forcing us at times to leave the room we first of all settled in. The Internet experience can get so foggy that we even forget where we started from. For a deep art experience to be meaningful one must have one’s imagination firmly rooted in where one came from in the first place. It is a labyrinth in which one never completely loses touch with the original point of departure. The original room is that which allows us to navigate: forgetting where we are coming from will make it impossible for us to find our way forward or back. It is only by learning how and when to move slowly through the maze that one can dominate it and allow it to become an enriching rather than a frustrating experience.

Or perhaps the Internet is too autistic to be truly satisfying. It has its webcams and its chats, but they don’t belong to the autarchic labyrinth we are interested in here. What we are interested in is its power as a vital museum, come encyclopaedic library, come art gallery, come theatre and cinema and concert hall. But its very immersing quality robs us of the real vital experience we have when we go to these traditional spaces to witness art. It lacks the public. And here we must ask ourselves: how much does the experience of great art depend on it being a public act? Or, should art be classified into the public and private experience? Theatre, for example, is impossible to conceive without an audience (the more the merrier), whilst a novel is a purely private experience (a public reading of a novel is hardly likely to be as enjoyable as the experience of reading to oneself). Could it be said that the richest art-culture experience has to include both possibilities? Does the Internet do this, if only potentially?

Does the Internet disclose any truth? Or even attempt to disclose truth? And, what kind of intersubjectivity is unleashed in its relationship between the artist and the spectator? Only when the Internet is used in its immense folding and unfolding capacity, in a meaningful disclosing way under an artist’s control, will we be able to consider it capable of offering a deeply artistic experience. This is possible. It is certainly a potentially powerful tool for accessing information, and culture is information. What Internet does, by presenting a potential access to universal information and culture universally, is pave the way to a universal culture, which, if it is honestly expressed, must be an authentically human culture. Whilst the Internet is free from manipulation and censorship there is hope for a universal, human cultural development. In fact a free Internet is humanity’s best chance for a free world.

RODRIGO GARCIA, LUIGI NONO AND ZABRISKIE POINT – PART TWO: HOW TO TRAP A BEAUTY WE NO LONGER FEEL

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Rodrigo Garcia’s performance collage (see part one of this series) is an example of artistic autarchy. It creates its depth in an interior way, with inbuilt references: self-references created by its use of the mirror and the fold. Garcia’s own texts mirrored against Luigi Nono’s opera ; the Vietnam War reflected into critical contemporary texts about our consumer society. But where is the connection between war and consumerism? Why is this a mirror? The mirror is not reflecting a specular image, or at least not until we see the images channeled together. The tenuous link that Garcia has found needs something to clarify it. So Garcia introduces a bridge – Michaelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point.

In Garcia’s theatrical work, two scenes from Antonioni’s film are projected. The first, is a scene in which executives of a real estate company are watching a cheesy advert for the desert paradise they are planning to construct at Zabriskie Point. The colours and plasticity of this scene immediately build a bridge between the 60s film and our own 21st century consumer society reflected through Garcia’s own kitsch aesthetics. But what has this to do with Nono’s opera?

On the obvious level: the film is a 60s film, released in 1970, and therefore a near contemporary of Nono’s 1966 work. On the less obvious level, at least to an audience member who has never seen Zabriskie Point, Antonio’s film includes scenes of anti-Vietnam war protests and police brutality. Anti-Vietnam protest becomes an anti-consumerist symbol. Vietnam is a violent projection of the capitalist will for the ultimate power of globalisation and at the same time an area of equally violent resistance to that projected hegemony.

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The second scene that Garcia projects is the film’s almost final sequence of the exploding mansion on the cliff face: the violent fantasy of ultimate resistance through annihilation of the enemy. We have an enormous “what if…” or “if only…” raised by the artist to stand against the reality which was the real historical progression of the narrative. In reality capitalism’s advance was not curtailed, despite the Vietcong’s victory; despite the destruction of the mansion in the desert the real estate project at Zabriskie Point would still have gone ahead. And the result of this unstoppable narrative sequence is the kitsch culture of consumerism we have today. A culture in which Nono’s opera seems to have no place, is absolutely ‘out of place’. In the autarchy of Garcia’s creation we also have a tremendous self-criticism: Why represent Nono’s opera in a place and time that could not possibly appreciate it? His answer: it is precisely the demonstration of how disassociated art is from our reality that justifies the representation.

Now Garcia folds back to enfold himself in associations with his own earlier work: an echo of his Golgotha’s Picnic. That piece was about violence and art. In essence the same theme, in which, after hours of hurling violent images at the audience he stages a baroque piano concert, provoking an exodus from the audience who, after stomaching, perhaps even enjoying the excitement of the violence, seem to find the beauty of the music unbearable. Or are our audiences now incapable of appreciating the beauty of the piano piece?

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                Garcia’s statement is that it is the saturation of imagery flung at us by the consumer society that is making us impervious to the beautiful in art. We are the products of nihilism and a positive, purposeful concept like beauty is anathema to us now.

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THE ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE SCENARIO

ImageThe Pentagon Report on climate change carried out by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall in 2003 claimed that “significant global warming will occur during the 21st century” and that this could lead to: “harsher weather conditions, sharply reduced soil moisture, and more intense winds in certain regions that certain regions that currently provide a significant fraction of the world’s food production.” And concluded: “With inadequate preparation, the result could be a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment.”

As a result of this lack of the world’s capacity to carry us there would be:

i)                    Food shortages.

ii)                  Decreased availability and quality of fresh water in key regions due to shifted precipitation patterns causing more frequent floods and droughts (these phenomena are already apparent).

iii)                Disrupted access to energy supplies due to extensive sea ice and storminess.

iv)                These climatic aberrations would in turn force human migrations from severely affected areas to less affected ones, or ones who, though also severely affected, had a technological development that mitigated the disastrous affects.

v)                  The affect of this would be that nations with the resources would build virtual fortresses around themselves.

vi)                Wars related to food, clean water or energy would take place.

In the Pentagon Report abrupt climate change is elevated beyond scientific debate to a US National Security concern.

Basically they are announcing to the US military that they could come under attack from the climate. And in fact several attacks on the USA have occurred since: Hurricane Katrina; the tremendous tornados of 2011; bitter winters, etc..

The report bases its abrupt climate change scenario on the collapse of Thermohaline Circulation in the Atlantic Ocean. The probability of this taking place is a very real scenario and tests have shown that a certain collapse has already begun in the polar regions.

As the Pentagon Report states:

“Is this merely a blip of little importance or a fundamental change in the Earth’s climate, requiring an urgent massive human response?”[i]

It is hard to imagine an “urgent massive human response” occurring until the disaster hits. Politically the Liberal-Democratic world is divided on this reality between believers, sceptics and non-believers with different levels of extremism in each camp. To generate the human response necessary, to justify the changes that will have to be implemented like population control and energy consumption restrictions, to adjust humanity to a revolutionary re-technologising of our civilisation toward eco-friendly systems before the Apocalypse happens – there will need to be a massive conversion of sceptics and non-believers, and such a conversion would have to take place in record time. In short… we have to pray for a miracle.

And even if the political parties suddenly formed a radical consensus to impose the bullying changes that are required and set about creating a new world, the people would demand a more gentle transition. But, the longer we put it off the more severe the bullying will have to be.

The drastic change that is needed will be painful. Deep down we probably all sense the extremism of the decisions ahead of us, and that if we don’t change, change will be forced upon us, by climate change or the extinction of the resources our complex way of life has grown so dependent on. We are not going to just be redecorating our house, we are ill and will need a visit to the dentist, and the surgeon as well. This is not just an aesthetic question it is our health that is being effected. It is a question of life or death. But even so… How many of us put off painting the house even though it is so obviously necessary? How many have postponed the visit to the dentist until the molar starts to ache? How many cancer patients have perished because they could not be bothered to subject themselves to preventive examinations?

We have to change, but are we capable of making such a truly radical switch? We are creatures of habit, aren’t we?

Creatures of habit: we keep telling ourselves this and yet we are changing our habits continually with each new object we buy. No – it would be more accurate to say that we are creatures of adaptation, adapting to a “surplus” environment. Adapting very often to the novelties of lifestyles we do not need, lifestyles that have been sold to us. But our next adaptation has to be more radical and purposeful if we are to survive. We are talking about NECESSARY ADAPTATION and this is such a radical concept for we who have been adapting to the power of the absolutely unnecessary all our lives.

The will-to-want-more is a will-to-want-that-which-we-do-not-need.

In order to get ourselves on to the track of what we do need to do in order to correct the mess we are making, we have to change the fabric of our perception of the world; to change what the Lacanian  Žižek calls our ‘symbolic fictions’. He says that is in the realm of ‘symbolic fictions’ where we can adapt ourselves to ever new situations, and radically change our self-perception.[ii] And radically change our self-perception is exactly what we NEED to do. The new symbolic fictions we need to create would be subservient to a new Master Signifier opposed to the surplus necessity which is the Will-to-want-more of capitalism. Necessity is now to be defined as: the benevolent enemy of the surplus-waste of capitalist consumerism. Consumerism with all its propaganda and symbolic fictions, and which is itself perpetuated through the Master Signifier of the need to improve my life. Necessity would replace the myth of a “better life” with the uncomfortable truth of the need to create a better-life-in-the-world.

Instead of living in-the-world and against-the-world, we must learn to live in-the-world-and-for-it.

Human existence could thus be distracted from its irrational fixation on the great Master Signifier of surplus-improvement[iii] and learn through a new symbolic mythology to take its common interests into the common hands of everyone concerned – for the optimistic side of this disaster is that, as in the case of all disasters, the tragedy effects us all. At last we can say to the rest of mankind, without exclusion, we are all in the same leaking boat. And the only way we are going to get home alive is if we all pull our weight and row together.

THE PENTAGON REPORT SOLUTIONS

To combat the effects of climate change the Pentagon Report on “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario” suggested these steps:

1)      Improve predictive climate models to estimate better how and where climate change would occur….

Climate of course is a far too abstract enemy for the military, and here it really is being treated as the enemy. As if we must predict when an attack will occur. What they should be asking is: How can we predict when and how our actions will screw things up enough to bring about an abrupt climate change so that we won’t screw things up? But the screwing up is taken for granted. Should we assume that perhaps it’s even desired. Isn’t there a longing for an enemy in any military institution? If not, what would be there reason for being?

2)      Improve projections of how climate could influence food, water and energy.

Here they are saying: we know the climate change that we are causing can affect food, water and energy – but we want to know in exactly what way.

Again, what they are failing to see is what really matters: that we are influencing climate in a negative and dangerous way and we should stop.

3)      Create measures to anticipate which countries are most vulnerable, and therefore could contribute materially to an increasingly disorderly and potentially violent world.

Does this mean that countries will be monitored carefully and even brought to their knees just because they are vulnerable to climate change? Locate the enemy even before they know they are our enemy.

4)      Identify no-regrets strategies such as enhancing capabilities for water management.

5)      Rehearse adaptive responses.

Does this mean rehearsing how to adapt to the Apocalypse?

The feeling is one of surrender. We cannot fight this enemy, the best thing to do is lie down and let the survival of the fittest do its work to create a new race of men.

6)      Explore local implications.

Perhaps it won’t be so bad at all for us.  

7)      Explore geo-engineering options that control climate.

Scientific positivism: we can always invent a machine to clean up the mess caused by all the other machines we have invented.

Never underestimate the military’s capability of turning science fiction into reality.           Nevertheless what would Hollywood sci-fi do with the idea of a weather controlling machine? They have already touched on a similar issue in the film The Core. That deals with a so called Project Destiny: a military weapon that creates earthquakes to defeat its enemies. In the core the military experiments cause the Earth’s core to stop rotating. This in turn threatens the destruction of all life on Earth. Other scenarios are easily imagined. The idea of playing God and getting it all so wrong. Chaos mathematics – the Butterfly Effect.

This optimistic idea may well be more dangerous than what it hopes to remedy.


[i] Schwartz and Randall, An abrupt Climate Change Scenario and its Implications for the United States National Security, October, 2003. http://www.edf.org/documents/3566_AbruptClimateChange.pdf  

[ii] Slavoj Žižec, THE PLAGUE OF FANTASIES p. 119

[iii] “What characterises human existente is thus the irrational fixation on some symbolic cause, materialised in a Master-Signifier to whom we stick regardless of the consequences, disregarding even our most elementary interests, survival itself…” Ibid, p. 120

WISDOM vs. ENJOYMENT or HOW TO START THE REVOLUTION (PART ONE)

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In his book “Tarrying with the Negative” Slavoj Žižek makes a very lucid association between enjoyment and national identification. The binding force of the State lies in its perception that the subjects of each nation have a particular way of enjoying themselves. Of course this ties democracy to a hedonistic rock: it is not the good that matters in politics, but the enjoyment that it ensures – or the good is defined by the enjoyment. Capitalism exploits this national inclination to enjoy, unleashing the full power of it by motorising it with it via consumerism’s will-to-want-more.

Of course this unleashing itself is an inherently dangerous act, for under its tenets, in order to have what we want we must have whatever we want – and in order to have whatever we want we need to have the freedom of the Master, and the Master’s freedom is derived through his/her power. This power is sustained by its power over slaves, which is absurd for, in theory, there can be no slaves in our modern concept of democracy, or at least no slaves who are conscious of being slaves. Or perhaps the resolution of the paradox lies in that very unconsciousness: if there were such slaves they must be unconscious ones, likewise driven by the will to want more enjoyment. Each of the System’s unconscious slaves vainly misinterprets him/herself as a master, with a master’s dignity, jealous of the enjoyment of the others.

The driving force of the consumer-will is a breaking apart dynamic with a negative chaos tendency that is undesirable and must be resisted. The consumer-will needs to be controlled, and so we arrive at State Capitalism, which is one step toward a more total control. Žižek was right to associate fascism with capitalism: “the fascist dream is simply to have capitalism without its excess, without the antagonism that causes its structural imbalance.”[1] In a slaveless society of Masters, the norm is that of Frazer’s myth of the King in the Wood.

That story which Frazer used as his starting point for his anthropological study in the Golden Bough is supposedly mainly an invention of Frazer himself. Nevertheless, factual or not, as a metaphor of power it itself is a brilliant piece of unveiling mythology. Its image of the priest-king, sword in hand, stalking the woodlands and lake of Nemi, anxiously anticipating the arrival of a rival who will come and slay him is an extension of the Oedipal myth that dominates the subliminal structure of our civilisation. But, what is the way out of this forest?

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Lacan called knowledge “the enjoyment of the Other”. According to him the very function of knowledge is motivated by its dialectic with enjoyment. [2]  We want to know things because we want enjoy things. The hysteric intertwines knowledge and enjoyment and makes it his/her own because the hysteric wants to make him or herself to be known, which they can only do by being desired as something which can be enjoyed.

But if knowledge and enjoyment are entwined, what is consumerism’s relationship with knowledge? Capitalism vulgarises knowledge, reducing it to the simple – if you know it exists you will want to buy it. Knowing is propagated superficially and misleadingly through the medium of advertising.

Yet, what if we were to modify or reinvent the relationship by seeing knowledge itself as the predominant factor in enjoyment. The pleasure comes from truly knowing something, not just knowing of it. Enjoyment now becomes a Sapiens’, [3] authentically human concept. To love it is to know it. And to know it as it really is, rather than to know it in the way we are told to know it. To see it as it really is rather than in the way it is shown us. In Lacanian terms, knowledge is a slave to the Master Discourse of the system, so, in the same terms, what is needed is a liberation of knowledge from the slavery to this Master’s Discourse. In order to do this Lacan gives three suggestions: objectify it; analyse it in a subversive way; or “hystericise” it.

If the Master Discourse which is geared toward maintaining the Master-system’s own power to enjoy whatever, utilises a seduction motorised by a vulgar desire to enjoy, then any analyses geared toward knowing before enjoyment and focusing on the idea that authentic pleasure is found precisely through knowledge, will be essentially subversive. For example, Stoicism, if practised today, would have to be seen as an absolutely subversive philosophy.

What the global, capitalist civilization wants its subjects to know is that language is not enough to tackle the breadth of what she as a system can offer as enjoyment. What is really important to capitalism is that she can be seen as the system of all systems. Through her discourse the whole world should come to know what a precious, invaluable object she is.

Capitalism regards the information age as its own invention. Information, therefore, is regarded by the System as the System’s slave, and, in the most part it is. The revolution, any revolution against the information manipulating Master, must be geared toward turning information into knowledge again. This can only be achieved by making information the Master itself, instead of the slave to the Other Master. Revolution then, as we see it, is a liberation of knowledge.

Once knowledge has been liberated from the shackles of the global capitalist system, it will be able to renew its discourse with enjoyment again. A discourse which can be authentic now, for without the self-interested manipulation of consumerism, it will be free to be deontological and ontological again. Knowledge can be knowledge again, allowing the human to be truly Sapiens for the first time.

HUMANITY IS ME

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In his essay The Age of the World Picture, Martin Heidegger describes a series of paradoxes brought about by humanity becoming subiectum, or the subject, in “the midst of the world”. Heidegger’s paradoxes are these: firstly, the act of making humanity the central subject of concern is, in itself, an act of objectification by humanity itself (only by objectifying ourselves can we become the subject of our concerns); and secondly, the act of this objectified subjectification of humanity allows for the phenomenon of individualism to prosper and be resisted at the same time.

It is within the frame of this paradox that the great political conflicts and economic injustices of the last centuries have taken place. The struggle of the individual against the community-as-an-individual; of the community-individual against the state-individual; of the state-individual against another state-individual or against an individual unity of states.

The group individual struggle is seen clearly in the language we use around our team sports: when a club wins it is either we won or they beat us, although we did nothing except adopt some colours. The concept of the fan allows the individual to choose his or her own common identity, which is the large part denied us in the birth-right-condemnation of nationality.

Globalisation amplifies this paradoxical condition. The individual-community-subject suddenly finds itself made more vulnerable and isolated than ever before in a vast ocean of  competing individual-subject forms. No longer is one’s neighbour the principle competitor, the new enemies invade without even crossing the horizon.

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Globalisation is a conquest, the ultimate conquest of the world, but a conquest by whom? The only positive and logical answer to that question is by humanity; by us as humanity. Any other conclusion is absurd, for it is an actual denial of the prize won. In order to escape the pernicious effects of Heidegger’s paradox we need to embrace it. Globalisation must imply, in its own definition of itself, the ultimate subjectification of humanity – simplifying and enlarging humanity at the same time into the first person singular of the plural. With globalisation the We are Humanity becomes I am Humanity or Humanity is Me. The individual-subject does not have to compete with the individual-object because it is subject and object at the same time. When we realise this, anti-human barriers start to collapse and the authentic human being begins to take form.