Nationalism & Patriotism: TOTEM IDENTITIES & POWER (part 2)

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 sameanti-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.

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History and Nature

World News - Sept. 1, 2014

What must be done? …

To answer this question pragmatically, we need to listen to science, and science is telling us that we have to alter our energy culture and control population growth if our relationship with the planet is to remain sustainable.

The underlying message here is that nature is an integral feature of history; a feature that cannot any longer be ignored in the unfolding of the historical process. From now on, human history cannot be told or understood without also understanding nature and our effects on the natural environment that we ultimately depend on for our quality of life and survival.

That we feel separated from nature in the historical process is an illusion. That the illusion persists, despite everything we know, is mainly thanks to the efforts of power to maintain the farcical image that places civilisation outside and above nature. Nature has never played a part in the explanation of history because, once it did, the exploiting classes that wield power would have had to forfeit many of its reasons for holding onto that power. Very much of wealth’s property, for example, was accumulated by claiming a natural right to property through someone’s labour, passed down through the ages via inheritance. The truth is, nature is not something that anyone can hold a natural right to. The natural rights are nature’s own.

In the Middle Ages as well as the Renaissance, nature was made by God and obeyed His laws, which was an easy way of saying that nature had to obey the laws of the churches and kings who represented God on Earth.

The Age of Enlightenment offered a new, clear explanation of history based on reason and liberty. But again, nature is largely ignored by the powers governing civilisation. Not even in the enlightenment was science allowed to have its say to explain the historical process. History gradually became something to say about the masses; a class struggle. When a revolutionary force grew, it still lacked the common-sense insight that inexorably linked the fulfilment of human progress to the world and its ecosystem, undoubtedly vital for our existence here. For the bourgeoise revolutions of the 19th century and the omnipotent force of capitalisms that accompanied them, nature was little more than an inexhaustible source of wealth that had to be exploited to the full. We are now experiencing the beginnings of the tragic consequences of that kind of thinking.

Now, things are different; we have ecology, a science that explains nature and our absolute dependency on its well-being. The damage done to the environment by our anti-natural and anti-human historical process is now evident … and it’s time to rewrite our history books and put that evidence into real consideration.

ON HUMAN HISTORY

gildedagea

Human history: the study of that which has never been allowed to be. It would have to begin with a description or definition of what it could have been.

Human history is a fantasy tale: a story of constant distraction away from the human; the constant narration of other histories over the authentic human one, but often in the name of the human one.

An authentic human history would be one of displaying the constant undermining of the greatest potentials; the constant befuddling and confusing of the common human experience so that it always appears as something that needs competition and bloody conflict in order to achieve the tremendous meagre crumbs that we are told have been won.

It’s too late now to believe in a historical process for humanity. There needs to be an entirely original idea that goes beyond that of humanity itself as a species. It is time to begin a new, authentically historical process toward an evolved human species full of real human potential – it’s time to start writing the book of Sapiens History.

*

“What can mankind do?”: the question comes from André Gide at the turn of the 20th century. It should have been phrased, what can humanity do as humanity?

Once we see how depressing the answer is to this fundamental question—for as soon as we indagate in the idea of human history we realise there has never been one – we see an immediate need to rectify the mistake. It’s time, long overdue, to do justice to humanity and infuse it with an authentic historical process.

*

How much love for everything non-human: all these animals and plants; these rocks and landscapes, and yet … How much hatred we have for humanity itself. But of course we must hate it, because unlike nature and the non-human it has not been allowed to grow naturally. Humanity has forever been lacerating itself, uglifying itself, disdaining and hating itself.

ON THE STRUGGLES BETWEEN EMPIRES

Empires

All successful attempts to resist Power have eventuated in a succumbing to Power under another guise. After resisting Darius and Xerxes the Greeks were swallowed up by the economic tyranny of Athens. That brought about armed resistance from Sparta, who were victorious in a very debilitated way until all Greece succumbed to Alexander. He marched them all off in ordered phalanxes through Asia … already we must ask, where is the freedom here? … Alexander’s empires were replaced by Rome, which transferred itself into a monotheistic power by adopting Christianity, inspiring a monotheistic-power reaction in Asia via Islam. This was resisted by crusaders wanting to expand the freedom of their markets to the silk spice routes, the provoked a counter-resistance by Islam, who tried to liberate themselves from Christian aggression by pushing into Christendom, which …

It’s the same song over and over again: and there is always the same call to defend one’s freedom. Freedom from the usurper or the invader. But the lesson to be learned from this, is that the liberation is always only ever won at the price of another subjugation.

Power has never been defeated, it has only changed its appearance. Call it tyranny, empire, monarchy, dictatorship, communism, democracy – it is all the same thing: Power.

WHAT HEGEL SKIPPED

WHOOPS!!!!

 

Hegel’s dynamic vision of history, and his optimism was to see the historical process as a movement toward a grand totality. In order to draw a positive conclusion from the millennia of oppression and exploitation, and of the rise and fall of oppressive regimes and greedy empires, Hegel described history as a process of overcoming that preserves that which has been overcome. The paradox of that which overcomes and at the same time preserves was termed Aufhebung by Hegel. For Hegel, the overcoming elevates that which has been overcome into a grand totality in which the essence of that which is overcome is allowed to be preserved.

However, in order to get into this Hegelian dynamic something essential needs to be skipped over, for how can something overcome something else if we are all flowing within the same river? Before an “overcoming” can take place a division has to occur between what is going to overcome and that which can be overcome. This primal division was overlooked by Hegel. He skipped over the essential element of our human condition, our “humanity”. That is what had to be overlooked in order to allow any “overcoming” to take place. In order for the grand totality to be created, we have to overlook the fact that the real grand totality of humanity already exists.

This skipping over was, therefore, a de-railing of history as human-history, projecting us into a cyclical continuum of separation and then a re-constructing of the amputated parts. What came about from this was an anti-human historical process which is, therefore, a seemingly endless process of separations themselves struggling to build themselves into other re-unifications that splutter and splatter forward until a new process of de-railing pushes the cycle into a downward spiralling trajectory again. This cyclical process takes place, not because it is the natural process, but because the frame around which the cycle takes place demands the cyclical procedure in order to keep the process contained.

This self-interested frame, created by those who can overcome, determines the anti-human historical reality and is reality, but this does not mean that it has to be reality. The logical condition would in fact be for humanity to be framed by a reality that is made for humanity itself.

By de-humanising the historical process and driving it into profit-making areas for certain groups, humanity itself is endangered and human fulfilment is rendered impossible.

In order to put history on track, we need to re-establish what has been skipped over in the anti-human historical process – we need to re-establish humanity and relocate the human element in the picture.

 

THE URSTAAT

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited

There can be no nostalgias for Golden Ages before the System, for if any existed we have long forgotten what they were like. The System is ancient. It emanates from Ur, the first city. An Ur which has evolved in a replicating way from Egyptian Thebes to the Thebes of Oedipus, from Babylon to Tokyo, from Rome to Washington via Seville and Tenochtitlan. The City is a mushroom phenomenon, engendering thousands of spores, each one with metropolis DNA, an anti-human genetics of wall-builders. With the City came the dreams of money and power, of the divisions of labour and the creations of castes and classes. A sucking-in mentality. The City is a magnet, to be successful it must process an expanding gravitational field, spread its spores, create an empire of mushroom allies, all copies of the original dream in a fairy-ring around it.

Innocuous mushrooms, or deadly toadstools?

All civilisations are bloodstained. Ours is a patricidal, incestuous, oedipal culture of competition and struggle. A struggle to suppress that which is growing old in order to feed a narcissistic love-hate relationship with the System that engendered us. The struggle to stand out above our brothers and sisters. A struggle that demands to be recognised and loved. That demands that we prove our worthiness, even to our long-dead ancestors.

Of course, it will be argued that without the cities there would have been no progress. Didn’t our expanding empires trample over the non-Ur peoples and their primitive Stone Age? Human creativity and production is a result of Ur. The development of art and science depended on the mushrooming of the Ur-concept.

But while this argument fortifies and defends the concept of Ur, it does not vindicate the abuse of the concept. For our Civilisation is in an abusive stage of Ur, in which production happens for production’s sake, and the vision of a great future for humanity is swamped by immediate needs, which is usually an immediate greed. In our civilisation the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Of course the poorest who have nothing cannot get any poorer than that. However, now there is more money than ever before, and the tiny minority who possess most of it are richer than anyone who came before them. This should not be surprising, it is what the System is designed for.

Wealth: the Great Factory of Fear

thescream

The basis of culture lies in the acquisition of universal principles. Universal ideas inspire great art and they pull us out of the day to day to open much richer, deeper and more fulfilling life potentials.

History is studied as one of the humanities and, as such, it is also associated with universal principles of humanity. Nevertheless, the actual historical process, seen from the universal point of view, is a great mistake. Our historical process has been constantly pulling us away from universality and from humanity. It has been a contradictory process in which our only unification has come through a sense of opposition to other human beings.

Independence, in our historically constructed world, is won by adhering ourselves to a group of humans we can supposedly identify with, opposed to the rest of the human beings that we don’t identify with. What suffers in this process is the universal culture and our concept of humanity itself. Humanity becomes lost in the shallow, but very muddy waters that are created by so many fusing scissions.

Oppositions create alliances. Our enemies force us make friends with their enemies. Lack of harmony creates tension-full sub-harmonies. Fear becomes an impulse for living. Or, more than an impulse, it becomes the vital driving force of the dynamics of life. Social, political, economic life is all pushed along by fear. The fear of being invaded, of losing what you are, of the power to express yourself freely, of losing your language. A fear of losing your job, your means of paying bills or the fear of not getting enough to pay for your shelter and your food. A fear of becoming seriously ill, of losing your mind, of dying.

Threats come from without and within. Society seems to take responsibility for finding solutions to threats whilst exploiting the need for such solutions. Any legitimate power is sustained by an apparent need for solutions: solutions to apparent threats.

The greater the threat the more powerful Power can be. And Power with a capital P is Wealth with a capital W. Civilisation is plutocratic by nature: it works in favour of money, designed to make the wealthy wealthier. Threat is a necessary tool for Wealth. While Wealth drives civilisations, there will always be social and cultural stress.

Wealth itself is not decision-making, it is a greed for decision-making that pulls all resolutions through its hungry mouth. In order to get the fortunes it needs, Wealth must perpetuate fear. It must create necessities that only the power of Wealth can resolve.

Civilisation becomes an accumulation of massive-infrastructures, for in order to organise the masses, a massive organisation is essential, whether through private or public means. The Society is enslaved by all the necessities we can imagine to have our individual strings pulled. There is no better ally to the dictatorship of Wealth than fear-fantasised necessities. Fears manufacture necessities, but fear-made necessities are false-necessities.

PURGATORY AND ANTI-HUMAN HISTORY

map-pacific-cavendish-aa-1707

If human history is the description of human progress towards fulfilment, then the real historical process has not yet begun. Instead of an unfolding toward a better world for all of humanity we are immersed in a process geared unto the satisfaction of the greed of power. True human fulfilment, or the procedure towards it, only exists in our fantasies and our projections of Utopias.

When I immersed myself in the historical archives of Spanish libraries, to start research on my novel Purgatory, now more than twenty-five years ago, I was conscious that I was not creating a work of historical fiction so much as opening a door towards the human historical dream within a background of anti-human history. In the 16th century the Terra Australis was such a dream: a potential paradise on earth that could, once it was discovered, redirect humanity towards real human fulfilment. Or, at least, that the journey itself towards this “impossible” and unreachable Utopia would take us there.

It is no accident, therefore, that the first of the three Spanish attempts to reach the Terra Australis Incognita (what we now call Australia) was inspired by an alchemist. The alchemists knew that human fulfilment could only be realised through science. From the alchemist’s point of view, the myth of the Fall is inherently misunderstood – it is not the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge which has caused human perdition, rather it is the discovery of that fruit that will allow for human salvation as Humanity living in harmony with the world. Knowledge and the technology that is the fruit of that knowledge, will bring humanity back to the Earthly Paradise as Humanity.

Purgatory, then, is a fictional recreation of that historical dream, spawned with a deep conviction that the Utopian dream is important. Perhaps it is the only guide humanity has. But it is also important that we understand that the magical processes of the alchemists were ignorant attempts at what can now be achieved through science.

The human historical process only begins when humanity starts to move toward the Paradise on Earth, a process that does not come through prayer but through the advancement of knowledge and the power of creative thought.

NIETZSCHE’S LEGACY (the danger of scepticism)

Friedrich_Nietzsche_drawn_by_Hans_Olde

Forget the Übermensch, the Last Man and the Eternal Return, if Nietzsche really did have a determining influence on 20th century intellectual thought it was through his idea of the historical reinterpretation of reality:

“There is no set of maxims more important for an historian than this: that the actual causes of a thing’s origin and its eventual uses, the manner of its incorporation into a system of purposes, are worlds apart; that everything that exists, no matter what its origin, is periodically reinterpreted by those in power in terms of fresh intentions; that all processes in the organic world are processes of outstripping and overcoming; and that, in turn, all outstripping and overcoming means reinterpretation, rearrangement, in the course of which the earlier meaning and purpose are necessarily either obscured or lost. No matter how well we understand the utility of a certain physiological organ (or a legal institution, a custom, a political convention, an artistic genre, a cultic trait) we do not thereby understand anything of its origin.”[1]

Suddenly everything we know becomes suspicious. The accounts we have been given are no longer reliable, in fact they are almost certainly smoke-screens erected to hide the truth. And then comes the realisation that – if everything we know has come from distractions, deliberate lies even, then what do we know? Here we see the best of Nietzsche’s scepticism and cynicism. Like Diogenes, some two thousand years before him, he was looking at the Emperor, saw that he was naked and proclaimed the truth.

 

From Nietzsche onwards history “becomes a continuous chain of reinterpretations and rearrangements, which need not be casually connected among themselves.”[2] Evolution “is a sequence of more or less profound, more or less independent processes of appropriation… as well as the results of successful counterattacks.”[3]

 

The observations are brilliant, but Nietzsche himself does not conclude a subsequent need to discover and unveil the truth from this constant chain of falsities and falsifications, rather he applauds the falsifications as necessary (without using the actual term) and imagines his Will to Power exploiting this condition in which progress “is measured by all that must be sacrificed for its sake”[4], coming to the proto-fascist conclusion that: “To sacrifice humanity as mass to the welfare of a single strong human species would indeed constitute progress…”[5] Unfortunately, there could not be a more perfect Nazi slogan.

 

Nietzsche, who saw the great dangers of nihilism and was terrified by them, just as he was terrified by the negating process of scepticism, needed an anchor for his thought, an anti-nihilistic grounding, for he knew that without one humanity was doomed. The will to power was one of those anchors, as was the Eternal Return. While the latter was indefinite, fantastical and weak, the former was perverse, only succeeding in dragging his most brilliant sun-scorched illuminations into the cool shade of the status quo. His idea of power as freedom would prove to be deeply reactionary and after Nietzsche the 20th century produced a succession of power/freedom regimes that have made humanity more insipid and ignoble than ever before. We now have a power/freedom aristocracy that is driving humanity to the brink of destruction and Nietzsche’s dreams of sacrifice for the good of the single strong species seem hardly any different to Christian fantasies of the Apocalypse.

 

 

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, THE GENEALOGY OF MORALS, 2nd Essay, XII

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

OUR IMMATERIAL AGE

costoflove3

We are often told that we live in the information age, but is this a limited and insufficient description of our times? Hardt and Negri used the terms “immaterial” or “biopolitical” to describe the type of production that we are moving towards today. According to Hardt these terms combine: “the production of ideas, information, images, knowledges, code, languages, social relationships, affects and the like… (that) designates occupations throughout the economy, from the high to the low, from health-care workers, flight attendants and educators to software programmers and from fast food and call-centre workers to designers and advertisers… Industry has to informationalise; knowledge, code and images are becoming ever more important throughout the traditional sectors of production; and the production of affects and care is becoming increasingly essential in the valorisation process.”[1]

            In the industrial age capitalism was a very tangible thing: production was carried out in factories, that were the symbol of the industrial revolution. For the anti-capitalist/communist revolutions the key was therefore to take control of those factories as well as the factory-like farms and mines that produced the materials that the factories processed.

            But now, in our “immaterial” age, capitalism has taken hold of a very different kind of production, which capitalism itself finds it difficult to trap. The question for capitalism today is: how do we manage to take and maintain a control over information, knowledge, codes and images, as well as affects and care, and turn these things into profit? Likewise, the most pressing question for the anti-capitalist must be: how do we prevent the control and exploitation of these things taking place?

            For us, the main problem here is in the effects socially, culturally and psychologically (or spiritually, if you like) that the capitalisation of the immaterial has had and will have as more and more of our immaterial world is converted into profit making commodities. The mind-set of today’s entrepreneurs is the following: people fall in love – how can we make a profit out of it; people need each other – let’s exploit that need; people hate and fear some other people – there is definitely a profit to be made there; people get ill and die – we can make money from that… etc., etc.. But the essential ingredient in the capitalist system is: people want to measure themselves against other people; people see a lack in themselves measured according to what others have and what enjoyment they have and they want to obtain that lack and that enjoyment for themselves.

            But what capitalism has to sell us is not quality, but quantity. And if we demand quality it must be paid for, it must be made more expensive. But how do we quantify the immaterial which is mainly differentiated according to its quality? Does the quantification of it diminish its quality? If you sell love how do you put a price to it? If you mass produce beauty what happens to the quality of that beauty? If the real quality of lives needs to be measured by immaterial things, what happens when the immaterial loses its own features of quality?

            If we do live in an immaterial age, shouldn’t our fulfilment come from a human embracing of the immaterial itself, rather than the perverted image we have of it that is created by capital?

    


[1] Michael Hardt, THE COMMON IN COMMUNISM – from THE IDEA OF COMMUNISM, edited by Douzinas and Zizek, Verso, 2010