I am Spartacus; I am Crassus

I-am-Spartacus

The most iconic scene in Stanley Kubrick’s historical adventure “Spartacus” comes towards the end of the film. Set in republican Rome, the revolt of the slaves, led by the gladiator Spartacus, has been defeated by the consul Crassus. Most of the slave army is dead, but a few hundred survivors have been captured by the republican soldiers, amongst them Spartacus himself. Crassus approaches them and offers to spare all their lives from a horrible death by crucifixion. But … on the condition that they turn Spartacus in. Spartacus himself stands to announce his surrender, but, before he can, the slaves who are chained to him and who are obliged to stand with him, say that they are Spartacus. One by one, all the survivors stand and pronounce their own death sentence: “I am Spartacus”.

The scene portrays an emotional example of collective sacrifice, with all the sentimental force that this kind of epic cinema can convey, ending with a close-up of a very emotional (and teary) Spartacus, who is lost for words over all the tremendous loyalty taking place around him, on his behalf.

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With the new millennium, the spirit of this scene has been taken up on repeated occasions to show solidarity for a victim, with the proclamation that “I am (the victim)”. It is a statement affirming that a “part of me” has also died, or been imprisoned, with the victim’s fate.

Nevertheless, this contemporary gesture does not change anything, apart from making that identification with the victim and expressing one’s sense of indignation or loss. Yes, there may be some cathartic self-satisfaction derived from it, but the act is fundamentally an expression of impotent resignation: If you are going to take the life of Spartacus/any-victim, then why not take us all? If there is a defiance it is a kind of game of chicken. The question asked to the aggressor is: How far are you prepared to go? Do you have the guts to kill us all?

A more active, and potentially revolutionary gesture, would have been to explain to Crassus that he too was Spartacus; and to convince him that his problem is that he does not understand that Spartacus is a part of all of us, just as Crassus is a part of all of us.

Obviously, this could not have happened in the historical film, because this revolutionary gesture never took place. The slave rebellion ended with Crassus’ victory, and the rebellion was never a revolutionary act anyway. It was merely a desperate attempt of the slave-class to acquire a sense of dignity. They did not want to overturn the Republic; they wanted to escape it.

 

Slavery is a human problem; and it is a psychological problem that is deeply embedded in our anti-human-created psyche. This provokes a vicious circle that makes it seemingly impossible to solve. One cannot resolve the psychological dilemma because the real problem is the psychology itself.

Whilst our psychology is dominated by the “I” and the “I am …”, all our political, social, economic, religious (spiritual) relationship problems will be unresolvable. The interests of all our collective “I am(s)” will never be able to exist in a harmonious way.

The only way to solve our human problems is to disassociate ourselves from the “I” and embrace the “we”. We are Spartacus, and we are also Crassus. We are the victims of terrorism, and we are also the terrorists. We are the victims of the State, and we are also the State.

From this human, psychological perspective, real solutions and real change are possible.

Crassus

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SCIENCE VERSUS INDUSTRY: Part Three: In search of the scientific self-consciousness

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THIS ARTICLE IS A CONTINUATION OF SCIENCE VERSUS INDUSTRY:

PART ONE: OBSERVANCE AND WHY REVOLUTIONS DON’T SUCCEED pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/science-versus-industry-part-one-observance-and-why-revolutions-dont-succeed/

PART TWO: THE REVOLUTION WE NEED https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/science-versus-industry-part-two-the-revolution-we-need/

“An emerging, better society cannot be born and cannot function without its own scientific self-consciousness”

“Man is, by his nature, incapable not only of comparing facts and deducing some consequences from them, but even simply of observing them carefully and remembering them reliably, if he does not immediately connect them with some explanation.”

“…science leads to foresight, and foresight allows us to regulate action.”

— August Comte

 

These observations by August Comte now point us toward the first battlefield of the revolution that needs to come.

Every day, in our global culture, science provides its insights and foresights into what can, could, should and must be done. Nevertheless, the, on the one hand, regulatory and on the other hand inventive and creative action that should be stimulated by scientific foresight is either slow to come about or never eventuates at all. This is because, between the thought and the act resides the market. Before any technological answer to our problems can be put into effect it must first prove itself to be the most profitable option. If there is more money to be made in milking the old technologies the market place will do so. If the final eradication of a disease threatens a profit-making industry, then the final cure will be repressed.

In this way, an untamed science becomes the enemy of industry and industry becomes the great enemy of humanity.

From industry’s point-of-view, scientific forecasts and data very often demand increased regulations which means more expenditure, the prohibition of certain uses in manufacturing, or even the prohibition of certain very profitable products (lead in petrol, many unhealthy food additives, or additives in consumer items that cause addiction are some examples of science tampering with the freedom of the market-place).

The last century has been dominated by a war between industry and science in the form of corporate and industrial censorship, manipulation and counter-sciences (bogus scientific reports paid for by industry to debunk authentically objective scientific reports). What has been so ardently proclaimed as the great age of technological advancement, has also been the great age of anti-science.

The Catholic church’s persecution of Galileo for his scientific heresies is very easily matched by the attempts to debunk theories of global climate-change. And the results of industry’s persecution of science in this technological age will be far more tragic than the church in the Renaissance.

Likewise, the military-theological society that created the first atom bomb, preferred to remain deaf to the foresight of physicist’s like Einstein that developed the theories that allowed atomic fusion to happen in the first place.

With these two examples alone, we can get an impression of the extent of anti-scientific foresight and criminality that the last hundred years has been capable of.

The dystopia toward which our society seems to be running is not the fault of science, but rather it has come about through the disregard of scientific foresight, carried out by the self-interested power of the industrialists and militarists.

Comte saw a need for a new kind of scientist: generalist rather than specialist, capable of working in all the main branches of scientific knowledge, but equally the social sciences, in order to harmonise all knowledge, form knowledge into a unified system, connecting all the elements of the new system together, and developing them into a position where it could play a leading moral role.

For the necessary change to come about, for the imminent revolution needed to change the suicide-direction that humanity is running along, a scientific self-consciousness must triumph over industry; and it must happen now!

 

SCIENCE VERSUS INDUSTRY: Part Two: THE REVOLUTION WE NEED

scientific revolution

THIS ARTICLE IS A CONTINUATION OF SCIENCE VERSUS INDUSTRY: PART ONE: OBSERVANCE AND WHY REVOLUTIONS DON’T SUCCEED pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/science-versus-industry-part-one-observance-and-why-revolutions-dont-succeed/

 

Comte believed that only advanced “scientific prevision can avert or mitigate violent revolutions.”[2] What he did not mean when he said this, was that the scientific prevision should be invented in military projects and reactionary wars of rivalry.

But if this is what he didn’t mean, what did he mean? How could a scientific prevision have made our world a better place than it is today?   …

To answer this question, we firstly need a political imagination which is observant of the ways that science can be used positively (i.e. non-superficially and non-militarily). This kind of imagination does not currently exist on any significant political level, in any “significant” nation states, either on the right or the left. This absence only makes the importance of deeper and long-range political thought more urgently necessary. This science-supportive imagination would fuel a positive, purposeful political approach that would make visionary schemes possible. Such schemes would not be industrial because their purposeful aims cannot be corrupted by profit-making needs and remain pure.

We are NOT saying that science has not produced marvellous things with industry, but that it could have produced much better, more human-enriching things if it had not been enslaved to the creativity-numbing limits imposed by the marketplace.

Schooling in this kind of science needs to be nurtured through fantastic and boundless Utopian thinking with a strong idea that we are embarking on a purposeful and limitless journey. The kind of ideas we need are those of futures in which interstellar travel is the norm; in which poverty, war and disease are abolished; in which even death is abolished, and humans will have a chance to live and learn eternally; in which humans have an advanced spiritual connection with the Universe; and in which the ecological destruction of the planet has been reversed. A positive eschatological view of the end of times, in which the descendants of humanity will become the guardians of an ever-expanding cosmos; using knowledge and incredible technologies to work with the physical nature of the Universe in order to prevent its death.

These fantastic ideas exist. It is not hard to conceive of an amazing destiny for humanity’s descendants, but our nihilistic and capitalist system does very little to take the leap into the area where science is seen as a truly transforming power for humanity. By being absorbed into the marketplace, science, like art, loses its seriousness and becomes a mere tool for profits.

The purposeful political imagination needs to imbue science with a humanistic logic and an observance of authentic human development and empowerment, free of the tremendous prejudices heaped against science by the capitalist system in favour of superficial consumerism. Corporate bodies are self-interested. Profit is their authenticity, but also their profound handicap where expectations of making a better world are concerned.

Once it is disassociated from military power and the restrictions of profit-making demands, science becomes the disinterested tool through which humanity can properly understand itself and subsequently develop its own real path towards fulfilment.

 

Of course, this is a radically new reassessment of the real tendency of civilisation, and yet, people have been crying out for it ever since August Comte began to raise these questions in the 1820s. Not that we want to resurrect Comte’s formulated system, or any Marxist formulas either, the immediate and most pressing crisis facing the whole of humanity at the moment is our ecological one and it is toward the enforcement of a definitive solution to our great existential problem that our purposeful political observance must first be aimed.

To put into effect the solutions to this crisis, science and technology are indispensable; the economy is not. If we must dismantle the capitalist marketplace to save our planet and save humanity, then let us make that sacrifice. It is quite simple: We have the problem A. The problem is caused by B. Only by eradicating B can we solve the problem of A.

Our problem is that the ecosystem that maintains life on Earth is being eroded away by the effects of a civilisation based on the superficial aims of production and growth. Superficialities are the lifeblood of our economic system and their superfluity is dragging our superficial civilisation to an absurd, unnecessary end.

The superficial aims of industry have been linked quite effectively and falsely to the noble ideas of freedom and democracy.

Of course, Wealth is reluctant to surrender the measliest millimetre of the profit-making machine it calls civilisation. Wealth will believe in its principles of constant growth, even though the consequences of this ideology are Apocalyptic. Very much of the profits nurtured by the system of growth are spent on maintaining a constant stream of propaganda that reinforces its ideology and defends it as the lifeblood of our world – even to the extent that profit-growth becomes more important than the ecosystem itself.

Gradually, however, the real enemy starts to reveal itself, and we begin to see (because science tells us) that the lifeblood of our system is a cancer. We are ill, and we need some serious painful therapy if we are to avoid a very ugly, and also very painful, premature death.

Before we can direct our mission toward Utopia, we must first undergo the therapy needed to save us from a grizzly death. This therapy will be the next, inevitable revolution. The form of the revolution depends on us, but two things are imperative: it has to take place as soon as possible, and, to succeed as a revolution (and escape the military-theological system[i]) it needs to bring about a non-violent change. Here, we want to replant Comte’s statement on science with an adjustment: not only can scientific prevision avert or mitigate violent revolutions, it can also propagate non-violent change at a revolutionary level. 

Violent revolution has to be averted at all cost, but the revolution itself is absolutely necessary.

The longer we postpone the therapy, the more painful it will be – the more likely it will be bloody, and the less likely it will be of providing any successful result.

It is time now for a great social reorganisation to take place, under the benevolent eye of science and the progressive will of creativity. Let the revolution begin!

TO BE CONTINUED …

[i] For an explanation of this, see part one: pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/science-versus-industry-part-one-observance-and-why-revolutions-dont-succeed/

SCIENCE VERSUS INDUSTRY: Part One: OBSERVANCE, AND WHY REVOLUTIONS DON’T SUCCEED

 

Science

“When a new system comes into existence, its intellectual basis, the results of science, is to be found in a new principle of trust, and then the critical epoch is over.”

— August Comte

The positivist philosopher, August Comte, believed European history could be read as a long transition that displaced the military-theological feudal system.[1] The description is very simplistic: there has been an evolution towards high-tech industrial developments powered by science, but the military-theological structures that have always maintained power and control are still there. In fact, they seem to be getting stronger rather than diminishing.

Comte, like most positive thinking in the last two hundred years, based his optimism on science, but he envisaged the power of science to be operating in tandem with industry, and this was his mistake. For science to be a positive, transformative agent on human society it needs to be in control of that transformation: it must control industry rather than being a mere tool for profit-making. Science today is merely a submissive puppet in industry’s rapacious game of accumulation and domination.

In Comte’s defence, he himself was fully aware of how easy it was for feudalism to make a come-back after a progressive revolution, for he had already seen how quickly the retrograde power of Napoleon’s dictatorship was able to install itself after the Revolution. Because of that, he thought very deeply on how a post-revolutionary regression to the military-theological system could be avoided.

Firstly, Comte reasoned, political imagination had to be observant. And what Comte meant by being observant was that it must be conscious of what it needs to look for and what it needs to fear.

Here we find a reason to explain why Comte, despite our need for positive political thinking, has been largely ignored by theorists – for to be observant in Comte’s sense of the word would imply that the political imagination of any revolution would be conscious of any retrograde thinking that could give credence to the military-theological power base embedded within the same revolution. What Comte assumed was that that power base had to have been vanquished by the revolution, but that never happened, and never will happen whenever the success of a revolution is seen as dependent on military force rather than passive surrender. If the force of the system can only be vanquished by a greater force, the force will only be substituted by more force and this creates a snowballing effect that amplifies the basic problem itself. Likewise, an observant revolution can never take place through Parliamentary-political processes. The congressional politics of our current representationally-democratic systems can never really be observant because they can never truly liberate themselves from the kind of power they are supposed to be vigilant of.

Comte’s argument is therefore correct – but unrealistic. After the French Revolution failed a new revolution was needed and came via Marx and the spirit of the proletariat. The communist regimes were vigilant, but half-heartedly. Where communism was largely effective in escaping the theological paradigm, it could do nothing to escape the militaristic, and hence the theological returned in the communist regimes through the dogmatic personality cults of its military dictators.

The Second World War, and the subsequent arms race of the Cold War, gave industry and its faithful tool science, a fertile field for cultivating and accumulating enormous wealth. The Cold War was a conflict between military-theological-industry (and science) and military-antitheological-industry (and science), in which the real winners were Industry and the Military; and science was always their faithful hound.

Likewise, observance became a vigilance of rivals (on the industrial plane) and their theological or antitheological enemies (on the theological plane). Then, with the collapse of the antitheological, the communist threat was very quickly replaced by a new global power: the guerrilla/military-theological feudal power that is Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or Isis.

In Comte’s terms, positive progress has not only been thwarted by not being allowed to move forward at all, it is in danger of collapsing right back into feudalism. The observance of industrial rivals is still a first priority, but the vigilance of the capitalist system has another annoying fight with terrorists to contend with. Terrorists and other militants fighting a guerrilla war to reinstate feudalism as another kind of military-theology. Force breeds more force, and the neo-feudalism we see spreading through central Asia breeds another kind of feudalism in other parts of Asia, America and Europe. What Comte called feudalism, we now call populism.

There is of course nothing positive or forward moving toward human fulfilment in any of our current power-struggle scenarios.

What has failed to take place in order for Comte’s optimistic plan to unravel itself, has been the lack of prevision in science, or the lack of scientific criteria in the development of political programmes that have abused science for military and profit-making purposes.

Comte believed that only advanced “scientific prevision can avert or mitigate violent revolutions.”[2] What he did not mean when he said this, was that the scientific prevision should be invented in military projects and reactionary wars of rivalry.

But if this is what he didn’t mean, what did he mean? How could a scientific prevision have made our world a better place than it is today?

We will try and answer those questions when we continue in Science versus Industry: Part Two.

pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/science-versus-industry-part-two-the-revolution-we-need/

[1] See Mike Gane, AUGUST COMTE, Routledge, p.31

[2] Ibid, p.33

ON THE CORRUPTION OF LOVE

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If there is a question for “our-times”, an enigma which constantly rears its horny head in much of the political debates and opinion articles of all the so-called developed countries of the western world, it is that of why people support political agendas that are detrimental to their own interests.

The phenomenon is often treated as something new, which it is not, but it is certainly emphasized by the election of President Trump, or the Brexit debacle; the growing emergence of far-right parties throughout Europe; the Catalonian fiasco in Spain; the return of Berlusconi in Italy; or the massive support of President Putin in Russia.

For half the world there is a general feeling that the other half have gone mad. However, that conclusion almost inevitably provokes another conclusion – surely, so many people cannot be insane; and by assuming they are, we are losing sight of the real problem. Nevertheless, after making that very-wise, self-cautionary statement, the question is abandoned, and the dilemma is left beneath, poking his horns into our arse.

So, what is the real problem, and what is the real answer to that question: why do people support political agendas that go against their own self-interests?

We have been tackling this question for years, and its answer is partly wrapped up in what we call the anti-human historical process itself, but the other part of the answer must come through a second analysis of how an anti-human historical process was possible in the first place. As an answer to the enigma the anti-human process is not enough, for the real question is: what is the driving force behind the anti-human?

The success of the anti-human resides in its all-enveloping condition as a paradigm, and this is obtained by a sometimes deliberate, but more often contingent, process of distorting and corrupting language in a way that has shaped human reality into the impossible form of the anti-human, and it continues to solidify that shape.

This corruption of our architecture of language and its subsequent corruption of thinking, is what allows an anti-human civilization to exist and maintain itself, but the driving forces within that general perversion can be found in the distortion of certain key words that mould the anti-human identity. Of these key words, the most powerful one is love.

In an earlier entry (LOVE, THE REAL AND THE IDEAL) we described love as the capacity of appreciating, and the desire for understanding, and that this leads to a will for preservation. Through these three pillars of love, a sapiens humanity is tied to the existence of the Universe itself. It is through love that humanity is relevant in the enormity of the Universe we are otherwise so insignificantly placed in. But this is not the general perception we have of love now. Love has been corrupted.

The political philosophers, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, highlighted the corruption of love in an Intermezzo in their book Commonwealth. In that essay they associate love with the power of the common: ‘the power that the common exerts and the power to constitute the common’[1] in which the common can be understood as any social grouping from the family to the Empire.

In an ideal, uncorrupted form then, the common would always be an enlightened place, driven by its capacity to appreciate, its desire to understand and its will to preserve itself and everything that comes into its orbit. That this does not occur, does not indicate that we live in a loveless world, but rather that the love that drives us is a corrupted form of the concept that maintains its original and deeply positive intentionality, but perverts it in an individualistic or anti-human interpretation of that original force.

This explains why love is able to engender so much evil. ‘In the name of love’ we see the violence of the passionate, jealous lover or spouse; the unscrupulous justifications for immoral or criminal acts to protect our loved-ones; or the tremendous crimes and tragic violence that can be wielded from the stand-point of patriotic love.

Hardt and Negri cite Spinoza, who called love the antithesis of evil,[2] and yet in all its corrupt forms, love embodies the evil it is supposedly opposed to.

The result is a perverted confusion: in order to protect what I love – in order to preserve and protect what I appreciate and understand – I must act in an evil way. This justification, of justifying the use of immoral means by the vindication that by doing so we are preserving that which we love, is a perverse manipulation of the concept of love. Once we analyse it from the point of view of a correct interpretation of what love is, the corrupted, self-interested, or anti-humanly motivated perception of love is revealed. Only when the ‘lover’ can see with clarity that his or her perception of love is corrupted can these anti-human crimes of love be eradicated.

In all the moral questions of the right or wrong way to act, the love that drives the individuals or groups making the decisions has to come into play if we are to ever improve things. A more humane, and subsequently Sapiens, world can only be possible through a revaluation of what we say we love. By rooting love in appreciation and understanding we are establishing a force that can drive becoming that is also tempered by the power of preservation that is also one of the pillars of the ideal love.

In its corrupt form, love drives violent crimes, acts of terror and tragic brutality of war. To eradicate these anti-human aberrations, we need to tackle this corruption of love. It is not love itself which is evil, but a corrupted form of it that clouds our perception of good and evil. To do this, we have to put love back onto the rails of humanity, for in its essence love is the most Sapiens of human drives. Love feeds all creativity and innovation through curiosity and its capacity for appreciation and its desire for understanding. It is the great unifying force and the only force that could bring humanity together and turn the anti-human historical process into a properly human one. Love’s true battle then, is the struggle against its own corruption, which requires a constant recognition of the corrupted anti-human forms of love – all love which puts its segregating point-of-view above the ultimate, universal forms of love. above the love of an object or an individual, has to be a passion for the common; above our love of family, a love of community; above all patriotism, a love of humanity and a world without borders; above a love of religion, a love of the Universe. The same is true of the struggle for rights, that your individual rights and the rights of every oppressed minority group are best served by understanding and appreciating the rights of all and the struggle to establish a common area in which everyone’s rights are appreciated and protected.

Corrupted love permeates the entire fabric of our Civilisation, pushing us towards a Dystopia with an ever-increasing, snowballing force. It is an evil, anti-human motor that needs to be recognised and turned off, so that we can re-direct the voyage toward a more positive, human, Sapiens place.

[1] Hardt and Negri, Commonwealth, Belknap Press, 2009, p.189

[2] Ibid, p. 192

FAKE NEWS

When President Donald Trump brazenly whines about the Fake News of his media coverage he is unwittingly – as most of Trump’s disclosures are – proclaiming a very uncomfortable truth, i.e. the basis of all the news we receive is fundamentally fake. But that’s not what Trump is saying. He’s not proclaiming that all news in the media is false, only that which gives him a bad coverage.

On the HBO programme Real Time, comedian Bill Maher made the claim that viewers of Fox News (Trump’s favourite channel) when asked about Trump’s ties to Russia said they knew nothing about it, because, concluded Maher, on Fox News  they don’t talk about the Russia-gate enquiry; and as such, Fox’s news is fake by omission. On the other hand, Trump and his supporters, argue that the rest of the media use the same tactics of falsity through omission, by never talking about all the great and wonderful things his administration is doing to make America great again.

Both Trump and Bill Maher are right … and wrong. Falsity-through-omission is perpetrated by all the mainstream media outlets at all levels and, practically, all the time, and so they are right. But what neither trump nor Maher see is that the truly grave omissions in reporting are not the one’s spurred by ideological interests, but rather the great omissions concerning the structural organisation of our civilisation that ignore the root causes of all evils. Lack of systemic criticism and the complete absence of systemic culpability is where the Fake News really resides.

We live in a civilisation that preaches the virtues of competitiveness and successfulness. This is the motor of our lives and money is the oil-blood that keeps that machine working. From this point of view, when Trump stood up before the United Nations and told every member of those supposedly united countries that he was going to put America first and that every other leader should put their own country first, it was pure madness (how can we be united if we’re all competing against each other?) but it wasn’t hypocritical. Quite the opposite, Trump was proclaiming pure market-system ideology – compete and succeed, no matter what that the demands of that competitiveness are.

But the ideology that Trump so honestly adheres to, is also insane. Seen in the context of the United Nations and international diplomacy we immediately see the dangers behind it – such a doctrine leads to wars; and in the case at hand, a possible nuclear war.

Trump may or may not be criticised for making his honest claim, but what will never be criticised will be the system itself which Trump is just a loud symptom of.

And there are a lot more serious symptoms, not just Trump. Not only wars but all violence in societies stem from this structural emphasis on competition and success. Yet, when the media report this violence, there is never any attempt to put the blame where it stands, on the competitive market structure of the global economy world itself. Poverty is another result and poverty also intensifies violent conditions. But the media don’t report on that, or debate in their in-depth analyses on how the structure might be changed … and therein lies the great Fake News.

Crime in our civilisation is not an aberration in society, but an honestly determined expression of its values to be successful – no matter what – even if it means breaking the rules.

And, of course, there is our interminable problem of biodegradation that is also deeply embedded in the system itself. This is yet another manifestation of the violence perpetrated by competition and success. Of course, with the issue of climate change there is an awareness that things have to be done, but a great lack in reporting how the system of competition and success is incapable of making the adjustments that need to be made to halt the lethal degradation.

In a psychological sense, the media seems to be in a blind state of denial to the ugly truth. in order to clean the filthy pond we’re swimming in, we have to change the water – which means we have to stop swimming, get the water and filthy scum out of the pool, and find some clean water to swim in again. And that is a lot of hard work. Yes, Donald Trump himself promised to drain that swamp for us, but he is just making it murkier than ever, and, how could we expect a billionaire capitalist ever to clean up the neo-capitalist cess-pool?

The truth is: for humanity to succeed, we must clean out the competition and success and replace it with a new purpose based on the creative potentials of an authentic humanity that is allowed to be creative without carrying the burdens that competitiveness implies. We need a systemic revaluation, a vision of a different future, and … a revolution. That’s the real news.

The End of Purpose and the Crisis of Creativity

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In his 1981 thesis, ‘Simulacra and Simulation’, Jean Baudrillard lamented the ruination of the university: “non-functional … lacking cultural substance or an end purpose of knowledge.”[i]

Perhaps we should not victimise the universities, the same can be said of our entire nihilistic culture, nevertheless, the idea that a university lacks a reason for learning is a tremendously sad one.

The crippling result of the lack of purposiveness allows societies to throw in their own self-interested crutches: the university becomes a simple place to prepare people for the work-force, or, on a more hopeful level, an environment that will stimulate creativity. But if there is no purpose or reason, why be creative? In fact, how can one be creative when nothing matters? Or the opposite is true: it’s very easy to be creative when nothing matters – too easy.

Either way, the result will always be a crisis of creativity.

“Today’s nihilism is one of transparency, and it is in some sense more radical, more crucial than its prior and historical forms, because this transparency, this irresolution is indissolubly that of the system, and that of all the theory that still pretends to analyse it.”[ii]

Baudrillard regarded Romanticism as the first great manifestation of nihilism; the destroyer of the order of appearances. The second great manifestation came through Dada, Surrealism, the Absurd, and political nihilism – corresponding to the destruction of the order of meaning.

But, destruction is inevitable when appearances and meanings themselves are devoid of substance; when they are castles made of sand. It wasn’t the Romantics or Dada that destroyed meaning; they were merely realisations that meaninglessness had evolved around them. The real destroyers were those in the institutions themselves, trying to maintain a system which made no sense.

Such a condition can only be perpetuated by dissimulation, and only whilst society swallows the performance in the staging of an ersatz purpose that the system offers them. Once the society grows tired of the theatrics played out before them they will start to yawn, or grimace if they are injured by it, and through that yawn or grimace they will see through the stage-craft to the emptiness behind it. When this happens on a massive scale, real revolution or a brutal reaction can take place.

This awareness is happening today, it has been bubbling for some years, but the train is turning toward the Dystopia rather than any purposive Utopia.

Buadrillard observed a similar scenario in the student revolts of Paris, 1968. Why didn’t a revolution happen then? Why is a purposive revolution unlikely to happen now?

According to Baudrillard, the staging carried out by the media is no longer a staging. He calls the media: “a strip, a track, a perforated map of which we are no longer mere spectators”. All that remains, he says: “is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms for the very operation of the system that annihilates us.” [iii]

In other words, we are enchanted and enamoured by the same media that is strangling us and numbing our brains. We love to see the violence and perversion that the society produces so much that we would probably fall into a kind of spiritual crisis if the brutality of the system was taken away from us.

[i] J. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, Michigan, 1994, digital version p. 98

[ii] Ibid, p.104

[iii] Ibid

RETURN vs. REPETITION – HOW TO START THE REVOLUTION (PART TWO)

maze

History may not repeat itself, but historical errors do repeat themselves. The motor of history is cyclical and the aim of revolution is to break the cycle. The reason why the cycle continues to form itself is because the reasons for its formation escape us. Revolution, therefore, has to be created out of an investigation into this question – what is it that has been escaping us? What have we been missing? What have we failed to understand? What have we been unable to master? What have we failed to assimilate?

Of course, as psychology tells us, in the very act of a repetition that searches to relive a previous enjoyment, there is an implicit failure. The act, in the repetition, has lost something – it can never be exactly the same, even if it is perfectly duplicated the very fact that it is a repetition diminishes the first-time experience, for the first-time experience can only be a first-time experience once. The more we hanker for it and try to re-live it the less satisfying it is. A loss of satisfaction which the searcher tries to compensate for by intensifying the degree of the experience. Thus, a drug addict will need to increase his/her dosage each time if the drug is to have the desired effect – which is to feel as good as it did the first time one tried it. Likewise the serial killer’s crimes will become more audacious and violent the longer he or she goes on.

As Lacan put it:

“Losing whatever you wish, losing speed – there is something that is a loss.”[1]

All systems must suffer entropy and will break down into disorder eventually. For this reason Revolution must be seen always as a positive force, revitalising, through transformation, that which would be doomed to collapse anyway.

Here we should differentiate between how we see repetition  and return. The return is a purposeful regression, not to repeat the initial experience but understand it better. The return is often more enriching than the first time. In fact, when experiences are unsatisfying or even disagreeable, the return may be the best recommendation. For example, one may stumble on an impossible book like Kant, Lacan or Joyce – or perhaps this text you are reading now. The writing is obscure and disagreeable, you get the impression that you haven’t understood a word of it – nevertheless, after you abandon it, perhaps without even finishing the first chapter, it leaves you with a certain emptiness and a worry that there was actually something deep underneath the incomprehensibility – after all, you picked the book up because you did want to understand it. So, you go back, but again it leaves you cold. Nevertheless, after the third or fourth return you start to see the genius in what has been created, and every time you return to the book it seems like a completely different book to what was originally contemplated. You are starting to understand it, and, not only understanding it, you are starting to form a complicity with it: for as we ourselves evolve, so do the things we return to.    


[1] Lacan: Seminar XVII

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

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder-_The_Seven_Deadly_Sins_or_the_Seven_Vices_-_Gluttony

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?

Wikipedia_-_taste_the_fruit_of_knowledge

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.