EQUILIBRIUM

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In the dystopian sc-fi-action film, Equilibrium, directed by Kurt Wimmer, we are presented with a totalitarian regime that controls society by abolishing feelings. In this dystopia, each member of society is provided with a drug, to be taken at regular intervals, that inhibits, like Prozac, the human side of humans – our feelings.

On a superficial level, this seems to be a critique of all dictatorial regimes, and of the evolution of power. Nevertheless, the real manipulation by the most powerful regimes today function quite the opposite: power today is ensured, not by inhibiting human feelings and allowing the logical mind to flourish, but rather by letting our sentiments and desires dominate us and, by so doing, inhibiting effective critical thought which would challenge the authority of the regime.

All totalitarian regimes have always identified their greatest enemies in the intellectual class. It is only knowledge and deep critical thinking which will be able to see through the lies they propagate and undermine the superficial veneers of happiness they have painted their societies with.

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SOCIAL FREEDOM AS A FEASIBLE CONCERN

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Human societies are created around human activity and the requirements that come from the organization of that activity. Freedom, in a social sense, has to be defined by the freedom of choice that an individual has in deciding which activity he or she wants to pursue. A freedom-promoting society would, therefore, be constructed in a way that allows each person to pursue the activities they feel are the most suited to them.

Traditionally this idea of society is absurd: because the society itself has its own needs that must be met in order for the same society to function, and, as such, it requires a certain amount of its members to engage in tasks that would be of no interest to them. To compensate for this denial of freedom wages were introduced. In this way, wage-labour can be defined as a compensation for slavery.

Nevertheless, with the development of technology and especially robotics and manufacturing using 3D copiers, the idea of a social freedom can once again be imagined as a feasible thing. The implementation of automation should be seen as a process of liberating salary-compensated slaves in order to liberate their creative, sapiens potentials.

At the same time, the economy has to be adjusted that would guarantee the well-being of each member of society. The most logical evolution would be toward a non-monetary society, but before this revolutionary transition can be achieved, a universal basic-income is the most progressive economic idea. An explanation of UBI and some historical background can be found here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income .

If it is feasible, the promotion of social freedom through the development of technology should be seen as a goal for society and a part of political parties’ programmes.

THINKING

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That we all think: this is what unites us and separates us. We all think – we are the same. But, how we think and what we think about – that is what separates us. However, while we are thinking, we are human; and when we stop thinking and act on instinct or by muddled logic, we are not acting in a completely human way.

The quality of humanity depends on the quality of our thinking.

Can we imagine, therefore, a quality of life based on quality of thought? For example: this place is good because it is conducive to clear thinking; that job is bad, for it does not allow us time to think; this other activity is good because it clears the muddled mind and opens spaces to think deeply in again. In such a quality-of-thought world, we would look for, and create, climates that are conducive to thinking; design cities that help us think.

The leaders of such a society would be chosen according to their merits as capable and clear thinkers who develop other thinkers and create a thoughtful society via their own thoughts. If we as a species are the animals that know; the homo sapiens; because we think; then having a world leader who makes decisions without thinking them through, is an absurdity. That this occurs, is a perversion of humanity that demonstrates that our present human condition is an anti-sapiens one, and, therefore anti-human. Humanity can only be rediscovered and societies can only become human again by thinking clearly about what we are and where we are going.

Thinking is an active way out of the decadent cycle of the simulacra culture in which we are immersed.[1]

How many of our best thoughts do we ourselves strangle or, at best, keep tightly locked away. Now, it’s time to let our good thoughts breathe, driven by human purposiveness itself rooted in thinking. It’s time to make thinking synonymous with an affirmation of the human and a negation of the anti-human.

What do you think?

[1] See our previous article DECADENCE AND STAGNATION: https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/decadence-stagnation/

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

POLITICS AS A DESIRE FOR NON-POWER

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The cry for Real Democracy demands a reappraisal of the voting systems that undemocratically favour two major parties, nearly always the centre right and centre left. liberal-democratic parties, who themselves ensure a continuation of the dominant capitalist-economy of the global world civilisation. Most Western-style democracies have cheating mechanisms which are designed, according to their supporters, to provide “strong” governments.

From a point of view of political comfort, the cheating mechanisms seem to be necessary for maintaining a desirable stability. We have seen in the last few years how the arrival of more radical parties into the governmental scenario (e.g.: in Greece, Spain and Italy) has done little to make any fundamental changes to the system. Anti-capitalist parties have been castrated by the global capitalist-economy. Because of this, the System falls into an impossible paradox in which winning power becomes political suicide for radical parties.

But what if the objectives of winning the elections were radically opposed to power itself: that instead of gaining power, the objective of the radicals is to create non-power? Can we imagine a political party with an anti-power ideology? Of course this sounds like anarchism, but let’s ask why anarchism is so scarcely seen in democracies? Why do we think we need power so much when, over and over again, we see how greedy and selfish it is?

The reason is that Power in our economics-driven society is inextricably tied to the flow of money. Power makes and distributes the wealth. It is an underlying belief in our society that without money we would die, and this means Power is related to survival, and only when Power threatens our survival, as it did in 18th century France or 20th century Russia and China, will major revolutions take place. That Power is inextricably aligned with Wealth is no secret, but when that alliance is seen as a threat by societies to our welfare and as an endangering force in our lives, it starts to be questioned, and the seeds of revolution begin to sprout.

However, a real revolution can only truly hope to succeed if it attacks the real source of the problem, which is the relationship between Power and Wealth, and which stems from the inextricable bond between Power and money. In other words, only by questioning monetarisation and envisaging societies in which money as we know it no longer has to play a part, will successful revolution or purposeful political change ever come about.

But for this to happen, political activists have to enter the political scene not with a thirst for power, but with a desire for non-power.

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.

Our Lack of Humanity

What Civilisation lacks above all else is precisely the one thing we all share; our humanity.

Without the binding force that humanity possesses, societies feel fragmented; there is a sense that things are not properly put together; that everything is a mess. There is a feeling that the System enveloping society has no feeling for the society itself. Many parts of civilisation seem to be unnecessary or purposeless. The relationship that the individual parts have to the whole is not palpable and things just seem to be there, ad hoc, for no significant reason at all.

The result of this lack is that society becomes a neurotic collective of neuroses, and it becomes incapable of seeing the inherent contradictions in many of the values it upholds. In fact, it is a society that cherishes opposing sets of conscious values, but fails to appreciate the absurdity of the contradiction. It will worship freedom, but champion the needs for ever stricter controls. It will strive for peace, but does so by warring against its enemies at the slightest excuse. It will harken to the need for more human rights and social justice whilst enforcing economies that ensure the flow of money in a continual stream upward to the most privileged classes.

Civilisation desperately needs a psychiatric cure from the terrible neuroses that afflict it. Someone needs to lie our System down on the couch and explain to it once and for all what it is lacking and what it needs to concentrate on and recuperate. The cure is not so hard once the patient accepts the facts and looks for the lack within itself; for the cure is there, and always has been. In fact, it is the material that constitutes the very basis of civilisation itself. We call it “humanity”.

ON NEUROSIS

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For the neurotic, reality is an intrusion. The neurotic is the one who says: “Life is awful; it is so full of reality.”[i] There is a paradox here: Is the neurotic disturbed because of his or her rejection of reality, or is reality itself something that actually makes life awful, and, therefore, creates the neurotic who finds it intrusive? The neurotic lives an illusion: but that illusion is that things should be better.

From a moral perspective, the neurotic is right – things should be better. But, if this is the case, why can’t we learn from the neurotic? If we listen to the one who thinks things should be better, we might be able to see how better things can actually come about. Instead we nullify the neurotic mind, tranquilising its Utopian-born anxieties with drugs. Civilisation tells us that neurosis is a terrible illness, not a path to enlightenment.

But, how is neurosis an illness? According to Horney the neurotic’s problem is that he or she makes claims on things that they are not actually entitled to.[ii] The result is indignation.

It is here that we see how neurosis seeps into the very fabric of society; through the fantasy of entitlement, which is itself created by the ambiguity of that same entitlement that is fostered by civilisation. How far do our rights go? How extensive are our entitlements? What does our democratic freedom provide us with? Once one starts to attempt to answer these questions, one is pushing oneself ever closer toward a neurosis.

But inspiration itself is a neurosis forming phenomenon. The illusionary reality of the neurotic is encouraged by the System itself: “You deserve that car that you can’t afford, and because you deserve it we will give you the finance for it – all you have to do is pay us back with interest.” The luxury car, in the neurosis creating system, becomes a neurotic need. Of course it isn’t an authentic necessity for anyone, but the system tells us that it is.

The neurotic is a passive creature, “all the good things in life, including contentment of soul, should come to him,”[iii] and the neurosis creating society must also fabricate passivity. A passivity which is linked through neurosis with consumerism.

[i] K. Horney, NEUROSIS AND HUMAN GROWTH, p. 40

[ii] Ibid, p. 41

[iii] Ibid, p. 50

DADDY DEMOCRACY IS NOT THE FATHER WE THOUGHT HE WAS

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There is a general feeling of alienation between the electorate and the political echelons in most of the so called democratic world, and it is important to remind ourselves that this alienation, which is real, is taking place precisely when our democracies have applauded the downfall of most of the world’s dictatorships. So, how can this be? If the world is more democratic than ever, how can it be that people are feeling alienated from the political system? The situation should be the opposite. Could it be that the accuser, now left with hardly anyone else to accuse, is now revealed for what he truly is and always was? That the accusations were smoke-screens in order to cover up his own guilt? Aren’t we now like the child who discovers indications that our perfect father is not so perfect after all: we don’t go out and openly discredit him, although deep down we would like to; we don’t run away or disown him, although we are tempted to; we start to rebel and stand up to his authority, but we don’t really believe we can change him … do we?

What we have now is quite a unique scenario. Perhaps for the first time in history, we find ourselves having to turn our backs on that which we never really had. We thought we were free, but it was a lie. So, what should we do? Try and recreate that which never was? Try and create in a real way that which we thought we had but never really did? But, how could we ever trust them again?

Once innocence is lost, it’s impossible to return there again.

PROGRESS, NEEDS and THE BEAUTY OF HUMAN MINDS

If we gauge progress according to the fulfilment of life’s needs through the satisfying of pleasure, then we could say that civilisation seems to do very well. This is a most hedonistic society, surely pleasure triumphs. But actually it doesn’t succeed at all. It tries hard but ultimately fails on the biological level of human life, and ignores over and over again the potential for creating pleasure on the psychological (artistic, spiritual and/or intellectual) level.

At the biological level civilisation operates in a rather perverse way. The needs to eat, defecate and reproduce have to be satisfied in a “balanced” way, whilst the civilisation of the homo economicus demands excessiveness and surplus. This in turn creates its own psychosis, as moderation is also a necessary part of the art of pleasure.

On the other hand, and this seems ironic, our psychological space needs to be constantly expansive in order to fulfil human potential. The art of psychological pleasure and the defeat of boredom has to be fundamentally concerned with finding the best way to unleash the creative and intellectual potentials of our minds. We have four areas to do this in: art, philosophy, science and technology. Four areas which are therefore interrelated as perpetrators of the art of pleasure at the psychological level, and which are retarded by the tools of Wealth.

The Big Economy reality that we live in deprecates the enormous wealth of creativity and know-how contained in the vast resource of the billions of thinking brains that make up the human race. Diverse thinking minds, all with an enormous potential that is unappreciated by the system of wealth-accumulation-for-the-wealthy that civilisation protects and propagates. The great cost of this is the enormous lack of exploitation of creativity. Yes, we do see enormous technological advances, but they are self-interested ones, and because of that “limited” advances, veiling the real technological progress that could be made if human creativity and thought were properly unshackled.

The culture of the homo economicus revolves around the cult of money. It disdains art, philosophy and science, except when it can ensure the continuation of the movement of wealth to the wealthy. In the place of these three elements of psychological pleasure we are fed another three more malleable ones: pornography, religion and sport.

But real pleasure is anchored in meaning, and the pleasure of meaningfulness is built through our humanity (unity, love, kindness and social intelligence); justice; transcendence (through hopes, humour, creativity, objectivity and spirituality); intelligence (curiosity, open-mindedness and love of learning); temperance (forgiveness, humility, self-regulation) and our courage and integrity. And in all of these ingredients lie our real potential to be authentic human beings.