GOAL-IMAGES & HUMAN SURVIVAL

goals.jpeg

Macro-systems like cultures and civilisations are driven by a goal-image stimulus so powerful that it permeates the habitus[i] and doxa[ii] spheres and seeps into the formation of all our identities. This is seen clearly in monotheistic religions with their goals of reaching ‘Heaven’ or at least avoiding ‘Hell’. But even materialistic drives, like consumerism, have goal-image motors (the drive to attain as much money as possible, in order to buy anything and everything one wants).

the most radical rejection of the macro-system, would therefore be a decision to have no goals: become a cynic and live in a barrel like Diogenes, or become a nihilistic saint like E. M. Cioran. Yet, to stay adrift after such a reaction, one would also have to have faith in the veracity of your cynicism, which means that your rejection of goals itself becomes your goal.

So, the goal is the essence of all motivation, and is the basis of all political, religious, cultural and economic ideologies. Our world-life narrative is an exposition of goals, moulding our personal aims into a doxa: a popular, cultural movement that gives us a sense of habitus and normality.

In order to make the world a better place, therefore, we have to create better goal-images.

Human history has been an anti-human dividing process, yet the basis behind each of the greatest goal-image ideas, has been the desire to unite the whole of humanity under one great singular motivation. The attempt to find such a singularity has had the most tragic consequences and has been the reason for countless conflicts – and yet, the need to find the answer to a viable world-uniting goal-idea may now be tantamount to our survival as a species.

For that reason, it is imperative that we keep asking the question – the question that all religions have asked: What idea would be strong enough to bring us all together?

In its time, the monotheistic idea was a great one, and it could have been perfect if (a) there had been some scientific basis to it, or (b) no one had come up with the idea that there could be very different interpretations of what the One God’s will actually was.

The singular goal-image won’t be found until the best goal-image is found. And the best goal-image will only be found if we have the faith to keep looking for it.

The discovery of the best goal-image is almost certainly a long way away, and it may well be impossible, or may simply never be found. But by trying to find it, at least we start a process towards discovery, which is much better than the dangerously decadent and depleted state of macro-system induced passivism we currently waddle in.

The first step to beginning this process of goal improvements must come from an acceptance that what we have so far is not perfect, and because of that it can be improved. Nor is it the least worst of all bad scenarios: we also need to get beyond the cynical idea that all the alternatives are likewise imperfect and therefore futile. The acceptance of this cynicism breeds Sisyphus-like rock-pushers, happy with in their labour until the rock slips back and crushes them. There are better goal-images, and we must look for them – we need them.

The first thing that has to be dismissed to get the now better ball rolling, is to accept that nothing perfect exists and that perfection is a process of becoming. This gives us the dynamic stimulus to act creatively and purposefully, but that creativity needs to be anchored in a goal-image, something meaningful that should be for the whole of humanity. We presently have such a concept: Our survival as a species. Our survival in the world, leading into our permanence in an eternal Universe.

SURVIVAL

Survival has always been a real human concern, as it is an authentic concern for any biological entity. So, what we are proposing should not be essentially anything new – and yet it is.

Survival is something that has come to be taken for granted in the so-called developed world of western Civilisation. And yet, it is the technological complexity that ensures our comfort and protection from the hostilities of our natural environment that has led us to the looming collapse of the equilibrium allowing the biosphere to be the life-supporting atmosphere that defines it.

There is something necessarily nostalgic in almost all goal-images. Religions yearn for the world driven according to the will of the original creator and harken to ancient texts to support their arguments. Nationalisms are maintained by cultural traditions. Marxism hopes to correct the exploitive course of the history of civilisations. Only consumerisms have a generally non-nostalgic drive, which is what makes consumerism the most dangerous force against the human-in-the-world partnership.

Of all our goal-images, therefore, consumerism is the worst.

The first step to imagining a better goal-image must come from a deep revaluation of consumerism. Here lies the first step forward.

 

[i] For more on Habitus see Paul Adkin https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/habitus/

[ii] Doxa, see https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/doxa-and-aletheia-truth-and-the-artist-part-one/

SAPIENS IN THE IRON MASK – IDENTITY AS IDEOLOGY (1)

iron mask

Althusser revealed the meaningful link between ideology and identity[i]. Not only meaningful but also a potentially liberating discovery if we first accept identity as a mask, more precisely an iron mask. But even the iron mask can be removed, and so can all ideologies. Once we recognise our identity for what it is we can submit it to necessity: a process which will firstly require a stripping away of masks and make up in order to establish the true essence of what one is, and recreate our masks, more honestly, according to that essence.

If the essence of our species is sapiens, then our identity will have to be anchored in our ability to think and know things. This is a continual process. Our first honest mask is therefore a fluid thing, a painting on, a face make-up rather than the fixed appendage that is the iron mask that so many of us wear now.

If the nature of Sapiens is the flowing continuity implied by knowing things then ideological identities are dangerously anti-sapiens, and anti-human. Societies and cultures give us masks that inhibit the progressive nature of the sapiens’ thought-unto-knowing flow. The socio-cultural mask says: “This is it,” and allows for no further reflection. An identity made up of these elements on its own, or the identity of the tribe, the team or the club, is a perversion for Sapiens, who needs the capacity for continuity of thought. Society traps the sapiens nature in a rigid mask forged in the metals of ideologies.

The only healthy ideology for Sapiens therefore is the ephemeral face that is painted on us and can be easily rubbed off. In the same way that we can paint our face to be a clown tomorrow, a beautiful woman the next day or an absolute ghoul if need be – the identity of the continually thinking Sapiens must be a morphing one.

At first the idea must seem repulsive for it is anti-natural to our iron-mask ideologies and it could be accused of being an apology for superficiality. In the ideology-identity society there is a blind faith in the values of one’s identity that gives each one of us our own character. In this way we confuse strength with an anti-sapiens quality of firm, unbreakable convictions. In the system’s fiction the mainstream narrative can make a hero even out of an ethical cripple as long as he or she remains faithful to his or her convictions. And yet this is the most dangerous fiction of all and has led to all of humanity’s most tragic debacles. The debacle of fascism and Nazism, the human debacle of the communist state and the religious empires with their Inquisitors and fundamentalists.

Of course it is true that humanity has always been a mask-inspired species, and identity probably arose with consciousness itself. This is why we make the distinction between the mask as make-up that can be wiped away, on the one hand, and the solid iron mask that we are imprisoned in, like the king’s unfortunate twin brother in Dumas’ novel, on the other. A dual potential arises in humanity: the one allowing us to paint our own identity or, the submission to the mask that we are locked into. But only the former has the flexibility to allow Sapiens to properly evolve.

[i] Althusser’s Ideology Interpellates Individuals as Subjects – in Slavoj Zizek, MAPPING IDEOLOGIES, p. 82)

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