And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus
Sunday, May 31, 2020
Labelling Trump as the "Reactionary International" Highlights the Intellectual Vacuity of the Progressive Left
Saturday, May 30, 2020
Tell me about your childhood
At the tender age of three
I was hooked to a machine
Just to keep my mouth from spouting junk
Must have took me for a fool
When they chucked me out of school
Cause the teacher knew I had the funk
But tonight I'm on the edge
Better shut me in the fridge
Cause I'm burning up (I'm burning up)
With the vision in my brain
And the music in my veins
And the dirty rhythm in my blood
They are messing with my heart
And they're messing with my heart
And they're messing with my heart
Won't stop messing with me
Ripping me apart!
Hyperactive when I'm small
Hyperactive now I'm grown
Hyperactive and the night is young
And in a minute I'll blow
Semaphore out on the floor
Messages from outer space
Deep heat for the feet
And the rhythm of your heartbeat
Cause the music of the street
It isn't any rapattack
It isn't any rapattack
I can reach into your homes
Like an itch in your headphones
You can't turn it up
I'm the shape in your back room
I'm the breather on the phone
And I'm burning up
But there's one thing I must say
Before they lock me up again
You'd be safer at the back
When I'm having an attack
Hyperactive when I'm small
Hyperactive now I'm tall
Hyperactive as the day is long
Hyperactive in my bones
Hyperactive in your phones
Hyperactive and the night is young
Hyperactive when I'm small
Hyperactive now I'm grown
Hyperactive 'til I'm dead and gone
Stand up, hyperactivate
Get up, hyperactivate
Wise up, hyperactivate
hyper - Adjective - Definition of hyper (Entry 1 of 2)
1: high-strung, (excitable; also : highly excited (was a little hyper after drinking too much coffee))
2: extremely active (hyper children)
hyper- prefix - Definition of hyper- (Entry 2 of 2)
1: above : beyond : super- (hypermarket)
2a: excessively (hypersensitive)
2b: excessive (hyperemia)
3: that is or exists in a space of more than three dimensions (hyperspace)
4: bridging points within an entity (such as a database or network) nonsequentially (hypertext)
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Authoritarians are exploiting this crisis, writes Slavoj Zizek. If China succeeds in Hong Kong, the violent takeover of Taiwan could be the next step – then a full scale Pacific war
In a documentary on life in the Chernobyl zone after the accident, an ordinary farmers’ family is shown simply continuing to live in their hut, defying the orders to evacuate and forgotten by the state authorities. They don’t believe in any mysterious nuclear rays – nature is there and life just goes on for them. They were lucky, they said: radiation didn’t seriously affect them.
Does their stance not recall the famous scene from The Matrix in which Neo is given the option to take the blue pill or the red pill? The blue pill would allow him go on living in our common reality, while the red pill would awaken him into the true state of things: our reality is a collective virtual dream manipulated by a gigantic artificial intelligence, and our bodies are actually used as human batteries to provide the energy for the AI machine.
The Chernobyl farmers chose the blue pill, and got away with it… or did they? From the perspective of the farmers, it is the world around them which swallowed the blue pill and believed in the grand lie about radioactive rays while they refused to be seduced by this panic and remained firmly rooted in their daily reality.
Monday, May 25, 2020
Birth - 1830, New York, USA
Death - 28 Sep 1874 (aged 43–44), Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA
Burial - Evergreen Cemetery
Painesville, Lake County, Ohio, USA
Plot43, Division 1
Memorial ID - 127003131
Husband of Lucinda Witham Wicks
Father of Henry Wicks and Ernest Wicks
Civil War Veteran. Served in the 10th Independent Company, Ohio Volunteer Sharpshooters which was redesignated the 60th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He enlisted in the 10th OVSS March 20, 1864 and was transferred to Company H, 60th O.V.I. February 24, 1865. He was mustered out June 17, 1865. Alexander's name is on Panel #10 in the Cuyahoga County Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Cleveland.
September 28, 1874. Killed near Olmstead Falls: walking on track at night and struck by train.
60th Regiment Infantry Reorganized. Organized at Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, February to April, 1864. Left State for Alexandria, Va., April 21, 1864. Attached to 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 9th Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, to September, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 9th Army Corps, to July, 1865.
SERVICE.--Campaign from the Rapidan to the James River, Va., May 3-June 15, 1864. Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7. Spottsylvania May 8-12. Ny River May 10. Spottsylvania Court House May 12-21. Assault on the Salient May 12. North Anna River May 23-26. Ox Ford May 23-24. On line of the Pamunkey May 26-28. Totopotomoy May 28-31. Cold Harbor June 1-12. Bethesda Church June 1-3. Before Petersburg June 16-18. Siege of Petersburg June 16, 1864, to April 2, 1865. Mine Explosion July 30, 1864. Six-Mile House, Weldon Railroad, August 18-21. Poplar Springs Church September 29-October 2. Reconnoissance on Vaughan and Squirrel Level Road October 8. Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher's Run, October 27-28. (Co. "K" organized November and December. 1864); 9th and 10th Independent Companies Sharpshooters as Companies "G" and "H," February 25, 1865.) Fort Stedman March 25, 1865. Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9. Assault on and fall of Petersburg April 2. Occupation of Petersburg April 3. Pursuit of Lee April 3-9. Surrender of Lee and his army at Appomattox Court House April 9. Moved to Alexandria, Va., April 21-28. Duty there and at Washington, D.C., till July. Grand Review at Washington May 23. Mustered out July 28, 1865. Regiment lost during service 3 Officers and 110 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 130 Enlisted men by disease. Total 243.
Sunday, May 24, 2020
Jim Fitzgerald, "The Plague in Literature and Life"
According to Rene Girard, plague is an omnipresent theme in literature. It features prominently in the stories of the great bards of history: Homer, Sophocles, Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, and Camus to name but a few. It spans the whole spectrum of literary genres: epic, tragedy, short story, sonnet, novels, history, science fiction, and science. In actuality, though, plague stories are much older than literature itself since they are a feature of both myth and ritual.
One common feature found in nearly all plague literature, is the “reciprocal resemblance” between the plague as a medical event, and as a metaphorical episode. In nearly all the aforementioned types of literature, the medical and the metaphorical are virtually interchangeable. To speak of one is to speak of the other and vice versa.
Indeed, as Girard reminds us, historians still can’t agree “if the Black Death was the cause or consequence of the social upheavals in the fourteenth century.” This reciprocal relationship means that the medical and social aspects of plague cannot really be treated separately. Each envelopes the other. Yet, the social plague is most often portrayed as worse than the medical event. Girard provides several examples to illustrate this point, but perhaps the most instructive for our purposes is Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
Those familiar with the story will remember that towards the end of the story, the protagonist, Raskolnikov, remembers a dream he had when he was sick with fever and laid up in the prison infirmary.
Apparently, during his illness he had multiple dreams. But one was particularly troublesome and seeped back into his consciousness. He dreamt of a worldwide plague. The plague had come to Europe from the depths of Asia.
A new microbe was attacking the bodies of men. However, these were no ordinary microbes. They were endowed with both intelligence and will. The infected became mad and furious, but not in the usual way.
Rather, each of the infected began to think of themselves as intellectually and morally superior to all others. They alone were completely in possession of the truth. They viewed their own decisions, scientific conclusions, and moral convictions as infallible.
In a short time, whole villages and towns went mad from the infection, and each infected person thought that he alone had the truth. They didn’t know how to judge and could not agree about what was good or what was evil. They were wholly incapable of knowing whom to blame or whom to justify. The result was a complete societal collapse which erupted in a kind of “Hobbesian war of all against all.”
There is much in this short passage that applies directly to our present situation. We have come to think of ourselves as intellectually and morally superior to others. We seem certain about the infallibility of our own decisions, scientific conclusions, and moral convictions. We are losing our ability to judge, and we can no longer agree on what is good or evil. We are becoming incapable of knowing whom to blame or whom to justify. All of this seems obvious and hardly needs enumeration.
Yet, what is not so apparent in Dostoyevsky’s depiction of the plague is the absence of what we might call a medical description. Dostoyevsky makes no mention of the biological and physiological effects of the plague. He is mainly concerned about the sociological breakdown and interaction between human beings that results in senseless and needless violence.
Dostoyevsky was certainly not alone in focusing almost exclusively on the metaphorical and social aspects of the plague. It is a common feature of nearly all plague literature. Even in the early modern period, when scientific investigation was coming into its own, the pattern is the same. Although physicians from that period certainly make a distinction between the medical and the social aspects of the plague, they routinely portray the social and cultural decay as the real, and even more dangerous, plague. In this respect, it is considered “more of a plague than the disease itself.”
There is another, even more disturbing discovery by Girard in his survey of the plague literature. Not only did the medical aspects of the plague play a rather minor role in the background of the narrative, but they served mainly as a disguise for a far more terrible threat—a complete sociological breakdown, and a “certain pervasive violence in our relationships.”
In contrast, the main driver of the Covid-19 narrative is the medical description. The sociological has remained in the background. This is despite the many indications that multiple social ills are spreading as rapidly as the disease itself. Unemployment, domestic violence, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, loneliness, suicide, are all spreading like the virus. There are seismic effects on education, economics, and politics as well.
Up until now, the medical plague has overshadowed the social plague as the story is being told primarily by the journalists. Nevertheless, this is nothing short of a great reversal overturning the trend of the entire body of plague literature throughout history.
The great bards of tomorrow will no doubt add to the present corpus of plague literature, and the pandemic of 2020 may provide a proper backdrop for such a story. If a serious body of literature does emerge from the ashes of the present pandemic, we can expect the same pattern just described. The medical aspects will actually play a minor role in the background and serve as a disguise for what literature has almost always considered the real plague.
The transition is already taking place on the ground, and it’s just a matter of time before the literature catches up. This means that the plague literature of tomorrow will likely tell an entirely different story than the one we are being told today.
Friday, May 22, 2020
Guardians of the Secret (1943) is partly indebted to Native American art (Pollock attended the 1941 Indian Art Exhibition at MoMA - he actually visited the show with this Jungian analyst!) and Jungian mythology. Pollock, having grown up in the West, was exposed to Native American art early - at least according to Pollock. In fact, a myth developed around Pollock's childhood in the West. Pollock recollected witnessing Indian rituals as a child, and historians later argued that such rituals played an important role in the development of his artistic process. Art historians such as Jackson Rushing contend that Pollock was inspired by Indian sand painters who created temporary works of art as part of a religious ritual as well as the notion that art-making is a spiritual process. Rushing believes that he turned to drip painting in a shamanistic attempt to heal himself; not coincidentally, Indian sand painting is often part of a healing ritual.
Though Pollock sought out Indian art and became well-versed in the ethnology of Native Americans, he maintained that his debt to Indian art was subconscious, as he did not deliberately draw upon American Indian artistic process or subject matter. What sort of myths do you see in this painting? What do you think the "secret" is, and who are the "guardians?" Did Pollock become his own shaman?
Thursday, May 21, 2020
"It is a consolation to the wretched to have companions in misery," wrote Publilius Syrus in the first century BC. Perhaps this explains why "lugubrious" is so woeful-it's all alone. Sure, we can dress up "lugubrious" with suffixes to form "lugubriously" or "lugubriousness," but the word remains essentially an only child-the sole surviving English offspring of its Latin ancestors. This wasn't always the case, though. "Lugubrious" once had a linguistic living relative in "luctual," an adjective meaning "sad" or "sorrowful." Like "lugubrious," "luctual" traced ultimately to the Latin verb lugēre, meaning "to mourn." "Luctual," however, faded into obsolescence long ago, leaving "lugubrious" to carry on the family's mournful mission all alone.
Paul Chimera, "Dalí Let it All Hang Out in His ‘Lugubrious Game’ of ’29"
Salvador Dalí poured his deepest thoughts, obsessions, fantasies and fears out in what is widely considered his first surrealist painting, “The Lugubrious Game” of 1929. At age 25, Dalí already proved he wasn’t afraid to let it all hang out. And then some.
It would be hard to find a painting more emblematic of the spirit of surrealism than “The Lugubrious Game,” sometimes known as “The Dismal Sport.”
This 18 inch by 12 inch oil, which incorporates some collage, is chockablock with the artist’s sexual obsessions, neuroses, and disquieting memories. For Dalí, painting wasn’t so much about what he “saw” (for the most part), but what he felt, what consumed his thoughts. In “Lugubrious Game,” it was as if he were conquering his demons by painting them.
This quintessentially surrealist picture was a mirror to Dalí’s soul and mind.
Let’s take a closer look…
In the middle of the painting is that sleeping head we would begin to see in many Dalí paintings, inspired by a large rock formation at Cap de Creus in Spain, which Dalí saw and contemplated for much of his career. The rock looks like a person’s head, with its long nose pressed to the ground. Dalí imagined it obsessively as his own face, invariably shown in an anguished state – most notably in “The Great Masturbator.”
Out of the back of this closed-eye head arises a swirl of erotic and symbolic images, as if plucked from a chapter of Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams.” The fedoras are absolutely Freudian, their concave creases symbolizing female genitalia. Look closely and a buttocks-like form and female sexual parts are being approached by a finger. A bearded man’s mouth seems to have been supplanted by a vagina. Blood splatter invites castration fears.
Another vaginal-like form appears near where his ear would be on the man with closed eye, where we also see a sort of double-image of a bird-and-rabbit head. A mysterious hand reaches out onto the man’s neck, while a grasshopper – which Dalí literally feared – clings menacingly to the man’s mouth.
To the left of the central male figure is a statue of a man covering his face in shame, while his right arm presents a grossly enlarged hand that clearly implies male masturbation. The lion at the base of the statue has long been a symbol of power as well as the terror that Dalí associated with paternal authority.
Finally, we come to the two anguished – some might say disgusting – figures in the lower right. One features a head that opens like a vulva, as his finger is inserted into that space; we do not see his (or her) face. The bearded man – said by some to be Dalí’s father – holds a piece of raw meat in his hand, while he appears in boxer shorts covered in feces!
This last detail – the feces-stained pants – was too much for the Surrealist brass and contributed to Dalí’s ultimate expulsion from the group. But to many others, especially today, it proves the authenticity of Dalí’s mission: to paint his dreams, his nightmares and his everyday thoughts without constraints or censorship or really any filter at all. It was this truth and spontaneity, this honesty and candor, that helped make Salvador Dalí the greatest of all the surrealists.
SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK, "In Defense of Lost Causes"
The threat today is not passivity, but pseudo-activity
Better to do nothing than to engage in localized acts whose ultimate function is to make the system run more smoothly.
The threat today is not passivity, but pseudo-activity, the urge to "be active“, to "participate“, to mask the Nothingness of what goes on.
People intervene all the time, "doing something“; academics participate in meaningless "debates,“ etc.; but the truly difficult thing is to step back, to withdraw from it all.
Those in power often prefer even "critical“ participation or a critical dialogue to silence, since to engage us in such a "dialogue“ ensures that our ominous passivity is broken.
The "Bartlebian act“ I propose is violent precisely insofar as it entails ceasing this obsessive activity-in it, violence and non-violence overlap (non-violence appears as the highest violence), likewise activity and inactivity (the most radical thing is to do nothing).
Monday, May 18, 2020
Hardeep Matharu warns against becoming numb to the constructed reality being created by politicians as the UK gets to grips with the immense human cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The daily Downing Street Coronavirus briefings are becoming increasingly terrifying spectacles to watch for two reasons.
The first, is the horrendous increases in deaths from COVID-19 of people’s brothers, mothers, fathers, friends, wives, sisters, colleagues, cousins, neighbours announced in monotone in front of Union Jacks and Georgian panelling. Today’s bill of mortality stood at 8,958, with another 980 people having died of the disease in the past 24 hours.
The second is that, even as they make these most awful of announcements and tell us that every death is a tragedy before relaying the numbers, we – the audience for whom these events are supposedly designed – know, can sense, that those behind the podiums are thankful to be dodging bullets of their own: namely, the briefing itself.
For what should be an exercise in incisive transparency and justifiable scrutiny serves only as a charade of lies, spin and half-truths; a daily theatre designed to connect us in this shared crisis, but which amounts to nothing at all.
Simply put: they’re lying, we know they’re lying and they know that we know they’re lying.
This little mise en scène we’re all in is very dangerous. Never more so than now.
In his 2005 book on the last generation of the Soviet Union, anthropology professor Alexei Yurchak argued that everyone knew the Soviet system was failing, but no one could imagine an alternative to it so ordinary people entered into a play with those in power, to maintain a pretence of a normal society. Everyone knew it wasn’t real, but it was accepted as so. The society, Yurchak argued, was in a state of “hypernormalisation”; a fake reality.
I felt the terrifying shudder and shadow of hypernormalisation as I watched today’s Coronavirus briefing. It’s not that I haven’t thought of Yurchak’s concept in relation to the UK in recent years before but, unlike then, there are now lives at stake. People are actually dying.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock, was flanked – as is now a standard stage direction – by the UK Government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam and the Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May, for today’s briefing.
A bright red and yellow sign resembling a traffic notice screamed “Stay Home This Easter” but then a car-crash did follow.
The subtle infantilisation of the British people, betrayed by apologetic language and a headmasterly tone, continued. We are necessary for this charade – but not on equal terms with those directing it.
Matt Hancock declared that “we all share a responsibility for tackling this virus by, first and foremost, staying at home”. As he said this, the images of tens of thousands of racegoers at last month’s Cheltenham Festival swam into my mind. Surely, this thought didn’t just spring into the mind of Hancock – a man with a first class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University. Surely he must have seen the photos of the crowds at the races back in March and had some common sense response or gut instinct about it then?
Announcing his new plan for personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers, he went on to say that “everyone working in a critical role must get the PPE that they need” because “we owe it them”. But, he also repeatedly said that the workers should only use this equipment when they really need it, “no more and no less”. We soon discovered why: “Going into the crisis we did not have a major PPE manufacturing industry”. Hence (although he did not directly connect the two): “Many items of PPE can be used for a whole session not be changed after treating each individual patient. Everyone is still protected but there’s enough PPE to go around”.
Next was a question from a journalist on why people from around the world are still able to fly into the UK’s airports (where no Coronavirus checks are being carried out) and whether this will be stopped.
“We follow the science,” he said, as if it was obvious. “We saw right at the start of this pandemic that the two countries that brought in the most draconian international travel restrictions, the United States and Italy, both of them have now got serious problems themselves so I think the science we followed on international travel has been borne out by events.” Right. Also, the use of the word “draconian” was of note. Why are these measures “draconian” when the aim is to save lives and the majority of people would likely support them?
But, Professor Van Tam provided back-up. “Our scientists have been very clear from the outset that that would not work as a measure to prevent the ingress of Coronavirus into the UK,” he told the journalist. “Coronavirus is now in the UK and transmitting very widely. I understand the point you’re making and I see where you’re coming from in terms of when we get this under control, doesn’t that change the situation but we won’t go from a position of widespread community transmission amongst our own people to a position of zero transmission amongst our own people”.
There was no mention of the evidence the scientists are apparently basing this on. Again, something which seems to be a common sense question the public has a right to ask was dismissed – and the journalist could make no comeback as he knew no further crumbs would be thrown to him by way of explanation. Nothing’s going to happen to Hancock and the professor if they don’t. It’s an ordeal for them to get through, with the shedding of as little light as possible.
But, the most obvious cover-up came when Ms May was asked how many healthcare workers have died because of COVID-19.
“We do have numbers of people who have died, whether they’re nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, doctors,” she said. Yes, one would expect the Government to have this. But, we weren’t going to hear anything of it.
“It would be inappropriate for me right now to go into listing them and numbering them because we haven’t got necessarily all the position across England, with all of the people’s families given us the permission to talk about them,” she offered. “It would be inappropriate for me to comment on any individual death that we’ve seen.” Again, she gave an answer to a question that wasn’t asked and in doing so saved herself the trouble of providing the figures – which leaves us to presume that they are high and distressing.
My feeling towards all of this was a deep sense of anger, but also fear – that we will all simply become comfortably numb faced with this dose of constructed reality, day after day, at exactly the time that the UK is on a trajectory to record the highest COVID-19 death rates in Europe.
And once we have become numb, the charade bursts through and becomes our actual reality. The scene doesn’t need to be set every day anymore because we’re just expendable extras and the audience no longer.
I do not claim to have the solutions, but we must all find a way to stay alive to the truth, to continue to fight for basic justice – even if that’s simply within ourselves – and reflect on what role we are playing in what is unfolding.
As Dostoevsky said: “Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others”. Perhaps we all need to start there.
I fell in the silence overwhelmed by these days
For I have been shown dear rulers, ruling all things
Thinking the world was mine to lay hold on
I breathe in the promise of maiden and man
But each have their own illusions to hold onto
I only want to be left to my own ways
The rulers of one leaving all things undone
I stood in the awe of the whole creations
Gathered among them was the morning
Giving all its rays
Thinking the world was mine to be lost in
I ran with freedom and sank in between
For I have the path of wonder
There before me
I only want to be left to my own ways
The rulers of one leaving all things undone
I stood in the awe of the whole creation
Gathered among them was the morning
Giving all its rays
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Friday, May 15, 2020
The basic functions of New York state could soon be “reimagined” under the alliance of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Big Tech personified. Is this the testing ground for a dystopian “no-touch” future?
It may appear that the basic choice we have in coping with the pandemic is the one between the Trump way (return to economic activity in the conditions of market freedom and profitability, even if this means thousands of more deaths) and what our media decry as the Chinese way (total digitalized state control of individuals).
However, in the United States, a third option is now propagated by the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and ex-CEO of Google Eric Schmidt, with Michael Bloomberg plus Bill and Melinda Gates in the background – Naomi Klein of the Intercept called this option a “Screen New Deal.” It promises safety from infection while maintaining all the personal freedoms liberals care for – but does it have a chance to work?
In one of his meditations on death, the stand-up comedian Anthony Jeselnik says about his grandmother: “We thought she died happily in her sleep. But the autopsy revealed a horrible truth: she died during autopsy.” This is the problem with Schmidt’s autopsy of our predicament: his autopsy and its implications make our predicament much more catastrophic than it is.
Cuomo and Schmidt announced a project to “reimagine New York state’s post-Covid reality, with an emphasis on permanently integrating technology into every aspect of civic life.” In Klein’s view, this will lead to a “permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future,” in which there is no cash and no need to get out of the home to spend it. Every possible service and commodity is ordered online, delivered by drone, “then screen ‘shared’ on a mediated platform.” And making this future tick would be the exploited masses of “anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons.”
There are two key features that immediately strike the eye in this description.
First, it is the paradox that those privileged who can afford to live in the no-touch space are also the most controlled: their entire life is transparent to the true seat of power, the Big Tech and government combine. Should the networks that are the lifeblood of our existence really be in the hands of private companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple, companies which, merged with state security agencies, will have the ability to censor and manipulate the data available to us or even to disconnect us from public space? Remember that Schmidt and Cuomo call for immense public investments into these companies – should the public then not own them and control them? In short, as Klein proposes, should they not be transformed into nonprofit public utilities? Without a similar move, democracy in any meaningful sense is de facto abolished since the basic component of our commons – the shared space of our communication and interaction – gets under private control.
Secondly, the Screen New Deal intervenes into class struggle at a very precise point. The viral crisis made us fully aware of the crucial role of what David Harvey called the “new working class”: caretakers in all their forms, from nurses to those who deliver food and other packages, empty our trash bins, etc. For those of us who were able to self-isolate, they remained our main contact with others in their bodily form, a source of help but also of possible contagion. The Screen New Deal is a plan to minimize the visible role of this caretaker-class who have to remain non-isolated, largely unprotected, exposing themselves to viral danger so that we, the privileged, can survive in safety – some dream that robots will even take care of the old and keep them company… But these invisible caretakers can strike back, demanding better protection: in the meat-packing industry in the US, thousands of workers already got Covid, and dozens died, and similar things are going on in Germany. New forms of class struggle will explode here.
At the end of the Screen New Deal, if we bring this project to its hyperbolic conclusion, there is the idea of a wired brain, of our brains directly sharing experiences in a Singularity, a divine collective self-awareness. Elon Musk, another perceived tech genius of our time, has recently said he believes human language would be obsolete within 10 years, and if some would still use it, it would be “for sentimental reasons.” Being the boss of Neuralink, he said he plans to connect a device to the human brain within 12 months.
Does this vision, when merged with the homebound future extrapolated by Klein from the ambitions of Cuomo’s Big Tech symbiotes, not recall the situation of humans in ‘The Matrix’? Protected, physically isolated and speechless in our isolated bubbles, we will be spiritually united more than ever, while our high-tech overlords profit, and a multi-million mass of invisible humans toil in the woodwork – a nightmarish vision if there ever was one.
In Chile, during the protests that erupted in October 2019, one of the graffiti on the walls said: “Another end of the world is possible.” This should be our answer to the Screen New Deal: yes, our old world has come to an end, but a no-touch-future is not the only option, another end of the world is possible.
Sunday, May 10, 2020
Don’t eat their cheesecake– Meta-experts judged by meta-meta-experts– Prostitutes, nonprostitutes, and amateurs — Popper compatibility
(Background. The Black Swan explains the domain-dependence of expertise:why the electrician, dentist, are experts, while the journalist, State Department bureaucrat, and macroeconomist are not. Since then, there has been a global movement against the pseudo-expert, the serial incompetence of a certain class of babbling and pompous operatives across bureaucrato-academic professions.Which leads to the question:who is the real expert?Who decides on who is and who is not expert? Where is the metaexpert? Time it is. Or, rather, Lindy.)
Lindy is a deli in New York, now a tourist trap, that proudly claims to be famous for its cheesecake, but in fact has been known for the fifty or so years of interpretation by physicists and mathematicians of the heuristic that developed there.
Actors who hung out there gossiping about other actors discovered that Broadway shows that lasted, say one hundred days, had a future life expectancy of a hundred more. For those that lasted two hundred days, two hundred more. The heuristic became known as the Lindy Effect.
Let me warn the reader:while the Lindy effect is one of the most useful, robust, and universal heuristics I know, the cheesecake is… much less distinguished. Odds are the deli will not survive, by the Lindy Effect.There had been a bevy of mathematical models that sort of fit the story, though not really, until yours truly figured out that the Lindy Effect can be best proved using the theory of fragility and anti-fragility. Actually the theory of fragility directly leads to the Lindy Effect. Simply, my collaborators and I managed to define fragility as sensitivity to disorder: the porcelain owl sitting in front of me on the writing desk, as I am writing these lines, wants tranquility. It dislikes shocks, disorder, variations, earthquakes, mishandling by dust-phobic cleaning service operators, travel in a suitcase transiting through Terminal 5 in Heathrow, and shelling by Saudi Barbaria-sponsored Islamist militias. Clearly, it has no upside from random events and, more generally, disorder. (More technically, being fragile, it necessarily has a nonlinear reaction to stressors: up until its breaking point, shocks of larger intensity affect it disproportionally more than smaller ones).
Now, crucially, time is equivalent to disorder and resistance to the ravages of time, that is, what we gloriously call survival, is ability to handle disorder.
Is fragile what has an asymmetric response to volatility and other stressors, that is, will experience more harm than benefit from it.
The idea of fragility helped put some rigor around the notion that the only effective judge of things is time –by things we mean ideas, people, intellectual productions, car models, scientific theories, books, etc. You can’t fool Lindy: books of the type written by the current hotshot Op-Ed writer at the New York Times may get some hype at publication time, manufactured or spontaneous, but their five year survival is generally inferior to that of pancreatic cancer.
And the operation of time is necessarily done through skin in the game. Without skin in the game, via contact with reality, the mechanism of fragility is disrupted: things may survive for no reason for a while, then ultimately collapse causing a lot of side harm.
A few more details –for those interested in the intricacies, the Lindy Effect has been covered at length in Antifragile. There are two ways things handle time. First, there is aging and perishability: things die because they may have a biological clock, what we call senescence. Second, there is hazard, the rate of accidents. What we witness in physical life is the combination of the two: when you are old and fragile, you don’t handle accidents very well. These accidents don’t have to be external, like falling from a ladder or being attacked by a bear; they can also be internal, from random malfunctioning of your organs or circulation. On the other hand, animals that don’t really age, say turtles and crocodiles, seem to have a life expectancy that remains constant for a long time.
Only the nonperishable can be Lindy-compatible. When it comes to ideas, books, technologies, procedures, institutions, political systems, there is no intrinsic aging and perishability. A physical copy of War and Peace can age (particularly when the publisher cuts corner to save 20 cents on paper for a $50 book); the book itself as an idea doesn’t.
Do we need a Judge?
I have had most of my, sort of, academic career no more than a quarter position. A quarter is enough to have somewhere to go, particularly when it rains in New York, without being emotionally socialized by a group of people and lose intellectual independence. But one (now sacked) department head, one day came to me and emitted the warning:“As a businessman and author you are judged by other businessmen and authors, here as an academic you are judged by other academics. Life is about peer assessment.”It took me a while to overcome my disgust –I am still not fully familiar with the way non-risk takers work; they actually don’t realize that others are not like them, what makes people in the real world tick. No, businessmen as risk takers are not subjected to the judgment of other businessmen, only that of their personal accountant –unless they are peons in a hierarchy, the type of servants judged by their masters, about whom later. They just need to avoid having a documented record of ethical violations. Furthermore, not only you didn’t want peer approval, but you wanted disapproval: an old fellow once came to me in the pit where I was trading and told me:“if people over here like you, you are doing something wrong”.
You can define a free person precisely as someone whose fate is not centrally or directly dependent on his peer assessmentAnd as an essayist, I am not judged by other writers, book editors, and book reviewers, but by readers. Readers? maybe, but wait a minute… not today’s readers. Only those of tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. So, my only real judge being time, hence future readers; it is the stability and robustness of the readership that counts. And as a risk taker, only time counts –for I could fool my accountant with steady earnings with a lot of risk, but time will eventually reveal the properties.
Being reviewed or assessed by others matters if and only if one is subjected to the judgment by future –not just present — othersAnd
More generally, a free person does not need to win arguments –just winTea With the Queen
Peers devolve honors, memberships in academies, Nobels, invitations to Davos and similar venues, tea with the Queen, requests by rich name-droppers to attend cocktail parties where you only see people who are famous. Believe me, there are rich people whose lives revolve around these things. They usually claim to be trying to save the world, the planet, the children, the mountains, the deserts –all the ingredients of the broadcasting of virtue.
But clearly they can’t influence Lindy –in fact it is the reverse. If you spend your time trying to impress others in the New York Club 21, there may be something wrong with you. Peers are valuable collaborators, not final judges.
Within the institutionalization of the process, the rotting takes place as follows. In fact, there is something worse than peer-assessment: the bureaucratization of the process creates a class of new judges: university administrators, who have no clue what someone is doing except via external signals, become the actual arbiters.
Hard science might be robust to the pathologies –even then. So let us take a look at the very vulnerable social science. Given that the sole judge of a contributor is the “peers”, there is a mechanism of citation ring in place that can lead to all manner of pathologies. Macroeconomics for instance, can be nonsense since it is easier to macrobull**t than microbulls**t –given how abstract the effect on society, nobody can tell if a theory really works.
Academia can become a ritualistic publishing gameNow, while this is turning to be an athletic contest, Wittgenstein held the exact opposite:if anything knowledge is the reverse of an athletic contest: in philosophy the winner is the one who finishes last, he said.Further,
Anything that smacks of a competition is a destruction of knowledgeIn some areas, such as gender studies, psychology, the ritualistic publishing game gradually maps less and less to real research, by the very nature of the agency problem, to reach mafia-like divergence of interest: researchers have their own agenda, at variance with what their clients, that is, society and the students, are paying them for. Knowing “economics” doesn’t mean in the academic lingo knowing anything about economics in the sense of the real activity, but the theories produced by economists. And courses in universities, for which hard working parents need to save over decades, easily degenerate into fashion. You work hard for your children to be taught a gender study critique of quantum mechanics.
Against One’s Interest
The most convincing statements are those in which one stands to lose, ones in which one has maximal skin in the game; the most unconvincing ones are those in which one patently (but unknowingly) try to enhance one’s status without tangible contribution (like, as we saw, the great majority of academic papers that say nothing and take no risks). But it doesn’t have to be that way. Showoff is fine; it is human. As long as the substance exceeds the showoff content, you are fine. Stay human, take as much as you can, under the condition you give more than you take.
One should give more weight to research that, while being rigorous, contradicts other peers, particularly if it entails costs and reputational harm for its authorFurther,
Someone with a high public presence who is controversial and takes risks for his opinion is less likely to be a Bulls***t vendorSoul in the Game
The deprostitutionalization of research can be done as follows. Force people who want to do “research” to do it on their own time, that is to derive their income from other sources. Sacrifice is necessary. It may seem absurd to brainwashed contemporaries, but Antifragile documents the outsized historical contributions of the nonprofessional, or, rather, the non-meretricious. For their research to be genuine, they should first have a real world day job, or at least spend ten years as:lens maker, patent clerk, mafia operator, professional gambler, postman, prison guard, medical doctor, limo driver, militia member, social security agent, trial lawyer, farmer, restaurant chef, high volume waiter, firefighter (my favorite), lighthouse keeper, etc., while they are doing their initial research.It is a filtering, nonsense expurgating mechanism. I have no sympathy for professional researchers. I for my part spent the first twenty three years of activity in a full-time highly demanding extremely stressful profession while studying, researching, and writing my first three books at night; it lowered (in fact, eliminated) my tolerance for fake research.
[Note: of course, this does not cover industrial science in which the researcher is subjected to the discipline of the market]Science is Lindy Prone
We said earlier that without skin in game, the mechanism of survival is severely disrupted. This also applies to ideas.
Karl Popper’s idea of falsification is entirely Lindy-compatible; it actually requires the operation of the Lindy Effect, although Popper didn’t have any apparent knowledge of the dynamics, nor did he look at the risk dimension of things. The reason science works, in spite of buls**t vending people who talk about “scientific method”, isn’t because there is a proper scientific method derived by some nerds in isolation, or some “standard” that passes a test similar to an eye exam; rather because scientific ideas are Lindy-prone, that is not exposed to artificial propping up and subjected to their own fragility.
Ideas need to have skin in the game. You know that the idea will fail if it is not useful, and can be therefore vulnerable to the falsification of time (and not that of naive falsificationism, that is by some government printed black-and-white guideline). The more an idea has been around without being falsified, the longer its future life expectancy. For if you read Feyerabend’s account of the history of scientific discoveries, you can clearly see that anything goes in the process –but not with the test of time.
Note that I am here modifying Popper’s idea; we can replace “true” (rather, not false) with “useful”, even “not harmful”, even “protective to its users”. So I will diverge from Popper in the following. For things to survive, they necessarily need to fare well in the risk dimension, that is be good at not dying, surviving, that type of thing. By the Lindy Effect, if an idea has skin in the game, it is not in the truth game, but in the harm game. An idea survives if it is a good risk manager, that is, not only doesn’t harm its holders, but favors their survival –this also affects superstitions that have crossed centuries because they led to some protective actions. More technically, it needs to be convex and reduce fragility somewhere.
Empirical or theoretic?
Academics divide research into theoretical and empirical. Empiricism consists in looking at data on a computer looking for something called statistically significant, or doing experiments in the laboratory under some purposefully narrow conditions. Doing things in the real world, in some professions, bears the name clinical, which is not deemed to be scientific.
In fact, by the Lindy Effect, there is a third category: robustness to time, that is doing under risk-taking conditions that is checked by survival. Things work if those who have been doing so 1) took some type of risk, and 2) managed to cross generations.
Which bring me to the grandmother.
Grandmothers vs Researchers
If you hear advice from a grandmother or elders, odds are that it works at ninety percent. On the other hand, in part because of scientism and academic prostitution, in part because the world is hard, if you read anything by psychologists and behavioral scientists, odds are it works at less than ten percent, unless it is also what has been covered by the grandmother and the classics, in which case why would you need a nerd-psychologist? This may seem aggressive, but it flows directly from the Lindy Effect, partly from my own assessment of the statistical significance of the results, which is subjected to a Fooled by Randomness effect (Note: see my Meta-distribution of p-values). Consider that a recent effort to replicate the hundred psychology papers in “prestigious” journals of 2008 found that, out of a hundred, only thirty nine replicated. Of these thirty nine, I believe than less than ten are actually robust and transfer outside the narrowness of the experiment. Similar defects have been found in medicine, neuroscience; on those later.
(I will discuss the misunderstanding of probability and tail risks in Chapter x –or why the warnings of your grandmother or interdicts aren’t “irrational” ; how most of the “irrational” comes from misunderstanding of probability.)
While our knowledge of physics has not been available to the ancients, human nature was. So everything that hold in social science and psychology has to be Lindy-proof, that is, have an antecedent in the classics; otherwise it will not replicate or not generalize beyond the experiment. By classics we can define the Latin (& late Hellenistic) moral literature (moral sciences meant something else than they do today):Cicero, Seneca, M. Aurelius, Epictetus, Lucian, or the poets: Juvenal, Horace or the later French so-called “moralists” (La Rochefoucault, Vaugenargues, La Bruyere, Chamfort). Bossuet is a class on his own. One can use Montaigne and Erasmus as a portal to the ancients: Montaigne was the popularizer of his day; Erasmus was the thorough compiler.APPENDIX
This is a small sample.
Cognitive dissonance:Aesop , of course. But it looks even more ancient, with Ahiqar of Nineveh. Also in La Fontaine.Loss aversion:Segnius homines bona quam mala sentiunt in Livy’s Annals (XXX, 21) (Men feel the good less intensely than the bad). Nearly all the letters of Seneca -Negative advice:Nimium boni est, cui hinil est mali Ennius , via CiceroHyperbolic discounting:3asfour bil 2id a7san bin 3ashra 3alshajra.Madness of Crowds:Nietzsche: Madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, nations, it is the rule (this counts as ancient wisdom since Nietzsche was a classicist; I’ve seen many such references in Plato).AntifragilityCicero (Disp Tusc,II, 22) When our souls are mollified, a bee can sting — See also Machiavelli and Rousseau.The Paradox of Progress/Choice (Lucretius):there is a familiar story of a New York banker vacationing in Greece, who, from talking to a fisherman and scrutinizing the fisherman’s business, comes up for a scheme to help the fisherman make it a big business. The fisherman asked him what the benefits were; the banker answered that he could make a pile of money in NY and come back vacation in Greece; something that seemed ludicrous to the fisherman who was already there doing the kind of things bankers do when they go on vacation in Greece. The story was very well known in antiquity, under a more elegant form, as retold by Montaigne I, 42: (my transl.) when King Pyrrhus tried to cross into Italy, Cynéas, his wise adviser, tried to make him feel the vanity of such action. “To what end are you going into such enterprise?”, he asked. Pyrrhus answered:” to make myself the master of Italy”. Cynéas: “ and so?”. Pyrrhus: “to get to Gaul, then Spain”. Cynéas: “Then?” Pyrrhus: “ To conquer Africa, then … come rest at ease”. Cynéas:” but you are already there; why take more risks”? Montaigne then cites the well-known Lucretius (V, 1431) on how human nature knows no upper bound, as if to punish itself.Overconfidence:Fiducia pecunias amici “I lost money because of my excessive confidence”, Erasmus citing Theognis, Epicharmus
Saturday, May 9, 2020
Bechdel test - a way of evaluating whether or not a film or other work of fiction portrays women in a way that is sexist or characterized by gender stereotyping. To pass the Bechdel test a work must feature at least two women, these women must talk to each other, and their conversation must concern something other than a man."a lot of Hollywood movies fail the Bechdel test miserably"
ORIGIN - early 21st century: from the name of the US cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who formulated the criteria in 1985 in a comic strip ‘The Rule’, part of the series Dykes To Watch Out For (1983–2008).
More importantly, why would we ever WANT it to?
Another interesting read about the COVID19 virus. If State driven capitalism remains the horizon of “radical” politics, then the cure will be worse than the illness, for it may indeed kill us on this occasion.Originally published by Autonomies.
coronavirus gives a new chance to communism.Slavoj Žižek, "Taming a hybrid: The #COVID19 pandemic" (Spectator USA, 03/14/2020)
In James C. Scott’s telling of the rise of early Neolithic states, sedentism, farming, the domus, irrigation and urbanisation precede the creation of state power.“All of these human achievements of the Neolithic were in place well before we encounter anything like a state” in Mesopotamia or elsewhere. (Against the Grain, 116)Rather than embryonic states preceding the emergence of these institutions and practices, they arose by harnessing the new agricultural grains and concentrations of manpower as a basis of control and appropriation. There was no other possible foundation for the design of a state previously or at that time.
Settled populations growing crops of domesticated grains, and small towns with a thousand or more inhabitants facilitating commerce, were an autonomous achievement of the Neolithic, being in place nearly two millennia before the appearance of the first states, around 3,300 BCE.… This complex, however, represented a unique new concentration of manpower, arable land, and nutrition that, if “captured”—“parasitized” might not be too strong a word—could be made into a powerful node of political power and privilege. The Neolithic agro-complex was a necessary but not a sufficient basis for state formation; it made state formation possible but not certain. (Against the Grain, 177)What then pushed these early settled-agricultural populations into the hands of early forms of state authority? The answer may very well lie in ecological crises:climate and environmental changes (drought, soil salinisation, receding water levels, and the like) which forced sedentary populations to seek out more reliable (real or illusory) conditions for social reproduction. And reliability in this instance often meant conditions that were more ostensibly controllable, controllable by instruments of centralised state power (e.g., state officials of various types, economic management of agricultural production, and walls) which simultaneously eliminated or diminished alternative forms of subsistence, such as, at the time, foraging and hunting. (Against the Grain, 120-1)Such crises, and others, while providing conditions for state formation, could also be the occasion for state desegregation, destruction and collapse, thereby opening up spaces for other, often more “regressive” or “backward” forms of social and political life, that were nonetheless freer.
For most of the human population of the contemporary “developed” world, our dependence on the global network of nation states is almost total; the greater part of us have absolutely no experience or knowledge of alternative forms of subsistence. Without the state, we are lost or abandoned.
We are of course already lost to the accumulation of crises and destruction of our times. However, in the spectacular drama of the corona/COVID-19 virus, all other crises, fundamental and structural capitalist crises, are overshadowed, paving the way for expanding and intensifying state centered shock therapies (quarantines, intrusive surveillance, states of exception, and so on). And these are accepted, even called for. And if subsequently uncontested, they will most likely become the new political norm; they will remain with us as a political virus.
Our current epidemic-pandemic is not a purely natural disaster – something that we must simply resign ourselves to, until the moment when political and economic leaders, scientists and other “experts”, find the “cure” -; but a political-biological hybrid whose causes, threats and end depended and depend as much on “human” actions, as on nature.
If the earth’s living nature abounds in viruses, these last often only become pathogenic agents for us when we press upon them, when our political and economic drives limit and/or destroy their older habitats, thereby making our bodies their new shelters.
Those whom the virus infects face a common risk; but the risk varies enormously according to one’s health, and this latter depends on a whole plethora of factors: food, illnesses, physical environment, means of subsistence/labour, wealth/poverty, cultural-social-political ecology, and so on.
All of which, taken together, renders the declaration of the end of the pandemic a political decision.
For many of those who now speak of a new chance for “communism” – because the corona virus will supposedly reveal all of the weaknesses and violence of neoliberal capitalism -, this new life of the grand old idea often amounts to little more than a makeover of social democracy, now sold under the label of “democratic socialism”. But there is little that is new here, and if State driven capitalism remains the horizon of “radical” politics, then the cure will be worse than the illness, for it may indeed kill us on this occasion.
Thursday, May 7, 2020
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
We should stop thinking that after a peak in the Covid-19 epidemic things will gradually return to normal. The crisis will drag on. But this doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.
In the Marx Brothers’ comedy Duck Soup, Groucho (as a lawyer defending his client at a court) says: “He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.”
Something along these lines should be our reaction to those who display their basic distrust of state orders and see the lockdowns as a conspiracy of the state power which uses the epidemics as a pretext to deprive us of our basic freedoms: “The state is imposing lockdowns which deprive us of our freedoms, and it expects us to control each other in how we obey this order; but this should not fool us, we should really follow the lockdown orders.”
One should note how calls to abolish lockdowns come from the opposite ends of the traditional political spectrum. In the US, they are propelled by libertarian Rightists, while in Germany, small Leftist groups advocate them. In both cases, medical knowledge is criticized as a tool of disciplining people, treating them as helpless victims who should be isolated for their own good. What is not difficult to discover beneath this critical stance is the stance of not-wanting-to-know: if we ignore the threat, it will not be so bad, we’ll manage to pass through it…
The US libertarian Right claims lockdowns should be eased so that people will be given back their freedom of choice. But what choice is it?
As Robert Reich wrote: “Trump’s labor department has decided that furloughed employees ‘must accept’ an employer’s offer to return to work and therefore forfeit unemployment benefits, regardless of Covid-19... Forcing people to choose between getting Covid-19 or losing their livelihood is inhumane.” So yes, it is a freedom of choice: between starvation and risking your life… We are in a situation similar to that which occured in British coal mines in the 18th century (to name just one) where doing your work involved a considerable risk of losing your life.
But there is a different kind of admitting ignorance which sustains the severe imposition of lockdowns. It’s not that the state power exploits the epidemics to impose total control – I more and more think there is a kind of superstitious symbolic act at work here: if we make a strong gesture of sacrifice that really hurts and brings our entire social life to a standstill, we can maybe expect mercy.
When will this epidemic end and what will happen afterwards?
The surprising fact is how little we (including the scientists) seem to know about how the epidemics works. Quite often we get contradictory advice from authorities. We get strict instructions to self-isolate in order to avoid viral contamination, but when the infection numbers are falling, the fear arises that, in this way, we are just making ourselves more vulnerable to the expected second wave of the viral attack. Or are we counting on the hope that the vaccine will be here before the next wave? But there are already different variations of the virus, will one vaccine cover them all? All the hopes for a quick exit (summer heat, fast spread of herd immunity, vaccine…) are fading away.
One often hears that the epidemics will compel us in the West to change the way we relate to death, to really accept our mortality and the fragility of our existence – out of nowhere a virus comes and our life is over.
This is why, we are told, in the East, people are taking the epidemics much better – just as a part of life, of the way things are. We in the West less and less accept death as part of life, we see it as an intrusion of something foreign which you can indefinitely postpone if you lead a healthy life, exercise, follow a diet, avoid traumas…
I’ve never trusted this story. In some sense, death is not a part of life, it is something unimaginable, something that shouldn’t happen to me. I am never really ready to die, except to escape unbearable suffering. That’s why these days many of us focus every day on the same magic numbers: how many new infections, how many full recoveries, how many new deaths… but horrible as these numbers are, does our exclusive focus on them not make us ignore a much greater number of people who are at this moment dying of cancer, of a painful heart attack? Outside the virus, it’s not just life, it’s also dying and death. What about a comparative list of numbers: today, so many people got the virus and cancer; so many died of the virus and of cancer; so many recuperated from the virus and from cancer?
One should change our imaginary here and stop expecting one big clear peak after which things will gradually return to normal. What makes the epidemics so unbearable is that even if the full catastrophe fails to appear, things just drag on, we are informed that we reached the plateau, then things go a little bit better, but… the crisis just drags on.
As Alenka Zupančič put it, the problem with the end of the world is the same as with Fukuyama’s end of history: the end itself doesn’t end, we just get stuck in a weird immobility. The secret wish of all of us, what we think about all the time, is just one thing: when will it end? But it will not end: it is reasonable to see the ongoing epidemics as announcing a new period of ecological troubles – back in 2017, the BBC portrayed what might be waiting for us due to the ways we intervene in nature: “Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.”
Eventual rise of Singularity
The special irony of this no-end-in-view is that the epidemics occurred at a time when pop-scientific media were obsessed with two aspects of the digitalization of our lives. On the one hand, a lot is being written about the new phase of capitalism called ‘surveillance capitalism’: a total digital control over our lives exerted by state agencies and private corporations. On the other hand, the media are fascinated by the topic of direct brain-machine interface (‘wired brain’).
First, when our brain is connected to digital machines, we can cause things to happen in reality just by thinking about them. Then, my brain is directly connected to another brain, so that another individual can directly share my experience. Extrapolated to its extreme, wired brain opens up the prospect of what Ray Kurzweil called Singularity, the divine-like global space of shared global awareness. Whatever the (dubious, for the time being) scientific status of this idea, it is clear that its realization will affect the basic features of humans as thinking/speaking beings. The eventual rise of Singularity will be apocalyptic in the complex meaning of the term – it will imply the encounter with a truth hidden in our ordinary human existence, i.e. the entrance into a new post-human dimension.
It is interesting to note that the extensive use of surveillance was quietly accepted: drones were used not only in China but also in Italy and Spain. As for the spiritual vision of Singularity, the new direct unity of the human and the divine, a bliss in which we leave behind the limits of our corporeal existence, can well turn out to be a new unimaginable nightmare. From a critical standpoint, it is difficult to decide which is worse (a greater threat to humanity), the viral devastation of our lives or the loss of our individuality in Singularity. Epidemics remind us that we remain firmly rooted in bodily existence with all the dangers that this implies.
We will have to invent a new way of life
Does this mean our situation is hopeless? Absolutely not. There are immense, almost unimaginable troubles ahead, there will be millions of newly jobless people, etc. A new way of life will have to be invented. One thing is clear: in a lockdown, we live off the old stocks of food and other provisions, so the difficult task is now to step out of the lockdown and invent a new life under viral conditions.
Just think about how what is fiction and what is reality will change. Movies and TV series which take place in our ordinary reality, with people freely strolling along streets, shaking hands and embracing, will become nostalgic images of a lost past world, while our real life will look like a variation of Samuel Beckett’s late play called Play where we see on stage, touching one another, three identical grey urns; from each urn a head protrudes, the neck held fast in the urn’s mouth…
However, if one takes a naïve look at things from a proper distance (which is very difficult), it is clear that our global society has enough resources to coordinate our survival and organize a more modest way of life, with local food shortages compensated by global cooperation, and with global healthcare better prepared for the next onslaughts.
Will we be able to do this? Or will we enter a new barbarian age in which our attention to the health crisis will just enable old (cold and hot) conflicts to go on out of the sight of the global public? Note the reignited cold war between the US and China, not to mention actual hot wars in Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, which function like the virus: they just drag on for years and years… (Note how Macron’s call for a world-wide truce for the time of the epidemic was flatly ignored.) This decision which way we take concerns neither science nor medicine; it is a properly political one.
Sunday, May 3, 2020
Maybe the moment has come to take a step back from our exclusive focus on the pandemic, to allow ourselves to consider what coronavirus and its devastating effects reveal about us as a society.
The first thing that strikes the eye is that, contrary to the cheap motto ‘we’re all in the same boat’, class divisions have exploded. At the very bottom of our hierarchy, there are those – refugees, people caught in war zones – whose life is so destitute that, for them, the pandemic is not the main problem. While these folk are still mostly ignored by our media, we’re bombarded by sentimental celebrations of nurses on the frontline of our struggle against the virus. But nurses are just the most visible part of a whole class of ‘care-takers’ that is exploited – albeit not in the way the old working class portrayed in Marxist imagery was exploited. Instead, as David Harvey puts it, they form a “new working class”.
He says: “The workforce that is expected to take care of the mounting numbers of the sick, or to provide the minimal services that allow for the reproduction of daily life, is, as a rule, highly gendered, racialized, and ethnicized. This is the ‘new working class’ that is at the forefront of contemporary capitalism. Its members have to bear two burdens: at one and the same time, they are the workers most at risk of contracting the virus through their jobs, and of being laid off with no financial resources because of the economic retrenchment enforced by the virus. The contemporary working class in the United States – comprised predominantly of African Americans, Latinos, and waged women – faces an ugly choice: between suffering contamination in the course of caring for people and keeping key forms of provision (such as grocery stores) open, or unemployment with no benefits (like adequate health care).”
This is why, in France, revolts erupted in the poor northern suburbs of Paris, where those who serve the rich live. And this is why, in recent weeks, Singapore has had a dramatic spike in coronavirus infections in foreign-worker dormitories. As CNN reported, “Singapore is home to about 1.4 million migrant workers, who come largely from South and Southeast Asia. As housekeepers, domestic helpers, construction workers and manual laborers, these migrants are essential to keeping Singapore functioning – but are also some of the lowest-paid and most vulnerable people in the city.” This new working class was here all the time – the pandemic just propelled it into visibility.
To define this sector appropriately, Bruno Latour and Nikolaj Schultz coined the term “geo-social class.” Many of them are not exploited in the classic Marxist sense of working for those who own the means of production; instead, they’re exploited via the material conditions of their life: their access to clean water and air, their health, their safety. The local population is exploited when their land is used for large-scale agriculture aimed at the export market, or for extensive mining. Even if they don’t work for a foreign company, they’re exploited in the simple sense of being deprived of the full use of the land that enables them to maintain their way of life. Take the Somali pirates, for example: they turned to piracy because their sea coast was depleted of fish by foreign companies practicing industrial-scale fishing there. Part of their territory was appropriated by the developed countries and used to sustain our way of life, while theirs was diminished. In this regard, Latour suggests we ought to replace the term “appropriation of surplus value” with “appropriation of surplus existence,” where “existence” refers to the necessary material conditions of life.
As we’ve discovered, in a pandemic, when even factories are at a standstill, the geo-social class of care-takers has to go on working. So, it seems appropriate to dedicate this May 1 to them, instead of the classic industrial working class. It is they who are the truly over-exploited: exploited when they work because their work is largely invisible and exploited even when they don’t work because of their material conditions. They are not just exploited in what they are doing – they are exploited in their very existence.
The eternal dream of the rich is that of a territory totally separated from the polluted dwellings of the poor – just think about all those post-apocalyptic blockbusters, such as Neill Blomkamp’s film ‘Elysium’, set in 2154, in which the elite live on a gigantic, man-made space station, while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth that looks like an expanded Latino-American favela. In today’s real world, meanwhile, expecting some kind of global catastrophe, the rich are currently buying villas in New Zealand or renovating Cold War nuclear bunkers in the Rocky Mountains. But the problem with a pandemic is that one can never isolate oneself completely. Like an umbilical cord that cannot be severed, a connection with polluted reality is unavoidable, whatever your social status.
Friday, May 1, 2020
Kawanio Che Keeteru: A TRUE RELATION OF A Bloody BATTLE Fought BETWEEN GEORGE and LEWIS, In the YEAR 1755. (Printed in the Year MDCCLVI.)-Nicholas Scull
THE Words I have chosen at the Head of my Title Page, I am told by a Gentleman skilled in the Indian Languages, is very expressive of a HERO relying on GOD to bless his Endeavours, in protecting what he has put under his Care.
To form some Idea of its Signification, he says, you may imagine a Man, with his Wife, and Children about him, and, with an Air of Resolution, calling out to his Enemy, ALL THESE GOD HAS GIVEN ME, AND I WILL DEFEND THEM.
How GEORGE, for to regain his Right,
With LEWIS held a dreadful Fight;
In which the Man who rais'd the Strife;
Was vanquished, and lost his Life:
Whereon a warm Dispute arose,
About the legal Use of BLOWS.
THERE liv'd a Man not long ago,
And yet may live, for ought I know;
A Patriot hold, of honest Fame,
A Briton true, and GEORGE his Name:
His gen'rous Breast contain'd a Heart,
That dar'd to act an honest Part.
He lov'd the Cause of Liberty;
And scorn'd a Life that was not free:
His Country's Cause he would defend,
And venture all to serve a Friend.
No Man more bold in Time of Danger;
To bear, as well as 〈◊〉, a Stranger.
Thus long our Hero, liv'd at Ease
With all the World, in Love and Peace,
Till LEWIS, whose ambitious Mind,
Nor Law, nor Justice, e'er could bind;
Seiz'd on a Part of GEORGE's Land,
And held Possession, Sword in Hand.
Our Hero, tho' averse to War,
Could not this daring Insult bear,
But soon resolv'd his Foe to fight,
And by the Sword regain his Right.
BUT, as 'tis very seldom known,
That one Misfortune comes alone,
So honest GEORGE had scarcely heard,
How he, as to his Land, had far'd,
When, lo! 'twas his unhappy Fate,
To meet another Loss, as great.
For LEWIS, who to gain his End,
Would to the meanest Things descend,
Contriv'd our Warrier's House to rob,
And brib'd a Thief to do the Job.
The Villain follow'd the Direction;
Then fled to LEWIS for Protection;
But first had seiz'd on GEORGE's Money,
And plunder'd him of ev'ry Penny:
Stole every Pistol, Sword and Gun,
That he could lay his Fingers on.
But what chagrin'd our Hero most,
Was, that his trusty Sword was lost.
His Sire, at Blenbeim, found it good,
And stain'd it there with Gallit Blood;
With it our Warrier gain'd Applause,
At Culloden, in BRITAIN's Cause:
This Sword gave GEORGE no little Pain;
But it was stol'n, and Grief was vain.
THUS GEORGE, now in a needful Hour,
Had not a Weapon in his Power;
And what made the Misfortune worse,
Had scarce a Farthing in his Purse.
IN this sad Case, away he flies,
With all the Warrier in his Eyes,
To SIMON, his Acquaintance, who
Was his fast Friend, and Neighbour too,
To whom he freely did impart,
The Cause of all his present Smart.
Quoth he, "I'm come upon my Word,
"To borrow Cash, to buy a Sword;
"For LEWIS, that perfidious Knave,
"Who fain would all the World enslave,
"Whose restless and ambitious Mind,
"The Laws of Justice cannot bind:
"Has seiz'd my Land, and what is worse,
"Resolves to hold his Claim by Force.
"I therefore am resolv'd to try,
"To have my Land again, or die;
"I'll bring the proud Invader down:
"I know his Strength, and know my own.
SIMON was of a gen'rous Cast▪
In Friendship, constant to the last▪
He wanted not his Share of Sense,
Nor was averse to Self-Defence;
But durst not own it to the Church,
For fear of eccles'astick Birch.
Quoth SIMON, "Tis a wretched Case,
"That this Disturber of our Peace,
"Should lord it o'er his Neighbours thus,
"What will at last become of us?
"If he has seiz'd on Land of thine,
"No doubt he soon will seize on mine,
"But GEORGE, thy rash Design forbear,
"And trust to Heav'ns paternal Care;
"Those who for Self-Defence contend,
"Cannot on Providence depend.
"Besides, Defence cannot be right,
"Since Christians are forbid to fight:
"But as thy Money is so scant,
"A little Sum thou shalt not want;
"For to refuse a Friend your Purse,
"Is really mean, or something worse.
"GEORGE, I will lend thee twenty Pieces;
"They'll do thee Service, as thy Case is▪
"Whatever Use thou puts them to,
"Is no Concern of mine, to know.
GEORGE understood what SIMON meant;
And bowing-low, away he went,
Revolving in his honest Mind,
The Vice and Follies of Mankind.
SIMON, he saw, us'd all his Art,
To hide the Language of his Heart;
That all he said on Self-Defence,
Was nothing more than meer Pretence:
But as he just had gain'd his Suit,
'Twould be imprudent to dispute.
As happy now, as any Lord,
He with his Money bought a Sword,
And Weapons, such as suits a Knight,
When ready to engage in Fight.
He hourly now impatient grows,
To meet the Foe▪ and come to Blows.
But quite averse to shedding Blood,
Our valiant Warrier held it good,
Rather than try his Right by Force,
To take a more pacific Course:
He therefore sent a trusty Hand,
To let the Tyrant understand,
That tho' he was for Fight prepar'd,
And from the Combat nothing fear'd;
Yet, as he was inclin'd to Peace,
He freely would submit his Case,
For to be try'd at Reason's Bar,
And would abide the Judgment there.
But LEWIS of his Prowess vain,
Treated this Message with Disdain.
"Go back, Quoth he, and tell your Lord,
"That I try Titles by the Sword;
"It is the shortest Way by far,
"And less expensive than the Bar;
"And 'tis the Way that I intend,
"To bring our Quarrel to an End:
"Let's fight it fairly, Hand to Hand,
"And the Survivor take the Land.
When GEORGE this Message had receiv'd,
Quoth he, "If I am not deceiv'd,
"This Boaster, when too late, may find
"Himself much more to Peace inclin'd,
"And wish, in vain, that he had clos'd,
"With the fair Offer I propos'd.
"This Message take him instantly:
"Tell the perfidious Man from me,
"That all his Threats I hold in scorn,
"And will attend To-morrow Morn,
"At Dawn of Day, and in the Field,
"He has by Force unjustly held."
NO sooner had the King of Day,
Bedeck'd the Eastern Sky with grey,
When both the Champions well prepar'd,
In the decisive Field appear'd.
Quoth GEORGE, "I joy to meet you here;
"Now to defend yourself prepare."
LEWIS return'd, "Yourself defend,
"Your Life, or mine, the Strife must end"
This said they instantly engage,
With manly Strength, and martial Rage,
A bloody Combat long they held,
Each Side unknowing how to yield.
They sought as brave, some Authors tell us,
As did fam'd Hector and Achilles;
And asking both these Heroes Pardon,
They laid each other full as hard on.
At length our Warrier fill'd with Shame,
Unto a close Engagement came,
And soon let LEWIS understand,
What 'twas to fight him Hand to Hand.
For, now, alas! the Crimson Tide,
Flow'd freely from the Aggressor's Side;
And tho' he scarce his Sword could wield,
His Pride forbad his Heart to yield.
When GEORGE perceiving his Distress,
His haughty Foe did thus address:
"LEWIS, Quoth he, let's end the Strife;
"Restore my Land, and take thy Life."
Quoth LEWIS; "Know, that still I live,
"And scorn the Life that thou can'st give.
"No; one of us must die this Day,
"For Death alone shall end the Fray.
Thus he; when at our Warrier's Head,
With both his Hands a Blow he made;
But GEORGE, who kept a watchful Eye,
Perceiv'd the Stroke, and put it by,
And at this Usage quite enrag'd,
His Foe with double Force engag'd.
NOW LEWIS, when it was too late,
Saw plainly his approaching Fate;
Yet, dauntless, bravely play'd his Part,
'Till GEORGE's Sword had pierc'd his Heart
At which he fell; and falling, cry'd,
MY PUNISHMENT IS JUST; and dy'd.
NOW from the Multitude around,
Loud Acclamations shake the Ground;
Crying, Now all our Fears are fled,
For, lo! the lawless Tyrant's dead;
May Heaven its choicest Gifts bestow,
Upon the Man that gave the Blow.
GEORGE, now all Tenderness appears;
Nor could he stop the flowing Tears
But stood▪ revolving in his Mind,
The various Follies of Mankind,
Then on the Dead he cast his Eye,
And thus addressed the Standers by:
"I'm griev'd, said he, that one so brave,
"Should thus untimely fill the Grave:
"But when at Truth Men shut their Eyes,
"And Reason's sacred Laws despise,
"Will make their vicious Wills their Law,
"And keep by Force the World in awe,
"Rob us of Freedom, Life and Treasure,
"And tell us, 'tis their Will and Pleasure;
"Then the Oppress'd should have Recourse
"To Arms, and right themselves by Force:
"And he that will his Freedom lose,
"Rather than Force with Force oppose,
"Let crazy Heads say all they can,
"Does not deserve the Name of Man.
NOW swift as Light'ning thro' the Skies,
The News of GEORGE's Conquest flies,
And quickly reaching SIMON's Ears,
It dissipated all his Fears:
For now he thought himself secure,
Since haughty LEWIS was no more.
Qouth he, "I'm glad that Neighbour GEORGE,
"Has been to Wickedness a Scourge;
"And tho' Defence at any Time,
"The Faithful hold to be a Crime;
"Yet GEORGE, by Force, we must confess,
"Has freed his Neighbours from Distress;
"Has sav'd their Lives and Liberties,
"And set their aching Hearts at Ease.
WHILST SIMON thus, from Truth had swerv'd,
NATHAN stood by him unobserv'd.
NATHAN, as some are pleas'd to say,
〈…〉 honest in his Way;
He understood as well as any,
To make Advantage of a Penny:
His Countenance was as demure,
As 〈◊〉 the PHIZ of SIMON PURE.
〈◊〉on Defence, he had read o'er,
With many a pious Author more,
Who with enthusiastick Din,
Make Self-Defence a deadly Sin.
His Liberty and Life he'd lose,
Rather than Force with Force oppose,
Nor yet resist in any wise,
Were Heaven itself to be the Prize.
Yet if a Thief his Mansion breaks,
And from him the least Trifle takes,
The Fugitive he will pursue;
Bind him by Force, and hang him too.
THIS Bigot knew well what had past,
'Twixt GEORGE and SIMON, first and last;
And like himself, had lost no Time,
To tell the Church the 〈◊〉 Crime:
And as she knew his Disposition,
Thought him most fit for Inquisition:
Him therefore she dispatch'd away,
To know 〈◊〉 SIMON had to say.
NATHAN with this was so elate,
That he set off without his Hat,
Which gave the pious Man the Pain,
And Shame, of twining back again.
His Hat regain'd, away he stretcht,
Till SIMON's Mansion House he retcht:
Then 〈◊〉 a while to fetch his Breath,
〈◊〉 Countenance as pale as Death,
And putting on a serious Face,
Such as becomes a Child of Grace;
A Sigh he gave, and then a Groan,
And thus began with dismal Tone.
"OUR Elders, SIMON, sent me here,
"Upon a weighty sad Affair:
"The Church is almost broken-hearted,
"Lest thou hast from the Truth departed:
"For when her Pillars are unsound,
"She soon will tumble to the Ground."
QUOTH, SIMON, "NATHAN, Why all this!
"I pray thee tell me what's amiss?"
"Perhaps, Quoth Nathan, 'tis invented,
"Or not so bad as represented:
"But, Friend, it does my Mind distract,
"For fear the Story should be fact."
QUOTH SIMON, "NAT come to the Case,
"Thou'st made, I think, a long Preface."
QUOTH NATHAN, "Then, the Charge is this;
"We think that thou hast done amiss:
"That thou a handsome Sum didst lend,
"To Neighbour GEORGE, thy trusty Friend;
"Altho' he told thee on his Word,
"He'd lay it out to buy a Sword.
"That with the Cash, a Sword he bought,
"And with it had a Battle fought,
"And slain his Neighbour in the Fight,
"In order to obtain his Right.
"If this be true, thou'st gone too far,
"And acted out of Character.
QUOTH SIMON, "Be not in a Hurry
"To judge, before you hear my Story.
"I lent my Cash, I freely own,
"Unto my Friend, who then had none,
"Who told me on his honest Word,
"He wanted it to buy a Sword.
"I lent the Cash; but at the Time,
"Told him, Resistance was a Crime;
"Bid him his rash Design forbear,
"And trust to Heaven's paternal Care
"Told him, Defence could not be right,
"Since Christians were forbid to fight.
"This I repeated o'er and o'er:
"Pray could the Church have told him more?"
Quoth NATHAN, "Tho' all this be true,
"It will not for thy Purpose do;
"For one may see with half an Eye,
"Thou gav'st thy Principles the Lye.
"For to oppose a Thing, and yet
"At the same Time encourage it,
"Smells strongly, SIMON, to be free,
"Of very gross Hypocrisy;
"And he that can act such a Part,
"Must have, I think, a carnal Heart."
QUOTH SIMON, "Thou art warm I see▪
"Thou may'st be civil; yet be free:
"To be ill-natured and uncivil,
"Is in a Saint, a shameful Evil.
"But to the Matter in Dispute,
"I thus thy Arguments confute▪
"When GEORGE the shining Gold had got;
"Was it then mine? I think 'twas not:
"Reason will tell thee 'twas his own.
"Then pray what Right had any one,
"For to concern himself about,
"Which Way he laid his Money out?
"Suppose he'd cast it in the Sea?
"Pray must the Fault be laid on me?"
"The Fault, Quoth NATHAN would be thine,
"If GEORGE had said, 'twas his Design;
"For had he utter'd such a Thought,
"Thoud'st not have lent a single Groat,
"And George might have return'd with Shame,
"And Pennyless as when he came:
"In short, it is as clear as Day,
"That thou hast err'd, and gone astray.
"For to affirm thou didst not know,
"What GEORGE would with the Money do,
"Is all Evasion; all Pretence;
"'Tis an affront to common Sense."
QUOTH SIMON, "All I've said, I see,
"Goes just for Nothing, NAT, with thee;
"With one of thy uncommon Cast,
"To reason, is but Labour lost
"Suppose the Worst of all that's sed;
"I've follow'd, as our Elders led.
"Have they not cry'd out, one and all,
"Against Defence, as Criminal?
"And with grave Faces, told the People,
"'Twas sinful as to build a STEEPLE.
"That none could trust in Providence,
"Who arm themselves for their Defence;
"And on this Tenet, did deny
"To grant the Publick a Supply;
"Altho' 'twas call'd for by the Crown:
"These Truths to all the World are known.
"But now, instead of persevering,
"In these their Tenets, without var'ng,
"These non-resisting Saints, we find,
"Are clearly of another Mind,
"And to secure themselves their Places,
"Begin to put on Martial Faces,
"And voted Sixty Thousand Pound,
"Their Enemies to kill and wound:
"Have made a very fine Machine,
"To catch your Geese and Gudgeons in▪
"Not caught as usual for our Food,
"But in our Cause to shed their Blood.
"By this the observing World may see,
"Faith changes with Conveniency;
"And that what is To-Day a Crime,
"May not be so another Time;
"That People may take up their Creeds,
"Or lay them down, as Int'rest leads.
NOW, NATHAN look'd like one Agast,
And sighing deeply, spoke at last.
Quoth he, "What mortal Man could e'er
"Have Thought things would be, as they are
"Our pious Elders, thought, no Doubt,
"Means would be found to bring about,
"Between the jaring Crowns, a Peace,
"Then all Hostilities would cease;
"Their Principles have been secure,
"And they gone on as heretofore,
"Were they in his at all to blame?
"The Saints have often done the same
"They're bid be harmless, it is true;
"Yet be as wise as Serpents too."
QUOTH SIMON, "Thou hast fell upon,
"The very Scheme they carry'd on,
"The only Source from whence arose,
"Our present Miseries and Woes;
"And which will be a lasting Shame,
"On those who now I shall not name.
"For had they acted honestly,
"And early given a Supply,
"Or if, thro' Principle or Fear,
"They could not give towards the War,
"In either Case, I think they shou'd,
"Have left their Seats to those that wou'd.
"Had this been done, our Elders then,
"Would have appear'd like honest Men;
"Nor should we at this Day have seen,
"An Indian Foe, or Fort Duquesne;
"Nor would great BRADDOCK, once so brave,
"Have at the Meadows filld a Grave.
"And to be short, this Fact is plain,
"Their Love of Pow'r, has been our Bane."
"MY Heart, Quoth NATHAN's almost burst,
"To hear the talk as now thou do'st,
"And still it gives me Joy to see,
"The Church not censur'd yet by thee:
"For She, I'm sure, has 〈◊〉 no Ill,
"But shines with wonted I 〈◊〉 still,
"These earthly Things she 〈◊〉 above,
"And daily prays for Peace and Love."
QUOTH SIMON, "All 〈◊〉 may be true,
"Or may be not, for aught I know,
"But I mean those and only those,
"Who did Supplies at first oppose,
"And ever since have been a brewing,
"What hitherto has been 〈…〉.
"As to my Case, I'll only 〈◊〉 on't;
"It would be idle to say much on't,
"But tell the Church she'd better far,
"Her Process against me forbear,
"Lest I should wisper in her Ear,
"Some Cases she'll not like 〈◊〉 hear.
"For let me say, was I 〈◊〉,
"And Punishment to be inflicted,
"I think she has few Sons, 〈◊〉 none
"Who would have Right 〈…〉 a Stone."
QUOTH NAT, "this 〈◊〉 something 〈◊〉
"And to my Knowledge is not true;
"It grives me, SIMON, to the Heart▪
"To see thee this from Truth depart.
"For none can talk at such a 〈◊〉
"Who are not in a carnal State;
"But there's a 〈◊〉 which carnal Men▪
"Have never 〈◊〉, felt or seen;
"And those 〈◊〉 remain therein,
"Will ever 〈◊〉 Defence a Sin.
"I'd rather lose my tender Wife,
"My Fortune, 〈◊〉 and Life,
"Than to resist murd'ring Foe,
"And by his 〈◊〉 avert the Blow."
QUOTH SIM•• "by what now thou'st said
"Thou art 〈…〉 in thy Head:
"Or what is 〈…〉 arrant Cant▪
"And meer 〈…〉 Rant
"What! see 〈…〉 with all her Charms,
"Distress'd, and 〈…〉 Ruffian's Arms,
"And not thy 〈◊〉 Assistance give?
"Sure such a 〈◊〉 ought not to live.
"I'm shock't, and beg to hear no more,
"Return my Answer—there's the Door."