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, July 31, 2022

What is the Nature of Science? Popper vs. Kuhn

The Global Warming Debate... Is it Popperian or Kuhnian?  Duck or Rabbit?
The Myth of "Falsifiability"  I wonder how many Okhamian terms are there in a Global Climate Model?
...I might have to go with Kuhn on this one.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Communist Desire

Slavoj Zizek, "The Communist Desire"
In her stupendous Yesterday’s Tomorrow,[1] Bini Adamczak provides nothing less than the definitive account of what one cannot but call the ineradicable, absolutely authentic, Communist desire, the Idea of a society which fully overcomes domination:
“Unlike the slaves, who only wished to be as free as their masters, unlike the peasants, who wanted to give the lords a tenth of their crop instead of a fifth, unlike the bourgeoisie, who only wanted political freedom, not economic freedom, what the workers demanded was a classless society. What the Communists promised was the abrogation of all domination. And as long as they are remembered, their promise remains.” (80)
This desire is “eternal” in the simple sense that it is a shadow that accompanies all hitherto history which is, as Marx and Engels wrote, the history of class struggle. What makes Adamczak’s book unique is that she detects this desire through a very close analysis of the failures of the (European) Communist movement in the twentieth century, tracing them backwards from Hitler-Stalin pact to the brutal suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion. The details she describes make it clear that, say, the Hitler-Stalin pact cannot be accounted for just in the terms of brutal realpolitik (Stalin needed time to prepare for the war that loomed on the horizon). Weird excesses disturb this image, like the fact that in 1940 guards in gulags were forbidden to shout at prisoners “Fascists!¨” not to insult the Nazis:
“What remains incomprehensible, because irreducible to any calculation of power politics, is Beria’s order forbidding the guard stuff in the gulags from disparaging political prisoners – antifascists in the majority, frequently convicted of ‘Trotskyte-fascist deviations’ – with the epithet fascist”(34).
Adamczak’s focus is double, as the subtitle of her book makes it clear: “On the Loneliness of Communist Specters and the Reconstruction of the Future.” The absolute loneliness is that of the Communists who were purged but continued to believe in the Communist Idea embodied in the Party that liquidated them, i.e., to put it in Lacan’s terms, the Party remained for them the only big Other. The deadlock they faced is that the way out for them was not to insist on the purity of the Communist dream against its betrayal by the Party: this dream of the future itself had to be “reconstructed.” Most of them (just recall Arthur Koestler and Ignazio Silone) failed in this task, contributed to the liberal (or even conservative) critique of Communism, and produced writings in the style of “God that failed,” rejoining the anti-Communist Cold War warriors. As Adamczak notes, the absence of the Communist desire explains why, when European Communism disintegrated around 1990,
“the jubilant cries of the Cold War victors were so unconvincing: they lacked all joy. Instead of relief at averting looming danger or shared joy at the newfound fortune of the former oppressed, it expressed something resembling embittered malevolence: the schadenfreude those who stayed at home feel for their siblings drowned at sea.”(79)
Adamczak turns around here the well-known anti-Communist motto that those who do not want to talk about Stalinism should also keep quiet about Communism: “But what can be said about Stalinism by those who refuse to hear about Communism? Those who wish to write the history of this past without writing about the history of that future that was buried in it?”(80) Only Communism establishes the highest standards, by which it must be judged and critically rejected, which is why “the first reproach against anticommunism must be that of downplaying the crimes of Stalinism. Not because an idea was murdered alongside the people in the gulags – how cynical – but because Communism alone brought forth into the world the historically actionable demand to accept no disenfranchisements, to tolerate no more degradation.”(82) That’s why the worst thing a Communist can do is to half-heartedly defend Communist states in a modest comparative way:
“Communists react defensively to the (anticommunist) critique of Communism – not everything about Communism was bad – with parries – that wasn’t even Communism – or by attacking – criticism of the crimes of communism only serves to legitimate the crimes of the enemies. They are right on all counts. But what does it say about Communism to state that National Socialism was worse, that capitalism has been just as bad? What kind of verdict is it for Communism to say not everything but instead only almost everything was bad?”(140)
Just recall a similar defense of Cuba: yes, the revolution was a failure, but they do have good healthcare and education… And do we not hear a similar argumentation from those who “show understanding” for Russia, although they condemn the invasion of Ukraine: “the criticism of Russian crimes in Ukraine only serves to legitimate the crimes of the liberal West…”?

Adamczak also dismisses the “postmodern” Left which criticizes Communism for its focus on economy, while ignoring as “secondary” feminism, the struggle against sexual oppression, and all other domains of “cultural Marxism.” Such a critique comes all too close to comfortable historicism, which ignores the “eternity” of the Communist Idea. When an injustice happens, its historicist relativization by way of evoking specific circumstances (“he lived in another epoch when it was normal to be a racist or anti-feminist, so we shouldn’t judge him by today’s standards”) is wrong: we should do precisely that, measure the past wrongs by today’s standards. We should be shocked by how women were treated in past centuries, by how benevolent “civilized” people owned slaves, etc.

The actual Communist power is not only fighting its capitalist opponents; it is betraying the emancipatory dream, which brought it into existence. This is why a true critique of actually-existing socialism should not just point out that life in a Communist state was mostly worse than life in many capitalist states. Its greatest “contradiction” is the antinomy in its very heart, not just the stark contrast between the Idea and reality, but the less perceptible change in the Idea itself. The idealized image of the future promised by the Communist power is incompatible with the Communist Idea. In the last act of The Tempest, Prospero says to Caliban: “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.” Every Communist has to say something similar about Stalinism, the largest “thing of darkness” in the history of Communism: in order to really understand it, the first gesture is to “acknowledge it as mine,” to fully accept that Stalinism is not a contingent deviation or misapplication of Marxism but is implied as a possibility by its very core… But does Hegel not say something similar in his famous lines on the French Revolution?
“Never since the sun had stood in its firmament and the planets revolved around him had it been perceived that man’s existence centers in his head, i.e., in thought. /…/ Anaxagoras had been the first to say that nous governs the world; but not until now had man advanced to the recognition of the principle that thought ought to govern spiritual reality. This was accordingly a glorious mental dawn. All thinking beings shared in the jubilation of this epoch. Emotions of a lofty character stirred men’s minds at that time; a spiritual enthusiasm thrilled through the world, as if the reconciliation between the divine and the secular was now first accomplished.”[2]
Note that Hegel says this a quarter of a century after the French Revolution, and also decades after he showed how the freedom the French Revolution wanted to actualize necessarily turned into terror. And we should say exactly the same about the October Revolution after experiencing Stalinism as its consequence: it also was “a glorious mental dawn. All thinking beings shared in the jubilation of this epoch. Emotions of a lofty character stirred men’s minds at that time; a spiritual enthusiasm thrilled through the world…” We have to endure fully this antinomy, avoiding both traps: the dismissal of Stalinism as an error due to contingent circumstances, as well as the quick conclusion that Stalinism is the “truth” of the Communist desire. This antinomy is brought to extreme in Lenin’s State and Revolution, a book whose vision of the revolution is definitely grounded in the authentic Communist desire: as Lenin writes, with the revolution,
“for the first time in the history of civilized society, the mass of the population will rise to take an independent part, not only in voting and elections, but also in the everyday administration of the state. Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing.”[3]
This properly Communist dimension is condensed in Lenin’s famous formula “Every kitchen maid should learn to rule the state,” which was endlessly repeated through the 1920s as a slogan of women’s emancipation. However, it is worth taking a closer look at the precise context of Lenin’s justification of this slogan which, at first sight, may appear extremely utopian, especially since he emphasizes that the slogan designates something that “can and must be done at once, overnight,” not in some later Communist future. Lenin begins his line of argumentation by denying being utopian: against anarchists, he asserts his utter realism. He is not counting on “new men” but on “people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control, and ‘foremen and accountants’”:
“We are not utopians, we do not “dream” of dispensing at once with all administration, with all subordination. These anarchist dreams, based upon incomprehension of the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship, are totally alien to Marxism, and, as a matter of fact, serve only to postpone the socialist revolution until people are different. No, we want the socialist revolution with people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control, and “foremen and accountants”. This subordination, however, must be to the armed vanguard of all the exploited and working people, i.e., to the proletariat. A beginning can and must be made at once, overnight, to replace the specific “bossing” of state officials by the simple functions of “foremen and accountants”, functions which are already fully within the ability of the average town dweller and can well be performed for “workmen’s wages”.”
But how to do this? Here comes the key moment of Lenin’s argumentation: “the mechanism of social management is here already to hand” in modern capitalism—the mechanism of the automatic functioning of a large production process where the bosses (representing the owner) just give formal orders. This mechanism runs so smoothly that, without disturbing it, the role of the boss is reduced to simple decisions and can be played by an ordinary person. So, all the Socialist revolution has to do is to replace the capitalist or state-appointed boss with a (randomly selected) ordinary person.

To illustrate his point, Lenin uses the example of postal service:
“A witty German Social-Democrat of the seventies of the last century called the postal service an example of the socialist economic system. This is very true. At the present the postal service is a business organized on the lines of state-capitalist monopoly. Imperialism is gradually transforming all trusts into organizations of a similar type, in which, standing over the “common” people, who are overworked and starved, one has the same bourgeois bureaucracy. But the mechanism of social management is here already to hand. Once we have overthrown the capitalists, crushed the resistance of these exploiters with the iron hand of the armed workers, and smashed the bureaucratic machinery of the modern state, we shall have a splendidly-equipped mechanism, freed from the “parasite”, a mechanism which can very well be set going by the united workers themselves, who will hire technicians, foremen and accountants, and pay them all, as indeed all “state” officials in general, workmen’s wages.”
What Lenin advocates here is “the transformation of public functions from political into simple functions of administration.” So where, in this depoliticized administrative machine, is the place for popular feedback of those who are supposed to obey “iron discipline”? Lenin’s solution was an almost Kantian one: freely debate at public meetings during weekends, but obey and work while at work! The Bolsheviks must
“stand at the head of the exhausted people who are wearily seeking a way out and lead them along the true path, along the path of labour discipline, along the path of co-ordinating the task of arguing at mass meetings about the conditions of work with the task of unquestioningly obeying the will of the Soviet leader, of the dictator, during the work. /…/ We must learn to combine the ‘public meeting’ democracy of the working people ‒ turbulent, surging, overflowing its banks like a spring flood ‒ with iron discipline while at work, with unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the Soviet leader, while at work.”[4]
It was often noted how Lenin gradually narrows the field here: first, it is the majority, the exploited mass of people; then, it is the proletariat, no longer a majority (remember that in Russia at that time more than 80% of the population were peasants) but a privileged minority; then, even this minority becomes a mass of confused “exhausted people” who have to be led by “the armed vanguard of all the exploited and working people”; and, as expected, we end with the unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the Soviet dictator. A Hegelian would immediately raise the question of mediation here: we have three levels, the Universal (working majority, “all”), the Particular (party, the “armed vanguard” that holds state power), and the Singular (leader). Lenin automatically identifies them, ignoring modes of mediation where the political struggle proper is taking place. This is why, as Ralph Millband noted, there is no debate on the role of the Party when Lenin described the functioning of the socialist economic edifice.[5] This absence is all the stranger if we take into account the fact that the focus of Lenin’s political work is the struggle within the Party between the true line and different revisionists.

This brings us to another one of Lenin’s antinomies: in spite of his total politicization of social life (for example, for him, there is no neutral “justice” in the courts: if judges are not on our side, they are on the side of the enemy), his vision of socialist economy is deeply technocratic. The economy is a neutral machine, which can run smoothly whoever is at its head. The fact that a kitchen maid can be at the head of a state means precisely that it doesn’t matter who is at its head. The kitchen maid strangely resembles the role attributed by Hegel to the monarch: she just gives a formal “yes” to proposals prepared by managers and specialists…

But why dwell of this old topic, which is today obviously outdated? Because it is not outdated at all: the latest trends in corporate capitalism provide a perverted version of Lenin’s dream. Let’s take companies like Amazon, Facebook, or Uber. Amazon and Facebook present themselves as just mediators: they are well-functioning algorithms, regulating the commons of our interaction. So, why not just nationalize them, cut off the head, which is their owner or boss, and replace him with an ordinary person who will care that the company will serve the interests of the company, i.e., that the machine will not be twisted into serving particular commercial interests, which made the previous owner multi-billionaire? In other words, can bosses like Bezos and Zuckerberg not be replaced by people’s “dictators” imagined by Lenin? Plus, take Uber: it also presents itself as pure mediator bringing together drivers (who own their cars, their “means of production”) and those who need a ride. They all allow us to keep (the appearance of) our freedom; they just control the space of our freedom. Do phenomena like these not justify Karl-Heinz Dellwo, who invokes “domination without subject”: today it is “reasonable to speak no longer about masters and servants but only about servants who command servants”?[6] Servants who command servants: is this not what Lenin envisions in his slogan that “every kitchen maid should learn to rule the state”?

Are elements of post-party politics not already visible here and there in today’s developed capitalism? Take the case of Switzerland. Who knows the names of the ministers in its government? Who knows which party is in power there? Decades ago, a Communist was repeatedly elected as the mayor of Geneva, the city which stands for big capital, and nothing changed… (But one should also mention that Switzerland is really run by a half-secret elite board of twenty men who decide everything.)

So, yes, we have to accept the fact that it is impossible for Communism to win (in the same sense that Ukraine cannot win over Russia), i.e., that, in this sense, Communism is a lost cause. But, as G.K. Chesterton put it in his “What’s Wrong With the World”: “The lost causes are exactly those which might have saved the world.” What can we do once we are fully aware of this antinomy?

In the last pages of the book, Adamczak plays with two extreme solutions. What if Communist revolutionaries, knowing they will bring a new terror, capitulate in advance to counter-revolution to keep their morals and prevent their own counter-revolution? Her example is Salvador Allende who renounced armed struggle against the military putsch. But we should add at least the debate in the Soviet Union in the early 1920s when, after it became clear that there will be no European revolution and the Bolsheviks realized they had no chance to begin to build socialism, some among them proposed that they should simply surrender power… Adamczak’s other extreme solution is that, after winning state power, the Communists should fight the terrorist temptation by using terror against themselves, consciously accepting the need of their own purge, of the liquidation of the first-generation revolutionaries. (But did in a way Stalin not do exactly this – liquidated the first generation of revolutionaries which won power?) What if the only imaginable solution to this antinomy is a weird short-circuit: taking power, Communists themselves organize a “counter-revolution” against their rule, shaping a state apparatus, which limits their own power?

[1] See Bini Adamczak, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, Cambridge: MIT Press 2021. After reading this book and trying to select quotes from it, I was overwhelmed by a weird feeling that the entire book should be quoted. Numbers in brackets are from this book.

[2] G. W. F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, New York: Dover 1956, p. 447.

[3] Quotes from The State and Revolution (marxists.org).

[4] “The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government,” in Collected Works, Moscow; Progress Publishers 1972, Volume 27, p. 261. Non-accredited quotes that follow are from this book.

[5] See Lenin’s The State and Revolution (jacobin.com).

[6] Karl-Heinz Dellwo, “Subjektlose Herrschaft und revolutionaeres Subjekt. Friady for Future?”, a talk in Leipzig on January 12, 2021. (Quoted from the manuscript.).

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Defending Establishment Power - The UniParty's Unwritten Rule

Slavoj Žižek, "The Betrayal of the Left"
At the end of David Fincher's 1999 film, Fight Club, the unnamed narrator (played by Edward Norton) dispatches his alter ego, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), and then watches as the buildings around him burst into flames, fulfilling his and his alter ego's desire to destroy modern civilisation. But in the Chinese version released earlier this year, the ending was replaced with an English-language title card that explained, "The police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding. After the trial, Tyler was sent to a lunatic asylum to receive psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012."

Why would the Chinese authorities change the ending of a film that is highly critical of Western liberal society, disqualifying its critical political stance as an expression of madness? The reason is simple: For China's leaders, defending established power is more important than advancing a particular ideological agenda.

Recall that in mid-October 2019, the Chinese media launched a propaganda campaign claiming that, as CNN puts it, "demonstrations in Europe and South America are the direct result of Western tolerance of Hong Kong unrest," the implication being that protesters in Chile and Spain were taking their cues from those in Hong Kong. As is often the case, the Communist Party of China (CPC) was discreetly promoting a sense of solidarity among all who hold power and face a rebellious or unhappy populace. Western and Chinese leaders, the CPC seemed to be saying, ultimately have the same basic interest – transcending ideological and geopolitical tensions – in maintaining political quiescence.

Now consider recent developments in the US. On June 18, Texas Republicans declared that President Joe Biden "was not legitimately elected," echoing similar statements by other Republicans around the country. The GOP's rejection of Biden's legitimacy amounts to a rejection of America's democratic system. The party increasingly has advocated raw power over government by consent.

Consider this fact alongside the American public's growing fatigue over the Ukraine war, and a dark prospect emerges: What if Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, wins the 2024 presidential election? In addition to cracking down on dissent and political opposition at home, he might also enter a pact with Russia, abandoning the Ukrainians in the same way that he did the Kurds in Syria. After all, Trump has never been reluctant to stand in solidarity with the world's autocrats.

During Ukraine's 2014 Maidan uprising, a leaked recording of a telephone call captured a senior US State Department official, Victoria Nuland, saying to the US ambassador to Ukraine, "F*** the EU." Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been pursuing precisely that objective, supporting Brexit, Catalonian separatism, and far-right figures such as Marine Le Pen in France and Matteo Salvini in Italy.

The anti-European axis that unites Putin with certain trends in the US is one of the most dangerous elements in today's politics. If African, Asian, and Latin American governments follow their old anti-European instincts and lean towards Russia, we will have entered a sad new world in which those in power stand in lockstep solidarity with each other. In this world, what would happen to the marginalised and oppressed victims of unaccountable power, whom the left traditionally has defended?

Sadly, some Western leftists, such as film director Oliver Stone, have long parroted the Kremlin's claim that Maidan was a US-orchestrated putsch against a democratically elected government. This is plainly false. The protests that began on November 21, 2013, in Kyiv's Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), may have been chaotic, featuring a variety of political tendencies and foreign interference, but there is no doubt that they were an authentic popular revolt.

During the uprising, Maidan became a huge protest camp, occupied by thousands of demonstrators and protected by makeshift barricades. It had kitchens, first-aid posts, and broadcasting facilities, as well as stages for speeches, lectures, debates, and performances. It was the furthest thing from a "Nazi" putsch that one can imagine. Indeed, the events in Maidan were of a piece with the Arab Spring and similar uprisings in Hong Kong, Istanbul, and Belarus. While the Belarusian protests of 2020-21 were brutally crushed, the demonstrators can be reproached only for being too naive in their pro-Europeanism; they ignored the divisions and antagonisms that cut across Europe today.

By contrast, the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol most certainly was not an "American Maidan." There is growing evidence to show that it was largely orchestrated ahead of time, and that Trump – then the most powerful man in the country – more or less knew what was in store for that day. Still, immediately following the insurrection, before all the details were known, some of my leftist friends channelled a sense of loss. "The wrong people are taking over the seat of power," they lamented. "We should be doing it!"

It is worth revisiting what Putin said on February 21, 2022. After claiming that Ukraine was created by Lenin, he went on to remark that the Bolsheviks' "grateful progeny" in Ukraine had "overturned monuments to Lenin. They call it decommunisation. You want decommunisation? Very well, this suits us just fine. But why stop halfway? We are ready to show what real decommunisation would mean for Ukraine." With that, Putin launched his "special military operation."

Putin's logic is clear: since Ukraine is (supposedly) a Communist creation, true decommunisation requires that Ukraine be eliminated. But "decommunisation" also conjures an agenda that aims to erase the last traces of the welfare state – a central pillar of the left's legacy. We, therefore, must pity all the Western "leftists" who have emerged as apologists for Putin. They are like the "anti-imperialist" pacifists who claimed, in 1940, that the Nazi blitz across Europe should not be resisted.

For years, Russian and Chinese leaders have panicked whenever a popular rebellion has exploded somewhere in their sphere of influence. As a rule, they interpret such events as plots – their term for them is "colour revolutions" – instigated by the West. China's regime is now at least honest enough to admit that there is deep dissatisfaction around the world. Its answer is to appeal to the shared sense of insecurity that many in positions of power feel. The left's response, by contrast, should be to maintain solidarity with those who resist aggressive, arbitrary power, whether in Ukraine or elsewhere. Otherwise, well, we all know how that movie ends.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Last Man Consumerism - A Life Spent Curating a System of Objects

Clip from The Parallax View (movie)

Steven Rosenbaum, "A Framework For Living The Curated Life"
Once upon a time, the world was divided into neat little boxes. Work was work. Home was home. Being with your children at a their little league game meant you were cheering on the team.

But then - almost overnight - our lives changed. The walls came down. We were all connected, and those connections are engaging and important. We have in the palm of our hands the power to be in constant contact with our friends, our loved ones, our pursuits and our passions.

It is by any measure a magical moment in the history of the word.

And yet - this abundance of connectivity has created a conundrum. It’s what author and psychologist Barry Schwartz calls the paradox of choice. Simply put - when we have too many options, too much input - we find ourselves overwhelmed with abundance. Young people called it FOMA. Fear of Missing Out. And that fear leaves us often frozen in a blizzard of choice, unable to manage the volume of unfiltered input.

We’re all there. And the flow of raw data and connections only going to increase.

So, how can we take control of this new normal?

The answer is adopting a new paradigm, a curated life.

So here's some tools to dive deep into a human-first philosophy that makes us more centered, more connected, more evolved -and more in control.

“When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening. I will never understand the silent dying of the green pie-apple tree if I do not slow down and listen to what the Spirit is telling me, telling me of the death of trees, the death of planets, of people, and what all these deaths mean in the light of love of the Creator, who brought them all into being, who brought them all into being, who brought me into being, and you.”

Madeline L’Engle – Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

The decision to live a curated life isn’t a decision to be made lightly. In fact, the tradeoffs have the potential to make you anti-social, out of touch, and operating outside the day to day norms that are make you a social creature. The decision to be tuned-out, digitally quiet, or simply off the grid won’t come without some complicated tradeoffs.

Here’s a 5 Point Plan to embrace your Curated Life, and shift from being controlled by the speed of social connectedness to being in control.
1. Take a personal ‘rhythm’ inventory.

2. Right Size your tools to your life

3. Filter your friends

4. Get offline - and explore Real World Experiences

5. You are what you Tweet and Eat

1. Take a personal ‘rhythm’ inventory.
a) Ask yourself the following questions (answer 1 - 5)
b) Are you a morning person (1) or a night owl? (5)
c) Are you a multi-tasker (1) or a ‘fierce focus’ person? (5)
d) Are you an extrovert (1) introvert (5)
e) Would you rather talk face to face (1) or text (5)
f) Do you like small groups (1) or large gatherings (5)
g) Are you a numbers person (1) or a words person (5)
h) Do you like fitting in (1) or standing out (5)
There's no good score, or bad score. The idea is to get an honest appraisal of how you want to set your rhythm in the world, and not let devices or content drive how you live your life.
2. Right Size your tools to your life
The truth is, we’re all trying the ever evolving tools that are being shared with us in a dazzling array of often ‘free’ choices. But if we’re going to Curate Our Life, the first place to start is with our devices. Open your phone, look at each and every app you have - and delete 2/3’s of them. You can do it. The truth is, most of them aren’t being used. Be harsh and honest. You can always add it back later if you miss it (hint: you won’t). Then do the same thing with your tablet, your desktop computer, your television OTT box, and any other piece of software that is causing you distraction, aggravation, or angst.
3. Filter your friends
Ok, that sounds harsh - but take a moment. On Facebook, the mother of all un-curated experiences, you have friends who over-share. Don’t unfriend them, you still want to keep them in your world. Just dial down the noise. Here’s link (http://www.mediabizbloggers.com/steve-rosenbaum/CURATING-FACEBOOK-Finding-Meaning-in-the-Noise---Steve-Rosenbaum.html) to how to do that I wrote a while back. The tools have changed a bit - but the basic effort is the same. It’s the little down arrow to the right of every post. Try it.
4. Get offline - and explore Real World Experiences
When Scott Heiferman founded Meetup it was with a simple message, “get offline.” Meetup was founded in the days after 9/11, and Scott was taken with just how different New York was when neighbors and friends came out of their apartments and spent time together. Today meetup is the largest ‘in-person’ social network in the world. Meetup has almost 20 million members, and half a million events per month.

Amanda Palmer, the musician and former lead singer of The Dresden Dolls, gave a world changing talk at TED a few years back. She told the audience that musicians and artists need to ask their fans to support them, and she said that fans love connecting with artist and becoming part of their world. The talk was amazing. Watch it here. And then, think about all the ways you can connect in a non-digital way with artists, creators, innovators, dreamers.

So here’s a simple ask to engage in a Curated Life. Go to a concert. Don’t watch it online, buy a ticket and go be in the audience. Go to meetup.com, type in something your passionate about - a hobby, an interest, a game you like to play, a dog breed you love. Don’t make it a work thing, you can always do that. This is about connecting - in a real world way - with people. Find a meetup. Attend. Rinse, repeat. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t like your first one - meet-ups aren’t always a perfect fit. But if it’s an hour of your life, exploring your world - how can you go wrong?
5. You are what you Tweet and Eat
There’s a growing buzz around the word “mindfulness.” As described by Psychology Today "Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” Arianna Huffington wrote a book about the emerging Mindfulness movement - and her emerging understanding of focusing your attention to real world experiences. Her book is called Thrive, and you can read bit of it here.

Most of your life you’ll spend engaged - consuming information, ideas, food, art. Make those decisions actively. Don’t just watch what’s on. Watch what you love. And ask friends who’s taste and styles you like what they LOVE. People love sharing - and if someone shares a recommendation with you that you enjoyed, tell them. That kind of person to person connection is powerful, meaningful, and emotionally satisfying. At the same time - share carefully. Don’t just click the ‘like’ button, and carelessly re-tweet. Instead comment, share, and engage. Mindful creation and consumption of social media makes you a better friend, helps de-clutter the world, and will lead the way for your friends and followers to do the same.

We’re living in a time of digital abundance, which is wonderful. It promises to give us a new way to explore, connect, share, and learn. But it needs to be harnessed to make your life better, otherwise it threatens to turn is into hamsters in a wheel of information. So, embrace The Curated Life, and share with me the tools and techniques you’ve found that give you the ability to engage meaningfully in the world around you. I’d like to hear what works for you.

Sextons for Secular Churches

Slavoj Žižek, "The real artist is the curator, not the producer"
The impenetrability of current knowledge is more a matter of reflection than 'complexity': the current opacity and impenetrability (the fact that the final consequences of our actions remain completely uncertain) is not due to the fact that we are puppets to which a transcendent global Power (Fate, Historical Requirements, Market) pulls its strings...

On the contrary, its reason is 'not being able to find anyone in charge' [the inability to find an interlocutor], that it is not a force pulling the strings, that it is not the 'Other of the Other'; The basis for the dullness is precisely that contemporary society is thoroughly 'contemplative', that we lack a solid foundation of Nature or Tradition on which we can lean, that even our innermost impulses (sexual orientation, etc.) are increasingly treated as 'preferential'.

How a child is fed and educated, how sexual annealing is carried out, how to eat and what to eat, how to relax and have fun – all these areas are increasingly becoming a contemplative 'colony', that is, something that needs to be learned and decided.

Isn't the ultimate example of this work of reflection the important role played by the curator in contemporary art? His role is not limited to making choices. The curator defines (re)what contemporary art is through the choices he makes.

Currently, contemporary art exhibitions feature objects that (at least) have nothing to do with art according to a traditional approach. From time to time, even human excrement and dead animals can be exhibited. But why should they be considered art?

Because there we see the choices of the curator. Today, visitors to an exhibition are not directly observing the works of art. What they observe is what the curator understands by art; In short, the real artist is not the producer but the curator, his act of choosing.

The Tickled Subject (1997), p. 336

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

Slavoj Žižek, "The curator is like Jesus" (Google translated from Turkish)
It is uncanny that the role played by the curator in contemporary artistic activity is similar to that of Jesus: isn't it a kind of "disappearing intermediary" between the Artist-Creator ("God") and the public community ("believers")?

This recent role of curators is based on two interconnected processes:
1) The work of art has lost its innocence: The artist no longer leaves the interpretation of his work to others with spontaneous creativity.
References to future (theoretical) interpretations are already directly involved in artistic production, so that since the temporal cycle is closed, the artist's work is in a sense preemptive strike, negotiating with interpretations that are supposed to be the future, responding to them in advance.

These possible interpretations are embodied in the figure of the Curator; he himself becomes the subject of transmission of the artists. He is not content with collecting existing works, those works have already been created with the Curator in mind, the Curator is their ideal interpreter (there are even curators who personally order the works of art or employ artists for their own designs).
2) It is also evident that in today's large-scale exhibitions, the general audience does not have time to dive "slowly" into each work that fills enormous collections separately. The main issue here is not that the public cannot understand what is happening and that there is no need to explain it, but that it is no longer possible to directly experience the work in contemporary art with an intensity that will witness its own strong influence.
After all, for the general audience, the role played by the Curator is not the interpreter, but rather the ideal perceiver who can still take the time with "slow steps" and watch all the works passively. The public can thus assume the role of cultured intellectual audience, they have neither the time nor the ability to live the works passively in the fullest sense, they at best exchange witty theoretical interpretations or opinions, and leave the work of living the works directly to the Curator, the Subject of the Supposed Living.

On Faith (2001) p. 163.

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Deleuze - And Now for Something Completely Different...

Rocket rocket USA
Shooting on down the highway
TV star riding aorund
Riding around in a killer's car
It's nineteen seventy seven
Whole country's doing a fix
It's doomsday doomsday

Riding around, riding high
Riding around with my babe
Speeding on down the skyway
Speeding on down the skyway

Rocket rocket USA
Shooting on down
On my way
TV star riding around
Riding around in a killer's car
It's doomsday doomsday

Speeding on down the skyway
One hundred miles per hour
Gonna crash
Gonna die
And I don't care
Rocket rocket USA
Shooting on down the skyway
Speeding on down the skyway

Rocket rocket USA

Friday, July 22, 2022

I'm Ready for my Close-up, Mr. DeMille....

“Happiness was never important. The problem is that we don’t know what we really want. What makes us happy is not to get what we want. But to dream about it. Happiness is for opportunists. So I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle with oneself. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves.”
-Slavoj Zizek

Monday, July 18, 2022

Information Processes

Slavoj Žižek, "The performative character of the information process" (Google from Turkish)
The basis of Hegelian criticism is very different from the Kantian critique, which emphasizes the constitutive role of transcendental subjectivity. According to Kant, the subject gives its universal form to the substantive content that comes from the transcendent source ("Self-Thing"). Kant remained within the framework of the opposition between the subject and the substance (the transcendent web of possible modes of life and the transcendent "Thing in Itself"), while for Hegel the substance itself must be treated as the subject. Knowledge is not to penetrate the substance-substance content—it is not to penetrate the content that is supposed to be unaffected by the process of knowing—the subjective act of knowledge is already contained in its own substance-like "object"; the path to truth is included in the truth itself.

The example I will give you to convey Hegel's point may come as surprising at first, but it testifies to the Hegelian legacy of historical materialism and confirms Lacan's thesis: Marxism is not a "worldview." According to the basic claim of historical materialism, the proletariat has a revolutionary role and a historical duty. But only by recognizing and acknowledging its historical role can the proletariat become an effective revolutionary subject. Historical materialism is not "objective knowledge that communicates the historical role of the proletariat" – that knowledge requires the subjective position of the proletariat; in this sense it is self-referential, contained in its object of knowledge.

Therefore, the first issue that needs to be solved is the "performative" character of the information process. When the subject, who pursues the hidden essence, goes behind the veil of images, he thinks that he will discover something that has been there for a long time; however, he does not realize that whatever he finds behind the curtain brings him there by going behind the curtain.

From the Supreme Hysterical

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Advertising & the Unconscious



Slavoj Žižek, "Shofar: The Founding Gesture That Made the Law Following Erbaba's Murder" (Goole Tranlated from Turkish)

In his classic essay written in the 1920s, Theodor Reik drew attention to the 'shofar' that howls bitterly in endless tones. The shofar is a wind instrument made of ram's horn, used in the evening ritual of the Yom Kippur contemplative day. Reik connects his shofar voice to the problematic of the murder of ancient Erbaba (Urvater, described in Totem and Taboo): The shofar, which awakens an uncanny mixture of pain and pleasure in the audience he startles with his rambling of the bullet, is, according to Reik's interpretation, the last trace left of Erbaba's life-substance; it is the endless cry of the moaning-dying-helpless-humiliated father. In other words, the shofar is the mark of 'preliminary', it is almost a loud monument of the substance of arbitrariness that is killed before the symbols come: the father whose cry of death echoes in the sound of the shofar is the 'emasculate' Keyfi-Baba (Erbaba). Reik also cites another primitive instrument similar to a geyser: The bullroarer is an instrument that imitates the blackberry of a bull slaughtered in the arena: in each bullfight, Erbaba's slaughter is staged once again.

On the other hand, according to Jewish tradition, the sound of shofar is the echo of the thunder that flashes in the heavens at the solemn moment when God hands over the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written to Moses; that is, the shofar represents the Jewish people's gesture of making the Law in the sense of their Covenant with their God. The sound of the shofar is the 'lost intermediary' between the direct vocal expression of the legendary pre-iconic life-substance and the expressive word; it represents the gesture of the soul-substance withdrawing, erasing itself, opening up space for the symbolic Law. In the case of the Shofar as becoming the 'vanishing tool', we again encounter the Grundoperation, which operates in the deep thoughts of Schelling and Hegel: this strange sound, which represents the essence of the seda that transcends itself by transforming into the snobbish words, is similar in Schelling to the unconscious action that differentiates the Logos field from the vortex of unconscious impulses. This is how psychoanalysis enables us to get out of the vicious circle that oscillates between the 'disciplinary' Word and the 'chewer'/consumer Seda: by focusing on a transcendent voice that serves as the founding gesture of the expressive word itself.

The Shofar reminds us of the impossibility of going directly from the immediate pre-symbolic life-life to the expressive word: the 'lost intermediary' between the two is the sound of dying, like the animal shouting as it dies:

As every animal dies in terror, it makes a sound, expressing the transcendence of its Self. (The singing of birds is absent from other animals because birds belong to the element of air—they belong to an expressive sound, a more scattered self.)

Seda translates meaning into itself; seda is the negative self, the desire. It is deficiency, it is the namelessness of the substance in itself...

(Hegel, Jenaer Realphilosophie)

Schelling considered the difference between the two modes of spirit: on the one hand, there is the pure ideal Spirit, which is the medium of self-clarity of rational thought; on the other side there is the manifestation of ghost, there is the resurrecting soul. Even though the shofar sound or death song has been torn away from its owner and its ghost has attained autonomy, it has not yet become a clear environment of spiritual meaning: the paradox/hairiness in the 'spiritual body' (Schelling) that this voice confronts us blurs the distinction between bodily density and spiritual clarity, just as in the case of living dead or vampires. In this sense, the Spirit/ghost difference coincides with the difference between the two Freudian fathers: on the one hand, Oedipal the symbolic agent who rules by prohibition, the dead father, and on the other hand, the shameful Erbaba. The ghost of the dying shameful Erbaba makes its voice heard, so that the Shofar may rule by the name of the Father and become the symbolic perpetrator.

In the context of the shofar, the voice left over from the murder of the father, Lacan dealt with one of his unique feats, asking a simple question: To whom does the uncanny voice of the shofar appeal? The standard answer is, of course, that the voice of the shofar is addressed to believing Jews, to remind them of the divine Law that they must obey by virtue of their covenant with God. But Lacan turns things around: the main addressee of the shofar is not the faithful community, but God Himself. What do believing Jews remind them of when they play the shofar? He is dead. Of course, at this point the horror turns into divine ridiculousness, that is, we enter the logic of the famous Freudian dream of a father who 'does not know that he is dead' (from the Interpretation of Dreams). God-Father does not know that he is dead, so he continues to deal with us in the guise of the ghost of the Master, who pretends to be alive; therefore, you need to remind him that he is dead, and as soon as he realizes that he is walking in the void in the cartoons, he will collapse like a cat that crashes to the ground. Accordingly, the function of the shofar is actually its passive sword: its startling roar is actually to make God's 'pagan' Overhead dimension passive and neutral, that is, to secure His unblemished Name to act in the name of the symbolic Covenant. In terms of the human-God covenant, the shofar voice serves to remind God of his symbolic covenant obligation and to prevent him from disturbing us with traumatic bursts of bouncer arbitrariness. In other words, the concentration of two features in the voice of shofar (the belly of the deceased Erbaba and the declaration of the Ten Commandments) draws attention to the fact that God can only exercise a legitimate reign if he is dead.

This voice, which is the monument/relic of the dying father, is certainly not something that will be erased by the Legislature: it will be constantly needed as the indestructible support of the Law. Therefore, the echo of that voice was heard when Moses was receiving the Commandments from God, that is, at the moment of the establishment of the (symbolic) decree of the Law (in that voice, Moses could hear the expression of the Commandments, while the crowd waiting at the foot of Mount Sinai could hear the endlessness of the expressionless shofar sound): The sound of the shofar (written) is the irreducible addendum of the Law. Only that voice can bestow a performative dimension on the Law, but that voice can enact the Law: without the support of this meaningless voice (the object of seda), the Law would be a piece of paper that does not bind anyone. Through the voice of the shofar, the Law attains its utterance, becomes 'subjective' and thus becomes an effective perpetrator who obliges others. In other words, the element that transforms the chain of spelling into the act of creation is the intervention of a sound.

The crucial issue is the relevance of the traumatic, shocking moment at which the Act was laid down and the sound of the shofar: the 'origin' of the Act is absolutely unthinkable as long as we remain within the law; The provision of the law presupposes that its ('illegal') origins have been 'erased from the ledger'; The performative effect of the law depends on us considering it as always-given. That is why those impossible 'origins' can only be found within the sphere of the Law in the guise of a vacuum, in the guise of a constitutive namesake; The role of fantasy is to fill that void with an imaginary origin story. (Written) The law requires that fanciful addition; If that add-on does not exist, the gap in the middle of the legal structure becomes apparent and renders the Law inoperable. The relation of sound to the (written) Law is like the relation of fantasy to synchronic symbolism: sound/fantasy replaces the unimaginable 'origin' of that structure, fills (and replaces) its lack of a founder.

Presentness and absence, thus become intricate in the shofar. This sound is the 'little piece of truth' left over from the pre-icon-Key-Father; It represents the presence of the traumatic origin of the law. But the voice of the shofar also bears witness to the authenticity of the origin of the Law; that monotonous voice is precisely the object of fantasy: it is the pure face, the object whose fascinating presence blinds the subject to the radical inconsistency of the symbolic order, the object that replaces the absence of the ultimate signifier, which is supposed to assure that the symbolic order (the 'great Other') is consistent and competent. Therein lies the ultimate paradox/argument for the shofar sound: Symbolic authority is, by definition, the authority of the dead father, the authority of the Father's-Name; but if the effect is to be seen, this authority must be based on the (fantastical) remnant of the living father, leaning on an ancient fragment that survived the murder of Erbaba.

We can now see the structural position of the strange voice of the Shofar: the Shofar sound embodies the remnant of the traumatic constituent gesture of the Word, thus freeing us from oscillating between being disciplined with the Word and being consumed by the self-pleasure of the Sedan. The lesson from the shofar seems at first glance to this: If the logos, the worded word that carries the symbolic authority, is to master the arbitrariness-narrative (enjoy-meant: jouis-sens: the sound of arbitrariness), if it is to transcend it, it must call upon another voice more traumatic than it; If the Logos is to prevail in its battle of flooding arbitrariness, both sides fighting must be voices. But then the matter remains unresolved: In what ways are these sounds relevant, which voice takes precedence? The sound of the shofar, that is, the bellow of the deceased father, cannot be considered another kind of self-consuming arbitrariness in the feminine fashion: the 'identical' of these two can only be Hegelian speculative identity. There are two modes of leftover: remainder and excess. Both of these are on the 'same side', on the side of arbitrariness against the Logos. The remainder points to his own reminder.

In algebra, the term 'remainder' refers to the amount left when one number cannot be fully divided by another; such as what happens when the substance of arbitrariness cannot be fully divided by the web of the spelling (when it cannot be done, when it cannot be expressed, when it cannot be counted). Similarly, the sound of the shofar is the object remnant-monument of the dying Arbitrary-Father: it is what remains of the constitutive gesture that makes laws, the indivisible remainder of that gesture. The relationship between the logos and the self-consuming feminine arbitrariness, on the contrary, is the relationship between the pre-established symbolic Order and its transgression: the feminine voice is exuberant according to the Law. In other words: If you move from the flood-consuming Voice to the echo of the shofar, you are shifting the tension that arises between the Law and its transgression to the internal division of the field of the Law itself: the external relationship between the Law and its transgression becomes internalized in the relationship between the Law and its own traumatic organizational gesture. As we said above, the echo of the shofar serves as a veil of fantasies that points to the mystery of the 'impossible' origins of the Law.

From Indivisible Kalan

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

See "Shofar" (Wikipedia), "The legend of Oedipe and the legend of Erbaba" Slavoj Žižek, Echo (special page), "Feminine exuberance" Slavoj Žižek, "To be named is the shadow of mourning" Jacques Derrida, "The Minimum Structure of Language", "The dead father's dream and to get along with desire" Jacques Lacan


Friday, July 15, 2022

University Discourse vs Analyst Discourse

A University Discourse on "feelings" as seen through the Analyst's funhouse mirror:
“The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public.”
― Oscar Wilde, "The Importance of Being Earnest"
David Bromwich, "The Rise of Bad Art and the Decline of Political Candor"
Though the language of cliché has switched from the middle-class respectability of the 1950s to our current obsessions with “inclusion” and concern for the marginalized, the practice of washing our clean linen in public endures in our culture.

Bad art is doing very nicely these days, and the reason is that people want a message. An early symptom was the galloping first-personism of movie reviewers: “I feel…” was a hard-to-beat gambit, since who can refute a feeling? A more impartial claim was suggested by the successor locution “It feels like…”—where the “it” meant that the feeling in question ought to move anyone. The broad-church piety was harder to challenge than a mere first person. Meanwhile, negative judgments were on the way to becoming prohibited so long as the work wore its good intentions on its sleeve.

This is not a question of sincerity. Oscar Wilde said, “All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling,” and in The Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon recoiled from the display of affection by the happily married: “It looks so bad. It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public.” A great deal of the admired and well-rewarded art of our time consists of washing one’s clean linen in public.

That the artist should have a function separate from the existing cultural or political apparatus is by no means a timeless idea. It goes back to the mid-18th century and found its clearest formulation in Friedrich Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795). You may know a work of art, Schiller wrote, by a commitment that looks like detachment. It does not make you want to go out and do something. This was a radical proposal, rather than a virtue at home in the Age of Enlightenment. The taste of the age was more truly represented by Joseph Addison’s verse tragedy Cato (1712), Whig propaganda for a civic-republican ideal that gave pleasure to three generations of viewers, but the sentiments they warmed to are now so frigid it is impossible to imagine what those people were feeling. The same is true of the high art celebrated by the ancien régime—a painter like François Boucher, for example.

The successful artist shares with the politician a recurrent temptation to indulge in emotional claptrap. Bernard Bosanquet in Three Lectures on Aesthetic (1915) proposed that this urge to chase after tears or laughter could be quelled by attaching the art-emotion to a particular object and not a set of reactions. His consequent definition of art was “feeling expressed for expression’s sake.” Notice, however, that this is something only the deranged would dream of wanting in real life. Our everyday expressions of feeling are spontaneous and practical; they are never “for expression’s sake.” By contrast, aesthetic feeling is self-sufficient.

Jean-Luc Godard’s movie Breathless deals with a young thug and his dame and the binge of fraud, flight, and betrayal their infatuation puts them through. Nothing obliges us to think these people admirable human specimens. Nor do we think them detestable. It is enough that they are interesting, and their surface glamour accounts for much of the effect. There is a moment quite early when the hero turns toward the camera and addresses the audience head-on: “C’est jolie, la campagne…. Si vous n’aimez pas la mer—si vous n’aimez pas la montagne—si vous n’aimez pas la ville: allez vous faire foutre.” (It’s beautiful, the countryside. If you don’t like the sea—if you don’t like the mountains—if you don’t like cities: to hell with you.)

Was Godard saying, “Relax, it’s just a movie”? The moment seemed to convey a sharper admonition: “I don’t care if you like this, but you won’t walk out. It is going to interest you—later, you can wonder why.” The impudence went hand in hand with a peculiar freedom and unconcern. It surprised the viewer’s wish for a rehearsed response, the click of the trap in the usual plot.

Iris Murdoch in her essay “Against Dryness” (1961) said that modern writing had inherited from liberalism and romanticism an image of human beings as agents of moral choice. Yet “we are not,” she wrote, “monarchs of all we survey, but benighted creatures sunk in a reality whose nature we are constantly and overwhelmingly tempted to deform by fantasy.” The task of artistic conscience was to remind us of that deformation.

“One is forever at odds with Marxism,” Murdoch added, because “reality is not a given whole.” But liberalism, too, is a promoter of counterfeit understanding: “Our sense of form, which is an aspect of our desire for consolation, can be a danger to our sense of reality as a rich receding background.” The experience offered by art is not already in place, not predigested; and if you understand reality as a given whole, you have no need of art. You may create works of fantasy or rejiggered fact, tutor the audience in proper feelings, and hope to heal some aspect of reality, but the result will be not expression but propaganda, or magic, or medicine.

Between the 2020s and an earlier age of conformity, the 1950s, the language of cliché switched from middle-class respectability—the self-evident ideal of movies like Executive Suite (1954) and Marjorie Morningstar (1958)—to the current Hollywood agenda of the inclusive and the marginalized. In last year’s film The Power of the Dog, an early-20th-century frontier businessman is relieved of the burden of his macho-sadist brother when his gay stepson surreptitiously infects him with anthrax. In the just-released Top Gun: Maverick, the loner protagonist leads a diversity-checked squadron of fighter pilots to bomb a uranium-enrichment site in an unnamed country. The first of these films is stark and highbrow, the second flash and lowbrow, but they share an optimistic moral. Elimination of bad guys knits the brotherhood of the good and true.

“Just as once there were bourgeois commonplaces,” wrote André Gide in Return From the USSR (1937), “so now there are revolutionary commonplaces”—but let us say the same of anesthetic uplift generally—catchphrases and righteous slogans which, though “so successful today, will soon emit to the noses of tomorrow the insufferable odor of the clinic.” That odor has been with us for a decade or more, and it is not getting weaker.

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the enemy country in Top Gun: Maverick. In the movie, the country is not named.

Disorder in Heaven

Slavoj Žižek, "Is the bottom of the sky a mess or is it himself?" (Google translated from Turkish)
One of Mao Zedong's most famous sayings is this:
The bottom of the sky is a mess, the situation is extraordinary!
It is easy to understand the problem Mao expressed here: the turmoil that appears as the existing social order disintegrates offers enormous opportunities for revolutionary forces that can seize political power through decisive action.

We can express the difference of the current situation from the situation in Mao's mind with a terminological nuance. As Mao said, when the sky is chaotic, the forms taken by the "sky", the great Other—the inevitable logic of the processes of history, the laws of social development—are still in force and continue to give direction to social turmoil without causing it. Nowadays, we must say that the sky itself is a mess. What do I mean by that?

Christa Wolf's classic GDR novel Divided Sky (1963) describes the subjective effect of division in Germany, Manfred, who chose the West, said to his lover Rita, whom he met for the last time:
Even if our lands are divided, we will always share the same sky with you
But Rita, who chooses to stay in the East, gives him a bittersweet answer:
No, they divided the sky first.
Even if the crimes of the East are denied in the novel, it is important to establish that the ultimate ground of our "worldly" divisions and quarrels is always the "divided sky". The division of the sky is the division of the (symbolic) universe in which we reside in a much more radical and exclusionary sense, and the bearer and instrument of this divisive action is our language, because it is our language of the environment that sustains our way of living reality. In other words, the real divisive element is not our primitive and selfish interests, but our language. Because of language, we can live in a "world apart" from our neighbors, even if we live in the same neighborhood as them.
From the book Sema Karmakarma (Heaven in Disorder, 2021)

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

Monday, July 11, 2022

What's Your Sign?

Işık Barış Fidaner, "So true!!"
In a recent meme, a woman wants to know a man’s astrological sign. He responds by dismissing her interest in signs as “made up nonsense”. Soon after, he is fascinated by the presence of something (supposedly comparable to astrological signs) and exclaims “So true!!!”

One version of this meme put Lacan’s “graph of desire” as the fascinating presence. I made a version with Saussure’s sign (consisting of the signifier “tree” and the signified tree) because it’s literally “the sign”:
What’s the message of this meme? Obviously, it makes a sexual association. What fascinates the man is a Master-Signifier which has the status of an exceptional truth (remember the Truth-Event which intervenes in Being according to Badiou [1]). For the woman, “There is nothing which is not truthful” which is why astrological signs are not dismissed as pure nonsense, they can have partial truth like anything else.

In my version of the meme, there is another message: The man is fascinated by the universal form of the sign, whereas the woman is interested in the particular examples of signs. We can paraphrase Brecht here: What is an interest in false signs compared to the fascination with the “erroneous” (as Lacan calls it in Écrits) Saussurean model of the sign?

Remember the difference of a sign from a signifier: A sign shows something to someone, whereas a signifier represents the subject to another signifier [2]. This is why the “sign” (both astrological and Saussurean) emerges as the misleading temptation as depicted in the meme: A signifier’s reference to another signifier brings about the difficult enigmatic gap that is the subject, whereas a sign can easily show some fascinating presence to conceal the subject’s gap. The meme is right in that a sign is always misleading insofar as it attributes meaning.

The topic of the meme is “signs”. But the meme itself is a signifier. Lacan: “Every real signifier is, as such, a signifier that signifies nothing. The more the signifier signifies nothing, the more indestructible it is.” (Seminar 3) Of course this determinate nothing is the subject. The meme represents the empty place of the subject in its sexual difference, which makes it indestructible.


Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See “There are only embodiments and authorizations”

[2] It is unfortunate that Turkish Lacanians use the word “gösteren” (which means “shower” i.e. something that shows) to refer to a signifier. The correct Turkish word for the signifier is “imleyen”. See “Signifier Neden Gösteren Değil İmleyen Olarak Çevrilmeli”

Sunday, July 10, 2022

DM2 vs DM1

Slavoj Žižek, "Dialectical Materialism" (Google translated from Turkish)
Stalin enumerated four features of dialectical materialism:
— Contrary to metaphysics, which regards nature as a disjointed, isolated and independent collection of phenomena and objects, according to dialectics, nature is a connected and unified whole, there are organic links between phenomena and objects, they are interconnected and determine each other.

- Contrary to metaphysics, which assumes that nature is a stagnant, motionless and inanimate state of immutability, according to dialectics, nature is in a constant state of movement and change, it is in a constant state of renewal and development, and while something is always appearing and developing in nature, something is breaking down and dying.

— Contrary to metaphysics, which considers the process of development to be a simple process of growth in which quantitative changes do not lead to qualitative changes, qualitative changes in development according to dialectics are experienced not little by little, but rapidly and suddenly, in the form of a leap from one state to another.

— According to dialectics, as opposed to metaphysics, internal contradictions are peculiar to all phenomena and objects in nature, for in everything there are negative and positive sides, and when things die, something develops; the struggle of these opposing sides also constitutes the content of the development process.
If we put the failed ontology (DM2) that we present as our own dialectical materialism against the general ontology (DM1) that Stalin presented as dialectical materialism, we can put the four features of DM2 against Stalin's four characteristics:

Unlike DM1, which assumes that everything depends on everything through a complex network of relations, SM2 starts from separation, cutting, isolation: to arrive at the truth of a totality, first its key property must be detached from it, it must be isolated, and then it must be looked at from that biased and unique point. Truth is not balanced and objective, it is subjective and "one-sided."

Unlike DM1, which emphasizes sudden jumps and drastic "revolutionary" changes, DM2 focuses on the function of delay and "dead time" in pregnancy: Leaps due to structural causes are either experienced too early, untimely and unsuccessful, or too late, so that everything is already decided. In Hegel's words: A change happens when we realize that it has already happened.

— Unlike DM1, which emphasizes a general progression from the "lower" phases to the "upper" phases, according to DM2 the general situation is a directionless structure: progress always remains local, the general picture is a circular iteration movement, what is "reactionary" today may become the ultimate chance of radical change tomorrow.

Unlike DM1, which interprets conflict as antagonism, as the eternal struggle of opposites, according to DM2 it is the constitutive contradiction between a conflict being and itself: everything comes out of its own impossibility, the external opposition that threatens the stability of something is always the outward projection of its own inherent self-blocking and inconsistency.
From Gender and the Failed Absolute.

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidane

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Instilling Beliefs upon Non-Believers - Ancient Pharmacological Techniques

Sappho of Lesbos (fragments)

Raise high the roofbeams, carpenters!
Hymenaon, Sing the wedding song!
Up with them!
Hymenaon, Sing the wedding song!
A bridegroom taller than Ares!
Hymenaon, Sing the wedding song!
Taller than a tall man!
Hymenaon, Sing the wedding song!
Superior as the singer of Lesbos—
Hymenaon, Sing the wedding song!
—to poets of other lands.

The Marriage of Hektor and Andromakhe
...The herald Idaios came...a swift messenger
...and the rest of Asia...unwilting glory (kleos aphthiton).
Hektor and his companions led the dark-eyed
luxuriant Andromakhe from holy Thebes and...Plakia
in ships upon the salty sea. Many golden bracelets and purple
robes..., intricately-worked ornaments,
countless silver cups and ivory.
Thus he spoke. And his dear father quickly leapt up.
And the story went to his friends through the broad city.
And the Trojans joined mules to smooth-running carriages.
And the whole band of women and...maidens got on.
Separately, the daughters of Priam...
And the unmarried men led horses beneath the chariots
and greatly...charioteers...

...like gods
set forth into Troy...
And the sweet song of the flute mixed...
And the sound of the cymbals, and then the maidens
sang in clear tones a sacred song
and a divinely-sweet echo reached the sky...
And everywhere through the streets...
Mixing bowls and cups...
And myrrh and cassia and frankincense were mingled.
And the older women wailed aloud.
And all the men gave forth a high-pitched song,
calling on Apollo, the far-shooter, skilled in the lyre.
And they sang of Hektor and Andromakhe like to the gods.

Blessed bridegroom,
The marriage is accomplished as you prayed.
You have the maiden you prayed for.

I don’t know what to do: I am of two minds.

For gold is Zeus’ child.

I have a beautiful daughter
Like a golden flower
My beloved Kleis.
I would not trade her for all Lydia nor lovely...

When you lie dead, no one will remember you
For you have no share in the Muses’ roses.
No, flitting aimlessly about,
You will wildly roam,
a shade amidst the shadowy dead.

Death is an evil.
That’s what the gods think.
Or they would die.

Because you are dear to me
Marry a younger woman.
I don’t dare live with a young man—
I’m older.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

ScapeCows for the Secular Sacred?

"When a cow’s down in the street, every man’s a butcher.”

- Arab Proverb

"One aspect, not the central one, that i admired with you and that i was immediately ready to link with Hegel... this idea of the imminent reversal, like in principle, the sacred, in the sense of religion, is... should be above... the political. But within the political it turns around. And this is what, in a way, the elementary trick of Hegel's dialectic. And this is also how we should read Antigone.  My friend, Fred Jensen pointed out that this split that we see in Antigone between these religious divinities, Antigone, and the political aspect Creon is not a mark of a decay of some original Greek state but it's constitutive of the state. Antigone is not a play which signals that the state is falling apart, but it's the you have to have that gap between religious and power precisely to have the state functioning. It's constitutive of the state."

-Slavoj Zizek (@ ~4:00 minute mark above)