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

Friday, September 22, 2023

Incompetent Core Competencies (Reprised video)

Selected excerpts from video above 

If there wasn't multi-scale competency (frog's mouth off to one side instead if in front) the organism would be dead. Your Fitness is zero because you can't eat and you would never get to explore the other beneficial consequences of that mutation. You'd have to wait until you find some other way of doing it without moving them out. That's really hard. So the fitness landscape would be incredibly rugged. Evolution would take forever. 
The reason it works so well is because, no worries, the mouth will find its way to where it belongs. Right. So now you get to explore what that means is that all these mutations that otherwise would be deleterious are now neutral. Because the competency of the parts make up for all kinds of things. So all the noise of development, all the variability in the environment, all these things the competencies do, the parts makes up for it, So that's all fantastic right? That's all great! 
The only other thing to remember when we compare this to human efforts is that every component has its' own goals in various spaces, usually with very little regard for the welfare of the other levels. So as a simple example, you, as a complex system, will go out and you will do Jiu Jitsu or whatever. You'll have some call to go rock climbing and scrape a bunch of cells off your hands. And then you're happy, as a system, right? You come back and you've accomplished some goals, and you're really happy. Those cells are dead. They're gone. Right? Did you think about those cells? Not really, right? You had some bruising out, you selfish SOB, that's it. And so the thing to remember is that you know, and we know, this from history, is that just being a collective isn't enough. Because what the goals of that Collective will be relative to the welfare of the individual Parts is a massively open question. 
Ends justify the means? 
I'm telling you that Stalin was on to something, So that's the danger. But we can exactly know that's the danger for us humans? We have to construct ethical systems under which we don't take seriously the full mechanism of biology, and apply it to the way the world functions. Which is an interesting line we've drawn. The world that built us is the one we reject, in some sense, when we construct human societies. The idea that this country was founded on, that all men are created equal, that's such a fascinating idea. It's like you're fighting against nature and you're saying, "Well, there's something bigger here than a hierarchical competency architecture. yeah

Yeah, especially when the higher levels (government) think that they're SO SMART that they intrude upon and invade the core (economic) competencies of the lower levels, the citizens, and destroy their very means of survival and making a living.  That sounds very much like the road to evolutionary extinction, a REAL DEAD END. 


Rating Societal Competencies - Government:

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

A Critque of Post-Gender ideology, et al

Slavoj Zizek, "First as Tragedy, then as Farce" (excerpts)
The "New Spirit of Capitalism"

The fear of the "toxic" Other is thus the obverse (and the truth) of our empathy with the-other-reduced-to-a-fellow-man, but how did this syndrome arise? Boltanski and Chiapello's "The New Spirit of Capitalism" examines this process in detail, especially apropos france. In a Weberian mode, the book distinguishes three successive "spirits" of capitalism: the first, the entrepeneurial spirit, lasted until the Great Depression of the 1930s, the second took as its' ideal not the entrepeneur but the salaried director of a larger firm (it's easy to see here a close parallel with the well-known passage from individualist Protestant-ethic capitalism to the corporate-managerial capitalism of the "organization man.") From the 1970s onwards, a new figure emerged: capitalism began to abandon the hierarchical Fordist structure in the production process and in its' place developed a network-based for of organization founded on employee initiative and autonomy in the workplace. Instead of a hierarchical-centralized chain of command, we now see networks with a multitude of participants, with work organized in the form of teams or projects, and with a general mobilization of workers intent upon customer satisfaction thanks to their leader's vision. In such ways, capitalism is transformed and legitimized as an egalitarian project: accentuating auto-poetic interaction and spontaneous self-organization, it has even usurped the far Left's rhetoric of workers' self-management, turning it from an anti-capitalist slogan into a capitalist one.


In keeping with this new spirit of capitalism, an entire ideologico-historical narrative is constructed in which socialism appears as conservative, hierarchical, and administrative. The lesson of '68 is then "Goodbye Mr. Socialism," and the true revolution that of digital capitalism--itself the logical consequence, infdeed the "truth" of the '68 revolt. More radically even, the events of '68 are inscribed into the fashionable topic of the "paradigm shift." The parallel between the model of the brain in neuroscience and the predominant ideological models of society is here indicative. There are clear echoes between today's cognitavism and "postmodern" capitalism: When Daniel Dennett, for example, advocates a shift from the Cartesian notion of the Self as a central controlling agency of psychic life to a notion of auto-poetic interaction of competing multiple agents, does this not echo the shift from central bureaucratic control and planning to the network model? It is thus not only that our brain is socialized-- society itself is also naturalized in the brain, which is why Malabou is right in emphasizing the need to address the key question: "What is to be done to avoid the consciousness of the brain coinciding directly and simply with the spirit of capitalism?"

Even Hardt and Negri endorse this parallel: in the same way as the brain sciences teach us how there is no central Self, so the new society of the multitude which rules itself will be like today's cognitivist notion the ego as a pandemonium of interacting agents with no central authority running the show... No wonder Negri's notion of communism comes uncannily close to that of "postmodern" digital capitalism.

Ideologically - and here we come to the crucial point - this shift occurred as a reaction to the revolts of the 1960s (from May '68 in Paris, to the student movement in Germany, and the hippies in the U.S.). The anti-capitalist protests of the 60's supplemented the standard critique of socio-economic exploitation with the new topics of cultural critique: the alienation of everyday life, the commodification of consumption, the inauthenticity of a mass society in which we are forced to "wear masks" and subjected to sexual and other oppressions, etc. The new spirit of capitalism triumphantly recuperated the egalitarian and anti-hierarchical rhetoric of 1968, presenting itself as a successful libertarian revolt against the oppressive social organizations characteristic of both corporate capitalism and Really Existing Socialism - a new libertarian spirit epitomized by dressed-down  "cool" capitalists such as Bill Gates and the founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

We can now understand why so many insist that Che Guervara, one of the symbols of '68, has become the "quintessential post-modern icon" signifying both everything and nothing - in others words, whatever one wants him to signify: youth rebellion against authoritarianism, solidarity with the poor and exploited, saintliness, up to and including the liberal-communist entrepeneurial spirit of working for the good of all.
I recommend that anyone struggling with sexual (or other) identity problems to watch the video of Aristophanes' speech in Plato's "Symposium" and try and understand what it signifies for your own personal sense of identity.  For no one, alone, is "whole".

Monday, September 18, 2023

Tick-Tock Goes the Biological Clock...

I think that my *Yawns* can hear you!

"Brain/ Mind" Metaphors - The 1st Dialectical Division has been made. What's the 2nd?

Wet Web (WWW) and Dry Earth (Internet.works)

Layers of consciouness with differing/ limited layers of "agency".  I live in the Left Pre-Frontal Cortex  (France)  I control motor functions.  Where do You live?  I'll ask my Lieutenant Juachim Murat, King of Naples, in the Auditory (Wernicke) Command Posts to relay your response to me @ Daytime HQ. Call me Napoleon.  Lieutenant Michele Ney, Prince of Moskva, runs the Broca CP. I'll relay my messages to him to vocalize any subsequent responses to your answer.

Life in the Napoleonic Domain of KPCOFGS

from Wiki:
The American bushtit or simply bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) is the only species placed in the genus Psaltriparus and the only species in the family Aegithalidae that is found in the New World.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Africa, Adieu!

Slavoj Žižek, "Why the West will keep losing in Africa: Neocolonialism is giving birth to a wretched authoritarianism"
When Islamist forces staged a series of military coups in Central Africa – Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso – with the open support of Russians from the Wagner Group, two narratives emerged in the media. The pro-Russian one sees a rebellion of the people against French neocolonialism, linked to local corrupted elites. Meanwhile the Western media sees aspects of a large-scale plot by Islamists and Russia to establish an anti-Western and anti-liberal empire in Central Africa. They are both right – up to a point.

It is true that, until now, France has exerted a subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) neocolonial rule over its former West and Central African colonies. After France granted them independence in the 1960s, peacefully, it continued to exert economic, political and military influence in la Françafrique. France retains the largest military presence in Africa of any former colonial power; it forces African countries to give preference to French interests and companies in the field of public procurement and public bidding. It imposed on its ex-colonies the African Financial Community (CFA) franc monetary zone, which is inherently unequal and rooted in exploitative practices.

However, it is clear that the “anti-colonial” uprisings in Central Africa are even worse than French neocolonialism. The future they bring is that of failed states like Zimbabwe and Myanmar: authoritarian military rule; economic regression into new lows of poverty that profit only the new and corrupt elite; ideological fundamentalism combined with a pushback against “colonial” influences like gay rights. Authentic emancipatory leaders such as Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso are a distant memory. How can it be that much of Africa finds itself in such a desperate situation, where the only choice is between bad (Western neocolonialism) and worse (fake authoritarian anti-colonialism)? The recent military coup in Gabon was a revolt against both, removing President Ali Bongo in the knowledge that this time the French army was unlikely to intervene.

One has to have the courage to reject the simple explanation that what is missing is the mobilisation of the people. If there is a lesson to be learned from the latest right-populist protests, it is that the time has come to reverse Abraham Lincoln’s famous line: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time. But you can never fool all the people all the time.” Today’s version is: “All people can avoid being fooled some of the time, and some people can avoid being fooled all of the time. But all people can’t avoid being fooled all the time.”

Any genuine emancipatory engagement of the people is a rare event which quickly disintegrates, and not just when it comes to Western democracy. Recall how, during the period of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong sent thousands of intellectuals to the agricultural communes to learn from ordinary farmers, whom he elevated into “subjects supposed to know”. One can argue that it was good for intellectuals to become acquainted with real life in the countryside – but they did not gain any deeper wisdom about society more broadly.

How to explain that there is no one privileged group that harbours an authentic understanding of society? We have to proceed in two stages. The first myth to be dispelled is that of meritocracy: whatever your social position at birth, society ought to offer enough opportunity and mobility for talent to combine with effort in order to rise to the top. In her 2017 book Against Meritocracy, Jo Littler demonstrated that meritocracy is the key means of legitimation for contemporary neoliberal culture, and that while it promises opportunity, it in fact creates new forms of social division, since class, race and gender continue to play a much more important role. To these three factors we should add a heterogeneous one, chance. In Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy (2016), Robert Frank does not discount the importance of hard work, but demonstrates that, among groups of people performing at a high level, chance (luck) plays an enormous role in an individual’s success.

If, then, an individual’s wealth and social power do not reflect their merits, what is the alternative? For most critics of meritocracy, the alternative is to trust the majority of ordinary people who are without special merit: however manipulated and embedded in everyday ideology, however brainwashed by religious or ethnic fundamentalism they are, in the long term their spontaneous sense of justice will prevail. In short, the critics of meritocracy tend to advocate some version of Lincoln’s saying.

Unfortunately, the complexity of today’s world compels us to reject this trust in the people, too. Bombarded by conflicting reports on global warming, reading that even many scientists hold competing views, how can an ordinary, poor person decide to act? Should they fight for measures that will in the short term push them deeper into poverty? When immigrants arrive, how can we blame this same person for seeing in them a threat to their established way of life? Can we blame them if, in this person’s limited worldview, the idea that they are somehow complicit in the neocolonial exploitation of Third World countries makes no sense? This list goes on and on: can we blame our person for feeling confused and perplexed by the debates about “he/she/they” that abound in the media? And are most of us, intellectual elites included, not caught in similar loops, unable to arrive at what the philosopher Fredric Jameson has called a proper “cognitive mapping” of our situation? This is why the solution is not to strive for “true” meritocracy: those who deserve to succeed on merit will predominate only when our entire social order has been changed.

To be more precise, it’s not so much that the majority is fooled, it is that they don’t care: their main concern is that relatively stable daily life continues unperturbed. The majority don’t want actual democracy, in which they can really decide: they want the appearance of democracy, where they freely vote – but where some trusted higher authority presents them with a choice and indicates how they should vote. When the majority feel they aren’t getting any clear indication, they become perplexed and the situation in which they are supposed to decide is paradoxically experienced as a crisis of democracy, a threat to the stability of the system. (This holds not only for the former French colonies, but for democracy in general.) However, when the so-called silent majority begin to care, when they feel like victims and erupt in genuine anger, things as a rule get much worse. People want to decide, to have their voices heard, and in doing so – as the ongoing wave of rightist populism around the world demonstrates – expose themselves to further manipulation, falling prey to conspiracy theories.

Is this a universal rule? Fortunately not. Rarely, from time to time and in an unpredictable way, exceptions occur; the mist dispels, clarity prevails and the majority are mobilised for the right reasons. Such moments are history at its purest – moments when years happen within the scope of a week.

To return to our starting point, is there a chance that such a moment will occur in Central Africa? It will certainly not happen as a result of our (European) efforts to enlighten the Africans. What we can do now is turn against our own neocolonialism, which feeds a false fundamentalist anti-colonialism. Many more things will have to happen, not the least being that we will have to let one of the big taboos fall: we will have to rehabilitate planning – a large-scale obligatory planning, not just vague “coordination” or “collaboration”. Groups of states will have to form confederacies with legislative and executive powers to impose measures concerning the environment, mass movements of people, military interventions and the use of artificial intelligence. Utopia? Yes, but there is simply no other way to confront the crises that pose a threat to our very survival.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Proof Political Animals Have NO Sense of Humour...

 On April Fools Day in 2011, I posted the following post here.  In March of 2023, some idiot flagged it to Blogger, and I received the following e-mail:


As you may know, our Community Guidelines
(https://blogger.com/go/contentpolicy) describe the boundaries for what we
allow-- and don't allow-- on Blogger. Your post titled "<center>Sarah Palin
Declares for 2012 Presidential Race</center>" was flagged to us for review.
This post was put behind a warning for readers because it contains
sensitive content; the post is visible at
Your blog readers must acknowledge the warning before being able to read
the post/blog.

We apply warning messages to posts that contain sensitive content. If
you are interested in having the status reviewed, please update the content
to adhere to Blogger's Community Guidelines. Once the content is updated,
you may republish it at
(link deleted)
This will trigger a review of the post.

For more information, please review the following resources:

Friday, September 15, 2023

Who's Driving this Bus?

The Double-Slit Experiment.  Wave-Particle Duality?  Or Predictive vs. Retrospective (Memory) induced brain phenomena?  Do we need to compensate our understanding of the "real world" and "physics" to compensate for "brain" interpretative effects?  Do we need to perhaps adjust the physics to compensate for the problems of eliminative materialism?

...and spesking of wave-particle duality....
I quanta get out of here.

On the Simultaneous Use of Auditory and Visual Intelligences....

It must be witchcraft!

Monday, September 11, 2023

9/11 - The Event that Enabled America to Subvert the US Constitution and Destroy Itself from Within

Wow! 9/11 videos now violate YouTubes "terms of service". Sounds like a pretty lousy "service". One that lets members of a "politicized" National Security State dictate YouTube's own censorship policies and "community standards/ terms of service". Here's a replacement: Do you "kind of understand" why some of us Americans are not exactly "too concerned" about Russia right now, Q? Our own country has started to "become" more and more "like Russia" in that our so-called "representatives" and "bureaucrats/ civil servants" no longer feel "constrained" by the words and precendents established by the spirit/ preamble of the U.S. Constitution. Our privacy and rights are under attack by a "palliative" national security state". And no, "Russia" is/ was not a disease that posed a near-term or imminent threat to the health or welfare of the citizenry of the USA. It's attack upon Russia (thru Ukraine) only serves the long-term ambitions of the American and NATO Allied oligarchies.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Free Choice is NOT a Freedom


The new issue of In These Times is a special, extra-length issue devoted entirely to the subject of socialism in America today. This special issue is available now. Order your copy today.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin died on January 21 1924, 80 years ago—does the embarrassed silence over his name mean that he died twice, that his legacy is also dead? His insensitivity toward personal freedoms is effectively foreign to our liberal-tolerant sensibility – who, today, would not experience a shudder apropos his dismissive remarks against the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionaries’ critique of the Bolshevik power in 1922?
“Indeed, the sermons which…the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries preach express their true nature: ‘The revolution has gone too far. What you are saying now we have been saying all the time, permit us to say it again.’ But we say in reply: ‘Permit us to put you before a firing squad for saying that. Either you refrain from expressing your views, or, if you insist on expressing your political views publicly in the present circumstances, when our position is far more difficult than it was when the white guards were directly attacking us, then you will have only yourselves to blame if we treat you as the worst and most pernicious white guard elements.’”
This dismissive attitude towards the “liberal” notion of freedom accounts for Lenin’s bad reputation among liberals. Their case largely rests upon their rejection of the standard Marxist-Leninist opposition of “formal” and “actual” freedom, but as even ;eftist liberals like Claude Lefort emphasize again and again, freedom is in its very notion “formal,” so that “actual freedom” equals the lack of freedom. Lenin is best remembered for his famous retort “Freedom - yes, but for whom? To do what?” For him, in the above-quoted case of the Mensheviks, their “freedom” to criticize the Bolshevik government effectively amounted to the “freedom” to undermine the workers’ and peasants’ government on behalf of the counterrevolution.

But today, after the terrifying experience of the Really Existing Socialism, is it not more than obvious where the fault of this reasoning resides? First, it reduces a historical constellation to a closed, fully contextualized situation in which the “objective” consequences of one’s acts are fully determined (“independent of your intentions, what you are doing now objectively serves…”). Second, the position of enunciation of such statements usurps the right to decide what your acts “objectively mean,” so that their apparent “objectivism” is the form of its opposite, a thorough subjectivism: I decide what your acts objectively mean, since I define the context of a situation (say, if I conceive of my power as the immediate equivalent/expression of the power of the working class, then everyone who opposes me is “objectively” an enemy of the working class).

Is this, however, the whole story? How does freedom effectively function in liberal democracies? Although Clinton’s presidency epitomized the Third Way of today’s (ex-) Left succumbing to the Rightist ideological blackmail, his healthcare reform program would nonetheless have amounted to a kind of act, at least in today’s conditions, since it would have been based on the rejection of the hegemonic notions of the need to curtail Big State expenditure and administration—in a way, it aimed to “do the impossible.” No wonder then that it failed. Its failure—perhaps the only significant, although negative, event of Clinton’s presidency—bore witness to the material force of the ideological notion of “free choice.” That is to say, although the large majority of the so-called “ordinary people” were not properly acquainted with the reform program, the medical lobby (twice as strong as the infamous defense lobby!) succeeded in imposing on the public the fundamental idea that, with universal healthcare, the free choice (in matters concerning medicine) will be somehow threatened—against this purely fictional reference to “free choice”, all enumeration of “hard facts” (in Canada, healthcare is less expensive and more effective, with no less free choice, etc.) proved ineffective.

We are here at the very nerve center of the liberal ideology: the insistence on freedom of choice—so urgent today in the era of what sociologists like Ulrich Beck call “risk society”—even as the ruling ideology endeavors to sell us the very insecurity caused by the dismantling of the Welfare State as the opportunity for new freedoms. Do you have to change jobs every year, relying on short-term contracts instead of a long-term stable appointment? Why not see it as the liberation from the constraints of a fixed job, as the chance to reinvent yourself again and again, to become aware of and realize hidden potentials of your personality? Can you no longer rely on the standard health insurance and retirement plan, so that you have to opt for additional coverage for which you have to pay? Why not perceive it as an additional opportunity to choose: either better life now or long-term security? And if this predicament causes you anxiety, the postmodern or “second modernity” ideologist will immediately accuse you of being unable to assume full freedom, of indulging in the “escape from freedom,” of the immature sticking to old stable forms. Even better, when this situation is inscribed into the ideology of the subject as the psychological individual pregnant with natural abilities and tendencies, one automatically interprets all these changes as the results of their personality, not as the result of being thrown around by market forces.

Phenomena like these make it all the more necessary today to reassert the opposition of “formal” and “actual” freedom in a new, more precise, sense. Let us take the situation in the Eastern European countries around 1990, when the Really Existing Socialism was falling apart: all of a sudden, people were thrown into a situation of “freedom of political choice”—however, were they really at any point asked the fundamental question of what kind of new order they actually wanted? People were first told that they are entering the promised land of political freedom; then, soon afterwards, they were informed that this freedom involves wild privatization, the dismantling of the social security, etc.etc. They still have the freedom to choose, so if they want, they can step out; but, no, our heroic Eastern Europeans didn’t want to disappoint their Western tutors, they stoically persisted in the choice they never made, convincing themselves that they should behave as mature subjects who are aware that freedom has its price. And here one should risk to reintroduce the Leninist opposition of “formal” and “actual” freedom: the moment of truth in Lenin’s acerbic retort to his Menshevik critics is that the truly free choice is a choice in which I do not merely choose between two or more options within a pre-given set of coordinates, but I choose to change this set of coordinates itself. The catch of the “transition” from the Really Existing Socialism to capitalism was that people never had the chance to choose the ad quem of this transition—all of a sudden, they were (almost literally) “thrown” into a new situation in which they were presented with a new set of given choices (pure liberalism, nationalist conservatism).

This is what Lenin’s obsessive tirades against “formal” freedom are about, and therein resides their “rational kernel” worth saving today: when he underlines that there is no “pure” democracy, that we should always ask whom does a freedom under consideration serve and where is its role in the class struggle, his point is precisely to maintain the possibility of the true radical choice. This is what the distinction between “formal” and “actual” freedom ultimately amounts to: “formal” freedom is the freedom of choice within the coordinates of the existing power relations, while “actual” freedom designates the site of an intervention which undermines these very coordinates. In short, Lenin’s point is not to limit freedom of choice, but to maintain the fundamental Choice—when Lenin asks about the role of a freedom within the class struggle, what he is asking is precisely: “Does this freedom contribute to or constrain the fundamental revolutionary Choice?”

The most popular TV show of recent years in France, with a viewer rating two times higher than that of the notorious “Big Brother” reality soaps, was “C’est mon choix” (“It is my choice”), a talk-show whose guest is each time an ordinary (or, exceptionally, well-known) person who made a peculiar choice which determined his or her entire life-style: one of them decided never to wear underwear, another tries all the time to find a more appropriate sexual partner for his father and mother. Extravagance is allowed, solicited even, but with the explicit exclusion of the choices which may disturb the public (say, a person whose choice is to be and act as a racist, is a priori excluded). Can one imagine a better predicament of what the “freedom of choice” effectively amounts to in our liberal societies? We can go on making our small choices, “reinventing ourselves” thoroughly, on the condition that these choices do not seriously disturb the social and ideological balance. With regard to the “C’est mon choix,” the truly radical thing would have been to focus precisely on the “disturbing” choices: to invite as guests people like dedicated racists, i.e. people whose choice (whose difference) does make a difference. This, also, is the reason why, today, “democracy” is more and more a false issue, a notion so discredited by its predominant use that, perhaps, one should take the risk of abandoning it to the enemy. Where, how, by whom are the key decisions concerning global social issues made? Are they made in the public space, through the engaged participation of the majority? If the answer is yes, it is of secondary importance if the state has a one-party system. If the answer is no, it is of secondary importance if we have parliamentary democracy and freedom of individual choices.

Apropos of the disintegration of State Socialism two decades ago, one should not forget that, at approximately the same time, the Western Social Democratic welfare state ideology was also dealt a crucial blow, that it also ceased to function as the imaginary goal able to arouse a collective passionate following. The notion that “the time of the welfare state has past” is today a piece of commonly accepted wisdom. What these two defeated ideologies shared is the notion that humanity as a collective subject has the capacity to somehow limit impersonal and anonymous socio-historic development, to steer it in a desired direction. Today, such a notion is quickly dismissed as “ideological” and/or “totalitarian”: the social process is again perceived as dominated by an anonymous Fate beyond social control. The rise of global capitalism is presented to us as such a Fate, against which one cannot fight—one either adapts oneself to it or one falls out of step with history and is crushed. The only thing one can do is to make global capitalism as human as possible, to fight for “global capitalism with a human face” (this is what, ultimately, the Third Way is—or, rather, was—about).

Our basic political choice in the United States—Democrat or Republican—cannot but remind us of our predicament when we want artificial sweetener in an American cafeteria: the all-present alternative of Equal and Sweet&Lo, of blue and red small bags, where almost each person has his/her preferences (avoid the red ones, they contain cancerous substances, or vice-versa), and this ridiculous sticking to one’s choice merely accentuates the utter meaninglessness of the alternative. And does the same not go for the soda drinks: Coke or Pepsi? It is a well-known fact that the “Close the door” button in most elevators is a totally disfunctional placebo, placed there just to give the individuals the impression that they are somehow participating, contributing to the speed of the elevator journey - when we push this button, the door closes in exactly the same time as when we just pressed the floor button without “speeding up” the process by pressing also the “Close the door” button. This extreme case of fake participation is an appropriate metaphor of the participation of individuals in our “postmodern” political process.

This is why we tend to avoid Lenin today: not because he was an “enemy of freedom,” but because he reminds us of the fatal limitation of our freedoms; not because he offers us no choice, but because he reminds us that our “society of choices” precludes any true choice.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Are Neurons/ Axons Just Slimey Intelligence?

Success is "intelligence" and failure, "stupidity."  We try and "remember" success, and "forget" failure.  Or is it visa versa?  Else, how could we EVER attempt something "new/ novel"?  Develop "myelinated" intelligence?

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Narcissism Rising

Today we talk about positive power, neoliberalism, narcissism as a reaction to modern life, how technology makes isolation easier, and some tactics to find peace in the digital panopticon.

An excerpt:

Everything in this world is slowly being turned into the same he (Byung-Chul Han) says "the terror of the same affects all areas of life today. One travels everywhere yet does not experience anything. One catches sight of everything yet reaches no Insight. One accumulates information and data yet does not attain knowledge. One lusts after adventures and stimulation but always Remains the Same. One accumulates online friends and followers yet never encounters another person."

Now let's break down what he means by all those, and how Tech technology makes these easier. But maybe the first thing that needs to be addressed is, I'm sure, there are some people out there who hear Han say that everybody in the world is turning into the same thing, and they're thinking "What world is this guy living in, people don't have enough of "the other" in their life? That's literally the problem with Society is that people are turning people into "the other" when it's not appropriate, to this tribalism that people cling to. You know, they see someone who politically disagrees with them and they don't see another person who, all things considered, we agree on more things than we disagree on. No, they turn this person into the enemy in their world, then these people talk past each other, and they can never really have a good conversation. The problem with this world someone could say is that we embrace the concept of "the other" too much."

But what by Byung-Chul Han would no doubt say back is, "Would you call that a genuine interaction with "the other" when a person does that? Would you call that the person really encountering ideas that they disagree with? Truly considering those ideas, and then sitting with them? Or is that whole process just a poorly hidden attempt to confirm their own bias so they don't have to really get to know the person, and how they feel? In other words is this in reality just another version of narcissistic self-affirmation? Tell me if you've ever found yourself on one side or another of a political issue and you write a comment on the internet and someone from the other side claps back at you, do you ever feel like that person truly understands where you're coming from? Does it even feel like they care about knowing where you're coming from? No, there's nothing about them that truly wants to encounter difference or "the other", what they want is for everybody to have pretty much the same thoughts that they do. Everything needs to be the same to this person because truly listening to another person, setting your ego aside, feeling another person's perspective, that can be incredibly uncomfortable. it forces you to think of them as they are, something totally different than you, not just how they benefit you in some transactional way. The people trapped in this achievement Society will often have zero deep close relationships in their entire life. And the people they do have as friends end up just being transactional. You know, they increase their market value in some sort of way. They support the image they have of themselves. Their friends are good contacts to have in a networking sense. The Narcissist loves to have friends that are all the same as them and agree with them on everything, tell them everything they're doing is just fine. And this extends to the way they act when they come across new potentially perspective shifting ideas, yes in the political sphere, but also documentaries videos, podcasts, anything. They're never looking to entertain anything that's too far outside their field of view. They just want to see new ideas that are mostly kind of already corresponding with what they think they know.

Now this is another way that the narcissist denies "the other" in their life, further isolating themselves just a little bit more. Now none of this is actually trying to engage with true difference, Just an Illusion of it. In reality, Han says, "the other" is "incomparable", meaning, even looking at "the other" and trying to understand that person or those ideas by comparing them to predefined categories, even that obscures the true difference of "the other" because it's just viewing them through your own individual set of terms that are important to you. It reduces the true beauty of "the other", he says, into mere "diversity". What this leads to is a crisis of connection and a crisis of love for people in the modern world. People want everything and everyone to be the same.

You know another example of this is when someone takes a selfie, Han says, and then puts a filter on it to smooth out all the edges and the imperfections, and this turns them into some standard of beauty that isn't them. And then, Han says, when you remove the "otherness" from somebody, you can't ever really love that person. All you can do is consume them. When you remove the "otherness" from an idea, it can't ever really affect you fully. All you can do is consume it. And think of all the ways people are turned into things to consume when it comes to romance on the internet. Anyway true interaction with, and true consideration of "the other", this is what is missing for a lot of people in today's world and it makes it even easier to fall into this place, Han says, because the technology that pretty much everybody uses enables further isolation, almost like it's an addiction. When you're on the internet, for example, if you ever encounter anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, like you truly have to put your ego aside for a second and try to understand it from the eyes of someone else, you can just click off the page, you can just swipe to the next video, and the algorithm will happily go along with it for you because its job is just to keep you on the app. It doesn't really care what kind of narcissistic game you're playing. In a sense, Han says, we propagandize ourselves. Most examples of people being dominated throughout history have had some sort of symbol that people carry around with them that represents their domination. Think of slaves being branded. Think of a Scarlet Letter. Well, to Han, the smartphone is that to us, and more than that, actually, because it strengthens our form of domination. He Compares a smartphone to a rosary and Beads, you know, something that people who are under the control of a religion carry around with them and hold up at the opportune time. It's not only a surveillance device for us, it's also a digital confessional, and Facebook is the church, he says a like is a digital amen and instead of asking for forgiveness we call out for attention.  
In fact, almost everything about the smartphone, he says, is utterly incompatible with true thinking and freedom. To understand where he's coming from with this point, we have to make a distinction between what he thinks is "true thinking", and "what often passes for thinking" for people. Consider what it's like to be on Tick Tock, or most of the internet for that matter. Tick tock's just a very obvious version of it. You're scrolling around from video to video, you're getting tons of information, but there's no contemplation that's going on about it. In fact that's the appeal of watching any of these Channel that hack your attention span, you don't have to put in any thought. Nothing you're watching has to connect to some deeper picture of the world that you have, it's all self-referential. Like when you watch one of these videos, it really is just some narcissist dancing in the mirror, you know making little cutesy faces, because that's what you do when you're dancing, right? You switch to another video," I've got to bake the world's largest coconut cream pie and then live inside of it for 40 days and that's it, that that's truly all the video is. And there's something beautiful about that, it's part of the appeal, but there's no depth to that experience. There's nothing meaningful about reality that those things are connecting to, with people. You're having a surface level interaction with reality and that some people wonder why it seems like most of the stuff they consume is meaningless. 
This is what he meant, by the way, from that quote from earlier where he talked about "the terror of the same affecting all areas of life. You travel everywhere, but don't experience anything, you see everything, but have zero Insight. You consume information, but gain zero knowledge, lust after adventures and stimulation, but stay the same, get online friends and followers, but never encounter another person, he says, because the pace of the world is speeding up in modern times. Because you can just pull up a screen and Float from video to video, that gives you a shallow experience of the world. You can bring that shallow level of understanding to every experience that you have. If you want meaning, knowledge, truth, these things only come when you contemplate how the present moment connects to the past and the future. But there's never any time to contemplate when you're just scrolling from one distraction in life to the next. It takes someone actively making the choice to slow down, and take an inventory of how this stuff actually impacts you. Think of the person that speed reads through a book, you know just consuming all that information but then never remembers any of it after they're done reading. If you don't take the time to contemplate how that information connects to the existing order of things, all that's just gonna stay raw information, nothing more. And again, to the person trapped in that shallow narcissism never really considering "the other" that shallowness becomes the depth you're capable of having in every experience you encounter. See, that's one of the costs of blindly living in this achievement Society.


Jennifer Delgado, "“Be happy”, the new formula for domination according to the philosopher Byung-Chul Han"
“Don’t worry, be happy!” is probably one of the most iconic phrases in modern Western culture. We are continually bombarded with messages that encourage us to be happy, smile, and fulfill ourselves.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the underlying idea. If it weren’t for the fact that this type of message has been disseminated and distorted to such an extent that the commandment “be happy” has become a new formula for domination, according to the philosopher Byung-Chul Han.

From revolutionary happiness to happiness that subdues

In the old days, it was thought that happiness was simply something that happened. In fact, the English term happiness comes from “happ” and “hæpic”, which mean occasion or fortune the first and equal the second, while in Spanish it comes from the Latin term felix, which sometimes means luck and other times destiny, but it shares also the same root of the Latin word “fecundos” which it means fruitful, fertile, life-giving.

It was with the Enlightenment that philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau spread the idea that happiness was not a whim of fate or a divine gift, but something that we should all achieve here and now.

Curiously, the idea that “Human beings have the right to be happy and it is the ruler’s mission to achieve it”, as Queralt wrote, gave rise to the Declaration of Independence of the United States (1776) and the Declaration of the Rights of Man (France , 1789), which establish the right to “the happiness of all”.

However, at that time it was understood that social and economic changes were necessary to guarantee people the minimum conditions to be happy. In recent decades, this conception has been changing, so that the search for happiness has ceased to be revolutionary to become something more similar to a tool of domination.

“In the neoliberal society of performance, negativities, such as obligations, prohibitions or punishments, give way to positivities such as motivation, self-optimization or self-realization. Disciplinary spaces are replaced by wellness zones,” Han noted.

As a result, happiness is no longer understood as a social achievement to be seen as a positive emotional capital that should provide uninterrupted capacity for performance. The formal and factual powers realized that they no longer needed to establish iron prohibitions or punishments because the neoliberal propaganda of happiness was enough to promote self-motivation, so that the person himself submits, without even being aware of that submission, all for getting what he has been told will make him happy.

That person believes that he is free because he is “self-realizing” and looking for his happiness. He does not perceive that he is willingly exploiting himself by following the commandments of an external force. As Han said, in modern society “Freedom is not repressed, but exploited. The imperative to be happy generates a pressure that is more devastating than the imperative to be obedient.”

Excommunicating pain plunges us into a state of permanent anesthesia

Han points out that power assumes a positive form in the neoliberal regime. “Unlike repressive disciplinary power, graceful power doesn’t hurt. Power is completely unlinked from pain. It manages without the need to exercise any repression. Submission is carried out as self-optimization and self-realization.”

That kind of power operates in a more seductive and permissive way masked as freedom when in reality it is more repressive than the old disciplinary power, against which we could at least rebel because we were aware of its existence. As a result, the neoliberal device of happiness distracts us from the domain to which we submit ourselves, “voluntarily?” pushing us to a state of introspection where everything is subjectivized.

In practice, the commandment “be happy” ensures that each one deals only with himself, with his own problems and conflicts, instead of critically questioning the social situation. In unison, pain and suffering – which are the other side of joy and happiness – are privatized, becoming solely a personal matter.

This is how is transmitted the idea that what needs to be improved are not social or economic situations, but the moods of people. Society ceases to be responsible for the happiness or suffering of its members to transfer that responsibility onto the shoulders of each one of them. According to Zygmunt Bauman, it makes personal the systemic problems in which the individual feels trapped and defenseless.

And when that person falls into frustration or depression, the “escape route” is to resort to massively prescribed emotional painkillers to not think about the cause of that pain and suffering. Anesthetics that are not only prescribed in the form of pills, but are also supplied through the media, video games so popular in recent times or social networks.

As a result, Han points out that those who have visibility and, therefore, the greatest influence, are no longer the authentic revolutionaries who want to change things, but the motivational coaches and influencers on duty who ensure that discontent does not surface, much less anger in an increasingly unequal world.

This permanent social anesthesia prevents any kind of deep reflection. By numbing suffering and pain – powerful dynamic agents of change – is also eliminated the ability to react. “Neoliberal society immunizes itself against criticism by desensitizing”, as Han said.

For this reason, “Instead of revolution, what there is is depression.” While we strive in vain to heal our soul, we lose sight of the collective situations that cause social imbalances. When we feel afflicted with anguish and insecurity, we don’t look to society for answers, but we blame ourselves because we can’t be as happy or successful as the influencer we follow on social media.

“Chronic pain that could be interpreted as pathological symptoms of the tiredness society does not launch any protest” because suffering loses all connection with power and dominance, becoming a medical and personal matter. “The demand to optimize the soul actually forces it to adjust to established power relations, hides social injustices.”

In fact, the imperative to be happy further isolates people, forcing each one to worry only and exclusively about what makes them happy, instead of trying to understand what causes suffering for everyone.

In the end, the neoliberal idea of happiness ends up reifying it since it is nothing more than the sum of positive sensations that promise an increase in performance and satisfaction, remaining subject to the logic of optimization.

On the other hand, true happiness does not exist outside of suffering. “It is precisely pain that preserves happiness from being reified. And gives it duration. Pain brings happiness and sustains it. Painful happiness is not an oxymoron”, as Han pointed out.

“Deep bliss contains a factor of suffering. If pain is stopped, happiness is trivialized and becomes apathetic comfort. Those who are not receptive to pain also close themselves off from deep happiness”. Therefore, perhaps the time has come to ask ourselves if we are really looking for our happiness or are we chasing the mirage of happiness that the neoliberal system has popularized.

Han, B. (2021) La sociedad paliativa. Barcelona: Herder.

Han, B. (2021) La obligación de ser feliz. In: Ethic.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

TDS in the World...

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK, "National Derangements"
In both Russia and Israel today, the social pact is fracturing under the weight of history and disagreements about basic principles and national identity. These conditions lend themselves to increasingly absurd and extreme rhetoric, some of which speaks to the people's deepest fears and preoccupations.

LJUBLJANA – Whenever a country’s social contract unravels, conditions become ripe for rumors and absurdities to circulate. Even when these are outrageous and obviously nonsensical, they can give expression to a people’s deepest fears and prejudices.

Such is the case in Russia today, where Sergei Markov, a former adviser to President Vladimir Putin, has warned that Ukraine is creating “gay super-soldiers” to wage war against his country: “Military theorists and historians know which army in Greece was the strongest, remember? The Spartans. They were united by a homosexual brotherhood. They were all homos. These were the politics of their leadership. I think they are planning the same for Ukraine’s Armed Forces.”

Of course, this mixture of homophobia, fake history, and Marvel comic-inspired ideas of super-soldiers indicates that Markov is not interested in encouraging critical thinking and reasoned analysis. No matter: such idiotic statements apparently resonate with at least some important segments of Russian society.

The same derangement also increasingly applies to Russian historical memories of major national traumas and crimes. At a recent ceremony in Velikiye Luki, in Russia’s Pskov region, a priest known as “Father Anthony” doused holy water on a 26-foot statue of Stalin. Though “the Church suffered” during Stalin’s long reign of terror, he observed, Russians today should be grateful that they have so many “new Russian martyrs and confessors to whom we now pray and are helping us in our Motherland’s resurgence.”

Such perverse reasoning is just a step away from arguing that Jews should be grateful to Hitler for opening the way for the State of Israel. In fact, precisely that has already effectively happened. According to a 2019 investigation by Channel 13 news in Israel, future Israeli army officers at the state-funded Bnei David military prep school are taught, by rabbis, that:
“The Holocaust was not about killing the Jews. Nonsense. And that it was systematic and ideological makes it more moral than random murder. Humanism, secular culture – that is the Holocaust. The real Holocaust is pluralism. The Nazi logic was internally consistent. Hitler said that a certain group in society is the cause of all the evil in the world and therefore it must be exterminated. … For years, God has been screaming that the Diaspora is over but Jews aren’t obeying. That is their disease that the Holocaust must cure. … Hitler was the most righteous. Of course he was right in every word he said. His ideology was correct. … [The Nazis’] only error was who was on which side.”
The lesson does not end there. Students also learn that:
“With the help of God, slavery will return. The non-Jews will want to be our slaves. These people around us have genetic problems. Ask an average Arab what he wants to be. He wants to be under occupation. … They don’t know how to run a country or anything. … Yes, we are racists. We believe in racism. Races have genetic characteristics. So we must consider how to help them.”
To be sure, this extreme rhetoric is openly endorsed by only a tiny, fanatical religious minority. And yet, it hints at the underlying premise behind the current far-right government’s policies in the West Bank. To compare the situation in Israel and its occupied territories to Nazi Germany may appear a ridiculous exaggeration, and if a non-Jew makes this comparison, he is instantly dismissed as anti-Semitic; but if leading Jewish figures do so, they ought to be listened to. When a society has wrapped itself in layers of tendentious self-justification, it takes insiders to pull back the shroud.

Consider the case of Amiram Levin, the former head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Command. Speaking recently to Israel’s public broadcasting station about the situation in the West Bank, he contends that “there hasn’t been a democracy there in 57 years, there is total apartheid. … the IDF, which is forced to exert sovereignty there, is rotting from the inside. It’s standing by, looking at the settler rioters and is beginning to be a partner to war crimes.”

When asked to elaborate, Levin invoked Nazi Germany: “It’s hard for us to say it, but it’s the truth. Walk around Hebron, look at the streets. Streets where Arabs are no longer allowed to go on, only Jews. That’s exactly what happened there, in that dark country.”

That a retired IDF general could come to such a conclusion attests not only to his extraordinary ethical stance, but also to just how bad things have gotten there. But as long as there are Israelis like Levin, there is hope, because it is only with the solidarity and support of people like him that the West Bank Palestinians have a chance.

In both Russia and Israel today, the social pact is fracturing under the weight of colonialism and fundamental disagreements about foundational principles. These conditions lend themselves to increasingly absurd and extreme forms of rationalization. But just because you can come up with a reason for doing something does not mean that you should do it. When societies fragment, resisting wrong reasons often requires more strength than following right reasons.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Philosophic Meta-Humorism


Excerpts from Wiki:

Humorism, the humoral theory, or humoralism, was a system of medicine detailing supposed makeup and workings of the human body, adopted by Ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers.

Humorism began to fall out of favor in the 17th century and it was definitively disproved in the 1850s with the advent of germ theory, which was able to show that many diseases previously thought to be humoral were in fact caused by microbes.

Humor Production

Humors were believed to be produced via digestion as the final products of hepatic digestion. Digestion is a continuous process taking place in every animal, and it can be divided into four sequential stages.[36] The gastric digestion stage, the hepatic digestion stage, the vascular digestion stage, and the tissue digestion stage. Each stage digests food until it becomes suitable for use by the body. In gastric digestion, food is made into chylous, which is suitable for the liver to absorb and carry on digestion. Chylous is changed into chymous in the hepatic digestion stage. Chymous is composed of the four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. These four humors then circulate in the blood vessels. In the last stage of digestion, tissue digestion, food becomes similar to the organ tissue for which it is destined.

If anything goes wrong leading up to the production of humors, there will be an imbalance leading to disease. Proper organ functioning is necessary in the production of good humor. The stomach and liver also have to function normally for proper digestion. If there are any abnormalities in gastric digestion, the liver, blood vessels, and tissues cannot be provided with the raw chylous, which can cause abnormal humor and blood composition. A healthy functioning liver is not capable of converting abnormal chylous into normal chylous and normal humors.

Humors are the end product of gastric digestion, but they are not the end product of the digestion cycle, so an abnormal humor produced by hepatic digestion will affect other digestive organs.
Blood - It was thought that the nutritional value of the blood was the source of energy for the body and the soul. Blood was believed to consist of small proportional amounts of the other three humors. This meant that taking a blood sample would allow for determination of the balance of the four humors in the body.[25] It was associated with a sanguine nature (enthusiastic, active, and social).[26][27]: 103–05  The seasonal association of blood is the spring because the natural characteristics found in individuals was associated with being hot and wet.[28]

Yellow bile was associated with a choleric nature (ambitious, decisive, aggressive, and short-tempered).[29] It was thought to be fluid found within the gallbladder, or in excretions such as vomit and feces.[25] The associated qualities for yellow bile are hot and dry with the natural association of summer and fire. It was believed that an excess of this humor in an individual would result in emotional irregularities such as increased anger or behaving irrationally.[30]

Black bile was associated with a melancholy nature, the word "melancholy" itself deriving from the Greek for "black bile", μέλαινα χολή (melaina kholé). Depression was attributed to excess or unnatural black bile secreted by the spleen.[31] Cancer was also attributed to an excess of black bile concentrated in a specific area.[32] The seasonal association of black bile was to autumn as the cold and dry characteristics of the season reflect the nature of man.[28]

Phlegm was associated with a phlegmatic nature, thought to be associated with reserved behavior.[33] The phlegm of humorism is far from phlegm as it is defined today. Phlegm was used as a general term to describe white or colorless secretions such as pus, mucus, saliva, sweat, or semen.[25] Phlegm was also associated with the brain, possibly due to the color and consistency of brain tissue.[25] The French physiologist and Nobel laureate Charles Richet, when describing humorism's "phlegm or pituitary secretion" in 1910, asked rhetorically, "this strange liquid, which is the cause of tumours, of chlorosis, of rheumatism, and cacochymia – where is it? Who will ever see it? Who has ever ever seen it? What can we say of this fanciful classification of humors into four groups, of which two are absolutely imaginary?"[34] The seasonal association of phlegm is winter due to the natural properties of being cold and wet.[35]

Meden Agan - The Aesthetics of Performatism in a Meta-Modern World

Why Atheism isn't the Answer...

Performatism Reprised - The advantages of Adding an Aesthetic Frame to an Ontological Frame and then Finding Beauty by Transcending it

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Shilling for NATO....

Stefan Steinberg, "Slavoj Žižek’s slavish support of NATO"
In a series of articles written over the course of the past year, the Slovenian “pop” philosopher, cynic and Stalin worshipper, Slavoj Žižek, has emerged as one of the most virulent advocates of the US and NATO’s proxy war against Russia.

In an article for Der Spiegel entitled The Dark Side of Neutrality (Feb 17, 2023), Žižek denounced the principled stance taken against the NATO war by Roger Waters who stated in a speech to the United Nations Security Council: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine was not unprovoked, so I also condemn the provocateurs in the strongest possible terms.... Not one more Ukrainian or Russian life is to be spent, not one, they are all precious in our eyes. So the time has come to speak truth to power.”

This is all too much for Žižek who, in an article in Die Welt (June 20), even went so far as to call for nuclear weapons for Ukraine. He wrote: “One should not forget that Ukraine gave up all nuclear weapons to Russia when the Soviet Union disintegrated, with the promise that its borders would be recognised by Russia - would it not now have the right to get nuclear weapons (again)? Why is this obvious solution dismissed with horror even by those paying lip service to defending Ukraine?'.

Now, just a week ago, in an article in Britain’s right wing New Statesman magazine (14.08.2023) titled “Ukraine must go to war with itself” Žižek openly articulates his fears that the much heralded, spring military offensive by Ukraine is failing badly. According to Žižek, European powers, including what he describes as the European left, must redouble their efforts to prevent a shattering defeat for the Ukrainian forces. As is usually the case with his work, Žižek’s article is a combination of distortions, dissimulations, non-sequiturs and lies.

Žižek complains that “Those of us who stand firmly behind Ukraine worry about the fatigue of the West: as the war drags on, will the countries which support Ukraine gradually tire of the permanent emergency state and the material sacrifices demanded of them?”

The problem, according to Žižek, is an unholy alliance of the “extreme right and extreme left” (which he never properly identifies) espousing propaganda arguing in favour of: “abstract pacifism (we need peace, the suffering has to stop at any cost); a “balanced” view of the war (NATO’s eastward expansion provoked Russia and forced it to counterattack); and the need to protect our own national welfare (why should we give billions to Ukraine, a country run by corrupt oligarchs, when we have deep economic and problems of our own).”

Even more serious than the war weariness of the west, Žižek complains, is growing fatigue on the part of the Ukrainian population, which has paid the highest price in the war. Having been bombarded with propaganda by NATO and western politicians that Ukraine is conducting the good fight against corruption and for democracy, the Ukrainian working class observes on a daily basis how corruption continues to flourish while the country’s wealthy elite and their families flee abroad to protect their fortunes and avoid military service.

To counteract these problems and “avoid collapse in the war” Žižek calls for the building of “a truly united front against the common enemy”. Žižek demands that “leftists” and also female recruits who have encountered discrimination as members of the Ukrainian military fully subordinate themselves to the nationalist and fascist elements leading the army. Appealing directly to identity politics he declares that “only a wide popular front in which there is a place for everyone – from LGBT+ individuals to the leftists who oppose the Russian aggression – can save Ukraine.”

Sitting in the comfort of his academic lodgings in London and his flat in Lujblianja, Žižek is quite content to justify the slaughter of tens of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian recruits in a war which was incontestably provoked by the US and NATO in a land which, prior to the war, stood high in the world list of most corrupt countries and remains wracked by corruption. At the same time Žižek turns a blind eye to the various parties and groupings in Ukraine which have valiantly opposed the war and have been subsequently ruthlessly censured and repressed by the Zelensky government.

Acknowledging in his latest article that his own political trajectory is coming under increasing scrutiny, Žižek lies about his past in Slovenia, claiming that he was a victim of the “the nationalist right” which had “always castigated secular left opponents of the communist regime, as suspect, secret agents of the old communists.”

Far from being a “secular left opponent of the communist regime” Žižek quit the Slovenian Communist Party in 1988 and joined the pro-capitalist, secessionist Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) prior to the collapse of the Stalinist block. In 1990 Žižek ran as LDS candidate for the post of President of Slovenia, only losing out narrowly to another candidate. The LDS led coalition governments from 1992 to 2004 and were instrumental in implementing capitalist shock therapy economic policies in Slovenia following its secession from Yugoslavia. Žižek continued to support the party throughout this period as he developed his relations with Stalinist and pseudo-left forces in Paris.

Žižek ends his article with the ludicrous claim that NATO’s war in Ukraine can be compared to the French Revolution and European partisans opposing fascism in the Second World War. Žižek turns history on its head. Not least because the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, is an acolyte of the Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera.

His latest screed for the Statesman confirms Žižek’s role as an opportunist shill for NATO. Offering his services to the Zelenskiy government, Žižek urges his dwindling band of supporters to take up arms for a final battle which can only end in the deaths of many more thousands.

Žižek’s political lurch to the right and emergence as a slavish supporter of NATO’s proxy war against Russia is a direct response to the developing mass mobilisations of the working class world-wide. His response in the past to clashes between working-class youth and the forces of the state has always been to line up with the state. Against a background of intensifying conflict across the globe, past experience indicates that Žižek’s passage into right-wing and extreme right politics will only accelerate in the coming period.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Living Vicariously in our Second-Order Hyper-Normalized Society: On Re-Framing the Message via Attacks on the Messenger

Slavoj Žižek, "Oliver Anthony does not have the answers: Right-wing protest songs only benefit the wealthy and powerful."

Everybody who pretends to be on the left today needs to analyse Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond”. Over the course of two days, this working-class lament exploded into “the protest song of our generation”, garnering tens of millions of viewers and listeners. The word authentic occurs in positive reactions to the song: there are no special effects, it is just the voice and guitar of a simple worker recorded on a real camera. Here is the direct raw voice of those Americans ignored by the mainstream media: poor working men, barely surviving, with no clear prospect for a better life. Here are (most of) the lyrics:

I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day
Overtime hours for bullshit pay
So I can sit out here and waste my life away
Drag back home and drown my troubles away

It’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten to
For people like me and people like you
Wish I could just wake up and it not be true
But it is, oh, it is

Livin’ in the new world, with an old soul
These rich men north of Richmond
Lord knows they all just wanna have total control
Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do
And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do

‘Cause your dollar ain’t shit and it’s taxed to no end
‘Cause of rich men north of Richmond

I wish politicians would look out for miners
And not just minors on an island somewhere
Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat
And the obese milkin’ welfare

Well, God, if you’re five foot three and you’re 300 pounds
Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds
Young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground
‘Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down

There is an obvious truth in Anthony’s words. Yes, millions work while the rich exploit them; yes, big corporations and government agencies exert a frightening power of control over us. But the details of the song beneath this truth are disturbing – and details matter here. Why “north of Richmond”? Because Richmond, Virginia, was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War – a clear hint at where Anthony’s political sympathies lie.

And why fudge rounds? This term has a double meaning: (1) fudgy, round chocolate cookies, sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream; (2) when engaged in anal sex, a female loses control of her bowels, leaving a circular imprint around the base of the male’s genitalia – again, a hint at a link between the new rich and sexual perversions. (Elsewhere, with “minors on an island somewhere”, Anthony makes a passing reference to Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious island.) Who are the “obese” men living comfortably by way of the overtaxing of ordinary working people? They are at the same time the new corporate elites controlling us and the lazy (racial, sexual) minorities getting fat from generous handouts provided by the welfare state.

One should locate this in a series of rightist lower-class protests this summer. Consider The Sound of Freedom (Alejandro Monteverde, 2023), a movie based on a true story of a former government agent turned vigilante who embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue hundreds of children from sex traffickers in Latin America. Liberal media dismissed this surprise low-budget hit (at the US box office it has earned more than the new Indiana Jones and Mission Impossible movies) due to the proximity of its star, Jim Caviezel, to QAnon conspiracy theories. It is also weird that, in the film, some children are sold as sex slaves to the Farc movement leaders in Colombia – sex slavery is thus portrayed as a feature which unites the corporate elite of Hollywood and the extreme revolutionary left.

But child trafficking and sex slavery are horrible things, and it is all too easy to leave them to the new populist right, while the Hollywood mainstream is occupied by woke projects like the new Disney remake of Snow White in which Snow White is not white, dwarfs are not dwarfs but “diverse” people, and the ending will seemingly not be the old one (with the prince awakening Snow White with a kiss) but the empowerment of Snow White, who will become a new legitimate ruler. The sad thing about The Sound of Freedom is that we have a modest movie produced outside of the big Hollywood machine which deals with sex crimes against children from poor Latino families and is a surprising box office hit, but was made by right-wingers.

The new wave of rightist working-class protests and the “protect-the-minorities” corporate liberalism are not simply opposites: what they share is that they both avoid confronting the basic social antagonisms that characterise our era. While the rightist working-class protests do address actual problems that haunt many ordinary workers, they simultaneously portray the enemy as the “rich”, the corporate and state elites, and the “lazy” recipients of welfare. The struggle against racism and sexism is thus dismissed as the strategy of the elites to control workers and the productive capital. We get here the old fascist idea of uniting workers and productive capital against the parasitic extremes of the elites and welfare-state recipients. These protests are a reaction to what is false in today’s liberal left that deftly manipulates the fight against sexism and racism and for the rights of minorities in order to avoid confronting the perverted logic of global capitalism.

A protest may be authentic, but authenticity is not in itself a sign of truth: even the most brutal forms of racism and sexism can be experienced as an authentic feeling. At the start of August 2023 my own country – Slovenia – was for a brief moment in global news: it was hit by floods and landslides, with thousands of homes destroyed and whole towns cut off. The reaction was an unexpected show of solidarity: Slovenes offered too much help and too many volunteers, so that all of it couldn’t be used. Even embattled Ukraine sent help. Although this show of solidarity was sincere, it was small compared to what will be needed in the catastrophes that await us. For the large majority in Slovenia life went on as normal, and the display of solidarity allowed us to feel good without changing our way of life. For a moment, we acted as if the pursuit of comfortable daily life is not all, and our moderate sacrifices made us feel that life gained meaning. The display of solidarity was thus the expression of a desperate wish not to confront the depth of our crisis.

Back to Anthony’s song, the first simple counter-question of the left to its words should be: “OK, poor working people are exploited, so why doesn’t the song mention the standard solution – form a union?” Old working-class protest songs, from “Joe Hill”, to Pete Seeger’s “Solidarity Forever”, to Billy Bragg’s “There Is Power in a Union” all point in this direction. As for American patriotism, how far is Anthony’s song from the great Leftist working class protest song, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”! Here are its first lines: “Born down in a dead man’s town / The first kick I took was when I hit the ground / You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much / Till you spent half your life just covering up” – a similar experience of being downtrodden, but from a totally different political background.

Don’t be surprised if Anthony’s song is praised by billionaires from Elon Musk to Donald Trump – the rich man from Mar-a-Lago – who, by means of complex legal tricks, for years avoided paying taxes. Warren Buffett himself, one of the richest men in the world, was shocked to discover that he was paying less taxes than his secretary. No wonder that, when President Obama was accused of irresponsibly introducing “class warfare” into political life, Buffett snapped back: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

What we hear in Anthony’s song is the ultimate triumph of the rich in the class warfare: even a downtrodden proletarian struggling for social justice takes their side.