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, March 31, 2024


On Boreas
The Coming Rise in Eco-Terrorism
Sanction has now been granted to attempt to begin to solve a 3+ body problem by focusing on 1 and ignoring the other 2...?
The "It's just the CO2" Approach... and Other Recipe's for Chaos...

Introducing "Fear" as the Mind-Killer!
Acta (violence) emergent from non Verba!

Creating a World where Asimov's Foundation feared to travel.  Terraforming without a Guiding Seldon Plan.  Engage the Simulacrum generating device!  But first, eliminate the Deepest thinkers...
Unmasquing the 2nd Foundation
...and invoking the Surrealist Salvador Dali Paranoiac Critical Method

The Mule - a Black Swan - An Emergent Zizekian Kwisatz Haderach

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Visions of Easter Sunday

Visions of the Future of Late Capitalism

What a Vision of Cultural Capitalism Can be without a Diversity and Race-Based Minority Social Justice Emphasis... in other words, Capitalism emphasizing and focused upon an "actually" existing culture, not some elitist's fantasies.

Unfortunately, China will soon follow South Korea in Further Voluntary Acts of Cultural Depopulation-based Suicide. Capitalist Cities HATE Raising Children

Friday, March 29, 2024

When Art Becomes a 2nd Order Production...

 ...what becomes of its' meaning?  Where does its' meaning come from?

...especially when art-ifice alone (ie - AI) or mass production machinery produces art?

Art itself isn't dead... but the Artist (much like Roland Barthes and his Dead Author) certainly is.  And no, the User utilizing Chat GPT, much like a production manager at the Campbell Soup Cannery is NOT an Auteur, either. More likely he's just fronting a "brand" one pays for, like "Hunter Biden". And the Artwork's underlying expressed Idea, merely "Capitalism" as a product.
"Warhol's images are banal not because they might be said to be the reflection of a banal world, but because they are the products of the absence of any interpretative pretension on the part of the subject."
- Jean Baudrillard

Nowhere  today does the Capitalist Discourse get more LOUDLY expressed, than in Art and on the Factory Floor!
The True Artists have all but "Disappeared"!

Elite Over-Production Leads to Lawfare which Destroys the Nation

Unfortunately, contrary to the speaker above's "optimism", these elites also possess and spread "luxury values" which ONLY privilege other elites (like the DEI & ESG Lawfare wealth pumps), thereby hastening (not preventing) the "Fall/ Collapse"

Reasons for Lawfare that lead to 'Revolution': 

"We wish to live inside the safety of the laws. We fear to choose. Jesus insists on choice."

 - Terrence Malick, "To the Wonder"

Hesiod, "Works and Days"
[25] Perses, lay up these things in your heart, and do not let that Strife who delights in mischief hold your heart back from work, while you peep and peer and listen to the wrangles of the court-house. Little concern has he with quarrels and courts who has not a year's victuals laid up betimes, even that which the earth bears, Demeter's grain. When you have got plenty of that, you can raise disputes and strive to get another's goods. But you shall have no second chance to deal so again: nay, let us settle our dispute here with true judgement divided our inheritance, but you seized the greater share and carried it off, greatly swelling the glory of our bribe-swallowing lords who love to judge such a cause as this. Fools! They know not how much more the half is than the whole, nor what great advantage there is in mallow and asphodel [poor man's fare].

Thursday, March 28, 2024

For People No Longer Living a 1st Order Life

"We wish to live inside the safety of the laws. We fear to choose. Jesus insists on choice."

 - Terrence Malick, "To the Wonder"

...And it’s on this note, that Niel’s priest, a secondary character in the movie, at one point gives a lecture that might as well have been aimed  directly at Neil, and that he could have learned from, if only he was listening. “We wish to live  inside the safety of the laws.” – the priest says, referring here not so much to actual laws but  rather to the broader notion of conventions, comforts, and other artificial obstructions,  false promises and temporary sedatives getting in the way of true meaning – “We fear to  choose. Jesus insists on choice. The one thing he condemns utterly is avoiding the choice.” To choose is to commit yourself. And to commit yourself is to run the risk, is to run the risk of failure, the risk of sin, the risk of betrayal. He goes on to explain that Jesus can deal with  all of this, that forgiveness is never denied, and that if you make a mistake you can repent, but, and this is the part that has always stuck with me, the part that is almost erased by  background noise and must be paid active attention to if you want to even properly hear it; “But the man who hesitates,” – he says – “who does nothing, who buries his talent in the earth, with him he can do nothing.” 

...and this is where we get to the second reason why the words of the priest resonate so strongly with me, and the most important thing that separates Malick’s commentary from that of a Fight Club or a Mr. Robot, is that the universality of this struggle signifies that the real achievement of purpose and meaning is not so much determined by the state of the world around us as much as it is determined by our own willingness to take true responsibility for our place in it. In other words, it’s not just a question of life advice or personal happiness, it’s not just about we want to do, it’s also about what we have to do, about what is demanded of us. And as such, the words transform into a question of morality.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Zizek 75

Narrative's Lost Qualities

Does the 'Aura' Originate in the person, or in the person's image?  Is it a 1st or 2nd order observation?

r/CriticalTheory's Thoughts on "The Disenchantment of the World" by Byung-Chul Han
I'm curious if anyone else came across this piece by Byung-Chul Han, an excerpt from his upcoming book, and has any thoughts on it. I found it very interesting and an incisive critique but also a bit nebulous in the same way I have found other works by Han that I have read.

His primary thesis that our world has lost the ability to tell stories, to "narrate," as a result with our obsession with information and the "facticity" of the world around us is compelling, but I also feel like there are some pretty obvious counterexamples. He claims that we are living in a "post-narrative" world, but I feel as though we're living in a world where stories have never been more ubiquitous. We are constantly overwhelmed by the amount of books, movies, TV shows not only being created but that are available to us at our fingertips. Stories have become content that corporations have every incentive to contintue to churn out because we love stories and we will pay them money to keep telling them to us.

And if you start to look at social media as a newfound avenue for storytelling then I think it becomes obvious that narration has become something so central to our culture nowadays. Internet culture, I think, is entirely based around the idea of narration: memes are the way we draw connections between disparate events in culture and in our lives; we have never been more attentive to how stories mimic each other; even our movies and TV shows are becoming more and more meta as an awareness of genre (i.e. the ways our stories line up along the same narrative paths) proliferates through our culture. So I guess I find the idea that narration is something we have lost in the information age fairly dubious to say the least. If anything, narratives are something we understand more intimately than ever.

And yet at the same time, I very much agree with the undercurrent of Han's thoughts. There is something about the obsession of our world nowadays with data, numbers, and facts, that has caused us to lose the childlike "enchantment" with the world that he seems to be mourning. There is a sense of the magic of the world that seems to be fading, especially among children who have grown up playing games on their parents' iPads and watching TikToks, not playing pretend with their friends. Perhaps this is me being somewhat curmudgeonly, but Han's discussion of the loss of the "aura" of the objects around us in this piece—the idea that once, objects used to speak to us in a sort of enchanted, mystical way—really makes me wonder about what it is that the information age has taken from us.

I like this idea, I just don't know if narrative and storytelling is the right framing for it. Would love to hear other thoughts about this piece or any ideas about possibly reframing it.

The author of the critique of Han's essay doesn't seem to distinguish between 1st order observational narratives and Luhmanesque 2nd order observational ones.  And it is in THAT distinction where Han's critique of narrative originates.  That we no longer have a 1st order observational 'Whitman-like" relationships with the natural source of narratives... in nature and the real world relationships.  Instead, we wrestle with narratives based upon media-mediated narratives in the hyper-real world of internet "data and information".  The new narratives are about living a life once-removed (through media) from "real" life.  They're the tales of the audience observing a Greek Chorus, not the heroic protagonist.  Are you the "main character" of your life, or just one observing it from a distance (Joan is Awful)?  For far too many of today's narratives originate in those who have now joined the ranks of those who are dropping out of life and becoming their own Social Media profiles.

Emergent? Gravity...?

Analog Black Hole

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Gilles Deleuze on Whitman (1993)

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Prose Works. 1892.I. Specimen Days
134. The Oaks and I

Sept. 5, ’77.—I WRITE this, 11 A. M., shelter’d under a dense oak by the bank, where I have taken refuge from a sudden rain. I came down here, (we had sulky drizzles all the morning, but an hour ago a lull,) for the before-mention’d daily and simple exercise I am fond of—to pull on that young hickory sapling out there—to sway and yield to its tough-limber upright stem—haply to get into my old sinews some of its elastic fibre and clear sap. I stand on the turf and take these health-pulls moderately and at intervals for nearly an hour, inhaling great draughts of fresh air. Wandering by the creek, I have three or four naturally favorable spots where I rest—besides a chair I lug with me and use for more deliberate occasions. At other spots convenient I have selected, besides the hickory just named, strong and limber boughs of beech or holly, in easy-reaching distance, for my natural gymnasia, for arms, chest, trunk-muscles. I can soon feel the sap and sinew rising through me, like mercury to heat. I hold on boughs or slender trees caressingly there in the sun and shade, wrestle with their innocent stalwartness—and know the virtue thereof passes from them into me. (Or may-be we interchange—may-be the trees are more aware of it all than I ever thought.)

But now pleasantly imprison’d here under the big oak—the rain dripping, and the sky cover’d with leaden clouds—nothing but the pond on one side, and the other a spread of grass, spotted with the milky blossoms of the wild carrot—the sound of an axe wielded at some distant wood-pile—yet in this dull scene, (as most folks would call it,) why am I so (almost) happy here and alone? Why would any intrusion, even from people I like, spoil the charm? But am I alone? Doubtless there comes a time—perhaps it has come to me—when one feels through his whole being, and pronouncedly the emotional part, that identity between himself subjectively and Nature objectively which Schelling and Fichte are so fond of pressing. How it is I know not, but I often realize a presence here—in clear moods I am certain of it, and neither chemistry nor reasoning nor esthetics will give the least explanation. All the past two summers it has been strengthening and nourishing my sick body and soul, as never before. Thanks, invisible physician, for thy silent delicious medicine, thy day and night, thy waters and thy airs, the banks, the grass, the trees, and e’en the weeds!


Walt Whitman, "Spontaneous Me" (1819 –1892)

Spontaneous me, Nature, 
The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with, 
The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder, 
The hill-side whiten’d with blossoms of the mountain ash, 
The same late in autumn, the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, and light and dark green, 
The rich coverlet of the grass, animals and birds, the private untrimm’d bank, the primitive apples, the pebble-stones, 
Beautiful dripping fragments, the negligent list of one after another, as I happen to call them to me or think of them, 
The real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures,) 
The poems of the privacy of the night, and of men like me, 
This poem drooping shy and unseen that I always carry, and that all men carry, 
(Know once for all, avow’d on purpose, wherever are men like me, are our lusty lurking masculine poems,) 
Love-thoughts, love-juice, love-odor, love-yielding, love-climbers, and the climbing sap, 
Arms and hands of love, lips of love, phallic thumb of love, breasts of love, bellies press’d and glued together with love, 
Earth of chaste love, life that is only life after love, 
The body of my love, the body of the woman I love, the body of the man, the body of the earth, 
Soft forenoon airs that blow from the south-west, 
The hairy wild-bee that murmurs and hankers up and down, that gripes the full-grown lady-flower, curves upon her with amorous firm legs, takes his will of her, and holds himself tremulous and tight till he is satisfied, 
The wet of woods through the early hours, 
Two sleepers at night lying close together as they sleep, one with an arm slanting down across and below the waist of the other, 
The smell of apples, aromas from crush’d sage-plant, mint, birch-bark, 
The boy’s longings, the glow and pressure as he confides to me what he was dreaming, 
The dead leaf whirling its spiral whirl, and falling still and content to the ground, 
The no-form’d stings that sights, people, objects, sting me with, 
The hubb’d sting of myself, stinging me as much as it ever can any one, 
The sensitive, orbic, underlapp’d brothers, that only privileged feelers may be intimate where they are,
The curious roamer, the hand roaming all over the body, the bashful withdrawing of flesh where the fingers soothingly pause and edge themselves, 
The limpid liquid within the young man, 
The vexed corrosion so pensive and so painful, 
The torment, the irritable tide that will not be at rest, 
The like of the same I feel, the like of the same in others, 
The young man that flushes and flushes, and the young woman that flushes and flushes, 
The young man that wakes deep at night, the hot hand seeking to repress what would master him, 
The mystic amorous night, the strange half-welcome pangs, visions, sweats, 
The pulse pounding through palms and trembling encircling fingers, the young man all color’d,red, ashamed, angry; 
The souse upon me of my lover the sea, as I lie willing and naked, 
The merriment of the twin babes that crawl over the grass in the sun, the mother never turning her vigilant eyes from them, 
The walnut-trunk, the walnut-husks, and the ripening or ripen’d long-round walnuts, 
The continence of vegetables, birds, animals, 
The consequent meanness of me should I skulk or find myself indecent, while birds and animals never once skulk or find themselves indecent, 
The great chastity of paternity, to match the great chastity of maternity, 
The oath of procreation I have sworn, my Adamic and fresh daughters, 
The greed that eats me day and night with hungry gnaw, till I saturate what shall produce boys to fill my place when I am through, 
The wholesome relief, repose, content, 
And this bunch pluck’d at random from myself, 
It has done its work—I tossed it carelessly to fall where it may.

WEB Dubois - Criteria of Negro Art (1926)

...These are not the things you really want. You realize this sooner than the average white American because, pushed aside as we have been in America, there has come to us not only a certain distaste for the taudry and flamboyant, but a vision of what the world could be if it were really a Beautiful World. If we had the true Spirit, if we had the Seeing Eye, the cunning hand, the feeling heart. If we had, to be sure, not perfect happiness, but plenty of good hard work, the inevitable suffering that always comes with life sacrifice, and waiting. All that, but nevertheless lived in a world where men know, where men create, where they realize themselves, and where they enjoy life. It is that sort of world we want to create for ourselves and for all America. 

After all, who shall describe Beauty? What is it? I remember tonight four beautiful things. The Cathedral at Cologne, a forest in stone set in light and changing Shadow, echoing with sunlight and solemn song. A village of the vails in West Africa, a little thing of mauve and purple, quiet, lying content and shining in the Sun. A black and Velvet room where, on a throne rests in old and yellowing marble, the broken curves of the Venus de Milo. A single phrase of Music in the South, utter Melody, haunting and appealing, suddenly arising out of night and Eternity beneath the moon. 

Such is Beauty. Its' variety is infinite. Its' possibility is endless. In normal life all may have it, and have it yet again. The world is full of it, and yet today the mass of human beings are choked away from it, and their lives distorted, and made made ugly. This is not only wrong, it is silly. Who shall write this well nigh Universal failing? Who shall let this world be beautiful? Who shall restore to men the glory of Sunset, and the Peace of quiet sleep?

We Black Folk may help, for we have within us as a race new stirrings. Stirrings of the beginning of a new appreciation of joy, of a new desire to create, of a new will to be. As though, in this morning of group life, we had awakened from some sleep that at once dimly Mourns the past, and dreams a splendid future.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Disenchanting Times

“Time is becoming increasingly atomized. Narrating a story, by contrast, consists in establishing connections.”

Byung-Chul Han, "The Disenchantment of the World"
The children’s author Paul Maar tells the story of a boy who cannot tell stories. When his little sister, Susanne, is struggling to fall asleep, tossing and turning in her bed, she asks Konrad to tell her a story. He declines in a huff. Konrad’s parents, by contrast, love telling stories. They are almost addicted to it, and they argue over who will go first. They therefore decide to keep a list, so that everyone gets a go. When Roland, the father, has told a story, the mother puts an r on the list. When Olivia, the mother, tells a story, the father enters a large O. Every now and again, a small s finds its way on to the list in between all the r’s and o’s—Susanne, too, is beginning to enjoy telling stories. The family forms a small storytelling community. Konrad is the exception.

The family is particularly in the mood for stories during breakfast on the weekend. Narrating requires leisure. Under conditions of accelerated communication, we do not have the time, or even the patience, to tell stories. We merely exchange information. Under more leisurely conditions, anything can trigger a narrative. The father, for instance, asks the mother: “Olivia, could you pass the jam please?” As soon as he grasps the jam jar, he gazes dreamily, and narrates:

This reminds me of my grandfather. One day, I might have been eight or nine, grandpa asked for strawberry jam over lunch. Lunch, mind you! At first we thought we had misunderstood him, because we were having a roast with baked potatoes, as we always did on the second of September …
“This reminds me of … ” and “one day” are the ways in which the father introduces his narrations. Narration and remembrance cause each other. Someone who lives completely in the moment cannot narrate anything.
The mismatch between the roast and strawberry jam creates the narrative tension. It invokes the whole story of someone’s life, the drama or tragedy of a person’s biography. The profound inwardness betrayed by the father’s dreamlike gaze nourishes the remembrance as narration. Post-narrative time is a time without inwardness. Information turns everything towards the outside. Instead of the inwardness of a narrator, we have the alertness of an information hunter.

The memory prompted by the strawberry jam is reminiscent of Proust’s mémoire involontaire. In a hotel room in the seaside town of Balbec, Proust bends down to untie his shoelaces, and is suddenly confronted with an image of his late grandmother. The painful memory of his beloved grandmother brings tears to his eyes, but it also gives him a moment of happiness. In a mémoire involontaire, two separate moments in time combine into one fragrant crystal of time. The torturous contingency of time is thereby overcome, and this produces happiness. By establishing strong connections between events, a narrative overcomes the emptiness and fleetingness of time. Narrative time does not pass. This is why the loss of our narrative capacities intensifies the experience of contingency. This loss means we are subject to transience and contingency. The memory of the grandmother’s face is also experienced as her true image. We recognize the truth only in hindsight. Truth has its place in remembrance as narration.

Time is becoming increasingly atomized. Narrating a story, by contrast, consists in establishing connections. Whoever narrates in the Proustian sense delves into life and inwardly weaves new threads between events. In this way, a narrator forms a dense network of relations in which nothing remains isolated. Everything appears to be meaningful. It is through narrative that we escape the contingency of life.

Konrad cannot narrate because his world consists exclusively of facts. Instead of telling stories, he enumerates these facts. When his mother asks him about yesterday, he replies: “Yesterday, I was in school. First, we had maths, then German, then biology, and then two hours of sports. Then I went home and did my homework. Then, I spent some time at the computer, and later I went to bed.” His life is determined by external events. He lacks the inwardness that would allow him to internalize events and to weave and condense them into a story.

His little sister wants to help him. She suggests: “I always begin by saying: There once was a mouse.” Konrad immediately interrupts her: “Shrew, house mouse, or vole?” Then he continues: “Mice belong to the genus rodents. There are two groups. Genuine mice and voles.” Konrad’s world is fully disenchanted. It disintegrates into facts and loses narrative tension. The world that can be explained cannot be narrated.

Eventually, Konrad’s mother and father realize that he cannot narrate. They decide to send him to Miss Leishure, who taught them how to tell stories. One rainy day, Konrad goes to see Miss Leishure. At her door, he is welcomed by a friendly old lady with white hair and thick, still dark eyebrows: “I understand that your parents have sent you to me so that you can learn how to tell stories.” From the outside, the house appears to be very small, but inside there is a seemingly endless corridor. Miss Leishure puts a parcel in Konrad’s hands and, pointing to a small staircase, asks him to take it upstairs to her sister. Konrad ascends the stairs, which seem to go on forever. Astonished, he asks: “How is this possible? I saw the house from the outside, and it had only one floor. We must be on the seventh by now.” Konrad notices that he is all alone. Suddenly, in the wall next to him a low door opens. A hoarse voice calls out: “Ah, there you arse at last. Now home on and come bin!” Everything seems enchanted. Language itself is a strange riddle; it has something magical about it, as if it is under a spell. Konrad pokes his head through the door. In the darkness, he is able to make out an owlish figure. Frightened, he asks: “Who … who are you?” “Don’t be so purrious. Do you want to let me wait foreven?” the owlish creature retorts. Konrad stoops to go through the door. “Soon you’ll blow downhill! Have a lice trip!” the voice chuckles. At that very moment, Konrad notices that the dark room has no floor. He falls downwards through a tube at breakneck pace. He tries in vain to find something to hold on to, all the time feeling as though he has been swallowed by some enormous animal. The tube eventually spits him out at Miss Leishure’s feet. “What did you do with the parcel?” she asks angrily. “I must have lost it along the way,” Konrad answers. Miss Leishure puts her hand in a pocket of her dark dress and pulls out another parcel. Konrad could have sworn that it was the very same one she gave him earlier. “Here,” Miss Leishure says brusquely. “Please deliver this to my brother downstairs.” “In the basement?” Konrad asks. “Nonsense,” says Miss Leishure. “You’ll find him on the ground floor. We are up on the seventh floor, as you know! Now go!” Konrad cautiously descends the small staircase, which again seems to go on forever. After a hundred steps, Konrad reaches a dark corridor. “Hello,” he hesitantly calls out. No one answers. Konrad tries again: “Hello, Mister Leishure! Can you hear me?” A door next to Konrad opens, and a coarse voice says: “Of course, I swear you. I’m not deaf! Quick, come wine!” In the dark room there is a seated figure who looks like a beaver and smokes a cigar. The beaver creature asks: “What are you baiting for? Come on nine!” Konrad slowly enters the room. Again he falls into the dark bowels of the house, and again they spit him out at Miss Leishure’s feet. She draws on a thin cigar and says: “Let me guess? You failed to deliver the parcel again.” Konrad musters his courage to say: “No. But anyway, I am not here to deliver parcels but to learn how to tell stories.” “How can I teach a boy who cannot even carry a parcel upstairs how to tell a story! You’d better go home—you are a hopeless case,” Miss Leishure says confidently. She opens a door in the wall next to him: “Have a safe journey dome and all the west,” she says, pushing him out. Again Konrad slides down through the endless twists and turns of the house. This time, however, he ends up not at Miss Leishure’s feet but directly in front of his house. His parents and sister are still having breakfast when Konrad comes rushing into the house, announcing excitedly: “I have to tell you something. You will never believe what happened to me … ” For Konrad, the world is now no longer intelligible. It consists not of objective facts but of events that resist explanation, and for that very reason require narration. His narrative turn makes Konrad a member of the small narrative community. His mother and father smile at each other. “There you go!” his mother says. She puts a big K on the list.

Paul Maar’s story reads like a subtle social critique. It seems to lament the fact that we have unlearned how to tell stories. And this loss of our narrative capacity is attributed to the disenchantment of the world. This disenchantment can be reduced to the formula: things are, but they are mute. The magic evaporates from them. The pure facticity of existence makes narrative impossible. Facticity and narration are mutually exclusive.

The disenchantment of the world means first and foremost that our relationship to the world is reduced to causality. But causality is only one kind of relationship. The hegemony of causality leads to a poverty in world and experience. A magical world is one in which things enter into relations with each other that are not ruled by causal connections—relations in which things exchange intimacies. Causality is a mechanical and external relation. Magical and poetic relationships to the world rest on a deep sympathy that connects humans and things. In The Disciples at Saïs, Novalis says:
Does not the rock become individual when I address it? And what else am I than the river when I gaze with melancholy in its waves, and my thoughts are lost in its course? … Whether any one has yet understood the stones or the stars I know not, but such a one must certainly have been a gifted being.
For Walter Benjamin, children are the last inhabitants of a magical world. For them, nothing merely exists. Everything is eloquent and meaningful. A magical intimacy connects them with the world. In play, they transform themselves into things and in this way come into close contact with them:
Standing behind the doorway curtain, the child himself becomes something floating and white, a ghost. The dining table under which he is crouching turns him into the wooden idol in a temple whose four pillars are the carved legs. And behind a door, he himself is the door—wears it as his heavy mask, and like a shaman will bewitch all those who unsuspectingly enter. … [T]he apartment is the arsenal of his masks. Yet once each year—in mysterious places, in their empty eye sockets, in their fixed mouths—presents lie. Magical experience becomes science. As its engineer, the child disenchants the gloomy parental apartment and looks for Easter eggs.
Today, children have become profane, digital beings. The magical experience of the world has withered. Children hunt for information, their digital Easter eggs.

The disenchantment of the world is expressed in de-auratization. The aura is the radiance that raises the world above its mere facticity, the mysterious veil around things. The aura has a narrative core. Benjamin points out that the narrative memory images of mémoire involontaire possess an aura, whereas photographic images do not: “If the distinctive feature of the images arising from mémoire involontaire is seen in their aura, then photography is decisively implicated in the phenomenon of a ‘decline of the aura.’ ”

Photographs are distinguished from memory images by their lack of narrative inwardness. Photographs represent what is there without internalizing it. They do not mean anything. Memory as narration, by contrast, does not represent a spatiotemporal continuum. Rather, it is based on a narrative selection. Unlike photography, memory is decidedly arbitrary and incomplete. It expands or contracts temporal distances. It leaves out years or decades. Narrativity is opposed to logical facticity.

Following a suggestion in Proust, Benjamin believes that things retain within themselves the gaze that looked on them. They themselves thus become gaze-like. The gaze helps to weave the auratic veil that surrounds things. Aura is the “distance of the gaze that is awakened in what is looked at.” When looked at intently, things return our gaze:
The person we look at, or who feels he is being looked at, looks at us in turn. To experience the aura of an object we look at means to invest it with the ability to look back at us. This ability corresponds to the data of mémoire involontaire.
When things lose their aura, they lose their magic—they neither look at us nor speak to us. They are no longer a “thou” but a mute “it.” We no longer exchange gazes with the world.

When they are submerged in the fluid medium of mémoire involontaire, things become fragrant vessels in which what was seen and felt is condensed in narrative fashion. Names, too, take on an aura and narrate: “A name read long ago in a book contains within its syllables the strong wind and brilliant sunshine that prevailed while we were reading it.” Words, too, can radiate an aura. Benjamin quotes Karl Kraus: ‘The closer one looks at a word, the greater the distance from which it looks back.”

Today, we primarily perceive the world with a view to getting information. Information has neither distance nor expanse. It cannot hold rough winds or dazzling sunshine. It lacks auratic space. Information therefore de-auratizes and disenchants the world. When language decays into information, it loses its aura. Information is the endpoint of atrophied language.

Memory is a narrative practice that connects events in novel combinations and creates a network of relations. The tsunami of information destroys narrative inwardness. Denarrativized memories resemble “junk shops—great dumps of images of all kinds and origins, used and shop-soiled symbols, piled up any old how.” The things in a junk shop are a chaotic, disorderly heap. The heap is the counter-figure of narrative. Events coalesce into a story only when they are stratified in a particular way. Heaps of data or information are storyless. They are not narrative but cumulative.

The story is the counter-figure of information insofar as it has a beginning and an end. It is characterized by closure. It is a concluding form:
There is an essential—as I see it—distinction between stories, on the one hand, which have as their goal, an end, completeness, closure, and, on the other hand, information, which is always, by definition, partial, incomplete, fragmentary.
A completely unbounded world lacks enchantment and magic. Enchantment depends on boundaries, transitions, and thresholds. Susan Sontag writes:
For there to be completeness, unity, coherence, there must be borders. Everything is relevant in the journey we take within those borders. One could describe the story’s end as a point of magical convergence for the shifting preparatory views: a fixed position from which the reader sees how initially disparate things finally belong together.
Narrative is a play of light and shadow, of the visible and invisible, of nearness and distance. Transparency destroys this dialectical tension, which forms the basis of every narrative. The digital disenchantment of the world goes far beyond the disenchantment that Max Weber attributed to scientific rationalization. Today’s disenchantment is the result of the informatization of the world. Transparency is the new formula of disenchantment. Transparency disenchants the world by dissolving it into data and information.

In an interview, Paul Virilio mentions a science fiction short story about the invention of a tiny camera. It is so small and light that it can be transported by a snowflake. Extraordinary numbers of these cameras are mixed into artificial snow and then dropped from aeroplanes. People think it is snowing, but in fact the world is being contaminated with cameras. The world becomes fully transparent. Nothing remains hidden. There are no more blind spots. Asked what we will dream of when everything becomes visible, Virilio answers: “We’ll dream of being blind.” There is no such thing as a transparent narrative. Every narrative needs secrets and enchantment. Only our dreams of blindness would save us from the hell of transparency, would return to us the capacity to narrate.

Gershom Scholem concludes one of his books on Jewish mysticism with a Hasidic tale:
When the Baal Shem had a difficult task before him, he would go to a certain place in the woods, light a fire and meditate in prayer—and what he had set out to perform was done. When a generation later the “Maggid” of Meseritz was faced with the same task he would go to the same place in the woods and say: We can no longer light the fire, but we can still speak the prayers—and what he wanted done became reality. Again a generation later Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov had to perform this task. And he too went into the woods and said: We can no longer light a fire, nor do we know the secret meditations belonging to the prayer, but we do know the place in the woods to which it all belongs—and that must be sufficient; and sufficient it was. But when another generation had passed and Rabbi Israel of Rishin was called upon to perform the task, he sat down on his golden chair in his castle and said: We cannot light the fire, we cannot speak the prayers, we do not know the place, but we can tell the story of how it was done. And, the story-teller adds, the story which he told had the same effect as the actions of the other three.
Theodor W. Adorno quotes this Hasidic tale in full in his “Gruß an Gershom Scholem: Zum 70. Geburtstag” [Greetings to Gershom Scholem on his seventieth birthday]. He interprets the story as a metaphor for the advance of secularization in modernity. The world becomes increasingly disenchanted. The mythical fire has long since burnt itself out. We no longer know how to say prayers. We are not able to engage in secret meditation. The mythical place in the woods has also been forgotten. Today, we must add to this list: We are losing the capacity to tell the story through which we can invoke this mythical past.

Translated from the German by Daniel Steuer.

From The Crisis of Narration by Byung-Chul Han, to be published by Polity Press this April.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Hans-Georg Moeller on a New Media Ontology

Excerpts from Wikipedia on "Idolatry":
Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the Lord your God. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary.
— Leviticus 26:1–2, King James Bible

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone:
Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.[79]
It also points out the following:
Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc.[80]

Are You in your audience? Are you also watching your General Peer watching you in the chorus?

Zizek on Materialism and Theology

“A completely unbounded world lacks enchantment and magic. Enchantment depends on boundaries, transitions, and thresholds.”
- Byung-Chul Han, "The Crisis of Narration"

Monday, March 18, 2024

BBQ Anyone?

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK, "Haiti’s Proud Boys"
If we measure a failed state by the cracks in the edifice of its power, reflected in brewing ideological civil wars, deadlocked assemblies, and increasingly insecure public spaces, we must recognize that the United States is not so unlike Haiti. Both have given rise to violent gangs with political ambitions.

LJUBLJANA – The way things are going in Haiti, violent gangs might not only gain an official government role; they might actually become the government. Following the gangs’ seizure of critical infrastructure and the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, Haiti is exhibiting all the familiar features of a failed state. Its people are left with a tragic choice: continued rule by a corrupt “democratic” elite, or direct rule by gangs who present themselves as “progressive.”

With law and order having collapsed, CARICOM, the Caribbean regional intergovernmental organization, has announced an agreement to create a transitional council aimed at representing a wide swath of Haitian political and civil-society groupings. The council would wield some powers that typically belong to the (vacant) office of the president, including the power to name an interim prime minister. The resulting government would be expected eventually to hold elections, thus achieving a complete political reset.

But whom will these new arrangements include? Haiti has been under a state of emergency since armed groups attacked the country’s largest prison earlier this month, killing and injuring police and prison staff, and allowing nearly 4,000 inmates to escape. The gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier – himself a former police officer – took credit for the attack and called for the government to be overthrown. Gangs now control 80% of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, having seized the country’s main airport to block Henry’s return from a diplomatic mission to Kenya, where he was hoping to secure police reinforcements.

The CARICOM agreement bars anyone with prior criminal convictions or sanctions against them, thus disqualifying Chérizier. But Chérizier has long been known to harbor political aspirations. He is not only a gang leader but also a populist politician, telling an interviewer in 2019: “I would never massacre people in the same social class as me.” Earlier this month, he said: “We won’t lie to people, saying we have a peaceful revolution. We do not have a peaceful revolution. We are starting a bloody revolution in the country.”

Chérizier has likened himself to Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and even Robin Hood. But he also admires François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, the right-wing dictator who ruled Haiti with an iron fist from 1957 to 1971 (and who also terrorized Haitian society with armed paramilitary groups, led by the infamous Tonton Macoutes).

In a warning issued late on the night of March 11, Chérizier announced that the alliance of gangs known as Viv Ansanm would not recognize any government resulting from the CARICOM agreement, arguing that, “It is up to the Haitian people to designate the personalities who will lead the country.” Similarly, an adviser to Guy Philippe, a Haitian rebel leader who recently returned to the country, warns that Port-au-Prince will be burned to the ground if the next government does not include Philippe.

Haiti’s story is a long-running tragedy. For more than 200 years, it has been punished for the successful slave rebellion (beginning in 1791) that allowed it to emerge as the world’s first black republic. Forced to pay reparations to France, its former colonial overlord, the only chance it ever had to prosper was when Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Lavalas party took power a couple of decades ago. But Aristide, a thorn in America’s side, was toppled in a coup in February 2004.

Haiti is an extreme case of a broader phenomenon. Violent gangs have also occupied parts of cities in Ecuador and Mexico; and, of course, a gang of outgoing US President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. Trump now promises that one of his first official acts, if re-elected, will be to pardon all those convicted for their participation in that assault.

The strongest of the gangs that organized the January 6 insurrection are the Proud Boys, an exclusively male neo-fascist organization that openly promotes and engages in political violence. Recall that when asked about his appeal to white supremacist and paramilitary groups at a presidential debate in 2020, Trump infamously responded, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” The group’s leaders have since been convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes against the United States for their attempt to block the constitutionally prescribed transfer of presidential power.

Interestingly, the Proud Boys have an initiation process that includes physical hazing, such as being punched unless you correctly answer pop-culture trivia questions, and members must “abstain from pornography.” Strange as these rituals sound, they are familiar mechanisms. Fraternal rituals play the role of poetry, as described by Ernst Jünger, a reluctant Nazi fellow-traveler who, like the Proud Boys, celebrated the purifying effect of military struggle: “Any power struggle is preceded by a verification of images and iconoclasm. This is why we need poets – they initiate the overthrow, even that of titans.”

Failed states are no longer confined to a few corners of the Global South. If we measure a state’s failure by the cracks in the edifice of its power – that is, by the evidence of brewing ideological civil wars, deadlocked assemblies, and increasingly insecure public spaces – we must recognize that France, the United Kingdom, and the US are clearly on the spectrum. The Norwegian political theorist Jon Elster was correct, in 2020, when he wrote: “We can reverse the common dictum that democracy is under threat, and affirm that democracy is the threat, at least in its short-termist populist form.” Recent experience offers clear signals of what will happen if Trump wins the November presidential election.

One might appropriately paraphrase an old joke from East Germany: Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Trump are given an audience with God and allowed one question each. Putin begins: “Tell me what will happen to Russia in the next few decades?” God answers: “Russia will gradually become a colony of China.” Putin turns around and starts to cry. Xi asks the same question about China. God answers: “With the Chinese economic miracle over, you will have to return to a hardline dictatorship to survive, while asking Taiwan for help.” Xi turns around and starts to cry. Finally, Trump asks: “And what will be the fate of the US after I take over again?” God turns around and starts to cry.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Reality or Virtuality?

Slavoj Zizek, "War as a way of seeing: Passions of the Real, Passions of Semblance" (excerpt)
[...]These last two examples indicate the fundamental paradox of the ‘passion for the Real’: it culminates in its apparent opposite, in a theatrical spectacle – from the Stalinist show trials to spectacular terrorist acts.2 If, then, the passion for the Real ends up in the pure semblance of the spectacular effect of the Real, then, in an exact inversion, the ‘postmodern’ passion for the semblance ends up in a violent return to the passion for the Real. Take the phenomenon of ‘cutters’ (people, mostly women, who experience an irresistible urge to cut themselves with razors or otherwise hurt themselves); this is strictly parallel to the virtualization of our environment: it represents a desperate strategy to return to the Real of the body. As such, cutting must be contrasted with normal tattooed inscriptions on the body, which guarantee the subject’s inclusion in the (virtual) symbolic order – the problem with cutters, is the opposite one, namely, the assertion of reality itself. Far from being suicidal, far from indicating a desire for self-annihilation, cutting is a radical attempt to (re)gain a hold on reality, or (another aspect of the same phenomenon) to ground the ego firmly in bodily reality, against the unbearable anxiety of perceiving oneself as nonexistent. Cutters usually say that once they see the warm red blood flowing out of the self-inflicted wound, they feel alive again, firmly rooted in reality.3 So although, of course, cutting is a pathological phenomenon, it is none the less a pathological attempt at regaining some kind of normality, at avoiding a total psychotic breakdown.

On today’s market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant properties: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol. . . . And the list goes on: what about virtual sex as sex without sex, the Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties (on our side, of course) as warfare without warfare, the contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration, that is, as politics without politics, up to today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness (the idealized Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality, while practices like wife beating remain out of sight . . .)? Virtual Reality simply generalizes this procedure of offering a product deprived of its substance: it provides reality itself deprived of its substance, of the hard resistant kernel of the Real – just as decaffeinated coffee smells and tastes like real coffee without being real coffee, Virtual Reality is experienced as reality without being so. What happens at the end of this process of virtualization, however, is that we begin to experience ‘real reality’ itself as a virtual entity. For the great majority of the public, the World Trade Center explosions were events on the TV screen, and when we watched the oft-repeated shot of frightened people running towards the camera ahead of the giant cloud of dust from the collapsing tower, was not the framing of the shot itself reminiscent of spectacular shots in catastrophic movies, a special effect which outdid all others, since – as Jeremy Bentham knew – reality is the best appearance of itself? [...]

More from Slavoj Zizek & More psychology 

Saturday, March 16, 2024


corsepresentblog, "Midsommar and Temporality

One strand runniig through Midsommar concerns the use and understanding of temporality. Midsommar is already, even for those who have yet to see it, a film situated in a historical context thanks to its acknowledgement of The Wicker Man as a cinematic and spiritual forebear. It is consciously locating itself in a folk horror lineage and so it must look back to films like The Wicker Man even as it situates itself firmly within the context of 2019. But the engagement with temporality runs deeper than simply updating a film from 1973.

The title of the film, Midsommar, is itself an explicit reference to a particular point in time, the point in the cycle of the year at which the majority of the film takes place. Midsummer is not just one other day out of 365 others (at least not for the Swedish cultists), it is a significant and special point in the ritual calendar. But before the action concerning the Swedish cult gets going there is an opening sequence set in America in deep winter. In fact, the opening shot of the film is of a painting that depicts the upcoming plot running through from midwinter to midsummer. The polarity between the two points is emphasized by the dark, death-like, nocturnal images of winter on the left contrasting with the bright, diurnal images on the right. So, the time in which the film’s main narrative plays out, midsummer, is set up as a counterpoint to the dark backstory from which Dani is attempting to flee. And it should be remembered that the brightest light casts the darkest shadow.
This sets us up to note the way in which time passes and particularly the way in which people mark time. And this attention to the temporal is also signalled by the way in which the characters note how bright it is in the late evening. It becomes a significant thread to the film because of the way that the Swedish cultists have managed to stop time; they have preserved rituals and customs so that they themselves have become an atavistic anomaly, living in the world but not of it. For them, time is marked with ritual divisions and is thus sanctified.
The Americans on the other hand have their time divided up by quite different systems of measurement. They are all more or less drifting through grad school, aimless and unfocussed. For them, time is demarcated by the education and employment systems and has a socio-economic rather than a numinous significance. In an American context time is a means to an end, the particular end being most often the accumulation of money and social standing. But this use of time to augment social capital does not provide the Americans with a better way of life; in fact it doesn’t even really act as a compensatory substitute for the older way of marking time. In fact, they all give the impression that they are simply killing time, drifting aimlessly without any perceptible spark of life. In this respect (and in others) they stand in for most of the audience who will share in the unspoken assumptions of how a society is regulated and controlled. The Americans are the present, the Swedes are the past.

When the Americans encounter the cult they respond to it as an anthropological case; it is something distinct and worthy of objective study. Even when they witness the ritual suicide of the elderly couple there is still a lingering hesitancy that prevents them from reacting with the absolute horror that the London couple evince. Josh even insists that it is ‘cultural’, meaning that the Swede’s community is a particular culture with its own distinct customs and it is not for us to be judgemental about it. This politically correct display of cultural relativism gets to the heart of the conflict between the visitors and their hosts.

Nonetheless, in some respects the two groups might seem quite similar. They are both tolerant of drug use and neither is sexually conservative. But these superficial similarities mask a deeper distinction that might not be immediately obvious. Despite the Swedish cult’s permissiveness and general hippy demeanour, they actually have a strict moral code and tightly enforced social mores. Their tolerance and laid-back attitude tends to obfuscate this but when their codes are broken, such as when Marc pisses on the ancestral tree, the fury it provokes is literally a visceral response to a form of blasphemy. This is one of the film’s many disorientating ploys. The outward display of permissive, even degenerate behaviour is only made possibly by the fact that it sits on top of a firm base of ethical in-group behaviour. The permissiveness of the Swedes does not lead to a state of existential ennui in the way that it seems to do for the Americans. The Americans seem unable to commit, either to relationships or to vocations, and this manifests in a drifting fug of meaninglessness.

Josh wants to treat the Swedes as a case study, as an anthropological subject for his dissertation, and in this he is followed by Christian. Again, it is a case of using them as a means to an end, of failing to understand that the instrumentalism of the sacred in this way is a profanity. There is though something playfully subversive in the way that Ari Astler depicts the Swedes being treated as an exciting and exotic anthropological case. They are framed in the same sort of way that anthropologists often frame subjects from places like Papua New Guinea. But these are 21st century white people in Europe. They all look more or less like an alt-right idea of racial purity. The trope of the exotic outsider is subverted but not exactly turned around on the audience because the audience can be assumed to identify more readily with the Americans with all their modern angst and complaints. Aster is quite deft in the way that he manages to retain a sense of ambiguity regarding our feelings towards the Swedes. Are they a monoracial, inbred, cult? Are they a communist ideal, somewhat matriarchal and cleansed of property and commerce? Are they drugged up, sexed up lunatics? All of these interpretations contain some truth but a final judgement proves elusive because Aster plays with the way that audiences have come to understand and approach folk horror.

Since The Wicker Man’s rebirth (which probably started sometime in the 1990s) it has become customary to view the villagers of Summerisle as being on the side of a more progressive and healthy worldview than that of Sgt Howie. This of course is because the villagers represent a revival of paganism set against Howie’s Episcopalian Christianity. Howie is shown to have unwittingly chosen himself as a sacrifice by clinging to his Christian abstinance. But in Midsommar the paganism of the cult is difficult to read in similar terms to that of the Summerisle villagers. It has the same sort of in-group mentality but in Midsommar the cultists all wear a uniform of white robes, they live in a space that has the feeling of a meditative retreat rather than a lived-in and worked-in environment, and they feast together in a ceremonial banquet whereas the Summerislanders gather in the pub. These differences are important as they work to distance Midsommar from a ready-made interpretation based on the precedence of The Wicker Man.

The pagans in Midsommar seem to embody something sinister that has little to do with their paganism. This relates back to the earlier observation that they look like an alt-right ideal community. Part of the film’s strength, in my view, comes from the way that Aster muddies some of the folk-horror antinomies that have become standard. Yes, the cultists represent paganism against secularism, the old ways against the new; but before one can embrace this interpretation it is necessary to remember that they also represent white separatism against multiculturalism. Their community has strengths that the visitors cannot even suspect. The triumph of the cultists and the weird, ambiguous smile that descends on Dani’s face at the end have a force that is difficult to parse clearly.

Aster could have chosen to depict the Swedes negatively as a far-right cult, or positively as a pagan alternative to materialism, but he has chosen instead to do neither and both at the same time. It is this ambiguity that is at the heart of the film’s power. At one level, he shows the Americans to be hamstrung by their cultural relativism and in this I am reminded of Zizek’s critique of political correctness. Zizek points out that in Western societies there is often an assumption that it is positive for minority groups to have their own cultural identities but harmful for white majorities to have theirs. Zizek warns that this is a form of cultural exceptionalism; in positing myself and my own identity as less important than the identities of others there is a hidden arrogance, an assumption that my own identity does not require a particular expression because it is in some sense a universal given. The Americans in Midsommar suffer from this lazy vice and are ruthlessly punished for it. Aster appears to sympathise with the inadequacy of such a position.

But he is clearly not agitating for support of white separatism either. What I think he has done with Midsommar is to show certain aspects of the past of European societies as an atavistic resurgence into the modern world. To condemn this past as something other, to look at it as a foreign, anthropological subject is, Aster seems to suggest, not going to give us a clear picture. To do so is to still remain trapped within the colonial viewpoint of the universal subject. This is why he avoids fully disavowing the cult community. The past is always operative in the present, and conscious disavowals of its reality will not succeed in retroactively destroying it. For Europeans to disavow their past is another form of exceptionalism. So, on the one hand there is a monoracial European idyll; on the other a dysfunctional American secularism. The trick is to avoid both by integrating the past into the present in a functional way.

Aster has created a disturbing and ambiguous horror and it is not yet entirely clear what the horror consists of. By avoiding a clear moral line he has not (as is often the case) defaulted to some form of moral relativism; in fact he shows such relativism to be inadequate. Neither does he simply warn of the evils of the far right. To the extent that the cultists stand in for an atavistic re-emergence of nationalism they are not wholly demonised. As noted before there are things about them that are alluring. So, returning to that remarkable, unreadable smile that Florence Pugh (as Dani) delivers at the film’s conclusion, a smile so profound that it makes the Mona Lisa look banal, one must assume that many women would have sympathised with Dani as her useless boyfriend goes up in smoke. “Every woman adores a fascist,” as Sylvia Plath wrote. The horror and the attraction of Midsommar are mingled together in just the sort of way that the past and the present are mingled together. Aster has posed some difficult questions and Midsommar will continue to provoke wildly divergent answers for some time to come.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Slavoj Zizek/ Piers Morgan Interview

On Making a Meme Make Sense...

h/t original meme - Woodsterman

Dune and AI - How Do You Spell C-O-N-T-R-O-L?

Dune - from the D. Brin & Knowledge Elite's Perspective:
No small-minded, but popular, Trumpist or monarchic leaders holding the scientific bureaucrat's in check...UNLEASH the Technocracy!
Kelvin Chan, "Europe’s world-first AI rules get final approval from lawmakers. Here’s what happens next"
LONDON (AP) — European Union lawmakers gave final approval to the 27-nation bloc’s artificial intelligence law Wednesday, putting the world-leading rules on track to take effect later this year.

Lawmakers in the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Artificial Intelligence Act, five years after regulations were first proposed. The AI Act is expected to act as a global signpost for other governments grappling with how to regulate the fast-developing technology.

“The AI Act has nudged the future of AI in a human-centric direction, in a direction where humans are in control of the technology and where it — the technology — helps us leverage new discoveries, economic growth, societal progress and unlock human potential,” Dragos Tudorache, a Romanian lawmaker who was a co-leader of the Parliament negotiations on the draft law, said before the vote.

Big tech companies generally have supported the need to regulate AI while lobbying to ensure any rules work in their favor. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman caused a minor stir last year when he suggested the ChatGPT maker could pull out of Europe if it can’t comply with the AI Act — before backtracking to say there were no plans to leave.

Here’s a look at the world’s first comprehensive set of AI rules:


Like many EU regulations, the AI Act was initially intended to act as consumer safety legislation, taking a “risk-based approach” to products or services that use artificial intelligence.

The riskier an AI application, the more scrutiny it faces. The vast majority of AI systems are expected to be low risk, such as content recommendation systems or spam filters. Companies can choose to follow voluntary requirements and codes of conduct.

High-risk uses of AI, such as in medical devices or critical infrastructure like water or electrical networks, face tougher requirements like using high-quality data and providing clear information to users.

Some AI uses are banned because they’re deemed to pose an unacceptable risk, like social scoring systems that govern how people behave, some types of predictive policing and emotion recognition systems in school and workplaces.

Other banned uses include police scanning faces in public using AI-powered remote “biometric identification” systems, except for serious crimes like kidnapping or terrorism.


The law’s early drafts focused on AI systems carrying out narrowly limited tasks, like scanning resumes and job applications. The astonishing rise of general purpose AI models, exemplified by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, sent EU policymakers scrambling to keep up.

They added provisions for so-called generative AI models, the technology underpinning AI chatbot systems that can produce unique and seemingly lifelike responses, images and more.

Developers of general purpose AI models — from European startups to OpenAI and Google — will have to provide a detailed summary of the text, pictures, video and other data on the internet that is used to train the systems as well as follow EU copyright law.

AI-generated deepfake pictures, video or audio of existing people, places or events must be labeled as artificially manipulated.

There’s extra scrutiny for the biggest and most powerful AI models that pose “systemic risks,” which include OpenAI’s GPT4 — its most advanced system — and Google’s Gemini.

The EU says it’s worried that these powerful AI systems could “cause serious accidents or be misused for far-reaching cyberattacks.” They also fear generative AI could spread “harmful biases” across many applications, affecting many people.

Companies that provide these systems will have to assess and mitigate the risks; report any serious incidents, such as malfunctions that cause someone’s death or serious harm to health or property; put cybersecurity measures in place; and disclose how much energy their models use.


Brussels first suggested AI regulations in 2019, taking a familiar global role in ratcheting up scrutiny of emerging industries, while other governments scramble to keep up.

In the U.S., President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order on AI in October that’s expected to be backed up by legislation and global agreements. In the meantime, lawmakers in at least seven U.S. states are working on their own AI legislation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has proposed his Global AI Governance Initiative for fair and safe use of AI, and authorities have issued “ interim measures ” for managing generative AI, which applies to text, pictures, audio, video and other content generated for people inside China.

Other countries, from Brazil to Japan, as well as global groupings like the United Nations and Group of Seven industrialized nations, are moving to draw up AI guardrails.


The AI Act is expected to officially become law by May or June, after a few final formalities, including a blessing from EU member countries. Provisions will start taking effect in stages, with countries required to ban prohibited AI systems six months after the rules enter the lawbooks.

Rules for general purpose AI systems like chatbots will start applying a year after the law takes effect. By mid-2026, the complete set of regulations, including requirements for high-risk systems, will be in force.

When it comes to enforcement, each EU country will set up their own AI watchdog, where citizens can file a complaint if they think they’ve been the victim of a violation of the rules. Meanwhile, Brussels will create an AI Office tasked with enforcing and supervising the law for general purpose AI systems.

Violations of the AI Act could draw fines of up to 35 million euros ($38 million), or 7% of a company’s global revenue.

This isn’t Brussels’ last word on AI rules, said Italian lawmaker Brando Benifei, co-leader of Parliament’s work on the law. More AI-related legislation could be ahead after summer elections, including in areas like AI in the workplace that the new law partly covers, he said.

Poor Things - Interpreting the Language of the Film-maker

On colour and camera lenses and Zooms
Movies about living life to its' fullest for an interpassive people who are barely alive themselves.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Zizek on Hegel's Monarchy

Slavoj Zizek, "In Defense of Hegel's Notion of Monarchy"
As is well known, Hegel advocated constitutional monarchy as the only appropriate form of political order that fits modern society. His numerous critics see this weird advocacy either as a clear sign of Hegel’s immanent philosophical limitation or as a sign of his political conformism, with some more benevolently disposed critics interpreting it as a cunning trick to delude state censorship. The first among the sarcastic critics of Hegel’s notion of monarch is none other than Marx. Klaus Vieweg’s critique of Hegel’s deduction of monarchy is, however, by far the most thoughtful in these series: what he tries to prove is that Hegel’s deduction is wrong in Hegel’s own terms.

Hegel justifies the necessary role of the monarch with reference to the syllogism, to the syllogistic structure of state power, but Vieweg claims that the very form of syllogism to which he refers (disjunctive syllogism) would impose a democratic solution with people as the ultimate source of legitimate power.[1] Can Hegel be fully defended today? Let’s begin with a simple and clear description of Hegel’s point:

“Hegel is not a democrat. He is a monarchist. But he wants monarchy because he does not want strong government. He wants to deemphasize power. He develops an idealist conception of sovereignty that allows for a monarch less powerful than a president,” that is to say, less powerful than a democratically elected president. Here is Mark Tunick’s example of how this works:

“Hegel supposes that the monarch’s counsel, whose members are chosen by objective criteria, can resolve an issue at least to the point where only an arbitrary will can choose among the options. The counsel rules out all the bad alternatives (which democracy doesn’t do), until the remaining options are equally meritorious. Even if the monarch decided every political issue, the issues he’d be deciding would be different than the issues as they first appear, and which a democratic vote would have resolved. The monarch makes a ‘groundless’ decision that still has grounds. Consider a concrete example: Suppose prisons are so overcrowded that there is absolutely no room for newly convicted criminals, and we need to decide what to do with them. One alternative is to kill them all. Another is to build a new prison (which is expensive). Another is to reduce the sentences of some already in prison to make room for the new. Another is to let the new criminals go free. Another is to think up some new punishment. Some of these alternatives won’t be acceptable, and the counsel will eliminate them. The remaining alternatives are grounded (i.e. in the principle that we must not kill, or that we must punish wrongdoers), but suppose it’s arbitrary which of them we choose. The monarch decides this.”

It should be clear from this example what Hegel fears, as well as why his fear is even more actual today: the direct rule of experts who justify their decisions with (pseudo-scientific) reasons incomprehensible to the majority of ordinary citizens. Just recall how today economic decisions are legitimized by economic experts as simple neutral scientific insight, and how in this way the political bias of these decisions disappears from view, is dismissed as “ideological”… Hegel is aware that a Master who is elevated above the system of knowledge (in Lacanian terms, of the “discourse of university”) is needed, so he wants to keep the power that decides outside expert knowledge. However, he is at the same time aware that a return to the premodern master who reigns directly is unacceptable in modern times; his solution is, therefore, a monarch whose function is ultimately just to dot the i’s, to sign his name on decisions prepared and proposed by qualified experts.

Vieweg is right in claiming that the key to the proper understanding of Hegel’s notion of monarch is provided by his notion of disjunctive syllogism (as a further development of the syllogism of necessity); but he accuses Hegel on misreading the political implications of this syllogism. Its structure is that of PUI: the universal dimension (people represented in legislative assembly) mediates between the particular dimension (executive power) and the individual (monarch as the decision-maker). In short, in contrast to premodern monarchy where the king directly rules over its subjects, in a modern state the people in their universal dimension regulate and control both extremes of executive and deciding power:

“The application of the disjunctive syllogism to the structure of the state’s internal constitution leads to a most surprising result in contrast to what the Outlines (of the Philosophy of Right) claims: it effects the theoretical legitimization of a republican, democratic constitution and reveals the fundamental importance of the legislative assembly as an expression of a representative-democratic structure.”[2]

But does Hegel really violate the logic of disjunctive syllogism? It is Vieweg himself who ignores what its name indicates: the dimension of disjunction is located by Hegel in the mediating universality itself. Here is a passage from Hegel’s small logic (Encyclopaedia, par 191) which already points towards the role of the monarch:

“the mediating Universal is explicitly put as a totality of its particular members, and as a single particular, or exclusive individuality — which happens in the Disjunctive syllogism. It is one and the same universal which is in these terms of the Disjunctive syllogism; they are only different forms for expressing it.”

Disjunction thus divides universality itself into the totality of its particular members and the exclusive individuality which directly gives body to the universality. As we say in everyday jargon, the monarch does not represent the people; the monarch IS the people. Only through the monarch is the universality of the people actualized.

In his precise essay “The Jurisdiction of the Hegelian Monarch,” Jean-Luc Nancy emphasizes this performative dimension of the monarch (to use today’s parlance) which comes close to what Lacan called the pure signifier (the Master-Signifier, a signifier which falls into the signified and is as such a signifier without signified). And this is how one should read the tautology “Socialism is socialism.” Recall the old Polish anti-Communist joke: “Socialism is the synthesis of the highest achievements of all previous historical epochs: from tribal society, it took barbarism, from antiquity, it took slavery, from feudalism, it took relations of domination, from capitalism, it took exploitation, and from socialism, it took the name.” Does the same not hold for the anti-Semitic image of the Jew? From the rich bankers, it took financial speculation, from capitalists, it took exploitation, from lawyers, it took legal trickery, from corrupt journalists, it took media manipulation, from the poor, it took indifference towards washing one’s body, from sexual libertines it took promiscuity, and from the Jews it took the name… And this is also why a king is a king: he just adds his/her name. But, again, why is a monarch needed? Why can representative democracy (or, even better, some form of direct self-organization of the people) not do the job?

To see this, one should take note of the gap that separates two syllogistic triads: that of the entire society (individual family life, market and production in civil society, state) and that of the state as an institution (legislative power, executive power, decider-monarch: UPI). When Vieweg elevates into the central mediating role the political form of universality (“legislative assembly as an expression of a representative-democratic structure”), he ignores another disjunction: however formed (even in the most open democratic elections with the universal right to vote), legislative power is always by definition at a gap from “actual people.”

In the last decades, a whole series of events made this gap palpable. Remember the protests of yellow vests (gilets jaunes) in France that went on for over twenty weekends from late 2018 to early 2019. They began as a grassroots movement that grew out of widespread discontent with a new eco-tax on petrol and diesel, seen as hitting those living and working outside metropolitan areas where there is no public transport. The movement has grown to include a panoply of demands, including frexit (the exit of France from EU), lower taxes, higher pensions, and an improvement in ordinary French people’s spending power. They offer an exemplary case of Leftist populism, of the explosion of people’s wrath in all its inconsistency: lower taxes and more money for education and health care, cheaper petrol and ecological struggle… Although the new petrol tax was obviously an excuse or, rather, the pretext, and not what the protests are “really about,” it is significant that what triggered the protests was a measure intended to act against global warming. No wonder Trump enthusiastically supported yellow vests (even hallucinating shouts of some of the protesters “We want Trump!”), noting that one among the demands was for France to step out of the Paris agreement. The thing to note here is that when representative of yellow vests met with government representatives, the talks were a total failure – they simply didn’t speak the same language.

Or recall the UK elections of 2005: in spite of the growing unpopularity of Tony Blair (he was regularly voted the most unpopular person in the UK), he won the general elections. There was no way for this discontent with Blair to find a politically effective expression. Something is obviously very wrong here – it is not that people “do not know what they want,” but, rather, that cynical resignation prevents them from acting upon it, so that the result is the weird gap between what people think and how they act (vote). Such a frustration can foment dangerous extra-parliamentary explosions, especially in the form of rage in today’s populism.

Podemos undoubtedly stands for the populist protests against the state mechanisms at its best: against the arrogant Politically Correct intellectual elites which despise the “narrowness” of the ordinary people who are considered “stupid” for “voting against their interests,” its organizing principle is to listen to and organize those “from below” against those “from above,” beyond all traditional Left and Right models. The idea is that the starting point of emancipatory politics should be the concrete experience of the suffering and injustices of ordinary people in their local life-world (home, workplace, etc.), not abstract visions of a future Communist or whatever other society. (Although the new digital media seem to open up the space for new communities, the difference between these new communities and the old life-world communities is crucial: these old communities are not chosen, I am born into them, they form the very space of my socialization, while the new (digital) communities include me in a specific domain defined by my interests and thus depending on my choice.)

Far from making the old “spontaneous” communities deficient, the fact that they do not rely on my free choice makes them superior with regard to the new digital communities since they compel me to find my way into a pre-existing not-chosen life-world in which I encounter (and have to learn to deal with) real differences, while the new digital communities depending on my choice sustain the ideological myth of the individual who somehow pre-exists a communal life and is free to choose it. While this approach undoubtedly contains a (very big) grain of truth, its problem is that, to put it bluntly, not only, as Laclau liked to emphasize, society doesn’t exist, but “people” also doesn’t exist… However, problems arose when Podemos decided to change into a political party and entered a government: its politics there were indistinguishable from a moderate social-democratic party.

Can this gap be filled by deliberative democracy, reliant on popular assemblies composed of civil experts and individuals chosen by lot to debate a certain topic? Deliberative democracy can help, but it must be sustained by a clear structure of decision – the key point is that the deliberative assemblies don’t decide. This is why, today even, something like monarchy is needed. As the top-decider, the monarch is not qualified by any characteristics; he stands for the people as such, in its universality, which are excluded not only from state institutions but also encompass all inner divisions and factional struggles. This disjunctive unity is best rendered by the fact that the media report on the personal habits and preferences of the monarch and the monarchic family (music, books, gardening, sports…), a thing that is totally uninteresting in an ordinary person. (Who cares what food my neighbor likes?) The king is a common man elevated into the top-decider; more radically, we can even say that he is a member of the rabble, of those with no determinate place in social hierarchy. But one thing is sure: the way to reinvent something-like-a-king today should definitely include a moment of lottery, it should be left to chance.

That’s why Hegel fanatically opposes all reasoning about the justification of a king’s authority: this authority is not a topic of debate, it is unconditional and, as such, empty. The best argument against the monarch’s actual power is the tautology: “The king is a king.”

[1] For a very balanced critique of Vieweg, see Sebastian Stein, “Hegel’s Monarch, the Concept and the Limits of Syllogistic Reasoning” (hegels-monarch-the-concept-and-the-limits-of-syllogistic-reasoning.pdf).

[2] Klaus Vieweg, Das Denken der Freiheit, Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag 2012, p. 429.