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Normal.

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

— Friedrich Niethsche

“Merdre!”

— Jarry, Ubu Roi

 

 

Our recent trio of posts on The Mueller Report, and how the Emptywheel blog had accidentally if accurately, set Glenn Greenwald’s reputation on fire by highlighting either his mendacity or stupidity (or both and frankly at this point not only can’t we tell the difference, even if we could it would be a distinction without a difference) appears to have struck several raw nerves.

We have received an above average number of missives tossed over the cyber transom, and while most have the sophistication one associates with people who write threatening letters in crayon, and for whom claw marks on a cave wall are opera, we notice with a sense of both irony and resignation that in some cases they end up being right, if for all the wrong reasons.

Among the things that appear to irritate them is that we pointed out how both the left and the right have a Tourette’s Syndrome-esque response to the uses of Art as a means to contextualize the world of spies, and which prompts them (our critics) to spastically vomit denunciations of Art’s usefulness, in a manner eerily akin to thugs in leather trench coats saying: When I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun.

After all the last thing a self declared “leftist” wants revealed is that they sound uncomfortably similar to the men from Berlin with the train schedule fetish.

And the average right wing fascist gets irritable when you laugh at them because they keep unknowingly paraphrasing Stalin while reciting Mao’s favorite Spartan love poems and Jazz standards.

All of which brings us to the following thoughtful, nuanced gem of reasonable consideration from a concerned correspondent:

“If you haven’t noticed, normal people don’t care about this shit. Perhaps if politics were as simple as name-dropping authors, the left would be in better shape.

It’s the 9/11truth all over again.”

Well, we have noticed but thank our correspondent for reminding us that Swift was right when he said you can always tell an original intelligence has emerged in the world because the dunces will be arranged in a confederacy against him.

Of course it is ironic that our correspondent doesn’t realize (like the hysteric at Emptywheel who threw Baudrillard at us – don’t worry, we ducked) that by denouncing references to authors as “name-dropping” and thus, irrelevant, they were proving our point – left wing fascists and right wing fascists can be found handing out directions to the exhibit of deviant art – because in the end there is no difference between the Gulag and the Lager.

At least not to the dead.

Or the dunces.

As to waving the bloody shirt of “9/11” and “truth” our interlocutor is on firmer ground even if he arrived there by tripping over himself, and falling basakwards.

Because of course again, he’s proven our point – since the spooks lie, and tell half truths, in the name of “national security” (which covers everything from actual issues of national security to covering up murder, drug dealing, extortion, treason, rape, genocide, and systemic stupidity) one finds upon reaching for the latest governmental tome, that a healthy dose of skepticism is as necessary as a moral HAZMAT suit.

In other words, the “wilderness of mirrors” or a John Le Carre novel.

However, it’s undeniably true, normal people don’t care about this anymore than normal people care about a lot of things.

For example, normal people don’t care enough to get out of Minnesota, roll into New York and write, All Along the Watchtower.

Normal people don’t stand at the intersection of Nowhere and Despair, in Freehold, New Jersey, and say, come on baby, tramps like us, we were born to run.

Normal people don’t write the Magic Flute, or Carmen.

Normal people don’t survey the dreary post war waste land of England and say, hey, Elanor Rigby has a face she keeps in a jar beside the door, or man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Alan Poe.

Koo Koo ka-choo, Mrs. Robinson.

Normal people don’t work as patent clerks in Switzerland, ride the tram and imagine what it would be like to travel on a beam of light.

They don’t imagine cats, in boxes, with radioactive isotopes.

They don’t look at a block of marble and see mythic heroes waiting for someone to pick up a hammer and a chisel.

Normal people don’t think about would be queens, who ride dragons, sleep with their nephews, and scheme to dethrone mass murdering queens who sleep with their brothers, any more than they imagine small hominoids with large hairy feet who live in holes in the ground, fall into dangerous company comprised of dwarves, elves, lost heirs to far away thrones, wizards who may be overly fond of the local weed, and who are on the run from a gang of undead hitmen determined to grab a magic ring for their psychopathic and demonic boss, which prompts arboreal goddesses to scream – Do Not Tempt Me!

Normal people don’t believe they’re hearing the voice of William Blake and they don’t say:

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…”

Normal people don’t go fishing come home and write:

“He was an old man who fished in a skiff in the Gulf-stream and he had gone eight-four days now without taking a fish.”

Normal people don’t roll themselves in their wheelchair up to a radio and tell a story that summons the will of a nation, however flawed, to forge in its soul the arsenal of democracy in order to set it on the path to defeat tyranny.

Normal people don’t refuse to give up their seat at the front of a bus just because some asshole says they should because they have skin someone other asshole says is the wrong color.

Normal people don’t tell you about Tom Joad.

Normal people don’t write stories about psychotic taxi drivers who stare at themselves in mirrors and ask rhetorical questions while drawing a gun.

They don’t marry movie goddesses and tell you about spiritually dead salesman, or women who sometimes feel like cats on a hot tin roof, or irritatingly indecisive Danish princes who are convinced the ghost of their dead father is egging them on to commit murder and stage a coup.

Normal people on the other hand make the trains run on time and gurantee the showers will spray poison gas.

Normal people drop napalm on other people and sleep peacefully.

Normal people believe there were good people on both sides.

Normal people reject evidence, reject nuance, and insist they have the truth by the balls.

Here at The Ink, we like complexity, and we like contradictions, and we love freaks.

As one such freak put it:

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

 

 

 

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23 comments on “Normal.

  1. I find myself getting bored with it all. It seems like we’ve finally hit a point of crisis. Almost everyone is in reactionary mode. And reacting to another’s reaction doesn’t make one less reactionary. It’s reactionary all the way down or that is how it can feel. So many on all sides are overly excitable about every little thing.

    I feel impatient with the slow decline into collective madness. I wish all these psychotic bedfellows would hurry up with their descent. That way we could get on with dealing with the after-effects. Or else finally know how it all ends. Get on with the spiraling self-destruction or shut the fuck up! That is what I’d like to tell all the fools ranting and fear-mongering.

    Analysis is moot at this point. Madness has become meaninglessness. There is nothing particularly intelligent I can add to the noise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      While fully appreciating your view and having sympathy as well as often feeling a similar sense of fatigue I also take a longer view.

      I’m not sure the current crisis is different from other moments though I’m mindful of the psychological impact of environmental terror is impacting people (and by environmental terror I mean the sense of terror people feel because of the collapse of the environment)

      As to the other corollary issues (and speaking from a purely subjective POV) I’m irritated at best and disgusted at worst by the hypocrisy of self proclaimed arbiters of “the truth.”

      I expect it from right wingers but I find the whiny sanctimony of the “left” more annoying.

      As such I don’t see logic and intellectual rigor as reactionary (though they could be used as such) in this case.

      I also feel ART needs an advocate against the when I hear the word culture I reach for my gun gang of thugs. Thus for me, analysis is required even if it may be futile.

      But of course you’re not wrong as the situation feels dire.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have nothing against writing about such things. But it feels like we are at a point where I’m not sure what else can be said. It is what it is.

        What follows next will simply be crisis made manifest. I have this sense of a tension building up and people are reacting with stress and anxiety. A similar thing happened prior to the world war era blowing up into mass violence. People just start acting weird and that is a sign that there is worse to come.

        My conclusion is that we are all prone to reaction. I’m not excluded, not above it all. I’m just fatigued, but also as I said sort of bored with it all. I know there will be nothing boring about the consequences when they finally arrive. Until then, I feel too drained to bother. I’ll worry about the crisis when all of society is forced to deal with it.

        I’m psychologically preparing myself for the worse. If the worse doesn’t come, I’ll be relieved. But I won’t bet against it.

        Like

    2. rauldukeblog says:

      And to add a crucially important point of consideration: There is something to be said for “getting off the Wheel” of eternal return – assuming it’s possible.

      Focused detachment from reaction is a valid perspective with forceful (sic;-)) advocates.

      Meet you by the river;-)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is my mood at the moment. My diet really has changed how I feel about life. I spent so many decades in chronic depression, much of it with suicidal ideation and a generally dark view of the world.

        At this point… meh… We are all going to die, one way or another. And all civilizations eventually collapse. I’m trying to make my peace with it all. If this is our time, so be it. We made a good run of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        Your comments make think of a famous quip attributed to Camus and his view on suicide vs life: Should I kill myself or have another cup of coffee.

        There’s no doubt we’re in an especially fraught moment. All of it is connected – economics, ethnic/tribal tensions, the environment etc. Start with any one of them you get to all the others if you’re honest.

        There’s also a sense of impending doom. sort of like listening to the slightly distant sounding voices overdubbed on various Beatles’ songs where you can hear someone say: It’s all leading up to something.

        Except this feels like that’s true.

        Of course surveying the scene in say 1967 or there abouts any reasonable person would have had a profound of the jitters and shakes or a resigned sense of things ending with a whimper and not a bang or the other way around but what difference does it make once you’re dead.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. There is a strangeness to the present state of crisis.

        In a sense, it is no different than what came before. And it can even be seen as a continuation. The fears about climate change, environmental destruction, etc go back to before I was born. Maybe the anxiety was more intense back then with the Cold War nuclear panic as the background.

        As the crisis has gotten worse, the anxiety has become subsumed and normalized. There is a numb dread that is all that remains, a waiting for what comes next, be it in our generation or the next. We are nearing the acceptance/resignation stage of grief. But I’m not sure about that.

        I noticed the military bringing attention back to UFOs. That worries me about as much as anything. UFOs have always stood in for what we otherwise can’t talk about. Some see them as the early signs of a new religion. Jung had some interesting thoughts about this as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. rauldukeblog says:

        There’s nuance here that sounds like or will sound like I disagree but I don’t – I’m just not sure the current moment with its numbness is different or that different from other moments but I could easily be wrong.

        For many the sense of resignation has as you say become normalized. But there are signs of panic and (hate to use a loaded word but…) resistance which may prove to be too little too late let alone “futile.”

        I saw the UFO news and suspect there’s far more to it than what’s been presented and not in an X Files sense just that it seems unlikely they just decided to change the policy without assorted “classified” reasons which may be as banal as PR/Marketing issues.

        And yes “UFOs” have been a stand in in the past.

        Of course in what is essentially an infinite universe it is not credible to think we’re all there is.

        There’s an official name for the question of “where then are all the aliens” and it seems fairly easy to assume a species say 500 years further along could visit Earth without being noticed in the same sense people here visit ant hills without being noticed or if noticed understood.

        Jung had a lot of interesting things to say about a lot of things.

        There’s a very good book called A Most Dangerous Method which was made into a less good but still not bad film by David Cronenberg.

        Worth checking them out.

        Like

      5. It’s not that this moment is different in all ways from everything that came before. But there are aspects of it that seem unique.

        My mother, as odd as it may seem, claims to not have known about the Cold War when she was younger, maybe not learning about it until she was well into adulthood. Mass media was far less mass back then and she had more important things to worry about, from going to school to dating boys and later a career and raising a young family. Even though she was born in the 1940s and grew up during the height of the Cold War, it simply didn’t have the same kind of ever-present reality. It didn’t register in her awareness. Sure, the Cold War era was tense and there were some sci-fi movies that were apocalyptic, but most people at the time weren’t paying much attention as the economy was booming and America was ascendant, technology was advancing and consumer goods becoming widely available, the middle class was growing and life improving. It was easier to be oblivious to what was going on in the larger world back then, in a way near impossible now.

        Catastrophe has been real at various points in history. The difference with climate change is that isn’t a mere threat but a guarantee, even if the timescale is difficult to predict. The sense of the climate changing, as seen with increased storms and refugee crises and a lot else, is an undeniable reality — whether or not any given individual thinks much about it. Even the denials are further proof of admission to its stark reality. Something like nuclear war and winter may or may not happen. Climate change, on the other hand, isn’t only a possibility but an inevitability. It’s a far different variety of mutually assured destruction. It creeps upon us and so is hard to grasp. We are overwhelmed with anxiety about it, even as it doesn’t quite feel real to us because the totality of it is so far beyond our physical senses. Climate change offers no enemy to fight, no population to scapegoat, no where to flee to, not even a way to really prepare for it.

        There is also the scientific quality to it. Modern science created climate change through technological innovation and industrialization. And now science warns us about it. But it usually isn’t like a war, famine, or plague that hits a population in an undeniable way — not for most of us, not yet. That is the complexifying change in the scientific worldview we now inhabit and it is why the anxiety is so amorphous, in away profoundly different than before. To come to terms with climate change, something within human nature itself would have to shift. If we are to survive it while maintaining civilization, we will likely have to be as dramatically transformed as were bicameral humans during the collapse of the Bronze Age Civilizations. We won’t come through this unscathed and unchanged.

        That is where UFOs come in. They express that free-floating sense of vague anxiety about the unknown, specifically in scientific or pseudo-scientific terms. It’s almost irrelevant what UFOs really are or aren’t. And no doubt, as in the past, various governments will attempt to use UFOs to manipulate populations, to obfuscate what they wish to keep hidden, or whatever else. The relevant point here is what UFOs symbolize in the human psyche and why they gain so much attention during periods of wide scale uncertainty and stress. The UFO cults that have appeared over the past few generations are maybe akin to the cults like Jesus worship that emerged in the Axial Age. Besides Jung, it might be helpful to bring in Jacques Vallee’s even more fascinating view. A new mythos is forming.

        I’m not sure what it all adds up to. And my crystal ball is no less cloudy than your own. It just feels different in that we aren’t only facing crisis and catastrophe. It feels like a far more pivotal point, a fork in the path. During what is called the General Crisis, there was much change going on and it did help bring to an end what remained of feudalism. But the General Crisis didn’t fundamentally change society and culture, much less cut deeper into the human psyche. I’d argue that it simply brought us further down the same path we’d been on for two millennia since the Axial Age. I keep wondering if now the Axial Age is coming to its final conclusion, that there isn’t much further we can go down this path. Or consider another period of chaos and panic, Black Death. The world was more or less the same before and after Black Death, just a smaller population with less surplus labor which did shift the dynamics of power a bit, but still not utterly transformed. Will that be the same with climate change? I doubt it. The present social order and economic system is simply unsustainable. It can’t go on like this, although its collapse might end up being more slow and torturous than a sudden onset of catastrophes.

        Such is the reason that all the political excitement can sound like yet more noise. Even calling it spectacle might be giving it too much credit. It’s not to be dismissive but to make an observation. It can feel, at times, like one either adds to the noise or remains silent. And admittedly I’m not one to remain silent. Maybe all the noise serves a purpose in signaling a sense of collective alarm. Maybe one would have to be insane or simply indifferent and oblivious (or a saint or an enlightened being) to still be silent at this point. Still, after a while, the constant noise simply becomes background sound. Humans aren’t designed to maintain a permanent state of heightened attention.

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      6. By the way, I think my introduction to Jacques Vallee came through my further reading after having discovered John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies, the book that came out long before the movie. That is where the basic notion comes from that I was working with here. During times of crisis and foreboding, often preceding actual mass death, there is a build up of strangeness that spills out from our normal sense of reality. We can talk about this in rational terms, of course.

        Keith Payne, in The Broken Ladder, notes that people come to hold bizarre beliefs and generally act irrationally when under conditions of high inequality, that is to say when inflicted with unrelenting stress. But it goes beyond that. There is more going on that mere beliefs. People’s sense of reality becomes distorted and they begin experiencing what they otherwise would not. This was the basis of Julian Jaynes’ bicameral mind where voice-hearing was elicited through stress. And this is supported by modern evidence, such as the cases recorded by John Geiger in the Third Man Factor.

        Vallee brought an additional layer to this in showing how anecdotes of alien contact follow the same pattern as the stories of fairy abductions and the anthropological accounts of shamanic initiation. These are religious experiences. At other times, they were more likely interpreted as visitations by spiritual beings or as transportation into higher realms. Similarly, spinning and flying disks in the sky were interpreted as supernatural manifestations in the pre-scientific age. But maybe it’s all the same phenomenon, whether the source is elsewhere or from within the human psyche.

        The interesting part is that these experiences, sometimes sightings involving crowds of people (including many incidents with military personnel and pilots), often correspond with intensified societal conflict. UFO sightings and contact experiences appear to increase at specific periods of stress. Unsurprisingly, people turn to the strange in strange times. And there is something about this strangeness, the pervasiveness of it and the power it holds. To say we are living in a reactionary time when nearly everything and everyone has become reactionary, that is to understate it to an extreme degree.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. rauldukeblog says:

        Very interesting. Mass hysteria is a fascinating field.

        Can’t remember the name but I read a books years ago about a hysteria that swept Europe in the Middle Ages (late or mid – can’t remember) in which large crowds would start dancing and wouldn’t stop.

        Environmental factors – good old Ergot – played a part but stress/anxiety was a key factor.

        In the arguably best and first of the current zombie films, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days the cause of the infection is called “Rage” – as one is infected with “Rage” and thus it is deployed metaphorically to represent the mass anxiety of the contemporary moment (the film has got to be 10 years ago but still “now”).

        UFO sighting, the ways in which visual images act as infectious vectors (“copycat killings”) all point to a ginned up atmosphere.

        Of course “ginned up” goes back to cheep gin being used to both agitate and control the working poor and one could make the case the current moment with its manipulations via social media and which are by design to turn a profit for the upper echelons are essentially the same.

        Again though the difference (or most significant) difference being the sense of dread because the environment is collapsing.

        That reminds me of another book that excavated responses to the turn of the millennium in the year 1000 – episodes of mass hysteria and anxiety and a sense the world was ending.

        Chris Carter (creator of The X Files) had a show called Millennium that touched on the sense of dread and anxiety but wasn’t as fully realized as The X Files but in some sense was more in tune with what you’re describing.

        as to reactionary – I come again to the question of “getting off the Wheel” – not an illegitimate consideration.

        Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning action so the concept is that any act(tion) creates connective tissue which locks one into reaction and counter and so on in an endless loop.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I’ve come across dancing mania of the Middle Ages. It went by many names, the specific name I recall is St. Vitus’s Dance. The period, 14th-17th centuries, corresponds with the Little Ice Age and the General Crisis.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_mania

        It’s a spontaneous ritual. I bet that kind of thing has been normal throughout human existence. But something in modern civilization pushes it to the extremes of hysteria.

        The Piraha weren’t religious. They lacked any ritual practice or formal belief system. Yet apparently for no particular reason they would occasionally dance for days on end without stopping to eat. It probably didn’t occur to them to think of this as strange. Why not dance for several days? In terms of the hundreds of thousands of human existence, maybe it’s bizarrely abnormal any society where people don’t dance for long periods of time.

        About ginning people up, I read about early campaigning and elections in the American South. There was a lot of alcohol flowing. And a lot of fighting followed. But interestingly very rarely did anyone get killed. When someone did die, no one was held accountable because it was assumed that people weren’t in a normal state of mind. Elections were essentially forms of traditional Carnival where normal identity and everyday consciousness disappeared.

        These kinds of collective behavior are part of our human nature. They don’t go away simply because we like to think of ourselves as rational-minded moderns. It gets expressed one way or another, if not dancing and carnival then elections and mass hysteria.

        There is something to getting off the wheel. That was an ancient way of seeing reality, as a wheel. As I’ve mentioned before, the word ‘revolution’ originated as an astrological term that meant cyclical return. Maybe it’s unsurprising that so often revolutions don’t change societies as much as some of those participating wish they would.

        The same would apply to present mass hysteria. It really has nothing to do with the Russians or whatever. It’s a return of collective delirium that takes many forms over time, such as the panic over supposed Satanic child sacrifices from past decades. It really doesn’t matter what form it takes at any given moment. Something needs to be expressed or released, a tension that we don’t understand.

        To those pulled in by it, though, it is the most real and important thing in the world. It is all-consuming. We would be better off if we found healthier ways to deal with these shared impulses. Maybe we should return to dancing manias and Carnival.

        My own desire favors getting off the Wheel, to some extent. I’m not inclined to detachment. But the transparency of self that the following post discusses is appealing:
        https://longsworde.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/the-seer-2/

        Liked by 1 person

      9. rauldukeblog says:

        so much of this comes down to defintions which create narrative which in turn are defined as objective truth but while authentic expressions of anxiety or others emotions are far more fluid than many want to admit – on any space along the political spectrum.

        Thanks for the links: I’ll read and consider.

        Like

      10. One might call it the return of the repressed. Or it could be thought of as the eruption (irruption?) of the bicameral mind. Whatever it is, it challenges and threatens the world we think we know.

        Talk of Russian meddling and US political failure is tiddlywinks in comparison. But the fact that we take such tiddlywinks so seriously does add to the sense of crisis. Everything is real to the degree we believe it to be real, in that the effects of it become manifest in our experience and behavior, in the collective choices that we make and accumulate over time.

        We manifest our beliefs. And even the strangest of beliefs can become normalized. Social realities aren’t only constructed. They are imagined into being. Such imagination is human reality for we are incapable of experiencing it as anything other than reality. We laugh at the strange beliefs of others at our own peril.

        But what is being responded to can remain hidden or outside of the mainstream frame of consciousness. Think of the way that non-human animals act strangely before an earthquake. If all you see is what the animals are doing and lack any greater knowledge, you won’t appreciate that it means we should prepare for the earthquake to come.

        Humans too act strangely before coming catastrophes. It doesn’t require anyone to consciously know of and rationally understand what is coming. Most of how humans respond is instinctual or intuitive. I’d only suggest to pay less attention to the somewhat arbitrary focus of anxiety and, instead, to take the anxiety itself as a phenomenon to be taken seriously. Something real is going on. And it portends something on its way.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. rauldukeblog says:

        as before I don’t disagree but take issue with some of the construction of your points as they feel too binary.

        It’s more fluid from my POV but not wrong just slightly off target.

        Posts lack facial expressions so imagine an expression of agreement/empathy etc.

        I’m not sure things are ‘real” to the degree we believe them to be but our responses are.

        Just watched The Lives of others – German film from some years ago about the Stasi and E. Germany and also about a lot of other things. Highly recommend it.

        It speaks to some of your points about what one believes and what is or is not objectively true and what if anything one can do about it or should.

        I would agree things are in a spiral.

        The crack up of the system (defined here loosely and provisionally) with its mountain of lies and cover ups produced “Trump” and let loose an army of Orcs and assorted chiefs to lead the enraged mob.

        That provokes a reaction which provokes a reaction and so on.

        it feels similar to previous moments – the 1920s (They shoot Horses Don’t They) to the drum roll of the 30s and then the catastrophes – though one goes back to the Trenches and so on.

        usually one of the chief culprits (consistently) is that arrogant idiots are making decisions for everyone else and it’s the mob that listens to them and is so stupid they say makes sense to me let’s follow this moron off a cliff.

        That of course goes back so far it’s as old as the dirt.

        And so back to where we started – is human consciousness a mal-adaption to the environment and if so are we witnessing the Darwinian logic of extinction?

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Yeah. I understand. I don’t see any disagreement. I was stating things strongly for rhetorical effect. I sometimes have the tendency to overstate things in response to what I see as a society that typically does the opposite in understating. I find it hard, for example, to overstate the potential threat of long-term consequences of climate change. But stating things in their strongest terms can have its downsides. Nuance or a more ‘fluid’ approach can be good at times.

        Liked by 1 person

      13. rauldukeblog says:

        Understood. I chalk it up to the emotionless nature of e -conversation – which now that I consider it almost certainly contributes to the atmosphere you’re describing as it is either devoid of emotion or requires an almost over the top expression which substitutes one dilemma for another.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. FaC says:

    Hmmm… Art. In any potent sense to which you summon it.. I would fear to say it’s all dead. Probably been dying a slow death from the beginning of the nineteenth-century and every subsequent movement reacting against its death, towards its death, towards its resuscitation or redemption, or against, etc, in an ongoing spiral… An artist friend of mine who I mentioned in passing before (a fellow Straussian), I think he’s finally been able make peace with it all – and it’s freed him to happily do the best art he wants and is capable – after 30 years of fighting – if it lasts thru next month and beyond great, but if not he did it anyway, and picked up some students along the way who in turn might be able to pick up and make something of the years of craft, study, and thought he put into things. There are still many pockets of it. But seems to me available only to those who look, and know what they’re looking for, and for modest solace.

    It’s a collapse of what one might term ‘civilisation’ in any real, meaningful, recognisable sense… but it seems to me like the beginning something else entirely. I have severe reservations the Right “Kultur” Clowns and the Left “Justice?” Clowns will have anything resembling a victory leaning one way vs the other. No. Instead they are burning and clearing the ground for the mytho-technologists, the Scientivist-Political-Priest Class, and the Corpo-State Bio-Tech. Or as I’ve taken to reconditely calling it: the Ancient & Alchemical Universal Theologico-Political Project. China’s way ahead, Europe is making strides, and who know how and when it’ll begin hitting the States. They won’t have me, I’ll die a martyrs death for the Church if it comes down to it.

    Anyhow – You mentioned a long while back a piece you were working on regarding Peterson/Foucault and 17th century optics (and Hermeticism/alchemy? I’m not sure if you included these two, or if it was my inclusion via Hegel-Nietzsche-Jung). I don’t know I ever came around with an answer because I was busy cramming more points than we could unpack. Did you quit working on it? What kind of materials were you looking for? (Or did you finish the piece sometime ago?)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      I’m reminded of Twain’s quip about reports of his demise being greatly exaggerated.

      People, including a lot of Artists, have been talking about the death of this or that genre or aesthetic or the entire process for quite some time.

      The chief difference in our moment is, as I see it, the potential collapse of the environment.

      Hard to write novels underwater.

      On the other hand as I’ve posted in a few missives, I see the situation as a stark example of the triumph of Plato’s ideal city state with the poets in exile.

      As I wrote, no one is going to use Gatsby as a means to contextualize Trump – at least not on the evening news (left right or otherwise).

      The assorted forces you mention are as you say essentially in charge of the agenda.

      Art strikes me as a kind of early Christian movement with people who understand the fish drawn in the sand and those who don’t.

      Also, I am both amused and irritated by the smug attitude of Greenwald & co who are the first to scream they saw conservatives speaking with the devil and in the long shadow of Jon Stewart love to show videos that highlight various episodes of hypocrisy.

      And then turn around and do exactly the same thing while insisting the emperor is fully clothed and they are his tailor.

      Taking potshots or even laying down rhetorical artillery barrages amuses me.

      The longer piece is still in the works. I have to hit the local library and get a look at several books about England in the 1th and early 17th centuries.

      I was working on another project which took a lot longer then expected but I’m still looking to finish the other one – which has a sort of attached piece I’m also working on which is also lengthy and taking longer than expected.

      It’s like digging a really long latrine.

      These things take time.

      Rereading you excavation of the emergent forces makes me think of William Gibson – cyberpunk may or may not be an overused and under-considered aesthetic but a merger of the forces/cadres you list has an echo of his not quite dystopian future vision.

      That in turn makes me think of 1930-50s style sci-fi with its view of a post apocalyptic world merging preindustrial “cavemen” vibes with domed cities full of jet packs and flying cars.

      Who knows.

      I wrote a piece over a year ago excavating issues around 3d printing and what I see as its potential to produce significant social dislocation including but not limited to significant social ruptures in China and among what one could define as “Trump’s base” but it a race against the environmental clock.

      We could end up in a Blade Runner era or Mad Max or neither.

      My crystal ball is getting cloudy.

      Cheers!

      Like

  3. FaC says:

    Well, in so many words you’ve made the point one might say I’ve continued to dance and trace around all along:
    ‘….I see the situation as a stark example of the triumph of Plato’s ideal city state with the poets in exile.’
    That, my friend, is not a passing witty observation, or wondering question; we’ve hit at the hard truth of the matter. Add the Timaeus and perhaps a couple others for a cohesive set.

    It is in that sense first (and well before environmental calamities) that I see Art, and well everything, is continually and slowly subsumed to this leviathan.

    The more I reflect on these perplexities the less I see this as the outcome of a few centuries of megalomanical and unholy alliance of philosophy, politics, alchemy and “science”; and more a multi-millennia track with a… bad ending. The Torah, or at any rate Genesis alone, gives a far more compelling and credible account, in a few lines, of what these foolish, foolhardy, meteorologically arrogant (and implicity evil) projects actually amount to.

    I keep trying to peer into the different possibilites as thought-experiments, but I just don’t think the environment will do things in immediately as you seem to think. I’d call you an optimist!
    To me, it looks to like a function of the project – and the relation is not strictly linear.

    If things are bad now – and I am at once a sceptic of the scientistic-priest-class – then I’m at once all the more concerned precisely for the reason that it’s all smoke and mirrors with all these scumbags. The Science tail wags the political dog one day; the next day it’s the Political tail wagging the Science dog. It’s impossible to assess what’s genuine and what’s expediency talk – and in either case the monster will find a way of turning it for further control.

    In either case – the project will have to be progressed in pretty deep, to the point where the different factions of liars truly can’t keep track of their own, and each other’s lies – (add massive technocratic ai-robotic-chemical social-credit surveillance controls) — and it is at this point that I can see the shiet reeallly beginning to hit the fan, probably a decades-to-century+ ordeal… I dunno, what do I know..
    There are a lot of cool sci-fi fantasies and phenomenally imaginative and immersive dystopias out there. I think they rely on the fullness of our consciouness and awareness of the possibilites and issues as we can apprehend them and theorise about them now. I doubt in reality-reality, that is, political reality, any of those pipe dreams will come close to passing. Certainly the consciouness and options seems to contract and narrow, not expand. I don’t if that makes any sense.

    I’m an occasional visitor here and usually come with a bunch of thoughts to unload, for whatever odd reason lmao.

    I’ve come to miss Hitchens. Don’t tell anyone I told you that. I say he was delusional in some key areas, or persistenly acted that way at any rate, but it was usually in the service of fighting greater delusions. :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      An ‘optimist’ – no need to be rude!;-)

      Well it does look grim.

      But people have been saying that (usually with good reason) for a long time.

      Walter Benjamin made the point that “there’s no record of civilization that is not also a record of barbarism.”

      In that sense both left and right wing tyrannies are not wrong when they say x y or z art is decadent – of course I part company with them when they start burning books or to paraphrase Robin Williams, killing all the funny people.

      But “leviathan” or the dreary more or less faceless bureaucracy is fully capable of grinding everything into dust or a vast shopping mall of banalities.

      Scientists with their cult of reason or other types all play a part and it usually ends up with either failed wheat harvests or some “tech” based disaster that produces the same result.

      However I believe the scientists when they say the environment is fucked.

      Which does not mean I disagree about the wag the dog aspect.

      Kuhn’s The Nature of Scientific Revolutions is still on point and our old friend, the irritating Foucault is as well when they highlight the subjective political and social psychology of claims to “objective truth.”

      But if a doctor tells me to exercise and eat x y and z instead of sitting around eating a,b and c, I’ll trust them – and I say that as someone who once knew a trio of med students (three young women sharing an apartment – sort of like a real live sit com) and many of their med school friends and I’d say half of them were idiots I wouldn’t trust with a game of Operation or a pair of tweezers.

      So we’ll see about the environment – could be far less awful but as an ‘optimist’ I figure we have about a decade until Miami and New Orleans among other coastal spots become aquatic theme parks and them submarines with assorted associated calamities.

      Regardless of that I agree the Big Brother Inc system is only going to get worse because of course power never surrenders to anything except greater power and the machine has pretty much all of the power.

      Feel free to visit and unload assorted thoughts.

      I may not be able to answer all of them but you’re welcome anytime.

      Re: Hitch – don’t worry I wont tell anyone.

      As to the “true” Hitch – beats the hell out of me.

      Like

  4. I read your piece again. What you say about ‘normal’ people is amusing, in a dark way. That fits my sense of reaction having become normalized. Most people are simply going along to get along.

    But as the entire world goes insane, trying to maintain one’s normalcy can require amazing contortions. Strangeness results, most of it mundane oddities like the initial glitches in West World but some of it begins manifesting as High Weirdness. We are on our way. And as the world becomes ever more topsy-turvy, those attempting to keep their normalized identity intact will go to ever greater efforts. They won’t appreciate anyone pointing this out to them.

    I would offer a caveat of sorts. It’s not only the ‘normal’ who fall prey. Many who came under the sway of the reactionary were brilliant thinkers and inventors, artists and visionaries. The early 20th century authoritarian regimes would not have been possible if not for these brilliant minds and great men. Those leading lights of authoritarianism didn’t want normalcy for they were seeking to transform society into something entirely new, notwithsanding their historical revisionism. Modern authoritarianism has often been a highly progressive project that borrows from utopian idealism. That is what makes it reactionary.

    The danger of the ‘normals’ is that most of them will follow along, no matter what.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Dark humor has its uses-)

      and yes, a lot of otherwise brilliant people go over to “the dark side” and quite seriously Tolkien’s use of that idea is relevant, serious and both applicable to his era (and as you correctly point out) as well as our own.

      You’re also quite right – no one really wants it pointed out to them.

      Bit of a Catch 22.

      being “sane” enough to point out “insanity” is taken proof that one is not insane and therefore not able to point out insanity or the other way around.

      Either way the lunatics don’t want to hear it.

      Foucault has a pair of great quotes at the start of Madness and Civilization: Montaigne: Men are so necessarily mad that not being mad amounts to another form of insanity.

      Dostoevsky: Locking up your neighbor amounts to locking up yourself.

      Or words to that effect.

      Liked by 1 person

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