Tag Archives: marx

April Fool’s Day 2014

24 Mar

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April 1st, 2014 is approaching. May I still hold onto the hope that our president will come forth and tell his people that his plan is all an April Fool’s joke?


The government scoops a portion of the worker’s wages out of his hands with the assurance that, in return, immaterial rewards like ‘safety,’ ‘liberty,’ and ‘right to property’ will be granted to him. To survive, The State made it impossible for man to live without his labor-wages. How does the state—a symbolic structure which doesn’t provide any temporal goods—survive? By taking a portion of the earnings of the workers and capitalizing on the temporal goods of others. Taxed for earning. How vulgarly simple the newest state solution is! How come nobody thought of it before? Tax people for labor? No. Tax people for merely existing!


It’s quite simple. Who suffers? Those who have the fortune of existing and are in the position of being Americans. If you are an American, and you exist, you must pay the premium or be charged for your very existence.


What is being offered for these premiums? ‘Medical insurance’—in other words, that to be in the company of men and women who may or may not be able to cure your disease, patch up your wound or locate the physical solution to your mistake will not cost as much as it could in the future. A metaphysical state of grace, guarding all against the threat of harm—protection from future occurrences.


What happens to one who does not or cannot pay for these future occurrences? One is charged for every moment one exists without coverage. If one doesn’t pay the charges? It goes to collections. It damages one’s ‘credit’—‘good credit’ being a fictive stamp of capitalistic approval born out of the needs of big businesses to guard themselves against the dangers of future occurrences. Damage to one’s ‘credit’ prevents one’s ability to maintain or own property—a capitalistic Mark of Cain. Who, then, is on trial? People who do not have money. How will they be punished? By being pushed into the financial hole of ‘debt.’ ‘Debt’ in a world operating on ‘credit’ is just as much a fiction as the latter, even if the weight and resulting anxiety of that debt are real. The real punishment? Anxiety. Stress. The crushing of one’s spirit.


We’ve been invited into a logical circle. The relationship between the causes of commodity and the effects of fetishism has caused us to assume, as individuals, a relationship with the government that presupposes the discourse of ‘debt’ and many inherited gestures and thoughts that have been doubling up and adding to our psychic baggage for thousands upon thousands of years, reaching into pre-history. We are only beginning, as a whole, to ask those questions that all of society was built on—the question put forth by the debtor. ‘To whom does my debt belong and why am I in his debt?’ Ancient man, who had no kings or rulers, began with this question when dealing with personal transactions that benefited him temporally.


Capital is so built on this relationship between debt and the debtor that we often forget the very vehicle by which this debt was stressed—guilt; a sense of anxiety by which one party could remind the other of the ‘value’ at stake in failing to fulfill a contract. Because those in power have, for countless millennia, enforced punitive measures on those who have failed to fulfill debts—whether that debt be that of one party steeling something for which others would be required to pay or that of one who has caused irreversible damage—guilt has grown many limbs and taken on a terrible life of its own in the cultural psyche. It has grown so large that it has become a punishment itself. Where men of power in pre-history merely carried through with their contracts until the blood of the weaker party soiled the ground, men of power today merely remind us that because they are powerful, they require our constant debt to keep them powerful—thus the illusion of our security—and when the mere sensation of debt is refused, we are then guilty of not paying reverence to the sovereignty of power itself.


Systems that capitalize on a lack or complete negation of money are, in the long run, merely punitive.

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Health, though a necessity (but never a right) belongs to the domain (that is to say, the limits) of science. Where the state has a hand in the domain of science, it has produced weapons strong enough to kill millions and strike fear into the rest. It has widened the divide between social classes by forcing workers to be agents of production for the well oiled state machine to continue running smoothly. We may deplore the crimes of the industrial age now. We may cast our eyes away from a history filled with millions of lives snuffed out by war like candle-flames before a fan, but we cannot afford to continue to believe—and if not to believe, then frivolously accept—this fiction perpetually peddled by our statesmen: that they own the scientists and have, therefore, traced the perimeters of the material world. I distrust any man who tells me that he owns the truth because he understands nature. Today’s ‘natural truth’ is tomorrow’s forced vaccination.


A rule of approximation
It matters little if a conspiracy theory is true or not. If a man of power puts something into effect that even has the bad appearance of confirming the public’s ominous suspicions, it speaks badly of his discursive propriety. In a world where the masses rule, where the loudest truth is the truest and the most violent expression is the one that creates history, mere ‘bad appearances’ will cause nations to sink into the ground like the walls of Jericho. In other words, if we owe billions of dollars to a foreign country, it is in bad taste to charge everyone arbitrarily for insurance that we should, with good conscience, be able to pay for of our own volition. At least make it difficult for our suspicions!


Say what you will about the state’s propensity to glue words together, and not even with their proper compound word dash in between! Combining your last name with the word ‘care’ to denote a political entity is not only cute but also quite ingenuous. Everyone likes to be ‘cared for.’ Can we not continue this trend? Refer to war as ‘Bushwhacking.’ Refer to office sex as ‘Clinternizing.’ It is unfortunate, though, that words do not ennoble names when attached to them. It is the name that ennobles or cheapens the word.


What should I say to those who think that voting is duplicitous? That petitions are paltry? That protests are obnoxious and township rebellions are only invitations for tighter leashes? It is, perhaps, not for everyone to act. There are, of course, those who will not suffer from forced premiums. There are those who have much more to lose by way of ‘bad credit’ and ‘debt’ even if the disaffected no longer believe in those metaphysical, economic nouns. Perhaps it is not even for me to act. Could I justifiably call for others to willingly dive headlong into the anxiety of bad credit? Debt? Prison? Where does this state of discursive damnation, this ‘debt,’ not sink into with its talons? What fabric of life does it not now affect in some remote way? When things arrive at their worst, people will say, ‘If only we’d paid more attention earlier on!’ ‘If only we would have voted!’ Or even, ‘If only we would have met the state’s requirements!’ But suppose that a necessary change could not have come about through any other means. Suppose that an all out collapse in the modern value of ‘credit’ and ‘debt’ were to occur—for, realistically, it could only ever be a collapse in our concept of ‘value,’ as Marx was keen to show us. With more and more people having to exist and having to find some sort of vague contentment or mere will to go on, will our threshold for anxiety not be widened? Will we not be able to undergo more and more psychological hardship wrought by the metaphysics of this whole political bad faith? It will be at the expense of our comfort that we will finally have to appropriate and practice those gestures that we were warned we must start adopting long ago when all of this was merely a philosophical problem … Suddenly Heidegger’s ‘overcoming of metaphysics’ and ‘retrieval of being’ will have meaning beyond their use in dusty classrooms. Heinrich Heine will suddenly ring as true to us as he did to war-torn Europe in the twentieth century, an age he prophesied. Those ideas which for far too long only had strength as concepts in classrooms will suddenly reveal most of today’s mechanisms of control as mere concepts as well, thus revealing their weakness.

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It is imperative that the state perpetually reevaluate its ability to give, otherwise it is merely a tyranny, like most states in the world. If the state wants to continue to exist and enjoy the temporal support of its people, it must recognize itself as nothing more than a clever fiction—The state must develop the ability to laugh at itself.


But then, can we really choose to see it this way, if we wish? That the state is nothing but a brutish, bumbling warrior who takes what he wills by strength and has no mind for managing the world beyond his own comfort, but that with a little learning and wisdom he might better learn how to take care of his people? I’m sorry, but it’s all quite a bit more sinister than that. The prices will always rise when there is war being had on many fronts.


Our leaders are quick to pay praise and respect to those men and women who risk and sacrifice their lives for us in wars. They are not brave enough to talk of the sacrifice that the common man must put up with when portions of his wage and most of his livelihood fund those wars. It is no longer sacrifice but forced debt. Of course, the state is unwilling to release information on just how much of the common man’s money is used for funding wars, just as the state is unable to release information on just how much money is used on making your society ‘safer’ and rife with ‘better education.’


When there is a war, all premiums and raises in price are immediately suspect.


Though Marx diagnosed the problem with capitalism, his solution was all too similar to the coming mandate of April 1st. Marx’s solution was little less than cutting out the cumbersome business of currency, and by doing so, he made human utility the currency. So his solution could be seen as an extreme opposite to the mandate of April 1st. Where his solution made humans into money, April 1st, merely supposes that it will make humans into commodities by which the state might make money.


My examples may be of the crudest sort, and perhaps they may say very little about the mechanics of the whole political dynamic involved in the conversation, but is this not what the subject has reduced us to? The marginalization of various classes of people, various types of people, all in favor of a set of dead ideals? That something could be for the sake of social welfare and rob precisely the people who need it most? What we are dealing with is not ‘social healthcare’ as it has often been referred to, but a mere capitalistic imitation of it. It is no kind of radical democracy, as it would greatly like to fashion itself, but a means of widening the gap between rich and poor.


But who then is rich and who is poor? Is the poor man the one asking for food on the corner of the street or is it last year’s millionaire who’s electricity is about to be shut off? Perhaps there will come a time when it is not the gap between the rich and the poor that is widened, but the gap between the anxious and the vigorous. Debt may crush the spirit the same as food deficiency. In America, there is not yet a famine, and this is the final summit of the problem. Where there is no famine, there is no true annihilating, violent poverty. The poverty of America is a poverty of desperation, not a poverty of death. Desperation may earn one food, but so may cunning and persistence (not exclusive from desperation but not married to it). You mustn’t be afraid when you are cast into the margins and the abysses of society. Most of the weapons formed against you simply do battle with your mind.

A Failing Grade for Iluminati Conspiracists

4 Aug

anti-illuminati_design

The crackpot theories of today’s ‘Illuminati’ nuts have little to do with Adam Weishaupt and resemble more some sort of reactionary, Gnostic version of Marxism on steroids. Take Marxist rhetoric a step further and replace ‘the bourgeoisie’ who only appear to control things with ‘they who secretly control things’ and ‘the proletariat’ with ‘those of us who know better but aren’t quite sure what to do.’

In crackpot language, Weishaupt’s Bavarian Illuminati is only one small eventuation of some colossal omen that has been brewing since the birth of Sumerian theology, which has something to do with the secret marriage of Jesus to Mary M., which has something to do with The Knights Templar and their public allegiance to Christ and private allegiance to Satan, which then has something to do with The French Revolution, both World Wars, every genocide and every economic shift this side of Shoal.

The Enlightenment view of history as a chain of benevolent Progress is, for the crackpots, perfectly inverted so that history is a chain of malevolent Enslavement.

Conspiracy is a perfectly real thing. In the midst of a legitimate conspiracy, all the whispering, nudging and searching makes sense. Conspiracy talk, however, gets off its rails a bit when it tries to tell us that it isn’t necessarily The Holocaust in itself that is bad, but the fact that it is only one power maneuver in a game of mass control by unknown forces that we somehow know about anyway—as if there exists something abstractly worse than the worst we know.

The teleology of the illuminati myth, starting from the top, quickly leads to something like an Abbot and Costello routine. It goes like this:
‘Don’t believe what you hear.’
‘Why?’
‘Because the information you hear isn’t true.’
‘How do you know it isn’t true?’
‘Because that’s what someone told me.’

Violence, wars, ghettos, gentrification, suppression—they’re all maneuvers of power by unseen villains. Why are they villains? Because they want surreptitious control over us regardless of our conscious cooperation. We don’t know where these villains are but they secretly control everything. And why do they want to control everything? Apparently, so that they can keep on controlling everything or control even more, even though they seem to control everything already. It is then our duty to watch carefully and connect the dots. We can’t trust statesmen or public intellectuals to do this because they’re just puppets for the powers that be. Our hope lies in pot-bellied gamers who subsist on hot-pockets and never get enough vitamin D.

Since the bourgeoisie can’t be blamed as the immediate villains, it is unlikely that the eschatological Illuminati usurpation would resemble anything like a Marxist Revolution. And well, since the politicians are just smiling puppets, it seems unlikely that anything like The French Revolution will take place either—with the last president being hung by the guts of the last stockbroker. We’ll just have to sit around and wait some more and develop some more conspiracy theories. Watch technology. Watch social media. Make the connections. Trace the dots but try not to follow the hypnotic bouncing ball.

In the meantime, we have bands like Muse encouraging us not to let them control us by writing pop songs about it which gross millions of dollars for corporate record companies.

Ideally, the theory that a few people are secretly controlling everything in the world should lend us some comfort. There’s no need to worry about the collapse of western capitalism. We’re way ahead of you, Mr. Marx. So capitalism isn’t conscious of the mechanisms of its own commodity-fetishism, and thus, unable to handle industrial production? Don’t worry. The Illuminati secretly replaced the barter system with commodity-fetishism thousands of years ago as a ruse just so we didn’t have to think too much about it.

But wait a minute … How in the blue blazes did this Illuminati earn its surreptitious authority in such a way that it stands outside of commodity and traditional forms of sovereignty? There’s always an answer for conspiracy theorists. How does one group control the world forever? Inheritance, inheritance, inheritance. But isn’t there a system of inheritance that happens right under our noses as it is in the visible governments? Well, the illuminati are super geniuses that know how to pull all the marionette strings.

The crackpots have a tremendous amount of faith in human ingenuity if they think that it is at all possible for a small handful of people to, not only inherit the archaic goals of power from a previous generation of secret villains and refresh them for a new generation of slaves, but to execute their plans in such a clever way that there will be no accidents on the job, no wrenches in the machine, and no photographs of anyone in action, whatever in God’s name that ‘action’ could possibly be.

One starts to wonder what the ontological point of a disembodied governance is if no one can rightly say who they are, what their precise motives are and why they’re worth more of our worry than the people in this world with the bombs who are quite vocal about their intention to use them on innocent people.

Since the crackpots are constantly urging us to ‘open our eyes’ and ‘connect the dots,’ I’d like to take out a little pencil and connect my own more immediate dots to trace a picture that, I’m sure, will appear like a Mickey Mouse to their alien-dialect Charlotte’s Web writing. Let’s see here … If everyone is simply a pawn in someone else’s game, there is no one to blame, even in situations where there is a definite, admitted culprit. We can’t take them to be the arbiter of their actions if there is someone else pulling the strings, can we? If everything is always some maneuver of power by unseen forces, then we always have bigger fish to fry than what is in front of us, even though we don’t know how to fry that fish since the villains are always unseen. So what happens then? We don’t have to do anything.

That’s right. If there is always an unseen enemy doing unseen things with unseen motives and if that is always the most important evil to consider, then we don’t really have to concern ourselves much with famine, wars, diseases or racism. If there is no one specific crime by which we can charge them, we can never (don’t have to) officially indict them and can, thus, chase them forever.

Forget about ethnic cleansing in Africa. Never mind, for now, about starvation and pollution. Forget Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denying the holocaust. We have darker shadows to shine light on and ever infinitely distant dots to connect. We have only to sit on our thumbs and talk about all of history as though it were a difficult level in a videogame.

I paid the crackpots a compliment earlier by suggesting that they were made up mainly of lonely men who sit in the dark and eat hot-pockets, but I’m afraid it’s much uglier than that: they are made up of radio DJs as well. People who actually have an audience—and thus some kind of influence for no earned reason other than the fact that they are allowed to say things in between songs that people enjoy—are ever ready to harden all of their anxieties about sovereignty into the symbol of the puppeteer that is the Illuminati.

No one likes to feel like he doesn’t have control over his life. For some, the cure was simply moving out of the house to evade Daddy. For others, it was moving away from The Divine to evade the even Bigger Daddy. And now, neither of those are enough. To get away from history itself, in some solid form, is the final plan of evasion for those who just want a little autonomy.

It’s disheartening that people are trying to combat Big Daddies and Big Brothers in an age when we most certainly do have more visible fish to fry which can be found and caught in more transparent water. Unfortunately, the evil societies we should devote our attention to these days are quite unsecret.

49 Steps by Roberto Calasso

26 Apr

49 Steps

In his interview with The Paris Review, Roberto Calasso said the following:

I feel thought in general, and in particular what is unfortunately called “philosophy,” should lead a sort of clandestine life for a while, just to renew itself. By clandestine I mean concealed in stories, in anecdotes, in numerous forms that are not the form of the treatise. Then thought can biologically renew itself, as it were.

It would appear that Roberto Calasso’s own works set out to do just that. The 49 steps alluded to in the title of Calasso’s book refer to a sequence of meaning in the Talmud. Here, however, the sequence, or something like it, is used not on the Talmud but on the whole plane of western thought in the past few centuries.

In freeing himself from the philosophical treatise of which he spoke, abandoning the essay as we know it today with a strong supportable thesis, and without resorting to the constant chain of overcoming that often happens in western thought—you know, the easy academic distinction which believes that analytic philosophy supersedes Derrida, who supersedes Heidegger, who supersedes Nietzsche, who supersedes Plato—Calasso resorts to those very anecdotes, stories and other forms he favors to weave a narrative of the modern world.

The project that Calasso seems to take on here is a means of exploring those more latent features of history that, while not belonging to the socially accepted sequence of historical influence, may have left a definite imprint on modern consciousness.

One can’t so easily accuse him of jazzing around unseriously with history. Calasso, rather, seems to ascertain that if one doesn’t weave one’s own narrative, one is weaved by someone else’s narrative. Yet, all the while, he feels somewhat easy with the recognition that we are always wrapped up in some narrative not of our own making; another feature of life.

Most systems of thought have come about through someone trying to escape history, whether it be Marxism, The French Revolution or The Society of the Best Sunday Cheeses. Revolutions and intended revolutions, gigantic cultural gestures, act as instant points by which we can map out human progress or history.

Rather than escaping history, Calasso, rather, digs deep into the sediment of history, burrows through its tunnels, pays careful attention to its sequential blips and interruptions, comes out the other side and explores the secret rooms of the ancient cities of civilization. He walks the dark alleyways of society, lying adjacent to the boulevards filled with the humbuggy chants of party members making political changes, and in these alleyways a secret history is played out.

In Calasso’s narrative, everything new is actually an eventuation of something incredibly ancient. The peculiar, bisexually misogynistic message of Otto Weininger, which captivated a few college boys and girls in the early part of the twentieth century, is not a new psychological breakthrough but merely a more immediate and honest manifestation of how men have viewed women for countless millennia. Likewise, the mostly discarded writings of Marx (even by most Marxists) on the role of women in society can be seen as a hyper-reduction of an almost primitive tendency to view women as mere agents of sexual utility.

In like manner, many specific artists, politicians and historical figures make ‘cameos’—to use a theatrical phrase—on Calasso’s stage in order to embody a specific problem or a very distinct yet ongoing thread of thought or behavior. Yet, because this is not a story in the classic sense, Calasso’s narrative takes the form, not of a theatrical stage, but a sort of web. Each thread is connected to a different branch. Each essay is a branch on which Calasso sits for a time to gain a different thought.

He returns frequently to Walter Benjamin and Karl Kraus. There is one amusing anecdote in which Calasso tells us that we can ascertain the shape of Walter Benjamin’s thought by some of the things he reviews—as is the case when Benjamin employs his knowledge of Freud alongside philosophy of identity and pleasure when reviewing a book about toys.

Calasso’s frequent return to Kraus gives special attention to his prolific periodical, Die Fackel, along with The Last Days of Mankind. Kraus is depicted as the careful scribbler of uncareful half-truths and truth-and-a-halfs. Calasso gives us a picture of Kraus holed up during the Nazi-apocalypse, more intent on determining the perfect placement of commas than fighting the devil, with the firm belief that good grammar prevents future genocide.

Max Stirner earns an awkward place in the anxiety of influence, as most philosophers who’ve read him seem anxious to even admit his obvious influence on their work.

As Calasso weaves this narrative, it is easy to get lost in the euphoria of his poetic command. As a reader, I want to believe that his various curiosities and interests give us a more likely sequence of historical movement, even if it is only along some sub-current. But to trust the very finitude of Calasso’s narrative, bound by the walls of the book and its bindings, is to betray the spirit of the work, for part of the euphoria offered by the reading experience, I suspect, comes from a sense of inexhaustibility.

Following a similar trajectory through history as 49 Steps, there are all kinds of places one can go, suspicions one can entertain and conclusions one can draw. It acts almost as a mystery story through the walls of history, as we try to trace, not necessarily its origins, but how we relate to it.

Toward the book’s close, in a chapter called ‘The Terror of Fables,’ Calasso talks about our modern relationship with the word ‘myth’ and its having become a sneering synonym for ‘lie.’ He tries to restore myth as an ancient form of truth.

Thus now we can own up to what was—what is—that ancient terror that the fables continue to arouse. It is no different from the terror that is the first one of all: terror of the world; terror in the face of its mute, deceptive, overwhelming enigma; terror before this place of constant metamorphosis and epiphany, which above all includes our own minds, where we witness without letup the tumult of simulacra.

No, if myth is precisely a sequence of simulacra that help to recognize simulacra, it is naïve to pretend to interpret myth, when it is myth itself that is already interpreting us.

Perhaps it should be no wonder that Roberto Calasso only wrote one novel. After that, history itself was novel enough.