Albert Camus Reads Richard K. Morgan: Unsaid Existential Absurdism

Humanity has spread to the stars. We set out like ancient seafarers to explore the limitless ocean of space. But no matter how far we venture into the unknown, the worst monsters are those we bring with us. – Takeshi Kovacs

What I purport to do in this paper is pick up two sci-fi works of Richard Morgan, Altered Carbon (teaser to Netflix series), the first of Takeshi Kovacs trilogy and sometimes a grisly tale of switching bodies to gain immortality transhumanism, either by means of enhanced biology, technology, or biotechnology, and posthumanism. The second is Market Forces, a brutal journey into the heart of corporatized conflict investment by way of conscience elimination. Thereafter a conflation with Camus’ absurdity unravels the very paradoxical ambiguity underlying absurdism as a human condition. The paradoxical ambiguity is as a result of Camus’ ambivalence towards the neo-Platonist conception of the ultimate unifying principle, while accepting Plotinus’ principled pattern, but rejecting its culmination.

Richard Morgan’s is a parody, a commentary, or even en epic fantasy overcharged almost to the point of absurdity and bordering extropianism. If at all there is a semblance of optimism in the future as a result of Moore’s Law of dense hardware realizable through computational extravagance, it is spectacularly offset by complexities of software codes resulting in a disconnect that Morgan brilliantly transposes on to a society in a dystopian ethic. This offsetting disconnect between the physical and mental, between the tangible and the intangible is the existential angst writ large on the societal maneuvered by the powers that be.

Morgan’s Altered Carbon won’t be a deflection from William Gibson’s cyberpunk, or at places even Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which has inspired the cult classic Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, wherein the interface between man and machine is coalescing (sleeves as called in the novel), while the singularity pundits are making hay. But, what if the very technological exponent is used against the progenitors, a point that defines much of Artificial Intelligence ethics today? What if the human mind is now digitized, uploaded and downloaded as a mere file, and transferred across platforms (by way of needlecast transmitting DHF, individual digital human freight) rendering the hardware dis- posable, and at the same time the software as a data vulnerable to the vagaries of the networked age? These aren’t questions keeping the ethic at stake alone, but rather a reformatting of humanity off the leash. This forever changes the concept of morality and of death as we know it, for now anyone with adequate resources (note the excess of capitalism here) can technically extend their life for as long as they desire by reserving themselves into cloned organics or by taking a leaf off Orwell’s Government to archive citizen records in perpetual storage. Between the publication in 2002 and now, the fiction in science fiction as a genre has indeed gotten blurred, and what has been the Cartesian devil in mind-body duality leverages the technological metempsychosis of consciousness in bringing forth a new perception on morality.

Imagine, the needle of moral compass behaving most erratically, ranging from extreme apathy to moderate conscience in consideration of the economic of collateral damage, with the narrative wrenching through senses, thoughts and emotions before settling down into a dystopian plot dense with politics, societal disparity, corruption, abuse of wealth and power, and repressively conservative justice. If extreme violence is distasteful in Altered Carbon, the spectacle is countered by the fact that human bodies and memories are informational commodities as digitized freight and cortical stacks, busted and mangled physical shells already having access to a sleeve to reincarnate and rehabilitate on to, opening up new vistas of philosophical dispositions and artificially intelligent deliberation on the ethics of fast-disappearing human-machine interface.

If, Personal is Political, Altered Carbon results in a concussion of overloaded themes of cyberpunk tropes and is indicative of Morgan’s political takes, a conclusion only to be commissioned upon reading his later works. This detective melange heavily slithers through human condition both light and dark without succumbing to the derivatives of high-tech and low-life and keeping the potentials of speculative fiction to explorations. The suffusive metaphysics of longevity, multiplicity of souls and spiritual tentacles meeting its adversary in Catholicism paints a believable futuristic on the canvass of science-fiction spectra.

Market Forces, on the other hand is where cyberpunk-style sci-fi is suddenly replaced with corporatized economy of profit lines via the cogency of conflict investment. The world is in a state of dysphoria with diplomatic lines having given way to negotiations with violence, and contracts won on Ronin-esque car duels shifting the battlefield from the cyberspace of Altered Carbon to the more terrestrial grounds. Directly importing from Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is Good”, corporates enhance their share of GDP via legal funding of foreign wars. The limits of philosophy of liberal politics are stretched on analogizing the widening gap between the rich and the marginalized in the backdrop of crime-ravaged not-so futuristic London. Security is rarefied according to economic stratifications, and surveillance by the rich reach absurd levels of sophistication in the absence of sousveillance by the marginalized.

Enter Chris Faulkner, the protagonist defined by conscience that starts to wither away when confronted with taking hard and decisive actions for his firm, Shorn Associates, in the face of brutality of power dynamics. The intent is real-life testosterone absolutism maximizing the tenets of western capitalism in an ostentatious exhibition of masculinity and competition. The obvious collateral damage is fissuring of familial and societal values born as a result of conscience. Market Forces has certain parallels from the past, in the writings of Robert Sheckley, the American sci-fi author, who would take an element of society and extrapolate on its inherent violence to the extent of the absurd sliding into satire. It’s this sliding wherein lies the question of the beyond, the inevitability of an endowment of aggression defining, or rather questioning the purpose of the hitherto given legacy of societal ethic.

With no dearth of violence, the dystopian future stagnates into dysphoria characterized by law and apparatus at the mercy of corporations, which transcend the Government constitutionally along rapacious capitalism. A capitalism that is so rampant that it transforms the hero into an anti-hero in the unfolding tension between interest and sympathy, disgust and repulsion. The perfectly achievable Market Forces is a realization round the corner seeking birth between the hallucinogenic madness of speculations and hyperreality hinging on the philosophy of free-markets taken to its logical ends in the direction of an unpleasant future. The reductio ad absurdum of neoliberalism is an environment of feral brutality masked with the thinnest veneer of corporate civilization, and is the speculation that portrays the world where all power equates violence. This violence is manifested in aggression in a road rage death match against competitors every time there is a bid for a tender. What goes slightly over the board, and in a pretty colloquial usage of absurdity is why would any competition entail the best of staff on such idiotic suicide missions?

Camus’ absurdity is born in The Myth of Sisyphus, and continues well into the The Rebel, but is barely able to free itself from the clutches of triviality. This might appear to be a bold claim, but the efficacy is to be tested through Camus’ intellectual indebtedness to Plotinus, the Neo-Platonist thinker. Plotinus supplemented the One and Many idea of Plato with gradations of explanatory orders, for only then a coalescing of explanations with reality was conceivable. This coalescing converges into the absolute unity, the One, the necessarily metaphysical ground. Now, Camus accepts Plotinus in the steganographic, but strips the Absolute of its metaphysics. A major strand of absurdity for Camus stems from his dic- tum, “to understand is, above all, to unify”, and the absence of such unifying principle vindicates absurdity. Herein, one is confronted with the first of paradoxes, in that, if the Absolute is rejected, why then is there in Camus a nostalgia for unity? The reason is peculiarly caught between his version of empiricism and monism. His empiricism gives accord to comprehensibility of ordinary experiences by way of language and meaning, while anything transcending the same is meaninglessness and hinges on the Plotinus’ Absolute for comprehensibility, thus making him sound a monist. Add to this contradiction is the face of the Christian God to appear if the Absolute were not to be rejected, which would then have warranted a clash between good and evil in the face of the paradox of the existing of the latter when God was invested with qualities of the former. Invoking modernism’s core dictum, Camus then, questions spontaneity in the presence of Absolute by calling to attention scholastic perplexity.

Having rejected the Absolute, Camus takes the absurd condition as a fact. If one were to carefully tread The Myth of Sisyphus, it works thusly: If a man removes himself, he destroys the situation and hence the absurd condition. Since, the absurd condition is taken as a fact, one who destroys himself denies this fact. But he who denies this fact puts himself in opposition to what is, Truth. To oppose the Truth, recognizing it to be true, is to contradict oneself. Recognizing a truth, one ought to preserve it rather than deny it. Therefore, it follows that one ought not to commit metaphysical suicide in the face of the meaningless universe. This is a major paradox in his thought, where the evaluative absurdity is deemed to be preserved starting from the premise that man and the universe juxtaposed together is absurdity itself. So, what we have here is a logical cul-de-sac. But, what is of cardinal import is the retention of life in mediating between the man and universe as absurdity in polarities. If this were confronting the absurd in life, eschatology is another confrontation with the absurd, an absolute that needs to be opposed, a doctrine that becomes a further sense of the absurd, an ethic of the creation of the absolute rule in a drama of man as a struggle against death.

It is this conjecture that builds up in The Rebel, death as an antagonist subjected to rebellion. The absurdity of death lies across our desire for immortality, the inexplicability of it, and negating and denying the only meaningful existence known. Contradictorily, death would not be absurd if immortality were possible, and existence as is known isn’t the only meaningful existence that there is. Camus is prone to a meshwork logic here, for his thought fluctuates between viewing death as an absolute evil and also as a liberator, because of which it lends legitimacy to freedom. For, it isn’t the case that Camus is unaware of the double bind of his logic, and admittedly he ejects himself out of this quandary by deliberating on death not as a transcendental phenomenon, but as an ordinary lived-experience. If the Myth of Sisyphus holds murder and suicide in an absurdist position by denying the transcendent source of value, The Rebel revels in antagonisms with Nihilism, be it either in the sense of nothing is prohibited, or the absolutist nihilism of “permit all” with a fulcrum on the Absolute. The Rebel epitomizes the intellectual impotency of nihilism. But due credit for the logical progression of Camus is mandated here, for any utopia contains the seed of nihilism, in that, any acceptance of an Absolute other than life ultimately leads to tyranny. If this were to be one strand in the essay, the other is exposited in terms of an unrelenting and absolute opposition to death. Consequently, The Rebel, which is the embodiment of Camus’ ethic cannot kill. To avoid any danger of absolutism in the name of some positive good or value, the absolute value becomes oppositional to death, and hence the Rebel’s ethic is one of ceaseless rebellion, opposition and conflict.

Now, with a not very exhaustive treatment to Camus’ notion of absurdity as there is more than meets the eye in his corpus, let us turn to conflation with Richard Morgan and justify our thesis that we set out with. We shall bring this about by a series of observations.

If antagonism to death is the hallmark of rebellion, then Altered Carbon with its special hard-drives called “Stacks” installed in the brainstem immortalizes consciousness to be ported across humans across spacetimes. Needlecasting, the process by which human consciousness in the format of data gets teleported suffers disorientation across human hardwares, if it could even be called that. Interestingly, this disorientation aggrandizes the receiver conflict-ready, a theme that runs continuously in Market Forces as well as in Altered Carbon. The state of being conflict- and combat-ready is erecting armies to quash down rebellions. To prevent immortality from getting exploited in the hands of the privileged, these armies are trained to withstand torture, drudgery, while at the same time heightening their perception via steganography. But where the plot goes haywire for Camus’ rebel is Richard Morgan’s can neutralize and eliminate. Thats the first observation.

On to the second, which deals with transhumanism. A particular character, Kovac’s partner Kristen Ortega has a neo-Catholic family that’s split over God’s view of resurrecting a loved one. The split is as a result of choosing religious coding, a neo-Catholic semblance being the dead cannot be brought back to life. In these cases, Altered Carbon pushes past its Blade Runner fetish and reflexive cynicism to find something human. But, when the larger world is so thin, it’s hard to put something like neo-Catholicism in a larger context. Characters have had centuries to get used to the idea of stacks begging the larger question: why are many still blindsided by their existence? And why do so few people, including the sour Meths, seem to be doing anything interesting with technology? Now Camus’ man is confronted with his absurd and meaningless existence, which will be extinguished by death. There are two choices to consider here: either he can live inauthentically, implying hiding from truth, the fact that life is meaningless, and accepting the standards and values of the crowd, and in the process escaping the inner misery and despair that results from an honest appraisal of facts. Or, he can take the authentic choice and live heroically, implying facing the truth, life’s futility, and temporarily, submitting to despair which is a necessary consequence, but which, if it does not lead to suicide, will eventually purify him. Despair will drive him out of himself and away from trivialities, and by it he will be impelled to commit himself to a life of dramatic choices. This is ingrained in the intellectual idea of neo-Catholicism, with Camus’ allusion as only the use of the Will can cause a man truly to be. Both Takeshi Kovacs in Altered Carbon and Chris Faulkner in Market Forces amply epitomize this neo-Catholicism, albeit not directly, but rather, as an existential angst in the form of an intrusion.

Now for the third observation. The truth in Altered Carbon is an excavation of the self, more than searching data and tweaking it into information. It admonishes to keep going no matter whichever direction, a scalar over the vector territorialization in order to decrypt that which seems hidden, an exercise in futility. Allow me to quote Morgan in full,

You are still young and stupid. Human life has no value. Haven’t you learned that yet, Takeshi, with all you’ve seen? It has no value, intrinsic to itself. Machines cost money to build. Raw materials cost money to extract. But people? You can always get some more people. They reproduce like cancer cells, whether you want them or not. They are abundant, Takeshi. Why should they be valuable? Do you know that it costs us less to recruit and use up a real snuff whore that it does to set up and run virtual equivalent format. Real human flesh is cheaper than a machine. It’s the axiomatic truth of our times?

In full consciousness and setting aside the impropriety above, Morgan’s prejudicing the machine over human flesh extricates essentialism, mirroring Camusian take on the meaning of life as inessential, but for the burning problem of suicide. This is a direct import from Nietzsche, for who, illusion (the arts, Remember Wagner!) lends credibility to life and resolves despair to some extent, whereas for Camus, despair is only coming to terms with this absurd condition, by way of machination in the full knowhow of condition’s futility and pointlessness. This fact is most brilliantly corroborated in Morgan’s dictum about how constant repetition can even make the most obvious truths irritating enough to disagree with (Woken Furies).

To conclude: Imagine the real world extending into the fictive milieu, or its mirror image, the fictive world territorializing the real leaving it to portend such an intercourse consequent to an existential angst. Such an imagination now moves along the coordinates of hyperreality, where it collaterally damages meaning in a violent burst of EX/IM-plosion. This violent burst disturbs the idealized truth overridden by a hallucinogenic madness prompting iniquities calibrated for an unpleasant future. This invading dissonant realism slithers through the science fiction before culminating in the human characteristics of expediency. Such expediencies abhor fixation to being in the world built on deluded principles, where absurdity is not only a human condition, but an affliction of the transhuman and posthuman condition as well. Only the latter is not necessarily a peep into the future, which it might very well be, but rather a disturbing look into the present-day topographies, which for Camus was acquiescing to predicament, and for Richard Morgan a search for the culpable.

How the Alt-Right Infiltrated Architecture Twitter – and turned Notre-Dame into a Political Lighting Rod.

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“Buildings broadcast a message. Good and bad architecture can lift, or subdue a message… aesthetic ugliness promotes ugly behavior,” says 35-year-old Paul Joseph Watson, a commentator on Infowars, in a video titled “Why Modern Architecture SUCKS.” Watson refers to modernist architects — those who designed buildings after World War II, like Ernő Goldfinger, Owen Luder and John Bancroft — as “the social justice warriors of their time” who actively “rebelled against beauty.” By creating large concrete tower blocks — often with the intention of building social housing for the poor — Watson believes they attempted to “socially engineer society” like the Soviet Union.

He’s also far from the only critic to complain about the legacy of brutalism, a style of modern architecture that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s in the U.K., but was developed largely by French architects like Le Corbusier. Brutalist buildings were characterized by simple, block-like structures that often featured exposed concrete and were constructed in the belief that architects should design buildings with their function in mind first and foremost. As a result, brutalist architects would usually prioritize public space over monuments to gawk at. “Many Brutalist buildings expressed a progressive or even utopian vision of communal living and public ownership,” writes Felix Torkar in Jacobin magazine. (To that end, brutalist buildings were often favored by European governments as social housing for impoverished communities.) “The battle to protect them is also a fight to defend this social inheritance.”

Read on…

Fascism’s Incognito – Conjuncted

“Being asked to define fascism is probably the scariest moment for any expert of fascism,” Montague said.
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Brecht’s circular circuitry is here.
Allow me to make cross-sectional (both historically and geographically) references. I start with Mussolini, who talked of what use fascism could be put to by stating that capitalism throws itself into the protection of the state when it is in crisis, and he illustrated this point by referring to the Great Depression as a failure of laissez-faire capitalism and thus creating an opportunity for fascist state to provide an alternative to this failure. This in a way points to the fact that fascism springs to life economically in the event of capitalism’s deterioration. To highlight this point of fascism springing to life as a reaction to capitalism’s failure, let me take recourse to Samir Amin, who calls the fascist choice for managing a capitalist society in crisis as a categorial rejection of democracy, despite having reached that stage democratically. The masses are subjected to values of submission to a unity of socio-economic, political and/or religious ideological discourses. This is one reason why I call fascism not as a derivative category of capitalism in the sense of former being the historic phase of the latter, but rather as a coterminous tendency waiting in dormancy for capitalism to deteriorate, so that fascism could then detonate. But, are fascism and capitalism related in a multiple of ways is as good as how socialism is related with fascism, albeit only differently categorically.
It is imperative for me to add by way of what I perceive as financial capitalism and bureaucracy and where exactly art gets sandwiched in between the two, for more than anything else, I would firmly believe in Brecht as continuing the artistic practices of Marxian sociology and political-economy.
The financial capitalism combined with the impersonal bureaucracy has inverted the traditional schematic forcing us to live in a totalitarian system of financial governance divorced from democratic polity. It’s not even fascism in the older sense of the term, by being a collusion of state and corporate power, since the political is bankrupt and has become a mediatainment system of control and buffer against the fact of Plutocracies. The state will remain only as long as the police systems are needed to fend off people claiming rights to their rights. Politicians are dramaturgists and media personalities rather than workers in law.  If one were to just study the literature and paintings of the last 3-4 decades, it is fathomable where it is all going. Arts still continue to speak what we do not want to hear. Most of our academics are idiots clinging on to the ideological culture of the left that has put on its blinkers and has only one enemy, which is the right (whatever the hell that is). Instead of moving outside their straightjackets and embracing the world of the present, they still seem to be ensconced in 19th century utopianism with the only addition to their arsenal being the dramatic affects of mass media. Remember Thomas Pynchon of Gravity’s Rainbow fame (I prefer calling him the illegitimate cousin of James Joyce for his craftiness and smoothly sailing contrite plots: there goes off my first of paroxysms!!), who likened the system of techno-politics as an extension of our inhuman core, at best autonomous, intelligent and ever willing to exist outside the control of politics altogether. This befits the operational closure and echoing time and time again that technology isn’t an alien thing, but rather a manifestation of our inhuman core, a mutation of our shared fragments sieved together in ungodly ways. This is alien technologies in gratitude.
We have never been natural, and purportedly so by building defence systems against the natural both intrinsically and extrinsically. Take for example, Civilisation, the most artificial construct of all humans had busied themselves building and now busying themselves upholding. what is it? A Human Security System staving off entropy of existence through the self-perpetuation of a cultural complex of temporal immortalisation, if nothing less and vulnerable to editions by scores of pundits claiming to a larger schemata often overlooked by parochiality. Haven’t we become accustomed to hibernating in an artificial time now exposed by inhabiting the infosphere, creating dividualities by reckoning to data we intake, partake and outtake. Isn’t analysing the part/whole dividuality really scoring our worthiness? I know the answer is yes, but merely refusing to jump off the tongue. Democracies have made us indolent with extremities ever so flirting with electronic knowledge waiting to be turned to digital ash when confronted with the existential threat to our locus standi.
But, we always think of a secret cabal conspiring to dehumanise us. But we also forget the impersonality of the dataverse, the infosphere, the carnival we simply cannot avoid being a part of. Our mistaken beliefs lie in reductionism, and this is a serious detriment to causes created ex nihilo, for a fight is inevitably diluted if we pay insignificance to the global meshwork of complex systems of economics and control, for these far outstrip our ability to pin down to a critical apparatus. This apparatus needs to be different from ones based on criticism, for the latter is prone to sciolist tendencies. Maybe, one needs to admit allegiance to perils of our position and go along in a Socratic irony before turning in against the admittance at opportune times. Right deserves tackling through the Socratic irony, lest taking offences become platitudinous. Let us not forget that the modern state is nothing but a PR firm to keep the children asleep and unthinking and believing in the dramaturgy of the political as real. And this is where Brecht comes right back in, for he considered creation of bureaucracies as affronting not just fascist states, but even communist ones. The above aside, or digression is just a reality check on how much complex capitalism has become and with it, its derivatives of fascism as these are too intertwined within bureaucratic spaces. Even when Brecht was writing in his heydays, he took a deviation from his culinary-as-ever epic theatre to found a new form of what he called theatre as learning to play that resembled his political seminars modeled on the rejection of the concept of bureaucratic elitism in partisan politics where the theorists and functionaries issued directives and controlled activities on behalf of the masses to the point of submission of the latter to the former. This point is highlighted not just for fascist states, but equally well for socialist/communist regimes reiterating the fact that fascism is potent enough to develop in societies other than capitalistic ones.
Moving on to the point when mentions of democracy as bourgeois democracy is done in the same breath as regards equality only for those who are holders of capital are turning platitudinous. Well, structurally yes, this is what it seems like, but reality goes a bit deeper and thereafter fissures itself into looking at if capital indeed is what it is perceived as in general, or is there more to it than meets the eye. I quip this to confront two theorists of equality with one another: Piketty and Sally Goerner. Piketty misses a great opportunity to tie the “r > g” idea (after tax returns on capital r > growth rate of economy g) to the “limits to growth”. With a careful look at history, there are several quite important choice points along the path from the initial hope it won’t work out that way… to the inevitable distressing end he describes, and sees, and regrets. It’s what seduces us into so foolishly believing we can maintain “g > r”, despite the very clear and hard evidence of that faiIing all the time… that sometimes it doesn’t. The real “central contradiction of capitalism” then, is that it promises “g > r”, and then we inevitably find it is only temporary. Growth is actually nature’s universal start-up process, used to initially build every life, including the lives of every business, and the lives of every society. Nature begins building things with growth. She’s then also happy to destroy them with more of the same, those lives that began with healthy growth that make the fateful choice of continuing to devote their resources to driving their internal and external strains to the breaking point, trying to make g > r perpetual. It can’t be. So the secret to the puzzle seems to be: Once you’ve taken growth from “g > r” to spoiling its promise in its “r > g” you’ve missed the real opportunity it presented. Sally Goerner writes about how systems need to find new ways to grow through a process of rising intricacy that literally reorganizes the system into a higher level of complexity. Systems that fail to do that collapse. So smart growth is possible (a cell divides into multiple cells that then form an organ of higher complexity and greater intricacy through working cooperatively). Such smart growth is regenerative in that it manifests new potential. How different that feels than conventional scaling up of a business, often at the expense of intricacy (in order to achieve so called economies of scale). Leaps of complexity do satisfy growing demands for productivity, but only temporarily, as continually rising demands of productivity inevitably require ever bigger leaps of complexity. Reorganizing the system by adopting ever higher levels of intricacy eventually makes things ever more unmanageable, naturally becoming organizationally unstable, to collapse for that reason. So seeking the rise in productivity in exchange for a rising risk of disorderly collapse is like jumping out of the fry pan right into the fire! As a path to system longevity, then, it is tempting but risky, indeed appearing to be regenerative temporarily, until the same impossible challenge of keeping up with ever increasing demands for new productivity drives to abandon the next level of complexity too! The more intricacy (tight, small-scale weave) grows horizontally, the more unmanageable it becomes. That’s why all sorts of systems develop what we would call hierarchical structures. Here, however, hierarchal structures serve primarily as connective tissue that helps coordinate, facilitate and communicate across scales. One of the reasons human societies are falling apart is because many of our hierarchical structures no longer serve this connective tissue role, but rather fuel processes of draining and self-destruction by creating sinks where refuse could be regenerated. Capitalism, in its present financial form is precisely this sink, whereas capitalism wedded to fascism as an historical alliance doesn’t fit the purpose and thus proving once more that the collateral damage would be lent out to fascist states if that were to be the case, which would indeed materialize that way.
That democracy is bourgeois democracy is an idea associated with Swedish political theorist Goran Therborn, who as recent as the 2016 US elections proved his point by questioning the whole edifice of inclusive-exclusive aspects of democracy, when he said,
Even if capitalist markets do have an inclusive aspect, open to exchange with anyone…as long as it is profitable, capitalism as a whole is predominantly and inherently a system of social exclusion, dividing people by property and excluding the non-profitable. a system of this kind is, of course, incapable of allowing the capabilities of all humankind to be realized. and currently the the system looks well fortified, even though new critical currents are hitting against it.
Democracy did take on a positive meaning, and ironically enough, it was through rise of nation-states, consolidation of popular sovereignty championed by the west that it met its two most vociferous challenges in the form of communism and fascism, of which the latter was a reactionary response to the discontents of capitalist modernity. Its radically lay in racism and populism. A degree of deference toward the privileged and propertied, rather than radical opposition as in populism, went along with elite concessions affecting the welfare, social security, and improvement of the working masses. This was countered by, even in the programs of moderate and conservative parties by using state power to curtail the most malign effects of unfettered market dynamics. It was only in the works of Hayek that such interventions were beginning to represent the road to serfdom thus paving way to modern-day right-wing economies, of which state had absolutely no role to play as regards markets fundamentals and dynamics. The counter to bourgeois democracy was rooted in social democratic movements and is still is, one that is based on negotiation, compromise, give and take a a grudgingly given respect for the others (whether ideologically or individually). The point again is just to reiterate that fascism, in my opinion is not to be seen as a nakedest form of capitalism, but is generally seen to be floundering on the shoals of an economic slowdown or crisis of stagflation.
On ideal categories, I am not a Weberian at heart. I am a bit ambiguous or even ambivalent to the role of social science as a discipline that could draft a resolution to ideal types and interactions between those generating efficacies of real life. Though, it does form one aspect of it. My ontologies would lie in classificatory and constructive forms from more logical grounds that leave ample room for deviations and order-disorder dichotomies. Complexity is basically an offspring of entropy.
And here is where my student-days of philosophical pessimism surface, or were they ever dead, as the real way out is a dark path through the world we too long pretended did not exist.

Fascism’s Incognito – Brechtian Circular Circuitry. Note Quote.

Carefully looking at the Brechtian article and unstitching it, herein lies the pence (this is reproduced via an email exchange and hence is too very basic in arguments!!):

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1. When Brecht talks of acceding to the capitulation of Capitalism, in that, being a historic phase and new and old at the same time, this nakedest manifestation of Capitalism is attributed to relationality, which are driven by functionalist propositions and are non-linear, reversible schemas existing independently of the specific contents that are inserted as variables. This may sound a bit philosophical, but is the driving force behind Brecht’s understanding of Capitalism and is perfectly corroborated in his famous dictum, “Reality as such has slipped into the domain of the functional.” This dictum underlines what is new and what is old at the same time.
2. Sometime in the 30s, Brecht’s writings corroborated the linkages between Capitalism and Fascism, when the victories of European fascism prompted consideration of the relationship between collective violence and regressive social configurations. At its heart, his corpus during the times was a defining moment of finance capital, an elaborate systemic treatment of economic transactions within the literary narrative with fascistic overtones. It is here the capitalist is consummate par excellence motivated by the rational calculus (Ayn Rand rings the bells!!!). Eschewing the narrative desire of the traditional dramatic novel, Brecht compels the readers without any recourse to emotional intensity and catharsis, and capturing the attention via phlegmatic and sublimated pleasures of logical analysis, riddle solving, remainder less, and bookkeeping. This coming together of the financial capital with the rise in European Fascism, despite leading to barbaric times in due course, brought forth the progeny of corporation merging with the state incorporating social functions into integrated networks of production and consumption. What Brecht reflects as barbaric is incidentally penned in these tumultuous ear, where capital evolves from Fordist norms into Corporations and in the process atrophy human dimensions. This fact is extrapolated in contemporary times when capital has been financialized to the extent of artificial intelligences, HFTs and algorithmic decision making, just to sound a parallel to Nature 2.0.
But, before digressing a bit too far, where is Brecht lost in the history of class consciousness here? With capital evolving exponentially, even if there is no or little class consciousness in the proletariat, there will come a realization that exploitation is widespread. This is the fecund ground when nationalist and fascist rhetoric seeds into a full-grown tree, inciting xenophobias infused with radicalization (this happened historically in Italy and in Germany, and is getting replicated on micro-to-macro scales contemporarily). But, what Brecht has failed to come to terms with is the whole logic of fascists against the capitalist. Fascists struggle with the capitalist question within their own circles (a far-fetched parallel drawn here as regards India is the right ideologue’s opposition to FDI, for instance). Historically speaking and during times when Bertotl was actively writing, there were more working class members of the Italian fascists than anyone else with anti-capitalist numbers. In Nazi Germany, there were close to 30 per cent within stormtroopers as minimal identifies and sympathizers with communism. The rest looked up to fascism as a stronger alternative to socialism/communism in its militancy. The intellectual and for moral (might be a strikethrough term here, but in any case…) tonic was provided for by the bourgeois liberals who opposed fascism for their capitalist bent. All in all, Brecht could have been prescient to say the most, but was too ensconced, to say the least, in Marxist paradigms to analyze this suturing of ideological interests. That fascism ejected itself of a complete domineering to Capitalism, at least historically, is evident from the trajectory of a revolutionary syndicalist, Edmondo Rossoni, who was extremely critical of internationalism, and spearheaded Italian fascist unions far outnumbering Italian fascist membership. Failure to recognize this fractious relationship between Fascism and Capitalism jettisons the credibility of Brechtian piece linked.
3. Althusser once remarked that Brecht’s work displays two distinct forms of temporality that fail to achieve any mutual integration, which have no relation with one another, despite coexisting and interconnecting, never meet one another. The above linked essay is a prime example of Althusser’s remark. What Brecht achieves is demonstrating incongruities in temporalities of capital and the human (of Capitalism and Barbarianism/Fascism respectively), but is inadequate to take such incongruities to fit into the jigsaw puzzle of the size of Capitalism, not just in his active days, but even to very question of his being prescient for contemporary times, as was mentioned in point 2 in this response. Brecht’s reconstructing of the genealogy of Capitalism in tandem with Fascism parses out the link in commoditized linear history (A fallacy even with Marxian notion of history as history of class consciousness, in my opinion), ending up trapped in tautological circles, since the human mind is short of comprehending the paradoxical fact of Capitalism always seemingly good at presupposing itself.
It is for these reasons, why I opine that Brecht has a circular circuitry.

Serge Galam’s Sociophysics: A Physicist’s Modeling of Psycho-political Phenomena

The Trump phenomenon is argued to depart from current populist rise in Europe. According to a model of opinion dynamics from sociophysics the machinery of Trump’s amazing success obeys well-defined counter-intuitive rules. Therefore, his success was in principle predictable from the start. The model uses local majority rule arguments and obeys a threshold dynamics. The associated tipping points are found to depend on the leading collective beliefs, cognitive biases and prejudices of the social group which undertakes the public debate. And here comes the open sesame of the Trump campaign, which develops along two successive steps. During a first moment, Trump’s statement produces a majority of voters against him. But at the same time, according to the model the shocking character of the statement modifies the prejudice balance. In case the prejudice is present even being frozen among voters, the tipping point is lowered at Trump’s benefit. Nevertheless, although the tipping point has been lowered by the activation of frozen prejudices it is instrumental to preserve enough support from openly prejudiced people to be above the threshold.

Serge Galam – Sociophysics A Physicist’s Modeling of Psycho-political Phenomena

 

Tantric Initiation. Thought of the Day 131.0

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Man, universe, gods and ritual are not considered separate entities but rather different manifestations of the same Śakti. Therefore, during a particular ritual every element of it is symbolic of something else. The flowers are representative of something else, the incense is representative of something else and so on. This viewpoint is based upon the crucial teaching that “worldly and spiritual” are the two faces of a same coin. One often thinks that “spirituality” is associated with something which is “within”, while “worldliness” is associated with something which is “without”. So, if you see a light “within”, that is a “spiritual” experience, while if you see a light “without”, that is a “worldly” experience. Besides, the worldliness is based on “day-to-day experiences”. It is approximately so. Tantricism considers all to be the manifestation of Śakti, the Divine Mother. So, an external light is as spiritual as an internal one and vice versa. In fact, there is neither spirituality nor worldliness because only one Supreme Consciousness is permeating everything and everyone.

Śakti or the Divine Mother is the core of all tantric practices. She is known as Kuṇḍalinī when residing in a living being. She is the bestower of the Supreme Bliss for all those followers that worship Her according to the sacred rituals and meditations contained in the Tantra-s. Her importance has been emphasized in Niruttaratantra:

बहूनां जन्मनामन्ते शक्तिज्ञानं प्रजायते।
शक्तिज्ञानं विना देवि निर्वाणं नैव जायते॥

Bahūnaṁ janmanāmante śaktijñānaṁ prajāyate|
Śaktijñānaṁ vinā devi nirvāṇaṁ naiva jāyate||

After (ante) many (bahūnām) births (janmanām), the knowledge (jñānam) of Śakti (śakti) is born (in oneself) (prajāyate). Oh goddess (devi)!, without (vinā) the knowledge (jñānam) of Śakti (śakti), Nirvāṇa — final Liberation — (nirvāṇam) does not (na eva) spring up (jāyate).

However, Tantricism should not be “strictly” equated to Shaktism, because there are groups of Śākta-s (followers of Śakti) which are not “tantric” at all. In turn, there are tantric groups that worship Śiva, Viṣṇu, etc. as well as Śakti.

Consequently, one may use a set of elements as representative of other realities. For example: a man represents Śiva and a woman represents Śakti. Then, their union is representative of that of Śiva and Śakti. Microcosm and macrocosm are closely allied to each other, because the two are the manifestation of only one Power. The following fragment extracted from the ancient Tantra-s clearly shows the aforesaid correlation between man, universe, gods and ritual. The sādhaka or practitioner is meditating on the Divine Mother (Śakti) in his heart lotus. He forms a mental image of Śakti there, and begins worshipping Her this way:

हृत्पद्मासनं दद्यात् सहस्रारच्युतामृतैः।
पाद्यं चरणयोर्दद्यान्मनसार्घ्यं निवेदयेत्॥

तेनामृतेनाचमनं स्नानीयमपि कल्पयेत्।
आकाशतत्त्वं वसनं गन्धं तु गन्धतत्त्वकम्॥

चित्तं प्रकल्पयेत् पुष्पं धूपं प्राणान् प्रकल्पयेत्।
तेजस्तत्त्वं च दीपार्थे नैवेद्यं च सुधाम्बुधिम्॥

अनाहतध्वनिं घण्टां वायुतत्त्वं च चामरम्।
नृत्यमिन्द्रियकर्माणि चाञ्चल्यं मनसस्तथा॥

पुष्पं नानाविधं दद्यादात्मनो भावसिद्धये।
अमायामनहङ्कारमरागममदं तथा॥

अमोहकमदम्भं च अद्वेषाक्षोभके तथा।
अमात्सर्यमलोभं च दशपुष्पं प्रकीर्तितम्॥

अहिंसा परमं पुष्पं पुष्पमिन्द्रियनिग्रहम्।
दयाक्षमाज्ञानपुष्पं पञ्चपुष्पं ततः परम्॥

इति पञ्चदशैर्पुष्पैर्भावपुष्पैः प्रपूजयेत्॥

Hṛtpadmāsanaṁ dadyāt sahasrāracyutāmṛtaiḥ|
Pādyaṁ caraṇayordadyānmanasārghyaṁ nivedayet||

Tenāmṛtenācamanaṁ snānīyamapi kalpayet|
Ākāśatattvaṁ vasanaṁ gandhaṁ tu gandhatattvakam||

Cittaṁ prakalpayet puṣpaṁ dhūpaṁ prāṇān prakalpayet|
Tejastattvaṁ ca dīpārthe naivedyaṁ ca sudhāmbudhim||

Anāhatadhvaniṁ ghaṇṭāṁ vāyutattvaṁ ca cāmaram|
Nṛtyamindriyakarmāṇi cāñcalyaṁ manasastathā||

Puṣpaṁ nānāvidhaṁ dadyādātmano bhāvasiddhaye|
Amāyāmanahaṅkāramarāgamamadaṁ tathā||

Amohakamadambham ca adveṣākṣobhake tathā|
Amātsaryamalobhaṁ ca daśapuṣpaṁ prakīrtitam||

Ahiṁsā paramaṁ puṣpamindriyanigraham|
Dayākṣamājñānapuṣpaṁ pañcapuṣpaṁ tataḥ param||

Iti pañcadaśairpuṣpairbhāvapuṣpaiḥ prapūjayet||

He gives (dadyāt… dadyāt) (his) heart (hṛt) lotus (padma) as the seat (āsanam), and the water for washing (pādyam) the feet (caraṇayoḥ) in the form of the nectars (amṛtaiḥ) flowing (cyuta) from Sahasrāra — the supreme Cakra placed at the crown of the head– (sahasrāra). He presents (nivedayet) the offering — lit. water offered to a guest — (arghyam) in the form of (his) mind (manasā).

He also (api) prepares (kalpayet) the water to be sipped from the palm of the hand — a purificatory ceremony that is performed before any ritual or meal — (ācamanam) (as well as) the water to be used in ablutions (snānīyam) by means of that very (tena) nectar (amṛtena). (He gives) the principle (tattvam) of Ākāśa — ether or space– (ākāśa) as the dress (vasanam), and the power of smelling (gandhatattvakam) as the odor (gandham).

He prepares (prakalpayet) (his) mind (manas) as the flower (vai) (and) arranges (prakalpayet) (his) vital energies (prāṇān) as incense (dhūpam). (He) also (ca) (arranges) the principle (tattvam) of Tejas — fire — (tejas) for it to act as (arthe) the lamp (dīpa), and (ca) the ocean (ambudhim) of nectar (sudhā) as the offering of food (naivedyam).

(He prepares) the Anāhata (anāhata) sound — which keeps sounding constantly in the heart lotus — (dhvanim) as the bell (ghaṇṭām), and (ca) the principle (tattvam) of Vāyu –air– (vāyu) as the fly-whisk made of tail of Yak (cāmaram). (He offers) the actions (karmāṇi) of the senses (indriya) as well as (tathā) the unsteadiness (cāñcalyam) of mind (manasaḥ) as dance (nṛtyam).

For realizing (siddhaye) the state (bhāva) of the Self (ātmanaḥ), he gives (dadyāt) flower(s) (puṣpam) of various sorts (nānāvidham): absence of delusion (amāyām), nonegotism (anahaṅkāram), dispassion and detachment (arāgam) as well as (tathā) absence of arrogance (amadam);…… absence of both bewilderment (amohakam) and (ca) deceit (adambham), as well as (tathā) nonmalevolence (adveṣa) and freedom from agitation (akṣobhake); absence of envy (amātsaryam) and (ca) liberty from covetousness (alobham)” — (these virtues) are named (prakīrtitam) the ten (daśa) flower(s) (puṣpam) –.

The supreme (paramam) flower(s) (puṣpam) (known as) Áhiṁsā — nonviolence and harmlessness — (ahiṁsā) and subjugation (nigraham) of the senses (indriya) (along with) the flower(s) (puṣpam) (known as) compassion (dayā), patience (kṣamā) and knowledge (jñāna), (are) therefore (tatas) the highest (param) five (pañca) flowers (puspam). Thus (iti), through (these) fifteen (pañcadaśaiḥ) flowers (puṣpaiḥ), (which are actually fifteen) flowers (puṣpaiḥ) formed from feelings (bhāva), he performs the worship (prapūjayet).

The sādhaka or practitioner uses every object in the ritual as representative of a virtue, state and so on. Therefore, one “must” be initiated in order to understand the Truth according to the Tantra-s, since only then the well-known vedic spirit of renunciation could be replaced for “a reintegration of the worldly life to the purposes of Enlightenment”. The “desire” and all values associated with it are then employed to achieve final Liberation. The tantric practitioner is both a master in spiritual matters and a master in worldly matters, because, in fact, there is no difference between “spiritual” and “worldly”. They are the two aspects in which the Divine Mother (Śakti) is manifested. So, a freed person is one who has transcended all pains and Saṁsāra (transmigration of the souls, that is, to be born and then to die, and to die and then to be born), and one who has acquired astonishing skills to lead a mundane life which is full of fulfillments.

मद्यपानेन मनुजो यदि सिद्धिं लभेत वै।
मद्यपानरताः सर्वे सिद्धिं गच्छन्तु पामराः॥११७॥

मांसभक्षणमात्रेण यदि पुण्यगतिर्भवेत्।
लोके मांसाशिनः सर्वे पुण्यभाजो भवन्त्विह॥११८॥

स्त्रीसम्भोगेन देवेशि यदि मोक्षं व्रजन्ति वै।
सर्वेऽपि जन्तवो लोके मुक्ताः स्युः स्त्रीनिषेवणात्॥११९॥

Madyapānena manujo yadi siddhiṁ labheta vai|
Madyapānaratāḥ sarve siddhiṁ gacchantu pāmarāḥ||117||

Māṁsabhakṣaṇamātreṇa yadi puṇyagatirbhavet|
Loke māṁsāśinaḥ sarve puṇyabhājo bhavantviha||118||

Strīsambhogena deveśi yadi mokṣaṁ vrajanti vai|
Sarve’pi jantavo loke muktāḥ syuḥ strīniṣevaṇāt||119||

If (yadi) a man (manujaḥ) really (vai) could attain (labheta) to Perfection (siddhim) by drinking (pānena) wine (madya), (then) may all (sarve) (those) vile (pāmarāḥ) people who are addicted to drinking (pānaratāḥ) wine (madya) achieve (gacchantu) Perfection (siddhim)!||117||

If (yadi) the achievement (gatiḥ) of Virtue (puṇya) would result (bhavet) from merely (mātreṇa) eating (bhakṣaṇa) meat (māṁsa), (then) may all (sarve) carnivorous beings (māṁsāśinaḥ) in this world (loke… iha) be (bhavantu) virtuous (puṇyabhājaḥ)!||118||

Oh goddess (deveśi)!, if (yadi) (the beings) indeed (vai) attain (vrajanti) to Liberation (mokṣam) through the enjoyment (sambhogena) of women (strī), (then) all (sarve) creatures (jantavaḥ) in this world (loke) would become (syuḥ) liberated (muktāḥ) by frequenting (niṣevaṇāt) women (strī)||119||

Alt-Right Politics: Year-End Awards. Biggest Winner: Deep State?

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https://altright.com/2018/01/04/alt-right-politics-year-end-awards/

Richard Spencer, Eli Mosley, Don Camillo and Gregory Ritter present Alt-Right Politics’ year-end awards: Biggest Winner, Biggest Loser, Best Politician, Most Defining Political Moment, Most Boring, Best Comeback, Best Photo Op, Worst Lie and many more.