19 June 2014
a society where adopting ruling-class ideas is the best way to survive
"successful" members of society adopt ruling-class ideas as their ego-state
the ego fights tooth and nail to defend itself against the internal/external Other
a psychological "blind spot" which means that the gap between "common sense" and "good sense" becomes a source of terror like the Lacanian Real which can't be acknowledged let alone confronted by the ego under normal circumstances.
ideology transmitted by narrative as "just so" stories justifying "common sense".
Terry Eagleton and Frederic Jameson both thus came to the conclusion that literary / narrative studies have a privileged insight into ideology (in particular, how we justify things to ourselves which don't have any real material backing); however, perhaps that's just their own ideology justifying being lit-crit specialists?
I attended a lecture by FJ once. I asked him: "I agree with everything you said, but what do we do?" If I remember right, he muttered something like "Well, Hardt and Negri seem to have some good ideas..."
(Photo chosen deliberately to annoy Out To Lunch.)
12 May 2014
To paraphrase Ben Elton's excellent 1980s ecosocialist novel Stark, to start a new political party, religion, or any kind of activist group, even a small and stupid one, takes some brains, gumption... and creativity. That's the essential thing. You have to be able to make something new up. Even if it's idiotic. In Chaos Marxism, we call this "the juice".
So the cycle of degeneration of any organisation (no matter the value of the original creed) is this: Creative leader starts the organisation -> creative leader imposes mechanisms of control to keep the followers from straying off the reservation -> creative leader dies/quits/leaves -> uncreative epigones take over, use the mechanisms of controls to impose stasis and status quo -> the system inevitably degenerates.
Neither Joseph Stalin nor David Miscavige (or comrades Alex C and John R???) were capable of creating anything new, so they simply mindlessly repeated the mantras of their predecessors, and thus had to exponentially increase the cruelty of the mechanisms of control to get anything out of them. At least the Mormons, with their doctrine of "continuous revelation", have avoided this to some extent. You can actually imagine - barely - an LDS president announcing "People! The Lord GOD spake unto me and he said we're allowed to drink beer! Woo-hoo!"
But of course this is why I don't like the "rationalistic" schools of religion, like Protestantism, Sunni Islam or "scholastic" Catholicism. All this reason is based on interpretations of "divine revelations" which of course don't make sense out of their original context - so "garbage in, garbage out" as they say in the computer biz. If we can't have actual science, then at least something based on visions and revelations can adapt to new situations.
11 May 2014
Your body is programmed for biological survival; your mind for social survival. Sometimes the two contradict. Sometimes the programming goes haywire when too many conflicting pieces of "software" are installed. But generally the social programming that really motivates your everyday behaviour, the automatic solutions which may still be working even though the problems are long gone - the Bottom Line and Rules for Behaviour of which Cognitive Behavioural Therapy talks, which are called service computations in "clearing tech" - are generally so deep that you don't even recognize them. This is called "the ego".
Revolutionary practice - changing the system - only becomes pro-survival when the old order simply cannot stand any more. Up until then, it is a luxury rather than a necessity. Therefore "normal" people will not become revolutionaries until they have to. Which is why, this side of the revolution, the revolutionaries are not only a minority, but in general the "human debris" of the system - crazies, creative types (but I repeat myself), people looking for family, looking for tribe, looking for identity, looking for a new religion or a new daddy or an infallible Prophet - to scratch a psychic itch that is buried far too deep in their minds to even be seen, let alone be directly addressed.
The ego which enables you to survive under capitalism will, if its compulsions are not examined from a point of view outside itself based on objective observation of self and others - science and meditative practice - destroy any attempts to build revolutionary praxis. It will turn your "parties" or "affinity groups" into clubs, cults, sects and circle-jerks. And that is why revolutionaries need transpersonal psychology / mysticism, and that's what Chaos Marxism is.
06 May 2014
A narrative that you hear often in the stories of people who spent 30 years in some cult is "How terrible. They wasted X years of their life working to bring about this ridiculous or delusory goal, or fulfilling the schemes of Great Leader Y who was obviously a psychopath, a cynical money-grubber, a troll, or come combination of the three."
Wasted it doing that because... what else could they have done? Earned big money? Found something to do in life that was useful and fulfilling? Hate to break it to you, but it's a tiny tiny minority under global capitalism who get to do that. Note that this narrative is particularly marked when the ex-cultist is white and middle class. You were privileged, ya schmuck. Don't you wish you hadn't thrown that privilege away? Why, you're no better than a prole now!
This is of course one of the arguments that cults use to keep people in - you don't have any skills that the Real World of Horrible Jobs wants. You'll be a burger-flipper! The irony being that a burger-flipper has some democratic rights even under globalised capitalism, which a cult member doesn't have. But a cult member has a reason to exist, which is generally something a burger-flipper lacks, except in rare circumstances.
The point is that, in a cult or in the "real world", usually what you do has no meaning or value in real terms, and you only get material rewards if you're either very lucky or know how to brown-nose. Or, to put it another way - you can only sacrifice if you had something to start with; or, more cynically, you can only sell out if there's a willing buyer.
For most of us life is an endless, drastic, alienated failure. There's a reason why, on leftist blogs, most of the comments are indications of doom, despair, and the glories of recreational drugs to numb the terrible pain. So why not join a cult? Unless you can find something to do in the here-and-now that means something, not just makes you feel good or scratches an itch which was implanted by ideology?
To the right, you will notice I've got a feed to a Tumblr account. That's where I'll be posting links, brief thoughts (or Aphorisms), etc, from now on. The blog proper will be reserved for essays or other lengthy original documents.
15 April 2014
that I depend on your being down for my being up. I would never be
able to know that I belong to the in-group of "nice" or "saved" people
without the assistance of an out-group of "nasty" or "damned" people.
How can any in-group maintain its collective ego without relishing dinnertable discussions about the ghastly conduct of outsiders? The very identity of racist Southerners depends upon contrasting themselves with those dirty black "nigras." But, conversely, the out-groups feel that they are really and truly "in," and nourish their collective ego with relishingly indignant conversation about squares, Ofays, Wasps, Philistines, and the blasted bourgeoisie. [...]
What, for example, is more quarrelsome—in practical politics—than the project for a truly classless and democratic society?
- Alan Watts, The Book on the Taboo against Knowing Who You Really Are
11 April 2014
[Giorgio] Agamben claims that, by disassociating themselves from all markers of identity, the occupiers of Tiananmen became “whatever singularities”. These whatever singularities remain precisely what they are, regardless of the qualities they happen to possess in any given moment. According to Agamben, in presenting themselves in this way, the occupiers necessarily ran aground on the representational logic of the state: the state sought to fix the occupiers into a specific identity, which could then be included or excluded as such. Thus, Agamben concludes: “wherever these singularities peacefully demonstrate their being-in-common, there will be a Tiananmen, and, sooner or later, the tanks will appear”.
...the unfolding of the general law of capital accumulation undermines stable identity formations in all segments of the labour market. More and more people are falling into the surplus population; anyone can, potentially. Increasingly, the stable-unstable distinction is the one that regulates all the other distinctions within the working class. That leads to a widespread sense that all identities are fundamentally inessential...
- quoted in "The Holding Pattern: The ongoing crisis and the class struggles of 2011-2013", Endnotes 3
Apart from the serious ground-level business of helping build workers' resistance to attacks on capital, for real radicals of the new millenium, our overriding strategy must be: DESTROY ALL IDENTITIES. Actually existing personal and social identities do nothing but ensure that you will stay in your box forever. And that includes the identity of "revolutionary" or "magus" or whatever.
- Chaos Marxism, 2011
By happily accepting a description of themselves as "THE HIVE" (or "hivemind"), the massed ranks of Anonymous show that capitalist normality's privileging of individuality as the highest good is a trap. ... I always wondered why my sympathies were always with the bad guys in those cartoons. They hate us because we don't need to be individuals.
28 March 2014
This blog is in semi-retirement at the moment because I'm finally able to make these arguments in the movement (and, via Facebook, in the movement in other countries) in such a way that I'm actually getting dialogue, and action. So I just wanted to keep you up to date with a few extremely interesting articles:
- perhaps this McKenzie Wark's concept of "low theory", in the sense of "the attempt to think everyday life within practices created in and of and for everyday life, using or misusing high theory to other ends", is precisely what CM is all about. Hell, shouldn't that be what Marxism is all about in general - the bringing together of workers and science? I know that OTL goads me occasionally about being hyper-wordy, but as a translator, I know that you have to fit the presentation to the audience. I talk one way on Facebook with other overeducated communists, another way with Sufi brethren, and a third way with my football team. Who is McKenzie Wark, anyway?
- our favourite Zen monk punk bassist Brad Warner suggests that Cartesian dualism, the idea of humanity as "a ghost driving a machine made of out meat", was all that saved science being destroyed by religious obscurantism in the 16th century. I think it's the equivalent of Stephen Jay Gould's idea of "non-overlapping magisteria". But going on further from Warner - perhaps the collapse of dualism, with the New Age popularisation and bastardisation of the insights of materialist psychology and the wackier kinds of "mind-body unity" stuff, once again the physical sciences have started treading on the bounds of the guardians of the totems of the Tribe Of The West. The ruling class in the United States, in particular, is increasingly becoming anti-knowledge and anti-science, at least for their own citizens who have a vote. Just like Dubai and Saudia Arabia have solved the problem of the proletariat as the gravedigger of capitalism by importing a semi-indentured labouring class from the subcontinent, so the rulers of the United States have decided to deliberately dumb down their own masses, trusting that they can import all the scientific skills they need from overseas with the super-profits resulting from the native proletarian religiously voting against its own interests.
- $cientology refuses to tell you exactly what it's about without paying for it. L. Ron Hubbard banned "verbal tech", i.e. anyone explaining his psychology/philosophy in any words other than his - which should be the first sign that it's a form of fundamentalism i.e. braindeath. However, if you really want to know how it works, an Austrian "independent Scientologist" gives you the full, detailed course. All you need to do it is a study buddy and an E-meter clone (sold separately).