31 March 2009

Godforms

The creed of monotheism, as clearly set out in the Noble Qur'an and elsewhere, can be expressed as: "Nothing is worth worshipping or fearing but God." It may come as a shock to some of our readers to hear me expressing approval of the least politically fashionable of all the Abrahamic religions, but here's an article from a rather heretical branch of Islam, suggesting how that insistence on unity above all things ties into an almost Buddhist-style "non-attachment" to worldy possessions or the good opinion of others. Which I think is something we can get behind. Not only is it psychologically healthy, it's even politically revolutionary in potential - as the Catholic and Islamic Anarchists could tell you.

Now I doubt that I, or anyone following my ongoing monologue, is going to start believing in a superhuman personality which cares for us as if it were human, which is what most people think of when the word "God" is thrown around. At least, if we do start believing in such a thing, it will be in the spirit of experiment and there will be escape hatches! However, if Richard Dawkins is right, and spirituality / believing in something more important than everyday human survival is hard-wired into our consciousness, it's best to use that correctly. Which brings us back to a question I've asked elsewhere on this board - what might a "godform" of Chaos Marxism be like?

The Ma'at crowd talk of N'Aton, a future perfected and unified human consciousness who is projecting important mystic info backwards in time to enable us to turn into him/her/it. Although I cringe at the Star Trek-style random apostrophe in the name, the idea that our equivalent of "God" is something we are working towards becoming speaks to me. In contrast to those who would use "no other gods before me" as an excuse for self-abnegation of our human nature to some frankly scary abstract being, let us imagine our equivalent of "God" as being our growing consciousness of ourselves as humans and as humanity, seen as a unified entity, with power over our whole world for both good and ill. In that sense, certainly nothing is worth worshipping or fearing than "God".

Perhaps this is religion for the new millennium. We are in a position where - collectively - we-as-a-species do have power over our whole ecosphere. This renders old-school localised polytheism and abstract monotheism both obsolete. But are we going to be a blind idiotic Azathoth, a nihilistic and indifferent Doctor Manhattan, or something more like the Earth Mother or Santa Claus that most of us would prefer to believe in?

I've used the phrase "Unborn Goddess" before. I now prefer God/dess of the World To Come. One of the big problems with humanity at this stage is our attachment to the gender binary. Attempts to go beyond that, like the Ma'at crowd, tend to look a bit creepily inhuman, just like (sadly) people of not-man-nor-woman gender identity are today. Perhaps a different model can be One Power With A Thousand Faces, All Of Them Us. I look forward to artwork and storytelling.

26 March 2009

The next step

"The capitalist economy presents itself as a vast accumulation of commodities" - Karl Marx
"Life under capitalism presents itself as a vast accumulation of spectacles" - Guy Debord
"The memetic environment under consumer capitalism presents itself as a vast accumulation of identities" - Doloras LaPicho

Identity-as-commodity is, Chaos Marxism insists, fundamental to explaining the ideological effect of capitalism. Social identities have always been based on participation in a social network. The novelty of late, Fordist/post-Fordist capitalism is that in every other era, identity-networks were based on one's place in relations of physical or memetic production. In the modern era, they are based on consumption. Which is why they proliferate, because they expand along with the dizzying consumer choice offered by the debt-driven monopolistic competition model. There are of course "mass market" identities sold to virtually everyone as race, nation, religion, favourite sports team, and if you're an American, "liberal" or "conservative". And then there are the niche market identities, which most readers of this blog will buy into. The important point is that adopting an identity based on consumption means that - unlike the proletariat of the 19th century - you do have something to lose apart from your chains if capitalism comes to an end, that very thing which (we argue) is fundamental to existence as a human being.

Just a brief note that what seems most ludicrous about the popular culture of the late '80s - late '90s (i.e. the high water mark of consumer capitalism) is the whole "neo-tribal" bullshit. It was the era in which wearing a subcultural uniform really took off - the more outlandish the uniform and the more "unconventional" its choices of entertainment commodities, the better. That is the dark future of total fragmentation predicted by Ken MacLeod in The Star Fraction. To some degree, the collapse of this economy (begun with the dot.com crash, accelerated by the War On Terror in which once again a position for or against the Powers That Be became important, and perhaps finally ending with Depression 2.0) is the collapse of the idea that fulfilment consists of finding the right clique to hang with. Now can someone tell this to the Marxist and anarchist sects? Or the Paultards, for that matter.

An even briefer note that no-one had better be thinking that stripping someone of their identity forcefully, or even challenging it directly, is a good idea. If it doesn't work, you've made an enemy for life, and if it does, they will be rendered useless. Of course, if you run a mind-control cult, the second is precisely what you are hoping for so you can reprogramme them according to your whim. You have to get the goose out of the bottle without breaking the glass - that's Trotsky's transitional method. Proposed political action has to be consistent with currently existing mass identity, while following a logic which leads out of them.

Special note: we have abolished pre-approval for comments, although we reserve the right to delete anything we consider retarded, or not retarded enough.

24 March 2009

More on identity

As an introduction: if you're not watching Joss Whedon's Dollhouse yet, you should be. It will make a lot of the following post a lot clearer.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is missing a bottom rung. Because humankind is a social animal (in particular a troop animal, like the other great apes), self-actualisation, esteem, love, safety and even physiological integrity are based on fitting into a social order in some way - in other words, having a social identity. If you're an ape living up a tree, then if you don't have a place in a troop of other apes for mutual self-defence and food gathering, you will starve to death or get eaten by a lion. And with our big sexy walking-upright brains, our place in our "troops" is based on identities constructed through social discourse.

The need for a social identity is therefore absolutely fundamental to human nature - which is why some people would prefer to destroy themselves physically than have to give up their social identity. If people are prepared to kill themselves if they lose their partner or their job or even some kind of social status, you have to re-examine exactly what is important in human nature. This is why, especially in the states, they've started handing out cellphones to homeless people - having a number where you can be contacted is more important to being "part of the social order" than having a house to live in or a job to go to, and is in fact a prerequisite to either of the above.

Slotting back into a Marxist approach to political economy, a given politico-economic structure will interpellate (that term (c) a notorious French wife-killer) the identities it needs. The reason why pre-WW2 Marxism is increasingly inadequate is that, while "working class" as a socio-economic category still clearly exists, as a social identity it's been more or less wiped out. The mass consumption economy needs mass consumers - people whose identity is based on what they consume rather than what they do. "What they do" to get the $$$ to consume with is a dirty little secret that is actually consciously repressed.

The Media Priests as I call them (the middle-class intelligensia in charge of memetic engineering) are of course perfectly placed for this, since they produce nothing but memes and consumption is their main function in the real economy. Therefore, they create a memetic environment where consumption is the basis of all social identity. We are in an era where people will riot over shortages of their preferred brand, even if perfectly equivalent alternatives are freely available, because mess with their brand, you mess with their identity.

The existing left is useless because it itself is trapped in niche-market or subcultural ways of thinking. Changing the world is increasingly a platonic goal at best - the real goal is perpetuation of "the scene" and of one's own preferred monkey troop within that scene. 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.

I don't think we're in the business of trying to build new identities, because (a) that's just another trap, (b) that ends up in a kind of "social psychology / mind-control cult" trap, where people get to play "more enlightened than thou". We have to smash the doors on our own cages open, while helping others smash their own locks. Only a self-sustaining chain reaction and collective action can actually achieve any social-wide change.

Cognitive behavioural therapy states that exorcising demons, smashing mind-forg'd manacles, whatever you call it, is best done by challenging those bad things' right to exist, and by practical experience doing something different. That should be the goal of all political activity -

1. challenge the dominant paradigm with memetic flair backed up with logic;
2. encourage practical activity (which can actually be done by the vast majority in their lunchbreaks and weekends) which proves that it's only real if you believe in it.

Here's some examples of memes that need to be destroyed with great urgency if we want the planet to continue to support an advanced technological society:

- I am what I consume.
- Money is real.
- People different from me in race, gender, nationality or sexuality are my enemy.
- What I do is of no value and the boss pays me out of the kindness of their heart.
- The individual is the only reality - collectives are powerless and useless.
- The current social order is fixed and natural and can't be changed.

A word of warning: some very, very dodgy things come up when the repressed return. That's what a revolution is all about. A terrible danger is "radicals" still stuck in a middle-class-intellectual identity freaking out when the awakening masses come up with memes they don't like the look of, and decide that they'd prefer living under oppression to the rule of the uncouth, un-PC mob - as if enactment of a particular programme was the determining factor. Eg - mass strike breaks out in the UK, some leftists freak out because the workers are raising the wrong slogans (i.e. different from those that the wannabe memetic engineers in the leftist groups worked out in advance.)

But human liberation is the only determining factor, our only real goal. Programme is only a means to an end in that regard. We must be fanning all oppositional, anti-consumption, pro-production-for-use activity, while combatting any attempt to build up new identities, especially those around creating new niche identities, or more particularly in beating the crap out of people with a different identity.

A couple of other words of warning:
- A good way to make sure nothing ever changes is to require perfection. In the political sphere, this translates to "I don't get out of bed for anything less than full-blown revolution in the streets". If we set achievable goals for shifting society's memes one tiny step away from "money is real" and towards "production for people and planet, not profit", then we can be happy. Note that this is not the same thing as "recruit one more member to my ridiculous little fan club" - in fact, quite the opposite. We need to be spreading ideas wide, not creating a cult.
- A new sustainable world will of course create its own web of identities which will of course need to be overthrown in their turn, but let's burn that bridge when we come to it. Suffice to say that if your identity is based around changing the world, then when the world is changed you will suddenly be out of a job and might want to kill yourself, so you might even end up subconsciously preventing yourself from success.

23 March 2009

Games and economic behaviour

"Cognitive-behavioural therapy" is, at core, the idea that you can exorcise a demon by arguing with it. Funnily enough, it seems to get results. In that sense, how much of "mass magick" (aka politics, marketing and advertising) is simply CBT aimed at an entire demographic/population/society/planet? INVOKE OFTEN is the core of magick, and our enemies certainly have the big battalions of memetic artillery lined up at their own citizens to do just that. In contrast, we can only win if our memes are more useful for everyday life.

We should be aware that our enemies know all this stuff and are putting it into practice already. The Israeli army, for example, trains in the works of Foucault and Deleuze to think up strategies to not only defeat the Palestinian nation militarily, but to disrupt it on the memetic/social level and render its members docile and obedient. The main problem with "radical" politics, as we know it today in the West (i.e. small cliques of middle-class dropouts playing toy Bolshevik or pretend Emma Goldman), is that all the strategies in it stem from the Situationists at best, and the early 20th century at worst. Science has marched on here, guys. We need to be applying the most modern memetic theory - including CBT - to our political work.

And that's why I haven't been posting much recently - certain political projects in the Real World of Horrible Jobs have fallen into my laps, and I've been struggling with the task of making the Chaos Marxist approach useful for practical action. The Aphorisms as they stand are about as much use as "the Thoughts of Chairman Mao" - they're inspirational and fun, but can be interpreted in so many alternative ways. But here are some more ideas to be going on with.

We need to do more work on the idea that the "individual" is interpellated by consumer-capitalist society. To put it in CM lingo, the corporate infosphere is in the business of selling an identity. And having an identity is like having a job - if you don't have one you drop out of society altogether. Losing one's identity is even more terrible a prospect than losing one's job, and of course for many working people they're virtually the same thing. The problem is that for the middle-class cliques that call themselves "the left", their identity is "vanguard of the proles / future cognitive elite of the planet". Even though in theory they want to liberate the planet, in practice what they end up doing is building the walls higher around their private universe. Someone on a very good blog elsewhere suggested that the typical sect leader has exactly the same mentality as that of a sweetshop owner - they know they can't actually expand their little empire, but they can dominate what they have and build a higher wall around it every day.

Becoming aware of how your favourite identity is pieced together from bits sold to you by the capitalist infosphere is much like a fish becoming aware of water. But is that fish able to crawl onto dry land, having that knowledge? No, it will instantly drown in the air, unless it has a reverse scuba suit (and we'll assume he doesn't). But what if it can spur the process of evolution, so that your children's children might have lungs?

In any case, I give you the Ideology Tropes wiki - the beginnings of a noble attempt at a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Actually Existing Infosphere. It's part of the solution, and I'm guilty that I haven't participated in building it much yet because of the aforementioned projects. But a Chaos Marxist has to be ruthless about deconstructing their own identity as part of their mission to understand the memetic miasma which surrounds us. So maybe "psychology tropes" is next, who can tell - I know that the CBT people have done some work on this, but there are also Jungian archetypes and Freudian complexes, so the question can only be which map gets us somewhere useful.