27 February 2012

Tradition vs. Modernity



The thing about tradition, and this might shock and appall some of you neophiles out there, is that a tradition (as opposed to a new revelation) has passed the test of memetic natural selection. The longer a tradition has survived, the more evidence that it has been fit for purpose for actual human beings living in the real world of horrible jobs. Capitalist society has speeded up the process of evolution, but it's still a process of evolution. "Revolution" is simply the punctuation in punctuated equilibrium.

Hence, Chaos Marxism opposes any "Year Zero" nonsense or claims that things can appear out of nowhere with no connection to their predecessors and thus replace them. Which is why - for example - it's important to remember that Marx wasn't the first Marxist, he was the last of the great classical economists, working in the tradition forged by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. And conversely, we 100% oppose "fundamentalism" in the sense of the belief that "the original, pure message of [FILL IN BELIEF SYSTEM HERE] has been lost under useless tradition and we must restore it!" Thence comes nonsense like Wahhabism and all that "Forward to the Rebirth of the Fourth International" stuff.

... which is why Chaos Marxism opposes the efforts to "revive" traditions, or "return to the good stuff", but instead prefers to adapt existing traditions of the here-and-now to new phenomena and occurrences. You've got to build the new world with the building blocks of the old, because, as the history of colonialism tells us, simply attempting to shove a new civilisation down people's throats leads to Bad Mental Health on a mass scale.

Drama!

You know, I've been interested in Scientology for more than 20 years now, even while knowing that it's an abject failure and probably a 100% scam from start to finish, because part of me - a rather childish part - wishes it were otherwise. Who wouldn't want a precisely mapped-out set of procedures and rules which, if followed, give you awesome superpowers? Even Catholic priests can only turn a biscuit and a goblet of wine into the living presence of the Godhead. Operating Thetans can top that any day of the week, according to popular report. (Some of the Thelemites I've known have seriously been pushing towards getting similar powers, but with the same kind of results as far as I can tell.)

Interestingly enough, that's also why I've been interested in the Spartacist League and its daughter organisations. If "building the revolutionary party" was as simple as holding inflexibly to a programme last updated in 1938, then there would be far less heartbreak and brainwork involved, and you could have all the fun of the fair exchanging polemics with the OROs (the Spart equivalent of the Scientology "squirrels"). There's a darker side to that, of course - being the Chosen Ones gives you not only the duty, but the right, and more importantly the pleasure to be assholes to other people. "Error has no rights", as the traditional Catholics say.

Which brings me to the point that sometimes I find "Scientologese" jargon quite useful as shorthand. Like "ARC break" for pissing someone off, because it emphasises that such things happen when two people come to a serious disagreement on how they see the world and thus can't talk to each other properly. Here I am going to use the phrase "dramatization of case". I'm sure there's an equivalent for that in proper psychological language, though I can't think of it right now. The Marxist definition of "ideology" is "an imaginary solution to a real problem"; "dramatization of case" means "acting out past trauma or conflict in a completely different present situation". Like yelling at your girlfriend because she did something, quite innocently, which reminded you of your horrible mother.

So someone suggested on Tony Ortega's blog that Scientology is the dramatization of L. Ron Hubbard's case. This is not an original insight, but it is a good one. To give just one example, the insane bureaucratic internal structure of the Co$ is a "dramatization" of the US Navy of World War II, an organisation which Elron pretty much flunked out of. So he mocked up a facsimile of it in which he could be Commodore.

Could we also say that the Fourth International was the dramatization of Trotsky's case? After the trauma of going from Leader of the Revolution to Worst Scumbag on the Planet as far as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was concerned, was he only trying to mock up a facsimile of the old-school Bolsheviks, this time one where he was on the winning side instead? Because let's face it, and sorry to the Trots out there because I have great love and sympathy for Lev Davidovitch, but the 4Int was always kind of a Potemkin village - the great guru, one mass party (the American SWP) and a bunch of loonies, sects, and Stalinist secret agents. Not in any way the same kind of mass forces as the first 3. And of course without Lev around the whole thing kind of crashed and burned.

Hmmm. Hubbard and Trotsky were both called "The Old Man" by their followers towards the end of their lives. I don't want to push this analogy too far because the former was a conman whose only skill was lying and he wasn't even good at that, and the other was a real revolutionary and hero howsoever flawed, but you get what I mean. In any group with an unchallenged, universally acknowledged leader, the group will more and more become a dramatization of the internal psychological conflicts of that leader. And in any group, no matter how democratic, which isolates itself from "the real world", the real fuel of the group will become its own internal conflicts.

26 February 2012

A fallow period

Quite often in my daily meditative practice I suddenly have a "cognition" or a "bright idea" and I think "HOLY CRAP must remember to post this to CM when I'm done", but then afterwards I either can't remember it or it just seems silly. It is possible that "less is more" at this stage in my publication - or, at least, an aspect of quality control enters in.

It makes sense, I suppose, to reformulate the aim and mission of this blog: to harmonise the languages of transpersonal psychology and revolutionary socialism, with non-dualist spirituality thrown in there for anyone who might be interested in such a thing. As I said to Sage Kiesel what seems an aeon ago, Chaos Marxism is interested in practicality above all else, and we want to develop practical insights and techniques that YOU the occupier or stirrer or picketer or NGO volunteer or political candidate or author out there at the coalface can apply to your own practice, and that of your group, to attempt to shed light on previously insoluble problems.

In many previous periods, I have suggested "audience participation" for readers of this blog, none of which have been taken up, but how about this? Go through The Aphorisms on the sidebar (or any other sufficiently wacky thing from this blog) and ask me to expand on it in depth. I'll start with the following aphorism which just came to me:
Yearning is healthy; despair is unhealthy.
This assumes that we know how to tell the difference. The Sufis have the famous tale of Layla and Majnun, where hopeless, unfulfillable love is celebrated as the love of God. I suppose we can call that love of "the unknown ideal", "the Unborn Goddess" (to resurrect a stillborn meme from my back pages), or "the unfolding future of creativity". We are motivated by the drive to utopia, not by the defence of what we already have. The latter turns into the siege mentality found in all good totalitarian dictatorships and mind-control cults. It is in fact the "lesser of two evils" logic - justifying Obama's warmongering or Castro's heavy-handed suppression of dissidents because "they're not as bad as THE OTHER GUYS". Acts of suppression are always forgivable; quite often excusable; never acceptable.

 On the contrary, a certain bigoted strand of atheism/skepticism/rationalism seeks to pathologise yearning for anything more than creature comforts and seeking status within the World-As-Is, the Black Iron Prison. On the contrary, the Sufis call on the disciple to "reject both worlds", i.e. both here and the Hereafter. The answer is to "seek pain" as Rumi puts it - learn to be content with the yearning, with the knowledge that reality is imperfect and always will be because it is our human nature that makes it so.

But to accept that perfection will never be ours is not an excuse to give up, but an injunction to serve perfection by trying to get there. Who knows? When we give up what Crowley called "lust of result" and abandon ourselves to the process, perhaps the Inexpressible Benevolence of the Creative Impulse will have mercy on us.

 Anyway, some hilarious recent links:

08 February 2012

Anon calls out the Black Bloc

A psychological aphorism

Further to the below on the subject of "giving oneself permission to be evil..."

Generally what we hate to see others doing most is what we want to do ourselves but don't allow ourselves to, or think we can get away with.
So at the point where we recognize the antisocial impulses implanted in us by genetics and environment, we can "forgive" those of others - which, in a political sense, means rejecting moralism, the idea that there are good and bad people, and instead adopting the Bobby Sands dictum that "everyone has their own part to play".