27 February 2007

The Enemy Is Lifestylism

Sage Kiesel, in a comment posted to the previous entry, suggests that even the most batshit (Scieno or otakukin) universes are "plausible and existent, even though they are not practical". Probably true, although Chaos Marxism is interested in practicality above all.

But we assert strongly that diversion of consciousness into impractical reality tunnels is one of the prime means by which the Corporate Egregore maintains its power. Of course it's easier and more fun to live in an alternative universe where it doesn't exist. Until of course you have to go to a horrible job, or deal with other people who live in a less pleasant universe - or until the ecosystem goes belly-up and we're all underwater or breathing brown goop instead of air. Which is still reality for 99% of people, even in the advanced industrial capitalist nations.

I have therefore great contempt for any reality tunnel which has the same political/magickal effect of an ostrich hiding its head in the sand, or a child putting its head under the blankets. Encouraging people to adopt "lifestyles" or - more pretentiously - "personal paths" which lead them away from engagement with consensus reality is not only a good way to demobilise any possibly dangerous rebellion, but also a good way to create more markets to sell people mindless crap. (Walk into any magic or New Age shop and see how much overpriced crap there is for sale and you see what I mean).

The really awful thing is it's not just religion, magic, or sci-fi fandom which has gotten to this point - it's politics. So many people aren't anarchists, socialists, libertarians or even conservatives because they want to be part of a political project to change consensus reality. They want a an alternative reality-space where they can hide from that reality. You can see this most effectively with conservatism because they have the most money. There are entire industries (and projects - "Conservapedia", for fuck's sake?) which aim to make sure that conservatives never have to deal with outside reality. It reminds me of a Ken MacLeod novel where they sold Christians telescopes doctored to make it look like the universe was geocentric.

But exactly the same with the small-group psychosis associated with so-called revolutionary left political projects. Far too many of them end up as cliques or clubs or internet forums full of people who only want to talk to people already like them, continually performing the rituals which make them feel like they are the Chosen Ones - whether this be "direct action", "making and selling the revolutionary paper", etc etc etc. These people too are being sold a lifestyle by the corporate egregore - and thus making themselves completely and utterly harmless.

(One of the most annoying things about "lifestyle politics", as an aside, is that you can no longer have a political debate. If someone's politics are their identity, then you can't argue with a conservative or an anarchist any more than you could argue with a committed Christian or a supporter of Glasgow Celtic. Of course, debate is an intersubjective phenomenon which requires communications between different realities - exactly what they don't want.)

Unless someone somehow creates a "lifestyle option" where we can avoid the physical reality of world capitalism, the necessity to work horrible jobs to survive and the steady collapse of planetary ecology - i.e. getting off the planet altogether and leaving the simpering humans to choke on their own filth - lifestylism is the enemy. And I don't think I'd take that option anyway.

19 February 2007

Essay contest!

1. Read what I wrote below about Scientology basically being people programming themselves to believe that bugfuck crazy things they see in their heads are real.

2. Read this article on the subject of otakukin.

3. Compare and contrast, noting that I am not the first person to make this comparison.


What does this teach us? My personal thoughts:

- People will believe any insanity if it allows them to belong to a real or imagined community. (Which ties us into the broader question of abusive relationships.)
- The mass media fill the gap in the late-capitalist cultural psyche which would have been filled by oral folktales and organised religion in previous historical eras.

15 February 2007

Remember this phrase

You seem to think that a television show's propaganda function works like an essay - as if, it can't be racist if it has some nice Muslim characters, or occasionally could give the impression that war might be a bad thing. It is as if the argument works through explicit didactic steps, rather than through a barrage of constant mutually reinforcing impressions.

Emphasis added. The esteemed comrade Richard S. in a comments thread at the Tomb.

11 February 2007

Mad Larry gets close to the truth

On Meddling

Most of our culture’s problems are the fault of marketing, or at the very least, they’re the fault of people who think they’re marketing but are actually just making everyone miserable. I’ve already argued that “’political correctness’” – a phrase which deserves a double set of inverted commas, for reasons I’ve gone into at length [28/12/06] – is mainly the invention of paranoid right-wingers rather than interfering liberal do-gooders, but it is true that somebody, somewhere, is doing an awful lot of meddling. Guns are edited out of old movies, violence is surgically excised from cartoons, scripts are rewritten so that female characters are always shown to be strong, flawless and self-willed (much to the annoyance of actresses, who know that characters with enormous personality defects are vastly more interesting) while black characters are shown to be capable of unlimited compassion / redemption (much to the annoyance of black actors, who like playing villains with eyepatches as much as anyone else does).

This isn’t the work of “’political correctness’”, and it certainly isn’t the work of anybody remotely left-wing. It’s the work of the executive class, of corporate committees, of armies of marketing consultants and commando squadrons of research analysts. Their meddling isn’t done for political reasons, or indeed for the sake of any agenda at all, apart from the obvious profit-related one. Put too much violence in a family programme, and a minority of parents will complain, damaging ratings and losing advertising revenue. Make a movie in which the bad guys are “ethnic”, and members of that ethnic group might not pay to see it. Actual political correctness exists in marketing rather than in ideology, and essentially means doing whatever’s necessary in order to appeal to the widest possible demographic: “demographically correct” might be a better term, although I’ve tried using it in conversation and it never catches on. If we lived in a world where 98% of the population belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, then it’d be a safe bet that exactly the same people who now make sure there’s a positive “ethnic” character in every Hollywood movie would make sure there's always a big black cannibal with a bone through his nose instead.

Our political system has exactly the same problem as our culture, and for exactly the same reasons. Most people still assume that in a general election, the major parties will campaign to get as many votes from the general public as possible, but this is no longer true. The major parties know full well that most demographic groups are guaranteed to vote for a specific party no matter what the candidates do, and that there’s no point campaigning for the support of anybody except those in the middle-ground, the small minority which might still swing either way. All three of Britain’s leading parties now use the same “targeting software” to identify these key groups, and to work out what those groups want. And the “targeting software” is telling them all exactly the same thing: focus on middle-class consumers with expendable income, people to whom the outcome of an election doesn’t particularly matter. This is why the most recent election manifestos of all three leading parties have been indistinguishable apart from the adjectives, and even Howard’s arse-waffle about asylum-seekers masked a policy barely any different to Blair’s. In effect, Britain is no longer a democratic society, and it wouldn’t be democratic even if we weren’t under American jurisdiction. Because what we’ve learned over the last ten years – if we didn’t already instinctively know it – is that marketing and democracy are incompatible. Whether it’s in Hollywood or Westminster, marketing means a blanding-out, a removal of any significant difference on the grounds that it might offend one type of consumer-voter or another. Choice, actual choice rather than the consumer kind, can’t exist without difference. And democracy, like culture itself, relies on choice.

Is this the real tragedy of what happened to us in the late 1970s? I’ve already argued that the last thirty years of Western history have largely been about the triumph of self-obsession [06/12/06], but perhaps the biggest single problem is that by favouring “personal lifestyle choices” instead of “society”, we’ve put far too much power into the hands of the marketing specialists. Let’s not forget, Ronald Reagan was the first world leader to be elected because his advisors focused on lifestyles rather than issues. The aforementioned targeting software works on the same principle, encouraging politicians to concentrate on “what do people in Harrogate do with their leisure time?” rather than “how do we formulate an ethical foreign policy?”. The upshot is that we’ve ended up with a society which isn’t just dangerously complacent and politically bankrupt, but also very, very dull. If you went back in time and told my eight-year-old self that he’d grow up in a world where people have pocket-sized computers and you can access almost any piece of information on Earth from a box in your bedroom, then I don’t think he would have believed it could be so mediocre.

You can read more of the demented and occasionally scarily insightful ramblings of the creator of Faction Paradox here. (Please ignore the ignorant, hateful nonsense about transsexual people, though.)

07 February 2007

Corporate magic seen at first hand

Now you see, when I was just a li'l teenage wiccachyk calling the name of the Goddess under the light of the full moon etc., I thought that the magical (or self-programming) tools I was learning were subversive knowledge that might one day destroy war, capitalism and mainstream pop music altogether (cf. Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing). Now I realise that our rulers already know all this stuff. It's part of how they control us.

Case in point: the "change management workshop" I attended yesterday (to get us used to the idea that our company is being merged and many of us are being, as I believe the Americans say, "downsized"). Among other fascinating information presented by the nicely-presented HR consultant:

If we want to change a situation, we first have to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions.

Thoughts are creative - you are what you think. Positive thoughts attract positive outcomes, and the converse. Learning techniques to control negative mental images are valuable.

The antidote to boredom is to concentrate wholly on what you have to do in the present movement (no matter how dull or alienating).

All this was coupled with actually helpful practical/physical exercises for cutting stress and improving working habits. But what really gets me is that people are paid good money by corporates for teaching the above idealist/magical ideas to their employees. The woman actually told a story about someone who actually won the lottery by simply visualising it. I responded "what happens if 20,000 people visualise it?" and she replied "well, of course, some of them won't have achieved sufficient purity of intention..."

There are two choices: this woman actually believes in this extremely vulgar, idealist version of magic. (Chaos Marxism, by contrast, denies strongly that "you are what you think" - instead, we say as materialists, you are what you do.) Alternatively, she's realised she can make good money by inculcating it to drones as, as Karl Marx put it, an opiate - something to keep the proles quiet, docile, and convinced that if shit happens they must not have been thinking sufficiently pure thoughts.

In any case, now I know what to do with my life. I want to be an HR consultant, so I could get paid big bucks to teach people bastardised, watered-down magic.

(Also: a vegetarian diet apparently cuts stress levels, which is odd because the vegans I know are so hyper that only obeisance to the Tobacco Demons calms them down most of the time.)