15 May 2007

More on "Bob"

For a self described insane bogus religion, the published philosophy of the Church of the SubGenius is sometimes breathtakingly accurate. Perhaps because it is an actual, confused, attempt at explaining the world from the point of view of the "lumpen-creative class" - people who see themselves as creative artists but are temperamentally unsuited to "join the Conspiracy" (i.e. climb the ladder of corporate achievement) and thus generally have the choice between highly unreliable freelance work and a proletarian job. Chapter 9 in their most recent book, The SubGenius Psychlopaedia of Slack, is actually a confused but unmistakeable (and unintentional, I'm sure) recapitulation of the Marxist theory of alienation.

Slack in itself can be described as "the opposite of stress", but also "the opposite of alienation". It can mean hard work at something you enjoy and believe in, just as much as it can mean watching cartoons with a hamburger in one hand and a joint in the other. False Slack, on the other hand, is defined as "anything you can buy for money". Even spookier than that, pages 202-203 of this book - entitled "Art, Toolmaking and OCD" - is a quite scary recapitulation of this famous article by Frederich Engels.

In other words - the Conspiracy/ capitalism takes away what makes us human (the right to labour freely at what motivates us) and gives us in recompense nothing but money, which keeps us alive but corrodes that which makes us truly us. The fact that I'm pretty damn sure that Ivan Stang has never opened a Marxist document in genuine interest in his entire life makes this even spookier. But this is the same ranter who said "If they paid you what you were worth, they'd go broke".

The "event horizon" of SubGenius thought is, of course, their very pettybourgeois class position, which leads to totally pessimistic conclusions on the possibility of organising to overthrow "The Conspiracy", in the absence of intervention from our Space Brothers The Men From Planet X. The main point is that SubGeniuses aren't even supposed to get along, let alone work together - the alienated consciousness without the discipline of proletarian work habits turns to paranoid individualism to such an extent that it seems like the only natural form of human interaction.

So it boils down to: try to squeeze out whatever tiny crumbs of psychic nourishment you can get from the system, hang out with others of like mind when you can possibly stand them, and send more money to the Church so that Stang doesn't have to get a job and can keep amusing you. The SubGenius Must Have Slack" translates to "The Lumpen-Creative Must Break Free of Alienation". The problem is of course that LĂșkacs was right, and the end of alienation only comes with the workers-council form of organisation - something that the typical "lone nut" SubGenius working on their art or their music or their writing in splendid if paranoid isolation just wouldn't be able to grok.

ETA: A friendly commenter to this post includes a link to Rev. Stang's response to my musings. Sickened, creeped out and offended. *shrug* I suppose you should never come into contact with your heroes.


  1. haha, you know if you say our name more than twice, we appear! PRAISE "Bob"!! Get ready for a Subgenius intervention my friend! I will be kind, but I cant promise the same from the other 'lumpkin' (I like it spelled my way better) Anyhoo, onto your analysis... uh...hmm....carry the two....OK! The reason it seems 'confused' is because we left dusty Marx far behind. Although, checking with a few of your other posts (and your blog title) this may be difficult for you to REALIZE...I am afraid that only after tithing 30 dollars to the church, will we be able to instruct you more. But I will give you a little hint: Marx had a beard, and no pipe.....

  2. Marxism, and any other -ism (including SubGeniusism) is as much a tentacle of the Conspiracy and taker of slack as Capitalism.

    and subgenii WANT to be alienated, nto alleviate their alienation. it helps if you, you know, read the other books too. the Alienation of a Subgenius is what gives them power to break free from whatever surrounding established system, capitalist, marxist, or otherwise, is interfering with their happiness.

  3. As Rev Stang said, you can always tell the Bobbies - they're the ones yelling "CAST OUT THE FALSE PROPHETS! And start with THAT GUY OVER THERE! SHE's not a REAL SubGenius! I can tell!" Because no real SubGenius would ever read Marx, right? Right?!?

    For the information of dipshit, trolling Bobbies, I have been a paid-up, duespaying Church minister since 1991. My copy of the Divine Excuse, moreover, explicitly excuses me from having to defend Marxism to redbaiters, even redbaiters in "Bob" T-shirts. You will note that comments are moderated and only "interventions" which make me laugh will be let through.

    (Actually, do any of you guys know where to get the original tape copy of the first Drs 4 "Bob" compilation with "Half-Ass Drunk" on it?)

  4. In this hypothetical "workers-council form of organisation," how is the question of inequality (which is real and not a delusion of Capitalism) dealt with?

    If two people pursue the same line of labor (or four or hundreds) where only one (or two or five) is desire/needed/necessary/able-to-be-supported-by-the-infrastructure, then how can things be resolved without the establishment of some sort of hierarchy of value in which one/some will be granted the right to pursue their self-realizing labour whereas others will be relegated to less fulfilling but more apt tasks?

    If in a group of two hundred, 199 want to be artists, who will grow the wheat?

    This brings to mind the experiments of Black Mountain College in my mind where hypothetically all the students (and faculty) would in part contribute to the maintenance of the property/food-sources/etc. but in reality some people took on the primary burden of the work whereas others either did not work at all or complained repeatedly and extensively about the degree to which labour was interfering with their primary interest in creative endeavors.

  5. Your comment really boils down to Stock Anti-Marxist Slogan #47: "Under socialism, who will do the shit work?"

    Marx's answer to that question was that the fully developed form of socialism, everyone would do a little bit of it. But the real agenda of people who ask this question is generally those people who, for some reason, are lucky enough to have a job where someone else empties their garbage cans and washes their dishes - someone they never see, or hear, or even talk to - and one thing they like about capitalism is that it gives them that tiny privilege.

    Look, here's a link to articles from the ultra-left, anti-Leninist, quasi-anarchist "council communism" tradition. It defends workers councils better than I could, even if I explicitly do not endorse everything it says. However, the fact that it is anti-Leninist might make the concept of workers' self-organisation easier to swallow for people under the fixed idea that Lenin=Stalin=Pol Pot.

  6. You dont have to enable this comment if you dont want to...but I thought you might like to see stangs response to your article:

  7. interesting conversation, may there be much more - contrasts quite well with the rather vicious antagonism that blew up on Ultraculture in April regarding voodoo (google 'heroes of the ultraculture - some fun comments on barbelith as well)...anyway, spurred me to some thoughts, if not a response.

  8. Thanks for the positive feedback. I am honestly a little distressed that my "riffing" on SubTheology seems to have personally creeped out and offended one of my personal heroes. I stand by my point that - given the sheer revulsion towards Marxism expressed by Rev. Stang and other Subs - it's weird that parts of SubTheology are extremely parallel with the Marxist theory of alienation. I call them like I see them. No-one seems to have actually argued that the parallels aren't there, just that pointing them out is "creepy", as if I were making improper suggestions to the family dog or something.

  9. PS Hey, I forgot I was a member of the Ultraculture email list. I should start receiving the emails - it looks fun.

  10. Speaking as a person who considers himself a Conservative Libertarian Marxist and a SubGenius, I'd like to point out a couple things.

    I live in the US. We're big enough, mean enough, divided enough, dumb enough, superstitious enough, brainwashed enough, violent enough, lazy enough, etc. to fail with any system. I hold out hope that at some point in the future we'll at least have a system that makes a nominal effort at meeting the public needs, rather than one based around making sure the slaves can get to their work-pens and back home to their propaganda-boxes without inconvenience or delay.

    This country deserves a revolution, but it wouldn't make any positive use of one, and it doesn't deserve
    me sticking my neck out to help a bunch of confused yokels who will never understand the philosophies they are fighting for or against.

    I won't openly revolt, and I won't do the shitwork for these gravy-slurping sheep either. Marx had a couple of unfavorable names for people in my/our class (don't recall offhand what they were), and suggested that we would join the Capitalists to protect our art/scavenging/party scene. Some undoubtedly would, but it's far from a black and white issue. I doubt that anything could suddenly turn US dissidents en masse into enraged pro-Washington partisans.

    I'm useless to Capitalism, I'm useless to Marxism. I'm comfortable with being a force of entropy, and wish there were more people like me so that we wouldn't be running helter-skelter into an age where the same old Imperialist goons have access to hithertofore unknown technology. Sometimes you don't need to fight to change the world. Sometimes it's OK just to say, "You guys are all fucked, I'm gonna take my ball and go home." The world will still be there when you're feeling better tomorrow.

    I might do halfway decent as a Hillbilly or a Pirate, but you have to relocate outside the city to do either of those correctly, and what can I say, I'm a party boy.

    The other big problem I see is that I've yet to read a workable plan that ensures a Marxist government acts in a Marxist way. We've seen some of the ultra-right-wing BS China and the USSR have tried to pass off as leftist policies. Governments just don't attract people who want to encourage justice and opportunity. Governments reward the type who backstab their way to the top and build a better hamster-wheel to lock their workers in. I don't see Marxism working beyond a neighborhood- or county-wide model until the technology is in place to administer the system hands-off, without human tinkering and intervention - a situation which in and of itself would cause dissent, without even taking into account HOW things are managed. Who wants to be governed by RoboCop and a buncha C++ programmers?

    Alienation is a good thing when the bulk of society is neither worth fighting for or against. When you hit that point, you have to start creating your own redistribution of wealth, on a personal scale. You can work for your reward and watch half of it go to your enemies, or you can fight tooth and nail and let the cards fall where they may, or you can DEMAND to live by your own conscience on each and every issue - even if it means earning less than the Joneses and missing out on some priviliges.

    I'm very proud of the fact that I've made it to age 32 without working an on-the-record job and paying taxes to my enemies. It's been worth every missed meal, every homeless night. I've known a few Marxists, Socialists, Communists, Libertarians, Greens, Anarchists, Reformists, etc in my day. I can count on two hands the number of them COMBINED who are actually willing to make lifestyle and income sacrifices as a matter of principle.

    These days I have a nice place to live, an under-the-table job I enjoy working for good people, and I'm eating well. The clever person who treats people right will find a way to get by even in hostile political and economic climates. The dude abides.

  11. Thanks for that considered and well thought out riposte, Alex. I applaud your ability to avoid the machine altogether - I am on a different path myself, but it's good if we can at least wave to each other occasionally. My big concern for myself that I *have* made a committment to stick my neck out - but doing so with any chance of success means getting right into the heart of the beast, without being either spat out or assimilated.