30 March 2010

The middle of the middle

The essence of any thought-reform process is:

1) break down the existing identity of the subject. "Identity" is defined here as "the list of things that the subject feels that they have to do, or like doing, and will become anxious if prevented from doing."
2) replace that list with one you made up.

I've noticed this before with Marxist political groups. They will go into great detail explaining that CBT won't make you happy, drugs won't make you happy, TV or sports or beating up black people won't make you happy, because capitalism is a stinking memetic shitpile which makes everyone unhappy as the basis of its existence. True, that.

But they leave unspoken what the next step of the process is. The next step is, you should join the Marxist group and learn to identify your own happiness with political activism. This isn't necessarily a problem - this is how all groups which actually have life-changing effects (eg Weight Watchers) work. And heavens knows we need political activists, and Leninists and Platformists agree that having them properly organised is a necessity.

But the problem is that, in small groups which aren't properly democratic (which is virtually all of them in the advanced Western countries), "political activism" means "conformity with the goals and priorities of the self-perpetuating leadership and the group culture it promotes". Simply put: "You must give up your ego! So we can replace it with one we prepared earlier!"

So beware - be very aware - of any guru, political, spiritual or psychological, who's telling you "what you're doing isn't going to make you happy", but who isn't going into detail about what they recommend you do instead. Chances are it will be "giving me money", or "selling the ridiculous, badly-produced paper we edit on street corners", or "working for pennies on our agricultural plantation until the day we tell you to drink the Flavor-Aid", or something similar.

Robert Fripp has said that "any act based on principle is a good one". Dr Javad Nurbaksh has said that hooking up with even an inferior, selfish, not-properly-enlightened Master is better than letting your ego continue to run rampant. I find it very difficult to accept these propositions, because they're very similar to L. Ron Hubbard's dictum that "you must let others control you before you can learn to control yourself", which is clearly a cynical command to induce people to sign themselves up as slaves.

But I am having great trouble figuring out what the alternative might be.

18 March 2010

Beyond belief and non-belief

Alan Moore claims to have met John Constantine in real life. Twice. The question, as I'm sure most of you who've been following will understand, is not whether this "really" happened or not. The question is, what rules does Alan Moore's personal reality follow in which things like this can happen? And are they rules that might be profitably adopted by others? How does it differ from the world in which bread and wine transform into the living presence of the Son of God, or the world in which a Koori headman can point a bone at someone and they die right then and there? (Apologies if I've got the details of the last one confused.)

My political mentor suggests that the job of revolutionaries is to be "organisers of optimism". I take this to refer to Gramsci's "optimism of the will", as opposed to "pessimism of the intellect". In other words - "we're probably all screwed, but if we do something it just might work". Million-to-one chance, and all that.

Chaos Marxism rejects solipsism. It is simply not true that every individual has their own hermetically sealed personal reality, mainly since individuals do not exist on the level of biological evolution or class struggle, the first and second most important defining factors in human existence. But given the material substrate of the above, there can be many different kinds of social, cultural, subcultural and personal "etic realities" (i.e. realities based on ideologies, abstractions, cultural images and other automatic parts of consciousness). Some of us never emerge from the world-as-it-seems that we are taught by our parents, our schools and our TV shows. Others reject that reality and substitute their own, based on consumer goods or possibly weird things we read.

In Chaos Marxism, we want to create a reality where the possibility of large-scale, technologically advanced civilisation based on ties of solidarity rather that wage labour and commodity exchange is possible. Our analysis of material reality says that it's objectively possible; but as long as the idea seems a ridiculous utopia or dystopia to the vast majority of humanity, it's never going to actually happen. And we will not be satisfied with play-acting "living in a better world" (the domain of lifestylers or cults) because that is what the Black Iron Prison allows everyone anyway - to live in their own little world as long as they don't cause problems.

If Hugo Weaving and the machine intelligences said that if you sat down and shut up, you could have your own little section of the Matrix just as you liked it, would you take the bait? Be honest, now. That would be much easier, and much more fun.

Myself, I'm going to experiment with living in an alternate reality where people are naturally kind and willing to listen, rather than hostile and mean. It might just work.