The Modernity Mindset – Part 4: Water

I know what you’re thinking, ‘How the hell is Meta going to pull this off? A full length piece on water, he’s gone too far!’ Well actually, I haven’t. Water, specifically tap water is one the greatest tools in my toolbox to show you just how far modernity has come, how much it has mutated your mind. The way in which we think about water lays much of the groundwork for how we think about food, which will be an even bigger essay due to the various connotations in connected to it. Water, in comparison, seems relatively simple, but it can actually be used as a cornerstone for the presumptions regarding the life of the average modern man.

The more I think about writing this essay, the more I think it might be the one where I finally step into the realms of ‘Well yeah, no shit Meta!’, but that hasn’t happened yet, even though I believe I’ve been writing about some really clear stuff. This is why it’s always best to write by the way, your view may actually be more original than you think. With that said, a word of warning, this essay could de downright obvious.

The problem with water is that outside of shelter – which in most Western countries isn’t truly top priority – is that we absolutely need it to be able to exist. It’s not something which is negotiable, it can’t be replaced in any form and is always, perpetually needed, until the day you die. And yet, we take it for granted to such an extent that we generally forget we have supposedly unlimited access to it. You realize how utterly insane that is? There is something out there which, if we don’t have it for just 3 days, we will die. And what do we do? We forget that we access to that thing, we abuse our relationship to that thing and arguably, we even neglect that thing. Precious, precious water.

Though I’ve already written the short piece on schooling, I did miss something out, the fact that school does actually teach you some lessons, but there always the lessons they didn’t realize they had taught you. We had an assembly one day about being grateful etc. and one of the examples they gave to us was to understand that water coming out of the tap, day-in day-out, isn’t something that necessarily always happens, but is something which has been developed and engineered to do so. Yes, I learnt the lesson of being grateful for resources and lifelines, but I also learnt another lesson, the one they didn’t really want to teach me. ‘What the HELL are we all doing?’. This is the most important thing is all of our lives, and none of us are learning how it works, or why it happens, or who’s in control, or who to contact if it goes to pot, or how we find and develop a new fresh supply of water if the taps stop running. Maybe I’ve always had the collapse mindset, maybe my years of survival and woodland camping made me respect warmth, water and fresh food a lot more, I don’t know, what I did know is that we all had a serious chip on our shoulders.

So this is the point of this essay. Not water in itself, as some nourishing good. Though of course it would be easy to begin mentioning carbon water filters, privatization of water supplies and the health benefits of hydration, I’m not going to, because there’s a more important message at play. Once again, the one of presumptions. We all presume that water flows from the tap when we turn the tap on/off, we all presume that the water will continue to do so for as long as we live, we also presume that if the water stopped running from the tap that something is up, this would be not normal. Well, I have a cold message for you all, water not running from the tap is actually normal. Not having a mass network of filtered and sterilized pipes connected to each and every house is normal. Not having instant access to clean drinking water is normal. If you have running water, you’re privileged and disconnected from reality.

Arguably we’ve had ‘modern plumbing’ since the mid-1800’s, but in terms of the standards we’d expect today, the 1930s is the earliest era one could argue comes close to modern expectations. So, we’ve had modern plumbing and running water for just under 100 years. Let’s say humans have been around in their current evolutionary iteration for 200,000 years, that would mean we’ve had running water for 0.05% of our life time, and yet, it’s accepted as absolutely, 100% normal. It is and always will be the way things are. Anyone who says otherwise is a quack, doomsayer, madman, weird blogger who needs help, right? If it was any other resource it might not seem so mad, but the one and only (in many parts of the world, where climate is less formidable) resource we need to exist is taken for granted? And no one is being taught on a societal level how it’s processed? How to start it running again if it stops? Where to get it if it doesn’t come out of the tap? How to process it when drawn from an exterior source?

But here’s what modernity does in this situation. It creates something which is technically amazing, our contemporary plumbing systems, for instance. It disperses it in such a way that it becomes hegemonic, and anyone not abiding by it is seen as weird and odd. From its generalized societal acceptance as the absolute norm (and anyone who thinks otherwise is weird), it is accepted (along with progress) as absolutely always and forever, and there was never not a time we didn’t have it, and if there was the people of that time were weird.

This hegemonic coverup of course isn’t something modernity ever wants you to think about. To think about the fact that one needs and always will need water, to exist, to live…to not die, is not what modernity wants. Remember, under modernity you’re going to live forever (until you don’t), you’re going to having everything you want (it wont satisfy you) and there’s nothing to worry about (except all the old risks are still there). Modernity wants you to forget that you’re human, and you need very little so that it can maintain its productive control over you. If you’re reminded that you need water, you might also be reminded that you could live without other drinks, you could even go get your water from elsewhere. ‘Hmm, perhaps I don’t need all that stuff.’ Once water is turned into an a priori resource it is no longer revered for what it is, and is simply accepted, making it boring, almost untrustworthy. You drink water? How dull!

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The Modernity Mindset – Part 3: Shelter

Modernity has mutated our thoughts regarding what’s normal and what isn’t, so much so that the very basics needed for our survival have become lost in a world of assumption, privilege and acceptance. I plan to tackle the 4 ‘basic needs’: food, water, shelter and clothing. I’m tackling shelter first, because as many of you may know, in certain places of the world shelter is the primary need. That is to say, you will often die quickest to exposure (without shelter). I’ll be looking at our considerations of these basics and how our current modern state of affairs has altered our perception in rather malicious ways.

What is shelter then? Well, it keeps you dry, it keeps you away from the cold and it keeps you safe at night. We’ve basically forgotten about these and turned ‘homes’ and ‘home-ownership’ into an odd fetish. Note: I’m not against private property rights, in fact, I think they’re smarter than most presumed ‘rights’. Anyway, I’m also starting with shelter because it’s one of the more peculiar alterations of modernity, in that, the way we’ve been taught to modify our understanding of shelter has lead us towards more stress, misery and pressure than ever before.

I’d like to reiterate something before I get into this. If people want to own X, Y or Z house, that’s fine, it’s up to you to make stupid decisions like believing houses are ‘investments’, or getting in a life-long debt because you liked a building. Like I said, I’m not against private property, I am against a generalized/normalized idea of what a private home should be. So what should it be? As stated, it should keep you warm by having good insulation, keep you dry by having good walls and a roof and also keep you safe from potential intruders or threats. Modernity has put such a thick layer of chemical and bureaucratic existence on top of everything, that the bare-bones reasons for many of our undertakings are hidden. But it’s good to remind yourself why we do things. It’s cold our there.

Now, onto the main crux of this piece, what is a home anyway? I don’t want to get too ‘millennial’ about this, but a home can really be whatever you want it to be. And anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you their own will, or their own past mistake. The preconceived notion of what a home is largely sculpted by accepting the idea of a home given to you by society. Sounds like a dumb statement, because this is how our understanding of basically anything grows. Except, within modernity, you’re living within an anomaly of existence to the notion of a home that’s given to you wont exactly fit in with your immediate reality.

The general idea of a home/house that’s given to those looking to buy/acquire one is of a 2-4 bedroom house with a garden, all the amenities and possibly the potential for extension if needed. It’s the absolute ideal of what a lovely Western (Simpson-esque) home should be. Before I get into why this idea in general is complete rubbish, let me tell you some things about contemporary home-ownership, the multiple elephants in the room which every estate agent and nagging authority figure wont tell you about. (UK stats)

“In 1995–96, 65% of those aged 25–34 with incomes in the middle 20% for their age owned their own home. Twenty years later, that figure was just 27%.”

“Mean house prices were 152% higher in 2015–16 than in 1995–96 after adjusting for inflation. By contrast, the real net family incomes of those aged 25–34 grew by only 22% over the same twenty years. As a result, the average (median) ratio between the average house price in the region where a young adult lives and their annual net family income doubled from 4 to 8, with all of the increase occurring by 2007–08”

“Over the last two decades, there has been a 46% increase in the number of young people aged 20-34 living with their parents. Over the same period, average house prices have tripled from about £97,000 to £288,000.”

In 1997 the average house cost £64604. Twenty years later the average house now costs £223807. Houses now cost 3.5 times what they did back then.

CPI inflation over that period is only 1.48 times.

Wage growth is only 1.8 times.

I can hear you, don’t worry. “Stop, stop! Please make it stop!” Sorry to say, it’s not stopping anytime soon, it’s something you’ll just have to get used to. Now, this ‘getting used to part’ is really what this series – on a practical level – is about. The desires, material fetishes and consumption habits of the 1960s-2008 are considered the norm. They’re not, they are absolutely NOT normal. They are an anomaly of history. If you buy into them you will cripple yourself! Now I’ve said that, let me explain what it is I actually mean. As you can see from the statistics, none of this really adds up. In short, you used to be able to buy X with Y, and Y would equate to enough to buy X and live relatively comfortably (anyone telling you otherwise doesn’t understand the difference between inflation and purchasing power). Nowadays, we still believe that we should all be able to buy X (a lovely 3 bed house) and that our Y (wages) are still up to scratch. They’re not. It’s over. 2008 came along and gave us all a harsh reality check, one which pretty everyone seems to have not admitted to. I mean, when you start seeing every other bank, building society and monetary institution handing out grants, loans and ISAs to every young schmuck that comes along, you should be smart enough to see that something’s up. Nothing is free in modernity, you either pay with money, data or time, and guess what, all these loans people are signing up for is just more time they wont get to use as they want to, all because they fell for some dated desire of oh-so-mighty home-ownership.

Perhaps dated is the wrong word, because my qualms about home-ownership aren’t about what people want to buy, but why they want to buy it. It’s one of those cases once again where people seemed to want something, or want to do something, just because everyone else is doing it (abstractly called ‘mimesis’). There are of course varying reasons as to why people would want – or even need – a 2-4 bedroom house: kids, hobbies, pets, relatives etc. However, rarely anyone ever asks themselves (though more people are increasingly starting to do so) whether or not they really need or even want their supposedly self-desired home. What compelled them to want the suburban dream? What compelled them to want a 2-3 bedroom house that needs lots of upkeep and takes away a large portion of one’s time? What ever compelled them to buy into the Western suburbanite aesthetic of pseudo-virtue via owning meaningless, trite nic-nacs? I can’t imagine there was ever some compelling argument to this. When I was younger I distinctly remember having an almost nauseous reaction to ‘homes’ which were full of random useless shit and didn’t seemed to be lived in (a reaction I still get). This is one of the major symptoms of contemporary home ownership, the idea of a home as an extension of yourself. Well, now I come to think of it, perhaps it’s apt then that most modern homes are Ikea-esque multi-builds with no character, no daring and no originality. The reason I feel averse to this way of living is that it always seemed people spent more time tweaking their home than actually living in it. As if one’s favourite hobby was Chess but they spent so much time cleaning the board they never got around to actually playing, and in fact, it’s suspect as to whether or not they actually played chess in the first place. In a world where the majority of people spent as much time at work as they do at home, and then go out on the weekends, why it assumed to be normal to spend the majority if your money on something you don’t really use? Most of the rooms in your average home rarely get used anyway, most time is split between the kitchen, living room and bedroom, with anything else becoming a ornament which you’re paying for over time.

People will often ask at this point “Well, what are the other options? I don’t really want to rent because you’re just wasting money.” Before I get to the other options, I want to address the ‘rent is wasted money’ argument. This argument is based off the prior assumption that I’ve been writing about, that one should – if one can – get a mortgage and purchase a house outright. This is done then for 2 reasons. Firstly, because ‘It’s what you do.’ (as they say) and secondly, because it makes more financial sense. If you’re making your decision in relation to the second decision, you’re already making a few mistakes. Renting seems like a waste because you wont own anything at the end of it, this is true. But, what if you don’t want to own anything? What if you can’t afford the maintenance costs? What if you don’t want to put your time into maintaining a house? What if you have better things to be doing? What if you just want shelter and aren’t too bothered about ownership? What if you don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of unforeseen bills such as various taxes, duties and leasehold fees? When you rent, you aren’t wasting your money, because you get what you pay for. You also get the (potential) freedom to move around far quicker than you’d be able to if you owned a property. It’s all down to personal priorities, and most people have assumed the priorities of the banks and the financial system. ‘Do what’s most financially safe!’ they say, a statement which brings me back to my earlier point about the dumb idea that property is investment. Here’s my take on this: Unless there’s water on the land, the property is not an investment, it’s a punt. People ‘get into’ property because it’s supposedly this ‘safe bet’ with respect to gaining money, 2008 has of course shown this to be untrue. Guess what perpetual peace, perpetual energy, perpetual growth and perpetual progress have in common? They all believe in the idea that something can get better, bigger and greater forever. This is socially, physically and cosmically impossible. If all your housing investments gave you a greater return you happened to invest during a historical anomaly (boomer generation).

Back to the first point, ‘Well, what are the other options?’. The other options are the ones you actually think about, the ones you decide are your own, the ones you create for yourself. People will often turn their nose up at these other options, but that’s only because they believe in a pre-conditioned and presumed notion of what a house should be. Renting, tiny houses, building a house, a condo, van-dwelling, exiting to a more affordable country, rent-as-work (farmhand), living on a boat and digital nomadism are just a few options. I’m sure whilst reading those many of you thought ‘Those don’t seem all that nice.’, once again you’re attending to these ideas from a preconceived notion of what you’re life should be like, you’re trapped in the desire of the other. You believe you should live a certain way out of fear of societal rejection or alienation, you believe you should live this way out of no real conviction but because of an abstract pressure to impress others. Shelter doesn’t have to mean a kitsch suburban 4-bed with boring neighbors and thousands of useless trinkets strewn about the place. Shelter can mean whatever you want it to mean.

Perhaps you don’t really stay in your house much anyway and prefer to travel, what would be wrong with living on a boat? Perhaps you’ve actually never really been fussed about owning a house, because you want to spend your free time doing your hobbies as opposed to repairing a property, well maybe renting is for you? Maybe your job affords you the luxury of working from anywhere (programming), why not travel around affordable countries whilst working from a laptop? Perhaps you just want your house to a base of operation but aren’t too fussed about aesthetics, look into tiny houses? Perhaps you have very few ties in your home country and could live cheaper elsewhere, well, what’s holding you back? The point however, isn’t towards some drastic physical move, but towards a drastic mental move, one in which your very perspective of what is considered a ‘shelter’ or ‘home’ is changed and you no longer abide by the unconscious stress and pressure of ‘becoming a home-owner’.

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The Modernity Mindset – Part 2: Schooling

I’ve written about education and what it is ‘to learn’ a lot lately, I believe – like many others – that what happens to you, or is forced upon you, in your early days is largely the lens through which you’re going to view the rest of your life. It seems like a very bleak state of affairs for mankind, that once something is taught, consciously or unconsciously, from a young age, there’s no going back. There are genetic and heritable factors of course, but it seems to me that the apparatus I’ll be talking about is primarily placed on top of these. That is, the educational apparatus seeks to root-out any anomaly which doesn’t neatly fit into its system of control. Once again, as I like to make clear, I’m not writing of anything new here, and it seems that no one ever really can write anything new, everything happens again and again, over and over, cyclically throughout time.

When you’re young, once you begin to meet your friend’s parents everything begins to fall into place. The alternative kid has ex-hippie parents, the straight-A student has conservative parents etc. Life isn’t all that full of surprises when it comes to things like this, and I’m not sure entire fields of scientists are needed to prove that this is the reality we live in. If you can’t literally notice that most traits are being inherited, I’m not really sure where you’re looking. However, those things are unavoidable and so utterly personal that very little outside of personal work will ever help you with them.

This piece is called ‘schooling’ because in its definition schooling is far different to education. When we think of education, nowadays we think of getting an education. Learning various lessons which culminate in an understanding of the subject to the point where one can either teach it or utilize it. To get an education as an engineer is to be eventually be able effectively engineer things so that they work and don’t break. To get an education in woodwork is to be able to create doors and windows etc.  To get an education in philosophy is to eventually be able to teach philosophy or…become a podcaster. Anyway, the point is, as Ivan Illich immediately points out in Deschooling Society, that education systems have made process and substance synonymous. The process of learning (schooling) has culturally become to be understood as the knowledge gained from learning itself. As if, just because someone goes to school or gets schooled that would make them smart/learned, I think we can all agree this isn’t the case, in fact, the very opposite is true.

The problem is of course that schooling contains so much other baggage that isn’t related to knowledge it’s actually difficult to find where the actual knowledge resides. Most non-specific office-monkey jobs could be understood in an hour or so and refined just by doing the job. Most education that happens both inside and outside of traditional ‘schools’ is primarily to make that workplace look serious. No company wants to admit that anyone can do their job, a long process of ‘learning’ is an illusory form of legitimization and makes anywhere that does it look serious, at least by a social standards. The same applies to various credentials companies and schools acquire, we have X, Y and Z award for outstanding achievement in A, B or C. Usually all these awards amount to is the company or school getting a high percentage of ‘high grades’ within a certain year, basically a massive bureaucratic circle-jerk. A school/company abides by the socially created system of credentials, they attain high marks within that system and by doing so get a further credential, and on and on it goes. I’d like to note, that I’m not entirely against some form of ‘credential’ for say a medical doctor (MD) or surgeon etc. But when you actually look at the system of credentials for an MD, it differs from the usual one. MDs can’t achieve firsts, seconds or thirds etc. They either get honours or no honours, and when you look at this for a couple of seconds, you realise a distinct way you can begin to see actual knowledge. When there’s trust involved. MDs can’t get a wide array of worse-better credentials because no one wants to go see a ‘bad’ MD, you’re either capable of being an MD or you’re not. That’s a minor digression, but it’s important to make clear that the age-old reality of why knowledge is deemed important still stands. Is this person ‘knowledgeable’ is another way of saying ‘Can I trust this person within area/genre X?’ Credentials sought to replace this notion of trust with a system of marking, if person A had grade Y then they can be trusted, it’s proof that they have enough knowledge to do what’s needed of them without too much hand-holding.

Schooling overstepped its bounds and now it’s arguably not until after all traditional forms of education are finished that you begin to learn something of practical use. The irony is of course is that most practical jobs are reverting – whether consciously or not – back to a system of practice over courses – How long have you actually been doing this? As opposed to, how long have you been studying this? – Within this is the root of the contemporary schooling problem, why is this reversion taking place? Well, it’s because employers, tradesmen, programmers, institutions (which are serious about themselves) all understand that schooling doesn’t teach the subject itself, it only uses the teaching of the subject to impart its own beliefs, etiquettes and aims. If you ask the average person (in the West) what they learnt from school they would probably draw a blank. Nothing clear comes to mind, there was some stuff about simultaneous equations, and point-evidence-explain, I vaguely remember something about mitochondria, but the problem was that there was no use for this information. One’s education from the years of 5-16 is the equivalent of an 11 year general knowledge course, one which is so lacking in coherence that you never really find your feet.

The question then is, well what the hell was school teaching me? How was I being schooled? It’s something I’ve mentioned in interviews before and written of on occasion, but when you really think about what school taught you, what school taught you is bad and what is good, what was an ok way to be…things start to look quite bleak. The example I tend to give is ‘sitting’. That’s right, school taught you that it’s good to sit and listen. But not just sit and listen, but sit for 6 hours at a young age under horrendous fluorescent lighting, within beige walls, and listen to someone usually uninspiring drone on and on about something that has – and will never have – any effect on your life. School utilizes the grand idea that you’re being taught knowledge to enforce a form of social etiquette on you from a young age. You’re taught that when someone with lots of credentials stands in front of you and gives a speech, you sit, listen and don’t make a sound until explicitly asked to. Doesn’t exactly sound like the non-prison we were told school was. Lunchtime is at…lunchtime, that is when you’re hungry and that is when you have to eat. You’re taught that proof of knowledge is in relation to grades and not practical application, you’re taught to keep in-line, form a presentation of yourself contrary to your actual self, repress all vitalist desires to run around, build and create etc.

But the most heinous lesson – and arguably one which may now actually be true – you’re taught is that the only way to achieve anything in life is via some third-party system. Don’t go it alone, you need a support structure, you need backing, you need an institution, company or grant, you need to implement yourself within a system of credentials, otherwise how will anyone ever know that you’re serious, that you really know your stuff? Well the answer to that is easy, someone who knows what they’re on about can prove it by creating something that people want/need and that works very well. The reason this lesson might now actually be true is because society in general has made it extremely difficult to get taken seriously within any field off experience alone, even if you were to show a working-model X to a company that needs working-model X, I’d imagine they’d still be hesitant to take you on-board, because without credentials, well, why would anyone take you seriously? Found within this reluctance to take someone on who doesn’t have the credentials is the implicit aims of schooling. Companies and institutions etc. aren’t reluctant to take on someone without credentials because they think their work won’t be good, no. They’re reluctant to do so because inherent within credentials is the proof that you’ve been pushed through the system and come out the other side, you must have obeyed and accepted a lot to get here, which means you’ll do it again. The higher the credential, the higher the sunk cost, the higher the complacency. When you hire someone who is jam packed with awards and grades etc. you’re not just (potentially) hiring someone knowledgeable, but more importantly, you’re hiring someone who is ready and willing to be moulded.

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The Modernity Mindset – Part 1: The Problem of Definitions

I use the word ‘modernity’ a lot, anyone who’s listened to me for even a short while will know this. I’m self-aware enough to know that I use in a fairly loose and often callous way, taking it as a signifier for everything I don’t really like about the way things are. I would argue, as quite a few have (such as Greer, Zerzan, Orlov, Yarvin) from their respective standpoints, that we all, deep-down, understand that this really isn’t even close to a good way of being. Something feels off at the very kernel of our being, as if we’ve moved away from a mode of being which is holistically healthy towards a means of being which is productively unhealthy. Of course, I dislike subsuming the idea of health into the realm of the universal as it ends up doing far more harm than good (as Foucault made clear). So, what I’d like to try do is outlined many of the problems modernity ‘creates’ or ‘births’ and tackle what exactly it is that’s wrong with them and how they’ve altered our perception of the world. One of the most important underlying arguments here is that I don’t think you can detach the way in which you perceive the socius, with the way in which you actually are. Both influence each other, meaning that if one submits to a phenomenal or sociological system of control, they are, by proxy, ontologically submitting themselves to a far graver fate with respect to their very being.

In true continental fashion, this first part is titled ‘The Problem of Definitions’. Now, for those of you that don’t know, this is arguably what makes ‘continental philosophy’ stand out. It refused (well, Kant refused) to begin from definitions. Descartes states ‘I think therefore I am’, and Hume states that one can be skeptical, Kant points out that both these thinkers are beginning their investigations of the world from a standpoint which is of the world, one that’s already been formed. If you begin from a definition, you’re already entering a confused and constrained argument. This is why Kant’s ‘Copernican revolution’ is so important, because he begins from the very conditions of experience as opposed to the experience itself.

Am I going to try and outline all the conditions of modernity in this essay? No, I think they’ll arise organically within the following parts, making them far easier to follow, because we can actually assess where and when we take our drastic turns of being. To be cantankerous however, I’m actually going to note the definition, see where that takes us, and then work backwards and see what we find…

Modernity: the quality or condition of being modern. – “an aura of technological modernity”

As you can see, this definition is extremely unhelpful. I would once again refer back to my Free Floating Power essay and note that signification of this sentence is reliant on what we collectively understand as being ‘modern’, and within this definition is where I come unstuck. If you research what it is to be ‘modern’, or what it is to historically be within the ‘modern’ period, the breadth of historical, cultural and sociological experience is so far reaching that the term ‘modern’ becomes largely meaningless. Some would state that modernity roughly begins in the 1500s and runs through to the present day, others might say the same but argue that modernity is split into noticeably different eras (Early: 1500-1789, Classical 1789-1900 and Late 1900-1989) and some would argue that modernity is a virtual offshoot of the Enlightenment which influences our current behavior. Whatever way I define modernity will never really cut it, because each definition has its own personal take on what modernity is, inclusive of its own personal conclusions. If you’re wondering where I historically think modernity began, I believe somewhere in the 1600s, when the Roman Numeral for 0 became commonly used in Europe (I may get to this much later).

We can already see however that attempting to articulate modernity from these preconceived definitions wont really lead us anywhere, what lead to and what’s underlying what we now consider to be modernity is such a cluttered assemblage of parts that vectoring from the definition alone ignores the fuel for modernity’s fire. This is why I believe that targeting specific controlling facets of modernity (as we contemporarily experience it) and working backwards to their root, stripping and cutting away what baggage we can in the process, will lead to a far more rewarding definition.

If, at current, I was to take a shot at defining modernity I would argue that it’s a gargantuan socio-cultural psychological operation which has no original helmsman (no one conceived it, it grew organically), an operation which is reliant on an understanding of socio-economic & techonomic production which equates cultural and familial virtue with productive capacity and output; the symptoms of such a state of being include, but are not limited to: Understanding happiness, contentment and fulfilment in relation to production, reducing familial and interpersonal relationships to metrics of status and social-value, adhering to controlled and suffocating conceptualizations of structure, food, survival, worth and education, perpetual and compounding self-policing in relation to the latest trend, immanentization of the self into a hypocritical and fragmented system of market-value, the reduction of authenticity and phenomena to trinkets, brands and objects, the compression of spirituality, religion and belief into an aesthetic of socio-cultural proof, a predominantly techonomic perspective of nature, terminal hostility towards death and suffering, the outsourcing of subjective health/mental concerns/problems onto striated institutions and bodies via a credentialist mentality and finally, a subsumption of one’s very being into the framework of production, status, popularity, market-value, libidino-value and normality.

These are some of the symptoms I seek to look into and work backwards from as a means to investigate what it is I consider to be ‘modernity’.

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On Solitude


I’ve recently been reading David Vincent’s A History of Solitude, which is a must read for any budding young hermits out there, you need to know who paved the way for you to be able to do what you do. Now, you might be thinking ‘Wait, isn’t solitude a personal decision which isn’t really tied to what others think?’ This is partly true, but there are some complexities here with respect to how we understand solitude and the way in which we perceive it.

One of the things Vincent makes clear is that historically solitude has been generally frowned upon, it was seen not so much as a noble pursuit of quiet and contemplation, but an activity of self-ostracization and unsociability. There are a few reasons for this, but the Enlightenment really put the final nail in the coffin with regard to our relationship with solitude. One of the covert components of Enlightenment thought is sociability and the idea that reason, logic and democracy happen through conversation, which they do, but when you don’t want to enter into those things altogether, the dominant system shivers you out like a bad fever, something that shouldn’t be. Modern society simply does not understand why you wouldn’t want to be a part of it.

This isn’t actually an overtly anti-modernity essay (but it is me writing it, so take that with a pinch of salt). One of the things that thinkers such Yarvin, Junger and Greer make clear is that just because you’re no longer red, doesn’t mean you have to become blue, or are blue simply because of your existence as someone not-red. In the very same way, just because I’m anti-modernity doesn’t mean I’m pro some random form of anarchism or primitivism, the point is – I believe – with solitude, that one doesn’t enter into that whole spectrum of existence. Where one’s very life and vitality is measured against various external machines and metrics. The crossover between modernity and solitude however is one of scorn. The modus operandi of modernity is control, and the idea that someone would be fine solely with their own thoughts is abhorrent to it. It’s very difficult to control someone who entirely content with their own company because you have nothing to offer them, and the substance of control is found within desired object. The thing, idea or habit which is taken on because one believes it good and then altered in relation to profit, constraint or production.

So one is in control of whether or not they go find solitude, but from the beginning one isn’t completely in control of how they understand solitude. There is a guilt created from taking time out and being consciously alone, one is often made to feel as if they owe society something, as if they should be pleasing X or Y, or the classic excuse, they feel like they’re being unproductive. Production is the enemy of solitude, at least production in the sense of partaking in some action of modernity’s construction. Modernity has subsumed the very idea of productivity into its own feedback loop of control; entertainment, binge-eating, social outings and various other consumerist exercises are given to us under the name of productivity and thus legitimized in their enaction, we no longer feel bad for doing them as we would say, laying around doing nothing, or reading quietly by a river.

I’m not saying these things are bad in-themselves, only that the way in which we understand them as either bad or good is given to us by a third-party, and so once again we hand over our responsibility and personal interest to an abstract ideal. We no longer admit or accept what actually interests us, because that may be too weird, strange or asocial for the atmosphere we’re within. No, we rely on an external apparatus of social justification to prove that our most internal interests are in fact ok to have.

Solitude is not an act of rebellion of unsociability, nor is it unproductive. And you most definitely should not feel guilty for wanting to find solitude or be alone. Solitude (in-part) is the complete denial of the idea that one needs social proof or vindication for the actions they undertake. That one is entirely ok with themselves, to the extent that they are actually rather happy to spend time with their own company.

Perhaps this is another piece about how modernity controls you, but once again there’s a minor difference. This form of control is about one’s understanding of what is accepted of them and the conditions of that acceptance. There is an inherited guilt within all of us with regard to not being social. Not being anti-social, but simply not engaging in the generally accepted notion that solitude is somehow alien, strange or bad. Just because one removes themselves from society it doesn’t mean they’re anti-social, and that they’d rather not engage in that whole structure of presumed accepted ideas.

What Did School Teach You Part 2: The Return of the Autodidact

In the last post about what school taught us, I used the argument put forth in Ivan Illich’s text Deschooling Society, to make some various claims. Once again, Illich’s overarching point was that contemporary modes of Western education conflate process with substance, or, this make the processes and credentialism of teaching synonymous with the actual knowledge that should be learned. Someone with a degree is viewed as someone who should understand that subject matter to a certain level, but rarely is this the case. What actually happens within degrees and school systems is a catastrophic feedback loop, which looks like this:

1. A system of credentialism or grading is introduced, people can achieve higher or lower grades respectively on a hierarchy of understanding

2. The higher grades are achieved by those who supposedly have a greater understanding of the subject, and the lower grades by those who supposedly have a lesser understanding of the subject

3. The teacher’s modus operandi like most people working a non-passion job within a capitalist system is simply to keep it. The teachers understand that the greater the number of pupils who achieve a higher mark, the greater the reflection on their performance and ability as a teacher

4. The curriculum then becomes attuned not to a general mode of understanding regarding the subject, but to a constrained outlook relating to ‘What will be on the exam’

5. Students no longer study to actually study…for knowledge, but to get higher grades on an exam

6. Younger students begin to internalize this system and worry not about whether they understand a subject, but whether or not they’ll ‘get a good grade’ (and the system/loop begins its revolution)

This is a form of indoctrination. We can’t blame the teachers, most of whom got into the job for earnest and sincere reasons, and we can’t blame the students because they have no say in what goes on. Once again, who’s to blame is large abstract body of committee members, council workers and bureaucratic brown noses whose entire purpose is to create systems of social, cultural and intellectual vindication. Closed systems which create proofs that something is working, and when that system doesn’t work, they just move the goalposts…I mean, no one wants to lose their job, do they?

What’s the conclusion of this loop? Students and teachers end up learning very little. Teachers remain within the confines of ‘whatever will be on the exam’ and students remain in the same confines due to that being their only route to a future. But I bring good news, this is changing. Many of you may have seen that Harvard – the great helmsman Western education – has just announced that all its courses for 2020-2021 will be taught online, but the tuition fees for undergraduates will remain the same, precisely $49,653.

Unfortunately for Harvard most of their new undergraduates will be ‘extremely online’ people, who are all very knowledgeable with what can be acquired via Google. And what can be acquired? All manner of courses, across all subjects, for very low fees, if not entirely free. And these courses aren’t low quality either, they’re often created by working professionals to teach knowledge and know-how which will actually be used in the workplace one plans to go into.

Perhaps it’s my own personal bias, but I’m willing to make a prediction here. We can mark this decision by Harvard as the beginning of the end of traditional modes of schooling/learning. Harvard’s decision plus the recent increase and intrigue in online courses for the sake of learning, will strike a firm blow to the behemoth that is credentialism. As someone who is working within the online philososphere, I can tell you first hand that more and more potential undergraduates are opting for affordable online courses, largely because their primary reason for study isn’t a job, but it’s actually (shock horror) because they want to learn, they actually enjoy the subject. They would rather work with someone who’s teaching out of passion for the subject, than be sacrificed to the great system of credentialism.

The autodidact’s making a comeback, the experiences of 10-30 years of disgruntled undergraduates (combined with increasing debt) is finally making its way to the younger generation, and due to their existence, which is now primarily online, they can finally escape the indoctrination of their schools. Schools will of course tell you that you should go to university, you should continue your studies. Why do they tell you this? Because by-and-large a higher number of university placements looks better on the school’s and the teacher’s record. But now the left-behind grads are coming back to haunt them, making it clear that it might not be worth its (lifelong) purchase. And perhaps, if you really enjoy a subject and want to learn it, you should just go…learn it.

It’s one of the most tyrannous crimes of modernity, the idea that a credential is proof of understanding. The idea that to trust someone to do anything – even on their own – they need some form of certification or bureaucratic proof. No one is allowed to do anything anymore; it first has to proven that they could or can do it. The knock-on effect of this of course is that before doing anything you get indoctrinated into ways of doing it that you might not enjoy, or might not work for you, or are often completely wrong. When people state they’ve done something a little out of the ordinary, say, built a wooden planter, put up some guttering or fixed their washing machine, you’ll often hear the same old responses “Oh wow, you sure you know what you’re doing?” or “Where did you learn to do that?’

Become the person who learnt to do it themselves, get out of the mindset that you need a bureaucratic proof to learn, enjoy or partake. We used to tame the frontiers, and now we need a license to go fishing and permits to grow vegetables. It’s pathetic, and I beg you not to become part of it. Repair things that break, try with the knowledge of failure, believe that you can figure stuff out without a third party, tinker with life and all its parts and most importantly, be a sovereign individual, tend to your own actions!

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Who’s Walking Who?

 When I was a young lad I used to visit my Great Uncle a lot, and anyone who’s been following my work for a while knows that he is my greatest inspiration. I think this is in part because he had a direct connection to seemingly ‘distant’ history and often used to tell stories of the city of Norwich being on fire during WW2, and other memories relating to pulling dead pilots out of trees near his home. I’m sure these early encounters with both the brutality and nonchalance of history have influenced my writing, in fact, I’m certain of it. Anyway, one of my most vivid memories is – lucky for me – the moment I learnt one of the most important lessons I’ll ever learn.

Me and my Great Uncle were driving down some rural country lanes to a small pigeon shooting spot he liked to check when he was bored and the weather was nice. The day was bright, quintessentially English, I believe it was spring time and early in the morning. We got to a junction and were about to turn right, but before we did, we had to wait for someone walking their dog. Now, what are often common sights can become lifetime lessons when seen through the eyes of someone wise, this is largely what Michel Serres’ work is.

The woman who was walking her dog wasn’t exactly walking her dog, as much as she was being dragged by it. When one thinks of people who are walking their pets this is actually an extremely common sight. The dog on its leash/lead being ‘walked’ by its owner, but when one looks closer, the leash is so tense that the owner is actually being pulled by the dog, the leash is only there to give the illusion of control. My Uncle, probably spotting a great moment to teach a moral lesson, held on the brakes before taking the turn. Watching as the woman was dragged at an uncomfortable pace by her dog past the front of the car, my Uncle turned to me and said ‘My boy, who’s walking who?’

Little did I know this would be the greatest lesson in power I would ever learn. In an instant my Uncle had taught me everything about power they don’t want you to know, that is, power is exactly where you can sense it, whether or not various institutions, structures or systems say otherwise. The great illusion here is that just because the dog was kept on a leash and the owner had ahold of the leash that the dog was under control, except, this isn’t true at all. But in reality, due to the creation of a structure of power which is entwined with various social entities it seems both easy and difficult to see exactly where the power lies.

The large majority of people would of course say that the owner (or person holding the leash) is the person who holds the power, for the mere fact that they hold the leash. In much the same manner, many would say it is the government which holds the power because they hold the societal leash via taxes etc. Some would say it was the leash itself which holds power, the structure which allows power to operate is power itself, the normalcy of the leash is power. A rare few would notice that the dog actually holds a fair bit of power because he is able to pull the leash and thus the owner via the strength of his will, however, dogs of a certain age rarely learn that if they keep pulling the leash that they will end up with either a shorter leash or simply be banned from going on walks altogether.

So there’s quite a few little oddities of information held in this one example. Firstly, the dog does in fact hold the power. He is able to control both the leash and thus the owner via exertion of his will, but he doesn’t think of the consequences with respect to what the owner might do due to such frustrations, he only thinks of the immediate goals he’d like to attain. In much the same way, one can currently say that within our contemporary form of pseudo-democratic government the people hold a certain amount of power, but it is constrained by the leash, there is a limit to their power and the owner is always in control of this limit. Shifts of the democratic herd towards X, Y or Z seem – from their perspective – to have accomplished something, but they never contemplate whether or not they’re still on the leash altogether, which of course they are. It’s the illusion of freedom within the same constraints. When we see people who exert their will over the government and cause it to bend or (in-part) break, it should be clear that it is they who – momentarily – hold the actual power, but they have changed nothing, and are simply exhausting themselves by pushing against the leash.

I think if any of my essays ever get misconstrued as defeatist, this will definitely be the one, but I’m hoping I can argue my corner. What happens to those faithful mutts who understand the system? Who understand that haphazardly putting their energies solely in direction of their own will only causes greater harm in the long-run? Dare I say, what happens to those loyal mutts who inherently understand limitation, etiquette and order? They get let off the leash, they get trusted. Am I saying sit back, do nothing and don’t exert your opinion? Absolutely not. Am I saying that more often than not multiple forms of energy exertion are performed within a closed loop which has illusory ends? Yes.

It sucks, you’re in a system which you’re not keen on. That no one is keen on, at least in its current form. So, what are your options? Tug on the leash and exhaust all your energy within the confines of disobedience, a place where one is always watched and suppressed…this sounds utterly useless. Or, accept certain limitations of life, accept the cyclicity of history and try to remove yourself from it. Practice understanding the grey-ness of history and truth, head towards a clarity of thought which is not tainted by various shades of blue and red. If you begin from a position of personal sovereignty which is created with an understanding of immediate governmental limitation, then your direction can only be one of personal self-improvement. From this position one can – internally – be let off the leash and head towards a position of sincerity and discipline. An understanding that you are your own person, and that your energies will not be targeted at deconstruction or demolition, not for lack of vitality, but for lack of care regarding that system, it is what it is, but it doesn’t have to infect you. And so you become the mutt without the leash, trusted to wander here and there, exploring and relaxing, being intrigued by what fascinates you and unconcerned with what doesn’t.

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Be the Reaction You Want to See in the World

In 2004 a book called The Secret was published, written by new age spiritualist Rhonda Byrne. The book is one in a long line of New Age spiritual self-help books, this book however – like many others – makes one critical error. Instead of abiding by the generally accepted principle ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ (Gandhi) – which has been the basis of various spiritual traditions for millennia – The Secret alters this phrase into ‘You change the world’. New Age spirituality ignorantly takes critique to a whole other level, in that one believes they are quite literally changing the world to their own vision of it. Now, the former quote from Gandhi is actually related to such change, but it’s doing so from an understanding between the real and the ideal. What Byrne’s book does is make the user believe they can actually immanentize their subjective ideal into reality itself, what the tried-and-tested ‘Be the change’ formula does is work with the real.

What reactionary thought does – as clearly outlined in James Burnham’s The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom – is address the real. Using known, tried and tested systems, structures and traditions to make a judgment regarding what we should do. Am I saying steadfast traditionalist reactionaries can learn something from New Age spirituality, why yes, I am. What reactionaries are reacting against is the ideal, and what they’re trying to work with – as I’ve stated – is the real. Progressive political systems are inherently ideal, in that they can never arrive in their definitive form, and do so with some manner of mutation, or with some form of parasitic infection. The political ideal can never become because it’s tied to a disordered and chaotic subjective consciousness, whereas the real of reactionary thought is tethered to hell-baked truths of existence.

Many of you will have listened to my recent interview with Curtis Yarvin (Mencius Moldbug), and if you haven’t, get on it. Yarvin’s overarching point with regard to those who are sick and tired of the current regime is this: Any reaction that plays by the rules of the current regime bolsters the current regime. Reaction has become zero-sum, all energy and spirit targeted at progressivism is subsumed into progressivism. Progress is the great vampire, one which can alter any objections into its own lifeforce. So what does Yarvin state we should do? We should ‘detach’:

“Engagement is any voluntary relationship with power—to assist or resist power, whether in action or just desire. If you are trying to change the world—even if you just want to change it—maybe even if you just want it to change—you are engaged.

The opposite of engagement is detachment. To be detached is to be consciously irrelevant—to inhabit the world as it is, to know that it is likely to continue on its current path, and to separate yourself from any action or desire to change it. No one can achieve perfect detachment—which is the point of trying.

Engagement is not compliance. Compliance is involuntary action. Engagement is voluntary action or desire for action. Compliance is paying your taxes. Engagement is putting a sign on your lawn. Detachment is weird; anything weird in your lifestyle will commend your attorneys to the most meticulous possible compliance.

Detachment is not dissidence. Detachment never resists. It does nothing against any person or institution, legal or illegal, violent or nonviolent. It does not even try to influence public policy or public opinion. It is never angry; it never cares; and it always obeys—both the formal laws, and the informal rules.

Detachment is a hard spiritual task in which no one can succeed perfectly. It is not a fact or even an idea. Detachment, like Zen, is a practice. And while serious Zen practice involves hours of painful sitting that can cause hemorrhoids and even nerve damage, how hard can it be to practice not giving a shit?” – Gray Mirror of the Nihilist Prince

Now, this theory of detachment is something I have been writing about years. Most notably here, here and here, but the underlying idea is within all my work. Sure, Yarvin is writing about detachment from quite a specific angle, but I’ve always been a critic of progressivism, and if modernity is anything, it’s a blood relative of progressivism.

So, what can us curmudgeons learn from the New Age movement? Well firstly we need to learn – as Burnham and Yarvin point out – to deal specifically with the real. Now, for those of you that are practicing some form of religion or magic, this doesn’t mean some sudden reversion to new atheism or materialism, because here’s the thing, the ‘real’ can be defined as that which works and that which enacts the intended effect on one’s consciousness, culture or state. Dion Fortune defines magic as “the art of causing changes to take place in consciousness in accordance with will.” – Any changes that are caused must be noted, cross-references and understood, anything else is empty ignorant wishes. But hey, there’s a lot of people whose heads are buried in the sand with regards to what is actually happening.

What I like about Yarvin’s piece is that he makes it clear that: “Detachment, like Zen, is a practice. And while serious Zen practice involves hours of painful sitting that can cause hemorrhoids and even nerve damage, how hard can it be to practice not giving a shit?” When we think back to that original quote by Gandhi ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ we can begin to realise, when juxtaposed with the Yarvin quote, that it adheres to a semantic bias. The entire idea of ‘change’ has succumbed to the vampirism of progressivism, and has been made synonymous with progress itself. When we hear someone is out there changing the world, we instantly think of someone going to Africa to build wells, or helping out at a soup kitchen. Of course, these aren’t bad things to do if you’re so inclined, however, the hegemonic usage of the word ‘change’ disallows other forms of change to ever become.

“How hard can it be to practice not giving a shit?” well Curtis, as you’ve probably found out, unless you define how people are perpetually, unconsciously giving a shit, not giving a shit is basically impossible. Once again, if you don’t even know you’re in a cage, why would you ever try to escape? By now I hope most of you know that you’re at least stuck within something, even if you’re having a hard time defining what exactly that ‘thing’ is. Anyway, back to detachment and how to practice it. I don’t want to distinctly follow on from Yarvin here, so I will just state, this is my own theorization of ‘detachment’.

What I read and understand detachment to be is something which is not active, but it’s also not apathetic, and it’s most definitely not neutral. But that isn’t to say it has to be overtly extrovert, activist or active in any way. So, what the hell is it then? It’s acceptance. When someone truly doesn’t give a shit, when someone’s frame hits its absolute peak, what have they actually done? They have accepted their opinions as their own, accepted the culture they find themselves within and primarily have accepted the real. What does this look like in practice? Well it looks like what it’s always looked like, not bowing to popularity, not acting out of desire for status, acting on principle, being honourable and not bending to the whim of various social, cultural and progressive parasites.

Here’s how it looks in real life:


“Hey man, you excited for that [popular] film everyone is on about?”

“Not really.”


“So, are you red or blue?”

“Neither, I believe democracy is an inherently stupid idea.”


“How about those protests, hey?”

“I wasn’t really paying attention; I have a family to look after and things to build and create. I think most people involving themselves in such things are simply bored and are looking for something to do, they don’t actually believe in whatever it is they’re supporting that week.”


Note, in these 3 examples the reply shouldn’t be said in any overt reactionary manner, as if you’re making some sort of ‘statement’ or outlining some dumb manifesto, one’s reactions and replies should be both honest and sincere. Nothing more is needed. When others realise, they are allowed to disagree, they will begin to understand that there is a system which is controlling them and is covertly creating psychological restraints which unconsciously disallow certain opinions.

Detachment and ‘not giving a shit’ aren’t about checking out altogether. It’s detaching oneself from that which one has been covertly programmed to become attached to (the idea of progress) and likewise, to not give a shit about that which one has been programmed to give a shit about (popular media, activist movements, red vs blue politics, political status games etc.) When I state that one should ‘Become the Reaction You Want to See in the World’ I am not stating that people should do anything, because doing something simply acts as fuel for the fire of progress.

Progress’ modus operandi is defining its process as the universal good and by proxy defining all which disagree with it as bad. By appealing to man’s inherently virtuous nature as someone or some people who wish to appear good as to receive status and popularity, progress gains its support by appeals to vanity and narcissism. So, what one should do, is not do anything which progress can use, simply adhere to strict personal principles and disciplines, and state with conviction, honesty and sincerity that which they truly believe and that which they truly disagree with. You are allowed to disagree with entire systems.

Sit back and become the reaction you want to see in the world. Everyone is getting so caught up in the myth of progress that it’s made them believe they have to react to it in some form, that any disagreement with its method of operation is some grand act in itself, it isn’t. My friend, you are allowed to disagree with anything and everything, and you should. Accept your own opinions, and do not let the parasites of false virtue invade your mind.

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What Did School Teach You?

I finally got around to reading some Ivan Illich, specifically his text Deschooling Society. Now, it’s a book I almost entirely agree with, I mean, it’s really not that difficult to agree with it unless your brain has been well and truly fried by progressivism. Illich both criticizes the modern Western mode of schooling, whilst putting forth some form of a replacement. The point where I have some disagreements with Illich is with the replacement, but I won’t get into that here, because they’re still half-baked ideas. What I will dig into however is some of the blind spots in Illich’s work, which it seems to me he would have left out either due to slight cultural/material differences or he would have considered them so obvious as to not bother writing them down at all.

The overarching argument of Illich’s book is that schools have confused process and substance. That is to say that the education system has confused the merit of working through the system with the actual understanding itself, or; the very fact that one has gone through/utilized/been seen to go through this system means they have acquired the knowledge the system supposedly set out to teach, which of course, is entirely incorrect. The system which does the teaching and the knowledge itself can never be made synonymous, it’s an error of institutional vindication.

Illich makes it clear that this alteration of logic creates a whole system of assumptions which change the way one both learns and understands what learning is. If it is understood that a greater understanding is synonymous with a greater treatment and prolonging of one’s time within the educational system, then it comes to be collectively understood that those who have remained within education and the academy the longest are the most learned; escalation of one’s educational treatment equates to a greater knowing. Of course, when put like this, it begins to become clear that this might not be all that true.

Illich continues this logic and states that “The pupil is thereby ‘schooled’ to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.” These are of course many of the requirements of schooling, especially the idea that saying something new is the equivalent of being knowledgeable. The entire point of a PhD is to extend the knowledge of a particular field of research, usually this entails stretching the field so thin that one exists within a space which is an inch wide and 40 miles deep, a space which very quickly becomes useless and forgotten. It could be deemed a tragedy that so many thesis’ and papers are only read by their writers and their editors, it could be considered tragedy, but in reality, it isn’t, because the large majority of papers and journals are written not out of passion, or love of knowledge, but as proof of being educated, and proof of accreditation.

Here’s where Illich continues his critique in one direction – how do we save schooling? – and I continue it in another. Namely, what happens to our understanding of the world once the idea of schooling as synonymous with knowledge is deeply imbedded within us? Firstly, any and all forms of autodidactic and self-study are thrown away. Once you understand that you can only learn via a tutor or accredited system, you teach yourself that you have no right to teach yourself. Except, who was it who taught your tutor? And their tutor? Eventually, you go far enough back and you realize there has always been someone was simply interested in the study of knowledge for its own sake, and not for the sake of social proof or academic vindication. Secondly, self-study becomes increasingly suspicious. If we equate knowledge with accreditation, then why should be trust those who teach who do not have accreditation? Of course, this is really, really dumb. If 2 people follow the exact same course of study, but the only difference is one of those people ‘hand-in’ their work to an accredited body, what is the difference in knowledge? There isn’t any.

Once this general logic of knowledge, accreditation and education/schooling is understood, it disrupts your entire autonomy. As Illich makes clear “Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work.” What are all these things at a foundational level? They are knowledge and common sense lost within the abstraction of accreditation and bureaucratic ladders. No one questions if someone is being healed within a hospital because that what it’s for, no one questions whether police are protecting us because that’s what they’re for, no one questions whether or not our work is productive because that’s simply what you do etc. This is a material example of free-floating power, in which we once again hand over responsibility to a symbolic abstraction standing in for the substance of our needs. We need protection, health and knowledge etc. but it’s far easier to get these pre-made.

There are many ways in which Western education systems eradicate common sense and replace it with conformity, but immanentizing one’s understanding into the logic of accreditation and social/cultural vindication is the main one. Alongside this school also teaches you to put up with various absurdities one wouldn’t commit to outside of its institutions. Not being allowed to go to the bathroom for example, or sitting for hours upon hours within dingy, beige walls under fluorescent lighting is another. School is the test phase for adult life. Can you conform? No, well guess what, we have ways to make you. Practically all forms of education-based punishment mirror the form of societal aftereffect you’d receive if you behaved that way as an adult, the problem is the education system assumes all autodidactic study and action contrary to its system to be bad.

If you vandalize something you get a detention (jail sentence), if you hurt someone you get expelled (removed from society and imprisoned), these are relatively good examples of helping one understand that their actions within a society have consequences. But what about the more nuanced forms of covert-punishment/control which are deemed bad by the education system by their very reality as antagonistic to the system’s aims? You don’t want to work/study because it’s not something you’re interested in? Social isolation and alienation for you. Not a massively social person and prefer to be on your own? Too bad, time for you to work in a group. Prefer silence, quiet and a good book over extroverted displays of status? Sorry to say, that’s not allowed. Do you have a preference for the finer things in life and are generally creative? Well, sorry, life’s a bit rugged and that’s stupid anyway. Not into X, Y and Z even though they’re popular? Well, something must be wrong with you, weirdo!

The problem here isn’t with people having differing opinions, the problem is that the education system exacerbates notions of normalcy via its internal logic. An internal logic which states that everything popular is accredited, and everything accredited is correct and learned, and everything correct is, well…correct. So, you’re taught to understand from a very young age that your differing interests in life and the world, your preference for self-study and silence and your alternative perspective on life is incorrect because it isn’t accredited, is weird because it isn’t normal and is suspicious due to it being both weird and wrong. You are taught not that your passions and interests are different, but you’re entirely incorrect and incompatible for having them.

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Hungry for Nothing

“infants deprived of handling over a long period will tend at length to sink into an irreversible decline and are prone to succumb to eventually intercurrent disease. In effect, this means that what he calls emotional deprivation can have a fatal outcome. These observations give rise to the idea of stimulus-hunger, and indicate that the most favoured forms of stimuli are those provided by physical intimacy, a conclusion not hard to accept on the basis of everyday experience.

An allied phenomenon is seen in grown-ups subjected to sensory deprivation. Experimentally, such deprivation may call forth a transient psychosis, or at least give rise to temporary mental disturbances. In the past, social and sensory deprivation is noted to have had similar effects in individuals condemned to long periods of solitary imprisonment.” Eric Berne, Games People Play

I’ve been getting deep into game theory lately, my general understanding of cybernetic communication, Serres and Deleuze has led me to a subjective understanding that everything has a purpose at some level, which is a strange way of admitting that I’m interested in game theory. Now, admittedly, game theory does – to a certain degree – fall into the trap of taking itself as a privileged science/mode of theorization, one which believes it can answer every question within certain parameters without reliance on other sources. Though it does draw from biology and psychology, the overarching idea of ‘games’ themselves seem to be cut off from the reality they investigate. This isn’t where I’m going with this essay, but it does beg some thought.

This little piece is primarily on the notion of deprivation, social and sensory deprivation. It seems to me that the psychological effects of social and sensory removal from the social life of an infant are very much the same effects as when one takes away an adult’s toys, it’s just a question of complexity. What we’re witnessing, in the combination of an over-socialized, stimulated and sensed society with a globally imposed quarantine is an exercise in mass psychosis. It didn’t matter what the event was which finally allowed a societally justified ‘exit’ from the accepted quarantine, it only mattered that on a hierarchal scale, notions of social justice overrode the concept of public health and safety. Or in short, the enforced quarantine pushed us to a limit wherein we allowed our societal stimulus-hunger to take charge, overthrow our personal/subjective conception of x-risk, and place virtue-signalling prior to anything else.

These current events are not outside the spectacle, they are the spectacle. People did not exit quarantine as a means to eventually return to their preferred stimulus, they exited quarantine to partake in a stimulus which allowed them to pass off their idiocy as something moral. Partaking in these events is little more than watching TV, binging Netflix or getting black-out drunk for the sake of keeping one’s senses ticking over with just enough input to disregard the reality of their empty life.

So, why would one do this? Why would one enter into something which beneath its shell is just another repetition of all other events? Because modernity is the great narcissistic parent. It gives you a constant stream of stimuli and socialization, converts this into the idea of normality, makes this idea supreme, and then one needs only to turn on their homegrown guilt to be dragged back into this whirlpool of hypocrisy.

We are beginning to understand what would happen if we introduced a UBI. It’s been made clear from countless conversations that what one does for a living and what one is are becoming – or have become – entirely inseparable. Any divergence from the wake-work-entertainment-sleep loop is an entry for the latest form of existential crisis. Ultimately, an existential crisis is entirely reliant on what one considers their existence to be, and if you’re existence is largely empty entertainment, casual sex, social media and a 9-5 job a monkey could do, then your crisis starts once these things are taken away. These crises aren’t the grand ol’ crises of Kierkegaard or Nietzsche, they’re the new crises, based on having one’s toys taken away.

And if your existence is reliant on these toys and they are swiftly taken away, then what better way of regaining stability than simply moving the essence of what those toys were onto something which overrides the lockdown of existence itself, namely, anything deemed by society to be an acceptable replacement. Which is basically whatever happens to be next and is ‘thought’ about collectively for a brief moment. You’re quickly drawn back into modernity without ever realizing you left, or could have left.

The problem with this idea of ‘stimuli-hunger’ is that people rarely question whether or not they’re actually hungry. It’s generally accepted that the reason a lot of people – largely in the West – overeat is because they are bored, and not because they are hungry. The same applies to being stimulated, people rarely question – if ever – whether or not they actually want visual, auditory or sexual stimulation, if it’s there, they’ll take it, and the effects on one’s being and psyche are negligible. Of course, they’re not. Much like how eating too much will make you overweight, sluggish and feel generally rough. Taking in too much stimuli will make you unable to focus on what’s important, unable to discern the real from the fake, and most importantly, make you unable to find your actual feelings and thoughts within a chaotic meandering of random titbits from TV shows etc.

It’s a question of deprivation. One can only be deprived if they believe the thing being disallowed to them is actually worth their time. I don’t feel deprived by not having various movie or music subscriptions, because I understand I don’t need them. In fact, it’s actually net benefit to me to not have these things. This, once again, is a question of questioning. Do I actually want this, need this, like this? Etc. etc. You guys already know this, but it begs repeating.

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