META-NOMAD

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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Avoiding the Global Lobotomy

Is this you:

You feel like you have a 2” thick shell of gunk surrounding your entire body which inhibits your ability to truly contact reality?

You’ve had a light-brain-fog for basically as long as you can remember?

You find it difficult to remember what you had for lunch yesterday, let alone a week ago?

You increasingly can’t keep up with what’s going on and everything is moving in an abstract blur?

Your concentration levels have dropped to the standard of a child and you flip between activities, books, tabs, games and songs for no discernible reason?

You desire various items, objects, visuals and stimuli but have no reasoning or history for said desire?

Your emotions and feelings are becoming increasingly dampened, you wonder if you’re a sociopath or narcissist?

Are you ‘mentally’ tired but can find no reason as to why?

Don’t worry, you’re not going mad, but I do have some bad news for you, you might have been lobotomized. Not literally of course, but abstractly. But then, in practice, what’s the difference? Before I begin, I’d like to state that I don’t mean to use the term ‘lobotomy’ in any irrational or flippant way, it was a horrid procedure, and its after effects were both drastic and sad. (See: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). But if we take a look at the history of the lobotomy, what it does and what the intended outcome of it was, we might just find that lobotomization has been deterritorialized into an institutionally controlled abstraction.

What’s a lobotomy then:

Lobotomy: a surgical operation involving incision into the prefrontal lobe of the brain, formerly used to treat mental illness.

This isn’t all that helpful, and if there ever was a ‘Foucauldian statement’, this is it. The entire premise of this statement rests on the last past, ‘to treat mental illness’ Those of you who paid attention to my Free Floating Power essay will realise that what this statement allows is for power to fall into the hands of those who define mental illness. Supposedly, the ‘lobotomy has become a disparaged procedure, a byword for medical barbarism and an exemplary instance of the medical trampling of patients’ rights’, except, the procedure still exists, but entirely as a virtual process which – abstractly – slowly ticks away at the very same areas which a lobotomy attacks head-on. A lobotomy, or ‘prefrontal lobotomy’ would traditionally require surgery to the frontal cortex, containing the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for internal, purposeful mental action, commonly called reasoning or prefrontal synthesis.

So, what we have here is a procedure which is used on ‘mentally ill’ people whose psychic life was overly complex, emotional or distraught. In fact, ‘British psychiatrist Maurice Partridge, who conducted a follow-up study of 300 patients, said that the treatment achieved its effects by “reducing the complexity of psychic life”.’ ‘Reducing the complexity of psychic life’, hell, that sounds like modernity to me. Or at least, that sounds like what modernity wants to do you, or even, unconsciously is doing to you whether you know it or not. How is it doing this then? How is this slow-form of abstract lobotomy being performed? Limit-compression, dopamine-reward-systems, Overton-window-compression, time-compression and normalcy compression. Note, I use the word compression because something that’s compressed eventually springs back with serious force. The more you compress something, the harder it will spring back up and the more energy is needed to keep it down. Anyway, let’s look at the ways it’s performing this lobotomy one-by-one:

Dopamine-Reward-Systems – We quite literally get anxiety attacks when we’ve misplaced our phones, thus, we have cultivated a maternal relationship with our smartphones and social media, they are in charge of us. An average of 2600 taps per-day, phantom-vibration syndrome, reduction in sleep quality, worsening eyesight and on and on, all because we’re locked into a dopamine based social reward system. Dopamine is a chemical in our brain which plays the main role in motivating behaviour, it gets released when we eat tasty food, have sex, masturbate, exercise, and most importantly, engage in successful social interactions. Now, defining successful social interactions used to be difficult, but the sphere of social interaction has since been immanentized onto the metric of likes, retweets, hearts etc, wherein a greater number of positive likes equates to a more successful social interaction, and thus, when we get a like we get a little hit of dopamine. Many might say, ‘Well why’s this worse that eating a tasty sandwich, we get dopamine from doing that too?!’ Yes, we do, but we also don’t do that literally thousands of times per day. We begin to feel good from getting all these likes so we keep doing it, we keep posting things to get more likes, eventually, we succumb to the mechanism itself and instead of posting stuff we find interesting, or stuff we genuinely want to post, we post that which we believe will get us a greater quantity of likes. Social media virtue signalling then, is quite literally the same process/function as masturbation, but then again, so is political, philosophical and all forms of mimetic posting.

Overton-window-compression – The Overton window is the range of policies, discussion and thought which is acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time, it’s also known as the ‘window of discourse’. It is the range within which acceptability is given, anything outside the Overton window is generally deemed odd, weird, hateful, spiteful, silly, radical, or, not-normal. Now, as we can see from the previous section on dopamine-reward-systems, what social media and quantifiable discourse is doing is mentally limiting what we can say and do, not by way of oppression, but by way or ostracization, alienation and peer-pressure. If you don’t post X, Y or Z which are deemed the things to be posting right now, due to their greater dopamine feedback response, then what you’re posting must be weird or horrible. The Overton window then begins to be compressed into a tighter and tighter spectrum of acceptability, not due to any lack of original thought, but due to the majority of its actors, agents and big-players adhering to the compression itself, for if they venture outside the Overton window they risk losing it all, fame, status, popularity, wealth, all of these ride on remaining inside the window and therefor contributing to the positive feedback of acceptable-thought compression. What you’re thinking isn’t mad or weird, it just isn’t acceptable within limits which are constantly finding their way into you via malicious pathways.

Normalcy-compression – This largely thought and mental-based compression of the Overton window begins to infect corporal and material reality by way of self-panopticonic policing, that is, people begin to constantly check both themselves and others for any traits of weirdness or non-normality. They don’t do this consciously, because most people are largely unconscious, if not – for all practical purposes – asleep. What Deleuze and Guattari call ‘the little fascist in all of us’ begins to police and cross-reference everyone’s behaviours with the compressed mode of normalcy given in a single present. Thus, normalcy, normality and what is considered to be normal is a perpetual process of tightening wherein the end-game is roughly 3 or 4 seemingly different thought loops which lead back to precisely the same reality, one wherein you are born, you go to work, you consume, you produce and you die, and you do not question whether or not you want to do this, whether you like to do this, or whether you even thought about any of this in the first place.

Limit-compression – Limit-compression then is relatively simple, from all these forms and modes of compression combined and built up, we end up in a reality where everything is continually compressed for the sake of adhering to an increasingly tightening mode of normality.  The project of atomization is the great illusory emancipatory freedom layered over an ever-constraining normality, atomization allows only for greater normality to be imposed on an individual level, away from families, groups and communes which will potentially have a sturdy and stable enough leader to disrupt the process of modernity.

Time-compression – The final bastion of modernity, the one it really doesn’t want you to break. Time-compression is all the previous modes of compression combined into an absolute chimaera of control. Control via time-compression. Time becomes constrained to the point where one is not ‘living in the present’ in a Buddhist or Taoist sense, but merely existing at the whim of the latest dopamine feedback response, whatever spontaneous social-media based or dopamine-inducing masturbation session the user succumbs to that day is their nano-present; we are at the whims of a cybernetic master whose taken control of our most basic brain functions and is slowly performing a lobotomy by inducing various degrees of compression, limitation and constraint, degrees which we accept, agree with and eventually, promote.

Do you remember Greta Thunberg?

Do you remember Brexit?

Do you remember Jordan Peterson?

Do you remember the Las Vegas Shootings?

Do you remember James Mason?

Do you remember Climate Panic?

Do you remember the Coronavirus?

Do you remember Emma Gonzalez?

Do you remember Jacob Rees Mogg?

Do you remember Theresa May?

Do you remember the 5G debacle?

If you’ve forgotten most of these, then the George Floyd event is another entry into a long line of various media events which arise in spontaneity and disintegrate as quickly as they arose, awaiting the next morsel of spectacle to come along and possess your pathetic attention span. This will seem undoubtedly harsh to some, but in much the same manner that saying the very same thing within various other media events would have also seemed harsh and cynical, it’s not. It’s not for the very fact that this entire ‘timeline’ of spectacle events are simply empty happenings which momentarily infect your thought leaving you no time to analyse your being until the next comes in and slams your mentality to the floor.

When I state that we are being globally lobotomized I quite literally mean it, if a successful lobotomy is to induce a ‘decreased complexity of psychic life’ then this is more than a success, this is a triumph! There’s nothing complex about meandering to a single news event whilst waiting for the next one to come along and fill your head. Complexity is found within deep-time, within analysis of the past, within variation, correlation, correspondence, fragmentation and most of all, process. There is no complexity to be found in a watertight present.

So, how can you avoid all this? Well, it’s quite simply and it’s most likely the same advice which is promoted anywhere this sort of this is written about, but I’ll throw in a few actions you can take to get your brain out of this sordid gutter.

Begin to use your phone as little as possible, and most especially don’t use your phone at meal times.

Begin going on walks (preferably in the countryside) without your phone, it will force you to revert to another way of being.

Continually check your thoughts, actions, purchases and posts. Do I actually like this? Do I actually believe this? What do I actually think? Basically, start to fucking think.

If you keep up a routine, start your day with a short meditation or contemplation on a question or idea that is bothering you. I prefer discursive meditation as outlined by John Michael Greer here.

Read old books, preferably books published before the 1900s, it really alters your psyche to realise how different things were just 100 or so years ago.

Read a book on a failed revolution or religion or a dead civilization, understand that things die and decay, and that things are reborn again.

Read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr for a deeper understanding of the way in which internet addiction is effecting you.

Go outside, seriously go outside. Look around, it’s great out there.

Limit screen usage where possible, or, if you have to live with a screen in your life keep a smaller reminder of nature nearby – I have a peace lily on my desk.

Take some time out everyday to think through your thoughts, think about what’s yours and what isn’t, level/stabilize yourself and realise you are still you and what’s going on is outside of you, even though it tries extremely hard to prove otherwise.

 

You’re not going mad, you’re just holding onto the last remnants of individuality you have within the belly of a malicious machine, plant them in the right places and you might wake up entirely.


Translations:

Russian: https://howtorecover.me/kak-izbezhat-globalnoy-lobotomii


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Look upon my Likes, ye Mighty, and despair!

I’d like to expand on a recent tweet of mine which was so compact that it omits vast amounts of detail. The tweet was this:

“The real psy-op is a globalised form of ADD induced by increasing usage of social media based dopamine stimulation devices, resulting in a global temporal attention deficit where we have no understanding of the past or deep-time, and live entirely in the nano-present.”

There’s a lot going on here, but it outlines another one of the major problems we face as individuals trying to regain our grip on truth and reality, and the combination of the two; what is your true reality? The one which you want to inhabit, the unaltered state you wish to exist within.

Firstly, we have this notion of a ‘psy-op’ or ‘psychological operation’, these are reportedly operations in which governments or groups use selected information to emotions, feelings, motives and objective reasoning in a way which benefits them. This has lead many people to state things such as ‘Everything’s a psy-op!’ and I certainly understand where they’re coming from, but with that said, the advertising and marketing isn’t covert in its aims, so it can hardly be considered an ‘operation’ as much as it is simply doing what it’s supposed to be doing. The difference with a psychological operation is that you’re presented with something which has far more going on behind the scenes. I don’t want to get too deep into this sort of thinking, not because I don’t believe it, but because it’s largely unproductive. Discerning whether or not something is X, Y or Z is useless if my real aim is simply to discern whether I actually want, need or agree with it. It doesn’t matter where it came from, what matters is if and how I can get away from it.

But what is it here that I consider the real ‘psychological operation’? – a globalised form of ADD induced by increasing usage of social media based dopamine stimulation devices – This is relatively simple, basically our increasing smartphone and social media usage is shredding our attention span – supposedly from 12 – 8 seconds in the space of 20 years – and it’s also feeding our reliance on dopamine feedback response, that is, the chemical we release when things make us feel good is being utilized by social media mechanisms to get us addicted to their systems. We are quite literally rats clicking a button for a bit of cheese over and over again, all day, every day. But actually, the metaphorical cheese in this scenario isn’t as clear as one might like to think, hence the idea of a ‘psy-op’.

So, what’s the cheese then? Well the cheese that us rats are perpetually running after isn’t some malleable ‘thing’, nor an item, nor is it some clear idea, in fact, by its very nature it cannot be able to be grasped, otherwise, the chase ends. So, what is it we’re after? What is it these dopamine-feedback-loops and pleasure-response-systems have us scuttling towards? Well, a few things, all of which come under some rough label such as ‘desired abstraction’ or ‘created desire’ or ‘idealistic utopia’, everything these systems target us towards is simultaneously seemingly reachable and yet continually buildable.  What I am specifically talking then? Well, specifics are tough with things like this, because, once again, if the ‘things’ we were searching for were specific we would be able to grasp them in some manner, right? So, if you want someone to keep on using your system and keep on plugging-into your feedback loop, the endgame needs to be both desirable and both supposedly attainable yet corporally unattainable.

Status is the clearest example of this, in fact, status encapsulates most of what happens on social media. Everything posted, every little update, every extroverted appeal for attention is in some form a plea for an increase in status. If one posts an obscure text they wish to seem cultured, if one posts a picture of their flashy car they wish to be seen as wealthy, if one posts a cute picture with their girlfriend they wish to be seen as ‘that couple’, of course, I’m generalising, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ‘sharing’ your life with other people, if that’s what you want to do. It’s only that once you apply mechanisms such as ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, ‘hearts’ etc. to your personal life and posts, then it is immediately subsumed into a system of quantifiability, it can be compared with other lives and posts upon a simple binary metric of positive and negative, your life, becomes reduced to data, this is the psy-op.

What does this psy-op achieve? in a global temporal attention deficit where we have no understanding of the past or deep-time, and live entirely in the nano-present. – Once again, relatively simple, but it begs a little more explanation. When we look at that previous feedback-loop and take status as our example once again, we begin to realise that our relationship with time is entirely constricted by something as simple as likes and retweets, everything about them begs reverence and attention only at the present. One could argue that one is attempting to build something for more likes and more status, but that is always held in abstract, and one’s understanding is that achievement is made via more quantity of social-media’s dopamine feedback responses. In that, yes, one might be abstractly targeted at the future in some manner, but it’s a future which is inherently tied to a mechanical notion of the now. The past spans ‘back’ billions of years, the future is the abstraction of all potential, and we’re being drawn into the most minute of presents, ones which have not only passed us by, but are being continuously remembered, not as an exercise in learning, but as a social proof. ‘Here is my present! Look at it and see how great it was! See how cultured I am!’

The ’nano-present’ isn’t the present as it’s understood in the philosophy of time, it isn’t Deleuze’s retention of the past and expectation of the future, it has nothing to do with Bergson’s duration, it isn’t Heidegger’s existential ensemble, nor is it even part of any ‘common-sensical’ linear conception of time; the nano-present is void of all connection to anything that surrounds it, to the extent that it refuses the existence of the past and the future. The nano-present is the pure atomization of time into distinct islands of abstraction, so small and ignorant in their existence that they have no means of communication, and believe only in their own essence, they are presents which exist within themselves. The next nano-present doesn’t arrive in any form of connection, but as a teleportation, we are all at once within an infinity of presents which are too nauseated by the acceleration of atomism to ever reach out and care for another present, however vapid it might be.

The action is relatively clear here, because nothing I’ve written is anything new, and everything I’m doing is within the same systems I critique. How does one avoid getting trapped then? I would advise creating a mental habit, in that when you check your phone or PC, before you do anything, you question why it is you opened that certain tab, app or page etc. Is it out of use and utility, out of creation and personal choice? Or have you become a slave to a habitual dopamine-response-routine?


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Death Happens

This is an essay which has basically been a long time coming, not that I ever actually planned to write it, only, it has always been in the background and a recent experience solidified it as perhaps one of the most important ideas which structures my thought.

I don’t think about death and suffering all the time and it’s certainly not infiltrating my thought all that regularly, at least as far as I’m aware. But recently I had the – supposedly – unfortunate experience of seeing a loved one in those true last moments, the last few hours where the human body has quite literally nothing to do but clutch at an attempt of existence, and once a person hits this point, the reality of that ‘person’, their ego, their I, anything that can be considered to be of their character completely fades away and you’re left with mere flesh.

For the majority of people and for modernity in general this is, a priori,  a bad moment, there is quite simply no framing wherein this can ever be considered a possible/potential good etc. However, that’s not really what people mean when they think like this, is it? When people say things like ‘Oh it was awful’ what they’re really addressing is their own begrudging acknowledgement of a state which is perpetually hidden by them and for them. That is to say, death and suffering are always hidden, reconfigured and reworked in such a way that they are seen not as definite parts of life, but mistakes of civilization. Ok, so far this is a slight repetition of my previous essay on immortality, however, that essay dealt with what modernity does with death with respect to your will, the rest of this essay will be on what you can do with death and suffering in the face of modernity’s cold hard calculating machinic unconscious.

It pains my younger-self to say this, but I’m certainly heading towards a more vitalist philosophy (reading the work of Ludwig Klages acted as the catalyst), and yet, I don’t think that vitalism has to be of any cliché form, or of any stereotypical hippie-love-of-live vector, in fact, I’d argue that one can be a ‘machinic-vitalist’ or a ‘cosmic-vitalist’. That is – and forgive me is there’s already theorizations closer to this idea – a vitalism which is accepting of death and suffering as part of its own vivid ecstasy. Georges Bataille gets close with his philosophy of limit experience, Nick Land strays towards machines and neglects our reality, Deleuze & Guattari are too focused on economics, Cioran and Ligotti get caught up in their own bleaker-than-thou bias; we need a reversion of vitalism in which it eats itself. That is, death and suffering become a force for good.

Hold up, I’m not promoting death and suffering for their own sake, I’m not saying that one should get pleasure, comfort or positivity from the pain of another, I’m not endorsing any form of violence or torture here. What I am doing however is becoming accepting of the cosmos in a way which doesn’t succumb to the pitfalls of Lovecraftian-bellowing from the madhouse, nor become so utterly positive it stinks of ignorance; I am theorizing of a vitalism which accepts its own return to Zero. Death and suffering as part of the whole system. Sure, this is absolutely nothing new…but then, there’s nothing new under the sun, right?

This is an immanentization of death and suffering into modernity. Modernity is here to stay, and utilizing one’s finite energy trying to get rid of it or destroy is a serious waste of life, you’ll understand very little if you spend your entire life destroying X so you can arrive at some abstract Y; the grass is always greener etc. Death happens. Death happens and spending your energy trying to stop both its material and mental reality is not only an exhaustion, but it’s a maddening exhaustion which will lead you nowhere. The underlying idea of modernity is that everything can be fixed either by some form of technological innovation or by some form of societal tolerance, and guess what, death is the thing which can never be stopped. Modernity finds in death an idea so abhorrent that it ignores its existence all-together, and what is it that modernity finds? Modernity finds within death something which truly does what modernity wants to do, control everything. The only thing outside the constraint of death is nothingness, and once death has come, the concept of nothingness can no longer be.

What can we learn from death? When one is ill, or when one is hurt, or when one is falling apart, these experiences teach us just how much we’ve become accustomed to a certain way of thinking and being. One’s first thought when they have a fever, or when a new ailment alters their course of life is to attempt, with all their might, a return to a presupposed state or normalcy. This is how I should feel and how my body should be and any alteration from that is a mistake of cosmic programming, well guess what? Heraclitus’ river isn’t just something you step into every second of every day, but it’s also the current and circuitry of your own blood. You can’t avoid change because you’re of change.

When I looked at my loved one, I saw the loved one had gone, I didn’t know where, but it didn’t feel awful. What was awful was seeing some-thing plugged into the life-support machine that is modernity, existence for its own sake; modernity disallows existence its right to pass into the next stage both willingly and in a contently manner, modernity clings to life as if it always belonged solely to modernity itself. I saw blood, gasping, unconsciousness, entropy, croaking, struggling and mortality all within a single moment, and yet I saw nothing of the vitalism which had once possessed them, for such a vitalism would have nothing to do with such modernistic and civilizational ignorance of cosmic reality.

And yet, what can one think when they find themselves within such an event in time? Modern man would bleat, pray, whine, ignore, repress, suppress, suffocate and reason everything in front of him, he would make a leap of faith towards the idea that modernity would eventually save him from such a fate, even if his might be more pleasant. But what if one sits and looks and senses. What if one takes their time, accepts the reality, acknowledges this as part of the cycle, as part of the river, and goes about their day with that in mind? I’m not saying do not feel or mourn, I’m not saying ignore the event that is death; I am saying that the way in which one understands and reacts to death will ultimately affect how they react and enact their life; if death is denied, then life is too.

‘Everything you’re currently experiencing will die’ is another way of saying that ‘everything you’re currently experiencing is still here’, enjoy it, partake in it, and experience it with everything you’ve got.


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Immortality is More Profitable

“People, like civilizations, are mortal, and no matter how much money and technology gets poured into the task of keeping either one alive, sooner or later it won’t be enough.” – John Michael Greer, The Strategy of Salvage.

Once again, I’m going to alter the Greerean civilization angle towards one of personal sovereignty. Mortality is our reality, in all things. This is the truth that even the most Rousseau-hardened optimists have trouble accepting. People, states, families, heritages, traditions, fads and ideas are all mortal, they will all end. Unfortunately, we live within a system which finds this truth abhorrent for the fact it goes against everything it stands for. Ending, stagnation and stopping, there is nothing more troublesome to modernity and runaway capitalism than this. And so, wherever you look, you will find pitiful attempts at immortality…whatever the cost.

At risk of acting like modernity itself, I actually see this as an argument and reality regarding energy. There comes a point within all existences in which the energy ceases in its ability to be converted into life by the existence itself, the requirement henceforth then – if one wishes to keep that existence ‘alive’ – is an external source of energy, which acts as a life-line, or existence support machine. I am thoroughly of the opinion that if an existence can no longer support itself, it should be left to peacefully fade away…for modernity, this is the wrong opinion.

We see these life/existence-support-machines everywhere, but we’re just taught to understand them as ‘the way things are’, the underlying message we are taught is that death is the worst of all outcomes, worse, in fact, than suffering. And that life should be maintained, even to the detriment of its own quality, even if by keeping it going it has a net-negative regarding quality.

Dying businesses get personal credit injections, dying trades get government subsidies, dying ideas get infected with nostalgic wills, dying traditions get riddled with parasitic clones, dying fads get their ironic rebirth and dying people are disallowed their reality entirely. We simply cannot allow death. We cannot allow it to appear, we cannot allow it to be seen and most of all, we cannot allow it to become a reality. Within modernity, death and suffering are not seen as outcomes of an unjust cosmos, but as accidents of a failed civilization; civilization as an idea has become synonymous with the eradication of pain and conclusion, there’s no money to be made from something which ceases to have an output.

But this idea of death is reliant on one’s definition of life, for there to be an antagonist or opposite, one needs the affirmation, the protagonist. The main character here is life, the idea of life. How ‘life’ is defined differs from person to person, and yet I imagine that there is a relatively accepted opinion that life is still living when one can actually do it; to live is an action. Modernity doesn’t see it this way. To modernity the subjective reality of ‘being alive’ is a matter of chemistry, politics and economics.

Modernity strips life of all its vitality and essence, one is reduced to chemistry in the manner of being monitored via various medication and intakes and blood tests, one is reduced to politics by way of being understood as a statistic in relation to various micro and macro political spaces, and, of course, one is reduced to an economic being by way of understanding that once one dies, they can no longer produce or consume, or more importantly, pay. 

Say what you like about the Deleuzoguattarian notion of machination, that we’re all just units which produce and consume, but it’s certainly the correct reading with regard to civilizational systems and underlying control mechanisms. One is understood, societally, simply as potential for economic input or output. The reason one is kept alive far beyond the point wherein all real life has left, is because if one is still chemically alive, then one is still economically life, and has the potential to create profit for some or other societal abstraction.

Unfortunately, the reason why these life-support systems seem so abhorrent to us, to the extent of causing a gut reaction of disgust, is because the living human finally seen to exist on the plane of existence they always existed upon, the plane of entropy and negentropy. When resource shortages interact with rising maintenance costs what one gets is a form of collapse. Now, we’re talking about a shortage of life itself, a shortage of pure being, which in turn is replaced by machinic appendages and tools, external aesthetic machinations of life which stand in for natural organs. This process is usually slow and steady, until one day, one is faced with their beloved all but gone, except for the process of breathing, maintained by various branded medical apparatus.

This is because immortality is more profitable; dying? How dare you! A dignified death is the gift of a dignified society. One where the definitions of life, death and suffering remain with those who truly partake in them and have not fallen into the hands of abstractions which don’t. There is nothing modernity is more hates more than something which not only wants to end, but wishes to choose when to do so. When something or someone says ‘I’ve had enough, I no longer want the drugs, I’ve had a good run…’, that isn’t seen by modernity as a separate agency making its will conscious, but is seen as a potential loss of control.

In Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, Judge Holden – who for lack of a thorough analysis represents death, the devil and unforgivable entropy – states this: “Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.” Of course, for the Judge, as with modernity, the reverse is also true, that which dies without my knowledge dies without my consent. Modernity is Judge Holden forcefully cramming pills, splints and needles into you until the last iota of your life force has been drained.

It is a crime to die of one’s own choice, whether or not your life is over is not your choice, but the choice of that which defines what both life and death are, and for that we rely on something entirely undead.


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The Myth of Progress

There have been thousands of essays just like this one, but I never got around to writing my own, so here it is. Guess what, progress is…strange. The very concept of progress now is – as mentioned in my Free Floating Power essay – a signifier without a true object or concept of signification. Let’s look at some definitions:

Progress:
1. Forward or onward movement towards a destination.
2. Development towards an improved or more advanced condition.

So if we’re to take the first definition here as our starting point, then we first need to question our destination. If we’re progressing then we must be progressing somewhere, right? Well, I can’t say for sure whether we’re going anywhere because it’s relatively difficult to see who or what it is that’s actually pulling our strings. With that said, without any clear destination progress, advancement and improvement are pretty much impossible. If you have no quantifiable metric to go off of (within the socio-industrial framework) then you can be doing practically anything and call it progress. If we tell ourselves that we need to get to a state of X, or we need to invent or build Y, then we have enough data to correctly assess whether or not we’re progressing. But once the entire concept of progressing is understood in relation to a rather loose assemblage of sociological and political tolerances and statements, well then we’re at the whim of conjecture, and whoever can askew the facts in the most innovative way is the winner.

This leads me to the second definition – development towards an improved or more advanced condition – firstly one has to ask, an improved or more advanced condition for whom? And within what context is advancement understood. The first word there, ‘improved’, is the most precarious in this context. Improved means entirely different things for different people, this much is obvious. But another difficulty with ‘improved’ is that for many improvement isn’t synonymous with advancement in technological culture or abstract social freedoms. For some people a return to tradition would be an improvement, for some people the singularity would be an improvement and for others the levelling of all industry would be improvement, and once all these viewpoints are all flattened onto the plane of progress one understands that it’s nothing but impossible to have a unified conception of progress. The same applies for the idea of an ‘advanced condition’, one assumes that this is theorized in relation to an advancement in technology and potential for social freedoms once again, that there is, in the oh-so mystical future, an abstract state of society which we’re lunging towards.

If this is the case, that we’re heading towards a sort of collective subconscious future which we all apparently implicitly understand is the correct thing to head towards, then what we’re venturing into is a fiction, and as such, will be – more or less – extremely alike the past, if not a mirror image with a different aesthetic. For whatever is understood as our future can only be understood in terms relative to what has been, the entire notion of progress rests on a linearity of thought which excludes and actively shuns innovation. Innovation is the greatest enemy of progress, because it could potentially allow us to move away from the notion of progress altogether.

It’s a case of questioning once again, and because progress implies some form of action (advancement, progressing, moving-towards etc.) then further questions arise. Where are we progressing to? What are we progressing towards? Who is progressing? Why do we want to progress? And on and on they go, questions which will never find an answer because the concept of progression is so malleable and plastic that it exists solely as a form to be used by the highest bidder. So, my own definition of progress: Progress means whatever those with power want it to mean; progress means whatever those in control of history want it to mean. The victors write the history books, but they do so in such a way as to define progress, and unfortunately, our history books are rife with unbridled technological and industrial optimism, unquestioned notions of freedom and abhorrence of exit. Which ties one into an unforgiving abstraction, the target of which is whatever is happens to be that day.

How can we call it a myth then? Well, let’s go back to good ol’ definitions:

Myth:

1. A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.

Now, progress is far from traditional, in fact, it has basically nothing to do with tradition in the sense that it only uses tradition to reach its own aim, as opposed to being tradition itself. It is most definitely a story, perhaps the earliest of stories, the one we’ve always told ourselves. Progress is the story in which the narrator is always correct, and everything the narrator has done is correct, and – most importantly – where the narrator is going is definitely the correct direction. It is the story with regards to one handing over their responsibility and action to an elusive abstraction. Sure, we tell ourselves lots and lots of stories in everyday life “I’ll do it later because X”, “I can’t do that now because Y”, “I always wanted to do Z but…” and on and on they go, but the overarching story which trumps all of these is the story of progress, the unconscious idea that even if individual things don’t get done, it doesn’t matter because we’re chugging along nicely anyway, a few mistakes, lacunae and occlusions don’t matter, because we’re always progressing.

What’s left to say of progress other than nothing, it doesn’t exist, except in extremely limited cases where there’s a clear metric and secure personal or collective context, but even then it can become flimsy quite quickly. Handing over your ideals to progress is giving up all personal sovereignty for the comfort of a controlled abstraction, and it’s not always easy to see who or what is doing the controlling.


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Free Floating Power

Within semiotics there is the concept of the ‘floating signifier’ or ‘free floating signifier’. The concept designates a signifier which doesn’t have a referent, or, in simple terms, in designates a word which doesn’t point towards any clear object, structure or form. It’s a little tricky to explain exactly how they come across in day-to-day life, but it’s my belief that we use them more and more, both as a way to quickly explain something, but more importantly as a way to abstain from understanding and responsibility.

Postmodernism is a clear one, we’re not entirely sure what the ‘hell’ postmodernism means anymore and it seems pretty clear that no one actually wants to go read the postmodernists to find out, hell, who even are the postmodernists anymore. The meaning of that word, ‘postmodernism’, has such a floating meaning that it can – and has – been used to explain and describe the most drifting symptoms of culture and society. Usually used in a derogatory manner, postmodernism means everything from the death of idealism to the reason there’s TikTok, and yet, such a vision is so vast and fleeting that it deems the signifier itself almost useless. Yet, it does retain a use; it becomes a word of pure power.

We hear these floating signifiers almost daily without ever questioning them, the recent Coronavirus pandemic has been rife with them, and yet, no one pays a moment’s notice to what it is they’re agreeing or disagreeing with. An empty, floating signifier takes over their potential for authentic opinion.  ‘Scientist’ or ‘science’ is the clearest one being thrown around at the moment. “The scientists have said X” or “The scientists have agreed upon Y.” We hear these sentences almost daily on the news, in the papers and on social media, and people trust them just because of their inclusion of a certain signifier, and yet no one ever takes a moment to think if there’s anything behind the signifier.

What are we buying into when we accept these terms without ever thinking about them? Let’s take ‘scientist’ as a clear example. Someone states that “The scientists agree on X”. What we’re accepting here is a free-floating signifier deciding what is correct or incorrect with regards to our health and our lives. No one asks which scientists, or what these scientists’ aims are, or whether or not we actually asked them in the first place, everyone simply agrees, subconsciously, that a decision has been made.

What we’re looking at then is a complete abstraction, we’re looking at people handing over all possible agencies and responsibility to a floating abstraction which can mean anything anyone wants. For some ‘scientist’ might mean security, others authority and others it might mean intelligence, either way, we’re handing over our own decision and opinion to an empty signifier. Simple steps can be made by news outlets and mainstream media to rectify this semiotic atrocity, by adding in where the scientists work and who they work for would direct the signifier towards something more solid, and yet they don’t, why is this?

These floating signifiers are useful for when wants to insert their opinion about something without having to own up to any consequences, or even explain why they have that opinion. Blaming everything on X is an age-old human trait and this is its latest form. What if the ‘scientists’ are wrong? It doesn’t matter because we never knew who they were anyway. The signifier was free-floating, it never latched onto anything stable, so there’s nothing there to agree or disagree with, only a nothingness to soak up resentment, bitterness and an irresponsible nature. My direction here is once again towards personal responsibility. I don’t care about mainstream media abstaining from responsibility; in fact, I don’t massively care about mainstream media at all. But one’s own thoughts, beliefs and attitudes are something to be consistently kept in check – ‘Do I actually believe that?’, ‘Do I actually agree with that?’ or – in the case of the news – ‘Has this person actually said anything at all, anything worthy of my attention?’

Because when you really think about the sentence ‘The scientists have agreed on X’, you realize that it actually means very little without any stable signifiers to connect to. For me, it’s simple; people accept these empty statements as a way to avoid thinking. It is – once again – a way for men and women to hand over their responsibility to the masses, the herd, the ‘they’.  ‘Well, looks like they’ve got it sorted!’, ‘We can always rely on them scientists!’ or my personal favorite ‘Ah, they’ll think of something…’ Is there any clearer sentence showing how easily man hands over his agency to the collective?

Once that agency is handed over, people no longer have to think, worry or partake in something which is affecting their lives. Once they’ve accepted the floating signifier everything is ok again, everything is back to normal. But you must think, you must ponder and criticize these empty assessments and analyses of things which are affecting you. Don’t let another sculpt what it is you believe, do or say simply by assuming that normalcy and general agreement is correct. Usually within the agreement of the ‘they’ there is actually little agreement, the only thing they agree on is that change is bad, and what is now should and shall be forever and any who think otherwise are silly.

When one thinks back over what a figure of authority told them there is almost always a reliance on a floating signifier, some presumed meaning smeared onto nothingness which vindicates the rest of their rhetoric.  Once you question that first step, the rest of the stairway quickly crumbles under the weight of ignorance, apathy and confusion.

“See, there’s X then Y then Z! That’s simply how it is!”

“But I’m not sure about X? What does X even mean?”

You won’t make any friends this way; people don’t like anything to be questioned, especially the foundations. But what’s more important, gaining popularity through agreement with empty falsehoods, or thinking for oneself?


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