Friday, July 31, 2015

Mountain Views

Above the lakes, above the vales,
The mountains and the woods, the clouds, the seas,
Beyond the sun, beyond the ether,
Beyond the confines of the starry spheres,

My soul, you move with ease,
And like a strong swimmer in rapture in the wave
You wing your way blithely through boundless space
With virile joy unspeakable.

Fly far, far away from this baneful miasma
And purify yourself in the celestial air,
Drink the ethereal fire of those limpid regions
As you would the purest of heavenly nectars.

Beyond the vast sorrows and all the vexations
That weigh upon our lives and obscure our vision,
Happy is he who can with his vigorous wing
Soar up towards those fields luminous and serene,

He whose thoughts, like skylarks,
Toward the morning sky take flight
— Who hovers over life and understands with ease
The language of flowers and silent things!
— Charles Baudelaire, "Elevation"

Saturday, July 25, 2015


He is egotistical in ways he cannot imagine,
blind in ways he cannot see;
his consumer spiritual poverty is complete,
for he lives in a world of scarcity
shaped by the beliefs of those he fancies
are better than himself (they'd quickly agree).
His fleeting power comes from clinging
to things he deigns to understand;
in mystery he withers; in puzzlement he sweats;
in amazement he faces untold catastrophe.
In fear and pain alone he trusts,
and in the hollow a Man would fill rests a boy
long dead, blue-lipped, clutching obsolete toys.
The answers to everything are in his grasp,
and he dares not fathom the ubiquity of answers
as the rhetoric of fear: and death he seeks,
though he knows it as pleasure, a passing parade
that heralds a final thrust, and a letting-go.
His white picket fences have long ago rotted;
tomorrow his firewall succumbs to the mildew.
Mucro Pondera Divinus, "Modern Man" (Feb 19, 2014)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Art's Animating Principal?

Here's a hint, it's probably got little to do with Abstraction, except as it's relation as the object cause of desire (Objet 'a)
Why did so few gallery patrons stare at the 'real' as hard as they did at the 'abstract'? It's almost as if they were pretending not to notice that the woman was nude, so constrained by the social-symbolic of culture as they were.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Does the Chicken Know?

So, back to the prospect of ecological catastrophe, why do we not act? It is too short to attribute our disbelief in the catastrophe to the impregnation of our mind by scientific ideology, which leads us to dismiss the sane concerns of our common reason, i.e., the gut sense which tells us that something is fundamentally wrong with the scientific-technological attitude. The problem is much deeper, it resides in the unreliability of our common sense itself which, habituated as it is to our ordinary life-world, finds it difficult really to accept that the flow of everyday reality can be perturbed. Our attitude here is that of the fetishist split: "I know very well (that the global warming is a threat to the entire humanity), but nonetheless... (I cannot really believe it). It is enough to look at my environs to which my mind is wired: the green grass and trees, the whistle of the wind, the rising of the sun... can one really imagine that all this will be disturbed? You talk about the ozone hole - but no matter how much I look into the sky, I don't see it - all I see is the same sky, blue or grey!"

And therein resides the horror of the Chernobyl accident: when one visits the site, with the exception of the sarcophagus, things look exactly the same as before, life seems to have deserted the site, leaving everything the way it is, and nonetheless we are aware that something is terribly wrong. The change is not at the level of the visible reality itself, it is a more fundamental one, it affects the very texture of reality. No wonder there are some lone farmers around the Chernobyl site who continued to lead their lives as before - they simply ignore all the incomprehensible talk about radiations. Do these farmers not behave like the madman in the old joke circulating among Lacanians to exemplify the key role of the Other's knowledge: a man who believes himself to be a grain of seed is taken to the mental institution where the doctors do their best to finally convince him that he is not a grain but a man; however, when he is cured (convinced that he is not a grain of seed but a man) and allowed to leave the hospital, he immediately comes back very trembling of scare - there is a chicken outside the door and that he is afraid that it would eat him. "Dear fellow," says his doctor, "you know very well that you are not a grain of seed but a man". "Of course I know that," replies the patient, "but does the chicken know it?" The chicken from the joke stands for the big Other which doesn't know. In the last years of Tito's life, he was effectively such a chicken: some archives and memoirs show that, already in the mid-1970s, the leading figures around Tito were aware that Yugoslavia's economic situation was catastrophic; however, since Tito was nearing his death, they made a collective decision to postpone the outbreak of a crisis till his death - the price was the fast accumulation of external debt in the last years of Tito's life. When, in 1980, Tito finally dies, the economic crisis did strike with revenge, leading to a 40 per cent fall of standard of living, to ethnic tensions and, finally, civil and ethnic war that destroyed the country - the moment to confront the crisis adequately was missed. One can thus say that what put the last nail in the coffin of Yugoslavia was the very attempt by its leading circle to protect the ignorance of the Leader, to keep his gaze happy.

Is this not what, ultimately, culture is? One of the elementary rules of culture is to know when (and how) to pretend NOT to know (or notice), to go on and act as if something which happened did not happen. When a person near me accidentally produces an unpleasant vulgar noise, the proper thing to do is to ignore it, not to comfort him: "I know it was an accident, don't worry, it doesn't really matter!" We should thus understand in the right way the joke about the chicken: a madman's question is a quite pertinent question in many everyday situations. When parents with a young child have affairs, fight and shout at each other, they as a rule (if they retain a minimum of decency) try to prevent the child to notice it, well aware that the child's knowledge would have had a devastating effect on him - so what they try to maintain is precisely a situation of "We know that we cheat and fight and shout, but the child/chicken doesn't know it." (Of course, in many cases, the child knows it very well, but merely feigns not to notice anything wrong, aware that in this way his parents' life is a little bit easier.) Or, at a less vulgar level, recall a parent in a difficult predicament (dying of cancer, in financial difficulties), but trying to keep this secret from his nearest and dearest...

And this is also our problem with ecology: we know it, but the chicken doesn't know it... The problem is thus that we can rely neither on scientific mind nor on our common sense - they both mutually reinforce each other's blindness. The scientific mind advocates a cold objective appraisal of dangers and risks involved where no such appraisal is effectively possible, while common sense finds it hard to accept that a catastrophe can really occur. The difficult ethical task is thus to "un-learn" the most basic coordinates of our immersion into our life-world: what usually served as the recourse to Wisdom (the basic trust in the background-coordinates of our world) is now THE source of danger.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Censorship Today: Violence, or Ecology as a New Opium for the Masses"

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coming Storms

Beside that tent and under guard
In majesty alone he stands,
As some chained eagle, broken-winged,
With eyes that gleam like smouldering brands,—
A savage face, streaked o'er with paint,
And coal-black hair in unkempt mane,
Thin, cruel lips, set rigidly,—
A red Apache Tamerlane.

As restless as the desert winds,
Yet here he stands like carven stone,
His raven locks by breezes moved
And backward o'er his shoulders blown;
Silent, yet watchful as he waits
Robed in his strange, barbaric guise,
While here and there go searchingly
The cat-like wanderings of his eyes.

The eagle feather on his head
Is dull with many a bloody stain,
While darkly on his lowering brow
Forever rests the mark of Cain.
Have you but seen a tiger caged
And sullen through his barriers glare?
Mark well his human prototype,
The fierce Apache fettered there.
- Ernest McGaffey, "Geronimo"

Monday, July 20, 2015

Over Identified

A strategy of overidentification thus provides one possible antidote to what Peter Sloterdijk refers to as “cynical reason”, or a condition where people know that there is something fundamentally wrong but continue to act as if this is not the case. It is this cynical distance that Jeffrey Goldfarb diagnosed as so prevalent in the US, creating a sort of “legitimation through disbelief,” although one could easily argue that this is much more widespread and just the condition that a strategy of overidentification aims to address and intervene within. One can certainly contest the desirability and effectiveness of such an approach, and such strategies have and continue to create a great deal of debate within political, artistic, and academic circles. Nevertheless, even if the conclusion is eventually reached that such is not an acceptable choice of interventionist strategy in most cases, it nonetheless seems valuable to learn from, especially in making a transition out of a time frame or frame of mind that is paralysed to find any method of intervention because all strategies are already caught in varying webs of power and therefore argued to be compromised. A strategy of overidentification operates precisely by turning this already-caughtness into an advantage by deploying and redirecting energies of capture and constituted power against themselves.
Stevphen Shukaitis, "Overidentification and/or bust?"

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Under it all...

The most elementary definition of ideology is probably the well-known phrase from Marx's Capital: "Sie wissen das nicht, aber sie tun es" ("they do not know it, but they are doing it"). The very concept of ideology implies a kind of basic, constitutive naïveté: the misrecognition of its own presuppositions, of its own effective conditions, a distance, a divergence between so-called social reality and our distorted representation, our false consciousness of it. That is why such a 'naive consciousness' can be submitted to a critical-ideological procedure. The aim of this procedure is to lead the naïve ideological consciousness to a point at which it can recognize its own effective conditions, the social reality that it is distorting, and through this very act dissolve itself. In the more sophisticated versions of the critics of ideology -that developed by the Frankfurt School, for example — it is not just a question of seeing things (that is, social reality) as they 'really are', of throwing away the distorting spectacles of ideology; the main point is to see how the reality itself cannot reproduce itself without this so-called ideological mystification. The mask is not simply hiding the real state of things; the ideological distortion is written into its very essence.

We find, then, the paradox of a being which can reproduce itself only in so far as it is misrecognized and overlooked: the moment we see it 'as it really is', this being dissolves itself into nothingness or, more precisely, it changes into another kind of reality. That is why we must avoid the simple metaphors of demasking, of throwing away the veils which are supposed to hide the naked reality. We can see why Lacan, in his Seminar on The Ethic of Psychoanalysis, distances himself from the liberating gesture of saying finally that "the emperor has no clothes". The point is, as Lacan puts it, that the emperor is naked only beneath his clothes, so if there is an unmasking gesture of psychoanalysis, it is closer to Alphonse Allais's well-known joke, quoted by Lacan: somebody points at a woman and utters a horrified cry, "Look at her, what a shame, under her clothes, she is totally naked" (Lacan, 1986, p.231).
- Salvoj Zizek, "Cynicism as a form of ideology"

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

There is no Class Relationship

When Alain Badiou claims that democracy is our fetish, this statement is to be taken in the precise Freudian sense, not just to mean that we elevate democracy into an untouchable Absolute. ‘Democracy’ is the last thing we see before confronting the ‘lack’ constitutive of the social field, the fact that ‘there is no class relationship,’ the trauma of social antagonism. When confronted with the reality of domination and exploitation, of brutal social struggle, we say, ‘Yes, but we have democracy!’ as if that were enough to ensure that we can resolve or at least regulate struggle, preventing it from exploding. An exemplary case of democracy as fetish is provided by such bestsellers and blockbusters as The Pelican Brief or All the President’s Men, in which a couple of ordinary guys uncover a scandal that reaches all the way to the president, eventually forcing him to step down. Corruption is everywhere in these stories, yet their ideological impact lies in their upbeat takeaway message: what a great democratic country this is where a couple of ordinary guys like you and me can bring down the mightiest man on earth!

This is why it is so inappropriate to give a radical new political movement a name that combines socialism and democracy: it combines the ultimate fetish of the existing world order with a term that blurs the key distinctions. Everyone can be a socialist today, even Bill Gates: it suffices to profess the need for some kind of harmonious social unity, for a common good and for the care of the poor and downtrodden. As Otto Weininger put it more than a hundred years ago, socialism is Aryan and communism is Jewish.

An exemplary case of today’s ‘socialism’ is China, where the Communist Party is engaged in a campaign of self-legitimisation which promotes three theses: 1) Communist Party rule alone can guarantee successful capitalism; 2) the rule of the atheist Communist Party alone can guarantee authentic religious freedom; and 3) continuing Communist Party rule alone can guarantee that China will be a society of Confucian conservative values (social harmony, patriotism, moral order). These aren’t simply nonsensical paradoxes. The reasoning might go as follows: 1) without the party’s stabilising power, capitalist development would explode into a chaos of riots and protests; 2) religious factional struggles would disturb social stability; and 3) unbridled hedonist individualism would corrode social harmony. The third point is crucial, since what lies in the background is a fear of the corrosive influence of Western ‘universal values’: freedom, democracy, human rights and hedonist individualism. The ultimate enemy is not capitalism as such but the rootless Western culture threatening China through the free flow of the internet. It must be fought with Chinese patriotism; even religion should be ‘sinicised’ to ensure social stability. A Communist Party official in Xinjiang, Zhang Chunxian, said recently that while ‘hostile forces’ are stepping up their infiltration, religions must work under socialism to serve economic development, social harmony, ethnic unity and the unification of the country: ‘Only when one is a good citizen can one be a good believer.’

But this ‘sinicisation’ of religion isn’t enough: any religion, no matter how ‘sinicised’, is incompatible with membership of the Communist Party. An article in the newsletter of the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection claims that since it is a ‘founding ideological principle that Communist Party members cannot be religious’, party members don’t enjoy the right to religious freedom: ‘Chinese citizens have the freedom of religious belief, but Communist Party members are not the same as regular citizens; they are fighters in the vanguard for a communist consciousness.’ How does this exclusion of believers from the party aid religious freedom? Marx’s analysis of the political imbroglio of the French Revolution of 1848 comes to mind. The ruling Party of Order was the coalition of the two royalist wings, the Bourbons and the Orleanists. The two parties were, by definition, unable to find a common denominator in their royalism, since one cannot be a royalist in general, only a supporter of a particular royal house, so the only way for the two to unite was under the banner of the ‘anonymous kingdom of the Republic’. In other words, the only way to be a royalist in general is to be a republican. The same is true of religion. One cannot be religious in general: one can only believe in a particular god, or gods, to the detriment of others. The failure of all attempts to unite religions shows that the only way to be religious in general is under the banner of the ‘anonymous religion of atheism’. Effectively, only an atheist regime can guarantee religious tolerance: the moment this atheist frame disappears, factional struggle among different religions will explode. Although fundamentalist Islamists all attack the godless West, the worst struggles go on between them (IS focuses on killing Shia Muslims).

There is, however, a deeper fear at work in the prohibition of religious belief for members of the Communist Party. ‘It would have been best for the Chinese Communist Party if its members were not to believe in anything, not even in communism,’ Zorana Baković, the China correspondent for the Slovenian newspaper Delo, wrote recently, ‘since numerous party members joined churches (most of them Protestant churches) precisely because of their disappointment at how even the smallest trace of their communist ideals had disappeared from today’s Chinese politics.’

In short, the most serious opposition to the Chinese party leadership today is presented by truly convinced communists, a group composed of old, mostly retired party cadres who feel betrayed by the unbridled capitalist corruption along with those proletarians whom the ‘Chinese miracle’ has failed: farmers who have lost their land, workers who have lost their jobs and wander around searching for a means of survival, others who are exploited by companies like Foxconn etc. They often take part in mass protests carrying placards bearing quotes from Mao. This combination of experienced cadres and the poor who have nothing to lose is potentially explosive. China is not a stable country with an authoritarian regime that guarantees harmony and is thus able to keep capitalist dynamics under control: every year thousands of rebellions of workers, farmers and minorities have to be squashed by the authorities. No wonder official propaganda talks incessantly of a harmonious society. This very insistence bears witness to its opposite, the ever present threat of chaos and disorder. One should apply the basic rule of Stalinist hermeneutics here: since the official media do not openly report on the troubles, the most reliable way to detect them is to search for the positive excesses in state propaganda – the more harmony is celebrated, the more chaos and antagonism should be inferred. China is full of antagonisms and barely controlled instabilities that continually threaten to explode.

It is only against this background that one can understand the religious politics of the Chinese Party: the fear of belief is effectively the fear of communist ‘belief’, the fear of those who remain faithful to the universal emancipatory message of communism. One looks in vain at the ongoing ideological campaign for any mention of the basic class antagonism made evident in the workers’ protests. There is no talk of the threat of ‘proletarian communism’; all the fury is directed instead against the foreign enemy. ‘Certain countries in the West,’ the party secretary of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences wrote in June 2014, advertise their own values as ‘universal values’, and claim that their interpretations of freedom, democracy and human rights are the standard by which all others must be measured. They spare no expense when it comes to hawking their goods and peddling their wares to every corner of the planet, and stir up ‘colour revolutions’ both before and behind the curtain. Their goal is to infiltrate, break down and overthrow other regimes. At home and abroad certain enemy forces make use of the term ‘universal values’ to smear the Chinese Communist Party, socialism with Chinese characteristics, and China’s mainstream ideology. They scheme to use Western value systems to change China, with the goal of letting Chinese people renounce the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and socialism with Chinese characteristics, and allow China to once again become a colony of some developed capitalist country.

Some of this is true, but the particular truths cover over a more general lie. It is of course right that one cannot and should not trust the Western powers’ promulgation of the ‘universal values’ of freedom, democracy and human rights: that universality is false, and conceals the West’s ideological biases. Even so, is it then enough to oppose Western values with a particular alternative, such as the Confucianism that is ‘China’s mainstream ideology’? Don’t we need a different universalism, a different project of universal emancipation? The irony here is that ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ effectively means socialism with capitalist characteristics, i.e. a socialism that fully integrates China into the global market. The universality of global capitalism is left intact, quietly accepted as the only possible frame; the project of Confucian harmony is mobilised only in order to keep a lid on the antagonisms that come along with global capitalist dynamics. All that remains is a socialism with Confucian ‘national colours’: a national socialism, whose social horizon is the patriotic promotion of one’s own nation, while the antagonisms immanent in capitalist development are projected onto a foreign enemy who poses a threat to social harmony. What the Chinese party aims at in its patriotic propaganda, what it calls ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, is yet another version of ‘alternative modernity’: capitalism without class struggle.
Slavoj Žižek, "Sinicisation"

Monday, July 13, 2015

To My Methuselah

Men drop to the earth like leaves
Lives as brief as footprints in snow.
Bristlecones enthroned on top of the world
Watch civilizations come and go.
They seek our secret, immortality,
But search in vain, for it is vanity.
If truth be known I would rather
be a flower, or a leaf that lives
and breathes with brief intensity.
My life is as thin as the wind
And I am done with counting stars.
On the side of this mountain
I might live forever,
Could you imagine anything worse?
My name is Methuselah and this is my curse.
- Roger McGough, "The Oldest Tree on Earth: The Curse of Methuselah (Poem Six)"

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What Does Freedom/ Liberty Mean? actual escape from Domination, or merely such a "perception"?
ah, enslave without compassion
bound ancestors you must impale
go seek and show no mercy
let those who escape carry the tale

all the sufferers bearing witness
to their ministers spilling their blood
staggered screeches from bleak recesses
regicide plotters bend to the dust

with unmitigated conquest and domination
trample them under your tyranny

slimy enshrinement brings into question
what's divinely lamented for
scatter populations with ruthlessness
let them choose sycophancy or sword

reappoint difficult commanders
for instigation unbroken awaits
kept in frenzy, they whisper confusion
never quite sure of their fate

with unmitigated conquest and domination
trample them under your tyranny

let the cowardly unlock the gates for you
to heroically claim what's inside
crowds you abhor kneeling in wonder
all the world is your virgin bride

punctuate the roads with tollgates
erect monuments to broadcast your name
all your banquet's guests are your enemies
entertain them with one another's shame

with unmitigated conquest and domination
trample them under your tyranny

with unmitigated conquest and domination
trample them under your tyranny
under your tyranny
- Tyrannical Bastard, "Unmitigated Conquest and Domination (An instructional hymn for unseasoned conquerors)"

Friday, July 10, 2015

Not Ready

HOW can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?
Yet here's a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there's a politician
That has read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms!
-William Butler Yeats

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Swimming in Desire

“Desire, loneliness, wind in the flowering almond— surely these are the great, the inexhaustible subjects to which my predecessors apprenticed themselves. I hear them echo in my own heart, disguised as convention.”
― Louise Glück, "The Seven Ages"

Friday, July 3, 2015

1789, Les Amants de La Bastille "Je Veux Le Monde"

I Want the World

I am the mirror
Of a better love
I begged the night
To make you see the day
And since,
You've lost yourself in other beds.
In the name of power,
You change your views.
You think you know everything;
Ambition makes you deaf.
You forget
Woman, who gave you life.

They're mad; they're mad.

I want the world.
To tears, citizenesses,
Woman is sovereign!
We dream the world,
Make the revolt
Nothing scares us anymore
We've known* sorrow
And we want the world.

You play at being soldiers
I am your salvation.
You lose the battle
But the game goes on
If I give
Nine of my months
To make a man.

They're mad; they're mad.

In this bullfight,
You see virtue!
Death is, for you,
An absolute pleasure.
You shiver
When a life leaves us.

I want the world.
To tears, citizenesses;
Woman is sovereign!
We dream the world,
Make the revolt.
Nothing scares us anymore
We've known* sorrow
And we want the world.

I am the world
Because the earth is round
Like a fertile mother.
I want the world
Without such somber days.
Enough of sorrow;
I've known* that by heart.

I want the world.
To tears, citizenesses,
Woman is sovereign!
We dream the world,
Make the revolt.
Nothing scares us anymore
We've known* sorrow
And we want the world.

I want the world.
To tears, citizenesses,
Woman is sovereign!

We dream the world,
Make the revolt.
Nothing scares us anymore
We've known* sorrow
And we want the world.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


As I begin to write,
My head has gone to the office.
I arrange myself to review my dreams,
Enter into this the golden nexus,
Lay down my temptations to the laws I perceive.
Receive this,
A silent form of opulence,
A suspended form of decadence,
A river bathed in moonlight,
And a snake protecting his own coffin.
I can afford this to you,
Wrapped in red,
The sands of these forces may conceal,
They have never lied to me,
These forces,
That beauty graciously hides.
Seven precious stones singing,
Seven heavenly melodies breeding,
Seven treasured colors,
From the rainbows of immortality.
The butterfly truly does dance with the wind!
As the salamander conjures up her fire,
Coiled amongst her flames.
Sensations of yesterday,
Never obtained access to witness.
The ghosts of ghosts impregnate themselves...
With the mists of my mind.
The perfection of the soul,
The dissolution of my ego.
An enigmatic pragmatism.
Is it justified?
White light travelling,
Thoroughly through,
The halls of disengaged magickal prisms.
A Shepard and his lost dog.
This field leads to the omen.
I am transient and omnipotent,
God manifest.
I am both man and woman.
Scotty B, "Dissolution" (Oct 17, 2013)