29/03/2012

Epicurus is not Dionysian!



...our court, infected with their manners
Shows like a riotous inn: epicurism and lust
Make it more like a tavern or a brothel
Than a grac’d palace
.

- Goneril, King Lear (1606)


Such a view of life is the meanest form of selfishness, leading in general to vice ... If sincerely embraced and consistently carried out, it undermined all that was chivalrous and heroic...

- New Advent Encyclopaedia (1913)



(In which I complain that the word 'epicurean' is really misleading - and accuse Christians, Jews, and rocknroll. There could be snakes in here: addressing your marginal concerns with excessive urgency since 2010.)


*********************************************************


I like Epicurus for his lack of melodrama. (Which he manages to have despite living in a melodramatic culture - Hellas - inset in a melodramatic species - us.) Unlike the trendy philosophies of the last 200 years, Epicureanism is able to include and dignify everyday things. (One synopsis of his philosophy is just four lines imploring us to not worry, to not make such a fuss. "The universe doesn't take notice of us - and that's good news; death is beyond us; if you demand less you'll be happier sooner; bad things are usually not as bad as we imagine.") It's therapeutic and minimal: for Epicurus, the most that people like us can aim for are the twin goods freedom from anxiety & absence of pain, ataraxia & aponia. In direct opposition to his Judaeo-Christian reputation, he insists that excess keeps us suffering and fearful, that the pleasure to seek is long-term, serene, and reflective.

And yet the noun and adjective "epicurean" primarily means aesthete, gourmet, hedonist, un-Epicurean, melodramatic devotion to sensuality! This grew partly out of a misunderstanding his claims that 'pleasure is the ultimate good' and that we must 'live while we are alive' - but there's active slander in it too. (The word for heretic in Judaism is "apikoros", transliterated expressly after him; a smear campaign against him was part of the seizure of Europe's intellectual space by the Patristic Christians. It lasted, and still lasts.)

When we say that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal, or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some, through ignorance, prejudice or willful misrepresentation ... It is impossible to live the pleasant life without also living sensibly, nobly and justly - nor can we live sensibly, nobly, and justly without living pleasantly."

- Epicurus



"[Epicurus points out that] You can transcend the horror of the world through moderate delight in ordinary things. It may seem an obvious and trite insight - but genuine profundity is just that: honest, trite and profound.

- Peter Brooks


Dionysus - pretty things, fun mental states, wild self-expression, abandonment of responsibility - is not enough. And the rest is Stoic; Epicureanism is stoic utilitarianism, theology without the metaphysical melodrama. It is also quietist. So it goes.


************************************************************


Dionysus in Camden





I guess I just lost my husband
I don't know where he went
So I'm gonna drink my money...
So what - I'm still a rock star!

- P!nk



Lemma: there are nine metal bands named "Dionysus". (As ever, historical talk is not really about the past, or ideas. It is about us.) Who was Epicurus' opposite, I wonder? The properly melodramatic precursor to Byron; Rimbaud; Kerouac; Keiths Moon and Richards; Richard Hell; Chris McCandless - a tradition which gets called Epicurean by arch fans (but which should be called Gothic hedonism). Was it that fascist fool Homer? Are Achilles and Ajax the first rock and roll heroes?

We, alternative first-world youth, have homogenous stances to the world, despite our individualist posture. What shall we call our standard ideology? "Carpism"? (after bloody carpe diem) "Rockism"? (after its largest source of imagery and cultural momentum) Gothic hedonism?

As the above tradition I just made up suggests, it runs through Romanticism, Modernism, the Beats, the hippies, cyperpunk - making successive generations of hipsters make themselves sad.

The bad bits:
  • The aim is to lose control. Whether to a consuming love, or intoxication, or the Beat. Thus anti-intellectual and thus really a way of ducking your problems, making them into things that happen to you. When we medicalise unhappiness, we are submitting to rockist ethics. Epicurus is diametric to this: your peace of mind is up to you to attain.

  • Contempt for the ordinary. We are such special snowflakes in such corrupt surroundings that it is an affront that we should have to queue, or file, or work. The extremes of life are arbitrarily taken to be the real bits. The spontaneous too.

  • Utterly dilute dregs of Marxism, Nietzscheanism, critical theory, held as superstitions are. Result is loud nihilism - since if you tear down old-style Morality without M or N's moral sense...

  • Individualism for its own sake.

  • Bohemia, that is, the attempt to change the world through art, instead of y'know politics or work. Result is accidental conservatism / quietism.


Rockism wouldn't be so bad if it was not also monomanaical, dividing the whole world into squares and cognoscenti. An aggressive overcompensation against 'normality', it uses style, immorality and recklessness as bludgeons.

And in pop. The deep similarity between (e.g.) thug-hop and metal is that they are each Gothic forms founded on the rule that only the rawest is real. In case you needed telling, that's fake as hell, and it leaves them unable to mention ordinary emotions, ordinary actions, ordinary sights: almost the lived world in its lovely bland entirety.

This all ties in with the most idiotic remant of Sixties culture: fun as social protest. This kind of radicalism is decidedly safe in most social groups under, say, 25. In some circles it is not safe to not seem dangerous. Hence nerds (blessed be their unrock authenticity).

21/03/2012

anti matters

"A thing is a hole in a thing it is not."
– Carl Andre

hairdressers sell negative hair;
sculptors negate stone.
cleaners mess with mess,
prostitutes try and siphon lust;
judge hurls negative freedom.
priest spits fear and negative fear.
killer sells negative life,
musician, negative death.




19/03/2012

Self Hacking (self-mythologising songs)


The idea that we teach in the Gospel of Hip Hop is self-creation - that hip hop gives us the ability to self-create... A new kind of creative visualization. A new kind of way to notice God, in that sense."

- KRS-One (...)

music allows even the most grave of performers to become wildly eccentric extrapolations of their own self-perception...

- James


What's Pop got to do with reality? It is ubiquitous ghetto fabulous candy-flipping phantasy - its lack of realism is why it's popular in the first place - it sprays righteous fiction over our lives. The population of pop with aggressive personalities is not (just) driven by the egos of performers: we do so like to have gods before us.

Hip-hop is completely obviously founded upon The Front, The Show, The Braggadocio Exaggeration Extravaganza, but it is far from the first. Its 'realness' never measured authenticity, so much as how much the schmuck lived up to racist myths about blackness. (If realness were about reality, the likes of DMX would have to put out Proustian albums examining e.g. what it feels to wake up alone at 2pm with the runs after a heavy night out ballin')

Anyway: this leaving room for world as will and representation is what unites the warring families of pop. Take metal and thug-hop - two playgrounds usually held apart: they are both about the transformation of the self, in usually Gothic permutations. Now, simple self-reference (MY NAME IS) is the cheapest way of inflating yourself, but this blog is after more than just self-reference. Sometimes addressing the fourth wall doesn't dispel the fantasy, but gives it a car-battery-to-genitals boost, all the while holding your gaze. Let swing the songs of self-expansion:


Listen easily here

BOOTSTRAPPING ICONS

1. Man In Black - Johnny Cash
("We're doing mighty fine I do suppose
In our streak-of-lightning cars and fancy clothes
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back
Up front there ought to be a man in black
.")

(This was pure magical thinking: wearing yourself into a folk symbol. Note that emphasising outlaw mystique always has a human cost - cf. all thug-hop. The real shame is that Cash's hard wildness was only ever one of his sides: Cash the devotional, Cash the romantic, Cash the just, Cash the square, and Cash the daft have fallen by the wayside, mostly cos of Mercury and Def American's promotional schtick and our callow rockism.)



2. My Name is Prince - Prince
("Til I get your daughter, I won't leave this town
...I put my foot in the ass of Jim Crow...")


(skip to 1:30)



3. No Omega - Eric B & Rakim
("I'm the Alpha, with no Omega...

You know, with a mic, I'm a black Michaelangelo...
You need more light cos yours got dim,
Then you get sparked by the Lord Rakim...
I ain't a soloist, I'm an arsonist.")

(it begins)



4. We Are Motorhead - Motorhead
("We are the first and we just still might be the last
We are Motorhead: born to kick your ass...
We are the future, baby, used to be the past
We are Motorhead and we don't have no class
...
We fight authority, we glorify free will...")




5. Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley

(So mad. He did this exact thing on a dozen songs!)



6. Charlie Mingus' career

Every-other album title bears his surname - culminating in Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus - but he isn't anywhere as self-obsessed as he seems. Mingus Ah Um is really a tribute album to the people who formed him - and there's also 'Jump Monk', Duke Ellington's Sound of Love', 'Open Letter to Duke', 'Jelly Roll', 'Theme for Lester Young', 'Roland Kirk's Message', 'Eulogy for Rudy Williams'...

But also two after himself: 'Mingus Fingus No. 2' and 'Mingus Blues'. God knows what they represent. He is iconic enough in his silence.



7. Protect Ya Neck - Wu-Tang Clan (RZA)
("Feelin' mad hostile, ran the apostle
Stroll with the holy-roll then attack the globe
with the buckus style the ruckus,
ten times ten men committing mad sin
Turn the other cheek and I'll break your fucking chin
...
My clan increase like black unemployment.")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCZrz8siv4Q



8. R.A.M.O.N.E.S. - Ramones
("CJ now, hit the gas
Hear Marky kick your ass
Go, Johnny, go, go, go
Go Tommy, o-way-o
")

Twee as anything - and yet written by big hairy Northerners.




9. T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S - Hives
("You're looking at black and white / Seeing our name in lights
Make you feel alright / Baby we're here all night
We rule the world, this is our world.
We rule the world, this is our world
")


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eRXTNjCkDs

The most charming recent rock braggadocio. "If The Beatles could make a ‘White Album’ and Metallica could make a ‘Black Album’, there was only one band who could make a record twice as good as those two combined..."




10. Freezepop Forever - Freezepop
"Updated F-Pop.net today. Got all dressed up to come and play ...
Synthesizer playing is my trade. I have the IQ of someone in second grade...
The Duke of Candied Apples is my name, making blippy beats that will put yours to shame..."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7L9Z1C97Kw



11. Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys - Arctic Monkeys
("But we'll stick to the guns
Don't care if it's marketing suicidal
Won't crack or compromise
Your do-rights or individes
Will never unhinge us
.")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFeuKVkau6U




12. Kings of Metal - Manowar
("Manowar, Manowar, living on the road
When we're in town, speakers explode!
We don't attract wimps cause we're too loud
Just True Metal people that's Manowar's crowd.")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMrDoIHkOdY




13. Monk Time - The Monks
("Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam?
Mad Viet Cong. My brother died in Vietnam
!
...You're a monk, I'm a monk, we're all monks!")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MmSl0xu0ec




14. Izzo (H.O.V.A) - Jay-Z
("...he who does not feel me
Is not real to me, therefore he doesn't exist
So poof! -- vamoose, son of a bitch!
...So you know I seen it all before
I've seen Hoop Dreams deflate like a true fiend's weight
To try and to fail: the two things I hate.
")

(That's 'Jayhova' o course, as in היהוה)



15. Future Generation - Auteurs
(The future generation will take me by the hand
To the common in my home ground; this is the story of the band
...")




16. Jocko Homo - Devo
("Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!
I must repeat: D.E.V.O
...")

(also 'Devo Have Feelings Too' and 'Devo Corporate Anthem')



17. Konichiwa Bitches - Robyn

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdTucUya9YE

(this is also great)



18. Crap Rap 2 - Fall
("We are Northern white crap that talks back
We are The Fall we were spinning we were stepping
Cop out, cop out as in from heaven
The difference between you and us is that we have brains...
")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-aTQHnpdHk



19. Mommy, What's A Funkadelic?
("I am Funkadelic
Dedicated to the feeling of good
And baby, I'm good at being good
")



(Also: "Shonen Knife", "Julian H Cope", "We Are The Pipettes", "Wilco (The Song)", "Antmusic", "Hey Hey We're the Monkees", "Clash City Rockers", "They might Be Giants", "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream", "Baby Bird", "Dicks Hate the Police" "Give it to the Soft Boys", "Van Dyke Parks", the entire first Tenacious D album. But this page has enough of your bandwidth already.)




ORIGIN MYTHS

21. History Lesson - Part 2 - Minutemen
("We learned punk rock in Hollywood,
Drove up from Pedro.
We were fucking corn dogs
We'd go drink and pogo
.")

(So full of divinity! Who can say it's not beautiful?)


22. The Story of Them - Them
("Who or what are Them?
I think they're all a little bit touched
...
Wild, crude, sweaty, ugly and mad
And sometimes just a little bit sad
.")




23. Saturday Gigs - Mott the Hoople
("In Seventy-two we was born to lose
We slipped down snakes into yesterday's news
I was ready to quit
But then we went to Croydon
...")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=priGudub_OE



24. Creeque Alley - Mamas and the Papas
("John and Mitchy were gettin' kind of itchy
Just to leave the folk music behind
.")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLC2bf4jfPE
Also mythologises everyone else they knew.




26. Family Tradition - Hank Williams Jr
("Lord I have loved some ladies
and I have loved Jim Beam
and they both tried to kill me in 1973.
When that doctor asked me
'Son how did you get in this condition?'
I said, Hey sawbones, I'm just carrying on an ole family tradition
.")
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4m26XgjdA4



(Also, "Manowar", "Range Life", "Josh Freese Is Ready", "The Creation", 'Ballad of Mott the Hoople' - and the Kinks' awful "The Road" which has this great line: 'The motorways all over this land - far away places like Wigan and Birmingham...')



SELF-SURREALISM

27. My Name is Skrillex - Skrillex
("My name is Skrillex. My name is Skrillex.")






28. GWAR Theme - GWAR
"Cause we are GWAR and we'll go far
We've got guitars, we'll eat your car...
GWAR GWAR GWAR GWAR
"




29. Braggadocio - MC Frontalot
("I stand 77 feet tall, I got eight balls
and all o' y'all are subject to my thrall.
I act appalled when in receipt of less than the highest honor

Some day I'll be both revered and passé like Madonna.
I'm all in effect, people tend to genuflect
when I enter rooms, 'cause all dopeness is subsumed.")




30. Glass Onion - The Beatles
("Well here's another clue for you all -
The Walrus was Paul.")




31. Ox Out The Cage - Cannibal Ox
("I grab the mic like, "Are You Experienced?"
But I don't play the guitar, I play my cadence
And If I exhaled arguments only to hold my breath
I would die and I ain't talking hair color
I'm talkin about the reality with my mother's eye-water
The author with a papermate spittin paperweights")


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYLtoclNYQ4



32. Formed A Band - Art Brut
("...We're gonna be the band that writes the song
that makes Israel and Palestine get along
.")






ANTI-MYTHOLOGY

33. No Direction- Bad Religion
("NO BAD RELIGION SONG WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE COMPLETE")



34. My Name Is - Eminem
(...God sent me to piss the world off!
...My English teacher wanted to flunk me in Junior High
- Thanks a lot; next semester I'll be thirty-five
...I haven't had a woman in years, my palms are too hairy to hide")



Lord Hereford's Knob - Half Man Half Biscuit

("All of our songs sound the same
Tonight he’ll be sitting on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob
I’m keeping Two Chevrons Apart
Tonight he’ll be sitting on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob
You’re the reason why paradise lost
Tonight he’ll be sitting on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob
")



I'm not the same as when I began...
The public image belongs to me:
It's my entrance, my own creation
My grand finale, my goodbye
."
- Public Image Ltd




18/03/2012

big questions avoided by big questioners


Four years banging your head against philosophers does not necessarily result in answers. You leave with a lifetime's supply of questions, though (as many as you can carry).


But maybe only certain kinds of question. Some of the best and most probing issues were intentionally not addressed by my lecturers. When they did come up, they were dismissed as hand-wavy (i.e. vague, naive, poetic, unrigorous, excessive, off-topic).


What this really means is that they require rare breadth and synthetic intelligence to handle - a candle, not a laser - and that even then, the answers to them are open-ended, indexical and speculative. This is why something like Continental philosophy - in spite of all its obscurantism, cultishness and breathlessness - is necessary: it isn't afraid of reaching a little way past 'the' world at the expense of certainty.


  1. what is our fundamental relation to the world?

  2. what is value?

  3. how much of all this was inevitable? (is anything itself necessarily?

  4. And, does that last question matter? (Can history bring meaning to life?)

  5. (3b): what can we do? (unity of theory and practice)

  6. what is the relation between knowledge and power?

  7. what comes before the question?

  8. what, exactly, is impossible? What impossible things are there?

  9. what should we acknowledge as Higher than ourselves?


*******************************************


I'll have a go at that last one. Three things are above me: causality; absurdity; and the lives of Others.


Do those first two seem to contradict each other? (By saying 'causality' like that, am I not positing an unabsurd universal order?) No: a billiard table can be internally consistent and perfectly closed, but will still be Absurd if the whole deal is floating in space.



15/03/2012

you can't blog your blog around a memory

The clues you bastards give away! Psych profiles of a seditious buncha bright young things. (I don't know how hard you think about naming your things - but anyway you needn't think very long for your scent to be on it. And it's no more than a scent I'm after.)


  • Title: Romanticise the Future. An imperative; also a statement of his new(ish) worldview. Compare with Douglas Coupland's "EROTICISE INTELLIGENCE".

    URL: "ithasbeesinit". Recalls Eddie Izzard, recalls Black Books - but is neither. There's a residual presence online for the whole phrase, but that's to be expected - since this URL is a spot-on evocation of the aesthetic in eC21st language; ironically awkward grammar with a nonsequitur dab of twee. Are bees more comic than your average beast? Yes.

    Formerly: arcolimunosotrexate - a gibberish composite of various medications of his. It ensured you got exact google hits, at least. Presumably dropped owing to a change in self-definition (up and at em).

    Layout: Good. Pseudo-anonymous, owing to prominent formspring account and other bright techno-utopian disclosures. Perhap colours could be tweaked (sidebar too strong).




  • Title: an obligation to beauty. Another one-line worldview with an unusual normative object. Blog itself is wholly self-expressive anyway; we do not have to dig to find her.

    URL: "trashy elegance". After a trait recently imputed to her.

    Layout: Prototypical? Background is a bit strong atm.




  • my camera groans beneath the weight it bears. Poignant-if-vague hipster band allusion. My fault; moving along:




  • Bile Yer Ain Head. Title is a conscious reclamation of suppressed / lower-class status language. Genuinely. Also some self-mythologisation going on: "awa' an bile yer heid" (an expression of dismissive disbelief) being what he'd have people think is his family motto.

    Layout: messy, scatty, DIYIY OI OI OI. Ow my ears and eyes.




  • Defunct?: A very sort of mundane chaos.

    URL: "orwellian-trash".

    Layout: The most striking difference is Livejournal's sheer vibrancy - he rarely gets any less than six comments, often dozens, and all sympathetic and vivacious.




  • Unadvised Adventures in the North East of Scotland. Self-explanatory. Genuinely anonymous, allegedly owing to legal concerns rather than chagrin.




  • Check Your Six. A friendly Americanism, and so an honest nod to the larger part of his taste. (This is changing.) But 'check your six' has a darker echo in it: look out behind you, paranoia, war. Contrast with his tag ('Gobshite') and bunched-up punk prose aesthetic (first post title: 'Turd in a Foot Bath').

    URL: "35hours" - the half-life of his anti-depressant then. To be fair, this was almost the only way in which he drew any attention at all to it.

    Layout: Black as my heart. More gloom. When my blog was white-text-on-dark, i got a number of flames from the Accessibility cru. (This was probably fair enough.)




  • Mediocre Batman. 'Not a blog'. Assumed at first this was done out of steely kitsch - but turns out it is really out of love. And kitsch also. And steely liberalism. Only one of us to brandish our IRL name.

    Layout: Little to offer. Tumbr sux for pictures - but then we do all have ctrl++, don't we?




  • out of the darkness, into the light. Suggests enlightenment / leaving behind past pain. again.

    Tag: "every day I wake up" - a Jay-Z reference ("now every day I wake up / Somebody got a problem with Hov") which isn't as mundane or hopeful as it sounds, on a generally muscular, uplifting album. Though presented backwards, it works as a prequel to the blog name proper: "every day I wake up out of the darkness into the light" - which makes this a blog about dawn. (The light of Pop banishing the darkness of rockism.)

    URL: "Kid-reflux" - a name for a bedroom dubstep boi, not the man we know. Like 'Romanticise the Future', perhaps an attempt to force a point of personality upon oneself. Name is not duplicated anywhere else.

    Layout: To be read at night, clearly.




  • there could be snakes in here. Once again, a title with an eye to the negative. But it's actually a symbol for still the most powerful weapon we have against suffering: relativising your struggles to worse ones ("I try to put everything into perspective / Set it against the scale of human suffering / And I thought of the Mugabe government / And the children of the Calcutta railways / This works for a while / But then I encounter Primark FM"). It is also a Wittgenstein's scepticism nod. It is also a Terry Pratchett reference, though he might deny it in arsier moods. The Snakes on a Plane resonance is unintended but welcomed.

    URL: "afterallitcouldbeworse". Just the first part of the title, as with 'out of the darkness'. Read altogether it is quite metrical, trochaic: 'after all it could be worse, there could be snakes in here'.

    Layout: Egotistical "best of" category has been dropped. new headline is lacking as a result. Colours are an improvement.




  • Defunct: L'esprit d'escalier: 'the wit of the staircase', or that thing where you think up a perfect witticism well after the fact. Expresses regret, but is also an unfalsifiable boast ('story of my life').

    URL was "gambalde", an uncommon surname of uncertain significance. Edit: 'Gambol', earlier gambolde or gambalde, from Medieval French gambade, "a leaping or skipping," from Late Latin gamba, "hock, leg," from Greek kampe, "a joint or bend."




  • May as well be defunct: Hiccoughs, Anacrusis, Etc. Muso joke. The few posts are promising, if esoteric. Blogs need practice; you can see almost everyone who's written one gaining momentum from post #1 on.

    URL: "thebitbeforethedownbeat" - a definition of 'anacrusis'; an attempt to puncture own inflation.

    Layout: Classily sparse. Again, will bring down the ire of Accessibility. but Style will win out this once. (his obligation to beauty).




09/03/2012

on calling people brainwashed

(c) Honoré Daumier (1865) 'Crispin and Scapin'

I can only suggest that he would combat false consciousness to awaken people to their true interests has much to do, because the sleep is very deep. And I do not intend here to provide a lullaby but merely to sneak in and watch the people snore.
- Erving Goffman


All interesting theories accuse us of being brainwashed: "You lack information; now, open your eyes":

  • Tectonics (on solid ground)

  • the unconscious mind (you're so unconscious you don't know you've a massive unconscious)

  • Relativity (space-and-time is squishy; no space without objects; no one thing can move)

  • the Everett interpretation (all possible things actually happen)

  • the germ theory of disease (the world's so dirty you've no idea how dirty)

  • Radical feminism (you're so oppressed you don't know you're oppressed, and/or you're so sexist you don't know you're sexist)

  • Or more generally Critical theory (you're so oppressed you don't know you're oppressed).

  • eliminative materialism (you're so evolved you don't know you're evolved)

  • Wittgenstein II (you're so linguistic you're constantly lost in the woods of your words)

  • genealogies of anything (you're such a slave you don't know you're a slave),



Whether the culprit is folk theory, oppressive social structures, blind academic paradigms, or just our own narcissism, we're told again and again that our intuitions make fools of us. Told that our attitude doesn't reflect our objective position (this attitude also known as being human). The conceptual brainwashing involved in all this goes by a number of names depending on the scope of the alleged 'wash: bad faith and doublethink, false consciousness, hidden ideology, cultural hegemony, Repression, 'simple' paradigmatic underdetermination, and so on.

And many of us love to be accused: the above theories are the biggest doctrines in intellectual culture. What is it about certain concept changes that make us such enthusiastic masochists? Can we only be made to listen to theory when there is a slap in it for us?

Now, in the above I conflated scientific revolutions with political identity-work. I suppose I should stop doing that and become serious, since, unlike (most) natural science, the political kind challenges us in a desperate existential way - it accuses us of misunderstanding ourselves, not just continents, disease, or motion. We're still so conceited about our self-knowledge that we can't help but be stung by the suggestion of programming, and stung, I reckon, to morbid curiosity and codependency.

(The difference between a belief in hard determinism and the belief that everyone is brainwashed is a subtle one.)

The effort to deprogram us can take a few targets, some more tractable than others: there's your shite assumptions (particularly prevalent in the folk theory of gender); your ignorance of the structures that you are formed and active within, whether these are causal structures (as when we imagine our magic free will in the face of neuroscience) or social (as in the popular theory of late capitalism's spooky mind-control).

- Your doublethink and your emotional habits. (e.g. knowing that you're a healthy weight but being nagged by body image issues regardless.)

***********************************************************

So what is it that makes us enthusiastic masochists over these ideas?

Well, there's the delicious drama of it, their portentous invitation to reason; or the backup it gives to the enduringly moronic Great Man theory of history ("Thanks to Him, we now Know!") but I think the key driver is brainwash theory's indirect invitation to narcissicism. For the 'masochism' of accepting really new theories is just a stage, after which we get to claim to have transcended our brainwashing, and to feel that we've joined a vanguard; a little pocket of knowledge in a corrupt and stupid world. (And: "Now to impose our will on the deluded.")

This new brainwashing - the arrogance of the self-conscious theoretical élite - is far harder to rinse away. woe betide us.

**********************************************


Where do we draw the line between provocative dialectics and dickery?


Two important men are having a careful conversation on military training. What do you call the guy who, having no particular competence or interest in the matter at hand, jumps in the conversation, systematically contradicts everyone with contrived arguments, ridicules the two competent discussants, reorients the conversation on a completely different topic, then leaves the audience baffled and walks away, laughing? That Troll is Socrates in Plato's Laches.
- Olivier Morin


Am in your unexamined life, reducing you to absurdity. Since at least Gorgias and Socrates, the rule seems to be "fuck with people's heads as much as you like if you do it in the name of Logos". But what then separates iconoclasm from trolling?
  • Sincerity? Not always; Nietzsche and Derrida, for instance, are probably insincere for sincere motives (not to mention Robert Anton Wilson).

  • Novelty? But the broken taboos lauded as momentous Events in human discourse when done fictionally by De Sade, DH Lawrence, or Henry Miller are out-squicked daily for real on 4chan and dump.fm. They can't be called political expression anymore. (Though note that hacktivism was born there, right amid the paedophilia and lolz - This has led to Anonymous declaring itself "the face of the Internet", when it is truly more reminiscent of the anus...)

  • the thought's historical Consequence? (Whether it happens to catch on?)

  • Or is it just the troll's social status? (If so, this is really to say that nothing separates them.)

(c) Honoré Daumier (1848), 'Two Uprising'

07/03/2012

that They

I see they've cloned a baby.
They've put ten mice on crack!
They know what causes rainfall now -
They've fixed your grandad's back!

They'll go too far if you ask me
They can't control it all.
So while they fill up the TV
I'll off await the Fall.