Empty Days

Saturday, June 12, 2004



58. Leftism, at least in its recent (mid-to-late 20th century) form, is in part a symptom of deprivation with respect to the power process.

To which Houellebecq responds with: "mass pauperization" following cultural revolution of the 60's and subsequent savage "system of sexual liberalism".

Too many people just don't seem to make it - one way or another - *and* lose their right to be heard by the same token. Not happy enough = not good enough. And then we get Houellebecq and the Unabomber... both of whom should have gone through a psychiatric rehabilitation (as is the custom for insufficiently happy individuals) but instead escaped and created documents full of loathing and discontent.

Oh my.


Autonomy and Universal Boredom

Footnote 5. (Paragraph 42) It may be argued that the majority of people don't want to make their own decisions but want leaders to do their thinking for them. There is an element of truth in this. People like to make their own decisions in small matters, but making decisions on difficult, fundamental questions require facing up to psychological conflict, and most people hate psychological conflict. Hence they tend to lean on others in making difficult decisions. The majority of people are natural followers, not leaders, but they like to have direct personal access to their leaders and participate to some extent in making difficult decisions. At least to that degree they need autonomy.
_________________


Dostoevsky devoted a whole book to precisely the subject of "fundamental questions requiring facing up to psychological conflict" - Crime and Punishment, where the hero meditates on will-power and the kind of natural daring it takes to supersede moral taboos. The model of total moral autonomy is examplified by Napoleon. After Raskolnikov finally conditions himself into murder, he realizes that he is not up to it:
But Dostoyevsky could not rest content with the negative implications of the Notes from Underground. He had an urgent desire to know whether it is possible to transcend conventional ideas of good and evil by choosing to act for reasons which, although conventionally describable as evil, would in fact represent an act of self-assertion or self-legislation in something like Nietzsche?s sense, rather than the obedience that ordinary morality requires; a superman morality, chosen by the individual for himself in fulfilment of his superiority to the norm.

This is what Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment tries to do. He decides to murder an old woman, and carries the decision out, later explaining his motivation in these terms: "I wanted to kill without casuistry, to kill for my own sake? it was not money I needed but something else? I wanted to know, and to know quickly, whether I was a worm like everyone else, or a man. Shall I be able to transgress or shall I not? Shall I dare to stoop down and take, or not? Am I a trembling creature, or have I the right?"
He concludes to his own psychological reality of being in fact a "trembling creature" and not a natural Napoleon and law-maker and breaker.

Indeed - most people hate psychological conflict for a reason.
___________________

AUTONOMY

42. Autonomy as a part of the power process may not be necessary for every individual. But most people need a greater or lesser degree of autonomy in working toward their goals. Their efforts must be undertaken on their own initiative and must be under their own direction and control. Yet most people do not have to exert this initiative, direction and control as single individuals. It is usually enough to act as a member of a SMALL group. Thus if half a dozen people discuss a goal among themselves and make a successful joint effort to attain that goal, their need for the power process will be served. But if they work under rigid orders handed down from above that leave them no room for autonomous decision and initiative, then their need for the power process will not be served. The same is true when decisions are made on a collective bases if the group making the collective decision is so large that the role of each individual is insignificant [5]

43. It is true that some individuals seem to have little need for autonomy. Either their drive for power is weak or they satisfy it by identifying themselves with some powerful organization to which they belong. And then there are unthinking, animal types who seem to be satisfied with a purely physical sense of power(the good combat soldier, who gets his sense of power by developing fighting skills that he is quite content to use in blind obedience to his superiors).

44. But for most people it is through the power process-having a goal, making an AUTONOMOUS effort and attaining t the goal-that self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of power are acquired. When one does not have adequate opportunity to go throughout the power process the consequences are (depending on the individual and on the way the power process is disrupted) boredom, demoralization, low self-esteem, inferiority feelings, defeatism, depression, anxiety, guilt, frustration, hostility, spouse or child abuse, insatiable hedonism, abnormal sexual behavior, sleep disorders, eating disorders, etc. [6]

***

Footnote 6. (Paragraph 44) Some of the symptoms listed are similar to those shown by caged animals. To explain how these symptoms arise from deprivation with respect to the power process: Common-sense understanding of human nature tells one that lack of goals whose attainment requires effort leads to boredom and that boredom, long continued, often leads eventually to depression. Failure to obtain goals leads to frustration and lowering of self-esteem. Frustration leads to anger, anger to aggression, often in the form of spouse or child abuse. It has been shown that long-continued frustration commonly leads to depression and that depression tends to cause guilt, sleep disorders, eating disorders and bad feelings about oneself. Those who are tending toward depression seek pleasure as an antidote; hence insatiable hedonism and excessive sex, with perversions as a means of getting new kicks. Boredom too tends to cause excessive pleasure-seeking since, lacking other goals, people often use pleasure as a goal. See accompanying diagram. The foregoing is a simplification. Reality is more complex, and of course deprivation with respect to the power process is not the ONLY cause of the symptoms described. By the way, when we mention depression we do not necessarily mean depression that is severe enough to be treated by a psychiatrist. Often only mild forms of depression are involved. And when we speak of goals we do not necessarily mean long-term, thought out goals. For many or most people through much of human history, the goals of a hand-to-mouth existence (merely providing oneself and one's family with food from day to day) have been quite sufficient.
__________________


While Unabomber is clearly an American (that is content with the commonly available pseudo-scientism of pop-psychology), one could hardly find a better - and cutting - commentary to Houellebecq's ruthlessly point-blank portrayal of "metaphysical boredom pervading modern industrial society" as expressed in sexual consumerism (free paraphrase).

The Sadian system is rooted in universal boredom and lack of purpose conditionned by a world void of any fundamental ideals beyond individual happiness (Happiness is Free - ggrrrrrrrrr).

That's all we know. Dearly-held ideals such as "freedom and democracy" are currently predicated on the most restrictive vision of what human beings are about - ever. Still trying for the brave new world. Shall we go to Mars or to Venus? Shall we fuck a chick or a goose? Shall we try for Buddha or Zarathustra? Shall we buy a sedan or a SUV?

Where shall we go today? Oh the freedom of the glob-trotter...

***

While it is not my place nor measure to delve into philosophical gigantism, I cannot but acknowledge that these are not remote critiques of a remote reality - I am stuck right in the middle of all of this, from office-towers to porn-videos to my own egregious depression. Such sweeping discourse hits as close to home as can get.




35. Everyone has goals; if nothing else, to obtain the physical necessities of life: food, water and whatever clothing and shelter are made necessary by the climate. But the leisured aristocrat obtains these things without effort. Hence his boredom and demoralization.

36. Nonattainment of important goals results in death if the goals are physical necessities, and in frustration if nonattainment of the goals is compatible with survival. Consistent failure to attain goals throughout life results in defeatism, low self-esteem or depression.




All of which might be summarized as: fighting for the right to open unhappiness and hatred.

Think - gay-pride parade.


The value of "spirituality"

In my bouts of acute depression I tried to find solace in some sort of "spirituality". Strangely, every time I thought I found some words promising meaning, it turned out that the meaning in question required going to high mountains or sitting in determined silence for extended periods of time - staring at the ceiling, not thinking. Then, the teachings said, you would pass into another dimension where all your perceived turmoils shall disappear.

In short, every such teaching proposed to actually go to an actual desert or - alternatively - pretend that other humans do not exist and are only shadows on the moving-screen of a higher reality.

It struck me that dispensing with humanity was my deepest natural wish in any case, quite outside of any spiritual import; then I realized that this was simply because I had no place among people and wanting to flee into "higher dimensions" was simply a gut-acknowledgement of that basic social disconnection. Had it been otherwise, I could easily have dispensed with any such "higher yearnings".

In other words, this whole business of looking for otherwordly realms was deeply marred by a perfectly reflexive desire to dispense with the hardships of an empty life. Dissatisfaction with the ways of the world was nothing but a frustrated desire to have partaken in these ways and failed miserably.

I could not see how this could be deemed spiritual. And indeed it was not.

Just as philosophy, art and literature constitute a basically unnecessary "other dimension" where we exercise our failed right to fullsome life, so we seek an additional overture in outlandish doctrines that promise a wholy invented world where our tormented minds may perhaps find a moment of respite from overbearing and too hard a reality.

Teenagers, with their usual instinctiveness, operate this same escape from powerlessness by playing video-games ad nauseum. Islamists and Evangelists chant hymns and militate for a stricter social order, with various degrees of violence. On the whole however, the kingdom of whichever God is only open to born mystics - who need no books and no maxims of wisdom to touch at things that have indeed very little to do with what we might think or imagine of them. This sort of experience is not really transferrable, cannot be taught, and is truly desired only by those who are destined to experience such deep desires.

Religion is a social thing. There is this phenomenon, called the collective subconscious. Individuals are inspired to various realizations from some brooding obscure sources. It could be said that in our day and time the collective subconscious is either extremely poor in holy things or is too massively oriented towards global pessimism. Either way, nothing much seems to come out of it except a deeply shallow and limited yearning for a little peace - and maybe a little love too.

Modern urban environment does not promote mystical insight and higher realizations. In fact, it promotes severe depression and loathing of all life, starting with humans and ending with planet earth itself.

In other words, there is practically no way one could ever find any sort of peace while integrated in such a structure as modern urban world. The typical city-dweller is just too lonely and too depleted in terms of nourrishing influences to ever connect with anything higher than the nearest bank-tower.

Re-ligio. It takes way more than books and maxims of wisdom.




1. The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in "advanced" countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in "advanced" countries.




We have created a system in which it has simply become impossible to live, and what's more, we continue to export it. (M.H.)

***

Quoted from an amusing collective review of Platform where one of the authors - an ivy-league academic and a leftist-according-to-Unabomber - displays some reluctant sharpness in summarizing thus:
Pot-bellied Europeans have the money; Thai prostitutes have the love. All sorts of love, in fact - Platform is the only book I've ever read (and I've read many books) in which a prostitute actually asks a customer to extend the sexual act.

So obviously this is pretty silly and even pretty sinister—a novel with a very similar plot could be written in which the prostitutes represent exploited Asian workers. Maybe that wouldn't be a very good novel. In any case, Houellebecq does seem to be driving at something: that this is the world we already inhabit; that both leftist and Islamic moralism (he equates them) are hypocritical for claiming otherwise; and that insofar as this situation does not obtain, we are only extending the tortured eclipse of the West.
I think he forgot Graham Greene...


Hell as seen from the kindergarden

As a small child I recall two symbolic experiences - or premonitions of possible futures. Every evening, just before putting me and my young brother to bed, my mother would show us a sort of static cartoon rolls - slides for kids with a story to be read by the projecting adult.

I vividly remember two cartoons - diametrally opposed in their message and yet somehow connected through their very opposition.

One cartoon had light cheerful pastel colors and showed happy chubby kids united in a warm environment in a static embrace of brotherly love. In my mind it probably represented nothing less than a symbolic depiction of possible paradise.

The other cartoon dealt with a child's hard and cruel quest of a way out - from an unbearably lonesome brownish-somber landscape of industrial wastelands and ominously high electric towers extending into a sort of bad infinity. It gave me nightmares.

Today I realize that I live in this very nightmare, down to the last detail. I also know that there is no possible way out. This is how fate operates.




The ease with which I gravitate from extreme moral sentimentality to extreme moral cruelty is a sign of how ideologies torture us, tear us apart, rape our minds. And you thought *you* were a thinking animal...

The human element in all of this is represented by the ondulatory movement of the escaping heart.


The Unabomber's Manifesto

I would like to present a synopsis of this uncanny document. Chapters are short. Excellent read in view of Happiness is Free and suchlike miasma.

Industrial Society And Its Future

  • Introduction
  • The Psychology Of Modern Leftism
  • Feelings Of Inferiority
  • Oversocialization
  • The Power Process
  • Surrogate Activities
  • Autonomy
  • Sources Of Social Problems
  • Disruption Of The Power Process In Modern Society
  • How Some People Adjust
  • The Motives Of Scientists
  • The Nature Of Freedom
  • Some Principles Of History
  • Industrial-Technological Society Cannot Be Reformed
  • Restriction Of Freedom Is Unavoidable In Industrial Society
  • The 'Bad' Parts Of Technology Cannot Be Seperated From The 'Good' Parts
  • Technology Is A More Powerful Social Force Than The Aspiration To Freedom
  • Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable
  • Revolution Is Easier Than Reform
  • Control Of Human Behavior
  • Human Race At A Crossroads
  • Human Suffering
  • The Future
  • Strategy
  • Two Kinds Of Technology
  • The Danger Of Leftism
  • Final Note
  • Notes
  • Footnotes

    This is the voice of disgust, calling to take up arms and hammers. I doubt arms and hammers will change a thing. I doubt Islamic terrorism will be very successful in the near future. I doubt anything might be done from within - mass suicide and slaughter of infants for the good of the planet Earth? Perhaps not. Let them perish in our wake, those who are too weak to matter.


  • Oh Lord

    Case in pont - truth lurking under slimy rocks. Here is an excellent example of raving trash being fed to us so we don't go looking under bad rocks - so we might not perchance discover the raging emptiness behind the bright facade... Oh Lord, deliver us from happiness.
    _______________

    Happiness is Free

    You feel happy and at peace. You feel a sense of security and serenity. You feel the warmth of love and connection with your Self, the world around you and with your Creator.

    You have discovered that happiness is free and it's easier than you ever thought possible. You will find a whole new world of opportunity opening to you as you rediscover a sense of peace and power in your life.

    Your relationships will improve as you grow increasingly able to let the hurts of the past melt away.

    You will feel better about yourself with each new day, letting go of the feelings that used to cause self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.

    You can have this type of experience, and results beyond what you may have ever imagined by learning the simple, yet effective techniques we share in Happiness Is Free. Thousands of people, just like you, have been using these techniques for years. And, they will tell you that it really is "easier than you think!"

    You will find that stress, fear and anxiety, anger and other destructive behaviors become memories, just like other problems you thought were yours. All of this is possible by learning the simple and practical techniques offered in Happiness Is Free.

    What we teach is endorsed by people you know and trust, like Jack Canfield, Deepak Chopra, James Redfield, Mark Victor Hansen and others.

    ***

    In Happiness Is Free, you will learn . . .

    * What everybody is looking for and how you can have it now.

    * The profound, yet simple, secret to having everything you desire.

    * How to resolve any problem effortlessly and permanently, even the ones that seem to have been with you for years, .

    * The most powerful new technology available for overcoming limiting feelings and beliefs that you can use anytime, anywhere -- without anyone knowing you are doing it!

    * The cause of all relationship problems and how you can improve any existing relationship or attract new love into your life.

    * The five stages of growth, how you can accelerate your progress and how you can move beyond your limitations to accomplish any result you seek.

    * How to deepen your spiritual connections by learning the truth about who you are and why you are here. How to achieve permanent and lasting happiness and more!
    _________________

    Best-seller at Amazon.com... Try to remember how many of this sort of mini-gospels have been on the best-seller list since you were born. Are you happy yet? Fools...


    The system of human love

    6. Avec sa bite de treize centimètres et ses érections espacées (il n'avait jamais bandé de manière très prolongée, sinon dans sa toute première adolescence, et le temps de latence entre deux éjaculations s'était notablement allongé depuis lors: certes, il n'était plus tout jeune), Bruno n'était au fond nullement à sa place dans ce genre d'endroits. Il était cependant heureux d'avoir à sa disposition plus de chattes et de bouches qu'il n'aurait jamais osé en rêver; de cela, il se sentait redevable à Christiane.

    7. Les plus doux moments restaient ceux où elle caressait d'autres femmes; ses compagnes de rencontre se montraient toujours ravies par l'agilité de sa langue, par l'habilité de ses doigts à découvrir et à exciter leur clitoris; malheureusement, lorsqu'elles se décidaient à les payer de retour, la déception était en général au rendez-vous.

    8. Démésurément élargies par les pénétrations à la chaîne et les doigtés brutaux (souvent pratiqués à plusieurs doigts, voire avec la main entière), leurs chattes étaient à peu près aussi sensibles qu'un bloc de saindoux. Obsédées par le rythme frénétique des actrices du porno institutionnel, elles branlaient sa bite avec brutalité, comme une tige de chair insensible, avec un ridicule mouvement de piston (l'omniprésence de la musique techno, au détriment de rythmes d'une sensualité plus subtile, jouait certainement aussi un rôle dans le caractère excessivement mécanique de leurs prestations).

    9. Il éjaculait vite, et sans réel plaisir; pour lui, alors, la soirée était terminée. Ils restaient encore une demi-heure à une heure; Christiane se laissait prendre à la chaîne tout en essayant, en général en vain, de ranimer sa virilité. Au réveil, ils faisaient l'amour à nouveau; les images de la nuit lui revenaient, adoucies, dans son demi-sommeil; c'étaient alors des moments d'une tendresse extraordinaire.

    ________________________

    [ continued - Michel Houellebecq, Particules Elémentaires, Partie II - Les Moments Étranges, chapitre 21 ]

    This is a sort of later-day tribute to Nabokov's Lolita (the name of another character, Annabelle, is an open indication) - a disgusted diatribe against the model of human love as presented in pop-culture and the pathetically mechanic lifeless forms it generates. Sex is taken here as a one of these forms - but the analysis goes way beyond the domain of the purely erotic. Nabokov took the same approach - concentrating on a certain form in its most provoking aspect (eroticism) to describe how the whole system is rigged. The system of human love.

    Daniel Arcand of Quebec made a pretty masterful film using the same approach: Le Déclin de l'Empire Américain. It is both hilarious and philosophically charged. Note the title.

    ***

    To sum it up, one of the most striking characteristics of Houellebecq is the precision and diversity in his use of cultural reference: synthesis. There is pratically always a second (and third and forth) layer to his text - something Nabokov practiced relentlessly and which gave to his writings such depth and force. It is a known fact that there are many ways to read Nabokov - he appeals both to the most ignorant of us (the blind reader, who nevertheless is moved by the synthetic aperçu of a maddeningly deep cultural background he does not suspect) and those who immediately detect a whole chamber of resonance, echoing with powerful images of the past.

    Case in point - description of satanic snuff-videos produced by one of the secondary characters, David. The images are point-blank in their violence. And while Houellebecq ostensibly refers to a non-existent american writer Daniel Macmillan to document the events (another typically nabokovian trick), the description itself harks back directly to Pasolini's notoriously shocking sequences of unbelievably realistic scenes of torture in his tribute to de Sade: Salo or 120 Days of Sodom. The name of the character, David di Meola, is itself an astute yet not too direct hint to de Sade - the particle of degenerated nobility. It is a small Italian prince libertin of the late 1970's, son and heir of marquis Franscesco di Meola, mythical king of the early sexual revolution - a demon of beauty and a beast of cruelty who ardently and unsuccessfully lusts after the ultimate pathetic power: to be a rock-star.

    The Emptiness, ladies and gentlemen...

    The multiple layers of reference that go to Pasolini and Nabokov are all pointing back to de Sade and his many literary offspring (not named, not even hinted at, yet unavoidably present) - this is a certain cultural line of high-tension that is being revealed here. This is the way philosophy is written in good books. Les Fleurs du Mal (Baudelaire is mentioned ironically in a seemingly unrelated chapter).

    Masterful, ladies and gentlemen, simply masterful.


    Le système sadien

    1. Naturellement, là non plus, il n'y avait pas d'issue. Les hommes et les femmes qui fréquentent les boîtes pour couples renoncent rapidement à la recherche du plaisir (qui demande finesse, sensibilité, lenteur) au profit d'une activité sexuelle fantasmatique, assez insincère dans son principe, de fait directement calquée sur les scènes de gang bang des pornos "mode" diffusés par Canal+. En hommage à Karl Marx plaçant au coeur de son système, telle une entéléchie délétère, l'enigmatique concept de "baisse tendancielle du taux de profit", il serait tentant de postuler, au coeur du système libertin dans lequel venaient d'entrer Bruno et Christiane, l'existence d'un principe de baisse tendancielle du taux de plaisir; ce serait à la fois sommaire et inexact.

    2. Phénomènes culturels, anthropologiques, seconds, le désir et le plaisir n'expliquent finalement à peu près rien à la sexualité; loin d'être un facteur déterminant, ils sont au contraire, de part en part, sociologiquement déterminés.

    3. Dans un système monogame, romantique et amoureux, ils ne peuvent être atteints que par l'intermédiaire de l'être aimé, dans son principe unique. Dans la société libérale où vivaient Bruno et Christiane, le modèle sexuel proposé par la culture officielle (publicité, magazines, organismes sociaux et de santé publique) était celui de l'aventure: à l'intérieur d'un tel système le désir et le plaisir apparaissent à l'issue d'un processus de séduction, mettant en avant la nouveauté, la passion et la créativité individuelle (qualités par ailleurs requises des employés dans le cadre de leur vie professionnelle).

    4. L'aplatissement des critères de séduction intellectuels et moraux au profit de critères purement physiques conduisait peu à peu les habitués des boîtes pour couples à un système légèrement différent, qu'on pouvait considérer comme le fantasme de la culture officielle: le système sadien.

    5. A l'intérieur d'un tel système les bites sont uniformément rigides et démesurées, les seins siliconés, les chattes épilées et baveuses. Souvent lectrices de Connexion ou de Hot Video, les habituées des boîtes pour couples fixaient à leurs soirées un objectif simple: se faire empaler par une multiplicité de grosses bites. L'étape suivante, pour elles, était en général constituée par les clubs SM. La jouissance est affaire de coutume, comme aurait probablement dit Pascal s'il s'était intéressé à ce genre de choses.

    ________________________

    [ Michel Houellebecq, Particules Elémentaires, Partie II - Les Moments Étranges, chapitre 21 ]


    I took the liberty to break text into numbered paragraphs. It is hilarious - absolutely hilarious and yet also entirely convincing as to its message. Somehow I doubt that this can be fully appreciated in translation. Houellebecq is consciously and successfully parodying Sade's style and tone - throughout the whole book, or those parts of it which are designed to illustrate his thesis. And that's the majority of the narrative - or the story of Bruno, a sadian hero perpetually defeated in his quest for impossibles gratifications.

    At the same time, those who blame Houellebecq for using a bland remote language do not realize that he is again parodying - and with marvellous subtlety - the half-dead idiom of television and high-school papers, the language of official culture: ostensibly intellectual, pretensious, profoundly cold and based in deep unmoved ignorance.

    All these additional points or humour are of necessity lost in other tongues. You should have gone to a French Lycée to spot the familiar ring. No wonder they're raving about him in Paris.




    I've been inadvertantly granted a month of vacations. This by the occasion of the tenants upstairs having moved out at the end of May. There is uninterrupted silence above my head. What rare bliss... until July 1st.

    ***

    The woman with kids next door is afraid of me. A few weeks ago the kids were making a hell of a noise and I threw a heavy object against the wall a couple of times, with rage and force and loud swearing that she obviously heard.

    She does not realize that this implies strictly no extended animosity on my part - I was raging against a noise without face and I succeeded in making it go away. It - the noise.

    But it's good that she's afraid - as a measure against further disturbances.




    Another warm pure summer day. I could conceivably go out on a long bike ride - and enjoy myself. On a bike ride I could go indeed. However I doubt I would enjoy it very much. This is a Saturday: the city is swarming with weekend-cyclists, families are promenading & picknicking with kids in parks, people are working in their gardens, shopping, going to visit each other. In other words, there is just not enough free space to catch a meaningful glimpse of nature - only the usual weekend swelling of humanity outdoors.

    I conceive of summer as a chance to get a bit closer to the earth and the many plants that grow from it. All this sun is not destined to urban humanity - it is dedicated to earth and its flora and natural fauna, first and foremost. We might as well dwell in an underground citadel, with our books and computers and shopping malls and cars. We'd grow pale and our skin would look gray from lack of beaming photons.

    It is a calamity that I should be confined to the city. But the rest of the earth is bought and sold at too high a price. I know I will never escape. Going on a bike ride would only remind me too clearly of how little I can hope for in terms of free movement. The muscular effort is irrelevant at this stage - what's the point?




    In view of the Unabomber one must also recall Dr.Kervorkian. Both are visionary and symptomatic. So was Jack the Ripper.

    Facts and myths.




    Dostoevsky's book The Possessed was equally "parochial" and focused on local realities of his time and place. The dominant social forces that ultimately brought about russian revolution - and communism applied as a an ideological model - found his book hainous, unjust, and downright reactionary. The future of social change looked too promising, the model too fair to fail, the present too stale and ugly to last for much longer.

    Yet Dostoevsky chose to look at human psychology instead of analyzing social models and political ideals. And he got it right - he foresaw and forcefully exposed destructive fallacies inherent in these ideals as applied to actual human beings.

    One might wonder why such strange truths were exposed in novels and fiction-writing instead of bona fide philosophical tracts. One might wonder why Houellebecq, the ironic writer, is more of a philosopher than a legion of all-wise academics. One might wonder why Nietzsche chose to write in verse and short collections of compact aphorisms.

    One might wonder.

    The uncanny Unabomber also chose to look at psychology rather than ideals. This is the right approach - that's where truth sits, under the slimy rock, and it is rarely very becoming.

    Brave New World covers its face and looks away in shame. The Bible-monger opens the Gospels and expects an edifice long bygone to be restored on the strength of the dead letter. The meaning of our words is rapidly disappearing. We quote and refer to a body of culture that is already defunct and growing white hair and long, hard nails. Finding meaning amounts to creating a new language. However this language is veiled in mystery. We are nothing but old wrinkled toddlers babbling in a poor, new, as yet unrevealed idiom.

    Science has not found its language yet. It is mute, brooding, and all-powerful. What will it say when it finally learns to speak?

    "Go away, animal".




    I who am placed at the intersection of all the main components of what is called western world today - Eastern Europe, Western Europe, North America - I know Houellebecq is getting it right.

    Despite my solitary existence and apparent social uselessness, I am one of the kulturtreggers - those who carry the virus of conscious civilization.

    Paradoxically, outrageously even, the world belongs to me and those like me - and not to the hapless redneck moonlighting as canon-fodder in our wars of conquest. The absurdity of this distribution of ideological power and wealth is beyond words. But a society is always a society of slaves and masters - the working brute and the conscious idler. No democracy can outplay this basic principle.

    The world belongs to me and I hope for its destruction. For I must follow my consciousness.

    Friday, June 11, 2004



    Metaphysical mutations. Houellebecq is describing the accelerated decline and degeneration of western culture - and is accused of bashing contemporary society in vain. But it is not society that is at fault - social order is only one of the expressions of civilization, not its main expression even. Society is secondary to ideology - a blind and complex force, far more complex than a socio-economic order could be. It is deep too - its tentacles reach at the very heart of every individual. Whether one might want to become conscious of what's happening is another question.

    They call him parochial, French, provincial, limited, outrageously personal. None of this is quite true. He operates within the sphere of private local things - either national or blatantly individual. Yet it is only a form and crucible for an intensly direct vision of where things are going world-wide. For despite the great variance in customs, manners and range of beliefs between a small-town texan and a parisian intellectual, there remains the inexorable commonality of a certain civilization rolling over any such perceived differences.

    Iraq, terrorism, shopping, international media, sex and depression in a small room - are all part of the same picture. Eat your biscuit, child.




    Perhaps you've read Camus' The Stranger and thought that this sort of muffled reality is what universal solitude consists of. But no. Camus invented sentiments that do not quite exist and suffused his book with a strange ambiance. To render humanity interesting one is bound to exaggerate.

    So much for "existential angst" - as it is never quite existential enough.




    This blog looks like a hospital ward - white, bland, cold. Hospitals are places of suffering, clinically remote and denied. Perhaps I should wail and hit my head against the walls - instead I lay myself quietly on a long white sheet distracting the mind with words. The long wait and immobility.




    In view of incoming navel-gazing spells I decided to dump longer outbursts into another blogsite of whatever appellation. Wordy whinings are not designed to produce a meaningful address but represent something of a masturbatory mechanism and a manner of fluid disposal. A mind burning surplus fuel and emitting pollution. Repetitiveness is a natural feature of such outputs and is only good to preserve as a reminder of which obsessive patterns to avoid in future rounds of such thinking.

    I'll see if this helps at all.

    At the same time all long posts can thus be somewhat reduced in volume for the flow of this blog here which is a continuum, a brick-building of occasional insights. I suppose long quotes from other sources may also be dwindled down to the essentials in this way, without losing track of the immediate context that is often hard to locate with only a link to the totality of the original document (too long to bother wading through).

    Though I realize I may not have any outside readers at any given time, still I am the one reader who is most ennoyed by some especially lengthy relics of the previous day. If I couldn't bear re-reading my own posts, I don't imagine I would be able to write this blog for much longer either.

    Good riddance it may yet prove to be.




    Somebody dubbed Houellebecq's type of writing depressionism.

    Wonderfully exact.


    Loserhood and its mechanics

    It has always been more or less clear to me that I could never enter the realm of sexual life and thus natural adulthood. Neither out of physical handicap nor personal unattractiveness. Simply because of presistent social alienation - wilful on surface, inwardly precluded in actuality.

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    I could never find any affection for small children. Most likely because all these children belong to others - with whom I have nothing to do and would rather dispense. My most direct experience of infants and toddlers is the suffering from chaotic noise they produce when young families move in, either upstairs or next door. Their model of closeted happiness is forever out of bounds for me - I find nothing to sympathize with.


    Deus minor of our times

    Assuming a stance of intellectual superiority to sordid facts of life is a feeble comfort - yet the only one available, come to think of it. Nietzsche, with his usual sharp eye, pointed this out directly and unmercifully: self-observation, the deepest of all observations.
    The species do not grow in perfection: the weak prevail over the strong again and again, for they are the great majority -- and they are also more intelligent ... Darwin forgot the spirit (--that is English!); the weak have more spirit ... One must need spirit to acquire spirit,--one loses it when one no longer needs it.
    [...]
    It will be noted that by "spirit" I mean care, patience, cunning, simulation, great self-control, and everything that is mimicry (the latter includes a great deal of so-called virtue).
    In the basic scheme of life the weak are first victims of bullies or strong groups in primitive years at school - in higher adult life many of these typically emerge as luminaries of intellectual elites while bullies and social-mixers vanish in the great middle-crowd of traditional routines. But bullies and socialites are strong by right of nature and their formidable stupidity is a direct consequence of this right. There is thus a contradiction in Nietzsche's elitist analysis - a self-negation externalized, which is perhaps the dominant feature of all his philosophy.

    He never construed aristocracy as intellectual elites - yet, his sense of will to power is a deeply individual proposition. Both collectivist nazis and extreme individualists found something to feed on. The double-faced Janus.

    [ Janus - god of gates and doors (ianua), beginnings and endings. ]




    Comments gone. I will temporarily suspend the comments option because I need total freedom at this time to get some things out of my system as I can't even sleep these days.


    The logic of the human ant

    One of the undying mysteries of human life is that genius (which is a generic term that has about as uncertain a meaning as "hasard") is a given and cannot be made - only discovered. Every person lives his life in a state of perpetual and confused discovery of what he's been given to be. Sometimes, in the great roulette of life, someone discovers himself to have genius (by which, in this case, I mean "something more than a wanna be" - not for IQ passers and other achievers). Most of the time it is a perfectly unexpected and natural discovery. Most of the time it is underappreciated by the carrier until circumstances and actions conspire to reveal its value. Not unfrequently this occurs after the carrier's death. Nature is blind.

    Because of the impossibility to gauge what is lived as a given, the personal is left to hasards of circumstancial appreciation or lack of it. Being true to oneself and to one's own intuitive truth is the only compass to go by. Sometimes it requires daring. In the realm of the personal genius and mediocrity have no meaning - to each his own truth and measure.

    ***

    Genius is a romantic notion - and this is the sense it is usually accepted in. As with everything romantic, it implies a hefty dose of gigantism. Our own obsession with originality and exceptional individuality is a legacy of romanticism. Not only do we intend for all individuals to be equal, we also intend for all individuals to be giants - of originality and talent.

    The truth however, is that this is an illusion necessary to preserve the value of individuals in a world of hypothetical equality. From the individual point of view, it is irksome that someone should be a natural genius why I am a natural mediocrity.
    Therefore all should be potential geniuses - or potential mediocrities. Everything should be a result of development and achievement, rather than talent pure and simple. The great fallacy of the drive for originality is precisely this oblivion of the naturally given - of hasard.

    In the face of such notions, it almost takes a special courage or special innocence to declare oneself a mediocrity - a non-genius, a non-giant, an ant of small proportions content to live to its own measure. To not seek obligatory success, to not compete for outstanding achievement, to not rise to some supposed inner potential that you somehow sense does not quite exist.

    The ironic question Houellebecq asks is also this: in this world of ours based on individual gigantism, where is the place for non-genius, for the plain human, where may he find peace and contentment?

    The answer is surprising: the only space where a human being of small capacity may still find a refuge in is family - there is literally nowhere else to turn to.

    Dostoevsky conceived of the world as family - and preferred the value of human ties (family, people, ecclesia) to that of universal equality. Paradoxically, Houellebecq finds no better ideal - except that it is an ideal rapidly fading out of existence.

    Gigantism and universalism leave no place for the small and the familiar. We live in a great betonned-out wasteland at the foot of unbearably high skyscrapers. These great expenses of limitless "freedom and opportunity" are terribly cold, vastly inhospitable. The famed solitude of genius "now opened to all" is quite unbearable for those who are not up to it.

    And those are most of us, poor human ants.


    The hasard of genius

    One of the sure signs of having an affinity with a writer - also called "understanding" - is when you find yourself prefiguring what he is going to say, without knowing it yet. Not in terms of twists of the plot or exact wording, of course, but in terms of development of thought.
    Prefiguring is one of the essential features of true understanding - also known as "seeing to the bottom of things", regardless of whatever layers of packaging these things might be wrapped in.

    I don't mean to congratulate myself - all people experience true understanding in something or other.

    Just found this:
    Errant parmi les humains européens, Djerzinski fut mal compris de son vivant. Une pensée se développant en l'absence d'interlocuteur effectif, souligne Hubczejak dans son introduction aux Clifden Notes, peut parfois échapper aux pièges de l'idiosyncrasie ou du délire; mais il est sans exemple qu'elle ait choisi, pour s'exprimer, d'en passer par la forme du discours réfutable.

    On peut ajouter que Djerzinski devait jusqu'à la fin se considérer avant tout comme un scientifique; l'essentiel de sa contribution à l'évolution humaine lui paraissait constitué pas ses publications de biophysique - très classiquement soumises aux critères habituels d'autoconsistance et de réfutabilité.

    Les éléments plus philosophiques contenus dans ses derniers écrits n'apparaissaient à ses propres yeux que comme des propositions hasardeuses, voire un peu folles, moins justifiables d'une démarche logique que de motivations purement personelles.
    Of course Houellebecq is creating a fictional doppelganger of epic proportions to magnify his personal case in slightly ironic terms. He describes monologous thought that knows no audience - and the inherent impossibility of the personal to measure its possible import. The hasard of genius.

    Thursday, June 10, 2004

    The seductiveness of fascism

    It naturally occured to me that Houellebecq displays proto-fascist sensibilities. It should be remembered that fascism in all its forms is born out of profound and violent disgust with the prevailing order.

    The reason fascism took off so well in its historical setting is because of the widely shared sentiment of negation and discontent that it put its finger on rather powerfully. It should be remembered that fascist ideas were profoundly seductive not only to some low-life thugs but, most importantly, to large segments of european intelligentsia of the time.

    This seductive quality of historical fascism seems incomprehensible through the prism of today's official history. But this is because we refuse to imagine that a new form of fascism could be seductive to us today - we forget that its seductiveness lies not in whatever specific forms it took once upon a time, but in its precisely-aimed message of discontent and disgust with certain bankrupt ideologies that prevailed at the time.

    Houellebecq provides an example of how new fascist ideologies might be born out of disgusted seductiveness. How hate and frustration may brew in strange forms under clear prosperous skies.

    He also shows with insidious force that a bankrupt liberal ideology almost invariably leads to a variant of fascism - which is an almost chemically inexorable reaction to certain states of affairs.

    One could easily envision a future France voting in an ultra-nationalist that would either emprison or exile all of its alien and disturbed populations (the Arabs foremost), seal its borders and clean out society of all "degenerated" elements as a whole (that would include most mainstream intellectuals, or "leftists", a radical restructuring of the media). The only reason it has not yet done so is because the message it's trying to pass is too confused, too limited, and much too dependant on earlier historical models.

    Fascism is never a form of traditional conservatism - it is a revolutionary, violent, freshly cooked-up ideology. It is a form of liberation and promise that rapidly descends into savagely restrictive tactics. In short - it is a mass-movement.

    All mass-movements need new ideologies proper to the context.

    Houellebecq talks of "metaphysical mutations". What he means is the birth of new ideologies out of the decay of the current bankrupt ones. His analysis tackles the psychology of our times as it is lived and not as it wants to present itself - in other words, the stuff ideologies are made of.

    As a proto-fascist sentiment Houellebecq's discourse still seems inocuous enough - however, all the early germs are there in evidence. He shows - to me - how fascism could be seductive - to me.

    This is fascinating, unheard-of and deeply disturbing.




    This too was a "meditation after Houellebecq" - he gave me a peaceful mood I could not have found on my own. A pillow to put my head on perhaps.


    The nature of monologue

    I recall that my father is equally distorted in regards to reality. While an exuberant communicator, he is entirely incapable of any sort of human understanding. A curious effect. He is self-obsessed, or rather obsessed with self-thought, to an unusual degree - yet, at the very same time, he is warm and welcoming. But incapable of dialogue.

    I must probably resign myself to this genetic consequence. It is a form of stupidity - etymology: stupor - a state of impermeability to outside influences. Imperviousness to understanding anything outside one's own scope of reflection. Therefore I only retain what suits my current line of thought. Distortion is thus inevitable - what I understand is an idiosyncrasy.

    ***

    In my case this profound idiosyncrasy is not accompanied by either warmth or generosity. I am emotionally susceptible but I am cold to others. Because most of my reflections focus almost exclusively on my relationship with self and the world I project an impression of intelligence. However I cannot understand, let alone fully sympathize, with the plight of others suffering on account of the same questions I am continually trying to resolve.

    This was made clear early on in an uncanny conversation I had with a classmate who figured I could understand him better than most on account of my intelligence - the young man revealed to me that his mother has died when he was still a boy and that he was adopted. This was a confidence uncalled for, especially since I never had any special personal contact with this classmate. I still remember the feeling - I had no idea what to say to him. He was disappointed and probably somewhat shocked by my lack of response. We never spoke again.

    ***

    Clearly, my only true mode of expression is monologue. While my father likes to assert himself in spoken exhibitions of wit and wordiness, I prefer the blank sheet. I've never been particularly apt to speak. Perhaps the theatrical streak, so prominent in my father, is lacking. The desire to be liked, the winning smile, the open attitude of an actor on stage - all these things are entirely alien to me. I am a true recluse and most my motor functions slow down notably in the presence of an audience.

    The function of expression in my case is not directed towards a dialogue: a multiple reaction and as direct an approval as possible. Neither am I prone to conversational combativeness which I find mostly superfluous. I am not a militant by a long mile. Indeed, the chief interest of my thought having to do with my self and nothing else, it remains a case of non-sequitur what anyone might think of my ideas.

    The impact of my words has the effect of a boomerang - I throw a line with as much force as possible and it comes back to my hand. When it doesn't, when the line falls flat, sounds weak and wrong, it means I haven't been precise or forceful enough. It doesn't come back. I am the sole judge of my force and truth. It is a dubious position but I know of no better. Response or non-response coming from other minds does not validate or invalidate my ideas. It is pleasant to be liked and admired - it is unpleasant to be rejected and despised. But it has no validating effect per se.

    It seems to me that all personal reflection is of a strictly monologous nature. As opposed to a more objective thought perhaps, that tends to create general systems out of general materials. There debate and true dialogue are vital - because validation and the measure of convincing qualities is what matters for the system to stand. Science is a team sport.

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    La possibilité de vivre commence dans le regard de l'autre. (M.H.)

    Today the dentist nearly killed me out of disgust. At least it was a palpable intention. Hopefully his own moral force prevented him from taking it out on my teeth - the anasthetics are still working since he missed the nerve a couple of times and I am in a slightly dazed state due to subsequent overdose of narcotics.

    Provoking vague disgust or perhaps incomprehension bordering on fear in others is something I had to gradually get used to due to my extreme lifestyle. The more I isolate myself the stranger I become, the less adapted to acceptable familiar ways. I neglect to make the necessary effort to correspond to these ways. At the same time I fully realize that this tangible disconnection makes it very difficult for people obliged to provide services to all human beings to deal with me.

    It's going to get worse with time. I am learning to take it with some humour.




    32. The problems of the leftist are indicative of the problems of our society as a whole. Low self-esteem, depressive tendencies and defeatism are not restricted to the left. Though they are especially noticeable in the left, they are widespread in our society. And today's society tries to socialize us to a greater extent than any previous society. We are even told by experts how to eat, how to exercise, how to make love, how to raise our kids and so forth.

    Wednesday, June 09, 2004

    On the uses of mimicry

    In all fairness though I must note that falling for a writer usually implies a certain bewitchment and a consequent influence on one's style of speech - especially in writing.

    This is natural mimicry and an expression of deep consent and agreement. It blows over after a short while. The effects are usually much more pronounced in very young people who frequently become fans and cult-followers. Perhaps this is the reason why some young people try very hard to resist such effects, sometimes to an extreme degree - but this too is natural.

    In the same vein, a writer's style usually sets a new mood through an impression of force - that's why mimicking his style is such an irresistible temptation. By doing so you adopt a mood which is new and liberating. Because of the element of force, this mimicry also has a tendency to elevate your self-esteem.

    I call the whole thing "eating tiger's heart to become brave like a tiger". Primitive tribes readily painted patterns of their favorite animal on their own skin. So let's just say that mimicry is a deep thing - and it doesn't go away just because you read books instead of chasing game in the bush.




    A former friend of mine who aspires to originality and personal philosophy once mocked me for falling too much for big names and thus other people's ideas. It irritated him - probably a sort of projection, on account of his own ambitions to self-thinking.

    To which I might respond that investigating and embracing other people's ideas is hardly a surrender of one's own line - it is a nourrishment and food for thought, not enslavement. Just like with Nietzsche, Shestov, Wittgenstein, I know that I will soon tire of Houellebecq. Yet, I also know that their momentary warm acquaintance would not have been in vain - it will continue to inform my thought without directing it entirely. However I have no ambition to produce my own body of philosophy - it is enough that I continue to think in order to sustain the burden of life.

    * Nietzsche did not force me to adopt a line I did not believe in and seek force while the truth of my condition is weakness and struggle.
    * Wittgenstein did not teach me how to think my way out of philosophy because I have not overcome my lack of purpose.
    * Shestov did not induce me into finding God because he himself never found faith and he showed me why I can't either.
    * Houellebecq will not lead me into detached pessimism because I am too down low to feel myself superior to my troubles.

    Philosophy does not beget philosophy - the impulse to find a personal voice and message is something outside of what you might give yourself to at any given time. It is an overcoming of life and self, a great effort and a special ambition that not many people have or attempt to sustain. Many people ape a philosopher's posture - without ever reaching the kind of inner liberation that any true effort of sustained thought actually requires.

    I am quite aware that I am incapable of such an effort - it would change my life completely I might say, and I don't see where such a sudden revolution of emerging freedom might arise from.

    In full consciousness of my humble condition I shall continue listening to powerful voices that speak for my mute mind. They teach me nothing - but they speak for me and I am relieved for being spoken out.


    Unabomber and I

    Unabomber offers a pretty convincing analysis of "modern leftist psychology". I would transcribe the whole thing but it is already available online. Here's a quote however - and it echoes exactly what I said the other day in my own improvised manifesto.
    9. The two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism we call "feelings of inferiority" and "oversocialization." Feelings of inferiority are characteristic of modern leftism as a whole, while oversocialization is characteristic only of a certain segment of modern leftism; but this segment is highly influential.

    FEELINGS OF INFERIORITY

    10. By "feelings of inferiority" we mean not only inferiority feelings in the strictest sense but a whole spectrum of related traits: low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, depressive tendencies, defeatism, guilt, self-hatred, etc. We argue that modern leftists tend to have such feelings (possibly more or less repressed) and that these feelings are decisive in determining the direction of modern leftism.

    [...follows a pretty accurate description of symptoms, inter alia political correctness...]

    OVERSOCIALIZATION

    24. Psychologists use the term "socialization" to designate the process by which children are trained to think and act as society demands. A person is said to be well socialized if he believes in and obeys the moral code of his society and fits in well as a functioning part of that society. It may seem senseless to say that many leftists are over-socialized, since the leftist is perceived as a rebel. Nevertheless, the position can be defended. Many leftists are not such rebels as they seem.

    25. The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the term "oversocialized" to describe such people. [2]

    [ 2. (Paragraph 25) During the Victorian period many oversocialized people suffered from serious psychological problems as a result of repressing or trying to repress their sexual feelings. Freud apparently based his theories on people of this type. Today the focus of socialization has shifted from sex to aggression. ]
    Here is what I said meanwhile:
    Today one reads Nietzsche without those baroque end-of-century illusions that resulted both in sanguine modernism and fascist orgies of supermanship. It's all done and over with - the blossoming of the age of gigantism lead to something quite a bit worse than Schopenhauer and Christian morality. Mass liberation of the individual came and went. We ended up with nothing but an ant-city.

    We are all ants - not even "decadents", just ants. Free to be insects. It seems the best you can do is to turn into an eccentric - a fool really - and dance on one foot. This is the age of fools and that's all we've got left - all those pathetic "subcultures", all those sad mini-cults, all those phoney gurus. The rest of the earth is given up to the insectarium of individual freedoms and cheerful "opportunity". Everybody is supposed to be happy. This generates incredible loads of boredom and hatred. But there are laws to prevent voicing of hatred. It's prepackaged in artfully remote violence. All we can voice is disgust.

    [...]

    The voice of disgust is the voice of ant-like intellect - protesting, negating, desparing. It is the voice of individual mind left to its own devices amidst a wasteland of useless riches. I have the hardest time aspiring to happiness - I am emptied out.

    Liberating the third world of local dictatorships, feeding the poor, creating more of this supposed happiness - all this is nothing but trash, a forced attempt at a moral ideal that has ceased to exist in the body of this world. The truth of this world is indifference - deep, visceral, mute indifference. Those who militate the most, those who are most indignant are at heart possessed with the same indifference. At heart we are all empty - there is nothing there, only a background noise of simulated concern.

    Instead of morals we have political correctness. And that says it all. The ideology of an insectarium could hardly be any shallower. I suppose those who can still be touched in their human fibre are too rare to speak of - and their voice does not carry in this air.

    The voice of disgust is the most thirsted for and the most needed - after it is heard loud and clear the destruction of paradise will commence in earnest.
    But we have nothing better to offer in its stead than what we have already - nothingness, insignificance, insect freedom.
    Unabomber is describing my psychology - I can confirm he is right in his scathing critique. Perhaps I am not much of a leftist but this is only because I am not a militant either - saving the world is not my cup of tea, I'd rather it perish of its own.

    I hope that by the time I finish reading his manifesto, I might understand what prompted him to save the world by killing unwanted people. If he is derranged, I'd still like to understand what it is he's derranged about.

    There is only a slight difference between people who are full of various degrees of hatred, sometimes philosophically constituted, and those who get right down to it and blow somebody's brains out. As Houellebecq has subtly noted (perhaps not in as many words but very nearly) intellectuals easily turn into cold executioners - witness Robespierre and Felix Dzerzhinsky. This is not a wanton remark. Houellebecq's fascination with these individuals is clearly a matter of personal kinship - spitting at nazis and their highly civilized methods is not enough of a defense.




    Houellebecq - a fan transcribed this quote on his website:
    La conséquence logique de l'individualisme c'est le meurtre, et le malheur ; il est donc légitime de commencer par déblayer les sources d'optimisme creux. En revenant à une analyse plus philosophique des choses, on se rend compte que la situation est encore plus étrange qu'on le croyait. Nous avançons vers le désastre, guidés par une image fausse du monde ; c'est un cauchemar dont nous finirons par nous éveiller. Nous n'échapperons pas à une redéfinition des conditions de la connaissance, de la notion même de la réalité ; il faudrait dès maintenant en prendre conscience sur un plan affectif. Tant que nous demeurerons dans une vision mécaniste et individualiste du monde, nous mourrons. Cela fait cinq siècles que l'idée du moi occupe le terrain ; il est temps de bifurquer.

    (Le Sens du Combat)
    False image of the world, nightmare, murder. I can find nothing to disagree with. Curiously, this is precisely what Radical Islam is fighting against. But it's an atavistic struggle, designed to create a form of religious fascism - could it be that there is nothing better to hope for?




    I accidentally found the Unabomber's Manifesto on the internet - I must say it's a document of striking force.

    At the time of the events, the media accounts were so dismissive of the individual it was hard to believe his writings would make any sense. I didn't pay much attention to the story. The media always misrepresent things - the most curious and strange things they make into a bland boring scenarios fit to placate common sensibilities. I am usually too lazy to look past these lies.

    If I could, I would not watch tv at all - there was a time when my mind was so full of life I actually loathed television, it was a waste of time. Today I have nothing else to turn to. Symptomatic.


    Is this depression or a clear sense of natural impossibility?

    There are many ways to formulate failure. Quitting too soon, bad luck, inner conflict, taking on too much, stupidity, bad philosophy, cowardice, fate. What failure consists of is a variable. Oftentimes it is impossible to explain how unpleasant yet ordinary events of life may amount to a downfall.

    Pessimism and optimism seem biochemically determined - despite what cognitive psychology has to say about it. A sharp illustration is given in the bi-polar disorder - the same individual violently swings from listless gloom to radiant fullness and back again. Desire to live and hope one places in one's life cannot be taught - they occur and vanish of their own. A so-called optimist may receive a blow and brush it away; the same blow, no matter how pathetically tenuous, will throw a pessimist into the blackest despair. Despite what humanity has in common, individuals are too absurdly diverse to be taught how to live according to the common ideas. All ideas meanwhile are common - such is the function of the intellect.

    There is the phenomenon of susceptibility and reaction. A depressing set of ideas, a dark yet powerful picture of the world, produces a feeling of gloom. But a sunny disposition will counsel to look away from such a portrayal and seek a more congenial description. People choose philosophies according to what corresponds them best. Yet, dominant philosophies act as if all were subject to their precepts. It is still fashionable nowdays to bash christianity as if it were as powerful a force as it used to be in the times of a Nietzsche or a Kierkegaard who rebelled against it and attempted to think their way out because of its obvious constrictions and generalized fallacies.

    All dominant philosophies - of every brand - prove constrictive and full of fallacies when applied to individuals. The ability to think one's way out of a set of dominant ideas is perhaps what cognitive therapies aim at.
    Yet there is the sense that the very attempt to think one's way out of a system requires an enormous and forceful drive that may not be found in every individual.

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    I know that I am not alone in my thinking. A lot of people are starting to wonder what actually hides behind the caricature that has been made out of Hitler, Third Reich and all the tralala. Apparently a film attempted to get past the mask recently:
    Fifty years after he perpetrated some of the most heinous crimes in contemporary history, Adolf Hitler has been simplified into an icon of ultimate evil. Any exploration of Hitler's complexities as a man has become taboo.

    But what secrets did that mind hold that might be revelatory to us all? What made it so capable of causing and justifying so much torment? Could an exploration of Hitler's mind reflect back to us insights about ourselves and - in an age of ethnic cleansing, neo-nationalism and hate crimes - the psychology of our times?
    Maybe it's a bad film though. Because Hitler was never just an individual - he spoke for his times, and portraying what he spoke for should reveal what made him (just like Houellebecq speaks for me - though I have nothing to do with him). I am pretty sure we have sealed ourselves away from that part of history, so all we can explore for now is our ignorance. It would take a massive and very laborious rewriting of history, research and all that stuff, to get past the mask and open the graves of the past.

    So far the general belief is that the mummy is poisonned and whoever dares to open the sarcophagus will perish. We need an Indiana Jones of a historian to do it properly and forcefully.




    Curioso: Djerzinski is probably an allusion to the first director of russian secret police - CHEKA. He was a former intellectual of polish origin, turned executioner and spymaster, all in the name of Revolution of course. Houellebecq gives a special mention to Robespierre in his other book ("Extension du domaine de la lutte"), so it's only natural to conclude to a special fascination with other suchlike revolutionaries as well.

    Felix Edmunovich Dzerzhinsky 1877-1926




    Or maybe I just happened to read the wrong reviews - and formed a wrong picture. But maybe not - people repeat things they don't really think, and then write a review. That's what sets the false nebula.

    And of course what I must mention about Houellebecq is that he's a poet - a true writer that is. Without this depth of feeling there'd be no Houellebecq and no daring ideas.

    His images are simple and poignant - that's not just style, that's sensibility. You have to "see" it before you can write it. Here's one:
    Vers onze heures, la chaleur recommença à augmenter. De retour à son domicile, Michel se déshabilla complètement avant de s'allonger. Les trois semaines qui suivirent, ses mouvements furent extrêmement réduits. On peut imaginer que le poisson, sortant de temps en temps la tête de l'eau pour happer l'air, apercoive pendant quelques secondes un monde aérien, complètement différent - paradisiaque. Bien entendu il devrait ensuite retourner dans son univers d'algues, où les poissons se dévorent. Mais pendant quelques secondes il aurait eu l'intuition d'un monde différent, un monde parfait - le nôtre.
    C'est beau ca, no?




    There was no particular reason for me to like Houellebecq - I am not prone to follow trendy things just because they're trendy (usually I am terribly late in learning that such and such phenomenon is leading the way). However I am a child of my time and place, and my ears are open to what I am thirsting to hear.

    Houellebecq manages to say things I am thirsting to hear. I postponned finding out about him because I was profoundly mislead by the nebulous idea out there that Houellebecq is especially famous for being shockingly daring in depicting sex. This did not seem like an interesting prospect, given that this is pretty much what all French writers do - and most of them are not worth mentioning for it.

    But once again, just like with my discovery of Wittgenstein, it turned out that the truth is entirely different - Houellebecq could care less about "daring depictions of sex" and all that claptrap. Houellebecq is a philosopher and an amazingly powerful truth-teller.

    I cannot understand why it is they call him offensive and shocking. Where is the offense?

    ***

    I wonder why it so frequently happens that what is said about a writer/thinker turns out to be so different upon direct contact - is it what I see that is different from what most people see?

    Is my thinking somehow skewed relatively to how most people think?

    This is something I can't really appreciate.

    Tuesday, June 08, 2004



    The science-fiction element in Houellebecq presents an equally flaming example of what is commonly and disdainfully called: bad science.

    This might be less obvious if you are not a scientist yourself, but judging from the bad philosophy element - it could hardly be otherwise (see this incredulous review for illustration).

    Yet, there is a profound and just reason for using bad science instead of the more exact version of the same - modern view of the world is based on it, on the bad ignorant version of science.

    A passage like this one seems improbable yet it reveals the actual state of affairs regarding the reality of science:
    Il demeurait de vrais problèmes en biologie fondamentale. Les biologistes pensaient et agissaient comme si les molécules étaient des éléments matériels séparés, uniquement reliés par le biais d'attractions et de répulsions électromagnétiques; aucun d'entre eux, il en était convaincu, n'avait entendu parler du paradoxe EPR, des expériences d'Aspect; aucun n'avait même pris la peine de s'informer des progrès réalisés en physique depuis le début du siècle; leur conception de l'atome était à peu près restée celle de Démocrite.

    Ils accumulaient des données, lourdes et répétitives, dans le seul but d'en tirer des applications industrielles immédiates, sans jamais prendre conscience que le socle conceptuel de leur démarche était miné. Djerzinski et lui-même, de par leur formation initiale de physiciens, étaient probablement les seuls au CNRS à s'en rendre compte: dès qu'on aborderait réellement les bases atomiques de la vie, les fondements de la biologie actuelle voleraient en éclats.
    This is only an excerpt from a short and powerfully misinformed chapter depicting the development of modern science. It's brilliant. Factual inaccuracy and outrageous exaggeration only amplify an otherwise perfectly exact statement, so obvious and familiar you almost fall into its arms when you first get to read this - modern science, despite its technological advances, is an unconscious brute and so are 99% of its servants.

    ***

    In other news, I was entirely right in my guess as to Houellebecq's relationship to Nietzsche - he despises the man and understands him better than those who try to attenuate the cruel truth of his ideas. Here is another example of bad philosophy, echoing my own thoughts on the subject:
    La brutalité et la domination, générales dans les sociétés animales, s'accompagnent déjà chez le chimpanzé (Pan troglodytes) d'actes de cruauté gratuite accomplis à l'encontre de l'animal le plus faible. Cette tendance atteint son comble chez les sociétés humaines primitives, et dans les sociétés développées chez l'enfant et l'adolescent jeune. Plus tard apparaît la pitié, ou identification aux souffrances d'autrui; cette pitié est rapidement systématisée sous forme de loi morale.

    À l'internat du lycée de Meaux Jean Cohen représentait la loi morale, et il n'avait aucune intention d'en dévier. Il n'estimait nullement abusive l'utilisation que les nazis avaient faite de la pensée de Nietzsche: niant la compassion, se situant au-delà de la loi morale, établissant le désir et le règne du désir, la pensée de Nietzsche conduisait selon lui naturellement au nazisme.
    This is inaccurate in detail but true in essence.

    ***

    In other words, Houellebecq is popular probably because he gets to say how things are - notwithstanding the great ugliness of this truth. He has this half-ironic half-tragic view of humanity that is not afraid to border on blatant ignorance to say what is - and not what we try to make it seem like.

    People lie a lot. We all lie. To ourselves first, to others second. In many respects we lie out of fear - it takes courage to look and see, let alone say it without blushing because it's so uncouth, so ugly. Houellebecq is free enough to say ignorant and stupid things - and get directly to the truth. Can you possibly imagine the kind of courage this takes, especially in France, the most intellectually snobbish place on earth?

    ***

    As an aside: Nietzsche also says a lot of blatant stupidities, naive and childlike almost - yet we forgive him because he has the courage to go as deep and as freely as he likes, even at the risk of seeming foolish. He is fiercely daring in his thought and word. So is Houellebecq - in his own right (and this is not a comparison of rank).




    This excerpt from Houellebecq reveals one of his main and most appealing characteristics, something that is commonly and disdainfully called: bad philosophy.

    Bad philosophy is based on your high-school curriculum that you never found the need to improve in later life. All you've learned, together with an acquired high-school paper-writing style, is all you will ever know. But this is enough. Your picture of world and history is pathetically generic and irrevocably distorted, yet it is a solid picture, something you can dance from.

    Houellebecq examplifies to perfection precisely this type of prepackaged, solid ignorance that French high-schools produce under the name of education. It is an artefact and it needed to be revealed for what it is. Houellebecq dares to do bad philosophy in perfect good faith - he is content to know that he is not alone and is speaking to a legion of his brother and sisters in ignorance.

    Bad philosophy is free, refreshing, and true to our ignorance. Let's do more of it.

    ***

    Houellebecq is a reader of science-fiction where bad philosophy reigns supreme and unchecked - he found a way to elevate it out of its shameful condition.


    Les Particules Elémentaires

    Ce livre est avant tout l'histoire d'un homme, qui vécut la plus grande partie de sa vie en Europe occidentale, durant la seconde moitié du XX siècle. Généralement seul, il fut cependant, de loin en loin, en relation avec d'autres hommes. Il vécut en des temps malheureux et troublés. Le pays qui lui avait donné naissance basculait lentement, mais inéluctablement, dans la zone économique des pays moyen-pauvres; fréquemment guettés par la misère, les hommes de sa génération passèrent en outre leur vie dans la solitude et l'amértume. Les sentiments d'amour, de tendresse et de fraternité humaine avaient dans une large mesure disparu; dans leurs rapports mutuels ses contemporains faisaient le plus souvent preuve d'indifférence, voire de cruauté.

    Au moment de sa disparition, Michel Djerzinski était unanimement considéré comme un biologiste de tout premier plan, et on pensait sérieusement à lui pour le prix Nobel; sa véritable importance ne devait apparaître qu'un peu plus tard.

    À l'époque où vécu Djerzinski, on considérait le plus souvent la philosophie comme dénuée de toute importance pratique, voire d'objet. En réalité, la vision du monde la plus couramment adoptée, à un moment donné, par les membres d'une société détermine son économie, sa politique et ses moeurs.

    Les mutations métaphysiques - c'est-à-dire les transformations radicales et globales de la vision du monde adoptée par le plus grand nombre - sont rares dans l'histoire de l'humanité. Par exemple, on peut citer l'apparition du christianisme.

    Dès lors qu'une mutation métaphysique s'est produite, elle se développe sans rencontrer de résistance jusqu'à ses conséquences ultimes. Elle balaie sans même y prêter attention les systèmes économiques et politiques, les jugements esthétiques, les hiérarchies sociales. Aucune force humaine ne peut interrompre son cours - aucune autre force que l'apparition d'une nouvelle mutation métaphysique.

    On ne peut pas spécialement dire que les mutations métaphysiques s'attaquent aux sociétés affaiblies, déjà sur le déclin. Lorsque le christianisme apparut, l'Empire romain était au faîte de sa puissance; suprêmement organisé, il dominait l'univers connu; sa supériorité technique et militaire était sans analogue; cela dit, il n'avait aucune chance. Lorsque la science moderne apparut, le christianisme médiéval constituait un système complet de compréhension de l'homme et de l'univers; il servait de base au gouvernement des peuples, produisait des connaissances et des oeuvres, décidait de la paix comme de la guerre, organisait la production et la répartition des richesses; rien de tout cela ne devait l'empêcher de s'effondrer.

    Michel Djerzinski ne fut ni le premier, ni le principal artisan de cette troisième mutation métaphysique, à bien des égards la plus radicale, qui devait ouvrir une période nouvelle dans l'histoire du monde; mais en raison de certaines circonstances, tout à fait particulières, de sa vie, il en fut un des artisans les plus conscients, les plus lucides.

    ________________

    [ Michel Houellebecq, Particules Élémentaires, Prologue ]




    The fact that I can still say "we" is actually pretty promising. Except that I am jesting, usurping a sense I do not have.




    I think nobody can truly believe these days - yet there are a lot of people who believe. But they simply do not matter (look at the islamists, or evangelicals etc). Most believe nonsense. This is perhaps the reason no important voice ever arises from their ranks.

    Do we still have enough of a culture to produce a real thinker, a voice of importance? Perhaps not.

    We need a global war - that will do it.




    I have no quarrel with the state of the world - let it go to hell - but I enjoyed writing this little manifesto - as an exercise in the kind of grandstanding thinking I mostly find to be a farce.

    Houellebecq has a talent for this sort of thing - what he says makes a lot of sense but it can only be taken with any degree of seriousness because he's obviously so past caring. It's willful grandstanding. A manner of revenge for having nothing to say besides.

    A curious effect.


    Meditation after Houellebecq

    Today one reads Nietzsche without those baroque end-of-century illusions that resulted both in sanguine modernism and fascist orgies of supermanship. It's all done and over with - the blossoming of the age of gigantism lead to something quite a bit worse than Schopenhauer and Christian morality. Mass liberation of the individual came and went. We ended up with nothing but an ant-city.

    We are all ants - not even "decadents", just ants. Free to be insects. It seems the best you can do is to turn into an eccentric - a fool really - and dance on one foot. This is the age of fools and that's all we've got left - all those pathetic "subcultures", all those sad mini-cults, all those phoney gurus. The rest of the earth is given up to the insectarium of individual freedoms and cheerful "opportunity". Everybody is supposed to be happy. This generates incredible loads of boredom and hatred. But there are laws to prevent voicing of hatred. It's prepackaged in artfully remote violence. All we can voice is disgust.

    The voice of disgust is the one that touches deepest today because it speaks from the heart of life as we know it. Uplifting suggestions sound fake. The very concept of our happiness is a fake. What does it offer except the most crass of enjoyments - bread and entertainment, and maybe a fabricated desire to feed the rest of the world as a moral gratification?

    Comically almost, the supposed paradise we inhabit is the dream and the goal for the lowest of the low - the slum-dweller of Deli and Mexico, the immigrant worker, the truly poor and humble of the earth. The only ones who still believe in this model-world are immigrants - the pathetic innocents perpetually unaware of what abyss of emptiness hides behind bright commercial colors depicting our paradise.
    The fact that western hemisphere is being over-run by barefoot aliens from the slums of the neatherworld is not only an economic and demographic necessity - it is the perfectly natural effect of a holy-shrine attracting hoards of true-believers. The humble shall inherit the earth - in theory they should.

    But it gets even funnier - the belief only lasts a generation or two. Once assimilated, the children of the immigrants discover the same intrinsic emptiness, and a new wave of believers is needed. All this has nothing to do with races and cultures - once you're part of the paradise, you become a conscious faceless ant and this is what stands for our culture. The diversity of cultures does not really exist - the seeming multitude of colors and creeds is itself part of a uniform bland tasteless culture that makes this world what it is in essence: a gigantic shopping-mall, where all is allowed and nothing matters.

    What is the value of freedom if it is based on the most inane of all things - individual happiness - open to all and to no one (to paraphrase the greatest of all fools)? And what is the value of individual happiness if it is defined as an unending enjoyment of strictly uniform goods such as: sex, food, things?

    The voice of disgust is the voice of ant-like intellect - protesting, negating, desparing. It is the voice of individual mind left to its own devices amidst a wasteland of useless riches. I have the hardest time aspiring to happiness - I am emptied out.

    Liberating the third world of local dictatorships, feeding the poor, creating more of this supposed happiness - all this is nothing but trash, a forced attempt at a moral ideal that has ceased to exist in the body of this world. The truth of this world is indifference - deep, visceral, mute indifference. Those who militate the most, those who are most indignant are at heart possessed with the same indifference. At heart we are all empty - there is nothing there, only a background noise of simulated concern.

    Instead of morals we have political correctness. And that says it all. The ideology of an insectarium could hardly be any shallower. I suppose those who can still be touched in their human fibre are too rare to speak of - and their voice does not carry in this air.

    The voice of disgust is the most thirsted for and the most needed - after it is heard loud and clear the destruction of paradise will commence in earnest.
    But we have nothing better to offer in its stead than what we have already - nothingness, insignificance, insect freedom.

    All great revolutions begin in the minds first. Or do they?

    Monday, June 07, 2004



    36. Morality for physicians.— The sick man is a parasite of society. In a certain state it is indecent to live longer. To go on vegetating in cowardly dependence on physicians and machinations, after the meaning of life, the right to life, has been lost, that ought to prompt a profound contempt in society. The physicians, in turn, would have to be the mediators of this contempt—not prescriptions, but every day a new dose of nausea with their patients ... To create a new responsibility, that of the physician, for all cases in which the highest interest of life, of ascending life, demands the most inconsiderate pushing down and aside of degenerating life—for example, for the right of procreation, for the right to be born, for the right to live ... To die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly. Death freely chosen, death at the right time, brightly and cheerfully accomplished amid children and witnesses: then a real farewell is still possible, as the one who is taking leave is still there; also a real estimate of what one has achieved and what one has wished, drawing the sum of one's life—all in opposition to the wretched and revolting comedy that Christianity has made of the hour of death. One should never forget that Christianity has exploited the weakness of the dying for a rape of the conscience; and the manner of death itself, for value judgments about man and the past!— Here it is important to defy all the cowardices of prejudice and to establish, above all, the real, that is, the physiological, appreciation of so-called natural death—which is in the end also "unnatural," a kind of suicide. One never perishes through anybody but oneself. But usually it is death under the most contemptible conditions, an unfree death, death not at the right time, a coward's death. From love of life, one should desire a different death: free, conscious, without accident, without ambush ...

    Finally, some advice for our dear pessimists and other décadents. It is not in our hands to prevent our birth: but we can correct this mistake—for in some cases it is a mistake. When one does away with oneself, one does the most estimable thing possible: one almost earns the right to live ... Society—what am I saying!—life itself derives more advantage from this than from any "life" of renunciation, anemia, and other virtues: one has liberated the others from one's sight; one has liberated life from an objection ... Pessimism, pur, vert, is proved only by the self-refutation of our dear pessimists: one must advance a step further in its logic and not only negate life with "will and representation," as Schopenhauer did—one must first of all negate Schopenhauer ...
    Incidentally, however contagious pessimism is, it still does not increase the sickliness of an age, of a generation as a whole: it is an expression of it. One falls victim to it as one falls victim to cholera: one has to be morbid enough in one's whole predisposition. Pessimism itself does not create a single décadent more; I recall the statistics which show that the years in which cholera rages do not differ from other years in the total number of deaths.
    _________________

    This is quite striking - and, really, it should not be interpreted as anything than what it says. But this is vintage Nietzsche - talking to himself, of himself, for himself. Shockingly, the man actually turned into a vegetable eventually, as we all know. But this is the due limitation of all nietzschean and likewise doctrines - "thou shall not make too much of your own words".

    Basically, this brand of philosophy says: do unto yourself what you would not do unto others.




    Hockey.

    Tampa Bay won the cup at home after a crazy 3rd period - which is nice, because there was some joy for the crowd. Calgary blew game 6 and it was the right outcome in the end.

    On-ice celebrations are always amusing to watch - all wives are blonds and look the same, truly a team sport.




    The good moment didn't last. Never does, as a matter of fact. The reason I shouldn't live is because there's no way I can organize myself into some sort of whole. I have not the slightest idea why. Just something I am forced to observe without being able to change a damn thing - and it's been like that forever pretty much.

    Just a bunch of good moments - not one of them really worth it.




    Why the monologue.

    I like to listen to people. And I like to say things. But I do not like conversations very much - they're usually pointless.




    There is a character in Dostoevsky's "The Possessed" who is called Kirillov - he is intending to commit suicide as a statement of ultimate willfulness and become God and thus assume full freedom. When he is asked "but how will you become God if you'll be dead in the same instant?", he says that it doesn't matter - the important thing is to declare freedom through an act of will (to him, God is fear). And he says: I will be the first man ever to declare full freedom by vanquishing fear and the idea of God through daring to kill myself.

    It resembles a lot what Nietzsche was doing - transmutation of values in his own self, the first man to effect the new order.

    It's odd - but not as odd as it seems.




    Another way to tackle the confusion: there is no such thing as "existential philosophy".

    It is an odd type of thinking that is not part of the traditional way of Philosophy - because it does not deal in general doctrines, it deals in people struggling for their dear life. Something like that.

    Descartes is a philosopher - can you really say as much of Pascal?
    Heidegger and Sartre are philosophers - in the same way as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard?

    All those names are classified under one department - but the truth is, some of them did not want to be part of that department. They fell off the great ship because it was not bringing them to destination, it wasn't the right ship, it was going down altogether.

    ***

    I have observed some teachers of philosophy getting irritated and torn by the conflict inherent in having to present divine Plato together with the unruly Nietzsche - it is not just a different order of ideas, the whole impetus of thought is violently at odds. To put it simply: Plato, or any traditional philosopher, is impersonal - while Friedrich and his likes are as personal as can get. It affects the audience to an uncanny degree, to say the least.

    My Ph.D. friend hates Nietzsche vehemently and admires Spinoza and Kant. That makes sense - because the latter represent what philosophy is supposed to be. What's more - Kant makes sense in a classroom setting, Nietzsche doesn't. What are you gonna do with him: dispute his will-to-power? Critique his love of Zarathustra maybe? What? None of this really makes sense - it's indecent, too personal.
    So naturally it's not Nietzsche you get to discuss - you get to discuss what other people made of him for their own purposes. And you can never decide whether they were right or wrong because, of course, they all had their own purposes. And all of this is because Nietzsche "is for all and for no one" - too personal (and he sure intended it so, the good man).

    No such nonsense arises with Plato. Discussing folks like Friedrich of Kierkegaard is like discussing suicide - vaguely obscene and absolutely useless. It's not a subject for the classroom. You can't tackle "to be or not to be" of life in a classroom - it's an impossible situation.

    ***

    But of course a lot of things are discussed in vain among people and there is no real point worrying about this. A lot of people get confused as to what philosophy aims at after all and then there arises this false perception that philosophers are supposed to know some answers to your pressing questions. And then there is such disappointment that it doesn't help one small bit, in fact.

    This is something naive but in truth this is what is taught - to uphold the meaningfulness of philosophy it must be presented as making that kind of sense. And then you find out that it doesn't make any such sense - that the only thing you can do is get down to it and start thinking on your very own.

    It was an illusion, that's all.





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