Empty Days

Saturday, July 10, 2004



132. It is well known that people generally work better and more persistently when striving for a reward than when attempting to avoid a punishment or negative outcome. Scientists and other technicians are motivated mainly by the rewards they get through their work. But those who oppose technilogiccal invasions of freedom are working to avoid a negative outcome, consequently there are a few who work persistently and well at this discouraging task. If reformers ever achieved a signal victory that seemed to set up a solid barrier against further erosion of freedom through technological progress, most would tend to relax and turn their attention to more agreeable pursuits. But the scientists would remain busy in their laboratories, and technology as it progresses would find ways, in spite of any barriers, to exert more and more control over individuals and make them always more dependent on the system.
________________


What I respect most about Ted is that he doesn't lie - he really says it as directly as he possibly can. It is very easy to spot when people lie in their thinking or not - a lie always tries to accomodate contradictions or hide effective ignorance; a truth knows no such dubious doubts (which frequently masquerade as "objectivity").

There is no "objective" measure of truth - only an inner one. And it shows. (cf. Wittgenstein's "On Certainty").




Nemesis.


Albrecht Durer, 1501-02

She doesn't ressemble the gook of course, but as a universal force this is probably how revenge looks - it's kinda old and ugly, but definitely dangerous: the veiled sword and the poisoned calice. Bring it on, grandma'.

***

There is a Durer exhibition at the fine arts museum. I think I should go.




Beyond Good and Evil - molecular assemblers.

I must say I was impressed in Bill Joy's article with the mind-boggling description of what nanotechnology can do - turning atoms/molecules into "robots" so they would build things for you (ahem, this is very simplified).

It is unfortunate that most of B.J.'s article is concerned with various possible terrorist and military uses of these technologies (a la nuclear arms race, cold war etc), while most obviously the greatest danger and havoc is already included in the very concept - once you start manipulating atomic and subatomic levels for rather mundane uses (such as building extra-small and extra-powerful microprocessors for example) you have to wonder what will happen to the physical world we know once this whole thing is produced en mass, and then starts to mutate or replicate or do whatever semi-organic things do on their very own. Genetic manipulation is only a partial application of this whole principle - there are scarier things to come.

It is well known that scientists can't help themselves - once they discover unheard-of methods, they can't stop discovering more. It's not because scientists are evil - it's simply because science per se knows no such thing as good and evil. We, who live in the world of triumphant technology, know no such thing as good and evil on an ontological level - that's what makes us different from those who used to be bound by a strictly religious, "authoritarian" world-view. It doesn't occur to a lot of people today that our so-called "enlightened humanism", which is pretty much all we've got left in lieu of morals, is a profoundly hollow view of the world. Nothing is really sacred or untouchable to a humanistic outlook - we can indeed boldly go where no man has gone before and not feel any serious qualms about it. Why would we?

Bill Joy can't answer his own question - "why would we". He is a humanist. His little antiquated qualms about nature going to the dogs due to wholesale manipulation is only based on some dim remembrences of his grandmother telling him that too much technology is bad for you. He doesn't clearly feel why it would be bad. He can't argue his fear - for it is only a primitive fear, contradicting his own dominant world-view. The only argument he finds "convincing" has to do with rogue terrorists and unwarranted uses of powerful technology. How very lame of you, dear Bill. But that's pretty much how we all think - hilariously, we can hardly get worked up about anything scarier than a few terrorists and some spectacular massacres here and there.

Bill's article is full of shit, ladies and gentlemen. He doesn't understand what he's talking about - he doesn't understand his own world-view. And that's all I've got to say about molecular assemblers and engineered humanity - it's neither bad nor good, it just is.


PS. There is no such thing as "we".




Victory.

I finally came within visual contact with the gook nemesis. He can't even look at me. What's more, he promptly retreated from sight and then drove away in his precious car.

That's the guy who's been playing the ruler of the universe with me all year long - walking around slowly-slowly, stopping to stare at me insistently whenever I was around, monopolizing whatever space he could by talking loudly-loudly in his ugly twang, spending all day long patrolling the grounds for lack of something better to do, I suppose.

Goddam creep got it hard up his ass - that will teach him.

***

Conclusion: people of the universe, do not postpone revenge, do not let various fucks get on your nerves, give it to them hard and they shall desist. That's the only way (and don't listen to those stupid christians with their vapid forgiveness talk - some fucks can't appreciate forgiveness).

***

This is of course petty - but that's because suffering caused by "thy neighbours" is usually petty. Most semi-human relationships are petty. It's all within range.




Why the future doesn't need us.
In this age of triumphant commercialism, technology - with science as its handmaiden - is delivering a series of almost magical inventions that are the most phenomenally lucrative ever seen. We are aggressively pursuing the promises of these new technologies within the now-unchallenged system of global capitalism and its manifold financial incentives and competitive pressures.
Heh. The only "challenge" happened on 9/11 - it wasn't much of a challenge.
These possibilities are all thus either undesirable or unachievable or both. The only realistic alternative I see is relinquishment: to limit development of the technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain kinds of knowledge.

Yes, I know, knowledge is good, as is the search for new truths. We have been seeking knowledge since ancient times. Aristotle opened his Metaphysics with the simple statement: "All men by nature desire to know." We have, as a bedrock value in our society, long agreed on the value of open access to information, and recognize the problems that arise with attempts to restrict access to and development of knowledge. In recent times, we have come to revere scientific knowledge.
It has always struck me as odd that those with exceptional scientific ability should be such poor philosophers. This is largely the case for science-fiction writers, despite their great propensity to philosophize. It is certainly the case of this particular wizard (Bill Joy) who thinks he can get away from his dilemmas by stupidly citing Aristotle and exploiting a set idea of ethics. Unabomber at least tried to learn to think his way out - but it basically cost him his life and sanity.

I suppose the sort of intelligence that is measured in IQ points is the one most convenient for scientific exploits. But it obviously has little to do with the kind of intelligence that actually lets you rethink the world. The "elite" of this world, our technology wizards, are dummies - they can't help it - the can't help being simply used for and by science.

Einstein, for all his brilliance, was dumb in that way.

Friday, July 09, 2004



Do the right thing.

I still have this unfortunate tendency to give too much credit to people - I am far nicer than most of them, in the end.

Finally dismantled the flat tyre to see what happened - well, it's clearly a puncture, albeit a very small one, as if done with a needle. Heh. Stupid me - why the fuck should I have qualms about retaliation after slashed saddle + two punctured tyres last summer, and one tyre + slashed saddle again this summer?

Jesus - behold the stupid moral idiot that I am, with all this dumb humanistic education. That's it that's all. There won't be any more qualms from me and no more fears.

No credit - no mercy.

***

In one of his latest not-so-funny films Woody Allen plays a frail newyorker obsessed with personal security and fire-arms. In one scene his parking-space is high-jacked under his nose by some tough guys who just push the poor little Woody aside and go have a beer. Woody drives around the block, comes back, smashes the guys' car windows with a heavy tool, then departs speedily - of course after having had grave difficulty with the starter.

The suspense! The trembling fear!

But that's pretty much it: why be polite, nice, and reserved, when people are impolite, violent and completely immoral? Just give it to them and be happy.

***

As Kaczynski would put it, I am clearly "oversocialized".




Theodore Kaczynski.

I have the hardest time remembering the spelling of the guy's name. Kozinsky, Kazinski, Kaczinski... "Unabomber" or even "Unabom" is so much more practical. Or Ted for short.




Individual vs Society.

Of course Ted Kaczynski cannot be declared a perfectly sane man. He is an obsessive man - not a crazy in the patent clinical sense, but certainly deviant enough to be considered outside the narrow marks of the "norm". People have been wondering why, while having cooked up such a vast critique of the industrial society as presented in the manifesto, he spent so many years sending bombs to wanton, essentially insignificant targets. But the answer to this is very simple, my dears: how else to exercise vengence against a society too enormous to handle, when you're alone and having no means of organizing a "movement"? Of course you start striking at random - your pain and your hatred demand that you fight back, but who against? Who will you punish? There's no "who" - any human belonging to the vast sytem of the world you hate is a perfectly viable target for a burst of helpless revenge. You can't destroy an institution - but you can destroy one of the countless drones who support it.

Is this inhuman? Of course it is - you live in a world where most human beings are nothing but clogs in the machine. It doesn't take much to destroy one of the clogs. Yes, the world is inhuman, those who participate in it are only barely human, you yourself are a nothing - what does it matter who gets killed, you or that other ant?

The logic of the Unabomber is perfectly comprehensible - when you view human society as a hostile system against the enormity of which you are endlessly powerless, it becomes all too easy to kill "individuals". The world has no face - people who serve it have no face either. Destroying infrastructure causes no pain - destroying human beings does cause palpable pain. At least proportional to your own.

This is the logic of the Unabomber. Morality is only viable when you believe yourself to be part of a community. When you don't, morality simply disappears. Cf. Friedrich Nietzsche - who could very well have been sending bombs instead of writing subversive cruel books that detonated like bombs through the centuries.

Is Kaczynski a genius? No, not quite - he's only a thinking individual.




Obsessive psychology.

An unintended and yet very positive result of my latest spree of vandalism (heh, just joking - that was the one and the only) has been that the gook nemesis has completely disappeared from sight. I don't know what's going on but he's just never there anymore, all his cars and relatives gone and only returning very late at night.

Which means that I can finally have some peace - nobody's mawing the lawn every other day for hours and hours, nobody's washing a whole parking-lot of cars all day long, birds are chirping and the sky is blue, this is a great relief.

The way I explain this is that the man is indeed somewhat deranged and his family know it. So, due to his latest trauma they must have arranged for him to spend the day at friends or in the country, away from the scene of his obsessions (I and my bikes have been his obsession for years - I could testify to that in court). It is possible that his psychosis has now reached homicidal proportions so that his family are afraid he might try to kill me or do something violent like that. Either way, I believe his absence is directly related to my actions on the night of monday to tuesday. If not - this is quite a coincidence.

My assumptions are not entirely wanton - after all I know how obsessive mind functions, I have a detailed example in my own father. This is why I can't really hate this guy as much as I might if I knew he had no weakness. But I know his weakness - I know he's essentially mad and in what precise way. I also know that the best cure for him would be to move somewhere else altogether. His obsession with my person has developed way before I became aware of it. Nothing can stop it - whether I respond to it or not is not really relevant. The constant stress of seeing me around puts this guys under tremendous pressure. I wonder whether his family are truly aware how bad this is for him. In such cases, the family usually tries to downplay the symptoms and hope that the obsession would disappear of its own. But it never does. If lingers on and progresses and secretly wishes for a bursting through - a climax of violence and deliverance.

Perhaps unwittingly I have just provided such a climax. Unless the family persists in ignoring his symptoms, they should really think of moving him away for good - to a new, pure place devoid of old hatred. This is what "cured" my father - after 10 years of obsessions in their old flat, my parents finally moved after push came to shove entirely provoked by my father's obsessions. We had to send him away for a few months at the height of hostilities. In the meantime my mother found a new flat. Just the fact of relocating to a new place, a new environment removed all the stress - my dad is now a perfectly peaceful man. That's exactly what the gook needs too - but his family is probably unaware of these "trifles" and reluctant to force such a drastic solution. They likely think there aren't enough rational reasons to go through all the difficulties of moving etc. They don't understand how an irrational obsession functions. Rational "weighty" reasons are not important - the gook can't control himself, they should get to grips with that fact and stop pretending he's ok. He's not. But madness is a shame for the family - madness is never acknowledged until it bursts into the open and provokes pain and destruction.

We'll see. I am a very good psychologist - due to my extensive experience with deviant human behavior, my own in particular. Haha.




What's a terrorist.

I would likely make a pretty efficient terrorist. For all my natural cowardice, I am actually quite decisive and reckless - I do have a strong will, which is all the more strange since I can find no application for it.

All of which does not mean that I would like to be one. But in different historical/social circumstances people like myself arise all over the place and cause enormous havoc - and I am nothing special, for all I know.

Which is to say that a "terrorist" sounds worse than it really is - it's just fairly regular people who get on the wrong side of the social order. On the "right" side, such a one would probably make a fairly successful ruthless businessman or professional or something lame and useful like that.

***

As the Unabomber said: FBI is a joke. But I could say: terrorists are a joke. Both are mythical words hiding very banal and very human realities.




Clear thinking.

122. Even if medical progress could be maintained without the rest of the technological system, it would by itself bring certain evils. Suppose for example that a cure for diabetes is discovered. People with a genetic tendency to diabetes will then be able to survive and reproduce as well as anyone else. Natural selection against genes for diabetes will cease and such genes will spread throughout the population. (This may be occurring to some extent already, since diabetes, while not curable, can be controlled through the use of insulin.) The same thing will happen with many other diseases susceptibility to which is affected by genetic degradation of the population. The only solution will be some sort of eugenics program or extensive genetic engineering of human beings, so that man in the future will no longer be a creation of nature, or of chance, or of God (depending on your religious or philosophical opinions), but a manufactured product.

123. If you think that big government interferes in your life too much NOW, just wait till the government starts regulating the genetic constitution of your children. Such regulation will inevitably follow the introduction of genetic engineering of human beings, because the consequences of unregulated genetic engineering would be disastrous. [19]

124. The usual response to such concerns is to talk about "medical ethics." But a code of ethics would not serve to protect freedom in the face of medical progress; it would only make matters worse. A code of ethics applicable to genetic engineering would be in effect a means of regulating the genetic constitution of human beings. Somebody (probably the upper-middle class, mostly) would decide that such and such applications of genetic engineering were "ethical" and others were not, so that in effect they would be imposing their own values on the genetic constitution of the population at large. Even if a code of ethics were chosen on a completely democratic basis, the majority would be imposing their own values on any minorities who might have a different idea of what constituted an "ethical" use of genetic engineering. The only code of ethics that would truly protect freedom would be one that prohibited ANY genetic engineering of human beings, and you can be sure that no such code will ever be applied in a technological society. No code that reduced genetic engineering to a minor role could stand up for long, because the temptation presented by the immense power of biotechnology would be irresistible, especially since to the majority of people many of its applications will seem obviously and unequivocally good (eliminating physical and mental diseases, giving people the abilities they need to get along in today's world). Inevitably, genetic engineering will be used extensively, but only in ways consistent with the needs of the industrial-technological system. [20]
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Well, we're only really entering this phase now, but Ted is making perfect sense here - eugenics are indeed around the corner, just as much as euthanasia and all those other natural extensions of the ongoing developments. One or two evangelic presidents in the USA or somewhere else can't be considered a major obstacle to further research and application.

I am not a killer-savior type, I am more of a suicidal type - I don't believe this denaturation can be stopped. It's a little bit too late now, Ted, a few centuries too late.

Houellebecq said in some interview that he's against abortion because a foetus acquires individuality very early in gestation - in which case late abortion is equal to a killing. But while I see no reason to vehemently disbelieve Houellebecq's assumption, I have nothing to say against abortion - because I basically see nothing wrong with occasional murder of life.

I am a humanist.




The sorrowful paragraph.

119. The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity. [18] Of course the system does satisfy many human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extent that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. It is the needs of the system that are paramount, not those of the human being. For example, the system provides people with food because the system couldn't function if everyone starved; it attends to people's psychological needs whenever it can CONVENIENTLY do so, because it couldn't function if too many people became depressed or rebellious. But the system, for good, solid, practical reasons, must exert constant pressure on people to mold their behavior to the needs of the system. Too much waste accumulating? The government, the media, the educational system, environmentalists, everyone inundates us with a mass of propaganda about recycling. Need more technical personnel? A chorus of voices exhorts kids to study science. No one stops to ask whether it is inhumane to force adolescents to spend the bulk of their time studying subjects most of them hate. When skilled workers are put out of a job by technical advances and have to undergo "retraining," no one asks whether it is humiliating for them to be pushed around in this way. It is simply taken for granted that everyone must bow to technical necessity and for good reason: If human needs were put before technical necessity there would be economic problems, unemployment, shortages or worse. The concept of "mental health" in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.

Footnote 18. (Paragraph 119) "Today, in technologically advanced lands, men live very similar lives in spite of geographical, religious and political differences. The daily lives of a Christian bank clerk in Chicago, a Buddhist bank clerk in Tokyo, a Communist bank clerk in Moscow are far more alike than the life any one of them is like that of any single man who lived a thousand years ago. These similarities are the result of a common technology. . ." L. Sprague de Camp, "The Ancient Engineers," Ballentine edition, page 17. The lives of the three bank clerks are not IDENTICAL. Ideology does have SOME effect. But all technological societies, in order to survive, must evolve along APPROXIMATELY the same trajectory.
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In my opinion this is the most sorrowful paragraph in the whole of Unabomber's treatise. The sorrowful element is based on a deep contradiction - his concern is humanistic, he is raging against a largely inhuman society, simply too large to be human. At the same time he is himself inhuman in wanting to destroy the whole world before it destroys more human beings.

This is the contradiction at the heart of all western humanism - all the ideal social models that were imagined and put in place to garantee perfect happiness to all and ended up sacrificing untold masses of individuals (also known as human beings) to these dreams of universal progress.

We are in no way past this contradiction - it is at the heart of all our thinking. Our morals, our feelings, our very humanity is deeply skewed on account of it. Paradoxically, western humanism carries the gene of its own destruction - this tiny original contradiction of the individual vs society.




Science and paranoia.

There is a wide-spread paranoia about computer becoming autonomous sometime in a rather near future. Science-fiction is suffused with it (P.K.Dick, Kubrick's Odyssey 2001, etc etc etc). I once corresponded with a suicidal individual who was rationalizing his death-wish as based on this particular futuristic fear - he was generally paranoid yet persisted in arguing coming doom and gloom derived from his supposedly superior comprehension of developments in the AI sector. Now I encounter the same exact obsession in Kaczinski's 1971 essay:
Marvin Minsky of MIT (one of the foremost computer experts in the country) and other computer scientists predict that within fifteen years or possibly much less there will be superhuman computers with intellectual capacities far beyond anything of which humans are capable. It is to be emphasized that these computers will not merely perform so-called "mechanical" operations; they will be capable of creative thought. Many people are incredulous at the idea of a creative computer, but let it be remembered that (unless one resorts to supernatural explanations of human thought) the human brain itself is an electro-chemical computer, operating according to the laws of physics and chemistry. Furthermore, the men who have predicted these computers are not crackpots but first-class scientists.
Somehow this sort of discourse resembles the UFO galore - a certain myth wrapped in science-like apparel. Terrifyingly superior cyborgs or/and extra-terrestrials seem to embody today man's sense of powerlessness and a deep fear of an immensely complex world. In the age of science, man is very far from feeling god-like and in control of the inner and outer world - the unknown is bound to produce the terrifying. In the myth of machines taking a life of their own the world is represented as ruled by terrifyingly incomprehensible technology - the whole of Unabomber's Manifesto is centered around the idea of a society far too immense and complex to be under any sort of merely human control. In the UFO myths the same idea is extended to the universe as deep-space - the outer unknown from which unimaginably superior, tyrannical forces are bound to arise. Man is not God, and when such forces finally surge from the depths of the unknown, there will be no Creator and Ruler of the Universe to appeal to. I suppose this is the underlying theme of most latter-day science-fiction - which is the most paranoid sort of literature you could think of.

In other words, we are dealing with the fears of a child locked in a big dark room - it may be empty, or it may be full of monsters. In either case, it is not a good place to be in.

***

I have personally met a chinese specialist (probably quite brilliant but it's hard for me to judge - we simply happened to share a table in a chinese diner) who was researching possible integration of human brain (neuro-science) and AI (artificial intelligence). From what she told me the concept was not experimental but already perceived as a project that only demanded further research into material application.

I had the hardest time understanding what she was talking about.

She was only a Ph.D. student in that field. Here's an article by Bill Joy dealing with the same subject. The man is no novice. Doomsday-sayer or not, it's quite a read - Why the future doesn't need us:
In the book, you don't discover until you turn the page that the author of this passage is Theodore Kaczynski - the Unabomber. I am no apologist for Kaczynski. His bombs killed three people during a 17-year terror campaign and wounded many others. One of his bombs gravely injured my friend David Gelernter, one of the most brilliant and visionary computer scientists of our time. Like many of my colleagues, I felt that I could easily have been the Unabomber's next target.

Kaczynski's actions were murderous and, in my view, criminally insane. He is clearly a Luddite, but simply saying this does not dismiss his argument; as difficult as it is for me to acknowledge, I saw some merit in the reasoning in this single passage. I felt compelled to confront it.
What we regard as paranoia today might turn out true tomorrow - but it will come about in a banal, gradual, non-threatening way. A sheep was cloned fairly recently - nobody died or had a heart-attack.

And so on.

(That's exactly what Houellebecq says too... "but he's French and not a hi-tech wiz". And?)

***

And here's confirmation from Bill Joy himself:
I went through my now-familiar routine, trotting out the ideas and passages that I found so disturbing. Danny's answer - directed specifically at Kurzweil's scenario of humans merging with robots - came swiftly, and quite surprised me. He said, simply, that the changes would come gradually, and that we would get used to them.
People get used to everything, as Blaise Pascal said in his french XVII century - one may wonder what's the exact use of prophets under such conditions. Perhaps prophets are those who can still find something disturbing enough - but only because it hasn't occured yet. Heh.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

How an Insect Society is Organized

95. It is said that we live in a free society because we have a certain number of constitutionally guaranteed rights. But these are not as important as they seem. The degree of personal freedom that exists in a society is determined more by the economic and technological structure of the society than by its laws or its form of government. [16] Most of the Indian nations of New England were monarchies, and many of the cities of the Italian Renaissance were controlled by dictators. But in reading about these societies one gets the impression that they allowed far more personal freedom than out society does. In part this was because they lacked efficient mechanisms for enforcing the ruler's will: There were no modern, well-organized police forces, no rapid long-distance communications, no surveillance cameras, no dossiers of information about the lives of average citizens. Hence it was relatively easy to evade control.

Footnote 16. (Paragraph 95) When the American colonies were under British rule there were fewer and less effective legal guarantees of freedom than there were after the American Constitution went into effect, yet there was more personal freedom in pre-industrial America, both before and after the War of Independence, than there was after the Industrial Revolution took hold in this country. We quote from "Violence in America: Historical and Comparative perspectives," edited by Hugh Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr, Chapter 12 by Roger Lane, pages 476-478: "The progressive heightening of standards of property, and with it the increasing reliance on official law enforcement (in 19th century America). . .were common to the whole society. . .[T]he change in social behavior is so long term and so widespread as to suggest a connection with the most fundamental of contemporary social processes; that of industrial urbanization itself. . ."Massachusetts in 1835 had a population of some 660,940, 81 percent rural, overwhelmingly preindustrial and native born. It's citizens were used to considerable personal freedom. Whether teamsters, farmers or artisans, they were all accustomed to setting their own schedules, and the nature of their work made them physically dependent on each other. . .Individual problems, sins or even crimes, were not generally cause for wider social concern. . ."But the impact of the twin movements to the city and to the factory, both just gathering force in 1835, had a progressive effect on personal behavior throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. The factory demanded regularity of behavior, a life governed by obedience to the rhythms of clock and calendar, the demands of foreman and supervisor. In the city or town, the needs of living in closely packed neighborhoods inhibited many actions previously unobjectionable. Both blue- and white-collar employees in larger establishments were mutually dependent on their fellows. as one man's work fit into another's, so one man's business was no longer his own. "The results of the new organization of life and work were apparent by 1900, when some 76 percent of the 2,805,346 inhabitants of Massachusetts were classified as urbanites. Much violent or irregular behavior which had been tolerable in a casual, independent society was no longer acceptable in the more formalized, cooperative atmosphere of the later period. . .The move to the cities had, in short, produced a more tractable, more socialized, more 'civilized' generation than its predecessors."

*

117. In any technologically advanced society the individual's fate MUST depend on decisions that he personally cannot influence to any great extent. A technological society cannot be broken down into small, autonomous communities, because production depends on the cooperation of very large numbers of people. When a decision affects, say, a million people, then each of the affected individuals has, on the average, only a one-millionth share in making the decision. What usually happens in practice is that decisions are made by public officials or corporation executives, or by technical specialists, but even when the public votes on a decision the number of voters ordinarily is too large for the vote of any one individual to be significant. [17] Thus most individuals are unable to influence measurably the major decisions that affect their lives. Their is no conceivable way to remedy this in a technologically advanced society. The system tries to "solve" this problem by using propaganda to make people WANT the decisions that have been made for them, but even if this "solution" were completely successful in making people feel better, it would be demeaning.

Footnote 17. (Paragraph 117) Apologists for the system are fond of citing cases in which elections have been decided by one or two votes, but such cases are rare.
________________



Ants At Work by Deborah Gordon

Based on the author's seventeen years of research on harvester ants in the Arizona desert, Ants at Work overturns all standard ideas of insect society hierarchy. Gordon shows that an ant colony operates without any central control and that no ant has power over another. Yet the ant colony, harmoniously performs extremely complex tasks; including nest building, navigation, foraging, food storage, tending the young, garbage collection, and on occasion, even war. She shows that there are no territorial borders in the way we understand them because ants are always ready to change. Ants also switch from one task to another, which undermines the standard view that insect societies are run on a caste system. Gordon explores how ants use simple, local information to make the decisions that generate the complex behavior of colonies.
________________



I do believe Ted got it about right. What's more, by looking at the already superior organization of the ant-colony, we can easily prefigure what we are evolving towards at such a speedy pace. Global economy with its world-wide industrialization is not a caste-system either.




A bit of autobiography.

115. The system HAS TO force people to behave in ways that are increasingly remote from the natural pattern of human behavior. For example, the system needs scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It can't function without them. So heavy pressure is put on children to excel in these fields. It isn't natural for an adolescent human being to spend the bulk of his time sitting at a desk absorbed in study. A normal adolescent wants to spend his time in active contact with the real world. Among primitive peoples the things that children are trained to do are in natural harmony with natural human impulses. Among the American Indians, for example, boys were trained in active outdoor pursuits -- just the sort of things that boys like. But in our society children are pushed into studying technical subjects, which most do grudgingly.
____________

This is perhaps not entirely true these days, though it might have been for Kozinsky in the 1940's. Today most kids, especially boys, are naturally drawn to technology and science because of the incredible mythical glow of power and future that it carries - what with internet and video-games and huge salaries for young computer wizards not to mention the hacker's prestige. Children instinctively know where the power-muscle of a society is - and are irresistibly drawn to it.

Nops, Ted - no one is forced, everyone is seduced.




14. (Paragraph 73) When someone approves of the purpose for which propaganda is being used in a given case, he generally calls it "education" or applies to it some similar euphemism. But propaganda is propaganda regardless of the purpose for which it is used.
__________


Heh. Propaganda is a bad name - there wouldn't be anything like a human society of any sort without education. Individual vs Society is quite a recent (perhaps "industrial"?) problematics and doesn't warrant so much outrage.




111. The foregoing principles help to show how hopelessly difficult it would be to reform the industrial system in such a way as to prevent it from progressively narrowing our sphere of freedom. There has been a consistent tendency, going back at least to the Industrial Revolution for technology to strengthen the system at a high cost in individual freedom and local autonomy. Hence any change designed to protect freedom from technology would be contrary to a fundamental trend in the development of our society. Consequently, such a change either would be a transitory one -- soon swamped by the tide of history -- or, if large enough to be permanent would alter the nature of our whole society. This by the first and second principles. Moreover, since society would be altered in a way that could not be predicted in advance (third principle) there would be great risk. Changes large enough to make a lasting difference in favor of freedom would not be initiated because it would realized that they would gravely disrupt the system. So any attempts at reform would be too timid to be effective. Even if changes large enough to make a lasting difference were initiated, they would be retracted when their disruptive effects became apparent. Thus, permanent changes in favor of freedom could be brought about only by persons prepared to accept radical, dangerous and unpredictable alteration of the entire system. In other words, by revolutionaries, not reformers.
______________


At this stage in history a "revolution" intent on destroying the existing order would pretty much have to destroy the whole world - or at least a huge chunk of it. In the context of global economy, such a revolution would be simply equivalent to a holocaust - or wholesale destruction. It could be said that we are way past simply local or national revolutions - those continue to occur all over the place and effectively change nothing except replacing regimes that continue to perpetuate the same economic model.

Hence, Unabomber's vision calls not for a revolution (as he mistakingly continues to believe throughout) but for something like a wilful suicide of a civilization gone over its head.

This is impractical as a political manifesto and local anarchists should calm down. Let's simply call it a "prophetic vision".




The tao of the living.

These days when I get a bit too caught up in the obscenities of life, I just type in an internet address and go to David's Cancer Blog - he's been dead for a couple of months now and the blog is still there, with all its little day-to-day worries and obstinate hope and "busy, busy, busy..."

It's a great short-story - where are you now, author?




The example of my life is not contagious - I have no children and no vulnerable acquaintances.




Desperation.

My mother asked me if I sometimes experience a sense of desperation. I said yes. She didn't believe me - I had to insist. She doesn't know I nearly ate some cyanide only recently.

From which I have to conclude that I am exceptionally good at enduring enormous psychological hardships and still keeping up appearances that are deceiving enough so that those who supposedly know me best can't believe how close I might be to the end of my rope.

And it should stay this way.




Schopenhauer and life as a short-story.

It turns out that way before I got to think so myself, Schopenhauer already thought of it. Oh - not that I mind. He is widely quoted as saying that "one remembers one's own life only slightly better than he remembers a short-story he might have read once." (paraphrasing here)

He might have added as I do that one lives one's life as if one were writing a short-story - with secondary characters disappearing and others poping in to diversify the narration. But ultimately all of this comes to naught - for the story always ends with death and the plots are never entirely clear or nicely rounded up.




All quiet on the western front.

I spent the afternoon with my mother yesterday - first time I do that in more than a year or maybe even two years. I can't quite remember. I am a torture to my mother, and she is a torture to me for that reason. In a way I wish I had less to do with my parents on the whole, but it would be impractical and not really human. So the silent lament goes on: "why are you not the way I wish you were".

I wonder why it's so dramatically difficult for parents to accept what is and just shove it for a change. I don't remember ever wishing I had "different parents" just because mine were having too much of a fucked-up life. I accepted their being so fucked-up, it didn't occur to me to tell them to change and "be happy". What an absurdity. But my mother is a sucker for "normality". She can't face certain facts. Not in herself, not in others. I am sorry for her - I wish I could help her get out of this narrow vision, but I don't think it's feasible.

Sitting in judgment is what parents do best, the poor things.

***

Of course I left unsaid the pivotal fact of the last few days consisting of me boldly going out and puncturing the tyres of my nemesis' car. I couldn't tell the story of how ridiculous and absurd it was, and how one punctured tyre made a huge noise of a balloon going flat, and how I just walked firmly away from the scene and got home, and shortly after heard animal asiatic yells in the street coming from the nemesis who was woken by the unmistakable sound, and how just after that I went out to buy cigarettes in the dead of the night because I was kind of high-strung and was out of smokes, and how I noticed the nemesis' shadowy shape roaming the park nearby in search of the culprit, and how the whole next day was spent by the nemesis changing his tyres in the yard under my balcony and swearing loudly, and how I was sort of waiting for at least a visit from the police to ask whether I have "noticed" anything but nobody came.

Jesus - it would have made for a fun story to tell, but that's nothing you can entertain your parents with.

And yet there were so many unclear dynamics in this whole episode. For instance, I wasn't entirely decided on doing the deed and just went out around 4am with the idea that either I would do it or would bike to the nearest store to buy smokes - I still didn't feel entirely settled on the plan. But then, something like fatality kicked in. When I got to my bike I saw that the front tyre was completely flat. I didn't expect that. But this is what actually triggered my whole adventure - I simply turned and went directly for the nemesis' cars, and did what I had to do a long time ago, not even minding the surveilliance cameras of the synagogue across the street, not even caring whether the tyres would make a noise or not. I was on automatic pilot, to say the least.

The next day I realized that the tyre on my bike was not really punctured - it would hold air for a few hours, then go flat. Which is a typical sign of a natural defect from too much wear or rust, but not a hole in the tube. The fact that the point of rupture should have occured precisely at the time when I was considering acts of retaliation, is a glaring example not even of coincidence but of raging fatality. Perhaps I played my nemesis' karma - was practically pushed into playing it.

***

Reality is a strange thing - it clearly extends far beyond merely moral considerations. My mother wouldn't understand that.




Prior history.

In a 1996 article ("For the Greater Good"), People magazine attempts to buttress the bourgeois order in America in answering the question, how could Ted Kaczynski have turned out so bad, given his early brilliance and social advantages, when David Kaczynski turned out so well (so well, in fact, that he felt it is social duty to turn in his own brother)? In answering this query, we discover that young Ted was a loner, playing in his high school band even though "there was a missing quality to his music", loving mathematics more than girls; in contrast, the young David was outgoing, played baseball and basketball, and married his high school sweetheart. The coup de grace came when Ted couldn't be bothered to attend his estranged father's funeral (he committed suicide in 1990), just as Camus's outsider couldn't find the emotion to cry at his mother's funeral. There is a certain defensive hypocrisy in such popular journalism.
_______________


That's helpful to know. Though this Camus "reference" is really unnecessary. What would be interesting though is to have access to Unabomber's journals/diaries. Apparently his papers were supposed to be either donated to the University of Michigan for public persual, or be auctioned by the authorities - all this was still being debated in this january 2004. I wonder what the courts decided. The feds, of course, wanted to dump the papers in the garbage - very dangerous papers those must be. Ideas are always dangerous, kids, even more so than bombs and victims.




Experimental morality.

Most definitely - all this guilt stuff is nothing but fear. The only way you get rid of fear is by overcoming it in real time. You can't think it, you have to experience overcoming. Fear is a habit. It's also a mental structure. The only way to reconstruct this set-up is to effectively demolish some of the partitionings.

This is also the way you learn to kill - there is some preliminary conditioning but you only learn by doing it. And the first time is still not enough of a learning. Same thing with fear.

Been doing any sky-diving lately?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004



Recognition.

Adaptability is not a universal human characteristic. This explains why immigrants overwhelmingly tend to stay within their respective communities upon moving to another country/society. Rather than integrate into the local ethos immigrants, second generation included, stick together and integrate the prevailing society only to a certain degree.

It takes a special will and powerful energy to break the bond with one's original nationality/community and fully adapt and take root in the new world. There are always exceptions, but even second-generation immigrants are rarely able to completely resolve their original ties. In fact, in north america more than in europe, national ties tend to endure longer and full assimilation has to wait until the third generation - where the child is born to parents who themselves grew up in the new country.

In europe the local societies are far tighter and exert a much greater pressure for assimilation. There, the second generation rarely stays as closely tied to the original national community as in north america. The melting pot model does not function well since the local society is far less diluted in its cultural make-up. By comparison North America is clearly much more liberal to the newcomer. Nevertheless, one has to wonder to what extent it is really a land of immigration - after all its dominant culture is distinctly anglo-saxon and arrivals from very different societies must adapt to the prevailing ethos (highly distinct enclaves like Quebec in Canada are even harder to integrate due to a tighter cultural environment).

In melting-pot or "multicultural" societies, where pressure for assimilation is not as high as in other countries, the problem of cultural and national identity takes a new precedence on the individual level - it gives rise to a phenomenon that might be called a dearth of recognition.

It may be said that early socialization forges one's cultural (or national) identity and implants habits and forms of interaction that constitute the basic language of cultural symbolics. When a child is only partially socialized in the dominant cultural milieu, he will tend to develop his most basic social symbolics in the community culture that he is most immediately related to. Implicitly the idea of mutliculturalism tends to deny the importance of native clan systems in favor of a certain "balanced" vision of loosely hung parts composing a certain somewhat vague whole. Basically it is a sort of cultural federalism with the "central government" represented by the dominant social ethos. But the strength of political federalism is dependant on the local vitality of confederates that constitute it. In the cultural sphere this effectively represents the strength of one's ties to one's original community.

Between generations many youths tend to lose these strong ties and their sense of cultural and national identity becomes diluted. The attraction of the dominant ethos appears important but it is itself so loose that it provides only a limited language of cultural and social symbolics. Yet it is these symbolics that permit recognition and the sense of the familiar between humans. The unfamiliar, for all its possibilities of discovery, remains outside of the basic individual sphere. Thus a dearth of recognition is experienced when one loses ties with his basic milieu and enters the dominant ethos. In multicultural societies people often recognize each other only partially, on the basis of the poor language of the "federal" symbolics, and human contact tends to remain superficial.

This lack comes to light when, after a long while, one is confronted with the immediacy of recognition towards those of his original culture.

(this was an imitation of Michel Foucault's "History of Sexuality")




Misguided uses.

"Democracy" has become one of the most powerful tools of deception today. As Saul puts it in his The Doubter's Companion (1994: 94), democracy is an "existential system in which words are more important than actions". Consider, for example, the latest US presidential election: what kind of a social change can an individual voter really effect? There are two forces particularly active in the decay of this once noble and meaningful political notion: technology and capitalism.
___________


Excuse me: when was that any different? The fact that you didn't like the outcome of the "latest election" is hardly anything new regarding the phenomenon of democratic elections in *any* highly organized industrial-slash-capitalist society. Was it any different in the 1950's, or the 1930's, or the 1900's? But of course - prior to whatever year women didn't vote. Big deal. So let's not exaggerate the "noble and meaningful" aspect - perhaps it never *was* either noble or meaningful? That's the whole point of the discourse, actually.

This article has been written by "leftists" (canadian, on top of that - the most superior and dumbest kind). Pushing the agenda, boys - I really don't see what the Unabomber got to do with this. "Colonial policies"... like hell.




The criminal and the anarchist.

45. The criminal and what is related to him.— The criminal type is the type of the strong human being under unfavorable circumstances: a strong human being made sick. He lacks the wilderness, a somehow freer and more dangerous environment [Natur] and form of existence, where everything that is weapons and armor in the instinct of the strong human being has its rightful place. His virtues are ostracized by society; the most vivid drives with which he is endowed soon grow together with the depressing affects—with suspicion, fear, and dishonor. Yet this is almost the recipe for physiological degeneration. Whoever must do secretly, with long suspense, caution, and cunning, what he can do best and would like most to do, becomes anemic; and because he always harvests only danger, persecution, and calamity from his instincts, his attitude to these instincts is reversed too, and he comes to experience them fatalistically. It is society, our tame, mediocre, emasculated [verschnittene] society, in which a natural human being, who comes from the mountains or from the adventures of the sea, necessarily degenerates into a criminal. Or almost necessarily; for there are cases in which such a man proves stronger than society: the Corsican, Napoleon, is the most famous case.

The testimony of Dostoyevsky is relevant to this problem—Dostoyevsky, the only psychologist, incidentally, from whom I had something to learn; he ranks among the most beautiful strokes of fortune in my life, even more than my discovery of Stendhal. This profound human being, who was ten times right in his low estimate of the superficial Germans, lived for a long time among the convicts in Siberia—hardened criminals for whom there was no way back to society—and found them very different from what he himself had expected: they were carved out of just about the best, hardest, and most valuable wood that grows anywhere on Russian soil. Let us generalize the case of the criminal: let us think of men so constituted that for one reason or another, they lack public approval and know that they are not felt to be beneficent or useful—that chandala feeling that one is not considered equal, but an outcast, unworthy, contaminating. All men so constituted have a subterranean hue to their thoughts and actions; everything about them becomes paler than in those whose existence is touched by daylight. Yet almost all forms of existence which we consider distinguished today once lived in this half tomblike atmosphere: the scientific character, the artist, the genius, the free spirit, the actor, the merchant, the great discoverer ...

As long as the priest was considered the supreme type, every valuable kind of human being was devaluated ... The time will come—I promise—when the priest will be considered the lowest type, as our chandala, as the most mendacious, the most indecent kind of human being ... I call attention to the fact that even now—under the mildest regimen of morals which has ever ruled on earth, or at least in Europe—every deviation [Abseitigkeit], every long, all-too-long sojourn below, every unusual or opaque form of existence, brings one closer to that type which is perfected in the criminal. All innovators of the spirit must for a time bear the pallid and fatal mark of the chandala on their foreheads—not because they are considered that way by others, but because they themselves feel the terrible chasm which separates them from everything that is customary or reputable. Almost every genius knows, as one stage of his development, the "Catilinarian existence"—a feeling of hatred, revenge, and rebellion against everything which already is, which no longer becomes ... Catiline—the form of pre-existence of every Caesar.—

F.N.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004



Fear.

Actors and soldiers know that fear is an integral part of life - you can't get rid of it, from that knot in your stomach, so "gut-wrenching", so physical, so irrational. The best you can do is suffer through it with your limbs and innards, and not let it control your nervous system too completely - so you don't shake uncontrollably when you have to pull the trigger or say your dramatic monologue.

Some people take drugs or drench themselves in alcohol to overcome the physical irrational effects of fear. Others just get used to the feeling and are not too disoriented when it strikes them. To each his own nervous constitution - and suffering.




43. Whispered to the conservatives.— What was not known formerly, what is known, or might be known, today—a reversion, a return in any sense or degree is simply not possible. We physiologists at least know that. Yet all priests and moralists have believed the opposite—they wanted to take mankind back, to screw it back, to a former measure of virtue. Morality was always a bed of Procrustes. Even the politicians have aped the preachers of virtue at this point: today too there are still parties whose dream it is that all things might walk backwards like crabs. But no one is free to be a crab. Nothing avails: one must go forward—step by step further into décadence (—that is my definition of modern "progress" ...). One can check this development and thus dam up degeneration, gather it and make it more vehement and sudden: one can do no more.—
___________


That's not Unabomber, that's Nietzsche.




Can one live for revenge?

Though the obsessed Unabomber lists revenge as one of the main driving life-forces, on par with love and sex, I doubt this intense yet extremely reductive sentiment should be placed in that category. It is of course possible to be carried by hate and rejection to incredible heights of personal achievement but the seed is rotten from the start and every fruit born out of it will be full of venom.

Yes, hate is a strong passion - but it's also a strong poison. At least it tends to turn toxic when mixed with guilt and remnants of a moral view of the world. Morality basically regulates relations between humans. You can indeed develop a view of the world that excludes a number of humans out of your structure, so you don't feel any moral obligation towards them - but this process also destroys and deforms your own relation to the world: it becomes a thorny enclosure surrounded by venomous snakes and despicable reptiles who are all out to get you.

Such is the world of hate and revenge - it does look very much like hell that Bosch painted.

I wonder if it's possible to really enjoy seeing others suffering from your deeds - to actually experience uninhibited pleasure from such a sight. I wonder what cruelty is made of. I wonder whether killing an enemy leaves anything but a sense of emptiness instead of the fulfillment promised by revenge. This is the kind of questions relatives of a murder victim struggle with when the culprit is sent to the electric chair - what does it do except make the emptiness even more empty?

Revenge is based on a sense of justice - but this sense of justice is itself mechanical, it drives you from cause to effect as if along an insuperable logical argument, justice is a sort of syllogism - cold and essentially inhuman. It's a logic. With logic certain causes always produce certain effects. You can't get away - eye for eye and tooth for tooth, as if there were only eyes and teeth in the whole wide world.

I was tempted into experiencing whether my revulsion to revenge by violence was based in fear or in real disgust. I overcame fear easily and performed all the actions required by revenge. I feel no fulfillment - only disgust. At the same time the feeling of hate has subsided. It has been replaced by contempt - both for the victim and myself. The torturer can only feel contempt for his victim: never hate. But you can't feel better about yourself if your actions are directed against something you despise. Revenge is a vain exercise.

I will have to wait and see whether my ongoing disgust is still based in fear of retaliation. I can't know right now because fear is such a sneeky sentiment: it creeps in under a hundred forms and only declares itself for what it is when proper triggers are released. Oftentimes fear manifests itself as guilt. Maybe this is the case here. In a way I wish I didn't have to hate all these people so much or experience their hostility. But I guess it's got something to do with my general powerlessness - I can't undo it. I've always had a hard time resisting to unwarranted hostility. Sometimes people just hate me for no particular reason and I do wish I could just ignore this and forgive it from my own strength. But maybe I haven't got any and that's why I can't forgive or ignore, and have to automatically respond with hostility.

It's a pretty bottomless pit, all of this.




119. ... It is simply taken for granted that everyone must bow to technical necessity and for good reason: If human needs were put before technical necessity there would be economic problems, unemployment, shortages or worse. The concept of "mental health" in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.
___________

I am not in good mental health, that's for sure. And it's true that my inability to adapt to the world as it exists is the main source of my suffering. I rather stay away from the fray than fight a losing battle. Which is my best bet at remaining somewhat sane - though it's disputable to what extent isolation is really a protection or a killer. But do I really have a choice if I can't stomach the way this world is made?




97....But what kind of freedom does one have if one can use it only as someone else prescribes? FC's conception of freedom is not that of Bolivar, Hu, Chang or other bourgeois theorists. The trouble with such theorists is that they have made the development and application of social theories their surrogate activity. Consequently the theories are designed to serve the needs of the theorists more than the needs of any people who may be unlucky enough to live in a society on which the theories are imposed.
______________


One may wonder then whoever of the social theorists ever really considered "the needs of the people" as Unabomber understands them. But that's where his philosophy starts to fall apart - in that he doesn't include himself among such theorists while he certainly is one. The ancient "trouble" of individual battling society is never resolved - as is amply demonstrated by his own terrorist career and ideological intent.




Insane but true.

96. As for our constitutional rights, consider for example that of freedom of the press. We certainly don't mean to knock that right: it is very important tool for limiting concentration of political power and for keeping those who do have political power in line by publicly exposing any misbehavior on their part. But freedom of the press is of very little use to the average citizen as an individual. The mass media are mostly under the control of large organizations that are integrated into the system. Anyone who has a little money can have something printed, or can distribute it on the Internet or in some such way, but what he has to say will be swamped by the vast volume of material put out by the media, hence it will have no practical effect. To make an impression on society with words is therefore almost impossible for most individuals and small groups. Take us (FC) for example. If we had never done anything violent and had submitted the present writings to a publisher, they probably would not have been accepted. If they had been accepted and published, they probably would not have attracted many readers, because it's more fun to watch the entertainment put out by the media than to read a sober essay. Even if these writings had had many readers, most of these readers would soon have forgotten what they had read as their minds were flooded by the mass of material to which the media expose them. In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we've had to kill people.
___________


By which (killing) he simply means "creating a sensation" - from the point of view of the media, that's all there is to it, really. The media don't deal in morals despite all their incessant "outrage" - they deal in sensational "stories" that sell and "catch" and shock. The gotcha factor etc. Some artists wrap the London bridge or the Statue of Liberty in plastic - for the same purpose. Wrapping the London bridge in plastic is neither moral nor amoral, but it's catchy because it's unusual. Killing to get yourself heard is also unusual - quite beside the fact whether it's moral or amoral.

He's damn right here.

Monday, July 05, 2004



Simple truths.

The snotty writer of the Harvard-Unabomber article called Kozinsky's Manifesto a collection of popular cliches. Damn right, dude - that's all you need to do: just say it simple. Laboriously intricate academic studies based on even dumber cliches are not really an advance. You live in a world of banalities, dumbass, no matter how snotty you try to be, you can't be more intelligent than yourself - which is to say not much.

Simplicity is frequently assimilated to lack of intelligence. Sometimes it's true, oftentimes it's not. Fools say what the wise think tacitly - and the wise don't really think better, they just know how to hide their vacuity behind glitteringly intricate facade. Brilliance and genuinely keen thought are extremely rare. The ability to say keen things simply is also rare. The Unabomber, for all his uncouthness, said what he really thought - no more, no less. That's enough for me. I'll leave the pretense to academics, who have nothing much to say as a rule. Guess why that is - because they work from accepted ideas and are afraid to show how poor they really are in thought. Erudition has always been the perfect way to hide blatant stupidity. And people are usually stupid enough to be tricked by this. But that's an old story and old cliche here.

That's a nice short paragraph. What else do you need?
50. The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can't make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society with out causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.
Heh.




Harvard and the making of the Unabomber - V.
We may cross that line sooner than we think. In a September, 1998, letter to me, Kaczynski wrote,
I suspect that you underestimate the strength and depth of feeling against industrial civilization that has been developing in recent years. I've been surprised at some of the things that people have written to me. It looks to me as if our society is moving into a pre-revolutionary situation. (By that I don't mean a situation in which revolution is inevitable, but one in which it is a realistic possibility.) The majority of people are pessimistic or cynical about existing institutions, there is widespread alienation and directionlessness among young people.... Perhaps all that is needed is to give these forces appropriate organization and direction.
Seen from that perspective, it might seem that the rest of society is only a few steps behind Kaczynski. When Henry Murray spoke of the need to create a new "World Man," this was not what he had in mind.
Heh.




Harvard and the making of the Unabomber - IV.
As Kaczynski's college life continued, outwardly he seemed to be adjusting to Harvard. But inwardly he increasingly seethed. According to Sally Johnson, he began worrying about his health. He began having terrible nightmares. He started having fantasies about taking revenge against a society that he increasingly viewed as an evil force obsessed with imposing conformism through psychological controls.

These thoughts upset Kaczynski all the more because they exposed his ineffectuality. Johnson reported that he would become horribly angry with himself because he could not express this fury openly. "I never attempted to put any such fantasies into effect," she quoted from his writings, "because I was too strongly conditioned ... against any defiance of authority.... I could not have committed a crime of revenge even a relatively minor crime because ... my fear of being caught and punished was all out of proportion to the actual danger of being caught."
As the Unabomber wrote in his 1995 letter to NYT: The FBI is a joke.
Damn right, dude.




Harvard and the making of the Unabomber - III.

Just what I meant:
Why were the students willing to endure this ongoing stress and probing into their private lives? Some who had assisted Murray in the experiment confessed to me that they wondered about this themselves. But they -- and we -- can only speculate that some of the students (including Kaczynski) did it for the money, that some (again, probably including Kaczynski) had doubts about their own psychic health and were seeking reassurance about it, that some, suffering from Harvard's well-known anomie, were lonely and needed someone to talk to, and that some simply had an interest in helping to advance scientific knowledge. But in truth we do not know. Alden E. Wessman, a former research associate of Murray's who has long been bothered by the unethical dimension of this study, said to me recently, "Later, I thought: 'We took and took and used them and what did we give them in return?'"
Why? Idiot - he can't even answer his own question. Because they were obedient little fucks, that's why. Most americans are obedient unthinking assholes willing to submit their stupid ass to whatever their authorities and various lords and masters choose to hurdle on them. Haven't you seen it lately? You see it every single day on tv. It's an obvious characteristic, this total absence of true individuality, any real personal intelligence. Idiots, that's who they are. Sure, continue measuring your IQ like you measure your dick - that's about as useful. That's about the only concept of intelligence you deserve in the end.

I can't believe I am reading this.




Harvard and the making of the Unabomber - II.

This article is so evocative of the ham-handed psychology and philosophy of the 1950's USA that it made me nearly sick and gave me nightmares - just the atmosphere of it, the obtuse, profound, hopeless stupidity proper to this era. Oh Lord:
Before the dyadic confrontation took place, Murray and his colleagues interviewed the students in depth about their hopes and aspirations. During this same period the subjects were required to write not only essays explaining their philosophies of life but also autobiographies, in which they were told to answer specific, intimate questions on a range of subjects from thumb-sucking and toilet training to masturbation and erotic fantasies. And they faced a battery of tests that included, among others, the Thematic Apperception Test, a Rorschach test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the California Psychological Inventory, a "fantasy inventory," a psychological-types inventory, the Maudalay Personality Inventory, an "inventory of self-description," a "temperament questionnaire," a "time-metaphor test," a "basic disposition test," a "range of experience inventory," a "philosophical outlook test," a food-preference inventory, analyses of their literary tastes and moral precepts, an "odor association test," a "word association test," an argument-completion test, a Wyatt finger-painting test, a projective-drawings test, and a "Rosenzweig picture frustration test." The results were then analyzed by researchers, who plotted them in numerous ways in an effort to develop a psychological portrait of each personality in all its dimensions.
It still goes on in many ways. The article itself is imbued with it, with this kind of dumb mechanistic thinking.

Amerika is the most stupid contry on earth, with the exception of some African kingdoms. I can see why the Unabomber developped such a profound distaste for this society. I can see why he killed - though I continue to think that he himself remained too much of a dumb idealistic american to realize that it was a useless undertaking. He was not paranoid - he was just too american. Heh. In the end I don't believe the inherent placid stupidity at the heart of this continent merits a nasty satire - not even that. It merits nothing but contempt. And it gets plenty of it - a just desert - even while the most vile elements of the world continue to adulate its idiotic success. The goddam baloon will burst one day, but not before a complete devastation of stupidity is imprinted on the whole planet. Thank you very much, assholes.




Stay and they will go.

Great news - something I've been tacitly hoping for but never expected to come so soon: the hated philippino janitor has moved out, bought a house and moved out. I knew that was the point of his sticking to this stinking janitorial job, to finally save enough cash to buy a house. I am glad he was able to do it in less than 10 years. At least now we have another janitor - also a philippino, but I am not really a racist, and this new guy looks pretty reserved and less agressive than the previous one.

So I hope I'll be ok with this new fool. I don't see why not because I am not going to have any human contact with him - and he's not domineering and wanting to control the whole world, so he won't want to have any such contacts either to "establish his rule". There won't be any rule. Yahoo!




Harvard and the making of the Unabomber.
Most of us may believe we already know Ted Kaczynski. According to the conventional wisdom, Kaczynski, a brilliant former professor of mathematics turned Montana hermit and mail bomber, is, simply, mentally ill. He is a paranoid schizophrenic, and there is nothing more about him to interest us. But the conventional wisdom is mistaken. I came to discover that Kaczynski is neither the extreme loner he has been made out to be nor in any clinical sense mentally ill. He is an intellectual and a convicted murderer, and to understand the connections between these two facts we must revisit his time at Harvard.
I haven't read through this article yet but it's a very promising start. I suppose most people still think Kaczinsky is a looney. I did - until I discovered the actual thing (manifesto). Our media are so exceptionally informative - something I tend to forget out of sheer laziness.




What's an anarchist ?

There are a lot of anarchists now-days. Of all types and species. The better known type are the urban anarchists of the common-leftist variety who dress in studious rags, smoke dope together, and provoke occasional violence while demonstrating against globalization or what not.

Then there are older and less showy anarchists who do the back-to-nature thing and hide in far-away rural places so you basically never see them in person. But there are quite a few of those and they're very diverse in appearance, which is nevertheless also slightly ragged.

Finally, there are intellectual anarchists, those who are ragged in thought and word rather than dress and lifestyle. They usually belong to the urban intelligentsia and generally mix well with the rest of society. You'd never know them by sight - and are not supposed to either.

But these are all self-declared anarchists. In truth however, there exists an undeclared yet also wide-spread though invisible variety of "natural" anarchists. Those are usually loners and complete drop-outs from society who naturally evolve into anarchist philosophy which is usually personal and is not subject to any particular ideological guidelines. I clearly belong to that variety. It took me some time to realize I was one.

***

I would define anarchism as some sort of revolt against the order of the world - a complete rejection and rethinking of this order. It does not just apply to society but to every parameter of human existence. Anarchism is conceived mostly as a social philosophy, which is perhaps only an expression of a more general philosophical intent which requires certain detachment from environment and one's own inbuilt ideas to get going. In greek "anarchy" means "no-rule". It's a tabula rasa of all existing laws. In the realm of philosophy it is the necessary preliminary to all genuine philosophical effort. Socrates was clearly an anarchist - he started something that was contrary to most existing laws and mores, and he was eventually condemned to death for that reason. Plato was not an anarchist, but only a disciple and a systemizer. He didn't get it as bad as his master. But Socrates made the preliminary step - somebody had to.

In philosophical thinking anarchism is always the necessary first step - and nothing but the first step. After that it has to go somewhere, settle on something. "No-rule" cannot last forever, it is an intermediary and a somewhat nebulous state that is essential to achieve some sort of mental gestation for new thinking to arise. Sometimes, and even very often, it doesn't go very far from there. So a lot of people remain in the mistaken belief that permanent opposition, protest, "no-rule" is a state that needs its own dogmas and conservation. This is of course ridiculous but it's pretty much been the case in social anarchism. Militant anarchists create dogmas, ideologies of their movement, and then spend their lives (or large portions of it) trying to follow these rules. This way "no-rule" becomes yet another big "rule" and the whole exercise soon appears fairly shallow - and it is shallow indeed.

So naturally all anarchists have to be revolutionary. It's the whole point of this way of thinking. When you don't or can't accept existing order you need to overcome it or combat it one way or another. Social anarchists do it through social militancy, philosophical anarchists do it by inner subversion and attending social parasitism (you have to survive somehow through non-participation). What is common to all anarchists however is the essential desire to look at the bare-thread humanity and rethink the whole damn thing, even if it involves looking at the darkest side of human nature. This is why intellectual anarchists usually permit themselves atrocious forrays into the forbidden corners of the mind, while their back-to-nature counterparts rediscover the sanguinary aspect of original Nature; not to mention the social anarchists who engage in violence, sabotage, sometimes murder.

***

Anarchy is amorphous per se. So all these movements and private ways of thinking are naturally somewhat amorphous. Anarchists never really know what it is they want exactly - they only know what they stand against. So they usually adopt whatever comes in handy from the mainstream thought - like leftism, for instance, but it can as well be fascism or purity of race, or whatever triggers one's protest in the first place. Usually anarchism becomes most virulent when there exists a certain void of ideas in the order of the existing world.

Dogmatic social anarchists are the most active and the most ridiculous of all because they try to give a definitive form to something that can't really have a form. But this is their manner of doing and they usually spend far less time philosophizing (though of course it's mostly true of followers - originators of these movements put in a great deal of fundamental re-thinking, with often spectacular though mostly dubious results).

But the most important thing to remember is that anarchists have nothing to offer except destruction. It is often necessary - without this reaction and destruction things would go on rotting forever. So anarchists, despite their unpleasant negative approach are in fact the first insects that start to appear on a rotting corpse - it's a good thing on the whole, somebody has to announce the rot. There are whole ages of anarchism. Zeitgeist creates anarchism - not the other way around. So it's unwise to laugh at anarchists and call them idiots. In the end it will be the myopic participator of the rotting world who will be left crying over a dead body. The anarchist, whatever his specific message, says: "wake up - or you'll rot to death". White-power anarchists, leftist anarchists, back-to-nature anarchists, drop-out anarchists all say the same thing. That something is rotting and the smell is getting bad.

That's what anarchism is all about in the end.


Unabomber - Letter sent to The New York Times

April 24, 1995

Following is the text of the letter received by the Times on April 24, 1995, from the self-designated "terrorist group FC," claiming responsibility for the serial bombings that the FBI attributes to a single person or group in the case known as Unabom. The letter was postmarked Oakland.
The document is presented verbatim, with original spelling, emphasis and punctuation. Three passages have been deleted at the request of the FBI.

____________________________


(Passage deleted at the request of the FBI.)

This is a message from the terrorist group FC.

We blew up Thomas Mosser last December because he was a Burston-Marsteller executive. Among other misdeeds, Burston-Marsteller helped Exxon clean up its public image after the Exxon Valdez incident. But we attacked Burston-Marsteller less for its specific misdeeds than on general principles. Burston-Marsteller is about the biggest organization in the public relations field.

This means that its business is the development of techniques for manipulating people's attitudes. It was for this more than for its actions in specific cases that we sent a bomb to an executive of this company.

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Moral imperative

I have strong psychological barriers against causing violence - it sickens me to think that I would go out and vandalize somebody's car. I suppose I would have the same revulsion reflex if I had to engage in a fist-fight (which may happen in this life yet, you never know - for instance, if I ever end up in jail that would be a very probable situation). I wish I could tell myself I am afraid - and step over. But it's not fear. I can't do violence in cold blood - I really have to be enraged to get seriously agressive. At the same time, I know that it's not some general principle that holds me back. I can very well commit immoral acts (like I used to practice small-time theft in big stores - just for the heck of it and because I really hate big stores) but each time I have to be totally convinced that I am in my right - then there is neither fear nor revulsion. But with violence I can't establish such a sense. It's fucking mean to go cause harm to some idiot in the slealth of the night - I rather spit him in the face, if it's really all that important. If I had that kind of rage, I'd certainly do it though. But not enough rage - and no action. He's a gook, gooks are well-known to be mean in a cowardly way (they think it's clever - fucking weasels). So I'll let him exercise his rotten nature.

Pure rage legitimizes violence - it's strange to say, but passion is the only thing that gives it any sense. All the rest is just mean and lame. Open violence is pretty satisfying and pretty legitimate. I don't know why I think that way. I have nothing against violence per se. Vendetta in cold blood is an age-old tradition but it's based on a clear sense of one's right and a full set of various great though idiotic traditions. Without this it just makes no sense. It becomes mean without it. In other words, violence is fine but it needs serious justification.

In this case I find no such justification. If this mean fuck attacked my cat, there is no question that I would destroy his person or everything belonging to it, or both. My rage would be legitimate and proportional to offense. But as much as I dislike this fuck, I just don't find enough hate to overcome my revulsion to mean acts of vengence.

Violence is a fascinating human subject - it is complex and cannot be dismissed with rigidly moral off-hand arguments. Perhaps my inbuilt revulsion is yet a face of fear. I experienced the same revulsion towards suicide, which is a form of killing though directed at oneself. Taboos are rooted in fear. It is perhaps better to be free to exercise unlimited violence and yet refrain from it - also freely. But I am not sure freedom is really what conditions moral choices. If morals are based in fear, what becomes of morals when full freedom from fear is reached? I would say no moral remains - and impulses take over as a new code of conduct.

What would Kant say? But Kant was only a dispassionate university professor - too rational to be entirely human.

Sunday, July 04, 2004



Houellebecq - Plateforme.

The title of the book might appear mysterious after you've read through the whole thing but in fact it is simply symbolic - a sort of key-to-riddle title, with the solution to the riddle mentioned towards the end of the novel, as if in passing.

The protagonist remembers a happy moment of childhood when he climbed all the way up to a "plateforme" at the top of a sort of observation pole in the mountains - he climbed without fear for he never looked down, but once having reached the platform he realized how high it really was, and looking down he felt like plunging into the void (rather than experience the fear of climbing down step-by-step) and be suspended in a long flight, a sort of weightless happiness, from which only fear of pain kept him in the end. Being at the height of the world and the sight of all those mountain picks represented happiness. And this is the metaphora for the whole novel, in fact - unwitting, unconscious climbing too high all the way to happiness and the inevitable cruel fall that it entails.

Certainly such a novel could hardly have a happy ending.




Why I want to be cloned.

...As I write, it is impossible for me to foresee if my clones will be born outside a woman's womb. What appeared to the layman as technically straightforward (nutritional exchanges via the placenta are a priori less mysterious than the act of fertilisation) turns out to be more difficult to replicate. In a situation where techniques have sufficiently progressed, my future children, my clones, will spend the beginning of their existence in a jar; and that makes me a little sad. I like women's pussies, I like to be in their wombs, in the elastic suppleness of their vaginas. I understand the safety considerations, the technical requirements; I understand the reasons which will progressively lead to in vitro gestation; I merely allow myself, on this subject, a little hint of nostalgia. Will they, my little dears born so far from it, still have a taste for pussy? For their own sakes, I hope so. There are many sources of joy in this world, but few pleasures - and few of them are harmless.

If they have to develop in a jar, my clones clearly will be born without a navel. I do not know who was the first to use, in a pejorative sense, the term "navel-gazing literature"; but I know I have always been put off by this cliche. What interest would there be in a literature which pretended to talk about mankind by excluding all personal considerations? Human beings are, comically, much more similar than they let on; it is easier than you think to attain the universal by talking about yourself. And there we find a second paradox: talking about yourself is a tedious, even repellent activity; but to write about yourself is, in literature, the only thing worth doing, to such an extent that we measure - classically and rightly - the value of a book according to the author's capacity for personal involvement in it. You could call this grotesque, even insanely immodest, but that's the way it is.
______________________


[ This essay is from the collection, Lanzarote et autres textes, published by Librio. It appears in the current issue of Prospect magazine. Translated by Gavin Bowd. © Michel Houellebecq 2003 ]




Predictive fiction.

Un roman est-il capable de prédire l’avenir ? On serait tenté de le penser en constatant l’incroyable similitude de l’attentat fictif décrit dans le roman Plateforme (paru le 24 août 2001) et l’attentat de Bali (survenu le 12 octobre 2002). La presse avait déjà noté, juste après le 11 septembre, la prophétie faite par le roman (paru deux semaines avant l’attentat du World Trade Center), à propos de ce type de terrorisme [2]. Mais le récent attentat à Bali est venu apporter une confirmation plus précise — et par cette précision plus inquiétante — de la capacité prédictive des intuitions de Houellebecq : l’attentat fictif du roman et celui, réel, survenu un an plus tard impliquent la même partie du monde, les mêmes circonstances précises, des assassins similaires, des victimes en nombre comparable et d’origine identique [3]. Et pourtant, Plateforme n’est ni un roman sur l’islamisme, ni un roman sur le terrorisme. C’est le troisième volet d’une trilogie sociologique sur la misère des relations humaines, sociales et sexuelles des occidentaux modernes. Houellebecq ne se pose pas en spécialiste du terrorisme, et on sait par ailleurs qu’il a de l’Islam une vision biaisée et au moins caricaturale. Dans ce cadre, on peut se dire que cette similitude de lieux, de circonstances et d’acteurs n’est peut-être qu’une simple coïncidence. Force est cependant d’admettre, pour le moins, que Houellebecq a bien compris “quelque chose” au monde moderne, “quelque chose” qui n’a réellement été entrevu par personne et qui nous donne à penser qu’il pourrait bien nous en apprendre encore sur notre avenir.


[2] Par exemple Jean DÉSY, critique du roman Plateforme dans la revue « Nuit Blanche » (article disponible sur internet) ou Yves COUPRIE, qui souligne sur le site /www.routard.com/ qu’il ne peut s’agir que d’un hasard.

[3] L’attentat (fictif) du roman survient en Thaïlande, dans une boîte de nuit fréquentée presque exclusivement par des touristes occidentaux. Il est perpétré par des terroristes islamistes et fait 117 victimes (Plateforme, pp. 340-345). L’attentat, réel, survenu en Indonésie un an plus tard, a visé deux boîtes de nuit. Il a été perpétré par des terroristes islamistes. Environ 190 victimes, en grande majorité des touristes occidentaux, y ont trouvé la mort.

__________________


I just finished Houellebecq's Plateforme - having previously read a critique of him by a Jean-Luc Azra (cited above) who, I think, has a very valid point in saying that Houellebecq has a very strong "sociological flair" and that his novels are thus fundamentally predictive of the future of our western societies.

Plateforme was published end of August 2001 - it describes a pretty horrendous terrorist act by islamists against western tourists in Thailand, and it describes it occuring in near future, in the first days of the new year 2002.

As we all know these acts occured for real in that same "near future" - 9/11 2001 in New York and 10/12 2002 in Bali, and we're still counting. I suppose Houellebecq must have gotten an early warning - or perhaps his "sociological flair" is indeed fairly keen to have written a novel coming so close in setting and detail to what has passed in reality since. There is no doubt that people can and do sometimes have a certain perspicacity as to the future of events - there is a hidden logic to the apparent chaos of the world, and tapping into that logic constitutes what we call "flair". You do end up predicting with amazing accuracy what is already on the verge of occuring. It's not exactly clairvoyance.

Whoever comes in contact with Houellebecq's books realizes that the man is talking about something important - and only too real. The fact that some either detest him or find him overly pessimistic, does not detract from the fact that this is not just a little guy who one day decided to make himself a name in literature. Far from it. Houellebecq is not only a real writer (that is somebody who is possessed by writing rather than trying to imitate this state as most intellectuals wanna-be's tend to do) but he is also a man of intuitive, powerful intelligence, which is not reduced to either academic commentary or purely cerebral exercises on secondary sources.

Intuitive intelligence is the one that searches deep in its own depths and comes up with understanding only when it has been tested against this semi-obscure inner truth. Houellebecq is not an intellectual - he is naturally intelligent, a natural philosopher, very much like Dostoevsky was and many such others of note. The fact that he spends so much time describing the pleasures of sex is somehow a part of his method of truth-telling - it is central to his thinking and not at all in a frivolous way. It is curious and yet somehow appropriate - just as with all those heart-breaking near-neurotic love-dramas and outright sexual aberrations that Dostoevsky put at the heart of his philosophical novels. Man is an animal - it's part of his endless turmoil.

I didn't like much of the Plateforme but was finally reconciled to it by what has developped in the last 1/3 of the novel - something interesting has developped, I was again tempted to type in some of the passages into this blog. I also remember that a lot of Dostoevsky's The Possessed is equally a bit boring and too protracted but is redeemed by the beginning and the last chapters of the book. In the same way, Brothers Karamazov is a pretty bad novel on the whole, much too long for its purpose - despite the obvious and shattering brilliance of certain chapters. So I am not going to criticize Houellebecq for his novelistic faults - his merits are largely enough for me. One could say that Dostoevsky too most definitely had a certain "sociological flair". With the results we now know.

Also, I have to add that I largely agree with what Houellebecq has to say about Islam - that this is a religion going through its last violent agony. Christiandom has already died in its religious form quite a while ago (despite appearances still surviving in various nooks and cranies of the West) - Islam is going down the same road. In fact, it is only still virulent enough on account of many muslim populations living in drastic economic poverty. But if these conditions change for the better, Islam will go down the drain - not tomorrow maybe, but after tomorrow for sure. Houellebecq is ruthlessly direct in his contempt for great religions of the world - but he is right in saying that the age of religions has essentially expired. Global economy seems to be the new universal creed - everybody is only too eager to join in. Traditional religions survive in nooks and cranies - some get violent, like Islam, but this is a hopeless fight. Are we due for the sharia law across the whole of the Middle East, let alone the rest of the world? Perhaps not - though I can see how the project is attractive to some who can't quite find their footing in the present conditions.

However, I must say - I am grateful Houellebecq is not vituperating on nuclear holocaust or fat meteorites pulverizing the earth. If he could foresee something stupid like that with his "sociological flair", he would certainly drop a line concerning such pressing intuitions. As long as he doesn't seem to have any, I can perhaps sleep in peace: our decline will be long, boring, and bloody, but not *that* bloody after all - globally speaking.





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