Empty Days

Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Bored.

From Eric Hoffer's The True Believer (Part II - The Potential Converts; ch.10):

II.10.41. There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society's ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom. In most all the descriptions of the periods preceding the rise of mass movements there is reference to vast ennui; and in their earliest stages mass movements are more likely to find sympathizers and support among the bored than among the exploited and oppressed. To a deliberate fomenter of mass upheavals, the report that people are bored stiff should be at least as encouraging as that they are suffering from intolerable economic or political abuses.

When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored. The consciousness of a barren, meaningless existence is the main fountainhead of boredom. People who are not conscious of their individual separatedness, as is the case with those who are members or a compact tribe, church, party, etcetera, are not accessible to boredom. The differentiated individual is free of boredom only when he is engaged either in creative work or some absorbing occupation or when he is wholly engrossed in the struggle fro existence. Pleasure-chasing and dissipation are ineffective palliatives. Where people live autonomous lives and are not badly off, yet are without abilities or opportunities for creative work or useful action, there is no telling to what desperate and fantastic shifts they might resort in order to give meaning and purpose to their lives.

Boredom accounts for the almost invariable presence of spinsters and middle-aged women at the birth of mass movements. Even in the case of Islam and the Nazi movement, which frowned upon feminine activity outside the home, we find women of a certain type playing an important role in the early stage of their development.

Marriage has for women many equivalents of joining a mass movement. It offers them a new purpose in life, a new future and a new identity (a new name). The boredom of spinsters and of women who can no longer find joy and fulfillment in marriage stems from an awareness of a barren, spoiled life. By embracing a holy cause and dedicating their energies and substance to its advancement, they find a new life full of purpose and meaning. Hitler made full use of "the society ladies thirsting for adventure, sick of their empty lives, no longer getting a "kick" out of love affairs." He was financed by the wives of some of the great industrialists long before their husbands had heard of him. Miriam Beard tells of a similar role played by bored wives of businessmen before the French Revolution: "they were devastated with boredom and given to fits of the vapors. Restlessly, they applauded innovators."

And the whole book is like that - in a way it's hilarious, because it's simultaneously candid, naive and bold in its assumptions. The first paragraph of this excerpt would well describe Houellebecq's main thesis about the modern world (and Unabomber's musings on the fact that people can't sit still anymore but need entertainment all the time): hey, folks, we're bored stiff coz we have it too easy and it can't go on like that. We need a revolution! Heh.

The Borough.

I received the borough' resident's guide for this year - the city is doing its best to impose new laws. The more people, the more laws it seems. But the description of the place was so eloquent I have to quote. Here's what ails me on a daily basis:

"We live in an area measuring 20 km2, and the borough's population density is 8,151.4 residents/km2. We are the city's most populous borough at 9%.
We are more and more numerous: over the space of 10 years, the borough's population grew by 6.6%, to reach 163,111 in 2001 [gotta be well over that in 2004].
We are of different origins! - Arabic, Philippino, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Tamil, Vietnamese, Italian, Bengali......[and the english speakers are mostly Negro - haha].
We are well educated! 46% have a university education. [heh, and on welfare too.]
We have most households with below-average incomes! 37% are below low-income cut-off."

Well, doesn't it all look and sound like the next best thing after paradise? We need somebody to nuke this place fast, before it grows out of hand I say.

Life in a ditch.

I am planning to take off after all. Got a sleeping bag and some bike crap - but what I really need is stuff to fight wet weather, wind, cold, insects (boo!). That means I need some sort of shoes that will survive rural conditions, and also some strong plastic to act as a tent etc. Can be stolen from some construction site maybe.

The point is - I am planning to fuck all rules of civilized travel and sleep in the ditch if I have to. The areas I'll be biking through will be pretty populated, farm lands, small towns etc, all land is private, used up, you're not supposed to step off the public road without permission and all that ditch 'n fence. Well, fuck it. If I can't find a spot to camp on for the night it will be too hilarious - such a huge country, so much space, and you can't find a spot to rest on. I'll have to test that assumption, let's say.

The most appealing part of the project is not even biking - it's disregarding rules and comforts. For example: it's well known that once you get out in the bush you have to deal with mother Earth in all its states. How do you spend the night in the woods, when it rains and you don't have a comfy tent? Well, obviously your sleeping bag won't be much of a shelter in contact with wet ground, and sleeping with water pouring down on you is not a feasible idea - so you need some serious plastic under your bag and overhead too. Well, a good visual is from Vietnam movies where soldiers sleep in the rainy jungle with their windcutters on. Of course that's tropical conditions - you're just super-wet with insects having a feast on you, but at least you're not cold. Here you'll also get super-cold. Haha.

Rain is of course the worst part when you're out in the open and I don't think this summer is going to be very kind in that respect. Biking in the rain is a huge drag - and sitting it out under a bush is even more of a drag. So maybe I'll hate it in the end, I don't know. I don't even know for how long I am going - maybe just a week, to get a taste of what it's like. Or maybe more - if I like it. And I don't even know where exactly I am going - it's either due North of due South, but more likely North because it's slightly less populated though hilly.

Maybe I'll like it so much I won't return. Haha.

Or maybe I won't even go - it doesn't matter either way.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Experimental morality no. 2

From Unabomber's early journals:
About a year and a half ago, I planned to murder a scientist as a means of revenge against organized society in general and the technological establishment in particular. Unfortunately, I chickened out. I couldn't work up the nerve to do it. The experience showed me that propaganda and indoctrination have a much stronger hold on me than I realized. My plan was such that there was very little chance of my getting caught. I had no qualms before I tried to do it, and I thought I would have no difficulty. I had everything well prepared. But when I tried to take the final, irrevocable step, I found myself overwhelmed by an irrational, superstitious fear -- not a fear of anything specific, merely a vague but powerful fear of committing the act. I cannot attribute this to a rational fear of being caught. I made my preparations with extreme care, and I figured my chances of being caught were less than, say, my chances of being killed in an automobile accident within the next year. I am not in the least nervous when I get into my car. I can only attribute my fear to the constant flood of anticrime propaganda to which one is subjected ...
The man calls morality and education - propaganda and indoctrination. Jesus. He's right of course. Not many would like to be right that way though?

This is 100% similar to my own qualms regarding much lighter deeds. Before here and after here. Key to all these revulsions and psycho-trips: it was fear.


In the microclimate of my micro-life I've scored a micro-victory. What do I do? I live like a fish in the tank - practically chained to a few square miles of space. All I've got is my flat, my neighbourhood, not even the city - I've had it with this town.

So what do I do? I fight for my lebensraum, no less. It's insane. I have barely-known people who hate my guts and don't want me around. So they go after me for years in all those small mean ways and then it turns out I still outlive and outfight them. Lebensraum, you bet.

What the fuck can I do. There are things I can't do anything about - I have to endure them. Like changing neighbours. It's a lottery. Some are noisy and crazy, some are nice and quiet and I am lucky when I get some like that. Nevertheless, I learned the hard way that when you get noisy neighbours, you have to fight back in some way or other. You can't be too tolerant. I did - I won a first battle, and then I won the second battle. I exerted some psychological pressure that perhaps (how am I to know?) helped them to decide they wanted to live somewhere else. People don't like to know they are being hated or opposed. They often prefer to move - at least when they can. People with a large social network often are pretty mobile. So they move. But I have no hard facts to prove that I was in any way instrumental in their decision to move after a year. Maybe not. There are indications that perhaps I played a role by exerting some pressure. I can't be sure and I'd rather leave this undecided, with the proviso of exerting such pressure in the future when needed - just in case it does play a role. What else can I do after all.

The major stumble-blocks are things like janitors and landlords. They have a bit more power than I do as a mere tenant and more vested interest in staying put. The only thing I could ever do about the philippino janitor was to wait, endure, and hope for him to finally clear out - it was obvious he was staying put to save some cash to buy a house. They all do - they stay in these jobs for years. Luckily, this one finally departed. So now this particular long-drawn-out headache is gone. I have no problems with the landlord - and no plotting middleman to fuck it up any longer. It is also possible that my ongoing enemity exercized that additional quota of discomfort that made the janitor decide to buy a house sooner than later. Who knows. At least he's gone.

This unexpected relief on one front immediately gave me the opportunity to clear some space on the other front - the gook from the neighbouring building. The strategy was really simple: now that I can keep my bike inside the building with no fear of the philippino janitor raging against it, I can protect it from similar rage from the gook. Consequence: I can give it back really hard to the gook. Which I did by slashing his tyres. Consequence: the gook is now totally paranoid of what else I might do to his cars, and of my person in general. Consequence: he's nowhere to be seen and there is peace and quiet under my fucking balcony which I can now use again without having this fool staring at me and making machine noises all day long.

I'd like to specify that for all my psycho wars with the philippino janitor I never did any vandalism against his stuff - I had a million opportunities but it never seemed like a meaningful thing to do: it would have done no good, plus I always had a psychological advantage over him - I drove him nuts, there was absolutely nothing he could do to strike any fear in me. Heh. It sure cost me a few dead neurons but he wasn't privy to that.

So I regard the whole situation as a lucky set of circumstances to which I added by being recklessly violent. The pettiness of it does not bother me - my whole life is petty, so all my actions and worries are necessarily on that scale. If I had grander projects, I sure would worry about something else. But what can I do - being a fish in the tank I have to fight these other fish in it.

There is no question that these past few years have been a milestone in my development - from fake-regular human being to a bit more of the real human being that I am. First the suicide evolution, now the vandalism thing. It was nice to actually go buy some cyanide - and it was nice to actually jerk a knife into a car tyre. Let's consider those as preliminaries to wider action. Maybe I will still have to suffer through some cancer for instance, and that too will be part of the same evolution: fucking people, fucking world, fucking nature.

There is no fake wisdom that I want to oppose to these things - I have no such wisdom and I don't want any. I don't want to tell myself things that I can't believe in - that's what fake wisdom is, after all.

In short, I won't submit. That's it, it's finished - I won't be bothered by norms and laws and wisdoms and niceties no more. I will do all I can do, no matter how little it is, but at least "I'll do it my way" - and fuck those Viagra commercials (heh, the stupidest fucks I've ever seen). As opposed to those million+ idiots, I don't need no Viagra to do my thing - no cars, no wealth, no land-properties, no mates, no career, no skills 'n talents, none of those supposed powers people predicate themselves upon. I mean, good luck to every one of you - I won't be chasing any of that shit.

All I need to do is vanquish fear - in all its forms. What's been killing me all this time is only that - fear, inside out. I can't have no respect for myself as long as I am mired in this powerlessness. No respect and no forgiveness of myself. The only way out is to always do what you feel you should do, and say what you ought to say - it can be helping some grandma across the street or smash somebody's head in, say "hi" or say "fuck you". One is no better than the other, it's just different situations.

There is such a thing as personal truth - it's your real law and order, not the one that everyone is supposed to abide by. There are pretty huge discrepancies between the two. Fear makes it so that you are not allowed to discover your real order of good and evil. Due to profound education and the dog's training - when you were a toddler you've been slapped on the fingers so many times you think you're no good for being the way you are. Simple? Heh - try it out, it's not. How do you know - maybe you're a small-time Hitler and you've been made to act like some do-gooder liberal idiot. Something like that. It's hilarious in a way.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

It shouldn't take that much though - just buy a sleeping bag, put it on the bike, and be gone. Maybe that's all I need in the end. I tend to hate most of the people I run into. The idea of adventure doesn't really appeal to me because it involves meeting people - that's all you ever do, meet people. It's unavoidable.

Pauvre animal.

I am again over-taken by the desire to flee - dump everything and just go, go without any specific destination. My cat will die of hunger if I do that.

Where can I dump my cat? There are paid services but I don't have that kind of cash.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Brave New World.

Finished the book, already. A fast read, especially since I kept skipping some of the less coherent bits (poor Mr.Savage made to read Shakespeare among primitive Indians - what a cruel turn of fate). The ideas on the whole make sense and I am sure this is why Huxley struck such a hit with this book, but his essays are likely somewhat better than his fiction. Likewise I basically thought that the film 1984 was actually better than the book (talking Orwell here) - it took all the relevant ideas and put them out much more forcefully and succintly. But thanks to Orwell for the ideas anyhow.

Huxley, being a man of his time, is obsessed with the concept of the totalitarian state. Just like Orwell was - and so many others of that era. Communism and fascism were fresh and vibrantly violent phenomena back then. Basically the whole of the West trembled at such a prospect applied to the whole planet. Orwell was practically convinced that this is what it will be like everywhere (meaning: in England), sooner rather than later. The extreme application of socialism and all that.

Meantime, capitalist democracy successfully took over and now fascism is a well-forgotten "bad dream" and communism is rapidly mutating back to capitalist democracy pretty much everywhere (North Korea and Cuba are hanging by a thread of an older generation - same for China). The result of which is that the democratic west is rapidly getting over its head. Most people here sincerely believe that there is no such thing as democratic propaganda, that we live in a world where propaganda pretty much does not exist and is not needed - since everybody is already profoundly convinced that there can be no better thing than "free market and democracy". Is this true? Haha.

That's where Huxley's idea of the "tyranny of happiness" comes in under a new form. It turns out that we don't need a handful of enlightened cynical elites to social-engineer a great mass of slaves. That's not how it happens. Our elites are even dumber than the masses (look at the hi-tech community, heh) All we need is the "tyranny of a majority" - and we've got it already: everyone agrees that "democracy and freedom" is good, "racism" is bad, being rich is better than being poor etc etc. With that we need a majority ideology of a certain idea of happiness perpetuated of its own, without any special coercion - and we've got that as well (if you think there is too much "violence" in Hollywood films, think again). We've got the tyranny of happiness - it is naturally delivered by a philosophy of low-level materialism or "scientism", cushioned in all sorts of grand humanistic ideals, like "opportunity for all", "water for all", "safe sex for all", "equality for all", "health care for all" and I don't know what else "for all".

Ongoing social problems resulting from a good chunk of individuals either unable or unwilling to participate in the dominant ideology (which is: unable to get a good job, start buying up all that shit out there, roll along in milk and butter, and shut the fuck up) plus other private disasters of life like malady, death, and crimes of passion - all this does not speak against the way this world is developping. All these are simply exceptions that confirm the rule: not enough happiness, it must be spread to each and all, etc. Unabomber was labelled "crazy" for speaking out too violently against the state of affairs - he killed people! To which he replied in his Manifesto that, for instance, huge chemical factories kill far more people through pollution, not to mention too many cars spoiling air in big cities - but of course they don't mail bombs and they're "part of the system" which is like saying "they're forces of nature" these days.

In other words, while administrative totalitarian regimes may seem like a thoroughly labelled and thus highly avoidable evil, the prospect of a Brave New World remains alive and well - after all its greatest inhumanity is containted in its all too human perspective: nothing seems to exist beyond human society and human happiness. Nothing beyond human civilization. Shakespeare is not the antithesis here - but a muddling precursor.

Huxley's book is imbued with humanism. His talk of God is notoriously unconvincing, which is natural given that in his world-view God is simply one of the tenets of a "free individual" - and nothing else. An attribute and a tribute to human freedom - deus in the pocket, so to speak. Just like it was for Shakespeare in any case. Curiously enough, while the whole project of humanism has been the liberation of man from the fear of God, then from fear on Nature, now the whole project seems reduced to the liberation of man from the fear of Society. What's next? Theoretically, that should be liberation of man from himself - either through merging of man and machine, or through something else. But we've got outselves so deep into that bottle that I hardly see any other development.

Anyway - it was an interesting read.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

On change - dinosaurs and fairies.

I accidentally found this tech-wiz guy who consistently says sensible things on the economics of hi-tech. Snippet (on the decline of newspapers vs internet):
But I don't think you can teach the dinosaurs to survive. The decline will be long and slow, and in fact the slowness of the decline will be what makes it impossible to bring about change in the industry. A sudden crisis might bring a creative response. Slow death won't.
He also says that e-books are a losing concept vs paper-books - which is exactly true but for some reason people are still running around trying to further this nonsense. I suppose it's "good for business" - a hefty measure of nonsense is always present in the money-tech world we inhabit.

It's helpful to remember that 99% of creative tech-wiz types grew up on reading enormous quantities of science-fiction. This is the kind of low-life literature that makes them dream. Most of them are not very intelligent - despite being scientifically ingenious.

In a way this is hilarious - in another way it's deathly sad. Ship of fools is a fitting title.

Internet - not so global.

If you live in Amerika (by which I generally mean USA + Canada) you'd think that internet is now a huge widespread phenomenon, about as widespread as telephone and television.

But this is far from true for the rest of the world - even for Western Europe, which is supposed to be on par with Amerika in terms of standards of living etc. The curious thing about W.Europe is that internet connectivity there is still too expensive for the mass of the population - due to expensiveness of phone access in general. Everywhere in Europe phone access is charged in minutes and even seconds - just like cell-phone access here. I have to wonder how net access would have progressed in Amerika if it were similarly charged here. Amerika is a wealthy place - but widespread internet penetration is due to a whole mass of far-from-wealthy people still having access to the network and to personal computers, because of their relative cheapness.

In Russia, which is thoroughly industrialized and urbanized and has a population of roughly 100-million (declining rapidly though) but is rather poor, access to the net at this date is at about 10% of the population, most of it in Moscow and a couple of other big urban centers - but for the whole country with so many cities only about %2 of an urban population has any access to the net. What do you think it is in Brazil? And it's no use mentioning the Third World etc.

In Amerika it's really very different. And people who live and work here develop strange ideas due to their particular environment. Like this (from a tech-wiz weblog):
Phil believes (as do I) that we are at the end of an evolutionary phase. The connected computer is fast approaching ubiquity.
Ubiquity? Evolutionary phase? On a small scale.

Human bytes vs wilderness.

I think if I were living in a shack in the woods I would take again to writing notes-for-myself on paper, scraps of paper, journals - just getting a hold of my mental life. I don't believe I'd be able to stop thinking altogether - to stop talking to myself in my mind. It's a huge way of entertainment with me.

Currently I live in a city flat with a telephone connection and free internet (leeching on AOL). I write my thoughts to the blog. I know that the internet connection, the blog, and my thoughts will disappear eventually - soon even.

I do all this as a form of self-entertainment. As such it has no lasting value - which is why I do not care about the whole thing disappearing soon. This is also the attitude I have about my life as a whole - I don't care that I will disappear eventually, soon even.

Question: would I feel differently about my thoughts and my life if I were living in a shack in the woods as opposed to living in a city flat on welfare but with an internet connection?


Two years ago a received a postcard from a high-school friend whom I hadn't seen in 10 years - she wrote she found my address in the phonebook and that she lived in a rural house with no telephone and no internet.

I didn't respond because I was in a deep hole at that time and I certainly didn't feel like renewing lost ties then. You bet. But I liked the idea of somebody living like that, somewhere.

I still think maybe I should contact that girl, but on the other hand I think I know why she wrote and the basis of it is wrong - she used to look up to me in high school, it was some intellectual admiration she had, and I know for sure that I have nothing to offer and never did, but it's just the sort of illusions that people cling to. I hope to god she's not a single mother or something. Either way I wouldn't fit into her picture. In fact, I rather not fit in any picture at all.

I lost faith in people - in myself - so thoroughly I can't even envision why I would need old or new human ties. Whenever I try to imagine friendship I hit the wall - I can't see why and what.

I still attempt to imagine human things because I wasn't like that before - it's a sort of memory exercise. I exercise my emotional memory. But the present state is too different. Those old feelings don't fit.

Fucking shit.

Eric Hoffer.

The man is quite a bit of a dinosaur these days - couldn't find his books in none of the 15+ municipal libraries (which is a good indication of an author being either too marginal or well-forgotten) but was successful in finding a couple of his books in the small but old library of a wealthy english borough. I think I will have to read The True Believer to get a sense of where the Unabomber comes from with his ideas. The editions I found date from mid-60's and Hoffer was probably still fairly popular then.

Brave New World.

Started reading Huxley - he gets on my nerves, not a very intelligent writer in my opinion, but will get through this momentous piece of shit. A lot of the books that made it through time are not very good - but their value consists in their momentous appearance and the kind of impact they had. This is clearly the case for Huxley. I could never make it through Darkness at Noon. I'd rather stick with Orwell's 1984, which is perhaps not such a great book either but Orwell is palpably more intelligent than Huxley and this spark of true intelligence redeems the lack of literary talent per se.

Nothing redeems Huxley except perfect timing.

[ Errata: damn, "Darkness at Noon" is by Arthur Koestler; thought something was not quite right - and it was not.]

Monday, July 12, 2004

Leftism in the nude.

227. Our discussion of leftism has a serious weakness. It is still far from clear what we mean by the word "leftist." There doesn't seem to be much we can do about this. Today leftism is fragmented into a whole spectrum of activist movements. Yet not all activist movements are leftist, and some activist movements (e.g., radical environmentalism) seem to include both personalities of the leftist type and personalities of thoroughly un-leftist types who ought to know better than to collaborate with leftists. Varieties of leftists fade out gradually into varieties of non-leftists and we ourselves would often be hard-pressed to decide whether a given individual is or is not a leftist. To the extent that it is defined at all, our conception of leftism is defined by the discussion of it that we have given in this article, and we can only advise the reader to use his own judgment in deciding who is a leftist.

I love this kind of talk, it's almost baby-talk: the kid who said the king is naked. Unabomber's analysis of today's "leftism" is splendidly correct. There is indeed a great confusion as to the whole concept - as it keeps mutating and falling apart.

In other words, there is in fact a huge crisis of ideas - and it's been picking up speed since the fall of USSR in 1991. It's been a grueling and uncertain decade. We still don't really know what will come out of it. But the 60's intellectual elites are fading away at light speed. A turning point is nearby. The manifesto was published in 1995 and it already says what we are clearly seeing today and now. Quite a timely writ - no matter that it comes straight from the mid-60's.

And Nietzsche who said he would only be truly understood by the beginning of the 3rd millenium... That doesn't sound so great but we are living through this anyhow. We'll see.

I can't explain why I feel such satisfaction from reading Ted's manifesto - it doesn't bother me for a second that he's killed people. This in itself is a revealing symptom.

Unabomber as a time-machine.

Towards the end of his manifesto (paragraph 222), Ted mentions Eric Hoffer - a self-thinking individual from the 1950's. Some people have rightly remarked that Unabomber has remained in a sort of a time-wrap through effective withdrawal from society for so long - his strongest influences come from his school and university years in the mid-50's to mid-60's.

This is likely true. He might have kept up with some of the later developments, but once you retire to a mountain cabin your period of active learning and absorbing ideas from an intellectual environment are over. On the other hand, this retirement from the world affords the kind of distance one may need to start evolving one's own thinking. This is what Kaczynsky's been doing, all the while sending out bombs (which he describes in his diaries as "experiments"). I haven't heard of Hoffer before (because I am not american, let's say) but a cursory look at what Hoffer is about does ring quite a few bells regarding Unabomber. This here is probably not wrong:
Hoffer, a San Francisco longshoreman-turned-philosopher and essayist who died in 1983, was a cultural icon of Bay Area intellectuals when Kaczynski was teaching at Berkeley in the late 1960s. Like the Unabomber, Hoffer consecutively numbered paragraph groupings in "The True Believer," published in 1951.

Hoffer's book and the Unabomber's manifesto parallel each other in subject and phrasing. Both wrote about hatred, fanaticism, "true believers," the power of "mass movements," the French and Russian revolutions and the development of modern Asia.

Hoffer sometimes led an itinerant life working as a migrant worker in California, and he held library cards in many towns. Kaczynski also appears to have been an itinerant at times, and FBI agents have been checking libraries where he may have visited, including at UC Berkeley.

The marked copy of Hoffer's book was turned over to the FBI by UC Davis. Investigators have previously said that Hoffer's book was one of those they have been studying for Unabomber clues. Federal sources have said they are amassing evidence that Kaczynski, who lived like a hermit in Montana, traveled to Northern California and stayed for weeks or months at time.
I am not entirely privy to the history of intellectual currents in the USA through the past century. There seems to exist some connection between Hoffer and Ann Ryand - probably something along libertarian individualism line. What I know of Ryand doesn't sound very interesting, but Hoffer might be worth a look. Curiously, there doesn't seem to be any e-texts online - but I will have to look better, I guess.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Christianism, Humanism, Leftism...

221. Because of the restrictions placed on their thoughts and behavior by their high level of socialization, many leftists of the oversocialized type cannot pursue power in the ways that other people do. For them the drive for power has only one morally acceptable outlet, and that is in the struggle to impose their morality on everyone.

Humanism being a mutation of christianism, leftism as described above is clearly a mutation of humanism. In the end we still have the same moral bigotry.

Should we be surprised?

Anarchists vs leftists.

216. Some leftists may seem to oppose technology, but they will oppose it only so long as they are outsiders and the technological system is controlled by non-leftists. If leftism ever becomes dominant in society, so that the technological system becomes a tool in the hands of leftists, they will enthusiastically use it and promote its growth. In doing this they will be repeating a pattern that leftism has shown again and again in the past. When the Bolsheviks in Russia were outsiders, they vigorously opposed censorship and the secret police, they advocated self-determination for ethnic minorities, and so forth; but as soon as they came into power themselves, they imposed a tighter censorship and created a more ruthless secret police than any that had existed under the tsars, and they oppressed ethnic minorities at least as much as the tsars had done. In the United States, a couple of decades ago when leftists were a minority in our universities, leftist professors were vigorous proponents of academic freedom, but today, in those universities where leftists have become dominant, they have shown themselves ready to take away from everyone else's academic freedom. (This is "political correctness.") The same will happen with leftists and technology: They will use it to oppress everyone else if they ever get it under their own control.

Heh. That sums it up pretty good. That's what Houellebecq is saying in France too - it's even worse there. Either way, this confirms my idea that anarchism is essentially a force of destruction of a given social order by reckless (or maybe just suffocating) individuals. Ted's "save the Nature" slogan is fundamentally bogus - he doesn't really want to save anything, but he really wants to destroy a system that directly impedes on his idea of individual freedom. "Less people, more nature, more space" - that's the real objective and it's kinda understandable: I could only dream of waking up tomorrow in a city completely emptied of its inhabitants.

Individual vs Society - society always wins in the end, especially following revolutions. Ted's "strategy" section is completely impotent.

Pets, humans, robots.

In a crowded city environment it is dangerous to let pets go out on their own - a million things might happen to them for, despite all their natural survival instincts, they are small and defenseless and have no idea of all the written and unwritten rules that exist out there.

Too many human strangers are equally dangerous to pets and small children.

In a science-fiction future they imagine vastly superior cyborgs sharing urban environment with humans. In that case the danger will extend not only to pets and children but also to all mere mortals. I guess children and pets won't be let out in the street at all then.

I don't like science-fiction: it's already plenty enough as it is.

Some notes on religion.

Footnote 30. (Paragraph 184) A further advantage of nature as a counter-ideal to technology is that, in many people, nature inspires the kind of reverence that is associated with religion, so that nature could perhaps be idealized on a religious basis. It is true that in many societies religion has served as a support and justification for the established order, but it is also true that religion has often provided a basis for rebellion. Thus it may be useful to introduce a religious element into the rebellion against technology, the more so because Western society today has no strong religious foundation. Religion, nowadays either is used as cheap and transparent support for narrow, short-sighted selfishness (some conservatives use it this way), or even is cynically exploited to make easy money (by many evangelists), or has degenerated into crude irrationalism (fundamentalist Protestant sects, "cults"), or is simply stagnant (Catholicism, main-line Protestantism). The nearest thing to a strong, widespread, dynamic religion that the West has seen in recent times has been the quasi-religion of leftism, but leftism today is fragmented and has no clear, unified inspiring goal. Thus there is a religious vacuum in our society that could perhaps be filled by a religion focused on nature in opposition to technology. But it would be a mistake to try to concoct artificially a religion to fill this role. Such an invented religion would probably be a failure. Take the "Gaia" religion for example. Do its adherents REALLY believe in it or are they just play-acting? If they are just play-acting their religion will be a flop in the end. It is probably best not to try to introduce religion into the conflict of nature vs. technology unless you REALLY believe in that religion yourself and find that it arouses a deep, strong, genuine response in many other people.

Quasi-religion, leftism? Well, if by religion we mean something inspiring to believe in, that sure was it - for a short while at least. This is the obvious reason why western communists (that is "leftists") kept adulating Marx and Mao long after it was proven to them clearly and definitively that these shining dreams regularly turn to wholesale nightmare when applied to actual human societies. In fact "leftism" is simply a radical, narrow-minded mutation of general western humanism - and that we can't get away from, we're too deeply civilized for that. Even the Nazis were humanists - just an ugly mutation of western humanism.

What is humanism? In short - the dream of socially organized happiness. In other words, socialism in all its forms. That's it that's all. That it should turn to an open or implicit tyranny every time is no surprise - the pursuit of organized "universal" happiness is purposeless by definition because it's predicated on a wanton illusion.

Pane et circem. How to feed a crowd with 5 breads - we can do it now, 5 farmers are feeding thousands, and life is not worth living.

As to "religion of wild Nature" the only way to inspire any such awe would be to have a lot of people actually living in direct contact with such Nature. Most obviously, this has become a rare and, in western urban societies, privileged position - all land is private and one needs to pay a hefty price to get a spot "wild" enough to get a true sense of what it's all about. Most people are born into tremendous essentially urban comforts, even in rural communities - not many are able or willing to unlearn their habits and fears to deal with real wilderness. It's a huge, improbable feat nowdays.

Leonardo da Vinci in his 16th century was dreaming of flying machines and bicycles - you might ask why he was having such dreams, he was quite closer to "wild nature" than we are today.

Industrial societies are deeply civilized - that is, very remote from nature in all its forms. Can you really undo that? Even "environmental concerns" are somewhat hard to muster up - because 90% of our lives are spent in plastic and imperceptible fumes from plastic.

"Gaia" - you bet.

Today the empty poisoned grounds in and around Cherbobyl look like a fairy-tale - the prestine silence and the sprawling wilderness. Wild horses and wild bores. Vast untouched spaces. Freedom. And it's only because it's off-limits to humans. Those who are not afraid to die still live there.

Ghost towns are a dream. This is the new dream of an over-civilized over-populated society - destruction, emptiness, freedom, and death.

Beware of arab terrorists.

I recall a bit of news on tv recently where some vacationing folks at the canadian-usa border in the Toronto/Detroit region were asked to sell their boat by two arabs - the arabs wanted to cross the river to the US side instead of taking the bridge and go through passport control.

Heh - do you think those fellows were illegal immigrants? Doubtful. The couple declined to sell the boat and the two arabs vanished.

So, I suggest we stop worrying too much about racial profiling - too bad most of those militant islamists are of arab origine. It sure is an inconvenience for so many other middle-eastern types, but I guess they'll just have to put up with it for a while. The activity is kinda relentless though we don't see it until it works out.

Canadians are exceptionally stupid in that way - they don't realize they too might get a bomb up their ass one of these days: from some frustrated terrorist who couldn't do it in the States.


Notwithstanding which, one should also remember that "The FBI is a joke" - those federal police bureaucracies are really dumb in so many ways it's hard to count. Exceptionally prone to wanton stupidity, abuse of power, and wrongful application of policies - recall Maher Arar's case.

But if you're asked to sell a boat by arab individuals for purposes of illegal crossing the border, don't sell it - Maher Arar would not have asked for such a favor.


168. In the second place, one has to balance the struggle and death against the loss of freedom and dignity. To many of us, freedom and dignity are more important than a long life or avoidance of physical pain. Besides, we all have to die some time, and it may be better to die fighting for survival, or for a cause, than to live a long but empty and purposeless life.

I agree with that - except that I have neither freedom nor dignity, so all I've got left is a long, empty, purposeless life. At least Ted was able to buy a spot of land somewhere far, with help from his family - not even a dream for me. Incidentally, it is this "help" that eventually occasioned his ruin - there is a price to pay for every compromise.

Survival? What and who for - and where?

I was thinking about maybe getting a motorcycle and riding into the sunset. But then you still need money for gas and roads to ride on.

Oh really.

166. Therefore two tasks confront those who hate the servitude to which the industrial system is reducing the human race. First, we must work to heighten the social stresses within the system so as to increase the likelihood that it will break down or be weakened sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. Second, it is necessary to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial society if and when the system becomes sufficiently weakened. And such an ideology will help to assure that, if and when industrial society breaks down, its remnants will be smashed beyond repair, so that the system cannot be reconstituted. The factories should be destroyed, technical books burned, etc.

I would argue that factories are far easier to destroy than burn all those "technical books". I mean, think about it.... There are millions and millions and millions of those all over the place. You can't get rid of all the books - it's far easier to nuke an entire city than imagine such a project.

I suppose, in his day-dreams poor Ted imagined a rising wave of vigilantes sweeping through every nook and crany of his dear Amerika. Of course he entirely forgot that Amerika does not exist on it's own - it's replicated in Europe and in other countries. Heh - South Korea has better biotech labs than the USA at this point (well, at least as good). Etc etc. Poor Ted completely forgot about globalization - our super-efficient though fragile civilization has essentially conquered the planet already, small-scale barbarians everywhere are on the run.

The idea of a local (USA-only) grassroot revolution is thus preposterously pathetic (actually maybe you should look at recent Chernobyl photos to get a clue how it might look after such a "revolution"). But his reasons for wanting one to happen are valid.

Immoral morality.

155. Our society tends to regard as a "sickness" any mode of thought or behavior that is inconvenient for the system, and this is plausible because when an individual doesn't fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a "cure" for a "sickness" and therefore as good.

Quite correct there. The upshot of this is that people today regard suffering as entirely unwarranted - you should never suffer, you should use all means at your disposal to avoid and abolish suffering. Including pills for shyness, including almost immediate "closure" for grief, and all sorts of bogus-rational solutions to absolutely irrational events.

If you stop to think for a short moment, you will see that there is something seriously wrong with this picture. I am glad somebody did.

Madness is immoral.

148. ..."Mental health" programs, "intervention" techniques, psychotherapy and so forth are ostensibly designed to benefit individuals, but in practice they usually serve as methods for inducing individuals to think and behave as the system requires. (There is no contradiction here; an individual whose attitudes or behavior bring him into conflict with the system is up against a force that is too powerful for him to conquer or escape from, hence he is likely to suffer from stress, frustration, defeat. His path will be much easier if he thinks and behaves as the system requires. In that sense the system is acting for the benefit of the individual when it brainwashes him into conformity.)...

Psychologists rarely ever think - they're taught certain techniques and a very crude view of human nature. Thereafter they become "medical professionals" - and it still doesn't occur to them to think.

This is a very good description of what psychotherapists do and why. Their purpose is to relieve suffering. Quite obviously, if the causes of suffering are external and can't be undone, it is much more practical to blame the individual for not being able to "adapt" and then try to change his thinking and behavior, having previously stuffed him with anti-depressants. Psychotherapists rarely think for themselves - this better be remembered when you consider getting some such "help".

Another interesting element is that so many people are genuinely convinced that psychologists "know better". This is clearly a naive idea which falls into the category of other such fixed ideas - an effect of what Ted calls "propaganda". Belief in democracy and morals is very "helpful" - therefore it should be maintained. Etc etc etc.

When we talk of "values" we never really know what we're talking about - in our own personal case, that is.

Houellebecq is an equivalent of Unabomber in that he tried to describe how his suffering was caused by the world he was born into, how this suffering was not unique but generalized - to describe that world, and himself in it. That's called thinking.

It's no use blaming yourself first. The requirement of universal happiness may turn tyrannical.

City lights.

145. Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy, then gives them the drugs to take away their unhappiness. Science fiction? It is already happening to some extent in our own society. It is well known that the rate of clinical depression had been greatly increasing in recent decades. We believe that this is due to disruption of the power process, as explained in paragraphs 59-76. But even if we are wrong, the increasing rate of depression is certainly the result of SOME conditions that exist in today's society. Instead of removing the conditions that make people depressed, modern society gives them antidepressant drugs. In effect, antidepressants are a means of modifying an individual's internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable. (Yes, we know that depression is often of purely genetic origin. We are referring here to those cases in which environment plays the predominant role.)

146. Drugs that affect the mind are only one example of the methods of controlling human behavior that modern society is developing. Let us look at some of the other methods.

147. To start with, there are the techniques of surveillance. Hidden video cameras are now used in most stores and in many other places, computers are used to collect and process vast amounts of information about individuals. Information so obtained greatly increases the effectiveness of physical coercion (i.e., law enforcement). [26] Then there are the methods of propaganda, for which the mass communication media provide effective vehicles. Efficient techniques have been developed for winning elections, selling products, influencing public opinion. The entertainment industry serves as an important psychological tool of the system, possibly even when it is dishing out large amounts of sex and violence. Entertainment provides modern man with an essential means of escape. While absorbed in television, videos, etc., he can forget stress, anxiety, frustration, dissatisfaction. Many primitive peoples, when they don't have work to do, are quite content to sit for hours at a time doing nothing at all, because they are at peace with themselves and their world. But most modern people must be constantly occupied or entertained, otherwise they get "bored," i.e., they get fidgety, uneasy, irritable.

To some great extent, in fact. This is an urban problem. We live in a world ruled by cities. Young people in rural communities are bored to death and want to move to the city. Only the least ambitious stay put, or those with enough wealth and land to feel "at home" in their small world.

There is an ongoing breakdown of human relations through all this. It's easier to be alone and anonymous than be tied to people. This is why cities are so appealing - but they're also empty. Crowded and empty.

Omitted paragraph.

116. Because of the constant pressure that the system exerts to modify human behavior, there is a gradual increase in the number of people who cannot or will not adjust to society's requirements: welfare leeches, youth-gang members, cultists, anti-government rebels, radical environmentalist saboteurs, dropouts and resisters of various kinds.

I wonder on what grounds this paragraph was "omitted" in the Washington Post publication (I didn't even notice there was a gap in the numeration in the version I've been using - panix).

This is a better version: http://www.emf.net/~estephen/manifesto/unabetoc.html

Being a welfare leech myself, I can authoritatively say that the reason I am on welfare at my flowering age is because I "cannot or will not" adjust. Dropouts are a reality - it's no use omitting paragraphs to mask this fact.

In Japan they have hikimori - everywhere else we have dropouts. (hikimori means "those who withdraw").

Comforts vs Freedom.

Footnote 21. (Paragraph 128) Since many people may find paradoxical the notion that a large number of good things can add up to a bad thing, we will illustrate with an analogy. Suppose Mr. A is playing chess with Mr. B. Mr. C, a Grand Master, is looking over Mr. A's shoulder. Mr. A of course wants to win his game, so if Mr. C points out a good move for him to make, he is doing Mr. A a favor. But suppose now that Mr. C tells Mr. A how to make ALL of his moves. In each particular instance he does Mr. A a favor by showing him his best move, but by making ALL of his moves for him he spoils the game, since there is not point in Mr. A's playing the game at all if someone else makes all his moves. The situation of modern man is analogous to that of Mr. A. The system makes an individual's life easier for him in innumerable ways, but in doing so it deprives him of control over his own fate.

That's a very simple and straightforward description of what it's like to live in a highly regulated and highly comfortable society, the epitome of which is the urban life. The price is simple: for every protection and comfort you must pay with restriction of personal liberty. The more comforts, the less freedom. We are swamped in comforts.

Most people prefer it this way. The alternatives are too radical to consider.

Forecast: cloudy with rain.

134. For all of the foregoing reasons, technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom. But this statement requires an important qualification. It appears that during the next several decades the industrial-technological system will be undergoing severe stresses due to economic and environmental problems, and especially due to problems of human behavior (alienation, rebellion, hostility, a variety of social and psychological difficulties). We hope that the stresses through which the system is likely to pass will cause it to break down, or at least weaken it sufficiently so that a revolution occurs and is successful, then at that particular moment the aspiration for freedom will have proved more powerful than technology.

Well, causes produce effects. I think the first such effects will happen in Europe - it's due for major internal havoc. Amerika simply has more space for less people and thus a thoroughly naive population. Likewise, it's already well under way in Japan - also due to a combination of too much money (hi-tech, industry, high living standards) and overcrowding, with general societal depression. The most nihilistic and poisonous cultural movements currently come from Japan. It's almost a trademark now - Anime more than Sony.

Heh, I don't know when and what it will be like exactly, but it won't be nice - that's for sure.

Accumulation of economic wealth and comforts is fundamentally purposeless - that includes accumulation of scientific comforts (medicine etc). The dream of material happiness, freedom from suffering, from work, "peace and immortality" is fundamentally purposeless. But it did look swell as a dream.

We are just finding that out.

Why not just go to hell already?

133. No social arrangements, whether laws, institutions, customs or ethical codes, can provide permanent protection against technology. History shows that all social arrangements are transitory; they all change or break down eventually. But technological advances are permanent within the context of a given civilization. Suppose for example that it were possible to arrive at some social arrangements that would prevent genetic engineering from being applied to human beings, or prevent it from being applied in such a ways as to threaten freedom and dignity. Still, the technology would remain waiting. Sooner or later the social arrangement would break down. Probably sooner, given that pace of change in our society. Then genetic engineering would begin to invade our sphere of freedom, and this invasion would be irreversible (short of a breakdown of technological civilization itself). Any illusions about achieving anything permanent through social arrangements should be dispelled by what is currently happening with environmental legislation. A few years ago it seemed that there were secure legal barriers preventing at least SOME of the worst forms of environmental degradation. A change in the political wind, and those barriers begin to crumble.

I was thinking about the Dark Ages and all those greek & roman manuscripts laying in wait in the vaults of medieval monasteries. It took a long time - but without these "bombs of knowledge" waiting to be rediscovered, we'd have no Renaissance, no Modern Age, no Science, no Industrial Revolution, nothing at all. This is where Humanism came from. It came from the vaults.

The Age of Reason we resurrected and brought to such unprecedented heights was started in fifth century Athens - by Socrates and his disciples, Aristotle in particular. I can assure you that nothing would have gone the same way if the Greeks had remained with Pythagorus and all those older guys, even Democritus or Empedocles. There would be no Aristotle without the framework Socrates provided. That's when the Age of Reason first started - such a long time ago, it would seem.

What does it mean? It means that Unabom, who presently sits in jail, is right - and we, who are sitting on our million wishy-washy asses, are wrong. There can be no reforms, there can be no putting breaks on or putting the jinny back in the bottle or whatever cute "responsible" bullshit like that.

Unabom is advocating wholesale suicide, which he euphemistically terms "revolution". Those medieval monks and christian hierarchy, who kept so much hidden from light, knew what they were doing - yet all their collective "sense of responsability" came to nothing. An alternative to immediate wholesale suicide of a civilization is of course obvious: just let it run amok and stop worrying. Let a bunch of future generations suffer and go all over their heads. Who cares. One way or another it's still the same shit - let this planet go to hell.

Who the fuck cares?

It's kinda curious that Socrates should have had his demon and Descartes his visionary dreams. Why would these luminaries be so drastically illuminated? What really drives history - what is history? Hegel talked vaguely of some Universal Spirit - I don't think he had a clear idea what it is he was talking about. So far so good - let's just roll along, folks.

Films I like.

It turns out that I prefer films featuring lonely, distrustful, violent people - who have something to hide. A great weakness to hide. I am a sucker for this sort of characters - anti-heroes in the best sense of the word.

Right off the top of my head I can think of "Five Easy Pieces" with Jack Nickolson and "Scarecrow" with Gene Hackmann. Both these actors usually play the sort of roles I like - nasty yet resilient. I also like Robert Duvall - always the melancholy cowboy, whoever he plays. This week I watched a French movie twice (since they were nice enough to run it twice) - this time the protagonist was a woman, but she might have been any of the above: "A Vendre" with Sandrine Kiberlain.

All these films are about solitude and the violence and hatred it creates. And also a sort of negative wisdom. Single-mindedness. Breaking the rules. Errors. Emptiness. Just my kind of thing. It's all very human - so much more human than the regular moral-sentimental wishy-washy stuff. Solitude is amoral, it's easily the best thing about it. Freedom is amoral too.

The hero part of the anti-hero is represented by fearlessness - reckless, almost suicidal struggle against fear. The whole world is held together by fear. The only redeeming quality of the anti-hero is the struggle against this fear - or this world.

Think about it.

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