Saturday, November 11, 2017

"The Wonder of Tomorrow"

   I am reaching out from the graveyards of gravity swells and monstrous turns of the galaxy’s dark wheel. It has been a while since I composed theory so this will be a difficult leap. It is safe to say that after the rise of Republican White Nationalism in 2016 and Trump’s war on everything that is coherent and compassionate in these United States nothing is safe and nothing can get outside a shambling shadow of fear and violence painting our existence. The problem philosophically is one of orientation. From where can we grasp perspective? I am from a tradition of Lacanian Marxism and cultural critique that much to my dismay demands a reconciliation between the passionate force of identity politics and the bureaucratic calculus of a truly egalitarian democratic socialism. We need to move forward in the dark. The four futures of Peter Frase stand like doors in front of us looking for us to ask the right question and to ask it toward the door that doesn’t lie. Perhaps the riddle of the doors should include not just the one that always tells the truth and the one that always lies., but the two others: the one doesn’t believe in a  bipolar split between truth and falsity, intent to smash trained logos into a Derridian paste, and the one that believes it can be both true and false without contradiction, because the tension of the contradiction holds onto the power in discourse. Perhaps the key to revolution and a birth of Star Trek level luxury-communism lies in Zizek’s quadrilateral hidden variable of the ‘unknown knowns.’ About 100 years ago, president Woodrow Wilson staged a screening of D.W. Griffith “Birth of a Nation” in the White House. Today, the crippling majesty of that address is now occupied by a senile syphilitic reality TV dipshit who sits alone in his bathrobe at 6:00 pm in the Lincoln bedroom, angry because it hurts to pee and tweeting about kneeling football players and telling stories about trying to fuck Valarie Harper in a Bed, Bath and Beyond in the early nineties. I suppose not much has changed. Power is still a self reflexive loop, a masturbatory endeavor that turns upon death drive and shuffles like a zombie. Red Letter Media pointed wonderfully out how zombies would not eat the living, because zombies can’t digest; their guts are dead. The eating is hollow, a pure facsimile of consumption in both senses of the word. As a first strip in this re-orientation toward anti-fascism and anti-capitalism, let us turn to my favorite topic: film.

   Consider Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman, (story by Zack Snyder) as not only a sequel but perhaps a soft reboot, a fertile spawning of Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 film Children of Men. Let’s call it “Children of Men 2, The Rise of Dillon, now known as Diana.Children of Men was set in 2027, (a frightening mere ten years from now if we manage to live that long under the golden reich of game show oligarchy.) The parallels are exquisite. Imagine at the end of Children of Men, when the 'Human Project,' a floating hospital ship disguised as a fishing vessel finds illegal immigrant refugee Kee and her child Dillon and the dead body of Theo floating in the waters of the shore of England at the end of the world rescues her. Now, imagine Dillon is taken onto the ship and transported to Themiscyra were her mother and African heritage and name are erased/transformed/disrupted into Diana, leaving one infertile land for an other, she was re-born as the only child molded by clay in a world of immortals who had never seen another child nor does she know the world of sex and war and yet is educated in all of these discourses. She is said to be that which will destroy Ares, the god of war, ending all the conflict that exists between men. To properly fulfill this prophecy one would imagine a future scene like that in Children of Men when soldiers of both sides lay down their guns to see Theo and Kee carry a newborn child for the first time. And yet at the end of what me must never forget is a "comic book movie," her role will actually be to inspire Spud from Trainspotting playing a Scottish sniper in the grips of PTSD to finally get his 'Chris Kyle' on and start killing again. The woman as energy for the phallus, an unending co-dependency of abuse and violence for centuries holds sway; both films are about the fear and rejection of impotence at all costs.

   However, the brilliant mirror to social weaponry in this film take the form of actor Danny Huston who appears in both films. In Children of Men he is a wealthy government official and cousin to Theo who is building an Ark of the Arts to salvage great pieces of human creativity from the savage downfall of civilization, who Theo points out, will be looked at by no one when we are all dead. In Wonder Woman he is playing the red herring of Erich Ludendorff, a German general in WWI who seeks the ultimate weapon to win the war, an ark of chemical warfare, a gigantic plane filled with an uber-mustard gas. Diana actually manages to kill Ludendorff only to discover that Sir Patrick, the seemingly crippled appeaser and proposed architect of peace is the real god of War. It is fitting that after her emergence as a warrior she hides and takes on the job of of art preservationist at the Louvre not only as her disguise but perhaps as a penance. She now having murdered the savior of all art from Cuaron’s film (both as an actress and part of the DC cinematic-industrial complex.) Wonder Woman can unironically be seen as the death of the artist’s presence in cinema itself considering what is to come.

   A few lovely touches: as Dillon left the shores of England on a boat, that is how Diana returns: with a man guiding her. Also, In the misery of London in the middle of a war she notices a baby being held by her mother and is immediately shifted away from it by Steve Trevor to attend more important matters, in one fell swoop destroying the beauty of the child rescue from the battlefield at the end of Children of Men. Here, babies mean nothing if not an inspiration to fight as we get in the No Man’s Land scene. Parenting as the influx, influence and pre-demiurge of cascading alienation and social upheaval is marked in the Campbellian story circle, the atonement with the father that never comes. Theo’s cousin played by Danny Houston has some kind of relative, a son or nephew who seems trapped in a video game playing fugue state and being forced to medicate, that is the Dr. Poison character’s origin story perhaps. The strangest parallel is the loss of hearing scene in both films. In Children of Men, Theo loses his hearing when a bomb destroys a coffee shop, his ex-wife played by Julianne Moore points out that the hearing loss is permanent due to the cells dying and hearing that frequency for the last time. The scene is meant to illustrate his lost of ambition and morals and a descent into the drunken apathetic anti-hero who may or may not be redeemed or redeemable. At the end of Wonder Woman the roles are strangely reversed. Steve Trevor, a Gavin McGinnis Vol-cel Proud Boy is now the revolutionary who dies crashing the chemical ark to inspire Wonder Woman to get stronger and keep fighting. Before he dies he tries to tell Diana he loves her but a bomb causes them to lose her hearing temporarily. Wonder Woman takes on the Theo role as'unable to hear' but in a fuck-up of narrative logic magical does later hear what was said to her, and it was of course that tautology of our ego-death driven, nomadic, infinite, inescapable, unrelenting, re-invention  indentured entrepreneurship : “Love conquers all.” But unlike Theo who uses love to save a child from war, Diana upon hearing the words of Steve, kills the fictional god of Ares who had already confessed that men are the makers of war and he is but a devil who tempts and influences, she then indulges in a epilogue about how she no longer seeks to end war or save the world, she simply recognizes that war is a part of human beings and she must accept it. Neoliberalism embodied, military intervention is not a choice, but a way of life.

   In a quite brilliant stroke, Diana becomes the dream of the alt-right answer to Children of Men; what was lost was not just infertility but weak men unsupported by women who understand them. Wonder Woman is the woman who finally understand men and then can love them allowing them to perpetuate war without interruption.  Children of Men was a perfect allegory of a world dying under the future-less path of late stage capitalism and ethnographic cleansing mania. The role of Children of Men in Zack Snyder’s worldview is the impotence of leftist PC posturing in the face of a world dying under multicultural finger-pointing and a refusal to accept the tent poles of the future. The insanity of that premise and position, as those seeking to purify the river of diluted white male sperm that barely glues middle class life together in the American failed state is expressed in grotesque vista and CGI and a fucking narrative Infertility as both a prelude to war and as a prelude to end all war. In terms of story structure, I suppose if Children of Men is a Star Wars, a literally new hope in the face of a dying expanse, Wonder Woman can be seen as the Empire Strikes Back, an anti-immigrant pro-war lashing back to regain blood and soil, the Return of the Jedi is yet unknown to us, but this trilogy has reached it’s darkest apex and we wait anxiously for the rubber band to snap back.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"The Three Wise Guys."

   So, I realized something that has been troubling me for along time. I have these two films that I would say (as often people say,) that "I love to hate." But actually when it comes to these films, "I hate to love." Or more accurately, "I hate to appreciate." I hate the skill, I hate the beauty, I hate the precise storytelling and I have the vision:

The Godfather and Goodfellas

   The argument is as follows. This is not anti-mafia or anti-rebellion or anti-Italian or anything of that nature although one cannot help point out the racism and misogyny in the material themselves. This is a generational zeitgeist type of conflicting experience, born of many years of feeling alien to the arcs of these screen icons. And the catalyst that brings it together is Citizen Kane

   Most of the time when I talk to people about Citizen Kane the response is always the same. "Yes, I understand that Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films ever made, yes it established film as an art form and the director as the auteur and yes in the context of the space-time-period it is an amazing film, BUT, I hate watching it, it's boring, it's ridiculous, it's self indulgent, it's sexist, it's Orson Welles sucking his own dick . . " Brilliant, point taken. Because when I look back on The Godfather and Goodfellas, it is the same syndrome of lost innocence. I saw Godfather as a child and was mesmerized by the tension in the hospital scene when they are coming to kill his father, when he has to kill the police chief in family restaurant, it is all stunning in composition and my first viewing of Goodfellas was exciting, blood pumping and it felt like art and as art should be. Bucket of water later, I started to feel in the cracks in this veneer, the annoyance in its commonplace ritual. The sad fact that these films are self indulgent misogynist bullshit rises to the surface. They are wank rag garbage. They are what led to Favreau's Swingers which led to Favreau's fucking Iron Man, a movie about a billionaire that comes to terms with the fact that he is awesome. These are films in the guise of male bashing ergo male worship. It's phallus inversion proving that your are just as big on the inside as on the outside. They are not critiques of any power structures, they are excuses for power structures. And the obvious male apologetics can be seen if you break down how each film has almost exactly the same plot.

   In Citizen Kane, a poor innocent boy is taken from the warmth of his home into massive wealth and power which corrupts him. In Godfather Michal Corleone is taken from the outsider status of war hero loving boyfriend to revenge crazed maniac and murderer, and in Goodfellas the boy Henry Hill is drafted into a crime family and destroyed by epic hubris. One can make various arguments about whether this protagonists where willing recipients of their power or forced to bare a burden, such is the argument of all white males. What is important is that these are beloved characters of Christ-like falling, they are not anti-heroes no more than any male is a anti-hero for being male. It is White Man's Burden. It is the sad tale told in the hearts of the rich and powerful that they are in fact the victim, they are society's lynch pins and load bearing walls and nobody understands their business. And in each film, the love of a woman is seen as a downfall, a hurdle to be overcome, a point of weakness in the hearts of this vikings.

   The recent death of Chantel Akerman reminded me of what innocence and art and filmmaking was suppose to be. I saw Je Tu Il Elle long before I tried to make films. It was one of those inspiring moments, you could see the medium for all it offered and an artist vision with morality and feeling and purpose. I would claim this film rivals and overcomes the three, and could easily replace all of them in any museum to film art.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

    "Time Marches On”

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”
                                                                   Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
                                                                                                 by David Eagleman


   Imagine a pill that could change a person’s perception of time. Well, you don’t have to imagine, you are probably on one right now. Anti-depressants, the diet of most westerners creates a lack of anxiety (the endless stress) and a hum of limitless energy that doesn’t need to be consumed. Anxiety is at its core the perception of time’s encroaching march that never wavers, never stumbles. But what about a relativity pill that can accelerate and decelerate time as per the sensory manifold? The conscious would be intact, under the effects of this pill we could count off seconds in this manifold absolutely convinced if we were viewing the second hand of analog clock we would be in sync with its mechanics. but reality as our immediate horizon of understanding is moving slower, perhaps 1 day per second . For every day I spend in this state only a second goes by in reality. The effects of the pill wears off and I re-sync, for me 4 years have gone by but only 24 minutes have passed in my environs. In affect, I have served a prison sentence within my own consciousness while exerting no financial, emotional or carbon footy difficulty on the world around me. This pill is the nightmare pill, a self-contained Guantanamo Bay that requires no hunger-strike force-feeding, no election season political stance, no galvanized attention paid forward by a sleepy populace. Is it possible? Better living through chemistry?
     In the 2012 film, Karl Urban's Dredd a drug called “Slo-Mo" is illegally dealt in a housing complex called "Peach Trees," it allows the user exactly this experience and obviously the benefits are there. Imagine a state of orgasm that instead of lasting 30 seconds lasted a day, or 10 days in consciousness, then imagine as the the film does, a man shot and falling off a balcony on this drug, experience a near instantaneous death for hours and hours of pure agony. An explanation/re-evauation of heaven and hell involved the brain going into a prolonged dream state at the moment of death, the last though you have as you die was to be lived in dream time, possible forever. This was the conceit of Christopher Nolan's movie Inception, and more recently, the relativity of time takes center stage in the plot of Interstellar, where not only does the dramatic focus of experiencing time separate a father and daughter, the notion of love as a quantum force that transcends space-time or at very least, can manipulate space time is explored. We can write off space time as side effect of sentient awareness. Animals are free to live without the knowledge of their deaths on pure instinct and satisfaction but human’s were gifted/cursed with the countdown of time to propel them toward excellence in the face of adversity, story telling against solitude, dialogue against dogma.   
    Space-time and evolution: is there a possible force in the universe that we associate with consciousness or will-power that acts to bring large scale forces into creation against the undeniable law of entropy? Why is there complexity if everything in the universe is pulled toward decay and collapse? How does the eventual heat death of the universe appear as an end, did we in fact come from an infinite complexity and life on this planet is a result of some prolonged entropy? Our perception of time and the course of evolution invariably sees entropy being defeated for complexity. Thus the mystery that leads to spirituality and religion, why is something other that nothing? The teacup leaps from the floor and reassembles on the table with every birth, with every invention, with every moment of justice and art that survives its terrible age.
   The ability to control the perception of time is integral to human experience. When we watch superhero TV shows and films, the protagonist the ability to perform tasks faster or perceive threats and respond effectively in a space of time most humans would find overwhelming. The hero sees a punch being thrown but in slow-motion, they react faster than an average person would, often portrayed in a hyper-stylized exaggeration of the skills used by let’s say a highly trained juggler who can catch objects with ease or the player's ability to maintain Matrix-jujitsu multi-tasking survival in video games. The notion of ”thinking on your feet" which can allow one to defeat an opponent in a mere debate is a simple of expression of collapsing the pressures of time to one’s advantage.  The question becomes, are we as a species preparing ourselves or forcing ourselves to change the way we can experience time as a preparation for our next stage of evolution? More importantly, is there a qualia to time? Kant’s evaluation of the sensory manifold makes space and time analytic intuitions, they are primary ground, the baseline of our brain’s lie detector. But as cloistered Mary may have never experienced a certain shade of blue, how do I know that meal was as a fast and as vast for you as it was for me?
   Time expansion and biology: I can use my mind to slow down my experience. One flaw in this reasoning may be the role of biological consciousness. In the example of the juggler who uses muscle memory to catch multiple objects at high speed, we should agree they do not literally see the objects moving in slow motion i.e. "The Flash” or Spider-Man” seeing an object moving in slow motion but maintains the speed of his or her own thoughts while dealing with it. Thoughts are physical things, capillaries must carry information, post-synaptic action potentials require the influx and expulsion of potassium, actin must be created and destroyed to move muscle, our brain may use electro-chemical messages to move our body and lightning speed but it is exactly that: light as we know it, it is the speed limit of the universe. A pill that could alter the perception of time must also alter the speed of conscious activity. What is this biological speed limit? The answer comes from an understanding of how neurons create consciousness, and thus to date, unresolved. The singularity proposes technology increasing consciousness to near super-computer levels.   The horribly disappointing self indulgent Johnny Depp film Transcendence offers this same time-collapsing super-hero who is merged with technology and then invents nanobytes that can not only heal biological wounds but enhance the biology itself creating heightened human speed, strength and intercommunication in a hive mind and allowing for faster coordinated innovation. The implication of the film is that such heightened intelligence is also heightened morality and so the characters in the film who see him as a threat and try to destroy him are in fact acting out the raw stupidity of their inferior monkey minds, picture Plato’s chained cave dwellers watching their shadow puppet matinee to the dulcet tones of Sebodah’s Freed Pig. Depp’s character can simply infect them with nanobytes that repair their minds to think faster and in essence agree with him. The idea is glanced over with scary simplicity when he suggests that his enhanced followers “have compete autonomy but can also act as a collective.” Thus we have the perfect capitalist’s dream, workers who feel free and part of a union meanwhile tirelessly serving the bidding of the master. Our culture’s obsession with superhero stories is a viral worm placed by the wealthy elite convincing us to lay down and worship the superior over the wants of the average. This is often in the guise of showing the hyper skilled and smart as misfits in need of understanding and family but in the end, normal people must obey Magneto’s charge. If you think about it, Magneto is always proven right, violence is either a voice or a forced course, but never abandoned. The mediocre never fights back, that would be extraordinary. The working class must remain the frozen monolith, buried for centuries on a forgotten moon.
    A common sci-fi trope, the bored immortal: the species that achieves immortality loses vitality. Crawling among the ground of the ocean like a lobster, the never-ending Oscar party of the renegade eternals of Zardoz, the last Charlie Rose interview with William F Buckley. Is it the case that extremity of emotion,  the need to engage, envelop, indulge, destroy and even self destroy is based on our being toward death, we need to be mortal in order to be alive? Death gives life meaning. Ray Kurzweil sees death as a sadness stealing meaning from life, a loss of information and a necessary enemy to progress, the Aronofsky film The Fountain claims it as a disease to be cured, but like wisdom, a paradox, one craves wisdom and avoids offering, but wisdom only comes from suffering. In the brilliant revenge meditation Blue Ruin, we see an immortal pain made mortal and finally ended by the passion of retribution, sometimes we need to end our lives to create a circle, to answer or a claim. The most important philosophical lesson is to learn, in the words of David Lee Roth,  “Life goes on without you.” We would like to imagine that when we die, the importance of our existence was so grave, so necessary that time halts in it’s tracks to grieve for us, that the people we knew, knew us so well and loved us so much that they couldn’t and wouldn’t ever get over our passing. The truth is much more relevant. Everyone is eventually forgotten about. We grieve for the dead and we move on.  Any philosopher must wrestle with this idea. The terrified embrace religion or celebrity to conquer it. If only I could make my mark on the world and achieve fame will I survive death, or perhaps their is an after life, an infinite luau where I commune with my dead relatives? Under our feet is the decomposing corpses of millions who convinced themselves they were so important they would not be forgotten. We shall join them one day. How does one reconcile meaning as death approaches, but not just death, the necessity of meaningless death? In order for life to continue, the dead must be forgotten. Is immortality the solution to this paradox? Must we eliminate time to restore meaning?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Mapping of Opposites and the Theory of Iatrogenic Desire.

i·at·ro·gen·ic  (-tr-jnk)
 Induced in a patient by a physician's activity, manner, or therapy. Used especially of an infection or other complication of treatment.
[Greek itros, physician; see  -iatric + -genic.]
i·atro·geni·cal·ly adv.

The terms iatrogenesis and iatrogenic artifact refer to adverse effects or complications caused by or resulting from medical treatment or advice.

      There is a character in Greek Mythology that is mistakenly categorized as hermaphroditic; the blind soothsayer Tiresias, son of the shepherd Everes and the nymph Chariclo. In the origin story, Tiresius is a priest of Zeus who while wandering through a forest one day comes across two snakes who are having sex. In some bizarre busybody mentality, he decides to hit them with a stick. Hera, Zeus’ wife gets very angry at Tiresias and decides to transform him into a woman. This results, in accordance with the logic of Greek Mythology (if there is such a thing,) in Tiresias  living out the next seven years of her life as a priestess of Hera. Alternative origin story has her living as a prostitute during that time.  Seven years pass and Tiresias is wandering through the same forest and discovers two snakes having sex and again decides to hit them with a stick. This magically transforms her back into a he, and as a “he,” he lives out the remainder of his life as a man.

   Now because of this experience, Tiresias is swept up in an argument between the two main Gods, Zeus and Hera. The argument is about which of the two human genders enjoys sex more.  Again, as per the logic of Greek mythology God’s have nothing better to do than sit around having inane discussions such as this; Zeus believes human women enjoy their orgasms more, Hera is convinced human males do.  They decide that the best person to ask in order to resolve the dispute is Tiresias since he has lived his life as both a man and a woman.  They ask him according to the myth, (and as strange as it seems this is word for word,) “on a scale of 1 to 10 who has the better orgasm?” Tiresias responds, “oh, well, a woman of course, 9 on a 10 scale, a man is more like a 1 on a 10 scale.” Hera is obviously incredible angry at this answer and decides to punish Tiresias by blinding him, Zeus cannot reverse the punishment but in sympathy decides to give Tiresias the gift of fore-sight, the ability to see the future, as compensation for falling victim to Hera’s wrath, not once mind you, but twice.  I imagine Tiresias next move would be to look into the future by about  ½ second, thus rendering his blindness inconsequential. But I suppose that’s more of a science-fiction/phenomenology problem. 

   In a related story, the famous and tragic case of David Reimer, born in Winnipeg, Canada in 1965 as Bruce Weimer, twin to Brian Reimer and was the victim of a accident during circumcision. The machine they were using (which they shouldn’t have been using) burned the majority of his penis off rendering him essentially maimed and handicapped the rest of his life. One day his mother is watching television and Dr. John Money of John Hopkins is discussing the new field of medical sex re-assignment. She haphazardly (as was the style at the time) invests her faith in science and decides to have Bruce surgically changed into a woman; breast implants and hormone treatments, and to be raised as Brenda, all without the child’s knowledge and consent.  By the age of 14 Brenda is refusing to accept the sex-re-assignment and eventually, upon discovery of the full explanation for her condition, she insists on being turned back into a boy, changes her name to David and lives out the remainder of his life as a man, marrying and fathering children. However, he takes his life in 2004 with a shotgun after suffering a lifetime of depression. His twin brother Brian also takes his life, the discovery of his sister being a brother leads to any number of schizophrenic symptoms in the years before.

    The first mistake made in interpreting these two stories is the attribution of gender. In my theory neither of these two stories have anything to do with gender.  And by gender I mean that social construct whose stereotypes both offend and give comfort to human beings of various sexual states and tasks as they proceed through life in pursuit of pleasure and the satisfaction of desire with a partner or multiple partners and so on.
In psychoanalysis there is the critical distinction between the object of desire and the cause of desire. There is often a necessary third party during sexual exchange between even willing and loving partners, the third party being the Phantasmatic element, the fantasy that causes the desire allowing the safe objectification of the partner. There is a beautiful/horrific moment in the growth of a human being where they discover themselves as a sexual being, and for a brief moment, the human being does not know what he or she is, the experience is pre-analysis. Once the child attempts to build a vocabulary and a theory and systematic strategy behind what he or she is, the beauty is usually lost giving way to rapid descent into “play-acting” as the part of whatever sexual orientation they classify or are classified.

     My belief is that “gender” fails as a theory to encompass the memes and mores of  the so-called hermeneutic lifeworld  and that a new theory of desire, a theory on how we as social beings arrive as desiring subjects and are installed within the coded social reality.   My theory uses the structure of an Iatrogenic illness.  The basic idea that the new illness which is caused by the doctor or by attempts of the doctor to treat the pre-existing illness can be understood as a structural activation of desire, if one were simply to imagine the old and new illness being the same, or more specifically, that time is irrelevant in desire. Desires are outside of time. 

    It is possible to imagine ourselves as fully realized, we stop for a second and sum up ourselves as an entity, existing in time, but not torn apart or betrayed by it. However, as we begin the movement through time we lose sight of ourselves. There is an implicit horizon of understanding of what constitutes identity at any particular point in one’s life. We are the sum of our choices, our actions and so-called inner world of logic, dreams, passions and corruptions. But since we are always incomplete, with a future not yet seen and memory not quite computational, there is always a void, a split in us between what we see ourselves as and what we have not done or do not remember doing. It is in this void, that we find the praxis of desire.  As we go through our lives we invent new desires for ourselves, some based on biological drive or synthetic pleasures, some based on guilt and shame and self-harm. But habits and drives and desires are very different, desires being the most illusive to define, but inherently unsatisfiable. The act of invention happens with the split, the fold upon which consciousness can study itself. The seemingly impossible act of a broken machine trying to diagnose it’s own malady is an often comically invoked theme in western arts and spiritual life as we argue endlessly about free will vs. determinism in human nature. It is my theory that all desires are moral. It is also an axiom of this theory that all desire is inherently the result of an accident, a mistake of reality. However, the ability to act on or resist a desire as a moral choice is not excluded from morality because of its accidental nature, but precisely because of it. Why?

    There are three intermingling axioms in philosophy which erupt into a single paradox, the axioms are from each of  the three genres-  “What is it? How do I know? Why do I care?” The first is Ontology – reality is always defined by an observer or the suggestion of a consciousness observing.  Thus, reality cannot be said to exist in and of itself. The 2nd axiom is within Epistemology. Truth cannot be understood as relative or contextual. Truth must exist in and of itself for if there is no absolute truth, the statement “there is no absolute truth”  cannot be made and thus allowing for the possibility of absolute truth.  The third axiom is within the system of Morality:  and that quite simply moral choices are an attempt to combine absolute truth with a “lived world” that is completely contingent.  

   Let us take the example of a seemingly congruous moment, at the moment you, the reader are reading these lines on the computer screen in front of you, the question of  ultimate reality or the experience of the objective reality of all of the conditions of your situation, the screen, the chair, the lightening in the room , they are all taken at hand, in the Heideggerian sense. They do not separate from the flow of “being toward what comes next immersed in the ever changing life-world” unless they break-down or are called to attention as in the way I just did now.  If we are to then ask the question, does the computer screen exist independently of my observation of it; since the answer to the question is invariably “No” how do we arrive at an absolutely true statement concerning the experience or reading the essay in front of you?

First there is the hermeneutic question? What do we mean when we say “the computer screen exists.”  First, take for example these ten statements:

The screen exists
I believe the screen exists.
I know the screen exists.
I perceive the screen exists.
I want the screen to exist.
I need the screen to exist.
I sense the screen exists.
I care that the screen exists.
I’m afraid the screen exists.
I act as if the screen exists.

Now each of these ten statements has a subtle  and seemingly distinct meaning that separates it from the others. However, it is possible due to hermeneutic circles to make one of these statements while  in fact “intending” to say another even if in fact your motive is to align the meaning of your words with the actual content of  your thoughts, which, let’s face it, it may not be. It may also be entertained that one simply cannot discern if one of these 10 statements is made, it does not in fact refer to three or four or even none of the other statements as the intended thoughts. I may wish to say “I believe the screen exists”  but I may really intend to say “The screen exists” or “I want the screen to exist,” depending on my particular frame of mind. Due to the capricious nature of language, not ten but seemingly an infinite number of statements can be made concerning the existence of this computer screen, if we begin to treat the computer screen as an entity, an essence, a collection of attributes or a mass of atoms in which case size perspective dictates at what point the atoms of the screen stop and brush up against the atoms of the table, which as we purport to know, they never do.

Outside the hermeneutic question is the moral one. Who cares if the computer screen exists? A simple thought experiment: let us imagine that an asteroid destroys all conscious life on this planet in the next ten minutes, the sad truth being we were the first instance of life in the universe and we were destroyed before we had a chance to mutate and colonize another planets and thus the entire universe is now completely lifeless and will remain so. If such a thing were to happen, does it really matter if the computer screen survived the blast? Does it even matter that the universe exists if there is nothing in it that is aware of it? Is the ability to matter, simply the ability to exist? As another thought experiment, simply ask yourself  “Can you name something that exists that no one including yourself has ever heard of before or ever will hear of?” The answer is no, since by naming such an object, you violate the conditions of the object in the question. Awareness is always awareness of something.

The Mapping of Opposites.

     The moral choice is simple, how to act upon our desires in truth when no absolute reality of our desires is accessible?

      What opens the argument is the difference between negating and negation. When I state that the “screen you are currently reading does not exist” what I am attempting to do is use one definition of negativity as the opposite of positivity. However, to say that non-existence is the opposite of existence is problematic.  Let us simply equate them in mathematical terms. If I state the number “1” I could then imagine the opposite number of 1 is 0, however, a perfectly rational argument can and is made that 0 is not the opposite of 1, -1 is the opposite of 1.  Now rationally they cannot both be opposites, however, we have no reason to choose one or the other since both systems work perfectly. It is the equivalent of saying  “The right hand is the opposite of the left hand” vs “The lack of a left hand is the opposite of a left hand, or the opposite of a left hand is no left hand at all.” If we understand an opposite to be that whose attributes opposes every attribute of its opposite object than whether we treat “existence” as an attribute determines which system we apply. The obvious dilemma: what happens when existence itself is the object in question?

     The paradox resolves itself because in either system in which 0 is the correct answer or -1 is the correct answer, 1 is taken for granted as an answer and is functional in both worlds.  My inability to prove the existence of something means simply my act of negating it operating in one system, while the positivity of its existence is in the other where its negation violates mine. The 0 mathematical system and the -1 mathematical system  are functional, viable operations and so they cannot be dismissed but they cannot be mapped onto each other either, they are both true and mutually exclusive. This attempt to map negativity and negation upon each is what we consider, the attempt of the doctor to cure the paradox.

    When we attempt to cure ourselves of a desire, do we not more frequently intensify this desire, just as we peak curiosity in something by hiding that something from sight?  It is as if the cause and object of desire is like the 0 and the -1 system.  What is the opposite of  the gender of man: woman, or non-man? Is Brenda the opposite of Bruce, or is David the opposite of Bruce? Such examples of problems can be called forth ad infinitum.

    When we as the desiring subject wish to quell our desires we face two courses of action, we either satisfy the desire, or we reject the very existence of the desire, we abstain. The intention of both strategic courses is to make the desire go away, but like using -1 to negate 1, if done in system where 0 is the actual negation, the 1 remains. Our plight as desiring subjects is to already always be acting within whatever system our strategy cannot afford to be.  We are always on the losing team, and even if we win, we can’t win.  The reason however, that desire is always a moral choice, is that we always choose -1 vs 0, and even though these choices are simply mirror images, the act remains.  This is not the illusion of choice but the illusion within choice itself.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Three Tales of Vertigo

  That was a nice coma. My back kinda hurts though. Not to mention other . . .

  So anyway, I was having this lovely conversation with my friend where I  was forced to revisit my old “triad of desire.” I was at a loss so I figured I’d break it down again here and try and wrestle with what was always a nebulous and prawn to infinite obfuscation. The premise is related to the Lacanian triad, imaginary, symbolic and the real. I created this for examinations of neurotic obsession and self sabotage.

  The terms by which this structure breaks down can be thought of as “identity motivators,” not unlike id, ego and super-ego. They are in no particular order: Hedonist, Masochist and Sadist. Defining them becomes tricky because as the triad unfolds in dimension, each exhibits a set of three “directions” let’s call them: “What we are, what we think we are and what we wish to be.” The human psyche, it’s subconscious, it’s collection of primordial baseline drives and artificial constructed desires exhibits these three identity motivators or channels to produce personality and quest. If we begin with Hedonist, the first thing we discover is the raw impossibility, pursuing happiness through the satisfaction of carnal, sensual and pragmatic desires, essentially combating happiness with happiness itself. (Keep in mind, these three categories encompass sexuality but are not defined by it.) The hedonists see themselves as deserving of happiness and that their desires fulfilled will produce such happiness. The happiness of others is irrelevant if the hedonist does not gain any pleasure from it. The masochist, the obvious complimentary pair to the hedonist has invested happiness in suffering, 'the more pain I endure the happier it makes me,' the more content with the way things are, suffering becomes and remains comfortable. The libidinal economy can handle the paradox in a simple reversal of the hedonist paradox, the dilemma of never being satisfied no matter how much one feeds themselves, the masochist realizes the futility of giving in to desire and the worthiness of will power in the face of temptation. The hedonist is the ultimate control freak, this would be necessary since suffering can become real, so when choosing to suffer, one must careful write the script of your domination. The third category, the perpetual outsider and antagonist to the first two is the sadist, the super-ego, the solution to both paradoxes, not unlike infinite judgement in the Kantian formal, sadists are the negation of negation. Hedonist desire is a failure, the masochist’s solution is a failure so eternal judgement against these two reigns and happiness is found in the demand for a sacrifice. The sadist is the mirror image of the hedonist, s/he enjoys not pleasure for themselves, but enjoys taking pleasure from others.

In Lacan, the imaginary real of this virtual triad is the way in which we interact with others by erasing the unpalatable or quarrelsome aspects of them, when we engage as normalized people we look at others, we know they are sexual beings, possibly physically disgusting or in another sense having a wealth of personality we can’t afford, when we try to engage or connect with a neighbor or work side by side with someone, we know they share biological functions but we immediately see it as part of the horizon of their being. A simple example, when one thinks of their parents of course we know they are sexual beings whose sexuality produced you, but we do not allow ourselves to engage that part of the image, it remains outside the imaginary.

This triad is perfectly presented in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, see Zizek for a perfect analysis of that film. Three films which openly instruct us on this triad would be John Robbe Grillet’s La Belle Captive, kind of a Vertigo but by way of Magritte. The second is La Citie de Sylvie. Kind of a masochist’s solution which confronts sadism masquerading as hedonism, essentially Vertigo by way of Structuralist theory and the 2011 remake of Maniac with Elijah Wood, of course, the virtual real, Vertigo by way of the POV first person shooter, sadism as a solution to failed hedonism. In here we have:

Rescuer vs Kidnapper

Stalker vs Prisoner

Murder vs Victim.

  The character of Walter for example in La Belle Captive, he presents as a secret agent carrying out important duties for the state, what we know is that this is a delusion, a mimicry of the character of Scotty in Vertigo who is no longer a policeman  but carries on the investigation using the symbolic guise. What each of the triad relies on is the myth of sociopathology. The idea that one can interact with otters with no ability or care to perceive their emotion insides, to treat others as if they have no soul or at least, no inner life worthy of consideration or value. Sociopathology is a failed meme within psychology and psychiatry, however the experience of the “outsider,” to be considered irrelevant by a society, cast out, desires ignored, ambitions thwarted is a primal fear of all humans stemming from what I call a Christopher Ryan type hunter gatherer pre-history where sharing provided stability and survival and selfish behavior would have produced the status of outcast.

Let’s consider some formulations:

The classic hedonist. How did they become that way and are they really that way? A person who is a hedonist but doesn’t think of themselves that way erases the pleasure of making themselves the center of attention or desire by seeing themselves as the suffering one, they play this part to gain permission to indulge in hedonism but, the formula breaks down, you end hop with ‘taking from others without enjoyment as a profit margin,’ hence: sadism.

The classic masochist. They see their tormentors as sadists (not hedonists which would be a complement to their life) they wish they could just enjoy so they envy the hedonists. Often a masochist will see themselves as a sadist to avoid confronting the inability to feel pleasure in pleasure itself.

The classic sadist. Sees themselves as a hedonist, hence De Sade, constant symbolic formulation of pleasure seeking which robs it of any pleasure, what could be a more joyless book than de Sade’s “120 Days of Sodom,” and endless list making of mechanical procedure. They fail and the formula creates a space of suffering, the need for pity and the righteous indignation, they fall into masochism.

   I’ve considered these formulas as useful to seeing power exchanges in relationships but more importantly, it reveals the endless stair case building that comes with the taxonomy of compartments in consciousness.

Friday, February 7, 2014

   I was watching Andrew Bujalski's film Computer Chess the other day for the 10th time. I was with my rather brilliant friend who was seeing it for her first time and we got into some analysis. (My idea of a perfect evening.) For me the film is like a mirror image of Lucas' THX-1138, there you have a protagonist trying to escape a numb cold technological nightmare labyrinth so that he can feel sexual love and the passions of freedom. His escape leads him to a gigantic sunrise in a natural world at the films end. Here, the argued protagonist Peter is seeking an escape from the confusions of feeling and desire, his piers and his mentor seemingly trapped in conspiracy and delusion, and the sexual predators who use a false love as a mask for abuse are his enemies, he seeks pure logic, and just wants an answer to the problem. The artificial intelligence seemingly in the chess program is striving to connect with another intelligence, something living and free; this is a mirror for his inability to connect with the living about intelligence. At the end of the film, a documentary filmmaker (in reference to sunrise of THX-1138) points the camera at the sun burning out the camera tube, this scene is connected with Peter in a room with a woman, supposedly a prostitute, who turns out to be an android. THX is alone in his escape. He lost his female companion and his journey ends/begins in independence; without a society in sight. Peter's story ends/begins either seeing the intelligence in those he wants to connect with or cursed to feel all around him is just artificial because we may in fact be more artificial than our creations. 

   Zizek once talked about the paradox of kindness. There is a play by Brecht "The Exception and the Rule," from the 1930's in which a rich man trapped in the desert is allowed to get away with the crime of killing his slave/man-servant in fear that in a desperate moment of starvation, the slave was attempting to kill him, (In reality the slave, also starving, is still trying to help the master and was approaching him with water.) The judge rules that no human being could be expected to not doubt such an act of extreme kindness and so self defense was merited. The notion that we are constructed by not only the world around us, but almost directly by the very humans around us and in such a way as to mistrust or even hate them on the zero level is akin to all existential fear. Bryan Fuller's Hannibal brilliantly captures this notion of being driven mad not by the meat of the mind or by genetic fault or even environment, but as a result of the intention of another. The subject seeks to be recognized by the other but only as what the subject wants, and must mold the other into the subject. One human being can drive another mad simply by needing recognition from them: the madness of paranoia, doubting kindness, doubting love. The moment in Computer Chess when the leaders of the New Age physical/spiritual exploration conference expose themselves in a creepy sexual proposition toward Peter, that moment when his instincts for self preservation are in conflict with expected behavior, that moment of madness is when your attempt to heal or purge yourself of something sick is seen as sickness itself. 'Iatrogenesis' is for me the beginning of intelligence, it the recognition of one's sickened state. The need to transcend it, and the escape and loneliness it creates. The world around is making us self-conscious, but is also not recognizing us in the Hegelian sense. We are alienated from our community, our friends, our loved ones. That alienation is the sickness that forces a confrontation with self. We must see alienation as recognition because we are in the end nothing but the alienated self.

   Another brilliant film on this is Panos Cosmatos' Beyond the Black Rainbow, the story of a young captive of a seemingly benevolent institute for health and enlightenment but in actuality a horror show prison of failed psychedelic experiment and obsession. Elena's escape from Nyle is a reversal of the sickness caused by the attempt to transcend by Nyle in his youth, killing Elena's mother the wife of the Dr. Arboria whose institute Nyle has seized. Cosmatos used this film as an exorcism of his own alcoholism, we can only hope he succeeded. Again, like Computer Chess the spiritual tenants of the New Age and of drug experience are seen as a source of sickness, not enlightenment. Also, both films are a reference to the 1980's which in contrast to the 1971's THX-1138 prophecy, I see them as a strange reversal of a generation's perception of that era, the era of innocence, Reagan revolution and rebirth is in fact an era of bourn infection, invisible imprisonment and of a strange cynical 'profit-cy' from which we all now suffer.   

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Reasons to keep fighting . . . 

If I had to list three of the most influential thinkers in the last
five years I would have to say: Hitchens, Zizek and Krugman.

The Hitchens love affair started with this video, an argument against a 
hate speech law in Canada.


I tried to absorb all his talks and writing after this, especially the Atheism debates and
through youtube's filmarchive his early 80's and 90's appearances on C-SPAN's Washington Journal with Brian Lamb. Something very romantic about pre-Clinton news media . . his death was a worldly sadness. 

Zizek was around the same time, one of the most brilliant philosophers of the 21st century whose combination of communism, psychoanalysis and film critique opened up everything for me. I would say any chance for intellectual revolution, artistic antagonism and/or a future of a loving community comes from this man.

Krugman is an old reliable and although his liberalism still ends up being an argument for capitalism none the less his analysis of the financial collapse and the failure of politicians to use economic theory as a tool for self preservation earns him a place in my last five years, not to mention he has a good ASMR voice.