Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

Nicolas Party

“I was impressed by the fact that even an advanced schizophrenic process had proved to be reversible or capable of being favorably influenced by a human contact. These were quite unusual notions at the time. I thought that perhaps methods could be devised by which I could help the patient maintain, increase, strengthen the achieved amelioration, even outside of the hospital environment. But of course I had no idea of how to do it. I had nevertheless learned that whatever benefit the patient could receive, had to come from his bonds with at least another human being.”
Sylvano Arieti (Interpretation of Schizophrenia)

“Think neither of the good nor bad, but tell me what is your original face before your parents conceived you.”
Hui-neng, 6th patriarch, Seventh century.

“The oppositions subject/object and public/private were still meaningful. This was the era of the discovery and exploration of daily life, this other scene emerging in the shadow of the historic scene,with the former receiving more and more symbolic investment as the latter was politically disinvested. But today the scene and mirror no longer exist; instead, there is a screen and network. In place of the reflexive transcendence of mirror and scene, there is a nonreflecting surface, an immanent surface where operations unfold-the smooth operational surface of communication.”
Jean Baudrillard (The Ecstasy of Communication)

“One can study only what one has first dreamed about. Science is formed rather on a revere than on an experiment, and it takes a good many experiments to dispel the mists of the dream.”
Gaston Bachelard (The Psychoanalysis of Fire)

“As the Pilgrim passes while the Country permanent remains So Men pass on; but the States remain permanent for ever.”
William Blake (Jerusalem,The Emanation of the Giant Albion, plate 73)

Kim Zwarts, photography.

A number of writers and psychologists have suggested there has been a collective emotional regression going on since the onset of the pandemic. Others have noted a collective psychosis, or collective delusional state. I have even written a bit about it, and it has been a topic on the Aesthetic Resistance podcasts.


Now, as, ostensively, the lockdowns are ending (save for the UK and the Commonwealth, it seems) there has been little return to normalcy. That is because while the lockdowns exacerbated pre existing psychological conditions, it was really not the creator, per se, of the madness that seems so ubiquitous in the West (and parts of nearly all other countries). It might be seen as a trigger of sorts, but I think there is something deeper going on.

I was reading a comment thread on a sports site, basketball actually, and the discussion was about if Covid had affected Chris Paul (CP3). (He has been uncharacteristically lousy of late). It was a textbook for how the pandemic narrative, and in particular the vaccination has been embraced. Paul had been forced to miss several games due to testing positive for Covid. The NBA was vague about his vaccination record. Here is the exchange:

VOICE ONE “It’s COVID. Tatum said he still had issues breathing months after getting COVID.”
ANSWER “CP3 going to some party with other not vaccinated people could be the downfall of the team.”
VOICE ONE “Wait…CP3 wasn’t vaccinated? I thought I’d read that he had been vaccinated. If he was and nonetheless caught COVID, what lousy luck. If he wasn’t, I’m feeling a lot less sorry for him.”

I guarantee you these are youngish white males speaking. This is also the sound of many comment threads on many different issues. It is a certain kind of righteousness of tone, and also one of virtue signaling. There is an assumed punitive implication.

Heinz Cibulka, photography and montage.

There have numerous news stories about a massive uptick in vandalism, and in the severity and magnitude of this vandalism. Per Johnsson, a Swedish psychiatrist, remarked “The most likely motive is that you want to create fear in others because you have been and are afraid yourself. These are people who have probably been exposed to something.”

The West in general is very afraid. It may take a variety of forms, or is manifested symptomatically in a variety of ways, but the fear today on the streets feels palpable. And this is true, to a degree, even for those utterly fed up with the master narrative of Covid, and entirely skeptical of the pandemic and government response. Just as many people, skeptical of the vaccine, still go ahead of get vaccinated.

And I want to discuss what I am circling around here more in aesthetic terms, for that is how I orient myself in the world, for better or worse. But the deterioration of culture is inextricably tied up with the growing police state in the U.S., and with the new World Economic Forum initiative ‘The Great Reset’. And as an aside, never has something that appeared on the ‘cover’ of TIME magazine so lent itself to association with ‘conspiracy theory’. But this has been a long time in the making. Only a populace that has had its psyche strip mined and environment despoiled, would be so amenable to the current draconian policies being implemented under cover of a health emergency. Only a populace steeped in resentment would offer so little resistance to the removal of basic rights.

Johann Valentin Sonnenschein (Ressurection of Maria Magdalena Langhans with Her Child. 1780.)

None of the pandemic lockdown protocols are legal. No matter the state of emergency. You must have laws to break them. Health advisories are not laws.But I digress a bit. The point is not the irrational narrative of the Covid virus, it is the manufacturing of the conditions that have allowed this extra-democratic rule by decree finding such a willing populace. And I would still estimate about 60% are highly skeptical, and another 10 to even 20 percent a little skeptical. That estimated thirty percent are extremely amendable to the lockdowns and the reasons are many. A society that is even relatively healthy is one founded on organic community. I was thinking the other day about how my mother knew the butcher, the local baker and the guy who owned the local Italian deli. They knew what my mom wanted when she walked in the door. They were proud men, all of them. They were skilled and learned in their profession. The butcher was Polish, like my mother, so they would talk every time she went into his shop about the various kinds of kielbasa he made, what was best for Bigos, and then about family, about Poland, and about life. They respected my mother and she respected them. The old Italian man who ran the deli was lovely to me as a little boy. I remember the sawdust on the floor of his shop. I remember the smells. He didn’t give me candy, he gave me a slice of Prosciutto, and talk to me of Culatello and the black pigs from which it is made in the Po Valley. He said he save me a slice if he got his hands on some again. I loved going there. These are the daily aesthetics that construct not just a sense of the world, or our locale, but of ourselves.

Something shifted, or began shifting, after the Vietnam war. The ruling class closed ranks in a sense. Corporatism became a guiding principle for business. The quality of literally everything, beginning with food (Prosciutto was banned for thirty years after a swine flu outbreak ….somewhere) deteriorated. Running alongside this corporatism was a resurgent Puritanism. The civil rights movement was forming a backdrop for an increasingly bewildered white public. The Watts Uprising in ’65 was a defining moment for not just southern California but for the U.S. Much as the Rodney King revolt served as the second chapter. Fear of the ‘other’, which in the U.S., a once slave owning country, meant black people, was being recuperated and repurposed. Cutting across this was the entertainment industry and the rise of mass media and mass marketing. In the crudest terms quality was replaced by quantity.


Raphael (portrait of Bindo Altoviti, 1516)

There was a precarity in daily life that had not existed since the Great Depression. But it was at least as much emotional as economic. The nineteen seventies marked the front edges of an aesthetic shift that synced up with the corporatizing of the environment. And this aesthetic shift was indirect, it was not about taste or style, it was about an emotional defensiveness, and about a new sort of sickly narcissism. It pointed toward schizophrenia and an autistic reading of life in general.

The swine flu scare was responded to with a ban on prosciutto, one of the great culinary inventions of Italy. For THIRTY YEARS. This is the unconscious relfexive puritanism surfacing. There was also, in nearly all rote collective policy at least the echo of the deeply embedded fear of communism. This fear took on almost mythic proportions for, certainly the ruling class, but nearly all Americans on some level, for the propaganda was never ending and looped into homes almost 24/7. The anti-communism, if it reached the level of a myth, was one of the few operative myths left in the populations of the West. That is the next strand, the instrumental thinking of the technology intoxicated westerner. This desire for progress was a driving engine for nearly everything. It began in the current version (until recently) in the 1950s. Of late I think we have entered a new fantasy image of progress, and its exemplars are Elon Musk and his space dream.

Here is a telling and insightful paragraph from a lengthy introduction by John Leavitt to Lucien Sebag’s study of the dreams of a Guayaki Indian woman, published in 1964, not too long before Sebag’s tragic suicide.

“First, he attacks a common anthropological mode of defining the person entirely in terms of sociocultural norms. He calls this culturalism; what he is alluding to are primarily North American tendencies, which, starting in the 1920s but reaching a peak in the culture and personality, modal personality, and national character studies of the 1940s and 1950s, define cultural norms and locate individuals in terms of fit to or deviation from these norms (see Bock 1988). Such an approach in anthropology was compatible with the dominant North American mode of psychoanalysis as ego psychology, which saw the goal of analysis as strengthening the analysand’s ego, itself a cultural construct, and promoting good adjustment of the subject to his or her sociocultural milieu. All of this was anathema to Lacan (see, for instance, the attack on “adaptation” in Lacan [1953] 1977) then to Sebag, for whom the subject always exceeds what it is identified with and what defines it for the milieu. For Lacan, the ego was a paranoid construct, and the goal of psychoanalysis was by no means the patient’s adaptation to cultural norms, but the patient’s discovery of his or her truth.”
John Leavitt (Baipurangi’s Dreams;The interface between ethnography and psychoanalysis in the work of Lucien Sebag)

Bharti Kher

The growth of an aesthetic that resembled clear cutting forests was achieving traction in American suburbs. The idea of overhanging trees was an abomination. Suburban aesthetics was the aesthetics of the kill zone, it became the emblem of anti-connectivity. Clean, hygienic, and “new”. It was mental defoliation. Over lit and with an artificial expansiveness. Here the echoes of antisemitism arise again. The polar end of this new scale for progressive living environments was the ‘squalid’ (sic) tenements of NYC, of the lower east side, and by extension the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe. (standing in were Italians and Irish and Polish). The Jonathan Kaplin film Over the Edge (79) actually captured an aspect of the lacerating boredom of middle American burbs. The loss of job security was already an issue, the destruction of community — for the burbs were anti community, and a place without a history.

The corollary to clear cut suburbia (which on the affluent east coast, in Connecticut or upstate NY, enclaves like Rexford or Sarasota Springs or Burnt Hills) were another order of denuded. It was the fussy overly manicured fake Victorianism of the educated white bourgeoisie. It was also far wealthier. This was the WASP pseudo Victorian self conscious class superiority (read colonial/racist) expressed in kitsch elaborate detailing and steeply pitched roof overhang. If a carriage house remains, so much the better.

Danny Lyon, photography. (El Paso, 2nd ward, 1970s)

But in a larger sense the American mind, if we can use such a term, was still deeply anti intellectual and suspicious of academia. The children growing up in the seventies were already the children of the anti-communities, the children of places without history. They were also a generation that saw class division become solidified in ways it hadn’t before. I have written before about the 70s cinema, about the watershed moment when Star Wars replaced Friedkin’s Sorcerer (77)

The kids too young for the Vietnam war were going to college by the 80s. There was now a renewed focus on wealth, a renewed admiration for those who had it, regardless of how. This decade marked the birth of the new cynicism.

“A characteristic unique to the human race—prolonged childhood with consequent extended dependency on adults—is the basic of the psychodynamics of schizophrenia.”
Sylvano Arieti (Ibid)

There is a quote from the preface to Geza Roheim’s The Riddle of the Sphinx, from a W.I. Thomas, author of Sex and Society, about whom I know nothing, but it says that the prolonged childhood and helplessness of the child is really a sign of his superiority, for it allows for the natural gradual maturation of the complex human brain. I suspect both Arieti’s quote above and the Thomas quote are partly true. Helpless and dependent. The child awakes from the womb — slowly— to a instinctual recognition that the Mother, who is, in theory, looking down at him or her, is a God, without whom there is only suffering. And then death.

Young Shin

The human child begins to make abundant sounds somewhere at about a year or so. This is a pre-linguistic babble. As the child learns a particular language, it begins a process of suppressing unnecessary sounds. As Lucien Sebag said, it is ‘the loss of possibility’. Today the child learns the language of class demarcation and suppresses the unnecessary tones of imagination. Now this is pertinent here because culture is a set of relationships between adults who have all experienced the loss of possibilities. The pathological shrinkage of culture is probably natural, too. Even in very rich cultural periods there is a receding creative tide, as it were. The culture always plays itself out, even if sometimes it is quickly replaced. But amidst the current state of (at least) sixty years of deliberate societal assault on the public, there is nothing natural or organic left. When I think of the very earliest humans (sic), and there seems to be discoveries every few months, I try to remember that some periods of interactions, like say the Neanderthals in Europe, or now, the discoveries at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, which suggests tens of thousands of years, if not far longer, in which very little happened to these peoples. The hubris of our historical perspective is worth remembering, when all one can ponder, really, is the last two thousand or so years. Not the last three hundred thousand. Or more, back to that remote period of transition from ape to human. The finds now called Bodo-Kabwe-Herto, from Ethiopia are remarkable. Did they sense a change coming? One can stare and stare at them, just as I find myself doing with photos of the Jebel Irhoud site. Three hundred thousand years ago something like a human was there.

Now, these thoughts return me, perhaps oddly, to the mythology of Covid, the imperialist anti communist west, and to the loss of art and culture and community. And the ways in which this identification with authority, with the aggressor, is increasingly reflected in the aesthetics of contemporary society. CGI is yet another branch that has disfigured the way people examine the world, interrogate the world as they search for meaning. Or, rather, don’t search for meaning. It is a society in which that search has been suspended. In its place is a fragile hyper individualism that craves for validation, even if means becoming a cog in the genocidal project of depopulation and deification of wealth. Computer generated image is the default ideal, today, uniform, disconnected from the human touch, and without warmth. It is the accompaniment to the arid processes of corporate profit driven science. It is always an outside. For it is within that boundaries disappear.

Michael Heizer.

“The schizo is bereft of every scene, open to everything in spite of himself, living in the greatest confusion. He is himself obscene, the obscene prey of the world’s obscenity. What characterizes him is less the loss of the real the light years of estrangement from the real, the pathos of distance and radical separation, as is commonly said: but, very much to the contrary, the absolute proximity, the total instantaneity of things, the feeling of no defense, no retreat. It is the end of interiority and intimacy, the overexposure and transparence of the world which traverses him without obstacle. He can no longer produce the_limits of his own being, can no longer play nor stage himself, can no longer produce himself as mirror. He is now only a pure screen, a switching center for all the networks of influence. “
Jean Baudrillard (Ibid)

Baudrillard wrote that essay (above) in 1983. Already the keenest observers recognized a dramatic change in consciousness. Or perhaps I should say cultural consciousness, by which I mean a shift in the libidinal cathexis, and the, finally, last act of mimetic engagement. I think W.G. Sebald sensed this, too. Handke certainly did. Bernhard was above any of them the voice of despair, I think. Sara Kane to a degree, and Pinter from another direction. Pinter saw both the political vulgarity and loss of art as sublime/ethical, but also the fate of textual regression. Fassbinder in film, the anti bourgeois scream, and the sexual combatant. All of these artists, and Heiner Muller, too, I suppose, were outside the bourgeois institutional framing. If Abstract Expressionism was the last sincere cry of suffering, then these artists were post sincerity. Not ironic in the least, and not even cynical I don’t think, but despairing.

They all felt this evaporation of interiority. Russell Jacoby noted that ego psychology was problematic because there was barely an ego anymore. Or, perhaps it was the screeching ego of the entertainment realm. The screech that insists on selling you themselves. Self commodification became a ‘thing’ by the 90s. The ego of ‘sales’ was a default super ego.

Vincent Mentzel, photography.

“Very simply, the widespread assumption of progress in the humanities and social sciences cannot be accepted in toto. In fact, I suggested in ‘Social Amnesia’, and developed elsewhere, the opposite proposition: perhaps, intelligence is dwindling in advanced industrial society. Undoubtedly we have more infor­mation and data, but we may understand less and less. Society may be losing its mind, a notion Freud occasionally entertained.{ } Freud was a therapeutic “pessimistic,” who doubted fundamental personal changes could be attained through psy­choanalysis. Those who came after him promised much more. In a crowded market no American psychologist could adver­tise Freud’s therapeutic goal, transforming hysterical unhappi­ness into everyday unhappiness. Yet it was Freud’s therapeutic pessimism that was radical; his refusal to in ate therapy kept alive the possibilities of real social change that later psychologists surrendered in confusing normal functioning with libera­tion.”
Russell Jacoby (Introduction to Transaction edition of Social Amnesia)

I wrote last post about Heidegger and the Black Notebooks, and the entire apparatus of de-Nazification that western society began immediately after the war. I will add another quote here from John Leavitt, on criticism of Lucien Sebag, on his being European and male and the young woman telling him her dreams was from a marginalized and put-upon ethnic group.

“But again, condemnation is too easy and requires some nuance. Calling Sebag European is not actually so evident. Sebag was in fact African, although French speaking; although he was French-speaking he was no ‘vieille souche Frenchman’ but a North African Sephardic Jew. Consider his two teachers: one, Lévi-Strauss, was an Ashkenazic Jew, an Alsatian actually, from a line of rabbis; the other, Lacan, was a French Catholic, educated by Jesuits, which made him ethnically part of the majority culture but a minority figure in psychoanalysis, which has always had a strong Jewish representation and something of a Jewish spirit (Schneiderman 1983).”
John Leavitt (Ibid)

Bo Bartlett

In a society in which hundreds of thousands of people spend most of their waking life trolling social media under various fake identities, the lockdowns have granted permission for this to be a full time vocation. Identity, labelling, is the final authority. Accreditation has become a sickness of sorts. Taking offense is the, now, constant activity of those without identity.

“…a forgetting of the past and a pseudo historical consciousness. Nowadays, the latter thrives. We are regularly instructed by futurists and advocates of cutting edge technology that computers, cyber space, and the internets are changing life, and that we have entered a new world unlike anything in the past. Meanwhile, nothing changes.”
Russell Jacoby (Ibid)

To expand on Jacoby’s comment, I often hear people shake their head in wonder and ask, rhetorically, can you imagine we once stood in line at the bank? We had to keep dimes and quarters around in case you had to use the pay phone. Can you imagine cordless phones on the beach?? And yet, my life ( and theirs) is not much different then it was prior to these inventions. How different was my grandfather’s childhood in Germany, in Essen, from my childhood? Well, very different, and yet different in ways that are hidden and obscured. Different for important but buried reasons. Not different because it was a single ledger accounting system at the local bank. Not different, really, because his family used horse drawn carriages to get to town. No, his life was different because what drove those particular kinds of inventions, electrical lighting, the automobile, and eventually nuclear weapons — was also a part of the constellation of forces that were driving the project of colonial conquest, forces that helped make WWI inevitable, and forces that were seeding the growth of fascism.

Michael Najjar, photography.

The desire for speed was always intimately tied into the fascist ideal. The idea of ‘saving’ time was an ur-capitalist article of faith. Goals, destinations, the Enlightenment and rationalism. But the rational was only irrationalism disguised. Or better, maybe, to say the super rational could only, finally, arrive (destination) at an irrationalism as myth. The myth the entire project had been created to quell. There is no escape from this idea of progress, it is itself a kind of contagion. Progress entails not only Utopian notions associated with futurism, but it is internalized to function as a form of conscience. It is bound up with guilt and self evaluation. The subjectivity of progress is there in the barren cement playgrounds at grammar schools across the U.S. and U.K. The deforming of utility, it is the refugee (and now homeless) encampments under 1000 Watt (as the Carlyse/Finch group marketing brochure has it…) “xenon searchlights, with precision-optic reflectors made of virtually indestructible nickel material, which resists breakage if impacted by bullets or rocks.”

“In the course of psychotherapy, one finds several forms of rhythmic expressions which may be related to the total rhythm behavior of early fetal life. In deep hypnosis or in periods of deep compulsive silence in schizophrenics and borderline cases, rhythmic movements of muscles or part of the extremities may be seen. This rhythm has a higher frequency than the active heartbeat, and in all these cases it represents a deep regression. The writer would call this not so infrequently observed phenomenon reminiscent of the archaic rhythmization of the body. { } The writer himself has found this symptom in quite normal children, but also in two cases of borderline psychosis where the regressive tendency went further back. Both patients associated to it: an aggressive banging through mother’s “wall” in order to go back to nirvana (sleep).”
Joost Merloo, M.D. (Archaic Behavior and the Communicative Act, Psychiatric Quarterly 1955)

Maseo Yamamoto, photography.

The alienation of contemporary life in the West, and perhaps globally, is expressed in several aesthetic codes or trends. Now, within the ‘great pandemic reset’, a vanguard of globalist billionaires has actually managed to strongly influence global health organizations and NGOs. It has influenced governments. But others have written extensively on this, and my interest is in examining the sedative like affects of contemporary culture. A culture that also expresses a viciousness and aggression by indirect withholding of deeper satisfactions.

The unshaded cement or black top playgrounds my generation played on were close to sadistic. That aesthetic, the open panopticon like view influences individual home architecture, too. It is the view of the chain gang guard seated on his horse, shotgun across his knees. Tear down anything that might impede the ‘view’. That trees are in fact always welcome to children has been forgotten. The need to remove is also tied into ownership, to keeping an eye on your property. The enforced regimented playtime, often with team sports, needs wide open expanses of emptiness, without the relief of trees, which bring shade as well as oxygen.

“Of theoretical importance for us, is the fact that the drive toward communication is related to a sexual drive on the one hand, and to the fear of separation on the other (Meerloo, 1952). During the rutting period in animals, their communicative actions increase through exhibitionism and intensified smell communication. There are similar phenomena in man, but more repressed. Compulsive masturbation is in many borderline patients an expression of a desire to revert to archaic relationships. { } Laughter, crying, yawning, stretching, shivering, may evoke in us the same kind of archaic response. There is something in the observation of an archaic activity that pushes us back into our own pasts, so do music and smells and colors, dancing and artistic creation. The repetition of primary archaic expressions provokes, as it were, a deep resonance in everybody. The common regressive fantasy leads to more intense communication and direct identification.”
Joose Merloo, M.D. (Ibid)

The manufacturing of an least semi artificial contagion serves as a replacement (and intruder on natural contagious but non infectious behaviors) for actual contagion or plague. Not even plague is allowed to be serious or genuine.

Sabri Idrus

Merloo adds…“Other phenomena, too, may be throwbacks to archaic responses. For example, the echopraxy in schizophrenics may be compared with the imitative lattah symptoms in panicky primitives (Meerloo, 1950). Just as all of us are contagiously affected by yawning, these patients have, in a more extended field, the compulsion to imitate. As a reaction to danger and fear, they lose the differentiative distinction between the outside and the inside world.”

Himself an escapee from fascism, and imprisonment, ends this essay with a rather profound paragraph.

“As the best example, I can give my own memories of such a day; they were repressed and only came back to memory years later. After I escaped from German imprisonment and certain death and, in disguise, had passed the enemy cordon safely, I roamed around in the Paris subway all day long. I hovered in a corner, jumped up sometimes, changed trains, yawned all day, did not eat and, only when night came, did I get out of this archaic hiding spell in Paris’ womb. Very symbolically, I went to a barbershop and felt reborn after a shave and a haircut.”

Now Merloo is an odd figure, it should be noted. He later worked for the U.S. government, with former POWs, especially those who had suffered torture and brainwashing (sic). He was politically conservative for the most part. De facto anti-communist but was also acutely critical of the House on UnAmerican Activities. But he was a fascinating theorist of child psychology (and even wrote a pretty interesting paper on the telepathy). And he was prescient regards the manipulations of marketing and government propaganda. His work on the survivors of torture served as perfect training for the 21 century U.S. citizen.

Jebel Irhoud, Morocco.

The manufactured pandemic (contagion) helps with the behavioral amnesia of the western populace. Certainly that important white educated 30%. But the screen habituations, the endless repetitions of CGI, and decades and decades of spiritual betrayal, actually, resulting in a deep but often unconscious desire for renewal and rebirth. The algorithmic predictions have helped shape a populace who are more at home at home, than out in public, more comfortable on Zoom than across the table, and who see avoidance of surprise as a form of risk management. And a populace who have in some respects forgotten how to yawn or laugh or probably masturbate. Whether planned, per se, or simply the logical result of a system of exploitation for profit, a system that will trend toward ever greater and greater inequality. The ruling class has never had community and it accounts for their pathologies.

For the half educated bourgeoisie long ago forgot community, have forgotten that community and relationships of respect are critically important. Without those things, you have delusion, a culture now reaching the endgame with itself. It nurtures that which will further ossify it, and eventually in the arts there will be only robots engraving versions of the artistic canon (there already is such stuff, actually, see Davide Quayola). It won’t even be that. There will be no creation. AI is seen as the replacement for culture. AI is seen as the replacement for history.

Jan De Maesschalck

Jonathan Beller’s new book is out and that is cause for celebration. But it also serves (an entire blog post will no doubt eventually be devoted to this book) as a last branch on the shaping of 21st century aesthetics.

“The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an immense collection of information; the individual bit appears as its elementary form. Or so it appears to the machines that count, the machines of account. Moreover, the rise of information meant—in fact is—the ability to write a derivative contract on any phenomenon whatever. Its emergence is one with the calculus of probability and thus of risk. What price information? We will show here how information becomes a derivative on reality whose importance comes to exceed that of reality, at least for those bound by the materiality of information’s risk profiles. Furthermore, the algorithm becomes the management strategy for the social differentiation introduced by and as information—a
heuristic, becoming bureaucratic, becoming apparatus for the profitable integration of difference and, significantly, for any “us” worthy of that name, of that which and those who could be differentiated.”

Jonathan Beller (The World Computer)

The last aesthetic shift then, affecting this already near disembodied populace, is neatly summed up later in Beller’s introduction “What perhaps best characterized this period is a full-blown convergence of communication, information and financialization as computation…”.

Christopher Payne, photography (Steinway factory)

De-mystifying ‘algorithm’ is useful here. That emotional retreat, coercively imposed on 98% of the population, is the same rebranding that game theory employs.

“By means of the coercive colonization of almost all social spaces, categories, and representations—where today language, image, music, and communication all depend upon a computational substrate that is an outgrowth of fixed capital— all, or nearly all, expressivity has been captured in the dialectic of massive capital accumulation on the one side and radical dispossession on the other.”
Jonathan Beller (Ibid)

The aesthetics of the computational colonizing of all social space, let alone cyber space, and its platforms, and all cultural expression, and finally Nature, is visually, one that resembles a trillion dollar technological mega-platform to show anime. But is also an aesthetics of industrial collateral waste. It is, again, the same look of the barren practice field or uranium mining pits. And inner life more and more resembles a Spoil Tip (see Welsh coal mining). The slag heaps left after everything has been extracted. The world computational leviathan continues to suck out the last few remaining fires of human imagination. What Beller calls algorithms of extractive violence. And these operate in a system that codifies. As Beller notes, black equals poor and white equals rich. Doesn’t matter if exceptions exist in the real world. In code-world black people cannot be allowed too much property (see the attacks on any black millionaire if they buy too much real estate, say). The shift, aesthetically, are to systems of expression in which everything is short hand or code, or copy. Copy, as an idea, is outdated. There are no copies. Everything is copy, nothing is copy. And therefor you cannot have fake or authentic.

Andrea Buttner

“But we are looking at computation as the modality of a world-system. Computation emerges as the result of struggles that informed “class struggle” in all its forms, recognized or not by the often spotty tradition(s) of Marxism, including those struggles specific to the antagonisms of colonialism, slavery, imperialism, and white supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalism more generally. It is the result of struggles indexed by race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and ethnicity, along with additional terms indexing social differentiation too numerous to incant here but that together form a lexicon and a grammar of extractive oppression—and as we have said and as must always be remembered, also of struggle. The lexicon includes compressions that result in many of history’s abstractions including a perhaps singularly pointed abstraction: “a history whose shorthand is race” (Spillers 1997).”
Jonathan Beller (Ibid)

Race and its overlapping but slightly different shortand, anti-semitism, is not just inscribed in the subjectivity of the West and the history of capitalism; there is a real sense in which (and Beller is sort of suggesting this) this primal ‘othering’ that is antisemitism, and anti-black racism, is the trigger, or the ignition key that Europe used to drive the colonial expansion. Beller uses the Fanon quote ….“Europe is literally the creation of the third world” (Wretched of the Earth).

Ego psychology where there is no ego. Identity politics where nobody has an identity. Meaning has been extracted.

Thomas Zipp

“Humans value economy. Why? Whether we are commending a mathematician for her proof or a draughtsman for his use of line or a poet for furnishing us with nuggets of beauty and truth, economy is a trope of intellectual, aesthetic and moral value. How do we come to take comfort in this notion? It is arguable that the trope does not predate the invention of coinage. And certainly in a civilization so unconditionally committed to greed as ours is, no one questions any more the wisdom of saving money. But money is just a mediator for our greed. What does it mean to save time, or trouble, or face, or breath, or shoe leather? Or words?”
Anne Carson (Economy of the Unlost)

It seems clear then that Marxism, recognizing that finance has overtaken expression, and that therefore all media of expression currently function as capital, requires for its own continuance and viability a redesign of the protocols of money— the protocols of mediation and of value abstraction that currently make computation a continuation and extension of racial capitalism.”
Jonathan Beller (Ibid)

Finance has replaced expression, and hence stalled mimetic functioning. All living things engage mimetically, so what this means is that the mimetic experience is no longer a integral part of being human. Contemporary cultural expression is, then, literally a near mortuary science.

“A coin is a flattened piece of metal of standardized weight with a design imprinted on one or both sides to indicate what individual or community issued it and will receive it again. The first true coinage, Herodotos tell us, was a Lydian invention and so datable to about 700 b.c.1 Lydian coins were originally of electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver. On the Greek mainland the cities of Corinth and Athens began to strike coins of silver before 550 and by the end of the sixth century the use of coinage was widespread throughout the Greek world. { } A gift has both economic and spiritual content, is personal and reciprocal, and depends on a relationship that endures over time. Money is an abstraction that passes one way and impersonally between people whose relationship stops with the transfer of cash. To use Marx’s terms, a commodity is an alien- able object exchanged between two transactors enjoying a state of mutual independence, while a gift is an inalienable object ex- changed between two reciprocally dependent transactors.8 Gift and commodity represent two different notions of value, embodied in two different sets of social relations. The sets ought to be mutually exclusive. In fact, historically and psychologically, they overlap.”
Anne Carson (Ibid)

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  1. David Hathaway says:

    This piece is most valuable in the manner it points out instances, experiences, etc lost in the exchange of (financial) transactions. Communication eviscerated by commercial exchanges.

  2. “Taking offense is the, now, constant activity of those without identity.”

    I was thinking of this yesterday when, short-staffed and over worked at a federal rec site, I was hassled by a carload of visitors, aggrieved that I couldn’t offer them more than succinct instructions on how to pay their entrance fee. Where did this attitude come from, I wondered later? A Bravo network show or some other miasma that had been slowly forming through the larger cultural apparatus while I was not paying attention. If someone isn’t projecting a sort of subservience back to them, they seem unable to locate themselves in the spectrum of consumerism, which is, sadly, all they have these days as a yardstick.

    This is an elegant threading together of so much of the disturbing phenomena that, as you point out, has been existing as the perfect primordial stew for the electrification resulting in the monstrous new world order. I love the way you connect the denuded, anti-historical landscapes of suburbia to the hollowed out concrete pad box stores that seem to represent community in most towns and cities today. The interstate system of the 50s that cut through urban “ghettos” and turned traveling the mind-blowing panoramas of the west into exercises of boredom was, of course, part of the de-racination of living communities. I lived in Boston before the “big dig” was finished, when the ugly scar cutting off the North End from the rest of the city still existed. To travel into that section was akin to traveling through a no-man’s land. But we traveled that vaguely terrifying route again and again for the squid ink pasta and cannoli and, even more importantly, for the sense of community we could feel in the crowded press of the buildings and narrow streets and others in search of the same. It felt furtive and transgressive in ways so satisfying that I cannot imagine that the city planners would allow today.

  3. John Steppling says:

    i think an entire post just examining that 50s interstate system would be worth doing.

  4. John Steppling says:

    and shout out for tamara’s page https://wisespirit.wordpress.com/

  5. Christopher Semancik says:
  6. John Steppling says:

    thanks chris

  7. Josephine Perry says:

    Anyone reading this blog might want to watch the film Blindness made a while back that pretty clearly shows how a society is controlled by fear and who benefits from that. Mark Ruffalo plays a doctor in it. It’s a terrifying film that reflects what happens when ordinary people are stripped of their right to “see”. It’s on Amazon Prime.

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