A Solution Without a Solution

Léon Spilliaert

“Ultima ratio regum. (The final argument of kings)”
Inscription on french cannons, on order of Louis XIV

“The language of Enlightenment has been hijacked in the name of corporate greed, the police state, a politically compromised science, and a permanent war economy.”
Terry Eagleton (Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate)

“Capital wants a situation where command resides within the subject him- or herself, and within the communicative process. The worker is to be responsible for his or her own control and motivation within the work group without a foreman needing to intervene, and the foreman’s role is redefined into that of a facilitator.”
Maurizzio Lazzarato (Immaterial Labor)

“Autism literally means living in terms of the self. To an observer, a child in a state of autism appears to be self-centred since he shows little response to the outside world. However, paradoxically, the child in such a state has little awareness of being a ‘self’.”
Francis Tustin (Autism and Childhood Psychosis)

Ernest Wolff, in a very cogent and important video — though one I do have some issues with — lays out what he sees as driving the current economic restructuring of the planet, really.


On a recent podcast (#50), { link at bottom } the topic of the mental health of the West was discussed. Mattias Demetz wrote an article on this, too. Both Wolff is enormously useful for getting a sort of overview of the forces at work for the last two years. For I find myself constantly calculating the kind of conversation I should have at any particular moment with whoever I might be talking with. And I think this suggests the disruptive qualities that digital technologies have introduced into contemporary life. It also suggests the level of paranoia existing in the contemporary world. One must think tactically in even the most mundane of conversations. The pandemic event has crystalized the various layers of unreality that have been growing, incrementally for the most part, over the preceding three decades. The advent of the internet changed life profoundly, but it also changed nothing at all, in another sense. I think societies today that are most digitalized, most plugged in, are those suffering the most disruption and probably, the most mental illness and unhappiness. And it is also true that class factors into this inventory in significant ways.

Again, the classes most plugged in are the ones most ill. Emotionally and psychologically. The poor have had a literal war waged against them since the Reagan presidency. But this war has intensified over the last ten or twelve years. As Wolff notes, the financial crises of 2008 signaled a desperation in the ruling elite (and a new word is needed to replace ‘elite’). The high net worth 1 or 2% — those who have consolidated wealth in unprecedented ways — were suddenly feeling threatened. And that fear triggered a massive mobilization of strategic actions meant to solidify their privilege. The poor, most of the working class, now suffer more insecurity, and they work longer for less, have less free time, if any, and are subject to increased physiological trauma. But they are probably, even given that, less unwell psychologically.

Pablo Suarez

“Almost half the adult population of the United States—133 million people—has at least one of the four leading diet-related health problems: heart disease, stroke, cancer, or diabetes. Those chronic conditions are responsible for seven out of ten American deaths every year.”
Clifford D. Connor (The Tragedy of American Science)

Connor’s book is a valuable one, and I encourage you read it. I could fill this post with quotes from just the one chapter on Big Pharma. But the point is that Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, et al are part of what Forbes magazine called (in 2015) the most profitable industry in the world: Health Technologies. The pharmaceutical industries manufacture important and life saving drugs, but only if they are profitable. If you suffer from an ‘orphan disease’, one that affects less than 200,000 people nationwide, the big pharma corporations are unlikely to invest in researching a cure. (This includes diseases as familiar as cystic fibrosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Tourette’s syndrome, and as unfamiliar as Hamburger disease, Job syndrome, and acromegaly, or “gigantism.”..per the AMA) If such a condition affects someone in that high net worth 1%, then private research is likely, but otherwise it won’t happen.

As Connor notes ; “One specific problem is that because the philanthropists’ medical priorities derive from their own family histories, their funding is biased toward finding cures for diseases that primarily affect white people, like melanoma, cystic fibrosis, and ovarian cancer. ” Needless to say the diseases of the developing world are entirely ignored by medical science. Big pharma won’t research a market that can’t pay.

Daisuke Yokota, photography.

“Not only do the major drug corporations fail to use their resources to prevent or cure Third World diseases, they have also used them to fight against the efforts of others to do so. When the WHO proposes improvements in international health practices, aimed at providing medicines to people who can’t pay for them, Big Pharma mobilizes its lobbyists and financial power to defeat the proposals.”
Clifford D. Connor (Ibid)

The patent-monopoly system, globally, is not allowed to be threatened. This offers a glimpse into the logic behind the Covid vaccine narrative.

Connor notes also that what he calls philanthro-capitalism (see the Gates Foundation) never address root causes (poverty) and in fact, by reaping staggering levels of profit from their ‘philanthropy’ they further exacerbate the inequality that is the foundational cause of myriad illnesses of the poor.

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.”
Marcia Angell (Drug Companies and Doctors: A Story of Corruption,” New York Review of Books)

John Stezaker

And here we run into one of the problems with the Covid storyline. The marketing slogan ‘trust the science’ is simply proven to be meaningless. Like most marketing slogans. So the problem is, in the last analysis, the media which turns out a constant and incessant stream of propaganda. And this stream is sanctified by public perception owing to, at the least, four decades of conditioning. And this is the first crisis with global implications that has been propagandized via the new platforms of digital/internet technologies.

It is important to note here that doctors and medical professionals (and medical schools!) are paid tens of billions of dollars yearly by the Big Pharma. Hence they simply lie. And given the sacrosanct position that physicians occupy in the mythology of the West, these lies are particularly destructive.

There is also an interesting side bar about ‘vaccine hesitancy’ (this before Covid) and how Big Pharma encouraged aspects of it, or perhaps a LOT of it, in an effort to associate anti-vax sentiments with Trump followers. This allowed public perception to see Big Pharma as being the side of *science* and truth. A final note on pharma corporations. Where once the disease came first and the ‘cure’ later, this has been often reversed. One of the jobs of the marketing arm of pharmaceutical companies is to find new diseases that fit one of the drugs they hold a patent on. Hence there has been this almost comical explosion of new conditions and diseases. The most often cited example of this is *pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder* (or PMDD). Which, when identified (sic) was to be treated with prozac –now rebranded as Sarafem. But even things like chronic fatigue syndrome is simply what was once called being worn out. Or non specific dementia (as opposed to Alzheimers dementia) which is pretty much just ‘getting old’. Social Anxiety Disorder, or Nervous Leg Syndrome, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, etc etc etc. It is the pathologizing of everyday life.

Juan Pablo Renzi

It is interesting that the least lucid chapter in the Connor book is on climate science. And the reasons for that are likely too complex to discuss here, but are worthy of an entire post soon, I suspect. And the final footnote here is on think tanks. And it is worth mentioning them in light of the Covid storyline because I suspect most people, in the U.S. anyway, imagine think tanks (policy institutes) as relatively free of agendas per se. They are like Universities without students. They are where wonky smart guys go and sit around thinking brainy stuff. But of course that’s not the case. They are pure agenda, in fact. That is what they are. That and lobbying machines.They look for answers, for solutions, to the profitability of big corporations (donors) and the U.S. government.

And here I think there looms a significant and complex question. And Hiroyuki, on the podcast, brought it up — and that is how to find a way to address reality, to express our experience of modern life, outside the hyper rationality of this corrupted science that seems to form the backdrop to just about everything. This is what Adorno and Horkheimer called instrumental thinking. It was the legacy of the Enlightenment. And what struck me during this podcast was the word *solution*. The Oxford dictionary defines it as: ‘a means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation’. Which only sort of kicks the can further down the road. Solving replaces solution. What solution implies is a return to equilibrium. But that implication is buried for the most part, today. Solutions are not calculated to find balance or calm. They are a means to stave off disequilibrium, at best, and that’s not the same thing. Or more, they are there to resolve a problem, to resolve conflict or tensions. And it begs discussions, then, about Freud and the Death Instinct, about the entire idea of repression, of Oedipal structures of subjectivity, and about Marx. But there is another aspect to this sort of positivist ethos and language, and I again mention Franco Moretti’s extraordinary article in New Left Review, on the grammar of the World Bank.


Jalali Bahman, photography.

I should give a tip of the hat to ‘Commie Lee Jones’ here for making me aware of this book:

“The new public health is at its core a moral enterprise, in that it involves prescriptions about how we should live our lives individually and collectively. Although professional experts justify their interventions in the name of objective, ‘disinterested science, they selectively order knowledge in such a way that some categories and some utterances and actions are privileged above others, and therefore seem more natural and logical.”
Alan Peterson, Deborah Lupton (The New Public Health)

So, I see these two or three threads intersecting and overlapping. The moralistic subtext to health policy in the West, and the narrowing of experience, by way of a narrowed language, and grammar. Health policy in a sense shares an architecture of meaning with a punitive morality of puritanism and fascism, and with a highjacked linguistic policy that forms a kind of feedback loop with Bankspeak (via Moretti). Investment speak, the risk management codes of Wall Street overlap and cross pollinate with the rhetoric of religious cult leaders and with children’s books. And the new techno fascism that is linked to AI and algorithms and predictive theories.

“…we contend that in modern societies power operates not so much through repression, violence, direct coercion or blatant control as through the creation of expert knowledges about human beings and societies, which serve to channel or constrain thinking and action.”
Petersen and Lupton (Ibid)

And this expert knowledge, as Petersen and Lupton observe is expressed through an idea of normalcy. Certainly the Covid marketing is replicating 19th century binary oppositions of good and evil, healthy and sick (with appropriate moral scolding). The assumption, too, with health policy, is that everyone has a choice, and in the abstract that everyone has access to healthcare. The irony of positing a classless ideal in the midst of intensifying class segregation should not be lost. The normal is, then, by extension a form of solution. The language of expertise has changed,too, over the last fifty years. Today the voice of expertise is one of sober calculation and proof as opposed to the earlier emphasis on virtuosity. The kitsch mathematical mythos is re-coded as white men or women, almost always appearing conservative and no-nonsense (emotionless?). Liberals love to be guided by conservatives, anyway. There is no room for the playful or spontaneous. The echoes of the punitive can be heard throughout all of this.

Tomasz Wiech, photography.

“The modern subject is characterized by an interest in the deportment of oneself and others in the social realm, a belief that one’s appearance and behaviour are reflective of one’s disposition and a new self-consciousness about one’s individualism, one’s separateness from others. Hence the interest in finding one’s unique character and defending it evident today…”
Deborah Upton (The Imperative of Health, Public Health and the Regulated Body)

And like much bourgeois economic thinking, risk management is key to the contemporary health subject. Avoiding risk (dont smoke, drink, etc) is rational, and morally responsible. It also fits nicely into the white bourgeois subject and his picture of him or herself. I actually have come to believe (this has been intensified by the Covidean story) that liberals, in the U.S., desire to see themselves as old fashioned conservatives. They feel the tragic destruction of conservative values by Trump. Barry Goldwater would likely poll very well today, but so would Cotton Mather. But I digress. Risk averse actions are signs of prudent thinking. And such prudence is responsible and a sign of caring for your fellow citizen. Illness then, is taking on qualities of moral weakness. Getting sick is an indicator of recklessness. All illness, even the common cold, is becoming, in the social fabric, a lot of like being a junkie. And already hospitals are refusing to see people who are at risk from Covid, or show symptoms that ‘might’ be covid, lest they infect someone. Never mind nearly everyone in the planet has been exposed to the covid virus at this point. This is not about the virus, this is about the transformation of hospitals, as a part of this new public health construct. Hospitals are no longer (insert Airplane joke here… but thats not important now) primarily about treating sickness. That, presumably, (if Klaus Schwab and Gates et al et their way) can be done online. Hospitals are temples of expertise (research and clinical trials) and authority. Churches of wellness. They have been divorced, to some degree, from the idea of sickness per se. And it may be that large metropolitan hospitals are a thing of the past anyway, to be replaced by personalized bespoke clinics. Clinics suited to that individualized carefully crafted moral citizen. The shopper in the mall of virtues.

Kenneth Noland

“On the other hand, as regards the activity that produces the “cultural content” of the commodity, immaterial labor involves a series of activities that are not normally recognized as “work” – in other words, the kinds of activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and, more strategically, public opinion. Once the privileged domain of the bourgeoisie and its children, these activities have since the end of the 1970s become the domain of what we have come to define as “mass intellectuality.” The profound changes in these strategic sectors have radically modified not only the composition, management, and regulation of the workforce – the organization of production – but also, and more deeply, the role and function of intellectuals and their activities within society.”
Maurizio Lazzarato (Immaterial Labour)

I think there have been a series of moderate cultural/societal transformation since the end of WW2. The Reagan presidency was certainly one. Reagan was the answer to the malaise of Viet Nam. The financial shift that accelerated in the 80s. The Wall Street 80s. And then Silicon Valley, electronic media. And throughout the steady stripping away of worker’s rights, the destruction of unions, and the growing use of propaganda. And in art, fine arts and not just entertainment, to be clear, there is a sense of manipulation growing even in abstract works. This is intuitive on my part, but it was partly the exhaustion in painting that followed Pollock and Rothko. I think Warhol, in another few decades, will be better appreciated. Its not that I have not also written critically of Warhol, but I think in retrospect none of his critics fully grasped his…I don’t want to say importance…but his hidden critique — of art and the art-world, and of himself. But I digress again.

Electronic manipulation via marketing, kitsch Hollywood products, and following Reagan, the normalizing of politics as theatre. As sentimental melodrama. Reagan was legitimizing both American anti-intellectualism, and kitsch aesthetics. To be very crude here, and in short form, the next biggest transformation was the Bill Clinton presidency. For Clinton unleashed a new register of violence on the underclass. By the time of Bush and Obama, the high net worth 1% were both sensing potential threats, and growing more delusional on a personal level (see Bezos recent space journey, or Zukerberg and his electric surfboard for current examples) — but as a class, the elite 1 or 2 percent were beginning to manufacture their own private movie, starring perhaps themselves, but often not, and had the money to indulge these fantasies as perhaps nobody has before.

The collective consciousness of the west was traumatized and had reached a moment of singularity I think. It is here, perhaps, that Jonathan Beller’s ideas on image, can be transferred to language, but language as image, as the scanned text of memes, it is all on the screen. Language is business now. Language is capital.

Masatoshi Naitō, photography.

“I have suggested that vaccination did not fit easily with Victorian sanitary reform, or with Victorian modes of spatial management as a way of controlling disease. But there was a third aspect of sanitary reform and public health which the procedures surrounding vaccination both positively required and assiduously promoted – administration and bureaucracy, and their knowledges of statistics and demography. The medical and public health axes of statistics and administration were the techniques and rationalities which ‘unified the inhabitants of geo- graphical space as a social body … through the charting of social and moral topographies of bodies and their relations with one another’. Vaccination came to be important as a means for the collection of information through systems of registration and certification of individual infants and children. It provided one of the mechanisms through which British as well as colonial populations were rendered governable. Vaccination, like the tracking of epidemic disease itself, became part of the growing biopolitical business of population health, of collecting and producing the ‘vital statistics’ of the social body. It helped build the vital statistics of Empire.”
Allison Bashford (Imperial Hygiene; A Critical History of Colonialism, Nationalism, and Public Health)

Examining colonial practices, particularly British, proves to be a reliable forecaster for contemporary policy. Today, the post Covid world order is one of new colonial subjects and that 1%. And there is no small amount of propaganda devoted to normalizing colonial occupation. It is presented as something else, of course, and The Great Reset paper, by Klaus Schwab, is a good example of this.

“Vaccination created ‘populations’ in the bureaucratic sense: people were both individualised by the procedure, and aggregated. In contexts like India where information on birth and death was very difficult for the governing bodies to collate, vaccination returns provided considerable data. The creation of an abstract population as data from vaccination returns offered a ‘field of visibility’ to government, what sociologist Mitchell Dean describes as a mode by which it was possible to ‘ “picture” who and what is to be governed, how relations of authority and obedience are constituted in space’.”
Allison Bashford (Ibid)

In a sense, vaccination, however one looks at its efficacy regards smallpox or polio et al, is the quintessential Enlightenment health practice. It is also one, as Deborah Lupton notes, replete with symbolism. Penetrating the boundary of the skin with foreign matter for example.

“For quite some time, the western system of medical knowledge and practice, often referred to as ‘biomedicine’, was rarely examined by sociologists, anthropologists or historians for its socio-cultural nature, but was accepted as neutral and ‘scientific’ (unlike the medical belief systems of non-western cultures). It is only relatively recently that scholars have approached biomedicine as a symbolic system of beliefs and a site for the reproduction of power relations, the construction of subjectivity and of human embodiment.”
Deborah Lupton (Ibid)

Beatrice Helg

The idea of health, in the U.S. most acutely, but throughout the West, is associated now with ‘self transformation’ (Lupton). That health and fitness are closely associated, as well. It is narcissistic, or at least vain, but this is the bourgeois conceit of ‘working on oneself’. I used to have a girlfriend who would dismiss certain people because they had ‘not done any work on themselves’. There is a constant updating that exists in the mind of the affluent westerner. Like Microsoft updates, the personal update is connected to commitment and discipline, it is improving on what you already have. It is finding ‘solutions’ to bugs, it is a way to fix problems. Health regimes, today, resemble anti virus software scans. Congratulations, you are clean. (interestingly, when a virus is found, the software put its in quarantine). At this point it’s hard not to see the Covid event as largely a subjective disruption that serves as cover for economic restructuring and the attempt to implement a ghoulish and very fascist project of control on the entire planet. More and more doctors are admitting the various layers of mystification (and many are taking early retirement). The pressure is Dostoyevskian I suspect.

“To exercise regularly, especially if it involves physical activities which are not ‘game-like’ and associated with enjoyment (such as racquet sports or team sports)but are solely devoted to body maintenance (for instance, jogging and working-out in gymnasia), acts as a marker of an individual’s capacity for self regulation.This concept of exercise is strongly linked with the concept of health as a ‘creation’ or an accomplishment of the self.”
Deborah Lupton (Ibid)

Sixty years ago Adorno noted that leisure was increasingly mirroring labor. One had to *work* on oneself. And one of the engines for the pro-vaccination mandate believers is that for them, this IS personal. The unclean caste is a threat to their creation, this self they have devoted so much time and energy in creating, that they have invested (!) so much effort in maintaining.

Bela Kondor

This inventory, this risk management for personal health, is also, from another perspective representative of the alienation that the system has enforced. This is the endgame for a kind of deformed rationality — it is the ever more simplistic ideas for self and worth. The subjectivity of the West, for everyone, is reproduced compulsively and with ever less sense of material validation. For even the body is now abstracted from one’s own sensory experience. I remember training with bodybuilders who obsessed with examining themselves in mirrors. They seemed to suffer acute anxiety when taken away from reflections of themselves for too long. The mirror was more real then their own experience. Their subjectivity was reflected back at them, and its hard not to see the influence of cinema in this. Today, the delusions of the ruling class, especially regards AI and blockchains and digital IDs and cashless societies, is their own form of abstraction. And this dynamic is found in science, too, where the laboratory is more real than the world outside the lab.

And given that 7 out of 10 Americans die from heart disease and stroke, from cancer and diabetes, it is clear that the Covid hysteria is not so directly connected to a fear of death. Covid is nowhere the leading cause of death, not in a single country. And by now the obvious miscounting of both hospitalizations and death make the deciphering of statistical charts all but impossible.

Andy Warhol

“No longer is citizenship construed in terms of solidarity, contentment, welfare and a sense of security established through the bonds of organisational and social life. Citizenship is to be active and individualistic rather than passive and dependent. The political subject is henceforth to be an individual whose citizenship is manifested through the free exercise of personal choice amongst a variety of options. (Miller& Rose 1993)”
Petersen and Lupton (Ibid) (quoted by)

This is the cultural terrain of the contemporary west.

“…in contemporary Western societies individuals are expected to constantly interrogate their lives and relationships in the quest for self-improvement, the achievement of authenticity, the maximisation of life chances and the exercise of choice from among alternatives. Subjectivity is created both through the techniques of
governmental self-formation produced by external authorities and agencies and through the practices of ethical self-formation by which individuals come to know themselves and give meaning to their experiences. These processes are necessarily interrelated and reciprocal.”

Petersen and Lupton (Ibid)

And it is useful to keep in mind two things, I think. One is the fact that these descriptions are about the bourgeois individual, and these policies are the result of those policy institutes and the high net worth class, both of which have agendas and both of which are themselves products of conditioning. And none of this has happened overnight. The invisibility of the working class throughout the new public health regimes is significant. As is the invisibility of the global south, which is rarely examined in the same individualistic terms. The global south, once colonized peoples, the very people for whom the idea of ‘populations’ was invented, are seen in the broadest and most racist terms. (this further justifies their continued plunder and subjugation). But the poor are never talked about in terms of ‘life chances’ or ‘self improvement’ (well, they are, but only very paternalistically).

Bernadino Luini (Christ among the Doctors, 1529 apprx)

Also worth noting that government health directives and health campaigns are always about the health of a certain class, and the obligation of that class to avoid risky behavior or bad foods etc. As Petersen & Lupton observe, in Australia the government encouraged people to snitch on others engaging in unhealthy behaviors (cigarette smoking in this case). The prohibitions on tobacco or alcohol (rarely is it alcohol) target the working class. And never mind that tobacco (not cigarettes) has a variety of very positive effects. The idea is one of validating a certain class morality. It is also about the narcissism of individualistic self concern. The desire to ‘work’ on oneself and appear healthier as well as be healthier. So the Covid policies, from lockdowns to mandatory vaccination have targeted the same class, emphasizing bourgeois virtue and responsibility. The underclass is de-facto unclean, irresponsible, and a threat to the equilibrium of the status quo. And none of The Great Reset goals are even remotely achievable without the Covid narrative and the government’s response. The healthy individual is now one whose moral regimen takes priority over actual health.

And finally, the destruction of travel warrants a more detailed examination than I can offer here, but the key points are about the elimination of travel as further destruction of daily aesthetics. It is through exposure to new environments, and more, to new cultures, that the young learn about themselves. Organic moral development is tied into exposure to new peoples, languages, and sights. The loss of that promise is almost the final nail in the aesthetic coffin of western society. Those now labeled vaccine hesitant are the same people who have always questioned bourgeois norms. The loss of the avant-garde and a viable counter culture was a project of the state, post Vietnam. Remember that questioning authority is the real first step in genuine autonomy, and the first step on a long road to finding the way out of the labyrinth of today’s shrunken existence. And to return to this question of language, or the word ‘solution’. As a final observation for this posting. Wittgenstein in Philosophical Investigations:

“295. “I know …. only from my own case”—what kind of proposition is this meant to be at all? An experiential one? No.—A grammatical one? Suppose everyone does say about himself that he knows what pain is only from his own pain.—Not that people really say that, or are even prepared to say it. But //everybody said it——it might be a kind of exclamation. And even if it gives no information, still it is a picture, and why should we not want to call up such a picture? Imagine an allegorical painting take the place of those words.”

Martin Hurlimann, photography. (Ascetic, Bhubanshwar, 1928)

Wittgenstein throughout this section (often referred to as ‘Private Language’ section) is really trying to get at exactly what I think Hiroyuki suggested in the podcast. People have stopped even reflecting for a nano second on what they say. They reflect very little on language at all, really.

In an interview Jonathan Beller said…“Cinema was actually entering into the visual space in a revolutionary mode and it had to be reformatted by capitalism as a way of absorbing revolutionary energies and converting them into productive labor.” That reformatting is what Capitalism does. Its what the captains of capitalism do. They often simply intuit what a disruptive technology, or belief, or practice appears and then move quickly, because of their instinct as capitalists, to buy, or neutralize. And if they can buy, even a part of it, they reformat it. They domesticate it. Beller then adds….“I tend to understand that cinema is actually embedded deeply in myriad social practices— mechanical, cultural, economic, psychological, aesthetic. Its ontology, if you will, is political and social and it can only be understood as a change in the way that representation functions.”

And this is a crucial point if one is to understand at all the ways in which aesthetics matter in developing or redeveloping autonomy. And a revolutionary consciousness. People began, after or around Reagan’s second term, to present what was a cinematic psychology. They also began to lose the ability to differentiate, even in their experience of the world. It goes far beyond people who once wrote Dr. Kildare asking for medical advice. It goes beyond Star Trek conventions.

Ilse Bing (Seine, Paris, 1931)

Beller again, later in that same conversation…“the bodies of the dispossessed have become signifying surfaces for world media’s representational practices (politics), which is to say the lives of the dispossessed have become the material substrate for the spin practices that the media captains require in order to deliver the commodity that they are trafficking, that is basically value-productive human attention. “
Interview with Jonathan Beller (The Message is Murder)

They have also become signifying surfaces for the white bourgeois class in the West. The covidean believer is indistinguishable from the media they watch in the terms Beller is describing. And this is a good part of what is so terrifying about the cyber lynch mobs, for example. And as a side bar here, there was a recent SpaceX launch with no astronauts, just billionaires. They orbit the earth for three days and then return. And this is about having the entire planet gaze up (never mind they cant actually be seen, they can be represented as seen) and SEE them. They become agents of inscription, in a sense. They are the avatars of the *Reset capitalism*. The substrate (perhaps the material in this case no longer matters) for a new system of post commodity capitalism. But back to our scheduled programming…

The bullying and stigmatizing that is going on, at least in North America (and New Zealand, Australia, and Germany) speaks to a regression in those who have not only not objected to such zealous abuse of what is the ‘new unclean’, a regression that mimics in many ways a pathological schizophrenia or autistic state usually associated with early childhood or infancy. And it might be that the screen habituations, social media certainly, and the shrinking of experience, or of the ability to articulate to the experience even to oneself, along with the hyper instrumental, have coalesced to foment a partial break with reality. Winnicott and others have suggested that in schizophrenia, and infantile autism, the psychotic break is preceded by a period of mourning or grief. A loss, or as Jungian analysts put it, ‘a critical hurt’. Whatever it is, my suspicion is that electronic media, as a technology, has disrupted normal social bonds to the degree, now, that a kind of collective psychosis is taking place. There is overall a loss of self. And it is reinforced because of the erosion of meaningful language, the receding of real community discourse, and intensified by poor nutrition, resulting in obesity, stroke, and hypertension. A silent invisible society of clinical pathological depression. That is the West today.

The need for these displays of good citizenship, the snitching, the shaming, the hectoring, all this comes out of a narrow depleted psychological state. I hope next time to dig much further into this idea of instrumental language, Freud, the Death Instinct and regression.

Ursula Schulz Dornburg, photography.

The path out of this morass is one of reclaiming the imagination. And I have noted before my sense of turning away from this spectacle. Power is too concentrated. I feel the voices of dissent must protect their voices like the desert fathers, the coptic monks living in caves protected ancient manuscripts. For there, in the vast nothingness of such spaces perhaps a new project of discovery, of speech, and even of text, can be found. And the reason travel restrictions loom as so important for me is that I think ‘populations’ of the west have lost a sense of the vastness of the world. Look at a map, anywhere, central Africa, and look at the size of, say, the DRC, or go the Russian Federation, and look at Siberia. At that area north of the Kamchatka peninsula. Or the Gobi desert, or southern Argentina, or just Brazil. Then remember just how big your local area is, the wild part, the parks. How many hidden small coves there are along the coast, or how many small caves in the hills near you. The world is vast. And part of why computer modeling is always so wrong is because no model can actually grasp this vastness, a vastness that is spiritual. Ive noted before how the Great Plains influenced so many of America’s great painters and writers. That big sky, those endless flat fields planted with corn or wheat. The Canadian plains, the same. The entertainment industry, and media corporations do, above all else, a kind of reduction of life. The pernicious new selling of virtual travel is potentially a way to kill off the dream center of children, to kill their imagination. To move freely, even within the area from which you were born, is in my opinion the most indelible of rights. What is going on is a ruling class soft coup, a less overtly violent coup and their vision of a digital feudal planet is terrifying, if only because it is cannot possibly work. It is delusion.

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  1. I also am “turning away from the spectacle” in one way or the other, because what the whole (invented) problem/solution paradigm does is it makes the dissent (even especially the dissent) have to constantly justify our position with numbers, “science”, “medicine”, etc, and then nullifies that justification or ignores it because the pieces of the puzzle are already frozen into place and no amount of justification will unfreeze them. So, I’m done. Not with protest, or helping people with however I can help and with my own non-compliance–I have no intention of going along to get along. But I, me, personally, have fucking had it with all things covid and authoritarian. It reminds me of bullying. You fight, you ignore, you try to get along, and then, finally, it loses its compelling quality. You stop dancing and walk off the floor or go dance your own goddamn dance.

  2. And thanks for the Léon Spilliaert painting, especially, this time. It’s just ineffable.

  3. I was watching David Mamet’s Heist the other night and despite the excellent acting the stilted cadences become increasingly disorienting,and the whole thing becomes pointless
    head fuckery. I expect AI screenwriting will sound similar to Mamet.

  4. John Steppling says:

    that film warrants a very long discussion. It marked the point at which mamet became genuinely bad…but…but….as reactionary as he is, politically, his early stuff is still pretty great. American Buffalo and Glengary. And that first film after House of Games, Homicide, is also still very good. By spanish prisoner he was inching toward self parody. But even in Heist (I am i fear an apologist for mamet to some degree) there are things I liked. But this doesnt take away from your point and its an interesting one. That stylistic paralysis that mamet suffered by Heist is likely exactly what AI screenwriting would resemble.

  5. Regino Robainas says:

    It seems to me that the lucid attribute
    of a good phenomenologist is his/her ability
    to blow their (bad grammar, so what?) mind
    at every turn of the eternal timeriver. Rediscovering
    perpetually the significance or lack thereof of
    every event without cultural blindfolds and with
    the surprise, desire, fear, and joy of a newborn.

    To carve a resolute (if without final solutions) path
    across the life you have thrown yourself and others
    into. Our truly age has substituted the dream
    machine and its inevitable metanightmares, instead.

  6. yeah Mamet would make an interesting case study for a number of reasons. and I liked his early stuff and even Heist is good in a lot of ways.

  7. Great post and podcast per usual.

    I saw Oleanna with my brother in Chicago back in the early 90s. The halting dialogue came off shtick-y, and the premise wasn’t complex enough to work without a rooting interest. In my amateur opinion. My wife and I used to get the cheap seats season pass to Huntington theatre in Boston (Awake and Sing the last production I remember). No more theatre. I guess credit should be given for an early critique of the woke self marketing phenomenon. ‘Tax the Rich!’ Pretty convincing stuff from AOC at the Met gala.

    Is there any analysis of Enlightenment thought necessarily co-evolving with the military? I mean besides the ‘ultima ratio regum’ quote. It seems that there isn’t any technology now that isn’t first in service to the military. The current Covid cluster fuck being no exception. I am reading ‘Contested Medicine’, and the use of cancer patients as proxies for soldiers anticipated exposure to Russian H-bomb ‘rads’ is some especially cynical, disgusting stuff.

  8. I wonder if the difficulty resisters to the Great Reset’s vaccine mandates (and all the various modes of executions that entails) face when trying to express a “solution” to something that at its core is irresolvable has to do with a schism of thought that not only underlies the entire enterprise but may be deliberating fueling it.

    You posted an article by Belgian Professor Mattias Demetz recently that, if I recall rightly, was largely focused on the poor state of mental health just prior to the pandemic rollout. In an audio recording of remarks Demetz made to a group of lawyers headed by Reiner Fuellmich who are interviewing various experts to try to determine how/why the coronavirus pandemic had unfolded, he unpacks at greater length his notion of “mass formation.” And this, for me, brought to light the kind of “magical thinking” that has entranced the true believers/covidians.

    Once the cultural/individual anomie exists, according to Demetz, the totalitarian governments can seize this opportunity to provide the isolated individuals with a mechanism that proves they truly ARE connected to the social fabric. Relieved of their extreme isolation and free-floating anxiety with very detailed instructions (rituals) and repeated cultural assertions that they are playing an important part, there’s no end to the sacrifices dictated by the government that these newly baptized folks will accept.

    As Demetz described this, it made me think of remarks Johann Eddebo made earlier in the year on the Aesthetic Resistance podcast regarding various forms of magical thinking. Basically, these people are no longer “thinking” if we want to describe that act as a form of rational, logical arguments where facts and figures are considered and conclusions are arrived at deductively and inductively. They are in a different realm which means that arguing logically with them has little to no effect on altering their behavior/beliefs.

    For me, Demetz’s description captured a behavior I’d been noticing and been unable to explain: namely, how often I would come across a person telling the story of how he or she had had covid, they were doing their part for the “team.” An example: When I was driving from the Southwest up to Oregon in late 2020, I overheard one of those typical groups of retirees one encounters at iHops or Denny’s who meet weekly to swap their stories, but who were at that morning only getting together for the first time in six months. Each of them needed to knit their story into the larger one they were being sold by the media and the government. I had this overwhelming sense that this was how large portions of the population would be telling this tale to themselves/each other throughout the years, much as people today recount where they were when the planes hit the Towers or when JFK was killed. (Interestingly, people have more difficulty knitting the story of the financial collapse of 2008 other than acknowledging how much personal equity they lost.)

    It’s as if the Oprah-like talk show format has been integrated into this mechanism where the little people’s stories of heroism works on one level and they believe it is flowing in tandem with the larger, national story which relieves them of the pressure of investigating further. They are at one with the nation in some mystical way, relieved of their agonizing separation, and given rewards/recognition for their service with very little work being required by the powers-that-be to corral them into obedience.

  9. John Steppling says:

    fascinating.- the oprah metaphor is probably exactly right.

  10. Excellent piece! Tha bastards have stolen our dreams!

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