Capital Dreams Itself

James Fee (Photography)

“…it is one thing to understand the meaning of Scripture, and quite another to understand the actual truth.”
Spinoza (Tractatus Theologico-Politicus)

“But in Shakespeare’s plays, especially after 1600, the life of the piece, of the whole business of personation, is in large part not in the gesture but in the linguistic detail; we want to understand as much of this as we can. We don’t want just to hang on to the general sense as if we were watching an opera in Czech.”
Frank Kermode (Shakespeare’s Language)

“As soon as we begin to study the scapegoat, we imagine a deliberate manipulation. We think of skillful strategists who are fully aware of the mechanisms of victimization and who knowingly sacrifice innocent victims in full awareness of the cause with Machiavellian ease.”
Rene Girard (The Scapegoat)

I made a comment on one of the last podcasts, a sort of off handed remark, really, in a discussion about allegory. About allegory, however, in the context of the modern spectacle, the spectacle of distraction (in the more specific context of the Spotify/Rogan controversy). I referenced how the nature of Imperialism stamps its imprimatur on all social relations. Suggesting that you cannot separate how police kick in the doors of inner city homes, much as they the US/NATO military kicks in doors during their counter insurgency operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. How the family today, then, was also stamped with imprimatur. How entertainment is viewed, and identified with. How threat is processed, even. But then I was thinking how (since I live in Norway) the role of the military here (in theory) is involved in mostly peacekeeping operations. And probably peacekeeping should be put in quotation marks. To stretch this metaphor, if that’s what it is, a bit further, the patriarch of the contemporary west is more peacekeeper than conqueror. The Primal Father now wears a blue helmet.

John Dugdale, photography.

I will return to this idea. For now, there is an unavoidable question looming regards allegory. For it seems to me that one of the most acute and disturbing qualities of contemporary life is the loss of an ability, in the population at large, in the culture, for storytelling. But this is really an inability to interpret. A failure of interpretation, then.

Frank Kermode wrote perhaps the greatest critical study of interpretation, per se, ever written. The Genesis of Secrecy was written in 1979, and is one of the two quite remarkable books Kermode produced (the other being The Sense of an Ending).

“The manifest sense is the literal one we all grasp; the latent sense is the spiritual meaning, the secret that must be revealed by interpretation.”
Charles Rosen (The Revelations of Frank Kermode, NYRB)

So in a sense I am suggesting that the secret or hidden meaning of everything, literally, has been eroding and is close to extinct. Of course the latent or secret reading of things can become as hardened and absolute as the manifest meaning (see Freud and Oedipus Rex). This idea overlaps with the erosion of imagination. The dwindling dream life of the West.

“…the cast of characters played by the Ego includes not just the tragic hero, but also an ‘“actor”’ (in quotes in the original: ‘“un acteur ”’ – we will return to this in a moment), but one who in addition to acting on the ‘world stage’ also is present at (assiste a) – ‘a more intimate theatre whose repertory is secret’. To complicate matters further, the Ego, who participates as hero, actor and audience in a secret repertory company and doesn’t even know the company it keeps – this Ego is above all, the company’s ‘Director’: (‘le metteur en sce`ne, c’est, bien suˆr, le Je lui-me ˆ me ’). However, this Director is separated both from the characters and from the de ´nouement of the plot by a ‘veil’. At this point, the director, who has to stage a plot with a cast whose true faces are concealed from him, begins to resemble Freud’s clown, the dummer August, while the spectacle he is staging could easily turn out to be more like a circus than a tragedy.”
Samuel Weber (Theatricality and Psychoanalysis)

Hassel Smith

Weber is comparing Joyce McDougall’s idea of the ego with that of Freud.

“In utilizing this metaphor of theatre, I hope to shed light on two aspects of psychic activity: the framework or place where the scene occurs, and the characters that play there. The first aspect relates to the economy of the psyche, the second to its dynamic signifcance. It is up to the ‘I’ to compose with these elements,to maintain meaning and to channel the forces of cathexis. In order to achieve this, it must have both invention and imagination.”
Joyce McDougall (Theatres of the Mind)

I have written of McDougall quite often on this blog. She is vastly underappreciated, I think. And I was thought about the idea of allegory this week, about the way the electronic media, the internet media, in all its platforms, has effected how people think, I decided that this question is wrong. Yes the internet and its various platforms for news, for social media, has caused enormous damage. The young have stopped thinking in certain frequencies (to use a simile). Now, I happen to be losing my hearing. A lot of it anyway. And it was described to me as the loss of certain frequencies. I simply don’t hear those sounds anymore. This is what the internet does cognitively, largely due to the habituation that has taken hold (and maybe one should say smart phones more precisely); it has removed a certain register of reflection. Its a question of time, partly. But it has to do with compulsion, too. The point here is that the internet has also ‘not’ changed certain aspects of thought, by which I mean our interior narrative. It has severely altered the quality of thought. I feel most westerners today think less deeply than a hundred years ago. And they suffer more immediate and acute anxiety for sure. But the psychic architecture is the same. It is more about this inability to interpret story. Part of the mimetic process can be seen as a kind of re-narrating. Our experience is internalized and digested through a re-telling of the story we experienced. For everything is a story.

Juan de Juni (The Lamentation of Christ, detail. 1540s)

And I believe I have written before that all stories are crime stories, and all stories are about ‘home’. Another way of saying they are about exile. Today they are also about capital. But I will get back to that. I want to look more at this idea of interpretation.

Kermode sees psychoanalysis as one of the institutions of interpretation. And like all institutions of interpretation it serves as a bridge between latent and manifest, being the living and the dead. Per Kermode: it is the god of the third ear, and between the text, whether plain or hermetic, and the dying generations of its readers. Now Kermode’s book is about the Gospels, but really it is about the hermeneutics of man. And Jesus is even quoted advising his disciples, that ‘outsiders’ will see but not perceive, for it comes to them as riddles or parables.

“Only those who know the mysteries — what the stories really mean — can discover what the stories really mean.”
Frank Kermode (The Genesis of Secrecy)

And this feels crucial to me just now. For it posits a kind of fluid living truth, rather than a definition. And that we know more than we think we know. Jesus was irritated, in fact, when his disciples sought explanations. For he felt they already knew the answers. But psychoanalysis is also, as Harold Bloom noted, ‘Psychoanalysis is the culture of which it purports to be the description’. In any event, Freud has deeply changed how we engage with the texts of antiquity.

The shape of thought today is both created by and expressed by (in film and TV, since that’s such a dominant medium) the incessant need for exposition. And this sort of exposition is because of the usual shortness of TV episodes and, more to the point, by how narrative is processed. One, for example, rarely sees characters travelling. Its deemed inessential. But it shrinks the narrative frame, it destroys a sense of place. It often eliminates ideas of destination and home. A few British shows, often mysteries, are an hour and a half. If compared to the 47 minute US network show what stands out is ‘place’. And not just place, but also thought itself. Characters are seen thinking. The mimetic consequence is profound. The audience conditioned by 47 minute drama simply internally fits together a picture much as paint by number books used to do for eight year olds. When the plot, however formulaic, moves slowly, leisurely as reviewers put it, the viewer can ponder the connections, not between plot points, but between him or herself and the world of the narrative. This is largely what one does in reading literature.

Doloroz Zollo, photography. (Byberry Home for the Insane, Philadelphia 1940).

The evolution of network TV drama, and in another register, but not unrelated at all, is the evolution of feature film (and how it came to be roughly 90 minutes) is worth a discussion. To watch early TV drama, much of it half hour in length, is an amazing experience. For here was what was possible, short stories, essentially, shot and put on air. No commercials, and no interference from studios or networks. There is nothing today that compares. But there were technical aspects (see the three camera sitcom developed in the late forties for a long forgotten show called Public Prosecutor, and not I Love Lucy several years later) shaped how stories were written and filmed. And to a lesser degree, digitalization changed things a bit more. The aesthetics of digital recording I have written of elsewhere on this blog, but the point is that the digital image is another incremental move toward shallowness and flatness. Lack of depth then becomes a metaphor and in the end an allegory.

Something else has been going on, and that is the corrective of serious study for so called popular arts. Pulp fiction in the case of literature. It coincided or overlapped a bit with the emergence of *camp* and with the enormous appearance of irony. A new-ish form of irony anyway. Over appreciation of junk, as someone described it. But this was very needed. There was a reaction in the halls of Academia, however. MFA programs intersected here with the growing shallowness of the culture itself. And what was being taught, in both creative writing classes and in literary criticism, was a kind of de-politicized pablum, technically adroit to some degree, but without much vision. One does not see a William Burroughs or Iceberg Slim emerging from an MFA program, or Patricia Highsmith or Hemingway or Jean Genet or Juan Rulfo. Great artists go to University, but often if not usually to study something outside the arts (Pynchon went to Cornell to study engineering, though he did return later to pursue English. But this was before MFA programs, and that’s not insignificant). I am sure good writers did go to university to learn writing. I cant think of any however.

But I am digressing. And I want to return to allegory and interpretation. Interpretation in an age of screen damage.

Botticelli (Venus and Mars, detail. 1483)

“Thus, Aristotle’s Poetics constitute the beginning of a powerful tradition that seeks to subordinate the medium of theatre, in its distinguishing features, to a conception of drama as a poetic genre serving the representation of action structured as a coherent and complete narrative. It is in challenging this powerful tradition that Freud’s approach to the unconscious defines itself. I want to elaborate this assertion in two ways. First, by indicating briey several instances in which Freud explicitly or, more often, implicitly shows how the function of a continuous, coherent narrative is none other than precisely to conceal the far less coherent and far more disruptive workings of the unconscious. Then, I want to take a slightly longer look at an aspect of Freud’s work that demonstrates how theatricality and narrative interact in his own writing to reveal a dimension that Freud himself would have preferred to ignore, even if, and especially because, in a certain sense, like Dora, ‘he knew it all the time.”
Samuel Weber (Ibid)

What Weber suggests is that Freud’s discovery of the unconscious was an emphatically theatrical conception of the psyche. And discovery is the wrong word, because others had suggested this. Freud, however, systematised it and explored the implications for society and for the individual’s mental peace. Dreams are not just wish fulfillments but are wish fulfillments that ‘dissimulates its own distortions’ (Weber). And then must conceal its own dissimulations. Conceal its concealing. This is very theatrical, in a primordial sense. So the psyche itself is an allegory. It is concealing its own manifest meaning and concealing the concealing, and hence, it is hiding, even from itself, its latent meaning.

“Lack of insight into one’s own short-comings and the projection of one’s own weaknesses and faults onto others … probably represents the essential aspect of…scapegoating.”
Theodor Adorno (quoted in Oxford English dictionary)

Alec Soth, photography.

I find several threads then in how one might speak of allegory here. One has to do with the architecture of the psyche as it evolved under Capitalism. Second is the historical emergence of the idea of interpretation outside of specialist institutions, monasteries, et al. And how interpretation reflected, in some sense anyway, this psychic architecture. And finally, the broader societal tendency toward scapegoating. As an aside, I saw a teaching pamphlet for US high schools, and for freshmen year at college, for ‘Gender and Pronoun’ training. This included training in gender neutral pronouns, discussions of misgendering etc. And this it seems to me is another example of the scapegoat mechanism, tied into the bourgeois victim/privilege dynamic. For the white bourgeois subject today the privilege threatened in the outside world by increasing social unrest and protest in the global south (and by the working class in the West) must find and preserve privilege in the realm of identity, but an identity that conceals its disimulations. If you follow. For the new ‘woke’ white male (usually male, but hardly always) the identification with marginalization per se is the ultimate final bastion of their privilege.

David Dawson, in a book on the evolution of the scapegoat, writes:

“The huge importance he { Girard } assigns the scapegoat proceeds from a theoretical intuition—ventured in the late 1970s without benefit of the facts uncovered in this monograph—that the word becomes a signifier of emergent historical truth when it splits to reveal a second meaning.”
David Dawson (Flesh Becomes Word)

Almada Negreioros

“What the history of the scapegoat reveals is the collapse of a metaphysical economy that to varying degrees and in different adaptations structured religious belief from the dawn of the primitive sacred through early modernity. Its long typological itinerary describes a process of cleavage and differential liquidation that ends the heretofore unbroken domination of the religious weltanschauung, ushering in an unprecedented age of scientific discovery and religious indifference or secularism.”
David Dawson (Ibid)

The emergent historical truth of modernity, then, is something Weber and Kermode, and even Dawson all address. For Weber, a Freudian, it is the consolidation of ego identity, but at the cost of concealing a more real or deeper identity. An individual, at least in the sense Kierkegaard imagined it. For Kermode and Dawson, this emergent truth is more about an exiled sense of meaning. Dawson sees the scapegoat figure as an important marker for (whether he would agree or not is an open question) for class violence. The shift to the accuser feels a bit like ‘victims rights’ once the term has shed its last ecclesiastical associations.

“For when there was an oracle concerning such an event [a disaster or off ence
against the gods], a thoroughly ugly man was found and brought to that
place. They burned him, making him the off scourings [katharma] of the city
because of divine wrath. Therefore, when he had been selected for burning,
everyone wiped him clean [periepsōn], saying, “Become a deliverance from
evils for us.” From this we also have the word peripsēma. [“anything wiped
off , off scouring,”

Aristophanes (Plutus)

Renluyka Maharaj

To circle back, and to see the current violence of social media, the rage and hostility that seems to accompany any discussion, is to see how such negative emotions are built into the literal architecture of these platforms. The algorithmic manipulation — a manipulation that permanently defeats interpretation for there is no latent meaning. This is the endgame for the human mind, I think. We die, if we die, in Metaverse.

The scapegoat was originally a delivery system for impurity. Symbolic. It was not a sacrifice but an offering.

“Aaron dispatches the goat “for HaShem” (literally “the Name,” a circumlocution for the ineffable name of God), aspersing its blood upon the horns of the altar as well as inside the Tabernacle, while the goat for Azazel is “set alive before HaShem,” in an official way suggesting to some the legitimization of a more ancient, pagan custom that has found its way into the Yahweh festival. Aaron then lays both hands on the goat’s head, confessing the sins of the people over it, after which a man standing ready leads the beast “into the wilderness” (16:21), to “a land of cutting off ” (16:22). Having “let go the goat in the wilderness” (16:22), the man “shall wash his clothes and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.”
David Dawson (Ibid)

Note that the he-goat is sent into the wilderness. The word in Greek means desert really. Tyndale apparently favoured wilderness. Sent into a land of ‘cutting off’. It is sent ‘somewhere’, it is exiled.

Wojciech Fangor

Interesting side note, one among many, is sacrifice of goats to satyrs. Satyrs who it seems lived in the wilderness. At this point the Mesopotamians believed that there was a powerful evil demon, or demons, some of whom were referred to as ‘watchers’, and who copulated with earthly women. The rituals, everywhere, include sexual prohibitions, blood letting, appeasement of violence. These themes occur right up the brink of the modern (sic) world. For the purpose of this post the scapegoat figure becomes a narrative trope deeply embedded within the construction of a reality of daily life.

But when the word went into its final transformation the accusers were now the ones concealing or hiding transgression or sin, and who found a stand in…a patsy. Scapegoat became the patsy. But by the twilight of modernity, and the start of post modernity, the patsy became a figure of empathic identification. Except the shift was not that neat. In fact the final permutations of scapegoating meant that the falsely accused were simply ignored. The algebra of guilt required the scapegoat be rescued, in a sense. Stopped at the brink of the wilderness. The scapegoat ritual became an after school special. Like the White House turkey pardoned on Thanksgiving, the transgressions remain.

The Father is the archetype of domination. And certainly since the industrial revolution there is a clear instigation of control, followed by rebellion, followed by the restoration of domination. The Father figure has withered, corrected of authoritarianism but made redundant. The family downsized, and disconnected. And Madison avenue has noticed. The marketing of soft masculinity is presented in a charade of progress but beneath the inoffensive trope of familial coziness is the cruelty that is sentimentality. And, of course, via the entertainment industry, a parallel exaggeration of masculine violence.

“The transformation of the pleasure principle into the performance principle, which changes the despotic monopoly of the father into restrained educational and economic authority…”
Herbert Marcuse (Eros and Civilization)

It also has changed the idea of the Mother. And this is worth a longer discussion but for now, the incest taboo was there (Marcuse suggests) as the first prohibition against the death instinct. Sensual desire is reduced to affection and tenderness. There is an aim-inhibition. And sexuality and tenderness are divorced, in a sense, only later to be artificially but often effectively reunited in the form of the wife (or baby momma). The wife becomes the mother after giving birth and this often if not nearly always elicits a deadening of desire. At least temporarily. With the erosion of the patriarchal authoritarian father, the Mother was left with a less defined role, socially. The abstinence enforced by the primal father, then, created group relations. It created group psychology. This is all the readers digest version. And throughout the march of progress there occurred an attendant march of guilt.

Gisela Colon

“From the servants and governors, who bully the children of good households to teach them a lesson about life, to the teachers from Westerwald, who drive the usage of foreign words as well as all pleasure in language out of them, to the officials and clerks, who make them stand in line, the petty officers, who step on them, things go straight as a rail to the torturers of the Gestapo and the bureaucrats of the gas chambers.”
Theodor Adorno (Minima Moralia)

“… ever since the first, prehistoric restoration of domination following the first rebellion, repression from without has been supported by repression from within: the unfree individual introjects his masters and their commands into his own mental apparatus.”
Herbert Marcuse (Eros and Civilization)

To understand something of contemporary crises, from the pandemic response, and the failure of the bourgeoisie to grasp their own self interest, I think one has to look at the gradual and inexorable changes in the subject — to try and track the hegemonic role of Capital and exchange value as it shapes the psyche.

“What Oedipus is called upon to ‘recognize’ is the complex and elusive structure of cognition as such – something that the conqueror of the Sphinx is not in a position to understand at the outset of the play. Cognition is elusive because it is irreducibly complex, involving not the comprehension of something self-contained, something substantial, but the deciphering and interpreting of relations that are intrinsically open-ended (Lacan’s ‘signifying chain’ and Freud’s ‘over-determination’ are both articulations of and responses to this insight). These relations are however for singular human beings unite, and it is in the tension between infinite signification and nite existence that all of the Theban tragedies, and perhaps tragedy itself, play themselves out. ‘Pity and fear’, anxiety and desire, are also situated in the force field of this tension. This is why a notion such as ‘catharsis’ can never be sufficient to describe the effects of tragedy, any more than it could describe the workings of the unconscious. But it also indicates why such a notion should recur, again and again. Oedipus himself uses the word to describe his initial strategy in dealing with the plague: the pollution, the miasma, that is the presumable cause of the pestilence, is to be ‘purified’ by being expelled from the City, as though the opposition of inside versus outside and the topology it presupposes had any relevance to the problems of Thebes. ‘The man you are seeking is here’, is the fateful message that the seer, Tiresias, brings Oedipus, but it is the one message that he cannot accept. The problem is within, not merely as a Trojan horse smuggled in secretly from the outside, but because the within, the interior, is the outside, justas the ostensible foreigner, Oedipus, is in fact native born if not bred. { } the plot of Oedipus Tyrannos, as of its sequel, Oedipus at Colonos, entails virtually no action at all, nothing except a series of speeches and messages and dialogues, nothing but language. And where there is an act, Oedipus’ self-blinding, it occurs off-stage, and what the spectators get to see are only its bloody effects.”
Samuel Weber (Ibid)

Appias(Herculaneum Dancer), first century BC–Villa dei Papiri

Now one might think Weber had been reading me, here. But this is an important paragraph. For this is the key to understanding (or one of the keys) the theatrical nature of psychoanalysis. And of human trauma. Two entire tragic works that contain nearly no action on stage. For the unconscious is allegorically off-stage. The key events are made known by messengers coming from outside. From that place, theatrically, that resembles the site to which the scapegoats were driven.

“First, that the significance of events, persons and things, depends not on their inner, self-identical substance, but on their situation, literally, on their placement, on their relation to others. And second, that such situatedness, such placement, can never be finished, in the sense of being completed, but only interrupted and redeployed.”
Samuel Weber (Ibid)

What is interrupted is the story. Or the expectation of one. And here it is interesting to look at the role anticipation plays in today’s entertainment. There is no unified whole. And this is the difference, as Weber notes (and Kermode and Dawson in another context) between knowing and learning. What one can never know is the end of one’s life. Death makes all life incomplete. If by life we suggest a complete knowledge. And this is great deceit of modern science. Trust the science, which tells you that ‘they’ know. This is why theatre is so dangerous and disturbing. The audience watches its own lack taking place in that primordial psychic space that is the stage.

What one sees in tragedy then is more about what one does not see.

Stefan Gierowski

Weber argues, and I think he is correct, that Freud’s insights are an argument that complete narratives (what I refer to as plots) are the concealing of incompleteness. Lacan placed great importance on what he translated as the staging of dreams. For dreams conceal as much as they reveal. More, usually. And dreams assume a spectator. This is complex, but for here the point is that Freud’s 4th element in dream work is the secondary revision. This is perilously close to my idea of re-narrating, which I think happens all the time, consciously, when awake. Dreams are presented as spectacles. And Debord may have, in a quite buried way, sensed this when he chose that word. By extension, then, the post modern world of advanced capitalism is a constantly revised dream. I always remember Edward Said, in one of his final interviews, noting the ‘unreality’ of contemporary life. Today, from the absurdity of a senile president, to a reality TV show host who was a former president, to the 24/7 news stream of pure fantasy, the spectacle is constantly trying to pretend to a wholeness that it cannot achieve.

Freud said the secondary revision had as its primary objective to make the dream story have an acceptable (to waking life) conclusion. This is what TV producers demand, actually. The happy face, the feel good rooting interest of mass entertainment is there to conceal the disturbing turbulence of the unconscious, and of the societal reality of suffering and inequality. Art of significance is that which interrupts this false conclusion. Whether it is Sophocles or Shakespeare, Pollock or Donatello, Pinter or Melville, these works all are somehow incomplete. Or they are about the incomplete. And in that sense their calling is death. And through modernity, philosophy itself began to write its own allegory (Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations for example).

“In short, secondary revision, which operates through the imposition of a continuous, totalizing narrative, is not just a story-teller: it is also an interpreter, its work a work of interpretation, akin to that which we perform when awake. It is, in this sense, a theoretical activity as well as a narrative one, or rather, one in which narration and interpretation are just two sides of the same effort to impose meaningful form on resistant, conflictual material.”
Samuel Weber (Ibid)

William Klein, photography. (Moscow, 1959)

One might posit that all tragedy (perhaps all great art) is Oedipal. For the lack, the impossible conclusion is same story the child tells itself to explain the missing penis, the realization of difference. The lack of a penis is the lack of conclusion, and the concealed lack of completion is the narcissistic terror of avoiding a confrontation with mortality. The discovery of difference is also repressed, and lived as allegory in the racialist narrative of capitalism/Imperialism.

“…aim is taken at various forms of platform fetishism that draw artificial boundaries between the abstract or technical and everything else. This approach shows—is designed to show—that race, gender, media are co-constituents and co-constituted—in short, co-emergent historical formations. Unavoidably today, this co-emergence takes place within and indeed as the matrix of capital. Media theory cannot do without critical race theory or critique of political economy. In the current conjuncture, arguably no communiqué is exempt from a decisive relation to what Cedric Robinson rightly termed racial capitalism…”
Jonathan Beller (The Message is Murder)

Emergent truths. The allegory of digital media platforms, then, has made revision (its dreamwork) an open scene, an open rehearsal for global colonization. The revisions ARE the story, here. Digital media, with an almost essentialist focus on data collection, are the logical end game (or cul de sac) for the science that sprang from the Enlightenment. The massive data collections of digital platforms have already begun to seem like a discarded Borges story. A half finished story.

Wrestling dummy. Circa 1940s. German. Photographer unknown.

Here it is worthwhile to look a bit at Freud’s revisions of his earlier topology. The Oedipal resolution starts what he calls the latency period. And it marks the emergence of the Super-Ego. And the staging of the psychic narrations has now a formal stage, an interior stage with only one audience member. A theatre with but a single seat. And one who listens (Weber) perhaps more than watches.

“Paul Ricoeur thinks of interpretation as the linking of a new discourse to the discourse of the text; in a sense he treats the formal description of a narrative (as by the structuralists) is carnal, the long historical succession of interpretations as spiritual: the “form” of a parable (that which can be analyzed in terms of internal synchronic relations) is what ensures the survival of meaning after the disappearance of the original
historical setting; and that meaning arises from a kind of conversation between the interpreter and the text. A parable, he says, is a fiction capable of redescribing life; is sense can never be fully closed, or this process of redescription would not possible.”

Frank Kermode (Ibid)

To return, then, to the blue helmet father. I think the point is that the gradual development of replacement versions of the Primal Father began in earnest after WW2. The returning soldiers, at least for the US, were being painted in new colours of Disney or Norman Rockwell coziness. That this was already a masking of National Socialism-lite was covered in previous posts here, only makes more clear the insidious deflected violence and sadism of the peacekeeper dad.

The rise of irony and camp, the rise of mass culture per se, and the foundational construction of the Spectacle were all linked with the new progressive idea of ‘family’.

Nicola Samori

Just as the Primal Father was gradually to be replaced with peacekeeper dad, so the traditional bourgeois family is being replaced with the a kind of absent family. The story of the family then is not so much incomplete but never begun. James Cameron’s film Terminator 2 was the watershed moment for suggesting AI could be a ‘better’ parent than your organic version. This coincided with a marketing push for replacing gender definitions with a spectrum. And as a side bar observation the word ‘spectrum’ is being employed in insidious ways as a kind of mystification. (Autism spectrum, gender spectrum, etc.) It may or may not be useful, as in the case of autism, but I remain suspicious of its rhetorical uses. The necessary corrective to the authoritarian father was then highjacked by the propaganda apparatus (by the ruling class media system) and compromised. Such appropriation occurred on multiple levels. (The media ridicule of Bly’s men’s groups is one example). The result is now a masculine crisis that takes the form of either hysterical exaggerated machismo, or a generalized kind of *Incel* subjectivity. Social media, no doubt intentionally, in its very design, was there to reinforce aggression and hostility. It brings out, literally, the worst version of yourself.

Today there is an enormous push from the WEF, and Great Reset people, the various global NGOs and by the billionaires who control media to erase the family altogether. You will have no parents and you will be happy.

The loss of interpretation, then, has meant the latent meaning of self, even of this engineered identity ideal, is absent. The lack which defines tragedy is replaced with an absence engineered by advertising firms. The incomplete story that faces the end of life is simply bad for business. The tragic narrative is replaced with kitsch tragic narratives about the climate catastrophe. The end of the world (as someone said, they can imagine the end of the world more easily then they can the end of capitalism), underwater cities, and feed back loops — this is all acceptable. And it has not changed the behaviour of those embracing this story. They still save for their children’s college fund, they will put away for their 401K. The revised dream made acceptable to waking life is now the ONLY story told.

“If consciousness in late capitalism, generally speaking, functions like (as) cinema–relatively unable to think beyond the exigencies of capital, then it is important to note at the outset that cinema as consciousness is overdetermined by capital *regulation*. Cinema, as money that thinks, fuses the protocols of representation and capitalist production.”
Jonathan Beller (Cinema, Capital of the 20th Century)

Stephen Shore, photography.

One can extend cinema to mean all electronic media, all digital media. Algorithms have replaced interpretation. And as such enforced the privileging of prediction. The cultic aspect of science (call it corporate science if you want) is to constantly revise itself to correct wrong predictions (see climate discourse). The evisceration of dreams is, at the core, the most disastrous result. And this is the post modern allegory. Or anti-allegory.

As an odd side bar, James Cavell, in his book on Shakespeare, suggests that genre has replaced tragedy. Without going into this (its a not uninteresting argument) an interesting point is Martha Nussbaum’s observation that “Socratic philosophy may be *our* tragedy.”
(The Fragility of Goodness. Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy)

This is wrong, but as allegory, its an interesting and at least partly valid point. In any event, the current construction of public opinion is divided more than at any time I can think. The noisiest players on social media are consistently bourgeois white voices (and plenty of black academics) that demand identity be fused with Capital (per Beller). The scapegoat, or ersatz scapegoat, is the *far right. And they are symbolically cast into the wilderness (that which is not on screen). The so called *alt Right* is the new digital uncanny.

“…the Uncanny is what emerges when the opposition of Self and Other upon which a certain notion of identity is constructed reveals its limits, and its ambivalence: when the Self reveals itself as the return of the Other it has never fully ceased to be. This return is Uncanny when it is experienced from a perspective informed by the desire to be whole and complete, to take in the spectacle as a single and continuous story, to stay in control.”
Samuel Weber (Ibid)

Sian Pile, photography.

This class of badly educated bourgeoisie is also the class most acutely terrified of their own image. And this is expressed by addictions to exercise (invariably fetishized with spin class, yoga, all manner of gym workouts and health projects). It is also expressed in a contempt for the working class. This is partly a fear of downward mobility (which I think I wrote somewhere in a previous post) but it also an image. The laptop bourgeois subject lives in a paralysing fear that the working class might stare back at him when he looks in the mirror. And in a Lacanian sort of idea, the laptop virtuoso has a repressed terror of the desires of this working class that haunts his or her waking life. That those beneath aspire to, well, anything, is cause to step harder on their neck. It is very easy for this bourgeois subject to immediately and effortlessly side with the ruling class. This is the audience for the pastimes of Bezos or Munk, who fawn over Bill Gates or Anthony Fauci. Who like to watch TED talks or see only upside to the *Build Back Better* meme. The paternalism (a repressed aggression) toward the global south is where their privilege coincides with a pantomime identification with the victim. Oh, those poor Africans don’t have their vaccines, this is terrible. ‘We must correct the greed of Big Pharma and Western governments’ — we must give them (what they don’t want). So crony capitalism (or the oligarchs or whatever label is au courant) become the new scapegoat in a ritual without purpose. For it all pantomime. For no global NGO or corporation will be sent into any wilderness. For beneath the paternalism is their sense of belonging. One can identify with the victim, and see oneself as a victim (trigger warnings, incorrect pronouns, etc) but its all just secondary revision. Its just the never ending dreamwork that must constantly refresh itself. Hit refresh. Start again.

They will side with the state against the Canadian truck drivers protest. Oh its all just an Alt-Right psy op. The real psy-ops of the ruling class are applauded. For it’s all about the image. Their unconscious is Capital. Their re-narration is only plagiarism. It is only a Xerox auto-narration. They will applaud a corporate creation like *Greta* but deride working class truckers. Greta travels on yachts, and has photo spreads in glossy magazines. The truck drivers do not.

“I mean to suggest here that whatever the project of imperialism was, it does not cease in the presence of the fantasy called Postcoloniality. Rather, as world poverty indexes readily show, the pauperization process is intensifying. The “expiration” of national boundaries and the so-called “obsolescence” of the nation state only imply that these national forms are being superseded (sublated) even as they continue to do their work. The thesis here is that cinema and cinematic technologies– television, telecommunications, computing, automation–provide some of the discipline and control once imposed by earlier forms of imperialism.”
Jonathan Beller (Ibid)

Without interpretation, there is only repetition.

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  1. Regino Robainas says:

    A persistent encompassing uncannyness has
    become a kind of replacement for our
    former falsely conscious common sense. And,
    ever optimistic, I sense this existential
    dread is warranted, if it annunciates our loss
    of revealing dreams & stories about our paths
    across time.

    Another dreadful set of shadows may be the realization
    that some that may have been “significant” others- family
    or friends, even- have vanished completely from our
    souls’ scopes. Our wars & lies have crushed so much.
    Could some graceful polar light let us begin to

  2. Regino Robainas says:

    Suggest serving with low volume listening of
    background of “Mechanical World” & “Nature’s
    Way” by Spirit.

  3. Thank you John for these profound reflections.

  4. I was looking at your first post back in 2012, “Vampires, Zombies, Apocalypse”, and noticed this:

    “…Zombies are an expression of both an elite class looking down at a frightening and threatening mass revolt. A Spinoza-multitude, banging at the gates of western civilization (Samuel Huntington and the rest of the reactionary faux historians). They also somehow express a desire in western populace for a reboot.”

    I always felt aware of the theme of the zombie as brain dead consumer (made explicit in the second Romero film which was set in a shopping mall). And I felt there was a strong nostalgic angle with an apocalypse which effectively reversed time to go back to those “old homespun pioneer landscapes” (cf. Stephen King’s “The Stand”). But I hadn’t thought of an actual “reboot”. The temptation is to say “Reset”.

    Another temptation is to posit some kind of long term conspiracy movement to induce the “proper” attitude in the public. Or it may be more a matter of the inner logic of capitalism and capitalist psychology working out its own path which handily overlaps the covid move.

  5. John Steppling says:

    thats interesting. And I think that nearly all post apocalyptic films, I Am Legend, etc, or even Walking Dead, are reconstruction stories. And that this is the real appeal. There is a clear draw to the idea of starting over.

  6. Regino Robainas says:

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