The Savage Judge

Francisco de Goya (The Giant, 1808 apprx).

“Not only are his fellow men unconscious of his presence, but all animate nature has cast him out: no bird or living creature acknowledges his being.”
George Frederic Watts (speaking of the Biblical figure of Cain, quoted by John Berger, Landscapes)

“Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?”
Jeremiah, 12

“To make money honestly is to preach the gospel.”
Russell Conwell (Acres of Diamonds, quoted by Eugene McCarraher, The Enchantments of Mammon)

“Withhold not correction from the child, for if thou beatest him with the rod he shall not die, thou shalt beat him with the rod and deliver his soul from hell.”
John Eliot (The Harmony of the Gospels,1678)

Michael Meurer in his very good essay Covid in Short Pants quoted Robert Bly’s Sibling Society, which I had not read since it first came out. Returning to it I found a remarkable critique of contemporary society. Bly quotes Robert Sapolsky in the introduction…

“My students usually come with ego boundaries like exoskeletons. Most have no use for religion, precedents, or tradition. They want their rituals newly minted and shared horizontally within their age group, not vertically over time.”
(Ego Boundaries, or the Fit of My Father’s Shirt)

This loss of tradition is something I have written about, but it is worth examining again in, perhaps, another and larger context. Bly also, in that introduction notes the evolution of the super ego. That it operates today in a savage and unforgiving and intractable manner.

“Most adults have been slow to grasp how perfectionist the changed Interior Judge of their children is, and how savage. TheJudge is more perfectionist than ever, but now there is not enough fame or popularity in the world to satisfy it. For parents to try to encourage the development of their children is natural, but now there is something desperate in it for both parents and children. If a teenager is not invited to the dance, she may try suicide. A highschool boy, scoffed at, may retreat behind his computer for ten years.”
Robert Bly (The Sibling Society)

Hans Hartung

Bly wrote this in 1996. It is worth considering how transhumanism fits into this critique. How teenage gender reassignment figures into it.

He adds a bit later…“That is how the picture looks among the advantaged. In the other half of society we see the absolute despair of young black men, who don’t need an Interior Judge to tell them they have no chance of finding a good-paying job, or any job.”

A social ego that evolved under the aegis of marketing. Consumer capitalism enforced newness, and the need for acquisition. It established resentment as a permanent force that shaped character because the majority of humanity could not buy what was advertised. The evolution from the loosening up of the fifties (rock and roll, and the free speech movement, the reaction to HUAC ) reached a level of actual social transformation with the sixties. With Woodstock. And as many have asked, how did that dissipate and how did so many in that counter culture turn into middle aged reactionaries. The waning of tradition came under cover of a faux equality. Teachers were chastised for enforcing homework etc. These are broad generalizations but there is a truth to them. David Foster Wallace once said his generation were as if at a party and had started to secretly wish the parents would come home and put a stop to it. This is insightful but it begs the question if there were any parents left who ‘could’ stop the party. The authority of actual Reason was being attacked on two fronts.

Fatoumata Diabaté , photography.

“The development of the generalized market (the least regulated possible) and of democracy are decreed to be complementary to one another. The question of conflict between social interests which are expressed through their interventions in the market and social interests which give meaning and import to political democracy is not even posed. Economics and politics do not form two dimensions of social reality, each having their own autonomy, operating in a dialectical relationship; capitalist economics in fact governs the political, whose creative potential it eliminates. “
Samir Amin (The Liberal Virus)

The dominant expression of capitalist economics was and is the United States. Hence much of the world looked to emulate the USA. Liberal thinkers, capitalists, applaud US hegemony for there is, in their minds, no alternative.

“‘Pure’ economics is not a theory of the real world, of really existing capitalism, but of an imaginary capitalism. It is not even a rigorous theory of the latter. The bases and development of the arguments do not deserve to be qualified as coherent. It is only a para-science, closer in fact to sorcery than to the natural sciences which it pretends to imitate. As for postmodernism, it only forms an accompanying discourse, calling upon us to act only within the limits of the liberal system, to “adjust” to it. “
Samir Amin (Ibid)

This is very significant, albeit obvious to most thinking human beings. This is a cornerstone of the loss of reality which I have written about, which Bly wrote about, and a dozen others.

“The law of value governs not only capitalist economic life, but all social life in this society. This specificity explains why, in capitalism, the economic is erected into a “science”-that is, the laws which govern the movement of capitalism are imposed on modern societies (and on the human beings which form those societies} “like laws of nature.”
Samir Amin (Ibid)

Stephanie Schneider, photography.

One thing Amin fails to recognize is that the natural sciences have gradually become an ideology, though to a lesser degree probably, than economics. And Amin notes, capitalism is synonymous with instability. Capitalism cannot be separated from class struggle, which Amin notes is exactly that which bourgeoisie economists are most ignorant.

“Economics thus becomes a discourse which is no longer engaged in knowing reality; its function is no more than to legitimize capitalism by attributing to it intrinsic qualities which it cannot have. Pure economics becomes the theory of an imaginary world.”
Samir Amin (Ibid)

Amin notes…“Postmodernist discourse is an ideological accessory that, in the end, legitimizes liberalism and invites us to submit to it.” This is also pretty perceptive, but also (I would hope) obvious. What is very important today is how Amin points out that capitalism has always been erratic and unstable, with expansion sometimes leading to increases in employment and sometimes the opposite. And that social reactions to global liberalism is what causes economic adjustments, not the eternal laws of capital.

Amin suggests the technological revolution does not usher in a new era of reality (well, it did, in one sense, but more on that below), it simply changes the parameters of social relations under capital. How does it alter class structure and what will THAT mean in the coming years is the question. History is always being forgotten by those intoxicated with technology. It’s what I noted above about ‘the new’. The savage and unforgiving super ego has now reached a state of complete sadism to the subject.

“…the technological revolution makes possible, in this context, the development of a network society; the deepening of globalization certainly challenges the existence of nations. But obsolescent capitalism, by means of a violent imperialism, is busily annulling all of the emancipatory possibilities. The idea that capitalism could adapt itself to liberating transformations, that is, could produce them, without wanting to, as well as socialism could, is at the heart of the American liberal ideology. Its function is to deceive us and cause us to forget the extent of the true challenges and of the struggles required to respond to them. The suggested “anti-state” strategy unites perfectly with capital’s strategy, which is busy “limiting public interventions” (“deregulating”) for its own benefit, reducing the role of the state to its police functions (not at all suppressing the state, but liquidating only political practice, thus allowing it to fulfill other functions). In a similar way, the “anti-nation” discourse encourages the acceptance of the role of the United States as military superpower and world policeman. “
Samir Amin (Ibid)

Samir Amin with Thomas Sankara

The above paragraph is rather prescient in light of the WEF and the Great Reset. Marcuse suggested much of what Amin points out in his (Amin’s) chapter on the periphery — the gap between the advanced west, in technological terms and the global south has never been this acute. That poverty is treated in the context of charity, circa late 19th century. It is worth noting, as Amin does, that true peasant agriculture has been vastly surpassed by the output of big agra-business. In between (but closer to the peasant farmer) are the small family farms of the US and Australia and still parts of Europe. They, too, however have been profoundly outpaced by big Agra. The application of global competition between big Agra and the rest of the agricultural production of the world has meant a drastic pauperization of peasant (already poor) and the small independent farmer of the US and a handful of other places. Officially, as of 2001 (per the WTO meeting at Doha) food is a commodity. This has led to the synthetic meat campaign (and insect protein and all the rest). This began with the complete domination of agriculture by the big corporate farms of the world. And it was given official sanction in 2001.

“We are thus led to the point where in order to open up a new field for the expansion of capital (“modernization of agricultural production”) it would be necessary to destroy-in human terms entire societies.”
Samir Amin (Ibid)

Before returning to the savage judge in the psyche, there is another point here vis a vis Amin. The agrarian question, as it were, has not been resolved, ever. Mao came closest, as he at least understood it. But what Amin terms the ‘pauperization’ of the agricultural worker and the working poor in general, is expressed in the numbers of urban poor which have quadrupled since the second world war.

“Pauperization is a modern phenomenon (one should speak not of “poverty,” but of the “modernization of poverty”) that is in no way reducible to having insufficient income to meet the needs of survival. It gives rise to devastating effects in every dimension of social life. Immigrants were completely integrated into the secure popular classes over the course of the “thirty glorious years” (1945-75) as factory workers. However, their children and new arrivals are situated on the margins of the principal productive systems that, in turn, create favorable conditions for replacing class consciousness by “communitarian” solidarities. Women are victims of insecurity more than men, causing their material and social conditions to deteriorate. If feminist movements have undoubtedly realized important advances in the domain of ideas and behaviors, the beneficiaries of these advances are almost exclusively women of the middle classes, certainly not women from the impoverished popular classes. Democracy’s credibility, and therefore its legitimacy, is eroded by its incapacity to put a stop to the deteriorating condition of a growing segment of the popular classes. “
Samir Amin (Ibid)

Mircea Suciu

This reality has and is shaping the dominant narrative around climate and health policing. It shapes the narrative of digitalization, too. The growth of the urban underclass is a direct result of the policies and technological developments of which they are the victims. People like Prince Charles and Bill Gates (among many others) see this vast urban underclass as useless eaters. The ghoulish Yuval Harari, the twink Zionist vampire, has openly said we can do without 90% of the worlds population. He means the urban poor of the global south.

The French Revolution casts a long shadow over the consciousness of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Whatever class consciousness developed was a legacy of the French Revolution. Amin notes that liberty is the guiding principle of the American capitalist. In Europe, it is liberty AND equality. As Amin says, Americans hate equality. The vast inequality in the US is a symbol of the success of the system for American capitalists. The specifics of the American sensibility (capitalistically speaking) is drenched in blood. The extremist Protestant sects that came to New England, the genocide of Native Americans, slavery and Manifest Destiny are unique to America. And it has set in motion the conditions one finds today.

In Bly’s analysis of the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk, the Giant is the United States. Bly is working from a very early version of this tale. A version that includes a salient conversation between the ‘old woman’ and Jack. In it the old crone explains how the Giant murdered Jack’s father, in his own library and in his own house, and then burnt the library to the ground.

“We can take the Giant to stand for our archaic, brutal underpinning. On our human plane, we live among sunlit windows with red geraniums on them; we live surrounded by cows and milk and kindness, by conversation and codes of politeness, by loving parents and cared-for children. But on the second and older plane, which is firmly ensconced at the top of the beanstalk, at the base of the skull, there are stones that have never been shaped, piles of dirt loosely thrown together, and, most of all, appetites on a scale that is not human; there are immense hungers, and gigantic angers, and cages where people are kept to be eaten a little later. Children are especially favored as foodthere. And if a human being should wander into that instinctive plane, he or she had better be ready to hide. That is what Anne Frank did; that is what we all do.”
Robert Bly (Ibid)

George Frederic Watts (The Minotaur, 1885)

The evolution of capitalist exploitation is reflected in aesthetics, as is everything. In fairy tales, and in literature, in painting and in film and theatre. Bly is perceptive enough to see the allure of the Giant. Human psychic development has occurred, most likely, in stages. This is recorded in the Vedas, as it is in Sufi origin narratives, and in their idea of the ‘nafs’ (our bestial shadow self). The acute alienation of the privileged classes is partly their inability to render the threatening hordes at the gates invisible. Zombie films are exactly this, in their primary register. Today, those vast urban centers of extreme poverty and crowding are being increasingly mirrored in American big cities. Los Angeles resembles nothing so much as Lagos or Calcutta today. The advantaged white gentrifying technically proficient westerner knows the Giant is out there, and is close even, but they cannot quite see him. Hollywood makes one horror film after another (along with the so called slasher genre) but all of them are unable to find the Giant, or to understand the terror. What I called last post, ‘the apocalyptic fear’.

John Berger has a short chapter on the popular (at the time) Romantic painter George Frederic Watts. He sees Watts as very minor, and perhaps even less than that (I actually think he’s being a bit rough on the Beev) but also oddly courageous. His summation, though, is very relevant.

“He { Watts} was a typical Victorian but he was nearer to our revolution than we tend to think. ‘Watchman, What of the Night?’ he asked. It was Rimbaud who was to reply to that. As an artist Watts failed, but his failure was more significant than that of many contemporaries today who run away from what they believe is the void even faster, only in a different direction.”
John Berger (Landscapes)

Puritan colonial America was from its beginnings a project of the dark acquisitive mind of the White European. Thomas Morton, in chains returning to England, wrote the rather singular “New English Canaan” (1637). A book of acute ambivalence (but rather agile prose)…

“Addressing himself to “all such as are desirous of being made partakers of the blessings of God in that fertile Soyle,” Morton warned that New England lay “fast bound in darck obscurity,” a mystery revealed and channeled through the “pretty conjuring tricks” employed by the Indians. Morton was clearly of two minds about these “tricks”; though he considered the sachems but “weake witches,” he reported that one Englishmen’s injured hand had been cured through their congress with the Devil. Morton was just as divided about the natives’ indifference to hard work and accumulation. They “passe away the time merrily,” he noted enviously, living “the more happy and freer life, being voyde of care”—in stark contrast, he continued, to the solemnity and possessiveness “which torments the minds of so many Christians.” Taking “no delight in baubles, but in usefull things,” the natives shrugged at all the “superfluous commodities” that the English tried to sell them.”
Eugene McCarraher (The Enchantments of Mammon)

May as well be talking about Prince Charles advising Africans on birth control and the preservation of nature. It is truly remarkable that men like the Prince, or Gates, or Musk, or any of them, can have remained so stunningly tone deaf. But I digress.

Joan Nelson

“Until the 1960s, lynchings still occurred. Families went for a ‘picnic’ in order to witness the lynching, sharing in the celebration and exchanging photos of the event. This is perpetuated more discreetly, or more indirectly, by the exercise of “justice” that puts to death thousands of convicts-a disproportionate number of them Blacks. It often comes to light that condemned people are in fact innocent, but this does not necessarily rouse public opinion.”
Samir Amin (Ibid)

The formation of the psyche in the advantaged West (in particular the US) is given stark expression in the fact that when DNA evidence was provided, for over 200 men convicted of capital crimes, many or most on death row, and that they were then released, there was no public outcry. One might have expected a dark night of conscience for America as a whole. One might have expected politicians to seek cover, to find ways to distance themselves from law enforcement and the criminal justice system, but there was none. Most op-eds and talking head commentaries were critical of releasing these men. THIS continues to unsettle me in a profound way. But it shouldn’t. For this is a society addicted to punishment. Everyone must be guilty of something, right? So if they didn’t do this murder, they maybe did another, or robbed someone, or SOMETHING. Right?

The puritan legacy looms large.

“ Among all the leading figures of the Third Reich, I have not been able to find a single one who did not have a strict and rigid upbringing.”
Alice Miller (For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence)

Eduardo Gil, photography.

There is a junction point, in a sense, where the aesthetic and symbolic meet social history and personal history. There is a mirroring junction point between quantum theory and post modernist theory and, at least, a part tributary contribution from Vedic and Sufi knowledge, from Buddhist learning and Islamic.

The opening paragraph to Wolfgang Smith’s book Science and Myth goes like this…

“Science, according to the prevailing wisdom, constitutes the very antithesis of myth. As Albert Einstein has famously said, it deals with ‘what is’; in which case myth has to do, presumably, with ‘what is not.’ It turns out, however, that the matter is not quite so simple.”

Because science itself, and this becomes obvious after the discovery of quantum theory, is also a myth.

“Contrary to what we have been taught to believe, the Real is not what we catch in our nets, but precisely what we do not catch: what ever eludes our mental grasp. It is, in a way, what ultimately “catches” us.”
Wolfgang Smith (Ibid)

Smith interestingly notes the seduction of technology, and this is more acute since the advent of the internet. The computer and electronic media altogether has become a sort of stand in for ‘science’ in the popular imagination. Its the short hand for science. Partly because nearly no one understands how code actually works, much like nobody understands quantum theory. Part of the problem is that physics today is not really even attempting to define the universe, or call it reality if you like. It is measuring the responses of a universe which itself is only half postulated, and these experiments to measure the responses are opaque in the extreme. This is sort of the crux (or one of them) of the matter.


And there are minefields in every sentence one writes about physics now. I used the word ‘universe’, which the Cambridge English dictionary defines as: “everything that exists, especially all physical matter, including all the stars, planets.” Right away we are in grammatical quicksand. Or rather, this is a perfect example of how difficult it is to not get bogged down in the problems of language when trying to get another area of knowledge, which itself is problematic enough. The universe is a word that is, lets say, flexible. It is contextually flexible.

The Giant in the fairy tale…“The teenagers in our inner cities are expressing the presence of the Giant, who is, fundamentally opposed to life. He is the one who stabs people in the library and eats children. We are drawing nearer to what Freud called “the pure culture of the death instinct.” The presence of the death instinct makes the faces of teenagers and their movements, even on subways, utterly different from the bodies of men and women forty years ago. The story reminds us that the Giant eliminates the father first, which our society has already accomplished. The mother and children, spared for a while, are in great danger. Children particularly have to hide. Jack, representing the new brain, has to hide and let the two old brains decide how life is to proceed. The Giant, from the human point of view, means isolation and deprivation. We don’t realize that when we put a computer or
television in a child’s own room, we are sending that child to be alone with the Giant.”

Robert Bly (Ibid)

Bly notes that looking at photos of Americans from the 1920s reveals teenagers with the aura of adulthood. Today one sees faces of Americans (and this true in much of Europe, too, as I see it in vintage photos of Norwegians) that appear preternaturally young. Not young but immature. Adolescence is prolonged (largely due to marketing needs). But this means that often twenty five year olds are still half children. And they are taking teaching jobs.

“We know it is essential to open the cabinet of common stories to include literature from other cultures besides the European, and to include much more women’s literature than the old reservoir held. That is long overdue. But inclusion, one could say, is a job for adults. When the adolescent gets hold of it, a deep-lying impulse comes into play, which says, “I’m taking care of people my age, and that’s it! My needs are important, and if the group doesn’t survive, it doesn’t deserve to.”
Robert Bly (Ibid)

“But the business millennium was politically useful only to the extent that it was effective as a myth: a tale that purported to explain and justify an entire social order. Interest in the political uses of myth was pervasive among American intellectuals in the 1930s: from literary theorist Kenneth Burke and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr to political scientist Harold Lasswell and anthropologist Ruth Benedict, the study and affirmation of myth pointed to a recognition of the need, to recall Warren Susman’s phrase, for “common belief, ritual observance, and common emotional sharing.” As myths require mythmakers—fabulists adept in the arts of summoning belief, crafting rituals, and eliciting emotion—the fabrication of business hegemony called for a new breed of theologians, artists, and bards. Three figures offer case studies from the pinnacle of the Fordist corporate dispensation: Thurman Arnold, Henry Luce, and Walt Disney.”
Eugene McCarraher (Ibid)

Worth remembering what I have written before on Disney, and his fascist sympathies.

Ivan Navarro

“ At the same time, { Walter } Benjamin contended, the technical prowess of the animations promised “a redemptive existence,” a future of harmony between humanity and the machines it has made. But over time, Benjamin discerned a more repressive agenda, not only in the rodent’s comic antics but also in all of Disney’s work. Especially through the Mouse’s misadventures, Disney both encouraged sadistic violence and immunized audiences against mass psychosis. Representing collective longings on screen in such a way as to vent and then neutralize them, Disney triggered “a therapeutic explosion of the unconscious” with no revolutionary consequences. To the same end, his portrayal of peace between people and technology fabricated an illusory rapport “between human beings and the apparatus.”
Eugene McCarraher (Ibid)

Sergei Eisenstein remarked, on Disney cartoons, that the message was, finally, submission to technology.

Pompeo Batoni (Diana and Cupid, 1761)

There has evolved a rhetorical strategy that insists on the subjective. It is only a belief. Behind such ideas is an assumption that certain things are more than beliefs. But this is tied, in its final logic, with the acceptance of a new physics that admits most of its practice is speculative and unprovable. Capitalism cannot end because, since there is no alternative, it must be the essential backdrop for the system. Antiquity is a bit like a fairy tale. All history is a bit like fairy tale, in fact.

“The individual who identifies with fascism does so because he has failed to develop the capacity to test and engage reality: Thoughts, beliefs, and conformist activities are thoroughly disconnected from the possibility of independent identity and self-formative practice. { } The cost of fascistic answers to the unsurmounted danger situations of development is thus the flight from the basic duty to attain individuality and autonomy. What is projected on the other cannot, under any circumstances, be accepted “as parts of the self.” Experience can only speak to conscientious principle and understanding, moreover, where the individual has the “capacity for individuated experience.” Where this aptitude is lacking, the world can only be encountered in reified and reifying ways, and “new social experiences are likely to lead, not to new learning and development, but merely to the mechanical reinforcement of established imagery.”
Amy Buzby (Subterranean Politics and Freud’s Legacy)

Barry X. Ball

The technological revolution, the so called 4th Industrial Revolution, does not usher in a new reality, for reality is the same as it always was. It does, however, because of the atrophy of reason, the decline in cognitive skills, the erosion of literacy, serve in helping distance people, the general population, from actual human experience. The public in, say, 1800, would be amazed by technology today, but I wonder if they would believe there was a ‘new’ reality? And what was reality to those who painted the cave walls as Lascaux? To the pharaohs of the middle kingdom? To Shakespeare and his actors?

The convergence of myth, aesthetic experience and imagination, and science (AI, computational capital, and physics) must start to be looked at in terms of the *Gestalt*, as Wolfgang Smith wrote.

“In a slender book entitled Tantra Vidyii: Archaic Astronomy andTantra Yoga, Oscar Marcel Hinze reports on a scientific discovery, the implications of which are epochal. The work consists of three essays, previously published in the German-speaking domain, which deal respectively with archaic astronomy, Tantric Yoga, and surprisingly enough, with the teachings of Parmenides { } It emerges, first of all, that the Gestalt aspects of planetary astronomy stand to the Tantric cakra anatomy as macrocosmic and microcosmic manifestations, respectively, of one and the same paradigmatic structure. A hitherto unsurmised isomorphism between the planetary system and the subtle anatomy of man has thus come to light, which is to say that the structural identity of macro and microcosm,
as traditionally conceived, has now been corroborated on sober scientific ground.”

Wolfgang Smith (Ibid)

Santiago Porter, photography.

I’m not sure about that sober scientific ground, exactly, but it doesn’t matter. For the point here is that ancient astronomy (like the early study of numbers, Pythagoreans et al) is more about the quality of the ineffable in myth. Wittgenstein is useful when he suggests so frequently that the wrong questions are being asked. The appeal of mathematics is also aesthetic, however. And not just in the mystic appointment given to certain numbers in the Kaballah or Islam etc. There is, for example, in the the golden section, a clear sense of harmony that nearly all societies recognize. The parabola, which I find most fascinating, suggests infinity, at least to me. In that curve is something undeniable about extension. An extension that is mysterious. But it is possibly also familiar. Not necessarily uncanny, (though that, too, often) but like rhythm, the movement in the womb, or before that the ancestral inheritance of something dimly still alive in our reptile brain. A memory of living in trees, or in water. I have noticed children will draw , idly, various geometric shapes, often intuitively coming upon something like the golden cuboid base, or a logarithmic spiral… having no idea its mathematical import. My knowledge of math is very limited, but per myth and science, the recognition of pattern remains primordial. To recognise a pattern means to relate it to a whole in the mind. This is simple. Without that whole, there is no recognition.

The suggestion is, then, that science, or scientism, has stopped asking the right questions.

Now, I want to shift back to aesthetics and fairy tales and to children’s books. Marie Von Franz has a great analysis of St Exupery’s The Little Prince

“In general, where there is sentimentality there is also a certain amount of brutality. Goering was a wonderful example, for without a qualm he could sign the death sentence for three hundred people, but if one of his birds died, then that fat old man would cry. He was a classic example! Cold brutality is very often covered up by sentimentality. If you think of the figures of Riviere and of the Sheikh in Saint-Exupéry’s books, there you see this cold masculine brutality at work. When we have interpreted ‘The Little Prince’, we shall take some case material where this will become very clear, namely, in the shadow problem of the ‘puer aeternus’. That is where there is usually a very cold, brutal man somewhere in the background, which compensates the too unreal attitude of consciousness and which the puer aeternus cannot assimilate, or at least only involuntarily. For example, in the Don Juan type that cold brutality comes out every time he leaves the woman. When once his feeling has gone, out comes an ice-cold brutality with no human feeling in it, and the whole sentimental enthusiasm goes onto another woman. This brutality, or the cold realistic attitude, very often appears also in matters to do with money.”
Marie Von Franz (The Problem with Puer Aeternus)

Dirk Braeckman, photography.

The American Empire has always been given to sentimentality. In a sense the Puritan heritage would almost of necessity lead to sentimental compensation.

“When enough people have slid backward into a sibling state of mind, society can no longer demand difficult and subtle work from its people—because the standards are no longer visible. Without the labor of artists, for example, to incorporate past achievements—in brushwork, in treatment of light, in depth of emotion, in mythological intensity—people with some talent can pretend to be genuine artists. Their choices seem to be to cannibalize ancient art, or to create absurdly ugly art that “makes a statement.” They don’t ask themselves or each other for depth or intensity, and most contemporary critics pretend not to miss them.”
Robert Bly (Ibid)

The loss of good art critics has had immeasurable costs today. Even those writing corporate mainstream reviews of Hollywood films can no longer write complete sentences, even. And they will always attack the serious because they experience seriousness as an accusation, as they do technical skill, and this is something of a change. The focus on virtuosity in arts has been a long standing American tendency. Today even that is falling away to be replaced by essentially nothing. (It is worth reading David Walsh’s year end film summary of 2019 here

I disagree with Walsh’s opinion numerous times in this, but it has the great virtue of actually addressing issues of aesthetic criticism, and I agree more often than I disagree. But it is his analysis of other mainstream reviewers that is important and insightful.

“Disenchantment with the contemplated world is the sensorium’s reaction to its objective role as a ‘commodity world’. Only when purified of appropriation would things be colourful and useful at once: under universal compulsion the two cannot be reconciled. Children, however, are not so much, as Hebbel thought, subject to illusions of ‘captivating variety’, as still aware, in their spontaneous perception, of the contradiction between phenomenon and fungibility that the resigned adult no longer sees, and they shun it. Play is their defence. The unerring child is struck by the ‘peculiarity of the equivalent form’: ‘use-value becomes the form of manifestation, the phenomenal form of its opposite, value.’ In his purposeless activity the child, by a subterfuge, sides with use-value against exchange value.”
Theodor Adorno ( Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life)

J.J. Cromer

The current intoxication with AI and with all things digital serves to veil deeper changes in the human psyche. Changes that began far earlier than the military invention of the internet, or earlier than even the general theory of relativity. The mathematician H. E. Huntley writes…

“If we may assume that the evolution of psychic potentialities through geological ages has run parallel to the development of the nervous system and the brain, it would appear that, historically, emotional life which we share with the higher animals must precede intellectual development and be associated with the primitive parts of the nervous system. Incidentally, this also controls the visceral activities of the body and that is why a public performer afflicted with “nerves” sometimes has cause to observe the connection between his emotion and the activity of his intestines! We must accordingly conclude that the personal unconscious, as well as the collective unconscious, is the arena of the emotions as well as the storehouse of emotive memory complexes.”
H. E. Huntley (The Divine Proportion)

The figure of Jung will remain contested, I suspect. His proximity to the Third Reich will always cause concern, and much of his writing lacks the elegance of Freud’s prose (or Fenichel or Roheim et al). Ernst Bloch called him a raving fascist. And yet, and yet, there were elements in his work that are profound. And these observations (on Jung) segue into the theme of this post, I think. One must be wary of occultism (read Adorno’s ‘thesis against occultism’, which is the penultimate entry in Minima Moralia) and of the linkage of fascism with theosophy and the occult. Criticism of scientism is not to deny the importance of science. But rather to suggest science today is more ideology than science. Perhaps it always carried that seed, much as the Enlightenment was dialectically entwined with regression.

Adorno writes, in that Thesis Against Occultism ;“By its regression to magic under late capitalism, thought is assimilated to late capitalist forms.” Today one could say there is an assimilation to marketing and propaganda, too. I am certain a majority of people who wave little Ukrainian flags around know they are the victims (sic) of propaganda. Most can’t find Ukraine on a map. The same is true, probably, for much of the Pandemic protocols.

John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1877, detail. Eve Tempted in Eden)

“The hypnotic power exerted by things occult resembles totalitarian terror: in present-day processes the two are merged. The smiling of auguries is amplified to society’s sardonic laughter at itself, gloating over the direct material exploitation of souls. The horoscope corresponds to the official directives to the nations, and number-mysticism is preparation for administrative statistics and cartel prices.”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

This is strikingly perceptive. Today instead of horoscopes there are various ‘scientific’ studies by ‘experts’, all couched in a self-help presentation style. Most of it is there to reinforce government policies, both foreign and domestic. Learning “How to protect your marriage from going stale” is just another form of “Masks, How they protect you from the Unvaccinated” . My new feed from Google is at least half such junk science articles. “Seven Healthy Low Carb Grains to include in Your Diet” is one I got today. Seven concerns about Russian propaganda you need to include in your belief system. Seven facts about why husbands cheat. Seven facts about Conspiracy Theorists. And on and on and on and on. It scrolls along 24/7.

Adorno notes as well, the structural resemblance to anti-semitism. I have said before that the Protocals of the Elders of Zion reappears constantly in memes across social media. (the word Globalist is often subbing for Jewish banker). The scientific fantasies of climate alarmism resemble occult prophecies. Spiritualism is replaced by alternative health remedies, at the same time that corporate mainstream medicine intones ‘trust the science’. This is an almost carrot and stick dynamic, a staple of snake oil salesmen for two hundred years. And Anthony Fauci resembles nothing so much as a guy selling a magic elixir off the back of a horse drawn caravan.

“They inveigh against materialism. But they want to weigh the astral body. The objects of their interest are supposed at once to transcend the possibility of experience, and be experienced. Their procedure is to be strictly scientific; the greater the humbug, the more meticulously the experiment is prepared. The self-importance of scientific checks is taken ad absurdum where there is nothing to check. The same rationalistic and empiricist apparatus that threw the spirits out is being used to reimpose them on those who no longer trust their own reason.” Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

The corrective to scientism resides in an understanding of Capitalism. An understanding of the social relations involved in exchange value, and in the realities of Imperialism.

Mary Dill Henry

“The militarist option of the United States threatens everyone. It arises from the same logic as Hitler’s: to change economic and social relations in favor of the current chosen people (Herrenvolk) through military violence. This option, by forcibly occupying center stage, overdetermines every political conjuncture because its pursuit renders every advance that people could obtain from their social and democratic struggles extremely precarious.”
Samir Amin (Ibid)

The chosen people today, though, has shrunk in numbers. The chosen today are the super wealthy one percent (and their clerks and servants, some of whom are presidents of countries). The fall of the USSR meant that, in Europe at least, but largely the U.S. as well, that what was once the left rallied to the cause of global liberalism. Neo Liberalism. As Amin notes, those Bretton Woods institutions (and I will add the UN) are simply ministries of propaganda for the Empire. European governments rolled over in supplication to US/NATO and gave up the former Yugoslavia. They are pouring cash and weapons to the Nazi government in Kiev.

The corrective to the new techno-occultism also resides, most critically, in a return to human experience. And a trust in your daydreams, in spontaneity, and skepticism. And in the re-development of taste, of aesthetic appreciation. The occult fantasies of the Reich coopted ancient learning. It was the cartoon of the teachings of earlier cultures and socities. It requires work to discriminate.

At the end of the Jack and the Beanstalk story, the Giant eats Jack.

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  1. Excellent and timely piece. Many relevant probings into the contemporary dumpster fire of a culture to pick up on, but most important, I think, is the unveiling of the authoritarian “anti-statism” of the neoliberal technosphere, and how this very ethos functions as recuperating ideology.

    It’s this seemingly paradoxical conflation of freedom & submission I see in my contemporaries who at the same time as they celebrate the ostensible freedom and popular agency inherent in our glorious liberal democracy (Swedish election coming up) express gratitude for our “adult” decision-makers taking the terrible responsibility of political participation our of their hand.

    This adoration is directed towards the mother-figure, and never the father, importantly. The observation of an unfettered and unreasoned superego in this context is probably one of the most important factors for the entire societal trajectory ahead. The internalization of the society & culture’s norm structure in the contemporary (postmodern?) condition certainly must be violently incoherent, not only since society lacks an anchoring in a rational discourse predicated on actual reality and discernible principles, but since mass culture so strongly and relentlessly projects an incoherent jumble of opposing narratives that basically obliterates any coherent framework of meaning apart from raw power and the authority of the system.

    No wonder people my age call for mommy and want to run away. Yeah, they don’t have that aura of adulthood from their mid-teens.

    And in relation to the above, I think the contemporary transgender/transhumanist (I think these two institutions are intimately related) movement serves a very specific function of protecting the integrity of the subject’s basic sense of self, or how one should express it. It namely emphasizes raw, autonomous agency as a basic reality deeper than the collapsing anchor points for any coherent identity formation (the body, the culture, traditions, physical reality, religion &c), and so serves to re-assert the subject in some sort of Nietzschean fashion through an ontology of will and desire.

    And that Buzby quote is really important in this context, I think. For this “bare and raw” re-assertion of the subject is really anything but. It inevitably reproduces the dominant social structures that surround us, yet now without almost any balancing input from the self’s rational agency.

    “Where this aptitude is lacking, the world can only be encountered in reified and reifying ways, and “new social experiences are likely to lead, not to new learning and development, but merely to the mechanical reinforcement of established imagery.”

    There’s a married couple all over the local media up here right now (in relation to Luleå Pride week), where one of the parties have “transitioned”.

    And the aesthetics he’s moving into is so explicitly that of the mass-marketed, parody-feminized porn star.

  2. John Steppling says:

    thanks johan. Great comment, too. The violently punishing super ego was a great insight of bly’s here. I still cant say I fully grasp the mother adoration aspect. But the prolonging of adolescence has several layers of meaning I suspect. Maybe we can’t even know the implications at this point. For what do mean, traditionally, by maturity? Whatever it is, it has been largely lost I think. Or it has ‘transitioned’ itself. The transgender movement has some very deep allegorical aspects — the self is transitioning, then? The self is reduced to caricature. I see this in political commentary all the time on social media. Simplistic and crude caricatures of political leaders, and I see it from right and left both. (some of this is related to a data overload I would guess). Information feels more and more fungible. History lacks …well….historical specificity. And the trans movement has started to feel (maybe it mostly always was, I don’t know) a sort of incoherent expression of this floating signifier idea (zizek the like). Reason is transitioning. The end result almost has to be a cartoon version of the mother. A parody. Reason is now a parody of reason. Science a parody of science. All set against the backdrop of this Puritanical avenging super-ego. And yes, the transhumanist movement is just another version of the same. People tend to focus (understandably ) on the authoritarian Orwellian aspect of bio chips in your forearm , surveillance, control etc. But even more frightening in a sense is this transitioning of the human idea…which the movement admits and applauds. But they are admitting to a layer of it that is relatively superficial. The deeper one has to do with basic ideas of self, consciousness, and autonomy. Its difficult to even express. And they overlap anyway. And the transference of wealth to the very top, to the 1%, has meant that these individuals are exercising deep irrationalism, are forwarding ‘solutions’ that are just dark self loathing impulses and compensations. A bill gates is a very dangerously sick man. ( I do wonder at his trips to Epstein island). And then you couple that to this almost war on children. For in children is something (like that fish girl story you shared with me elsewhere) is seen something they know they cannot recapture somehow. Children are the accusation so they must be punished — and, AND the flip side, everyone must remain a child. Except a caricature of a child.

  3. John Steppling says:

    also….the female to male reassignment would mean the reproduction of the violent patriarch of Puritanism — or the ur-Father of Freud’s anthropology.Norman o Brown would have something to contribute to this idea I have a feeling.

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