Already Dead

Unknown artist. Netherlands, 1500s. (Court Fool or Jester)

“If freedom is the condition of life, it cannot be employed to abolish life and so to destroy and abolish itself … suicide is in no circumstances permissible…. Moral philosophers must, therefore, first and foremost show that suicide is abominable.”
Immanuel Kant (Suicide)

“Nessus, [a Centaur], carries the Poets across the river of boiling blood and leaves them in the Second Round of the Seventh Circle, The Wood of the Suicides. Here are punished those who destroyed their own lives and those who destroyed their substance.
The souls of the Suicides are encased in thorny trees whose leaves are eaten by the odious Harpies, the overseers of the damned. “

Dante (Canto 13, Inferno {Ciardi tr.})

“We are so lonely in life that we must ask ourselves if the loneliness
of dying is not a symbol of our human existence.”

Emil Cioran (On the Heights of Despair)

“I believe that this much is true, that the gods are our keepers, and we men are one of their possessions…. So if you look at it this way I suppose it is not unreasonable to say that we must not put an end to ourselves until God sends some compulsion like the one which we are facing now.”
Plato (Phaedo)

I wanted to circle back, as they say in boardrooms, to this idea of assisted suicide (sic). There is an increasing sense of both psychological and political crisis in the West today. And one aspect of this was touched upon by Johan Eddebo in his recent article

The most recent podcast discussed this, too. (

And I think its worth noting that suicide, in the US alone, accounts for over forty thousand deaths each year. Russia has a relatively high suicide rate but one that is dropping significantly. China has quite a bit less than the US per capita, and uniquely sees more women than men committing suicide (also more rural than urban, bucking the trend globally). I am not at all sure what to make of this or how much to trust the statistics. In India suicide has risen sharply but still lags behind the US.

But I think the modern society clearly has more suicides than, say, the Middle Ages. And while it is hard to know how many such deaths occurred in the Middle Ages, it was pretty clearly far less than today.

Nidhal Chamekh

One of the themes of this blog over the last ten years has been to describe and track the irrationality of modern life. Thats in the broadest sense. And I have found several truisms, if you will, in clocking Western culture during this time. One (and this we talked of, too, on the podcasts) is that propaganda and marketing cannot be overestimated. And this in turn reinforces how profoundly Capitalism shapes out consciousness. Second is the ascension of a kind of cult of science. And this has grown and become more exaggerated since the advent of the internet. And third is the idea of progress. And when mentioning Capitalism, of course, one is to a large degree discussing class. And *progress*, as an idea, is both Christian and a product of the Enlightenment.

In a society of profit there is another truism. If something is popular, it is probably (almost, in fact, certainly) regressive and reactionary. The levers that control meaning are in the hands of the ruling class (a term that many object to, but more on that below) and their corporate institutions and governmental bureaucracies. And if one finds growing criticism of certain thinkers or writers one can rest assured these thinkers or writers are probably important to read and study (see: Marx, Freud, Adorno). One of the most popular books ever written in the field of psychology was Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I remember long ago skimming a few pages of this book and finding it simplistic and saccharine, even. And there lingered a bad aftertaste for me but I took the reaction no further until recently. And this brings up another theme of this blog over this last decade. And that is how Nazi ideology never really went away. It went into hibernation, in a sense. It was dispersed and the former Nazis themselves partly scrubbed of history. (see Operation Paperclip, or often called Project Paperclip). But Frankl and his association with Nazism, his participation in experiments at the camps seems completely understandable, actually. That saccharine quality is akin to sentimentalism. It masks cruelty (as James Baldwin put it). And such crypto fascism never fails to find a big audience in the West.

Lee Ufan

Now the above link is to a smart critique of Frankl, by David Mikics. The problem is Mikics is an apologist for Zionism and Israel. And this is another aspect of today’s irrationality. Its hard to understand how Mikics can be so insightful about Frankl’s fascist background and then apologize Israeli fascism. The search for an answer begins with class.

“A section in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment provides a good analogy. One of the characters, Marmeladov, a very poor man, argues that poverty is not a vice. In poverty, he says, a man can attain the innate nobility of soul that is not possible in beggary; for while society may drive the poor man out with a stick, the beggar will be swept out with a broom. Why? Because the beggar is totally demeaned, his dignity lost. Finally, bereft of self-respect, immobilized by fear and despair, he sinks into self-murder. This is reactionary suicide. Connected to reactionary suicide, although even more painful and degrading, is a spiritual death that has been the experience of millions of Black people in the United States. This death is found everywhere today in the Black community. Its victims have ceased to fight the forms of oppression that drink their blood. The common attitude has long been: What’s the use? If a man rises up against a power as great as the United States, he will not survive. { } I do not think that life will change for the better without an assault on the Establishment, which goes on exploiting the wretched of the earth. This belief lies at the heart of the concept of revolutionary suicide.”
Huey P. Newton (Revolutionary Suicide)

Maitre d’Adelaide de Savoie (Conception of Merlin, 1450 apprx.)

The issue around the Canadian assisted suicide act is simply that the state cannot be trusted. Certainly the Trudeau administration cant be trusted. And beyond that fact is the marketing of assisted suicide (in the case of Canada). I linked Vanessa Beeley’s excellent article on our podcast page, but I wanted to pull a quote she used (apropos of Nazism never having gone away):

“The relation of eugenics to British psychiatry bears examination. The primary controlling body for psychiatry in England is the British National Association for Mental Health (NAMH), formed in 1944, and initially run by the mentally unstable Montagu Norman, previously of the Bank of England. The group originally met at Norman’s London home, where he and Nazi Economics Minister Hjalmar Schacht had met in the 1930s to arrange financing for Hitler.”
Jim Keith (Mind Control, World Control: The Encyclopedia of Mind Control)

So the background in this case has direct ties to the eugenics movement. And it is worth linking the entire article again, and in particular note the quote from Cory Morningstar and Robin Monotti. The point is the marketing of suicide. Especially to youth.


The numerous similarities to Nazi eugenics is hard to deny. But this marketing of *death* raises many other questions. The first of which is why so many people, primarily in the West, are so unhappy. And this in turn begs other questions. And one might well begin with how a society views its citizens. The language of the WEF and its spin offs tends to think in economic terms. Yuval Harari (and he is not alone) described ‘useless humans’. Harari couches his rhetoric in terms of a warning. But there is an insidious slight of hand in what he writes. Harari sees people’s value in terms of their *usefulness* to the state. Not the other way round. He makes clear he is not speaking morally valuable but only economically valuable.

Lee Bae

“What might be far more difficult is to provide people with meaning, a reason to get up in the morning,” Harari says. For those who don’t cheer at the prospect of a post-work world, satisfaction will be a commodity to pay for: our moods and happiness controlled by drugs; our excitement and emotional attachments found not in the world outside, but in immersive VR.”
Yuval Harari (quoted in The Guardian,May 20th, 2016)

Harari blames all this on AI. But really, the message is one of defining ‘meaning’ in contemporary society. And it is a dehumanizing vision of society offered by the WEF. It is a somewhat subtle form of propaganda that frames the discourse around the value of human life as almost entirely mediated by technology (and by extension progress). Harari is only intent on introducing the term ‘useless humans’. Once introduced it eventually becomes normalized and then, a bit further down the road, the ideas behind it become normalized. And if we segue to philosophy and the enduring popularity of the Nazi Heidegger, one starts to feel another realm of the indelible fascism of today.

“Once self has emptied itself of all qualities, on the grounds that they are accidental-actual, then nothing is left but to pronounce that doubly pitiful truth, that the self has to die; for it is already dead. “
Theodor Adorno (Jargon of Authenticity)

Maxim Pensky has a sharp paper on Adorno’s criticism of Heidegger, particularly in relation to what he sees as the ‘ideology of death’.

Michaelangelo (The Last Judgement. Charon)

“Dasein’s noble silence in the face of its own finitude, supposedly the comportment that is meant to reverse the idle chatter of das Man, is for Adorno in fact a complement to idle chatter—call it idle silence—which has its most fitting expression in the fatuous will to sacrifice, a pseudo-nobility or false profundity all-to-familiar from the German martial classes, to whom the German petty bourgeoisie looked with such unrequited longing, and which National Socialism so astutely commandeered.”
Maxim Pensky (Toward a Critical Theory of Death: Adorno on Dying Today)

“Violence inheres in the nucleus of Heidegger’s philosophy, as it does in the form of his language. That violence lies in
the constellation into which his philosophy moves self-preservation and death. The principle of self-preservation threatens its subjects with death as an *ultima ratio*, a final reason; and when this death is used as the very essence of that principle, it means a theodicy of death”.

Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

Pensky notes that one cannot be a Nazi without willing the death of your own children.

“On September 6 1941 Heidegger writes to the mother of a former student of his who had just died in action, saying that “for those of us left behind, it is a difficult step to the knowledge that every one of the many young Germans who are today sacrificing their lives with a still-genuine spirit and reverential heart may be experiencing the most beautiful fate.” Quoted in Rüdiger Safranski, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil, trans. Ewald Osers. “
Maxim Pensky (Ibid)

Heidegger remains enormously popular in the West today. And one reason is this treatment of Death which feels so familiar. And it feels familiar because it is the mirror structure of reification in analytic philosophy (well, some of it) where calculations and indexing of options culminates in a view of Death as arrival and not just ceasing to exist. The ideological implications of managing death, both in material terms and philosophic, underwent a profound change with the Industrial Revolution. Contemporary notions of death are bound up at their inception with technology. And as disciplinary technologies developed, so did ideas about the values of or against dying. Technology from one perspective promised immortality. On another the rise of bourgeois science suggested ‘realistic’ goals were the ultimate virtue.

Edvard Munch (1892)

“Lavi (2005) argues that the modern concept of euthanasia can be traced back to the movement of death and dying from the domain of religion to that of medicine and law. { } However, during the nineteenth century the physician began to usurp the role of the minister as dying became a medical event. The physician was now charged with helping the patient achieve this easy death while not hastening it. Thus, by the middle of the nineteenth century the meaning of euthanasia reflected the assistance of the physician in providing a painless death. This medicalisation of death on the other hand was somewhat problematic because the physician could not cure dying patients: therefore, the option of hastening death by, “medical euthanasia emerged as a possible solution to the problem of dying” (Lavi, 2005). The subsequent attempts to legalise medical euthanasia had the effect of taking death and dying into the realm of law and public policy.”
Anne Ryan, Mandy Morgan & Antonia Lyons (The Problem with Death: Towards a Genealogy of Euthanasia)

There has always been an economics of suicide. In England up through the end of the 18th century forfeiture of property of those who died by their own hand was still in place. There is today a clear incentive to view suicide from the perspective of the spread sheet.

“During the French Revolution, the State forged a close alliance with medicine and replaced legal controls of behavior with coercions defined as “medical procedures.” Animated by anticlerical zeal, the Jacobins repealed the law prohibiting suicide and then quickly reimposed it, decreeing that failed suicides be imprisoned in the rapidly expanding state hospital system. The psychiatric quackery that they legitimized as medical science and unleashed on the Western world has had a far-reaching influence on the modern perception of suicide as a manifestation of mental illness. The alienist Jean Etienne Dominique Esquirol (1772–1840)—who, along with Philippe Pinel (1745–1826), is considered the founder of French psychiatry—declared: “Onanism is … one of the causes of suicide…. Individuals thus enfeebled … form no other purpose than that of ridding themselves of life, which they have no longer the capacity to endure…. Insanity, or mental alienation, is a cerebral affection, ordinarily chronic, and without fever.” The belief that masturbation is pathogenic persisted well into the twentieth century; the belief that mental disease is brain disease is as popular today as it was in Esquirol’s day.”
Thomas Szasz (Fatal Freedom)

Death itself has become yet another realm mediated by experts. Once failed suicides were declared criminal acts, the psychiatrist or even just medical doctor was often called in to determine if the *patient* was to be sent to prison or a hospital. And experts tend to be deeply entrenched in the economic equations of whatever field they are deemed to be expert in. And the criminalizing of suicide attempts dates back to the Industrial revolution.

Daido Moriyama, photography.

“We are now also in agreement that this [suicide] is a public health matter and that the state should combat the disease of suicide.
—Stanley Yolles, director of the National Institute of Mental Health,”

Quoted by Thomas Szasz (Ibid)

Suicide is rarely, if ever, discussed today outside the frame of institutional public health and psychiatry. But euthanasia (side bar, when I was six years old I thought it was *youth-in-Asia*) is also in its current iteration an invitation to a torturing of the English language.

“A person has no need for another to perform a service that he could perform for himself, provided, of course, that he wants to and is allowed to perform the service for himself. If a person knows how to drive but prefers to be driven by someone else, he has no need for a chauffeur, he wants a chauffeur. Such a person is not receiving “chauffeur-assisted driving.” The same is true for killing oneself. Strictly speaking, the phrase “assisted suicide” is an oxymoron. I am not saying that medical advice and access to a lethal drug may not be helpful for committing suicide. I am saying only that autohomicide, like heterohomicide, is not a medical matter; it is a legal, moral, and political matter. Neither the person who kills himself nor the physician or anyone else who gives him a lethal drug is performing a medical act.”
Thomas Szasz (Ibid)

“In short, we systematically criminalize, medicalize, and politicize both drugs and suicide and generate ever-increasing dependence on the medical profession to prescribe drugs for all manner of human problems unrelated to diseases. This, in turn, leads to defining ever more nondiseases as diseases, ever more ordinary human acts as treatments, and to ever more measures as “protections” of people from “abuses.”
Thomas Szasz (Ibid)

Angelica Kauffman (detail. Portrait of Lady Hamilton, 1791)

The pathologizing of normal behaviors has steadily increased over the last hundred years. This begs the question of what is normal, but that aside physicians today are inextricably bound up with the State. It is impossible to overestimate the extent that the state controls the lives of people today. And the grammar of control takes myriad forms. FBI director Christopher Wray the other day warned people should expect a ‘threat environment’ across the country in coming months. What is a ‘threat environment’? Its not anything, really, but its bureaucratic-speak for be afraid. Be afraid of ‘communists’. Literally. Today the buzz word for demonizing the protests is ‘pro-HAMAS’. And to say anti-occupation, anti colonial or anti apartheid is only to prove you are an antisemite. The state is happy at this point to control the minds and opinions of maybe 30% of the people. That’s all, that’s plenty.

So assisted suicide is akin to threat environment. It is Orwellian doublespeak. The economic advantages to this culling of the infirm and poor, of the depressed (because of being infirm and poor, or, just poor) is not insignificant. But it is clearly only a part of this rise of marketing death (homocide by the state). And there arises, also, questions about grief and depression, and the seldom used term ‘melancholia’ today.

“Freud’s own death was an assisted suicide. Max Schur (1897–1969), who had been his doctor for many years, administered an overdose of morphine in accordance with an agreement they had entered into many years previously, when Freud was first diagnosed with cancer. The agreement was that when Freud had become too ill and no longer able to work and see any meaning in life, he should be helped to die. Some believe this to be is sign of how Freud had a clear relationship to death . In my opinion, this is rather an effect of the idealisation of Freud. Freud’s doctor has provided a vivid, detailed and unsentimental account of his patient’s final days, including the circumstances around the death itself.”
Tormod Knutsen (The dynamics of grief and melancholia, Tidsskriftet, May 2024)

Walter Benjamin, of course, committed suicide by morphine overdose as well, as a preferable alternative to falling into Nazi hands.

Tomb of René de Châlons. Ligier Richier, 1544. church of St Étienne at Bar-le-Duc

“The distinguishing mental features of melancholia are a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside
world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment. This picture becomes a little more intelligible when we consider that, with one exception, the same traits are met with in mourning. The disturbance of self-regard is absent in mourning; but otherwise the features are the same.”

Sigmund Freud (Mourning and Melancholia)

Melancholia is then mourning but with a narcissistic pathological disposition (per Freud) added. And in looking at these features it is worth considering how closely contemporary life seems to carry the collective of western society toward a generalized mourning. Or perhaps generalized melancholia. The numbers of those receiving prescriptions for anti-depressants and mood elevators is so high that one has to ask if this is in any way an abnormal condition.

“The melancholic displays something else besides which is lacking in mourning—an extraordinary diminution in his self-regard, an impoverishment of his ego on a grand scale. In mourning it is the world which has become poor and empty; in melancholia it is the ego itself. The patient represents his ego to us as worthless, incapable of any achievement and morally despicable; he reproaches himself, vilifies himself and expects to be cast out and punished. He abases himself before everyone and commiserates with his own relatives for being connected with anyone so unworthy. He is not of the opinion that a change has taken place in him, but extends his self criticism back over the past; he declares that he was never any better. This picture of a delusion of (mainly moral) inferiority is completed by sleeplessness and refusal to take nourishment, and—what is psychologically very remarkable—by an overcoming of the instinct which compels every living thing to cling to life.”
Sigmund Freud (Ibid)

The melancholic nearly always operates in bad faith, in a sense. The self accusations are transparently accusations against someone else close to them. The melancholic carries this narcissistic disposition into a kind of mild aggression toward others. They need audiences for their self flagellation. It is interesting to consider how social media seems almost designed to enhance this kind of weak ego. Social media is nothing if not a narcissism machine. Social media accommodates the passive/aggressive personality rather perfectly.

“Their complaints are really ‘plaints’ in the old sense of the word. They are not ashamed and do not hide themselves, since everything derogatory that they say about themselves is at bottom said about someone else. Moreover, they are far from evincing towards those around them the attitude of humility and submissiveness that would alone befit such worthless people. On the contrary, they make the greatest nuisance of themselves, and always seem as though they felt slighted and had been treated with great injustice. All this is possible only because the reactions expressed in their behaviour still proceed from a mental constellation of revolt, which has then, by a certain process, passed over into the crushed state of melancholia.”
Sigmund Freud (Ibid)

Hieronymous Bosch (Death and the Miser, apprx. 1500)

“But soon enough, the mourner, who is reacting in a non-pathological manner, recognizes and responds to the call of reality, to let go of the lost-loved object and liberate libidinal desire. This is the point of divergence with the melancholic who remains sunken in his loss, unable to acknowledge and accept the need to cleave and in a self-destructive loyalty to the lost object, internalizes it into his ego, thus furthermore circumscribing the conflict related to the loss. The lost object continues to exist, but as part of the dejected subject, who can no longer clearly define the borders between his own subjectivity and the existence of the lost object within it.”
Ilit Ferber (Melancholy Philosophy)

So you have this pathological attachment to something or someone that is lost. A kind of denial in which the lost object or idea (!) is internalized. I suspect that internet technology has blurred the borders of self and outside world. The melancholic narcissist does not listen, does not *see*, and is denying at least some part of the reality, if not all of it. Agamben observes that the melancholic feels the loss (very often of an abstraction) of something that was never theirs to begin with. Ferber adds that the loss is more intense, actually, for the melancholic because of the uncertainty regarding what was actually lost. And I think social media (digital tech altogether) amplifies this uncertainty. The narcissist demands this loss be recognized. This is the excessively entitled demands of white privilege one sees across social media today. It is also the voice of the Zionist occupier.

The medieval idea of melancholia was quite different in significant ways. And the topic has been analysed all the way back to Aristotle. The Church Fathers of the middle ages wrote extensively on this topic. The narcissistic melancholic of today has, in fact, jettisoned the deep introspections and brooding of antiquity — this is a performance of melancholia. It is another aspect of the trivilizing of the contemporary ego. The infantile melancholic. The Zionist settler, those from Brooklyn or Miami, are also a version of this pathology of entitlement. The various ‘Karen’ figures are another. I have called this the ‘shrieking ego’. Hollywood became enamoured of this kind of personality. Social media influencers (sic) are almost always shrieking egos. But this over confidence, this smugness, and mean spiritedness (IDF soldiers on Tiktok mocking grieving Palestinian mothers for example) is only the updated melancholic — the search for what has been lost. The settlers think they must find King David and must return to something (however unclear it really is) and they grant themselves permission for excessive sadism. The weakened Ego must shriek to make sure it is still there. The Zionist never had the mythic Biblical land, but they insist it belonged to them.

“According to Freud, the fetishistic fixation arises from the refusal of the small child to acknowledge the absence of the penis of the female (of the mother). Confronted with the perception of this absence, the child refuses [Freud used the term Verleugmung (disavowal)] to admit its reality, because to do so would permit a threat of castration against his own penis. The fetish is therefore the ‘substitute for the woman’s (the mother’s) penis that the little boy once believed in and-for reasons familiar to us–does not want to give up’.
Nevertheless, according to Freud, the sense of this Verleugmung is not as simple as it might seem and in fact implies an essential ambiguity. In the conflict between the perception of reality, which urges him to renounce his phantasm, and the counter-desire, which urges him to deny his perception, the child.does neither one nor the other; or, rather, he does both simultaneously, reaching one of those compromises that are possible only under the rule of the laws of the unconscious. On the one hand, with the help of a particular mechanism, he disavows the evidence of his perception; on· the other, he recognizes its reality, and through a perverse symptom, he assumes the anguish he feels before it. The fetish, whether a part of the body or an inorganic object, is, therefore, at one and the same time, the presence of that nothingness that is the. maternal penis and the sign of its absence. “

Giorgio Agamben (Stanzas)

There is then perhaps the most profound of observations regarding both fetishism, and more, melancholia and the desire for death that resides in the heart of the narcissist. Agamben notes the interesting relationships of part for whole found in synecdoche and
its relative metonymy. But that takes beyond the scope of this posting I fear. But Agamben introduces Marx at this point.

Guy Tillim (Mozambique, Beira, 2008)

“This “mystical character” that the product of labor acquires as soon as it takes on the form of the commodity depends, according to Marx, on an essential doubling of the relation to the object, for which the product does not now represent only a use-value (its suitability to satisfy a determimable human need), but this use-value is, at the same time, the material substrate of something else: the ex- change value. Since the commodity presents itself under this double form of useful object and bearer of value, it is an essentially immaterial and abstract piece of goods, whose concrete enjoyment is impossible except through accumulation and exchange…”
Giorgio Agamben (Ibid)

The fetishist (consumer) can never possess the fetish wholly; the owner of a commodity will never be able to enjoy it simultaneously as both useful object and as value. Capitalism imposes this form on every aspect of our lives. In one sense to live under Capitalism is to be subject to an invisible immaterial force of mystification. The sense of loss, manufactured by digital technology (so I theorize) stimulates a desire for that which is lost. Which is experienced somehow as a personal loss. And there is a relationship here (which Agamben delves into rather extensively) between romantic desire and obsession and compulsion. The symbol of Eros, ‘Cupid’, was often represented with claws instead of feet.

“And it is to the fact that the highest moral ideal is indivisible from a “low” and phantasmatic experience, that we likely owe the ambiguous character of every modern Western conception of happiness, in contrast to the Greek contemplative ideal of theoria as teleia eudaimonia (perfect happiness), still alive in the medieval concept of the separated intellect. That, at least from the twelfth century onward, the idea of happi- ness should appear intertwined with the notion of the restoration of the ”sweet play” of Edenic innocence-that happiness should be, in other words, inseparable from the project of a redemption and a fulfillment of the corporeal Eros-is the specific trait (even if rarely perceived as such) of the modern Western conception of happiness. This is in accordance with a code that, formulated already in Dante’s figure of Matelda, reappears in the Renaissance topic of the ecstatic dancing “nymph” and has its final symbolic offshoots in the ‘Fetes galantes’ of Watteau and the bathers of Cezanne. Although remote from its originary impulse, the lucid poetic project of love as fulfillment and restoration of Edenic innocence still survives unconsciously in the contemporary aspiration to a liberation of sexuality as the condition of happiness.”
Giorgio Agamben (Ibid)

Giotto (detail. 1315. Basilica of San Francesco)

There is a sense in which Capitalism came to unify and codify cultural structures and processes that existed in poetry and the arts, as well as in early Church beliefs and teachings. By way of the disenchantment born of exchange value, of the uncanny sense of something gone missing, of an absence, capitalism stamped its fetishized *surface* on everything. It is more the neutralizing of cultural structures and processes. Through unification comes neutralization. The loss is of memory. In one sense this was what Norman O.Brown was pointing out, and certainly there are aspects of Benjamin’s work that are remarkably close to this idea. That pre-Capitalism has been forgotten. But it is never entirely forgotten. Traces remain. And a sense that things have been stolen. Stolen and the theft ignored. The Zionist settler and ‘Karen’ seek revenge, seek punishment…but for whom? Someone has to pay. And this triggers that endless repetitive sense of cruelty.

Only madmen saw it (Ted Kaczynski), the ascension of a devouring technology. And if this is correct at all then digital technology has actually served as a machine to stunt curiosity and reflection. To condemn the idea of idle daydreaming and flights of imagination to a cognitive dustbin. Children do not have the psychological space to exercise their imaginations. The default teaching is one of ‘quality time’, of ‘supervised play’ and organized games. Childhood is now like a walk down the central isle of the 1852 Chrystal Palace World Exhibition, palace of industries perhaps.

” In melancholia, the occasions which give rise to the illness extend for the most part beyond the clear case of a loss by death, and include all those situations of being slighted, neglected or disappointed, which can import opposed feelings of love and hate into the relationship or reinforce an already existing ambivalence.”
Sigmund Freud (Ibid)

Under Capitalism, the engine for pathology is always linked to class. And technology is (per Beller) shaped by race and class. The residue of colonialism is embraced. Vengeance, vigilantism, and a contempt for due process. White Americans all cleave to the punishing authority, but the non institutional version. The American mythology of frontier individualism.

“The melancholic’s erotic cathexis in regard to his object has thus undergone a double vicissitude: part of it has regressed to identification, but the other part, under the influence of the conflict due to ambivalence, has been carried back to the stage of sadism, which is nearer to that conflict.”
Sigmund Freud (Ibid)

Freud notes that the melancholic can only kill himself if he has reached the point where he sees himself (or herself) as an object. The subject turns his murderous feelings against others onto himself. But to carry through with the act of destroying oneself requires the defeat of the ego — the intensity of obsessional love and suicidal impulses both overwhelm the ego, but in opposite ways.

“As regards one particular striking feature of melancholia that we have mentioned, the prominence of the fear of becoming poor, it seems plausible to suppose that it is derived from anal erotism which has been torn out of its context and altered in a regressive sense.”
Sigmund Freud (Ibid)

Dr. Freud, meet Mister Marx.

Katsumi Hayakawa

“It is precisely here that Agamben chooses to focus his analysis. Drawing upon an analogy with the sin of acedia or sloth as described by the early Church fathers, he asserts that “it might be said that the withdrawal of melancholic libido has no other purpose than to make viable an appropriation in a situation in which none is really possible”. This observation leads to Agamben’s major insight into the dynamics of melancholia: “From this point of view, melancholy would be not so much the regressive reaction to the loss of the love object as the imaginative capacity to make an unobtainable object appear as if lost. He elaborates, ‘If the libido behaves as if a loss had occurred although nothing has in fact been lost, this is because the libido stages a simulation where what cannot be lost because it has never been possessed appears as lost, and what could never be possessed because it had never perhaps existed may be appropriated insofar as it is lost’.”
Joanne Fiet Diehl (The Poetics of Loss: Erotic Melancholia in Agamben and Dickinson)

“The significance and importance that we ascribe to this concept of autonomy can be seen as a reflection of 20th-21st century neo-liberalism. In other words, neo-liberalism places value on economic markets, efficiency, consumer choice and personal autonomy in order to shift risk from governmental authority to individuals. It is a form of self-regulation and self-discipline that bears the hallmark of bio-power. However,closely linked to this imperative to be in charge of your own destiny is the individual’s responsibility to ensure that they minimize the risk they pose as a possible burden to society.{ } It is no accident that renewed calls for euthanasia are coming at a time when the proportion of the population not in the work force, i.e. unproductive labour units; is increasing at such a rate that a successful capitalist economy cannot be sustained. For example, the increase in the aged population over the next 25 years means that 70 million in OECD countries will retire to be replaced by just 5 million newcomers (Ministry of Health, 2004). Added to this are burgeoning health costs that are disproportionally allocated to the elderly and terminally ill who often require expensive, long-term treatment before death (Humphrey & Clement, 1998). There have even been suggestions (Fung,1993) that insured patients could be offered a benefit conversion for agreeing to euthanasia, thereby avoiding costly, aggressive treatments, which would assist in bringing health budgets under control and lower insurance premiums. As Battin (1987) succinctly states, “suicide is cheap”.”
Anne Ryan, Mandy Morgan & Antonia Lyons (The Problem with Death)

Malik Sidib, photography. (Mali, 1960s)

“As it happens, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories serves as a laboratory for a number of techniques of control, surveillance, and separation that are today proliferating in other places on the planet. These techniques range from the regular sealing off of entire areas to restricting the number of Palestinians allowed to enter Israel and the occupied territories, from the repeated imposition of curfews within Palestinian enclaves and controls on movement to the objective imprisonment of entire towns.{ } “constant harassment, the ever smaller subdivision of land, cellular and molecular violence, the generalization of the camp form—every feasible means is put to work to impose a regime of separation whose functioning paradoxically depends on a proximate intimacy with those who have been separated. Such practices variously recall the reviled model of apartheid, with its Bantustans, vast reservoirs of cheap labor, its white zones, its multiple jurisdictions and wanton violence. However, the metaphor of apartheid does not fully account for the specific character of the Israeli separation project. First, this project rests on a rather singular metaphysical and existential base. The apocalyptic and catastrophist resources underwriting it are far more complex, and derive from a longer historical horizon, than those that made South African Calvinism possible. Second, with its “high-tech” character, the effects of the Israeli project on the Palestinian body are far more formidable than the relatively primitive operations undertaken by the apartheid regime in South Africa between 1948 and the early 1980s. This also goes for the miniaturization of violence—its cellularization and molecularization—as well as its various techniques of material andsymbolic effacement. It is also evidenced in the procedures[…]”
Achille Mbembe (Necropolitics, 2016)

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  1. Regino Robainas says:

    At a certain tuning of awareness, news
    today are biblical/apocalyptic. The
    Orwellian narrative about the
    forbidden AI Apple being cooked
    inside the rotting entrails of
    Our sacred Empire:

    In the same complicit publications the
    disgusting and embarassed parsing re.
    the U.S. temporarily discontinuing
    military assistance to our footprint
    genocidal Zionist Entity.

    We must “disappear” or redeem these

  2. John Steppling says:


  3. George Mc says:

    Interesting comments on melancholia. I have noticed the devastating effect that some productions can have on the viewer/listener i.e. they can “awaken” a sense of inarticulate unassuageable longing. I am thinking of that sense of utter impotence that can overtake after a film that has really moved the viewer. Or perhaps an even more striking example is the pop song with a “hook” that is musically rudimentary and which should theoretically and technically hold no interest. And yet with suitably impressive aural production it can transfix the listener and seems to beckon siren like towards some infinitely remote horizon.

    I could give personal examples e.g. a Paul Weller song called “Written in the Stars” with a blaring banal two note trumpet motif which I couldn’t get out of my head. Or U2’s “A Sort of Homecoming”. Or the “Hey oh ma ma ma” of the Dream Academy’s “Life in a Northern Town”.

    I also recall the KLF and Tammy Wynette’s “Justified and Ancient” with its moronic repetitive refrain “All bound for Mu Mu Land” which had a kind of irresistible womb-bound pull. The descending three notes on “Mu Mu Land” are a kind of Ur-folk formation.

    I can imagine that Adorno would have remarked on the (screamingly obvious) regressive character of these examples. Note in particular the paradoxical juxtaposition of the most advanced sound reproduction technology with the most primitive effect.

    So the consumer is cornered by these productions into a state of helpless infantilism. In a sense this has a pornographic effect: the addictive stranding of the perceiver on an imaginary island of Lotus Eaters. I heard once about the Six Realms of Buddhist mythology, one of which is called the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. This seems a fitting title for the state that is conjured up in these modern productions of what Adorno referred to as The Culture Industry.

  4. John Steppling says:

    the realm of hungry ghosts. Overweening appetite but a narrow constricted throat that does not allow for them to swallow what they want. Skinny necks but enlarged bloated bellies. Tara Brach said of hungry ghosts “We chase after substitutes that can’t possibly fill that hollowness inside us. Like drinking salt water to quench our thirst, the substitutes never satisfy the deeper need. Then, sensing our neediness and the futility of our grasping, we heap on another layering of self-hate. Buddhists call this shame and self-aversion the second arrow. Not only are we caught in the pain of craving, we are condemning ourselves for it.” I think, of course, in Freudian terms about this. The compulsive repetitive nature of smart phones , for example-. Seems not accidental. Interesting about hooks, in songs. Same thing in a sense with those pauses….Summertime Blues for example That missing beat that arrives, but late.

  5. George Mc says:

    Adorno says somewhere that it is impossible to avoid both effort and boredom. If you want to avoid tedium you will have to put in some work. The appeal of TV binge watching comes down to an insidious deadly apathy whereby it is so easy to hit the “next” instalment of whatever you have just been vegetating in front of.

    Sit-coms are perfectly crafted to rope in the viewer. Shorn of adverts, each episode is twenty minutes and usually consists of three plots which are rotated with no more than a few seconds or half a minute spent at a time on each. America in particular has perfected this form and usually works with seasons of 24 episodes each.

    Thus Friends, Big Bang Theory, Everybody Loves Raymond etc. Seinfeld has an aura of “daring” about it – a show “about nothing” with pretentions to Beckett. But the formula is the same.

    The effect of wallowing in this oh-so-easy diversion is of a kind of vague self-reproach that doesn’t even rise to the level of self-disgust which would at least provoke the viewer to get up and do something different. It’s like chewing on bubble gum that has long since lost its flavour. And yet it is still so seductively easy to succumb.

  6. Regino Robainas says:

    As in Bistek de Palomilla, the
    bitter-sweet is for the joys of
    tragicomedy as for culinary
    delight. In music, “1979” by
    Smashing Pumpkins or Zeppelin’s
    “Stairway to Heaven”, in whose
    strange, enchanting music my
    wife and I met a half century

    In books, Kafka’s “Amerika”,
    and Dante’s “Purgatorio”.
    In movies, “The Blue Professor”.

  7. John Steppling says:

    Yeah, this is a fascinating topic. I also suggested a while back (years) that binge watching had initiated a new longer form narrative. Akin to 19th century novels. And that there was a perhaps progressive aspect to that. And I think there is, or was, but its interesting to note how few, actually, such long form dramas exist. Most are expanded versions of rom coms or sit coms. And at this point I think the audiences (at least in the US) much prefer it that way. The repetitive quality of network hour drama rivals sit coms at this point.

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