Archive for February, 2013

The celebration of suffering

February 27, 2013

From Erica James in her book “Democratic Insecurities: Violence, Trauma, and Intervention in Haiti”:

“The opaque and sometimes secret crafts of activists, bureaucrats, and other humanitarian and development experts aiding Haiti made suffering productive. Their labor converted the suffering that embodies individuals after malevolent, inhumane interventions into what I call ‘trauma portfolios’, the aggregate of paraphernalia compiled to document and authenticate the experience of individual, family, or collective sufferers. The work of conversion created the identity of ‘victims’ or ‘survivors’ for individuals who were once [militants or activists]. It was a professional transformation of suffering that fed a growing humanitarian market.”

The greatest, deepest form of exploitation exploits exploitation itself. Sell someone a disease then sell them a cure. Punch them in the face and sell them a bandage.

A great form of exploitation is to cause someone suffering then teach them that suffering is noble. You like it this way. You want it this way. It’s ok – it builds character.

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Transparency and Surveillance in this brave new world

February 25, 2013

Two sides of the same coin. What makes itself easily seen can be easily watched.

What is watched is not trusted.

A lesser known introduction to the 1990s was made alongside George Bush’s “New World Order” and Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history”.  1992’s Basic Instinct prophetized the rise of the online porn industry and one side of the cover for the surveillance state.

Prior to the 1990s there was an honored principle – privacy. When Americans no longer trusted themselves, finally breaking under the fear-driving of the Reagan Administration, they replaced privacy with transparency. Instead of wanting to not intrude upon others and not want to be intruded upon, they opened the doors wide and pried the doors of others open.

The Subway restaurant chain has grown into a global behemoth surpassing McDonald’s substantially as a result of their transparent meal preparation process.

One cover for this brave new world is the desire to save the world. Privacy limits the amount of information we have on each other, but when (arguably all of us) are trying to save the world, we need to break down all obstacles that prevent us from maximizing our knowledge, and what’s a little thing like privacy to stand in the way?

So privacy is antiquated, Americans tell us. Sigh, sigh, sigh, we just can’t afford privacy anymore.

The result is that we create humans whose identities form around their desire to be watched. So body consciousness, which we call shallow but in truth is no longer shallow, it’s a deep cultural reality at this point, is at a historical peak. Humans become drama queens, where everything in their life is super-important and of interest to everyone. One glimpse at “reality television” shows us the modern humans we are creating.

Humans become super-antisocial, of which the human networking trend is one example. When everyone is watching you and you lose the desire to be alone there’s no point in having an identity designed by oneself – one’s identity becomes what the viewers desire. Therefore one cannot be social, which implies the relating of oneself to another person, no more than a robot or a zombie can be social. Robots and zombies can do plenty of “social” networking though.

Oh we viewers are so special! Everything must bow before our gaze.

And, we grimly believe, everything will.

We are so brave to venture boldly into this new world without even a glance at our surroundings. Who needs to look around when we are the chosen ones who will save the world? Noone can tell us we’re wrong – we’re super right all the time!

Reflections on the nature of video games

February 23, 2013

In 1966, during a time of identity crisis for Western Civilization as it’s global empire was slowly crumbling, a group formed at UC Berkeley which shortly thereafter would call itself the Society for Creative Anachronism. They looked back to a more noble time when (some) men were gallant and wars were fought sword against sword, rather than bomb melting flesh.

Because the focus of the protest was the ghastly industrial war machine and the perpetual nuclear specter hovering over the world, the focus of the look back was also on war. So this group picked up lances, swords, and shields, and fought in mock combat (what would later be known as LARPing).

This culture, partly derived from Tolkien who experienced the horrors of two world wars including the terrible disappointment of the second one following the “war to end all wars”, would form the spiritual basis for Dungeons and Dragons, and Richard Garriott, the founder of the computer RPG genre, is a long time member of the Society.

Gaming itself rose to new heights of popularity following World War II, with a perpetual game played between the two great capitalist powers (the ideologies only arguably relevant), the West headed by the United States against the Soviet Union and it’s few allies. Game theory vastly increased in popularity and video games, a combination of game theory, interactive visual media, and art, was born.

The 1960s experienced a large increase in drug use, with the intent of escaping the rotten imperial culture or subverting it, depending on the user’s ambition. Then a mere fledgling art form, the recognition of the dangers of drug use greatly helped the popularity of video games, as they took the place of drugs in helping the users explore an “alternate reality”. Despite it’s inherent countercultural maturity, video games were often viewed as being for children, and most of the serious gamers beginning in the 1980s were children, often unsupervised by their parents. Parents, depressed about the failures of the 1960s and 1970s in creating a better world, pushed these new alternate realities upon their children in the hopes of being saved by them. Therefore games *had* to be safe, with wackos demonizing Dungeons and Dragons not helping the cause of thoughtful game criticism.

In 1989 with the end of the Soviet Union and the rise of George Bush’s “New World Order” and Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history”, games took a turn to the political right, heralded by id software’s Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, Doom in particular being an ironic and dark take on this brave new world we were entering. The “big fucking gun”, as id software called it, would be a very portentous phrase as countless shooters would fire innumerable bullets resulting in an obscene body count subsequently. The Fire and Forget genre with the main character playing what could only be described as a Marauding Berserker, covering most game genres from Call of Duty games to Neverwinter Nights style RPGs to Starcraft to World of Warcraft, was not so much about murder in the name of something but rather murder because there’s nothing better to do. Murder, because, well, fuck it – though typically translated by gamers into “because it’s fun”.

We should examine the need in gaming to save the world, one corpse at a time. Game after game after game is filled with monsters who are then murdered by someone(s) the game invariably calls a hero in order to cleanse the world and “save” it. Parallels between this and white racists during Hurricane Katrina celebrating the “cleansing” of New Orleans of people they consider to be monsters is uncanny. According to them, New New Orleans with its upscaling and whitewashing is now truly saved. Countless other examples exist, including the roughly one million dead and millions more displaced Iraqis who Condoleezza Rice celebrated as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East”. Or the “monstrous and savage” native Americans exterminated by the colonizing Europeans. Or the “inferior” Palestinians suffering slow extermination by the “chosen ones” of the Zionist Israeli state.

The market for video games has always been the West (the West includes Japan). Only in very recent years has that expanded somewhat, as the economies in East Asia and South America have improved. So while the West might keep calling the latest Call of Duty clone “fun”, societies not lost in such a high degree of imperial bloodlust have a different idea of fun and will enable different games.

It’s Capitalism, stupid

February 14, 2013

In the 1980s and 1990s when American capitalists wanted American servants to consume vast quantities of East Asian manufactured goods in order to enrich themselves, Americans dutifully served. They hung out at malls, cared about brands, made fun of outsiders who didn’t, and acted as the good servants they were and still are. The intellectual servants who serve the very same rulers had an explanation for such behavior: consumerism. A mysterious force driving people to become consumer zombies. It’s no mystery that we were spared the truth for the sake of the well being of the master.

After World War 2 American capitalists were ever expanding their operations overseas, selling to largely non-white people, and they realized that the rampant racism at home was no longer useful to them. The servants got the picture, and a “civil rights” movement grew in power until it achieved certain limited ends which were beneficial to the globalizing capitalist class.

The downtrodden servants, desperate for self respect, give themselves credit for “no longer hanging out at malls” and lots of credit for “no longer being racist”. Funny, that. Real funny. All they are doing is taking orders from the masters, and they still are. When the masters told them to be racist, they were, and when they tell them to stop, they do.

When the masters tell them to hate Arabs, they cheer and sometimes engage in anti-Arab abuse including American soldiers demonizing Arabs as “haijis” prior to bombing them – when the masters tell them to hate hispanics, they do the same. Where is their anti-racism now?

When the masters don’t need the entire population to be racist, that’s fine. A section of the population can congratulate themselves on being “progressive” and not being like those other people. Hence the population becomes divided between the “racists” and the “non-racists” and the age old tactic of divide and conquer succeeds. The capitalist smiles ear to ear.

When will we stop being good little servants and wipe that fucking smile off his face?

Western martyrdom in Zero Dark Thirty

February 5, 2013

Immediately after the Jordanian doctor martyrs himself by killing the six or more CIA agents, the Western Jihad against any threat to its global hegemony is stepped up, with the main character martyring the dead agents in order to further the loss of her own humanity and “gain the strength” to achieve domination of her enemies.

This is reminiscent of the American excuse for torturing Vietnamese resistance fighters – we must become monsters in order to gain the strength of monsters in order to maximize our power in order to ensure our domination of the world.

The outcome of such a policy may be domination of the world, although that’s merely one possibility among many. But even if the outcome is as the policy makers desire, the kings and emperors of this brave new world will be the most hideous monsters the world has ever seen.

Slavoj Zizek on “Zero Dark Thirty”

February 4, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty: Hollywood’s Gift to American Power

Great new song by Tim Heidecker – Running out the Clock

February 2, 2013

 

They say Iran has got the bomb
And wants to see us dead
They ask you to ignore the news
Watch the Super Bowl instead
Why should you be shocked
We’re all just runnin out the clockThey say the rivers are polluted
And the waters not safe to drink
But they try to confuse us
And trick us not to think
Better head for the dock
We’re all just runnin out the clock

Running out the clock
It’s the only thing left to do
Running out the clock
It’s running out for me and you

They say there’s guns and murder
And violence on the street
But they tell you just to lie in bed
And hide beneath the sheet
Think you’re sly like a fox?
And we’re all just runnin out the clock

Well they say the food we eat
Is not even fit for a dog
But they sell it to you wholesale
As you walk around in a fog.
Might just sell your stock
Well we’re all just runnin out the clock

Running out the clock
It’s the only thing left to do
Running out the clock
Running out for me and you

Well you can try for the hail mary
you can go for it on fourth down
you can pray the saints are watching
and rooting for your hometown
pull up your sock
after all we’re just running out the clock