Archive for July, 2013

Fascism in art and the Apocalyptic condition

July 30, 2013

Think about a situation where answers are desperately needed, everyone wants to have the answers but no one has them. So philosophers get popular who might have the answers, buffoonish talk show hosts semi-convince themselves into believing they have the answers, holier-than-thou television judges sentence the answers from on-high, superheroes who have the power to impose answers become popular.

There’s a word for this – fascism. It’s the same situation Germany was in in the 1920s and 1930s – they had their pride demolished and their bellies emptied. I don’t know if I agree that Ender’s Game is fascist, I won’t use the term neo-fascist because I believe there’s little neo about it – it’s very similar to the situation in Nazi Germany.
Fascism in art can be misconstrued – anyone could produce art *about* fascism without the art being fascist. So the question about Nicolas Winding Refn’s career for example I believe is clear – he’s fascist. He’s on the record as stating that his movie Drive is about heroism, not about fascism. His other movies are less clear. But even Refn is sympathetic, for example the female lead in the movie Drive is clearly terrified into submission by the fascist social reality all around her, and the male lead is terrified into violence by the same social reality – so Refn presents fascism in a very honest and impressive fashion. Drive is the best movie *about* fascism ever made even though it was made by a fascist. Perhaps the accurate thing to say about Refn is that he’s an artist first, and a fascist second, whereas even the more artistic Nazis had the order reversed. This might just be indicative of a more apocalyptic time, where even fascists don’t really believe in fascism because they believe there’s no real future for fascism to exist within.
Another argument for this being neo-fascism is that unlike the 1930s, technological mass distribution now rules the world, so art can help impose a fascist worldview in a much more powerful way than the relatively primitive Nazi propaganda films of that era. One could argue cynically but probably correctly that it was precisely the failure of Nazi propaganda that led to an explosion in mass media distribution, television the most obvious example. Once fascism fails the answer must be to create a more powerful version of it, just like the failure of the Soviet Union led to increased surveillance and control within “free” societies which had “won” the Cold War. This inverts the old Roman process of the loser in a war imitating the victor.
The logical thing with Orson Scott Card is to examine his career – if he’s fascist he’s not likely to write one book expounding his fascism while the rest have nothing to do with it. Refn’s career for example is all about men searching for meaning in life, and imposing meaning with great violence when none is presented to them. I’ve only read a couple of Card’s other books and was offended by them, but I’ve never recognized the precise nature of the offense, and they weren’t about fascism in the clear way that Ender’s Game is. Much like Refn’s Drive though, Ender’s Game is a great work of art, and is very sympathetic towards the main character.
There’s always more going on in the world than meets the eye, and to return to my previous point, one major difference between Nazi Germany and today is the understanding of human apocalypse. Ecological collapse was not widely believed in back then, so the Nazis really did envision a long term history for Arian rule. They had hope in the future of humanity. Fascists of today have no hope, just like the elite have no hope, and regular people have no hope. Noone believes in the future, or at least in a future that contains happy and healthy human beings. Fascists, just like everyone else, don’t see a future in fascism, so what’s the point of them being fascist?
It’s like different architects getting together to debate what kind of building to construct. A fascist building, a democratic building, etc. If a tsunami’s just going to destroy the building anyway, then what does it matter?
Apocalypse creates a crisis of meaning, giving advantage to humans who no longer care about meaning. This is insidious, because apocalypse is not just an ecological status, or an industrial status (nuclear weapons), or a psychosocial-technical status (global surveillance), or a political status, it’s also a personal status. Once one no longer cares about meaning one builds a future with no meaning, and then there’s no reason for the world to continue even if it otherwise would. But it’s increasingly illogical to build a future with meaning when there’s no future to contain the meaning.
In other words, the ecological reality trumps all other issues, certainly issues of fascism vs. democracy. Whether the earth is going to sustain human life in the future overwhelms all other issues.
This itself has deep and very unfortunate implications in it’s monomania. Aren’t women’s rights important? Isn’t racism terrible and very damaging? Since every other issue becomes meaningless in the face of human extinction, there’s no ability to care about these issues, just like a man who has been stabbed no longer cares about his wife, he just cares about getting healed and THEN he can go back to caring about his wife.
Fascism vs. democracy only matters in a world containing humans to actually experience one or the other.
To be fair though, issues like women’s rights, racism, and of course fascism vs. democracy IMPACT whether or not humans survive in the world. I’m a global socialist precisely due to the terrible destructive nature of capitalism and the fact that getting rid of capitalism is one of the best methods of enabling the continuation of human life.
So the fight for democracy is still important even in these dark times. It impacts human survival.
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Hegemony and the Modern Condition in the United States

July 29, 2013
Human subjects are dominated by their masters. While you’re used to thinking of master/slave in terms of chattel slavery, so you appreciate the subjugation of black slaves to their white plantation owners and can understand why those slaves rarely revolt and often didn’t even think consciously about revolting, you don’t consider modern rulers to have slaves, precisely because you’re enslaved by the modern hegemonic force. Every slave begins by believing he’s free – his freedom can only begin with the realization that he’s not.
Slaves consume the product of the masters, often willfully, just like chattel slaves ate the food “given” to them by their plantation owners. And more importantly, they DON’T consume the products that their masters don’t want them to consume, just like the vast majority of chattel slaves didn’t act outside the bounds of their slavery, bounds that they as intelligent human beings fully understood.
The stronger a hegemonic force is, the more “subversive” the product they can produce. For example, a strong plantation owner could show his slaves the movie Django Unchained, which is about a former slave’s rebellion, but the purpose would not be to encourage his slaves to rebel but rather to say to them that I am so strong that I can show you this movie and you STILL won’t rebel.
Hollywood revels in it’s own power, a fundamental trait of all dominators.
The ultimate movie as far as Hollywood is concerned shows an utterly realistic method of achieving human freedom which they encourage people to see by means of a massive PR campaign, just like every big budget movie currently gets regardless of it’s quality. And then people tell each other how noble Hollywood is by means of “helping them free themselves”, and then they go to the next Hollywood movie, and the next one after that, etc., in order to experience the “feeling” of supposed freedom without the pain, terror, insecurity, loneliness, and oppression of ACTUALLY freeing themselves. It’s no fun at all to be free when the people around you are slaves. It’s this shared sense of community, this need to be intimate with other humans, which causes slaves to remain slaves, since the only other substantial community is the masters, and every human with a decent soul prefers slavery over mastery. This is why the masters terribly fear “misfits”, “antisocials”, “psychotics”, etc., not because they are “looking out for the well being of people” as they say, but because these are people in the process of freeing themselves, slaves who are cast out of slave societies for not being happy slaves.
Yet another deceptive Hollywood movie is The Matrix, where a small group of freedom fighters successfully battles the forces of oppression. This cannot occur in reality, only a mass movement with millions of people can successfully create a revolution.
There’s a modern conceit which is potentially very damaging, the idea that any mass group of people is inherently revolutionary. So the Arab Spring is called “revolutionary”, despite the fact that very little of any real positive substance has occurred there. The unfortunate reality is that hegemony is so strong, that potential revolutionaries are so desperate for any good news, that they invent good news to console themselves. So the Arab Spring is “revolutionary” despite not doing much, the mass gathering in Wisconsin around Scott Walker’s machinations was “revolutionary” despite doing effectively nothing, the anti-NATO gathering in Chicago a couple years ago was useless as I can personally attest to.
As I wandered around the anti-NATO gathering wondering what I was doing there, I noticed that I seemed to be the poorest person there, and I’m far from the poorest person in America. The typical protestor was a well-meaning middle-class person fearing for his material well-being after having gazed into his dark future. There’s nothing wrong with such people protesting of course, but if that’s what things amount to there’s not going to be any success.
Right after we dutifully marched down the streets of the wealthy I walked South, and just a few blocks away I saw a lot of poor black people, none of whom cared about the rally. Then I want back to the other world, and saw the protestors happily returning to their cars and buses, having done their “fight for justice”.
THEY DIDN’T GO SOUTH, THEY WENT HOME. This might as well be the slogan for the current state of things in the United States. Everyone knows poor people, especially poor black people, are pathetic and useless, right? Why bother inviting them? Middle class white people are so FUCKING AWESOME that of course they can do super-awesome things all by themselves. Besides, if poor black people are included then they might want some of the spoils of the “revolution”, and we can’t have that.
There’s such a thing as premature celebration. Can the Arab Spring lead to something useful? Yes. Will it? That’s a situation that is ongoing, to determine whether it will. But calling it a “spring” is itself depressing, since it’s much like the Obama slogan of “hope and change” – it gets hopes up while the elite use that manufactured hope to make things even worse.
A slave watching Django Unchained and cheering is doing nothing other than living vicariously through another’s experience, which isn’t even a real experience. Hollywood smiles in response and greenlights Elysium.

The state of the world, part 2

July 26, 2013

The world is horrific, with millions dying of starvation and easily preventable disease yearly, millions more dying or being raped in armed conflict, massacre, and/or genocide, along with more minor problems like billions living in poverty, nearly universal lack of adequate health care, severe birth defects due to weapon fallout, etc.

It’s going to get much worse, due to not just the ecological effects of global warming but the political effects. Poor people around the world aren’t just going to die quietly as their homes and bodies are ravaged by an overheated dying world, they are going to riot since they have nothing left to lose.

It’s ridiculous to think that the United States is going to reduce it’s military budget, since all of their military bases around the world, all the investment in dominating the internet, etc. only becomes more important once the terrified hordes come crashing through the gated communities. In a dying world even the rich and powerful become insecure, and their lack of security results in their need to control all of human life.

Noone with any sense wants to fight a dragon, but once the choice is between fighting and death, suddenly everyone wants to fight the dragon. So we team up, the final battle between humans and dragons, and IF humans win those of us who are still alive after the war get to build a better world. At least one lesson will be learned – dragons will no longer be allowed to exist. We were foolish and arrogant to let them live and it’s going to cost us dearly.

There are mass protests all around the world to a degree never before in human history, the Arab Spring merely the most famous example. And this is only the beginning. As the world gets worse the people will get far angrier. Many dragons are going to die.

The future is going to be horrific. We’ll either die or perhaps, like in Dante’s works, we’ll find heaven through the deepest most terrible depths of hell.

The dragons call us zombies and say they are justified in their treatment of us as they take human form and blow our heads off with shotguns, but don’t believe it. We are humans, and they are the monsters.

Good luck to us all.

On superheroes

July 21, 2013

Superheroes were created when humans stopped believing in themselves. Same with robots. The idea is that humans can no longer engage in positive projects, they can only cling to basic life, and anything more than that must be done by superheroes, robots, and rich and powerful people.

Humans are believed to be drowning in despair, decimated and useless – thus the need for a non-human savior. Any attempt by pathetic corrupt humans to do good in the world will end in failure.

Thus superheroes as powerful – “I used to be just a pathetic human but now I shoot laser beams from my eyes! Yippee it’s time to go to town!” Examine the transformation in Peter Parker in Hollywood’s Spiderman movie, for example.

The superhero mythos paints humans as sad creatures counting down the days to death while superheroes because they are powerful are truly alive. This is why superheroes always have ridiculous physiques (except when that’s too inconvenient for an actor to accomplish) even when that makes no sense with respect to their powers.

It’s fascist ideology, which is why humans are inherently offended by it. Hitler believed the German populace to be effectively dead but through world domination and utter power they would be brought to life. Hitler viewed himself as a superhero, a kind of national doctor healing the populace.

So now we have not only vigilantes like George Zimmerman roaming the streets but “superheroes” like the Rain City Superhero Movement transcending their pathetic human selves into an enlightened powerful form.

Anyone familiar with the rise of the fascist right in Europe RIGHT NOW, I’m not taking about the 1930s, understands the dangers of right-wing chauvinist fascism, and if you don’t believe that can happen in the United States I can only hope that you don’t experience a very rude awakening in the next few years. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On the computer game Deus Ex

July 21, 2013

JC is a metaphorical acronym for Jesus Christ – JC Denton in the game is a transcendental figure whose character progression inevitably results in creating the “new man” – he’s defining the transhuman reality. Thus the box art where Denton, bathed in light, looks up at the sky (heaven).

Page wanted to dominate Helios – Helios viewed himself as indispensable to the future and thus couldn’t merge with Page. The most heart to heart conversation in the game was between Morpheus (who later rose like the sun to become Helios) and Denton, and it was clear that Morpheus admired Denton.

JC is not himself after the merging – this merging parallels that at the end of Ghost in the Shell – it’s understood that the only moral merging is both entities losing themselves to create something new. Both Helios and Denton are lost and something new is created.

All of the main characters in the game are attempting to be this messiah – Tracer Tong, the Illuminati, Bob Page, Helios. Helios recognizes his limitations as a computer program and is expanding the capabilities of his program by merging with Denton, thus enabling the best possible transhuman reality in his view.

All of the messiah figures, including Denton himself, are dark and sinister (the game takes place entirely at night), and the oppressed enemy in the game is not so much the various messiahs opposed to each other, but regular people, who are killed off and/or weakened by the plague.

Deus Ex depicts a world where regular decent people suffer terribly and die while the power elite fight among each other for global domination.

Helios is the technocratic option, corresponding to the computerized security/surveillance state illustrated clearly by the recent Snowden revelations. The Echelon system in Deus Ex has similarities to the NSA system.

Page and the Illuminati are two types of dictatorships – the iron fist versus the velvet glove.

Tracer Tong is the ironic luddite – using technology to destroy it.

JC Denton, despite being well meaning and declared by the game itself to be a savior, cannot produce a good outcome. He can only choose the lesser evil.

The good possible future, that is to say democracy, is made impossible by a combination of the plague and the global police state. Instead of fighting the powers that be, the people reach out to the same powers that caused the plague to grant them the cure, cynically named Ambrosia, “food of the gods” but actually merely a life-extender for ravaged and dominated humans barely continuing to breathe.

The “aliens” in the game correspond to the “evolved man”, ala Olaf Stapledon’s “second men”, yet keeping with the dark irony of the game are actually just genetic cross-breeds.

Inspirations for Deus Ex include Ghost in the Shell, Metal Gear Solid, System Shock 1 and 2, the Matrix, Neuromancer, and the works of G.K. Chesterton.

Although Deus Ex is the best computer game ever made, it’s fundamentally flawed in it’s optimism – the powers that be in the real world aren’t interested in creating the “second men”, but rather simply maximizing their wealth and well-being in a dying world. Deus Ex believes in a radical shift in the nature of life (from human to transhuman) whereas what’s at stake in the real world is the existence of life itself.

A question regarding the civil rights/women’s rights movement and globalization

July 9, 2013

Here’s an email I sent recently to Michael Parenti:

 

Hi Michael,

I’d like your take on the role of transnational capital in the civil rights and women’s rights movements.
The standard line we are given is that a groundswell of popular movements were the sole cause of the social gains made by the civil rights and women’s rights movements in the United States. Yet at the same time that those movements were having success transnational capital (not national capital) was emerging as the world’s most powerful force.
Transnational capital, unlike national capital, is anti-racist, since most of the world’s potential markets are brown-skinned people. Tiger Woods is a model citizen of this type – a mixed race individual who makes corporations millions of dollars.
Just one year after Martin Luther King, Jr. switched his message from civil (African-American) rights to the rights of the poor he was assassinated. Some of the powers that be don’t mind him asking for rights for blacks, but none of the powers that be like the poor.
It’s a terrible myth that anti-racism is progressive. It’s transnational. By no means am I saying that racism is progressive. Racism is aligned with national (Western, largely White) capital.
My further argument is that there has been no “change of consciousness” or in Chomskyian terms no “civilizing process” involved in the civil rights movement, since what really happened was a switch from racist ideology, which supports national capital, to anti-racist ideology, which supports transnational capital.
This argument will likely never gain popularity, not due to it’s lack of truth but rather due to it not appealing to any powerful political group – progressives as I’m sure you’re aware enjoy congratulating themselves for their “change of consciousness” concerning a transition from racism to anti-racism and aren’t in the business of upsetting their own self-esteem.
This may or may not matter to what I’m saying, but I’m a global socialist who believes that the best way to help the world is to elevate the material well being of the world’s poor, to enable a “living wage” baseline for human control over resources.
Thanks for reading and responding to this,
Brian

Video Games as a Martial Art

July 6, 2013

It’s commonly understood that video games are art, comparable in principle if not in practice with movies, television, and books. They’ve also been called toys, aptly so. Video games are the fourth Kawaii artform – sports the first, toys the second, and comic books the third.

I’d like to introduce you to what for most of you will be a new understanding of games, as a martial art.

The operation of games is done with input devices, usually either a joystick, controller, or mouse/keyboard. The Oculus Rift is simply another input device.

Games vary in the amount of manual dexterity they require, but even a point-and-click adventure game requires some. Most games require a much larger degree of hand-eye coordination, and one of the primary metrics in high level Starcraft play is Actions Per Minute, the equivalent of a karate master’s number of actions in battle.

Sports are also martial arts, and in all forms of martial arts the concept of Zen applies, which is said by believers to enable the maximization of performance. These believers do not apply Zen to any non-martial artform, they don’t enter a Zen state to watch a movie, for example.

Unlike every other form of martial art, games have mostly done away with the importance of strength. Being muscle-bound is a hindrance in gaming, and we’ll never see a bodybuilder Starcraft 2 champion, not just for the reason that one can’t combine training with weights to training in the game. Having only enough strength to allow for effective basic movement of the wrists, arms, and fingers is important.

Although they are typically called “houses”, Starcraft training centers where the players live could effectively be called “dojos”.

When we consider the importance of gaming in modern culture, never have I seen games as a martial art be considered as a reason for that importance. Yet we can trace the popularity (in the West) of “kung-fu fighting” and the rise of video gaming from the exact same period of time, the fall of the West during the Vietnam War and the realization that the world was going to die. Forgive me for the technical term here, but following World War II the world entered an Age of Anxiety where due to the existence of and possible at-any-time use of nuclear weapons which could cause total global catastrophe people became distraught about the imminent possibility of human annihilation. This anxiety, deepened by the moral destruction of the West by means of engagement in the Vietnam War, caused the celebration of hyper-speed, the idea that through great speed we can still save the world. So 1977’s Star Wars, a movie which featured the fastest sword in existence, the Light Saber, plenty of hyper-speed laser beams, faster-than-light travel, a kung-fu (err, Force) master in Yoda, represented the triumph of hyper-speed within American culture. Shortly thereafter Super Mario Brothers came out, a game requiring such hand-eye coordination that when beaten would cause even Bruce Lee to bow in respect.

I’d like to end this post with the lyrics of one of the funniest and coolest songs ever recorded, by Carl Douglas titled Kung Fu Fighting (they should play this song at Starcraft 2 televised matches):

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they fought with expert timing

They were funky China men from funky Chinatown
They were chopping them up,  they were chopping them down
It’s an ancient Chinese art and everybody knew their part
From a feint into a slip, and a-kicking from the hip

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they fought with expert timing

There was funky Billy Chin and little Sammy Chung
He said here comes the big boss, lets get it on
We took a bow and made a stand, started swinging with the hand
The sudden motion made me skip now we’re into a brand new trip

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they did it with expert timing

(repeat)..make sure you have expert timing
Kung-fu fighting, had to be fast as lightning

keep on keep on keep on

everybody was kung fu fighting