Sunday, 14 March 2010

Reintegration through alienation

It seems that the path of greater self-knowledge is often accompanied by a descent into darkness - perhaps it is even necessary. How does one cope with the loss of the naive idealism of youth without becoming bitter?

The machinery of the system of the modern world exceeds the capacity of any individual to resist. We each face the risk - perhaps even unavoidable - of dissolution into this incredibly open, massively connected global consciousness: the resistive forces themselves are absorbed; they become dispersed into the barren wasteland of the characterless morass of overwhelming surplus. The most effectively means of silencing something is instead to drown it out: stifling breeds martyrs.

Reaction is superfluous. Alternative is already now preceded by a prepared accommodation of the appropriate level of outrage. That is has been prepared for is proportionately accountable to the detail with which is has been predestined to be successfully monetised. Revolution, the 'underground', 'avant-garde', the 'extreme' are now purely products of a retroactive postmodernist nominalism - that is, mere utility; to those ready to assemble more wealth from this imagination-as-capital product*.

Today, the space was made for this new form of 'extreme' in advance by delineating the inverse structural boundaries; they are the calculated co-efficient compensating factor, as truly extreme only by as much as they have been planned for and accommodated by the mitigating edifice.

It is little wonder, then, that most unwavering advocates of anything underground, extreme, alternative, or genuinely subversive in art, naturally, and quite rightly, often find that upon the successful commercial enterprise of said piece of art, that subsequent works generally have lost the very quality that first made it so vital, direct and alive to them. This is no more obvious than in music; the band has "sold out". They have allowed commercial considerations to devalue the artistic communication. Refusing to conform, and equally importantly, refusing to "refusing to conform", and instead maintaining the central quality in the face of every force of dissolution is the quality of uprightness to use Evolian terminology.

The form of extremism that is cynically calculated in advance loses its extremity by its degree of obvious vulgarity: the inner space it was supposed to open through its dynamic of turbulence instead becomes emptied of inner value and turned into material commodity. The avant-garde requires the element of surprise: its landscape must be one of the unexplored.

The other option is irony. You exploit the cynical landscape of  "prefabricated extremity" by producing a work that seemingly conforms to this template - but subtly deviates, though in such a way as to be only visible to those for whom such a resistance was created in the first place.

The net effect of all this, is that the true resistance is often to be  amongst those who sit silently by, detached.

In my case, gradually a reintegration occurs: understanding that the counter culture catering to the alienated youth is cynically masterminded by the very force we resist, but are unable to openly defeat, we accept. Accept, though conscious of this acceptance: and thereby better able to see through the manipulations. We redirect the manipulations back against the system. When you understand that the ultimate order of things is dictated by forces against whom resistance is impossible, the resistance becomes entirely internalised: it thereby gains ultimate objective power as a votive action. This process of the external causing an internal reaction out towards the external, completes its cycle when the external is reabsorbed into the internal. Hegel provided a detailed explication of this phenomena more accurate and acutely than most others before or since 200 years ago.

Too abstract?

Consider all the alienated youths: the goths and emos that gather in the  parks looking - deliberately - miserable. The kids that group on street corners (and quite often direct random, unprompted acts of violence to passers by). Why? What is the force they are attempting to resist? The  bands whose merchandise they buy that promise a revolution, yet backed by the major record labels that directly fortify the very system they wish to fight. They are largely unaware of this irony. Furthermore, the kids are not explicitly aware of what it is they wish to fight against, so construct their black-and-white analogue of the world to make the opponent easier to recognise. The opponent becomes reified. Every organised system becomes the enemy, but most especially those that dictate conventionalised, traditional norms; so, particularly, religion becomes the target.

In the process they do not realise that they actually suffer from the very institutionalisation of thought - and its corresponding consequences for freedom, namely lack of, which they do recognise - that they so fervently wished to struggle against. In the past, an over powerful Church dominated Western thought. Yet with God now "dead", and atheism triumphant, we enter instead an era of the  "Dawkins delusion": a scientific triumphalism that promises to explain away all the mysteries of life (everything merely reduced to neurological brain states) and herald in a bright future dominated by the certainty of probabilities and what is calculated to be true.

Yet the truth cannot be calculated. Douglas Adam's computer famously spat out the answer "42" to point out the absurdity of attempting to uncover life's inner truth in this fashion. What these kids do not realise is what really motivates them to resist, given feelings of the meaningless and pointlessness of modern existence - and, as a harsh critic of modernity myself, I must say, largely justifiably - is actually the spiritual urge of man to resist domination, and that for all their materialism and atheism, they will find that now that they have eradicated religion, in its place simply a new version will emerge on the secular plane.

Because science proceeds so incredibly successfully in explaining natural mechanism, and gives birth to so much technology, so abundant everywhere, the secular world ends up believing it will provide knowledge which is actually outside its remit. The illusion is not to even recognise this remit: all scientific "truth" presupposes the perceptual process.

Yet perception is not a basic or simple phenomena at all. Getting behind mere perception takes you outside of physics and into metaphysics.

I am not a fan of a lot of organised religion, but increasingly I find that I am even less a fan of "scientific triumphalism", and particularly in very recent years, this era of "digital totalism". Religion is less about knowledge and more about "religiosity", and science is even less about "religiosity" and more about explication of the perceptual world. Both would do well to remember that, rather than set up pointless straw men that cover topics that extend outside their scope.

Returning to the alienated youth, their uncomprehending resistance nevertheless does originate from the correct place, even if they direct it towards the wrong goals, moreover, in a futile manner. This correct place is to recognise that we should not allow the spirit of man to be crushed into faceless oblivion by a tyrannical Utopian vision of "progress" where progress simply means that everyone becomes comfortably satiated into an unthinking slathering cooperative whole. We should not conform purely to make life easier at the expense of our higher individual values. More is not always "more". Human beings are not simply a biological "machine" in an even bigger corporate machine, in a globalised machine or anodyne collective consciousness. Technology is a merely useful extension for us as a human: not the other way round.

We do not serve the system. The system serves us.

Equally, the natural world is more than mere system.

It is always essential that we keep "sticking it to the Man", even if we are ultimately crushed under the oppression of the Man. Resistance might indeed be futile: but futile resistance is still better than no resistance at all. So I come full circle: an "alienated youth" (though, incidentally, I never spent my younger days listlessly wasting away in the park or street corner!), I recognise that I am both a product of the system and my own man, and so can reengage with the alienated fight against the faceless bureaucratic machine that wants to reduce us all to soulless human atoms. The fight is one that is more intense than ever because it requires us to disengage from the apparatus which purportedly supports us but in fact helps fuel the very system we oppose.

We must stay Upright.

* On a more cynical and disturbing note, it is worth pointing out that the politics of fear dictate that the order of the ruling elite is best preserved by exploiting and manipulating the fear of the populace. Global terrorism is the product of the manipulation; indeed, this very manipulation and its incessant media coverage was its very genesis. Indoctrination via ideological tooling operates just as much in the supposed free thinking modern democracy as it does in the brain washing fundamentalist camps. The parameters, methods, and techniques used for the indoctrination are simply different. You create common consensus by shouting loud enough from enough preassigned sources. This creates the illusion of objectivity and balance. The Chinese government has  demonstrated its expertise in this respect rather ruthlessly, and indeed carelessly. The Western governments are simply more subtle - and therefore ultimately more effective, since they are betrayed less obviously. Eventually the growing middle class of China in this era of technological liberalism will tire of its overly autocratic government: so it will then simply learn to be more subtle.

For the majority is surely always right: majority support is purchased  by engineering the apparent problem and solution such that it seems the only reasonable thing to do. Something becomes morally justified as soon as it has the support of the common consensus.

History teaches us the error of this line of thinking every bit as much as it teaches us the error of the fascists.


French Fancy said...

I wanted to say thank you once again for analysing the weaknesses with my poetry recently. I have since read through my tutor's comments and regained my confidence a bit.

I love the fact you prefer pen and paper to most other mediums and I love the pens and Filofax you recently bought.

Aren O. Týr said...

Cheers FF. I'm no poetry buff but I do really enjoy reading some from time to time; I can't recommend Harold Bloom's "Best Poems of the English Language" highly enough if you don't have that on your bookshelf. Some of the poems in it are just supreme, and Bloom's survey/critique is outstanding...

Poetry is one of the most daunting of all arts. It should fill anyone with trepidation at the prospect of writing it, if you're truly trying to create something memorable.

But keep going! I'm the same with my writing efforts: I just need to keep at it, as thus far I've never managed to write a book quantity of words, let alone actually write a decent novel. First priority is the quantity. I'll worry about quality later.

Poetry on the other hand throws you immediately into the deep end: unless you're writing a Homeric epic, you don't even have the luxury of quantity initially: every single word must resound with quality since there are so few of them!