In the bitter aftermath of a very turbulent and emotionally unhinging presidential election it is easy to become distracted by the spectacle of the Real as it unfolds with both the surrealistic philosophic predilections of Jean Baudrillard and the realistic soothsayings of George Orwell without much distinction. Continue reading “Historical ¿truths? and The (doxa) Second Amendment”
In 1951— while in deep introspection to the grotesque horrors of the Holocaust — Theordor Adorno stated that “there can no longer be poetry after Auschwitz” Continue reading “Democracy after Trump”
On September 15th, 2016, less than two months until the U.S. presidential election, the New York Times posted an opinion editorial titled When a Crackpot Runs for President, which asked — or, rather, fervently challenged — if the media is failing in their duties to honestly frame the narrative of Donald Trump relative to Hillary Clinton (Kristof 2016). The looming subtext that lies in the shadow of the left-right rhetorical jabs of framing Trump as the climate-change-denying-crackpot is: What happen to reason? Hegel once proclaimed, “reason rules the world” (Hegel 12) and in light of that we can look at the reasonable efficacy of Trump’s limelight-laden candidacy as representing either a challenge to the governing authority of Reason or, with heavy hand, a challenge to the Hegelian proposition, eo ipso, as wholly and fallaciously false. The staunchly attentive run-of-the-mill liberal response to the aforementioned inquiry would surely go as the New York Times opines and see Trump as a challenge to reason and definitely not a challenge to Hegel. And, notwithstanding that opinion and Trump’s fascist underpinning, the devout Hegelian may see Trump as a personification of Reason’s antithesis and will remain woefully idealistic and await the dialectical resolve as Reason acquiesces itself as being both in itself and for itself — there is a Reason for everything, even Trump. With that, and that, said, the purpose of this reflection is not to echo the persistent opinion that Trump is a threat to reason, nor is it to rescue Hegel by reveling in the ignorant veil of the known-unknown of Absolute Spirit, but, rather I ask, is Trump a challenge to Hegel? Continue reading “Trump in the Shadow of the Hegelian Ego”
50+ die in a florida nightclub in a possible act of Islamic Terror. An explosion in an airport in China. And a car strikes 5 pedestrians in Las Vegas. The Texas Lt. Gov. quips and retracts ‘reap what you sow’ and Google suggests the news I would prefer is how the presidential candidates react. The world, the media and the words of discourse will become crippled to the ‘possible act of Islamic terror’ and retreat towards comfort; ignoring that the true obscenity is the “+” that follows the 50 — some lives are not even worth counting. Continue reading “Any Given Sunday…”
[B]ecause […] the right of conquest being in fact no right at all, it could not serve as a foundation for any other right, the conqueror and the conquered ever remaining with respect to each other in a state of war, unless the conquered, restored to the full possession of their liberty, should freely choose their conqueror for their chief. Till then, whatever capitulations might have been made between them, as these capitulations were founded on violence, and of course de facto null and void, there could not have existed in this hypothesis either a true society, or a political body, or any other law but that of the strongest. (Rousseau 90) Continue reading “Violence, Ideology and the Aims of Society”
As I sat in a coffee shop reading the schizophrenic philosophical whims of Gilles Deleuze I became bombarded with a young couple, their parents and a baker who devoured my personal space to fuss over cake choices for the young couples to-be wedding. The cake maker asks the groom to be, “so you do not eat gluten” and the groom replied promptly: “no”. And, without skipping a beat, the cake maker responds to this anti-gluten proclamation with the follow up question: “is it by choice?” If you so desire to need to know the grooms response to this rather puzzling question then I will pacify your need for absolution by telling you he said “no [it’s not by choice]”. However, for the purpose of this essay, I will focus only on the bakers question: “is it by choice?” I have no wherewithal to know or care if the groom has a gluten sensitivity or gluten allergy, but I am curious as to understand how it is reasonable for somebody to ask the question “is it a choice?” — how could it not be a choice? However, I will persist to claim that the cause of his desire to avoid gluten and the cause of his lack of perceived freedom to gluten or to not gluten is simply: Plato.
On any given day, as I transverse through the market there is an entire aisle dedicated to bread and the choices we have for bread seem to be endless— our bread freedom is not infringed upon. Our choices are aplenty. But our groom has no choice— so he says. Even if gluten makes him sick he still has the choice to be sick or not to be sick. But, however, it may be true that he has no choices at all— perhaps his casual response is more insightful than we first thought. The irony of his request to not have gluten, notwithstanding his allergies, is that the party of five was sipping coffee made in South America that has a substantial carbon footprint, milk from cows that lived off corn drenched in pesticides and processed/refined sugar; and more specifically for the bride to-be: “milk” from the pesticide drenched soy bean and, in avoidance of sugar, the neurotoxin aspartame is substituted as her method to sweeten up her coffee. And, the icing on the cake, (not to take away from their sugar laced literal icing on their cake samples), is their coffee is served in paper cups that will live out their days in a landfill— even though they completely consumed their beverage in the coffee shop and there is a full shelf of beautifully branded ceramic mugs awaiting to be actualized. If, he does not have the choices to choose to eat with gluten or not, then it is reasonable to assert that the decision to consume all of their coffee/cake accouterment is also not a choice at all.
This young couple, of maybe 25 at best, is getting married, having a wedding cake, testing cake with their parents and is under the polite consultation of the cake maker— where is the evidence of their free choice? What are choices anyway? Our desires? Our whims? Are conditioned response to the thing that triggers our pleasure principle? Are we, as Freud posits, merely desiring machines that perpetually operate in pursuance of acquiescing to the desires of our Id, Ego and Superego? But, if we are mere machine of desire— then it’d be reasonable to suggest that we as part of the social machine too. As, we do not exist as autonomous bubbles of desire — as much as we want to be. So do my desires and whims become the product of the social machine, or are my whims and desires the product of the social machine? Meaning, more specifically, does our couple do what they do because the social machine dictates their reality, or are they autonomously choosing to do as they do and are actualizing their true desires and, as it so happens, their desires are then reflected back into the social strata as the norm. In reduction, are they mere cause or mere effect?
So I will first abstract our subjects into the objective reality of, what Kierkegaard would call, the crowd and asses the casual relationship of desire. If I was to create a business plan to sell, say for example cakes, my potential investors would be avid to claim I need to specify my demographic and explicitly tell them who I am creating my goods/services for, who I am marketing to and who I am, hopefully, selling to. But, how do I know that my potential buyer exists, before the thing they want to buy exists? Is it, as marketing departments state, that the aggregate crowd of desiring people exist prior to the thing of which they desire? Or, does the thing of which they desire create the people desiring? Nietzsche would argue that “selection does not presuppose a primary gregariousness; gregariousness presupposes the selection and is born of it. ‘Culture’ as a selective process of marking or inscription invents the large number in whose favor it is exerted.”[i] In other words, “culture” as the creator of the thing that we desire— objet petit a in Lacanian — is mere cause and the mere effect is the desire. This would imply that our subjects desire to drink what they drink, eat what they eat, marry and all desire and choice in whole is mere effect of the social-machine as cause, viz. “culture”. However, it would be obtuse to suggest that all desire is mere effect, as the cause from social strata of “culture” cannot be causa sui. In other words, in order for a gregarious line of dominoes to fall in line, there needs to be a casual agent— a mere cause to tip the first domino, the creator of desire.
It may be intuited from the previous paragraph that there was a desire creator that dictates what things come into existence and from the creation of that the thing— desire grows. As to conjure and suggest that the cycle of production is a cycle of the repetition of creating, as Badiou would call it, an Event that becomes situated in the void to which it non-existed prior to its existence.[ii] In other words, prior to the invention of soymilk, there was a negated soymilk void to which the soymilk became situated within, and subsequently, the desire to select soymilk was thrusted into existence as the desiring subjects actualize their fidelity to the Event of soymilk. And this is all part of the cycle of production. But, even in the Badiou argument we run into the dilemma of not knowing who pushed the first domino. All that we have reasoned from Badiou is that each string of dominoes became from its own negated being and that it is only knowable by a process that can be reduced to a philosophical game of three-card Monte — as we try to discover the queen that hides between Aristotelian logic and axiomatic set theory. Is this merely just codifying the rules of ideology? Before we start to unpack ideology, let’s return to Deleuze for a moment:
Deleuze would argue, as Marx would, that capitalism divides — as a “repressive machine” — it’s own essence into two categories: “abstract labor” and “abstract desire”— notwithstanding its process to alienate, re-alienate,[iii] ad infinitum. This puts people into two categories: “political economy and psychoanalysis, political economy and libidinal economy.”[iv] The first category, as political economy is the desire cause and as psychoanalysis is the facilitator of desire negation and secondly, as political economy is the desire cause and as libidinal economy is the actualization (effect) of said desire. Meaning, all people are the cause and effect of desire, and the psychoanalysis is, as Deleuze argues, the facilitator of desire negation (in both form and content). Psychoanalysis does not discover repression, it, conversely, creates repression. What that said, I will go back to ideology for a bit:
Althusser would argue that ideology is created for the subject and by the subject and it has no history.[v] This notion that ideology is created for the subject and by the subject is arguing that an agent, as subject, objectively (as they perceive) projects their desire upon the Other and, in exchange as does the Other. Creating a feedback loop of self-validation that vacillates from subject to subject (rationalized in the illusion of objectivity). And although the content of ideology always changes, the form of ideology “has no history”— meaning it never changes or alters. It could be reasoned that Deleuze’s notion that all people are both abstract desire and abstract labor (as desire creating social-machine) is, merely arguing as Althusser does, but with different terminology. Inferring: desire is the ideology of capitalism. And the Event (or ideology) of psychoanalysis is the rational strong arm of desire repression; reduced to merely the scientifically validated repackaging of religious guilt.
So in returning to our married couple to-be we could suggest that their desires are the product of capitalist ideology and capitalist ideology is the product of their desire. They are both the cause and effect of their own desires— however, their autonomous choices to select their desire does not exist. As argued, their perception of objective ideology will create the illusion that the rationality behind their decision is objectively validated and henceforth it’s reasonable to acquiesce to the crowd— even though they are the crowd. This is, perhaps, a reasonable argument in our investigation of our gluten-fearing cake eating friend — he is not desire cause, or desire effect, but, in actu, is the Hegelian synthesis of cause (thesis) and effect (antithesis).
Although I could settle with concluding that our anti-glutenite was wrong to assert that he has no choices, but that also does not mean he has a choice. His act of actualizing his notion of non-choice is the act that removed his capacity to have choice. He negated his freedom by actualizing his freedom towards non-freedom. However, as stated earlier, I am going to blame Plato for this problem, so we shall continue. Marx and Deleuze would persist on arguing that this is the product of capitalism (division of labor) and does this have a history, a beginning—when did capitalism begin? Who kicked the first domino? Rancière would argue that the first domino was kicked over by Plato by the act of casting the shoemaker into the role of proletariat[vi] — Plato implicitly decided the division of labor. If it is true, as Althusser reasons, that both ideology and philosophy are not possible without society[vii], then I could posit the following: Plato is the father of western philosophy, the father of western ideology, the father of capitalism and, as he casted away our reality into his idealistic world, he inscribed the void within the human psyche to forever desire the real as we forever perpetuate the imaginary. As Badiou perceives all that is as coming to be in the void of all that is-not — it is Plato, I posit, who created the void, the hole, the desire, the dread, the nothing, the lack— the negative void of existence that all western civilization has been damned to contend with. This is our Platonic guilt.
[i] Deleuze, Gilles, and Fe Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1983. Print. Page 343
[ii] Badiou, Alain. Theory of the Subject. London: Continuum, 2009. Print.
[iii] Deleuze, Gilles, and Fe Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1983. Print. Page 303
[iv] Ibid. 304
[v] Althusser, Louis. On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. Print.
[vi] Rancière, Jacques, and Andrew Parker. The Philosopher and His Poor. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2004. Print.
[vii] Althusser, Louis. On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. Print.
Ever since childhood I have been obsessed with attending church and as a product of that obsession I have attended the church services of nearly 20 different religious traditions. My fascination with religion was and is deeply rooted in what is essentially a deeply rooted fascination with the idea of death. I remember as a child going to church, while sitting among the believers, I would see what I felt was completely obvious but it was not till much later in life that I realized how oblivious others were.
The connotation of church is usually a place of solace and hope and you think people going there would be happy and enriched by the process— in short, their happy place. But, as a child I saw nothing that resembled happiness. Casting my gaze across the pews and looking deeply into the eyes of each and every person, the only emotion I would ever see is a deep rooted state of despair.
I attended many different churches, as I was fervently searching for a religious tradition that differed from my past experiences— I wanted to find human happiness. And, no matter where I looked— despair was the only thing I witnessed. It was later in my adolescents that I finally realized that the drive behind all of this was, in essence, death anxiety— they were deeply afraid of death and are simply and desperately latching on to anything with semblance of hope that perhaps death is not the only option.
I always found the idea of accepting, in a pure and visceral way, the finitude of life as altogether liberating. Being free to live and free to die without reservation, pretense and defense is, to me, the way we are supposed to be. Accepting responsibility for our own existence and living freely and blissfully in our own experiences. The existential dilemma that I face everyday of my life is my process of perpetually contending with trying to understand what it means to exist. Is my existentially-driven desire to accept and thrive in my freedom the reality of things, or is my ego just rationalizing my hedonistic Id into making me feel what I believe has value. In other words, is my rejection of religion, ideology and dogma legitimate or is it just me mimicking my own personal variation of faith.
Nearly every single day of my life, as I lay down in bed to fall asleep at night there is and always has been, one single preponderance of thought that is the source of my excitement, happiness, despair, fear, anxiety and confusion— the angst of human existence. I am not sure why so many people are fixated on trying to understand what it is to die, when we haven’t seemed to grasp: what it is to live, yet. But, it is this deep thorn that has driven me to my task, my drive and my mission.
As I see it, I should question any and every system that implicitly or explicitly infringes on human freedom. Every system that insists that life is easier or safer while bonded in a cave. Every system that persists on controlling the hearts and minds of beautiful and autonomous beings under illogical and disingenuous motivations. I have no intent to wave my finger, to dictate or to control. If I explicitly expressed a path to freedom— that act, in of itself, would be to deny ones freedom. As my path, may not be their path or your path. I concede and accept that ultimately I know nothing, except what I have perceived as my own experienced reality— which, I will question, contest and reject until the horizon of my existence is cleared into a void of absolute nothingness. With nothing behind me and nothing in front of me. With nothing in my past, nothing in my present and nothing in my future— this is the spot where my existential resolve begins: Motivated by angst, and reasoned with philosophy— I will hold your hand and be your friend, and deep within the void of existence we will discover our humanity together. This is my mission.
This painting reminds me of a joke: You can determine how racist a white person is by the volume they say the words “black people” while among other white people at a social gathering. For example, they could be referencing some anecdotal story that happened earlier in their day and when they say “black people” their voice drops significantly, as if they are whispering it. Is their motivation for whispering because they feel their language is taboo? Or, do they feel it reduces African Americans to qualify their existence by skin color— implicitly implying that having the quality of black is a negative connotation in of itself? Or do they assert and accept a cultural negative connotation and from an act of liberal tolerance reduce their voice— as to symbolically reduce the effect of the presupposed negation? Which, in return, becomes the negation, of what they were trying to negate.
Last week this mural was painted by the graffiti artist that is known simply as “Bansky” in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, UK. A local government council voted to paint over the art because it was “offensive and racist…” and painting over it is “in line with [their] policy to remove this type of material within 48 hours.” (Johnston, 2014) As the whispering white person is attempting to act tolerant towards a person of another race by down-playing the race qualifier and it’s presumed negative implication, so is the government agency that removed the art that depicted racists pigeons casting away a poor little swallow. Does negating the negation solve the problem? Is the notion of being tolerant of other people and their differences and struggles merely a product of cognitive dissonance— hence, allowing us to create symbolic wedges. Like Holden Caulfield perpetually and fanatically obsessing over removing the words “Fuck you” from the world (Salinger, 1951), in hopes that if we can remove evidence that the world was ever dirty, then we can claim it is clean.
This 21st century paradox of tolerant intolerance, as Žižek would claim, is tolerance that only goes as far as the front door. In other words, there is a political desire (if you can call it that) to be tolerant of other people from a distance, or perhaps a priori (I would posit), but equally, and perhaps in abstract rebellion to the communication rebellion and its compulsion with connecting everybody, is the need to have the “right not to be harassed” (Žižek, 41), and it’s the politics of fear that not only validate this position, but in regard to censoring this art— enable it. This, all too familiar, super-sensitive, politically-correct neurosis of modern capitalism is, as they say, the root of the problem. Capitalism in of itself, which creates a state of objective violence, which becomes a feedback loop where “the external threat that the community is fighting is its own inherent essence…” (Žižek, 27). In short, capitalism is a negation of the negation.
As George Orwell expressed after returning home to England after helping the Catalonians in their fight against fascism: it is a daunting task to consider the British are bickering over the milk on their doorstep being of unsatisfactory temperature, while a world away in Spain wounded men sleep in cold filth and try hard to illuminate their night with “lanterns filled with olive oil”. It is, as if, people do not have the foresight and willingness to see around the arc of the earth. (Orwell, 1952) Technology has expanded our ability to connect over greater distances and, in essence, decreased the size of our world— and, subsequently, decreased this arc of blind indifference towards thy neighbor, who, is now, too fucking close.
Reflecting back on the painting you can see the double-negation as follows: the explicit racism that is illustrated in the art, as art reflecting life and in the process of reflecting it’s evidential of the objective violence, which negates the telos of society (more on this assumption later). Then the act of censoring this negation is implicitly causing symbolic violence in the form of a negation— as non-language that is negation qua negation of a negation is deduced to Capitalism in positivity. Capitalism in positivity is acting upon itself to prevent its own annihilation, or in other words, capitalism will act in self-preservation to abstain from annihilation of self. Or in short, as Ayn Rand would virtuously defend: capitalism is the philosophy of selfishness (Rand, 1965).
Ayn Rand would go further to claim that the virtue of selfishness is the opposing action to the act of altruism. As selfishness is an act that benefits the self, while altruism is an act that benefits the non-self (Rand, 1965). Žižek postulates that this reasoning is fallacious as it is possible for an agent to be both egoistic and altruistic in action without contradiction— donating money to charity will benefit the recipient of the charity with money and the giver of charity will be benefited from the positive affirmation of the good deed. The opposition to egoism should inherently work “against self interest” and Žižek posits envy as the opposition to selfishness and, a fortiori, Capitalism (Žižek, 86).
Analyzing the Bansky painting we could argue that the pigeons are acting egoistic in their unwillingness to share resources with the swallow, but we can also argue that the pigeons are not acting from ego, but rather from envy— as they’re envious of the colorful plumage of the swallow. Moreover, the swallow can also be seen as embodying both egoism and envy— or as Freud puts it our inherent “death drive is opposed by our pleasure principle” and in Lacanian language “the desire for the other” (Žižek, 87). It’s not a stretch to take this to the next step and ask is the self-contradicting nature of ego/envy an unmodified reflection of the Big Other’s aforementioned self-contradicting negation? Or, conversely, is the opposite true? Žižek fails in this regard to recognize that there is nothing to determine who is holding the mirror— the ego/envy dichotomy may be merely analogous to the authentic/inauthentic self and the essence of being or in Heidegger terms: dasein (Heidegger, 1962). Implying that the Marxist swan song, which has been set to perpetual repeat, that warns against the evils of capitalism is actually a warning against the evils of human nature disguised in a mask of abstraction. Therefore, to reason for Marxism is to reason for Utopia. This now brings us full circle to the assumption I made earlier about the telos of society — what is the point of all this to begin with?
As Kant argues the path to perpetual peace (Utopia) comes from very well constructed and firmly followed international laws that are designed to finely tune society to the perfect balance of law and order (Kant, 2006) — alluding to the semblance of globalized fascism. Conversely, Popper argues that perpetual peace (Utopia) is the product of a genuine, and universal, rejection of all ideology— alluding to the semblance of globalized communism (Popper, 1999). Aristotle argues that the telos of society is the “aim at the most authoritative good for all” and this comes from a partnership between citizen and state (Chase, 1911). Between the two polarizing ideals of Kant and Popper, is there a path that embodies the common good of all the people— Can Aristotle’s perfect polis ever be realized? Or are we just kidding ourselves? How can we create a society that transcends our inadequacies, without transcending ourselves first? Otherwise, the crux of existence is just the longest game of Whac-o-mole ever conceived.
As neither I, nor Žižek, have a solution to this perpetual problem — I shall digress and get back to the joke. If we were to transcend ourselves to a state of Eudaimonia it would be evident in a simple notion: the joke about racism I mentioned earlier would be completely nonsensical. Meanwhile, all philosophical inquiry in this matter will be akin to drawing circles in the sand, only to watch the waves of time annihilate them and then redraw, repeat, ad infinitum.
- Johnston, C. (2014). http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/01/banksy-mural-clacton-racist?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2#start-of-comments. In The Guardian.
- Salinger, J., & Mitchell, E. (n.d.). The catcher in the rye.
- Ek, S. (2008). Violence: Six sideways reflections. New York: Picador.
- Orwell, G. (1952). Homage to Catalonia. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
- Rand, A., & Branden, N. (1965). The virtue of selfishness. New York: New American Library
- Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. New York: Harper.
- Kant, I., & Kleingeld, P. (2006). Toward perpetual peace and other writings on politics, peace, and history. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Popper, K. (1999). All life is problem solving. London: Routledge.
- Chase, D. (1911). The Nicomachean ethics of Aristotle. London: J.M. Dent ;.
I am well aware that the TV series Lost ended over four years ago and this examination is long overdue,