The Forest is a Devil

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chlamor
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The Forest is a Devil

Post by chlamor » Mon Nov 06, 2017 5:00 pm

The Forest is a Devil
OCTOBER 7, 2017

“What poet will give us the metaphors of this new language?”
Gaston Bachelard

“And what next? Armaments piling up like an accumulating catastrophe, mass neurosis, nations like mad dogs. All this seems gratuitous, horrible, cosmic to such people, unaware of the causes. How can the bourgeois still pretend to be free, to find salvation individually? Only by sinking himself in still cruder illusions, by denying art, science, emotion, even ultimately life itself. Humanism, the creation of bourgeois culture, finally separates from it. Against the sky stands Capitalism without a rag to cover it, naked in its terror.”
Christopher Caudwell

“My paintings are, in fact, a confrontation with Surrealism. Just as they are a confrontation with abstraction. “
Barnett Newman

“The most important ideas will be the most hidden.”

There is a new series this season called Wisdom of the Crowd. It is essentially a high tech fantasy in which lynch mob logic is valorized as progress. As a kind of Edenic brave new world of cyber snitching. I think is suggests a watershed moment in the new American imaginary of voyeuristic punishment porn. It is also profoundly white and affluent (and developed by the Keshet Media Group, an Israeli based creative team, and Adam Davidson, son of Gordan Davidson late of the Mark Taper Forum). Hollywood has also served up four different military dramas. Each more reactionary than the next. Couple this to the success of Designated Survivor and House of Cards and the entertainment landscape for television is one of an openly fascistic sensibility.

What lurks beneath this new glossy fascistic style? After the Vegas shootings I was reading a comment thread on social media. Someone suggested that hotels needed to add metal detectors and added security for the high floors. People WANT a police state. It’s this quality of living inside a movie. One has become a voyeur of oneself. It is also a kind of decades long conditioning that encourages people to feel empowered by identification with military figures.

Samuel Weber wrote an entire book that examined the forces that shape interpretation and also the boundaries of contemporary thinking in relation to institutions. The jumping off place for this book (Institution and Interpretation) was Bachelard’s brilliant early work The New Scientific Spirit. For Bachelard was concerned with mathematics and chemistry, primarily, but his analysis of institutional influence was highly prescient. The sclerotic institutional structures of advanced capitalism and the authority bestowed upon traditional demarcations of study, problematizes not just a particular field of study, but also of study itself. Bachelard saw a dopplganger effect happening in contemporary science. That a quality of choice in intuition created an essential ambiguity at the base of scientific description. What concerns me here is how authority comes to be operational, as it were, and how the new desire to privilege the ‘other’ in much of today’s non traditional thought, has created its own inflexible and fossilized set of tendencies in thinking.

Bachelard saw the need for a new metaphorical and figurative rethinking — rethinking that resisted what he saw in contemporary science of the last half of the 20th century…“time operates more by repetition than by duration”. The current animus toward Freud and Marx, let alone Lacan, is partly the predictable response of a bourgeoisie that more than ever in its history is operating from a position of panic. One of the results of this panic is both the authority and popularity of Hollywood product and also the content of this product. Bachelard suggested that there was an inevitable and irreducible ambiguity at the core of modern science, but also a core anxiety in its practitioners because of this. And by extension, I think, an anxiety, a deeper anxiety, in this new class of privileged voyeur of self.

Weber quotes Rene Lourau, who wrote: “The institution aspect (l’instituant)…has been increasingly obscured. The political implication of the sociological theories appear clearly here. By emptying the concept of institution of one of its primordial components (that of instituting, in the sense of founding, creating, breaking with an old order and creating a new one), sociology has finally come to identify the institution with the status quo.”

Exclusion is the organizing principle of contemporary science, but more, of the humanities and of art. It is ambivalent in its instituting, but persists in the creation of ever firmer borders and distance from the *real* (more on that below). The function of institutions today is both exclusion and containment, but also the imposition of a logic that infuses authority and protection — the rituals of admittance are now a given. Kafka certainly got that. The canary in the mine shaft for reconfiguring metaphor and institution in the 20th century were the extensive writers and artists of mittle Europa — meaning the German language countries, but also Slovakia and the Czech Republic (once obviously a single country), Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Slovenia, Hungary, and really, Romania. It is fascinating that given the Western anti communism of the last half century, that denigrated anything geographically close to the Soviet Union or DPR, that so much actually survives. In fact there was a distinct style sensibility in both dress, and food, and of course art. In men’s shoes, for example, those slightly bulbous raised cap toe Budapester, or Theresianer shoe, with Goister construction, or double soles, hand made with, often, wood nails — these were what cultured men wore. Not necessarily upper class, but it spoke of a maturity that marked mittleuropa culture. The writers, perhaps even more acutely, the second tier writers, were expressing the deeply entrenched bureaucratic institutional philosophy of that epoch. George Konrad is one, Gregor Von Rezzori and Alfred Doblin perhaps. Rebecca West, the British author, captured something of this climate in her book Black Lamb, Grey Falcon. I mention all this because the force of anti communist propaganda has been and continues to be wildly understated. And that near hysterical fixation on anti communist rhetoric is a foundational element in bourgeois institutions today

The eastern bloc writers one hears about in the U.S. and UK are largely those who early on expressed anti communist feelings. But there is another aspect to this, and that is how the culture industry works to appropriate and trivialize style codes and reproduce them as children’s books, or light comedy, or something of little consequence. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the perfect example, here. In fact, however, in German language writing, there was a clear alternative memory being manufactured after the second world war in writers like Peter Handke, Ingeborg Bachmann, and Danilo Kis. The southern border of this sensibility is Romania. And Romania remained forever a kind of anarchist outsider, both home to gifted folk cultures and to a palpable nostalgia for something remote that probably never existed. Hungary, and in particular Budapest, is a central Capital of this somewhat imaginary map. Prague would be the other capital. Vienna, of course, but Vienna was always too aware of itself, as was Switzerland. And the Swiss are never not deformed by virulent feelings of inadequacy and superiority simultaneously. The point of this digression is that style asserts its authority regardless, and that authority is then, finally, not the issue (well, it is, but more on that question below) but rather, as Weber writes: “Perhaps the question that needs to be explored is one that concerns not so much the survival of the *author function* as such, but rather the manner in which it lives on; not whether or not such an assumption must be made, but rather *how* it is performed and with what consequences”

The machinery of Hollywood has changed greatly over the last couple decades. And it is not just the seemingly endless production of comic based super hero blockbusters, nor even the tens of millions spent on idiocy such as the various Transformer films. The key to deciphering the institutional grip of the U.S. imaginary is to be found in Hollywood prestige product. It is easy enough to see the fingerprints of the Pentagon on countless TV series and films, and to see the remarkably reactionary films of directors like Peter Berg. In fact Berg is becoming the Leni Reifenstahl of the 21 century Hollywood. Rather though, these examples obscure the deeper trends and forces — forces that are institutionalized and which are expressed in often subtle and disorienting ways. The institution is the protector of the status quo, and hence must exclude that which threatens real change or disruption. But it must also, to retain respectability, self advertise as an engine of change.

Looking at post war European cinema, especially Italian, the presence of fascism never fades. Rossellini, in his neo-realist triology of the late forties ( Rome Open City, Paisan, and Germany Year Zero) the *rubble* of fascism (to borrow S. Craig’s metaphor) is there as a kind of rear view mirror from which characters slowly emerge. This was the building of a language for cinema after fascism. Bertolucci certainly examined the fascist screen, much as Antonioni did – both with clear class awareness. But it was Fassbinder, more than any other director, who delved into the ways that authority unified the screen of post war cinema. Looking at Germany Year Zero, though, would be a useful exercise after watching the lastest Berg and Wahlberg film project (think Lone Survivor or The Kingdom). The screen for Berg is that which reflects the hysterical shine and depthless narcissism of Hollywood and the U.S. military. Nobody emerges, but rather they are *there*, eternal, and unchanging like the hard clean surface of hard cold steel. Such surfaces only heat up with discharging death. Speech is often uttered as command. Gesture is still born.

The more the story insists on the character’s change, the more completely the audience is reassured they have not. Rossellini throughout his career, but certainly in the post war neo realist phase, was creating something much closer to the hypnotic. A series of meditations on memory, built upon the blood soaked rubble of the second World War. A Rossellini version of Vietnam or Iraq, for example, is a fascinating thought experiment. What would that look like? There is no shortage today of sentimentalized narratives of immigrant families or children surviving the horrors of displacement etc etc. None of them, that I can think of, are close to that disquieting integrity of vision and image that Rossellini possessed. And the reason is that each is built upon an institutional set of aesthetic principles that privilege the individual’s story while erasing the social memory and history. This is the immigrant as the bourgeoisie likes him or her. The immigrant who wants to be like them.

“In some of my films I’ve tried to follow a single character simply and honestly in an almost documentary manner, and I owe this method to Rossellini. Aside from Vigo, Rossellini is the only filmmaker who has filmed adolescence without sentimentality…”
Truffaut

Worth noting that Carol Reed’s The Third Man was shooting in Vienna at the exact time that Rossellini was filming in Berlin. While Reed was British, the film is American in its concerns with individualism, masculinity, and approach to the ruins of fascism. And it is the casting of Orson Welles as the quintessential profiteer and black marketeer, that infuses the film with an erotic resonance and one that elevated it from pulp novel (like the hero’s own Western novels) to something far more ambivalent. The film noirs of this period, the late forties, filmed in the U.S., remain the most perfectly expressed bits of hidden psychoanalytic performance in cinematic history.

But to return for a moment then to Fassbinder. For in Fassbinder that seemingly incidental eroticism of alienated masculinity is heightened and fetishized and made a part of something that foreshadows the coming eclipse of the screen, and destruction of reveries and memory in the American imagination.

“Poetry is one of the earliest aesthetic activities of the human mind. When it cannot be found existing as a separate product in the early literary art of a people, it is because it is then coincident with literature as a whole; the common vehicle for history, religion, magic and even law. Where a civilised people’s early literature is preserved, it is found to be almost entirely poetical in form – “
Christopher Caudwell

One of the indelible characteristics of institutional pedagogy today, and of institutionally approved art of any kind, is the removal of poetics. Even poetry has looked to dampen the idea of poetics. But perhaps it is better to describe it another way. Or, to rethink what is meant by poetics. There is, additionally, the emphasis on repetition.

Fassbinder also loved to talk about film. His own favorites included Bresson’s The Devil Probably, Marco Bellochio’s Fists in the Pocket (speaking of post war Italian anti fascism) and Hitchcock’s Suspicion, and Hawks Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and of course Written on the Wind, the Sirk masterpiece. Fassbinder had discovered Sirk somewhat late. But when he did, his own vision of screen language changed. The one surprise on this list was Emmano Olmi’s Il Posto. And yet, one can see the through line here. Sirk was much like Antonioni in a sense. This was a conscious deconstruction of the fascist author, father, patriarch. The voices of men in Sirk are soft. The sound track whispers nature, even as Nature reclaims man’s desire for permanence.

Like Antonioni, Sirk and Bresson both are almost monastic filmmakers. When I read of Tarkovsky, and often people describe Tarkovsky as monastic or religious or spiritual — I think perhaps, perhaps, but with Antonioni and Bresson there was another element. Antonioni was spiritual class awareness, and Bresson was close to someone like Dostoyevki. Sirk though, one always returns to Sirk. He is the great enigma. The great looming puzzle of post war screen expression. Fassbinder saw in Sirk something else, though. That all the beautiful and good and *normal* are always “weak, evil, and revolting”. For Sirk’s cinema was the one that indicted the institutions of bourgeois society; marriage, family, romantic love and career. And Fassbinder’s reaction to National Socialism was to demand the dissolution of all conventions of bourgeois life. And here that doppleganger effect is raised again.
“..every intuition will proceed from a choice; there will thus be a kind of essential ambiguity at the basis of scientific description…”
Bachelard

Weber asked in an earlier essay, “what is the place of theatricality in an age increasingly dominated by electronic media?” It is pointed out that for theatre, you need a place, and electronic media, rather obviously, has limited the role of place.

Plot, for Aristotle, has as its object no an imitation (sic) of men, but of life (biou). Aristotle links ‘action’ with ‘life’. For Aristotle, the concept of ‘media’ is inextricably tied to place and event. It is a much more complex discussion than I am sketching out here, but there are a couple other points worth noting. The City State, if examined etymologically and philologically, represents the *father* of theatre. And more interestingly, comedy is associated with extraterritoriality and with exile and wandering (per Weber). All of this is worth considering in relation to the evolution of property and with institutions. So — Weber notes that three millennia later Benjamin was discussing these elements, in relation to tragedy, and called it “the exposing of the present”. And this has always seemed to me the best one line description of theatre I know. And here the issue of the economic control of all media today must be looked at. “No single historical development is of greater importance than this shift of broadcast media from public service to that of private enterprise.”

Institutions shifted (they had already but now they shifted more, much more) in the first half of the 20th century. And there is a sub topic to be discussed that centers around electricity. For all of today’s media is electronic.

Prisoners are often referred to as *institutionalized*. Its curious that such a description is reserved for the bottom rung of society. The bourgeoisie are never so described, despite being far more influenced by the institutions of the West. And I cannot escape the sense that the shifts I’ve seen in film over the last forty years are deeply entangled with the psychology of those whose lives are virtually defined by their doppleganger in institutions.
Fassbinder’s favorite Bresson is The Devil Probably. In fact he threatened to quit as one of the judges for the Berlin Film Festival in 77 if the film did not receive an award. But I believe the most revelatory of Bresson’s late color films is Lancelot du Lac. Over at the Film Sufi…..there is this:
“Bresson’s presentation in Lancelot du Lac emphasizes the limited and constrained horizons of all the individuals. They are surrounded by dark forests, castle walls, and the small confines of rooms and huts. And they are further constrained by the physical burden of managing/manipulating their horses, their armor, their weapons, etc. These are isolated individuals, equipped with heavy weapons in order to fight their individual battles. When at the end they are confronted with an organized, semi-mechanized battle force of archers, they are no match for that kind of collective organization. So the individuals in the story are defeated by their isolation and their naive belief in their personal efficacy. Individual heroism is no match for cooperation.”

It is the great anti individualist film. And I remember when it first was screened in Los Angeles (that I knew of anyway) I went seven consecutive nights to watch it. I have rarely been as spellbound by any work of art. Many have pointed out that the repetitive cadences of the dialogue, the shots of arrows hitting trees (but never a person) are the fulfillment of a cinematic language that he had been developing for thirty years. He was in his seventies when he made the film. If one speaks of screen language, then Bresson is the final chapter. For here there is nothing that connects to the institutional logic of studios or capitalism. There is no intention to sell this film. For there is nothing to sell. The screen reflects nothing, in a sense, it is matte and absorbs one’s gaze. After the knights return, having wandered the forest in search of the grail, or of something, they are exhausted and despondent. Arthur proclaims “the forest is a devil”. There is no musical score to the film. There are only the sounds of daily life, of struggle and fatigue.

Guenièvre laments ; “Poor Lancelot, trying to stand his ground in a shrinking world.”

Here Benjamin is important again, and his theory of *interruption*. He applied this idea to theatre, and he took it, in part, from Epic Theatre. It is a caesura. And the word caesura first was used in Benjamin’s essay on Holderlin’s poetry. Samuel Weber notes the link between caesura and sober or sobriety.“…the caesura marks a decisive interruption and limitation of exaltation and sublimity.” And let me quote Weber a bit more because its relevant if one thinks of today’s Hollywood films. “And it is precisely this, the production of the theatrical process in its distinctive mediality — *vorstellung* as representing before rather than simply as representation — that Benjamin associates with the *interruption* practiced by Brechtian theatre. When it is suspended, identity comes up short, and it does so through gesture. Gesture interrupts action, which, as a movement of meaning, constituted for Aristotle the primary object of tragic representation. By interrupting this movement of fulfillment — and action always connotes fulfillment — gesture allows the representing to emerge as a process of setting before.”

One of the themes in the cinema of what I guess I might call anti fascist (post WW2) is entrapment. For Sirk it was the trapped woman. A theme Fassbinder extended. Bertolucci too, and Antonioni were narrating stories of the bourgeoisie awaking to their lives as prisoners of conformity. And later (sort of) the cold war paranoia of 1950s B-films, such as Detour, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Kiss Me Deadly, were all visceral representations of, not just state repression, but of the psychological deterioration of the West. Films in which nobody is not hugely damaged. This links to Benjamin’s notes on Holderlin and Brecht. Representing rather than concrete representations. It implies the theatrical performance. For this is a truth in the performative, and that is something utterly gone today. One of the reasons so much mass entertainment today feels lifeless and moribund is that a presentation is constructed as a totality, conceived as a totality. What goes missing is the present. That quality of exposing; the placing before (vor-stelung) has been minimized, if not eradicated. So, one strategy of mass propagandistic entertainment is to erase memory and history, the other side of it is to erase presence — or performance. Again the not accidental (probably) irony of performance art, an art form that is mostly without actual performative presence. What is exposed? Nothing. Nothing except self identification, or identity. The fact that the entire idea of playing a character is to be able to be more yourself is lost, and the monologuist and performance artist play themselves. But nobody knows who they are, even a little bit, so you end up with a doubly duplicitious event on stage.

Benjamin’s critique of Epic Theatre is interesting here, at least the discussion of acting. Weber writes… “On stage, no action is ever fully self present. As acting, such action is ex/posed in and through the iterations of a present participle that can never be totalized. Such acting is less like heroic action than the ‘strictly habitual course’ of instinctively performed repetitions that constitute conventional ‘behavior patterns’ or, rather, ways of behaving, *verhaltensweisen*. “ But acting is not identical repetition. It is a kind of recreation. And in that recreation is lodged something that Benjamin describes as the *trembling contours* of singular gestures. And such gestures are then a kind of laboratory of performance. Now Benjamin used the term *trembling contours* because of a tension he saw in this reiterative singularity that resists simple identification. An alterity is initiated.
“This is why the contours of such a gesture must be described as trembling: their location is always the result of a tension that is both in and extensive, affecting both internal composition and external situation.”
Samuel Weber

This is the laboratory aspect; for the actor cannot be reduced to the play, but is rather both in the play and practicing something else. It is ‘the work’– and there is a long tradition associated with this. From Noh drama to Attic tragedy, to Growtowski and Kantor. And as Weber notes, there is always an interruption this side of fulfillment. But more relevant is what Weber (and Benjamin) suggest later. And this has to do with the fact that theatre is never self contained. Other forms of art lend themselves far more readily to such an idea, but theatre was always suspect from the point of view of institutions. Theatre subordinates the play to the effects through which it constitutes itself (paraphrasing both Weber and Benjamin).


“In this way Epic Theatre distinguishes itself from the theatre of convention: it replaces education with schooling, distraction by grouping.”
Walter Benjamin

The education of knowledge is replaced by a schooling or training. A practice of judgement. This is about the audience then. Fast forwarding to contemporary electronic media and the production of an audience, or the definition of that audience. Today that process is bound up with institutional approval and with the surplus products of mass culture. Benjamin’s use of the word *grouping* has a complex history. And one that I think he probably altered as time went on, but it was an alternative to synthesis.

“Gesture, as Benjamin uses the term, defines itself at first through two traits. First, it interrupts. What does it interrupt? It interrupts that which ever since Aristotle has been considered to form the primary object of theater as a dramatic genre: namely, action. Or more precisely: plot. Ironic, perhaps, that precisely a theater designated as “epic” should be the occasion for a “Western” theory of theater to challenge its traditional subordination to plot and action.”
Samuel Weber

Without belaboring the entire critique of Epic Theatre, what is important I think is the manner in which acting has retreated to a kind of approved naturalism. Institutionally approved.

“Gesture is “form-giving,” shaping, insofar as it not only “interrupts” an ongoing sequence, but at the same time fixes it by enclosing it in a relatively determined space, one with a discernible “beginning” and “end.” But at the same time, the closure brought about by gesture remains caught up in that from which it has partially extricated itself: in the “living flux” of a certain temporality. The “strict, framelike closure” embodied in gesture is thus held together by a tension that Benjamin does not hesitate at times to designate as “dialectical.””


This is where I personally find discussions of rehearsal and memorization become important. Bresson for example used non professional actors. Rossellini did too, at times, and Bresson, like Ozu, would rehearse scenes hundreds of times until actors were mentally worn down and physically exhausted. One of the effects of film on theatre has been to erode the sanctity of rehearsal. And the economic imperatives of theatre today, in the West, and certainly in the U.S. has meant limited rehearsal time and often incomplete attention to memorization. And where it does occur and ample time exists, the process is mediated anyway by the loss of a kind of monasticism to which the actor once had to submit. And while it may seem odd to use that word, I think its not inaccurate. The rise of entertainment has meant that acting became celebrity and impersonation of self. Stars are congratulated for starving themselves for roles, or gaining weight, or whatever…dying their skin, anything but actually participating in the group work of a performance. The reciting of text is, in theatre, never really a monologue. And only very rare exceptions exists, in my opinion, for single character plays to bridge that chasm and become something that counters the anticipatory demands of contemporary audiences. A writer once told me, a playwright, that a great actor could make an audience shut up. That is, if you had a laugher…someone in the audience who just laughed idiotically at every line, and everyone has experienced this I think, the superior actor could make them stop. How that happens is about gesture and interruption. But it is also a product of the group; that a play is group meditation, and group pedagogy in some sense. But the pedagogical is very rarified. And this is where memorization again is related. The actor speaks a text that he or she knows. They *know* their lines. That knowledge is exactly that. A kind of knowledge.

Mednick used to say theatre is a form of thinking.

“what epic theater is about is easier to define with reference to the concept of the stage than to that of a new drama.”
Walter Benjamin

The point finally is that Benjamin’s prescience regarding media (even if he lived only to experience radio) was that situation and audience were being changed. Adorno’s spoke of a fallen world, and of the open prison of western capitalism. The institutional hegemony of contemporary thought is found in the saturated colors and surface gloss of the Las Vegas mass shooting. Those photos are a Peter Berg or Michael Bay movie. In fact Berg made a film about the cops and the Boston Marathon bombing (Patriot’s Day). But it’s not the obviously reactionary Berg that matters, because take any Ben Afflick film, or Speilberg, or etc. They are all about the Boston Marathon bombing. They are all about Independence Day.

Karoline Gritzner, writing of Adorno’s essay on Beckett….“In this timeless, a-historical ‘fallen world’ human agency has lost its impulse and purpose a long time ago – the catastrophe has already happened – and the endgame of the ‘dying ego’ seems like an endless rehearsal of the ‘complete dissolution of the act as a statement of will’.” There is a profound element in the very idea of rehearsal. And it exists in that ambivalent space that produces our dopplegangers.


The repetitions of rehearsal are inextricably bound up with death, finally. And it is that speaking aloud what has been repeated either silently, or in *rehearsal* that is strikes out against the inevitable. The films of Bresson are always about escape, I believe. And they late color films seem a final surrender to the fact one cannot escape. Redemption is perhaps in trying. But that is always the point of a practice, a work. Benjamin wrote modern existence took place in a constant state of emergency. The solemn reciting aloud of text, to an audience, from a stage, interrupts institutional authority. It has always been so, I believe. The repetitive non identical recreation of a text, that specific form of knowledge, is immune to commodification. That is not to say the knowledge itself may not be reactionary or institutionally vetted — only that the recapturing of the metaphysical is *possible* in such situations. Bachelard asked for rethinking metaphor. And this is crucial if one wants to make theatre, or make art today.

“The deterministic logic of the capitalist world, in itself a ‘tragic’ historical development of human civilisation, provokes gestures of resistance which are dependent on the recovery of a tragic worldview.”
Karoline Gritzner


Mass culture as personified by Hollywood film and TV today is one that encourages a kind of partial reflection back on ourselves, but of course that reflection is of an objectified frozen image of Nature. The acting of Hollywood film and TV is largely that which has discarded genuine gesture, because it is unnatural, and replaced it with naturalism, which is non organic, but which is given the institutional imprimatur of realness. It is approved institutional behavior *performed*. Institutions now protect and contain the frozen fascist vocabulary and they by default produce a look, a style, a kind of anti metaphor. One must manufacture group work in the sense that an audience is being schooled, is part of a schooling. I don’t believe this means anything like group consensus. People have lost that ability by and large. It means a theatre of reclamation is possible because theatre is always a secret knowledge of repair and resistance. And the rehearsals and repetitions and memory exercises all are both liberating, and about mortality. For one effect of Hollywood entertainment has been a false immortality that is painted over the commodity culture in endless shiny marketing schemes. Art is, and should be then, a sort of death work. And in that lies the potential for liberation.

My favorite Fassbinder, maybe, though probably not his greatest film, is Fox and His Friends (1974). And in part because it is among the finest last shots in cinema. Two young men, boys really, rifle the pockets of the dead (or dying) Fox on an empty subway platform. And in that I think of Agnes Martin and sense there is a spiritual similarity. Repetition is not just repetition.

“When the Eleatics denied motion, Diogenes, as everyone knows, came forward as an opponent. He literally did come forward because he didn’t say a word, he merely paced back and forward a few times, thereby assuming that he had sufficiently refuted them.”
Kierkegaard (Repetition)

This is how Kierkegaard begins his long essay on Repetition. And it in Kierkegaard early on points out the early Greek category of recollection. “Just as it used to be taught that all knowledge is a recollection so will modern philosophy teach that all of life is a repetition.” Repetition is a category of metaphysics. But it leads to return, eternal return, and for Kierkegaard, who often appears as among the modern of 19th century philosophers, it is about something that while ostensibly ethical and forward looking, still retains a quality of the morbid — for the story Kierkegaard tells is of a hopelessly lovesick young man, lonely and suffering. Freudian repetition is full realization of this (in a sense). The institutional domination of thinking, the shaping of opinion in marketing and PR firms, has killed off that which would naturally lead to collective cooperative work, creative radicalism. As individual as Agnes Martin’s work, or Fassbinder’s films, they still feel to be part of a collective heritage of knowledge and work. They also bear the imprint of repetitive rehearsals, or practice. Martin’s work cannot be viewed without the rather obvious sense of infinite practice and repetition. The films of ..pick any popular Hollywood director…simply do not feel that way. The doppleganger. Studio film and TV are hugely collaborative and yet are what arrives on screen is stripped of that collaboration. For it is alienated and it is institutional. The institute(s) create doubles. There are exceptions but they are rare. The sense of knowledge, of memory, is anti institutional. From the individual who is an individual comes the collective. Institutions are there to deny change and their servants are there to punish those who try.

http://john-steppling.com/2017/10/the-f ... s-a-devil/

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blindpig
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Re: The Forest is a Devil

Post by blindpig » Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:18 pm

Latest from Steppling, mostly too concern with Freud for my liking but some good observations here:

The rise of fascism, again, in Europe, has a quality of both vacancy, psychologically, and a hyper violence potentially. The violence, or hyper violence would be a natural outgrowth of the petrification of desire — that the desire for escaping from the anxieties of escape, of temporarily *losing oneself* accounts for the strange anodyne look to many of Europe’s new leaders. The new far right party in Germany (the AfD…or, the Alternative for Germany….called the alternative for dumb) is led by strangely bland men, as is the FrP in Norway, a sort of diluted party of xenphopbia, and the Swedish Democrats in Sweden. There is an almost neurasthenic quality, a childish fetal edge to these spread sheet fascists. Macron in France is like this, too. A Ken doll trotted out to sell toothpaste. That blandness, that undercooked look, is tied in with a lack of maturity. The psychic child begins to resemble a child physically.
“I have made sense of this theory of psychic transformation in claiming that a) Eros’s sway over the superego is weakened by the direct death drive gratification provided by the products of the culture industry and b) Thanatos’s claim on the superego is strengthened by the aggressive sublimation involved in technological advance..”
Benjamin Fong

Capitalism administers society in the image of its own rigidity. Big Pharma, and electronic media dovetail to form the apparatus of psychic submission. And here is where the return of Puritan zeal is taking its form in adaptive strategies often called *heroic*. The celebrity scandals around Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, and now a dozen others feel somehow mediated by class obedience, perhaps paradoxically. There are no au pairs or maids, no female factory workers complaining. And the level of abuse, sexual and otherwise, they absorb is most certainly far greater than actresses.
“The species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new. . . . The first thing that strikes the observer is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure their petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. . . . Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. The power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep
them in perpetual childhood.”
A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. 2.

http://john-steppling.com/2017/11/the-d ... no-desire/

These "strangely bland men" put me in mind of HG Wells' Eloi. ' Lack of maturity' in the herd is the endgame to the domesticator.
"We ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror."

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blindpig
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Re: The Forest is a Devil

Post by blindpig » Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:05 pm

Ever the Same
DECEMBER 6, 2017 | 2 COMMENTS

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Gerhard Richter

“But to the degree that this left seeks to change the world without taking power, so an increasingly consolidated plutocratic capitalist class remains unchallenged in its ability to dominate the world without constraint. This new ruling class is aided by a security and surveillance state that is by no means loath to use its police powers to quell all forms of dissent in the name of anti-terrorism.”
David Harvey

“A painting can help us to think something that goes beyond this senseless existence. That’s something art can do.”
Gerhard Richter

“…that people on the Left find increasingly that they have lost faith in the traditional diagnosis or in some part of the traditional recommended therapy. Either the malaise is not located in the economic structure, but is even more deep-seated, such as in the structure of rationality itself, or the form of political action traditionally recommended by those on the left is likely to be ineffective or even counterproductive.”
Raymond Geuss


I have been thinking about Gerhard Richter this week. I don’t know why, exactly, except that I read something mentioning his age (85 now I believe) and thought, well, he won’t be around, probably, too much longer. And why should that matter? I guess because Richter has always had an effect on me. And because he is widely regarded as the greatest living painter. An absurd designation but still one that is interesting in this particular case. His work sells for insane amounts today (20 some million pounds as of 2012, which was the last time I noticed). And that for one of his slightly cynical *squeegee* paintings (perfectly sized for hanging on the wall of expensive penthouses or in luxury yachts). I say slightly cynical because these works are still very good, I think. And of course one will have to discuss what *good* means, as always, in art works.

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Tilo Baumgantel

Richter studied at the Dresden Art Academy, in what was East Germany. In 1961 he moved to Berlin, in the West. But his fundamental sensibility, artistically, and perhaps technically, was based on the communist principles he learned at the Dresden Academy. He was just outside the city, as a boy, when the Allies fire bombed Dresden. The Nazis euthenized his mentally unstable Aunt, and several other family members died in the war. Richter is often compared to Anselm Kiefer, and I think this is logical, though I’m not sure the usual comparisons are the right ones. Both Richter and Kiefer are painting about death. They are also, always, painting about memory, and about history — especially German history. But the photorealist works of Richter have always struck me as among his most effective. For they are not pop works, but they employ the grammar of pop and advertising. The well known October series, based on the Baader-Meinhoff Group, and more specifically, their death in custody, are paintings, but based on photographs. And some are really just altered photos. They are ‘momento mori’ works. Now, I am not writing a post on Richter per se. But more on the relationship of art to Capital, and to mass culture, and to something maybe more elusive. And that has to do with interpretation and meaning. With Richter, I think that early training in Soviet realism was seminal. And looking at both the East German painters of the Leipzig Academy, and the Romanian painters active today who came out of the University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca is revealing. These schools were mostly shut off from Western influences. As Arno Rink (director at Leipzig) put it; they were protected from the influence of Josepth Beuys.
The Leipzig phenomenon was in good part the work of canny gallery owner Gerd Harry Lybke, who began as an agent for Neo Rausch. But Lybke is right when he says that subconsciously the art world — whoever that might be — were longing for something and these painters delivered. Both these movements exhibited something critical of bourgeois respectability. And this serves as an awkward segue to questions about how contemporary painting, and art in general (perhaps) are experienced today.

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Sergiu Toma

“‘Bourgeois’ first appeared in eleventh-century French, as burgeis, to indicate those residents of medieval towns {bourgs) who enjoyed the legal right of being ‘free and exempt from feudal jurisdiction’ (Robert). The juridical sense o f the term— from which arose the typically bourgeois idea of liberty as ‘freedom from’— was then joined, near the end of the seventeenth century, by an economic meaning that referred, with the familiar string of negations, to ‘someone who belonged neither to the clergy nor to the nobility, did not work with his hands, and possessed independent means’. “
Franco Moretti


In England, especially if one looks at the big industrial cities (Manchester, or Birmingham et al) one saw (as pointed out in the Communist Manifesto) a lack of middle rank. There were rich industrialists, the owners, and there were the poor, the workers and the very poor who had no job. The choice of the term *middle class*, as opposed to bourgeoisie, was (per Moretti) a choice that was taken from a position of superiority. The ruling class preferred middle class as a way to normalize a political containment.

“Then, once the baptism had occurred, and the new term had solidified, all sorts of consequences (and reversals) followed: though ‘middle class’ and ‘bourgeois’ indicated exactly the same social reality, for instance, they created around it very different associations: once placed ‘in the middle’, the bourgeoisie could appear as a group that was itself partly subaltern, and couldn’t really be held responsible for the way of the world. And then, ‘low’, ‘middle’ and ‘upper’ formed a continuum where mobility was much easier to imagine than among incommensurable categories— ‘classes’— like peasantry, proletariat, bourgeoisie, or nobility. And so, in the long run, the symbolic horizon created by ‘middle class’ worked extremely well for the English (and American) bourgeoisie: the initial defeat o f 1832, which had made an ‘independent bourgeois representation’ impossible, later shielded it from direct criticism, promoting a euphemistic version of social hierarchy.”
Franco Moretti


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Gerhard Richter ( The October 18, 1977 series, photo paintings).

One of Moretti’s keenest insights is that regularity and not disruption were the hallmarks of bourgeois cultural production over the course of the 19th century. He is speaking here primarily of the novel, but it is true of all the arts. And the received wisdom of bourgeois unpredictability was actually illusory — and hence the rhetorical emphasis on innovation which was mostly non-existent, especially in terms of style. The ruling class, in a sense, kept doubling down on the idea of change and capitalist dynamism. This was to change, some anyway, at the end of the century and the beginnings of the 20th century. At least in certain countries of Europe (Germany in particular). But this belief and valorizing of invention has carried over to U.S. cultural output, where there has been an insistent selling of the idea of the *new*. And by mid century the *new* was to be increasingly associated with youth.
The entrenchment of Capitalism, of course, was narrated as a *dynamic* system of free enterprise and self motivation — but in narrative the bourgeois hero was simply not, well, heroic. That mitteleuropean bookkeeper and clerk was the subject of much early 20th century writing, including Kafka. The bourgeoisie invented no mythology for itself, as had the aristocracy. No noble Knights or valiant adventurers. Only the keepers of ledgers and finance. And this is a fascinating topic, really, if one looks at the culture of advanced capitalism. Moretti posits that where capitalism is most solidifed, narrative and stylistic mechanisms replace character. Or become character.


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Ana Maria Micu

Hannah Arendt suggested the bourgeoisie in history to achieve economic pre-eminence without a desire to rule. I’m not sure that’s exactly true (the desire for political rule) but effectively it turned out that way. Perry Anderson added that after the second World War, there was a belief in democratic self determination, which in turn was driven by, and created by, the belief that there was no ruling class. This signaled the end of, officially, bourgeois culture (Thomas Mann)… and it coincided with the elevation of commodity culture and the hyper reification of advanced capital.
“…the great technological advances of the nineteenth and late twentieth century: instead of encouraging a rationalistic mentality, the industrial and then the digital ‘revolutions’ have produced a mix of scientific illiteracy and religious superstition— these, too, worse now than then— that defy belief. In this, the United States of today radicalizes the central thesis of the Victorian chapter: the defeat of Weberian Entzauberung at the core of the capitalist system, and its replacement by a sentimental re-enchantment of social relations.”
Franco Moretti[


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Donatello (15th century).

“Sentimentality will be defined as an emotional disposition that idealizes its object for the sake of emotional gratification and that is inherently corrupt because it is grounded in epistemic and moral error. “
Nada Gatalo


Now Norman Rockwell is sentimental. But then so is Fragonard. Some consider Raphael sentimental, an opinion I’d not argue with. Not when you compare Raphael with, say, Donatello or Bernini, or Goya. I wrote before of Donatello’s extraordinary sculpture of the prophet Habakkuk http://john-steppling.com/2015/10/what- ... -remember/
This remains a very favorite artwork of mine. One cannot exhaust the complexities of viewing it. Now this re-enchantment should be clarified, I think. For this is, in a different usage of the term, a disenchanted society. But this is semantics. The contemporary enchantment, or disenchantment, is linked to corporate anonymity, to the reductive narrowness of emotion permitted to the populace. Condemnation is so much easier than compliment, unless of course the compliment or approval is already approved. And this is perhaps the lesson of bourgeois culture under advanced capital.

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Pippo Rizzo

There was a Tate exhibition in 2012 on Victorian Sentimentality. It was the most popular and well attended exhibit that year (or maybe since). The reviews all praised the works and suggested a re-evaluation of sentimentality. And this is part of the current vogue regarding Victorian culture. And there was been a reintroduction of sentimental themes and style in artists such as John Currin, Kara Walker, David Humphrey, and Faith Ringgold. And Rockwell himself has undergone a rehabilitation with several different touring exhibitions. There is a clear connection, too, between the sentimental and authority and the status quo. Sentimental images are predicated upon unchanging universal values. They are inherently conservative. And once there was a ruling class irony in the approach to kistch and sentimental work, today that irony is mediated to a large extent. The rehabilitation of sentimental grammar and style is treated as genuine and an expression of trust in the system. It is the exceptionalist sentimental.
In the introduction to the First Post-Impressionist Exhibition in England, Cezanne said that his aim ‘was not to paint attractive pictures but to work out his salvation’. The ascension of bourgeois art to a place of some importance accelerated, I think, toward the end of the 19th century. But whenever the greatest changes occurred, the elements or forces at work toward the beginning of the 20th century coincided with several things. And psychoanalysis was one of them, and of course Freud himself was a kind of symptom of the time, too. I only mention this here because there is something in this relationship of creativity with anxiety and even with depression, that has not really left Western culture. But it has, to be sure, changed. Moretti mentions Dostoyevsky toward the end of his book The Bourgeoise, and how for most Russian artists, there was a tension with the concept of *byt*…which Jakobson said was untranslatable. It means a kind of everyday-ness. And that it was this ‘fortress’ of predictability and banality that Dostoyevsky challenged in his narratives.

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Jean Honore Fragonard

“Dostoevsky’s poetics requires ‘the creationof extra ordinary situations for the provoking and testing of a philosophical idea’, adds Bakhtin: ‘points of crisis, turning points and catastrophes [when] everything is unexpected, out of place, incompatible and impermissible if judged by life’s ordinary,“normal” course’.”
Franco Moretti


And it is exactly this tension that Americans cannot understand. The Calvinist Protestant or Puritan ethic of work, and the denial of pleasure, operate in a world view that has does not include a backdrop of numbed everyday-ness. For nothing is ever everyday, everything is always special and new. Exceptional. In a recent episode of The Brave, a jingoistic TV drama about the military, the special operations unit that is featured in the show is assigned an assassination. They are to kill a terrorist (of course) who is Iranian (of course). Now, the presentation of this plot is laid out in just one speech, at the start, by Anne Heche (I know I know) and her bottom lip actually quivers. The intent is to signify clear moral seriousness. But the absurdity of the entire show is only revealed the more. Never mind that Heche lacks gravitas, the dialogue actually includes a list, a litmus test meant to make clear that killing is OK, but only under these special circumstances. I won’t belabor this, but only to point out that there is an absence of anything exceptional. There is no actual backdrop here, no world in which such cartoon soldiers operate. And this can be traced, in one respect anyway, back to this Calvinist purification of labor …of work. Work that may well be exploitative.

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Oana Farcas

American TV and film suffer today from the banality of their repetitions at newness, at innovation, and so when looking to present, within a narrative, a uniquely grave event, it simply cannot happen. The over determined fixation on corpses and forensics suggest something related to this as well. The human interior; when it is psychically empty perhaps then shifts the exploration to a materialist bent. I don’t know, honestly. But there is something today that suggests that Utopian social projects are affected by the same forces that entrench the reactionary Capitalist system of domination. Raymond Guess has written a lot about Adorno. And his essay The Loss of Meaning on the Left, which is included in his most recent book (A World Without Why, 2014) touches on the ways in which instrumental reason erodes the ability to organize and work collectively. I have recently had some very strange and unpleasant arguments with people who self identify as leftists. I have no idea how any of these people would define the term *left*. But this is where, I think, Adorno, and really the entire Frankfurt School, are so important.

“In a society in which work and collective social life was sufficiently satisfying, one might think, the very question of the “meaning of life” would not arise. The very fact that this question does arise for a particular person in a particular society is a sign that that question for that person (in that society) has no answer. “The meaning of life” ought not to be reified. “
Raymond Guess


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Alec Soth, photography.


The disorienting experience of talking to people who one assumes are not the enemy — and they are not, but they are so damaged and psychologically deformed that the sense of collectivity is very hard to sustain. It may well be that the road to the collective now runs through something like acute solitude. Some form of almost monasterial distance from this global machinery of pseudo society. The re-enchantment (or disenchantment if you prefer…because I suspect they are nearly identical) is one of holograms, of phantasms, illusion, and ghosts. And it is why I remain convinced that the transcendent qualities of art are of ever more cardinal importance. For the dynamic in creation of art is one that both encapsulates and negates the homogeneity of this daily system of illusion. Art then has to do something that offers a resistance, even if just psychically, to the subordination of emotion and thought to simple exchange value, to those pressures to extract profit.

“This is why the experience of the encounter and, I would add, of any encounter confronts psychical activity with an excess of information that it will ignore until that excess forces it to recognize that what falls outside the representation proper to the system returns to the psyche in the form of a denial concerning its representation of its relation to the world. An example of this denial is provided by the experience that the infant’s psyche may have at the moment when it is hallucinating the presence of the breast, and is therefore forging for itself a representation of the mouth-breast junction and may, suddenly, experience a state of privation. But what is true for this initial phase of psychical activity remains true for all its experiences.”

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Piera Aulagnier (The Violence of Interpretation)

Walter Darby Bannard

“While public education has done much to meet capital’s demand for ideological conformity combined with the production of skill sets appropriate to the state of the division of labour, it has not eradicated the underlying conflict. And this is so in part because state interests also enter in to attempt to forge a sense of cross-class national identity and solidarity that is at war with capital’s penchant for some form of rootless cosmopolitan individualism, to be emulated by both capitalist and worker alike. ”
David Harvey


The role of art, for Adorno, but in another sense for most of the Frankfurt thinkers, is in negotiating the interstices between the spectacle, the projected image the system is constantly repeating, and the reality. Only, of course the reality is always going to be mediated by how deeply the accumulative wounds to the psyche metastasize. At the end of Moretti’s study he makes a distinction between the bourgeoisie before industrialization and then after. The prose of pre Industrialism is eclipsed by the *creative destroyer*, the poetry of capitalist development. And it was Ibsen who straddled this transformation. When the Frankfurt School thinkers are accused of nihilism, it is because they articulate that witnessing of this transition into bourgeois domination — at least in one sense. The crises of capitalism is also the crises of rationality, and of the belief in western individuality.

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Holy Land Theme Park (closed, 1984). Waterbury Conneticut.


A materialist economic diagnosis remains valid. But this is a validity that feels fragile, psychologically, if not also in real terms. When Guess writes of the loss of meaning he is looking to something that remains opaque.

“…people on the Left find increasingly that they have lost faith in the traditional diagnosis or in some part of the traditional recommended therapy. Either the malaise is not located in the economic structure, but is even more deep-seated, such as in the structure of rationality itself, or the form of political action traditionally recommended by those on the left is likely to be ineffective or even counterproductive.”
Raymond Guess


Terry Eagleton noted the deep anxiety of the capitalist class, the ownership class.

“While ‘‘peripheral’’ countries were subject to sweated labour, privatized facilities, slashed welfare and surreally inequitable terms of trade, the bestubbled executives of the metropolitan nations tore off their ties, threw open their shirt necks and fretted about their employees’ spiritual well-being. None of this happened because the capitalist system was in blithe, buoyant mood. On the contrary, its newly pugnacious posture, like most forms of aggression, sprang from deep anxiety. If the system became manic, it was because it was latently depressed.”

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František Kupka

Following on this was Thatcher and Reagan, and a rise in ever more naked policing of the populace. There was a general proletarianizing of the workforce. White collar workers, greater in number than ever before, also functioned in ways that felt more blue collar, at least to the extent they worked longer, had less protection, less security. The anxiety of both the ruling class and the working class, what served as the bourgeoisie, became ever more palpable. Alongside this, it seems to me, in an age of mass marketing and electronic communication, was a precipitous rise in a new form of narcissism. Anxiety and narcissism, and a generalized autism. All against one layer of backdrop which was more state repression. In the U.S. today the white Christian population is now dominant in areas where before they were only one part of this rural landscape. So, there is another aspect which might be described as mass regression. So, Marx was right, almost preternaturally so. As Eagleton notes (and others, like Tristram Hunt, who he quotes) the slums of Dhaka and Sao Paulo reproduce conditions eerily similar to 1840s Glasgow or Manchester. Capitalism was already threadbare in Marx’s time.
The role of culture, then, is layered with the new complexities of global Capital, in its ever more predatory state. The U.S. military, the organ of pacification for the Western ruling class, is in the hands of deeply damaged men. Maybe as never before. For all the blood soaked sadism of a John Foster Dulles, let alone the barbarism of a King Leopold, those in power and those funding them today are even more sadistic and certainly more deranged. In that sense the Trump administration is like some form of end-game for Capital.

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Joel Meyerowitz, photography.

Which brings me back to art, since that is what I know best, or think I know best. What seems evident looking at the history of Communist countries is that however dysfunctional they may have ended up, they were not predicated on intentionally ‘creating’ suffering. That is the difference and even writers like Eagleton seem to not realize this. But one of the failures of much leftist policy is seen in the suspicion often displayed toward art and culture. In the West, it is common to hear people off handedly dismiss art, and then point to the insanity of Southeby’s auctions or the price fetched by various not very significant artworks. But that is a philistine position. And it also feels related, somehow, to the distrust of Freud. That Rothko sells for millions does not, finally, negate the work of Rothko. Gerhard Richter retains something profoundly unsettling, and genuinely disruptive, even while being crowned the greatest living painter. There is great work being made. Some is validated by galleries and critics, and some is not. Some is invisible. But to somehow become cynical about culture is one of the great triumphs of ruling class manipulation. Richter has written about seeing Pollock for the first time. The singular feeling he was gripped with. I remember going to the Modern in NYC as a teenager, really, and feeling I had discovered in those Abstract Exrpressionists another chapter in a hidden history of the society I was born into. Early blues music was another chapter, and Hank Williams yet another. And so was Anton Webern and Stockhausen. And then I remember those at Black Mountain College, and then the Bauhaus. But saying such stuff leaves one open to ridicule. Cynicism is much like sentimentality and irony. Its an infection.

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Francis Bacon (1946).

“My hypothesis concerning the primal, as creation repeating itself indefinitely throughout existence, implies an enigmatic interaction between what I call the ‘representative background’ against which every subject functions and an organic activity, whose effects we can perceive, in the psychical field, only at special, privileged moments, or, and here, too, in a disguised form, in psychotic experience. Having defined the term ‘borrowing’, we can now turn to the analysis of the represented: that is to say, what we suppose that a hypothetical, impossible look would see if it could observe the pictographic representation.To speak of a hypothetical, impossible look is enough to recall that we only reconstruct what seems probable to us, on the basis of knowledge that the analyst may have of the experiences of subjects who have long since gone beyond the moment when only the primal process occupied the stage.”
Piera Aulagnier (The Violence of Interpretation)


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Agnes Martin

Art operates in hugely overdetermined ways, both in how it is experienced, and in how it is made. Auglanier is among the more unique writers on psychoanalysis, and one I have a great affinity for. Perhaps it is because the density of her writing is never meant to be easily grasped. Maybe its hardly even meant to be grasped. But that in no way, it seems to me, lessons her truth. For this is the deep and mysterious arena of our private damage and madness. To think you are not mad is the greatest form of madness today. The therapeutic culture which affluent white liberals seem so steeped in is really the short hand that serves to ward off those terrors that strike one out of the blue while walking down the street. They pass, usually, and often in a heartbeat. But they leave traces and perhaps it is in those traces that artists like Agnes Martin, or Pollock, or Richter even, transcribe something. It is for us to decipher these signs. As Auglagnier suggests, this is at the most primal level, and is never far from the psychotic. But that is where we live, all of us.

http://john-steppling.com/2017/12/ever-the-same/
"We ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror."

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Re: The Forest is a Devil

Post by blindpig » Thu Mar 22, 2018 3:42 pm

It is Us
by JOHN STEPPLING FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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Photo by Giuseppe Milo | CC BY 2.0

“The war mentality represents an unfortunate confluence of ignorance, fear, prejudice, and profit. … The ignorance exists in its own right and is further perpetuated by government propaganda. The fear is that of ordinary people scared by misinformation but also that of leaders who may know better but are intimidated by the political costs of speaking out on such a heavily moralized and charged issue.”

— Gabor Mate

The manufacturing of Russia as the arch enemy of not just the U.S. but mankind in general has reached levels of absurdity and pathology. This is all sort of obvious, though, I think. The yellow journalism of the creepy Max Boot at the New York Times is emblematic of the current toxic demand for war. I do wonder what these people are thinking. I mean do they know something I don’t? And the list of propagandists, both in media and governments throughout the west, is quite long. In fact finding someone who objects to this war mongering is much harder. There are some, of course, but they are largely invisible in mainstream media.

What does the ruling class want? Almost every major government official who propagates the anti Russia rhetoric is wealthy. Or at least affluent. Why do they want to promote conflict? To make more money? If so, what can that extra money buy them? What does John Bolton not have that he wants? What does Rachel Maddow want that she can’t afford? This has always troubled me. When I ask such questions I usually get an answer like “they want power” or “they want control;”. But why? What does more power bring you? The ability to create institutions in your own image, in accordance with your ideological leanings? Is that it? If this is correct, for some, what does being able to shape institutional authority actually bring you? What benefits? Is it some moral demand for change? Is Mike Pompeo driven by moral or ethical issues? What do the Clinton’s want? Are they motivated by a moral calling? What does Chuck Shurmer want, or Nancy Pelosi? They lead extraordinarily comfortable privileged lives. What would an even limited conflict with Russia or China bring such people? Are the Koch brothers concerned with the happiness of the people of the world? Of course not. They are, in their minds, concerned with their own happiness. But does promoting their irrational ideology bring them a feeling of well being? But then I am not at all sure what happiness looks like to Charles Koch. Not what it looks like to you or me I’d venture to guess.

No, the answer is more complex. It is maybe even, in considerable measure, unconscious. It is resentment and fear, it is ambivalence and narcissism. For the reality is that nobody benefits from a nuclear war. NOBODY. But tens of millions die. And maybe everyone dies.

Is this not something the propagandists know? Do they want to die? All month I’ve been thinking of Wilhelm Reich’s small book Listen Little Man.

This is why I am afraid of you Little Man, deadly afraid. For on you depends the fate of humanity I am afraid of you because there is nothing you flee as much from as yourself. You are sick, very sick, Little Man. It is not your fault. But it is your responsibility to rid yourself of this sickness. You would have long since shaken off your oppressors had you not tolerated oppression and often actively supported it.

Anyone not angered is not well. But I think many are angry, but they feel unable to formulate ways to express this anger. Dissent is an unpopular position. It might cost you work. It might get you fired. And for many, they think of their families. Their children must eat. So they stay silent. They use pseudonyms when they do protest. But it is hard to blame them, really. And yet, and yet, the world is hurtling toward extinction. In the United States there are working families living under freeway bridges and in shelters and living off food stamps. The affluent liberal in America is OUTRAGED at gun laws. And yet they are indifferent to the massive violence visited upon countries like Yemen or Libya or Honduras or Iraq. They claim not to like war but they will salute soldiers and thank them for their service. Nothing is quite so ridiculous as that ‘thanks for your service’ meme. Service to what? To whom? I really do want to know. What is being served? What good does the military do for anyone? The answer, if you ask most people, is to protect them from foreign invasion. In today’s case that means Russia. They are OUTRAGED Putin tried (or succeeded, depending on who they believe) meddling in the US elections. Are they not aware their own government has meddled in dozens of foreign elections? Or worse, have orchestrated coups and propped up dictators. Do they not know Mobutu was a US invention? Do they know their own government trained SAVAK, the secret police of The Shah? They do remember it was the U.S. who labeled Mandela a terrorist ? Do they remember Vietnam? Do they care?

Do they believe Muslim terrorists are on the verge of attacking America? They remind you of 9/11 …three thousand died….but that body is count is about what Yemen suffers each day, and has suffered for the last year or two each day. How many Iraqis have died at the hands of the US military? Do they know what happened at Fallujah? Many are angry at Trump. Which is fine, but they are not angry at Obama or Hillary or Bernie. Do they believe Trump is some significant sea change in governance? Do they realize all his Pentagon advisors were advising Obama, too. And George Bush. Why do so many people regard US foreign policy are coherent? The answer is the overwhelming majority of americans don’t think about US foreign policy at all. They might know of Kim Jong Il, but they know nothing of the history of US/Korean relations. And they have no idea just how extensively the CIA has funded the very same muslim jihadists they fear are ready to break into their homes. They hear some mainstream media story, often with a celebrity front person, about stopping this or that genocide (invariably caused by the United States) and decide yes, *we stood by* in Rwanda. Or, *we HAD to go into Yugoslavia to stop the Serbs*, etc. The reality is always diametrically opposed to the one manufactured by the U.S. State Dept. The reality of Kagame or Milosevic, or Hezbollah, or China, or Venezuela is obscured and mystified. And the *white saviour* narrative remains the most popular. Posit that the third world NEEDS western help and you have a winner in the minds of most Americans.

And any opportunity to ridicule and demean other cultures, so it seems, is readily embraced. Americans are, by and large, an astoundingly mean spirited people. At least white america. Snarky, snide, suspicious, vainglorious and provincial; THAT is the great USA, as well as Puritanical, prudish, narcissistic, and generally xenophobic.

On twitter, certifiable retired general Barry McCaffrey tweeted the following :

Reluctantly I have concluded that President Trump is a serious threat to US national security. He is refusing to protect vital US interests from active Russian attacks. It is apparent that is he, for some unknown reason, under the sway of Mr. Putin.

Now this is not in and of itself unexpected but what is unexpected is the number of Democrats and liberals re tweeting it approvingly. The bourgeoisie is aligning itself openly with the most fascist elements in the authority structure of the US military. One conclusion that is reached from all this is that Trump is indeed a very useful tool of the ruling class. The sheer revulsion he elicits in most people is being harnessed, quite consciously, to the propaganda machine of the US state — it is as if the personal repugnance of Trump helps to pull focus from historical precedent and actual material policy implications to the subjective feelings of disgust Trump the man brings out in people. And I get it, I really do. Having to watch Trump and his damaged family and various hangers on and cronies on a daily basis is enough to cause a certain genuine palpable nausea. But this use of Trump is effective because of the basic fundamental narcissism of the bourgeoisie. What matters is how THEY feel. Not the death of children in Gaza, or slavery flourishing in Libya, or mass rape by the Cedras Junta in Haiti back under the Clinton regime — let alone cholera in Yemen and massive displacement of hundreds of thousands in Syria — no it is the personal *feelings* of liberal americans. They dont *like* Trump. And as i say, I get it. Nobody likes Donald Trump. Just as nobody likes Jeff Sessions. Nobody likes Mike Pompeo or John Kelley or John Bolton or H.R. McMaster, or Betsy DeVos or Jared Kushner. It is literally as distasteful an assemblage of humanity as its possible to imagine. But then who liked Rahm Emanuel, or Joe Biden? We know NOBODY likes Hillary Clinton. But the optics were managed. Its almost as if Trump wants people to recoil in disgust. Why would that be?

Look at the United States today. In Oklahoma the corrections department came up with a new way to execute people (cost saving benefits) — they force the oxygen out of them (by forcing in Nitrogen.). This innovative new experiment in death is the result of a shortage of the usual drugs used in lethal injection. This sort of logic is apparently perfectly acceptable in Oklahoma. Mike Christian (sic), the former highway patrolman who came up with idea, is quoted in The Intercept article on the topic, as saying…one way or another “we will put these beasts to death”. I think the average person in the US has lost touch with just how barbaric and compassionless the culture is today. How insensitive and sadistic. People take refuge psychologically in small circles of friends — many of whom might in other contexts be just as sadistic as society overall– and manage the engagements with these friends so as to not have to discuss unpleasant topics. The so called Chinese wall (sic) that has migrated from the legal and political professions to people’s personal lives. As a sort of psychic safety valve they simply ignore the rest of the country they live in. Remember that Trump’s moronic reality TV show was a big hit. It ran for six years I believe. So many of the same people who recoil in horror at Trump the President, were happy to watch, with feelings of superiority, the cartoon millionaire exercising meaningless edicts. It was kistch schadenfreude. I guess, anyway. The entire Trump political narrative is fraught with temptation to imagine just who is or was pulling the strings. Who wanted him as President? Whatever the story behind the story the fact is that the people running the United States, and these are people largely invisible to the public, operate from motivations I simply cannot fathom. Yes, to make MORE money, I get it, I get it. But this is a loaded sort of thought experiment, I understand this. Why does anyone want more than they can use or need? Let alone a thousand times more than they can use in a lifetime, or in their children or grandchildren’s lifetime. Why does anyone want to live in bizarre five hundred room mansions full of expensive furniture and with multiple swimming pools and tennis courts. What do people feel as they stroll around their estate? Do they feel deserving? Does it not occur to them that most of global humanity live in dire soul deadening poverty? I remember Barbara Bush during a photo op tour of post Katrina New Orleans commenting about not troubling her beautiful mind about such things. Does she really believe she has a beautiful mind? So one question has to do with the subjective mind of the ruling class. The second has to do with the people who vote FOR their own oppression. Who actively support inequality. There is a new TV reality show where celebrities take part in trying to run a 5 star hotel. They don’t take part in trying to run a homeless shelter, no, for that isnt very fun now is it. Why does anyone care about who the British royal family is going to marry? But people do care, and they spend money following this sort of news. Even people living week to week, working two jobs and hanging on by a thread — often even they are consuming the same cultural product as the more affluent populace. Why are people not angrier? Why is there is not far more social unrest and open revolt? Is it simply fear? I can understand that in a nation that incarcerates over 2 million people. The last growth industries are prison construction and private security. Both relate to a growing underclass that looms as a threat to the very wealthy. Remember that the policing apparatus of the US, on both federal, state, and local levels is draconian and operates with almost total impunity. City police departments trace their origin back to *Slave Patrols*. I think many sense that it is not far fetched to imagine being arrested and then subjected to years of both custody and legal expense. And behind all this is Hollywood and the endless stream of jingoistic and racist TV and film. In fact Russia is now a plot point in nearly all TV drama. If you think that is an exaggeration then you haven’t been watching. The extraordinary xenophobia of American televsion is mind numbing, honestly. From shows like Designated Survivor to Madame Secretary to stuff like The Shooter or Chicago PD or SEAL Team — the message is uniform. There are no TV dramas with socialists or politically radical protagonists. No shows questioning the virtue of the military (thank you for your service). An Oscar for the portrayal of Churchill, a war criminal racist colonialist. Who wins Oscars for portraying Lenin or Toussaint L’Ouverture? But then those films don’t get bankrolled by Hollywood. Do screenwriters simply instinctively know that back stories that feature ‘tours in Iraq’ or the like as the accepted character foundation for heroism? It is breathtaking how alike most Hollywood product really is and how nakedly reactionary.

Meanwhile the US lurches toward military conflict with nuclear powers. Conflicts that would wipe out humanity. At the least the US is manufacturing a new Cold War. Perhaps that provides a certain comfort. People are given an external enemy to hate, an enemy on which to focus their frustration, resentment, and aggression. The system encourages managed protest about issues that are themselves of little consequence. Gun control for one. Nobody talks about the MILLIONS of dead at the hands of the US military over the last twenty years. Nobody protests 900 military bases globally. What are those bases there for? Oh, to protect us….from *enemies*. The US needs its enemies. Identity issues are fine to argue about, just dont argue about class inequality. Argue about gender and racial identity. About multiculturalism but not about a hierarchical social structure where 1% of the populace own 90% of the wealth. Why is there such poverty if America is so special? A bridge collapses the other day in Dade County, Florida. The infrastructure is falling apart, literally, as I write this. It won’t be the last bridge to fall down. Infant mortality is the same as that of Peru, last I looked. And Peru is seen as an inferior nation in the eyes of most Americans. Don’t raise the issue of military pollution, military rape, military economic waste, or military sadism. Funny how those photos of Abu Ghraib have mostly disappeared from the collective memory of the U.S. The 50th anniversary of My Lai passed without much comment. Vietnam is being given a revisionist re-narration. “Mistakes” were made. etc. Ask about Israel and you get a lot of either hostility or discomfort. Did Russia attack one of our navel vessels? No, that was Israel. Greg Barrett has an article out now pointing out similar realities…

The Russians, therefore, are not responsible for the destruction of the Iraqi state, for the more than one million civilian casualties since the invasion, for the massive waves of terrorism and sectarian violence and refugees entering Turkey and Europe which have resulted, or for the birth of ISIS in the US-controlled Abu Ghraib prison — the same ISIS which was formed by former Saddam military officers imprisoned there. ( ) The Russians did not join together with the UK and France in 2011 to destroy the Libyan state in a major bombing campaign which killed an estimated 30,000 civilians, following US/UK support for Libyan rebels designed to set up the “revolution” in Africa’s most prosperous nation. The Russians then did not abandon the country to its fate, which soon turned out to be rival governments and militias, a growing ISIS presence, actual slave markets where helpless refugees are sold like cattle, and thousands of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean after paying human traffickers to take them to Europe in tiny, overloaded boats. The Russians did not respond to a question about the death of Libyan head of state Muammar Gaddafi — by sodomization with a long blade — by laughing maniacally and loudly on national US television and proclaiming, “We came, we saw, he DIED! Ha ha ha!”

And on and on. It was not Russia who bankrolled Osama Bid Ladin and it wasnt Russia who supported ISIS as they targeted Assad for removal. It wasnt Russia who just helped Saudi Arabia from day one in their genocidal assault on Yemen. Nor did Russia annex Crimea, for the record (as Greg points out “unless a vote of 98% of the population to return to Mother Russia, of which they had always been a historical part until the 1960s, is considered invalid. No responsible party has challenged those numbers.”). Nor does Russia engage in assassination by drone. That is the USA. In fact most of the Muslim world (save the puppet regimes in the KSA, Jordan, and the UAE) aligns with Russia and feels nothing but anger toward the US. And the people in the streets of Jordan and the UAE et al are also aligned against the US, not with it, despite what they corrupt leaders say. Wasn’t Russia who orchestrated the destruction of the former Yugoslavia either. But the public does not engage in such discourse. It is not allowed, for all intents and purposes. The public today, in the US, knows what to say and what to believe. And they rarely go off script.

Which brings me back to what these people want, the ones manufacturing this wave of anti Russian propaganda. Is it war? I don’t honestly know if they are that crazy or not. Some are, lunatics like John Bolton or Robert Kagen or his brutish wife Victoria Nuland. Does anyone ask during presidential debates about Ukraine and the US support for an open Nazi Party? One answer is that they want *global hegemony*. But what does that mean? Why do they want that? What does that provide for them personally? Millions dead and they get what? Power? And what does power give you? Does it provide peace of mind? Happiness? A rich sense of self worth? I honestly don’t know. Maybe I am just dense. But I have never understood the idea of seeking privilege unless everyone can have it. I dont want to fly first class if anyone is flying coach. It makes me uncomfortable. I dont feel special. Why do so many Americans fawn over the rich? Why are the wealthy so admired? I know some partial answers; I know Americans, or American white males, in particular, see the world through a lens that lumps everyone into two categories: winners and losers. On social media the other day there was a story about a man who has lived in the US for forty years but is being deported. The comments were astounding and yet utterly predictable. Men said he was a ‘dumb ass’ for not getting his citizenship. Compassion? That’s for sissies. For losers. And people wonder at the spate of school shootings? Oh, it must be guns, too many guns. No it is the psychology of Capitalism that creates such violence. Competition against your neighbour, not cooperation. Hoarding not sharing. It is a culture of violent scapegoating and stigmatizing and shaming. All reality TV is really the same show and that show is humiliation. Vicarious voyeuristic sadism.

“Your life will be good and secure when aliveness will mean more to you than security; low more than money; your freedom more than party line or public opinion; when the mood of Beethoven or Bach will be the mood of your total existence (you have it in you, Little Man, buried deeply in a corner of your existence); when your thinking will be in harmony, and no longer at variance, with your feelings; when you will be able to comprehend your gifts in time and to recognize your ageing in time; when you will live the thoughts of great men instead of the misdeeds of great warriors; when the teachers of your children will be better paid than the politicians…”

— Wilhelm Reich

“Being cut off from our own natural self-compassion is one of the greatest impairments we can suffer.”

— Gabor Mate

Perhaps Mate is right. It is a self hating nation that internalized the ethos of Puritanism and produced Manifest Destiny. It was a slave owning nation. It was, at its inception, a genocidal nation. A nation founded on those sorts of psychic wounds is a nation that is repressing and sublimating at extraordinary rates and degrees. It is this self loathing America, the only real failed state in the world, as far as I can see, that is now a dire threat to the survival of humanity. The one core truth for me today, at least politically, is one must resist western Imperialism. You don’t have to agree with the rest of the world that resists it, but you must stand with them. It is only white privilege, hubris, that allows for a westerner, an American, to criticise Maduro, or Assad, or the DPRK. Or Iran. Yes Iran was a conservative revolution, but they are part of a bulwark against the nightmare of Western capital today. Self determination. America has never wanted to save anyone. Ever. America has always had ulterior motives. The self loathing American. The Ugly American. We have met the enemy, and it is us.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/21/it-is-us/

Could have done without the Reich but all in all something I'd like to see get some distribution. Like at Democratic Underground, fer instance.
"We ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror."

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Re: The Forest is a Devil

Post by blindpig » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:36 pm

JOHN STEPPLING

Frankenstein’s Shadow (some Excerpts)

I drove from central Norway down to Copenhagen this last week. I was taking some off to work on my new play. I drove through Sweden rather than Norway and I wandered along smaller roads and was taking my time. Two years ago I drove across Europe, ending in Prague. I meandered, touching down in Germany, in France, Belgium, and eventually the Czech Republic. It has been a decade since I had that kind of drive in the U.S. But I remember similar feelings then, too. One cannot find a single small city, or large town, anywhere in Europe or the U.S. that feels happy. No place where enthusiasm and optimism are readily apparent. Instead one is met with an endless soul destroying panorama of boarded up storefronts, discount shopping stores, for groceries and clothes, for most of anything. Even the big malls, such as Field’s in Copenhagen, feel depressed. Nothing feels particularly well maintained. As it happens Copenhagen might be the least miserable of cities I have visited. But even there I found a sense of psychic discontent. It is hard to define or even describe. In Sweden, as I stopped outside Jonkoping, I looked around as I stood on the main street of this city of 90 some thousand — and what one sees are homes built either a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago, or others built probably in the 1970s. Seems less built in between those eras. There is not much new construction in such cities. Jonkoping is an old agricultural town, though today it is better known for being a computer gaming center.

Image
Oakwood Theatre (date unknown, Toronto) Photo courtesy of Mandel Sprach


Immigrant areas always feel more lively in the cities of Europe. And the food is usually better. There is money in Scandinavia, and lots of people drive newer Volvos or Audis and there are posh areas to be sure, in nearly any city over a couple hundred thousand. But you don’t see faces of joy and life. The affluent class seem as miserable as anyone these days. Less fearful, perhaps, but just as depressed. In the U.S.,last time I was there, the sense of malaise driving across those flyover states is just palpable. And part of how this malaise is expressed in the ugliness of everything. Literally, everything touched by humans living under Capitalism, registers as ugly.
But, what I find interesting is the way the populace of the U.S., and of Europe for the most part, has had inculcated certain experiential processes. The automatic ways that people function in a daily life that seems intolerable to most of them. Literally intolerable.

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Ana Maria Micu

I have this sense of habitual emotional unease — that immiseration has been repackaged as something psychically generated, and the coping mechanisms to this selling of personal failure as the reason for unhappiness is now found in ever more rote repetitive and obsessive patterns of activity. The people in western societies today are told their psychological and emotional problems are the result of personal failures. Even, perhaps, moral failures. The behaviors are not large or obvious. They are small, and often subtle, and often almost kept out of sight. People seem to lead increasingly split existences. One is living on one’s smart phone, and one is living in some way with family (more on that below) and one is also living in some personal private movie. Or private reality TV show.

One can see how these overlap, of course. And there is something else, too. The filmic quality of daily life can hardly be accidental. People are now unconsciously (or maybe consciously, I don’t know) reproducing their own lives as if they were movie producers … but producers for some low budget studio that grinds out endless melodrama and cheap romance. People star in their own films, but they are cynical filmmakers.

***

Daily life in the contemporary West is, additionally, ever more infantile. Children cannot imagine a world existing beyond what is directly in front of them. The modern audience sit in front of TV or in cineplexes, and are allowed to view the world as the children they once were. Or, rather, as children for the first time; at least the childhood they imagine in that nostalgic flashback sequence of their lives. If Americans (in particular) love the 50s (and now a fantasy 70s, and a fantasy 80s) it is because they are embracing an obvious studio managed imaginary nineteen fifties.

***

How one learns to stop *looking*, but to start seeing is a key to an emancipatory aesthetics. It’s not what is being look at, it’s how you do it. Memory, said Merleau-Ponty cannot be separated from the body. A coercive insistence on certain physical norms, and the sadistic stigmatizing of any heterodox thinking, has insured a society in the West, certainly in the U.S., in which voices coming from outside the emotional and psychic panoptic landscape will be shunned. The U.S. is a society of shunning, in fact, a society that derives pleasure (denied it in so many other areas) from humiliation — public shaming and scolding is given cover by a therapeutic apologia that justifies all as part of personal growth. My sense is people cannot articulate their demons, cannot and will not read anymore, or will not read anything of any difficulty, for reading itself is a kind of shade or shadow in the mind — a place from which ideas and feelings of autonomy emerge. One must sit as a child, as adults sit in their cars, eyes forward, with reassuring glances in the read view mirror, and read the signs. Read the instructions. And watch the lights…green or red.......The destruction of creative energy runs alongside the erosion of learning. Those who think independently are viewed with suspicion today. This really is the new Inquisition, the new witch trials. And it is significant that this film language so in ascendence is one that grows more infantile each year. And I sense CGI as a form of over-illumination, actually. It serves the same purposes. And the literal and figurative suicides that are spiking globally are viewed as the normal cost of doing business…suicide as breakage. Write it off.

http://john-steppling.com/2018/07/frankensteins-shadow/
"We ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror."

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Re: The Forest is a Devil

Post by blindpig » Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:39 pm

Blood in Our Eyes
by John Steppling / August 8th, 2019

As the business grew, Sturm Ruger CEO Michael Fifer lobbied personally against a Connecticut ban on high-capacity magazines, commonly used with the company’s semi-automatic rifles. “The regulation of magazine capacity will not deter crime, but will instead put law-abiding citizens at risk of harm,” Fifer wrote to state lawmakers in early 2011. The legislation died in committee that April. At the NRA’s annual Corporate Executives Luncheon the next year, Fifer presented a check to the group for more than $1.25 million—$1 for every Sturm Ruger gun purchased the prior year. Eight months later, 20-year-old Adam Lanza used a semi-auto­matic rifle and a 30-round magazine to gun down 20 children and six adults at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, located just 27 miles from Sturm Ruger’s headquarters. In the year following the shooting, Sturm Ruger’s profits increased 56 percent.
— Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones, June 2016

Researchers at the University of Leeds used two bodies of transcribed, informal conversations among members of the public, comprising five million words in the 1990s and 12 million words in the 2010s. In the earlier conversations, 100 per cent of references to a ‘field’ concerned grass or farmland. That has fallen to 70 per cent, with modern conversation taking in the metaphorical fields of work, gravity or energy. Researchers also found that the following nature words have decreased in relative frequency among young people between the 1990s and 2010s: lawn, twig, blackbird, picnic, fishing, paddle, sand, welly, desert, paw, snow, grass, jungle, sky, path, bridge, bush, land, hill, fish, pond, mountain, soil, branch, stick, park, ground, wheel, tree, stream, rock, bird, road, garden, shell.
— Anita Singh, The Telegraph, July 2019

Magnum Research Desert Eagle: These large-caliber handguns, designed for hunting, have appeared in dozens of films, including RoboCop, The Matrix, Snatch, and Borat. “Here’s a gun that has very little practical usage,” the owner of a prop company told the Baltimore Sun. “The success of that particular weapon owes almost everything to the movies.”
— Dave Gilson, Mother Jones, May/June 2016 issue

It is interesting that amid the fall out from the El Paso and Dayton shootings one hears very little about the gun industry. The Firearms Industry Trade Association writes:

Companies in the United States that manufacture, distribute, and sell firearms, ammunition, and hunting equipment employ as many as 49,146 people in the country and generate an additional 162,845 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries. These include jobs in supplying goods and services to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, and those that depend on sales to workers in the firearms and ammunition industry.

Ninety-one percent of guns manufactured in the U.S. are sold to citizens of the U.S. But this is nothing compared to the U.S. defense industry. Defense News wrote…

Combined weapon sales from American companies for fiscal 2018 were up 13 percent over fiscal 2017 figures, netting American firms $192.3 billion, according to new numbers released Thursday by the State Department. The department previously announced that FY18 brought in $55.66 billion in foreign military sales, an uptick of 33 percent over FY (fiscal year) 17’s $41.93 billion. Through the Foreign Military Sales process, the U.S. government serves as a go-between for foreign partners and American industry.

What had not been released until now is the total direct commercial sales, the process through which foreign customers can directly buy systems from industry. Those figures topped $136.6 billion for FY18, a 6.6 percent increase from FY17’s $128.1 billion.

But this is hardly accurate given that two arms sales packages to Saudi Arabia equaled 287 BILLION all by themselves. It should be noted that the U.K. sold even more arms to Saudi Arabia. But I digress.

Shimon Arad (at War on the Rocks) writes…

The defense and aerospace industry is America’s second-largest gross exporter. The industry contributes approximately $1 trillion annually to the U.S. economy and employs around 2,500,000 people. On average, 30 percent of the industry’s annual revenue is through arms exports…

So, it’s sorta all about how you count. The point is that the U.S. is a machine that makes and sells weapons. We are history’s number one death merchant. Now, arms sales globally have increased over 40% since 2002 (according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Britain and France are among those showing the largest growth. The Saudi market includes 31 billion dollars just in armoured vehicle purchases. And it’s growing. (Although because under Obama there were so many fighter jets sold to the Saudis and other gulf state monarchies that sales figures are likely to dip in the near future due to saturation).

The government is essentially a branch of the death industry. Peter Castagno wrote just this year at Truthout:

After the resignation of Gen. James Mattis, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan filled the post as interim head of the Defense Department. Before joining the Trump administration, Shanahan spent three decades working for Boeing — a blatant conflict of interest for the person responsible for overseeing federal contracts with private defense contractors. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, called Shanahan “a living, breathing product of the military-industrial complex,” and asserted that “this revolving door keeps the national security elite very small, and very wealthy, and increasing its wealth as it goes up the chain.” One egregious example of that revolving door is Heather Wilson, who has been secretary of the Air Force since 2017. In 2015, Lockheed Martin paid a $4.7 million settlement to the Department of Justice after the revelation it had used taxpayer funds to hire lobbyists for a $2.4 billion contract. One of the lobbyists was former New Mexico Representative Wilson, ranked as one of the “most corrupt members of Congress” by the nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Wilson was later confirmed as Air Force secretary in the Senate by a 76-22 vote. Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army, worked as vice president of government relations for Raytheon before joining the Trump administration in 2017. The Hill recognized Esper as one of Washington’s most powerful corporate lobbyists in 2015 and 2016, where he fought to influence acquisition policy and other areas of defense bills. Esper’s undersecretary, Ryan McCarthy, is a former Lockheed executive.

So, back to El Paso and Dayton. First thing to note is that the narrative (as always) emphasizes the ‘lone wolf’ gunmen idea, mentally unstable, a loner teased by classmates, bad haircut, etc. They might add he takes anti depressants (and often, or hell, almost always, they do) but rarely is the writing or the social connections and influences that shaped these young men investigated. In Norway, the Breivik story still tends to minimize the fascist connections that mass killer had throughout Europe. Whatever the truth of these shootings (as in, some witnesses saw three men dressed in black, etc) the one certainty is that the state will follow a clear story-line and hit home certain key points. The second thing that will happen for certain is more calls for “gun control” — you know, that three trillion dollar industry in death led by the United States. Remember here that some seventy thousand plus civilians have died in Yemen since the Saudi/U.S. assault on that nearly defenseless nation. The poorest in the Arab world. Remember the millions upon millions who have been murdered across Africa in wars and conflicts often directly orchestrated by the U.S. And using American made weapons.

US military aid to the rebels channeled (unofficially) through the illicit market, is routine and ongoing. In December 2015, a major US sponsored shipment of a staggering 995 tons of weapons was conducted in blatant violation of the ceasefire. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, the U.S. … “is providing [the weapons] to Syrian rebel groups as part of a programme that continues despite the widely respected ceasefire in that country [in December 2015].
— Michael Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2019

One of the secondary effects (I suspect intentional) of the government and law enforcement narrative on mass shooting incidents (sic) is one that emphasizes a need to control the mentally unstable (a fluid definition that likely will include you and me at some point). Since the Philip K. Dickian idea of *future crime* is now relatively mainstream the focus on mass state quarantines of those who serve as potential threats is clearly implied in the master narratives on these shootings. The bourgeoisie respond to the death of white people (and OK, a few hispanics, too) with exaggerated horror. They do not show such horror at the atrocities in Yemen or Syria or Libya, committed by US/NATO. But then the lone gunman story is containable and easily grasped by their truncated moral GPS. The white liberal does not scream gun control when cops execute another unarmed young black man (or woman). Just as gun makers are ignored in the gun control logic, so are cops. The anti gun lobby seems okay with the idea that only steroid crazed racist policemen can carry guns. I have to tell you, I’m not so OK with that.

The familiarity of the rhetoric that surrounds these shootings has come to have a numbing effect. Still, it is important to note that as Adorno and Horkheimer observed that anti semitism grew in the U.S. after the defeat of the Nazis. So the love of guns and death seems to grow after each of these mass shootings. But the rise in gun related deaths contains another less advertised fact:

While much of the public attention is on the intense tragedies of gun massacres in the US – 2017 saw the deadliest mass shooting by an individual to take place in the country in modern history, when 58 people died in the 1 October rampage on the Las Vegas Strip – in fact most suffering takes place in isolated and lonely incidents that receive scant media coverage. Of those, suicide is by far the greatest killer, accounting for about 60% of all gun deaths.”
— Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, 2018

Gabor Mate, after the attack at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, wrote that the shooter’s “anger [that] has got nothing to do with what they think they are angry about. They are just angry because of what life has done to them as children and then they find external targets.” And this is what Fascism does too, of course. It provides an explanation, and a direction for the inarticulate rage. The U.S. is a stunningly sick society. I have grown weary of writing this fact because one finds oneself repeatedly in situations where this obvious truth must be stated..again. That sixty percent of gun deaths are suicide is a stunning statistic. The irrational hatred of the ‘other’ is always equally a self hatred. And you have to see these narrative themes cropping up again and again in only indirectly related issues. I’ve noted the racist eugenics backdrop to the overpopulation fear, a backdrop that finds partial expression in the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in Africa — where the theme is sterilization. The west then, regards Africa, arms conflicts they — the U.S. — start, and at the same time work to stop reproduction on the continent. Eradication of the dark-skinned other is a theme that cuts across all these white psycho shooters and it cuts across the story of western capital. Jews, blacks, Arabs, Hispanics — this is the legacy of colonialism and Manifest Destiny and European whiteness. American exceptionalism.

The very good Belen Fernandez (Al Jazeera, 2019) wrote:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conducted a test of Rekognition, Amazon’s facial recognition software, which compared images of all the members of the US Congress with a database of mugshots. The results, according to Rekognition: 28 US Congresspeople were identified as criminals. And what do you know: the false matches pertained disproportionately to people of colour. Now imagine the complications that might arise when you have such technology in the hands of US law enforcement officials who have already proven themselves predisposed to shooting black people for no reason. In addition to marketing its product to officials from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other notoriously abusive entities, Amazon has also pushed for Rekognition’s use in police body cameras – which would presumably only increase the chances of pre-emptive misidentification by trigger-happy forces of law and order. The arms industry comes to mind, which has helped to eradicate countless lives from Iraq to Yemen and beyond. And as Raja stresses, it is important to remember in the US context that “what happens abroad matters and vice-versa”. Case in point: “Technology is often tested on the bodies of Black and Brown people, perfected and then applied locally.” As it turns out, the US is also one of a group of countries opposing a UN-proposed ban on the development of so-called “killer robots”: lethal autonomous weapons systems that use artificial intelligence – think facial recognition-equipped swarms of drones.

The reality is that the violence of Dylann Roof or Jared Lee Loughner or James Holmes is one with the violence of Fallujah or Afghanistan. The US occupies several countries as I write this, and has military bases spread across the world. Surrounding each base one will find spikes in public intoxication, fights, domestic abuse, rape and drug abuse. Nobody in those places want the U.S. military there. For the military is not only the expression of historical American violence and racism, but it also horribly pollutes the areas in which it is located. For this is only another aspect of the violence. A psychic pollution, an emotional toxicity that is embedded in the uniform and the various repressions that entails. The military is the violence of the ruling elite made operative.

I am reminded of two quotes of George Jackson’s…

I’m convinced that it is the psychopathic personality that searches out a uniform. There’s little doubt of what’s going on in that man’s head who will voluntarily don any uniform.
— Soledad: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, October 1, 1970

and

Intellectuals still argue whether Amerika is a fascist country. This concern is typical of the Amerikan left’s flight from reality. … This is actually a manifestation of the authoritarian process seeping into its own psyche.
— Blood in My Eye, Black Classic Press, 1971

Suggesting mental illness as the cause of these shooters’ violence is to distract from the institutional and class violence that exists all around them. In which each grew up. To focus disproportionately on their isolation or loneliness is almost ironic given they live in a society of acute crippling loneliness and in which suicide is rampant. A society in which isolation is manufactured by the state as only another strategy of control. Collectively breeds radicalization. If people start to talk to each other, they might start to dissent from these master narratives. Best to stop all institutions of the collective. Best to deride any political form of collectivity…like, oh, communism. Best to refer to socialism as something practiced by war monger Bernie Sanders or pseudo progressive Alexandria Ocasio Cortez… that way the real socialism of a, say, Antonio Gramsci or Rosa Luxemburg will not be investigated. Best to encourage stories of individualism and triumph over social adversity. Not stories of tearing down systems of oppression.

Why is history being re-written? Vietnam, Korea, World War 2. Ask yourselves that rather simple question. Or the history of the Soviet Union, or Cuba, or Mao or Ho Chi Minh?

Treat global pollution and climate change as if it were a Hollywood disaster movie. Stigmatize asking questions, ridicule dissenting voices, shame those who will not submit to the official narrative. And the question here in the shadow of El Paso is not the truth or falsity of the narrative but the insistence on a submission to it. This is the same logic you would find at Jonestown if you went back in time. The very same. Or Synanon, or Heaven’s Gate. People are actually volunteering to stop having children. To stop flying. Voluntarily. Here is a clue, the U.S. military hasn’t stopped flying. And whenever the ruling class is talking to you — you should distrust what they say. Full stop.

And to underscore the racism so incrusted in American society and the climate discourse….

The populace today is encouraged to trust in consensus. Trust in popularity. If a movie is popular, well, it must be good. If everyone says something is true, well, it must be. As Norman Mailer said years ago, Americans are incapable “of confronting a book unless it is successful.” Lonely mentally ill young white men who shoot up public spaces do so because they can buy guns. And are mentally ill. In a society in which the economy is built upon mass violence and the manufacturing of guns, weapons, and ammunition. In which most new technology comes out of Pentagon research projects.

Are the police who beat or abuse or kill blacks and hispanics and native Americans…are they lonely and mentally ill? I mean, I’d say yeah, but that’s not the official narrative. And how many of those murderous policemen were veterans of the American military? The U.S. teaches violence. It glorifies it and romanticizes it and sexualizes it. Of course, people are going to shoot each other. As daily life becomes more unreal, and more intolerable, the suffering will find an outlet. And the one that is met with least resistance is the buying of guns. Young men are trained to think in martial terms. And this is where Trump can be seen as the perfect foil for the ruling class and why he will be re-elected. When Trump starts to tweet his concerns about public safety he will (I predict) also begin a normalizing of martial law and internment camps. I mean, camps are already mostly in use, albeit in small ways still. But martial law has been tested already with the Boston marathon shooting and subsequent hunt for the bombers. An entire city was shut down with almost unanimous public approval.

Barry Grey, World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) on April 2013, wrote:

The events in Boston have laid bare the modus operandi for the establishment of dictatorial forms of rule in the US. One or another violent act carried out by disoriented or disaffected individuals, perhaps with the help of elements within the state, is declared a terrorist event. A state of siege is imposed suspending democratic rights and establishing military-police control.

And it occurred after Hurricane Katrina when the governor declared an ‘state of emergency’ — evacuations were ordered and people were forced out of their homes and many businesses were closed. People were, in fact, removed to FEMA camps. Trump would meet with only symbolic objections by the Democratic Party. Some hand wringing and measured words of concern from Pelosi or Shurmer or Biden…and no doubt support from ex cop Harris and crypto-fascist Warren. It’s for your own good, after all. In fact, it’s for the good of those put in these camps. This is a nation, remember, where the government already flies surveillance drones to spy on its own citizens, and helicopters patrol areas targeted as potentially high crime (black and poor mostly) and SWAT teams increasingly are called out for routine offences — and where even small towns and some Universities have military surplus armoured fighting vehicles at their disposal.

On September 29, 2006, President Bush signed the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The law expanded Presidential authority to declare Martial Law under revisions to the Insurrection Act. The law was rolled back slightly in 2008 but Obama then signed a new version of NDAA that would allow the arrest and detention of U.S. citizens without due process. Obama also oversaw a federal policing report (in 2012) that suggested use of the military to supplement domestic police departments in times of social unrest. The creation of NORTHCOM (Northern Command) was really to draw up plans for civil unrest throughout north America. As Patrick Martin wrote in World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) back in 2005:

While Northcom was established only in October 2002, its headquarters staff of 640 is already larger than that of the Southern Command, which overseas US military operations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The reality is that the military brass is intensely interested in monitoring political dissent because its domestic operations will be directed not against a relative handful of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists—who have not carried out a single operation inside the United States since September 11, 2001—but against the democratic rights of the American people.

The ‘lone wolf’ shooter is now a domestic terrorist. Liberals are way out front on this designation, too. The terrorist tag opens the way to the further removal of all due process. So both a mentally ill misfit AND a domestic terrorist. Much as Osama bin Laden was an evil mastermind AND a cave dwelling primitive.

If martial law comes, it won’t be called martial law. It will be called Emergency Protective Sanctuary or some other Madison Avenue opaque and Orwellian term. Israel has rather perfected this stuff, though they seem today to barely care about global opinion. The climate crises plays into this, too, of course. It is useful to take the time to find the source of whatever dire warnings you are being told. Much of it has direct connections to the U.S. military in all its branches. Mike Pompeo even said the melting arctic presents a great business opportunity.

Trump is not an aberration or anomaly. He is the logical outcome of three hundred years of white supremacist values, arrogance, and class oppression. One need look back no further than Ronald Reagan to see the origins of much of what Trump is about. The Democrats are to the right of Trump on most of his foreign policy, and they will increasingly attack him from the right throughout this coming electoral season. Meanwhile the last shreds of civil liberties and due process are being removed. Fear is a great distraction. It’s the government’s three card monte game — and liberals and democrats are completely behind anything that is labeled green or about safety. Well, the safety of white people, mostly. And that doesn’t mean the homeless, of course. They are, in fact, another health and hygiene threat that needs to be dealt with. For their own good, naturally.

https://dissidentvoice.org/2019/08/bloo ... tRezPdzcnQ
"We ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror."

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kidoftheblackhole
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"The last shreds of civil liberties and due process" he says..

Post by kidoftheblackhole » Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:20 pm

I think he meant "scraps"

Because those "shreds" got us how far while we (formally at least) had them? Fucking Steppling..can't never tell if he wants to blow this fucker to bits or glue the pieces back together

Stop lecturing on "White Man's Justice" in one breath and then bemoaning the loss of "liberties" and "process" with the next dumbass

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blindpig
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Re: "The last shreds of civil liberties and due process" he says..

Post by blindpig » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:14 pm

kidoftheblackhole wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:20 pm
I think he meant "scraps"

Because those "shreds" got us how far while we (formally at least) had them? Fucking Steppling..can't never tell if he wants to blow this fucker to bits or glue the pieces back together

Stop lecturing on "White Man's Justice" in one breath and then bemoaning the loss of "liberties" and "process" with the next dumbass
Ya oughta tell him on twitter
"We ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror."

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kidoftheblackhole
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Re: The Forest is a Devil

Post by kidoftheblackhole » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:05 pm

You know you were right about something. Even a mainstay like Greg Goedels (Zoltan Zigedy) can't help himself sometimes. You get a masterful piece like

https://mltoday.com/the-plasticity-of-human-rights/

followed by an absolute clunker

https://mltoday.com/jeffrey-epstein-chi ... wide-shut/

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blindpig
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Re: The Forest is a Devil

Post by blindpig » Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:25 pm

I hardly look at his stuff anymore. Some of the stuff I've seen is lesser evilism/ Soc Dem. Trump has fucked with people's minds,understandably, but we gotta keep perspective.
"We ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror."

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