English

Elegy and dirge

The cat died recently. Or rather, we killed him. He was sick. Got very sick. Pretty sudden. Probably cancer. So he died. Or rather, we killed him. I killed him.

Went through some old notes the other day. Found something I had written the last time a cat died. Years ago. Ten years ago. Maybe more? Or less? I don’t know. I have a weird relationship with time. Anyway, it was better than I remember it. The text, that is.

I saw it the moment it happened
the moment that passed
Your eyes filled with panic
and then filled with nothing
the moment you stopped being
and turned into spoiled meat
Our days of pain gone
and now multiplied
then:
your muscles relaxed
the silly smell
the sudden undignified humor
in that impersonal room
your body stiffening and
your eyes not closed, drying
then:
your little body
turned into a little ash
in a brown paper bag
in a decomposable, biodegradable urn
(how practical)
and your new existence
as decoration in a bookshelf
How morbidly beautifully loving.

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Althusser Revisited!

Apparently On the Reproduction of Capitalism, the sort of Director’s Cut/Extended Version of “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” – an article/essay that I’ve found to be quite illuminating (and at the same time a bit “meh, I already know this”). Anyhoodles, the people over at Critical-Theory.com have decided to make a shorts and illuminating summary/translate it from English to American. Read it.

Perhaps another note on bullshit jobs…

…but definitely a comment on Sweden today:

“Beggars do not work, it is said; but then, what is work? A navvy works by swinging a pick. An accountant works by adding up figures. A beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose veins, bronchitis etc. It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course — but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless. And as a social type a beggar compares well with scores of others. He is honest compared with the sellers of most patent medicines, high-minded compared with a Sunday newspaper proprietor, amiable compared with a hire-purchase tout-in short, a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite. He seldom extracts more than a bare living from the community, and, what should justify him according to our ethical ideas, he pays for it over and over in suffering.”

― George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

The Conspiracy Against The Human Race

“This train of thought synopsizes a brand of metaphysical and psychological determinism according to which human beings cannot either defy accepted workings of reality or manipulate the origination of a state of mind and emotion. Naturally, all forms of determinism court the incredulity of the most sizeable portion of thinkers and non- thinkers alike. Anyone who subscribes to one or more of the arguments for an absolute or qualified free will may choose to disregard this passage. (The futility of all argument has already been stipulated in the preface to this work.) Arguments against free will are the most vilified in human thought, far more than arguments against the existence of gods. Even leading atheists draw the line whenever someone argues that, logically speaking, we are not in control of our thoughts and behavior. As materialists, they deny that moral “laws” have been crafted in a world unperceived by our senses; as tax-paying citizens, they still need to live in this one. And to disallow moral agency and responsibility would overturn every authorized ruling that makes the world work, if deficiently. Without the assumption of morality and responsibility, no one could be held accountable for crimes against life and property. In principle, it is irrational to bring before a bar of justice some skin-suited automaton whose behavior is out of alignment with the herky-jerky machinery in which it is supposed to function. But not to do so would be destructive of the sociopolitical status quo, which must be preserved if people are to be protected from sinking into a funk of foundationlessness. Newsflash: anyone who must receive instruction in morality will not benefit from it. Those concerned with morality are not the ones who need concern themselves with morality. The ones who need to be concerned with morality are those who will never be concerned with morality. Ask any sociopath, whose deficit of fellow-feeling is evened out by others with a hyper-developed, unhealthy sense of moral responsibility. The latter group will take on the guilt from which the remorseless are spared, blaming themselves for tragedies they cannot lawfully or logically be connected with. One is as helpless as the other to be anything but what they are, morally speaking. Everyone in between these groups will go with the wind. The majority cannot be taught how to feel about their behavior, only bludgeoned or cajoled into doing one thing or another. Rewards and punishments may be effective, but there can never be a mathematics of morality. Either the chemistry and neurology are there or they are not. Every day it is proven that not even deities that hand down codes of conduct can enforce them among their believers. For a god to publish the warning “Do this and do not do that . . . or else” is the moral equivalent of a highway speed trap. What a racket is right and wrong, and what a joke is justice or injustice: concepts thought up by parties with a vested interest in them. They hold nothing together that is not already held together by forces outside any law or moral system. But for a sensitive consciousness, this is something too terrible to know. Among those who back determinism in theory, none lobby for major renovations of their society’s justice system as its wheels grind slow but exceedingly fine. The determinist is not about to derail what he himself regards as illusions, which may be rough on bad-mannered or ill-designed automata but serve the social machine acceptably well. The determinist is also aware that if our illusions fall apart on paper, they are intractable in our lives. They have such a lock upon us that even the desire to escape from them is nearly impossible. To hate our illusions or hold them dear only attaches us to them all the more. We cannot stand up to them without our world falling apart, for those who care. While determinists stick to their logic, they are satisfied to let their philosophical opponents run the puppet show. What choice do they have? Yet how much slack do you give to what you believe is a lie, even a lie that holds steady the social order and braces up everything you have become accustomed to—your most cherished image of yourself, your country, your loved ones, and the value you place on your work, your hobbies, your possessions, your “way of life”? How much slack do you give to what you believe to be a lie before you say you have had it with lies, before you forsake everything to live with what you really think and feel about the way things are? How much slack? Answer: all the slack in the world.”

-Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against The Human Race

 

Quite the read. And the quote above is only from an endnote. Read the book. He engages in a quite interesting polemic with Nietzsche, attacking him from a point he usually doesn’t get shit from. Also read Thomas Ligotti’s other books, his collections of short stories. They are quite intriguing. Like HP Lovecraft and Paul Auster were the same person, or something. I have been meaning to make a Marxist analysis of one of the stories at some point, but you know. I can never get my thumb out of my arse.

Another attempt at poetry

Revisions will surely follow, as I wrote it in just about ten minutes, but still. Fairly satisfied.

And Atlas Shrugged
As I bit him in the calf
He thought it nothing
But the heavens trembled
As his leg weakened
Life pouring out of him
Felled by me, so low
Bringing down a god of old
Och världen skälvde
När hans kropp slog ner
Och himlen krossades
Och Döden var allt

The Carcereal

The world, in all its glory,
is set up to contain us.
Every aspect of it
a prison for the flesh
working and creating the mind.
An omniscient Existance
where we no longer know
or care what is watching.
And I, knowing that there is
nothing to watch me
nothing that cares
nothing that I in any way can properly understand, or that operates according to parameters that could be said to, in our limited language and understanding thereof, show any interest in anything (he operates on a scale peculiar to himself),
I am despite this knowledge in no way free.
Every act of resistance brings me closer to the center.

An attempt at a little bit of Foucault-inspired death worship. Considering my lack of creative talent, I thought it turned out half way decent. In no way original, but that’s postmodernism for you.

The deceleration of life as we know it

Gordon argued there are six headwinds that will slow future innovation: an ageing population in the mature economies; rising inequality; an increasing lack of competitive advantage for the mature capitalist economies; poorer education because public investment in education is being destroyed; increasing environmental regulations; and excessive debt. Gordon concluded that US real economic growth could fall to just an average 0.2% a year for the foreseeable future compared 2-3% of the past.

Well well, my my my… Nothing spectacularly new there, but we continue:

“Gordon was criticised for underestimating the new technologies that will come into play in driving up productivity growth over the next few decades.  In his sequel paper, he says “the primary role of the headwinds in predicting slow future growth escaped notice in the initial round of controversy about innovation”  He retorts: ‘there is no need to forecast that innovation in the future will “falter,” because the slowdown in the rate of productivity growth over the past 120 years already occurred more than four decades ago. This sequel paper explains why the pace of innovation declined after 1972. The future forecast assumes that innovations in the next 40 years will be developed at the same pace as the last four decades, but reasons for scepticism are provided for that prediction.'”

Here I find some support for what the Accelerations Manifesto says, in point 3.3:

“Capitalism has begun to con­strain the pro­ductive forces of tech­no­logy, or at least, direct them to­wards need­lessly narrow ends. Patent wars and idea mono­pol­isa­tion are con­tem­porary phe­nomena that point to both capital’s need to move beyond com­pet­i­tion, and capital’s in­creas­ingly ret­ro­grade ap­proach to tech­no­logy. The prop­erly ac­cel­er­ative gains of neo­lib­er­alism have not led to less work or less stress. And rather than a world of space travel, fu­ture shock, and re­volu­tionary tech­no­lo­gical po­ten­tial, we exist in a time where the only thing which de­velops is mar­gin­ally better con­sumer gad­getry. Relentless it­er­a­tions of the same basic product sus­tain mar­ginal con­sumer de­mand at the ex­pense of human acceleration.”

Real techological advancement is then hindered by the development of the new iPhone, so to speak. We can see this in another way in the development of what people assumed would be this anarchic and decentralized haven of free anonymous creative capability: the internet. But alas, it failed. Or let me put it to you like this: when was the last time you used a search engine that wasn’t Google? I bet you have a Gmail-account. This ‘cloud’ where you store your things, who owns that? And since the arrival of Facebook and that paradigmatic shift, you probably aren’t even trying to be anonymous on the internet anymore? The internet is de facto monopolized. Or, as the source of this little rant puts it:

But those days are gone. We’ve centralized the bejesus out of the Internet now. There’s one search engine (plus the one no one uses),one social network (plus the one no one uses), one Twitter. We use one ad network, one analytics suite. Anywhere you look online, one or two giant American companies utterly dominate the field.

This centralization, this involving of big business in the internet cannot but bring capitalist relations to the fore. And those capitalist relations are of course to simply use it, but above all focus on making sure that you don’t move to another alternative (which could be anything). “They do it by having high standards of quality” you say. No, they do it by creating monopoly and they do it by creating a sort of climate and culture of the instans gratification of ‘likes’, of low-intensity exhibitionism etc. And since their motives aren’t to make our lives better but just to keep us there, generating info they can sell, they will not challenge us. The McDonalds-version of the internetz, you know. Nothing will rock the boat. And I’m no better than anyone else. I waste my life on facebook and instagram (and truly, I do). But these relations aren’t there to produce anything that we want or need. They are there to produce revenue to the companies involved.

Which brings us to the next point, namely that of bullshit jobs. A bullshit job is by this definition a job that you know really doesn’t need to be done. A problem has been created and you are hired to deal with the problem, but the problem is bull. Which is why you had a German man that upon his retirement sent a letter to his bosses and just about everyone else, explaining that he had done absolutely nothing in the last ten years. Which is why you have office slaves wasting over 20% (or more!) of their paid time on Facebook, for example. Basically, you have a class of people who are getting paid so they can consume. What it is that they actually produce is of lesser importance. But the money need to keep circulating. The article even mentions that there appears to be an inverse relationship to importance of jobs and wages, namely that the more important you job is the less you are likely to get paid, and more specifically important for this line of argument: vice versa. A school teacher isn’t paid very much. Neither is a nurse. But you’d notice if they went on strike. But would your country or city be brought to a standstill if all the creative directors would go on strike?

Anyhoodles, the point is this: technological innovation have been brought to a halt because capitalism sees no use in it. Why sell you something new and unproved when you could be sold the same thing again, but in a different color this time? And why would you bust your ass at work just to be able to buy the same shit you bought last time when you just as well can google pictures of kittens or write on your grandmas Facebook-wall (poor thing hardly understand how it works, but she gets so happy when you write and since you spend so much time at work you hardly have the time to actually visit her)? It’s all very Soviet. The important thing is that you have a job, not that you work.

And please believe me when I say that there’s no loathing involved in this. I don’t despise anyone doing any sort of job. But we are all trapped in a system, in a situation that might cater to us materially, but that’s just about the only thing it does.