TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label 60s Legacies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 60s Legacies. Show all posts

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Generation X Goes Back to the Future 6: I Want to Appropriate You


Transgender 'Woman' Objects to Man who Wants his Age Changed Legally from 69 to 49 (12 November 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

The march to liberate us from biological social markers and replace them with politicized, constantly variable, cultural markers continues. Transgendered people have argued that gender is an oppressive social label even more than it is a biological one; they campaign for freedom from that oppression, turning gender into a malleable, liberated construct. They gain a lot of momentum from this, generating endless rights controversies in increasingly convoluted identity politics.

Dutch Baby Boomer and positivity guru Emile Ratelband wants to make hay while the sun shines. Ratelband, who is 69 years old, has been told by his doctor that he has the body of a 42 year old. Using the legal precedents established in the courts by transgender rights campaigners, Ratelband has argued similarly that age is an oppressive biological and social marker. It's time to decide how old you are by how old you feel, rather than being socially identified by rigid biological markers.

Ratelband legally petitioned to get his age changed to 49 years of age, so that he can get more dates with women on Tinder. The trans proponent in the above interview was appalled. Can't you just fib on Tinder? He/she said. Everyone does.

There is grand irony in the notion that a Boomer wants to join the ranks of Generation X. But Ratelband won't have that honour yet, since the Dutch district court in Arnhem presiding over the case ruled against him on 3 December 2018, and prevented him from legally changing his birth date from 11 March 1949 to 11 March 1969. Ratelband vows to appeal.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Hallowe'en Countdown 2018: The CERN Tarot Deck and The Cybernetic Seance


The Knight of Swords in the CERN tarot deck connects early computers and the founding of IBM (originally established in Poland) to the Holocaust. Image Source: Hexen 2.0. Click to enlarge all images.

Even if you only follow the mainstream, you don't have to go very far before you come across horrors which are worse than anything found in the ancient stories. Not even Salome could ask for what passes for statecraft these days.

There are misattributed photos now circulating online of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 and came out in chopped-up pieces. The photos, posted on disreputable sites, include a skinned head, with the face spread on the floor in front of the meaty skull. Warning: the linked material is gory and linking does not imply my endorsement of values expressed in linked material.

These scenes immediately reminded me of Clive Barker's Hellraiser; Barker's horror fiction describes demons walking the earth and entering it by way of certain portals. His  famous Books of Blood from the mid-1980s opened as follows:
"The dead have highways.

They run, unerring lines of ghost-trains, of dream-carriages, across the wasteland behind our lives, bearing an endless traffic of departed souls. Their thrum and throb can be heard in the broken places in the world, through cracks made by acts of cruelty, violence and depravity. Their freight, the wandering dead, can be glimpsed when the heart is close to bursting, and sights that should be hidden come plainly into view.

They have sign-posts, these highways, and bridges and lay-bys. They have turnpikes and intersections.

It is at these intersections, where the crowds of dead mingle and cross, that this forbidden highway is most likely to spill through into our world. The traffic is heavy at the cross-roads, and the voices of the dead are at their most shrill. Here the barriers that separate one reality from the next are worn thin with the passage of innumerable feet." ("The Book of Blood" in Clive Barker's Books of Blood, vol. 1 (London: Sphere Books, 1985), p. 1.)
It is almost as though the Khashoggi case created one of those broken places in the world, a rent in the fabric of reality between the worlds of the living and the dead, created by an act of cruelty. France 24 denied the authenticity of the Khashoggi photos; its reporters found that the photos hailed from Mexico and Egypt in 2017:
"The two photos that show the arms and the legs date back to August 2017, and were taken in Giza, Egypt. These body parts belonged to a man described as 'elderly' in the Egyptian press, who report that his body parts were found scattered between two different parts of town.

The photo showing the skull, the scalped face, the pair of eyes and the penis had already been published online back in July 2017. According to a blog specialised in Mexican drug trafficking-related crime, these body parts belonged to a police commander in Tecoman, Mexico, who was killed by a cartel."
Nevertheless, the photos are real, even if they are not part of the Khashoggi story, and the latter is bad enough without misattributed photo evidence. All of it confirms that something has gone wrong behind the façade of normal authority and current affairs.










More clues of the state of affairs come from CERN, the autonomous quantum physics research organization. It turns out that CERN has an artist's residency. This year, the artist in residence, Suzanne Treister, created a CERN tarot deck. Out of all the things Treister could have developed to describe CERN's attempt to crack the building blocks of matter, she chose magic (Hat tip: Dark Journalist; see his dedicated video on this tarot deck, here). All tarot images are © S. Treister and found here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

In Millennial Eyes 5: Aryan Mystics of Antarctica and the Fourth Reich


Image Source: Nachtwächter.

The Millennial mind confronts many fears. Fear of poverty, fear of misrule, fear of violence and chaos. In a world dominated by science and technology, the ultimate fear is that rational systems could create mass irrationality. How could a pervasive anti-rationalism come to dominate a landscape framed by reason? Worse, anti-rationalism can manifest its own power. These concerns give rise to the fear that magic has been combined with politics, or that magic has been combined with technology.

Rationalists break things down, analyze them, and solve limited problems within defined boundaries. Wholeness is suspect in a world dominated by specialized knowledge and compartmentalized action. Universal knowledge is a path to faith, mysteries, and madness; however, it is enjoying a vogue in high circles and low. Conspiracy theorists - who lead the fearful - share a comprehensive vision with the supposed New World Order leaders they claim to oppose. Conspiracy theorists are now the world's greatest holistic myth-makers. If physicists seek the Grand Unified Theory and philosophers consider the Theory of Everything, conspiracy theorists offer their own brand of all-encompassing pseudo-knowledge.

The theorists have developed a Grand Unifying Conspiracy Theory, which centres on Antarctica, and uses the seventh continent to explain the role of Germany and America in 20th and early 21st century history. Beyond that, this theory claims to explain our entire world as it currently exists, and as it has ever existed.

Before I continue, I want to state clearly that I personally do not believe this conspiracy theory, nor do I subscribe to its racist or outlandish elements. However, I think it is an important phenomenon, which reflects the evolution of online behaviour and technoculture. This is the conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories. It revises the whole history of humankind. This alt-vision would be impossible without the Internet.

Post-Truth and Tomorrow's Politics

Salon screen capture, from a 4 March 2017 article, in which author Andrew O'Hehir lamented over "fake news and endless lies." Image Source.

The craziness of the phenomenon described here shows what happens when politics becomes a battleground of perceptions and opinions. Information is detached from reality and weaponized, and narratives are too. The Salon article above cited a New York Times article from 2 March 2017 on how Donald Trump has destroyed the tone of public debate and is jeopardizing democracy. We must find ways to determine between fake and real information. We must also consider what may or may not be discussed in the public square - and which voices are authoritative, and how, and why. But all these worries ignore a critical point.


If one allows that fake-versus-real is one discussion, one must still consider a second discussion, in which post-truth is a given. When post-truth is a given, one must learn how post-truth functions, in the same way a linguistic anthropologist studies urban legends, digital folklore, and their real contexts. If we agree with Samuel Greene at KCL that "voters' perceptions have become untethered from reality," we still need to understand how untethered perceptions work.

Post-truth is not fake news. It is neither true nor false. It is a principle for people who would like to keep all their options open and stay flexible when it comes to understanding reality. That grey area has tremendous utilitarian value, especially if it draws from deeply embedded cultural memory. In terms of that utility, it doesn't matter whether information is true, false, or blended. If established authorities decry threatening information as fake, so much the better. They stake their current power on a weakening principle, that is, old, limited forms of knowledge. Those who grasp post-truth's dynamics and mechanics have the advantage. That post-truth practical advantage drives the Antarctic conspiracy theory.

Still from Heimat (Season 1 Episode 1, Fernweh - 1919-28 (The Call of Faraway Places); first aired 16 September 1984). Image Source: Cartoon Simkl.

It may appear that conspiracy theories are idiotic nonsense, online entertainment for lunatics and basement dwellers. However, I am reminded of the Heimat German television series. That series dramatically covered the history of Germany from 1919 to 2000.

When I watched Heimat's first episodes on PBS in the mid-1980s, I was struck by how Nazis were depicted when they first appeared in rural Germany in the 1920s. They were shown as ridiculous, marginal figures, brown-shirted spotty teenagers, goose-stepping in the background of town squares. They were ignored by decent folk, who were talking in civilized tones in the foreground. In other words, no one who was 'normal' took these adolescent Nazis seriously.

That dramatic interpretation can be questioned; the history of youth movements in the 1920s confirms that Nazism was much more popular than that and its ideas grew from old precedents in Europe. But certainly, within ten years, Nazism, with all its outdoorsy nature worship and ludicrous magical politics became very serious business indeed. That is why the Antarctic conspiracy theory may seem a silly waste of time - arrested development fodder for adolescent Internet gnomes - but it would be wise to pay attention to it.

Technologically-induced social transformations are opening up power vacuums. Nimble opportunists on all sides recognize that everything is shifting, and potential power bases of the future - not yet extant - are up for grabs. Conspiratorial narratives are one way to surf the post-truth waves to future prominence and control. Today's Internet gnome is tomorrow's politician.

Memories of the racist past in the USA, especially the South, may feed American fears of neo-Nazis and of Trump as a new Hitler. That is, Nazis-in-America may not be as real as the American cultural memory of racism in the United States, a separate historical phenomenon from National Socialism in Germany.

In this post and a subsequent post, I describe how one thread of post-truth, which I call the Antarctic Fourth Reich, covers everything. It works on its own mythical terms, and defies fakeness or realness. In later posts on this topic, I will consider the Fourth Reich's cultural meaning and actual utilitarian effect in terms of real history and real politics.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Memes in the Chaos: The Plastic Landscape of Reality Journalism



One of the hotbeds where a new technological ideology is forming is alt-journalism. Alt-journalists operate with a post-tabloid, kinetic style which exploits that consciousness and assaults the senses. This blowhard style - exemplified by pro-Trump Periscoper and Youtuber Mike Cernovich - wins alt-journalists popularity among their Youtube, Reddit, Twitter, Gab, and 4chan fans. Cernovich sure doesn't have any fans at liberal outlet Media Matters! You can read their coverage of his work here; and similar hatred for him is here and here. When attacked, Cernovich gives as good as he gets.

In a 2 April article and 3 April 2017 videoCernovich asserted that Susan Rice was at the centre of the Russian-Trump wire-tapping intelligence scandal. It was Cernovich's scoop, not because others did not also have the information, but because others in the MSM chose not to report it.

In appealing to his youthful audience, Cernovich made much of both points. His message: watch him to get the lowdown first on what is happening; and watch him because he has the guts to tell you what others won't. He also builds his brand through bragging, bluster, and brawling with other social media personalities in ways that wear down resistance to him as an unknown quantity:
"I'm starting to like this mythos created about me. The media has turned me into this James Bond villain who has connections to Russian hackers and foreign governments, and can lead hacking campaigns across the world and influence elections. I'm not even going to argue with that shit. I'm going to be like, 'Yeah, you caught me. You're right. I'm a fucking James Bond villain, you know? Thank God.'" 
He introduces his audience to his wife and daughter, and discusses random topics on Friday evening Youtube cigar nights from his patio. Compare this to Anderson Cooper at CNN or Stephen Sackur at the BBC, and you see Mike Cernovich - a late Gen Xer - operates in a Brave New World.

A caveat: my discussion of controversial symbols and ideas in this post in no way indicates my personal belief in, or endorsement of, those symbols and themes. This is an apolitical blog, and my intent in the current series of posts is to uncover the nature of an emerging technological ideology, not to take sides in political debates or support offensive content.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Boomer Legacies: An Urbex Valentine


Video Source: Youtube.

The blog is on a break, but for Valentine's Day, see Dan Bell's urban exploration videos of the abandoned resort love nests in the Poconos, a mountain range in northeastern Pennsylvania once popular with swingers in the 1960s and 1970s. As for the abandoned heart-shaped hot tub below, one Youtuber wrote: "I was there in 75 my name is Linda, Joe are you out there , we have a daughter conceived in the hot tub .. get in touch ..lol." See Dan Bell's whole series: Forgotten Poconos: Abandoned Resorts.

Video Source: Youtube.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Productivity: The Last Domino to Fall in the Old System



In a previous post, Subliminal Slavery of the Subconscious Self, I summarized a BBC 2002 documentary, The Century of the Self, in which director Adam Curtis maintained that the mid-to-late 20th century was a time in which cause was divorced from effect, actions separated from consequences, in the name of preventing world war and genocide.

Curtis claimed that post-World War II mass culture became a giant pressure cooker experiment. The hypothesis ran that pre-World War II societies were repressed by old social values and religions. When societies became psychologically and emotionally over-repressed, they could suddenly blow and all the dark instincts of the community would surge out in racism, mass psychosis and murder. Psycho-social repression was the hypothesized cause of the Holocaust.

Image Source: Aussie Cool Story Club.

The prescribed remedy in western cultures, and later, global cultures, was to indulge the Jungian collective unconscious and mass shadow in a thousand different ways. Smaller vices were continually encouraged to give the big collective pressure cooker a way to let off steam. Celebrities came forth to personify aspects of the Freudian Id or Jungian Unconscious, in order to push those buttons in audiences. Derived from Austrian psychoanalysis, transported into American mass entertainment and mass politics, the pressure cooker slow release experiment wasn't a great idea.


A famous, early example of the 1960s' Hell-Sell technique, used in an actual Kent cigarettes ad, with explanation of the subliminal images and colours employed from a leaked advertising training manual. Part of the blurred-out message includes giant spiders mating on the girl's leg. Images Source: Whale.

As a result, as the Cold War wore on, any kind of inhibition in the name of old-fashioned social mores was condemned as social repression, an attack on liberty. Gone was the idea that norms reflected customs based in everyday life, and that norms connected people to habit, sanity, and reality. This is the kind of freedom that really enslaves people! The adoration of the libertine came at a price, because there was one place left where actions still connected to consequences.

Creation, making things, building things, was still directly related to making money. That correlation became more and more harshly enforced, more industrial, an assembly line governed by line managers, as time went on. Productivity was also unconsciously and in real terms wedded to the rise of the computer, so that we were expected to work like machines, battling against the continual threat of lack and loss. Space and time for productivity became supreme luxuries, reserved for the top few producers.

This is the logical inconsistency embedded in post-World War II global culture. Where all the other leashes were loosened, the last one, productivity, was inhumanly tightened. Normally, productivity is associated with discipline; that discipline was somewhat mitigated when other areas of life moved in parallel. But in developed countries, social limitations, personal restraints, and boundaries were erased. A lack of discipline rewarded and eased suffering in the personal realm. Meanwhile, all base survival was tied - with threats and desperation - to machine-like performance and productivity. The only place we were still connected to reality was through productivity, measured in time and money.

This paradoxical arrangement caused enormous social and cultural stresses, glossed over by blinking, flashing mass entertainment, bent on stating and restating: "It's all right. It's all right. It's all right." When, in fact, it was not all right and it did not correlate. One could not have no inhibitions on off hours, yet turn up bang on the dot on Monday to work like a robot. Or these days, turn up bang on the dot any time of the day or night, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to work like a robot, while also somehow simultaneously blowing off crazy steam in Id-dominated playgrounds.

Social theorists, political ideologues, and cultural gurus arose to reconcile the paradox and explain it away. For a time, the paradox could be cloaked, such that it offered the only ethical way to behave. Given its original historical premise, it was always presented as the only possible social structural counter-argument to racial genocide and world war. That is, workers were asked by broader culture to suppress their own souls in the name of making money or helping others to make money. But in all other respects, it was the height of right-thinking and social correctness to invert all previously-held values and to destroy self-limitations.

This post is not a conservative screed, moralizing or condemning libertinism. I merely observe that the formula was inconsistent and thus, the pattern is not sustainable. The paradox cannot hold for much longer. This must give way: the forceful over-expectation in Millennial working life, that this is the only way that cause can lead to effect, that actions can lead to consequences, that one must work oneself into the ground, second by second, to make money. While at the same time, in all other areas of life, irresponsibility and the divorce between actions and consequences prevail. One is minute-by-minute bombarded with media messages of war, disaster, chaos, and unbridled instinct. And counter to the pressure cooker experiment, our world is becoming more, not less, brutal, savage and potentially genocidal. It is a place where online beheadings and extreme porn are the norm and barely stir any profound response in the desensitized populace. Can you even remember what outrages you saw on the television or computer two weeks ago? Or what you ate for supper?

Further, as I noted in my post, Post-Apocalypse Rehab, mass media messages insist that the money you earn while acting like a robot rewards you by removing restraint in off hours. This is why we are surrounded by images of conspicuous consumption, which beg citizens to be irresponsible and disconnected from themselves and from reality in non-work areas of life. Supermodel sumptuousness and cinematic fictions of carnage create dreamlike distances from ongoing collective trauma. They allow the carnage in, so one engages, but from a quasi-safe position of cocoon-like detachment from the weirdness of living in this heaving, struggling world.

All of this must finally give way to a different way of living. The last domino to fall will be the outmoded way productivity is inflexibly correlated to money. This domino will fall in the name of consistency. You cannot train human beings to be hedonistic libertines for half a century, but deny them access to that final realm of freedom, within their own souls. Thus, in the last area where they are ordered inflexibly to be obedient, making money, they will rebel, because all other rules have been relaxed, inverted, abrogated, redefined, or overturned. The manner in which they redefine productivity and profitability may go either way: a soulful path or a libertine one.

The Internet is Ground Zero for this change. Cyberspace was supposed to broaden libertinism; it was a fantasyland, a computer playland. Cyberpunk was an extension of 1960s' and 1970s' drug culture. What a surprise, then, that after the initial wallowing in porn and LOLcat bullshit, computerland instead turned out to be a tough-as-nails Spartan training ground, which is now having radical impacts in the real world.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Enter the Frontier



Earlier this year, I developed an idea about 21st century change which I call the 'Wild West Theory of Innovation.'

The theory is about the real dynamics of change. It states that radical change produces actual, hard change and expected stabilities will not remain; moreover, the ideas and people that initiated the change do not and cannot contain outcomes. Those outcomes take change agents to the fringes, to the 'wild west.' Change can suddenly become a negative threat, because old ideas stop working, produce bad results, or can be co-opted by one's opponents. To find the positive aspect of change again, one must adapt to the new environment.

I developed the idea in relation to Bitcoin, not politics, Brexit, or the American election. But it applies to 20th century political animals and 21st century technological innovators alike, who have aligned themselves morally and politically with what they regard as positive change. They should not be surprised when they innovate themselves into a frontier territory, dominated by marginalized characters and alien concepts.

This is a non-political blog, so the point here is not to criticize any groups or counter-groups, but to consider why socio-economic reform and technological innovation are double-edged swords; to depict how we arrived at the outer edges; and to find a positive path through the frontier.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Blurred Line and the Hard Line


Under conditions of anomie, a fictional social network diagram shows competitive offshoots or spin-off groups, who redefine old norms to create new societies. Image Source: Wiki.

Technology, combined with the Great Recession and globalization, transformed societies, economies and politics through the turn of the Millennium. The mask of the materialist capitalist dream slipped with revelations from the Panama Papers, while also showing how that dream is connected to non-capitalist societies. The latter do not have better systems or superior ideologies. Hierarchy, exploitation and inequality are universal human problems. This post is not about who is correct, but who is seeking to control the claim to be correct.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Boomer Legacies: Mysteries of Things to Come


Jugend (1916) by Julius Diez (1870-1957). Reblogged from The Pictorial Arts (Hat tip: T. Buchanan).

In yesterday's post, I described the ideas behind Roberto Saviano's accounts of crime and the drug trade. According to Saviano in ZeroZeroZero, cocaine use has overrun western societies:
"The guy sitting next to you on the train uses cocaine, he took it to get himself going this morning; or the driver of the bus you’re taking home, he wants to put in some overtime without feeling the cramps in his neck. The people closest to you use coke. If it’s not your mother or father, if it’s not your brother, then it’s your son. And if your son doesn’t use it, your boss does. Or your boss’s secretary, but only on Saturdays, just for fun. And if your boss doesn’t, his wife does, to let herself go. And if not his wife, then his lover—he gives her cocaine instead of earrings, in place of diamonds. And if they don’t, the truck driver delivering tons of coffee to cafés around town does; he wouldn’t be able to hack those long hours on the road without it. And if he doesn’t, the nurse who’s changing your grandfather’s catheter does. Coke makes everything seem so much easier, even the night shift. And if she doesn’t, the painter redoing your girlfriend’s room does; he was just curious at first but wound up deep in debt. The people who use cocaine are right here, right next to you. The police officer who’s about to pull you over has been snorting for years, and everyone knows it, and they write anonymous letters to his chief hoping he’ll be suspended before he screws up big time. Or the surgeon who’s just waking up and will soon operate on your aunt. Cocaine helps him cut open six people a day. Or your divorce lawyer. Or the judge presiding over your lawsuit; he doesn’t consider it a vice, though, just a little boost, a way to get more out of life. The cashier who hands you the lottery ticket you hope is going to change your life. The carpenter who’s installing the cabinets that cost you a month’s salary. Or the workman who came to put together the IKEA closet you couldn’t figure out how to assemble on your own. If not him, then the manager of your condo building who is just about to buzz you. Or your electrician, the one who’s in your bedroom right now, moving the outlets. The singer you are listening to to unwind, the parish priest you’re going to talk to about finally getting confirmed because your grandson’s getting baptized, and he’s amazed you’ve put it off for so long. The waiters who will work the wedding you’re going to next Saturday; they wouldn’t be able to last on their feet all that time if they didn’t. If not them, then the town councillor who just approved the new pedestrian zones, and who gets his coke free in exchange for favors. The parking lot attendant who’s happy now only when he’s high. The architect who renovated your vacation home, the mailman who just delivered your new ATM card. If not them, then the woman at the call center who asks “How may I help you?” in that shrill, happy voice, the same for every caller, thanks to the white powder. If not her, your professor’s research assistant—coke makes him nervous. Or the physiotherapist who’s trying to get your knee working right. Coke makes him more sociable. The forward who just scored, spoiling the bet you were winning right up until the final minutes of the game. The prostitute you go to on your way home, when you just can’t take it anymore and need to vent. She does it so she won’t have to see whoever is on top or under or behind her anymore. The gigolo you treated yourself to for your fiftieth birthday. You did it together. Coke makes him feel really macho. The sparring partner you train with in the ring, to lose weight. And if he doesn’t, your daughter’s riding instructor does, and so does your wife’s psychologist. Your husband’s best friend uses it, the one who’s been hitting on you for years but whom you’ve never liked. And if he doesn’t, then your school principal does. Along with the janitor. And the real estate agent, who’s late, just when you finally managed to find time to see the apartment. The security guard uses it, the one who still combs his hair over his bald spot, even though guys all shave their heads these days. And if he doesn’t, the notary you hope you never have to go back to, he does it to avoid thinking about the alimony he has to pay his ex-wives. And if he doesn’t, the taxi driver does; he curses the traffic but then goes all happy again. If not him, the engineer you have to invite over for dinner because he might help you get a leg up in your career. The policeman who’s giving you a ticket, sweating profusely even though it’s winter. The squeegee man with hollow eyes, who borrows money to buy it, or that kid stuffing flyers under windshield wipers, five at a time. The politician who promised you a commercial license, the one you and your family voted into office, and who is always nervous. The professor who failed you on your exam. Or the oncologist you’re going to see; everybody says he’s the best, so you’re hoping he can save you. He feels omnipotent when he sniffs cocaine. Or the gynecologist who nearly forgets to throw away his cigarette before going in to examine your wife, who has just gone into labor. Your brother-in-law, who’s never in a good mood, or your daughter’s boyfriend, who always is. If not them, then the fishmonger, who proudly displays a swordfish, or the gas station attendant who spills gas on your car. He sniffs to feel young again but can’t even put the pump away correctly anymore. Or the family doctor you’ve known for years and who lets you cut the line because you always know just the right thing to give him at Christmas. The doorman of your building uses it, and if he doesn’t, then your kids’ tutor does, your nephew’s piano teacher, the costume designer for the play you’re going to see tonight, the vet who takes care of your cat. The mayor who invited you over for dinner recently. The contractor who built your house, the author whose book you’ve been reading before falling asleep, the anchorwoman on the evening news. But if, after you think about it, you’re still convinced none of these people could possibly snort cocaine, you’re either blind or you’re lying. Or the one who uses it is you."
Cocaine is a vice and vanity but it fills other gaps in western culture. Self-medication enables addicts to cope with deeper problems. Drugs are signposts pointing to the subliminal world. Cocaine is popular in western countries because it papers over the cracks for people driven to the breaking point. It enables people to force themselves forward in environments which are already locked in overdrive, no matter what the cost, no matter what their spiritual heartbreak or moral dislocation. Some parts of daily life are identical to what they were thirty years ago, but in the areas touched by connected technology, the cultural and social impact is almost unimaginable. As I suggested, there is a reason for this desperate need to keep up. If you do not change in a hyper-changing society, you die.

In this post, I commented that ever since the 1960s, death is not an option. The Baby Boomer revolutionary creed was anti-militaristic and pro-youth-forever. The Boomers adored eastern faiths, but a Buddhist might find they diverged from any eastern path. With their marketing, lifestyles and values, the Boomers taught us to abhor death, because death entails the destruction of the ego and the continued survival of the soul. This is unimaginable in a materialist society ruled by egotists. In their true hearts, the last thing the members of the Me Generation wanted was to preside over a mechanistic order of crushing egotism, but that is the outcome of their collective efforts.

One may ask why. Why did the Baby Boomers develop such a confused message of holistic social healing, in societies now dominated by hostile materialist egotism? Initially, the Boomers promoted youth, pacifism and liberalism. This is a mantra against death. Their avoidance of death ended up promoting the ego, thereby sponsoring the social ills and totalitarian self-promotion which plague western societies now in mass media, politics, entertainment, workplaces and the economy. Western cultures are on the run from death; which is why westerners (and many non-westerners) now worship fast-paced change. We must change more and more; we must go faster and faster; we must work ourselves to death, but we must not die. A rest or pause would entail contemplation of that which pursues us - and that is very difficult to do.

It is difficult because most people alive today arrived during or after the worst blood-letting of the 20th century occurred. Imagine the last century's hemoclysm as a grotesque journey into humanity's dark night of the soul, in which some 180 million people died in armed conflicts. Historian Eric Hobsbawm put the number at 187 million people who were "killed or allowed to die by human decision" in the "short century" between 1914 and 1991. And scholar Milton Leitenberg, citing Hobsbawm, places the number higher, at 231 million people who died in wars and conflicts in the entire century. That makes the 20th century the bloodiest in history. It would be accurate to see the ideological solutions of the Boomers and succeeding generations not as solutions, but as masks to hide the collective shock after the bloodbath, and a desperate, reflexive need to contain further bloodshed at all costs - even, ironically, through the propagation of small wars to let off steam, but not have the whole system blow. Liberal democracy hides the west's survivors' mentality. In that aftermath, add a layer of glittering technology to spread blind hope in peace and connectivity, and you have the current state of affairs.

Since the turn of the new Millennium, no shiny technology, and certainly no drug, can conceal or suppress the enduring darkness in the human soul. To shake off utopian denial and face death in western cultures squarely and honestly, as author Roberto Saviano struggles to do, takes courage and a different set of values than those promoted forty-five years ago. And contrary to what conservative pundits would say, we do not know what those new values are. For Saviano, it starts with the courage to recognize the ugliness in human nature, not with ideological formulas, but with honesty about 'real' reality.

It calls for a frank acknowledgement of the survivors' mentality, because we will exist between apocalypses, and not just after them, if we do not. In the movie, Silent Fall (1994), Liv Tyler's character remarks that in their grief, survivors no longer want to know or show themselves as they truly are. They inhabit a purgatorial state of quasi morto, or near death:
"I figured out something about death. It's contagious. I know that sounds crazy, but it's like when people you love die, you feel like you should have died too. And you don't want anybody to know that you survived. No one."
Survivors deny the reality of their own existences because they feel guilty that they are still alive, when others have died in their stead. To live on a mountain of skulls is to want to disappear. It is easier to dream of peace than it is to be fully conscious after one's whole civilization has undergone near-total obliteration. Virtual reality well suits the sleepwalker's state of denial and the authoritarian mechanisms do and will quietly follow. If we are all survivors who have denied our true natures, who are we really? As the old year dies, the question of how to find the time to become fully conscious of 'real' reality has never been more important.

The Sleepwalker (1907) by Julius Diez. Reblogged from The Pictorial Arts.

ADDENDUM (29 May 2016): On 28 May 2016, BBC interviewed author Roberto Saviano on his work which confirms that the City of London is a centre for money laundering of Mexican drug money and the Italian mafia. Thus, the wealth and lifestyles of the City rest on violence and crime discussed in the following posts:

BBC interview with Roberto Saviano (28 May 2016). Video Source: Youtube.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Awaken the Amnesiacs 2: The Gnostics


The gnostic twin flame subculture (September 2015). Image Source: The Spirit Science.

In any society, there is no more powerful source of values than the relationship between the sexes. It precedes all other assumptions, so central is it to existence. In a previous post in this series, I observed a trend in the second half of 2015, in which online New Age communities declared an end to the war between the sexes. That redefinition has entered the western media through debates on gender dualism, gender neutrality, gender fluidity and transgenderism. As the trend reaches the mainstream, it marks a huge shift in western values.

The origins of this trend are at least as old as Christianity, if not older, and developed alongside it. For centuries, westerners have been toying with the feminine-oriented Christian heresy of gnosticism, which drew from neo-Platonism - and the masculine-dominated cult of hermeticism, derived from eastern mystery religions. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana must have whole collections devoted to these heresies' periodic resurgences, although they will not always confirm that. In the 2010s, Christian and post-Christian westerners began to combine these heresies. That is not difficult, since both belief systems involve a spiritual journey which culminates in a final merger of the sexes. Cross-pollination within western esotericism is not novel, and merely constitutes a third, enduring strand in the western tradition, opposite Judeo-Christian religion and Enlightenment rationalism.

What is new is how the dynamics of global connectivity create fertile beds for heretical cult behaviour around gender neutrality, expressed through technology and inside technological spaces. I will not summarize gnostic ideas here, because I have in other posts, particularly this one. Upcoming posts in this series address the hermetic 'practical' application of the gnostic vision and explain the possible real world impacts of this shift in values. But I will start here, inside the blind spot of 2015's technological gnostic worship. A caveat: This post reports on these trends as historical cultural phenomena and not as an indication of my personal opinions on these matters, which are private.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Awaken the Amnesiacs 1: The Gnostic-Hermetic Synthesis of 2015


Image Source: Spiritual Unite.

Western culture is undergoing a shift. New Age circles have been buzzing about it for the past few years, especially since the recession and 2012. Their chatter is now reaching a dull roar. For skeptics who want the TL;DR version, here is the

Executive Summary.
Several online movements are currently combining hermeticism and gnosticism to realign western values.

What this means.
Hermeticism combines monotheistic arcane traditions to inspire blind leaps in how we understand the world. Its early triad of alchemy, astrology and theurgy were termed as the 'three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe.' These translate in our terms into three aspects: first, science and rationalism of the mind; second, politics and emotions in the physical, the choices made to change the "life of matter and material existence"; and third, spirituality, our grasp of the relationship between the soul and what we define as divine. Sometimes associated with old Arab mysticism and the Kabbalah, sometimes with the occult, the Tarot and astrology, sometimes with Freemasonry, hermeticism is prevalent in popular culture today. This syncretic practice is being applied to gnostic philosophical unions of masculine and feminine principles to enable a shift in western perspectives. Much of this combination is due to the aftermath and reappraisal of 1960s' social revolutions, playing out during the Technological and Communications revolutions of the 2000s and 2010s. The philosophical synthesis also shows the next level of western engagement with virtual reality. Surging in the latter half of 2015, the trend may constitute a Fifth Great Awakening in America, but it is also evident in other western countries.

From September 2015. Image Source: Power of Consciousness.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: The Devil is in the Details


The British Guiana 1c Magenta (1856) has a sailing ship image and the colony’s Latin motto, "Damus Petimus Que Vicissim" or "We Give and Expect in Return." Image Source: stampboards.

The most rare and valuable stamp in the world is the British Guiana One Cent Magenta, which is worth almost USD $9.5 million, according to its last auction in June 2014. As far as we know, there is only one 1c Magenta. It is so rare and valuable that it is the only major stamp not in the private philatelic collection of Britain's royal family, who have been collecting stamps for as long as stamps have existed. The stamp was discovered in 1873 by a 12-year-old Scottish schoolboy, Louis Vernon Vaughan, who found the stamp among his uncle's papers in Demerara. He saw that the stamp was not listed in his catalogue and sold it for six shillings to a local collector. According to online inflation and currency conversion calculators, six shillings in 1873 would be equivalent to approximately USD $259 in September 2015 values.

The stamp is so rare because it was produced in an emergency issue at the Georgetown newspaper, the Royal Gazette, when a British ship did not deliver enough stamps needed for the colony. Since its discovery, the stamp has had many adventures, exploded in value, and gained worldwide attention due to its uniqueness. In 1878, the greatest stamp collector in history, Count Philippe la Renotière von Ferrary added it to his collection. In 1922, the British royal family tried to buy it and failed. In 1970, a consortium of Pennsylvanian businessmen bought it. In 1980, the heir to the Du Pont fortune bought it; and the stamp spent the late 1990s up to 2010 in the owner's bank vault, while the owner spent time in prison for murdering an Olympic gold medal wrestler. The current owner has briefly lent the stamp to the Smithsonian. If you want to see it and you live anywhere near Washington DC, visit the Gross Stamp Gallery at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum, where the 1c Magenta is on display between June 2015 and November 2017. The Museum warns: please call in advance to confirm the stamp's availability at +1 (202) 633-5555, since it will be periodically removed from display for preservation.

The story of this stamp is a lesson about paying attention to details and the origin of real value. It took the eyes and perspective of a twelve-year-old boy to see the value of the stamp, that is, a boy not yet brutally shaped by the world, whose imagination was still fully available to him and completely his own. Before the stamp's 2014 auction to current owner Stuart Weitzman, the Du Pont trust placed the stamp in the care of Sotheby's auction house. The Sotheby's agent who was temporarily entrusted with the stamp recognized that it takes that youthful perspective - to have one's eyes open to the wonders of the world - to recognize this stamp and things like it of immense value:
David Redden, director of special projects at Sotheby’s, said the “British Guiana” was a stamp of almost mythical repute among philatelists. He said: “For me, as a school stamp collector, it was a magical object, the very definition of rarity and value: unobtainable rarity and extraordinary value."
Imagine digging through an attic stuffed with old junk. You shuffle through a sheaf of dusty papers, and a tiny square of wine-coloured paper flutters onto the floor. You step on the scrap of paper, pull it off your shoe, toss it out, and throw away the second example in the world of the British Guiana 1c Magenta, which would have been your biggest lotto ticket ever, if you had only known, if you had only been paying attention to the details.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Notes from Underground


Ross Ulbricht finished a Bachelor's in Physics at University of Texas at Dallas, then went on to graduate work at Penn State before founding the Silk Road. Guardian: "US Attorney Preet Bharara called Ulbricht a 'drug dealer and criminal profiteer.'" Image Source: FreeRoss.org.

Imagine a world in which the Internet was never invented. The planet as it existed, circa 1988, moved forward with the computer technology of that time and developed it to serve purposes other than free global communications. Instead, human beings solved the energy crisis, or landed on Mars, or explored the oceans' floors. In that world, what would Ross Ulbricht have become instead of what he did become - the libertarian founder of the Silk Road? His criminal conviction is another of the Technological Revolution's little carbon footprints. It shows how certain sections of free, developed societies are moving out of sync with institutional seats of order; the latter are typically slower to change, or change according to their own internal logic.

Ulbricht's case also reveals how the middle class is fracturing generationally due to this trend. In case Generation Y's Millennials ever thought they could dodge the establishment, work around it, dump it, hack it, whistleblow it, they just received their wake-up call. On 29 May 2015, a US federal court in Manhattan convicted 31-year-old Ulbricht. He was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole, and ordered to pay a restitution of over USD $183 million. Finance Magnates: "'Everybody gasped' upon hearing the judge’s decision, remarked Alex Winter, creator of Deep Web, a documentary on Silk Road to debut [on 31 May 2015]." Judge Katherine Forrest remarked:
“The stated purpose [of the Silk Road] was to be beyond the law. In the world you created over time, democracy didn’t exist. You were captain of the ship, the Dread Pirate Roberts,” she told Ulbricht as she read the sentence, referring to his pseudonym as the Silk Road’s leader. “Silk Road’s birth and presence asserted that its … creator was better than the laws of this country. This is deeply troubling, terribly misguided, and very dangerous.”
Ulbricht's response:
Ulbricht broke down in tears. “I never wanted that to happen,” he said. “I wish I could go back and convince myself to take a different path.” ... “I wanted to empower people to make choices in their lives. ... to have privacy and anonymity,” Ulbricht told the judge. “I’m not a sociopathic person trying to express some inner badness.”
The Washington Post tracked Ulbricht all over social media and determined that his profile led authorities to him; the newspaper also had a look at his LinkedIn profile to determine his motivations. Except for the startling fact that he had founded the Silk Road, he was a garden variety sophomoric libertarian:
He described, in an abstract personal statement on his LinkedIn profile, his attitudes toward capitalism and economic theory. It sounds a bit like a romanticized description of Silk Road:

I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and agression amongst mankind. Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end. The most widespread and systemic use of force is amongst institutions and governments, so this is my current point of effort. The best way to change a government is to change the minds of the governed, however. To that end, I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.
Forbes found Ulbricht to be more frank on the Silk Road's community forums:
A member of the ... [University of Texas at Dallas's] College Libertarians group, he took part in on-campus debates that were documented by the school’s newspaper, The Daily Collegian. In one article from March 2008, Ulbricht is identified as a supporter of Ron Paul who had attempted to become a delegate for the then-presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention. “There’s a lot to learn from him and his message of what it means to be a U.S. citizen and what it means to be a free individual,” ... [Ulbricht] told the school paper. “[Ron Paul] ... doesn’t compromise his integrity as a politician and he fights quite diligently to restore the principles that our country was founded on.”

In Silk Road’s community forums, the Dread Pirate Roberts always made the libertarian underpinnings of his organization clear. In Oct. 2012, he noted in a post: “Silk Road was founded on libertarian principles and continues to be operated on them … The same principles that have allowed Silk Road to flourish can and do work anywhere human beings come together. The only difference is that the State is unable to get its thieving murderous mitts on it.” He called Paul “a mighty hero in my book” in a note from Nov. 2012.

Screenshot from the closed Silk Road. Image Source: Silk Road via AP via Guardian.

Ulbricht's severe sentence makes him an example. He was part of the threat that new technology poses to the old establishment. Is he a martyr? Or did Ulbricht deserve the conviction and reflect the worst future brutalities of an inchoate order, worse than anything the old school military-industrial complex could imagine? Guardian: "Ross Ulbricht said he ‘wanted to empower people to make choices’. Prosecutors said he made $13m in commission on illegal deals – and attempted to order six murders." The Guardian observes that the Silk Road was tame compared to other Deep Web sites:
Libertarian though Silk Road’s philosophy might have been with regard to drugs, it nonetheless operated with a moral code. Child pornography was banned, as were stolen credit cards, weapons and paid-for assassinations – all of which were available on other, murkier dark web sites.

After Silk Road was closed, however, rather than dampen the market, it fragmented it. Dozens of sites sprang up, not all of them operated by the same set of moral codes. Several, including the so-called Silk Road 2.0, which was set up by several administrators of the first site, have since also been raided and shut down. Others turned out to be scams: one, a large marketplace called Evolution, saw administrators exit with more than $12m in Bitcoin.

Despite all this, the market has continued to grow, though because of its fractured nature it is difficult to properly assess its size. James – not his real name – is the editor of DeepDotWeb, a news site which focuses on darknet marketplaces and maintains an up-to-date list of which markets are on or offline. He said the current market was “WAY bigger” than it was in the days of Silk Road.

James said it could safely be assumed that the daily turnover of the biggest markets – Agora is the largest, followed in no particular order by Nucleus, Middle Earth, Abrax, and Alphabay – is in the order of more than a million dollars a day. He estimated the market cap to be in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars.
Image Source: Social Anxiety Support.

Ulbricht's supporters see themselves as cryptoanarchists. Their alienation from the old guard makes me think of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground (1864; in Russian here and English here), a work in which paranoia, ennui, escapism and misdirected idealism surround an Underground Man. It is a proto-revolutionary piece, written over fifty years ahead of the actual Russian Revolution of 1917. Dostoyevsky opens his novella with a note to the reader of this fictitious diary:
The author of the diary and the diary itself are, of course, imaginary. Nevertheless it is clear that such persons as the writer of these notes not only may, but positively must, exist in our society, when we consider the circumstances in the midst of which our society is formed.
The Underground Man is aware that society is a mess. He wants to change things, but is fixated on ideals which are so far removed from reality that he becomes a dystopic Hamlet, unable to act. The rift between his ideals and reality becomes more real as a force of change than his actual ability to change reality. There are three important things about Dostoyevsky's Underground Man which shed light on the Ulbricht case. One is that the character typifies a certain kind of toxic social alienation, caused by the society at large, and masquerading as strength and revolutionary virtue in the mind of its insecure protagonist. The Underground Man is privately crippled by self-doubt, but is consumed by a sense of personal 'specialness' and uniqueness that sets him apart to do great things, which he never achieves. He feels, through his advanced perspective, that he cannot accomplish anything through the system as it exists, and so feels he has a carte blanche to express his frustration and alienation misanthropically, by flouting social conventions, expectations, and the boundaries of social decency. With this psychology, the character is willing to exercise and defend his idealized free will even if it makes him socially destructive and self-destructive. Google Books: "The Underground Man so chillingly depicted here has become an archetypal figure loathsome and prophetic in contemporary culture."

Secondly, the Underground Man is an unreliable narrator. It would be best not to take him literally, because he is not the revolutionary he wants to be. However, the account of the Underground Man's miserable dilemma - the novella itself - is the meta-document which is presented as a force of change. This work was intended by Dostoyevsky to highlight a problem with marginalized citizens like the Underground Man, who perceive their country's moral bankruptcy and feel the shock ahead of the curve. They don't know how to resolve the problems they see, because the vast majority of the old society is still chugging along and does not believe their warnings. Finally, for libertarians, Dostoyevsky's novella is a treatise on how hard it is to exercise free will successfully, by which the great Russian writer meant responsibly and morally. Dostoyevsky asked how an idealized (virtual) push for change could be aligned with a complex reality that was moving in fits and starts, without enshrining nihilism and lawlessness.

Image Source: Invention Machine.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rewrite the History of the 1960s


Unpacking the head of the Statue of Liberty (1885). Image Source.

This week, my post on Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder was highlighted on one of Gen X's best blogs, Are You There, God? It's Me, Generation X. While thanking Jennifer James and checking the other links she listed, I was struck by the way Generation X remains ensnared as an echo generation, its identity projected upon from the outside by a narcissistic Boomer narrative. Jen writes: "Part of my intention is to maintain a tiny space on the Internet where evidence of Gen X society can be preserved." Why is her mission such a struggle?

Head of the Statue of Liberty, displayed in 1878 after completion at the Third Universal Exhibition, or World's Fair, in Paris. It was exhibited in Paris for several years before being shipped to the United States. Image Source: Albert Fernique (born c. 1841, died 1898) / LOC via pinterest. Published in 1883 in Frédéric Bartholdi's Album des Travaux de Construction de la Statue Colossale de la Liberté destinée au Port de New-York (Paris).

The Boomer narrative, that blinkered, one-track view of history, started as a story about 1960s' youth counterculture and fighting for liberty from the establishment. Boomers' liberties made them into libertines, who erected a monument to their own whims and pleasures around the period from the 1967 Summer of Love through 1969. The entire world now seemingly turns around that temporal pivot. Sometimes, it is also treated as a historical bottleneck. For the post-war period, 1967-1969 becomes a shorthand for the social, political and economic history of what happened in developed countries, and everything must go through that chokepoint, as it relates to the Boomer story. But what if everything didn't go through that chokepoint? What if that is not the way things happened? What if other histories ran concurrently from the 1940s through to the present that go unacknowledged because they don't fit the generational story? What if this is not a story about generations at all? What if you can find millions of individuals who don't fit the generational idea, and what if constructing a whole new social order around social alignments based on horizontal categories like 'age' is fake? If any of these suggestions are possible, then the history of the 1960s needs to be radically overturned and rewritten.