Some time ago, I wrote myself into a corner in a chapter from Pantheon, in which a character was forced to solve a conundrum: he had to stay at a location, safeguard a highly sensitive museum, but prevent interlopers from coming inside, while not showing himself to them, or destroy them, or the critical objects of desire. The more I thought about this, the less confident I was at solving this Gordian knot. After all, if the aforementioned options prevented all possible solutions, then somewhere there was an assumption that made the conclusion false.
It seems domestic politics always end in hostile impasses and international politics are charged with menacing acts of terror and revenge. These sociopolitical phenomena are symptoms of a fundamental rage, and revenge is the project of rage. If we cannot understand and address our rage, our age is doomed. It is odd that we haven’t really analyzed the emotion of rage to the extent that we’ve paid heed to others like love, sympathy, anguish or guilt. I find this odd, because rage is the most obvious driving force in psychopolitical realm – be it at the personal or national or international level. Perhaps we ignore the vengeful aspect of the political life because it is by definition anti-rational and anti-egalitarian. Whenever we are angry about something, we will not care for equal treatment or reasoning towards mutual understanding. Therefore, rage undermines any attempt at a normative political theory. Continue reading Are You Mad as Hell Yet?
It all began with mirrors – the birth of self-consciousness as well as the realization that we have been cut off from the great Earth mother, and therefore the source of life. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Narcissus died from the shock of recognizing his own identity. He was a young Greek of extraordinary beauty, but crippled by self-love. He rejected the love of others, and most famously that of the cursed nymph Echo. Gazing at an image on the surface of a pond, Narcissus became entranced with it. But once he realized that the image was his own reflection, and therefore couldn’t consummate his love, he fell into despair and drowned himself.
“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” – Morpheus
The Red Pill in the Matrix liberates the human mind from the Matrix and grasp the true reality. In philosophy, the red pill is the principle of insufficient reality. In the book, Joyful Cruelty, Clement Rosset addressed the cruelty of reality and the standard evasive strategies philosophers have used to avoid it. Every attempt to minimize the cruelty of truth, or the harshness of the real, has the inescapable consequence of discrediting the most brilliant efforts and the most noble causes. Continue reading The Principle of Insufficient Reality
According to Plato, political regimes evolved consistently, from oligarchy to democracy to tyranny. When the elites become self-indulgent, lazy or promiscuous, and develop interests apart from the masses, they fall, oligarchies give way to democracies. And in turn, when mob passion overpowers political wisdom and a populist despot seizes the moment, democracies yield to tyranny. However, the despot is not quite a tyrant just yet. In a democracy, the would-be tyrant always offers himself as the champion of the masses. He simplifies everything, and make everything whole again.
In Donald Trump, this evolution is pretty straightforward: a vulgar right-wing populism coalesces in the midst of an anti-establishment hysteria and a strongman fascist declares that he will stick it to the elites and make the country great again, and presents a familiar scapegoat, an alien Other the masses can redirect their poisonous resentment. For a fragmented and bitter populace, this is rhetorical palliative, and just like Plato predicted, the very sort of thing that pushes a country over the edge. Continue reading Plato on Trump
Last night’s episode of Westworld went out with a bang. But besides the science fiction elements, the most interesting thing about the show was the bicameral mind reference – first name dropped back in Episode three, and the season finale’s title. It was a provocative theory proposed by Julian Jaynes in his 1977 masterpiece, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Continue reading The Bicameral Mind in Westworld
In this day and age, science fiction, not to mention its more popularized version, scifi, has lost its prestige. Before we get into its current dilapidated state, first we need a cursory analysis of its emergence, to properly assess its origins. Continue reading The Decline of Science Fiction
It seems that our time is the most cynical and intensely pessimistic era ever in recorded history. Continue reading Nihilism in the Iliad and Pantheon
Miami Vice. BladeRunner. Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Goonies. Top Gun. We are all children of the eighties, due to an overpowering sense of nostalgia.
In Saul Bellow’s novel, Seize the Day, the protagonist Tommy Wilhelm remarked that “cynicism was bread and meat to everyone. And irony too. Maybe it couldn’t be helped.” Irony became entrenched in the fifties, where the American economy flourished under the shadow of a potential nuclear war. Once the Cold War and the economic boom ended, the national self-definition was subverted until irony became the cultural currency. While irony served a valuable purpose in the works of great American writers like Barth, Coover, Burroughs, Nabokov and Pynchon, the commercial culture of the US filtered that into the national aesthetic as postmodern irony, resulting in David Letterman, The Simpsons, and rap, among other things. Continue reading Cynicism in the 90s and today