the nightmare years

October 31st, 2010 | 4 comments

Were the Western democracies in an increasingly totalitarian world becoming too soft or too stupid or too tired to defend themselves and the freedoms and decencies they had won and maintained for their peoples? It was a question I was to ponder more and more from that night on through the next few years until the answer became increasingly and appallingly clear. — William L. Shirer, The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940, p. 104

Between the 2012ers and the Tea Party I am surrounded by the same logic of coming transformation, of an ecstatic overcoming of present conditions, a transcendental event which will circle its horizon only around its true believers. Whether fueled by the belief in the Second Coming, or of the transformation of humankind into some kind of consciousness-uplift thanks to Mayan prophecy, the Western democracies face the basic failure of civil society and the political structure to mediate desire into action and consensus, on the one channel, and to resolve the violence of capital and corporate control of the entire sociopolitical and media infrastructure, on the other.

The re-education channel

Today on CBC Radio 1 I heard a Tea Party candidate in Florida tell journalist Michael Enright that Glenn Beck’s television program is “educational.” What passes for enlightenment has reached such a new low that violence and ignorance has become the content of so-called “education.” Affect has trumped the negotiations of reason, the analysis of history, the ambiguities of discourse, the processes of a democracy. If Glenn Beck is “education,” then indeed with the rise of the US extreme Right we are witnessing the effective culmination of sixty years of televised “re-education.” The United States organised media monopolies have invented a newer, cheaper form of re-education envied by authoritarian states the world over. For it is no longer necessary to round-up and hold in containment the opposition, intellectual or impoverished or otherwise. It is no longer necessary to throw the enemies of the State into “re-education camps.” In the 21st century US of A, FOX television will suffice.

We can speak of the prison of media.

The rise of the far Right — is it not a sign of the utter collapse of the US education system, not in its loftier establishments, but in its broad base? Has it come to this?

Has it not been, to a degree, engineered to do so? The collapse of a populace of educated citizens appears to be the goal of various disenfranchising policies, from obliterating educational funding to favouring religious dogmatism over scientific debate. From structure to content, education is social engineering not of accumulative development, but the disintegration of critical thought.

In love with the fear of fear itself

Heard on the radio this morning from an organiser of the Republican party in Florida: I want to live with fear. I need some fear.

The politics of fear has returned twofold. It began under Bush as fear of the enemy within and without. When this fear was displaced, ever so slightly, by the election of Obama, in a groundswell of hope and change, those previously seduced by fear, in love with being-afraid, became deeply afraid, for they began to fear loss of fear itself, that they would lose fear itself, and that their new fear, a double fear, an abysmal fear, was the fear of no longer being afraid. For what happens when fear is overcome? One is naked and alone, not with arrogance or self-confidence, but with an openness to a world that one no longer has to fear. Because one no longer needs fear to perceive and handle the other.

What is the Republican psyche? The psyche of fear. An ignorant, ahistorical psyche that requires fear to maintain its defences, its ego, its violence. Without fear, this ego is vulnerable. When this psyche’s defensive structure of fear is threatened, the results are atomic. The splitting of a fearful psyche unleashes catastrophic violence which, if connected on a mass scale, mobilizes the many into the mob, an undifferentiated outrage against anyone, or anything, perceived as the other.

For a man who was in charge of the nation’s propaganda abroad as well as at home, and who had to deal with foreign correspondents from all over the globe but chiefly from the Western democracies, Goebbels was unbelievably ignorant of the world outside Germany. He appeared to know absolutely nothing of the history, the literature and the people of any foreign land. He understood no modern foreign language. — William L. Shirer, The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940, p. 196

There is no political memory. Certainly there is no memory within the US that the Bush administration led the country into unjust war, economic disaster through deregulation, social unrest through decreased funding to education, increased racism through immigration reform, and overall catastrophic internal and external violence. There is only erasure of memory. However flawed the logic, the flow of cause and effect, once broken, performs a circus of hate and fear and illusion, a play of affect ready for the shaping by authoritarian interests. These interests themselves, though capable of realising the ends to which fears can be manipulated, need not be anything but as ignorant as the fearful. One becomes the feared to manipulate the fearful; ignorance manipulates ignorance through the affect of fear.

Reptiles and other cloaked republicans

This is where 2012ers who believe that controlling interests are organised and supereducated, whether Illuminati or otherwise, only demonstrate their own need to construct a universe through fear. It is easier to create an all-controlling transcendent myth, yet another substitute for God, than to deal with the mundane yet complex reality of mass violence and ignorance. The levels of such superstition and myth are incredible: reptilian superbeings capable of godlike powers nonetheless conduct battle here on Earth for the fate of this planet as if interstellar social hierarchies had not progressed beyond medieaval notions of blood, purity, and clan. Also revealed: an inherent collective narcissism on a cosmic scale, that Earth is actually significant to the otherwise cold and empty Universe.

That these transdimensional alien species capable of mass mindcontrol and possessing technologies able to cloak their identities apparently waste their time conducting minor planetary warfare on this third rock from the Sun speaks from the same confused sense of the world as Tea Partiers hellbent on bringing about the Apocalypse because they believe they’ve got the Jesus ticket.

Both hippies and hicks fear the alien, and they both need to construct a supreme enemy (and ally) for the authentication of their nihilist being. The level of mythic illusion in which many humans live is only capable of enhancing life by mocking it through its destruction in others.

I am down with myth – Afrofuturist myth, beautiful myth, the connectedness of metaphor, the magicks of affect – but only when myth is not trying to bring down the the other and the world with it. Myth is for getting offworld by declaring yourself alien, and not for projecting an alien alterity onto others as a means for savagery.

The erasure of technical memory

What technical apparatuses have conditioned this failure of memory? Memory itself has fallen apart in the bodymind; it is substituted in the mobile device, the network, the handheld, mobile device of memory that is, more or less, of the image and its placement within a limited, decontextualized social network. All captures of the image uploaded for proof-of-existence. Pics or it didn’t happen…. Without presence on social networks, there is no memory of self, no recollection of being-with-others without technical capture.

The void left behind is filled with fear — the fear of disappearance from the social circus of the image.

At heart, a troubling existential crisis: there is no self, no being, without technical capture. At the extreme, the logic has produced supremely isolated, depressed individuals who can only field their dividuality when celebrating the minor, depleted ecstasy of technical capture at the moment when the image is given over to nearly insignificant fame on a social network without connection to geography, without “thickness.” There is only the faint and empty hope of “going viral.”

Language is a virus. Now we only faintly hope to produce viral autopornography as an empty substitute for twisting our alien tongues into new orifices of jouissance.

This generalized digitalization of memory into technical capture allows an unprecedented malleability, though not due to the arche-structure of a general writing which pervades such technics, but because of the need for constant refreshment, constant upload, constant repetition of the miniaturized image to provide proof of being. With this need for incessant mirroring of the self-image arises the empty desire – the leverage through control of dissemination – to mass manipulate the means of image capture, and to direct its energies into new formations of social values. Yet in this instance the value of the social has none: it is the value of the unsocial disconnection of the image that sparks pleasure among the many.

Revaluation of all values

This desire for manipulation is not pivotal but decentralized; it is reflected in the decentralized, cellular structure of the Tea Party (a structure which mirrors anarchist and terrorist organisation). These values are not whole, which is to say unified and transparent, but reflect a mirror to each involved:

(1) to the user, the revaluation of “social connection” amongst a new movement of self-interested individuals, a group without memory seeking to revitalize the nation through “patriotism” expressed in the expulsion of the other and the dismantling of that which would alleviate fear (the democratic State), thus redefining the socius to mean not the inclusivity of the all, but the exclusivity of the homogenized few;

(2) to authoritarian interests, a new mass for the shaping into currents of mobilization able to destabilize the base of democratic negotiation, thereby opening the door to increased corporate authoritarianism (a new medieaval era of intraState warfare).

Each has what it needs out of this play of narcissism: a confirmation of being and of power, even if fundamentally illusive and self-destructive.

Who or what is missing from the play? All those categorized as other; those feared. Code words abound. Institutionalized racism and modern wage-slavery by imported others are codified under the question of “immigration reform.” A nearly invisible bottom-class of non-citizens are shorn of their rights, stripped of representation, and yet, as the human gristle of the supplement which they fulfill, remain nonetheless necessary to operate the underbelly of the nation’s infrastructure, to clean its toilets and to pick its cotton, but also to serve as the servile, as the structural supplement that always remains necessary, after the fact, as the constitutive yet excluded part to the otherwise wholeness of the inclusive ignorant and fearful — as the slave to the master.

The good Aryan German people struck most visitors from abroad as happy, content and united under the swastika dictatorship. The harassed Jews, shorn of their civil rights and the opportunity to earn a living, did not dare to approach the distinguished foreign visitors to enlighten them. — William L. Shirer, The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940, p. 232

The return of the slave state

With slaves comes slave consciousness. With slaves comes revolt. Not pseudo-revolution from the likes of the Tea Party or a half-baked “revolution in consciousness” from the likes of wayward hippies hopelessly lost in prophecy, but the blood revolution of toil from the enslaved, the uprising of the bottom echelons against the all. It comes, but not with accuracy nor predictive outcome; it has no content. Its content is merely the return of violence heaped upon it through a politics of fear. Paid in full, with interest, its return is fatal. It splits nations, it upends democracies, it responds in kind by reducing it all to ruin.

It forms nations upon the blood of others.

Unlike previous incarnations where geography contained and yet totalized violent upheavals into national myth capable of reorganising the nation-state, today such violence across a canvas as vast as the Western states results in pockets of insurgency, a breakdown of the State structure, and overall, ignorance of that disintegration which has already occurred and is already occurring. For is this not already the divisive landscape of the United States? Is this not already the low-level intensity warfare that post-industrial nations are slipping into, a new acceptance of the new being in which the social network is more real than a city which one can no longer inhabit in all quarters?

And the fights on all sides: for and against the definition of the Real, and what will hold its place.


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    4 Responses to “the nightmare years”

    1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Honey Mae, tobias c. van Veen. tobias c. van Veen said: The Nightmare Years: the failure of memory, psyche of fear, prison of media & the Tea Party #teaparty #gop #amerikkka […]

    2. The Nightmare Years: the failure of memory, psyche of fear, prison of media & the Tea Party #teaparty #gop #amerikkka

    3. Honey Mae says:

      RT @fugitivephilo: The Nightmare Years: failure of memory, psyche of fear, prison of media & the Tea Party #amerikkka

    4. karengregory says:

      RT @fugitivephilo: The Nightmare Years: the failure of memory, psyche of fear, prison of media & the Tea Party #tea …